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John Saunders


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Tournament: 97th Varsity Match • Venue: RAC Club, Pall Mall, London • Date: 17 March 1979
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1978 • Forward to 1980 • last edited: Sunday February 11, 2024 10:19 AM

The 97th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at the RAC Club, Pall Mall, London on 17 March 1979. The sponsors were Lloyds Bank and match arbiter Harry Golombek. Five full game scores available (boards 1, 3, 5, 6 and 8) - can anyone supply other scores?

1978«     1979 Varsity Chess Match     »1980
Bd Oxford University Rating 1979 Cambridge University Rating Opening, No. of Moves
1w Hugh Dugald Macpherson (Merton) (213) ½-½ Shaun Mark Taulbut (Downing) (222) English, 34
2b Peter John Sowray (Exeter) (202) ½-½ Colin Stamford Crouch (Christ's) (207) Alekhine's Def, 69
3w Nicholas R Benjamin (St John's) (202) 0-1 Simon John Bradley Knott (Trinity) (207) Grunfeld, 44
4b John W Branford (Wadham) (194) ½-½ Michael Ashley Pagden (Pembroke) (211) English, 33
5w Simon Finn (Pembroke) (184) 1-0 Kimberley Louis Harris (Queens') (190) French, 36
6b Paul Carey (Keble) (184) 0-1 Anthony John Berry (St John's) (184) French, 52
7w Clive Hill (Merton)   1-0 Jonathan Samuel Friedland (Corpus Christi) (187) Sicilian, 65
*b § Annette Rogers (Somerville)   0-1 Jane Anson (Trinity Hall) (142) Two Knights Def, 21
      3½-4½ officially 3½-3½ - bd 8 was a tie-breaker    

§ full name Annette Elfriede Rosalie Imma Rogers
* the women's board didn't count for the match score but was the tie-breaker when the seven-board match ended 3½-3½.

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; CHESS, March 1979, p162; BCM, June 1979, p241; The Times, ["The Times was not published between 1 December 1978 and 12 November 1979 owing to a labour dispute." Times Online]; [unreported in The Guardian?]


As the match was drawn 3½-3½ over seven boards, the 'ladies board' counted as a tie-breaker - hence Cambridge won.

Oxford turned up late, thinking the match started at 2pm. So the time control (originally 50/2h30m, 20/15m, all/10m) was amended to 45/2h15m, all/20m.

Best game prizes: Simon Finn (Oxford) & Simon Knott (Cambridge)

CUCC president: John Swain

CHESS, March 1979, P162: "OXFORD HIT BY WOMEN'S LIB : When Lloyd's Bank stepped in to sponsor the annual Oxford v Cambridge University match last year they stipulated that, for the first time since it started in 1873, a women's board should be added to the usual 7 men's. Cambridge this year won for the tenth time in succession but the result would have been a draw without that women's board. On paper, as the bracketed gradings show, Oxford were outgunned."

BCM, June 1979, p241ff (Harry Golombek): " There are some matches of which one has to say at the very start of one’s account that any resemblance to chess in the games is purely coincidental. I am happy, however, to report that this, the 99th [n.b. now regarded as the 97th - JS] in the series, was not of that nature. There were lots of mistakes; but not as many as those that were perpetrated in the Karpov-Korchnoi World Championship match at Baguio City last year. And if the interest and suspense was not nearly so vital as that in the World Championship match, at any rate the contest was a genuine chess struggle and not a sort of political circus which demeaned rather than embellished the world of chess.

"It was in fact a lively and interesting match, one of the most interesting that I have watched in the whole series. The venue was once again the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London, and I was once again the chief arbiter.

"The match was only one day short of a year since the preceding contest as it was held on Saturday, March 17, the 1978 match having been held on March 18. The same condition prevailed in both. It was played, in accordance with tradition, on seven boards, but, in order to avoid the possibility of a draw, an eighth board was played between Annette Rogers of Oxford and Jane Anson of Cambridge, the result of this board to count only in the event of the score being 3½ all.

"Play was to be from 1 pm to 6 pm with a time limit of 50 moves in 2½ hours. If a game was unfinished after five hours play, the players were to be allowed a quarter of an hour each for 20 moves and, if the game was still unfinished, then ten more minutes for all the remaining moves. This is an ingenious device to avoid the evils of adjudication and was quite a relief to me. I can well remember that in the years when I had to adjudicate the games if the award was to one side or the other, there were at least seven people who thought I was animated by prejudice; whilst if I gave it a draw then the likelihood was that the two players were convinced I was in my third childhood.

"The Cambridge team was the first to arrive — ten minutes before the start of play. This was a double relief in that last year they had come late and also in that they arrived bearing the handsome Margaret Pugh trophy which had been reported missing but was discovered after admirable detective work on the part of the Cambridge captain in the vaults of Corpus Christi where it had been left by a former Cambridge captain who had not bothered to inform anyone of its whereabouts.

"However, as time wore on and no Oxford player turned up, we became anxious as to what had happened to the team. A rumour circulated that the Oxford players thought the start was 2 o’clock and not one and when, at about a quarter to two, the Oxford captain arrived, he confirmed the truth of this. It seems he had telephoned up the Lloyds Bank organiser (Lloyds again generously sponsored the event) who told him that the match commenced at two.

"It seemed therefore only fair to start the match at two o’clock and to play to a time-limit of 45 moves in 2¼ hours. If a game was still not finished after 4½ hours play the players would be allowed 20 minutes for the remaining moves.

"With last year’s top boards, Mestel for Cambridge and Goodman for Oxford, no longer available, the teams were perhaps a little weaker on the top boards, but in recompense it appeared to me that they were stronger on the lower boards this year.

"It was generally anticipated that the match would turn out to be a comfortable victory for Cambridge; but it soon became apparent by the way the games were proceeding that neither side could count on a definite superiority.

"The first result, however, was in Cambridge’s favour. This was on the 8th board, the ladies board, and therefore neither side was as yet in the lead, though Cambridge had assured that if the match was drawn on the men’s board [sic] then they would win by reason of the ladies result. The same two contestants were concerned as in last year’s match. For Cambridge there was Jane Anson with a rating of 142 and for Oxford Annette Rogers with no rating at all. What is more, they played the same complicated and hazardous variation of the same opening, a Two Knights’ Defence, with the difference that, on move 7, instead of the inferior pawn move d6, Black played the move recommended by theory, viz d5. Since she still lost, one is driven by the exercise of iron logic, or if not iron then some such material as plastic, to the inexorable conclusion that the whole variation is bad for Black.

"It should be observed that this time I did not look up the variation in the books so it is possible that something may have happened to d5 as well in the space of one year. I did however point out to the ladies that if they played the same line next year they were running the risk of incurring a draw through repetition of position. At which they laughed with an altogether courteous spontaneity, though one did say she would not be available for play next year at any rate.

"Here is the game so that the reader can judge for himself, or perhaps go and look it up in the latest Chess Informant. [Anson-Rogers]

"Half an hour later Oxford struck back in no uncertain manner with an excellent win on 5th board where Simon Finn produced a fine Knight sacrifice that won convincingly and secured for him the prize for the best game played by Oxford. Now it was this university that was in the lead with 1-0." [Finn-Harris]

"Next came a draw in 33 moves on fourth board where indeed the Oxford player contrived to win a pawn but then found the position was such that he dare not play for a win. Oxford were still a point up in the match and when, shortly after the 4th board result, the game on top board between Macpherson and Taulbut was agreed a draw, it began to look as though they might win the match since the balance in the remaining games seemed to be level enough.

"As a matter of fact, the game on top board was a draw by repetition when the Oxford player was two pawns up. The question arises, could he have played Rc3 in the final position, answering 34 ..., Qb4 with 35 Qc5? Here is the game on top board. [Macpherson-Taulbut]

"Presumably, the answer to my query is that, after 34 Rc3, Black does not play Qb4 but instead 34 ..., Ra6; 35 Qd4, Rxa2 with the deadly threat of Rd8.

"The score was now 2-1 in Oxford’s favour but the result of the very next game, that on the third board, restored the balance, Simon Knott winning an excellently played game for Cambridge and in so doing securing the prize for the best-played game by a Cambridge player. [Benjamin-Knott]

"In the remaining three games, the players having made 45 moves, the rule was applied by which each player was given 20 minutes on his clock for the rest of the moves. The struggle was lively and intense. Cambridge went ahead by winning on the 6th board, Oxford equalised with a win on board 7 and all depended on the issue of the game on the second board where Peter Sowray had an advantage in the ending against the Cambridge player, Colin Crouch.

"But Crouch just saved the game and so the match on the men’s boards was a draw 3½-3½. Then the application of the proviso that the result on the ladies board should decide in such an event went in favour of Cambridge who thus won a match that was of the utmost interest throughout. Despite the errors, the standard of play was good and worthy of the occasion."

Dr. Colin Stamford Crouch, born 14 Oct 1956, Bushey, England, died 16 April 2015, Harrow, Gt. London. IM and an author of a number of chess books. Useful links: chessgames.com, Obituary in the Guardian, Telegraph obituary, obituary by Richard James.

Biographical note on Oxford board six Paul Carey at the Hastings CC website: http://hastingschess.proboards.com/thread/59/carey - he is now known as Paul Carey-Kent - website here.

File Updated

Date Notes
2016 First uploaded (I think).
7 January 2021 Added the game Berry-Carey. Many thanks to John Swain for submitting the game.

All material © 2017 John Saunders