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John Saunders


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Event: 72nd Varsity Match • Venue: West London Chess Club • Date: 27 March 1954
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1953 • Forward to 1955 • last edited: Monday May 20, 2024 11:45 AM

The 72nd Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at West London Chess Club on 27 March 1954. All game scores from this match are available.

1953«     1954 Varsity Chess Match     »1955
Bd Oxford University 1954 Cambridge University Opening, No. of Moves
1b Derek Geoffrey Horseman (Hertford) ½-½ Peter Darrell Sanderson (Sidney Sussex) QGD
2w Raaphi Persitz (Balliol) 1-0 John Frederick Barrett (Pembroke) Sicilian
3b David Malet Armstrong (Exeter) 0-1 Jeremy John Arthur Handley (Selwyn) Nimzo-Indian
4w Kenneth Leslie Gardner (St John's) 1-0 Victor Tarnofsky (Downing) Barcza [King's Ind. Att.]
5b Robert William Bryan Judson (Hertford) 1-0 Frank Alan Hart (Pembroke) Pirc
6w Geoffrey Lionel Bindman (Oriel) 0-1 David Edward Lloyd (Caius) Dutch
7b Malcolm Watson Norris (St John's) 0-1 Leon Rosselson (Fitzwilliam) QGD / Nimzo-Indian

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; The Times, 23 March 1954; The Times, 29 March 1954, p8; The Guardian, 4 & 29 March 1954; BCM, May 1954, p150; BCF Year Book 1955/56

(1) Venue: West London CC, 23 Stratford Road, Kensington, London W8;
(2) Time Control: 27 moves in 1½ hours, then 20 in an hour. Match started at 10am.

[Times, 23 Mar 1954, p10] "UNIVERSITIES CHESS - SEVENTIETH MATCH - RESULTS EQUAL OVER SERIES - BY OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT - Howard Staunton, that great champion of British chess, would have looked forward to next Saturday’s crucial chess match in the series between Oxford and Cambridge Universities which he advocated over a century ago and of which he saw the inaugural match in 1873. It will be the seventieth contest, with both sides level in the series with the score 34½ all. When the match is played over the traditional seven boards at the West London Chess Club, only Horseman and Armstrong (Oxford) and Handley and Sanderson (Cambridge) will remain from the teams last year, when Oxford won by 5—2. Then Horseman and Sanderson drew on board three. They are not likely to face each other again, as Horseman, this year’s Oxford University champion, is expected to take top board. The absence from his side of D. A. Yanofsky, the present British champion, who has returned to Canada after completing his law studies, is a serious loss."

DG Horseman, King Henry VIII S., Coventry & Hertford; RJA Persitz, Tel Aviv Municipal S., and Balliol; DM Armstrong, Sydney University and Exeter; KL Gardner, Solihull S., and St Johns; RWB Judson, Worcester G.S., and Hertford; MW Norris, Merchant Taylor's S., and St John's.

JF Barrett, Taunton S., and Pembroke; JJA Handley, Bishop Vesey's S., Sutton Coldfield and Selwyn; PD Sanderson, Ashby-de-la-Zouch G.S., and Sidney Sussex; V Tarnofsky, Cooper's S., and Downing; DE Lloyd, King Edward's S., Birmingham and Caius; L Rosselson, William Ellis S., and Fitzwilliam House.

[The Times, 29 March 1954, p8] "UNIVERSITIES STILL LEVEL AT CHESS - SEVENTIETH MATCH DRAWN - FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT - Oxford and Cambridge Universities drew their annual chess match with a score of three and a half points to each team on Saturday. Their score of matches in the series of 70 thus remains level. Most games were long and all were hard fought to a decision except on the top board, where a draw was conceded by this year’s Oxford University champion on the fifty-fourth move with many pieces still on the board. Though a pawn up Horseman was unable to break through the locked position. This match at the West London Chess Club clashed with the Oxfordshire v. Gloucestershire fixture in the semi-final of the Southern Counties Chess Championship. The Oxford players had declared their intentions of attempting to win quickly in time to get to Swindon and play for their county. Persitz, the former boy champion of Israel, whose prowess at lightning play is well known, was the first to finish with a win over the Cambridge University champion in one of the best games of the match. After three hours he had a clear win with his 43rd move. The rate of play was 27 moves in an hour and a half on each player’s clock and 20 moves in the succeeding hour. Persitz had used barely an hour of his time. He forced his opponent’s resignation on the 49th move and was able to leave for Swindon well within the time he had allowed himself. [results & all seven game scores] DEFEAT OF ALEXANDER Oxfordshire county chess team, by beating Gloucestershire 9—6, with one game unfinished in their 10 [16]-board chess match at Swindon, on Saturday, now have to meet Surrey in the final match for the Southern Counties Championship. They also have won the Montague-Jones Cup competition. Oxfordshire’s win on the top board by R. J. A. Persitz over C. H. O’D. Alexander was the main feature of the match. His decisive advance of a pawn for which his opponent had to exchange a rook bore a striking resemblance to Persitz’s winning manoeuvre in his university match game in London earlier in the day."

[The Guardian, 4 March 1954] "University Chess - The Oxford University chess team to play in the annual match against Cambridge University has been selected at follows: D. G. Horseman (King Henry VIII, Coventry and Hertford), R. J. A. Persitz (Tel-Aviv Municipal and Balliol), D. M. Armstrong (Sydney University and Exeter), R. W. B. Judson (Worcester R.G.S. and Hertford), K. L. Gardner (Solihull and St John's), M. W. Norris (Merchant Taylors and St John's), G. L. Bindman (Newcastle R.G.S. and Oriel (this is not necessarily the playing order). P. D. Robinson (King Edward VII Sheffield, and Queen's) (reserve). The match will take place on March 27 at the premises of the West London Chess Club, 23 Stratford Road. Kensington, London W.8. starting at 10 a.m."

[The Guardian, 29 March 1954] "Universities draw at CHESS - A Tense Struggle - From our Chess Correspondent [Barden] - The chess match between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge played at the West London Chess Club on Saturday resulted in a draw after a bitterly, contested fight. All but two were protracted games, with the result in the balance up to the end. Thus ended a memorable contest, which leaves both universities with a score of 35 each all over the whole series. There were no outstanding games, the best being Persitz’s win at board two, but the standard of play on the whole was very high. [results] The match began in the morning, and three of the games ended early enough for the Oxford players in question to catch a train to Swindon in time to take part in the county championship match against Gloucestershire. Oxfordshire won this match by nine to six with one game, Aitken-Barden, for adjudication, Barden having what advantage there is. The hero of the occasion was Persitz, the former Israeli juvenile champion. After winning his game in the universities’ match in London in the morning, [Persitz] met C. H. O’D. Alexander at Swindon in the afternoon, and won a fine game from that great player."

[BCM, May 1954, p150 - Bruce Hayden] THE OXFORD v. CAMBRIDGE MATCH - by Bruce Hayden - The seventieth [72nd in modern reckoning - JS] in the series of annual matches between Oxford and Cambridge Universities was played to a draw, 3½ each, at the West London C.C. on March 27th. Thus Oxford retain their level score of matches in the series which they attained by their win 5-2 last year.

"Some of the breeze from Aintree racecourse seemed to enter the solemn surroundings of the West London C.C. on Grand National Saturday as the Varsity players sat down at their boards at 10 o'clock in the morning. It was whispered round the room that the Oxford team was out to finish their games quickly in a neck or nothing effort to get to Swindon and play for the Oxfordshire county team that same afternoon. The Oxfordshire-Gloucestershire fixture in the final for the Montague-Jones Cup, and the semi-final in the S.C.C.U. Championship, had clashed with the varsity event and boards were being reserved for three varsity players. Would they make it?

"From the start Raaphi Persitz, the nineteen-years-old former Boy Champion of Israel, set a cracking pace and showed his mettle as a lightning expert against the Cambridge University Champion's Sicilian Defence. The game had lasted 3 hours up to the 43rd move with only 25 minutes showing on Persitz's clock! Ignoring his opponent's two united passed pawns on the Queen's side he pushed a pawn to KB7, which decided the game. His opponent after being forced to exchange a Rook for the deadly pawn, resigned on the 49th move with "Raaph's" clock now showing only 35 minutes for the whole game!

"But the best was yet to come. By now Raaph was well inside the deadline he had allowed himself for getting to the county match, though according to Leonard Barden, the Oxfordshire acting match captain, in the Daily Express, he had to run all the way from the Swindon railway station to the Mechanics' Institute, where the match was played.

"His opponent this time was another champion, C. H. O'D. Alexander, who is playing top-board for Gloucestershire this season. Again Raaph ignored his opponent's two united passed pawns on the Queen's side and again he pushed his King's Bishop's pawn to the seventh and exchanged it for his opponent's Rook. Alexander resigned on the 40th move. Altogether a breathless little chess epic which is certain to find a niche in varsity history. No wonder Persitz is known as "The Maestro" in the junior common room where he does his analysis. Two other varsity players finished in time to play for Oxfordshire: D. M. Armstrong, who drew with Dr. I. J. Good on Board 5, and M. W. Norris, who lost to C. Sullivan on Board 6.

CHESS, May 1954, Vol.19/224, p120


The combined Oxford and Cambridge teams as usual played the leading London clubs before their own annual match.

Against Metropolitan they finished 6½-9½ to the bad, with four for adjudication.

The next night Hampstead beat them 11-9 (top-board results: R. J. A. Persitz 1, J. Penrose 0 [game score below]; J. J. A. Handley ½, Dr. J. W. Cornforth ½; G. L. Bindman 0, M. Blaine 1).

The only victory of the week was by 11-9 against West London.

Insurance beat them [Combined Universities] 11-9 (A. F. Truscott 0, R. Blow 1; P. D. Sanderson ½, S. H. Crockett ½; N. A. Perkins 0, W. Veitch 1).

The final match ended with the Civil Service leading 9½-8½, with one for adjudication (P. D. Sanderson 0, R. J. Broadbent 1; D. G. Horseman 0, C. G. Butcher 1; D. B. Scott 0, A. H. Challis 1). By winning, Broadbent broke a long-standing jinx in this series of matches; his previous five games had resulted in losses to Horne (twice), Barden, and O. Penrose, and a draw with Mardle!

[n.b. exact dates for the above matches not given - for the purposes of dating the Persitz-Penrose game given below, I've made the assumption that the matches were reported in chronological order as follows: (1) Monday 22 March vs Metropolitan; (2) Tuesday 23 March vs Hampstead; (3) Wednesday 24 March v West London; (4) Thursday 25 March v Insurance; (5) Friday 26 March v Civil Service. JS]

Oxford haven’t been ahead in the University match series for over 50 years, and were unable to take the lead this year, the match being drawn 3½-3½.

Oxford Past v Cambridge Past, 3 April 1954, St Bride's Institute, London

Bd Oxford Past 1954 Cambridge Past
1b Theodore Henry Tylor (Balliol) ½-½ C Hugh O'D Alexander (King's)
2w Richard Hilary Newman (Worcester) 1-0 P Stuart Milner-Barry (Trinity)
3b John Warcup Cornforth (St Catherine's) 0-1 Andrew Rowland Benedick Thomas (St John's)
4w Alfred William Bowen (Oriel) 1-0 Oliver Penrose (King's)
5b Alan Fraser Truscott (Magdalen) 0-1 Dr John David Solomon (Downing)
6w (Nicholas) Anthony Perkins (St John's) 0-1 Irving John Good (Jesus)
7b John Montgomerie (Corpus Christi) 0-1 John Matthias Bee (St Catharine's)
8w William Ernest Baker Pryer (Pembroke) ½-½ John Dean (St Catharine's)
9b William Edward Cole Richards (Hertford) 0-1 Jonas Birnberg (Queens')
10w Dermot Michael Macgregor Morrah (New) 0-1 Richard William Barnes Clarke (Clare)
11b Harry Frederick Moxon (Lincoln) 0-1 Eric Augustus Coad-Pryor (Trinity)
12w Thomas Ivor Casswell (Pembroke) 0-1 Rev. William Rawson Greenhalgh (Pembroke)

BCM, May 1954, p150: "The traditional match between past members of the Universities was played at the St. Bride Institute the following Saturday, April 3rd, and resulted in an overwhelming win for Cambridge by 9-3. The doyen of this event was the old Cambridge player, Rev. W. R. Greenhalgh, who played Board 2 in the 1907 Anglo-U.S. Universities cable match." [and also the 1904, 1905 and 1906 Varsity matches - JS]

The Times, 5 April 1954: "OXFORD PAST OUTPLAYED BY CAMBRIDGE • The annual chess match between past members of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, played at the St. Bride Institute, London, on Saturday, ended in an overwhelming win for Cambridge by 9-3. Last year’s match was drawn."

File Updated

Date Notes
2020 First upload.
20 May 2024 Added report from CHESS and the Persitz-Penrose game score.
All material © 2018-2024 John Saunders