Morpion Solitaire - Origin

The origin of this game inspired by two older games (Morpion and Solitaire) seems to be unknown, but is at least 50 years old in France.

The oldest testimony that I have found is from Daniel Goffinet, mathematics teacher in Math-Sup and Math-Spé classes at Saint-Etienne, France: he used to play this game in 1962 or 1963, when he was pupil in Première or Terminale classes, at Lycée Paul Valéry in Paris. Unfortunately he doesn't know the origin, he learnt the game from other pupils. At that time, the game was already called "Morpion Solitaire".

Pierre Berloquin in 2008 (Tours 1939 - )
Author of numerous books on games and puzzles. Several of his books are translated in English, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese,...
In May 2010, a paper on Pierre Berloquin was published in Libération, a French newspaper: see here or here.

Even if we don't know the origin of the game, we know the person at the origin of its success: many thanks to Pierre Berloquin, responsible for the large success of this game in France during the 70s. I played myself, and other students too, when I was in Math-Sup and Math-Spé during some boring lessons (hmmm... no, I will not tell who the boring teachers were!). At that time, he was the author of a regular column named "Jeux et Paradoxes" published in the French monthly magazine Science & Vie He presented new grids in his column as soon as a new record was found by a reader: from the first record of Millington given in the issue of April 1974 to the last record of Bruneau in April 1976. This last grid published in Berloquin's column was the world record of the standard 5T game, up to August 2010.

Pierre Berloquin does not know the origin of the game, he probably learnt it from Bernard Lemaire who sent him the first record grid done in 1972 by C. W. Millington, Manchester. On the origin of the variants, all invented after the standard 5T game:

If you know a published reference before 1974, or if you played this game before 1962, send me a message! The origin of this game is a mystery...

  Thanks to Michel Criton, Tangente (mathematical French magazine) and to Jean-Paul BardoulatBGV (bulletin of the APMEP, French association of mathematics teachers): respectively in their March-April 2008 and July 2011 issues, the readers were asked to send their testimony. But unfortunately, nothing has been received on the origin, or on any earlier reference.

Origin of the words

Two French names:

Morpion and Solitaire are two games which existed separately, before the Morpion Solitaire:

See also the page Why "morpion" for the game? Five hypothesis (sorry, only in French, titled: Pourquoi "morpion" pour le jeu ? Cinq hypothèses !)

Oldest known papers

If I am right, there are eight columns in which Pierre Berloquin wrote on the game in 70's, in his "Jeux et Paradoxes" column of Science & Vie. He mainly called the game "Morpion Solitaire", or sometimes "Automorpion":

The eight nice covers of Science & Vie, from 1974 to 1977, containing articles on Morpion Solitaire
Thanks to Hervé Poirier, editor, for his authorization.

Science & Vie, April 1974: first known paper on the Morpion Solitaire, by Pierre Berloquin
(click on the images to enlarge them, or download the PDF file, 2.4Mb)

Some years later, Michel Brassinne wrote a paper in the disappeared French magazine Jeux & Stratégie, mainly using results previously published by Berloquin. This paper was followed by two short postscripts:

Thanks to Michel Brassinne who has autorized me to scan his publications of 1982:

Jeux & Stratégie, August-September 1982: paper on Morpion Solitaire, by Michel Brassinne
(click on the images to enlarge them)

Jeux & Stratégie, the two postscriptums are marked here in yellow
(click on the images to enlarge them)

Pierre Berloquin published a ninth column on the game in Science & Vie. In this paper, published several years after his first eight columns (listed above), no record grid was given, only a reminder of the rules:

And in his recent book "Le Berloquin des jeux de table", among rules of more than 130 games, he presents those of Morpion Solitaire page 29. And is mentioned, thanks Pierre!

"Le Berloquin des jeux de table" (2008 Editions de l'Archipel, and 2010 Editions Marabout)

© Christian Boyer,