Sunday, July 29, 2007

The brain's fine, the fingers need some help

First of all, it turned out not to be possible to find a big black hat for sale anywhere in Stuttgart. I'm horrified. But I suppose if they were easy to come by, everyone would wear them and they wouldn't look so cool any more. So I bought a straw hat instead, which looks quite cool and works as something to prop my stopwatch up on.

Anyway, the competition was great, the venue was excellent, lots of fuss being made over the whole thing by everyone at the Aesculap Akademie. All the competitors got an Aesculap Memo Masters '07 T-shirt, which everyone except Andi dutifully wore. Who needs a team uniform when the venue dress us? Sixteen competitors in the adult championship - twelve regulars and four eighteen-year-olds from the local grammar school who'd never heard of memory a couple of weeks ago and were having a competition among themselves to see who'd do best. Sabine Michelfelder won, for the record, just in case she goes on to be world champion in a few years' time.

Meanwhile, Gunther was on cracking form all weekend. Even better, so was I! After the first two events I mentioned yesterday, I ended up with 3915 in the binary digits, another world record, and 3000 points from the first three disciplines. Which is very cool. Cornelia was third-best in binary, like in the cards, Simon was fourth in all three events on the first day, and Boris, Johannes and Alisa were the chasing pack. Seriously tough competition.

For the second day, I did much better than I expected in the events where the German language got in the way a bit - an entirely respectable 62 in historic dates (Hannes got 79, and he's aiming to beat my record some time soon), 90 in spoken numbers, 81 in names (all German names, half of which I'd never heard of before), and 109 in words, which I'm extremely pleased with - attempting 110, so just one spelling mistake, and about 25% of the words were ones I didn't recognise. Boris set a new world record 227 in words, and Gunther beat his own world record in abstract images with 244.

In speed numbers, I did 360 in the second attempt (having made a bit of a mess of the first one), which would have been a new world record too if Andi, who skipped the morning's events, hadn't done 396 in the first go. So that's his revenge for me taking his speed cards record in Highley. I'll get it back in Bahrain.

At this point, I noticed that Gunther's consistently great scores in everything were not only giving him a safe lead over me (which didn't worry me, because what with the language barrier I didn't go there aiming to win), but also giving him a high enough score that a half-decent score in the final discipline, speed cards, would put him on top of the world ranking list, dislodging me! Unless I could do a very good time in the cards and beat him after all.

But I did a safe 55 seconds first time round, because this was practice for the world championship and I never practice slow-and-steady speed cards. Gunther did a safe time of one minute or so. Second time round, I did 27.44 seconds, but as I put the cards down, they slipped out of my hand and spread all over the table. I carefully put the pack back together, but there was one sticking out that I wasn't sure was the bottom one or another that had come out. And without looking at the face and thus invalidating my time, I couldn't be sure. So I tucked it into the bottom of the pack and hoped for the best. I got the recall right, but it turned out that the last two cards had got switched, so the time didn't count. Which is extremely annoying, but never mind.

Gunther did 47 seconds, and I've been trying to work out in my head whether my time on the second pack, if I'd got it right, would have put me narrowly ahead of him in the final table, or narrowly behind. Perhaps someone with the spreadsheet could save me the effort and work it out properly? Not that it matters - for one thing, I have the moral victory of knowing that but for that mishap I would have had a personal-best total score, despite the four disciplines in German; for another, honour was the only thing at stake anyway - only Germans can win the German championship, foreigners compete alongside them but fight for a different set of trophies. So Gunther was always going to win the big cup, the smaller cup he gets to keep and not return for the next champion and the complete ten-bulky-volumes encyclopaedia (of which he already has more than enough - that's always the prize at the German championships, and this was his eighth win), and I was always going to win the smaller best-foreigner trophy.

But that does put Gunther in the number one spot on the ranking list, that has been my personal property since August 2004! I always figured it'd be Clemens who knocked me off, but it just goes to show how Gunther's still improving steadily after all these years. He definitely deserves to finally be number one, and I'll just have to do something special in Bahrain to get it back.

Cornelia is also still improving at a rate of knots - she finished a bit behind me in the total rankings, to get the second place German trophy. She's now up to 5th in the world ranking, and Simon, who was third, moves up to number 8. It's quite staggering how the standard keeps rising at these things, and the scores get higher by so much every time.

There was a barbecue after the championship, and then the lavish prize-presentation ceremony, which goes on for hours but is always very entertaining - everyone gets medals, trophies, certificates and so on, there's a big screen display with the statistics, lots of applause and local dignitaries handing out the prizes, I love it. The world championships prizegiving ceremonies are always rather subdued in comparison to the German spectacle.

So, all in all, I'm delighted with the way I performed. I was good in EVERYTHING, no weak events, and that's exactly what I've been aiming for over the last year of practice. Bahrain's going to be fun - Gunther kindly, and inaccurately, said he wouldn't have a chance of beating me, but it's going to be a real challenge. As for who's going, that's the problem - Gunther will be there, the rest of the Germans aren't so sure - Cornelia and Hannes definitely can't, which is a real loss (we'll also be missing Joachim, who's currently in Costa Rica on his gap year and can't make it), Boris and Simon are thinking about it. Clemens, no idea, but I really hope he'll be there.

Boris explained to Tony Buzan that as a student, he might not be able to make the trip to Bahrain. Tony, who never really understands the concept of not having enough money for something, helpfully replied "You must!", but he did say that they'll be announcing the prize fund within the next week. In WMSC language, that generally means in the next two or three months, so we'll have to see, but if they did offer big prize money, and split it between, say, the top three in each discipline rather than giving it all to the overall winner, they would get more competitors.

Even so, I'm looking forward to it. If I can do this well there too, I'll win. Need to practice the hour numbers and cards over the next month, but otherwise just keep on form. I want it to be tomorrow, to be honest. I hate waiting for in a competition when I'm in the mood, and I've seldom been quite so in the mood as I am right now.


Zoomy said...

Okay, I worked it out - if I'd got my 27.44 seconds, I would have had 7699 points to Gunther's 7623. Moral victory! Woohoo!

Geoff said...

Does this not illustrate a flaw in the speed cards competition, wherein you could use the memorisation time to order the cards in a previously prememorised sequence?

Zoomy said...

Well, if you can sort a shuffled pack of cards into the order you want in less than 26 seconds, without the arbiters noticing anything's amiss, you really deserve a trophy for being so clever. I suppose they could make a note of the order of the cards beforehand, but that would just increase the possibility of someone cheating...