International Mind Sports Association

Led by José Damiani, then president of the World Bridge Federation, a small group of international federations representing the major mind sports came together in early 2000’s to contemplate ways of working together for the common good. They included the World Bridge Federation (WBF), the World Chess Federation (FIDE), the World Draughts Federation (FMJD), and the International Go Federation (IGF). Over the years, one by one they became members of GAISF. As such, there was now an annual forum – the SportAccord Convention – where representatives from these sports could get together for extended interaction and dialogue. On April 19th 2005, a subgroup within GAISF was formed – the International Mind Sport Association (IMSA).

The original members of IMSA shared a vision of holding an Olympics-styled event that would become the mind sports’ complement to the Olympic Games.
With the strong push by IMSA, several international events for multiple mind sports have been held, the number and scale of which far exceeded anyone’s reasonable expectations. They include, in chronological order:
– The 2008 World Mind Sport Games (WMSG-I), Beijing, China
– The 2010 Asian Games, Guangzhou, China
– The 2011-2014 SportAccord World Mind Games (SAWMG-1 through -4), Beijing, China
– The 2012 WMSG-II, Lille, France
– The 2013 Asian Indoor and Martial-Art Games, Incheon, Korea
– The 2016 IMSA Elite Mind Games (IEMG), Huai’an, China

Of these events, the first World Mind Sport Games, WMSG-I, represented a conceptual breakthrough and posed a new protocol for other events to follow. Held at the Beijing Olympic Park two months after the Summer Olympics, WMSG-I was attended by over 2,700 athletes from 140 countries, with an additional ~800 staff members and ~300 reporters from 109 news agencies worldwide. A total of 105 medals were awarded in five sports – bridge, chess, draughts, go, and xiangqi. China, with 12 golds, 8 silvers, and 6 bronzes, led all nations.

Four years later, WMSG-II was held at the Lille Grand Palais, Lille, France, closely in parallel to the London Summer Olympics. The event was more modest in scale, but still was participated by about 2,000 players from 120 countries, along with 500 support staff. The same five sports were featured.

The 2010 Asian Games, held in Guangzhou, China, included three mind sports – chess, go, and xiangqi. While this event was restricted to the Asian countries, its significance was not overlooked: it was the first time mind sports were integrated with regular Olympic-style physical sports in the same setting. Held at the luscious and brand new Guangzhou Qiyuan, the event had a very different appearance as all mind-sport athletes lived in the same athletes’ park with other physical-sport athletes and were dressed routinely in sport uniforms.

In 2011, yet a different type of international mind-sport event was conceived and born. That was the SportAccord World Mind Games, or SAWMG. The host country, China, termed the event 国际精英智运会, literally meaning “mind-sport games for the elite”. This name accurately captures the essence of this event: it is intended for a small number of the best professional players in all mind sports to come and compete for a claim as the world champions.

SAWMG became very popular with the international fan base. In its second version, an online competition was added to invite worldwide amateur participation, which exceeded 500,000 in 2014! Unfortunately, SAWMG was suspended in 2015 following an internal turmoil at the SportAccord. In its place, a similar event was organized by IMSA – the IMSA Elite Mind Games, or IEMG. The first version, held in February 2016 in Huai’an, China, was again greeted with worldwide fanfare.

IMSA Member Sports


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