Raymond Keene

Bellum sociorum

The internecine but friendly annual rivalry between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, generously hosted last month by the Chess Circle of the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, resulted in an overwhelming 6-2 victory for the light blues. Cambridge now leads the longest-running chess series in the world with 59 wins. Oxford has 53 wins, and 22 matches have been drawn.

Oxford have in the past benefited from grandmaster representation in their team, but this year they were clearly outgunned in rating terms. In spite of dour resistance, the heavily weighted rating, statistics eventually told in favour of Cambridge.

The match was, as ever, efficiently controlled by David Sedgwick, while the splendid black-tie closing awards elevate the annual varsity match to the social chess occasion of the year. There the gold Margaret Pugh Trophy was once again awarded to Cambridge. The contest was graced by the presence of such chess-loving luminaries as Daniel Johnson, editor of Standpoint magazine, Barry Martin of the Chelsea Arts Club and the former Oxford grandmasters Luke McShane and Jon Speelman.

Kozera-Wang: Varsity Match, London 2016

34 Bxh7 White chooses a forcing line which, perhaps surprisingly, is not the best. Maintaining pressure with 34 Qg4 or 34 Bc2 were both preferable. 34 … Rxh7 35 Qe8+ Kg7 36 Qxc8 There is only one thing wrong with White’s combination. Black can now continue 36 … Rh1+! 37 Kxh1 Qh4+ 38 Kg1 Qxd4+ 39 Kf1 Qxe5 with excellent chances to draw. 36 … Qf4 37 Qd7+ Kh8 38 Qd8+ Kg7 39 Qe7+ Kh8 40 Qe8+ Kg7 41 Qxe6 White has tidied up and now wins easily. 41 … Qxd4+ 42 Re3 Qd1+ 43 Kf2 Qd2+ 44 Re2 Qd4+ 45 Qe3 Qh4+ 46 Kf1 Qh1+ 47 Qg1 Qxg1+ 48 Kxg1 Kf6 49 Kf2 Rd7 50 f4 Kf5 51 Kf3 d4 52 g4+ Kf6 53 Rd2 Black resigns

Martyn-Scott: Varsity Match, London 2016

White is hampered by the weak c-pawn but now spots a clever tactic to transpose into a winning rook and pawn versus rook endgame.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in