Sunday, July 15, 2018

Everyone's a winner

Or at least Novak Djokovic and the French football team are. And for that matter, so is John Graham, who's just won the US Memory Championship! This is very cool, because he's another new, up-and-coming memory star from America who might well go on to do great things in future. The days when I was too polite to say how very low the standard at the US Championship was are long ago now, it's definitely one of the focal points of major memory cleverness even in the absence of Alex! Plus, since the competition resolutely sticks to the principles of being an entirely different format from any other memory competition in the world, it's always fun to follow! I must go out there and watch it again some time; it's been way too long since I did that.

Also, here's what I would do if I had lots of money and resources - run an international Memory League team championship! Each country has a team of five players, there's something like four countries involved, and everybody competes simultaneously to get the best score they can at each of the five disciplines. Each team nominates one member to be a specialist in each discipline, so everyone gets their moment in the limelight, and you get three attempts at each one.

The seating would be arranged like this - imagine a big TV studio, lots of lights and things, and an audience watching. Centre stage is one big seat for each cards specialist, sitting at a computer screen, not able to see each other or the big giant screen overhead for the audience. The four cards specialists come out (to cheers from the audience), and stats about them are shown on the big screen. Four more sets of seats are to the sides, further back, for the rest of the teams, and all the players sit down simultaneously and memorise a pack of cards as fast as possible. The audience watch along on five quartered split-screen displays. At the end of each attempt they all get up and see everybody's scores, then sit down again and try to beat it. The 20 competitors are ranked in order of their scores, 20 points for the best, 19 for the next and so on. Specialists get double points in their specialist discipline.

Repeat for images, names, numbers and words! Throw in some expert camera-work and commentary from the likes of Florian, put the whole thing on YouTube, and I'm sure the TV people around the world will come running with wads of money in their hands! And even if they don't, it'd be a lot of fun for everyone!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The four corners

I'm officially going to Seoul in August, which is really extremely cool. I've even resolved to do some proper practice, although that was a week or two ago and I haven't actually done any yet. But good intentions can take you quite far in this world.

And speaking of going far, there was a thing going around the internet recently about the furthest north, south, east and west you've travelled. My north is Gothenburg, east is Tokyo, south is Rio de Janeiro, and west is San Diego. Which took a bit of checking on maps - I thought Westlock was more north than it actually is, but it's not really into the proper north bit of Canada, it's just above the line where everyone in Canada actually lives.

So now I need to beat those records, naturally. I should go to Sydney and beat the south and east (or west, if I go the other way) records in one fell swoop. Or to a different part of Sweden, or Norway, because Gothenburg's only just fractionally more northern than Aberdeen!

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Clash of arms (or of small discs, anyway)

One thing I didn't mention yesterday about our room in the castle keep, was that it's full of swords and shields, various torture devices, helmets, and a lot of dressing-up clothes. All of which, Marie assured us, we were allowed to play with, because they were only replicas. But we mainly contented ourselves with playing othello instead, and although my own performance was spectacularly rubbish, the whole thing was an absolutely thrilling tournament!

After round 6, in which Imre lost to Bruce, Imre was still the leader on 5 wins, but there were a whole five people in joint second place behind him on 4! And I wasn't one of them, but never mind, I'll spend the next year practicing and win it in 2019.

The way it all shook out in the end, Roy (who'd unexpectedly beaten practically everyone) played the grand final against Imre, but couldn't stop his continual UK-championship-winning streak, now on four years and counting. Iain and Bruce played the third-place playoff match, which ended up an especially exciting draw, so Iain finished third on his disc count in the round-robin.

Also, happy 372nd birthday to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man

It's the othello nationals, in the scenic location of the confusingly-named Newcastle Castle. Which is, of course, a very old castle.

You can see how it must have happened, obviously. "Why-aye, man," one of the founders of Newcastle must have said, for that is how people from Newcastle invariably start a conversation, "let's name our 'toon' [for that is how people in Newcastle pronounce the word 'town'] after this lovely new castle of ours!"

"Jolly good idea!" the other founder of Newcastle must have replied, "for while the castle will inevitably grow old in time, it won't be until long after the pair o'wers [meaning 'the two of us'] are dead and gone, so it won't be US who get jeered at for living in a 'toon' called Newcastle with a very old castle!"

In any case, the whole thing's gone on for about a thousand years too long for them to change the name now, so we're stuck with it. As for the othello playing, interesting features included a pre-competition excursion to see a were-rabbit that lurks nearby, and me generally playing badly but getting more discs than I really deserved. We have nine players overall, a nice number for a nine-round competition (though ten would be even better), and played the first four games of the round-robin this afternoon.

I started out against David Stephenson, playing his first tournament for about 25 years, and lost 34-30, then in the second round lost 33-31 to Roy. But I regained the momentum by scoring a point in the third round against that perpetual loser, 'bye', and finished the day off with a (rather fortunate) 36-28 win over Bruce.

And it's finely poised on the leaderboard, with Imre and Iain on 4 out of 4, then a whole five other people on 2, including me. So if I was to somehow win all my games tomorrow, I'd be entirely possibly in the top two, who contest the grand final! But I'd probably have to remember how to play the game first.

We had dinner this evening in the Herb Garden restaurant, notable for having a giant horse statue, wearing roller-skates and leg-warmers, outside the door. It just needs a horn, and you've got Marigold Heavenly Nostrils.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


What I really want from the World Cup is for England to beat Brazil in the final, because that would just be really cool. So it would make more sense for us to deliberately lose to Belgium tomorrow in order to end up in the bottom half of the draw, rather than getting the less-impressive quarter-final match-up with Brazil.

But then, on the other hand, we'll inevitably lose to Spain in the semis if we end up in their half of the draw, so we'd probably better just beat Belgium and get it over with.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Another place I'm going

Newcastle, this weekend! For the national othello championship! The nationals are always cleverly arranged so that they start after lunch on Saturday, giving people time to get an early train, so I've got no excuse for not going. I really should play more othello online; the only times I play the game nowadays are when I go to actual competitions...

Monday, June 25, 2018

Around the world

Should I go to Korea in August? I think I should, actually - there's a memory competition in Seoul on August 25-26, and I like the idea of going to it. It clashes with the MSO, but I wasn't all that enthusiastic about going there this year, and I've already got the week off work - I could run the MSO memory competition at the weekend, then fly straight from London to Seoul, and be back again to go back to work on the Tuesday. It all works quite nicely.

I mean, it'll cost a lot of money, but I could do the whole thing for not much more than a thousand pounds, and it's nice to travel. It's not completely 100% in line with my resolution not to spend money to excess until I've paid off my remaining debts, but, you know, it'll only be two intercontinental holidays in the year, and I really have been good at not spending money unnecessarily when it comes to small things...

They pay me too much at work, that's the trouble. I keep telling them.

Another thing I would like to spend money on, but I'm really not going to, is Sonic Mania Plus - it looks like the coolest video game since the 'real' Sonic games back in the early nineties. Almost enough to convince me to buy a PlayStation, or whatever the cool kids are buying these days. But I won't do that, I'll just go to Korea and otherwise be frugal with my money.