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Tournament: 121st Varsity Match • Venue: RAC Club, Pall Mall, London • Date: 15 March 2003
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John Saunders reports: The 121st Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at the RAC Club, Pall Mall, London on 15 March 2003. The match sponsors were Barry Martin and Henry Mutkin. Match arbiters were IM Bob Wade and David Pritchard.

Bd Oxford University Rating Nat 2003 Cambridge University Rating Nat
1b Richard Palliser (Worcester) 2455m ENG ½-½ Eddie Dearing (Peterhouse) 2367m SCO
2w Merim Bilalic (Wadham) 2297f BIH ½-½ Harriet Hunt (St John's) 2389m ENG
3b Andrew Bigg (Jesus) 2292c ENG 0-1 James Vigus (Clare) 2311f ENG
4w Kemal Ozeren (Balliol) 2160 ENG 0-1 Joe Conlon (Christ's) 2215 ENG
5b Erik Tonning (Lincoln) 2213 NOR 0-1 David Hodge (Trinity) 2165 ENG
6w Harvey Meyer (Lincoln) 2228 SUI 0-1 David Garner (Peterhouse) 2168 ENG
7b Melanie Buckley (St Hilda's) 2145wf ENG ½-½ Andreas Domnick (St John's) 2185 GER
8w Daniel Gunlycke (Merton) 2056 USA 0-1 Petros Wallden (St John's) 2146 GRE
  Av. Rating 2230.7     1½-6½ Av. Rating 2243.2    

Cambridge non-playing captain Peter Wagner won the toss and chose to take White on the odd-numbered boards. The match commenced at 12.30pm and seemed to be fairly close until around 4pm. The first result came in at 4.05pm when Board 7 was agreed drawn without much of a fight. But, in a matter of only half an hour, the match swung decisively in Cambridge's favour. Board 4 finished at 4.15pm and was soon followed by boards 5 and 1, giving Cambridge a 3-1 advantage. Until roughly this stage it had seemed highly probable that Oxford would win boards 6 and 8 to even things up, but the hammer blow fell on board 6 where White was queen for rook and bishop to the good and in time trouble missed a simple mate in four via Philidor's Legacy on move 37. A couple of moves later he allowed a huge swindle which allowed Black to establish a totally won position. At about the same moment the Oxford player on board 8 was snared by a mating swindle, putting the match way beyond Oxford's reach. David Hodge won the best game prize for his play on board 5.

Cambridge now lead the series by 54 wins to Oxford's 49, with 18 matches drawn. Oxford haven't won for five years but they are already planning a terrible revenge in 2004, when they hope to chalk up their 50th success strengthened by the addition of GM Luke McShane, who is due to be studying maths and philosophy at University College, and Eddie Dearing, who is defecting from Cambridge to continue his legal studies at the rival university.

© 2003 John Saunders, all photos and text - not to be used without permission