Chris Haney: Co-creator of Trivial Pursuit

A 1979 game of Scrabble led Chris Haney, picture editor of the Montreal Gazette, and his friend Scott Abbott, a sports journalist with the Canadian Press news agency, to come up with their own board game. Trivial Pursuit, launched two years later, was described by Time magazine as "the biggest phenomenon in game history".

The pair wanted to create an alternative to Scrabble and, within an hour, devised a game with a six-spoked, circular board and six categories of trivia question, each designated by a coloured segment – arts and literature (brown), science and nature (green), entertainment (pink), geography (blue), history (yellow) and sports and leisure (orange). Participants would win the relevant coloured, pie-shaped wedge on getting a correct answer – and then aim to get a complete set of six.

Haney, who stood at more than 6ft tall, wore jeans, smoked and had a habit of twirling his handlebar moustache, hoped that commercial success would enable him to finance travels to Europe by ship, because he had a fear of flying. The success of the game far outstripped his initial ambition: Trivial Pursuit had sold more than 100 million units by the time Hasbro paid $80m to buy the rights to the game in 2008.

Born in Welland, Ontario in 1950, Haney dropped out of high school at the age of 17. His father, a radio newsreader, helped him to find a job in the picture department of the Canadian Press.

In 1975, Haney was assigned to its Montreal bureau to organise coverage of the 1976 Olympics. There he met Abbott, who three years later sketched out the idea for their board game when Haney, by then working for the Montreal Gazette, decided it should be about trivia. Haney's idea for the title was Trivia Pursuit, but his first wife, Sarah – with whom he had three children – suggested adding an "l".

Haney and Abbott took on two partners, Haney's brother John and a lawyer friend Ed Werner, and, to finance the manufacture and distribution, they sold shares to 32 people. Haney, who was known as "Horn", soon gave up his newspaper job and, with his brother, wrote 6,000 questions.

Their business, Horn Abbott, launched Trivial Pursuit in Canada in November 1981. The following year, the game was marketed in the US and it soon became a worldwide success. The original Genus Edition was followed by the Silver Screen Edition, with questions solely about films.

The entrepreneurs survived two legal challenges to their idea. In 1984, Fred L Worth, an American air traffic controller-turned-author, unsuccessfully tried to sue, claiming that many questions and answers were taken from his books, The Trivia Encyclopedia (1974), The Complete Unabridged Super Trivia Encyclopedia (1977) and Super Trivia Vol II (1981).

Worth was convinced that he would win the case because a deliberately wrong answer in those books – planted for the very purpose of catching out plagiarists – appeared in Trivial Pursuit. "What's Columbo's first name?" the board game asked about the television detective, giving the incorrect answer as "Philip". However, the lawsuit never came to trial, thrown out by Southern California's federal district court on the grounds that the defendants admitted using Worth's books – and many others – to find their questions and answers. The court decided that this was acceptable research, as opposed to one single source being plagiarised.

In 1988, following an appeal, the US Supreme Court ruled that Trivial Pursuit was "substantially different" from Worth's books because the game's facts were presented in categories on randomly picked cards, whereas the books listed them alphabetically.

Haney, Abbott and their business partners also survived a 1994 claim by a Canadian who said that he had outlined the trivia game idea to Haney when given a lift as a hitchhiker. Legal wrangling continued for 13 years, until the Nova Scotia Supreme Court finally threw out the lawsuit.

In 1990, Haney – who enjoyed playing golf – invested some of his profits into the Devil's Pulpit in Ontario, which became one of Canada's top golf courses. Two years later came another course, the Devil's Paintbrush.

Until his death, Haney enjoyed spending winters in Marbella, latterly with his second wife, Hiam.

Anthony Hayward

Christopher Haney, newspaper picture editor and board-game inventor: born Welland, Ontario 9 August 1950; married twice (two sons, one daughter); died Toronto 31 May 2010.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?