Monday, April 20, 2015

Let's go skating!

I'm sure you all remember the blog post I wrote eight years ago in which I compared memory competitions to figure skating. Or at least the picture that followed it. It's interesting how things have changed since then. Back in 2007, "national standard" competitions with their shorter disciplines were still a bit of a novelty, the US championship was the only really different kind of memory tournament, and the XMT didn't exist even in people's wildest imagination.

The XMT, of course, is exactly the kind of free-skating thing I was burbling about eight years ago, and I'm pretty sure it now gets the general memory-athlete community more excited than the world memory championships do. But things like that and the Memoriad and the multiple other competitions going on (I haven't even mentioned the cool things happening in Los Angeles, been so wrapped up in Extremeness...) have all sort of combined into a really quite cool whole. The WMSC isn't as big a deal as it used to be when those were the only memory championships in the world, but while the world championship with its hour-long disciplines is still something people aspire to, it's not going to be swept aside. I like the balance we have right now!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Glossary

An additional note to tonight's blog - Yanjaa has given me a good telling-off for referring to names and words as 'nurds' instead of 'nards', so I do apologise for any confusion caused. The official ruling is now that 'nards' means 'names and words' or the people who are good at memorising them, and 'nurds' means 'numbers and cards'. So now there can't possibly be any mix-ups!

The draw is done!

And hmmmmm, not the group of death I was most worried about, but it's going to be tough. Check out the group draw here!

Let's have a look at the groupings, starting with Group A: Simon, Yanjaa, Anne, Katie. Poor Katie, she was hoping to avoid Simon, and I'm sure she would have preferred not to go up against Yanjaa either. But I don't think that's a problem - Katie really is better than those two at the crucial names and words (nurds), and I think she could spring a surprise or two. In fact, Simon could be in a little bit of trouble here! This is the nurdiest group of all, with four experts fighting it out. If he slips up on numbers or cards (which, I'll grant you, he seldom does), it might not be plain sailing for the reigning champ.

Group B: Jonas, Enhkjin, Lance and Marlo. I'd certainly give Marlo a chance here of reaching the knockout stages. (I'd really love to see Team Britain do well in the XMT). It does look like Jonas will be favourite to top the group, but I can see a fierce battle developing between the other three.

Group C: Mark Anthony, Boris, Tuuruul and Akjol. That's a good draw for Boris, I think he'll do well here. And I can see Akjol being his closest rival; he's got a sort of all-round consistency on the big occasions, I think based on my admittedly limited knowledge of the guy. By the way, is it me or does that photo look nothing like Boris? Are we sure it's him?

Group D: Johannes M, Ola, Enkhmunkh, Marwin. This is going to be a real ding-dong; all four of them are likely to be evenly matched and producing some impressive results. It'll be down to who can do it with the most consistency, and I think that's probably going to be Hannes. Marwin is my dark horse to do well at the XMT this year; he's improved a lot since 2014.

Group E: Christian, Johann, Annalena, Johnny. Interesting in that Christian and Annalena are a couple, and will be head-to-head against each other for the first time; that's something to talk about in the press. But I can see Christian coming out on top of this group quite easily, maybe with Johann in second place.

Group F: And finally, it goes Ben, Johannes Z, Tsogbadrakh, Alex. The good thing about this is that at least three of the group will probably be blogging extensively about it - Tsogo might too, although if he does it'll most likely be in Mongolian. I'm going to face some tough challenges from all three of the others here, and it really depends on how fast and reliable everyone can be with cards, images and numbers. In my training lately I've been pretty good at getting 100% correct in a reasonably good time, but we'll just have to see how it goes in the competition...


And if I win my group and my round-of-16, I'm liable to face Jonas in the quarter-final. Finish second, and it'll be Simon. But I'll cross those bridges if and when I come to them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A different kind of death

Okay, I need to rethink exactly what the worst XMT group draw for me could be, because they've rejigged the seedings so I'm in the first pot and introduced rules limiting how many people from each country can be in a group. See the post here for details!

We have 6 groups (A-F), that will have 4 competitors each. The top 6 rankings will own a top spot in the first 6 groups (so, Simon (A), Johannes (B), Jonas (C), Mark Anthony (D), Christian (E), and Ben (F)). Then we will split the rest of the competitors into 3 pools:

Pool 1 (rankings 7-12)

7. Ola Kåre Risa
8. Boris Konrad
9. Johannes Zhou
10. Yanjaa Altansuh
11. Enhkjin Tumur
12. Johann Randall Abrina

Pool 2 (rankings 13-18)

13. Enkhumnkh Erdenebatkhaan
14. Annalena Fischer
15. Tsogobadrakh Saikhanbayar
16. Anne Reulke
17. Lance Tschirhart
18. Tuuruul Myagmarsuren

Pool 3 (rankings 19-24)

19. Alexander Mullen
20. Marwin Wallonius
21. Marlo Knight
22. Akjol Syeryekkhaan
23. Katie Kermode
24. Johnny Briones


GER: 7 competitors - no more than 2 in each group
MNG: 5 competitors - no more than 2 in each group
SWE: 3 competitors - no more than 1 in each group
UK: 3 competitors - no more than 1 in each group
USA: 3 competitors - no more than 1 in each group
PHL: 2 competitors - no more than 1 in each group



So, I'm now in group F, and who'll join me? Well, from pool 1 I think the name that instils the most terror in me is Boris - he'll beat me in names and words most likely, and everything else quite possibly too. The 'easy' option would probably be Enhkjin, who's in the top group thanks to some super-fast times in images and numbers in the qualifying tournament that he might not be able to replicate in a one-off situation.

I've thought about pool 2 since I did my previous Group of Death predictions and decided that Enkhmunkh is slightly more deathy than Lance is, so he moves to the top of my most-feared list today.

And now that I can't be paired with Katie or Marlo from pool 4, that I think leaves Marwin as the one to most make me tremble.


Revised Group of Death: Me, Boris, Enkhmunkh, Marwin. Revised Group of Life: Me, Enhkjin, Anne, Alex. Fingers crossed!



And then, of course, we have to think about who I'll play in the knockout rounds if I manage to get through the inevitable group of death I'll be drawn in. They're using the knockout phase structure from Euro 2016, apparently, but that doesn't strictly tell me who I'd be up against if I win my group, because that seems to be arranged so that groups A and D are the top two seeds (they're the ones who play runners-up rather than group winners in the quarter-finals), so there'll probably be a bit of re-jigging of the alphabet. But E and F do seem to be fifth and sixth seeds in that structure too, so I guess I'd be playing the runner-up of group E (Christian's group) in the round of 16. After that I play a group winner - it's logical to have 3rd seed against 6th in the quarter-finals, so that would mean... Jonas again. Should I say "yikes" or "aha, my chance for revenge!"?

Tell you what, I won't say anything until I've got through the group stage. It's seriously dangerous to start planning things as if I'm going to win my group, isn't it?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Let's get extreme!

The most exciting part of the Extreme Memory Tournament that happens in advance (except for the qualifying competition) happens on Wednesday 15th, at 12 noon EST, which means 5pm here in Britain! It's the draw for the groups, and I would really prefer not to end up in the most horrifyingly difficult group again, if it can possibly be avoided...

So here's how it works. The names are in four pots, and I'm in pot 2:

1. Simon Reinhard
2. Johannes Mallow
3. Jonas Von Essen
4. Mark Anthony Castaneda
5. Christian Schaffer
6. Ola Kare Risa


7. Ben Pridmore
8. Boris Konrad
9. Johannes Zhou
10. Yanjaa Altansuh
11. Enhkjin Tumur
12. Johann Randall Abrina


13. Enkhumnkh Erdenebatkhaan
14. Annalena Fischer
15. Tsogobadrakh Saikhanbayar
16. Anne Reulke
17. Lance Tschirhart
18. Tuuruul Myagmarsuren


19. Alexander Mullen
20. Marwin Wallonius
21. Marlo Knight
22. Akjol Syeryekkhaan
23. Katie Kermode
24. Johnny Briones

Now, being in the second pot isn't so bad, because it means I don't get put in the same group as Boris, Johannes Z or Yanjaa, who are all experts at what Alex Mullen called 'nards', meaning 'names and words'. As an aside, that's not a good thing to call names and words. Not when 'numbers and cards' is another combination that people talk about. Let's call them 'nurds' instead; that should remove any possible confusion.

Pot one contains reigning champion and hot favourite Simon, who I would really prefer to avoid at all costs. It does include last year's 4th-placer Mark Anthony, who looks the most tempting prospect, for all that he did so well last time round. I'm fairly sure I can beat him if things go well, and finishing first in the group would give a big advantage when it comes to the knockout rounds.

Pot three contains a selection of scary Mongolians, who are more of an unknown quantity to me than the Europeans and so make me nervous with their occasional extremely good scores in numbers and cards. Tsogbadrakh, though, I know to be someone who concentrates on numbers more than anything else, and Tuuruul hasn't competed very much lately. Enkhmunkh is the one who's most worrying of the three, with his cards expertise; but Lance is concerning too, just because he's the kind of person who could pull an amazing performance out of nowhere. Hard to say which of them is the group-of-deathiest. The undeathiest in the pot would probably be Anne, though nothing's ever easy here.

Pot four, on the other hand, has the name of Katie jumping out at me. Just like with James Paterson last year, she's the big nurds expert in the bottom six, and I really want to avoid her. Marwin is improving a lot too, and he's got the advantage of having been there last year. I would say my preferred opponent out of those six is Alex - excellent memoriser and all-round-nice-guy though he is, I see him as someone who's not quite up to my level yet in all the disciplines (except names, of course).


So, the Group of Death that I really don't want to end up facing: Simon, me, Lance, Katie. Group of Life: Mark, me, Anne, Alex. Let's just see how it goes...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Othelloadby

Saturday was the traditional clashing-with-the-US-Memory-Championship othello regional in Oadby, and since a trip to New York is too expensive (it's still open to Americans only), I took the train to Leicester and the bike out to the traditional Baptist church venue. The pub down the road where we always used to go to lunch has closed since I was last there (apparently it was also closed last year, when I must have been doing something else that weekend), but otherwise very little changes. Eight competitors, including organiser Steve Rowe - Imre Leader, Phil Marson, Iain Barrass, Roy Arnold, Ken Stevenson and Ken's son Neil, who was the British Champion in 1985 and hadn't played for around 25 years. I played pretty terribly throughout, which is what happens when you don't play a single game since the nationals last year (the two othello tournaments in between happened on the two weekends I was in China), though I somehow beat Phil in a way that I'll have to analyse on Zebra to see what happened.

The thing about that list of competitors is that they've all been coming to othello tournaments for a fair bit longer than I have (Steve I think predates me by a year or so; the others by at least a decade), and I've been around for quite a long time now. Like 16 years or so, in fact. I can't help wondering if our attempts to encourage new players to take up the game need a bit of work. While we've got Imre with his unfailing excitement over every game, pointing out great moves and playing through possible alternate lines for hours thereafter, I don't think the game's ever going to die out from lack of interest, but we really could do with attracting a few more newbies...

Imre won, 7 out of 7, Phil beat Iain in the last game to put them both on 5, Neil obviously wasn't too out of practice on 4, me and Steve on 3, Roy on 1 and Ken on 0. I need to get back in the habit of playing online, that'll get my brain working again.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Brain of Britain meets Brain of China

Check out today's edition of China Super Brain! Featuring Robert Fountain versus Roy Lam; Katie Kermode versus Li Wei; James Paterson versus Liu Jian and Ben Pridmore in a cool cravat versus Li Lu!

Here's the complete video:


What a completely awesome show. I hope we get to do it again!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Get back to where you once belonged

Nine years ago, almost to the day, I posted about 30-minute binary training, and said "I've recorded my score every time I've practised since I started properly training again, and it's gone 2545, 2715, 3005, 3195, 3355, 3650, 3865, 3980"

I've done two training sessions in the last week or so, and they were 2140 and 2475. So if I keep training a bit more I might get back to the level I was when I started training in 2006. It's depressing how far I've sunk away from the levels I used to be at - I've resolved not to go to the world championship this year if I'm going to get the kind of abysmal scores I managed in 2014, so I really need to get memorising regularly...