Saturday 13 August 2016

Percy Wenman, prolific chess author.

Francis Percival Wenman (1891-1972) was a very prolific author of chess books producing 21 titles from the late 1930's to the early 1950's. Wenman was a problem composer and Scottish Chess Champion in 1920, and some details of his chess career, compiled by Alan McGowan, can be seen at the Chess Scotland website. He was not a highly regarded author and earned a reputation for plagiarism in respect of his chess problem books, however, here I am concerned only with his literary output from a purely bibliographical viewpoint.

Wenman's first chess book was One Hundred Remarkable Endings, Bristol,  December 1938.

Fourth edition, 1946

This was more of a middle game book according to Betts 20-9, comprising 100 positions mostly with a combinational continuation. Six months later this was followed by One Hundred Chess Gems, London, June 1939. 

Third edition, 1942
Fourth edition, 1945

This book includes games by the leading masters of the previous fifty years (and two of Wenman's own games). Further games collections followed with Gems of the Chess Board, Bristol, 1940, a collection of 57 generally lesser known games, including six by Wenman; 

Games from Monte Carlo, Volume One, Leeds, 1945, (there was no volume two), which includes fifty games by most of the world's leading masters played at the Monte Carlo tournaments in 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1904; 

175 Chess Brilliancies, London, 1947. This includes 95 complete games and 80 endings or studies; 

and his final book Master Chess Play, London 1951, a collection of 106 annotated games, mainly pre-1910.

Wenman authored a primer for beginners: Learn to Play Chess, Leeds, 1946:

and in 1948 he brought out two books in a series on Great American Chess Players: 1. Frank J. Marshall and 2. H. N. Pillsbury.

The Marshall book includes a five page Biographical Note, Marshall's Record in Tournaments and Matches, 99 annotated games and one position for the reader to analyse. The Pillsbury book also has a five page biography which, intriguingly, is dated 1st January 1947, followed by 100 lightly annotated games including 35 played blindfold. No further books in the series were produced.

Wenman's greatest output was in the field of chess problem books. The first of these was Fifty Two-Move Problems, London, 1940, followed by:
Problems and Puzzles, Leeds, 1943.
One Hundred Published Problems, Leeds, 1944.
One Hundred and Eleven Selected Problems by Famous Composers, Leeds, 1945
Thirty Chess Problems, Leeds, 1945.
Thirty Three-Movers, Leeds, 1945.
Two Hundred Assorted Problems, Leeds, 1945.
Thirty Two-Movers, London, 1946.

Most of Wenman's books were frequently reprinted, and are readily obtainable at very cheap prices. However, his final few problem books are much harder to find:

Thirty End Games by Horwitz, London, 1946.
Thirty Problems by Ehrenstein, Leeds, 1946.
Thirty Problems by Guidelli, London, 1946. 
And his final anthology of problems:
Six Hundred Problems, Ancient and Modern, Liverpool, 1948.   



All of these "Thirty" books are in very small format measuring just 12cm. x 9cm.

Compilations of Wenman's problem books were also published by Whitehead & Miller although these are not recorded in Betts. These carry the title Problems and End Games; I have seen details of three different compilations and there may be others:

One Hundred and Eleven Selected Problems/One Hundred Remarkable Endings/Two Hundred Assorted Problems/One Hundred Published Problems, Leeds, 1945.

Two Hundred Assorted Problems/One Hundred Published Problems/One Hundred Remarkable Endings/Fifty Two-Move Problems, Leeds, 1946.

Problems and Puzzles/Two Hundred Assorted Problems/One Hundred Published Problems/One Hundred and Eleven Selected Problems/Fifty Two-Move Problems, Leeds, 1944-45.

Wenman liked to include lists of books that he had authored on title pages and, mysteriously, a book with the title Masterpieces of the Chess Board appears in these lists in at least ten of his books, but no work with this title exists.

There are also adverts at the back of some books, for example, Fifty Two-Move Problems, sixth edition, and Gems of the Chess Board, fifth edition, which include Masterpieces of the Chess Board

Advert from Gems of the Chess Board

Note that the advert in Gems of the Chess Board also includes the title One Hundred and Fifty Chess Brilliancies which no doubt was published as One Hundred and Seventy Five Chess Brilliancies but Masterpieces of the Chess Board appears not to have been published with this or any other title.  

Another curiosity is that several title pages with publication dates of 1945 or 1946 list, among Wenman's other works, One Hundred and Seventy Five Chess Brilliancies which was not published until 1947. Perhaps the books were reprinted at a later date without amending the title page date.

                                       © Michael Clapham 2016




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