MSO 2017

The XXI Edition of the Mind Sports Olympiad will took place in London, at JW3 in Finchley Road, from August 20 to 28 2017.


Tabletop gaming review, interview with Dario De Toffoli

Below you can find the complete program. For more detailes visit MSO official website at this link:

Sempre più ricco il programma dei tornei, sempre più difficile la scelta di quelli cui partecipare.
Come vedrete c’è spazio per tutti, anche per i board-gamer e spero che questa volta ne arrivino più copiosi.
Io naturalmente ci sarò, assieme a Riccardo Gueci, Daniele Ferri e – spero – Cosimo Cardellicchio… ma sarebbe tempo che forze nuove si affacciassero.
Questo il mio programma di massima; nella prima colonna i tornei in cui penso di partecipare, nelle seguenti i tornei cui devo rinunciare.

Eventuali modifiche le deciderò durante la competizione, in relazione ad eventuali esigenze tattiche dell’intera competizione che si dovessero presentare.
Penso rinuncerò al Mastermind (contemporaneo al Rummikub) e all’Oware (contemporaneo ad Hard&Tortoise)… e sono rinunce dolorose!
Tornerò a giocare a Catan dopo parecchi anni e non senza una certa ansia.
Oltre a vari irrinunciabili appuntamenti proverò anche un paio di giochi per me nuovi: VegeTables e Kings Cribbage.
Il mio obiettivo minimo dichiarato è raggiungere la medaglia numero 100 (ora sono a 97!), dopodiché tenterò di difendere il titolo di Pentamind Senior (over 60) che ora detengo… ma Riccardo è in agguato!

Ecco invece il programma di larga massima dei cinque italiani che finora hanno aderito alla manifestazione:

D – double session, full day: 10.15am to 6pm (lunch break 1.30pm-2.15pm)
AM – morning events: 10.15am to 1.45pm
PM – afternoon events: 2.15pm to 6pm
N – night events: 7pm to 10.30pm
WC = World Championship

Sunday, August 20th
AM Stratego Duel
PM Stratego Classic
D Go 19×19
D Settlers of Catan
D Scrabble
N Texas Hold’Em
N Chess Blitz
N Dominion
N Othello

Monday, August 21st
AM Abalone (WC)
AM Gomoku
AM Natural Memory
AM Vegetables
PM Boku (WC)
PM Go 9×9
PM Speed Memory
PM Triolet
D Agricola
N London Lowball
N 7 Wonders
N Go 13×13
N Tri-Hexa (Puxzzle Challenge)
N Mental Calculation Blitz

Tuesday, August 22nd
AM Quoridor
AM Mental Calculation (WC)
PM Continuo
PM Superfut
D Acquire
D Backgammon 6x7pt
D Marathon Memory
N Omaha
N Backgammon 6x1pt
N Blokus
N Splendor

Wednesday, August 23rd
AM Decamentathlon (WC)
AM Mensa Connections
PM Mastermind
PM Rummikub
D Backgammon 6x5pt
D Diplomacy
D Marco Polo
N 5 Card Draw
N Hare and Tortoise (WC)
N Liar Dice (Perudo)
N Oware
N Tetris

Thursday, August 24th
D Entropy (WC)
D Backgammon 8x3pt
D Monopoly
D Terra Mystica
N Pineapple
N Backgammon Plakoto
N Dominion (expansion)
N Speed reading
N Shacru WC

Friday, August 25th
AM Cribbage Singles
PM Cribbage Pairs
D Backgammon 4x11pt
D Lines of Action (WC)
D Puerto Rico
D Mind Mapping

Sunday, August 27th
AM Kenken/Sudoku
AM Kings Cribbage (WC)
AM Shogi
PM Chinese Chess
PM Creative Thinking (WC)
PM Dominoes 5s&3s
D Chess Rapid
10:00-16:30 Carcassonne
17:00-22:30 Ticket to ride
N 7 Card Stud
N Exchange Chess
N Quiz
N Twixt (WC)

Monday, August 28th
AM Heads up Hold’Em
AM Trench (WC)
PM Lost Cities
PM Kamisado (WC)
D British Chess 960
D Cities & Knights
D Countdown
6:30pm Award Ceremony


All of the four Italian 2016 medalists have confirmed their participation… They will be fierce competitors!

Dario De Toffoli, Riccardo Gueci, Cosimo Cardellicchio, Daniele Ferri

This year we will also have Piero Zama, an old friend of mine, back in the team.
In the 80s he became Italian Champion both in Mastermind and in Risk and in 2004 he took part at MSO, winning 4 medals (among which, two gold).

So with him in the ten some more Italian medals will be ensured… but we will be really competitive in the “senior” category, due to the 300 years we sum up together!

Strong young players… please show up!

In the picture Piero playing at the “Italian Player of the Year” competitions


1 Ankush Khandelwal United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
2 Tim Hebbes United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
3 Dario de Toffoli Italy

Backgammon – 11 p
1 Anna Price United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
2 Dario de Toffoli Italy
2 Ali Hassannia Iran Islamic Republic of
2 Michael Flesch United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
3 Samuel Pires Portugal

Chess 960
1 Ankush Khandelwal United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
2 Alexander Cherniaev Russia
3 Riccardo Gueci Italy

Dominoes 5s&3s
1 Matthew Hathrell United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
2 Rossella Perniola Italy
3 Peter Dance United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Lost Cities
1 James Heppell United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
2 Piero Zama Italy
3 David Jameson United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

1 Danton Hope United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
2 Piero Zama Italy
3 David Jameson United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Poker (Lowball)
1 Kuno Kolk Estonia
2 Harold Lee United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
3 Riccardo Gueci Italy

1 Daniele Ferri Italy
2 Dario de Toffoli Italy
3 Jun U Choi Korea Republic of

Stratego Duel
1 Riccardo Gueci Italy
2 David Pearce United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
3 Alberto Cruz Fernandez Spain

1 Florian Jamain France
2 Cosimo Cardellicchio Italy
3 Bharat Thakrar United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Senior Pentamind
1 Dario De Toffoli Italy
2 Piero Zama Italy
3 Riccardo Gueci Italy

LONDON, 20-28 August 2017
Mind Sports Olympiad XXI


Chronicles from the gaming tables 1: BACK TO CATAN

by Dario De Toffoli

Here we are, again! Like every year, I’m in London to take part in the Mind Sports Olympiad, now in its 21st edition. I couldn’t have missed the Olympiad this year, also because of a special reason I’m going to reveal soon.

Competitions are starting tomorrow and the first challenge I’m going to face is also the one I’m most worried about: Catan Tournament!

First of all, there’s the starting placement, which is crucial: if I fail, I’ll basically be out of fight for victory…. And – which is more – I haven’t been playing a live match for 8 years!

If remember well, I played my last match in 2009, at MSO finals. A very unique experience. It was the second-to-last day of tournaments and I had scored 400 Pentamind points till then. If I had won that tournament, I would have finished with 500/500, which is the maximum possible score, never reached so far, neither by Demis Hassabis.

Well, I was winning that game, on my right side there was Tim Hobbes and, on the left, David Pearce, both my rivals in the Pentamind ranking.
It was Tim’s turn: it was clear to everybody that I would have close at the next play and Tim couldn’t have stopped me; but, for Pentamind reasons, David didn’t want me to win, so he offered Tim to change 10 cards to 1 (10 to 1!), letting him the chance to close. Tim accepted, of course.

At that time this was allowed, but now the Catan’s tournament is fortunately on the first day of competitions and a “no kingmaking” rule is applied in every tournament.

In 2009 I missed the 500 points – which Tim reached, thanks to David’s stunt – I was third in the Pentamind ranking and David wasn’t in the podium.

Now, after so many years, I’M BACK TO CATAN, on the first day of this MSO: will I live up to this challenge? All the best players will be there, like the Portuguese champion Ricardo Gomes and Demis Hassabis (yes, him!). But I’ll do my best!

In the evening, a funny Hold’em tournament… it’s a pity that poker here is a bit amateurish, without a dealer, without padded table tops, lasting about 3 hours only. In any case, I’ll be there.

Riccardo Gueci arrived here with me – he is a MSO habitué too – and Piero Nabendu Zama, an old friend I had met on the tables since the ’80s. We were all born in 1953 (192 years into three!) and in the senior category we’re not scared about anyone, we’re aiming for the podium: after the double win last year, we have high hopes for a hat-trick!

Riccardo is playing Catan and Hold’em tomorrow, like me, but also Stratego and Othello, where he got two gold medals last year.

If he is able to do the same this year, he may be at the head of Pentamind ranking!

Daniele Ferri is coming too, with his VegeTables, a MSO classic by now, which I’m playing this year for the first time at MSO. Cosimo Cardellicchio will be here in a few days.

LONDON, 20-28 August 2017 

Mind Sports Olympiad XXI


Chronicles from the gaming tables 2: NEW GAME

Instead of Catan, I played “Night in Hospital” (5 hours waiting!) and I will miss tomorrow tournaments as well… good bye Pentamind!

I console with the news of Gueci’s Gold in Stratego Duel!

LONDON, 20-28 August 2017

Mind Sports Olympiad XXI
Cronache dai tavolieri 3. : CONFUSION

First they scared me with this thrombosis thing, today they said no more thrombosis. Very good… but I’m confused.

In the afternoon I started playing- with fatigue. Tomorrow Acquire… hope with my usual mindset.

LONDON – 20-28 August 2017

Mind Sports Olympiad XXI
Chronicles from the gaming tables 4: STARTING PLAYING AND BEGINNING WITH A BRONZE

Ok, no more laments, I try to focus and I start playing.

Just to be clear, tiles that are placed on a board with a mechanism similar to Scrabble.
I ended first with other 3 players, all of us with only one loss.
After tie-breaker I end up fourth, what a pity.
I knew that Jolly should have been removed from the competition, I also suggested it to the organizer but they didn’t accepted. And I managed to won the first two games without any Jolly, while my opponents used 2 each; I won, but by a small margin and technical tie-breaker was points difference itself!

Just a bronze, which is not what I aimed for, and I played really well (two victories and a second place), and many players congratulate me…  but my opponents played in simpler tables and I couldn’t score higher percentages; the scoring system is complex, based on percentages of money accumulated during the game. Anyway, at the end the three medals go to the same three players (Ankush, Tim and myself) even if sequence changes.

I ended 7°; at the final table I make pot with K-K-Q and the fourth suited, but the smart Ankush, great player but today with luck on his side, makes me go all in with A-A-x-x and wins.

Having already lost two days of competition I’m content with my bronze, 98th medal at MSO (this year my main goal is to reach 100 medals!) and even more the fact that I’m retrieving my gaming mindset.
After a delayed start, I can’t even think about Pentamind, but just try to make my best; Ankush Kahndelwal , Andrees Kuusk and James Heppel are going really well, with Ricardo Gomes and a couple of young estonian monsters (great school!). For the senior Riccardo Gueci is doing well (he has one gold and one bronze), while Piero Nabendu Zama hasn’t won a single medal yet… but tomorrow there’s “his” Mastermind.

We will see tomorrow how it will go… I would like to reach 99!

In the photo I’m with my friend Harold Lee, once a Go master, now poker player… maybe he will receive a phone call from a Maison.

LONDON – 20-28 August 2017


Mind Sports Olympiad XXI
Chronicles from the game boards 5: GRASSHOPPERS AND FLOODS

What could have happen has happened, only grasshoppers and floods are missing. My bad for the erratic chronicles of this Annus Horribilis.
With fever or without, I still managed to play some competitions; I come to London once a year and I didn’t really want to miss everything.

I’m at 99 medals, maybe 100 (but nobody knows by now, it depends on tie-breakes).
Let’s see what happened.

Just forget this tournament, yes, just forget it. It never happened!

I use Daniele Ferri’s technique and I easily win the first 4 rounds making my opponent pay everytime more than 200 points.
Grand final against Daniele, he himself at 4/4.
Drawn all the tiles, it is clear that I have no chance, I have only two 12 (both black) and Daniele on the higher tiles has 7/8 more moves than me, I will be the first to “open”… and that’s what happen. There is even no time pressure, because for a mistake they gave us more time than necessary.
Honor to Daniele, who is really good and wins his fifth gold in Rummikub: just a silver for me: 99th medal!
I have to admit that Ferri’s technique is really effective, but it kills the game and the spectacle to a certain degree, from now after I will call him “Rummikub’s murderer!”.
Maybe the solution could be to turn back to origin, with the “one minute every move” (with clocks, not hourglasses)… I don’t know, I have to talk about it with Daniele himself.
Not a good performance of the referee, to whom I had to explain many rules.

I ended 4th, much behind my expectations, minding that I won the last year’s competition.
But what happened was some kind of nightmare.
We started. I start in 3rd position, but after a couple of turns I manage to gain the best position possible (I never had a better one), and I feel like I almost win, even if nobody can know for sure. But here come the referee (who is the almost 80 years old game’s inventor David Parlett) who says there has been a undefined mistake and makes me start over again playing again as third. I had never played in third position and I end last with a zero on the first turn; and as I manage to come back, it is not enough to bring me a medal.
Just to give you an idea, I played every single game starting from 3rd position, and that’s ridiculous; usually we play 4 games, shifting through all possible starting positions.
Can you imagine a chess match in which a player has always the white pieces and the other the black ones?

We will talk about this the next time, that there is another tournament still available.

I wasn’t playing  but Piero Zama won a pretty good silver…. followed by a fourth place in Monopoli.

I have some hope in the swiss tournament to 11 points; I’m one of the strongest for sure. Among players who can get to Pentamind there are no great backgammon players and I feel safe, it would be perfect to meet them there! There are also ten specialist partecipants that came only for backgammon, but honestly I don’t feel to be weaker than any of them.
It is a swiss tournament (no direct elimination) and thank to the experience and the fact that I applied literaly the old saying “mai morto finché la matematica non condanna (never dead until math condamn)” I win all the matches, reaching the final against a english woman with a win streak herself… but honestly I don’t understand how she did it, we can say in CNB she could do well in Intermediate. Gold to who wins. And that’s it, she won, becoming aware of blunders after making them, but making it up by rolling everytime an insanely quantity of doubles! “It’s backgammon, how else can you win?” she admits sincerely.
So I took second place with one loss, but mainwhile other players with one loss reached me, so I don’t even know if I managed to get my 100th medal or not. For today that’s it (luckily I could rest) and I will find out tomorrow.

For the overall Pentamind I don’t even know if I will be in the first 10 (I don’t think so), but for the senior I still have some chances and I think the title will still remain in Italy: there aren’t many over-60 that manage to qualify.

PHOTO: podium of Acquire

LONDON – 20-28 August 2017 

Mind Sports Olympiad XXI
Chronicles from the game boards 6: 98, 99 e… 100!

Maybe my worst olympic performance ever, even if I had many external troubles (UK healthcare DON’T seems better than italian one!).
However, I reached my goals, the silver in Backgammon (I hoped for a little bit more) was my one hundredth medal in MSO and I’m still the Senior Pentamind champion, with a full italian podium, just saying, Piero Zama 2° and Riccardo Gueci 3°. But I have to admit that there were not that many Senior competing and that the very strong and cheerful Paco de la Banda was missing. Oldie’s Italy, are there a couple of young boys who can bring higher our country, like incredibles estonians are doing?
Considering overall scoring, my 394,79/500 Pentamind points are a pretty terrible result (I think it is the first time I’m going below 400), and they make me the 13° in the overall ranking.
Higher in the standing we can find two young boys who did incredible things; a even lucky James Heppel, great player and with Luck Goddess at his side: for him 8 golds and 476,16 points; second Ankush Kahndelwal with 471,34 points, he himself very strong (yesterday for amusement he won a Chess 960 tournament playing against a Grandmaster); third the always unbelievable estonian Andres Kuusk with 467,14; very close the other estonian, the 18 years old Martin Hobemagi and the portuguese Ricardo Gomes. They really did unbelievable stuff!

In regard to my last tournaments… no new medals.

The good thing is that every evening there is a different variation and I played some of them; but the bad thing is that it is an iper-turbo, considering that in 3 hours every tournament have to finish, because at 22:30 the location will close without any possible delay. It’s the weak point of MSO, for the next editions we all suggested to do less tournaments, but to give more time to have a more professional organization.

First time I play this mix between Cribbage and Scrabble and I’m satisfied I managed to win a couple of  games… I think I will try again this specialty unknown in Italy.

DOMINO 5s&3s
Disappointed, I had expectations even here and I even trained, but I ended really behind in the final ranking. Why? I remember you that you score base on the multiple of 3 and 5 summing the two edges. Beh, I will describe how did the match against Tim Hobbes start: he plays 5-0 (1 point) and I pass (I have no 5 nor 0); he plays 0-0 (1 p.) and I pass; he plays 5-5 (2 p.) and I pass; he plays 0-2 (4 p.)… and so on with the first manche which ended 18-0 for him. And it could have ended 19-0 if Tim wouldn’t do a small mistake: what?
Honorable mention to the brilliant silver of Rossella Perniola, an italian who lives in London; unlucky we must admit, she was defeating Mattew Hathrell for the gold medal win, probably: she was missing only one point (she was at 120 out of 121) when Matthew was around 90; this has happened, Matthew catched up and won with an incredible sequence, beginning from the 6-6 starting tile. Things that happen while playing.

Conclusive lottery tournament… but James Heppel takes also this one, but with the unbreakable silver of Piero Nabendu Zama. I must confess that in the year of my first Pentamind I won Lost Cities too.

Honorable mention to the brilliant silver of Cosimo Cardellicchio in TWIXT (the favorite creature of the master Alex Randolph), behind the unreachable french Florian Jamain.
Dulcis in fundo the great bronze of Riccardo Gueci in Chess 960, where he draw a match against a Grandmaster: he could have won the endgame with King-Queen against King-Rook, but he had only one minute left and the GM drew the game by calling the 50 moves rule: a great satisfaction for Riccardo! I never saw him smiling like that!

What else is left to say, we will come back for sure next year, when misfortune of this year will be compensated: becaus cards, tiles and dices remember! Or maybe they don’t? aahahahahahahah

PHOTO: the Pentamind Senior podium, all italians (look at the colors) and my little loot.