On Saturday 8 March the 132nd Varsity match between the teams of Oxford and Cambridge will see Oxford seeking to reduce its historic deficit in a match which can claim to be the world’s longest-running chess fixture. Scores stand as follows: Cambridge lead by 58 wins to 53 with 20 drawn matches. This year’s contest is jointly sponsored by Henry Mutkin, the doyen of the RAC Chess Circle and the Royal Automobile Club itself.
This week’s game is one of my own experiences from an earlier Varsity contest against a player who went on to win the British Championship on two occasions.
Keene-Botterill: Oxford-Cambridge Match 1970; Catalan Opening
1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 Nf6 3 c4 e6 4 g3 dxc4 5 Bg2 Nbd7 6 Nbd2 There are now two ways to cling on to Black’s extra pawn. After 6 … Nb6 7 Nxc4 Nxc4 8 Qa4+ Bd7 9 Qxc4 a standard Catalan position has arisen where White has some play against Black’s queenside pawns. More testing is 6 … b5 7 Ne5 Nxe5 8 Bxa8 Qxd4 9 0-0 Nd5 10 a4 which has been favoured for White by Dutch grandmaster and Catalan expert Genna Sosonko. 6 … c5 Black tries to equalise by clearing the centre of pawns. 7 Nxc4 Nb6 8 Nxb6 Qxb6 9 0-0 Be7 Inconsistent. The logical course is 9 … cxd4 as in the later game Taylor-Cabanes, Winnipeg 1997. 10 dxc5 Bxc5 11 Ne5 0-0 12 Nd3 Black’s king’s bishop and queen now become a target for White’s minor pieces. 12 … Be7 (see diagram 1) 13 Be3 Qa5 14 Qc2 Nd5 15 Bd2 Qd8 16 Qb3 b6 This move leads to problems since White can exploit the pressure of his Catalan bishop on g2 but other moves such as the weakening 16 … f5 or the rather pointless 16 … a5 contribute little to ameliorating his situation. 17 Rfd1 Bb7 18 Nf4 Bf6 This loses a pawn but after 18 … Bc5 19 e3 it remains problematic for Black to free himself from White’s pins. 19 Bb4 Be7 20 Nxd5 Bxd5 21 Bxd5 exd5 22 Rxd5 White has won a pawn with a dominating position. 22 … Qc7 23 Bc3 Rad8 24 Rad1 Qc6 25 e4 Rfe8 26 Qc2 Rc8 27 Qd3 Qa4 28 a3 Bf8 29 Rd7 a5 30 Qf3 Qb3 31 R1d5 f6 32 e5 (see diagram 2) Breaking down Black’s defences. 32 … Rxe5 33 Rxe5 fxe5 34 Qf5 Re8 35 Bxe5 Qe6 36 Qxe6+ Rxe6 37 Bc3 Rc6 38 Rb7 g6 39 Bd4 White now wins a second pawn. 39 … a4 40 Bxb6 Bg7 41 Be3 Rc2 42 Rb4 Black resigns
The World Championship qualifier to decide the challenger to Magnus Carlsen starts next week in Khanty Mansisk, Siberia. It is one of the failings of Fidé that they have reverted to such remote outposts to host events which should be situated in major capitals. The favourites are Lev Aronian from Armenia and the Russian former world champion Vladimir Kramnik.