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John Saunders


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Tournament: 25th Varsity Match • Venue: British Chess Club, 37 King Street, London • Date: Friday 2 April 1897
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1896 • Forward to 1898 • last edited: Monday September 4, 2023 7:14 PM

The 25th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at British Chess Club, 37 King Street, Covent Garden, London, on Friday 2 April 1897.

1896«     1897 Varsity Chess Match     »1898
Bd Oxford University   vs   Cambridge University
1w Edward George Spencer-Churchill (Magdalen) 1-0 Edward Alexander (Aleister) Crowley (Trinity)
2b Edward Lawton (Corpus Christi) 1-0 William Vawdrey Naish (Emmanuel)
3w Richard Arthur Jenkins (Brasenose) ½-½ Richard Battersby (St Catherine's)
4b Gilbert Fraser (Corpus Christi) 0-1 Creassey Edward Cecil Tattersall (Trinity)
5w Arthur Hereford Wykeham George (New) 0-1 Lachlan McLean (King's)
6b George Herbert Stoker (Corpus Christi) 1-0 Archibald Leo Stainer (St Catharine's)
7w Robert Hancock (Exeter) ½-½ Alexander Fotheringham (Emmanuel)

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); Morning Post, 3 April 1897; The Field, 3 April 1897; The Times, 3 April 1897; BCM, May 1897, ppn 179-182; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia. Four games (boards 1, 2, 3 and 5) are available in the download; other boards, opening moves only.

(1) Club presidents Spencer-Churchill (Oxford) and Crowley (Cambridge)
(2) 2.00pm start
(3) Match umpire Frederick William Lord (1855-1937).

BCM, May 1897, ppn 179-182: "BOAT-RACE CHESS.

Boat-Race week has been with us again, and, of course, we have had the usual chess events, which form a part of the doings of
the 'Varsities men during the week.

" The first match of the week took place on Monday, 29th March, when the United Universities played the Metropolitan. The first
game went to the gownsmen, but they could not maintain their advantage, and ultimately the Metropolitan won easily, the final score being Metropolitan 13½, United Universities 6½.

"On the following day the 'Varsities encountered the British Chess Club. From the first the British did well, and after the adjudication of unfinished games, the final score was British 9, United Universities 5.

"On Wednesday, 31st March, the annual match between the City of London and the United Universities (past and present) was played. The match was a very keenly contested one right through, and indeed it was not until the last moment that either side was sure of victory, so evenly balanced were the scores. At 10 o'clock each side had scored 2 ; then the games were finished a little faster, still keeping level, until at length the City managed to draw ahead, and the score stood City 7, Universities 6. But of the unfinished seven games it was apparent that the two Blues had a distinct advantage on a majority of the boards, and there seemed every likelihood of their being able to draw at the least. But they did better than that, for they made such skilful use of the advantages they possessed that they not only wiped out the slight lead obtained by the City, but in turn were able to get to the front and win, the final score being United Universities 10½, City of London Chess Club 9½, a well-deserved and
highly creditable victory for the gownsmen. The 'Varsities beat the City last year by exactly the same score.

"This is the thirteenth annual match between the Universities and the City, and the City now leads by three matches, having won in 1885-6, 90-1-2-3-4-5, whilst the 'Varsities won in 1887-8-9, and 96-7. The City has scored a total of 138½ points, and the United Universities 118½.

"The players had a rest on the Thursday, the actual Inter-University match being fixed for Friday, 2nd April. It was played, as is customary, at the rooms of the British Chess Club, which were tastefully decorated with drapery of the two colours of the Universities, dark and light blue. There was a good attendance of spectators, and the proceedings were watched with much interest. As is now customary, seven players represented each side, and Oxford winning the toss had the first move on four boards. The Oxford team contained three new men, Messrs. A. H. W. George, G. H. Stoker, and R. Hancock; whilst the Cantabs put in four new men, Messrs. C. E. C. Tattersall, L. McLean, L. Stainer, and A. Fotheringham; the other seven players took part in last year's match.

"Oxford led from the first, for Mr. Spencer Churchill (the Oxonian captain) was the first to secure a win against Mr. Crowley. The latter defended with a Petroff, but a weak move or two enabled the Oxonian to get a somewhat commanding position. Appended is a diagram showing position after White's 18th move (R — K 6). The game now proceeded 18..., Kt—B3?; 19 RxR ch, RxR;
2oBxP, P—Q Kt 3 ; 21 R—K Ktsq, R—K2?; 22 B-Kt 8 ch, Kt—Q sq ; 23 B x P, and with the loss of the second Pawn, Black's
game is hopeless, though Mr. Crowley struggled on to the 32nd move.

"The next game to be finished was on board No. 2, where Mr. W. Naish had opened with a Q P, in which he got a distinct advantage, which however he threw away at the 27th move. The position was as shown on annexed diagram. Mr. Naish now played incautiously 27 Q—Q 4, to which the reply 27..., Kt (Q 4)—B 5 is the natural and powerful answer, and Mr. Naish

"This gave Oxford a clear lead of two points, which is long odds when only seven boards are engaged. Cambridge, however, played up well, and won on boards No. 4 and 5. Mr. Tattersall, at board No. 4, played a Vienna, and got somewhat the better game, but was left with a very drawish-looking game, and Mr Fraser playing somewhat weakly hereabouts, allowed his opponent to put in some points, and Mr. Tattersall won.

"At board No. 5, Mr. McLean defended with a "Compromised" against Mr. George's Evans, and early got a strong position, with numerical force in hand, and reducing the game to an ending, his superiority of Pawns gave him the victory. This equalised matters, each side being 2.

"The next game to be finished was that at board No. 7, where Mr. Hancock played a Ruy Lopez against Mr. Fotheringham, who adopted a Fianchetto Defence, and was left with a somewhat weak Queen's Pawn. But he managed to defend it, and secured quite a good game, with winning points in the end, but missed the right continuation and a draw resulted, leaving matters still equal, 2½ each.

"At board No. 6, however, fortune again favoured the Dark Blues. Mr. Stainer played a Scotch Gambit, with somewhat feeble continuation, and Mr. Stoker ultimately got his two Rooks strongly posted on the seventh rank, breaking up White's Pawns,
and finally won a Kt, when Mr. Stainer resigned.

"This gave Oxford a clear lead of a point, and much therefore depended on the result at board No. 3. This game was not finished at call of time, and was left to the adjudication of Mr. F. W. Lord. Mr. Jenkins had played a Queen Gambit, wherein Mr. Battersby at one time had an easy win, but missing this allowed White to exchange queen for Rook and Kt. At the call of time the position was as shown on annexed diagram. In this position Mr. Lord adjudicated the game a draw. This left Oxford still a game ahead, the final score being Oxford 4, Cambridge 3.

" This is the twenty-fifth annual match between the two Universities, and Cambridge now leads by 15 matches to 9, with one drawn."

Morning Post - Saturday 3 April 1897: "The annual chess match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities was contested yesterday afternoon at the British Chess Club, King-street, Covent-garden, and excited much interest among a number of members and visitors, who watched the games with close attention. If anything the form shown in the trial matches indicated that Oxford was slightly the superior team, and so the event proved, although the difference in strength between the members of the two Universities was not so marked as to prevent a close competition. Mr. Spencer-Churchill, who led the Oxford men. encountered Mr. Crowley, the Cambridge captain, and obtained a very good position against a Petroff Defence. Mr. Crowley, after the exchange of Queens, somewhat injudiciously took his King out of play by castling on the Queen’s side, and the Oxford man thereupon obtained an opportunity of winning two Pawns. This was of course sufficient to make his victory secure, but Mr. Crowley soon afterwards extinguished his hopes of a draw by allowing his King and Rook to be forked. Oxford thus scored the first victory, and quickly followed it up by another on the second board, where Mr. Lawton, after defending a Queen's Pawn Opening, got into difficulties, but in consequence of his opponent, Mr. Naish, missing the opportunity of playing 24. B x P, which would have won, the Oxford representative was enabled to pull the game out of the fire by a pretty combination. It is to be said, however, in extenuation of Mr. Naish’s oversight, that the move by which he might have won had a dangerous appearance, and would have left his King open to temporary attack, as will be seen on referring to the game, which, together with that on the first board, is printed below. Cambridge now made matters equal by the victories of Mr. Tattersall, who played the Vienna Game, against Mr. Fraser, and of Mr. McLean, who defended the Evans Gambit, against Mr. George. Mr. Stoker soon afterwards won a Scotch Gambit for Oxford against Mr. Stainer, and a draw occurred between Mr. Hancock and Mr. Fotheringham. The game between Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Battersby was protracted and interesting. After playing the Queen's Pawn Opening Mr. Jenkins got into trouble, and therefore gave up his Queen for Rook, Knight, and Pawn. After this he played so effectively that he seemed to have a possibility of winning another game for Oxford, but his opponent secured a draw in the end. Oxford thus won by four games to three, which, by a coincidence, is the same score as that which had given them victories in the two previous years. [match results as above]

The Field, 3 April 1897: "Oxford v Cambridge. The Oxford and Cambridge University teams paid their annual visit to London this week. Before meeting each other the combined teams tried their strength against the leading metropolitan clubs. The result of these efforts was that they lost to the British Chess Club by 5 to 9 and to the Metropolitan C.C. by 6½ to 13½, but they beat the City of London C.C. by 10½ to 9½, a very creditable victory indeed.

"The contest between themselves, constituting the twenty fifth annual encounter, took place yesterday (Friday) afternoon at the British Chess Club. Seven of the fourteen who played were new to the competition, Oxford supplying three and Cambridge four. Last year's representatives showed an increased proficiency, and the new blood was of welcome strength. The coming on of these men is watched with great interest, as no less than three—viz. Locoock, Atkins, and Jackson—of the nine amateurs representing Great Britain in the recent cable match with America, were recruited from the Universities."

File updated

Date Notes
17 April 2022 Original upload.
4 September 2023 Added press reports and a game from the Metropolitan match.
All material © 2022 John Saunders