Creative Thinking World Championship

Since 1997, the Creative Thinking World Championship has been run by the Mind Sports Olympiad. The competition consists of 4 rounds. Each round has a duration of 30 minutes during which contestants must use their imagination and creativity to answer one question by writing and/or drawing responses on paper. After each round, the responses are scored on a scale of 1 to 25 based on originality and depth (there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ answer–just the most creative). The fourth round often features diagrams from patent entries with a prompt asking contestants to create a story/explanation as to what device the patent describes (the highest marks are not necessarily given to the person who guesses what the device is really for–but rather for the most imaginative response).

William Hartston writes the questions and scores each round. Hartston draws upon an immense and eclectic range of interests. He won the British Chess Championship in 1973 and 1975. He writes the off-beat Beachcomber column for the Daily Express and has authored books on chess, mathematics, humour and trivia. He has also been a regular guest on the BBC Radio 4 and occasional TV programme, Puzzle Panel. Aside from his chess and media-related activities, Hartston is a Cambridge-educated mathematician and industrial psychologist. During the 1980s, he was recruited by Meredith Belbin, at the Industrial Training Research Unit in Cambridge, to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team researching the dynamics of team roles. While continuing to write the Beachcomber column and other features for the Daily Express, he has also been behind the launching of the Internet site of useless information. His latest publication is The Things That Nobody Knows (Atlantic Books), a discussion of 501 unanswered questions ranging from science to history, including a good supply of typically quirky items.

Examples of past questions:

One 2012 question alluded to prince Harry’s photos from Vegas:
You are an unmarried, high-profile 27-year-old visiting the USA and pictures have appeared on the Internet and in various publications around the world of you in a state of nakedness. In one of the pictures, you are being clasped from behind by a naked young lady; in another, you are being clasped similarly but face to face. Your charming 86-year-old granny is reported to be highly disturbed by the pictures. Your task is to explain what is happening in the pictures, what led up to it and what happened next in a way that will put your poor granny’s mind to rest.

MSO 2010 Round 2:
Many thousands of years hence, when almost all traces of present civilization have been lost, anthropologists discover an ancient artefact consisting of a set of button-like objects on which the following symbols may be discerned: !ӣ$%^&*()_+
Some smudges below these symbols suggest that each of these may have had a further symbol inscribed beneath it–though that theory is disputed. What does the anthropologist of the future make of this discovery, and what conclusions does he draw about our society?

MSO 2010 Round 3:
Over the past few millennia, the alphabet has evolved from ancient Phoenician, Sumerian and Babylonian glyphs via the Greeks and Romans to the mess we have today, with nobody even having a convincing theory to explain the conventional A, B, C, D, etc order we have inherited. The government has therefore decided at last to put some order into the alphabetical order and you have been commissioned to produce as report on considerations, systems and recommendations that will lead to the desired result of a logical and sensible ordering of the letters in the alphabet.

MSO 2012 Round 2:
What can you do with an Olympic silver medal that you cannot do with an Olympic gold medal, and vice versa: what can you do with an Olympic gold medal that you cannot do with an Olympic silver medal?

Hare and Tortoise

Hare and Tortoise game inventor David Parlett designed his celebrated game in 1974, and runs the World Championship for it each year at the Mind Sports Olympiad. Hare and Tortoise is a wonderful multiplayer game that is based on Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” where the tortoise wins the race by cunning while the hare fails because he overestimates himself and takes a nap during the race. The moral of the story is “slow and steady wins the race” which is incorporated in the game mechanic.
The 2013 World Championship will take place on the evening of August 17.

The game used a then new (as of 1974) game mechanic. Until then movement of pieces in race games was largely determined by the roll of dice. In Hare and Tortoise players pay carrots (the currency in the game) to move forward. The more squares the player wants to advance, the more carrots the player is to pay. The cost to advance increases in an arithmetic series:

1 square = 1 carrot
2 squares = price of 1 square + 2 = 3 carrots
3 squares = price of 2 squares + 3 = 6 carrots
4 squares = price of 3 squares + 4 = 10 carrots
And so on.

Players can earn carrots in various ways – most notably by moving backwards to designated squares (10 carrots per square). This game mechanic creates an interesting and dynamic race usually with no clear winner until the very end. The players start the game with 65 carrots. The gameboard features 65 squares. There are no generic squares; instead, the board is divided in several types of squares such as hare (draw a luck card), carrots (get extra carrots for each turn skipped), etc.

The factor of luck can be eliminated completely from the game by agreement between the players not to land on ‘hare’ squares.

The official world championships have been held as part of the Mind Sports Olympiad with David Parlett’s endoresement 7 times.

1997: British Chris Dickson (United Kingdom)
2007: British David M. Pearce (United Kingdom)
2008: British Tige Nnando (United Kingdom)
2009: British David M. Pearce (United Kingdom)
2010: Italian Dario De Toffoli (Italy)
2011: British Tige Nnando (United Kingdom)
2012: British Mike Dixon (United Kingdom)

Diving Chess

Come and try playing Diving Chess at this year’s Mind Sports Olympiad–its just chess in a pool but instead of chess clocks, you can think for as long as you hold your breath:

Alternatively, for those who want more traditional chess, there’s also blitz, rapid, exchange and the British Championship for Chess 960 (aka Fischer Random).


a8 black bishop
b8 black knight
c8 black rook
d8 black bishop
e8 black knight
f8 black king
g8 black rook
h8 black queen
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white bishop
b1 white knight
c1 white rook
d1 white bishop
e1 white knight
f1 white king
g1 white rook
h1 white queen

Chess 960 is just like regular chess with the exception that the pieces are randomized behind the pawns on the home ranks. Note that bishops must still be on opposite colors and each player still has the right to castle on both sides.

Computer Programming Competition

The Mind Sports Olympiad Computer Programming Competition strives to nurture new generations of global talent in the science and art of information technology. The Computer Programming Competition is be run by MSO founder David Levy. In 1997, Levy led the team that won the prestigious artificial intelligence Loebner Prize for the program called “CONVERSE”. The prize competition rewards the program that is best able to simulate human communication. Levy entered the contest again in 2009, and won. Since 1999, he has been the president of the International Computer Games Association. He was Chairman of the Rules and Arbitration Committee for the Kasparov vs Deep Junior chess match in New York in 2003. Levy has written more than 40 books on chess and computers.

This event is open to all, and in addition to the regular gold, silver and bronze medals, a junior gold medal will be given to the top contestant under 18.

The rules for the Computer Programming Competition are as follows:

Each contestant will be responsible for bringing their own computer, and is free to use whatever programming language and environment that they wish (e.g. C++, Python, Pascal, etc…) Participants will not be allowed to access the Internet during the competition.

There will be four tasks and a maximum total time allowable of 4 hours. When a contestant completes all of the tasks (or decides to stop) they raise their number (on an A4 sheet). The order of finishing determines the winner if two or more contestants have successfully completed the same number of tasks.

The fastest and most-correct contestant is the winner. Contestants score 100 points for every task successfully completed, by lose 1 point for every place in the finishing order they come below the winner.

The tasks will be described in Simple English and no specialist knowledge will be required of the contestants.

For tasks which involve test data, each participant will be given a set of test data via a USB stick. The data will be in a regular text file.

The tasks are aimed at developing algorithms to solve data-drive questions (rather than creating a graphical interface). Also, while there will be no access to the internet during the competition, contestants can use any code and help files that they have stored locally on their computer.

Auditions For Countdown at MSO on August 17 and 18, 2013

Channel 4’s Countdown is always on the look out for the best and brightest people to take part in the show. This year, their casting director will be attending the Mind Sports Olympiad on August 17 and 18 and will hold open to auditions to any MSO competitor who resides within the United Kingdom.

For more info on Countdown, checkout the following link:

Channel 4's Countdown

Channel 4’s Countdown

Countdown is the daytime words and numbers quiz show. It was the first show to appear on Channel 4 in 1982 and has been a popular, cult show ever since. Each day two contestants compete in 15 rounds of words and numbers to become the Countdown Champion.

Channel 4 has signed Nick Hewer to present the new series of Countdown. Nick, who is best known as Lord Alan Sugar’s advisor on the BBC’s Apprentice, will take over from Jeff Stelling at the end of the year to join numbers whizz Rachel Riley and words expert Susie Dent when the Countdown team starts recording the new series at the end of the year. Viewers can see him in the presenting chair from Monday 9th January 2012 onwards.

Countdown is Channel 4’s longest running series airs weekdays at 3.10pm.