Mind Sports Olympiad
Tournament information
SportGames of mental skill
LocationLondon, England

The Mind Sports Olympiad (MSO) is an annual international multi-disciplined competition and festival for games of mental skill and mind sports by Mind Sports Organisation. The inaugural event was held in 1997 in London with £100,000 prize fund[1] and was described as possibly the biggest games festival ever held.[2]

The MSO was the first event of its kind[3] celebrating mental skills and awarding gold, silver and bronze medals for each event[4] and was highly influential on the mind sports movement and competitions that have followed since. The main MSO tournament has been held every year in England.[5][6]

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time, the entire MSO tournament was held online.[7]


The first Mind Sports Olympiad was held in London's Royal Festival Hall in 1997. It brought together an unprecedented number of strategy games and events. William Hartston in The Independent said, "The biggest gamesfest ever to hit these (or perhaps any other) shores".[2]

The inaugural MSO along with a very large number of games, introduced two new events of their own creation the Pentamind and the Decamentathlon. These were two events to parallel the multi-event games in athletics of the modern pentathlon and the decathlon. This was part of the ambition to create an Olympics of the mind.

The Mind Sports Olympiad returned to London with sponsorship in both 1998[8] and 1999.[9] Despite a falling out between the organisers[10] a successful event was held in Alexandra Palace the next year in 2000.[11]

During this time several satellite events were held around the world bearing the Mind Sports Olympiad name. These have occurred in Cambridge, England;[12] Singapore;[13] Seoul, South Korea;[14] Milan, Italy;[15] Oulu, Finland;[16] and Prague, The Czech Republic.[17]

The Mind Sports Olympiad main event continued to happen with smaller sponsorship and the tournaments were held at a number of different universities. The event was still going strong for the years 2001–2006.[18] The main 2004 event featured a separate event for schools, featuring competitions and activities in chess, Go, quizzes and intelligence puzzles. But in 2007 the Mind Sports Olympiad was reduced to a much smaller venue in Potters Bar due to no sponsorship and no advertising.[5] In 2008 the MSO saw a revival, returning to a central London venue, the Royal Horticultural Halls, Westminster and again on 21–31 August 2009[19]

The 2010 event was held at the Soho Theatre in London.[20] In 2011, the Mind Sports Olympiad moved to a bigger venue, the University of London Union.[21] The 16th MSO took place once again at the University of London Union in 18–27 August 2012, and similarly the 17th MSO was also at ULU.[6]

The main MSO event[6] remains truly international,[22] because it is still regarded as the foremost competition for all-rounders especially the "coveted Pentamind World Championship",[6] won in 2010 by Paco Garcia De La Banda from Spain,[23] while the 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016 Pentamind World Champion Andres Kuusk is from Estonia.[24]

Structure of the organisation

Main article: Mind Sports Organisation

When the MSO was initially formed in 1997, the main organisers included David Levy, Tony Buzan, and Raymond Keene[1] with David Levy being the original founder of the MSO concept.[25]

As of 2012 the board running the MSO along with David Levy[20] are Tony Corfe[26] and Etan Ilfeld[20]

Logo, medals, and awards

Ancient Greek hoplites playing a board game, c. 520 BC, similar to image used as basis of MSO logo[27]

The Olympiad's logo depicted Ajax playing Achilles, used for their medals and awards[27][28] is based upon the famous depiction found on over 150 items of ancient pottery from around 500 BC .[29] Probably based either on an item from The British Museum[30] or Vatican Museum collections.[31]

Alongside bestowing titles of Olympiad and World Champions, the MSO organisers originally envisaged having their own ratings and ranks system, however, not all of these ideas came to pass. The MSO continues to give its own ranks of up to International Grandmaster.[28]


Players at the 2014 Mind Sports Olympiad

The Mind Sports Olympiad main event was at large venues for the first four years before being reduced in size due to funding difficulties.[21] It has been held annually since 1997 at the following locations in England:

  1. 1997 Royal Festival Hall, London[4]
  2. 1998 Novotel Hotel, Hammersmith[32]
  3. 1999 Kensington Olympia, London[33]
  4. 2000 Alexandra Palace, London[11]
  5. 2001 South Bank University, London[34]
  6. 2002 Loughborough University, Loughborough[21]
  7. 2003 UMIST, Manchester[25]
  8. 2004 UMIST, Manchester[35]
  9. 2005 Manchester University, Manchester[36][37]
  10. 2006 Westminster University, London[38]
  11. 2007 United Reformed Church, Potters Bar[5]
  12. 2008 Royal Horticultural Halls, London[39]
  13. 2009 Royal Horticultural Halls, London[19]
  14. 2010 Soho Theatre, London[20]
  15. 2011 University of London Union, London[40]
  16. 2012 University of London Union, London[6]
  17. 2013 University of London Union, London
  18. 2014 JW3, London
  19. 2015 JW3, London
  20. 2016 JW3, London
  21. 2017 JW3, London
  22. 2018 JW3, London
  23. 2019 JW3, London
  24. 2020 Held online
  25. 2021 Held online
  26. 2022 JW3, London
  27. 2023 JW3, London

Games at the MSO

The MSO consists mainly of single event competitions most of which are for the nominal title of Olympiad champion, though some trademarked games are authorised by the game designer and publishers as the official world championships. All games, whether an Olympiad or the official World championship, can count towards the Pentamind. Medals, and more recently trophies, are awarded for gold, silver and bronze positions in each competition as well as ranks, with similar awards for the top juniors in each event. In early Olympiads sponsorship allowed for generous financial prizes to go with many of the events. In recent years such prizes have been limited to a small number of events, usually as a result of specific outside sponsorship for that discipline.

Notable games include (most other references mention some of these):[41] the well-known: chess, bridge, draughts, shogi, backgammon, Chinese chess (xiangqi), Othello, poker, cribbage, Mastermind; and many newer games like: Abalone, Bōku, Continuo, Entropy, Kamisado,[42] Lines of Action (LOA), Octi,[43] Pacru,[44] TwixT


This was one of the Mind Sports Olympiad's original events.[4] It was an attempt along with the decamentathlon to produce an event for all-rounders to parallel the Olympic Games with its events the decathlon and pentathlon. Unlike the decamentathlon's fixed format (see separate article) the pentamind has very little fixed format. It disallows using games that are considered too similar and normally requires a long event, but otherwise any five events from the schedule could be used.

The Pentamind champion is the player with the highest numerical score in "pentamind points" from 5 valid events. This is calculated using the formula 100 x (n - p) / (n - 1), where n is the number of players and p is the player's position in an event.[18] The position is the position before tie-breaks and any split positions are shared amongst all of the tied players. When there are fewer than 10 players in a tournament, the score is multiplied by a secondary factor [p / (p + 1)].

The World Championship Pentamind event has been won five times by Demis Hassabis, Ankush Khandelwal and Andres Kuusk.[45]

Decamentathlon World Championships

Main article: Decamentathlon

The Decamentathlon World Championship was originally established as the main event to determine the best all-round games player in the world before being superseded by the Pentamind. The Decamentathlon comprises 10 events scored out of 100, lasting 4 hours largely consisting of examined papers.[1]

The following eight mental skills have always been part of the Decamentathlon: memory skills, mental calculation, IQ, chess, Go, Othello, 8 by 8 draughts, and creative thinking. MSO also organizes Mental Calculation World Championship separately. The original two mental skills were bridge and Mastermind,[1] although these have varied in recent years using Backgammon and most recently Sudoku as substitutes.

Abstract Games World Championships

The MSO introduced the Abstract Games world championship in 2008.[49]

World Amateur Poker Championships

The first world amateur poker championships was held in 1998 as part of the second Mind Sports Olympiad.[50] The inaugural event was criticised for the standard of the play[51] and for the events unique feature as only being played for medals and not for money. However, since the poker internet revolution the event continued to flourish with increased numbers.[18] The event also is open to under 18s which the MSO also gives a title since money doesn't change hands[52]

The 2012 tournament consists of the best results from 5 of 7 pot limit poker tournaments in the following variants[53]

And formerly also featured other variants such as:[54]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Mind Sports Olympiad Supplement, The Times, 11 August 1997, online version available from studiogiochi MSO archives [1] Archived 28 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b William Hartston, The South Bank Brain Show, The Independent 21 June 1997. Retrieved 2 August 2009
  3. ^ Mind Sports Olympiad, The Manila Standard, 17 August 1997, [2] retrieved 16 July 2012
  4. ^ a b c The Mind Sports Olympiad Supplement, The Times, July - August 1997
  5. ^ a b c This time it's Personal, The Guardian, Stephen Moss, 27 August 2007, [3] retrieved 12 July 2012
  6. ^ a b c d e Underwater chess is one of the mind games at the Mind Sports Olympiad, The Toronto Star, Josh Tapper, 12 June 2012 [4] retrieved 12 July 2012
  7. ^ "Mind Sports Olympiad is coming soon". Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  8. ^ Sheehan on Bridge, The Times, Robert Sheehan, 20 October 1998
  9. ^ Games: Bridge, The Independent, Alan Hiron, 5 December 1999, [5] Retrieved 2 August 2009
  10. ^ Britain's Mind Games end in debt and tears, The Independent, Robert Mendick, 13 March 2001, [6]. Retrieved 10. September 2016
  11. ^ a b Fierce rivalry in 'Olympics' for brainboxes, CNN, Paul Sussman, 24 August 2000 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 June 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieved 16 July 2012
  12. ^ Uganda: Kampala Wins Gold, AllAfrica.com, Norman Katende, 10 May 2002 [7] retrieved 16 July 2012
  13. ^ MSO (Singapore) 2000 opening speech archived by Ministry of Education (Singapore), [8] retrieved 16 July 2012
  14. ^ "MSO Korean Contest Will be Held on July 22". Korea JoongAng Daily. 14 July 1999. Archived from the original on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link) retrieved 16 July 2012
  15. ^ Shogi results for MSO Italy 2000 from shogi.net retrieved 16 July 2012
  16. ^ Mind Sports Festival announcement from chessbanter.com retrieved 16 July 2012
  17. ^ Looking Forward To The Mind Sports Olympiad, Radio Praha, 17 September 2006, Jan Velinger, "Radio Prague - Looking forward to the Mind Sports Olympiad". Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2016. retrieved 2 August 2009
  18. ^ a b c d Cerebral Athletes Play Mind Games, The Guardian, David Ward, 22 August 2005, [9] retrieved 2 August 2009
  19. ^ a b Cheam Man's Mind Bending Puzzles at Mental Olympiad, Sutton Guardian, Kevin Barnesm, 28 August 2009, [10] retrieved 30 April 2011
  20. ^ a b c d Scrabble, Monopoly and more at shul games fest, The Jewish Chronicle, Robyn Rosen, 26 August 2010,[11] retrieved 14 July 2012
  21. ^ a b c Mind Sports Olympiad moves to bigger venue, DigitalJournal.com, Alexander Baron, 3 May 2011, [12] retrieved 15 July 2012
  22. ^ MSO XV Pentamind article from MSO website Archived 22 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 12 July 2012
  23. ^ Paco Garcia De La Banda wins the Mind Sports Olympiad XIV (translated from Spanish), elapuron.com, 11 September 2012, [13] retrieved 16 July 2012
  24. ^ Estonian Mind Athlete Wins World Championship, ERR News, Ingrid Teesalu, 30 August 2011, [14] retrieved 6 September 2011
  25. ^ a b Don's diary: games and gold medals in Mind, Times Higher Education, 17 October 2003, David Levy [15] retrieved 14 July 2012
  26. ^ Mind games tournament under way, BBC Manchester, 19 August 2005, [16]
  27. ^ a b Brain Spotting, The Sunday Times, Richard Johnson, online copy from author's website retrieved 14 July 2012
  28. ^ a b MSO article on ranks and medals including image of medals with logo retrieved 12 July 2012
  29. ^ Exekias, American Journal of Archaeology, John Boardman, 1980, [17]
  30. ^ Etruscan Amphora from The British Museum Collections, [18]
  31. ^ Image of amphora from Vatican Museum from Encyclopædia Britannica [19]
  32. ^ Independent Pursuits: Chess, The Independent, 3 September 1998, Jon Speelman, [20] retrieved 31 July 2009
  33. ^ Robert Nurden. Mental athletes tune up for Mind Games, 22 August 1999. Retrieved 2 August 2009
  34. ^ Chess, The Independent, Jon Speelman, 29 August 2001 archived abstract retrieved 15 July 2012
  35. ^ Meanwhile: Tired already? Try the Mind Olympics, The New York Times, Michael Johnson, 13 August 2004, [21] retrieved 18 July 2012
  36. ^ Mind games tournament under way, BBC Manchester, 19 August 2005 [22] Retrieved 30 April 2011
  37. ^ Manchester Hosts 9th Mind Sports Olympiad, Manchester City Council News, 2 August 2005, [23] retrieved 18 July 2012
  38. ^ Archived poster from British Go Association MSO event 2006 [24] retrieved 15 July 2012
  39. ^ MSO Backgammon results from uk backgammon site [25] retrieved 15 July 2012
  40. ^ Mind Sports Olympiad, Time Out London Magazine, August 2011, [26] retrieved 15 July 2012
  41. ^ List of games, http://www.boardability.com/games_az.html. Retrieved 2 August 2009
  42. ^ Op-Ed: Mind Sports Olympiad 2011 - with chess diving, Digital Journal, 23 August 2011, Alexander Baron, http://digitaljournal.com/article/310713. Retrieved 6 September 2011
  43. ^ 2019 Mind Sports Olympiad Schedule, https://mindsportsolympiad.com/2019-mind-sports-olympiad-schedule/
  44. ^ Mike's test for the old grey matter, Manchester Evening News, Patricia Roberts, 8 December 2005 [27]
  45. ^ MSO pentamind results, http://www.boardability.com/result.php?id=pentamind Archived 8 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 6 September 2010
  46. ^ Estonian Mind Athlete Wins World Championship, ERR News ,30 August 2011, Ingrid Teesalu http://news.err.ee/sports/cced719d-60db-4aa9-a795-a8cc02fe202f retrieved 6 September 2011
  47. ^ Un proyecto de emprendeduría infantil de La Palma recibe respaldo internacional, Que Newspaper, 13 September 2010 [28] Archived 11 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 30 April 2011
  48. ^ Martyn Minds if he holds onto his crown..., Accrington Observer, Stuart Pike, 20 August 2010, [29]. Retrieved 30 April 2010
  49. ^ Article on abstract games world championships, http://www.boardability.com/game.php?abstract_games[permanent dead link], 15 February 2011
  50. ^ Competitions: I think I can, The New York Times, 23 August 1998. Retrieved 12 July 2012
  51. ^ Independent Pursuits: Poker, The Independent, David Spanier, 10 September 1998 [30]. Retrieved 12 July 2012
  52. ^ Amateur World Poker Championship details MSO website [31] retrieved 12 July 2012
  53. ^ MSO 2012 timetable http://www.boardability.com/timetable.php. Retrieved 13 July 2012
  54. ^ MSO Poker http://www.boardability.com/game.php?id=poker Archived 23 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 13 July 2012