On Saturday 7 March the annual Varsity Match between the teams of Oxford and Cambridge takes place. The contest is at the Royal Automobile Club starting at noon, and spectators are welcome, though anyone wishing to attend should bear in mind the dress code of jacket and tie with no trainers or jeans.
As usual, the match is supported by both the RAC and the doyen of RAC chess, Henry Mutkin, himself a former Oxford player in this match.
The notes to the game this week are based on those in the book Cambridge Chess by Richard Eales, published by Hardinge Simpole. The puzzle is a win by a top board player for Oxford.
James-Sugden; Cambridge 1972; Sicilian
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d3 Nc6 4 g3 g6 5 Bg2 Bg7 6 0-0 Nge7 7 c3 e5 7 … d5 is simple and good. 8 Be3 d6 9 d4 cxd4 10 cxd4 Qb6 11 d5 Nd4 If 11 … Qxb2 12 dxc6 Qxa1 13 cxb7 Bxb7 14 Qb3 followed by Nc3. 12 Nbd2 0-0 13 Nc4 Qa6 14 Qd3 Nxf3+ 15 Bxf3 b5 Black now has some problems holding his queenside together. 16 Na3 Bd7 17 Be2 Rab8 18 Rfc1 Qb7 19 Qd2 f5 20 f3 f4 (see diagram 1) Black pursues the aim of shifting the scene of action towards the kingside. 21 Bf2 fxg3 22 hxg3 Rbc8 23 Qb4 Bh6 24 Rxc8 Nxc8 25 Qa5 a6 25 … Bg5 intending … Bd8 and … Bb6 is better. Then 26 Bxb5 Rxf3 or 26 Nxb5?? Bd8 followed by … a6 winning a piece. 26 Nc2 Ne7 27 Nb4 Ra8 28 Rd1 Bg5 In the present context this move does not have much point since Black can scarcely contrive to bring the bishop to d8. However, by vacating the h6-square Black makes possible his 33rd move. 29 Rd3 29 Qb6 forces an exchange of queens and maintains the advantage. White will then aim for Nd3 and f4. 29 … Rc8 30 Ra3 If 30 Qxa6 then 30 … Qxa6 31 Nxa6 Rc2 with counterplay. 30 Qb6 is still best. By now both players were in time trouble. 30 … Rc1+ 31 Kg2 Qc8 (see diagram 2) With a threat which White completely overlooks. At this point he appears to have nothing better than 32 Rc3. 32 Qxa6?? Qf8 Black is now winning. If 33 Rc3 then the reply is 33 … Bh3+ 34 Kh2 Qh6 35 Rxc1 Bf1+. Also after 33 Qa8 Bc8 34 Nd3 Rc2 35 Bf1 Be3 White is done for. 33 g4 Qh6 34 Bf1 Bf4 35 Bg1 Qh4 White resigns Having reached the time control, White surveyed his wreck of a position and resigned.
The idea of a match between Oxford and Cambridge was first mooted by Howard Staunton in 1853, though it was to be a further two decades before the inaugural match took place. The 2015 match is the 133rd encounter.