MSO 2017 Begins Next Month

  By VennerRoad, 2nd Jul 2017

The Mind Sports Olympiad was first held in 1997; in spite of setbacks, it is still going strong.

A photo from the recent Korean event.

The first Mind Sports Olympiad was held at the Royal Festival Hall between August 18 and August 24, 1997. The brainchild of chess master and author David Levy, the troubles that it faced after the first four massive London-based events are best forgotten. In 2002, it moved north to Loughborough, its nadir being 2007 when it was held in the Potters Bar church hall of organiser Tony Corfe. It appears to have found a new, permanent home though, at JW3 in North London which will host its fourth MSO in a row next month.

MSO is sponsored by Chess & Bridge, Twickenham Preparatory School, and most thematically, by DeepMind. This latter was founded by neuroscientist Demis Hassabis who is a record five time Pentamind winner. Although commitments in recent years have seen him cut back on his Mind Sports appearances, he is still ranked number 10 among the all-time medal winners. Three places behind him is mental calculations wizard and author George Lane. So what is on offer this year?

First, although there are separate fees for each event, MSO continues to offer an all-you-can-play ticket, which is exactly what is sounds like; this is £120 for adults and £99 for juniors. The venue is easily accessible by train, Underground and bus; there are many facilities in the area, including of course accommodation.

There are five chess tournaments but unlike in the early years of MSO, most of these are not regular tournaments. There is a blitz - always fun; a rapidplay; Chinese chess - a different game; exchange chess - a silly game; and a Fischer Random tournament. If you are not au fait with Fischer Random, it is named after its inventor. Robert Fischer is widely regarded as the greatest chess player who ever lived - for those who haven’t heard of Alekhine. Unfortunately, outside of chess, Fischer was - or became - a horrible person; Fischer Random was a result of his arrogance, although it seems to have caught on.

Like chess, backgammon has long been a staple of MSO; this year there are six tournaments including a plakoto tournament. There are actually many variants of this popular board game; plakoto is a Greek version; the American version - acey-deucey - has yet to make a showing here, but give it time.

The poker tournaments are strictly for fun, and there are many other games old and new. In spite of its name, Puerto Rico is a German game; this has been around only since 2002. Lines Of Action dates back to the 1960s and has long been a staple of MSO. You can check out the full list of games on the official website.

Last year saw nearly thirteen hundred event entries, up on the previous year, with Andres Kuusk picking up the Pentamind trophy. Hopefully this year will see an increase. Although MSO hasn’t fulfilled its early promise, the original London event has inspired and continues to inspire similar events worldwide, including in the Czech Republic, South Korea and New Zealand. Last month, the most recent Korean event attracted over 350 entrants.

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