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LONDON - JW3 Finchley Rd.
17-25 August 2014
Mind Sports Olympiad XVIII

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Chronicles/10
25 August 2014
by Dario De Toffoli

Concerning myself, there is not much more to say. On friday Cribbage for the whole day, a typical British card game, that I really love: not too difficult to learn, it perfectly fits in my way of thinking. After last years' invidividual silver medal, this year a silver in the pair event together with Ankush Khandelwahl. A nice day, but this didn't change my Pentamind score at all. 442/500 I was and 442 I stay, against the 446 from last year. But I actually don't really think about this, after saturday's rest, on sunday a play with not much concentration, already happy of my games trip, and so I don't make much more points. But I shouldn't have given up! The bronze medal was very close to me: 447 points. Oh well, it doesn't matter much. What is interesting is the duel that ewnt on for the first two positions. It seemed done for Hathrell, 23 years old, from Coventry, great multi player, not really specialized in any game... I can say that from the "gamer" point of view he is a little bit like me. Since 9 years he participates to the MSO, always getting good results, but never winning. But this year he did a real exploit: 5 gold 4 silver and 3 bronze medals! The fact is that he doesn't have a great scoring in the two "long" tournaments, so he has to calculate a 4th place at Catan and a 3rd place at Agricola. He reaches 476 points... but if it would have been Decamind he would have reached 940 points! He is first, only Kuusk can do better... but he would have to win the two sunday tournaments! He wins the first one since he is very strong at Boku, maybe the best player worldwide. Then Lost cities, where you also need luck and the 20 participants can all play their cards at their best. Luck helps him and he is first together with another player. So he does better than Hathrell, obtaining 478 points (in 2012 i got 489!); the most important game was Hathrells': they made a 1-1 (two turns), and if he would have won he would have won also the Pentamind. It is incredible that just one turn at Lost cities may determine such a prize. That's life! My 442 points (4 silver and 2 bronze medals) made me become 6th, Jameson is 5th (444), Hobemagi 4th (also 444) and Hebbes 3rd (447): four players in just 5 points... would have had to think about earlier!
Now it is over, in a couple hours I'll fly back to Venice.

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Chronicles/9
24 August 2014
by Riccardo Gueci

Othello, GO, Texas, Heads up Hold'em, Lost cities.  From a very hard but positive day yesterday to a soft and smiley day. Othello and GO saw less participants than in the previous year, but the players are all pretty good and have a good level in playing. In Othello, for the third year I got the silver medal. With the winner, Ben Pridmore, there was nothing to do, but I gave him a hard time. The most important game for my position was against Paul Smith, one of the favourite players. He had to think a lot and so he ended up in zeitnot, where I took advantage of the game. Immediately after, playing at GO, even though only 13x13 wasn't that easy. My opponents were too strong for me, so I got beaten. Reading recently that the software ingeneers left Go as a test for computers because it is to complicate for them, didn't confort me very much. Concerning this, let me write down the classification that gives an idea of the complexity of games: Oware: 1011 positions the computer plays perfectly, Droughts 1020 the computer plays perfectly. Othello 1028 the computer plays more than human, Go (9x9) 1038 the computer plays to a professionist player level, Chess 1045 the computer plays more than human, Xiangqi 1048 the computer plays to a professionist player level, Shogi 1070 the computer plays to a professionist player level, Go (19x19) 10172 the computer plays to a strong amateur level. Impressive GO, don't you think? But lets go back to the MSO.  The two last Poker tournaments: Texas and l'Heads up Hold'em. In the first one, yesterday night, I made it to the final table, but two real bad luck episodes threw me out  and made me go home very tired. A little better the next day with the Heads up, in which I won the bronze, which doesn't satisfy me that much because I miss the gold medal for having lost three consecutive times against 3 aces and 2 flushes, and the silver for a tie-break. Oh well... Finally Lost cities,just learned it, and I get a 50%. So I bring home 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze and... 1 wood, which is a good result for me, although nothing for the "captain" Dario De Toffoli that has no gold, but enough silver and bronze to make a 6th place at the Pentamind, only 5 points from the three first positions.

Riccardo Gueci

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Chronicles/8
23 August 2014
by Riccardo Gueci

What an organization improvement in the Bridge Tournament of the Mind Sports Olympiad! Relying intelligently to a well-known club in London everything was perfect, from the tables, the bidding box, the board, the pre-duplicated hands, to the PC and printer with the dedicated program for the tournament, the federal referee, the immediate classifications, well it was really all right and should have been the same for the other tournaments.
Unfortunately, the participants were not many.
I was counting very much on the Bridge tournament. The Italian tradition has a lot of very good players and I think I personally could have done really good. Yes, I am getting there. Bridge is a card game in which you play in pairs and your partner in playing is very important. I had an agreement with Ankush Khandelwal, a good player, considering last year's performance, but at last teamed with another player. He is very sorry about it, but the fact remains: I have no more partner. Very nicely, the referee looks for one. And I have to be happy with whom he finds  The morning session goes quite bad. Then my parrtner has to leave me and gets substituted by the referee's wife, Barbara Kay, finally a "human" Bridge player. So we easily win the second session with a 65%, but adding it to the first session, we don't make it to any medals. We get a fourth place. Too bad. It would have been great to have played with Barbara from the beginning, but it's ok. The winners are Denise Miller and Rob Corrie, the second place goes to the same Ankush with Meelis Kuldkepp, and the third place is for Tige Nnando and Bharat Thakar.

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Chronicles/7
22
August 2014
by Dario De Toffoli

Thursday.
I give up the Rummikub tournament, that for the third consecutive year is winned by Daniele Ferri (great!), and so I choose Acquire, one of my favourite games. A game goes 2 hours (including the preparation), so there are three turns in program, between the morning and the afternoon, but the players are all aficionados and ask for the 4th turn. The referee asks for hand raising votation (all in favour except for one that doesn't vote), so we get one more turn. No lunch brake, everybody tries to do fast thinking and we all help him in the preparation and counting. I didn't reach the final table (I obtained a 5th place), but it has been a great day, because all the players I met were great players and it was fantastic to play at such a good level. A pleasure to use the brain in a better way! Peter Horlock is the winner, Tim Hebbes second, Tony Niccoli third.
Right after a little poker tournament, this time the omaha; I reach the final table (with blinds that were rising every five minutes because we had to finish and leave the building) and I end up 7th losing two consecutive coin flips. At 10:30 pm, after 12 hours of non stop playing, I go out for dinner with Riccardo at the small Tuttobene restaurant, right next to my place.
Friday I show up at the puzzle-solving competition, there is KenKen and Sudoku, I have seen last years' grids and they seem reasonable to me. Moreover, our Giulia Franceschini (that has been sudoku Italian Champion) improved my skills with two half hours of useful training. But... there's always a but. This year the puzzles are much more difficult, because last year too many players had solved everything. There were 9x9 kenken. 16 grids (8 and 8) and 3 hours and a half to solve them. After a couple hours my brain is fused and I start to put the same numbers on the same row, I think I get about 2/3 of the possible points, but there are players that in 3 hours made everything... uhm... why did I try this...; anyway they tell me that I didn't make the last position.
Oh well, one more experience, to add on my cv. But the price to pay for it was high, because I got really tired and didn't do well on the next tournament of the day: Hare & Tortoise. I quit the tournament after the first two rounds. Too bad. Because I really love this game. I have to accept that years pass and even though I can defend myself, my resistance is not the same as before!  :-)
Btw, Matthew Hattrell won again, already collecting his fifth gold medal. But the young Martin Hobemagi (16) is climbing up too, with three gold medals. Last year he had already reached the fifth place at the Pentamind. Very good also Andres Kuusk that definitely schooled this estonian group.
In the evening no tournaments. I join the "committee", promoted also by the coming back of Demis Hassabis, the one that really can make the difference. The (difficult) task for Etan is now to make the initiative grow so that it can recieve a big sponsor (something like Google for example), so that it can then arrive to the deserved success. Attract more players for example by involving the various single games associacions (something that this year has already been done with chess and bridge), let each tournament to reach the quality that it deserves, therefore improving the referees of some disciplines, open to the great publich some game rooms, so that people can learn and try out many games (maybe involving the schools), have an always updated website (it's not hard, there just has to be one responsible person) and more...
We will see, for now it is already something that the MSO exist, so I can keep having fun!
Today a break... on saturday the place remains closed (check out chronicle 1).

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Riccardo (gold) and Dario (bronze) with their Mastermind medals

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Una premiazione

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The "committee" of the Mind Sports Olympiad.
From the left:
- Ankush Khanderwal (UK, born in India, in the Uttar Pradesh)
- Andres Kuusk (Estonia)
- James Vogl (Poker champion (WSOP bracelet) and Backgammon champion)
- Demis Hassabis (that's him!)
- Dario De Toffoli
- Etan Ilfeld (the current organizer of the MSO)
- Martyn Hamer (UK)

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Alain Dekker (Sud Africa) in the middle

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Chronicles/6
21
August 2014
by Dario De Toffoli

Yesterday (Wednesday 20) Mensa Connection (which would be Knizia's Geniale) and Mastermind, only ten players for each tournament, because there were several other events at the same time and Lines of Action and 7 Wonders attract more participants.
In the morning Mensa Connection; 7 rounds were foreseen with a 10-minute for each, but of course there's the surprise, the referee without reasons, if not the ignorance of the rules, makes us compete in 4 rounds without a clock. Oh well, let's smile... I win the first three games and I find myself alone in the lead at the final match... I lose by a narrow margin against the always dangerous David Pearce... an already seen movie, we find ourselves in the head in 4 with 6 points (since 4 rounds were too few!) and by a tie-break, impeccably applied in accordance with the rule (wow!) I get the bronze.
Mastermind in the afternoon, we arrive but there is no referee, the organizers come, there has been a mix up (oh well!) so they ask me if I can do it myself while playing. Okay, at least I know the rules. Everything goes smoother than oil, and after 5 of the 6 planned rounds we are 3 people in the lead with 3 1/2 out of 5. For the 5th consecutive tournament the last game is fatal to me (I have to decide to change movie!) and I find myself with another bronze. But the satisfaction is that gold remains in Italy, with the victory of Riccardo Gueci (great!).
In the little poker tournament nothing special, Gueci and I get a middle position without infamy and without praise.
Meanwhile, however, there is a player on the run, Matthew Hatthrell, with 4 gold (some shared) and 2 silver medals and begins to have some thoughts about the Pentamind; let's see if today or tomorrow I get time for a short interview. Kuusk and Khandelwal are always active, but have not yet placed decisive points.
A curiosity, when
Khandelwal gets a headache, guess what he does to get rid of it? A nice game at Chess exchange... he says that for him chess, after sleeping and walking is his most restful activity! Ok, I give up!

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Chronicles/5
20
August 2014
by Daniele Ferri

It 's my third year in London, at the MSO, so I am a little more than a rookie.
But from the beginning, although I had some satisfaction winning several medals, my dream was another, and today on August 19, I reached my goal.
VEGEtables, the game that I invented in 2011, has become Official Game at the MSO and today there was a tournament.
Ten participants, six from Italy and four Englishmen, they battled for four hours, in a six rounds game, whose final had uncertain results until the last card.
At the end the gold medal went to the great Matthew Hatthrell, multidisciplinary brilliant player that I know very well since the 2012 edition, which put five consecutive victories in a row after an initial misstep in the first round.
Second through tie-break, the friend Charles Sgambati, who with his daughters Barbara and Sara accompanied me on this adventure in London 2014: a performance like a real champion, that only a handful of points kept away from the final victory.
A bronze medal, which I can be very proud of, for my wife Maria, who evidently well assimilated the "workouts" to which I submitted her during the summer.
I conclude: if three years ago someone had prophesied that my VEGEtables would come to such a prestigious stage, I would have laughed.
From today, however, the road is leveled and I thank my friend Dario for the space given through these lines with which to inform you: I will refer after Thursday when I will be able to tell you about "my" tournaments: Rummikub and Computer Programming.

Daniele Ferri

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Chronicles/4
20
August 2014
by Cosimo Cardellicchio

The Mind Sports Olympiad 2014 end for me with zero medals. My limited participation (only 2 tournaments this year) was also influenced by other factors. But, but... not bringing any medals at home does not mean that things went wrong... I saw friends; I met new people; I established new contacts; I collected experience for the future editions, and with this point of view I do not feel disappointed by my mini-participation at the MSO.
On Monday evening
, August 18, I participated to the Twixt
tournament, the first big commercial success by our Alex Randolph, part of the program of the MSO since the first edition of 1997. As in 2012, Florian Jamain and Jan Haugland came to London, two strong players from Little Golem, a place where the best players in the world of Twixt gather. Florian told me that he was curious to experience the Twixt with real opponents, in flesh and blood. The 20-minute granted for the entire game, then, seemed to him a really short time for this complex game.
I asked him if
we ever could organize a Twixt
tournament with real players, putting together the best of Little Golem, but he told me that it would be difficult. The ranking of Little Golem is dominated by, among others, Poles, Germans and Americans. Wherever we choose the venue, we would also need to motivate with high money prizes in order to attract the players that come from far away. A medal and honor may not be enough.
About the chronicles of the game, the rating of Little Golem has been met: Florian first and second Ian, after a long and fierce match between them, in which they danced on the edge of the last available seconds. The "normal" players followed.
I can be happy about having played at my best against these two specialists of this game. Unfortunately, my best is not enough to win against them. My regret goes to the other games, with players within my reach, where in at least two cases threw in the wind a sure victory. There will be better days for Twixt.
Tuesday morning, after spending almost a sleepless night wondering how I managed to throw in the wind some victories, I participated to the Oware tournament. Last year, I arrived tied first/second with Reschitzki Jean, a retired professor of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. Jean has spent decades of his scientific career studying and playing variants of Mancala.
This year, however, the British Paul Smith won the gold medal, with 5 victories out of 5 games. The silver medal went to Dario De Toffoli, who last year had missed the appointment with medals in Oware. Retschitzki and I, the winners of last year, ended up both in mid-rating, having lost two games each. I lost the first against Dario and the fourth against Ian Haugland (he same of Twixt). Yet, in both cases, it seemed to me to have started out well and being in control of the situation. But? Unfortunately these matches, played at breakneck speed and with no opportunity to take note, remain unknown and no one will ever know when the error occurred.
It's nice, though, to note that, in this ages-old game, the fight for the top places is always open and the winner of more than a year can end up behind the next year. It means that there is still a chance to have fun.

Cosimo Cardellicchio

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Chronicles/3
19
August 2014
by Dario De Toffoli

So we were at the silver medal in Backgammon.
Still on sunday, in the evening, nothing done at the poker 7-card stud tournament... early elimination.
They are amateur tournaments, with no real money prize and no dealer (you deal on turn), but the cool thing is that every night you get a different variant: this is the good thing of the MSO, you always play different games, you have to adjust yourself each time.
Then on monday Carcassonne. A last minute's decision, 4-player games drawing one card like in the box rules, instead of the three cards in each player's hand: and this is the bad thing about the MSO, they change rules whenever they want. Anyway I acceppt without protesting and after the first games I end up at the final table with 13 points, two victories and a second place (the scoring was 5-3-2-1). With the Estonian Martin Hobemagi (an incredible Estonian team this year!) also with 13 points and two players at 10; at the other table, two players with 10 points and two with 9. I smell a medal... how can you lose it at these conditions? Well, you can. I am last in the last game so I just rise to 14 points, Hobemagi is second, reaching 16 and getting the gold, a player with 10 points wins and gets the silver, and another 10 points player reaches 15 points getting the bronze. 4th place... a wooden medal for me.
But don't worry, I always have fun!
In the evening the poker 5-card draw, the old version of poker with the 5 cards in your hands, that we saw in so many movies... but of course, with the complete deck of cards. Well, people slowly finish their chips and 3 of us remain, two terrible Estonian players, Hobemagi and Kuusk, and I. I have 6.300 chips, Kuusk 5.700 and Hobemagi 2.000. 200 ante and no blinds, we play pot limit. Hobemagi opens 600, Kuusk raises to 1.600, I have 3 five; I get them all in, Hobemagi is "committed" and with his pair of Aces he just has to see... but Kuusk with a double pair of J and 9 should pass, I should have at least a higher double pair, I had never done re-raise before then. But he stays, changes a card and gets a full house, although the chances were over 90% for me... that's fine, another silver for me.
And so this morning Oware (aka Mancala), all the best players are here, but I manage to win 4 games out of 5 losing only against the champion Paul Smith... so, another silver, with Glenda Trew bronze and the favourite Swiss Retschitzki (last year's winner) at a lower final score. Satisfaction... and a bit of regret for that missing seed!
Soon I'll do another little poker, London Lowball, something like a backwards 7-card stud, the winner is the player with the lowest score. Very nice.

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Chronicles/2
18 August 2014
by Riccardo Gueci

The 18th Mind Sports Olympiad started with great impact this year with the four Chess Tournaments in the first two days.
‘Chess 960’ (better known as ‘Fischer random’) is the first of the four Tournaments, with 30 participants, some of them quite good players.
Chess 960 is a variation of traditional Chess with a draw at each turn, of the initial position of the pieces, pawns excluded, giving the possibility of 960 different positions. It has been created by Bobby Fischer.
The great american champion understood that it was necessary to reset everything that had been studied until then, even all the opening theories, and all the software and supercomputer; often the first 20-30 moves won't let the "uninformed" players be able to win against the informed ones.  
May it be the future of Chess? Well I think so, because this would mean that a game would be creative from the beginning, assuring a joy of playing from the very beginning.
Among the players of this year in London, many young players from Turkmenistan (6 very challenging kids), but this time they had to face other very good players.
At the end, with 5 out of 6 points there was an ex aequo between an english and a mongolian player. But Ben Purton won through the technical scoring and Tumen Buyandalai got the second place. Third place: Paul Gheorghiou.
I didn't do that great in my Tournament. I started out well winning 2 out of 2 games, but then I wasted the third game against the leader, because of a very foolish mistake. This upset me very much and so it influenced also the following games. Well, a not so great result, but the satisfaction of having created some very tricky openings, through the new position of the pieces, and the fact that I played very well some of the games.
Also the second Chess Tournament was very "crowded": the Blitz (5 minutes for one game), in which the favourite player, Robenson, beated last year's winner (Pentamind Champion in 2013), Ankush Khandelwal.
The second day for Chess begun with the Rapid classic (25 minutes + 5 seconds increase) with more than 20 participants that fighted for the first place. Again a British triumph: Rental, Robenson and Purton.
Here my tournament was the repetition of the previous day: good start, I play against the great Robenson, I play very well, but time is off for me first. Oh well. My next games haven't been that great although I didn't play bad. Again I ended up on half way of the scoring. I am a little bit disappointed. A tiny bit better than me the other italian player Mario Campini, but he just took part at this Tournament.
Finally the Tournament Chess Exchange, called Quadriglia by the italians. You play in pairs at alternate colours. The pieces that you capture will be given to your partner that will introduce them as he wishes. It's very fun because you play blitz and anything can happen! Again, nothing done: Robenson and Purton rule above all. I play with Alain Dekker, not a real specialist, I almost get a third place, but I don't make the result I proudly made in my last two participations. Oh well, tomorrow I'll try some other games.

Riccardo Gueci

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Chronicles/1
17 August 2014
by Dario De Toffoli

Here we are: at the 2014 MSO!
Almost no training, a chatted Acquire game, a simulated Hare&Tortoise, and some iphone games at Cribbage, Mensa Connection and Carcassonne. Then some games with an unbeated program at Oware, one yesterday night here in London together with Riccardo Gueci, commenting each move... to make one get a headache.
First of all the location, the JW3, a new cultural center, quite active in many different initiatives. There is a "but". It is a Jewish cultural center: Jewish Community Center London.
Uhm... I don't care which religion (or community), it would have been the same to me if it was Christian, Islamic, Buddhist or Hindu... but as an atheist I would have preferred something more laic. Even though it is a pretty location, I stay with the Art. 3 of the Italian Constitution: no distinction of race, religion, sex, opinions...

As we arrive I imediately get frisked and am told not to take pictures of the building from outside... oh well, you can see it in the internet. I really would have prefered something more neutral, especially thinking about what is happening in the world lately...
Let's get to the event. All the "aficionados" are here, only Paco is missing. Some others from the good old times show up again. I don't see David Kotin, I am a little concerned about him. I'll ask about him.
I am afraid that the arbitrage will be a bit aproximative, made by willing collaborators, great people, but not real game experts: my "policy" is to keep quiet and accept as much as I can, things will just flow as they will. I hope to make it, maybe I'll say my opinion at the "committee" meeting next friday.
Great Catan Tournament and at the same time a great Scrabble Tournament, but I think it is unfair that in an international competition a word game can count in the Pentamind scoring, giving so much more chance to the people that speak fluently in english. It doesn't matter if they take advantage of this, what matters is the principle.


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Catan Tournament

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Scrabble Tournament

Then Fisher-random Chess with a strong Turkmenian group of players that will give a hard time to our Gueci.
I begin with Backgammon, 6 turns of 5 points each, about 20 players, many of them seem to me beatable opponents.
And as it was predictible, there is some confusion with the organization of the games, with apparently no reason I have a different opponent as was foretold, they don't realize to have created a big mess... but I keep quiet and accept everything with no comments or agitation.
6 turns, I win the first 5 and loose the last against Mahamut, that was at 4 and gets me. We end up tied, but I guess that he will get the gold, according to the direct confrontation.
Tonight the 7-card stud.

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Backgammon prize giving