Lot #865. Ayres Style Staunton Chessmen, Tournament Size


A set of Ayres Style Staunton Chessmen, Tournament Size. The King stands 3.6″ tall with a 1.7″ base. Boxwood and Ebony, weighted, baize base pads, possibly the original Oak Box. An antique reproduction chessboard is included. C. 1925

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Ayres Style Staunton Chessmen, Tournament Size.

Offered here is a set of Boxwood and Ebony Ayres Style Staunton Chessmen, Tournament Size. The King stands 3.6″ tall with a wide 1.7″ diameter base. This size which is commonly referred to as the Tournament Size. Sets with King heights between 3.4″ and 3.9″ have become the standard praxis today for serious tournament play. The chessmen are weighted and rest atop green baize base pads.  There are black crown impressions on the summits of the Kingside Rooks and Knights, as was typical for the earlier production run of Ayres Staunton chessmen. The chessmen are in very good condition, although the Boxwood King hae a stable ahirling crack as showm in the Galley. The chess pieces are housed in what appears to be their original oak hinge-top box.

This particular set of Ayres Staunton Chessmen was likely produced around 1925, with a Knight style typically found in the post-1900 Ayres chess sets. The chessmen play and display best on a chessboard with 2-1/4″ squares. The chessmen are in excellent condition. The oak storage box has a small split, as can bee seen in the attached image. The antique reproduction chessboard shown here has 2-1/4″ squares to illustrate the pieces on a standard size chessboard. This accurate reproduction antique chessboard is included with this sale! Other suitable chessboards can be found here.

F. H. Ayres was an English sports and Games manufacturer and retailer dating back to 1810, doing business in Aldersgate in the city of London. It is known from various ads that they produced and sold Chess sets of various quality and styles. However, despite putting their name on most of their other products, they never put their name on their chess sets. This has led to a real problem of identifying which style Staunton chessmen they did produce and whether they sold them at the retail level or only wholesale to retailer or other manufacturers.

Antique Ayres Staunton ChessmenA report in the June, 1895 issue of Strand Magazine, by William G. Fitzgerald, documents visits to several London firms that made sporting goods. The visit to F. H. Ayres takes up most of the space in the article. The article contains many images, though not actual photographs, but ‘half-tone’ images. The article in the Strand Magazine article stated that Ayres employed twenty craftsmen making chess sets.

Aside from a few ads by Ayres illustrating rather ubiquitous images of Staunton chessmen designs, there was never a catalog produced by Ayers illustrating the range and prices of chessmen offered by them or any supporting images of their various designs. There have been some suggestions that these sets were made by a different company (Jaques or BCC), but heretofore, no documentary evidence has been produced to support or refute these assertions.

Antique Ayres Staunton Chessmen

This style of chessmen had been attributed to F. H. Ayres with no clear proof of attribution.  The Chessmen are of very high quality, almost the equal of Jaques of London chessmen from the 1920s. Nothing more substantive had been put forward supporting the thesis that these sets were made by F. H. Ayres. However, ongoing research has uncovered this revealing page from a Benetfink & Company ad for Ayres chessmen. These are Ayres chessmen, of course, but the similarity between this set and the one offered here is striking.

Additional information

Weight12 lbs
Dimensions24 × 12 × 6 in

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