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John Saunders


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Event: (unofficial) Varsity Match • Venue: Oxford • Date: [day ? month ?] 1944 • last edited: Saturday November 21, 2020 1:40 AM
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This unofficial Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held in Oxford on [day?] [month?] 1944. No game scores from this match are available, but there are three games from the Oxford University v Bletchley match played on 2 December 1944.

Bd Oxford University 1944 Cambridge University
1 Valentine Grieve (St John's) ½-½ Klaus Friedrich Roth (Jesus)
2 Anthony Maitland Spence (Trinity) ½-½ Leonard Charles Walters (St Catharine's)
3 John Ouvry Lindfield Roberts (Wadham) 0-1 Edwin Darnley Clements (St Catharine's)
4 Sohrab Ardeshir (Hertford) 1-0 Michael Barker Glauert (Trinity)
5 Christopher Taylor (Merton) 0-1 Leonid Mitlin (Emmanuel)
6 William Timothy Whiffen (St John's) 1-0 Christopher Anderson Webb (Jesus)
7 Adrian David Hugh Bivar (Corpus Christi) ½-½ David Russell Bland (Trinity)

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; BCM, April 1944, p87.


Venue: Oxford. Colours, openings not known.

[BCM, Apr 1944, p87] "The Inter-Varsity Chess match was played at Oxford this year, on seven boards, as usual. It was a very close match, and the result was a draw, the score being 3½-3½. The detailed scores were [as above - Grieve is shown as Oxford captain, Bivar the Oxford sec., Walters the Cambridge captain and Glauert the Cambridge sec.]. It is pleasant to be able to report the revival of this old-established fixture, which had lapsed for several years*. Mr. T. H. Tylor, of Balliol College, acted as referee and adjudicator for the match." [* only one year, in fact. There was no match in 1943 but unofficial matches were held in 1940, 1941 and 1942.]

Valentine Grieve (St John's) (1926-1998). Solicitor, Manchester. Known as Val Grieve, very active in the church in Manchester and very well documented online.

Anthony Maitland Spence (1925-1950). RNVR during war, married Dec 1949, died barely seven months later.

John Ouvry Lindfield Roberts (1925-2001). Doctor.

Sohrab Ardeshir (1919?-1997) - commoner, Hertford, 1938. Barrister.

Christopher Taylor.

William Timothy Whiffen (1925-2010). Clergyman. Canon. Former Vicar of St. Mary's, Woughton-on-the-Green and lately of Lovat Fields Village, Willen Park, after spending some time in Sri Lanka.

Adrian David Hugh Bivar (1926-2015). Professor of Iranian Studies, SOAS, London University. Numismatist. Wikipedia.

Klaus Friedrich Roth (1925-2015). German-born British mathematician and first British winner of the Fields Medal. After Cambridge, research at UCL. Professor at University College London in 1961, and moved to a chair at Imperial College London in 1966, a position he retained until official retirement at 1988. He then remained at Imperial College as Visiting Professor until 1996. Wikipedia. Published problemist - BCM, Jan 1945, p28 (Mate in 4 - 8/8/8/5p2/3P1N2/4NP2/6K1/2B1k3 w - - 0 1) - also endgame studies - viz. BCM, 1951, pps 225, 240, 305. "[After Cambridge] became a junior master at Gordonstoun, where he divided his spare time between roaming the Scottish countryside on a powerful motorcycle and playing chess with Robert Combe. On the first day of the first British Chess Championships after the war, Klaus famously went up to Hugh Alexander, the reigning champion, to tell him that he would not retain his title. He was of course right -- the previously largely unknown Robert Combe became the new British Champion." (Imperial College obit, 2015)

Leonard Charles Walters (1923?-2010?). B.A. 1945. Played in the unofficial Varsity match of 1944. His December 1957 letter published in the 1958 St Catharine's Magazine: "After going down in 1944 I worked for the Ministry of Supply on valve development and research until 1947 when I took a four-year Short Service Commission in the Royal Navy as an Instructor Officer. On returning to civilian life in February 1951, I joined the Plessey Co., Ltd, as a development engineer. I left Plesseys and worked as Senior Engineer in the microwave research laboratory of Decca Radar, Ltd, from October 1954 to September 1955, when I returned to Plesseys as Project Leader in a new research group which moved to Hampshire in 1956. Since October last year we have been living at Hazeldene, Botley Road, near Baddesley, Hampshire. Apart from a briefly renewed acquaintance with Graham Rushton in 1946, occasional contact with J. M. Bee at chess gatherings or matches, and spasmodic meetings at technical exhibitions or lectures with David Paul, my contact with Cath's men has been confined to the annual dinner of the London Group, but even this, I regret to say, has had to be omitted for the past two years."

Edwin Darnley Clements (1923-2012). Worked in Meridian and Astronomy departments of the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux Castle from 1955 to 1982, retired to Guildford. Played chess for Hampshire, then for Guildford after retirement, "before encountering an age-old problem: 'I couldn't get to sleep after playing'" (obit online). Keen hill-walker.

Michael Barker Glauert (1924-2004). Professor of Mathematics at the University of East Anglia and co-author of a bridge book (Bridge Odds for Practical Players by Hugh Kelsey & Michael Glauert)

Leonid Mitlin (1922-86). Author, Pocket Book of Chemical Technology

Christopher Anderson Webb (1917-1975)

David Russell Bland (1926-2001). Author of books on mathematics, physics (wave theory). Taught at the Cranfield Institute of Technology, now Cranfield University.

Oxford University vs Bletchley, 2 December 1944

Later in the year Oxford University played a match against Bletchley Chess Club, which was actually a deliberate misnomer as the team was composed solely of Bletchley Park code-breakers.

It was reported in BCM (February 1945, p36) and CHESS Magazine. BCM: "the match was played on twelve boards, and took place on Saturday, December 2nd, at Oxford, in the Massey Room, Balliol College. The match began promptly at 2.30pm and ended at 6pm. Both side produced strong teams for the match, the University ebing strengthened by six senior members. The Bletchley team included C. H. O'D. Alexander, H. Golombek and Dr. J. M. Aitken, and the University side, T. H. Tylor, Dr. J. W. Cornforth and Dr. H. G. Schenk. The match produced many hard-fought games."

Bd Oxford University  1944  Bletchley
1 Theodore Henry Tylor (Balliol) ½-½ Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
2 John Warcup Cornforth (St Catherine's) 1-0 Harry Golombek
3 Dr Hans Georg Schenk (Exeter) 0-1 Dr James Macrae Aitken
4 Sir Robert Robinson (Magdalen) 0-1 Irving John Good
5 Michael James Steuart Dewar (Balliol) 0-1 Nicholas Anthony Perkins
6 Dr Isaac Berenblum 0-1 Sgt Walter W Jacobs (US Army)
7 Valentine Grieve (St John's) 1-0 John Robert Gilbert
8 Robin Charles Oliver Matthews (Corpus Christi) 0-1 Malcolm Alfred Chamberlain
9 Sohrab Ardeshir (Hertford) 1-0 Peter John Hilton
10 John Ouvry Lindfield Roberts (Wadham) 0-1 William Robert Cox
11 Adrian David Hugh Bivar (Corpus Christi) ½-½ David Rees
12 E C Corfield/Crossfield 0-1 Lt. Arthur J Levenson (US Army)

1944 Oxford vs Bletchley match
Photo of the participants in the Oxford University v Bletchley match, 2 December 1944

Sir John Warcup Cornforth (1917-2013), AC, CBE, FRS, FAA. Wikipedia. Chessgames.com. Australian–British chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1975. Completely deaf by the age of 20. Gave a blindfold simul against 12 players whilst still an undegraduate in Australia in 1937. Played in the 1936 Australian Championship in Perth and the inaugural (1937) Australian Correspondence Chess Championship. Member of Hampstead CC in the 1950s, winning their club championship in 1953, 1956 and 1957. Played on a high board for Sussex for many years, with a playing strength equivalent to 2300 at his best. Was a student and academic colleague of Sir Robert Robinson, also a Nobel laureate and chess player.

Hans Georg Artur Victor Schenk (6 April 1912 – 22 August 1979) - represented Oxford in the unofficial Varsity match of 1942. Leonard Barden comments (he sent this substantial contribution to me some time ago - apologies to him and readers for not posting them before now - JS): "Hans was lecturer in European History at Exeter College, Oxford. He dearly wanted to be a professor but it was never awarded. His 1966 book The Mind of the European Romantics can still be found online.

"Hans had lived in Prague pre-war and knew Salo Flohr, so when the USSR team came here in 1947 he made a trip to London hoping for a reunion chat. But this was the occasion when Levenfish met [Dr Paul M] List for the first time since Carlsbad 1911, their reunion was seen by the security man, and Levenfish was barred permanently from travel. Probably Flohr knew that, so he terminated the reunion with Hans after a couple of minutes.

"Hans was Oxfordshire champion in 1948 and played in the Hastings Premier Reserves Major along with Horne, DB Scott and myself in 1948-9. He played on a high board in Oxfordshire's teams which won the inter-county title in 1951 and 1952. He was the university club President and took an active and friendly interest in my own career.  A charming man. When I failed Latin in my second term and was threatened with expulsion, his wife* gave me cramming during the summer so that I passed. I don't remember exactly when he died [JS note - Schenk, whose date of birth appears in the 1939 census as 6 April 1912, died on 22 August 1979] but it was on a trip to France in the 1970s when they were having an al fresco lunch and Hans suddenly complained of a headache and died within a few minutes. So I'm not sure if the death record would be here or in France. They lived in North Oxford so there should be a census record." (* Leonard thought Schenk's wife was called Hilda or Hazell but marriage records show she was called Joyce Marjorie Hazell - she married Schenk in Brentford in 1944. Joyce died in 2007, aged 88. Hans Schenk's 1939 address was 86C Banbury Road, Oxford. At the time of his death his address was 4 Capel Close, Summertown, Oxford.)

Sir Robert Robinson (13 September - 8 February 1975) - eminent chemist and Nobel laureate. Wikipedia. Keen chess player. President of the British Chess Federation from 1950–53. Authored a chess book in collaboration with Raymond B Edwards: The Art and Science of Chess (Batsford, 1972).

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)

Dr Isaac Berenblum (26 August 1903, Bialystok, Poland - 18 April 2000, Rehovot, Israel) pathologist, oncologist. Educ. elementary schools in Antwerp, Belgium (1907-14); Bristol Grammar School (1914-20); Leeds University (1920-26). 1936-40: Beit Memorial Research Fellow, Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford 1938-48; In charge of Oxford University Research Centre of the British Empire Cancer Campaign 1940-49; Departmental demonstrator, and later lecturer at the Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford. Thereafter, took up professorial posts in Israel. County chess for Yorkshire and later for Oxfordshire. Vice-president of the Oxford Chess Association, 1938. [reference] [Yorkshire Chess History]

Robert (Robin) Charles Oliver Matthews (1927-2010). Economist and chess problemist. Wikipedia. Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, Professor of Political Economy at Oxford from 1965 to 1975, Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge from 1980 to 1991, Master of Clare College, Cambridge from 1975 to 1993. Wrote two books on chess problems: Chess Problems: Introduction to an art (with M Lipton and JM Rice), 1963; and Mostly Three-Movers: Collected Chess Problems 1939-1993, Feenschach-Phénix, Aachen, 1995.

EC Corfield/Crossfield. BCM gives EC Corfield, CHESS gives EC Crossfield. I can't find a fit for either of them.

Harry Golombek (1 March 1911 – 7 January 1995) - chessplayer, journalist, author arbiter and FIDE official. Honorary grandmaster (1985). Wikipedia.

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.

Walter W Jacobs (26 September 1914, Newark, NJ - 11 February 1982) - Education: BS, mathematics, City College of New York, 1934; MA, mathematical statistics, George Washington University, 1940, PhD. mathematical statistics, George Washington University, 1951. "Jacobs' wartime activities saw him spend a short period at Bletchley Park in England, although the major recorded activity of that period was his playing chess on board six in a challenge of the Oxford University chess club by the Bletchley Park regulars, including Jack Good and Hugh Alexander. Following the war, Jacobs took on a series of administrative positions at the US Department of Commerce, the US Air Force, and the National Security Agency. After retiring from the NSA. Jacobs undertook an academic career at American University. Computer Pioneer.

John Robert Gilbert (1921 - 18 March 2011). Played in the 1946 and 1947 matches. "Gilbert (matr. 1940) [died] On 18 March 2011, John Robert Gilbert of Colwyn Bay, North Wales. John won a Scholarship to St Catharine’s from Epsom College, Surrey, and read Modern & Medieval Languages. His daughter Anne writes ‘My father was a keen chess player and, if any records of the chess club remain for the period he was at St Catharine’s, you may find his name there. He was called up during the war and served in the Intelligence Corps as a code breaker at Bletchley Park. He was a tax inspector his entire working life from 1947 to retirement in 1981.’ According to the College Magazine, he won the Naumann cup at the Metropolitan Chess Club in 1948." (St Catharine's Magazine, 2011, p91). Secretary of Redhill Chess Club, 1990s [reference]

Malcolm Alfred Chamberlain (1919, Fulham, London - 23 March 1999, Cheltenham) - went to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, but did not play in a Varsity chess match. Known as 'Mac' (probably because of his initials). A member of Cheltenham Chess Club, graded up to about 165 in the 1980s, captain of their 2nd team [reference].

Peter John Hilton (7 April 1923 – 6 November 2010) - mathematics professor in UK and USA. Wikipedia. At Queen's College, Oxford, 1940, but did not play in a Varsity match.

William Robert Cox (2 January 1922 - 27 June 1981) Bletchley Park 1941-45. Not absolute certain this is our man but... Sir (William) Robert Cox, KCB 1976 (CB 1971) Born 2 Jan. 1922; s of late William Robert and Berthe Marie Cox, Winchester; m 1948, Elizabeth Anne Priestley Marten; (from his Times obit) "The son of W. R. Cox, he was bom on January 2, 1922. He was educated at Peter Symonds School, Winchester and at Christ’s College, Cambridge. After entering the Civil Service in 1941 he transferred to the Foreign Office [this is the big clue - JS] and then joined the Ministry of Town and Country Planning in 1950." (Seems very young to have graduated and joined the FO?! I'm wondering if the d.o.b. given here is wrong.) However, the FO reference makes him a strong candidate for the Bletchley man) Eventually became chief executive of the Property Services Agency.

David Rees (29 May 1918 – 16 August 2013) - went to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, but did not play in a Varsity chess match. Post-war head of Mathematics Department and later Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics at Exeter University. Fellow of the Royal Society. Wikipedia.

Lt. Arthur J Levenson (February 15, 1914 – August 12, 2007) - Post war career with the National Security Agency; inducted into the NSA Hall of Honor in 2009. Wikipedia.

File Updated

Date Notes
2018 Uploaded for the first time
17 November 2020 Added some details found for Leonard Charles Walters.
20 November 2020 Added details, photo and some comments received from Leonard Barden, relating to the Oxford University vs Bletchley match, 2 December 1944. Games of the top three boards available in the game viewer.
All material © 2019 John Saunders