This year the Royal Automobile Club is celebrating the centenary of its Pall Mall Clubhouse.

In order to mark the occasion and the founding in 2011 of its Chess Circle, a 100 board simultaneous is being held on Saturday 16 April at the Clubhouse in Pall Mall.

In a truly unique format, ten of Britain’s highest-rated grandmasters are taking part:

Mickey Adams, Luke McShane, David Howell, Julian Hodgson, Gawain Jones, Nick Pert,

Stephen Gordon, Jon Speelman, Simon Williams and Jovanka Houska.

This formidable team of Grandmasters will take on ten teams of ten players drawn from the members of the Royal Automobile Club Chess Circle, the leading players from the other London Club teams that compete for the Hamilton Russell Trophy, ex Varsity players and two teams of Juniors – one from the English Chess Federation and one drawn from Chess in Schools and Communities, a charity with a mission to promote chess in state schools and communities.

The original 1911 plans for the Pall Mall clubhouse had chess very much in mind and it has been a popular activity within the Royal Automobile Club since the first meeting of the Chess Circle in 1911. Over the years the Pall Mall Clubhouse has been home to a number of significant events. In 1929, then world champion José Raúl Capablanca gave a demonstration of ‘Double Chess’ – this chess variant is now often referred to as ‘bughouse’. The Clubhouse has also hosted numerous visits from leading figures of the chess world, including the former world champion Gary Kasparov.

In the chess world, The Royal Automobile Club’s Pall Mall clubhouse has become almost synonymous with the famous annual Oxford versus Cambridge Varsity chess match, having been its sole venue since 1978.

The Royal Automobile Club Chess Circle has a very distinguished playing record of its own. Since 1924, it has competed with other London clubs for the Hamilton-Russell Challenge Trophy which it has won more times than any other club. It also has regular fixtures with teams both in the USA, France and Gibraltar.


For details of the Royal Automobile Club Chess Centenary Event:

Siobhan Croll 020 7747 3295,

For further chess-related details:

John Saunders, Editor, CHESS Magazine,

Note to Editors:


In 2011, The Royal Automobile Club celebrates the centenary of its Pall Mall clubhouse with a series of special events throughout the year.

After homes in Whitehall and Piccadilly, the Club opened the doors to ‘the Palace in Pall Mall’ on

23 March 1911. Built on the site of the old War Office in Pall Mall, the new clubhouse was designed by Charles Mewès and Arthur Davis, assisted by Keynes Purchase architects. Mewès and Davis were much influenced by 18th century French architecture and had also designed The Ritz on Piccadilly. They pioneered a steel structure as an internal framework for the clubhouse and utilised every new scientific innovation available at the time: electric and hydraulic lifts, central heating and air conditioning, 120 telephone lines, a vacuum cleaning system, refrigeration machinery capable of producing five tons of ice per week, gas flares to illuminate the front of the building and even electric lighting.

The new clubhouse offered unparalleled facilities:

258 rooms in total, including a library, offices, bars, lounges, waiting rooms, assembly rooms, committee rooms, smoking rooms, card rooms, writing rooms, cloakrooms and over 100 bedrooms. There was a swimming pool, called “the most beautiful swimming bath in England, in the Pompeiian style”, a billiard saloon, a fencing room, gymnasium, a bowling alley, Turkish Baths, squash courts, a photography studio, a rifle range, a barber shop and hairdressers, and its own Post Office, which still exists today. Dining was important, with the original Great Gallery able to accommodate up to 500 people.

The Daily Graphic declared, “It is practically impossible to convey in print an adequate idea of the magnificence, luxury and convenience of the building.” A Vanity Fair article of the era described the clubhouse as being ‘on a scale of grandeur absolutely unparalleled anywhere.’

In this Centennial Year, 22 bedrooms have been added and the Pall Mall façade has been entirely restored.

2011 Centennial Celebrations

There will be a programme of events and activities throughout 2011, organised by the Club’s Centenary Committee and each Club Activity Section has planned a centenary celebration.

Highlights include the publication of a Squash Centenary Book, a Hundred Board Simultaneous Chess display with Grandmasters on Saturday 16 April, an Octopush Match & Dinner with Tanya Streeter as after dinner speaker on Thursday 5 May, a Centenary 100 length Relay Swim, a Pall Mall Clubhouse Centenary Bridge Cup, a Centenary Billiards Match, the Backgammon Centenary Cup and, not forgetting Motoring, a display of cars in the central rotunda of the Club throughout the year, including the 1924 Sunbeam ‘Cub’ driven by K L Guinness in the French and Spanish Grand Prix that year.


The Royal Automobile Club was founded in 1897 by Frederick Richard Simms and its distinguished history mirrors that of motoring itself. In 1907, King Edward VII awarded the Club the Royal title that it still holds to this day and the Club’s status was sealed as Britain’s oldest and most influential motoring organisation.

The Club’s early years were focussed on campaigning for the rights of the private motorist, the introduction of the driving licence and staging the world’s first ever motor race, Grand Prix and the famous London to Brighton Run, along with governing motor sport in Britain.

Today, The Club continues to own and organise the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, which commemorates the Emancipation Run of 1896, when 30 pioneer motorists celebrated the passing into law of the Locomotives on the Highways Act. It is the world’s longest running motoring event, with people coming from all over the world annually to view around 550 cars dating from before 1905. This year, it takes place on Sunday 6 November.

Most recently, 2010 saw the inaugural annual Future Car Challenge, to showcase the very latest low energy vehicles. The event – involving a 60-mile trial from Brighton to London – received huge support from motor manufacturers, individuals and research organisations around the world. The 2011 Future Car Challenge takes place on Saturday 5 November.

In 1999 the Club sold RAC Motoring Services to the Lex Group and a new chapter in its history began. Since that year The Royal Automobile Club, now a private members’ club with two clubhouses, at Pall Mall and Woodcote Park near Epsom, has continued to add modern facilities and to refurbish the traditional public rooms in both its clubhouses.

Membership remains at record levels of around 16,500 members in the UK and beyond, with members ranging from those in their teens to those over one hundred years of age.

For further information, please visit

The Royal Automobile Club has two clubhouses, at:

89 Pall Mall

London, SW1Y 5HS

Telephone 020 7930 2345

Woodcote Park

Wilmerhatch Lane, Epsom, Surrey KT18 7EW

Telephone 01372 276311

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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