© 1997-2024
John Saunders


BRITBASE - British Chess Game Archive

Event: 77th Varsity Match • Venue: RAC, Pall Mall, London • Date: 21 March 1959
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1958 • Forward to 1960 • last edited: Sunday June 2, 2024 6:03 PM

The 77th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at the Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall, London, on 21 March 1959. Match adjudicator was Bob Wade. Four game scores (and one part-game) from this match are available - can anyone supply others?

1958«     1959 Varsity Chess Match     »1960
Bd Oxford University 1959 Cambridge University Opening, No. of Moves
1w John Maxwell Bailey (Queen's) 1-0 Michael Davis (Trinity)  
2b Adrian Swayne Hollis (Christ Church) 0-1 Kenneth William Lloyd (Selwyn)  
3w Arthur Hall (Queen's) 0-1 (Robert) Colin Kennedy (Queens') Sicilian Morra Gambit
4b Ralph Hollinghurst (Keble) 0-1 Roger Fletcher (Selwyn) English Opening
5w Michael Lipton (Balliol) ½-½ Philip James Meade (Queens') Ruy Lopez
6b David Rangeley Walker (New) 1-0 Jonathan Hinden (Trinity) English Double Fianchetto
7w Roger Francis Busby (Oriel) 1-0 David Bruce Pennycuick (Clare)  

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; The Times, 16 & 23 March 1959; The Guardian, 16 March 1959; The Observer, 22 March 1959; BCM, April 1959, p113; CHESS, 25 April 1959 (Brian Denman); Philip Meade (game score and photo).

1962 Cambridge University chess team
Cambridge University chess team 1958/59: Back row, left to right: PJ Meade, DB Pennycuick, R Fletcher, J Hinden.
Front row, left to right: RC Kennedy, M Davis, KW Lloyd.
Photo kindly lent by Philip Meade.

[BCM, April 1959, p113 - Golombek] "The Seventy-seventh Annual Oxford-Cambridge University match took place at the Royal Automobile Club in London on Saturday, March 21st. As always in this series, nerves seemed to play a greater part in the decision of the match than actual good play itself. Most of the better players taking part are subdued by the occasion and play below their normal form. This time it looked as though Cambridge was going to win the match for nearly all the session of play but Oxford just managed to equalize at the last moment and the match was drawn 3½-3½, thus keeping the score in the whole series exactly level: Oxford 32 wins, Cambridge 32 wins and 13 draws.

"Two results came through fairly quickly, in both cases, curiously enough, the loser exceeded the time limit; but, as the games show, he was in any event quite lost." [scores of boards 4 and 6]

"This made the score 1-all, but it was clear from a very early stage that Hollis was losing on board 2, where he had felt himself constrained to give up his Queen for a Rook after getting into a practically lost opening. Lloyd duly demonstrated the superiority of the Queen over the Rook and Cambridge now led by 2-1. Lipton's game on Board 5 was a disappointment for Oxford. He won a pawn and seemed to have a sure win but then his technique proved inadequate for winning purposes and the Cambridge player escaped with a draw. Two more results came just before time was called. On the bottom board the Oxford player produced perhaps the most accurate game of the match and obtained a creditable win; but once again Cambridge went ahead when Kennedy won an exciting game against Hall on third board in which combination and counter-combination succeeded each other with almost breath-taking speed.

"Thus everything hung on the adjudication of the top board game. For quite a long time in this game whatever advantage there was appeared to be in Davis’s favour. However, a careless rook move allowed Bailey to pull off a pretty combinational stroke and come down to what looked like a won Queen and pawn ending as was duly confirmed by the adjudicator, Wade."

"Thus the match ended in a draw, certainly much better than last year’s result for Oxford but perhaps Cambridge were a little unlucky not to win. As regards the quality of play in the match I refer the reader to my remarks in the first paragraph in this report. But I must just add the note that the games reflect a fact generally true of the quality of play all over the country - amongst good and bad alike - and that is the clear lowering in quality of play when the end-game is reached."

[The Times, 16 March 1959, p7] "NO CHESS HALF-BLUES AT OXFORD - APPLICATION FAILS AGAIN - FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT - OXFORD, March 15. Oxford University Chess Club have once again been unsuccessful in an attempt to persuade the Oxford Blues Committee to grant the game the distinction of a half blue. The committee decided that chess does not meet the requirement as a sport "whose practice demands the performance of physical skills." Discussions between me club and the committee have continued for some years, but the chess club were hoping that the committee would this year change their mind. On Saturday the club meet Cambridge University Chess Club in the seventy-seventh annual match. At present each side has 32 wins and there have been 12 draws. Mr. David Walker, of Keble College, the secretary of the chess club, said to-day that the club contended that chess was in a unique position because it required considerable mental effort and that the number of calories expended in a six-hour game of chess was equivalent to those expended m a game of Rugby football. He expressed the club's disappointment that they could not face Cambridge with the same status for their players. Cambridge has given a half blue for chess for about 50 years."

The Guardian, 16 March 1959, p5] "Check to Oxford chess team’s aspirations - By our Oxford Correspondent - Oxford University Chess Club, which will play its seventy-seventh annual match against Cambridge University on Saturday, will go into the contest with a check imposed by the Oxford Blues Committee. The club’s annual appeal that a half blue should be awarded lor the game once again drew from the committee the reply that it was not- satisfied that chess was a sport "whose practice demands the performance ol physical skill." Mr David Walker, of Keble College, the secretary of the club, said members felt that chess was in a unique position. He went on : "It is a game which requires considerable mental effort. The number of calories expended in a six-hour game is equivalent to those needed for a game of Rugby football. The committee’s decision is most disappointing. We have asked that a half blue should be awarded at least three times in the last four years, and the answer has always been the same." A half blue is awarded in Cambridge, and has been for about 50 years.- Mr Walker pointed out that even after the war, when the Cambridge Blues Committee changed its rules to come into line with Oxford, a special concession was made for chess. In spite of conceding Cambridge a psychological advantage the Oxford chess players are hopeful that they will end the tie score of 32 wins for each side and twelve draws. The Oxford players are considered to have a very good chance and to be stronger than Cambridge, especially in the lower boards. "But whatever happens we shall certainly renew our application," Mr Walker added."

[The Times, 23 March 1959, p6] "UNIVERSITY CHESS MATCH DRAWN - FLUCTUATING STRUGGLE - FROM OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT The Oxford and Cambridge University chess teams met in their annual encounter at the Royal Automobile Club in London on Saturday and, after a fluctuating struggle in which Cambridge had the upper hand at first, the result was a draw, 3½—3½. Play, as always in these events where nerves seem highly strung in the culminating match of the university chess season, was interesting but far from flawless. First blood came to Cambridge on Board 4, where Holiinghurst, about to lose a pawn in a bad position, lost the game by exceeding the time limit with two moves to go. Shortly afterwards, however, the balance was redressed by a similar occurrence on Board 6, where it was the Cambridge player's turn to exceed the time limit in a bad position. Next, the talented Oxford player, Hollis, succumbed to Lloyd on Board 2. He had a thoroughly bad game out of the opening and had to surrender his queen in order to escape with his king. This, naturally enough, proved unavailing and meant that Cambridge were leading by 2 to 1. AN ACCURATE GAME. On the fifth board the Oxford University champion, Lipton, won a pawn; but he was unable to evaluate this advantage into a win and had to be content with a draw. Then, just before the end of play, two results came in with a rush. On the bottom board the Oxford player produced perhaps the most accurate game of the match and won comfortably without allowing his opponent the slightest counter-chance. In marked contrast was the exciting and eventful battle on Board 3. Hall played a gambit against the Cambridge man’s Sicilian, failed to get a compensatory attack, and then sacrificed a piece in an attempt to mate his opponent. This attempt very nearly came off but, at the right moment. Kennedy returned the piece to steer the game into a won ending. With the score now 3½ to 2½ in favour of Cambridge all depended on the result on the top board. This was an evenly matched game. For some time Davis looked to have the advantage, but a fine coup by Bailey on his forty-fifth move changed the whole picture of the struggle and on adjudication he was judged to have a won ending."

[The Observer, 22 March 1959] "Universities Chess Draw - From H. Golombek - The 77th annual chess match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities, at the Royal Automobile Club In London yesterday, was drawn 3½ to 3½. The curious feature was that two games were decided by a player exceeding the time limit; but as this was in favour of Cambridge on Board 4 and Oxford on Board 6 the time factor cancelled out. The most interesting games were those on Boards 1 and 3. Board 3 was a highly combinational struggle in which the Oxford player sacrificed much material in search of a mating attack. At the right moment, however, the Cambridge player returned some of the extra material to secure a one ending. On Board 1 for Cambridge Davis established a favourable position in the middle game only to overlook a neat combinational stroke. This game was adjudicated a win for Oxford at the close of play.

BCM, February 1959, p49: "Oxford v. Cambridge Record.—Uncertainty has existed concerning the present position in the universities’ match (see, e.g., "B.C.M.," May, 1958). Now John Taylor, last year's Cambridge president, and Michael Davis, this year’s, have gone into the matter fully, and we have received the results from the latter. Present position: 76 matches, Oxford 32 wins, Cambridge 32, with 12 draws. The series began in 1873. The present system (seven boards, one game on each) was adopted in 1894. Before this date, players could play as many games as they wished, on each board, within the allotted time. No official matches were played during the war periods 1915-1918 and 1940-1945, all inclusive."

CHESS, February 1959, Vol.24/333-4, p129


The traditional "week" in London starts on March 16th [1959] with Oxford and Cambridge v Metropolitan at St. Bride’s. The combined teams play Hampstead at Burgh House, N. W. 3 on the 17th; West London at 23 Stratford Road.W 8 on the 18th; Insurance at the "Brown Bear" on the 19th and Civil Service at 8 St. James’s Square on the 20th.

The Oxford-Cambridge match will take place on Saturday March 21st at the Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall, starting 10 a.m.

BCM, May 1959, p139: "Insurance C.C. lost 9½-10½ to the combined Oxford and Cambridge team... Civil Service beat Oxford University 13-12, but lost 12½-16½ to Cambridge University... and 8½-11½ to the combined Oxford and Cambridge teams."

File Updated

Date Notes
2018 First uploaded
3 December 2020 Added the part-game Bailey-Davis (bd 1)
12 April 2022

Biographical information has been moved to the Varsity Biographical file.

2 June 2044 Added CHESS reference to Universities' Week matches.
All material © 2018-2024 John Saunders