Hou Yifan leads Oxford to victory over Cambridge

by Daniel Fernandez
3/5/2019 – Hou Yifan played her first rated classical game since December, as she led her team from Oxford University to their third consecutive win over varsity rivals Cambridge. It was the first time the top-rated woman in the world participated, and the 137th such match overall. Cambridge clings to a tiny (and shrinking) lead of 59-56 wins (with 22 draws). Cambridge alumnus GM DANIEL FERNANDEZ takes a look at the games. | Pictured: Oxford's team Andrew Rogozinski (reserve), Daniel Abbas, Hou Yifan, Joris Gerlagh (captain), Benjamin Foo, Lisa Schut, Gordon Scott, Filip Mihov, Isaac Sanders | Photo: John Saunders

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Hou's on first board

It's a rivalry dating back to 1873 and, last Saturday, Oxford and Cambridge Universities squared off once more for the 137th "Varsity Match" at the Royal Automobile Club in central London. Oxford won this year's bout by a narrow margin of 4½ to 3½, despite being heavy rating favourites across the eight-board match.

The two teams have been competing — interrupted only by world wars — in a variety of sports, since the 19th century, and is cited as "one of the great traditions of British Chess".

Women only began to compete in the late 1970s, but back then the match was played on seven boards, with an eighth "Ladies board" not counted for the match scoring, except as a tiebreaker.

Since 1992, it has been an eight-board match and top female players like IM Harriet Hunt and WIM Ruth Sheldon competed on the top board. Neither, however, were World Champion calibre, so Hou Yifan's appearance is a first. Although she has not played much over the past year, it's still a small upset that Cambridge's 2396-rated FM Matthew Wadsworth was able to hold Hou to a draw with the black pieces.

Hou Yifan

Hou is a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford | Photo: John Saunders


GM Daniel Fernandez, who was on the losing Cambridge side when the teams faced off in 2017, takes a look at all the games, starting with the world number one woman.

 

Cambridge team

The Cambridge squad: Peter Finn, Naomi Wei, Ryan Rhys Griffiths, Gustavo Leon Cazares, Gwilym Price, James Cole (captain), James Walsh (reserve), Conor Murphy, Matthew Wadsworth | Photo: John Saunders

 

Click or tap a game in the list to switch

Lisa Schut

Two other women competed: WIM Lisa Schut was on board 3 for Oxford | Photo: John Saunders

Naomi Wei

 Naomi Wei was badly out-rated on board 8 for Cambridge | Photo: John Saunders


Full results

Bd Oxford University
Rating
Fed.
4½:3½
Cambridge University
Rating
Fed.
1w GM Hou Yifan
2662
CHN
½-½
FM Matthew Wadsworth
2386
ENG
2b FM Isaac Sanders
2355f
ENG
1-0
FM Ryan Rhys Griffiths
2359
IRL
3w WIM Lisa Schut
2259
NED
½-½
FM Conor Murphy
2361
IRL
4b Joris Gerlagh
2258
NED
0-1
Gwilym Price (Clare)
2138
ENG
5w CM Benjamin Foo Zhi Rong
2254
SGP
0-1
Gustavo Leon Cazares
2059
MEX
6b FM Daniel Abbas
2253
ENG
1-0
Peter Finn
1863
ENG
7w Gordon Scott
2237
ENG
½-½
James Cole
1921
ENG
8b Filip Mihov
2155
MKD
1-0
Naomi Wei
1787
ENG
  Av. Rating = 2304.1
 
 
4½-3½
Av. Rating = 2109.2
 
 

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Once part of a 'golden generation' of young players in Singapore, he moved to England in his late teens and attended Cambridge University. Immediately after graduation, he began training as a time series analyst and also working on his chess, finally becoming a grandmaster in November 2017. He writes chess articles frequently and with enjoyment, and his first chess book is out in May. Away from the board, he enjoys table-tennis and language learning.
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Denix Denix 3/6/2019 11:03
Glad to hear of Hou Yifan
1