A tactical genius, dazzling innovator, world champion – and the most ruthless, vicious and unprincipled rat bastard ever to play Mornington Crescent. Ruttsborough first served notice to the MC world at age 19 when, in a non-title game with the great Puttbadger, he smashed to victory with a dazzling combination which concluded Upminster, Croxley, Mornington Crescent. The uncompromising fury of his play was fired by a lifelong hatred of everybody and everything. He is, of course, famous for mooning Mrs. Trellis in mid-game, but he was also the author of over four million pages of MC theory and one internationally banned book of childrens' verse.
While nowadays his serious innovations are becoming recognised more (such as Defence into Attack: Aldgate East as a vortex focus), his other works – though fully deserving of the title 'underground (no pun intended) classics' – such as MC as a Cudgel, Mind Your Own Gap, Hell Starts at Hainault and Filthy MC Tricks Wot You Shouldn't Use on your Mum are heavily suppressed by the IMCS establishment. Ruttsborough popularised the driveback in its current form (and, indeed, invented the term himself), favoured dazzling cross-striles and hideously elevated LVs, and was clearly the strongest suburban player who ever lived – he once completed an entire undefeated season without playing a single move on or inside the Circle Line. He also developed the Barons Court manœuvre, which he used to escape Dollis Hill loops while turning them into near-inescapable vortex traps for his opponents, and he was not afraid to enter Dollis Hill loops himself either, having studied their effects and learned to use them as an attacking strategy. After decades of terrifying all comers, Ruttsborough's competitive career ended one horrid afternoon in 1975, when he had both his arms torn off during a particularly virulent match vs. The Rest of the World at Croydon.
He is known to have made two public appearances since then: in February 1977, in an exhibition match against the equally ill-tempered Rotherington (billed as the 'Battle of the Sexes' – play was notably scrappy in quality and the match is more renowned for the off-stage events and arguments): and in the 1980 World Championships in Moscow – these were boycotted by most players from west of the Iron Curtain, in sympathy with the Olympic boycott that year, but Ruttsborough defied the boycott to "beat the bloody Ruskies on their home ground" and, after a poor start, improved with every game and eventually reached the final (in the process, turning public opinion in the UK from violently against his actions to heavily in favour.) His eventual defeat in that final caused yet more controversy, amid claims of official bias by the Russian referees.
For several years, he was rumoured to be still alive, earning a subsistence wage as a tabloid photographer in the washrooms of St Pancras station. However, the last confirmed sighting was over a decade ago, and increasingly sinister theories about his disappearance are beginning to circulate. These theories were given a new twist when Cannon Street station was closed for a while – the story was hushed up in all the papers except the Daily Sport (on the grounds that nobody believed them anyway), but it is alleged that the remains of a person of approximately the right height and build were found during the renovations. (His arms were a couple of inches shorter than Ruttsborough's own original measurements, but this would be consistent with them having been removed by some means and then surgically re-attached – as is known to have happened, as mentioned above.) Forensic scientists attached to the IMCS eventually pronounced it to indeed be the body of Ruttsborough, on the basis of DNA sampling: for a few weeks, this was believed to be true, but then one of the scientists was revealed as a secret CAMREC infiltrator, and all the 'evidence' discredited by later analysis. This has only served to throw the entire issue into confusion again. Meanwhile, there is growing speculation about how and why a CAMREC infiltrator – or indeed an IMCS investigator – might have had a sample of Ruttsborough's DNA in the first place, so he could tamper with the tests: and about the real reason for Mornington Crescent Station itself having been closed for so long, especially given that the date of its initial closure was so soon after the last public sighting of the man…
In recent years, there has naturally been a resurgence of interest in Ruttsborough. Some players have taken to heart some of the innovations he brought to the game – such as the deliberate use of Dollis Hill Loops as an offensive strategy, how to handle extra-high LVs in games where high velocity is not matched by an equally high podume count, the massive rotation, and emphasis on suburban rather than central play. Others admire, either grudgingly or whole-heartedly, his more violent style. And so his brilliance – nasty and brutish as it was – continues to inspire many modern-day players, especially those who find the Trellis-dominated establishment a bit 'twee', and yearn for the thrill and outrage of the Great Game's darker side.
[JLE] [DL] [Darren]