This Saturday, 11 March, the annual Oxford v Cambridge Varsity match is being hosted by The Royal Automobile Club Pall Mall. Cambridge lead the series with 59 wins to Oxford’s 53 in a contest which goes back to the 1870s. Primum mobile at the RAC is Henry Mutkin, who himself led the Oxford team in the mid-1950s. This week’s game sees Mutkin felling not one but two former British champions, both grandmasters, with a series of mighty blows. Thanks to Henry for providing variations.
Hodgson/Sadler-Mutkin: London 2016, Trompovsky Attack
1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 Bf4 d5 4 e3 e6 5 Bd3 Bd6 6 Ne2 Nd7 7 Bxe4 dxe4 8 Nd2 Nf6 9 Bg5 c5 This leads to complicated play. White wins a pawn but Black gains practical counterchances. 10 Nxe4 Qa5+
(see diagram 1)
11 b4 11 Qd2 Qxd2+ 12 Nxd2 cxd4 13 Nxd4 Be7 gives Black some chances based on the bishop pair. 11 ... Qxb4+ 12 c3 Qb6 13 Nxf6+ gxf6 14 Bxf6 Rg8 15 0-0 Qc6 White is a fairly safe pawn up but Black has play against g2. 16 Ng3 b6 17 Qh5 Bb7 18 f3 Rg6 19 Ne4 Kd7 20 Rad1 This is an inaccuracy, granting Black chances. 20 dxc5 is very strong. 20 ... Rag8 21 dxc5 White threatens to capture on d6 and it does not look as if the black counterattack is sufficient. However 21 ... Rxg2+ 22 Kh1 (see diagram 2) 22 ... Qxe4! This must have come as a shock to the grandmasters. 23 Rxd6+ Kc8
(see diagram 3)
Now there is only one way for White. 24 Rd8+! Rxd8 25 fxe4 Bxe4 26 Qe5 Rg4+ 27 Qxe4 Rxe4 28 Bxd8 Kxd8 29 cxb6 axb6 leads to a drawn endgame. If instead the grandmasters had accepted the queen then after 24 fxe4 Bxe4 it looks as though 25 Rd8+ will still draw but, in fact, Black can play 25 ... Kb7! 26 Qf3 Rg1+ 27 Rxg1 Bxf3+ 28 Rg2 Rxg2 and now the threat of Black playing a discovered check with the rook forces 29 h3 when 29 ... Rg6+ 30 Kh2 Rxf6 is a winning endgame for Black. Note also that after 24 fxe4 Bxe4 25 Rd8+ Kb7 26 Rxg8, Black plays 26 ... Rg4+ mating. 24 h4 Rh2+! White was quickly mated. 25 Kxh2 Qc2+ 26 Kh3 Qg2 mate