Islington man brings together brainiacs from around the world for 24th annual mind sports event

The 24th annual Mind Sports Olympiad medals. Picture: Etan Ilfeld

The 24th annual Mind Sports Olympiad medals. Picture: Etan Ilfeld - Credit: Archant

Brainiacs around the world got their thinking caps on to compete in a mind sports festival organised by an Islington resident.

Mind Sports Olympiad organiser Etan Ilfeld (right) in a chess match with Shanepes Meredov (15) - a

Mind Sports Olympiad organiser Etan Ilfeld (right) in a chess match with Shanepes Meredov (15) - a national chess master and part of the Turkmenistan National Chess Team. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

The 24th annual Mind Sports Olympiad (MSO), organised by Islington’s Etan Ilfeld, was held online throughout August this year for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It saw 6,000 people from 106 different countries compete in an annual tournament of games including Scrabble, speed reading, chess and Catan.

MSO chief executive Etan is also founder of Repeater Books and Tenderbooks, owner of Watkins Media and Watkins Bookshop, and inventor of diving chess, a variant of the ancient game where each player can only contemplate their move for as long as they can hold their breath underwater.

READ MORE: Nine-year-old Barnsbury chess champion on track to be teen grandmasterHe said: “This was definitely the most competitive MSO ever. I’m humbled by the record entries and to see that even during the difficulties of Covid, board games are as popular as ever and can both exercise the mind and bring people together.”

Claire Wang, a 15-year-old from Los Angeles, was top at speed reading. Picture: Etan Ilfeld

Claire Wang, a 15-year-old from Los Angeles, was top at speed reading. Picture: Etan Ilfeld - Credit: Archant

Many of the tournaments had live-streamed commentary from experts and enthusiasts, but the switch to online brought its own challenges and saw four expulsions due to digital cheating.


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Ankush Khandelwal - also known as GameKing51 - managed to defend his Pentamind World Champion crown for the fourth time running.

This is a unique MSO award for the player with the highest top five scores of any other game.

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A former trader from Nottingham who first picked up chess at age eight and is now a professional poker player, Ankush said: “The competition this year has been stronger than ever.

Ankush Khandelwal - also known as GameKing51 - with Etan Ilfeld. Picture: Etan Ilfeld

Ankush Khandelwal - also known as GameKing51 - with Etan Ilfeld. Picture: Etan Ilfeld - Credit: Archant

“It’s been a massive challenge to try and compete against top game specialists from around the world. Also, I’m grateful to the organisers for finding a way to run the MSO despite the hardships of the pandemic.”

Claire Wang, a 15-year-old from Los Angeles, was top at speed reading by taking in an 100,000-word book in 93 minutes and then achieving the highest comprehension score.

Twenty-year-old Neelakantha Bhanu won the Mental Calculations World Championship category.

MSO’s partners included Mensa, Lichess, the World Puzzle Federation and Board Game Arena.

Etan Ilfeld. Picture: Etan Ilfeld

Etan Ilfeld. Picture: Etan Ilfeld - Credit: Archant

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