Oxford wins Varsity match — but Cambridge leads annual chess series
Oxford defeated Cambridge 5.5-2.5 last Saturday in the annual Varsity match. This was the 139th staging of the oldest continuous fixture in chess, first played between the two universities in 1873 and interrupted only by the war years. Cambridge still leads the series 60-57 with 22 draws.
The match was played at its traditional home for nearly half a century, the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London. Present and future grandmasters and international masters have often competed. For many decades, it was a proving ground for potential members of the England national team, but in recent years it has become far more cosmopolitan in character. Nine different nations were represented in 2021, and nine of the players — a record — hold the internationally recognised title of Fide Master.
The match was expected to be close as both teams fielded squads with average international ratings around 2200. However, Cambridge suffered what turned out to be a significant blow before a single pawn was pushed as their No 1, Ryan Rhys-Griffiths, had to withdraw because of illness.
The effect was most marked on the top three boards, all won by Oxford. The brilliancy prize went to Board 2, where Black’s Dutch Defence 1 d4 f5 led to a sharp and eventful battle in open play. White’s king became fatally exposed and he had to resign on move 26 faced with inevitable checkmate next move.
Bobby Fischer vs Michael Bedford, California simul 1964. The US legend was playing more than 30 opponents at once, but still found White’s winning move, Can you do as well?