Remembering Philip Walsingham Sergeant (27-i-1872 20-x-1952)

Philip Walsingham Sergeant from A Century of British Chess from a photograph by F.A. Swaine Ltd. (1934)
Philip Walsingham Sergeant from A Century of British Chess from a photograph by F.A. Swaine Ltd. (1934)

BCN remembers Philip Walsingham Sergeant who passed away on Monday, October 20th 1952.

PWS was born in Kensington on Saturday, January 27th, 1872 to Lewis Sergeant and Emma Louisa Sergeant (née Robertson) and was baptised at All Saints Church, Notting Hill. According to PWS’s baptism record Lewis was an author.

According to PWS in A Century of British Chess :

“When I was seven years of age – about the period, by the way, in which my father began to teach me Greek – he began also to initiate me into chess. Not that he designed it  as a consolatory set-off to my application to Greek; for he loved the Classics well, though, going up to Cambridge with  small classical exhibition, he had turned to Mathematics, and therein took his degree. ”

According to the 1881 census PWS (aged 9) lived with his parents and numerous siblings : Dorothy (aged 7), Winifred (6), Hilda (5), Bernard (2), John (his grandfather aged 76) and Mary (his grandmother aged 75). They had staff, Elizabeth Fraser and Sarah Martin. They lived at 10, Addison Road, North, Kensington.

According to “Joseph Foster. Oxford Men and Their Colleges, 1880-1892. 2 vols. Oxford, England: James Parker and Co, 1893″ :

PWS attended St. Paul’s School and then Trinity College, Oxford to read Classics where he attained Honour Moderations.

and here is the record from the above publication :

Entry for Philip Walsingham Sergeant in Joseph Foster. <em>Oxford Men and Their Colleges</em>, 1880-1892. 2 vols. Oxford, England: James Parker and Co, 1893
Entry for Philip Walsingham Sergeant in Joseph Foster. Oxford Men and Their Colleges, 1880-1892. 2 vols. Oxford, England: James Parker and Co, 1893

We do not know if PWS played in the Varsity matches of 1892 – 1895 : Britbase does not (yet) include player details for these matches.

PWS married Minnie Boundford (born 27th February 1889) in 1909 in Hampstead and they lived at 5, Dukes Avenue, Chiswick where PWS was listed as an author and Minnie as someone who carried out “unpaid domestic duties”. Minnie was 17 years younger than PWS. Minnie’s father was a joiner and a carpenter.

They had two daughters Margaret (born 1910) and Kathleen (born 1911).

In October 1946 Minnie and PWS remarried. Presumably this was rather unusual in that day and age.

According to The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 2nd edition, 1996) by Hooper and Whyld :

PWS was an English author of biographical games collections for Charousek, Morphy and Pillsbury as well as other works of importance such as A Century of British Chess (1943) and Championship Chess (1938).

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“A professional writer on chess and popular historical subjects. Without any pretentions to mastership, he represented Oxford University in the years 1892 – 5 and assisted RC Griffith in preparing three editions of Modern Chess Openings.

In chess he dealt with a number of important subjects : Morphy’s Games of Chess, London, 1916; Charousek’s Games of Chess, London, 1919; Pillsbury’s Chess Career (in collaboration with WH Watts), London, 1923; Championship Chess, London, 1938.

All these are lucidly and carefully written but suffer from the defect that, being neither a master player nor a professional annotator, he was not competent to deal with the annotational part of the work. Probably his best book on chess was A Century of British Chess, London, 1934.

From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX11 (72), Number 11 (November), page 324 we have this rather brief obituary (presumably written by Brian Reilly):

“We regret to have to report the death, at the age of eighty-one of Philip W. Sergeant, the author of A Century of British Chess, which we imagine is in most chess libraries. He was the author of several well-known historical books – but we are only concerned here with his chess activities, which included representing Oxford University 1892-5; helping RC Griffith with two editions of Modern Chess Openings; playing for Middlesex, winning the chess championship of the authors’ club for several year, and latterly as an honoured member; and occasionally obtaining the championship of the Guildford Chess Club. Our sympathy with his widow and two daughters is sincere.”

He was a cousin of EG Sergeant.

From Wikipedia :

“Philip Walsingham Sergeant (27 January 1872, Notting Hill, London[1] – 20 October 1952)[2] was a British professional writer on chess and popular historical subjects.[3][4] He collaborated on the fifth (1933), sixth (1939), and seventh (1946) editions of Modern Chess Openings, an important reference work on the chess openings. He also wrote biographical game collections of Paul Morphy (Morphy’s Games of Chess (1916) and Morphy Gleanings), Rudolf Charousek (Charousek’s Games of Chess (1919)), and Harry Nelson Pillsbury (Pillsbury’s Chess Career, with W. H. Watts, 1922), and other important books such as A Century of British Chess (1934) and Championship Chess (1938).”

Harry Golombek writes that, “Without any pretensions to mastership, he represented Oxford University in the years 1892-5”.[3] Golombek considers A Century of British Chess probably Sergeant’s best chess book, but opines that although Sergeant’s chess books are lucidly written, they suffer from the defect that, as a non-master, he was not competent to deal with the annotational aspect of his work.

He was a second cousin of Edward Guthlac Sergeant.

Philip Walsingham Sergeant
Philip Walsingham Sergeant
Charousek's Games of Chess
Charousek’s Games of Chess
The Rice Memorial Chess Tournament, 1916
The Rice Memorial Chess Tournament, 1916
Pillsbury's Chess Career, London, 1923
Pillsbury’s Chess Career, London, 1923
A Century of British Chess, London, 1934
A Century of British Chess, London, 1934
An Introduction to the Endgame at Chess
An Introduction to the Endgame at Chess
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