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John Saunders


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Tournament: 13th Varsity Match • Venue: St. George's Chess Club, 47 Albemarle St, Piccadilly • Date: Thursday 26 March 1885
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The 13th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at St. George's Chess Club, 47 Albemarle St, Piccadilly, London, on Thursday 26 March 1885 with Johannes Zukertort adjudicating unfinished games. Start 1.15pm, ending 6.30pm.

1884«     1885 Varsity Chess Match     »1886
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1b Charles Dealtry Locock (University) 0-1   John Drew Roberts (Sidney Sussex)
2w George Edward Wainwright (University) 1-0 1-0 Herman George Gwinner (Trinity)
3b James Manders Walker (Wadham) ½-½ 0-1 Rev. Hugh William Sherrard (Non-Coll.)
4w Richard Whieldon Barnett (Wadham) 0-1   Frederick Mortimer Young (Trinity)
5b Francis George Newbolt (Balliol) 1-0 1-0 James Thornton Gibson (Clare)
6w Henry [Harry] Ashbrooke Crump (Balliol) 0-1 ½-½ Raymund Cecil Edward Allen (Pembroke)
7b Sidney James Buchanan (New) ½-½ 0-1 Claude Herries Chepmell (Trinity)

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), (compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987); BCM, 1885, p186ff; The Field, 28 March 1885 & 4 April 1885; Sergeant, Philip W, A Century of Chess (London 1934), (ref'd as PWS); FreeBMD & other statutory records; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia. Nine of the 12 games played (and three game fragments) are available in the download.

BCM, May 1885, p186 (by George Edward Wainwright): "The Inter-University match was played on Thursday the 26th March, at 47, Albemarle St., W; the St George's Club, with their habitual courtesy, placing their rooms at the disposal of the contending clubs. The match was attended by a numerous gathering, and its varying phases watched with great interest by members of the club and others; many of whom had played in previous Inter-University matches. At first the match seemed be going entirely one way; the score at one time standing at 4½ Oxford to 1½ for Cambridge. But from this point Cambridge gradually pulled up; and when of the three unfinished games two were adjudicated by Dr. Zukertort in favour of Cambridge and one a draw, another victory for Cambridge was added to the list, which, already, in the eyes of partisans of Oxford, seemed almost to have "stretched out to the crack of doom".

"A word may be said as to the reason for the continuance of victories on the side of Cambridge. In our opinion this "word" must resemble the celebrated chapter on "The Snakes of Iceland". "There are no Snakes in Iceland" [note on the text - it definitely reads "Iceland" and not "Ireland"]. Similarly in this case "There is no satisfactory reason." This may appear an idle assertion to those who have no acquaintance with the subject; but, to those who sympathize with the losing side, it will rather appear a painful platitude. It is borne out by hard facts. It may be justly denied that, taken man for man, the winners can claim decisive superiority. The doctrine of a general superiority, diffused throughout a team, is surely irrelevant in matches, where no aid can be rendered by one to another. Having regard to the fact that in the last five years 4 matches have been won by Cambridge, and one drawn, with a score of 23 games to 18 - or, counting draws as a half, 31 games to 26 - one can hardly be blamed for thinking that "the Fates and Destinies, and such odd sayings" have been corrupted by Cambridge. As there is no room for diversity of opinion it is not surprising to find the old fallacy reasserted:— that pi must always conquer the digamma.

"These considerations may be kept in mind in the perusal of the following account of the games played on the last occasion. In the game played at the first board, in particular, it will be found that only a steady persistence, that is really wonderful, gave Mr. Roberts the game. Of this game The Field, which is not prone to exaggeration, says - "a fine specimen of steadiness and science, notably so the ending, which was classical and won by Mr. Roberts in the very best style." It may be said, roughly, that Mr. Roberts won by selecting an opening that affords an enduring pressure, and carrying through to the end the advantage of the first move. Mr. Roberts opened with the Ruy Lopez, and the game proceeded [3...a6 4 Ba4 Be7 5 0-0 d6 6 d3 f5 7 exf5 Bxf5]. A struggle for position followed until the 14th move when Mr. Roberts might have initiated a venturesome attack by allowing his queen's rook to be captured. He preferred, however, to continue his policy of steady development. At the 18th move Mr. Locock exchanged knights and allowed his opponent to plant an isolated but ultimately fatal pawn at K5; and on the 19th move weakened his position for defensive purposes by checking with a bishop at QB4 instead of retreating to K2. A short-lived attack followed: but the black queen was in jeopardy; and White gained time to force exchanges damaging to his opponent’s prospects. In his endeavours to assail the isolated Pawn Mr. Locock allowed White to occupy the open K P file, and at the 30th move Mr. Roberts was left with Rook, Knight, and 6 Pawns, to Rook, Knight, and 6 Pawns. In eighteen moves more the game had finished : Mr. Roberts playing probably the best move in every instance, and Mr. Locock making one more slight error of judgment in permitting the exchange of Rooks. Considering, however, the precision of Mr. Roberts’s moves in the actual end-game, it is difficult to see how Black could possibly have obtained a draw after the exchange of Queens, as his King was unable to take part in the game, while White’s Queen was quite unfettered.

At the second board two games resulted in favour of the Oxonian ; the judgment of Mr. Gwinner failing him at critical junctures. In the first game Mr. Wainwright played the Vienna game; and after 2 Kt to Q B 3, Kt to K B 3, 3 P to K B 4, Mr. Gwinner prejudiced his future by 3 P to Q 3, instead of P to Q 4. However he was succeeding in improving his game, when he made an ill-judged capture on the 14th move, with the King’s Pawn instead of the Queen; a miscalculation which led to an attack that resulted after exchanges in a simple end-game, in which White was two Pawns ahead. Black simplified matters by taking careful measures to ensure the pinning of his rooks, and resigned at the 29th move.

In the second game Mr. Gwinner played the Queen’s Gambit. White was somewhat more tardy in development than Black and more hasty in attack; but he had a perfectly sound game when, on the 16th move, he was intimidated by a sound but really unproductive sacrifice on the part of hiB opponent, and permitted a position to ensue which in three more moves induced him to resign.

Mr. Sherrard in his first game with Mr. Walker was met by the Philidor Counter Gambit. This defence, though sanctioned by Morphy, is yet demonstrably unsound. On the 7th move Mr. Sherrard, after sacrificing a Knight, might have won a rook and the game ; but, for some occult reason, consented to draw by perpetual check at Q 5, K 6 and K B 7.

The second game was of a different order. In the opening of a Vienna game, after 1 P to K 4, P to K 4, 2 Kt to Q B 3, Kt to Q B 3, 3 B to B 4, B to B4, 4 P to K B 4, Mr. Sherrard might have gained the superiority by 4 B >akes Kt, 5 B takes B, Q to B 5 ch; but as he neglected this opportunity he had the worse game, after 4 P takes P, 5 Kt to K B 3, P to Q 3, 6 P to Q 4, B to Q Kt 5. At this very point, however, Mr. Walker let his opponent off by 7 B to Q 2 instead of 7 Q B takes P. Again after 7 B to Kt 5, 6 P to QE 3, B takes B, 9 B takes B, Q to K 2, 10 Castles, Castles, 11 Q to Q 3, Kt to K B 3, 12 Kt to Kt 5, B to B sq, 13 B takes P, P to K B 3, 14 Kt to B 3, Kt takes P, 15 Q B to K sq, P to Q 4, Mr. Walker might have regained the Pawn by 16 B takes P, E takes P, 17 B takes Kt, with a good game. Mr. Walker subsequently lost the exchange, and after the 31st move the game was adjudicated a win to Mr. Sherrard.

Mr. Barnett played the Queen’s Gambit against Mr. Young and at the eleventh move had gained an overmastering superiority in position. Up to this time his adversary had conceded all the minute advantages that he could. But at this point Mr. Barnett lost time by laying a too obvious trap for the Queen; and six moves later fell into an equally obvious snare by which he lost a Bishop. His superior position, however, enabled him to sustain an attack up to the 34th move; when a series of exchanges left him defenceless and the game was registered against him.

Mr. Newbolt proved a valuable recruit by winning two games. It is rumoured that the two Oxonians who alone scored any games were specially dieted for the occasion; and, if this be so, a means towards success which has hitherto been neglected by Chess-players, may possibly become a recognised institution, and training breakfasts take the place of midnight tobacco. In the first encounter Mr. Gibson opened with the Scotch game, and at the 12th move fell into a trap by which he lost the Queen for two minor pieces. Nothing daunted he proceeded with the attack; but at the 28th move Mr. Newbolt sacrificed his Queen with profit to himself and ruin to White’s attack. After some desultory warfare for 15 more moves Mr. Gibson resigned.

The second game was an unorthodox Giuoco Piano, in which the second player—Mr. Gibson—soon abandoned his King’s Pawn. After Castling on the Queen’s side, and after his opponent had Castled on the King’s, he sacrificed a Bishop at Rook’s sixth, obtaining a mere apology for an attack; while Mr. Newbolt was laying everything waste on the Queen’s side. White effected a mate on the 25th move.

The first game between Messrs. Crump and Allen was a closely contested Queen’s Gambit, of a bookish nature, in which an identical position on both sides was reached at the 8th move. It would require very accurate analysis to pronounce on the merits of the position at the 23rd move, when Mr. Crump made an unfortunate slip and was mated off-hand.

As little time was now left both players rushed through the opening moves of a French defence, in which Black speedily lost his Queen’s Pawn. The lost Pawn was regained at the 18th move; and in five moves more the game was adjudicated drawn; there being equal forces on each side. Black, however, appeared to have the better game.

Another French defence occurred at the last board. Nothing noteworthy occurred, and the legitimate outcome of the game— a draw —took place at the 37th move.

The second game was a striking contrast to the first. For 14 moves Mr. Chepmell conducted a sound defence to the Ruy Lopez, and then commenced a brilliant assault, against which the patient and studious meditation of his adversary availed nothing. It is true that the ultimate win of the Queen cost Mr. Chepmell several pieces; but it was finely effected; and at the 27th move he was left with a Queen and four Pawns against two Rooks and two Pawns. Sixteen moves later, after the Black Pawns had advanced to a threatening position, the game was adjudicated in favour of Mr. Chepmell, who had earned his victory with the display of more ability than was shown elsewhere in the match, except, perhaps, by Mr. Roberts. It has been affirmed, however, by competent authorities that the play, as a whole, was a decided improvement on previous years ; and it is no doubt true that there is far less disparity than there once was, between the play at the upper and the lower boards. We can only wonder why Mr. Chepmell was chosen to occupy the position which he did.

After the match the teams were entertained by the St. George’s at the Criterion. Only those who have participated in these annual contests, and have been the recipients of this hospitality, can tell how pleasant these gatherings have always been and with what regret many of us see them become nothing but memories of the past. G. E. W.

[The Field, 28 March 1885] The thirteenth annual match of the Universities took place on Thursday, at the St. George's Chess Club, 47, Albemarle-street, W. The conditions were the same as on former occasions, with the salutary exception that the match should commence half an hour earlier than usual. We think, however, that a still larger margin of time would he advisable. There is no reason why the match should not commence at 12 o’clock, instead of at 1.15, as on Thursday. Cambridge, by mistake, brought Mr Raymond amongst their team, but he was objected to according to the rules which govern the University Chess matches and Mr Chepmell volunteered to take his place. Play continued from 1.15 until 6.30 p.m., with an interval of a few minutes between the first and second game, and when time was called, Dr Zukertort, the umpire, adjudicated upon three unfinished games, viz.: Walker v. Sherrard, Buchanan v. Chepmell, and Allen v. Crump. Up to that time the score stood—Oxford five and Cambridge four. Considerable interest was therefore attached to the umpire’s decision, who gave the two former games in favour of Cambridge, whilst the last one was decided as drawn. Cambridge, therefore, emerged again victorious by one game, the final score being, Cambridge 6½, Oxford 5½.

Cambridge therefore leads with six matches won and twenty games to their credit. We may state that the quality of the play is vastly superior to that of earlier days, and both Universities possess players of great promise. The game between the two captains, Messrs Locock and Roberts was a fine specimen of steadiness and science, notably so the ending, which was classical, and won by Mr Roberts in the very best style. A technical review we shall give next week.

Both teams dined with the St. George's, at 7.45, at the Criterion; the Earl of Dartrey, K.P., president of the St. George's, in the chair. After the cloth was removed, the following toasts were brought out: “The Queen," “The Prince of Wales, and the Royal Family," by the noble chairman. The toast of the evening, "The University Teams," by Lord Dartrey; Messrs Gibson and Locock replied. "The Umpire," by Mr A. Rosenbaum; Mr Zukertort replied. "British Chess," coupled with the name of Mr H. E. Bird, by Mr James Innes Minchin; Mr Bird replied. Mr Ashton proposed "The Chess Press," coupled with the name of Mr Hoffer, who replied. To "The Chairman," proposed by the Rev. W. Hook-Longsdon, late member of the Cantab team: Lord Dartrey replied. “The Hon. Secretary, Mr Minchin," proposed by Mr Walker, and Mr Minchin's reply, concluded tbe proceedings.

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Date Notes
28 March 2022 Original upload.


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