Your Mornington Crescent Questions Answered

Minski and the Solving of Mornington Crescent

MC grandmaster Gregory Topov's regular column enables readers to submit questions. In this edition of his column, he discusses the solving of one variant of Mornington Crescent.

Much has been written about the possibility of Mornington Crescent being solved. We received the following correspondence from one of our readers, Bob Harris:

I'm pretty sure Mornington Crescent was solved in the early 1960s. Was it Minski?

This popular misconception about Mornington Crescent is true only of one local variation that is now largely obsolete, namely, the American Standard Imperial Variation (A.S.I.V.) which was popular in New York Clubs in the 1930s and 1940s. After the Second World War it lost ground to other variations because of its limited possibilities. The weakness of this Variation was indeed confirmed by Minski solving it in 1964, as part of a post-graduate research project. Not surprisingly, "The Mornington Crescent Compendium" does not regard the American Standard Imperial Variation as an official version of Mornington Crescent, and it is widely perceived to be an inferior mutation of the traditional game.

Another contributor, David Eppstein, also submitted a question related to Minski's work in solving this variation of Mornington Crescent:

There's a small piece about the mathematics of Mornington Crescent in a paper by Anatole Beck and David Fowler collected in Seven Years of Manifold (Ian Stewart and John Jaworski, eds.), p.59. Well, actually they call it Finchley Central but it appears to be the same game. I don't have the original publication date, but it would have been late 1960s or 1970s; perhaps the authors were unaware of Minski's work?

Quite honestly, I was not aware of Beck and Fowler's paper. I inquired at my local bookstore, but unfortunately it seems that the Steward & Jaworski book is out of print and unavailable here in North America so I cannot verify the original publication date. The suggestion that the authors were unaware of Minski's work is entirely possible. Although Minski did solve the American Standard Imperial Variation of Mornington Crescent (definitely inferior to the traditional Bristish Standard version) as early as 1964 as part of his post-graduate research project, his thesis was only published as late 1969 (Schuster & Schuster, New York). I suppose the publisher thought his thesis lacked credibilility. Further, it took several years for the International Mornington Crescent Foundation to acknowledge Minski's ground breaking work, which they finally did by reviewing his book in the Mornington Crescent Journal, the April 1975 issue I believe. By that time Minski had been institutionalized for substance abuse, and died soon afterwards of a drug overdose. Apparently he never learned that his research was finally being rewarded. In all likelihood, Beck and Fowler's paper was written prior to the book review of 1975, when they were unaware of Minski's work.

Grandmaster Gregory Topov

Posted Friday - 2004-12-07 - 13:44:41 EST
by Staff Reporter Verdra H. Ciretop in Toronto
All Rights Unreserved - Loof Lirpa Publishing
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