Games requiring strong mental acuity like chess are mind sports.
Picture an elite athlete. You’re probably imagining things like a muscular physique, blinding speed and the ability to perform spectacular physical feats. You’re not wrong. These traits are in successful players of sports like soccer, basketball, football, and tennis. But even in aggressive physical sports, playing well involves sharp mental performance. On the field or court, athletes analyze situations and make decisions in the blink of an eye.
Think of it this way: An athlete is a bit like a car. The body is the wheels that move the car along, but the brain is the engine that makes the motion possible.
Enter Mind Sports
Unlike physical sports, mind sports exclusively engage a player’s brain power in a competitive context. Instead of lifting weights and sprinting for training, mind sports athletes may solve puzzles or math equations. You get the idea. In mind sports, the brain is the performance muscle.
Examples of Mind Sports
The list of mind sports is broad and constantly growing. Chess, bridge, draughts, go, xiangqi and mahjong are mind sports overseen by the International Mind Sports Association (IMSA).
So is poker and it’s variants like Texas hold ‘em and Omaha Hi-Lo. Poker has even sparked debate with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in recent years about its inclusion in future Olympic Games.
The mind sports umbrella stretches even wider to cover esports, competitive text messaging and computer programming.
Using Online Resources to Learn and Play Mind Sports
Learning or becoming involved with mind sports may seem like a daunting task for beginners, as there are a dizzying number of organizations, study guides and competitive opportunities dotting the mind sports landscape. However, not all sources are equal.
Let’s separate the signal from the static by exploring some excellent websites that will help you master and compete in a few of the more popular mind sports.
Perhaps the most universally recognized of all mind sports, chess involves two players each strategically moving 16 nobly-named pieces around a 64-square board arranged in an 8×8 grid. The game traces its roots back to 7th-century India and its migration to Europe during the following 200 years.
Source: Jon Ludvig Hammer
The United States Chess Federation offers an illustrated, easy-to-follow chess learning guide on their website. Thoughtful diagrams explain each game piece and the moves on the board each can make. That helps players develop a good visual for how to play chess. You can find the guide at the U.S. Chess Federation website.
Go originated in China and has been played for more than 2,500 years. Two competitors move game pieces, called stones, across a 19×19 grid of 361 spaces. The objective is to surround and capture the opponent’s stones. Despite the simple premise, go is a complex game that requires critical thinking and abstract strategy.
If you’re looking for an introduction to go, check out the game’s English language resources on the Pandanet website. An elegantly designed how-to series walks you through the various parts of the game, including the board, stone movement, taking territory and capturing opponents. You’ll find it fascinating at how many layers make up this seemingly easy game.
Poker is a family of similar card game variations. Players use strategy and deft game skill to land winning combinations of cards called hands. Bets take place between players according to what they think their hand is worth compared to the other players. Modern poker began as a five-card variant first played in the U.S. during the early 19th century.
Thanks to a vast amount of online poker resources, players of this mind sport have no shortage of knowledge-building and competing opportunities.
Once you brush up on live poker strategy, you can test your skills against other players in real-time tournaments online. Or maybe you want to strengthen your approach by playing through some automated hands against a computer.
Bridge, also called contract bridge, is a card game involving two teams of two players and a standard 52-card deck. Partners seat opposite one another during the competition. Cards deal in four phases, and partners communicate information about their hands in a bidding process. Partners fulfill contracts by winning tricks that equal or exceed the number bid.
The 17th-century card English game whist is the ancestor of bridge. It eventually gained popularity in the Middle East while the modern concept of bridge developed in Turkey.
The Bridge World serves up an excellent series of lessons that advance you from beginner to intermediate player of this challenging mind sport. There are also comprehensive breakdowns of scenarios you’re likely to face during games and quizzes to test your knowledge.
Head over to The Bridge World and click the “Learn Bridge” link for more information.
Mind sports are as challenging and rewarding as physical sports. They also require a similar level of well-honed skill to succeed during gameplay. And with so many excellent resources available online, anyone can try their hand at a range of mind sports before deciding on a favorite.
Why not take the chance right now to flex your brain, sharpen your critical thinking and knock the socks off your competition?