Oxford defeated Cambridge 4.5-3.5 last Saturday in the annual Varsity match. This was the 140th staging of the oldest continuous fixture in chess, first played in 1873 and interrupted only by the war  years. Oxford have now won five matches out of the last six, but Cambridge still lead the overall series 60-58 with 22 draws.

The match was staged 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 there. For many decades the match was a proving ground for potential members of the England Olympiad team, but in the last two decades it became much more cosmopolitan.  

Now the nationality pattern is changing once more, as 12 of this year’s 16 players were British. Another interesting development is in their degree subjects.  Long ago Oxford arts students met Cambridge mathematicians, whereas in 2022 numeracy dominates. Nine of the 16 are reading computer science or mathematics, four are scientists, and only three are arts students.

One player is already an established international. Oxford’s Akshaya Kalaiyalahan was British woman champion at 12, and has already competed in two Olympiads. There could be more to come, and her polished victory was one of the best performances of the match.

Puzzle 2461

Alexander Areshchenko v Zbynek Hracek, Minsk 2017. Whito to move and win. It seems right for this week’s puzzle to be a Ukrainian victory.  More about the winner Areshchenko in last week’s article.

Click here for solution

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