That's Cambridge Memory Championship 2008. I don't think anyone's ever called it the CMC before, but I think we should start. Anyway, the day was fun. I got to Trinity College a bit before our optimistically scheduled starting time of 9:00, carrying two tons of memorisation and recall sheets, packs of cards and timers in my big rucksack, plus Adelaide's handmade "The MSO Is Nigh" sign to wave around at anyone who looked like they might be looking for the MSO. It even worked, luring in all our newcomers to the memory competition world (and there were four of them, too) while we waited outside for Imre to bring the keys to the room. We got into the room just fine, which is more than can be said for the go players in the Junior Parlour, since the stratego players yesterday hadn't returned the key. Everything was sorted out in the end, I gather.
Our room, on the other hand, was one of the Wolfson seminar rooms, nicely away from the street in the middle of the campus, and which I thought would be an ideal, quiet location. It nearly was, with just a few minor exceptions, the major one being the lift just outside the room which bleeps very noisily whenever it goes up or down. The room is basically an enormous glass cube - all windows, even half the floor is glass, allowing you to look down at the concrete two storeys below. Not a room for vertigo-sufferers. The room also didn't have an openable window or working air-conditioning system, so at first we decided to move over the corridor into the room allocated to the shogi players, planning to invoke the time-honoured law of first-come-first-served, but found that the electric sockets weren't working and I couldn't plug in my laptop. So we decamped back to the original room and put up with the hot, sweaty, airtight surroundings.
The seminar rooms are oddly positioned on the second floor of a building that otherwise serves as a hall of residence for Trinity students. There are rooms either side of the seminar rooms, kitchens, showers and toilets at the far ends, and people occasionally wandered back and forth during the day, able to look in through the entirely glass wall of the room as they passed by. The competitors didn't mind the goldfish-bowl feeling, except possibly when a young man wearing nothing but a towel strolled by in the middle of one event. There were only occasional noisy distractions, such as when another pair of students dragged a double bass and cello over to the lift and tried to work out how to fit them both inside, with all our competitors watching.
As for the competitors, we had, as I've said, four newcomers, which is excellent. We also had two Jameses and Gaby from Germany lending the beginners the benefit of their experience. Katie Kermode, however, clearly wasn't in need of much experience - she started off with an excellent 68 in the 5-minute words, and followed it up with a new world record in 5-minute names and faces, of a pretty staggering 82! That's about the score I normally get in 15-minute names and faces... Katie also has the honour of being the first British woman to take part in a memory competition since the early days of the world memory championships. Dagfinn from Norway has the honour of being the first Norwegian to come to the Cambridge championship, which I think is something to be proud of, whereas John and Dave have the honour of joining the very select group of British memory people, and I hope to see them all again soon!
I'd planned to go to the Mitre for lunch, but it turned out not to be open when we got there a bit before twelve (the schedule for Cambridge calls for an early lunch, working on the assumption that there will be major delays. Today, there weren't), so we went into the pub next door, which has a strange name like the Duke of Beef, or something along those lines, I can't really remember. The food was very nice, unless you ordered the Kentucky Burger like James Kemp did and expected a chicken burger like the menu promised. Due to a confusion in the kitchens, he got a fish burger with salsa and the usual chicken-accompaniments. He still ate it.
For the spoken numbers, we took drastic precautions - Jenny went and stood in the lift, holding the doors open, to stop it beeping in the middle of the recitation, and Phil and Rosie took up positions down the corridor to try to head off any noisy or nude students who might be heading our way. We just about managed an acceptable background noise level.
Gaby won in the end, with a just-over-one-minute speed cards to finish off with. I also had a go at the speed cards, joining in on the second trial, but got distracted by some noise right at the start, could only manage 34 seconds and got the recall mixed up. But Gaby's 3963 points bumps her up to 32nd on the rating list, knocking James Ponder down a place, which will serve him right for not being able to come today. James Paterson's third-place score, contrary to what he was saying this evening afterwards, does move him up a place or two too.
Thanks to Science House, our kind sponsor, there was prize money for Gaby and Katie, which is always nice for morale-boosting among competitors. I dutifully plugged the website to all the competitors, or at least I suggested that they check out "sciencehouse.com, or is it sciencehouse.org? Just type 'science house' into google and you'll probably find it". During the course of the day I also discovered that I am completely unable to say "seventh place" without it coming out as "seventh plathe".
After the competition we escaped the glass cube and fled back to the pub, where Gaby gave me a wonderful gift of a German Hagar the Horrible comic and Jenny introduced me to raspberry gin fizz, which is delicious and might become my regular drink of choice from now on. And now I'm back in my hotel and have to lug all my cards and timers, plus all the BOF's othello boards and clocks, back to Derby in preparation for the competitions there in the coming month. It keeps me fit, probably.