An eventful  British Women’s Championship last weekend had some surprise twists and produced a new record. The pre-tournament favourites were England’s Harriet Hunt and Scotland’s Keti Arakhamia-Grant, who in their peak years were both in or close to the world top 10, but now play infrequently. A shock seemed likely when the No3 seed Katarzyna Toma, who combines chess with work as a veterinary surgeon, defeated both her rusty rivals in early rounds. Then Toma dropped points to lower ranked players, while Hunt found form, scored 5.5/7, and edged out Toma by half a point.

It is 22 years since Hunt’s last title, and her family and work on plant genetics now take most of her time. The previous  duration record between winning championships, 20 years, was set at Bishopsgate, London in 1948 when Edith Price defeated Eileen Tranmer and won at age 76. I witnessed that game, and recall Price at the board wearing a large feathered hat as she caught her opponent with a barrage of queen and rook checks.

Price was also the owner-manager of the Gambit, London’s crowded chess café off Cannon Street, whose basement hosted the Britain v USSR radio match in 1946 where the Bletchley codebreaker Hugh Alexander defeated the world No1 Mikhail Botvinnik.

The annual Oxford v Cambridge varsity match, first staged in 1873 and the longest running fixture in world chess, takes place this Saturday at its traditional venue, the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London.

Play starts at 12.30pm, and the games will be shown live on The 16 players represent eight nations, and a close match is likely as both teams have an average rating around the master level of 2200.

Puzzle 2441

Maxim Rodshtein v Michael Adams, Bundesliga 2016. Black to move and win. The England No1’s raging rooks found the fastest way to end the game.  

Click here for solution

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