Chess

The Varsity match

30 October 2021

9:00 AM

30 October 2021

9:00 AM

Anyone who has attended the Varsity chess match knows that an online version just wouldn’t be the same. The annual event is held in great style at the Royal Automobile Club in London’s Pall Mall, and has tradition at its heart.

This year’s, the 139th edition, could not be held at the usual time in March, but it took place last weekend, to coincide with the RAC Chess Circle’s Annual Dinner. Since the 2020 edition also took place just weeks before the onset of the first national lockdown, the mighty tradition of the Varsity match remains uninterrupted by the pandemic. (The last year without a contest was during the second world war.)

Unfortunately, Cambridge’s top board Ryan-Rhys Griffiths was unwell and had to drop out, and Oxford capitalised with a convincing 5.5-2.5 victory. (Cambridge remain narrowly ahead in the series with 60 wins to 57, with 22 matches drawn.) Oxford’s second board Filip Mihov, who studies Computer Science at Balliol, was awarded the brilliancy prize for this game.

Koby Kalavannan (Cambridge)–Filip Mihov (Oxford)


Varsity match, October 2021

1 d4 f5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 g6 4 Nh3 Bg7 5 Nf4 d6 6 d5 c6 7 c4 e5 8 dxe6 Na6 9 h4 Qe7 10 Nc3 Bxe6 11 Nxe6 Qxe6 12 Bf4 Rd8 13 b3 Nh5 14 Bd2 O-O 15 Bf3 15 O-O f4! would highlight the drawback of the pawn advance h2-h4. f4 16 Bxh5 16 g4 was safer, though after 16…Nf6 17 g5 Ng4 leaves White’s kingside permanently draughty. fxg3! With the clever point that 17 Bf3 Rxf3! is hopeless. 17 f3 (see diagram) Hoping for 17…gxh5 18 Kf1, to shelter on g2. Instead 17 fxg3 gxh5 is grim for White, who can no longer castle kingside. Na6-b4-d3 mate is in the air. g2! A powerful move, accurately calculated. 18 Rg1 Bd4 19 Rxg2 Qh3 Besides attacking the rook, the primary threat is Qh1+. 20 Bg5 Qh1+ The careless 20…Bxc3+ 21 Kf2 gives White good prospects, and then 21…Bxa1? 22 Bg4 even traps the Black queen. 21 Kd2 Qxg2 22 Bxd8 gxh5 23 Bg5 Rxf3 An amusing echo of the idea behind the earlier move 16…fxg3. This time, the e-pawn is pinned laterally. 24 Ne4 Nb4 25 Qh1 Rd3+ White resigns

Board 1 saw another exciting finish.

Tom O’Gorman (Oxford)–Harry Grieve (Cambridge)

Varsity match, October 2021

28…Rd8 A fatal error. It was essential to place the rook on b8 to pin the knight. 29 Nxd5 exd5 30 f6! Qb4-e7 mate looms, and if 30…gxf6 31 exf6 Qxf6 32 Re3+ forces mate. d6 31 Qa4+ Rd7 32 e6! Qh5+ After 32…fxe6 33 Bg6+ either king move drops the queen to Nxe6+, with a discovered attack along the fourth rank. Or 33…Nf7 34 Bxf7+ 33 Be2 Black resigns

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