Looking forward to the 2017 Mind Sports Olympiad, including a Sudoku and Kenken contest

Mind Sports Olympiad medalsOK, I do a post like this one every year, but it’s better than there not being an event to post about. (This year, I’ll even remember to put the tags back in.) If it’s the week before the August Bank Holiday, it’s time for the annual Mind Sports Olympiad. This will be the twenty-first installment of the annual mental-games-and-skills-themed multi-sports festival. This year’s event started on Sunday 21th August and will be running until Monday 28th August and is held at JW3, the London Jewish cultural centre. (Accordingly, there is no play on the evening of Friday 25th or at all on Saturday 26th, being the Sabbath.) This is the first time that the traditionally vagabond festival has stayed in the same location for four years running.

Some people prefer to focus their efforts on a single mind sport at the highest level they can attain, others take a much broader view that it’s more fun to compete at many different games, and the Mind Sports Olympiad is a great place for those who take the second viewpoint. This web site has a lot of sympathy with the principle. By analogy, some people like only exit games, others only logic puzzle contests, others only cryptic crosswords or mechanical puzzles or geocaching or one of maybe a dozen other things; this site tends to believe that if you like one but haven’t been exposed to the others then it may well be that you turn out to enjoy the others as well.

The most immediately relevant event to readers of this site is the contest in sudoku and kenken (also known as calcudoku – think killer sudoku, but with other mathematical operations as well as addition) on the morning of Sunday 27th August, which this year has £140 of prize money provided by sponsors. However, there are contests in scores of other mind sports as well, plus an open play room with a well-stocked games library open each day. You might well recognise some of the attendees.

Neil Zussman has won the contest for the last two years and Mark Goodliffe won the contest for each of the last two years before that, so expect competition to be fierce – but if the event sounds interesting at all, you can read Mark’s write-up to get a better feel of what it’s like in practice.

Changing the subject a little, but only a little, I touched upon the Mind Sports Olympiad and the topic of getting puzzle events at wider mind sports festivals a few months back in a “How would we get puzzles at the Olympic Games?” post, touching upon hypothetical possible membership of the World Puzzle Federation within the International Mind Sports Association. With this in mind, I note that the IMSA recently put a new set of statues in place. Section 7.2 has a clear checklist of criteria to meet:

  • History – the IF shall be fully operating for a minimum of six years;
  • Universality – the IF must have at least 40 national federations on at least 4 continents and be not dependent on any specific language;
  • Practicing skilled competitions only – there may be no luck factor in determining the competition outcome;
  • Regularly held national, regional, and international competitions;
  • Well-established rules governing the practice of each sport and mechanism to ensure the application of the rules;
  • Clear and consistent criteria of the eligibility for competitions;
  • Compliance with the General Principle of the Olympic Charter and with the IOC Code of Ethics;
  • Compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency anti-doping code;
  • Adoption of the principle of the arbitration of the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS).

There’s also a section 10 about potential “Associate Member” status, and I reckon that the WPF could take Associate Membership up almost straight away if it wanted to, not being too far from ticking all the boxes above. It’s fun to think about other mind sports which might or might not choose to apply; Scrabble is arguably the most obvious omission from the IMSA, possibly requiring some duplicate format to get around the “no luck factor” stipulation, but the “universality” criterion could be argued to have been directly aimed at the World English Language Scrabble® Players Association and its counterparts.

Section 10.4 of the IMSA statues reads An associate member shall contribute to the IMSA finance by payment of its annual dues and other charges as deemed necessary by the Executive Committee, and that perhaps might be the most convincing reason for the WPF not to join…!

How would we get puzzles at the Olympic Games… or something like it?

International Mind Sports Association logo (presumably their copyright)This is a post I’ve been working on in the background, on and off, for a while; every time we discuss competitions, especially international championships, it comes back to mind.

The direct answer to the question is that it would seem vanishingly unlikely to ever get puzzles at the Olympic Games before other mind sports: games like chess, bridge, go and so on. It’s a subject that has been raised in the past by these mind sports’ governing bodies, but there has never been substantial progress on this front. (The highest-profile examples of mind sports at a festival of otherwise physical sports that I can find is that chess has had a couple of appearances at the Asian Games and the Universiade.) So let’s focus on the “…or something like it” instead, where there may be more to consider than you think.

(This is a long old piece; not far off three thousand words, hence the cut.) Continue reading

Looking forward to the 2015 Mind Sports Olympiad, including a Sudoku and Kenken contest

Mind Sports Olympiad medalsIf it’s the week before the August Bank Holiday, it’s time for the annual Mind Sports Olympiad. This will be the nineteenth installment of the mental-games-and-skills-themed multi-sports festival. You know how the Olympic Games have some of the world’s most prestigious contests in many different physical sports? The principle behind the Mind Sports Olympiad was to try to emulate that for brain games. The budget has never really been there to attain this at the very top level, but the event has kept going year after year and developed its niche.

Some people prefer to focus their efforts on a single mind sport at the highest level they can attain, others take a much broader view that it’s more fun to compete at many different games, and the Mind Sports Olympiad is a great place for those who take the second viewpoint. This web site has a lot of sympathy with the principle. By analogy, some people like only exit games, others only logic puzzle contests, others only cryptic crosswords or mechanical puzzles or geocaching or one of maybe a dozen other things; this site tends to believe that if you like one but haven’t been exposed to the others then it may well be that you turn out to enjoy the others as well.

This year’s event runs from Sunday 23rd August to Monday 31st August and is held at JW3, the London Jewish cultural centre. (Accordingly, there is no play on the evening of Friday 28th or at all on Saturday 29th, being the Sabbath.) The most immediately relevant event to readers of this site is the contest in sudoku and kenken (also known as calcudoku – think killer sudoku, but with other mathematical operations as well as addition) on the morning of Sunday 30th August, which this year has £140 of prize money provided by sponsors. However, there are contests in scores of other mind sports as well, plus an open play room with a well-stocked games library open from 10am to 10pm each day.

Mark Goodliffe has won the contest for each of the last two years, so expect competition to be fierce – but if the event sounds interesting at all, you can read his write-up to get a better feel of what it’s like in practice. Perhaps the World Athletics Championships taking place at the moment are putting you in a competitive mood!

All the news: hunts, contests and more

NewspaperThe site has been slow recently due to a nasty case of moving house. If you can stay put somewhere for a long time, it’s a wonderful thing. Still, these are decisions that have to be taken as a family, and you’ve got to go where the work is. Nobody came here for ranting on renting, either, so on to the news.

There are a couple of new hunts listed in the calendar, as Treasure Hunts in London have announced a hunt in historic Chingford and a second with the title “Drink to me only”, both coming up in September.

Past events are not lost to the mists of time but are stored in the calendar archive, and it’s worth following up a couple of events listed there. Mark Goodliffe did the double of winning the puzzles (sudoku and Kenken) competition at this year’s Mind Sports Olympiad and also the recent finals of the Times Sudoku championship, putting him commandingly atop the hypothetical money list for 2014. All three podium positions in both events were taken by UK Puzzle Association members; congratulations all round!

Previously this site also covered the recent puzzle hunt at the Manorcon board games convention; further to that, this site thoroughly recemmends the recent Snoutcast episode that featured an interview with hunt organiser Annie Percik. Snoutcast episodes are habitually excellent, and about 85% of them focus on puzzle hunts; in previous years, the podcast racked up 200 near enough weekly episodes, and this year the podcast has gone to a focus on monthly(-ish) interviews, focusing on women who make puzzles. Strongly recommended.

Lastly, you might notice a revamping of the blogroll at the right, for this site is in the fortunate position of having so many great blogs to link to that it’s worth categorising them for ease of use. A new Toronto Room Escape blog has got off to an excellent start, and Intervirals has added some forums, of a type that the hobby does not currently have, that may well take off over time.

Sudoku and Kenken contest at the 2014 Mind Sports Olympiad

Mind Sports Olympiad medalsThe puzzle contest calendar rolls on; this weekend sees the sixth and final online leg of the World Puzzle Federation’s Puzzle GP, this one being the Turkish round. The instruction booklet is available; 15 puzzles to solve in your chosen 90-minute slot this weekend, with a suggestion that these may be rather easier to solve than some of the earlier rounds of the contest. (Thumbs up for that!)

The overall contest leaderboard has Hideaki Jo of Japan leading, with Japanese and German solvers taking the top six places. As only the best five scores from the six legs count, there’s still plenty of time for things to change; while the top five can only hope to replace their weakest score with a better one, nine-time World Champion Ulrich Voigt has only played four legs so far and may well replace a zero with another very high score. In any case, the top ten names on the leaderboard will be invited to the 23rd World Puzzle Championship, in London in August, to play off in a live final for the overall Grand Prix championship.

News reaches this site that there will be a contest in Sudoku and KenKen at the 18th annual Mind Sports Olympiad. “This year’s Mind Sports Olympiad will be hosted at JW3, a brand new premises in London situated on Finchley Road close to Swiss Cottage and Hampstead Village.” The puzzle contest takes place in its traditional Friday morning slot: this year, that is 22nd August, from 10:15am to 1:45pm. (The Olympiad at large takes place from Sunday 17th to Monday 25th August, respecting the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday 23rd.)

There is a three-year tradition of this particular format of contest, with Roderick Grafton winning the 2011 event, David Collison the 2012 event and Mark Goodliffe the 2013 event. Discussion of the event at the UK Puzzle Association forums suggest that the attendees generally have a good time. Entries are just £10, or £5 for concessions, and you can register at the JW3 web site.

Some years, the Mind Sports Olympiad has prize money; other years, it does not. This year is one of the better ones, with over £6,000 guaranteed in the prize pool, of which £225 will be split between the three overall medal-winners in the puzzle contest, with prizes of £100, £75 and £50. Well done, and thanks, to this year’s sponsors, Mitsubishi Electric UK and Winton Capital Management.

And speaking of sponsors…