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John Saunders


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Tournament: 19th Varsity Match • Venue: British Chess Club, King Street, London • Date: Thursday 19 March 1891
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1890 • Forward to 1892 • last edited: Monday December 11, 2023 11:20 PM

The 19th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at British Chess Club, 37 King Street, Covent Garden, London, on Thursday 19 March 1891 with Leopold Hoffer adjudicating unfinished games. Start 2.30pm, end 6.00pm.

1890«     1891 Varsity Chess Match     »1892
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1w John Francis Frederick Whall Ure (Christ Church) ½-½   Henry Ernest Atkins (Peterhouse)
2b Wallace Mackenzie Le Patourel (Balliol) 1-0   Hubert Bell Lester (Queens')
3w Frank Edward Jelly (Magdalen) 1-0   Robert Cecil Stephenson (Caius)
4b Robert Garner Lynam (St Catherine's) 0-1 0-1 Edward Young (Corpus Christi)
5w Allen Banks Hinds (Christ Church) ½-½ ½-½ Edward Bankes James (Caius)
6b Richard Burn (Christ Church) ½-½   Francis Ramsay Dinnis (St John's)
7w Percy Lancelot Osborn (Magdalen) 0-1   Frederick George Scovell (Queens')

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), (compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987); Sergeant, Philip W, A Century of Chess (London 1934, referred to in the text as PWS); BCM, April 1891, ppn 145-147, p167; The Field, 21 March 1891, p423; 28 March 1891, p452; 11 April 1891, p517; FreeBMD & other statutory records; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia. Five complete games of the nine games played are available in the download.

BCM, April 1891, ppn 145-147: "Boat-race week has once more come and gone, and in consequence there has been a slight ripple on the surface of London chess—which of late has become somewhat stagnant.

"Proceedings for the week commenced on Tuesday, 17th March, when the United Universities (past and present) assembled at the rooms of the City of London Chess Club, Newgate Street, to play their annual match with the second class of the City Club. As the Universities have the right of calling upon some of their graduates in order to strengthen their forces, it throws upon the City the necessity of having to meet at the top boards some players of established reputation. On the present occasion these boards were occupied by Messrs. Gwinner and Ropes, of Cambridge, and Messrs. Jackson and Osborne, of Oxford, whilst the Universities’ team was strengthened at other boards, bringing up the total team to twenty, as against fourteen who take part in the actual Inter-University fight.

"Against this admittedly strong phalanx Mr. Geo. Adamson (City sec.) can only place second-class men and has therefore to select the players with care. Nevertheless such is the fighting strength of the club that he was able to dispense this year with the service of many a tried veteran, such as Dr. Coupland, Mr. J. J. Watts, and similar strong players, and to call in a number of the younger but rising players of their class.

"Play began at seven o’clock, when there was a large gathering assembled. The Rev. G. A. MacDonnell was up from his country vicarage, and Mr. Gunsberg—who acted as umpire—was en evidence after his American trip. First blood was to the Universities, who scored at board No. 17, when Mr. F. R. Dennis [sic - Dinnis] defeated the City president, Mr. Kershaw. This was soon, however, balanced by the veteran Mr. Ridpath, at board 18, defeating Mr. R. F. Grimly. Then began a series of wins for the City, until the score stood 6 to 1 in favour of the City, but on glancing round the room it was evident that the 'Varsities had plenty of fight left in them. Their top men were still to the fore and all their games looked favourable.

"This rosy appearance in the distance became brighter when it was seen that Mr. Atkins, a young Cantab in his first year, was pressing very hard upon Mr. Stiebel, one of the most experienced of the City players, and soon the Light Blue placed a win to the credit of his Universities. Still the actual result went for the City, and at half-past ten the score stood City 10, Universities 4. Then, however, came the turn of the Blues. One by one the top men avenged their fallen companions on the lower boards, and at the cessation of play the score was City 11, Universities 8, with one unfinished game, and this Mr. Gunsberg gave to the Blues, and the final score was City 11, United Universities 9.

"This is the seventh annual match between the City Seconds and the Light Blues, and the result is that the City leads by the odd match, having won in 1885-6-90 and 91, and the Universities in 1887-8 and 9. The City has scored a total of 73 games and the ’Varsities 66.

"The next day the Oxford players journeyed to Hackney, and there tried conclusions with the North London Club. The Dark Blues brought up Messrs. [Edward Mackenzie] Jackson and E. B. Osborne [Edward Bolland Osborn] to strengthen their team, and in the end they were victorious, the final score being Oxford U.C.C. 5, North London 4. This is the first time the Oxonians have scored against the North Londoners.

"The same day the Cambridge players met a team of the Belsize Chess Club. In this case, however, the Cantabs did not call in any of their stronger players, but played men who formed their team for the next day’s match. In the end the Belsize Club won by 4 to 3.


"Thursday, 19th March, was the day appointed for the Inter-University match, and the rooms of the British Chess Club the place of combat. The rooms were well filled with friends of the players, old Blues, and members of the club. Cambridge was the favourite, as it was the general opinion that the Cantabs had shown such good form that they had a decided advantage. Oxford, however, fought a splendid battle, and had not second games been started on two of the boards, the result would have been a tie. As it was Cambridge won by the odd game.

"At 7.30, the united teams dined with the members of the British Chess Club, Geo. Newnes, Esq. being in the chair. After dinner, Mr. Atherley Jones, M.P., proposed the Army and Navy, which was acknowledged by Mr. [Richard] Donkin, M.P.; and Mr. Thos. Hewitt [lawyer; 1837-1923] proposed the Houses of Parliament, to which Sir J. Goldsmith [sic - Sir Julian Goldsmid] and Sir J. Puleston responded. Sir Chas. Russell, M.P., then proposed the University teams, coupled with the names of the two captains. Sir Charles congratulated the two captains, more especially as he understood they had selected the bar for their profession. Mr. Stephenson for Cambridge, and Mr. Ure for Oxford, acknowledged the compliment, and proposed the Chairman’s health, which was acknowledged by Mr. Newnes. A Smoking Concert followed.

"On Friday, the Cambridge University team played the British Chess Club, with the result that the British scored 4½, and the Cambridge University 2½."

BCM, April 1891, p167 (under the heading "Jottings"): Sir Charles Russell [Irish statesman and barrister, at that time Liberal MP for Hackney South; he later became Lord Chief Justice], in the course of his speech at the banquet given to the University players, at the British Chess Club, said :— "I have been for a great many years interested in chess, but principally as a critic and spectator. My memory goes back a long time. I well recollect the old West End Chess Club, and, at Simpson’s Divan, I have often looked on at indifferent games.

"I have formed among chess players many friendships, not the least valued of which was that of the late Mr. [Thomas William] Barnes, who was a man of culture and genius, in fact one of the ablest men I ever knew. There was also the not less brilliant [Francis] Burden, who, notwithstanding that he continually suffered from bad health, invariably comported himself with cheerfulness. I have pleasing recollections of [Henry Edward] Bird, and best of all of [Samuel] Boden; he was a man who had many varied tastes outside chess, and I never met a more courteous gentleman.

"My only connection with serious chess consisted in the fact that I was one of the small number of amateurs who arranged the match between Steinitz and Anderssen, in 1866. I remember watching the games at the hotel where the match was played; it was certainly the most interesting chess contest that I ever witnessed. Steinitz was still unknown as a chess player, but Anderssen, who was professor of mathematics at Breslau, was a man of European reputation. No doubt he lost the match through undervaluing his opponent, but Steinitz then was not the Steinitz that he is to-day. It was interesting to watch the different styles of the two players: Anderssen was bold as a lion, he made dashing attacks and acted promptly on his conclusions. Steinitz, on the other hand, reminded me less of a lion than a terrier. But the terrier won, and, from a pecuniary point of view, very much to my grief.

"Since that time I have not failed to take an interest in chess, but except for occasional moments of relaxation in the House of Commons’ smoking room, my opportunities of play are limited. The annual chess match between Oxford and Cambridge is a good idea. This year there was a good fight and a close finish; Cambridge won, but Oxford may be revenged on Saturday when, I hope the best crew may win. I have discovered the secret of the success of the University clubs, their presidents [Ure and Stephenson] are both going to the bar. I am glad of it, though I won’t say that there is much room for them; the market is over-stocked. No doubt they will be good losers if unfortunate at first, but youthful pluck should eventually bring them to the front.”

Chess-Monthly, 1891, ppn 236-237 / The Field, 21 March 1891 [more or less identical]: "The University Chess Match.—The nineteenth annual Universities match took place at the British Chess Club on the 19th. The conditions were the same as on previous occasions—namely, seven players a-side, two games to be played by those who had completed their first game by 4.15; time to be called at six o'clock, when any unfinished games were to be adjudicated by the umpire; clocks to measure the time (twenty moves an hour) optional. Cambridge were the favourites at starting, and, if there were any betting on these matches, 2 to 1 would have been laid on Cambridge. However, Oxford, although defeated, acquitted themselves creditably. The games were well contested, and the difference between the totals is the same as last year, only one game.

"...only two pairs could play a second game. Mr. Lynam lost his first game and quickly resigned, in order not to miss another chance; but he lost the second game too, and on board No. 6 it came to quite an even position after a series of exchanges, and both sides agreed to a draw, and commenced a second game. This was the last game going when time was called, and it was adjudicated by Mr. Hoffer (the umpire) as a draw."

"The Banquet.—At 7.30 both teams dined with the members of the British Chess Club. Mr. Geo. Newnes, M.P., was in the chair. After the removal of the cloth and the customary loyal toasts, Mr. Atherley Jones, M.P., proposed the Army and Navy, coupled with the name of Mr. Donkin, M.P., who replied. Mr. Thos. Hewitt proposed both Houses of Parliament; and Sir Julian Goldsmid, M.P., and Sir John Puleston, M.P., replied. The toast of the evening, the University Teams, coupled with the names of their respective captains, was proposed by Sir Charles Russell, M.P. “Sir Charles had great pleasure in proposing this toast, as he understood that both captains had chosen the bar as their profession; but he must remind them that the market is overstocked and wages low.” Sir Charles also mentioned incidentally that he, together with Boden, Burden, and Hewitt, arranged the first match which Steinitz played in this country, and that was the famous match with Anderssen in 1866, which established Steinitz’s reputation, etc. Mr. Stephenson replied for the Light, and Mr. Ure for the Dark, Blues, both proposing the chairman, and Mr. Newnes' reply concluded the second item on the programme—the toasts. Then followed the smoking concert. Amongst the performers were Reginald Groom, John L. Shine, and Mr. Dunn, varied by Mr. Bertram’s clever conjuring entertainment and Mr. Beveridge’s recitations.

"Cambridge University v. British Chess Club.—This match was played on the 20th, at 3.30 p.m., at the British Chess Club. It was originally fixed to take place in the evening, but Cambridge having expressed a desire to play in the afternoon, a scratch team was opposed to them at the spur of the moment. Mr. Ward Higgs, who lost his game through an oversight in the opening, played then a second game against Mr. Scovell, whose opponent had not arrived. [scores are given - notably, Atkins lost to H. W. Trenchard on top board]

"Board No. 1.—J. F. Ure (Oxford) opened with a Scotch Game, in which H. E. Atkins (Cambridge) won a Pawn on the 10th move. Mr. Ure, however, obtained a compensating attack in exchange for the Pawn; but too anxious to exchange Queens the game assumed a drawn aspect, and was abandoned as such in the following position, after Black’s 26th move.

[full score of board 2 given in Chess-Monthly 1891, p239]

"Board No. 3.—A Ruy Lopez, played by F. E. Jelly (Oxford). R. C. Stephenson (captain) defended with 4...K Kt to Kt 2 [sic - presumably 4...Nge7 or perhaps 3...Nge7]. It promised to be a complicated and hard game, when the Cantab lost a piece on the 14th move, in consequence of a miscalculation, and that unfortunately after the time for commencing a second game had expired. So he had no alternative but to fight it out against odds for about thirty odd moves, and seeing that Mr. Jelly pressed on, quietly and steadily reducing the position to its utmost simplicity, the Cantab resigned.

"Board No. 4. [first game]—E. Young (Cambridge) commenced with a Bishop’s Opening, which took the steady form of a Giuoco Piano. Mr. Lynam overlooked on his 7th move that he should have simply exchanged Bishops, instead of 7...Kt to R 4, which lost him a piece. He struggled nevertheless bravely on up to the time when he was allowed to commence another game, and then resigned.

[Board 4, second game given in full]

"Board No. 5.—The first game on this board, A. B. Hinds (Oxford) opened with 1 P to Q4, the Cantab replying with 1...P to KB4. An interesting skirmish ensued in the middle game; but both sides emerged from it minus their minor pieces, but without any other hurt. The forces being quite even, both sides readily agreed to a draw and commenced a second game.

[Board 5, second game, and Board 6 given in full]

"Board No. 7.—This was a Ruy Lopez opened by P. Osborn (Oxford). The game was even up to White’s fourteenth move, in consequence of which he lost a clear exchange. Mr. F. G. Scovel (Cambridge), with his material advantage in hand, played simply upon an isolated Queen’s Pawn; he concentrated all available forces upon this weak spot (which the Oxonian made strenuous efforts to defend), and so having White’s pieces occupied upon the centre, he made an advance on the Queen’s side, which ultimately terminated the game in his favour."

1891 Universities Trial Matches

Tuesday 3 March - Oxford University 3½, North London 4½ (at Oxford)
Tuesday 17 March - Combined Universities 9, City of London (2nd Class) 11
Wednesday 18 March - Oxford University 5, North London 4
Wednesday 18 March - Cambridge University 3, Belsize 4
Friday 20 March - Cambridge University 2½, British CC 4½

In an article on Atkins in BCM (October 1897, ppn 381-383) it was said that Atkins "lost but one game in all the matches in which he played for the University". Presumably the game above is the one referred to. JS.

1891 Oxford Past v Cambridge Past Match, Wednesday 1 April 1891, British Chess Club (3rd Match)

1891 Oxford Past v Cambridge Past Match
Bd Oxford University 1891 Cambridge University
1 Walter Montague Gattie (Christ Church) 0-1 William Hewison Gunston (St John's)
2 Charles Dealtry Locock (University) ½-½ John Neville Keynes (Pembroke)
3 George Edward Wainwright (University) - Herman George Gwinner (Trinity - absent)
4 Edward Mackenzie Jackson (New) ½-½ Francis Parker Carr (St Catharine's)
5 William Stoney (Christ Church) 1-0 Thomas Hughes Delabere May (Trinity)
6 Edward Bolland Osborn (Magdalen) 1-0 William Henry Blythe (Jesus)
7 Richard Whieldon Barnett (Wadham) 1-0 Efric Leofwin Kearney (St Catharine's)

Board 4 was adjudicated by Leopold Hoffer. The Cambridge board 3 failed to appear but Oxford chose not to claim a point by default. Source: BCM, May 1891, p226

File updated

Date Notes
4 April 2021 Original upload.
All material © 2020 John Saunders