Monday, October 27, 2014

Doctor Who is rubbish nowadays

And to think I spent most of last year being awestruck by how wonderful it was, too. It's like they've genuinely run out of ideas - everything we've had in 2014 (and the Christmas special in 2013) is just re-hashing the same stuff they've done over the last few years, without any kind of original thinking behind it. It's not Peter Capaldi's fault, you could see he'd do a good job if they gave him a script that let him say or do anything, but they really need to re-think the whole thing and go with something new.

Get rid of the contemporary Earth setting for a bit, it's been done to death, and go out exploring the universe of time and space, will you? It's a time machine...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Another extremey update


I should address this now, before anyone gets some funny ideas. Obviously there is a lot of money at stake here, and having a qualifying round online is going to bring up all sorts of questions and concerns for most serious competitors. Specifically with regards to cheating.

But rest assured. First of all, all online submissions must be accompanied by a video. The requirements will be EXTREMELY strict (continuous filming, no cuts or edited segments, shot at a specific angle, with certain things that must be in view of the shot, etc.). Any case that is questionable or leaves us unsure, will be disqualified. Obviously there will be some level of subjectivity. The judging committee will be made up of a few of us who are organizing the event (we are all very involved in the memory world and know what's up), and we will always hold the right to reject, question, re-try, accept anyone we choose (if you don't like that, then you don't have to compete, simple enough). The goal is to be as fair as possible, obviously. But we are going to look at every case with the same amount of care as any other. For example, If we've never heard of you and you come in with an absolutely crazy amazing score, you bet your butt we are going to look into that very carefully. But also, if you're the World Memory Champion and you hit a world record, we will equally look into that as well. That's not to say we will assume it's cheating, but we will make sure it is legit as best as we can so that every one has an equally fair chance of making it into the 2015 XMT.

So there you have it. While this is supposed to be a fun and exciting competition amongst competitors who are passionate about memory sports, a day will come when someone wants to cheat their way to victory. Yes, this competition has rules and regulations, but it's still relatively "mom and pop" run. Simon Orton and I (Nelson Dellis) created this thing and will NOT stand for cheating.


So let that be a warning to you all (imagine me waggling my finger sternly at this point).

For the avoidance of doubt, I wasn't at all saying that any of my memory friends and loyal blog-readers would even consider cheating in my last blog entry! Anyway, I like this strictness, it gets my whole-hearted approval. I also want to try the qualifiers as well, even if I don't have to, so I'll try to dig out my old video camera and see if I can get it to work.

Other Extreme things that have occurred to me - in this year's competition, we had twelve matches each in the group stage; in the new format it'll be twenty. That's quite a bit of brain-strain for one day, even if the matches are just one minute of memory and four minutes of recall - will we see the best results at the start and competitors will burn out later on, or will we warm up to the task and be flying through the memorisation at record pace by the end of the day?

I didn't mention the new prize money distribution before, but that's very nice, and reduces the amount of money that one person can grab all for themselves by being better than everyone else (this is good news for everyone except Simon, obviously). $100 for each match won is an especially nice touch - will it reduce the incentive to try for a world record if you've already qualified for the knockout phase? Probably not, knowing memory people. We're not the type to go for a 'safe' hundred dollars and give up the chance of two thousand, especially since that comes with the accolade of having the best result.

And the inclusion of a knockout 'round of 16' is awesome, meaning that twice as many people get the fun of an Extreme Memory Task! With the top two in each group and also the four best third-place-finishers all qualifying, that should reduce the 'group of death' factor and make it less likely that someone really good will be narrowly edged out...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Let's get extreme! Again!

Woohoo, great news from the Extreme Memory Tournament!


Hello Extremers, finally some updates concerning next year's competition. Here are the new and sexy facts:

1. Dates: May 2nd and 3rd, 2015

2. Location: Same as last year at the fabulous Dart NeuroScience center in San Diego, CA.

3. New event: 1-minute Images (and no it's not silly Abstract Images). I'll let you guys try and imagine what that might be...more specific details to come soon.

4. XMT training website to go live in December. So you and everyone else can get their practice on.

5. Bumping up to 24 competitors, instead of 16. See #6.

6. Qualifiers: The top 8 competitors from last year will be automatically invited. The remaining 16 slots will be determined by a series of online qualifiers (on the XMT training website). Literally ANYONE can attempt to be qualify for the XMT.

7. Money: The prize fund has been bumped up to $76,000. Oh yes! No travel stipend this year, but everyone who qualifies will get SOME money, with many more incentives during the 2-day competition as well. See HERE for the specifics.

The Basics
•The Competition will be...◦two-day event held on May 2nd and 3rd, 2015

held at the Dart Neuroscience Convention Center in San Diego, CA


sponsored by Dart Neuroscience and Washington University in St. Louis (WUSL)


offering money prizes from a pool of $76,000



24 of the top mental athletes in the world will be competing to ensure that the competition is at the highest level. The top 8 from last year's XMT will automatically qualify for the 2015 XMT. The remaining spots will be determined by qualifying rounds, which will be held over 5 consecutive weeks starting mid-December 2014 (see below).


The competitors will be split up into 6 groups of 4, mixing the best and worst in each group to maintain fairness.


The competition will be run first in group stages (Day 1) and then single-elimination Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Runner-up Match, and Finals (Day 2).


All matches will be head-to-head competitive style, with competitors facing each other (1-on-1).


All events will be digital. All memorization/recall will occur on a laptop. For XMTs, a laptop may or may not be used (this will be announced prior to the task).


* * *

Qualifying Rounds

Starting mid-December (exact date TBD) and spanning over the course of 5 consecutive weeks, those who wish to compete in the 2015 XMT will have to submit their best scores on to the XMT training website for each of the 5 events. Competitors will have limited attempts and time to complete their BEST performance of the selected event of that week (the events will be the same ones from the competition: Names, Numbers, Cards, Words, and Images). The best 16 total scores over all events after the 5 weeks will be invited to compete in the 2015 XMT. More details to come...

* * *



More on the site, go and check it out!

First thoughts, apart from the general "yay!"... six groups of four, five disciplines, still one day for the first round, we must be doing it with four matches simultaneously. That'll give us 45 rounds, as compared to the 48 we had this year.

How does the seeding work? And will it take into account that I barely whined, moaned and complained at all about ending up as fifth seed for the 2014 event because Ola landed one measly point ahead of me in the recalculated world rankings, and then ending up totally in the Group of Death, and everything. Here's hoping it works out a bit more easy for me in 2015, but then on the other hand I do love a challenge...

Top eight from last year qualify for this one - sorry about that again, James.

And the qualifying tournament is what intrigues me the most, even if I don't have to qualify. I mean, it's really easy to cheat at online score-recording. And if there's a prize for just turning up, surely someone out there will be tempted to qualify dishonestly? There's some very strange people out there, after all - remember Evil Eugene Varshavsky?

Incidentally, how the heck did I remember Eugene Varshavsky's name after five years without even having to look it up? Maybe I'm turning into a name-memorising expert!

The new discipline "images" sounds an excellent choice! When Nelson started talking about adding a fifth discipline, I thought it would destroy the balance between system-memory and more-natural-ish-memory, but if the images is a completely-natural-ish-memory thing, it works! I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Well I'll go to the foot of our stairs

There are people out there who think I sound very northern, but they should hear the people I work with now. It's true, Yorkshire is a very different world. I have to get into the habit of saying 'while' to mean 'until', and owt and nowt at every opportunity.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ultimate Master of Memory

There's a sort of wild discussion going on at the Facebook world memory championship group at the moment about the sheer volume of people who can call themselves "World Memory Champion" or the like, and what to do about it. Without wanting to jump in and derail the conversation , I thought I'd blog about what seems to me the main problem - people keeping old titles forever, even if they're not relevant any more.

I've always said that people shouldn't still be called 'Grand Master of Memory' if they qualified for the title in one of the old ways that doesn't even get you more than a little pat on the back nowadays, scores having improved so much. But then, I've always disliked the kind of person who comes to memory competitions just in order to get the easiest possible "official" title and then uses it for their career as a dubiously-qualified motivational speaker or life coach. Really, if I had my way I'd scrap the whole 'grand master' thing - there are lots of mind sports out there where the only title to strive towards is world/national champion, and having this subordinate level of grandness just encourages the wannabe-millionaire-businessman type to come to our nice competitions (as opposed to the nothing-better-to-do-with-their-time memory competition enthusiast, who should be encouraged hugely, of course).

I also don't call myself a World Memory Champion, by the way. If pushed, I'm a former World Memory Champion who isn't all that good any more. I say, current achievements in the last twelve months should be all that counts for any "official" accolades.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Old age

I'm pretty sure I never expected in my wildest dreams to be thirty-eight. I'm really not sure what to do about it now...

Monday, October 13, 2014

The fields of England

The announcer on the train has just said, about half a dozen times, that the next stop is Duffield. It's actually Dronfield, but it's an understandable mistake, since this line goes through all the Fields on its way up north - Duffield (though it never stops there), Chesterfield, Dronfield and Sheffield.

One day, I'll find the time to look up what the Duff, Chester, Dron and Sheff mean...

Memories of China

Well, I've booked my flights to China in December, so it's official, I'm going to the World Memory Championship. I would really like to be able to do some training before then, so we'll just have to see what happens, but everyone should set a reminder in their new-fangled electronic diaries or file-o-faxes for December 11-13 and keep tabs of what's happening to me, British team-mates Phill and Jake (now I'm singing the Adventure Time song) and the rest of the world's competitors. My metaphorical money's on Simon Reinhard.