Prehistory

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The later half of the 1800s saw an explosion of new chess clubs in London. The first club in England appears to have formed at Slaughter's in London in 1715, followed by Parsloe's in 1772, then the London Chess Club founded in 1807. Chess however, did not gain popularity until chess publications started appearing in the early 1800s. Chess during this period was still very much a game for educated men, or those who saw themselves as such. It was still a genteel game, but increasingly there were more gentlemen. The two industrial revolutions between 1760 and 1850 led to big changes in society; the middle class flourished, between 1830-1870 there was a drive towards mass literacy and developments in public transportation (railways and horse tram) finally brought travel within reach of many people's pockets. In 1883 the Board of Trade passed a "Cheap Trains Act", encouraging railway companies to provide cheap morning and evening fares. This lead to increased commuting and was significant to the growth of London.

The increased number of educated people ultimately resulted in more of them taking interest in chess. The game's take-up was helped by books at cheaper prices and popular matches between champion players. Howard Staunton's work and success was probably quite influential during the mid 1800s. In 1879 the number of clubs recorded in London was below 10, but with all the interest, chess got organised. Over the world, national chess associations were established and the rules were agreed -en passant was accepted by all countries in 1880. The British Chess Magazine (BCM) appeared in 1881, the double-faced chess clock appeared in 1883 and the International Chess Magazine (edited by Steinitz) appeared in 1885. The first official match for the world chess championship was held in 1886 (won by Steinitz). Chess leagues were formed to encourage inter-club competition -the London League was founded in 1887. With all these developments, the number of clubs in London alone grew from 39 in 1882[29] to approximately 120 in 1898[24]. Some of the oldest clubs still in existence today are listed here.