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Mind sports: A show of intellectual athleticism

By Andrew Duval Nov. 10, 2022

Launched to newspaper headlines by a conspiracy cheating controversy earlier this year, the Sinquefield Cup chess tournament has prompted a spike in the popularity of mind sports—games based on intellectual ability.

The term “mind sports” rose to popularity in the late 1990s, but many of the games themselves have ancient origins. They have retained popularity over the years for a variety of reasons, the most notable of which include their simplicity. Enthusiasts often showcase their skills in the Mind Sports Olympiad, an international board game competition. The Mind Sports Olympiad has hosted annual competitions, mainly in London since 1997; at the first Olympiad, the winner was awarded a 100,000 pound prize fund. The competition features mind sports ranging from classics like chess, Scrabble, Backgammon and Go to newer games such as Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders, Dominion, Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne, as stated by the official website.

“Mind sports are just as important as physical sports; we should respect those that want to train their brains instead of their quadriceps,” Freshman Gavin Liu said.

Mind sports gained even more recognition in 2002 when the British Minister for Sport declared that mental agility deserves the same degree of respect as physical agility and that mind sports must be legally separated from trivial board games. Moreover, countries such as Belgium, Ireland, Poland and the Netherlands have officially recognized bridge, a four-player card game, as a competitive sport.

Despite this support, mind sports have not always been regarded with such importance. Even though the International Olympic Committee recognized chess and bridge as sports in 1990, neither has made an appearance in the Olympics. Furthermore, a British court ruled in 2015 that bridge could not be considered a competitive sport, with Justice Ian Dove claiming that the definition of sports does not include mind sports. According to The Guardian, the court’s ruling is supported by the 1937 Physical Training and Recreation Act, which categorizes sports as activities involving physical fitness.

“I have participated in a few mind sports. They have been very enjoyable and helped me be more creative and improve my problem solving skills,” Junior Aoto Sakamoto said.

According to Higher Education Review, mind sports benefit science, tech and math students, helping build mental skills such as the ability to make quick decisions, cognitive agility, memory as well as game theory.

“Mind sports reduce stress and help me develop skills such as discipline, perseverance and a growth mindset, which are important for kids,” Junior Ameya Kulkarni said.

The most popular mind sport, according to World Mind Sports Games, is chess, which was adapted from the Indian game Chaturanga. The game has consistently evolved, with intricate new tactics constantly introduced and many competitive tournaments held around the world every year.

Poker, a card game played at both casinos and tournaments, is another popular mind sport. It is highly competitive and requires the ability to make profitable decisions. A game often thought of as another way of gambling, Poker requires strategy and planning. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the game involves a player who must bet that the value of their hand is greater than any of their opponents’ hands. Then, each subsequent player must either raise the bet or drop out. The player holding the highest hand at the end wins the prize money.

Speedcubing is another mindsport especially popular with younger athletes—the average age of players has been reported to be about 11. Critics speculate that the popularization of this sport for the younger generation could be due to social media. Many users have gone viral after sharing videos of themselves solving a Rubik’s cube at record rates.

Although many are skeptical of their status as a true sport, mind sports are rapidly gaining recognition and increased participation.


Andrew Duval

staff writer

Andrew Duval is a freshman staff writer for The Charger Account. He spends his spare time surfing Wikipedia, reading, and editing videos.

Harry Kang


Harry Kang is a sophomore at Leland High School currently working as an artist for The Charger Account. During his free time, Harry likes to listen to Frank Ocean and procrastinate on school work. Occasionally he breathes oxygen and sometimes consumes H2O.

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