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Home / Features / Come play poker… and other games in the 2020 Mind Sports Olympiad

There’s a lot happening online these days, including the still-in-the-rear-view-mirror Stadium Series and the just-around-the-corner World Championship of Online Poker.

But during this month we’ll be we’ll be looking in on some other games happening online — poker, plus about forty or so more of them.

That’s because the Mind Sports Olympiad is taking place August 1-30, culminating with the Pentamind World Championship. And this time, it’s all happening online where we can watch… and play, too!

What is the Mind Sports Olympiad?

The Mind Sports Olympiad or MSO is an annual competition that began in 1997. It takes place in England — usually London — and typically involves players from 30-40 countries traveling to play games against one other over the course of eight or nine days.

The variety of mind sports played at the MSO is, well… mind-boggling.

The schedule features a mix of ancient and modern games, many of which are played in different variations and formats (including heads-up or multi-player).

There are standards like Backgammon, Chess, Draughts, Go, Bridge, and Poker, of course.

Newer games like Catan, Acquire, Quoridor, Entropy, Agricola, Lines of Action, and Hive have become important parts of the schedule.

Players also compete in games like Castles of Burgundy, Cities and Knights, and Battle Sheep. There are some unusual ones special to MSO, too, such as Creative Thinking, Mental Calculations, and Diving Chess. The latter involves playing chess at the bottom of a swimming pool, with players having to hold their breath while contemplating the board and making their moves.

The MSO moves online for 2020

This year’s schedule features 15 World Championships and 90 tournaments altogether.

Circumstances being as they are, the competition was moved entirely online this year for the first time. Even so, online platforms were found for all the games listed above (and several more) — except Diving Chess, of course.

The move online this year introduced a couple of changes. For one thing, entering events is entirely free. Donations are welcome, but there is no entry fee for any of the competitions.

Also, thanks to playing online there have already been many more players and more countries being represented among the participants.

There are several games per day, each of which awards medals. Click here for a look at the full 2020 Mind Sports Olympiad schedule.

In addition to the individual games, there are “meta”-competitions involving players accumulating scores in multiple games. The marquee one, of course, is the highly-coveted Pentamind World Championship.

Like a pentathlon, the Pentamind winner is determined by who gets the highest cumulative scores in five different mind sports. Pro poker player Ankush Khandelwal won the Pentamind the last two years running, and through the first few days of this year’s competition he is in first place again. Here are the updated standings.

Ankush Khandelwal in 2019 after winning his second straight Pentamind World Championship

There are other “meta”-Championships involving multiple games like the Eurogames, the Modern Abstract Games, Backgammon, Chess, and the Amateur Poker World Championship.

You Can Complete in the Amateur Poker World Championship

Speaking of poker, as usual there are a variety of poker games being played in the competition. In fact, PokerStars is serving as the host platform for the games.

Even better, you can play, too! There is no charge to play — it’s all play money — and participants have to be at least 18 years of age.

The first poker event is this Saturday, August 8. It’s a no-limit hold’em event beginning at 19:30 UK time (14:30 ET) and set to last about four hours. Here is the schedule of poker events:

  • Aug. 8 (Sa), 19:30 UK/14:30 ET — No-limit hold’em tournament
  • Aug. 9 (Su), 19:30 UK/14:30 ET — Pot-limit Omaha tournament
  • Aug. 12 (W), 19:30 UK/14:30 ET — Seven-card stud tournament
  • Aug. 14 (F), 19:30 UK/14:30 ET — 5-Card Draw Poker tournament
  • Aug. 15 (Sa), 19:30 UK/14:30 ET — Heads-Up Zoom, No-limit hold’em
  • Aug. 16 (Su), 19:30 UK/14:30 ET — Heads-Up Zoom, Pot-limit Omaha
  • Aug. 19 (W), 19:30 UK/14:30 ET — No-limit 6+ hold’em tournament

The player with the top five scores in these seven poker events will be crowned the 2020 Amateur Poker World Champion.

In order to play, you’ll first need to register for each event you intend to play on the Mind Sports Olympiad website. Click here to get to the schedule, and just click on the event you wish to play and follow the instructions for registering.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll also need to register for the event in the PokerStars client once registration opens. You’ll be given the Tournament ID over on the MSO site to help you find the tournament.

I just registered for the Saturday event myself, so I can attest it is easy-breezy. However I make no such promises for the tournament itself, given how some of the best gaming minds in the world will be sitting around the virtual tables!

PokerStars Ambassadors Jennifer Shahade and Chris Moneymaker are both intending to play events as well. Shahade will be playing chess and poker, and Moneymaker will be participating in some poker events (and perhaps something else, too). So look for them at the tables, too.

You can play other games, too, also for free. Take a look at the full schedule and perhaps give some other games a try.

Watch the Mind Sports Olympiad

You might be wondering… is there a live stream? Yes, there is!

Many games are being covered live with expert commentary. The live stream schedule is packed all month and can be enjoyed on several platforms:

Also, if you are curious to learn more about the games and the Pentamind World Championship, there is an excellent and recent documentary that MSO is making available for free to watch on YouTube between August 10-31. Here is the trailer:


Click here to watch the Pentamind documentary from Aug. 10-31.

Next week I’ll share my conversation with Etan Ilfeld. Ilfeld is a chess master and inventor of Diving Chess. He’s also the owner of MSO and has much to share about competition and games in general.

Stay tuned! And if you decide to jump in and play in the first MSO poker event this weekend, see you there!

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