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John Saunders


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Tournament: 9th Varsity Match • Venue: St. George's Chess Club, 20 King Street, London • Date: Wednesday 6 April 1881
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The 9th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at St. George's Chess Club, King Street, St. James's, London, on Wednesday 6 April 1881 with Wilhelm Steinitz adjudicating unfinished games. Start time: soon after 2pm, end time 7.00pm.

1880«     1881 Varsity Chess Match     »1882
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1b Walter Montague Gattie (Christ Church) 1-0   James Fearn Sugden (Trinity Hall)
2w Edward Herring Kinder (Brasenose) 1-0 1-0 Francis Parker Carr (St Catharine's)
3b Charles Taylor (Christ Church) 0-1 0-1 Frank Morley (King's)
4w John Francis Welsh (Christ Church) ½-½ ½-½ Edward Lancelot Raymond (Christ's)
5b Charles Cotterill Lynam (Hertford) 0-1   Walter Arthur Atmore (St John's)
6w George Edward Wainwright (University) 0-1 ½-½ John Ormerod Scarlett Thursby (Trinity)
7b William Newton Percy Beebe (Trinity) 1-0 0-1 William Hook Longsdon (Trinity)

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), (compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987); BCM 1881, p181; Chess Monthly, May 1881, ppn 257-258; The Field, 9 April 1881; Bury and Norwich Post - Tuesday 12 April 1881; 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. 5 of the 12 games played are available in the download.

[Chess-Monthly, May 1881, p.257-8] " THE INTER-UNIVERSITY CHESS MATCH.

"This great annual contest is now permanently identified with St. George's Chess Club, and may be called a fixture of that Association. It is an unmistakable fact that intellectual contests - although backed up by the popularity of the Universities - do not produce the same interest with the public at large as athletic performances. The public taste must be gradually educated to appreciate the efforts of the mind as compared with physical excellence. Let any of our most distinguished blindfold players make superhuman efforts and exhibit his talents, say at the Agricultural Hall, and it will he a failure; let somebody walk there for six days, and the public will flock by tens of thousands and delight in watching the agonies and sufferings of a cruel, and perhaps the most stupid of sports. But we must be grateful for small mercies, and we are, therefore, glad to chronicle that the interest exhibited by the public in the 'Varsity Chess Match has increased as compared with former years. After all, the Chess encounter is a recent addition to the many contests of the Universities, and we are all rather slow in getting accustomed to innovations.

"The ninth annual contest took place on the 6th of April. The preliminary arrangements having been settled by the captains of the two teams, Messrs. Welsh (Oxford), and Longsdon (Cambridge), the opponents, eager for the fray, took their seats, and play commenced soon after 2 p.m., and proceeded without intermission until 7 o'clock, when the score stood: Cambridge 6 to Oxford's 5, one game unfinished. Mr. Steinitz acted as umpire as in all previous matches, and had to adjudicate the remaining game. It is only fair to state, that had Mr. Wainwright consented to abide by the judge's opinion, when Mr. Thursby expressed the wish for such a settlement, it would have gone in favour of Oxford, and the match would have resulted in divided honours. As it was, the Oxonian, eager to score a victory before time was called, threw away an easy win by a few precipitate moves, and Mr. Steinitz could only pronounce the position to be a draw. Altogether there was a marked improvement in the quality of play: our readers will find three of the games elsewhere.

[p.258] "We noticed among the eagerly-watching members and visitors the Earl of Dartrey, General Vialls, Colonels Sterling and Pearse, Major Ross, Hon. H.C. Plunkett, a former combatant, Messrs. Ball, Blackburne, Catley, Francis, Gould, Gümpel, Hirschfeld, Hoffer, Laws, Lindsay, Lewis, Minchin, Raphael, Salter, Steel, Rev. W. Wayte, and many others. After an hour's interval, friends and foes, hosts and guests, sat down to a dinner given by the St. George's at the Criterion, the President of the Club, the Earl of Dartrey, in the chair. The noble chairman opened with the usual loyal toasts, and proceeded then by proposing the prosperity of the two University Chess Clubs, coupling it with the names of their Presidents, Messrs. Longsdon and Welsh, who returned thanks gracefully. Mr. Lindsay brought "the Chess Press" represented by Mr. Steinitz, who suitably responded. Mr. Francis proposed the honorary members and coupled it in very eulogistic terms with the name of Mr. Zukertort, who briefly expressed his thanks. The health of the noble President was proposed by Mr. Reade, of the Light Blues, and enthusiastically received by the company. The Earl of Dartrey acknowledged the honour. Mr. Taylor, of Chr. Ch., Oxford, proposed the health of Messrs. Minchin and Wayte, who briefly returned thanks. The list of toasts was brought to a conclusion by Mr. Gattie, who called upon the assembled to drink "the Army and Navy," represented by General Vialls and Colonel Sterling. The gallant gentlemen thanked cordially for the honour bestowed upon the service. Soon afterwards the company dispersed, and the ninth Inter-University Chess Match, more remarkable for the closeness of the score than any previous one, therewith finished.

[The Field, 9 April 1981]


"Mastery in the scientific game of chess is comparatively only appreciated by the very few, but it is the struggle for mastery amongst rising devotees to the noble pastime which attracts the public mind. This is one of the reasons why the annual contest between the youthful representatives of the two ancient English seats of learning is, as far as we can judge, growing into popularity amongst numerous students of the mental sport. The Universities are historically entitled to be regarded as the
training school for the greatest intellects which this country ever produced, and chessplayers who believe in our pastime as a healthy exercise for the mind, look upon the efforts of the champions which each University brings forward for the annual trial of skill with the hope inspired by youthful attempts in any mental accomplishment.

"The records of the first eight inter-University chess matches had, so far, borne out the theory of an affinity between chess and mathematics, as to give the preponderance of the victory to the Cambridge University, which is credited with the closer cultivation of the exact science. The Cantabs were already two matches ahead of their rivals in the former contests, and they had last year obtained a hollow victory over their opponents. Anticipations were, therefore, much in their favour when they met again on Wednesday last at the rooms of the St. George's Chess Club, to test thair strength in the annual event against the Oxonians. On the other hand, it was well known that the latter had made in the meanwhile strenuous efforts for the purpose of increasing their strength, and had effected creditable scores against well-reputed provincial clubs.

"The match commenced shortly after 2 o'clock, after the settlement of minor preliminaries between the respective presidents of the Oxford and Cambridge University Chess Clubs, Messrs Walsh and Longsdon. The toss for the first move fell in favour of Oxford, and the right of opening was accordingly taken alternately on the seven boards. The contest between the heads of the teams, Messrs Gattie and Sogden, on board No. 1 (the latter for Oxford), attracted, naturally, the greatest attention. Sugden defended with the French opening, P to K 3, and the game proceeded in the ordinary way, but the Cantab subjected himself to the loss of a clear P early after the developing moves. A hard fight followed, in which the Oxonian, by steady accumulation of small advantages, tried to bring matters to a successful issue with a strong centre and the material superiority gained, but could not break the tough resistance of his opponent, who at one time could have even come out with the superiority by proper play. The Cantab, however, flagged in his attention at the critical moment, left himself open to an excellently conceived advance of the centre pawns, which decided the game in favour of Gattie, who played the termination in fine style. We give below in full this, the only game between the two antagonists, which lasted about four hours.

"On board No. 2, between Messrs. Carr (Cambridge) and Kinder (Oxford), the latter adopted the Sicilian defence, with the continuation of P to QR3, after the adversary had retaken with the Kt in the Q centre. The Oxonian afterwards pinned the QKt with the B, and took off the latter, than leaving himself open to B to QR3, which prevented his castling. Kinder had the worst of the opening, but on the fourteenth more fortune turned in his favour, owing to a sad slip on the part, of his opponent, who, when attacked by the Kt at B5, left his Q in a loose position at Q2, instead of retreating her to Qsq or B3. Kinder thereupon threatened mate by Q to Kt 5, and also to win the Q by Kt to R6, ch. Carr made some desperate efforts to prolong the hopeless fight by sacrificing tha Q at once but had to resign in a few mores This was the first game decided in the contest, and its result was all the more satisfactory to the Oxonians, as they had last year suffered a complete defeat by a love match. The second game betwaen the same players will be found published below. The Oxonian adopted a new and plausible attack in the Q gambit, but did not gain any advantage until the middle part of the game, when, by a confusing manoeuvre with a Kt in the K centre, he gained a P, the opponent having failed to find the exact defenoe. The ending was well conducted by Kinder,
who ultimately obtained a passed P on the K side, which gave him freedom to enter on the Q wing with his K, and to sweep off all the adverse pawns in that quarter.

"On board No. 3 Mr Taylor (Oxford) offered a K gambit, which Mr Morley defended with the Cunningham variation. Taylor introduced the injudicious novelty of capturing the checking adverse KB, and then moving the K, thus creating a kind of B gambit. Morley gave his opponent some opportunities of recovering ground by P to Q4; for instance, on the seventh move, by offering the exchange of queen at KKt5, instead of playing Kt to QB3. Taylor, however, missed his chance, which would have recovered the P with the better position, for the adverse KKtP could not well advance in support, on account of the answer P to KR4. He exchanged queens at once and again lost time by immediately attacking the adverse Kt, instead of advancing P to Q4. From that point the Cantab never released his hold. Morley, to whose talent we called attention in our last year's report, is a promising player, and he made some fine points in the arrangement and conduct of his forces, which would have been creditable to a more experienced adept. He first gave full protection with his Kt at Kt3 to the gambit BP already gained, and then on the fourteenth he judiciously opened his KB file by the advance of the original KBP. The manoeuvre looked dangerous, as he was apparently exposed at the time to the loss of a piece by the advance of the P to Q5 on his pinned knights, but connoisseurs could see that he had a clever reply in reserve by P to QR3, followed by P to QKt4. The Cantab then forced his attack vigorously up to the noneteenth move, when his adversary left himself open to the loss of a piece by B to Q2, instead of retreating the Kt to KB3. Morley's subsequent play was marked by pretty and sound finessing, which did not in the least compromise his advantage, and against the best defensive moves enabled him to come out in a simple winning position with a clear piece ahead.

"The second game between the same opponents was a poor one. The Oxonian, as second player in a Philidor's defence, made an unsound sacrifice of a piece early after the opening moves, and soon afterwards lost another one by an incauitous check with the Q at QKt5, instead of retreating the Q to KR4. The Cantab then exchanged two more of the hostile active pieces, and kept his overwhelming superiority well in hand until the time for the termination of the match, when the umpire, Herr Steinitz, unhesitatingly decided the game for Morley, who was still his two pieces ahead, and had already assumed a forcible attack against the adverse K.

"On board No. 4 Mr Welsh, the president of the Oxford Chess Club adopted a Philidor, which proceeded in an irregular manner in the opening moves. Mr Raymond, his opponent, allowed too many exchanges of the minor pieces, and came out of the opening, after the additional exchange of queens, with doubled pawns on each wins. On the thirteenth move he seized the opportunity, left open by an oversight of his opponent, of gaining a P. The subsequent play of the two antagonists, who are new accessions to their respective teams, showed their talent. The Cantab forced on a P on the KKt file, and, by an ingenious sacrifice of the R for a Kt, secured its promotion at the expense of a clear piece for the oppooont it. But afterwards he impetuously attacked with his R the adverse centre P, instead of retreating temporarily for the purpose of stopping a hostile passed P on the KR file, which ultimately cost him the piece already gained. Raymond had still a P ahead, but Walsh defended with remarkable skill, and the game was finally given up as drawn.

"In the second game, a double Ruy Lopez, chances were reversed, and the Oxonian this time neglected an opportunity of winning on the ninth move by Q to KKt3, attacking two pawns. The opponents then castled in opposite directions, the Cantab having a slight pull in the position; but on the nineteenth move the situation was so even that the parties consented to a draw.

"On board No. 5 the Oxonian, Mr Lynam, opened with the Queen’s Gambit, which proceeded slowly and cautiously up to the tenth move, when his opponent, Mr Atmore, sensed an opportunity of exchanging QB against KB in a manner which deprived Lynam of the right of castling on the K side. The latter’s K had then great difficulty of getting into temporary security on the K side, against which, however, Atmore directed an attack well supported with a Kt in the centre. The Cantab broke through on the twenty-fourth move, owing to an ill-considered advance of the adversary’s KBP, which left White’s KtP insufficiently protected. Lynam then tried on a trap by giving up a piece, which the opponent could not take at once, on pain of losing the Q. But the Cantab, by a clever retreat of the Q one square, not alone secured the adverse piece, which had no ultimate escape, but also effected an exchange of queens. Lynam then attempted some brave sorties with his rooks on the Q side, which were, however, repelled with great steadiness, and the Cantab in the end came out with a clear piece ahead, besides a winning passed P on the Q R file. This game lasted nearly throughout the whole duration of the match, and no second game was commenced between the two players.

"A very stiff contest ensued on board No. 6 between two new champions, Mr Thursby (Cambridge), who is already known to the chess world as a fair composer of problems, and Mr Wainwright. The latter continued the French defence with B to QKt5, and consequently lost a move in the opening. He subsequently castled on the Q side, and tried to form with his pawns an attaok on the other wing, where his opponent's K was situated. Thursby pluckily allowed him to open the KR file for the purpose of gaining the KKtP, and he afterwards steadily stuck to his material advantage, until the adversary lost another P on the Q centre by an oversight after exchanging queens. An interesting end game followed, in which the Cantab left without sufficient cause a chanoe open for the opponent of winning a P, and entering with R to K8. This occurred on the forty-fourth move, when Thursby ought to have played the K to Q2, instead of to Q3. Subsequently, four moves later on, Wainwright did not make the most of his defensive resources, for he could at once occupy KB8 with his R, threatening to enter at KB6. He hit on this plan much too late, when his opponent, by a clever series of marches with his K, had crossed over as far as KKt8. Thursby then conducted the ending in excellent style, alternately stopping the adversary's advanced KtP and supporting the progress of his KBP, until he queened first, winning a rook, which left him free to operate with his K successfully on the side after sacrificing his R for the adverse passed P.

"The second game between the same players proved of the utmost importance for the result of the match, for it was the last in progress when the score showed only one game difference between the two teams, and in favour of Light Blue. The opening was a Sicilian, irregularly continued by the Cantab with P to Q 3, and Black’s game was subsequently weakened by the advance of the KP to K4.The Oxonian, with a well-judged check of the B at Kt5, exchanged the QB and entered at KB5 with his Kt, exercising strong pressure against the weak adverse QP, and maintaining the superiority of the position, though he had sacrificed a P. Thursby's K was driven about, and an exchange of queens followed, whieh would have left Wainwright sufficient attack with his two rooks, if be had only given the proper discovered check with the B at B6 instead of at Kt3; and only a few moves before the time fixed for the termination, the Oxonian could have thus secured another victory for his party, and the match would therefore have resulted in a tie. As it was, Mr Steinitz had to decide the game in the position given in the accompanying diagram and declared it a draw, though Oxford was a P ahead.

"The two games between Mr Beebe and Mr Longsdon (president of the Cambridge C. C.) were finished early. In the first, a Q Gambit, The Cantab castled too soon on the Q side, and invited by the imprudent advance of the QRP the attack of the hostile pawsn on that wing. The Oxonian played very well at this point, and forced the gain of the Q for two minor pieces by a clever exchange of B for Kt, followed by the entrance of his Kt at K5. Longsdon's game soon broke down completely after that. In the second game, a Hamppe opening, Beebe, on the tenth move, made a mistake by retaking the QP with the Q instead of with the P, thus leaving himself open to the loss of a piece, and he soon afterwards overlooked the loss of the Q for a B. Some interest, however, was imported into the finish by Longsdon, with a clever sacrifice of a R for the B, which resulted in a mate in a few moves.

"Thus the honours of the day in the Inter-University Chess contest were gained by the Cantab, by the narrow majority of only one game. It will be remembered that the 7th match between the two universities two years ago was decided by the same close difference. The Oxonians may be congratulated on the manner in which they came out of the affray on this occasion, and they deserve great credit for having summoned so much pluck and spirit, after their signal defeat of last year, to run their adversaries so close as to make at one time a dead heat probable. A select and attentive number of spectators were present during the proceedings, including the Earl of Dartrey, president of the St George's C.C., General Vialls, Colonel Stirling, the Hon. H. C. Plunkett, Messrs. Blackburne, Catley, Geary, Gould, Gümpel, Hirschfeld, Hoffer, Laws, Lindsay, F. H. Lewis, Minchin, Salter, Steel, Wayte and others.

"The dinner took place at eight o'clock at the Criterion, and was attended by about forty gentlemen, with the Earl of Dartrey in the chair. After the repast and the usual loyal toasts, the noble chairman welcomed the University guests in the name of the St George's Chess Club, and proposed the health of the two University chess clubs of Cambridge and Oxford, coupled with the names of their respective presidents, Messrs. Longsdon and Welsh. Both returned thanks, and especially the latter gentleman made an excellent speech, delivered fluently and in graceful manner, in which he acknowledged the hospitality of the St George's Chess Club, and congratulated their members on their late victory over their City rivals.

"The next toast, the health of the "Chess Press," proposed by Mr Lindsay, was coupled with the name of Mr Steinitz, who briefly acknowledged the honour accorded to him. In proposing the health of the Honorary Members, coupled with the name of Herr Zukertort, Mr Francis paid high praise to Mr Zukertort's merits as a player and chess author, and also to his general attainments. He warmly commended the public spirit which had prompted the winner of the Paris Tournament to come forward for the St George's on the occasion of the late match against the City of London Chess Club. Mr Zukertort returned thanks. The "Armay and Navy," proposed by Mr Gattie, and coupled with the names of General Vialls and Colonel Stirling, was most cordially received, and the two gentlemen returned thanks.

"A similar reception was accorded to the "health of Messrs. Minchin and Wayte," proposed by Mr Taylor, and finally the "health of the Earl of Dartrey," proposed by Mr Reade. The proposer of the last toast, in the course of his address, dwelt on the merits of the noble chairman as the strongest chess player who ever sat in the House of Lords, for Lord Dartrey (formerly Lord Cremorne) could boast of having won a game each of Messrs. Blackburne, Morphy, and Steinitz. The noble chairman responded, and the company soon afterwards separated, after having spent a most enjoyable evening, in which the greatest cordiality prevailed between the hosts and their University visitors."

"In 1881 the result was very close. At adjudication time Cambridge led by 6-5, and Steinitz, as umpire, gave the one unfinished game a draw. In this year, J. F. Welsh, one day to be Bishop of Trinidad, C. C. Lynam, the future Oxford schoolmaster (known to his friends as 'The Skipper', owing to his prowess as an amateur yachtsman) and G. E. Wainwright, made their appearance for Oxford, and J. O. S. Thursby (later Sir John Thursby, President of the British Chess Federation, who died at the end of 1920) for Cambridge." [PW Sergeant]

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Date Notes
24 March 2022 Original upload.


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