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Tournament: 24th Varsity Match • Venue: British Chess Club, King Street, London • Date: Friday 27 March 1896
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1895 • Forward to 1897 • last edited: Monday September 4, 2023 5:42 PM

The 24th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at British Chess Club, 37 King Street, Covent Garden, London, on Friday 27 March 1896 with Emanuel Lasker and Leopold Hoffer adjudicating unfinished games.

1895«     1896 Varsity Chess Match     »1897
Bd Oxford University   vs   Cambridge University
1b Edward Lawton (Corpus Christi) 1-0 William Vawdrey Naish (Emmanuel)
2w Edward George Spencer-Churchill (Magdalen) 1-0 Gilbert Varley (Christ's)
3b Henry Gosse Winfield Cooper (Oriel) 0-1 Walter Tyrrell Quin (Caius)
4w Harold Northway Robbins (Corpus Christi) 0-1 Edward Alexander (Aleister) Crowley (Trinity)
5b Richard Arthur Jenkins (Brasenose) 1-0 Richard Battersby (St Catherine's)
6w Gilbert Fraser (Corpus Christi) ½-½ Herbert Francis Parker (Emmanuel)
7b Arnold Sandwith Ward (Balliol) ½-½ Rev. Cecil Carol Winton Sumner (St John's)

Main 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 1896, ppn 150-151; BCM, May 1896, ppn 192-198; The Field, 28 March 1896; The Field, 4 April 1896; London Evening Standard, 1 April 1896; London Evening Standard - Saturday 28 March 1896; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia. Four games (boards 1, 2 4 and 6) are available in the download; board 5 is a game fragment.

(1) Club presidents Lawton (Oxford) and Naish (Cambridge)
(2) Boards 2, 5 and 7 were adjudicated by Hoffer and Lasker
(3) 2.30pm start, 20 moves per hour

London Evening Standard - Wednesday 11 March 1896: A strong team of fourteen North London men played a match against Cambridge University, at Cambridge, on Saturday [7 March 1896]. After a stubborn resistance on the part of the University, the North London men just won by the odd game. [full results, which were also given in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - Saturday 14 March 1896 but the venue given as the Carlton Club; ditto, Morning Post - Monday 09 March 1896. The Field - Saturday 14 March 1896 - corroborates the Cambridge venue as does Daily News (London) - Tuesday 10 March 1896]

BCM, April 1896, ppn 150-151: "University Chess.—Want of space prevents us giving details of the matches of the Boat-race week until next month’s issue. Meanwhile, we recapitulate results thus: on the 23rd March, North London defeated Cambridge by 6½ to 3½. On the 24th March, the British C.C. defeated the United Universities by 12½ to 6½. On the 25th March the United Universities defeated the City of London C.C. by 10½j to 9½. On the 26th March, the United Universities played the Metropolitan, and were defeated by 12 to 9. The Inter-University match was played on the 27th March, with the result that Oxford won by 4 games to 3."

BCM, May 1896, ppn 192-198: "BOAT-RACE CHESS. We had only space last month to give the bare results of the various University matches played in London during Boat-race week, and we therefore give full details now.

"The first match of the week was played on 23rd March, between ten players (past and present) of Cambridge, and ten players of North London. From the first the Londoners led, and at 10 p.m. the score was North London 4½, Cambridge U.C.C. 2½. Mr. Trenchard then brought up the North London score to 5½ by a very handsome win against Mr. W. H. Gunston. After Mr. Gunsberg had adjudicated the unfinished games, the victory lay with North London by 6½ to 3½. [Full score given]

"The second match of the week was played between the United Universities and a very strong team of the British Chess Club, on the 24th March, with the result that the British won by 12½ to 6½. [full score given]

"On the 25th of March, the third match of the week was played, the combatants being the United Universities (past and present) and the City of London Chess Club. The team of City players was composed of various classes, there being quite a Kt difference between the players at board No. 1 and board No. 20, an opposite course to that pursued in the early days of this encounter, when the City depended entirely upon its second-class players, the result being a team of practically uniform strength from top to bottom. It is true that in these days those second-class players who occupied the top boards had a hard task to defeat the crack Past University players, but this was good practice, and they generally managed to give a good account of themselves. On the other hand, the City had the advantage of a steady body of players in the middle of the team that served the club well. This year the team ranged from strong first-class to fourth-class players, and the result is not so correct a test of the University strength as when they were opposed by one class only. As will be seen from the score list, the City men did not do well on the top boards, as the first five games gave Universities 3, City 2, and this really gave the match to the amalgamated Blues, for the next five boards were equal, 2½ each; whilst the last ten also produced equality, 5 each. [full score given]

"This is the twelfth of the annual matches between the City of London and the United Universities (past and present), and the City now leads by four matches, having won in 1885-6, 1890-1-2-3-4-5, whilst the ’Varsities have won in 1887-8-9, and 1896. The City men have scored a total of 129 points, and the United Blues 108.

"The fourth match of the week was played on the 26th March, between the United Universities and the Metropolitan C.C. The latter put a strong team in the field, and the result was a victory for the London club by 12 to 9.

"The Inter-Universities’ match was played on the 27th March, at the rooms of the British Chess Club, which were draped with light and dark blue cloth in honour of the visitors. Play began at 2-30, with a time-limit of twenty moves an hour. As in former matches there were seven players on each side, and Cambridge winning the toss obtained the advantage of the move on four boards. The result of the play was very even, and it seemed at one time as if the match would result in a draw, but the Oxford team began to show excellent form in the unfinished games, and it looked as if the Dark Blues were to achieve a decisive victory wnen unfortunately Mr. Robbins (Oxford), at board No. 4, lost by breach of time-limit, a game in which he had decidedly the better of it. Despite this contretemps, however, Oxford won the match by 4 to 3, a similar result to last year. Mr. L. Hoffer and Herr E. Lasker acted as adjudicators. [full score given]

"This is the twenty-fourth annual match between the two Universities, and Cambridge now leads by 15 matches to 8, with 1 drawn...

[Detailed descriptions of boards 1-6: this text is given as part of the PGN. Board 7 is a missing game so the text is given here...]

"At board No. 7, Mr. C. W. Sumner (Cambridge) played a Vienna against Mr. A. S. Ward (Oxford), and early won a Rook, but subsequently had to give up his Q for a second Rook. A somewhat featureless game followed, and the adjudicators give the result as a draw."

The Field, 28 March 1896: "THE INTER-UNIVERSITY MATCH. The twenty fourth annual match between the Universities was played yesterday at the British Chess Club. The conditions remained the same as on previous occasions, except that clocks were de rigueur in order to hasten the pace, which of late years tended to be rather slow. In the trial matches during the week both teams have shown equally good form, and a good match was, therefore, expected in yesterday's encounter; but the Oxford team proved superior to their opponents, and gained the match by four games to three."

"Oxford had three new men on the lower boards, and Cambridge four. Play commenced at 2.20, and concluded at six o'clock, when the games upon boards 2, 5, and 7 were adjudicated by Messrs Hoffer and Lasker. It should be stated that Mr Robbins (Oxford) lost his game by exceeding his time limit having then a winning advantage. At eight o'clock the teams dined with the members of the British Chess Club, Sir George Newnes, Bart, (president), in the chair. A smoking concert followed the dinner."

The Field, 4 April 1896: "THE UNIVERSITIES' MATCH. (Continued from page 477.) After the match on Friday last week, the two teams dined with the members of the British Chess Club. Sir George Newnes was in the chair, having on his right the Oxford captain, Mr E. Lawton, and on his left the Cambridge captain. Mr W. V. Naish. About a hundred members and guests sat down to the convivial board. Amongst the guests were the Lord Chief Justice [Charles Arthur Russell, Baron Russell of Killowen], Mr [Henry] Seton-Karr, M.P., and a number of artists, who were to enliven the proceedings both during the customary toasts and at the smoking concert that was to follow. After the loyal toasts, Mr Thos. Hewitt proposed "both Houses of Parliament," coupled with the name of Mr Seton-Karr, who replied; the Lord Chief Justice proposed the toast of the evening, "the University teams," coupled with the names of Mr Lawton and Mr Naish, and both gentlemen responded, Mr Naish including in his reply "the British Chess Club," coupled with the name of the popular President, and Sir George Newnes replied. Mr W[ordsworth]. Donisthorpe proposed "the Press,” coupled with the name of Mr Frank Newbolt, and the latter replied in his usual humorous vein to Mr Donisthorpe's humorous speech. Mr Atherley-Jones proposed "the Visitors," coupled with the name of Mr Bentley, who replied, and Mr Lasker concluded the proceedings with a brief address. An excellent smoking concert, to which a large number of well known artists lent variety and mirth, kept the audience in unflagging enjoyment till an advanced hour.

"Sir George Newnes invited the teams for the following morning to witness the Boatrace [sic] on the electric launch the Viscountess Bury.

"The review of the games shows that this year’s Oxford team is superior to that of Combridge. Lawton, as second player, got the better game in the opening; Churchill has much improved, and will probably advance to Board No. 1 next year; and Robbins will give a good account of himself on Board No. 2. He lost his game by time, but he should have won it. Jenkins has an independent and sound judgment of his own, and a fair amount of book lore, properly digested. We noticed this by his pertinent questions in a lengthy conversation on the openings. Fraser and Ward require a little more practice as yet. Cooper, on the other hand, is out of practice, but we nevertheless adhere to the favourable appreciation of his talent expressed on former occasions. The Cambridge team will have to be very industrious if they intend to maintain the traditional supremacy of their University in next year's match.

[n.b. I have only included The Field's game commentary where there is no complete game score available boards 3, 5 and 7- JS]

"Board No. 3. W. T. Quin (Cambridge) opened with a Centre Gambit [The Centre Gambit is 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Bc4 according to an article in BCM, August 1898, p324] which H. G. W. Cooper (Oxford) defended with 4...P to QKt3. He made a premature counterattack on White's king's position, the latter having castled QR, whereby he lost a piece. A few moves later the Cantab increased his advantage by gaining two minor pieces for a rook. Being then a clear rook head ahead [sic] he finished the game vigorously in twenty three moves.

"Board No. 5. R. A. Jenkins (Oxford) defended with the Queen's Fianchetto against R. Battersby (Cambridge). The latter did not treat the opening well. He ought to have studied the game between Burille (White) v. Bird in the recent cable match in the Field, March 21; he would then have established a centre, supported by both bishop's pawns. On the 7th move he lost a pawn, after which he made a spirited attack to recoup himself, and sacrificing the exchange on the 29th move impetuously matters got worse and we arrive at the position after White's 38. B to K5 [see game fragment in game viewer]

N.b. the Burille-Bird game to which Hoffer refers...

"Board No. 7. C. C. W. Sumner (Cambridge) in a Vienna Opening won a rook against A. S. Ward (Oxford), and on the 16th move the queen was given up for a rook, leaving the Oxonian two rooks for a queen, and about an even game. An uneventful game ensued, which was adjudicated a draw when time was called.

The Field, 4 April 1896:

"Sir,—As an Oxonian and as an ex-member of the O.U. Chess Club, I must protest against the Inter-’Varsity chess match being played at the time when the Inter-’Varsity sports are taking place. The constitution of the O.U. Chess Club must be "very different from what it was in my day," for it would then have been impossible to have obtained the consent of the players to meet at the chess board when Shearman, Treppin, Jackson, Portal, Wise, Kemp, and such of our heroes were hard at work at Lillie Bridge. E. Herring Kinder, ex-President of the O.U. Chess Club, The School House. St. Ives, Hunts., March 28 [1896]. [Lillie Bridge was a sports ground in West Brompton, London, used for Oxford-Cambridge athletics meetings. However, it closed in 1888, a fact of which Kinder might have been unaware.]

"[It is hardly fair to put such a severe stricture upon the University devotees to chess. Indeed, one might almost have thought that Mr Kinder, having held the position of president of the O.U. Chess Club, would have asked why the sports are fixed for the same day as the chess match. At any rate, that the chess players are keen sportsmen is proved by the fact that they turned up the morning after the chess match on Sir George Newnes’ launch to view the boatrace. Having been present on the launch ourselves, we can speak feelingly of the heroism required to have braved the elements on such a day as that (in many respects) memorable Saturday.—Ed.]"

London Evening Standard - Tuesday 03 March 1896: "Oxford University played a trial match against a picked team of Wiltshire Oxonians, and the result was a draw, each side winning 5½ games. Messrs. Ross and Welsh were formerly Presidents of the Oxford University Chess Club, and Mr. Collins played for Oxford against Cambridge last year." [The Field, Saturday 7 March 1896, indicates that it was played in Oxford on 29 February 1896]

Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Wiltshire Oxonians
1 Robert Garner Lynam (St Catherine's) ½-½ Alexander George Gordon Ross (New) Swindon
2 Edward Lawton (Corpus Christi) 1-0 ½-½ John Francis Welsh (Christ Church) Warminster
3 Harold Northway Robbins (Corpus Christi) 0-1 0-1 Arthur Schomberg (Oriel) Devizes
4 Charles Thomas Blanshard (Queen's) ½-½ Rev. Richard Edward Coles (Pembroke) Warminster
5 Richard Arthur Jenkins (Brasenose) 1-0 0-1 Rev. Charles Clarke (Hertford) Chippenham
6 Gilbert Fraser (Corpus Christi) 0-1 Thomas Basil Collins (Christ Church) Warminster
7 P Wilson (Balliol) 1-0 1-0 Rev. Walter Humphrys (New) Pewsey
  Venue: Oxford 5½-5½ Date: 29 February 1896

(1) P Wilson (Balliol) - nothing found
(2) Rev. Richard Edward Coles (1840 – 1922). Matric. 1858, Pembroke College, Oxford; scholar, 1858; B.A., 1862. Rector of Corsley, Warminster, from 1886.
(3) Rev. Charles Clarke (1845 – 1929). College affiliation read "Hereford" in the newspaper—I have assumed "Hertford". In Oxford Men and Thier Colleges is a record for "Clarke, Charles, 2s. Thomas Ambrose, of Sherrington, Bucks, cler. Magdalen Hall [later refounded as "Hertford"], matric. 20 Oct., 1863, aged 18 ; B.A. 1867, vicar of Langley Fitzurse, Wilts, 1871."
(4) Rev. Walter Humphrys (1847 – 1908). Matric. New College, Oxford, 1867. Rector of Alton Barnes, Wiltshire, 1885-1896.

London Evening Standard - Saturday 28 March 1896: "CHESS—The final event of the Universities Chess Week—viz., the match between the two Universities—was played yesterday at the British Chess Club. During the week the Universities combined have encountered the leading Metropolitan Chess Clubs, and, although opposed by more than average teams, they have, nevertheless, made creditable stands agaiust the British, Metropolitan, and North London Chess Clubs, whilst they have actually been victorious against the City of London; but there was, nevertheless, not sufficient margin given to form an opinion as to the respective strength of the teams, and as to the result of this, the final, struggle for supremacy; especially as Oxford had three and Cambridge four new men in their teams. The match yesterday commenced at 2.20. Cambridge, having gained the toss, took the first move upon board No. 1 and each alternate board, Oxford having the move on the even boards.

"According to the conditions, play ceased at six o’clock, when three unfinished games, numbered 2, 5, and 7, were adjudicated by Messrs. Hoffer and Lasker. Lawton, in a French defence, got a fine counter attack upon his opponent's King’s position, Naish having castled on the Queen's side, and carried the attack through successfully. Spencer Churchill got the better of his opponent's French defence, remaining a pawn ahead, and with a winning ending. Cooper made a premature counter attack against Quin's centre gambit [The Centre Gambit is 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Bc4 according to an article in BCM, August 1898, p324]: he sacrificed a piece early in the opening, and lost the game in 23 moves. Robbins lost a centre gambit by exceeding his time limit; he had the best of it by far, and would have won the game. Battersby adopted the Queen's Fianchetto defence, lost a pawn, and through it the game. Board number 6 was a Four Knights’ game, and a legitimate draw; whilst board number 7 was given by the umpires as drawn in a complicated position, Ward having two Rooks for a Queen."

"At eight o clock the teams were the guests of the British Chess Club at dinner. Sir George Newnes (President) in the chair. Amongst the guests were the Lord Chief Justice, who proposed the toast of the evening, "The Universities" to which the two Captains, Messrs. Lawton and Naish, replied. Mr. Thos. Hewitt proposed both Houses of Parliament, and Mr. Seaton Carr, M.P., responded. Mr. Naish proposed the "British Chess Club," coupled with the name of Sir George Newnes, who responded, and other toasts followed."

File updated

Date Notes
17 April 2022 Original upload.
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