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John Saunders


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Tournament: 92nd Varsity Match • Venue: Corpus Christi, Oxford • Date: 23 March 1974
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1973 • Forward to 1975 • last edited: Monday March 18, 2024 9:19 AM

The 92nd Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on 23 March 1974. Match arbiter was probably Harry Golombek. Two game scores from this match are available - can anyone supply any of the others?

1973«     1974 Varsity Chess Match     »1975
Bd Oxford University 1974 Cambridge University Opening, No. of Moves
1b John Denis Martin Nunn (Oriel) 0-1 Michael Frank Stean (Trinity) Pirc Def, 40, adjudicated
2w Robert Walter Lambert Moberly (New) 1-0 John Grantley Cooper (Caius) QGD, 41, adjudicated
3b Roger Rance Smith (Jesus) ½-½ Peter Arnold Linnell (Trinity Hall) English, 27
4w Gareth David Pearce (Balliol) ½-½ Johann Peter Sommerville (Caius) QGA, 25
5b David James Sully (Pembroke) 0-1 Andrew Colin Cooper (Trinity Hall) English, 51
6w Keith Leslie Howells (Wadham) ½-½ Stephen John Taylor (Trinity) King's Gambit, 41
7b Graham Andrews (Merton) 0-1 Alan Neville Morris (Fitzwilliam) Sicilian, 34

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; The Times, 25 March 1974, p14; BCM, May 1974, p148; CHESS, May 1974, p251

by Harry Golombek [BCM, May 1974, p148]

This well-contested encounter took place at Corpus Christi College in Oxford on the afternoon of Saturday, March 23. Now, this may seem a simple enough statement to the reader but it is rather like a game of Petrosian in that underneath the obvious simplicity there lies a wealth (if that is the appropriate word) of criss-cross undercurrents.

The point is that in most of the last thirty years that I have attended these events I have had to use quite an amount of detective work, both theoretically and in the field, to discover when and where the event was due to take place. Well, I really have no firm objection to all this; to somebody who has been brought up on Edgar Allan Poe, Conan Doyle, Gaboriau, Chandler and Hammett, it has merely been a case of flexing and exercising my more or less intellectual muscles. In this way you see one keeps one's deductive reactions sharp and also elastic.

Up to this year it had been my proud boast that I had discovered all the necessary details by, at worst, one week before the match was due to be held. Alas, this year an iron curtain descended on Oxford. I should have been warned by the fact that I had found out quite early on that the match was due to take place there. But, I allowed myself to be lulled into a state of false security.

Desperately, with a week to go, I contacted the Cambridge first board by telephone. He in turn got into touch with the Cambridge U. Chess Club secretary but to no avail. I left for Holland on F.I.D.E. business, resigned to the non-reporting of the event. But, on my return, with a good two days still to go, I found a letter waiting for me from the Oxford secretary giving me the details. It will seem mean of me to make all this fuss when I reveal to you that I was treated with the utmost courtesy when I got to Oxford and that I enjoyed myself immensely as guest at the subsequent dinner but I have wasted this time and space to try and ensure that whoever is next year's secretary will let me know the details at least a fortnight in advance. I should not like to miss it - I have made so many old and new friends at this occasion when you get quite a selection of the best young players in the country in action.

This match was no exception. Chances, on paper at any rate, were even. On top board each university had a player of the utmost promise. On second board the experienced Moberly was faced by John Cooper, who had done so well for Wales in the World Junior at the Teesside, and so on down the list where it was difficult to discern a weakness for either side.
I write 'on paper' because I believe Oxford commenced with the psychological handicap of having been defeated, and fairly heavily, by their opponents of recent years. The influence of Keene and Hartston was still apparent and Oxford had to be reckoned as the underdogs.

For some time the match looked level. Early draws came on boards 3 and 4 and though Oxford were clearly losing on bottom board they looked to have all the attack on the second board. The Cambridge player duly won with a nice sacrificial finish on board 7 but no other game was finished when time was called after 5 hours play.

Up to this year it had been the custom for the unfinished games to be adjudicated on the spot by appropriate neutral persons. Usually this meant Bob Wade and myself, or, if one of these two was absent, then only one did the work. But this time any unfinished game that could not be agreed was sent up for adjudication. I viewed this with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there was a feeling of relief at not having to do any work; on the other, it always seems a pity to leave a match suspended as it were, in midair and unfinished.

It was possible to come to an agreement on two of the games. On board 6 the Rook and pawn ending was clearly drawn, whilst on board 5 the Rook and pawn ending was just as clearly won for the Cambridge player.

So now Cambridge was leading by 3½-1½ and could not, at any rate, lose the match. The top two games were in fact sent up for adjudication. On top board Stean was a pawn to the good and had the better position; whilst on Board Two Moberly looked to have a won game against Cooper. The likely end result would seem to be Cambridge 4½ - Oxford 2½ but of course this must be left to the adjudicators. The detailed results were as below:- Cambridge had White on the odd-numbered boards.

I give the game on bottom board which was certainly the most exciting. [Morris-Andrews]

CHESS, May 1974, p251: "Staged in conditions of some secrecy at Corpus Christi in Oxford, the annual Oxford-Cambridge match this year gave Cambridge a 4.5-2.5 win. Cambridge had White on the odd boards. Boards 1 and 2 were adjudicated."

The Times, Monday 25 March 1974, p14 - From Harry Golombek Chess Correspondent, Oxford, 24 March [1974]: "After an interesting and hard-fought struggle Cambridge led Oxford by 3½ to 1½ in the annual chess match, at Corpus Christi College yesterday. Two games are to be adjudicated by the British Chess Federation. Since the probability is that each side will win one of the adjudicated games the likely result is 4½ to 2½ In Cambridge’s favour.

"The game on the top board, between two of the most talented young players in the country, was one of those which went for adjudication. Stean soon established an advantage by fine positional play against an ingenious and determined defence by Nunn. And when time was called the Cambridge player was a pawn up and had excellent winning chances.

"The boot was on the other foot on the second board, where Moberly, for Oxford, established a won position against Cooper. [results as above]"

Second-Team Varsity Chess Match, 9 March 1974, at Oxford - (Source: John Saunders scorebook)

Bd Oxford Unicorns (University 2nd Team) 1974 Cambridge Dragons (University 2nd Team)
1w NN 0-1 Stephen J Taylor (Trinity)
2b NN ½-½ David H Powell (Fitzwilliam)
3w J Wood (St Edmund Hall) 0-1 John C Saunders (Selwyn)
4b NN ½-½ Edgar Knobloch (St John's)
5w NN ½-½ Christopher M Cooley (Trinity)
6b NN 1-0 Geoffrey E Wolfarth (St Catherine's)
7w NN ? Peter R Kitson (Emmanuel)
8b NN 1-0 Geoffrey P Lawrence (Trinity)
9w NN 1-0 Adrian Haberberg (St John's)
10b NN 0-1 Robert A McAndrew
  Played 9 March 1974 in Oxford ?? (4½-4½ and one unknown result)

File Updated

Date Notes
2018 Original upload
18 July 2020 Added some data relating to the second-team Varsity Match.
19 March 2023 Roger Smith very kindly sent me the score of his game from this match which I have added to the collection. Many thanks, Roger.
All material © 2018 John Saunders