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John Saunders


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Tournament: 122nd Varsity Match • Venue: RAC Club, Pall Mall, London • Date: 13 March 2004
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John Saunders reports: The 122nd Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at the RAC Club, Pall Mall, London on 13 March 2004. The match sponsors were Barry Martin and Henry Mutkin. Match arbiters were IM Bob Wade and David Pritchard.

2003«     2004 Varsity Chess Match     »2005
Bd Oxford University Rating Nat 2004 Cambridge University Rating Nat
1b Luke McShane (University) 2651g ENG 1-0 Joe Conlon (Christ's) 2205 ENG
2w Richard Palliser (Worcester) 2455m ENG 1-0 David Hodge (Trinity) 2165 ENG
3b Eddie Dearing (Oxf. Law School) 2376m SCO 1-0 Ben Morgan (Magdalene) 2204 ENG
4w Merim Bilalic (Wadham) 2297f BIH 0-1 Bernhard Klein (Downing) 2096 ENG
5b Andrew Bigg (Jesus) 2267c ENG ½-½ Richard Mycroft (Jesus) 2110 ENG
6w Kemal Ozeren (Balliol) 2226 ENG 1-0 Oliver Cooley (Trinity) 2096 ENG
7b David Shaw (Worcester) 2165 ENG ½-½ Rosalind Kieran (Newnham) 2084wf ENG
8w Sophie Tidman (Queen's) 2129wf ENG 1-0 Qiang Yi (Queens') BCF 123 ENG
  Av. Rating 2320.7     6-2 Av. Rating 2070.0    

This was Oxford's first win for six years, after which Cambridge led the series by 54 wins to Oxford's 50, with 18 matches drawn. Oliver Cooley was president (and captain) of the CUCC team, while Daniel Gunlycke (Merton) was non-playing president of OUCC. The Oxford reserve was Harvey Meyer (Worcester) and the Cambridge reserve was Nick Frost (Trinity Hall).

This was Luke McShane's first appearance in a Varsity match. Though not the first GM to appear (David Norwood achieved that in 19??), he was the first arguably world-class player to do so, being currently ranked 3rd in the UK, 43rd in the world and the 2nd under 20 player in the world (behind Teimour Radjabov). His game was the first to finish, after some 3 hours 25 minutes play. Next board to finish was no.5, and then Cambridge squared the match with a win on board 4. But the equilibrium lasted barely a minute as David Hodge resigned with a hopeless position and only a few seconds left to reach the time control.

25 minutes later Kemal Ozeren completed his revenge over Oliver Cooley, after losing a crucial game to him in the 2002 match. This put Oxford 3½-1½ ahead, and a few minutes Sophie Tidman won her game to clinch the match. 6-2 looked like, and indeed was, a big win but Cambridge seemed faintly relieved that it had not been even worse given the disparity in ratings between the sides. One curiosity* (probably unique) was that there was a FIDE-titled player on every board - but only one of them was a Cambridge player [* edit: it later transpired that Kemal Ozeren was not a CM despite being listed as such in the match programme].

© 2004 John Saunders, all photos and text - not to be used without permission