Poker, chess and more: do you already know the Olympics of the Mind?

Every four years, the Olympic Games bring together the best athletes on the planet. But did you know that there is a worldwide competition exclusively dedicated to the sports of the mind? In the Olympics of the Mind, great champions don't need to be strong, fast, or even fit. They just need to have a shrewd brain and know how to play poker, chess, or checkers.

In 2021, the Mind Olympics (which are held annually) will once again be held online, as happened last year. The return of the competition was announced at the beginning of August and the tournament will once again feature not only classic card and board games but also more modern games such as Magic: The Gathering ou Discoverers of Catan.

Organized since 1997, the Mind Olympics are still little known to the general public; but in the year of its 25th edition, it's worth taking a look at the history of this fascinating tournament and learning more about the featured games.

At the Olympics of the Mind, poker is king!

Poker is a mental sport based on odds and emotional intelligence. / Credit

The most prominent game of the Olympics of the Mind is poker. In 2021, poker games will be played online, in a format very familiar to most fans of the sport. A card game with over a century of history, poker has become increasingly popular since the late 90s, when the first online poker tournaments were introduced.

In Brazil, online poker has already become a kind of national sport. Brazilians are particularly skilled in the category and have already won several WSOP bracelets (equivalent to the title of world champion). The latest Brazilian poker champion is the gaucho Renan Bruschi, who won a major international online poker tournament in August 2021.

The biggest names in professional poker do not usually participate in the Olympics of the Mind, which are mainly attended by board game fans, college students and academic researchers. Even so, it is an important game to determine the winner of each edition.

Outside of the Olympics of the Mind, the competitive poker scene excites millions of players around the world. The sport's growing popularity is a consequence of the emergence of more and more international online poker sites, which are part of an industry valued at more than 72 billion dollars. There are also several online poker sites available in Portuguese. O 888poker, for example, is licensed in Portugal, a country that had more than 600 active online players in the second quarter of 2021.

Other Games of the Mind Olympics

Poker may be the highlight of the Olympics of the Mind, but there are many other games available to participants. Chess remains one of the most important: held as the greatest example of a mental sport, chess is a millennial game that combines strategy, logical thinking and the ability to concentrate. Other classic board games that are part of the Olympics of the Mind are checkers, shogi, backgammon or reversi (also known as othello).

But there is room for all sorts of mental challenges in the Mind Olympics, which don't exclude more modern games. In addition to those mentioned Magic: The Gathering e Discoverers of Catan, board games like mastermind: Entropy (created in 1977) or the TwixT also encompass the catalog of available games.

England dominate the list of winners

It was here, in the Royal Albert Hall, that the first edition of the Olympics of the Mind took place..

The Mind Olympics are above all an English competition. If we exclude the 2020 and 2021 editions (organized online), the Olympics have always had England as the host country. The first edition took place in 1997 at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the city that most often hosted the games.

The competition also passed several times through the city of Manchester. In 2007, in one of its most peculiar editions, the Olympics of the Mind took place in a church in Potters Bar, a picturesque small town north of the capital.

If England is the inevitable host of the Olympics, the same can be said of its great champions. The "Michael Phelps" of the Mind Olympics is Briton Demis Hassabis, who won the competition five times in a row. A noted neuro-scientist, game designer and artificial intelligence researcher, Hassabis has worked with the UK government since 2018, serving as an advisor on matters related to technology and Artificial Intelligence.

The great champion of the Olympics of the Mind is determined according to a mathematical formula that compiles results in a series of five events. Over the years, some competitors from outside the UK have managed to break British hegemony. This was the case for Andres Kuusk, from Estonia, who won the competition four times.

In 2012, celebrated Italian game designer Dario De Toffoli also managed to take first place. So far, no Brazilian player has stood out in the competition.


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