The Clubs in various parts of the Metropolis and the suburbs, where Chess, and Chess only, forms the staple recreation of the members, are numerous. We must, however, confine ourselves to the historical data of the early Clubs, which record the introduction of the noble game in the Metropolis.
In 1747, the principal if not the only Chess-Club in the Metropolis met at Slaughter's Coffee-house, St. Martin's-lane. The leading players of this Club were—Sir Abraham Janssen, Philip Stamma (from Aleppo), Lord Godolphin, Lord Sunderland, and Lord Elibank; Cunningham, the historian; Dr. Black and Dr. Cowper; and it was through their invitation that the celebrated Philidor was induced to visit England.
Another Club was shortly afterwards founded at the Salopian Coffee-house, Charing Cross: and a few years later, a third, which met next door to the Thatched House Tavern, in St. James's-street. It was here that Philidor exhibited his wonderful faculty for playing blindfold; some instances of which we find in the newspapers of the period:—
"Yesterday, at the Chess-Club in St. James's-street, Monsieur Philidor performed one of those wonderful exhibitions for which he is so much celebrated. He played three different games at once without seeing either of the tables. His opponents were Count Bruhl and Mr. Bowdler (the two best players in London), and Mr. Maseres. He defeated Count Bruhl in one hour and twenty minutes, and Mr. Maseres in two hours; Mr. Bowdler reduced his games to a drawn battle in one hour and three-quarters. To those who understand Chess, this exertion of M. Philidor's abilities must appear one of the greatest of which the human memory is susceptible. He goes through it with astonishing accuracy, and often corrects mistakes in those who have the board before them."
In 1795, the veteran, then nearly seventy years of age, played three blindfold matches in public. The last of these, which came off shortly before his death, we find announced in the daily newspapers thus:—
"Chess-Club, 1795. Parsloe's, St. James's Street.
"By particular desire, Mons. Philidor, positively for the last time, will play on Saturday, the 20th of June, at two o'clock precisely, three games at once against three good players; two of them without seeing either of the boards, and the third looking over the table. He most respectfully invites all the members of the Chess-Club to honour him with their presence. Ladies and gentlemen not belonging to the Club may be provided with tickets at the above-mentioned house, to see the match, at five shillings each."
Upon the death of Philidor, the Chess-Clubs at the West-end seem to have declined; and in 1807, the stronghold and rallying-point for the lovers of the game was "The London Chess-Club," which was established in the City, and for many years held its meetings at Tom's Coffee-house, in Cornhill. To this Club we are indebted for many of the finest chess-players of the age.
About the year 1833, a Club was founded by a few amateurs in Bedford-street, Covent Garden. This establishment, which obtained remarkable celebrity as the arena of the famous contests between La Bourdonnais and M'Donnell, was dissolved in 1840; but shortly afterwards, through the exertions of Mr. Staunton, was reformed under the name of the "St. George's Club," in Cavendish-square.
Club Life of London Vol. I