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John Saunders


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Tournament: 14th Varsity Match • Venue: St. George's Chess Club, 47 Albemarle St, Piccadilly • Date: Thursday 1 April 1886
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The 14th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at St. George's Chess Club, 47 Albemarle St, Piccadilly, London, on Thursday 1 April 1886 with H E Bird adjudicating unfinished games.

1885«     1886 Varsity Chess Match     »1887
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1b Charles Dealtry Locock (University) 0-1   Herman George Gwinner (Trinity)
2w Richard Whieldon Barnett (Wadham) 0-1 0-1 Frederick Mortimer Young (Trinity)
3b Francis George Newbolt (Balliol) ½-½   Richard Stoney Topham (Christ's)
4w Charles Millar Grace (Queen's) 1-0 1-0 Cecil Warburton (Christ's)
5b Sidney James Buchanan (New) 1-0   Henry Edwin Robinson (Non-Coll.)
6w Arthur Rutherford (Brasenose) 1-0   James Thornton Gibson (Clare)
7b Rev. Charles Frederick Jones (Wadham) 1-0 1-0 Edward Hungerford Duke (Pembroke)

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), (compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987); BCM, May 1886, ppn 169-175; The Field, 3 & 10 April 1886; Chess-Monthly, 1886, ppn 235-241; 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. Eight of the 10 games played are available in the download.

Notes: CH Chepmell (Trinity) was the Cambridge President, but could not play in this match (PWS)

BCM, May 1886, ppn 169-175: THE UNIVERSITY CHESS WEEK.
The approach of the Boat Race brought both Universities in force to the Metropolis, and the two days before the main contest were, as usual, devoted to practice matches. On Tuesday, March 30th, ten players from each University met twenty of the City of London (mostly, we believe, chosen from the Third Class of that Club) in a one-game match. No fewer than seven of the games were drawn, and each party scored one game by forfeit; the remaining games placing the City in a majority of two, or one less than last year. Mr. Blackburne acted as umpire, and the score was as under :— [full scores in BCM - Combined Universities 9, City of London 11]

On Wednesday, March 31st, eight Cambridge players encountered an equal number of the Athenaeum (Camden Town) Club, at the rooms of the latter. Half of the games were drawn, and the home team scored 3 to 1 of the remainder. The object of the match being practice for the morrow and not victory, we can only wonder that Cambridge played veterans like Messrs. Gunston and Ropes in the place of younger men ; but perhaps some of the present Light Blues may have been engaged elsewhere, or have preferred to rest. We append the score:— [full score in BCM - Athenaeum 5, Cambridge University 3]

On the same day Oxford put in their University team, with Mr. Ross as eighth man, at the St. George’s Club. The Club team is always, for this match, selected on the principle of giving the young men good practice without overweighting them; and accordingly Mr. F. Gover (Class I. B) was chosen as a suitable opponent for Mr. Locock, a choice justified by the event, the other players being drawn from the second and third classes. Unfortunately one of the St. George’s men failed to put in an appearance, and the Oxford players chivalrously invited Mr. Minchin to take the remaining board. This decided the match, the other scores being exactly equal; but Mr. Barnett’s play, it should be added, was extremely creditable to him. The first game, in which he had the move, was finely contested; the Oxonian being left with a Queen and two extra Pawns against two Rooks and a minor piece, Mr. Minchin had to exert himself; in the other the Hon. Sec. won easily. Two games were played at all the boards, but in two cases, as will be seen, the St. George’s men being unable to stay longer were replaced by others of about the same strength. When time was called three games remained unfinished, and Mr. Wayte was requested to adjudicate them. This he did with the remark that he should feel bound to give doubtful cases against the Club. Mr. Grace having two Pawns and a good attack against Col. Salmond, the game was pronounced won for him. Mr. Jowitt had the advantage of a Pawn against Mr. Jones, but there was nothing decisive in the position, and this game was declared drawn. In the game between Gen. Pearse and Mr Buchanan, the General had Book Knight and Pawn against Book and two Pawns; but analysis showed that the last Pawn must be changed off, and that there was no winning position with Rook and Knight against Rook. The score was as follows:— [full score in BCM - Oxford University 7, St George's CC 9]


On Thursday, April 1st [1886], the two Universities met as usual at the St. George’s Club. No Cantab, we are sure, will grudge Oxford their well won victory; as no Oxonian, we hope, will grudge Cambridge the honour of the magnificent Boat Race two days later. But it is only just to mention that Cambridge had lost their two best men, Messrs. Roberts and Chepmell, whom the call of duty had summoned elewhere. Mr. Gwinner, succeeding to the captaincy in circumstances of difficulty, acquitted himself well against the formidable Oxonian Mr. Locock. Having the move he chose the Giuoco Piano, and taking a leaf out of his opponent’s well-known book, sacrificed a Pawn for the attack, which he carried to a successful issue at the 33rd move after some very able play. Mr. Gwinner was playing for his University for the fourth time, Mr. Locock for the fifth and last.

At Board No. 2 Messrs. Barnett and Young were once more opposed, having met last year at the fourth place; and again Mr. Young was victorious. The Oxonian having the move chose the Vienna game, but did not make the most of the opportunities that opening presents ; and he was already at some disadvantage of position when, at his 24th move, he overlooked the loss of the exchange, and shortly afterwards had to resign the game. A second game was begun, and at the 21st move, when time was called, the umpire, Mr. Bird, had no difficulty in adjudging it to the Cantab, who had a well-supported passed Pawn to the good. Cambridge was thus successful at the two leading boards, but it was their turn to suffer from a “tail” this year, and they did not win another game. At the third board oocurred the only drawn game; it was a long and well-fought Ruy Lopez of 57 moves, in which Black (Mr. Newbolt) first won a Pawn cleverly and then lost it back, the end-game showing at one point a slight winning chance for White, but at length, when it was adjudicated, a palpable draw.

At the fourth board the Oxonian won two games, the first rather easily, having the attack in a Queen’s Gambit refused, with which his opponent did not appear to be conversant; the second by some very pretty play in a Giuoco Piano. Mr. Grace was playing for the first time, and from the four games we saw him win in the two days’ play at the St. George’s we augur a considerable Chess future for him.

The next game [at board 5 - Buchanan vs Robinson] (French Defence) illustrates a common fault of young players, declining to simplify when sound judgment invites it. The Cantab avoided an exchange of Queens at the 27th move, no doubt because his opponent’s forces were somewhat less developed. Had he exchanged he could have won a dangerous passed Pawn and have been a Pawn ahead; he remained with equal forces, but in the subsequent stages of the game this Pawn was carefully nursed and discreetly advanced by Mr. Buchanan, until it gave him the victory.

At board No. 6 the opening was Scotch, and rather irregularly defended by the Cambridge player, who however came out with a fully equal game. But his 26th and 28th moves were weak, and gave his opponent a chance which he did not neglect. By the 32nd move White had sacrificed a Rook for two Pawns, and now threatened a mate which Black could only put off for a few moves by sacrificing his Queen for a Pawn, an exchange which he did not think it worth while to make, and so resigned.

At the last board the young Cantab was obviously overmatched by his more experienced opponent, the Rev. C. F. Jones, and lost two games. In the former of these Black, defending a French opening, early obtained a fierce attack, White having castled on Q side in an exposed position; and after some brilliant sacrifices forced a mate at the 23rd move. This was the first game concluded in the match. The second game, a Scotch, was rather longer, but in a very few moves the defence began to lose ground and there was not much real struggle. When time was called, at 6-45, only two games, at the second and third boards, remained for Mr. Bird to adjudicate.

At 7-45 the players were entertained by the St. George’s Club at the usual locality, the Criterion; Mr. Warner in the chair. The attendance of members of the Club was smaller than usual, some of our seniors, no doubt, shrinking from the rigours of an English spring such as that of 1886; and we missed the sparkling eloquence of Mr. Francis, so often kindled by Cambridge victories. But the party was large enough for enjoyment, and the merriment did not seem to suffer from any deficiency of numbers. After the loyal toasts the Chairman (himself, by the way, a highly distinguished colonel of volunteers) gave “The Army and Navy,” to which Col. Ross, Canadian Commissioner of the Colonial Exhibition, responded. The toast of the evening, “The Universities,” was next proposed from the chair; and the two Presidents, Messrs. Barnett and Gwinner, replied in fluent and humorous speeches. Mr. Wayte then gave the health of “The Umpire,” and Mr. Bird replied. Mr. Gattie proposed “Chess and its Practitioners,” coupled with the name of Mr. Hoffer, and the latter replied. Mr. Gibson proposed “The St. George’s.” coupled with the names of Messrs. Minchin and Wayte, and both replied ; and finally Mr. Newbolt proposed “ The Chairman,” to which Mr. Warner responded, concluding the proceedings.

We append the scores of two more matches, with which the Chess week was brought to a close. Friday, April 2nd, was a bye-day for Cambridge; but the indefatigable Oxonians encountered and, what is more, defeated the British Chess Club, represented by eleven members of its second and third classes. [Oxford University 7, British Chess Club 4] Mr. Hoffer, Founder of the B. C. C., tells us in the Field, that the result was unexpected by his clients. The match was concluded in the rather short space of three hours, and Mr. Hoffer, as umpire, adjudicated the unfinished games.

A match between the United Universities and Brighton has now become an annual event on the day of the Boat Race. In the two previous encounters, 1884 and 1885, the trysting-place was at the City Club, and the Universities were successful by small majorities. The locality was this year transferred to the British Chess Club, and on Saturday April 3rd the Brightonians amply avenged their two previous defeats. Mr. Blackburne was the umpire, and adjudicated three of the games; Locock v. Butler (in this the Oxonian had overlooked a clear win a few moves previously), Wainwright v. Raper, and Warburton v. Lucas. The play must have been rather quick : the time was from 5-30 to 9 p.m., and it will be seen that a second game was finished at three of the boards. [Full score given - Combined Universities 3½, Brighton 7½]

[n.b. The Chess Monthly, 1886, ppn 198-201, has full details of these various matches but has the dates wrong]

The Field, 10 April, p44 [descriptions of the two missing games]: Board No. 4 [first game] C. M. Grace (Oxford) v. C. Warburton (Cambridge)—A Queen's Gambit Declined offered by Grace, which his opponent declined in an eccentric style. He pinned the adverse QKt instead of 6...B to K2 [i.e. ...Bb4], and after White had castled, he pinned also the KKt, moving the developed QB twice, it having been well posted at KB4. The natural consequence was a bad game, which he made still worse by an unsound sacrifice of a piece. Grace, therefore, socred an easy victory in twenty-six moves.

Board No. 5 H. E. Robinson (Cambridge) v. S. J. Buchanan (Oxford)—A French defence with 3. P to K5. The Light Blue brought about the book position by a transposition of moves in the début. He sacrificed a pawn on the 10th move for the sake of an open QKt file, and made a hostile demonstration on the king's side, which was so far successful, because Buchanan attacked his knight with 12...P to KR3, instead of 12...B to K2, which enabled Robinson to sacrifice temporarily a knight, which he, however, soon regained, as also the pawn given up earlier, and a superior position into the bargain. Buchanan defended himself very cleverly, and contrived to pursue the adverse queen, with a persistency only equalled by the reluctance of his opponent to exchange the attacking piece. We illustrate the position after Black's 26th move, Q to Q6, where White could have gained the passed pawn, which proved fatal to him in the end. [Unfortunately, because of a very poor scan of the page at the British Newspaper Archive and what seem to be errors in the score, it has not proved possible to interpret the diagram and the subsequent moves of the game successfully - JS]

File updated

Date Notes
29 March 2022 Original upload.


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