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John Saunders


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Event: 62nd Varsity Match • Venue: City of London CC • Date: 14 March 1938 • last edited: Monday November 16, 2020 1:06 AM
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The 62nd Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at City of London Chess Club on 14 March 1938. Four game scores from this match are available.

Bd Oxford University 1938 Cambridge University Opening, No. of Moves
1b Alfred William Bowen (Oriel) 1-0 David Bernard Schultz (Magdalene) QGD
2w Brebis Bleaney (St John's) 0-1 John Dean (St Catharine's) Caro-Kann
3b Rodney Montgomery Baine (Merton) 1-0 John Francis O'Donovan (Jesus) Alekhine's Defence
4w Edward Leslie Stuart (Merton) 1-0 Mervyn Edward Wise (Pembroke) Nimzowitsch Defence
5b Hanns Andreas August Hammelmann (Brasenose) 0-1 Philip Charles Hoad (Trinity) Centre Counter
6w Guy Garland Reaks (Oriel) 1-0 James Sydney Abraham (Downing) QP
7b William Goodwin (Magdalen) 0-1 Irving John Good (Jesus) French Defence

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; BCM, May 1938, p230; The Times, 15 March 1938; Manchester Guardian, 15 March 1938


Boards 3 and 7 were adjudicated by Sir George Thomas.

[BCM, May 1938]: "The 62nd match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities took place at the City of London Chess Club on Monday, 14th March. Contrary to all expectations, Oxford won by four games to three. Throughout the season the Cambridge team had consistently done well against teams that had beaten Oxford quite easily, and an overwhelming victory was anticipated for the Cambridge side. That this did not materialise was due partly to the overwhelming nervousness that seems to prevail in these matches and partly to unexpectedly good play by some of the Oxford players."

"Cambridge had white on the odd-numbered boards. On the top board the Cambridge player maintained precedent by losing his Queen at an early stage of the game. There is a high rate of mortality amongst Queens on the Cambridge top boards. We can remember no less than three of the post-War Cambridge first boards who have lost their Queen during the first few moves of the game. On the 2nd board the Oxford president lost considerable material through a series of blunders. On the 3rd board a drawish position was obtained and Baine offered his opponent a draw. This O'Donovan refused, since at that time the state of the score seemed to indicate that he had to win his game to save the match. However, in his subsequent efforts to do so, he lost a Pawn and his position speedily became lost. Eccentric play in the opening on the 4th board was duly punished by the Oxford player who won a good game in incisive fashion. On the 5th board some vigorous play by the Cambridge player met with merited success."

"The game on the 6th board was a strange one. The Cambridge player defended the Queen's Pawn with the Dutch Defence. His opponent replied with a variation all his own. It is possible that he had heard that one should fianchetto against the Dutch Defence and, being uncertain as to which Bishop should indulge in this oblique practice, placed them both on the long diagonals. In any event, he obtained the inferior game out of the opening. But the Cambridge player inexplicably weakened at the crucial moment and, once given his chance, Reaks played in an effective style quite different from his opening tactics. The game on the 7th board was a triumph of perseverance where after several vicissitudes the Cambridge player outplayed his opponent in the ending. The games on the 3rd and 7th boards were adjudicated by Sir George Thomas. The record of these matches now is: Cambridge 28, Oxford 26, drawn 8."

[The Times, 15 March 1938, p16]"A CLOSE STRUGGLE - FROM OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT - The 62nd chess match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities was played yesterday at the City of London Chess Club, and was won by Oxford by four games to three, after a close struggle.

"Cambridge had the move on the odd-numbered boards. The match fluctuated in the manner traditional in this event. At the adjournment for luncheon Oxford had clearly winning positions on the first and fourth boards; but the three games on the bottom boards stood rather in favour of Cambridge, while those on boards two and three were level, though the white player in each case retained the advantage of the move.

After luncheon events moved fast. Mr. Bowen and Mr. Stuart duly scored their wins, but their success was counterbalanced by the sudden and unexpected collapse of Mr. Bleaney and Mr. Hammelmann. A tragedy befell Cambridge on Board 6, where Mr. Reaks, who had played like a rabbit before luncheon, suddenly changed into a tiger; and Mr. Abraham, who had so far played very well, collapsed before this sudden metamorphosis. The last two games were bitterly contested, each side having two rooks and pawns. Mr. O'Donovan quite properly refused a draw, since it did not appear that Mr. Good could win. But Mr. Good did win, and Mr. O’Donovan’s gallant gesture cost his side the match. These last two games were adjudicated by Sir George Thomas, but the verdict was clear.

"On the first board. Mr. Bowen played the Duisburg Counter-Gambit against Mr. Schultz, a rare and refreshing spectacle on so solemn an occasion. Black gives up a pawn for a quick development, and White has to defend with great care to avoid drifting into serious difficulty. Mr. Schultz, who has not done himself justice in this match, played his Queen to the wrong square; Mr. Bowen harried him so successfully that he eventually trapped the queen, and though Mr. Schultz obtained two pieces and a pawn or two. it was insufficient compensation. Mr. Schultz gave up soon after luncheon.

"On Board 2 a Caro-Kann Defence was developed on orthodox lines, the Oxford President having a promising position at the adjournment. The interval unsettled him. however, and he made a slip immediately on resumption, losing a pawn without compensation. A further mistake cost a piece, and he gave up shortly afterwards, when his one remaining knight was imprisoned.

"On the third board Mr. Baine played Alekhine’s Defence, and a typically stodgy position resulted, in which it was difficult for cither side to attempt anything. Mr. O’Donovan, after declining the draw, lost a pawn, and, though he made a desperate struggle, Mr. Bainc was not to be denied. One of O’Donovan’s rooks was imprisoned on the queen’s side, and Black could demonstrate a mating position on the other wing.

"On Board 4 Mr. Wise, a very ingenious but eccentric player, indulged his taste for the bizarre in the opening once too often. Mr. Stuart built up an overwhelming attack, and Mr. Wise resigned when confronted with a conventional queen sacrifice to which there was no reply. An excellent game by Mr. Stuart, but he should not hammer his clock so fiercely; it is disconcerting and intimidating to his opponent.

"On Board 5 Mr. Hammelmann played Alekhine’s Defence, which was transposed by his opponent into a variation of the Centre Counter. Mr. Hammelmann tried to simplify too early, and, after the exchange of queens, was left with weak pawns to defend. He lost one of these, and shortly afterwards a piece by a neat combination. A very good, quiet game by Mr Hoad.


"Board 6 was really the decisive game. Mr. Reaks did not seem to have much idea of how to deal with his opponent’s Dutch Defence, and Mr. Abraham soon wrested the initiative from him. After luncheon he mysteriously made some faulty exchanges, as the result of which Mr. Reaks was left with two united passed pawns in the centre. He pushed one of these home with an incisiveness in marked contrast to his opening strategy, and scored a fine win in 35 moves.

"On Board 7 the Oxford player played a French Defence. At the adjournment Mr. Good appeared to have rather the best of it, but Mr. Goodwin managed to force off the queens and emerged with the superior endgame. Mr. Good fought back well, however, and eventually converted an unpromising endgame with rooks and pawns into a winning one. He won first one pawn and then another, and had an easy win on adjudication. If only Mr. O'Donovan could have foreseen it!"

[Manchester Guardian, 15 March 1938]: "The sixty-second in the series of chess matches between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge was played at the City of London Chess Club yesterday. Before the present match Cambridge had won 28 matches to 25. with 8 matches drawn, and perhaps they started slight favourites on general form through the current season.

"Oxford’s seventh man arrived twenty minutes late owing to a train breakdown, but he was able to make up leeway so successfully that after nine moves a side he had taken a quarter of an hour less by the clock than his opponent.

"No games had been finished before the lunch interval, when both teams were entertained by Sir George Thomas. Soon after resumption of play Bowen, on the top board, drew first blood for Oxford. Courageously he had adopted the Von Hennig-Schara gambit against his opponent, who went astray, and on the fifteenth move lost his queen for bishop, knight, and one pawn, after which his defeat was inevitable.

"The next game to finish was on board 4, where Stuart (a player who is known in Liverpool chess quarters) won smartly against Wise. Cambridge then secured two wins in succession, on boards 2 and 5, but Oxford took the lead again with a win on board 6, leaving two games still to be decided. Both of these were rook and pawn endings, with level forces, but neither of them a clear draw. In fact, as finishing-time drew near the Cambridge seventh man managed to win first one pawn and then another, so that there was no difficulty in deciding in his favour. The position on the third board was harder, but Sir George Thomas, adjudicating, found a win for Oxford. The final result, therefore, was Oxford 4, Cambridge 3."

Alfred William Bowen (1918-2012) - played in the 1937, 1938 and 1939 Varsity chess matches, as well as the unofficial 1940 match. Familiarly known as 'Bill Bowen' and an accomplished bridge player - further info.

Brebis Bleaney (1915-2006) Played in the 1936, 1937 and 1938 Varsity matches. Wikipedia. Physicist; Lecturer in Physics, Balliol College, Oxford 1947-50; Fellow and Lecturer in Physics, St John's College, Oxford 1947-57, Tutor 1950-57, Honorary Fellow 1968; Research Fellow, Harvard University and MIT 1949; University Demonstrator and Lecturer in Physics, Oxford University 1945-57, Dr Lee's Professor of Experimental Philosophy 1957-77 (Emeritus); FRS 1950; CBE 1965; Warren Research Fellow, Royal Society 1977-80, Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow 1980-82; Fellow, Wadham College, Oxford 1957-77, Senior Research Fellow 1977-82, Emeritus Fellow 1982-2006. [The Independent, Obit., 2006] Captained school & university chess clubs.

Rodney Montgomery Baine (1913-2000). Rhodes scholar, from Mississippi, at Merton (1936-39). 1931 graduate of Tupelo High School. BA (1935), Southwestern at Memphis, MA at Vanderbilt, PhD Harvard. Served with the US Army during WW2. Instructor of English at MIT, professor of the English Department at the University of Richmond, Delta State University of Alabama at Montevallo. Professor of 18th-century English at the University of Georgia from 1962. He donated the trophy for the Mississippi state chess championship and won it himself in 1955 and 1956. Virginia state co-champion in 1951. Alabama state champion 1960. Left his collection of chess books to the Barret and Burrow Library, Rhodes College, Tennessee.

Edward Leslie Stuart (1918-2005). Known as Leslie Stuart. Played in the 1952 British Championship, scoring 7/11 to finish in a six-way tie for second place. Also played in the 1962 British Championship, scoring 4½/11. Won the Northumberland Zollner trophy in 1949. Was graded 204 in 1969, playing for the Ministry of Labour CC. Took a lengthy break from chess until the late 1980s, returning when he was domiciled in the north of England and thereafter staying active into the 21st century, taking part in the 2001 Monarch Assurance Isle of Man Masters. (See Sean Marsh's blog for a long and interesting article about Leslie Stuart)

Hanns Andreas August Paul Oskar Hammelmann (1912-1969) Played in the 1938 Varsity match. Rhodes Scholar 1935. Engaged on research work in law at Oxford & Middle Temple. German nationality (born 25 September 1912 in Munich) until 1947 when he took British nationality. Initially interned in 1939 but released from internment in 1940. Lawyer and arts author, with particular interest in 18th century book illustrations. Died in Vecoli San Martino, Freddana Lucca, Italy, 26 October 1969.

Guy Garland Reaks (1917-2011) Played in the 1938 Varsity match. Born in Simla, India, died in Lewes, Sussex. 2nd Lt., Devonshire Regiment. Worked in the leather industry.

William Goodwin (Magdalen) - played in the 1938 and 1939 Varsity matches. Nothing else known.

David Bernard Schultz (1915-1993) Played in the 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938 Varsity matches. Changed his name to David Bernard SCOTT in 1939, and was generally known as Bernard Scott. Obituary [BCM, Dec 1993, p677]: "We report with regret the death of D. B. Scott (London, 27.viii.1915 - Hove, 7.xi. 1993) a player prominent in Middlesex and Sussex circles. He was a mathematician who graduated from Cambridge, held posts at the University of London from 1939 onwards and founded the maths department at the University of Sussex, where he was professor from 1962 to 1980. A member of the Hampstead club, he helped R. C. Griffith keep the BCM afloat during the war by contributing game notes (including a win of his against Winter) and was Sussex Champion in 1965. I recall him telling of a wonderful occasion for him when, at a pre-war Margate tournament, Capablanca made an observation about his game of that day, then sat down to show a missed winning method and then duly refuted suggestions from a voice at the back of the crowd which happened to come from ... Flohr! Resident in Hastings since 1987, Bernard Scott was very helpful and friendly in many ways. He attended some of the Kasparov-Short games and wished to reconcile Tony Miles and Ray Keene at that time. B[ernard].C[afferty].
[Extract from The Independent obit, 18 Dec 1993]: Lecturer in Mathematics, Queen Mary's College, London 1939-46; Lecturer in Mathematics, Aberdeen University 1947; Lecturer in Mathematics, King's College London 1947-53, Reader 1953- 62; Professor of Mathematics, Sussex University 1962-80 (Emeritus); founding Professor of Mathematics at Sussex University, from 1962 to 1980, and the Independent's first chess writer. Full Independent Obituary. Was a cousin of Leonard Richenberg.

John Dean (1917-1983). Paediatrician, University of British Columbia, Canada, from 1955. MA, MB, BChir Cantab (1942), MRCP (1947) FRCP (1973). Educated at Wednesbury High School, obtaining an exhibition in natural sciences to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he was awarded first class honours in Part I of the natural sciences tripos in 1938. He received his education in clinical medicine at the Westminster Hospital medical school. Commissioned as temporary surgeon lieutenant RNVR and served in the Royal Navy, in HMS Ready, for three years. Emigrated to Vancouver, Canada, in 1955. Took part in the 1935 British Boys' Championship at Hastings, winning his preliminary section ahead of JF O'Donovan - who played a board below him in the 1939 Varsity match - but lost to Frank Parr in the final section to finish 3rd. Played in the 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939 Varsity matches, and also in the post-war Cambridge Past vs Oxford Past matches. [primary biographical source]

John Francis O'Donovan (1918-1999). Born in Cobh [Queenstown], Cork, Ireland, died in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Article by David McAlister, IRLchess website (from which much of this info is sourced). Played in the 1937, 1938 and 1939 Varsity matches, and was president of the Cambridge University CC in 1939. Attended St Paul's School, London. First class honours in part one of the Mathematical Tripos in 1937 and graduated BA in 1939. Tied first in the 1935 British Boys' Championship at Hastings, losing a two-game play-off for the title to Frank Parr. Won the 1936 London Boys' Championship. Took part in a number of major British congresses, e.g. Margate 1937, BCF Championships (Blackpool 1937, Brighton 1938). In 1939 played board two for Ireland in the 1939 Buenos Aires Olympiad and stayed behind in Argentina when it ended. He taught English at the Faculty of Engineering, National University of Buenos Aires, for 26 years. Endgame studies published in BCM, May 1956, p137 and BCM, Sept 1956, p243.

Mervyn Edward Wise (1917-still alive?) Played in the 1937, 1938 and 1939 matches. Academic, expert on the mathematics of medicine. Based at Leiden University in the Netherlands in the 1990s and active in chess there as late as 1995.

Philip Charles Hoad (1917-2000). Played in the 1938 and 1939 Varsity matches. Played in the 1967 British Championships, scoring 5½/11. Won the British Veterans'/Senior (Over 60) Championship eight times (a record - two were shared) between 1982 and 1990. Won the 1949 Northern Counties' (NCCU) Championship. Long-time member of Liverpool CC (see short biog article).

James Sydney Abraham (1916-1979) Played in the 1937 and 1938 Varsity matches. Schoolmaster, Bushey, Herts, 1939. Attested Royal Artillery, 1940. Studied English under FR Leavis at Cambridge and taught at Loughborough Training College and later Hull College of Further Education. [book source] Died in Palermo, Italy.

Irving John (Jack, "IJ") Good (1916-2009). Cryptologist, statistician, and early worker on the Colossus computer at Bletchley Park and the University of Manchester. Wikipedia. Major Scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge, 1934; State Scholar, 1934; B.A., Cambridge, 1938, Ph.D., Cambridge (Mathematics), 1941. Worked at Bletchley Park, Government Code and Cypher School, on Ultra (both the Enigma and a Teleprinter encrypting machine) as the main statistician under Alan Turing, FRS, CHOD (Hugh) Alexander and Max Newman, FRS, in turn. (The latter two also played in the Varsity chess match in the 1930s). Worked at GCHQ from 1948 until 1959. Moved to USA in 1967 - research professor of statistics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Film director Stanley Kubrick (himself a keen chess player) consulted Good for information about computing when filming 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Won the 1939 Cambridgeshire chess championship and finished 2nd in the 1958 West of England championship.

All material © 2020 John Saunders