Mornington Crescent Rules

Mornington Crescent Rules - Introduction

Much is written about the rules of Mornington Crescent. Some is fantasy; much concerns parlour game variations never played on air; some even claim there are no rules.

Mornington Crescent does have rules - or at least had rules.

As someone who remembers the first radio broadcasts of the game I thought it was about time the record was set straight.

Mornington Crescent Rules

I have never seen a copy of NF Stovold's much vaunted Mornington Crescent: Rules and Origins - I'm not even sure it exists. (If you know otherwise please email and I'll add your information to this web page.) It is said to define not only the rules but also the variations that have evolved over the years. Quite why a whole book is needed to document such a simple game I can't imagine.

Some say when the game was first played it was based on the 1952 pocket A-Z and a simple formula dictating to which pages one could move and to which pages one could not move. The art of the game was to make a move that made it impossible (ideally) to move to one of the pages on which Mornington Crescent appeared on the next move or in three moves time, or even in five moves time (brains of a Grand Master required!) - i.e. to stop the opposition arriving at Mornington Crescent.

The original (in) joke was that listeners were not told what the rules were so had no idea what was going on. Later the panellists realised that since nobody knew what the rules were there was no point sticking to any sort of rules - so they didn't.

The game became a bit of a free for all and players like Willie Rushton invented gambits to justify their departure from the straight and narrow - or should that be the Circle Line. Eventually any rules that might have existed were so often ignored that they fell into total disuse and the game became somewhat surreal.

Recently the idea that there are no rules has gained ground amongst some listeners so it is rumoured that someone, possibly Jon Naismith, is insisting that some sort of rules be followed, if not quite the original rules - yet. So latterly, in an attempt to bring back some structure, before each game you will usually hear the panellists agreeing (loose) rules that will govern the playing of that game.

At the beginning of the series before last the panellists are said to have devised a set of Armitage rules - i.e. guidelines really - which they christened SouthEast (no doubles, no shuffles, no Nidd). They apparently played the first game of the series by their own "rules" and although they seemed to have difficulty remembering any rules (let alone sticking to them) it did re-introduce the in-joke element which amused the panellists. Since the audience seemed to enjoy it too further rounds in the series were played by more or less the same rules.

But since nobody seems to remember the original, simple rules I wonder if it would perhaps be an idea to go back to playing the game as originally intended? Hats off to Jack Dee who is quickly mastering even the more obscure variations with which some of the old hands are trying to bamboozle him (though you might want to brush up on the effect of the Mortimer Variations on Nidd, Jack).

Mornington Crescent - Origins