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John Saunders


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Tournament: 7th Varsity Match • Venue: St. George's Chess Club, 20 King Street, London • Date: Thursday 3 April 1879
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The 7th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at St. George's Chess Club, King Street, St. James's, London, on Thursday 3 April 1879 with Wilhelm Steinitz adjudicating unfinished games.

1878«     1879 Varsity Chess Match     »1880
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1b Walter Montague Gattie (Christ Church) 0-1 ½-½ William Hewison Gunston (St John's)
2w Edward Herring Kinder (Brasenose) 1-0 ½-½ William Henry Blythe (Jesus)
3b Robert Arthur Germaine (Brasenose) 0-1 1-0 James Fearn Sugden (Trinity Hall)
4w Charles Taylor (Christ Church) 1-0 0-1 Reginald Colebrooke Reade (King's)
5b Robert George Hunt (Merton) 0-1 - Charles Chapman (St John's)
6w Charles Scott Malden (Trinity) 0-1 ½-½ Francis Parker Carr (St Catharine's)
7b Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills (Christ Church) 1-0 - Arthur Herbert Leahy (Pembroke)

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), (compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987); ; 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. 3 of the 12 games played are available in the download.

The Field, 5 April 1879 (probably written by Wilhelm Steinitz, who was Field editor from about 1873 to 1882): "The Inter-University Chess Match — Amongst the annual University events the struggle for mental superiority in our pastime has firmly established itself as an important contest, though, by its nature, it cannot find a spectacle for masses of onlookers, any more than the annual University examinations in classics and mathematics. On the contrary, it has been found expedient to restrict the number of eye-witnesses, for the purpose of enabling the competitors to test their skill under such conditions of quietude as befit our studious pursuit.

"This year’s annual chess competition between seven representatives of each rival University, which took place at the rooms of the St. George's Chess Club, 20, King Street, St. James’s, on Thursday last, was therefore again of a semi-private character. Oxford stood in favour before the final list wae made known, for the Cantabs had brought two new comers into their team, while Oxford had only one untried representative on their side. But, on the players assembling about two o'clock, it was announced that [Francis Michael] Wright, who had been marked for No. 2 of the Oxford party, was unavoidably absent; the representatives on that side, from the third board to the sixth, were therefore all raised higher, and Mills, who had never played before, was made substitute for the last place.

"On the Cambridge side an alteration was also made, owing to the absence of Kearney, who had been previously been appointed second, but it did not necessitate a disturbance of the previous list on more than two of the upper boards, or the Cantabs brought forward a good fourth substitute in Reade, who was no novice on this occasion. This slight advantage of the Cantabs was a little increased bv their winning the toss for the first move, which gave four of their players the choice of opening in the first game, and was likely to have some effect on those boards, where only one single game was finished between the pair.

"Accordingly, Gunston against Gattie opened on board No. 1, and it should be stated that at the outset the Cantab was considered at a disadvantage, for Gattie had obtained good practice latterly as a member of the St. George’s Chess Club, and was known as an imaginative player of no mean order. The first game will be found below. It lasted four hours, and there was hardly time in the second game to get much further than the opening, which was a most irregular French defence, Gunston having followed up ...e6 by ...c6 on the second move, in answer to White’s Nc3. Gattie could have much strengthened his attack if he had advanced his P to B5 on the 14th move without preparation; and, even when the game was broken up, he would have been much better off if he had played the QB instead of the KR to Kt sq. As it was, the following difficult position was submitted to the adjudication of the umpire.

"The rule had been laid down on a previous occasion that on the first two boards the game should be declared in favour of the party who could obtain a winning superiority within six moves; while on the other boards the umpire had much wider discretion as regards the adjudication of a draw (see Field of March 24, 1877). In the above position the game was decided by the umpire to be drawn; and though it seems at first sight somewhat in White's favour, it will be found on examination of the following continuation that White's attack cannot be long sustained by proper play on Black's part, whose turn it was to play [analysis]

"On board No. 2 anticipations were also not verified, for the Cantab was the favourite at starting, owing to his having had some recent good practice with strong players on Metropolitan chess circles, while the Oxonian was comparatively unknown. Their first game wiil be found below. With the exception that the second game reached the number of thirty moves when the umpire was called upon to adjudicate, its progress was the counterpart of the second game of board No. 1, only that the Oxonian had this time committed some weaknesses in the early part, while the Cantab had just thrown away his best chance by unnecessary sacrifices of pawns a few moves before the call of time. The umpire declared the following position a draw, as neither side could gain a winning superiority within six moves.

"On board No. 3, Sugden opened with the Ruy Lopez, Anderssen's variation of ...d6 for the attack. Germaine defended in a manner which showed his want of acquaintance with the opening, viz, by Bd3, and in consequence had a cramped game, from which he relieved himself, owing to his opponent failing to make the usual sacrifice of the N for the e-pawn, when Black's B ultimately removed to c5. Black had then the best of the game, having already driven the adverse QB to g3 bv tbe advance of the g-pawn, and he could have further strengthened his attack if he had not himself castle on the K side. But Germaine precipitated the assault, and ultimately lost a clear piece by an untimely exchange, which was soon followed by a forced loss of the Q, brought about by the Cantab in a neat manner. Duration, an hour and a half. This was the first game decided in the contest, and remained the only one brought to an issue, almost until the second game was finished between tbe same pair. The opening was a carious sort of French defence. On the 11th move tbe Cantab, who was second player, committed a gross error, whereby a clear piece was lost. He managed afterwards to get a P for it, but could not resist the attack, which the Oxonian conducted well, and Germaine forced a mate at 5.30, when only one other game (on board 2) had just been finished.

"On board No. 4 Taylor opened with KB Gambit, but threw away a P uselessly on the 8th more, at the same time subjecting himself to a difficult position. He tried to retrieve himself by an unsound sacrifice of a piece, but could not keep up the attaok for more than a few moves. The Cantab then exchanged Queens, and broke up the adverse position by the superiorlty of his forces. The game was ultimately scored by Reade at 5.45. The second game was a sort of Giuoco Piano, in which both sides advanced d3/d6. Taylor, by an error, lost the important f-pawn with a ch[eck]; but Reade soon afterwards requited the mistake by giving up the exchange without occasion, when he could have recovered the piece, with much the best of the game, by Be3. The call of time left him with a clear exchange behind, and the umpire had no difficulty in adjudging the game to Taylor.

"On board No. 5 only one game was played, which lasted throughout the duration of the match, and had nevertheless actually to be adjudged on the twenty-second move, after nearly six hours' play. The opening, in which Chapman had to meet the Q Fianchetto defence adopted by Hunt, was weakly conducted by White, who played Bc4 on the second move, thus early subjecting himself to an attack on his B, whereby he lost ground. Hunt had much the best of the game, when by on oversight he lost a piece for one P and the game was clearly in Chapman's favour when the umpire awarded it to him.

"On board No. 6 Carr conducted the defence of an accepted Q Gambit weakly; but, his opponent having let his opportunity slip, Carr took the attack promptly in hand, and by an elegant sacrifice of a Kt, which showed greater talent than the Cantab's position in his team would have led to expect, he won the Oxonian Q for R and Kt. Malden made an excellent defence, and the play on both sides created more interest than would have been due to the lower end of the list; but at about 5.45 Malden found found further resistance useless. The second game, an Evans' Gambit, had not proceeded mych beyond the opening when time was called, and the umpire declared it a draw.

"On board No. 7 there was also only a single game played, which lasted throughout the match. ln the opening Leahy adopted the Anderssen variation of the Ruy Lopez. On the sixth move Mills lost his e-pawn by an oversight, but made a stubborn resistance towards the middle, until his adversary committed an error, whereby the exchange was lost. The Oxonian could have won the game several times much more quickly, but at 7.45, the time fixed for the conclusion of the match, he had Just obtained such overwhelming superiority as to compel Leahy to resign. The final score gave a victory for Cambridge by five games to four, as ahown by the annexed score:

"The fact that the two rival Universities had up to the present scored even matches and that the odd victory was gained this time by the majority of one game only, reflects the highest credit on the spirit evinced by the representatives of our ancient seats of learning. The duration of most of the games on this occasion also speaks well for the earnestness and patience of the contestants. But it ought to be stated that slowness of play was carried this time to such an excess as to suggest the desirability of a time limit being fixed on future occasions.

"At eight o'clock the teams were entertained at dinner by the members of the St. George's Chess Club at the Criterion Restaurant. The company numbered about forty, with Lord Lindsay in the chair. After the repast the noble lord, in coupling the name of Prince Leopold with the loyal toasts, expressed his appreciation of the beneficial influence which the example of the Royal Highness had exercised on the progress of the game at Oxford and throughout the country. The toast of the Cambridge and Oxford teams was proposed by the noble chairman, and warmly acknowledged by the respective presidents of the two University Chess Clubs Messrs Sugden and Gattie. The Hon. Mr Lindsay proposed the game of chess and the umpire, Mr Steinitz. Mr Germaine proposed the health of the hon. sec. of the St. George's Chess Club, Mr Minchin, and of the committee of the club, coupled with the name of Mr Strode. Mr Warner gave the toast of the Chess Player's Chronicle, coupled with the name of its editor, the Rev. C. E. Ranken. A silent toast was proposed by the Hon. Mr Lindsay to the memory of Professor Anderssen, who was an hon. member of the St. George's Chess Club. [Adolf Anderssen died on 13 March 1879] The noble chairman's health was proposed by Mr Gattie, and in the various speeches the most cordial reciprocity of amicable feeling was expressed between the hosts and the University guests. Several speakers suggested the desirability of a return match being arranged between Messrs Steinitz and Zukertort, and it was announced that the next meeting of the Counties Chess Association is to be held at Oxford, and will commenoe on the 3rd of July."

Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 5 April 1879: "On Thursday the most interesting of the chess contests that have yet been played between the Universities took place at the rooms of the St George's Chess Club, King Street, St James’s. Six matches have previously been decided, and as each University thrice proved successful, additional interest was lent to the match under notice. On the whole, tbe proceedings were slow, and only in one instance were the two games completed. Indeed, in one case the game not only lasted tbe stipulated time, but had then to be adjudicated upon by tbe umpire. [names of competitors]

"Cambridge won the toss, and had the first move in four of the opening games. Gunston and Gattie occupied the board No. 1, the first-named proving successful after a game of four hours' duration. A second game between them being unfinished when the allotted time expired, the umpire gave it as drawn. Kinder and Blythe were engaged at board No. 2. This time the result was in favour of tbe Oxonian, but the second match, as in the preceding case, was adjudicated drawn, very evenly. Sugden and Germaine were the only pair who succeeded in getting through two games. The Cambridge president won the first, but in the second Germaine had his revenge. Reads and Taylor’s opening game extended over three hours and a half, and resulted in a victory for the former. Their second game, unfinished at 6:30, was adjudged to Oxford. Hunt and Chapman failed to complete one game in the stipulated time, and, being called upon to decide, Mr Steinitz gave his decision in favour of Cambridge. Carr proved superior to Malden in three hours and a quarter game, and commenced a second, which was left drawn. One game only waa contested by Mills and Leahy, and this terminated in win for former. In all twelve matches were started, but only seven completed, and of this number Cambridge won four. The umpire had to adjudicate upon no less than five games. One game he gave to Cambridge and another to Oxford, and the rest he decided as drawn. It will thus be seen that Cambridge won five games to four. In all his decisions Herr Steinitz, the umpire, gave great satisfaction."

Morning Post, 4 April 1879 [n.b. working from a very poor scan - some words have been guessed - JS]: "The most interesting of the seven annual inter-Universities' chess matches yet played was witnessed yesterday at the rooms of the St' George's Chess Club, King-st, St James's. In the six previous encounters honours had been divided—each side having won three. [?] ... the reputation of being stronger than [last] year the Cambridge men were supposed to be... There were as usual seven players on each side [names of players - Gattie and Sugden being referred to as presidents of OUCC and CUCC respectively] Cambridge were successful in the toss, which [gave] the first move in four of the opening games. On first board Gunston adopted the Ruy Lopez. The game was well played by both [...] should have won but undervaluing the [...] his opponent, pursued the attack too vigorously [...] after a game of nearly four hours, the Light [Blue defeated] his opponent. The second game was [...] and left unfinished, the umpire, Mr W. Steinitz, [...] it drawn. Kinder opened with the [...] which Blythe declined. The game was [...] up to the eighth move when the Oxonian [...] the Queen's knight. On the 17th move [...] and had he not exchanged queens he [...] the game much sooner. As it was he at [...] after a two and threequarters [...] commenced, and in this instance [...] it should be left drawn. Sugden [...] well against Germaine. The latter, who [...] attacks, received checkmate after [...] play. Sugden adopted the French [...] the second game, and lost a piece about the [...] from this period had the better [...] mated his opponent on the 30th move. [...] lasted nearly two hours. These were [...] got through two games. Reade [and Taylor had] a very close fight in their first game [and Taylor] won the 32nd move. The second [...] was adjudicated on by Mr Steinitz [...]. Chapman and Hunt were four [...] their only game, which they were [...] and as the Cantab was a clear [...] awarded to him. Malden opened his [...] which was badly defended by Carr [...] the Oxford attack became rather [...] judicious sacrifice of a knight [...] won the queen giving mate on [...]. The second game was drawn. At the [...] engaged were [Leahy] and Mills, [...] and a half hours over one game. Cambridge [...] at the beginning, but playing [...] his position. He again became [...] and [...] the game which he ultimately [...]. Cambridge thus won the match by five games to [four with three games] left undecided."

[Times, Friday 4 April 1879]
Gunston won the first game against Gattie
Kinder beat Blythe after 2 and three-quarter hours' play, 2nd game drawn.
Sugden and Germaine won a game each
Reade won his first game (after 3½ hours' play) and 2nd was adjudicated in favour of Taylor
Chapman and Hunt took 4½ hours' over their only game (adjudicated)
Carr beat Malden "cleverly" in the first game.
Mills beat Leahy in their only game, exactly the stipulated 4½ hours.

File updated

Date Notes
22 July 2020 Original upload.
All material © 2020 John Saunders