Mind Sports Olympiad 2011 – with chess diving!


The 15th Mind Sports Olympiad is underway in Central London with a slightly increased turnout, some old faces, and new challenges.

Peter Burley of Burley Games.


After spending most of the morning and the entire afternoon at the British Library where among other things I read a book that (for me) affirmed the guilt of Amanda Knox, I had a chicken dinner then took a bus to Gower Street before walking the short distance to the London University Union, which is itself a short distance from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which had recently been in the headlines for its association with a woman convicted of keeping a slave, and where many years ago I spent some time researching the academic works of the notorious Arnold Leese. It all happens in London, and it is my great fortune to have lived for most of my life in the greatest city of the world during these interesting times.

At the Union, the 15th MSO was in full swing; Tony Corfe, the man who runs the show, was at home in Potters Bar when I arrived doing some paperwork or whatever; I was told he would be there later, running it at the moment was his wife Barbara aided by a handful of trusted helpers including Josef Kollar.

I asked him if he’d been to every event, and he replied “...every single one”.

Tim Hebbes, Tige Nnando, David Pearce and Bharat Thakrar have all played in all of them of those gamesters I met tonight. Of these, David Pearce is almost certainly the most successful, and said he had just picked up his 109th medal since 1997.

There have been over 600 entries so far including multiples, “We’re beating last year already”, said Josef.

Anything new, I asked? There was the inaugural Kamisado world championship, he added, a game invented by Peter Burley who was also here; he was runner up to David Pearce. I spoke to him briefly and we agreed to meet up on-line as he is very busy at the moment and is off to Leeds soon for an event at Kirkstall Abbey, a place I know well from what seems and is half a lifetime away.

Another MSO regular is Etan Ilfeld of the great State of California which gave the world the Zodiac Killer, the Manson Family, the Hillside Stranglers, and now, chess diving.

Awhile ago someone came up with chess boxing, which struck me as being particularly idiotic, but chess diving sounded as though it could have been a good one-off novelty event. Alas, the first world championship is being held at the Third Space Gym, 13 Sherwood Street, Soho on Monday, August 29 at 3pm. With cameras but no spectators.

I doubt Etan will win any medals for that idea, but he has already won the chess960; a silver in the chess rapidplay, tied for gold in Settlers of Catan, and picked up a silver in chess exchange. No, these variants are not for me; although I no longer play I treasure my victory over David Howell who is currently ranked 149th in the world. Even though he was 8 years old at the time.

There are still plenty of events left, so if you are in London this Bank Holiday weekend, and the Notting Hill Carnival is not for you, even though most of the rioters have been locked up, check out the MSO website.

[The above article was first published August 24, 2011 [UK time], not August 23 as shown by the archived version.]

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