History Of The Game
The Roman Era
Mornington Crescent was first brought to Britain with the Romans where it masqueraded under the name of Manidoleum Lunatus. There is in fact a Mosaic in Fishbourne House that showed the Uninitiated the rules of the game. At this point MC was a sacred game and was only played by high priests and vestal virgins.
MC in Chaucer
Apart from a brief mention in the Doomesday book MC did not appear again until the 14th century and Chaucer. At that point there was not an underground station at MC: the nearest one was probably at Blackfriars.
It is in Chaucer's epic poem The Canterbury Tales (which also throws light on his unfortunate speech impediment) that Chaucer shows his journey from London-Canterbury using the same rules as a standard Game of MC using Curfew rules and a self reversing Knip. The prologue also shows an important guideline...
By this time MC was being played by all the notable people in Britain: and one particularly famous game was one between Henry VIII, his wife (at that time) Catherine Howard, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The game is known to have begun, and concluded, thusly:
Henry VIII --- Bear Garden
Archbishop --- Houndsditch
Catherine Howard --- Eboa Morningtown.
This is the fastest win in the history of the game, though thanks to Chalk Farm '84 it is now illegal to perform this back-pass trump manoeuvre. It is also alleged that this game was a factor in the unfortunate breakup in Henry's marriage.
(Some would allege that this was simply because Henry was a poor loser: but others say that perhaps, Catherine Howard was less than impressed with a husband who could be gulled so easily in so few moves. Which would imply that her chosen lover, Culpeper, was a superior player of The Game. -Ed.)
There is reference to MC in many of the bard's works, but two are particularly well known.
Richard III Act 3 Scene 4: "the Marques of Dorset is head to Richmond" This move locked off the Circle Line and put the King in a self reversing spoon. Not long afterwards, he lost his head.
1st folio edition of Henry V: "Once more unto the Bank, dear friends, and close Blackwall up with the Bridge of Red..." (The full quote is contained in the separate entry about Shakespeare and Mornington Crescent. -Ed.)
Nowadays MC is a game for everyone, and there are many clubs that are dedicated entirely to the game. There is also a very busy amateur circuit and a world amateur championship that is held every year in the Cafe just opposite the station itself. For those that take the game more seriously, there are several tournaments at Master, International Master and Grandmaster level each year, including the IMCS World Mornington Crescent Championships.
No account of MC would be complete without a word about the queen of MC herself, Mrs Trellis. This remarkable, 88(?) year old woman (at time of writing, some time in the late 1990s. -Ed.) has won a grand total of 12 grand slams, and many other championships. She still gives advice to MC players, but is allegedly becoming a little confused in her old age and often forgets to cross hatch Theydon Bois.
The Best MC move possible
Knightsbridge to Ongar.
This move has been declared the best by the "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" team (and they should know).
[Jon Poole] [ed. by JLE]