Mornington Crescent Illustrated with Expert Play

Expert Play Made Elementary: An Advanced Level Example

This advanced level game multi-player game was one of public demonstration games played before the first round of the 2004 I.I.I.M.C.C. (Inaugural International Internet Mornington Crescent Challenge) hosted by To promote public awareness of Mornington Crescent, all players were required to explain their reasoning throughout the course of the game. Grandmaster Gregory Topov provides a special report, and includes his personal annotations.

Comment by GM Topov: This game superbly demonstrates the sharp play required in the International Grand Prix Variation. All players agreed to play the Extended Prague Version, where the Molinger's First Strategem comes into effect after the tenth move. This creates a more defensive game, but using the global alliance tokens is always fun, and so is the fact that players are required to use the modular vertical shift. Note that in this international version, the limited communication sphere wild-card can't be used, and the neighbouring country pact is an illegal move. Brussels is required before London, and don't forget that the terminal cannot be played before the winning Mornington Crescent. It serves well to highlight the advanced level tactics typically employed by expert and master players.

GM Topov: My first move is 1. Geneva, Switzerland. This is a defensive opening move popularized by Swiss Grandmaster Armin Zehnder in 1933, following the Schaubaum Convention.

Comment by GM Topov: This enables the west airforce option for opponents later in the game, if the east trump is produced.

Austin: Hmmm... interesting - I haven't seen the Zehnder used for a few years now. If I remember correctly he was expelled from Schaubaum after an unfortunate incident involving a Mrs Trellis of North Wales. You need to be careful here Greg as an opening is often left for spoon leading to an early MC for the anti-clockwise player. I shall risk the loop... 2. Dollis Hill.

Comment by GM Topov: Too risky in fact. Although using the loop by invoking the Reverse Bilateral Rule early in the game has its merits, it is not recommended after play in Europe.

surfnsuds: I think Austin fell for Greg's extremely subtle trap with that move. But perhaps not. Perhaps not. He may have anticipated a double-reverse cross-grain formica-counter. Clever lad. I see only one non-Flemish move I can make, and that is 3. Sorrento. No sense in coming back from Sorrento to a dead cat, after all.

Comment by GM Topov: Surfnsuds is correct that Austin fell into my trap, and he will need to obtain a wild status before clearing the third interposition from the north in order to advance. I suspect that he was thinking of the old International Grand Prix variation of 1818, but remember that we're playing with the Extended Prague Version of 1928 in which the Molinger's First Strategem only comes into effect after move 10! This rule change was designed to discourage moves like the one Austin has played, but perhaps he has developed a modern refutation of the strawberry line, and found a way to avert the triangle lock. We'll see.

GM Topov: Surfnsuds move "Sorrento" is rather intriguing, and I'm somewhat at a loss how I'm going to be able to get the axial base without giving up more than three tokens! I'm tempted to go for a slow and strategic move by building up my stock and tagging a no-spin move and settling on Crete. Don't forget that with this International Grand Prix Variation, the London line is usually only in play in the closing stages, and most players opt for safe international moves that develop the outward flank and encourage an inverted finish by colour. But since we are still in green mode, I'll hope for a trump to emerge soon, and that will at least force Berne in two, with all players calling royal. So, here's my move, aiming straight for the center of the Grand Prix board: 4. Monaco.

Comment by GM Topov: This move extinguishes any future possibility of the game developing along the lines of the infamous Reverse French Defense that was unsuccessfully played in the semi-finals of the 1932 Paris Festival Championship.

Austin: 5. Brands Hatch.

Comment by GM Topov: Brands Hatch is a thoroughly questionable move, and arguably an illegal one in the third sub-variation. If it is legal, then Austin is going to be in hutch for the next six moves! Does he really want to be in hutch, especially when the west diagonal is in line with the vertical flank? It's pretty critical, because in green mode it is impossible to use the blocking defence, and so Austin is wide open for a Pleno Squeeze, which is immediately fatal for all junior players! Either that or his left connection is vulnerable to a hole-in-one, which can be inflicted any time a caddy wild is turned up! He could lose his chance for a circular screwdriver for good! But it's his choice, perhaps he has found that refutation I was talking about earlier, and if so, I look forward to seeing it!

GM Topov: Since Austin is allowing me to control the desert, I will play: 6. Cairo, Egypt. There, take that!

Comment by GM Topov: Now I am safe from the meteorological hazard, and only have the lateral pattern to worry about before zeroing the star.

Harold: I think I have it - Gregory is a pseudonym - I have unmasked you as DeSelby, made famous by Flan O'Brien in "The Third Policeman", an MC Grand Master and all-round crack-pot! You it was who discovered that night is caused by the shadows coming out from under the trees! I recognise the audacity of your move 6. As Europe is currently flimed, I can counter you with: 7. Aral Sea

Comment by GM Topov: Superb play here by Harold, beautifully taking advantage of the fact that Austin is still in hutch for the next few moves. And as for Gregory being a pseudonym, Harold is more correct than he realizes, although the allusion to my scientific thesis on nocturnal greenery has been the subject of media speculation for some time already.

GM Topov: The Aral Sea move has the advantage of immediately quenching the domestic factor, plus it forces all players to rely on their industrial cards for determining the social operative factor when deciding which wheel to spin. I usually go for the upper wheel myself when the Aral Sea is played, but I'm feeling adventurous today, and will opt for the intermediate back-link to headquarters, invoking the tri-way clause, and putting three pegs in the nest for the endgame. So...I play: 8. Berlin.

Comment by GM Topov: Planning, of course, to play Brussels as the next move, and hoping for a Domestic Import card.

surfnsuds: 9. Mare Humorum. I thought it was just a funny horse...

Comment by GM Topov: I was thoroughly shocked after this move, and at this point of the game I was thinking: Mare Humorum? You have got to be kidding! A lunar module move is one thing, but Mare Humorum? Don't you realize that the impact basin has been flooded by lava, and the resulting fractures have made the lunar surface bend, preventing bi-polar transport? I don't think that the International Grand Prix rules allow such a move at this stage of the game, certainly not while the flux factor remains at only 3! Fellow players, if I am mistaken, please correct me, if possible providing documentation from the 35th edition of the "Elementary Guide to Mornington Crescent for Intermediate Players." May I would humbly suggest that you retract this move, take two penalty points, go straight to Moscow and do not pass America? Note also that your red departure token must be surrendered to the player on your right, and your transport card must be exchanged with one at the top of the pile.

GM Topov: Are you retracting your previous move? If there are no objections from other players, I guess we don't need to insist on your surrendering your red departure token to the player on your right (you may need that token in the event of someone enforcing a universal transport strike from a South American location), but we can allow you to make an alternate move.

Comment by GM Topov: Generally in this stage of the International Grand Prix Variation, most players opt to play moves on well-known cities throughout the world, trying to make a stealthy approach toward the control of the attack quadrant, and only zeroing on Mornington Crescent when it is possible to safely play Heathrow. While in tower mode, the terminal must be labelled "vulnerable" until the coaxial bonds get released, but the status of the north east deflection makes that rather unlikely at this point, at least not for a few moves. My personal recommendation for a move at this stage of the game would be to consider playing a move somewhere in Africa, trying to control the industrial mine in anticipation of obtaining a crop rotator to activate another hutch that will keep Austin in triangular lock.

Austin: Ahh... I see an opportunity here: 10. Camden Lock (i.v.). Get out of that if you can!

Comment by GM Topov: Very interesting, but a little premature, particularly since Austin is still in hutch, and the exclusive use option is still open.

surfnsuds: Bear in mind my handicaps. I am a novice at the game, an American, and a drunk musician. Surely I don't need to hand over my red tokens? I lost my pick and need them for a gig tonight. I'll probably lose them too, but should be able to get through the first set at least. 11. Loch Lomond .

Comment by GM Topov: Inverting the neutral zone. Although he humbly designates himself a "novice", this brilliant move from surfnsuds would not even be considered by players below the master level.

GM Topov: I am exchanging my Greenland token for a "free transfer" card, and using it to move Austin from Cambden Lock to immediate obscurity in Bagui, capital of the Central African Republic. The capitalist venture requirement should keep his verification icon closed for some time I should think, not to mention the editorial gazette policy which limits migration from Africa. Meanwhile, I myself will play: 12. Paris, France! Stop me if you dare!

Comment by GM Topov: This threatens an immediate chunnel attack on the eastern wing, with the potential for a traditional Brussels in three.

loco61: 13. Chalk Farm. A predictable move I know, but keeping the pressure on, and am not sure how you will get out of this now.

Comment by GM Topov: Chalk Farm was indeed a predictable move if you follow the old Egyptian school, but the fourth Lateran convention of scholars in 1922 found a comprehensive refutation of this pyramidic line, by discovering that when the total number of tokens from all players are assimilated in an anti-clockwise direction, the player at Chalk Farm is immediately subject to a storm water penalty!

GM Topov: I have discovered my own refutation of the Chalk Farm line however, involving a bovine control hitch, which drains the milk supply south of France. So from Paris, I will call an Eiffel step according to the Davis rule (one of my favorites!), and press forward over the plain using the Rhine, and play the following move: 14. Marseilles, France.

Comment by GM Topov: All players are now required to hand in their gourmet pass, and the player with a lepidoptera card must relinquish his bladder control device into the common pool. Dialectical German is forbidden for one move, and the Polish sausage must be served within a consecutive set of three.

surfnsuds: My gourmet pass was invalid anyway, as I had attempted to use it to acquire lutefisk. More the fool I. Lacking also the perquisite braunschweiger, I now needs must appeal to the dinner rule for permission to attempt the crescent wench. Let it rain. 15. Tubamancha.

Comment by GM Topov: Ahh, a very subtle move by surfnsuds to play Tubamancha. I hadn't anticipated that at all, because I thought the lads from Bogeda Bay had perfected its requisite jibe by limiting it to waist deep, size 10 only! I suppose the cat might be lucky if you get a downwind ripple, but wouldn't the protected breaker make it damp, and reduce the risk of leeching surf? Let the arbiter decide, especially since there are local by-laws about spitting tobacco on rainy days to consider. But if surfnsuds does successfully attempt the crescent wench, I may just have blundered by making the Eiffel step according to the Davis rule a little earlier. Consequently I may need to resort to employ the services of a French chef specializing in boiled udder of sea cows to extricate myself from this difficult position, in order to placate the cat and produce left trump after the northern coalition calms the eastern suds.

GM Topov: For now let me secure the essence of almond by playing the ostensibly cautious coastal guard, and make the closing stages of this game into a real cliffhanger: 16. Cardiff.

Comment by GM Topov: In hindsight, perhaps playing Brighton was a more solid move, with the reverse territorial in effect according to the rule of evens.

surfnsuds: Calling your bluff, then. 17. Diamond Head.

Comment by GM Topov: Diamond Head typically does follow Cardiff, although Bogeda Bay would have been a promising option too. The amendments adopted after the Manley Cup Championship in 1979 do allow both moves, although transversing an orange node may be inevitable now. I will call for a coathanger half-twist, with post-dinner drinks having to wait until the full-twist is accomplished. Drunken sheep south of the river generally make a poor flock anyway, especially when wet, so I prefer to shepherd the grass on the other side of the fence where the nodes are greener, the food is faster, and my quartz chances are greater.

GM Topov: According to the Berlin Codex, I am entitled to trade three transfer cards with the stock at this point, so I will offer up the duke, the bishop, and the nun card, and use these to obtain the coveted pearl of atomic testosterone bonus card in order to build up my secret weapon and teleport with a latitudinal paradigm shift directly into the Pacific. So that brings me to my next surprising move... 18. Pearl Harbour!

Comment by GM Topov: Requires giving up lots of cards, but with definite advantages, especially with the potential of a later rollover.

Mel: Waait!! Iíve had something up my sleeve since Cardiff (yes, painful), and have politely waited the customary one move delay commonly associated with Welsh variations. This is something I rarely bring out. In fact only my wife has seen it recently, but in honour of a venerable station... 19. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

Comment by GM Topov: With my politest and sincerest apologies to Mel, I realized after the game that I should have submitted a legal protest against this move. Despite my passionate love for the church of St. Mary and the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool of the red cave, the transglobal rules are quite clear in their interpretation that names with more than 26 characters are strictly forbidden. I realize that this provision was stricken in the Modern Grand Prix Variation (October, 1999), and that contemporary players may now exceed 67. However, I am of the conviction that we must retain the classical rules of the International Grand Prix Variation and hereby insist on the 26 character maximum. A purist, I know, but rules are rules, especially on weekends. We can't make exceptions for Welsh royalty or wet poodles you know. Mel could have opted for the more less ornate designation "Llanfair", which has the same strategic benefits provided by the hazel trees and whirlpool, yet is within the regulations of the third suffix. I hadn't considered it myself at the time, but upon reflection I realized that this move has potential for a great weather strip as the cloud of hanging begins falling later in the game. If Mel could only obtain a free spotted pig from another player, and purchase a nose piercing kit from Picadilly Circus, and he'd be all set to play "Havishingham Fair" on his next move, forcing the immediate removal of all peanut vendors from the game. But Mel appears to be more than familiar with the delicacies of Welsh variations, so who am I to tell him whether to play the French national anthem or the trombone overture while serenading the pork infested royalty of Venice?

Austin: Invoking 49.3.1: 20. Miles Platting.

Comment by GM Topov: A safety "zugzweitsch" move, making the West playable by default.

Spoke: 21. Shorts Peak.

Comment by GM Topov: Controversial, but it has the advantage of allowing a forward placement in the next turn.

surfnsuds: 22. Long Beach.

Comment by GM Topov: The "Long Beach" move played by surfnsuds means that all the coastal cities are now wild, unless you have the "Shipwreck Hazard Repair" card, which unfortunately I donít have. A clever move, and itís like to have a ripple effect throughout the whole Mediterranean zone, especially for players who have not yet ascended from the orange to the pink Naval button. Spoke has played "Shorts Peak" which is an unusual move at the top of the board. I think "Long Beach" is an excellent and time proven counter to ďShorts PeakĒ, as proven and popularized in French monasteries in the sixteenth century. Friar Pickwick Tuck himself was fond of this move, and actually won the world team championship with it once in the pairs division, while playing with Lord Robin Sherwood. Most grandmasters today think that "Long Beach" is a move for the birds, but if you give the northern avenue two wing tokens and a flute, the holy albatross could come home to roost and scatter the pigeons from the cathedral bell. Spokeís clergymen could find themselves in deep trouble later in the game, because surfnsuds is now a real threat to Irelandís bishop and is all set to play the Winchester Arms attack, or a variation thereof.

GM Topov: The last few moves have drastically altered the direction of this game. When I first looked at the current position, I was rather perplexed about the possibility of developing a winning plan from here. Austinís "Miles Platting" is the move that leaves me most uncertain. Iím tempted to cash in my bonds in exchange for the metric dynamite and so demolish Austinís attempt to secure the hairy imperialism, but with a double six I could lose my own gardening rights on the bottom half of the board. I know itís not done very often, but could I skip a turn here by going to medical school, and in my next turn use my medical diploma to call the chemical warfare alert, by playing Warsaw? That would require all players to take three thrips a day, using oral parsnip only, and to precede with caution under a yellow flag. It doesnít seem to be a bad move, especially because it can be followed by a longitudinal shift, taking advantage of daylight savings time. But Iím not sure itís entirely legal at this stage of the game, because it does mean that the noodle is left hanging, and it reduces the Lloyds inventory to three wing nuts and a plastic chisel, and the Harrods manager with the usual nightmare of unbuttered toast. Now that I think about it, it all sounds rather risky, so I think Iíll just take the normal move that grandmaster Lord Fitsbern-Logan would adopt in this position, by playing the icy: 23. Toronto, Canada.

Comment by GM Topov: Note that this move does change the timewarp of the game two centuries in reverse, because of the Northern Indian reservation factor. So if the next player gets a five and has a trump under nine with a "Forced Convict" card, he can play a turn requiring all players to travel to Botany Bay, Australia, and miss two turns while developing civilization down under. Iím crossing my fingers that he doesnít have this card, because it will severely impede the progress made in the north thus far, especially with the Russian fleet. Note that according to the obtuse pythagoral rule adopted at the London Convention of 1936, the "Forced Convict" card can only be used immediately after a Canadian location, and the player using this card does forfeit his terminal rights until another player posts a new airport.

Harold: 24. Botany Bay.

Comment by GM Topov: Harold does have the trump! I had not anticipated the playing of the "Forced Convict" card, since it was such a remote possibility. Combined with Austin's brilliance in controlling the laterals in the closing stages, this is clearly the surprising move that cost me any chance of winning the game, by making it impossible for me to secure a white token.

Spoke: Sorry Gregory, you have great sources about the game, but here you had mixed up something when you wrote that Long Beach is an excellent and time proven counter to Shorts Peak, as proven and popularized in French monasteries in the sixteenth century. For sure, surfnsuds meant another Long Beach, in the States, while Friar Pickwick Tuckís "Long Beach", as a matter of fact, is the Long Beach in France, nowadays known as "Silver Coast" (Cote d'Argent), west from Bordeaux. I have seen the move 'Silver Coast' last on the Tucks-Memorial Tourney in 1997, held nearby this coast at Chateau Margeaux. Iím sure that under this circumstances we can't allow the forced convict card, because Toronto was an impossible move! We should better go on from here now: 25. Chateau Margeaux (20th century).

Comment by GM Topov: The Long Beach phenomenon has been much debated in the pages of Mornington Journal Monthly (see Vol. LXX, No. 3-7), so I refer readers to the excellent discussions, particularly the insightful historical analysis by Jean Michel LeFleur.

Harold: 26. Hunter Valley.

Comment by GM Topov: This allows Austin to avoid the conjoined loop for the second consecutive turn!

Mel: 27. Jacob's Creek.

Comment by GM Topov: According to Parker's amended Second Principle, naturally.

surfnsuds: Invoking the temporal/geometrical clause in the third codicil to the rules of 1918 (US version), I play a historical subway station on the first subway system in the US. The station still exists, with a new name; however MC buffs will appreciate the tension created by the last play and this, with a smile of recognition of a similar gambit played in early 1957 (at the height of Cold War tension) by the Russian ambassador to the US. The play that day was "Petrograd" as a response to the US's nearly illegal "Serpent Mound". The teeming millions listening to the match breathlessly on their home radios wondered if this, then, was to be the straw that broke the camel's back. However, the bombs stayed in the bomb-bays and the missiles in their silos. However, can it be entirely coincidence that a mere month or two later, Sputnik was launched? I think not. Let us hope that this next move sparks no similar antagonism. In the spirit of International harmony, then: 28. Scolly Square.

Comment by GM Topov: Playing Moscow here indeed lead to a quick loss, since a double would prevent a transverse at this stage of the game, and require the application of a penalty point.

Mel: 29. Barnoldswick.

Comment by GM Topov: Completely unexpected! Usually the British Mainline is terminated following a diagonal approach, but not in this case! (see further, "The Elusive Affirmative Diagonal" in chapter 3 of Heinrich Dannemann's Perfecting Your Lateral Development in Advanced Mornington Crescent, 1925).

Austin: 30. Horton-in-Ribblesdale (via Pen-y-ghent)... phew!

Comment by GM Topov: The stunning beginning of a brilliant combination, fully utilizating the temporary out-of-bounds restriction!

Austin: 31. Mornington Crescent!

Comment by GM Topov: Even some expert players might miss the subtlety of Austin's stunning winning play. Since Barnoldswick is very rarely played, few players are aware that playing Horton-in-Ribblesdale as the next move while the northen line is not yet assembled and with three red tokens in hand, a bonus move ("Twin Turn Option") is allowed immediately. And since Austin's last move was exactly ten moves earlier, the Rule of Decahydrants is in effect for one turn only (again a very rare phenomenon, last seen in tournament play five years earlier in the French Nationals). This allowed Austin to exercise the Twin Turn Option while being exempt from the Railway Code restriction and use his Nexus Card to perform a bridging maneuver (covering the green) straight to Mornington Crescent! Superb play, and an excellent win that both awed and suprised the public in attendance!

Grandmaster Gregory Topov

Posted Friday - 2004-11-27 - 18:56:32 EST
by Staff Reporter Verdra H. Ciretop in Toronto
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