Yorkshire Chess History



1873: First Annual Oxford-Cambridge Chess Match









Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site


This is not an obvious event to include under the “Yorkshire” banner, but the captain of the Oxford team was Yorkshireman Walter Parratt, who was thus the first Oxford intervarsity chess team captain.  Also, Yorkshireman Samuel Redhead Meredith was at the time president of the OU chess club.  So there was significant Yorkshire input to match, and perhaps to the event in principle.  There was, incidentally, a Yorkshire-born player on the Cambridge team, Leeds-born Charles Burdett Ogden.


The first Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, as it came to be known, took place on 10th June 1829.  The second was on 17th June 1836, and the third on 3rd April 1839.  Thereafter it became more or less an annual event, as now.  The one held on 29th March 1873 was the thirtieth.


Somebody, possibly Staunton, had the idea of a similar chess match.  Accordingly, the first Oxford-Cambridge annual chess match took place on Friday 28th March 1873, the day before the boat race.  The match was hosted by London Chess Club in their premises at 34 Milk Street, Cheapside.


Leeds chess-player Samuel Redhead Meredith, an undergraduate at Brasenose College, Oxford, had been elected as chess-club secretary for a term on 4th December 1872, so he must have been involved, though was not necessarily an initiator of the event.


Also at Oxford at the time was Walter Parratt, formerly of Huddersfield Chess Club, who had taken up the post of organist at Magdalen College, Oxford.  This was his third job after leaving Huddersfield, but he was still in contact with his home town where his widowed mother and older brother still lived, and he was in contact with John Watkinson at the chess club.  Walter Parratt too could have been instrumental in initiating the event; it’s difficult to believe he wasn’t a driving force, at least once the idea had been broached by others.  He captained the Oxford team.


The intention was that two games be played on each board, reversing who had first move for the second game.  On board seven only one game was played.  When “time” was called, two games were still in progress, and these were adjudicated by Steinitz as umpire, and are indicated below by “@”.







Walter Parratt




John de Soyres



Reginald Brodrick Schomberg

(New College)



Charles Burdett Ogden



Edwyn Anthony

(Christ Church)



Robert Michael Simon



Falconer Madan




Francis Henry Neville

(Sidney) OR

Hugh Neville



Samuel Redhead Meredith




John Neville Keynes



Edward William Byron Nicholson




Walter William Rouse Ball



Benjamin Whitefoord

(New College)


Alfred Robert Hayes OR

James Thomas Hayes OR

James Akerman Hayes


They were apparently playing under rules (or lack of them) whereby colour and first move were independent of each other, thus on board one Cambridge had white in both games, but Cambridge moved first in the first game while Oxford moved first in the second game.  It saves turning the boards round!


The Huddersfield College Magazine reproduced results published by Staunton, who typically omitted forenames or initials.  Watkinson comes up with initials for players in the second match, and some of those players can be assumed to be ones in the first match.  Referring to Alumni Cantabrigienses, compiled by Venn (the eponym of Venn Diagrams) and his son, helps identify most of the Cambridge team.


Walter Parratt of Huddersfield was known personally to John Watkinson, and also known to him was Samuel Redhead Meredith, son of the first incumbent at St James, Methley Mills, to the south of Huddersfield.  Charles Burdett Odgen, was a Leeds-born player, probably unknown personally to Watkinson, as after leaving Cambridge he taught for thirty-six years at Rossall School, near Fleetwood.  He died in Birmingham “suddenly, Dec. 10, 1923, whilst playing a game of chess” according to Venn, who was probably quoting the Times of 17th December, 1923.


Walter Parratt supplied to John Watkinson the scores of both his games, and these were included in the Huddersfield College Magazine, Vol. 1, pp 154 & 155.


Oxford-Cambridge Match, London, 28/03/1873

White: De Soyres, John (Cambridge);

Black: Parratt, Walter, (Oxford);

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. O-O Nxe4 6. Re1 d5 7. Bxd5 Qxd5 8. Nc3 Qd8 9. Nxe4 Be7 10. Bg5 Bg4 11. Bxe7 Nxe7 12. Qd3 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 O-O 14. Rad1 b6 15. Rd3 Ng6 16. Qf5 c5 17. Rh3 h6 18. g4 Qc8 19. Nd6 Qc6 20. Re6? fxe6 21. Qxe6+ Kh7 22. g5 Rae8 and White resigned, 0-1.


Oxford-Cambridge Match, London, 28/03/1873

Black: Parratt, Walter (moving first);

White: De Soyres, John (moving second);

presented as though Parratt, moving first, were playing with White;

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 d5 4. Bb5 dxe4 5. Nxe5 Qd5 6. Qa4 Bd7 7. Nxd7 Kxd7 8. O-O Bd6 9. d4 Qh5 10. g3 Nf6 11. Kg2 Qf3+ 12. Kg1 h5 13. Nd2 Qg4 14. c4 Qh3 15. Re1 h4 16. Nf1 hxg3 17. fxg3 Bxg3 18. Re2 Bxh2+ 19. Rxh2 Qg4+ 20. Rg2 Qf3 21. Ng3 Ng4 22. d5 Nf2 23. Bxc6+ Kd8 24. Bg5+ f6 25. Rxf2 Qxg3+ 26. Rg2 Qh3 27. Re1 fxg5 28. Qa3 Qxa3 29. bxa3 bxc6 30. dxc6 Ke7 31. Rxg5 Kf6 32. Rd5 Rhe8 33. Rd7 Rac8 34. Rf1+ Kg6 35. Rff7 e3 36. Rxg7+ Kf5 37. Rgf7+ Ke4 38. Kf1 Rb8 39. Rfe7+ Kf3 40. Rf7+ Ke4 41. Rfe7+ Rxe7 42. Rxe7+ Kd3 43. Rd7+ Kxc4 44. Rxc7 Kd3 45. Rd7+ Ke4 46. Rb7 Rh8 47. Rxa7 Rh1+ 48. Ke2 Rh2+ 49. Ke1 Rh1+ 50. Ke2 Rh2+ 51. Kf1 Rxa2 52. Re7+ Kf3 53. Rf7+ Ke4 54. c7 Ra1+ 55. Kg2 Ra2+ 56. Kg3 Rc2 57. Re7+ Kd3 58. a4 Kd2 59. Rd7+ Ke1 60. a5 e2 61. a6 Kf1 62. Rf7+ Kg1 adjudicated by Steinitz, 1-0





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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