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23-31 August 2015
Mind Sports Olympiad XIX

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Chronicles/6
31 August 2015

by Dario De Toffoli

Competitive Gamers Wanted!

Well, it's over. And in the last days I didn't do anything good to raise my points, so I got a 12th place in the Pentamind ranking. Never been so low, but it's fine: there are a lot of very good young players.

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After many years, Pentamind returns to England with James Heppel.
The formula of the Pentamind points changed a little, so the points can't be compared with the previous years, but I will write about these changes another time.

The last days I really just played for fun.
On August 30 I dd the Kenken/sudoku challenge although I was aware that I would never have been as good as the specialists : "just for fun". Last year the puzzles were very difficult... and this year even more. But oe player was able to complete them all, at the last minute. We had 3,15 hours time. I would have needed double time to complete it: 8 sudoku and 8 kenken: I started from the sudoku and at the fourth I begun to have trouble, so I started the kenken; I solved 7, not even starting the 8th that was the tuffest. Check how the 7th was: 

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It took me 45 minutes...

On August 31, I played Dominoes 5s and 3s, a very nice game (I'll write about it later, together with an interesting story...), two rounds for every game and five 1 to 1 ties; in the afternoon I played at Lost cities with another… five 1 to 1 ties.

In the picture some of the winners. In the back, from the left, David Jameson (3rd in the Pentamind), Ankush Khandelwal (2nd), the winner James Heppel, Bijan Mehdinejad (winner of the combined "European games"), Mike Dixon (2nd), Martin Hobemagi (Junior Pentamind) and in the front Emily Watson, Charlotte Levy and Madli Mirme (3rd-1st-2nd in the Lady Pentamind):

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Let's say this: the Mind Sports Olympiad is not perfect and there are many things that should be done better (and they might one day). But guys, but it is a unique way to compete in any kind of game, without any weird thinking "my game is better than yours".

Beauty is truth!
From the ancient classic games to the modern ones, from the table games ("european games"), to the mental challanges.
I really have fun here and all the things that should be done better become less important.

19 editions and I took part in 16 (or 17) getting about 80 different medals for Italy. Sometimes somebody has joined me in this adventure, but also this year most of us had a "certain" age! It is about time for younger Italian players to show up!
Italy is full of good "gamers"

… why don't they come to win some medals? And even if the Tournament structures are not always at the top, you all get the same conditions… so whoever is very good will be able to show his qualities. Don't you think so?
Come on, no more excuses, next year I want a delegation that obtains the second place behind England, since they are unbeatable by being always 3/4 of the participants. Come on, I wait for you!

    



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Chronicles/6 bis
31 August 2015

by Dario De Toffoli

He is 91 years old (!!!) and won the gold medal at the Dominoes 5s&3s Tournament! Bernard Morgan, is another extraordinary player I met in London at the Mind Sports Olympiad. And this victory is not just a coincidence, he is a real champion at this game and he beated all of us all-rounders that were experimenting this very nice game. Bernard is not only extraordinary for this reason. He is a veteran of the Second World War, he was an expert in RAF codes and used to decode the German messages, contributing to the victory (if I get to meet him again I will ask him if he personally met Alan Turing…). He is the man that recieved the message of the German surrender, so he knew it before all the rest of the world! Among his memories, the landing in Gold Beach in Normandy, the D-Day, June 6 1944. In the pictures below he is together with Ricardo Gomes from Portugal (silver medal at the same Tournament), and with the machine with which he used to decode the RAF messages.
How does 
Dominoes 5s&3s work? I suppose you are courious now! You use a regular Domino set with 28 pieces, from 0 to 6. Each player takes 7 pieces, the other 14 pieces are put aside. Laying down one piece at every turn, you connect the pieces forming a chain. You get points when the end and the beginning of the chain pieces get a total that is a multiple number of 3 or 5. One point for each 3 or 5 (for example, if you get a 6, you'll have 2 points; with a 5, you get 1 point; with a 15, 8 points…and so on). Pieces that have two times the same number count double when you use them to get the points. If you don't have any piece to attach at your turn, the other player will play again. The game is over when a player finishes his pieces or both players are unble to go on. Who first reaches 121 points wins the game! You'll find more infos on the internet.

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Chronicles/5
26-27-28-29 August 2015

by Dario De Toffoli

TWO MORE SILVER MEDALS… HOW EXHAUSTING!

Back to the chronicles, I was a little behind.

Wednesday 26: "No competition for old men" to use Cormac McCarthy words.
I can't keep the concentration that much anymore, oh well!
And I am not saying this because of the Korean girl - that is fine... I am saying it because of Mastermind. How can one mess up a game by failing the answer at the first attempt? It's simply ridiculous! And then, besides all, recover slowly, one point after the other, get to the decisive game, second against the first, so if I win I get the gold medal… and then, blow it all, because I am not able anymore to make any thinking and run out of time? Guys, this is not my style, I am a champion in finding out codes... What a shame!

Thursday 27: "Winning is more fun"
With a bit of pride I went back to play and won two silver medals.
Acquire, in my opinion the coolest of the modern boardgames, actually not very much considered by the italian players: I ruled at the end table (great satisfaction), but for a percentage of accumulated points in the previous games, the gold medal was won by Tim Hebbes. Nice, because Acquire always offers situations in which the key is flexibility of strategies, a real intellectual pleasure.
The other silver medal was at night with a Poker Variant Tournament, called Pineapple, pretty much similar to Texas, but you start the game with three cards in your hands instead of two, then you get rid of one at the flop. Of course you get always higher points and you have to consider it when you think of the probabilities; but most of all you have to check on your opponents, very good ones but others less good ones. You have to value how they all move in a Tournament where the blinds rise fast and everything has to be over in about four hours.

Friday 28: "The beauty of learning"
Carcassonne all day long, in which I am not a specialist.
Not as planned, but as required from many, we played one against one (something I almost never did) with limited time (15 minutes each player). Cool, much more technical. I had the occasion to play against very strong players: now I think I know how I would want to practice at this game! 
I lost really badly against two Norwegian in the first two games, but from them I have learned, and in the next five games I was able to win four. And the winner was the very same Norvegian Vidar Aas.

Saturday 29: "London"
No playing, I did a little tour in the city, seeing interesting things.

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Chronicles/4
27 August 2015
by Dario De Toffoli

Ji-Woo Lee, the girl from Korea who deservedly defeated me at Mensa Connection (called also Geniale or Einfach Genial or Ingenuos), made my sty away from the podium. What should I say, I am not even that sorry, not only was she incredibly good, but also very kind and polite, she even took a bow. Anyway, it has been a very nice Tournament, with many partecipants and also very satisfying since the winner has been Daniele Ferri, who is doing great this year. Among the Tournament players, also the great Demis Hassabis.

But the party has been interrupted by a very sad and terrible news. A 8 years old English boy, during the chess Tournament had gotten a very bad asthma cough and died last night. I haven't met him personally, but Riccardo did and is very distraught.
Today I end up here. I'll write more another day.

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Chronicles/3
26 August 2015
by Dario De Toffoli

Yes! One medal has arrived, silver at Rummikub!

Rummikub has always been a game I am g
ood at... and I got close to the gold medal.
You play one against one, it is a very technical tournament and I have to keep an eye on Daniele Ferri… the Italian Team always did well at the MSO Rummikub Tournaments.
Daniele and I keep winning all games until we front each other. I win and get to play against a woman called Ellen. She plays well,
pulls the rabbit out of the hat and beats me, and not because I had underestimated her. So we are three in the lead with equal points. Ellen lost only against Daniele, I have lost only against her, and Daniele lost just against me. Plus another player with one point less that theoretically reaches us with the bye in the first round (we were tie). Now one of the flaws of the MSO is just that they never manage to give some of the criteria (and in advance) for the playoff mode. It would not be so difficult and since many years I grumble about the issue. They have general principles for all tournaments ... but every specialty is different and needs a particular and precise regulation. The fact is that the referee does not know which way to turn and finally brings all papers to the office of the organizers. Only several hours later, during the awards ceremony, we find out that  Ellen has won the gold, I got the silver and Daniele the bronze. That's fine, but would you explain what criteria that were used, please?

Meanwhile Gueci wins the bronze in Chess exchange. It is a beautiful chess variant. It is played in pairs on two boards, in alternating colors, with a very very tight time limit and with the ability to talk. The pieces that a player eats go to his mate, who may put them back in play on his chessboard instead of moving. The principle is copied from the Japanese chess (shogi), also used in the beautiful Mad mate Alex Randolph, who precisely applied the principles of shogi to Western chess.

More in general, the Event goes on with a triumphal march by James Heppel in a state of grace: he wins also the gold medal at Triolet, a sort of Scrabble with numbers, but with very specific rules. And he won the decisive game against me, with a very curious situation. There are only a few moves left, I'm in the lead and play in a certain way because all nine of the ones supplied are already on the board and he can not have another one in his hands. But he has another one, how is it possible? We call the referee and he finds out that the package has a 1 more and rather than eliminate it, I just get to redo the last move, knowing that he still has a 1. But I can no longer stop a certain combination and he wins. Fair enough? ... I really do not know!

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Chronicles/2
24 August 2015
by Dario De Toffoli

THE INCREDIBLE BLIND BACKGAMMON PLAYER

A good start, but no fireworks.
I have already met some extraordinary players.

I started from the Backgammon Tournament, not too crowded, since at the same time there where four other Tournaments, among them chess and Settlers of Catan. Still, there where strong players taking part to it, from England, France and also from other countries. We played the Swiss System, in 6 turns and I did well, getting a second place together with three other players (but out of the podium for the tie break). I lost the most important game, the one that would have brought me at the top of the ranking, against a really but really extraordinary player. A Korean blind player whose name is hard for me to pronounce. He was playing and winning at Backgammon. Unbelievable. He was accompanied by a woman who was telling him the numbers on the dice and the moves I was making, then he was touching with his hands the entire game board, to check the position of the pieces (they are 30!). Well, he never did any mistakes making his moves, always got the right colour moving it in the right place. And his moves were quite good moves. Not to mention, we also had the pressure of the clock, he just got a couple extra seconds that were letting him check the position of the pieces with his hands, something another player just does with his eyes. Amazing: training and memory, he told me, are his secrets. And I lost and am still having thoughts about one move in the last game. He has three pieces on point 3, three on point 2 and one on the bar. I closed all my home points (with three pieces on 5, 4 and 3) and I roll 6-5. When I was playing frequently maybe the answer would have come to me easily, but now, do I have to get out leaving point 6 free, only taking out one piece by moving the 5 on point 1? Anyway, he won.
I wanted to interview him, but after the Tournament he disappeared. I hope to see him one of the next days.

Nothing done at Hare and Tortoise nor at at Cribbage Singles with 4 ties out of 4 games. I gave up on the Cribbage Doubles, there were just 8 minutes to rest and I have to play more tonight.

Man of the hour is the young English player James Heppel. He had done very well also in the previous years, but never won much. Now he exploded. Silver at Settlers of Catan (nice Tournament, with about fifty partecipants) tie with the gold with 40 points out of 44. Then gold at Hare and Tortoise and today silver at Cribbage Singles plus gold at Cribbage Doubles. A moving train.

Last minute: bronze medal for Gueci at Chess exchange (grat playing system,I will write more about it). I made it to the fial table (fifth palce) at a nice 7 card stud Tournament. More details to come.

Soon the first interviews
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Settlers of Catan Tournament

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Chronicles/1
22 August 2015
by Dario De Toffoli

THERE WILL BE ENCOUNTERS AMONG EXTRAORDINARY PLAYERS

OK, also this year I am here in London for the Mind Sports Olympiad, that will begin tomorrow, August 23.
I rented a tiny 18 mq flat (no need for anything more) very close to the event's venue, so that when I have some time off I can go there to rest, since the resistance is no longer what it once was.
(By the way... This flat back in Venice would be illegal, since the smallest sice for renting a flat is starting from 42mq. I do not understand the meaning of such a stupid rule. Of course tourism in Venice shouldn't grow wildly like it is anyway, but the problem needs to be solved in other ways, changing other conditions, not using the italian "burocridiocies").

While I am writing, also Ricccardo Gueci has arrived. We'll have dinner together and make plans on how to win medals…
Let's see if at our age we will still be competitive. There will be also Daniele Ferri and Cosimo Cardellicchio, and I am looking forward to see other Italians.
This year I have done a little bit of training, thanks also to the "Tana dei Goblin" friends of Venice: a couple games at Acquire, Hare and Tortoise, Carcassonne and Triolet… it's not much, but it still is something that helps a bit to get back into the mental mechanisms.

The first day will be very busy: morning and afternoon backgammon (6 turns with the swiss system), at night Hare and Tortoise with a Tournament (and at the same time the World Championship) directed by the author David Parlett.
Except variations due to the Pentamind strategies (www.msoworld.com) and some giving up for tiredness, my complete programm should be:
23: Backgammon - Hare and Tortoise
24: Cribbage singles - Cribbage doubbles - 7 card stud
25: Rummikub - Triolet - London Lowball
26: Mensa connection - Mastermind - Omaha
27: Acquire - Pineapple (I will miss Oware, that is at the same time of Acquire)
28: Carcassonne
30: Kenken/Sudoku (uhm…) - Texas Hold'em
31: Dominoes 5s & 3s - Lost cities

If I get the right occasions and the time, I will also do some short interviews to some of the players, starting from the amazing Demis Hassabis, about which I already wrote as well as the Scientific American:
www.lescienze.it