It was Thursday 19th April, St Alphenge’s day. The weather outside my London office was stormy. Earlier in the day we had been blitzed with hail and now thunder was rolling around the sky. My telephone was silent and as it appeared that my clients did not require my services, I was at a loss for gentlemanly entertainment. Naturally, I repaired to my club. In the Feline Room, I encountered the good Posmella and wertperch about to begin a game of cards. Now, I am not much for cards myself. I can never remember which way up they are supposed to be, but with three people present, there was another game we could play.
13:33 <Andrew Aguecheek> I'm tempted to suggest Mornington Crescent, it is St Alphege's day after all.
I should pause here to explain the significance of St Alphege’s day. I realise this may seem pedantic; it cannot be supposed that even the most casual reader would be unfamiliar with the basic rule that the ancient game of Mornington Crescent has long been associated with the feast days of the mediaeval saints. However, it could conceivably have slipped the reader’s mind that St Alphege himself was one of the Church’s finest Crescenters and there is strong evidence to suggest that his kidnap and martyrdom was the direct result of a bold circumvention of the Gnostic Gambit (which has of course been banned since the reformation but has some followers in Poland).
13:35 <wertperch> Oh, Mornington Crescent. deVere's rules?
13:35 <wertperch> Sorry, variant. VARIANT!
13:36 <Andrew Aguecheek> 2nd Edition? Or do you prefer the Montague revision?
13:36 <wertperch> I'm not sure we have enough for a decent game, Sir Andrew
13:36 Posmella curls up in a ball and feels sorry for herself while the debate rages.
13:37 <wertperch> Ah, Second Edition. I cannot bear all that compuslory shunting on Northern.
13:37 <wertperch> Mind you, I haven't played since the Jubilee Line opened.
Naturally deVere’s variant, 2nd edition was the choice of play and there is no need to bore the reader with explanations. I suggested the Montague revision for sake of form, but in truth, I agree with wertperch that it makes for extremely inelegant play. It would have been utterly inappropriate with ladies present.
13:37 <Posmella> You Brits talk crazylike
13:37 wertperch pets poor Posmella.
13:38 <wertperch> Oh, no, this is just Sir Andrew and I.
13:38 <Andrew Aguecheek> It occurs to me the Blackfriar's has reopened, that will create some interesting tension if someone tries a reverse on the Circle Line.
In the event, no-one attempted this strategy. If the reader is interested however, an intriguing example of counterplay is the 1899 all counties semi-final between Nott (for Cornwall) and Winter-Partington (for Surrey, later England).
13:38 <wertperch> The rest of the Brits are ignorant plebs. Mostly.
13:39 <wertperch> Maybe this is a bad idea, AA. It has been a long time since I was on the Tube.
13:39 <Posmella> I'm not really a poor Pos. I always forget that establishing onesself in a new city is accompanied by bouts of loneliness in the first several months, is all. Being whiny oops.
13:39 <wertperch> I'd always cross myself at Bank and wind up at Temple.
13:40 <Posmella> All I can think of is Neverwhere with all these station names.
13:40 <Andrew Aguecheek> I'm sure Posmella would pick it up if we began with a beginner's opening.
13:41 <wertperch> Actually, Posmella, that is a good point.
13:41 wertperch pokes the Posmella pile
13:42 Posmella has an Angel Islington badge. Truth.
13:42 <wertperch> If Posmella has read enough of Neverwhere, she has a chance of winning. It's a Thursday, after all, so only one reverse per line.
As will become clear, Posmella had in fact played before. An analysis of her style however yields the cause of her confusion. As an antipodean, Posmella sticks to a northern solar approach. Whilst this does not impact deVere’s 2nd itself, it is inconceivable that the Bank-Temple trap would ever come into play without the consent of all the players. There was a similar misunderstanding in the 1985 Ashes series; the inevitable knip was resolved by a solid defence from the fated Smyth – West partnership.
13:42 Posmella ruffles her fur and twitches her tail, ears flat.
13:43 <wertperch> Posmella, is that your opening move?
13:43 <Posmella> Honestly I have no idea what you're talking about. But ok.
13:43 <Andrew Aguecheek> You're right of course, in fact, I believe a similar situation led to Hardcastle's triumph in the 1992 final.
I was wrong here; I was thinking of Bagshot in 1990 (57 – 33 – MC in 23 without penalty). A similar game to the 1992 admittedly, but Bagshot never quite reached Hardcastle’s finesse in deVere. He was always very much a Regency player.
13:44 <Posmella> I *did* say I can't remember books, right?
13:44 <wertperch> So the game is on!
13:45 <DTal> Ooh are we playing Mornington Crescent? I remember my first - it was at a nodermeet. Got trounced, of course, but the fun is in playing.
DTal had sauntered into the club. Sherry in hand, he took up his usual chair. Obviously he was prevented from joining the game at this stage by the Penzance Convention, but he watched enthusiastically. He was, of course, being modest about his maiden performance. Although he did come last, he was against some very experienced players and kept his end up admirably, even attempting a courageous Hardingson Flight at a very late stage.
13:45 Andrew Aguecheek dons his top hat
13:45 wertperch cannot find his smoking gloves
13:45 <DTal> Andrew, you were there I think.
13:46 <Andrew Aguecheek> You won't need them, it's after noon here.
This is, of course, the standard Masterson (1884) principle that Mornington Crescent games always follow Greenwich Mean Time unless otherwise stated before the opening of play. Which is not to say that smoking gloves can be dispensed with postmeridian in all cases, I merely meant that their absence would not be a bar to wertperch’s standing.
13:46 <wertperch> HANG ON. Did you pass the Bar yet, AA?
13:46 Posmella pulls on gloves and calmly surveys the others, sipping her tea.
13:46 <wertperch> I am tealess, glovesless and I believe that you, Sir are trying to play an advantage.
13:47 <Andrew Aguecheek> I did a couple of years ago, but I'm currently nonpracticing.
13:47 <wertperch> Nonetheless, I am following with Embankment.
13:47 <Posmella> AA and I are all about bars.
13:48 <wertperch> That phrase would strike confusion and fear into many, Posmella
This is merely a reference to Posmella and myselfs’ respective positions in certain honourable associations that carry certain traditional privileges. Embankment was a cautious play under the circumstances however; it was very unlikely that we would seek to enforce the Escalator Closure, whilst still technically legal (it last saw play in the Indian Premier League final in 2004 where Singh QC adopted it to avoid a brilliant, if wayward, Rifleman’s Corner by Vankayalapati) would have been considered ungentlemanly by all observers.
At this stage gnarl arrived. Readers will remember gnarl as a veteran player of the Dorsetshire school who seriously contended several cups until his unfortunate enforced departure from the game in the aftermath of the disasterous “Princess Bikini” scandal of the late 1980s. Personally, I have always felt it was a harsh ruling.
13:48 <gnarl> You all are playing the Voice version, with all chairs pointed away from the board, correct?
13:48 <Posmella> Correct. Apart from the cat.
13:49 <Andrew Aguecheek> I will guardedly open with Baker Street, but I'm retaining my whistle for now.
13:49 <wertperch> We cannot, gnarl. We have players on three continents
13:49 <gnarl> Cats are always the exception, Except on Dogsbody Day, of course.
13:51 <wertperch> Now the Englishman in America awaits the American in England.
13:51 <gnarl> oh, right, intercontinental. This should be interesting.
13:52 <wertperch> I admit that I have never played a game that cross the Date Line, without getting hung up at Earl's Court!
13:53 <wertperch> May just be co-incidence of course.
This is all self-explanatory, except that wertperch, to the casual observer, appears to believe DTal was to play. In fact, he was referring to the sherry bottle which had lingered somewhat too long in DTal’s grasp. For completeness I will also say that Dogsbody Day is of course the 9th Sunday after St Swithin’s eve.
13:53 <Posmella> Is it my turn?
13:53 <Andrew Aguecheek> That is always a risk, but it's usually possible to execute a Kiley Pass if you can compensate for the knip.
See Sherman “A funny sort of game: Adventures of a recalcitrant Crescenter in the Near East” Uxbridge University Press (1966) 1st Ed pp. 34 – 312 for a fuller discussion of this principle.
13:54 <wertperch> It's almost indecent.
13:54 <Posmella> Ah, I always forget. Except insofar as the Darjeeling exception applies due to time zoning.
13:55 <wertperch> I'm astonished, Posmella!
13:55 <wertperch> AA, she's been playing us all along.
13:55 <Posmella> At your lack of knowledge of the rules? So am I.
13:55 <gnarl> The tea has finally kicked in!
13:56 Posmella plays a Gard du Nord because she can.
This is some of the finest positional play I have seen for some time. Posmella’s use of the Darjeeling exception was nakedly ambitious but introducing a Gard du Nord to compensate was pure elegance. Naturally, the company were somewhat surprised and a light applause rippled around the gathering spectators.
13:57 <gnarl> either that or the cat is typing for her, which is a clear violation of international rules, as upheld by the Geddes vs Lyttleton decision in 2006.
13:57 <Posmella> (Obviously I used my erstwhile Chunnel double)
13:57 <Andrew Aguecheek> I always thought that ruling should have been appealed.
13:57 <Posmella> Damn! The cat is undone, along with our unholy alliance!
13:58 <wertperch> We could argue the rules all day, gentlemen.
wertperch knows that I have had a bee in my proverbial headwear for years about this ruling. Those interested should see my monograph on the subject “If this is justice, I fear for the modern game” (Stovold’s Quarterly Review, 2007 Autumn edition beginning at page 87) in which outlines my eighty four objections, both procedural and substantial, to this thoroughly disreputable decision.
13:58 wertperch proffers a hollow laugh, and plays a Hyde Park branch
13:59 <gnarl> You side with Simpkin, then AA?
Naturally I did not respond to gnarl’s good natured baiting. I fail to see why every controversy in Mornington Crescent should come down to one’s like or dislike for Simpkin. The mere fact that he was a staunch pedestrian does not mean he was always incorrect. Never has there been a greater subject for ad-hominem attacks.
14:00 <Andrew Aguecheek> I think I can consolidate if I play Marble Arch but I'll have to sacrifice Seven Sisters to do it.
14:01 <Andrew Aguecheek> in case you're wondering, although technically a violation of the Massingbird Principle, it has been tolerated as a valid move since at least the late 19th century.
14:01 <Posmella> Bold.
14:01 <Posmella> 'tolerated' being the operative word
14:02 <gnarl> did you mean 'operative's' or 'operative'
14:03 <Andrew Aguecheek> custom and practice Pos, practically opinio juris.
I checked my position on this later. I am gratified to say that I was correct and in fact there is a ruling from 1955 in which the umpire refused to give a penalty to Norfolk despite Lancaster’s petition being made in the proper form. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a complete transcript of the proceedings but the reporter did say that ”the noble Viscount was very fair in his hearing and gave a most learned judgement.” The ruling was also referred to in the Belerussian qualifiers guide (Официальное руководство к участию в Великой Отечественной игры 1999 footnote to s.11) which is where I discovered it.
14:03 <wertperch> I'm invoking Throckmorton's rule, and moving to Temple, anyway.
14:04 <wertperch> \,sg gnarl I sense thet Posmella is using the Perrier-Thurston Ploy here...
14:05 Andrew Aguecheek fines wertperch ten points for conferring
Really, wertperch should have known better than to confer after invoking Throckmorton’s rule, but we are all human. Even the great Winterbotham made a similar error that nearly cost him the 1936 title. Of course, ultimately he was saved by the decision to expel Germany from the Mornington Crescent Union for ungentlemanly conduct mid way through the match. However, as shall be seen, there is an exception to the rule.
At this point proceedings were briefly interrupted by the porter’s announcement that his lordship W. R. 19th Baron Winchester had arrived. The good Baron took up his usual seat and, having sent for a gin and tonic, beamed at our little assembly.
14:05 <BaronWR> Yay! Mornington Crescent
It will of course be recalled that his lordship recently represented England as a late substitute following Prince William’s withdrawal from the game at his wife’s insistence. He currently holds an international score of 145 – 33 – MC in 13 (aggregate, deducting duplications) and is noted for his flair.
14:05 Posmella sniffs and uses the latter Chunnel double to end up at Black Friar
14:06 <Posmella> Omg you people really ARE all batty.
In the New Zealand Women’s Game to be ‘batty’ is a colloquialism for a person at risk of being in knip from a reverse diagonal. Both wertperch and myself were in such a position. Naturally as Englishmen we considered ourselves to be “conkered”. In any case, we were engrossed in the game by this point and failed to notice the lady Zephronias who had entered shortly behind the Baron until she had sat down at the adjacent table. We nodded our greetings.
14:06 <wertperch> I am playing sans trousis, so I challenge the fine under the International Convention of 1965.
14:06 <Andrew Aguecheek> We can probably let the good Baron have a late entry pass; Kings Cross is still in play.
14:07 <BaronWR> Hmm, it's been a little while. Let's try...Green Park
14:08 <wertperch> Would that they would reopen Museum. I could shunt there and avoid the knip.
14:08 <Posmella> The sans trousis ploy! Well played sir!
I silently passed a guinea to wertperch in accordance with tradition. He was absolutely correct in his interpretation of the “Articles Not To Be Held as Falling Under Throckmorton’s Provisions” direction. I should have recalled it before making the challenge, but as I have said, we are all only human. I apologise in advance for my ungentlemanly response however.
14:08 <Andrew Aguecheek> Drat, that forces me back to Pimlico. I'm at risk of coming a real cropper on these diagonals!
14:10 <wertperch> I have found my smoking gloves, by the bye.
14:10 <BaronWR> Hmm, time to consolidate, I think. Angel.
14:10 Posmella scratches her head but can think of mo
14:10 <Posmella> No possibility other than earls court
14:10 <gnarl> i think you all still have a chance to play a game of obblyonkers to use an extra turn.
14:11 <Posmella> I wish I had a keyboard...
14:11 <BaronWR> Oh, I can think of at least three, if you're prepared to play fast and loose with the overground...
A typical suggestion from his lordship. The Baron is well known in crescenter circles for his cunning use of overground stations. He notably opened with Wimbledon in his county debut, which was described by Sir Hugon Benningson (commentating) as “remarkable, absolutely remarkable.” The three options he refers to here can be deduced by using Wentworth’s formula and are Clapham South (which leaves two exploitable diagonals), Elephant and Castle (which is a solid defence) and, probably the most controversial, Heathrow Terminals 1 2 & 3 (which could be a useful staging post for a dangerously convincing Stoutjesdyk gambit).
14:11 Posmella distracts with fresh scones
14:12 <wertperch> Although I do need to make breakfast for imp\buddah, I will take a pass and tell you that my next move will be Goodge Street.
14:12 <gnarl> You can substitute the scones for the obblyonkers as well.
In deVere’s Variant, 2nd edition, the rule is always breakfast-pass-declaration. wertperch, ever the gentleman, has observed the traditions correctly.
14:12 Zephronias read that as 'playing sans trousers'.
14:12 <Posmella> Done and done!
14:13 <Posmella> he is, Z, but it's in French to be mysterious
14:14 <wertperch> That is correct, Zephronias. I have no trousers. The MacPherson Method is therefore open to me.
14:14 <wertperch> Well, I have trousers, but did not yet don them. I am, as we used to say in school, unbagged.
14:14 <Posmella> No, invocation of the MacPherson following a pass means the Charing Sider is in play!
Accurate, if strictly irrelevant since MacPherson had not yet been properly declared (see note on Williams below). Posmella appears to be attempting to force BaronWR into a regulation pause. Whilst this would probably have been successful with a less experienced Crescenter, his lordship was having none of it.
14:14 <BaronWR> I'm sure that mentioning your state of undress is most ungentlemanly in a game of Mornington Crescent
14:15 <Zephronias> I do not know what that means, but will now envision wert wearing a floral summer dress.
14:15 <BaronWR> After all the assumption is that everyone involved is wearing a morning suit
14:15 <BaronWR> anything else is unspeakably louche
14:15 <Andrew Aguecheek> Baron, it would be, but wertperch is in California. We must make allowances.
14:15 <wertperch> Since the Williams Decision, I am obliged to tell you if I want to invoke MacPherson
BaronWR first cut his teeth in the Cambridge under 21s, noted for their insistence on the correct attire. He was not, however, present for the famous derby in which the team insisted that Oxford change into evening wear mid way through a complicated forty-five minute Lessington Duel.
The Williams Decision is probably Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein of Cassel-Felstein v Williams, in the Czech all-comers marathon. Williams attempted to divert his opponent into a Dollis Hill Loop but had to rely on an undeclared MacPherson which was held to be invalid.
14:16 Posmella adjusts her gloves and sips her tea, pondering her next move.
14:16 <Andrew Aguecheek> I am going to hedge up and Embankment but I'm keeping my options open.
14:16 <BaronWR> A_A: I guess we could allow him a lounge suit
14:16 <Zephronias> baronwr++
14:16 <BaronWR> But even that's puching it
14:17 Posmella uses the Charing Sider to best advantage and leaps to Charing Cross
14:17 <wertperch> A SUIT? Are you nuts?
14:17 Auspice glawrrrrr
14:17 Andrew Aguecheek blinks
14:18 Auspice is just now making coffee.
Just to recap the situation. I was on 16 tracks, 3 stops, with four diagonal penalties (MC in 4), Posmella held 7 stations without penalty, avoiding spoon but at risk from a revese knip (MC in 2), wertperch was playing junctions and had amassed an impressive 42 signal failures but was orbiting a little further north than the ideal (MC in 5), and BaronWR was displaying a very tight Blenkinsopp formation, crossing 6 escalators with superb divisional access, (MC in 17).
14:18 <BaronWR> Hmm, I'm not sure whether this will fly, but I think I can reverse-shunt it: Mornington Crescent
14:18 <Posmella> Oh surely not my good sir!?
14:18 <BaronWR> And without any mention of my level of undress
14:19 <BaronWR> I think Reynolds did the same thing back in 1923
14:19 Posmella ponders the move vis a vis the Darjeeling Exception amended rules of 1942
14:19 <wertperch> By Jove, I believe he has managed it!
14:19 <Posmella> Gosh darn!
14:20 <BaronWR> Of course, then it got him blackballed from his club, but we live in more enlightened, trouser-wearing times
This was incredible! Despite his advantages, a 17 point deficit should had been enough to leave the good Baron at least four moves away from making a play for the goal. On analysis however, as we gradually realised, his strategy was utterly valid. The Darjeeling Exception may only give a standard four seconds lead due to the lack of MacPhereson but with almost perfect divisional access, the Baron was able to take advantage of wertperch’s signal failures and, regrettably my diagonal penalties left me helpless to block him.
The Reynolds reference is entirely accurate, although, to avoid defaming the dead, we should remember that he was readmitted with full honours in 1945 in recognition of his VC.
Andrew Aguecheek (14 – 18 – MC in 12) “Standard Clot”
wertperch (3.14152 – i – MC in 8) “The Blonde Finish”
Posmella (6 – 6 – MC in 6) “Diabolical”
BaronWR (81 – AA – MC) “Common Courtesy”
14:20 <locke baron> Unsquishable!
14:21 Posmella restrains from slapping the good baron with a single lace glove and proffers her congratulations and scones
14:21 <Zephronias> I'm as confused as you are.
14:22 <sam512> Lawn Mornington Crescent on a lazy afternoon? It must be summer.
14:25 <wertperch> Well played, everyone! Posmella in particular. You have the makings of a world-class traveller!
14:28 gnarl was particularly impressed by several player's ploys. Well done all.
14:30 gnarl duly files scores and abbreviated history to the ISIHAC records. (The official record can be referenced as 2012 MC-E2 14)
14:32 gnarl notes to the League that the esteemed Baron is now bully-three.
14:33 <sam512> I can't stand Mornington Crescent. Too many rules to remember.
14:33 <sam512> I always lose, and it's always on a technicality.
14:35 <gnarl> Once you've become disqualified for life plus seventy years, your blood pressure lowers significantly, I can attest.