This year's Mind Sports Olympiad was OK. (For an introduction to the Mind Sports Olympiad, see this old post of mine written 16 months ago. Friends locked, 6600 words.) After seven years of nomad existence, we finally returned to the previous year's venue; the advantage of predictability and prior knowledge made many things considerably easier. The first weekend and the midweek were pretty quiet; games like Shogi and Othello had really weak numbers. Chess was down on last year, but had only a quarter of last year's prize money; backgammon and go were pretty stable, poker was up further, hobby games (German games, if you will) were up a bit too. A very rich lady sponsored the bridge tournaments heavily, so we had our best bridge field yet.
Towards the second weekend, things got much busier; things like Creative Thinking drew their best numbers for several years and the World Memory Championship added a lot of spice. Last year's world memory champion, Andi Bell, broke the world record for memorising the order of a shuffled deck of cards as quickly as possible, lowering his time from just over 34 seconds to just under 33. Very happily, Ben Pridmore won the overall memory championship. Last year, I made a separate post about lovely people who you meet at the MSO, and mentioned Ben's loveliness. Ben remains just as lovely as ever and has one of the smaller egoes of the memorisers. He also found my LJ post in which I mentioned him and replied, so he knows of the existence of this 'ere journal thing, which makes him not only the loveliest but also the coolest - and, officially, the best at memorising.
The way he won the championship was amusing: he broke the scoring system. The World Memory Championship is run like a decathlon: ten events, each event scored in points relative to a figural performance (the poncily-named "Millennium Standard") which is declared to be worth 1,000 points for that event, and pro rata. However, the decathlon scoring system has been developed over the years as man starts to approach the limits of physical perfection in track and field events; however, memory contests are so (relatively) new that the 1,000-point standards are not necessarily appropriately set yet. Ben scored 1,600 points in one event alone, which is the equivalent of someone shocking the world by busting out an eleven-metre long jump. Never mind; I'm glad it was Ben who managed it. (Other cool gag: in tribute to past World Memory Champions of the past who competed in dinner jacket and tie, Ben's final day was spent in a silly T-shirt designed to look, from a distance, like a DJ. Made me smile.)
(Digression: the world memory championships are run to a tightly-controlled schedule of events, with precisely-defined events and scoring criteria announced well in advance. Previous memory championships had "surprise competitions" built in, but these have been removed. By contrast, the considerably less prestigious world Mental Calculations championship - a fancy arithmetic competition that we run - has been run on very similar lines every year, but there is discussion of getting a different compiler to write a different style of paper each year, on the basis that a true mental calculations star should be versatile enough to adapt to any mental calculation challenge. Why the disparity in approach between the two events? Which is more appropriate? I have no answer.)
Consequently, I got to see very, very little of the physical Olympics this year. I would estimate that I worked for an average of 11 hours per day for 12 days non-stop, not counting meal breaks, with one very late night and some half-days of lifting and shifting bookending the main event. However, we were able to use the services of a couple of dozen people who had previously volunteered at the Commonwealth Games when they were held in Manchester in 2002; this was the closest they would get to another multi-sports festival in the short term. Accordingly, I was bordering on being managerial rather than doing all the work myself, and it was distinctly less stressful than previous years. On the other hand, I had experience and mind sports knowledge which the others didn't have, so it was very much a learning process.
For you physical Olympics followers, I was recently pointed to olympic_village, which seems to be a RPG with people role-playing athletes. Seems to be plot-light and quite conceptual, but makes a change from reading a real blogger who wrote from the Olympics. (I note that the site he uses, Mindsay, uses a modified version of the LJ codebase with some dinky little tweaks, so he's the next best thing to a LiveJournalist at the Olympics.).
If your tastes in games, like mine, are rather more towards the futuristic and experimental, there was recently a list posted of pervasive games - games using mobile phone technology in interesting ways to combine urban street-based play with digital administration and decision-making. (All the old Blast Theory favourites are there, plus dashes of Mixed Media as appropriate - your PacManhattan and so forth.) Bit of a shame they missed Damp Assassins, which is an attempt to mate those old university assassination games (cf US Steve Jackson's Killer for a boxed set thereof) with a great big water pistol fight and an excuse to use photo messaging to get the game completed in an afternoon. There's also the inherent potential for soaking innocent bystanders, which is always good, plus the risk that everyone involved will get banged up for doing something which looks dodgy, even though it's perfectly innocent, and so potentially might be wasting police time. Always a bonus!
Coach leaves in four hours and seven minutes, so I suppose it would be traditional to get at least a little sleep in bed tonight before I go :-)