Categories: A to Z, Famous Players
Arthur Cripplehead was Britain's foremost MC theoretician, working for the IMCS from the 1960's until his death in 1982. However, for all his prowess and his undeniable skill, he only played once in the world championships, and that unwillingly, to become world champion in 1957. He did not defend his title in 1958. His most notable game was against Mrs Trellis in 1964, which he won by the narrowest of narrow margins.
Cripplehead's biography has recently been completed, and a more complete version has been added below.
The Unofficial Biography of Arthur Cripplehead
"Killed by foul fortune and a half-strile" (his epitaph)
On October 22nd, 1982, the Mornington Crescent world lost what many consider to be its greatest proponent. Arthur Cripplehead, originator of the Upminster pivot, was tragically killed when a half-strile went out of control somewhere between Bank and Caledonian Road. Such was the shock and dismay at this senseless waste, that for the next three months moves were played only on the Northern Line as a mark of mourning.
To this day, the half-strile between Bank and Caledonian Road remains a rarely used move. Many has the time been that a player has passed over the opportunity of MC as a mark of respect for Cripplehead.
Arthur was born on February 21st, 1927 to Maureen and Dennis. Though Dennis was a member of the Hendon MC Society, Arthur was surprisingly recalcitrant when it was suggested he accompany his father. In fact, it was not until the age of nine, when he was introduced to Mulworthy - a man he would later beat - that his interest in the noble game was aroused. Thankfully, the HMCS keeps records of every game played in its halls and by its members, and we have no difficulty tracing his development as, over the next three years, he began to play with the fluidity and confidence which marked his later style. Of course, a mere three years could never be enough to expect true proficiency, but Arthur progressed rapidly, and were it not for the onset of war, could have been Britain's leading player much sooner.
However, Cripplehead's father was sent to the Desert regions, where he sadly perished, leaving his son to take on the mantle of resident family member at HMCS. A huge burden for a boy then only seventeen, and having played the boards sporadically at best since the outbreak of war. It seems that the loss caught Arthur hard, as we can see from the records that his conduct was often terse and misgiving, changing his much admired flowing style to a much more aggressive, sharp style which suited him not at all and helped him less.
It seems that the depression left him as the war ended, and again his spirits rose, until he was accepted at Oxford to read in Advanced Crescent Dynamics, where he immediately joined CresSoc, rising to Deputy President within six months. In another year, he would take the hallowed cap. Meanwhile, his studies showing that a six-point arc around Upminster could result in de-spooning and token gains for any player in zone 2 would result in his appointment by the IMCS as head theorist, allowing him to refine his equation for the calculation of the Snerge Coefficient over the coming years.
It was in 1951 that he was approached by the government for a project he described as "very, very exciting." In a laboratory in Keeble College, the world's first Mornington Crescent Simulator was taking shape. As head theorist, he was naturally invited to assist in the programming of the machine that became known as "Thackeray." However, after some months on the job, he became frustrated at the simplicity of the valve machine, and left the project to concentrate on a refinement of Beck's equation. When, in 1953, Thackeray was finally completed, he naturally accepted an invitation to play the device. The game was long, mainly because Thackeray took two and a half hours to compute every move, and Cripplehead won easily. However, he reported afterwards that computing devices might one day change the world of Mornington Crescent for good.
Cripplehead steadfastly refused to play in International competitions, due to his dislike for the French and "the colonies" as he viewed them. However, for the world championships in 1957 he was forced to compete, as Chuntwumble pulled out with a strained spooning ligament. Though he was officially attending as team tactician, Dorothy Trentwimble stepped up to take over, freeing him to play Spooner in the team game and to carry the flag in the masterclass games. Though the English team were narrowly beaten to the title by Burma, Cripplehead himself trounced his opposition to win the individual title. However, that was not the only notable incident of the tournament; while she was binding his finger after a minor straddling accident, Dorothy looked into his eyes and told him simply, "I love you." They were married in July of 1959.
However, Cripplehead disliked the public exposure that accompanied his world champion status. Though he was always pleased to receive dinner invites, he was not comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd and often he was seen to bring journalists down a peg or two, especially when his then-blossoming romance with Miss Trentwimble was mentioned. He declined to play again in 1958, and the individual title went to Crumblethorpe. Cripplehead was the first to congratulate her on her victory.
It was 1964 that saw what many consider to be the highlight of Cripplehead's career. Mrs Trellis had for some time been attempting to challenge him to a match, and finally he agreed. It was the only competitive game the two ever played (the match in Westminster in '69 was a display game) and lasted for a little under two weeks. Eventually, after collapsing from exhaustion, he managed to just swipe victory, however all sources agree that it was a very tight match. In a vote conducted by the IMCS in '92, 70% of members agreed that this was still the all-time best game of MC. Mrs Trellis refuses to comment on the match, however it is generally agreed that her aversion to the Piccadilly line is rooted in an incident that occurred during the game.
As the hands of time turned, Cripplehead continued to enjoy his work as theorist at the IMCS, finally turning over in 1970 Furtlington's Implausibility Theory. This led to his becoming unpopular with the Brighton MCS, due to their reliance on the Theory in team games. In 1972 he was awarded the OMC for services to the community. Later in the same year he refined Beck's equation once more, giving us the basic form with which we are now all familiar. Having done this, he turned his hand to Ziggurat Theorem, however he was never able to prove or disprove the Cleopatra Theory. He was responsible for the proof that a ziggurat cannot have more than 16 sides, three flavours or two birthdays, with a leap of logic so stunning that even today many top theorists cannot follow where Cripplehead once strode.
Throughout the late 1970's Cripplehead played in local MC tournaments, often as Spooner but more frequently in a solo state. He was known to dislike the team games because he was unable to follow a tactic with such purity. However, his dream was to set up the London School of Mornington Crescent, and he made several attempts, but lack of funding and the rapid rule changes being made at that time made it an impossibility. It may have pleased him to know that Keeble College, Oxford, later renamed the society of the which he had been president "The Cripplehead Foundation.":
Dorothy's death in March 1982 from a tragic DH loop brought home to Cripplehead the very real dangers of Mornington Crescent, and for a time he was so lost in grief that he refused to play. Eventually he returned to his work and in the September of that year completed his work on the "Dorothy Projection," which we all have to thank for the new breed of MC Sims. It seems that after the completion of that final task, he lost direction, and began to play in somewhat less salubrious venues and down-market pubs, often on boards made from sacking cloth rather than the official version. It is believed that this is the reason for his fatal half-strile, though a three year inquest by the IMCS failed to reveal a reason for the accident. There have been accusations of a conspiracy levelled at CAMREC, but I feel that he wanted to join Dorothy in the most spectacular manner he knew. That night, as Mrs Trellis herself said,
"We have lost a fine figure of a man this day, and one hell of a limbo dancer."
Arthur J. Cripplehead, 1927-1982