© 1997-2024
John Saunders


BRITBASE - British Chess Game Archive

Tournament: 3rd Varsity Match • Venue: City of London CC, London • Date: Friday 19 March 1875
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1874 • Forward to 1876 • last edited: Monday September 4, 2023 5:08 PM

The 3rd Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at City of London CC, Guildhall Tavern, King St, Cheapside, London, on Friday 19 March 1875 at 5pm with Wilhelm Steinitz adjudicating unfinished games. Time limit: 20 moves per hour. Three games if possible, but no 3rd game to start after 9.15pm.

1874«     1875 Varsity Chess Match     »1876
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Cambridge University
1b Hon. Horace Curzon Plunkett (University) 0-1 0-1 - John Neville Keynes (Pembroke)
2w Samuel Redhead Meredith (Brasenose) 0-1 1-0 1-0 * Walter William Rouse Ball (Trinity)
3b Campbell Tracey (Lincoln) 0-1 0-1 ½-½ Thomas Hughes Delabere May (Trinity)
4w William Grundy (Worcester) 0-1 ½-½ - Henry Gaye Willis (Clare)
5b Charles Lewis Brook (Trinity) 0-1 1-0 - Edmund Arblaster (Clare)
6w Hon. Victor A L D Parnell (Christ Church) 1-0 0-1 - Joseph Jacobs (St John's)
7b Francis Michael Wright (Queen's) 0-1 1-0 0-1 Robert Fisher (Trinity Hall)

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), (compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987); Westminster Papers, 1 April 1875; City of London Chess Magazine, April 1875; The Sunday Times (London, England), Sunday, March 28, 1875; pg. 8; Sergeant, Philip W, A Century of Chess (London 1934), p295-296 & 344 (ref'd as PWS); FreeBMD & other statutory records; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia. 9 of the 17 games played are available in the download.

PW Sergeant, A Century of Chess: "Began at 5pm and lasted for five hours, each pair in that time playing up to two games if time permitted. Cambridge emerged winners by 10-5 with two draws. As on previous occasions the attendance numbered over 700, and once again some of the masters present relieved part of the pressure by giving displays in an adjacent room, Blackburne taking on 20 simultaneously while Zukertort played six blindfold games simultaneously. Visitors included Cochrane, GA MacDonnell, Horwitz, Potter and, for the first of many occasions, Hoffer."

Huddersfield College Magazine, March 1875, p140: "THE INTER-UNIVERSITY CHESS MATCH. [BY OUR OXFORD CORRESPONDENT.]

"The third Annual Match between the Chess Clubs of Oxford and Cambridge took place on Friday, March 19th, in London. The City of London Chess Club with their usual hospitality, offered for the occasion not their rooms, which would have been too small for such a gathering, but to provide a suitable place for the contest. This they found in the Guildhall Tavern, King Street, Cheapside. The experience of the two previous meetings suggested several alterations in the arrangements, which added materially to the comfort of the players. The room was large and well ventilated; the players were in a small enclosure, with flowers placed between each board, and for the first time smoking was forbidden to all except the players.

"On the side of Oxford only one of the players had taken part in both the previous Matches--Mr. S. R. Meredith. Four played last year, the same gentleman, Messrs. Plunkett, Tracey and Grundy. On the side of Cambridge, two players, Messrs. Keynes and Ball, played in 1873 and last year, and one more-Mr. May-played last year only. The full list of players on both sides was as follows, and they were paired according to their numbers.

"Oxford: 1. Hon. H. C. Plunkett (University), 2. S. R. Meredith (Brasenose),3. C. Tracey (Lincoln), 4. W. Grundy (Worcester), 5. C. L. Brook (Trinity), 6. V. A. L. D. Parnell (Ch. Ch.), 7. F. M. Wright (Queen's).

"Cambridge: 1. J. N. Keynes (Pembroke), 2. W. R. Ball (Trinity), 3. T. H. D. May (Trinity), 4. H.G. Willis (Clare), 5. E. Arblaster (Clare), 6. J. Jacobs (St. John's), 7. R. Fisher (Trinity Hall).

"A time limit of 20 moves an hour was supposed to be in operation, but if we may judge by the very casual way in which the hour glasses were allowed to run, we should think it was not much enforced. At a quarter past five, Mr. Parratt, of Magdalen College, Oxford, and Mr. J. N. Keynes, of Pembroke College, Cambridge, in whose hands all the arrangements had been placed, drew lots for first move at board one, and it fell to Oxford. The move was then taken alternately all down the line. Play began at once, and in about an hour a careless move on the part of his opponent allowed Mr. Parnell to score the first game for Oxford. Notwithstanding this success it soon became apparent that the Cambridge team was much the stronger, and shortly after ten when play ceased, the score gave to Cambridge ten games, to Oxford five, and two draws.

"As before, the Match was watched with immense interest by a crowd of Chess-players, among whom we noticed Herr Steinitz, (who had been appointed umpire,) Mr. Cochrane, the veteran player, Herr Zukertort, Mr. Blackburne and Mr. Potter. Messrs. Bird and Lowenthal were prevented from attending by illness. Simultaneously with the Inter-University contest, but in other parts of the house, counter attractions were provided in the shape of blindfold play between Herr Zukertort and six opponents, and play over the board by Mr. Blackburne against twenty-two antagonists, the result being that the talented foreigner won five games and drew the sixth, and Mr. Blackburne was victorious over twenty of his adversaries, a lost game and a draw making up the total. After the Match the players were entertained at supper by the City of London Chess Club, and the usual complimentary speeches were made. As this event has now attained the venerable age of three years, it may be useful to consider if the expectations which were excited by its institution have been realised. Upon the whole, we think they have. As was predicted, the play has in no case adorned the world with any beautiful example of Chess skill, but it would be difficult to over-rate the influences which an intelligent cultivation of the game in the two Universities might have upon Chess affairs, and that this Annual Match has done much to forward this no one can doubt. The Cambridge Club now numbers over a hundred members, and the entries to last year's tournament were 38. From personal experience we can say that three years ago it was no unusual thing for a member of the Oxford University Club to find on the night of meeting no one with whom he could have a game. Now the danger is that he may not find an unoccupied board.

The Sunday Times (London, England), Sunday, March 28, 1875; pg. 8: " THE OXFORD & CAMBRIDGE CHESS MATCH. The Guildhall Tavern was crowded with anxious spectators on tho 19th to witness the annual match between the chess clubs of the two universities. This encounter proved of additional interest this year, for each team had won one of the two previous contests, and the match of 1875 was therefore to some extent a deciding event... [names of players]

"Each player contended two games with the adversary who was supposed to be his fittest opponent as regarded skill, and the side winning the largest total number was to bo declared the victor. Cambridge won five games in succession, and then maintained their lead by scoring game for game against their opponents. By half-past 9 (the match commenced at 5) they had reached the score of 8 against 3. During the next half-hour Oxford pulled up two games, but as the match was arranged to close at 10 final success was out of the question. Shortly after 10 the umpire announced for Cambridge a definite result of 9 games against 5, with two draws. Of the Cambrldge players Mr Keynes and Mr Fisher won two each, and the remainder of the team one each. Of the Oxford players Mr Meredith won two games, and Messrs Brook, Parnell, and Wright one each.

"The large concourse of spectators were entertained additionally with exhibitions or blindfold and simultaneous play by Herr Zukertort and Mr Blackburne. Their exhibition of high-class skill excited great interest. The results may be summed up at once: about nine o'clock Herr Zukertort had won five games, and lost one; about ten Mr Blackburne had defeated all his multitudinous adversaries except one."

Westminster Papers, 1 April 1875: "The third annual contest between representative Chess players of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, was played on Friday, the 19th ult., at the Guildhall Tavern, in Gresham Street. As was the case in the two preceding matches, this one was conducted under the auspices of the members of the City Chess Club, to whose public spirit and good management indeed much of the success attending it must be ascribed. Each University was represented by seven players, who were paired by their respective captains, according to their reputed skill; each pair to play two games, with a time limit of one hour to each player for twenty moves, -and all games unfinished at half-past ten o'clock to be decided by Herr Steinitz, who was appointed umpire for the occasion. Notwithstanding the regulation as to the number of games to be contested, some eager spirits engaged in more than the conditions of the match required, and seventeen games were played in all. Of these Cambridge won 10, Oxford 5, and two were drawn, the victory for the second time thus falling to the former. The following list shows the pairing of the players and their respective scores :—

"It would be somewhat exacting to look for a very high quality of play in these matches. The gentlemen engaged in them are too young to have acquired much practical experience, and we may safely assume are too deeply absorbed in more important studies to devote any considerable part of their time to the theory of Chess. It is therefore not altogether an uncommon occurrence that a game is won rather through the inadvertency of the loser than from any superior knowledge or powers of combination evinced by the winner. Mistakes of that sort are, of course, in a great measure owing to insufficient practice, and it is due to the University players to say that, considered apart from such shortcomings, their games are full of promise of future excellence. Perhaps the most curious circumstance connected with these University Chess matches is the attention they receive from persons wholly ignorant of the game. Chess, which, notwithstanding its remarkable development in recent years, is still "caviare to the general,'' must, to the uninformed spectator of a game, be as tedious as its technicalities are incomprehensible ; yet many are attracted to these matches who, from their remarks and questions, it may be inferred are ignorant of even the names of the pieces. As such crowds have never been known to congregate on similar occasions when the standard of play was considerably higher, the excitement cannot be attributed to the attractions of Chess, but it is probably due to a genuine interest felt by all classes of the people in everything concerning the two Universities. In the spacious rooms of the Guildhall Tavern overcrowding is scarcely possible ; nevertheless, the blindfold play of Herr Zukertort, and the "simultaneous games" of Mr. Blackbume, materially contributed to the general comfort, presenting rival attractions to the eager sight-seers. Herr Zukertort played his six games simultaneously, without sight of the board, with the utmost ease, winning 5, and losing 1 only, and Mr. Blackbume played twenty games, seeing the boards, winning 19, and also losing 1.

"Upon the termination of the University match the combatants, together with a large assemblage of metropolitan Chess players, sat down to an excellent supper, provided by the hospitable City Club. The toasts of the evening were responded to by Mr. Keynes on behalf of Cambridge, and by the Honourable Mr. Plunkett for Oxford, and several other toasts having received due honours from an enthusiastic meeting, the third Inter, University Chess Match was brought to a happy conclusion."

City of London Chess Magazine, April 1875, p71: "The third annual match between the Oxford and Cambridge University Chess Clubs took place on the 19th ultimo, at the Guildhall Tavern, under the auspices of the City of London Chess Club, which had, as on the two previous occasions, invited the University teams to be its guests for that purpose. It will be remembered that the first match, which took place in 1873, ended in a complete victory for Oxford, who won 9 games as against 2 scored by their opponents, and 2 being drawn.

"The second contest, which was played last year, had equally decisive results, but in a contrary direction ; for Cambridge came out conquerors by 13 to 3, and 4 drawn. This curious reversal of the poles of success extended to some extent even to the two captains of the contending sides ; for whereas, in 1873, Mr. Parratt (Oxford) beat Mr. De Soyres (Cambridge) in both the games played between them, in 1874 the Light Blue champion had his revenge, one of the three games played being adjudged to him by the umpire, and the other two being drawn.

"The great, one might almost say the strange, interest which the public take in the two Universities, more especially in respect of those emulative displays by which a spirit of partisanship in the best sense of the word is created between them, and in which the entire community share on one side or the other, was manifested to the full upon the present occasion. It is estimated that about 700 persons visited the Guildhall Tavern for the purpose of witnessing the match, but so excellent were the arrangements which the Committee of the City of London Chess Club had made for their reception, that while every one in turn was able to see what was going on there was no crush or confusion of any kind.

"To divide the spectators, and make the affair a Chess festival in every sense of the term, Herr Zukertort conducted a blindfold match of six games in one room, while in another Mr. Blackburne played over the board simultaneously against all comers, of whom twenty-two sat down for that purpose. The skill of two such performers, if they will allow themselves to be so called, added a great zest and pleasure to the proceedings, besides accomplishing the intended object of diverting many of the crowd from the room where the University Match was being played.

"As to the latter event itself, it appeared to be imagined in the early part of the evening that the Oxford players would on the present occasion avenge the defeat suffered by the representatives of that University last year ; but this was far from being the case, for the result was again a decisive victory for Cambridge, who won 10 games and lost 5, while 2 were drawn. However, it will no doubt be some consolation to the losing side that they did not sustain quite such a hollow defeat as that suffered by their predecessors last year. The following is the pairing and score :—

"The following pairs effected draws—viz., Tracey v. May and Grundy v. Willis. The following gentlemen played last year—viz., Messrs. Plunkett, Meredith, Tracey, and Grundy for Oxford ; and Messrs. Keynes, Ball, and May for Cambridge.

"With respect to the quality of the play upon the present occasion, we must say that it was on both sides decidedly inferior to that exhibited in the match of last year. This is no doubt partly owing to the absence of Messrs. Parratt and De Soyres, which, of course, lowered the strength of the respective teams a degree all the way down; but even giving full effect to that circumstance, still it must be considered that the want equally of style, steadiness, and scientific knowledge of the game which manifested itself not less to the observation of the spectators than it has to ourselves, who have carefully gone through all the games played, denotes the absence of any good system of practice and study in the players of both Universities, but more markedly in those of Oxford.

"The obsolete moves and condemned variations that we have found used show that recourse is not had to those sources of scientific information which are now so plentiful, while the constant recurrence of serious blunders would seem to indicate a loose and desultory mode of practice, and we should imagine a disregard also, in the ordinary games played at the University clubs, of the salutary touch and move rule, so that the irrevocable nature of the moves made in a match game is not apprehended until the combatants find themselves engaged in the great struggle itself.

"Again these remarks apply with the most force to those players who represented Oxford on the present occasion, and this we cannot but wonder at, for we should have thought that a club possessing a player of Mr. Parratt's strength and experience might have been coached and trained to a high state of efficiency. We hope the University clubs will take these remarks in good part, and shall even trust that our criticism may have a beneficial effect upon their play in the match of next year.

"A good way to effect improvement would be constant private contests between the members. A match of so many games all of one particular opening would induce study and lead to a thorough knowledge of the attack and defence therein. Why not, too, give prizes for the best analytical essays upon specified debuts? The debating spirit likewise could be introduced : a discussion upon some Gambit in which the speakers could enunciate their views and produce their authorities in support, or, it may be, attempt a demonstration upon the board, should, as it would seem, lead to the principles of the game being grasped, and tend to the acquirement of much scientific knowledge. This we merely put forward as an idea. We cannot say we have ever known it tried. But zeal and earnestness of purpose will not fail to find a way of attaining the desired end. There is no royal road to learning nor any University path to Chess excellence. He who works hardest will play best.

"So much we have digressed, and now to return to the subject-matter in hand. The result of the blindfold match was that Herr Zukertort defeated Messrs. Cutler, Baynes, Pedder, Maidlow, and Booth, but lost to Mr. Peyer; whilst Mr. Blackburne acted unkindly to twenty of his opponents, but allowed Mr. Beardsell to go off with the laurels of victory, while another gentleman effected a draw.

"Amongst those who were present on the occasion were—Messrs. Cochrane, Wisker, Macdonnell, Hoffer, Ranken, Horwitz, Kling, Campbell, Duffy, and Abbott. Herr Steinitz officiated as umpire, having been chosen for that post by the University clubs, and we ought not to forget the very efficient services rendered by Mr. Rosenbaum as the teller in Herr Zukertort' s blindfold match. In fact, praises are due to every one in connection with the affair. The three stewards, Messrs. Howard, Walrond, and Manning, were everywhere, and doing everything, while Mr. F. S. Walker, the capable secretary of the City Club, from the first to the last, did hosts of work.

"The chief credit of all the three University matches, and of the one just finished in particular, is undoubtedly due to Herr Steinitz. Biding against all opposition, doubts, and difficulties with native obstinacy, he carried his point, and those who have disagreed with him about the various matters concerned, among whom we may include ourselves, must admit that the success heultimately met with was well deserved. There was one point in the arrangements made which we cannot think well advised, and that was the agreement made between the two University clubs that three games should be played between each pair. This we consider objectionable, as giving to one of the players the advantage of the first move in two of the games. True, it had been agreed that the third game should not be commenced after a quarter-past 9, which tended to ameliorate some of the evil consequences of the stipulation; but, as a matter of fact, only three of the pairs played a third game on the present occasion, and two of these had to be adjudged by the umpire.

"The evening closed with a supper, to which the City of London Chess Club had invited the two University teams with their officials, and this was patronised to such a large extent by others present, that seventy persons sat down to the meal, Mr. H. F. Down occupying the chair, and Mr. J[ames] E. Rabbeth the vice-chair. With the wine came the inevitable British rusks, such as " The University Clubs," proposed by the chairman, and responded to by Mr. Keynes for Cambridge, and the Hon. Mr. Plunkett for Oxford ; " The City of London Club," by Mr. Ball, with Mr. Rabbeth for its representative ; " The Umpire," by Mr. Meredith, and acknowledged by Herr Steinitz ; "The Chess Press," by Mr. Tracey, with Mr. Potter for respondent ; " The Visitors," humorously proposed by Mr. Macdonnell, who, alluding to the expression "Inter-University," wanted to know why they should be interred—an awful joke, for which we apprehend the champagne was responsible. The Rev. Mr. Ranken acknowledged this toast, after which Mr. McLeod gave the healths of Herr Zukertort and Mr. Blackburne, for whom the former replied, the round of compliments being closed with the toast of the president, Mr. H. F. Down.

A contemporary comment on the match is that "the defeat of Oxford is principally to be ascribed to the lack of book-knowledge displayed by its representatives." (PW Sergeant)

PW Sergeant: "It may be mentioned that the Oxford president at this time was H.R.H. Prince Leopold (afterwards created Duke of Albany), who was attached to Christ Church, and in the previous year had been invited by the club to become an honorary member, but had preferred to join in the ordinary manner. He was elected president in the summer of 1874, but took part in no matches, though he participated in a handicap tournament among the members. He is mentioned as a pupil of H. E. Bird, or at least as playing with him occasionally." (Prince Leopold, 1st Duke of Albany (1853-1884), fourth and youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert)

File updated

Date Notes
19 July 2020 Original upload.
31 March 2021 Some minor edits.
All material © 2020-2023 John Saunders