Sunday, September 07, 2014

Witney and Wisdom

Back home from the national othello championship in Witney, near Oxford. Which is a surprisingly big town for somewhere without a train station. And although my beating-everybody streak didn't quite last all day, I did only lose one game out of the nine in total over the weekend, to Guy, and so ended up playing him (he lost his first game, against newcomer/old-timer Richard) in the grand final!

That's the first time I've ever come anywhere near being in the final at the nationals! And although I was severely burnt-out, brainwise, by that point (how I won my last couple of games before that I'm really not sure) and lost miserably, it's still rather cool. I think I'm going to adopt the German style and call myself the Vice-British-Champion for the next year! So three cheers for Guy, not just for winning, but for organising the tournament and for enlisting seven of his relatives to come and play too! The next generation of othello champions - two young Plowmans (Plowmen?) and four young Brands - all had a great time and were a lot of fun. I also made a concerted effort to learn all their names at dinner (Pizza Express) last night (since they were all impressed by my amazing memory skills and I called Mark 'James' at the start of the meal, not helping my genius reputation), and I still remember them now!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Willy, Willy, Harry, Ste...

Apparently all the children in this country know, word for word, a Horrible Histories song listing all the kings and queens of England in order. It's getting harder and harder to be the only person who knows things.

But it must be getting easier to be in the lead in the British Othello Championship after the first day, because that's what I'm doing. With a mixture of veterans and Brand new players (in the form of the Brand family), we've got a strong field of 16 competitors (a really nice number for Adelaide to work out the pairings for each round, especially since nobody was unkind enough to throw a spanner in the works with a drawn game), and I've beaten four of them in a row today. It won't last.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

It's a living

I've got a new job, up Sheffield way, and it's not only going to pay me actual money for working there (always a plus when it comes to jobs), they're throwing in some extra cash for me to learn to drive and get a car. So I'm going to be a real commuter, and all I need to do is find a driving instructor who's elderly enough not to notice that I'm 37 rather than 17 and so won't jeer at me.

So now I'm currently working out my four weeks' notice at my current job, and then I'll be (eventually, probably) on the road!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MSO Memory

In hopes of getting some people to come to the competition next year, let's talk about the MSO memory competition (or the Memory World Cup, if you want to use its official name). It might need a little refining of the rules before the people who take memory competitions more seriously start showing up - the score calculation was along the lines of "Well, I guess the one who remembers the most stuff is the winner, I haven't really thought about it" - but the idea of everything being scored up to your first mistake, and the very short recall times encourage a different approach to memorising, which is always a good thing!

You have to judge how much you can perfectly remember in the time limit, which is a fascinating balancing-act, much more so than a standard-style event. More World Cups, please! And World Cup competitors!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back home

And the weather's been miserable all day, too. It's been really nice all week-and-a-bit, more or less, lots of sun and warmth with just the odd shower but not at a time when I was outdoors. I remember the first few years I went to the MSO it was always baking hot that week.

Anyway, on Sunday it was othello, and I won the gold medal against a lot of opponents who either hadn't played for at least a decade or were new to the game. Still, it was fun! That brought my total medal haul up to two gold, one silver and two bronze - funnily enough, at the memory championship I got a (smaller-sized) medal haul of two gold, two silver and two bronze, so I wanted to find a way to get another silver at the MSO. That would have meant being much better at anything that was taking place on the last two days, though, so I just had to stick with my total of five.

A great event, all in all! I'll go back next year! I'm an MSO person again, it's official!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Memory memory memory

It's the usual dilemma - do I write about the UK Championship before I've got the results to hand, and forget something or get something completely wrong, or do I wait until then and get everyone nagging me about when I'm going to give my rambling bloggy account of the event?

Well, there's no MSO today, so I'll write a bit and maybe fill in the gaps at a later date. The competition took place in the headquarters of TVapex, who did a live streaming of the last bit of the championship (sorry, if I'd known about it earlier I would have mentioned it here) and had a nice venue for us, with a stage at the front, good sound system for Chris's music and the right amount of desks. I did a quick interview with a local radio guy who thought my first name was David and my surname was Pridditch, and so was someone I can hugely sympathise with. Saying hello to the other competitors and trying to remember whether I'd met them before and was supposed to know who they are, I had conversations like "I'm Milan, I talked to you at the World Championship, I was asking you about what brand of cards you use, don't you remember?" Of course, I said. It's nothing personal, it just takes me two meetings at least before I can remember people.

Indeed, meeting up with Yanjaa at the train station to get there involved a bit of guesswork - I saw someone with the kind of hairstyle I was pretty sure she had, standing in the middle of Liverpool Street station and looking like she was waiting for someone, and just sort of walked in front of her, prominently wearing a hat, until she saw me and said hi.

More competitors need to follow the lead of Krzysztof Kuich and wear a T-shirt with their name and nationality prominently written on it. Compulsory name-badges worldwide would make my life so much easier. I may not have the results here, but I did write down everyone's names on a piece of paper, so that I could blog about them without forgetting them entirely or forgetting just how many unnecessary Zs their names contained.

Team England were me, Marlo Knight, Clay Knight, Phill Ash, Jake O'Gorman and Mohammed Afzal Khan. Jake was accompanied by his girlfriend Starr Knight (no relation - I very much approve of everyone at these competitions having the same surname, so hopefully Marlo and Clay will have success in their plans to get their nineteen siblings competing too. That's not an exaggeration, by the way.)

There was a three-man Team Wales - James Paterson (no relation to the writer with two Ts), Daniel Evans (no relation to the tennis player) and Dai Griffiths (returning to competing instead of arbiting for the first time in six years). And a huge international contingent, made up of Yanjaa Altantuya (Sweden), Wessel Sandtke (Netherlands), Javier Moreno (Spain), Søren Damtoft (Denmark), Krzysztof Kuich (Poland), Milan Ondrašovič (Slovakia), Melanie Höllein (Germany), Sebastien Martinez (France) and Ekaterina Matveeva (Russia). Isn't that a great sampling of European memorizers! And I've made a real effort to remember what they all look like, too.

The team of arbiters was small but widely experienced and capable - Nathalie Lecordier, Peter Broomhall and David Sedgwick, under the watchful eye of Phil Chambers and Chris Day. A great gathering, all in all!

As for the competition itself, I was probably more out of practice than I've ever been; I just haven't been able to do any training at all for months. We started with names and faces, which was a pitched battle between James and Yanjaa, then I got a really terrible result in binary which Phil described for the cameras the next day as being astonishingly wonderful, and we followed that up with abstract images, speed numbers and hour numbers, which all followed the same kind of pattern for me.

There was, however, a close contest going on, as we found out when we got the results on day two. James, Yanjaa, Marlo and Milan were all tussling for the top position, setting personal bests, national records and other milestones. And everyone else was happy with their results, too (Søren and Wessel at the head of the chasing pack) - hopefully in my role as the old man with a huge supply of anecdotes about memory competition history, I enhanced their experience as well.

I did rather better on day two - in words I got a low score with lots of little mistakes, but the important thing was that I was memorising a lot more fluently than the day before. 30-minute cards I got 11 packs, attempting 12, which was enough to comfortably beat everyone else even if it's below what I'd normally go for, dates and spoken numbers were okayish, and I just about managed a pack of speed cards, getting 38.11 in the second trial with a recall that took a lot of brain-racking. Milan, though, was the star of the day, getting a time of 29.96! That makes him the seventh person in the under-thirty-seconds club, which really isn't such an exclusive thing any more.

We should get a clubhouse and a secret handshake.

Anyway, that made Milan the winner! By virtue of Marlo and Yanjaa not managing to get a complete pack, I ended up second, pipping James to the post by the narrowest of margins and annoying him immensely, since I did basically the same thing in the crucial speed cards at the XMT. It was a great event! I'm looking forward to the next one already, and maybe I'll manage to do a bit of training and keep up with all these youngsters next time...