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John Saunders


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Event: (unofficial) Varsity Match • Venue: St John's, Cambridge • Date: 16 March 1940 • last edited: Friday November 20, 2020 5:18 PM
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This unofficial Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at St John's College, Cambridge on 16 March 1940. One game score from this match is available.

Bd Oxford University  1940 Cambridge University
1w Alfred William Bowen (Oriel) 1-0 Irving John Good (Jesus)
2b Clifford Leak (Corpus Christi) 1-0 Arthur Pollitt (Clare)
3w John Hull Dunkle (Hertford) 1-0 Kenneth Preston Charlesworth (Emmanuel)
4b Thomas Frank Brenchley (Merton) 0-1 Geoffrey Irving Rhodes (Selwyn)
5w Michael James Steuart Dewar (Balliol) 0-1 Louis Goodman (Corpus Christi)
6b Basil Thomas Wigoder (Oriel) ½-½ Basil Rose (Jesus)
7w default 0def1 Christopher Thurston Rivington (Trinity)

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; BCM, May 1940, p161; The Times, 15 March 1940, p6; The Times, 26 March 1940, p6


[The Times, 15 March 1940] "CHESS - OXFORD TO PLAY AT CAMBRIDGE - FROM OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT - An informal chess match has been arranged between Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and will take place at Cambridge to-morrow. It will not rank in the series of inter-University matches.

"Most of the Cambridge University matches this term have been scratched because of the inability of the opposition to raise a team. A match, however, was played against Cambridge Town, and this was lost by six games to two."

[The Times, 26 March 1940, p6] "INFORMAL MATCH DRAWN - FROM OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT - An informal chess match was played recently at St. John’s College, Cambridge, between Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The Oxford seventh board unfortunately did not arrive, and Cambridge thus won one game by default. In spite of this, however, Oxford managed to draw the match, each side scoring points.

"There was a very lively game on the top board between Bowen and Good. Bowen had the better of the opening, and in trying to escape from his difficulties Good lost a piece for a pawn. He built up a promising counter-attack, however, and to break it Bowen returned the piece. A series of complications ensued, in the course of which Good gave up his rook and minor piece, and Bowen once more returned the exchange. Finally Bowen emerged with queen and two extra pawns against two rooks, and by giving up his queen for the rooks at the right moment obtained a winning king and pawn ending. My impression is that Bowen, who is, of course, a first-class player, was winning comfortably all along, but it was good fun all the same. Dunkle broke through in the centre against Charlesworth, and soon afterwards obtained a winning attack; he won in good style by a temporary rook sacrifice.

"Rhodes had the better of the games [sic] all through against Brenchley; but the latter defended himself stoutly, and was still full of fight when he made an unfortunate blunder. There were some exciting complications between Dewar and Goodman, in the course of which Goodman won two pawns. Dewar obtained some attacking chances, but ran very short of time and lost more material. I think Goodman would have won in any case.

"The game on the sixth board was rather dull, and after a series of exchanges Rose, with rather the better end game, offered his opponent a draw."


"The match now depended on the game between the Cambridge president and Leak, Of Corpus. This was a hard-fought affair. In the eariy stages Pollitt established a knight at Q6, and Leak gave up the exchange, obtaining two pawns as compensation. Subsequently he recovered the exchange and reached an end game two pawns to the good but with bishops of opposite colours. Pollitt made a great struggle after this and appeared at one time actually to have winning chances, but finally, after some 80 moves and 7½ hours’ play, he had to admit defeat. An enjoyable match, with some lively games, thus ended in a draw."

[BCM, May 1940, p161] "No official match was held this year between Oxford and Cambridge Universities; instead an informal encounter took place on March 16th at St John's College, Cambridge. Oxford were unfortunate in losing on the last board by default but nevertheless managed to draw 3½-3½... There was a very lively and complicated game on the top board; Bowen was eventually left with a queen and two extra pawns against two rooks. He was able to exchange his queen for the rooks to bring about a won pawn ending. The game on the third board has a good finish."

Alfred William Bowen (1918-2012) - played in the 1937, 1938 and 1939 Varsity chess matches, as well as the unofficial 1p40 match. Familiarly known as 'Bill Bowen' and an accomplished bridge player - further info.

Clifford Leak (1921-1987) Also played in the 1939 and 1947 matches. Attended Liverpool Institute in the 1930s (captain of their chess team), won an open scholarship in Classics to Corpus Christi and was with Intelligence Corps during WW2. Played on a high board for Lancashire in the early 1950s.

John Hull Dunkle (1915-1998). Son of an Alaskan mining engineer and British mother, born Seattle, Washington, died in Alaska. Active in US OTB and correspondence chess into the 1990s, from as early as the 1930s.

Thomas Frank Brenchley (1918-2011). Wikipedia. Known as Frank Brenchley. CMG (1964). Served with the Royal Corps of Signals 1939–46 as an intelligence officer in the Middle East. Diplomat. Ambassador to Norway and Poland, authority on terrorism. In retirement returned to Merton College as an honorary fellow. No other chess references.

Michael James Steuart Dewar (1918-1997). Wikipedia. Played in the unofficial 1940 match and official 1948 match. Organic chemist, wrote The Electronic Theory of Organic Chemistry. Born in Ahmednagar, India, on September 24, 1918, where his father was a civil servant. After Winchester, received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Oxford. Professor of Chemistry at Queen Mary College, London, 1951. Kharasch Chair at the University of Chicago in 1959. University of Texas at Austin, Robert A. Welch research chair, in 1963. University of Florida as Graduate Research Professor, 1989. At Oxford played chess with JW Cornforth who described him as "an excellent strategist though a poor tactician, and he was immensely proud of a contribution he made to the theory of a chess opening." (John. N. Murrell. "Michael James Steuart Dewar. 24 September 1918-11 October 1997.” Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, vol. 44, 1998, pp. 129–140. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/770235.) From his autobiography A Semiempirical Life (American Chemical Society, 1992): "Oxford was a good place for chess during the war... [Sir Robert Robinson] was also an enthusiastic chess player. One of my many happy memories is an epic match Robert and I played one year in the Oxford County Championship, a titanic struggle that ended in a draw after more than 80 moves. It was published in The British Chess Magazine... my excursion into chess ended when we left Oxford because there was no chess club in Maidenhead." (Robinson game ref. BCM, Nov 1941, p293, though the game was in fact only 55 moves long)

Basil Thomas Wigoder (1921-2004). Wikipedia. Lord Wigoder of Cheetham (1974). Royal Artillery, 1942-1945, continued his studies at Oriel College, Oxford, after the war. Degree in Modern Languages in 1946, President of the Oxford Union in the same year. Called to the Bar in 1946, became a QC in 1966. Ran for parliament as Liberal Party candidate in 1959 and 1964, unsuccessfully. No other chess references found.

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.

Arthur Pollitt (Clare) - nothing found.

Kenneth Preston Charlesworth (1918-2011). Beat Znosko-Borovsky in brilliant fashion in the 1947 BCF Premier Tournament, Harrogate, while scoring 3½/11 (game score discoverable here). Finished 3rd= in the 1946 BCF Major Open, Section 2 (crosstable here).

Geoffrey Irving Rhodes (1920-1984). Born Bradford, Yorks, died Harrow, Middx. Matric. 1938. Was an inventor (Proctor & Gamble). Played in the British Championship in 1963. NCCU Champion 1965. Listed as a member of the Newcastle club in 1969 (when graded 201).

Louis Goodman (1919-1988). From Manchester, studied history. No other info.

Basil Rose (1918-2014) Nuclear physicist at the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell.

Christopher Thurston Rivington (1920-2018). One of the (Thurston) Rivington book-trade dynasty. Attended Radley College. Served as a Lieutenant, RNVR 1941-6, and was Master of the Stationers' Company in 1983. No chess references.

All material © 2020 John Saunders