F. H. Ayres Club Size Chessmen, Staunton Pattern.
Offered here is a set of Boxwood and Ebony F. H. Ayres Club Size Staunton Chessmen. The King stands 4-1/4″ tall with a 1-3/4″ diameter base, which is commonly referred to as the Club Size. Sets with King heights between 3-5/8″ and 4-0″ have become the standard praxis today for serious tournament play. Full Club-size sets will have a 4-1/4″ to 4-1/2″ King. The chessmen are weighted and rest atop green baize base pads. There are red crown impressions on the summits of the Kingside Rooks and Knights. This particular set of F. H. Ayres Staunton Chessmen was produced around 1891, The earliest Ayres Club Size Chessmen featured a very detailed Knight head. Knights found in the post-1900 cuttings were far less detailed. The chess pieces are housed in the circa 1900 Oak hinge-top box shown. Note the unusual brass rotating wheel locks. The chessmen play and display best on a chessboard with 2-3/8″ or 2-1/2″ squares. The chessmen are in excellent condition. The chessboard shown here has 2-1/2″ squares to illustrate the Ayres Club Size Chessmen on a properly sized chessboard. The chessboard is not included, but a suitable chessboard 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.
A 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 report. The article contains many images, though not actual photographs, but ‘half-tone’ images and no actual images of the style chessmen they manufactured. The article in the Strand Magazine article stated that Ayres employed twenty craftsmen making chess sets.
Unfortunately, aside from a few ads by Ayres illustrating rather ubiquitous images of Staunton chessmen designs, there was never a catalog produced by them illustrating the range and prices of chessmen they manufactured or any supporting images of their various designs. Until now, this style of chessmen had been attributed to F. H. Ayres with no clear proof of attribution. However, our ongoing research has uncovered this revealing page from a Benetfink & Company ad for their chessmen. This advertisement by Benetfink clearly identifies and illustrates the Ayres chess pieces. The F. H. Ayres Chessmen are of very high quality, almost the equal of Jaques of London chessmen from the same period.