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John Saunders


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Tournament: 99th Varsity Match • Venue: RAC Club, Pall Mall, London • Date: 14 March 1981
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1980 • Forward to 1982 • last edited: Monday March 18, 2024 9:05 AM

The 99th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at the RAC Club, Pall Mall, London on 14 March 1981. Match referee [arbiter] was Harry Golombek. The sponsors were Lloyds Bank. Only three full game scores available (boards 2, 4 and 5) - can anyone supply other scores?

1980«     1981 Varsity Chess Match     »1982
Bd Oxford University Rating  1981  Cambridge University Rating Opening, No. of Moves
1b David Simon Charles Goodman (Keble) 2380f 1-0 Michael Ashley Pagden (Pembroke) 2290 King's Indian Def, 36
2w William Nicholas Watson (Merton) 2340 1-0 Michael Paul Townsend (Downing) 2235 Pirc, 24
3b Timothy J Upton (Queen's) 2305 ½-½ Richard Frank Holmes (Queens') 2240 Four Knights, 27
4w David H Cummings (Keble) 2310 ½-½ Clive Anthony Frostick (Trinity)   English, 31
5b Hugh Dugald Macpherson (Merton) 2330 1-0 Jonathan Samuel Friedland (Corpus Christi)   Alekhine's Def, 18
6w John W Branford (Wadham)   1-0 Peter Picton Taylor (Trinity)   Bishop's Opening, 50
7b Neil Davey (New)   ½-½ Kimberley Louis Harris (Queens')   Robatsch [Modern], 56
8w Maria Eagle (Pembroke)   ½-½ Linda Brownson (Newnham)   Bird's Opening, 29
      6-2* non-playing captain: Chris Howell    

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; BCM, May 1981, p161; The Guardian, 16 March 1981; The Times, 16 March 1981; Clive Frostick


* It is not entirely clear whether the final score of the match should be given as 6-2 or 5½-1½. Hitherto, the 'Ladies' board' had not counted towards the match result except in the event of a 3½-3½ tie. In his BCM report (given below), Harry Golombek states categorically that the result on board eight would not count in the score of the 1981 match, but would do so the following year, 1982. However, he also gives the result of the match as 6-2 in both BCM and the Times, as does Leonard Barden in the Guardian - JS

BCM, May 1981, p161-163 (Harry Golombek): "There was a welcome change in this match which was held at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London, on Saturday, March 14 [1981]. Oxford, after suffering eleven successive defeats, won a crushing victory by 6-2.

"The result was no surprise. The Oxford side had much the higher rating, both nationally and internationally, and this superiority was particularly notable on the top two boards where David Goodman and William Watson demonstrated the value of international experience.

"The first game to finish was that on the fifth board where the Cambridge player lost a piece as soon as he emerged from the opening stages. The oversight committed is quite instructive. [Game Friedland - Macpherson given]

"Thereafter it was mostly Oxford all the way. The one exception was on bottom board where Kim Harris looked to be winning for Cambridge. However, his game was the only game where the regulations of playing extra time had to be employed. After five hours play the players were given a quarter of an hour each for 20 moves and during this rush period the Cambridge player spoilt his won ending. The game on the ladies board was well contested but as full of oversights as a modern English newspaper is full of industrial action. Its result was not significant this year since it had been agreed that it would only count if the match stood at 3½ all. Next year, however, it will count regardless."

The Guardian, 16 March 1981 (Leonard Barden): "Oxford beat Cambridge 6-2 on Saturday in the annual chess match sponsored by Lloyds Bank at the Royal Automobile Club, London. Their victory broke a run of 11 successive Cambridge wins, a record for the series which began in 1873. Oxford's powerful team included seven national experts graded over 200, four of whom had scores towards the international Master title. They soon took the lead when Cambridge blundered on board 5 and this was followed by good attacking wins by Oxford’s top boards, David Goodman and William Watson. Oxford’s captain, John Branford, also scored in convincing style and was awarded the Lloyds Bank trophy for the best win of the match. Kim Harris won the Cambridge best game prize."

The Times, 16 March 1981 (Harry Golombek): "The annual Oxford and Cambridge University chess match was played at the Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall, London, on Saturday and, as expected, proved an easy victory for Oxford by six points to two. That was a welcome break after the series of 11 Cambridge victories. The Oxford side contained the more experienced players. Its top two boards in particular had achieved distinction in the international field. They won the first game, of 18 moves, in which the Cambridge fifth board lost a piece shortly after the opening." [results given as above]

1981 Varsity Chess Match
Left to right: Michael Pagden, Paul Townsend, Richard Holmes, Clive Frostick, Chris Howell, (Cambs. captain), Harry Golombek, Jon Friedland, Maria Eagle,
Peter Taylor, Kim Harris, David Goodman, John Nunn, William Watson, Tim Upton, John Branford, David Cummings, Dugald MacPherson, Neil Davey.

1981 Varsity Chess Match
Linda Brownson (Newnham & Basildon), left, playing Maria Eagle (Pembroke & Formby) on the ladies' board (as it was then known).
Spectating, left to right, Dr John Nunn; Adrian Hollis; Harry Golombek (Referee).

Timothy J Upton (born 19 Dec 1958, Scotland, died 10 January 2018, Luxembourg) - FIDE Master (from about 1984), Chess Olympiad appearances for Scotland in 1984, 1986, 1988, 1994 and 1998, European Team Championship appearances for Scotland in 1992, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2005, playing on board one in 1997, World Student Team Championship appearance in 1977, World Youth U26 appearances in 1978, 1980, 1981 and 1983. Played for Streatham club in the 1980s, latterly moved to Luxembourg where he was employed by the EU and was a member and official of the chess club there. Tribute by Scottish GM Paul Motwani.

Richard Frank Holmes (born 1962) - from St Paul's School, London; exhibitioner (1980) in mathematics, Queens' College - inevitably confused with another equally strong player of exactly the same name, Richard Frank Holmes (1928-2007), who was also active in Cambridge chess and elsewhere (1950s, 1960s) as a member of the Cambridge City club (he was a fellow of Darwin College). Useful rule of thumb: games found on databases played by RF Holmes from 1977 onwards are almost certainly the younger player (who seems to have taken a break from chess after the late 1980s, returning in the 2010s). More confusion arises because there was an Oxford player called Roger de Lacy Holmes (born 1948) who was active in the period 1962-1968 and possibly later.

File Updated

Date Notes
2018 Uploaded for 1st time
18 Feb 2020 Added the score of Cummings-Frostick. Many thanks to Clive Frostick for supplying the score.

All material © 2018 John Saunders