Categories: A to Z, Famous Players
Perhaps the most unlikely ever winner of the World Championships, Daisy Crumblethorpe was born with the surname of Treadgold in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire. She learned Mornington Crescent in the local social club, shortly after leaving school, and won the club's championship in her first year - to nobody's surprise, despite her young age, since so many of the regulars were away "on duty": to greater surprise, she held on to the title for the next three years when the regulars returned after the war, eventually entering the all-Wiltshire championship in Swindon. She did not get past the first round. Some have suggested that this was due to not having really concentrated properly on MC, this being the year of her marriage to Albert Crumblethorpe, a local businessman: others suggest - probably correctly, based on her record - that singles were "not really her thing".
In fact, Crumblethorpe was to find that her real strength was in pairs and team play. Entering the Wiltshire championship for the second time in 1949, she put her name down for the Pairs tournament as someone who had no regular partner, but hoped to find a playing partner just for this particular championship who was in the same position. The partner assigned to her - chosen by random lot - was Ernest Chuntwumble: the two had never met before the first game of the tournament. However, the pairing proved an instant success as they won the tournament, then advertised for two further members for a team to make up a four, and won the team tournament too.
The pair of Crumblethorpe and Chuntwumble was to enjoy further success, winning prizes at various other pairs tournaments around the country over the next few years, and also entering team tournaments with different partners and winning further prizes there. Sadly, this was to put a strain on Crumblethorpe's marriage, as she found herself spending too much time away from her husband (who himself was frequently away from home), and the couple were to separate in 1952. (There had never been and was never to be the slightest hint that Chuntwumble was in any way "involved" with Crumblethorpe: their relationship and friendship was to remain purely professional.)
It was in 1954 that Crumblethorpe and Chuntwumble first entered a Grandmaster-level tournament: they won both the pairs and team competitions at Eastbourne. (Crumblethorpe also demonstrated that she had been improving her singles play by reaching the fourth round.) This achievement brought the two to the notice of Mrs Trellis, herself searching both for a playing partner for pairs, and for people to replace retiring team-mates. In fact, Trellis actually asked Crumblethorpe to enter the World Championships as her pairs partner: but she refused, saying that she was used to working with Chuntwumble and that he deserved the honour of entering the championships as well - at which point Trellis immediately recommended that the pair receive a "wild card" entry to the Pairs tournament, and selected them both as team-mates for the Team tournamnet. Crumblethorpe and Chuntwumble reached the final in Pairs, losing to Trellis and Trentwimble - their team-mates in victory in the Team competition.
This achievement led to sudden fame - which neither of the pair had particularly wanted, but coped as well as they could. Other international tournaments were duly entered, this time by right of world ranking rather than as wild cards, and they never failed to perform well as a pair: finally, in the following year's World Championship, came the first Grandmaster tournament Pairs victory, as Trellis and Trentwimble this time had to settle for the silver medal (and, again, partner them to the Team title.) The pair continued to be successful in both pairs and team competitions, including the separate biennial World Team Mornington Crescent Championships, in which they won the inaugural pairs event in 1956, repeating the feat in 1958, 1960 and 1962, and also being on the winning England team three times out of four (most notably in 1962 when the team was without Trellis.) Neither, however, achieved much in the singles - Crumblethorpe reaching only one quarter-final in two years, Chuntwumble never entered the singles at all, and neither ever went anywhere near the All-In competition, even so much as to watch it.
It was in 1958 that Crumblethorpe broke the habit of a lifetime. A fortunate draw in the early rounds - despite a low world ranking which saw her once again needing a wild card to get into the draw at all - saw her through to only her second quarter-final, whereupon she pulled off a major shock by defeating Maier. Her reward was to be drawn against Schieferdecker in the semi-final - Germany's greatest MC player, a man who had won many championships. This was supposed to be his greatest ever chance to reach the final, since the two that had consistently beaten him in semi-finals - Trellis and Ruttsborough - this time were drawn against each other, in the match that gave the world the Moon Over Morden Incident.
Amazingly, Crumblethorpe not only won, but won easily, playing with a bravery that surprised everybody - not least her opponent, who had expected a tame capitulation but was unable to turn things around when things were not going his way. An even greater shock was to follow in the final, over a Mrs Trellis who was still clearly shaken by the events of the semi-final and the manner of her "victory", and was obviously not herself. To the astonishment of the entire MC-playing world, Crumblethorpe was the IMCS World MC Champion, having never previously won a singles tournament or even reached a semi-final at anywhere more important than Wootton Bassett.
She was never to repeat the achievement. In fact, she was never to get past the first round of the Championships again, although her world ranking kept high enough to qualify for singles tournaments until 1961. The pairing with Chuntwumble - both in pairs and team competitions - continued to flourish for a few years, but it seemed as if their friendship became strained following Crumblethorpe's success - whether Chuntwumble was jealous, or whether Crumblethorpe started becoming selfish, or whether they simply got bored of working together, nobody knows: neither has ever spoken about why the pair split. What is certain is that, in 1962 after the World Team Championships, Crumblethorpe made the decision not only to retire, but to attempt a reconciliation with her estranged husband, whom she had never actually divorced. This reconciliation was, fortunately, successful: six years later, the couple were to have their only child, a daughter called Rose.
Chuntwumble's career was only to last three more years: never able to find a stable playing partner, his team and pairs career fizzled out. Whereupon he was able to not only resume his friendship with Daisy Crumblethorpe but also make friends with her husband, and was invited to be godfather to their daughter. Crumblethorpe never played Mornington Crescent again, except once: Chuntwumble took up coaching MC at children's schools and social clubs, and on one occasion invited his old playing partner along for a special exhibition match (where, for the only time, the two faced off against each other: the result is not recorded), followed by an hour devoted to analysis of theoretical problems.
Daisy Crumblethorpe died in 1991, aged 64, of a stroke - she was struck by a car while crossing the road. She has been outlived by her husband, daughter and playing partner.