The annual Mind Sports Olympiad returned to London this summer and it was great to see numbers growing, and a surprise visit from a Grandmaster…
For those who haven’t been before, MSO is a cornucopia of tournaments lasting just over a week; it features classic games such as Go and Chess, many flavours of poker, resource-trading games, modern abstract games, and mental challenges such as memory and speed calculations. Added to that are several meta-events where would-be contestants have to take part in a range of games accumulating points, and a learn-and-play room for people to try things out in a casual environment. It’s a good opportunity to showcase backgammon to new audiences!
The week features a number of backgammon events – all Swiss tournaments with varying match lengths, plus one for the variant “Plakoto“. Nackgammon was tried last year and although it didn’t get the numbers required to become a regular feature, I’m hoping it will return. It’s interesting to see the range of people who attend – the 1-pointers night mostly attracts the multi-disciplinary players and those who are curious to try backgammon for the first time, through to the premier event, the 11-pointers, which is very much the preserve of the serious players. This year we enticed grandmaster Gaz Owen to play the 4×11 Swiss, and it was a most memorable day for me, denying him the gold medal with a two-hour 11-10 win – with the rest of the tournament watching and waiting for me to finish in order to do the next round draw! I came back down to earth very quickly afterwards, losing the final heavily to Mahmoud Jahanbani, one of MSO’s most regular medallists…
MSO has its own scheme of awarding Grandmaster titles, based on total number of medals won – definitely not to be confused with the BMAB ones! There are also junior medals up for grabs by competitors under 18, provided they finish in the top half of the tournament – sadly none were won this year. The MSO constitution doesn’t allow for prize money for games involving chance, which makes it difficult to attract the bigger names.
Looking to the future, the event could certainly grow by running a Saturday event – the current venue is closed all day – and it would be a good opportunity for anyone who wants to try their hand at directing a tournament, with numbers small enough that the TD can still play and keep everything running smoothly, but big enough to be interesting. MSO is also hoping to expand on its initial experiment in live streaming with commentary by covering more games, including backgammon, next year… again, any volunteers?
4x11pt: Gold Mahmoud Jahanbani, Silver Julia Hayward, Bronze Gaz Owen
6x7pt: Gold Morris Rashty, Silver Saravanan Sathyanandha, Bronze Mahmoud Jahanbani
6x5pt: Gold Dario di Toffoli, Silver Ilke Tuna, Julia Hayward (tied)
8x3pt: Gold Anna Price, Silver Alain Dekker, Bronze Mike Ireland
6x1pt: Gold Piero Zama, Silver Mahmoud Jahanbani, Bronze Marc Tastet
6x1pt Plakoto: Gold Charlotte Levy, Silver Natasha Regan, Bronze Etan Ilfeld
Full medal lists for all games can be found here.