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John Saunders


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Tournament: 20th Varsity Match • Venue: British Chess Club, King Street, London • Date: Thursday 7 April 1892
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1891 • Forward to 1893 • last edited: Monday December 11, 2023 11:28 PM

The 20th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at British Chess Club, 37 King Street, Covent Garden, London, on Thursday 7 April 1892 with Leopold Hoffer adjudicating unfinished games. Start 2.25pm, end 6.00pm. No second game to commence after 4.15pm. [In the event no second game was played on any board, for the first time in this series of matches. One game per board became the rule the following year so 1892 would have been the last year in which it was permissible and 1891 was the last year in which it actually occurred - JS]

1891«     1892 Varsity Chess Match     »1893
Bd Oxford University v. Cambridge University
1w Govind Dinanath Madgavkar (Balliol) 0-1 Henry Ernest Atkins (Peterhouse)
2b Robert Garner Lynam (St Catherine's) ½-½ Herbert Somerset Bullock (Corpus Christi)
3w Frank Edward Jelly (Magdalen) ½-½ Frederick George Scovell (Queens')
4b Allen Banks Hinds (Christ Church) ½-½ Edward Young (Corpus Christi)
5w George Asheton Heginbottom (Pembroke) 0-1 William Courtenay Sandford (Queens')
6b Percy Lancelot Osborn (Magdalen) 0-1 Edward Bankes James (Caius)
7w Philip Walsingham Sergeant (Trinity) 0-1 John Hope Percival (Trinity Hall)

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); The Field, 9 April 1892; The Field, 16 April 1892, p572; BCM, May 1892, ppn 194-199; London Evening Standard - Wednesday 6 April 1892; Daily Telegraph, 8 April 1892; London Evening Standard, 8 April 1892; Cambridge Independent Press - Friday 08 April 1892; FreeBMD & other statutory records; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia. Two complete games and one part-game of the seven games played are available in the download.

Note: the Oxford board 1's name was more often given as 'Govind Dinanath Madgaonkar' later in his life. Hoffer, in The Field, gives it as Madgaokar. Jelly and Scovell were the two team presidents/captains.

The Field, 9 April 1892, p535 (Leopold Hoffer): "The twentieth Annual Universities' Match was played on Thursday at the British Chess Club. Although the result was anticipated by the initiated, and perhaps by Oxford themselves, the match created, nevertheless, a great deal of interest, as evidenced by the enormous crowd of members and visitors present.

"It was expected that Oxford would make a good stand, and so they did. This determination manifested itself, however, only as far as the choice of the openings and the slowness of play was concerned. Having decided upon dispensing with clocks unless demanded by either side, they played at the majority of the boards at the rate of ten moves an hour, and it was feared at one time that the whole of the games would have to be adjudicated.

"As to the possibility of commencing a second game— which was only permissible if the first game concluded at 4.15—that was quite out of the question. We have urged on previous occasions the advisability of commencing the match at an earlier hour; and this time, since the match commenced later than ever—at 2.25—the competitors themselves have found out that the time allotted to them was too short and it is to be hoped that in future they will begin at least an hour earlier.

"The composition of the teams was the same on both sides—Oxford had three new men and so had Cambridge. As far as we can judge at present, Oxford possesses in Mr Madgaokar, an Indian gentleman, a player of no inconsiderable talent, and Mr H. E. Atkins, his opponent, who is the best man amongst the Cantabs, in spite of his stolidity and correct style, would not have defeated his opponent, but for a hasty move at the very end of the game. If the Oxonian will be able to temper somewhat his native vivacity, he will prove a still more dangerous opponent in future.

A detailed review of the games we reserve, as on former occasions, for the following week."

The Field, 16 April 1892, p572 (Leopold Hoffer): [Full score of Board No.1] "Board No. 2.—H. S. Bullock (Cambridge) opened with 1.Nf3, R. G. Lynam (Oxford) defending this irregular opening with commendable accuracy. Since both sides had to rely on their own resources after the few regular opening moves, they consumed an extraordinary amount of time, so that, but for the short spurt after an exchange of queens on Black's 15th move, the game would have dragged on its weary course till six o'clock, the appointed time to cease play. The following is the position to which we alluded:" (see part-game in game viewer)

"Board No. 3.—F. E. Jelly, the Oxford captain, played a Ruy Lopez on F. G. Scovell, the Cambridge captain. It was a sound game, correctly played by both sides, and resulted in a draw." [full score available]

"Board No. 4.— E. Young (Cambridge) adopted the Bishops Opening against A. B. Hinds (Oxford). It developed into a Giuoco Piano, and was adjudicated a draw, each side having, at the time, two rooks, two minor pieces, and five pawns. No doubt, had there been time to conclude the games, the result might have been different. Whether more favourable to the Light or Dark Blues must remain a matter of conjecture." 22 moves (source: Daily Telegraph, 8 April 1892)

"Board No. 5.—G. A. Higinbotham [sic] (Oxford) adopted the Four Knights Game. The Oxonian made a combination which won his opponent's queen but at the expense of two rooks and a bishop. At the adjudication the game was given in favour of Cambridge." 29 moves (source: Daily Telegraph, 8 April 1892)

"Board No. 6.—E. B. James (Cambridge) ventured upon the Scotch Gambit, which P. R. Osborn [sic] defended indifferently in in not moving his QP early enough. The Cantab obtained a spirited attack in consequence, but in spite of it, the Oxonian held his own till the twenty-sixth move, when he inadvertently lost a piece, and the game was given against him by the umpire." 40 moves (source: Daily Telegraph, 8 April 1892)

"Board No. 7.—P. W. Sergeant (Oxford) had the move, and J. H. Percival (Cambridge) defended with the French. The early part of the game shows that both these gentlemen have a decided talent for the game, the Oxonian being a "chip of the old block." Mr Sergeant is wanting somewhat in experience—which practice will mend—for he left a piece en prise on his fourteenth move; but struggled on manfully till the adjournment, when the game was given against him by the umpire." 31 moves (source: Daily Telegraph, 8 April 1892)

"Having gone through the ordeal of deciphering the games, for the players keep their score nearly as unintelligible and full of mistakes as if they were already masters, it is impossible to give an opinion of the play this year. The game on No. 1 board is an exception; it is a very interesting game, and both sides displayed more than average talent. No.s 2, 3, and 4 were given up as drawn, either by agreement or by the umpire, at a comparatively early stage, i.e. just at the juncture of the endgame, so that it is difficult to judge whether the players are able to conduct the endgame correctly.

"Had there been time, or, rather, had they played at a faster rate, the games could have been finished, or carried on to a more advanced stage, and the result might have been different—whether more favourable for the Dark or Light Blues must remain a matter of conjecture. In the three remaining games, the Oxonians made a miscalculation, and the two others each lost a piece. The latter fault occurs frequently, amongst young players; but it is easily mended, and is not such a grave defect as a faulty combination."


"On boat race day the teams of both Universities were the guests of Mr George Newnes, M.P., on the electric launch, Viscountess Bury §, to witness the boat race. They were landed at three o'clock at Westminster, in order to play their match against the Sussex Chess Association at the British Chess Club. Sussex won the match by 10 to 6." § the story of the Viscountess Bury, which was still afloat into the 1990s.

London Evening Standard - Friday 08 April 1892: The most important event of the University week (of chess) took place yesterday at the British Chess Club, viz., the annual Inter-University Chess Match. The two teams were ready to take their boards at twenty-five minutes past two, when the two Captains tossed for the first move. Oxford won the toss, and, therefore, had the move on the odd boards, Nos. 1, 3, 5, and 7; and Cambridge on boards 2, 4, and 6. Cambridge were the favourites, and maintained their supremacy this year, as was anticipated. The conditions were that play should continue till six o clock, when the umpire would adjudicate upon unfinished games; no second game to be commenced after a quarter past four. The players were given the option of availing themselves of stop clocks, to measure the time (twenty moves per hour); but they played without clocks, and the consequence was that by six o’clock four games had to be adjudicated upon by the umpire, Mr. Hoffer. The players spent too much time in considering their moves. An exception must be made, however, with Board No. 1. The game is appended, and will be found interesting and spirited. The games of the others excelled in caution, but were rather dry, though sound."

BCM, May 1892, ppn 194-199: "Boat-race week is always a busy time for chess in London, and this year it has abundantly kept up its reputation. Oxonians and Cantabs, old and young, naturally come to town on the annual occasion of the rival “Blues” trying their aquatic skill on the whilom “silvery Thames”— silvery, alas! no longer, but inky and black. The chess-players, past and present, of the Universities naturally avail themselves of this opportunity to meet once more in mimic warfare, and hence the week witnesses a series of Universities’ matches.

"The first of these came off on the afternoon of Tuesday, 5th April, when teams of eight a side of Oxford Past and Cambridge past met to try conclusions at the St. George’s Chess Club, St. James Street. In the result the Oxonians won by 4½ to 2½, whilst one game was left unfinished.

"In the evening of the same day the annual match between the united Universities (past and present) and the second team of the City of London Chess Club was played at the rooms of the latter club. The Universities put 20 players in the field, made up of the 14 taking part in the Inter-University match, with the addition of the following six players: Messrs. Jackson, Ure, and Secretan, of Oxford, and Messrs. Dinnis, Campbell, and Barton, of Cambridge. Unfortunately for the Universities they were not able to avail themselves of such strong auxiliaries from their past players as they have been wont to do in former years, one reason for this being that the past Universities match was played on the same day as the Universities v. City match, and there was not time to get from one match to the other, except in the case of Mr. Jackson. In consequence of this the Universities were only able to strengthen their head at three boards, whilst their other three extra men had to be relegated to the tail. This was a source of weakness to the Blues, and to some extent explains their decisive overthrow on the present occasion, for, as a rule, it is on the top six boards that the struggle is the keenest, and it is to find fit and proper men to occupy these boards that the energetic City secretary, Mr. Geo. Adamson, is most solicitous. In former years the City rarely scored more than 2 or 2½ on these top six boards, but on this occasion the score here was City 4, Universities 2.

"But the mischief did not end here, for all the University players (present) were brought up three boards, and this weakened them all along the line. There was a numerous attendance of spectators present, including Messrs. Blackburne (umpire), Cunningham, Cutler, Fenton, Gunsberg, Hoffer, and Van Vliet. At first the ’Varsities got a slight pull, the score at one time standing Universities 2, City 1, drawn 2 ; but then the City took the lead and it was soon apparent on which side victory would lie, and consequently Mr. Adamson had an easy mind, except for one thing, and that was in his own words that the City was going to win too decisively, “and I don’t like to see the youngsters disheartened,” continued the considerate secretary. At the call of time the score was City 9½, United Universities 5½, leaving 5 games for Mr. Blackburne’s adjudication; of these he gave 3½ to the City, and 1½ to the ’Varsities, making the full score City 13, ’Varsities 7."

"This is the eighth match between the City seconds and the United Blues, and the City now leads by two matches, having won in 1885-6, 1890-1-2; whilst the 'Varsities won in 1887-8-9. The City has now scored a total of 86 games, and the ’Varsities 73.

"The Inter-University match itself took place on Thursday, 7th April, at the British Chess Club, which was appropriately decorated with dark and light blue drapery in honour of the occasion. At the time for the commencement of play the rooms presented a very animated appearance, the players occupying the centre of the apartment, within a railed-off enclosure, whilst crowds of old Blues filled the long handsome room as spectators.

"Oxford won the toss and claimed the moves on the odd boards, 1, 3, 5, and 7, leaving 2, 4, and 6 to Cambridge. No clocks were used and play was very slow on all the boards, except No. 1; indeed, at half past five, after three hours’ play had elapsed, not a single game was finished, though between that time and closing time, six o’clock, three games had ended, board No. 1 being a win for Cambridge, and a draw being the result in each of the others.

"This slow progress is certainly not a very commendable feature in chess when played by young men, and certainly in most of the games a more forward and enterprising style of play would have been of more utility. At board No. 1, however, the play was of a very interesting nature, Mr. Atkins having much improved since last year, and the new comer, Mr. Madgavkar, proving himself a very original and ingenious player. I give a diagram of their game on the 37th move. The game was a Ruy Lopez, and Mr. Madgavkar, at a critical point, gave up Rook for Bishop and Pawn and an attack which he pursued with good judgment for some time. The game now went on : 38 QxP ch, K—R2; 39 Kt—K3, R—Q7 ch ; 40 K—B3, Q—R8 ch; and Mr. Madgavkar resigned, though the reason of the resignation lies not on the surface, for no forced win for Black is obvious, and, as the resignation came just a few minutes before the call of time, the adjudicator would have had a difficult task to demonstrate a win. Of the other two finished games little can be said, for one had only got as far as the 20th move and the other the 19th, after three hours’ play. Mr. Hoffer had to adjudicate on boards 4, 5, 6, and 7, and of these he gave Nos. 5, 6, and 7 as a win each for Cambridge, making the total score Cambridge 5½, Oxford 1½."

"The playing teams and friends were entertained at dinner in the evening by the British Chess Club.

"On Friday afternoon the Oxford men played a somewhat weak team of St. George's players at the St George's Chess Club, St. James Street, W. The result was that Oxford won by 5½ to 2½.

"On the evening of the same day a team of Cambridge players encountered a fairly strong team of British Chess Club players. The Cambridge men were headed by Mr. Gunston who defeated Mr. Donisthorpe, whilst Mr. Atkins defeated Mr. Ward-Higgs. In the end the Oxford men won by 7½ to 4½."

"The concluding match of the week came off on Saturday, 9th April, the British Chess Club being again the locale for the year. This time the Universities again joined forces, their opponents being a team of Sussex players. There was a large attendance of spectators, including Messrs. Blackburne (who acted as umpire), Gunsberg, Lasker, Lee, and Van Vliet. The Sussex team were without the assistance of Messrs. Butler and Wilson (of Brighton), Cheshire (of Hastings), and other strong players, and, in addition to this, Mr. H. Cooper, who journeyed to London to play for his county, was by arrangement transferred to the Universities (for which he was also qualified to play), to bring up their team to sixteen a-side. From the first the county men began to take the lead by the Rev. E. A. Adams defeating Mr. [Edward Bolland] James in a quickly-played game. Soon after a second victory fell to the county by Dr. Ballingall beating Mr. [Percy Frederic] Barton.

"The third game was by consent called a draw, though it was a clear win for the Sussex player. In a Giuoco Piano opening Mr. Cooper (Universities) prematurely advanced a Pawn on the 11th move, and this resulted in Mr. Aloof (Sussex) gaining a clear Pawn and the better game, though Mr. Cooper got an attack for the moment, but there was no backbone to it. I give a diagram of the position at the 19th move. The game now went...

"Then followed a win for the Universities, Mr. Scovell (Cambridge) on board No. 7 beating Mr. Hale (Sussex). These may be all considered as mere outpost work, for they were all very quickly played, and no more games were completed for some time when a draw took place on board No. 16. Games were now quickly finished, Sussex gradually creeping up until at the call of time the score was Sussex 9, United Universities 5, with two games left to the tender care of Mr. Blackbume. This list of finished games is in marked contrast to that of the Inter-University match, and the play accordingly was of a much more spirited and interesting nature. In one of the unfinished games Sussex had a slight advantage, and in the other the Universities, but in neither case was this advantage so marked as to permit Mr. Blackburne to give it as a win, and he therefore decided them both to be drawn, bringing up the score to Sussex 10, United Universities 6."

1892 Universities Trial Matches

Tuesday 5 April - Oxford Past 4½, Cambridge Past 2½ (top board game unfinished result not known)
Tuesday 5 April - Combined Universities 7, City of London 2nd Team 13
Friday 8 April - Oxford University 5½, St George's CC 2½
Friday 8 April - Cambridge University 7½, British CC 4½
Saturday 9 April - Combined Universities 6, Sussex 10

1892 Oxford Past v Cambridge Past Match, Tuesday 5 April 1892, St George's Chess Club (4th Match)

1892 Oxford Past v Cambridge Past Match
Bd Oxford University v. Cambridge University
1b Charles Dealtry Locock (University) unfinished* Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth (St. Catharine's)
2w Edward Mackenzie Jackson (New) ½-½ William Hewison Gunston (St John's)
3b Rev. Lewis Woodward Lewis (Lincoln) ½-½ John Neville Keynes (Pembroke)
4w Hubert Foster Lowe (Balliol) 1-0 Dr Frederick Deighton § (Peterhouse)
5b Richard Whieldon Barnett (Wadham) 1-0 Rev. James Fearn Sugden (Trinity Hall)
6w Edwyn Anthony (Christ Church) 0-1 Francis Parker Carr (St Catharine's)
7b Rev. Winfield Cooper (Wadham) 1-0 Efric Leofwin Kearney (St Catharine's)
8w Wallace Mackenzie Le Patourel (Balliol) ½-½ William Rogers Fisher (St John's)
    4½-2½ top board game "left unfinished" (PWS, p304)

§ some sources for this match have "W Deighton" with a college designation of St John's (BCM) or Pembroke, which is not impossible but I incline more towards Dr F Deighton as he took part in other Cambridge University matches at that time - JS
* the unfinished game between Locock and Skipworth: PWS, p304, says it was "left unfinished" and most other sources indicate the same, giving the score as 4½-2½, except for the Belfast News-Letter, 14 April 1892, which says that "Oxford won 5 to 3, one game remaining unfinished at board No. 1 between Mr. C. D. Locock and the Rev. A. B. Skipwortb, being counted in as a draw." They give the one complete score of a game that has so far come to light (Sugden 0-1 Barnett), presumably submitted by the latter, so they might have been better informed than other sources.

London Evening Standard - Wednesday 06 April 1892: "Old Oxonians v. Old Cantabs.—This match was played yesterday at the St. George’s Chess Club. Last year Oxford won by four to two, but in 1889 and 1890 Cambridge won. This year the absence of Mr. Gattie and Mr. Wainwright was felt, and, for the first time, the match was thrown open to all past University men. The game on No. 1 board was unfinished, in a fairly even position, though Mr. Locock had a pawn to the good. As will be seen, Oxford won rather easily. The game on no.3 board was adjudicated by the umpire (Mr. James Innes Minchin) as drawn."

Cambridge Independent Press - Friday 08 April 1892: "University Chess.—The first of the series of chess matches between the Universities took place on Tuesday afternoon at the St. George’s Chess Club, 63, St James's-street, Piccadilly, and was between past members of Oxford and Cambridge. This match is of double interest, on account of bringing together annually college chums and acquaintances, who on these occasions find favourable opportunities of recalling reminiscences of past days. The match was composed of teams of eight a-side, among which were several amateurs who have gained considerable celebrity in chess circles. Play was commenced at three o’clock in the afternoon, and concluded at seven p.m. Oxford won bv 4½ to 2½, one game remaining unfinished at board No. 1, between Mr. C. D. Locock and the Rev. A. B. Skipworth." [n.b. this source has "F Deighton (St Pet.)" - St Peter's being an antiquated alternative name for Peterhouse]

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