The Club is currently looking for any reports and documents from its early history. If you would like to contribute to this section - please contact the webmaster.
from Steve Smith
Professor of Mathematics, University of Illinois - Chicago
Member of the founding group in 1971; Secretary during 1971-72; left 1973.
The club was founded on an essentially ad-hoc basis, to play Cambridge that spring. Cambridge had had a club for some time (and duly crushed us when the match was played). My recollection is that the group first assembled during spring 1971. (But the program from the later 1973 match indicates a 1970 match - if so, that was before my time). The idea of founding a club came from Peter Downes, who was a master at Manchester Grammar School, taking some sabbatical time at Oxford. Two former players from MGS had come up to Oxford, Andy Barton and Dave Youdan of Oriel; they sent out the announcements, and were the first captain and (?)treasurer. If I recall, I began as secretary at that time. About a dozen people formed the club that year. There were not yet enough women for a separate team, so they played alongside the men. (Included in that 1972 photo is Judy Gaines of Wolfson). The membership included a fair proportion of graduate students (such as Judy and myself). I can't remember where the first Cambridge match was played. But they were thoroughly dominant, winning 3-0. Their captain Jean Aubry was a particularly strong player.
The new year brought several more experienced players, including Jon Hall and Tony Branis who had played as undergraduates in California and Czechoslovakia. Training became substantially more methodical, and the quality of the team improved. We played with some area teams - including the team from USAF Upper Heyford; as I recall, they supplied the cans of Budweiser in that photo. This photo was almost certainly some time during the spring of 1972, after a match at the Iffley Road Sports Centre.
Standing [L to R]: Jon Hall (Magdalen), Dave Youdan (Oriel), Tony Branis, ? , ?
Kneeling: Steve Smith (Balliol), Judy Gaines (Wolfson)
The Cambridge match was played Friday 28th April 1972, at the Putney College for Further Education. We were far more competitive this time, though Cambridge did win 3-2 (according to my notes; but I also find an indication of a 3-1 score in the program for the 1973 match) Jon Hall was elected captain for the coming year, and I continued as secretary. We needed a faculty sponsor under university statutes; as I recall, Jon and I prevailed on Peter Neumann of Queen's to hold the post temporarily; soon the post was taken over by Azriel Zuckerman of Balliol (who had been a player in his undergraduate days).
More experienced players arrived in fall, notably Shawn Rosenberg and Dino Sarandis. We joined the EVA at this time. I can remember a few of the opponents of that time, including the club from Luton, and university teams from Birmingham and Nottingham... The Cambridge match was played on Saturday 3 March 1973; as part of the "First Annual (Oxford-Cambridge) Varsity Games" including a number of sports; at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. This time Oxford dominated, winning 3-0. The new officers elected were Shawn Rosenberg (Keble) as captain, and Tom Burroughs (also Keble) as secretary.
I left Oxford in July 1973, and so my direct contact with the club came to an end. Jon Hall remained in Oxford through summer 1974; if I recall, the Oxford women's team beat Cambridge that year. And I believe Jon also kept in some contact with the club during a postdoc in Holland through 1976.
That's what I can remember of the early days. It's good to see the club grown so solid and successful, after the fairly modest beginnings of the early 70s.