Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Great World Memory Champions Of History

As we all know, history has been full of interesting World Memory Champions. And here are a few more of them:

Terence "The Punching Man" Punchman (World Memory Champion 1763), a noted London prizefighter, was the other World Memory Champion to hold the title despite never memorising anything. During the celebration dinner at Simpson's-On-The-Strand (then a social club for philosophers, fortune tellers, coal miners and similar professions) after the world championship in 1763, newly-crowned world champion Edith Estragon promised to hand over the trophy, title and all attendant ranks and privileges to anybody who could beat her in a fight. Punchman, who was dining at the next table, immediately got up and knocked the champion unconscious with a single punch to the head. Her one hour, thirty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds as champion (timed by the ever-pedantic Baron Crysanthemum on his pocket-watch) is of course the second-shortest title reign in World Memory Championship history.

It was suggested that the frail 93-year-old Estragon had probably been making a joke, and that her offer therefore shouldn't have been legally binding, but as she never regained her memory of the incident (or of anything else), there was no way to prove it and the title devolved on the boxer. During his year-long reign as World Memory Champion he had a regular newspaper column in which he answered readers' questions on the subject of memory to the best of his ability and was invited to dinner with the Prime Minister, during which he punched several people unconscious and thereby also became Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Taxation and Tennis. He declined to compete in the 1764 world championship, but failed in his attempt to win the title when he was spotted lurking outside the championship venue and clobbered by the bodyguards that eventual winner Szeznlwicz Norberto had had the foresight to employ.

Baboushka Boguinskaya (world memory champion 1853) competed in every world memory championship from 1800, when she was three years old, until 1847, and finished last on each occasion. She despised memory sports and everybody involved with it, and only took part in the competitions because her mother forced her to. Domineering Mrs B eventually gave up on her dream of vicariously living the life of a memory master through her untalented daughter (who was unable to remember what playing cards were, let alone which one she had recently seen) and instead took her to America to force her to become a rodeo champion.

This turned out for the best in 1853, when the World Memory Championship was held in Idaho. The venue had been announced three months in advance, but this was insufficient time for the message to reach Africa, where all the world's memorisers lived, and for them to make the lengthy and arduous journey to the championship venue in the middle of the empty plains. The Boguinskaya family, however, happened to be in the neighbourhood, looking for buffalos to ride, and Baboushka was forced to take part. Although she scored zero in every discipline, she was given a bonus point for owning an unusual hat, and thus won the championship by virtue of being the only competitor. Her mother, however, had lost interest in memory sports five minutes earlier and departed for Nepal, resolving to give up on her talentless daughter and become a mountaineer herself.

Porcelain Palladium (World Memory Champion 1947, 1956, 1983) was supposed to be called Percival. However, his parents both suffered from speech impediments that prevented the registrar of births and deaths from understanding what they said. He also refused to allow them to change the name, even when they wrote it down for him. Young Porcelain therefore grew up embittered towards authority figures and often found fault with the arbiters when he competed in memory championships. He generally hurled bricks and kettles at them from his seat while they were trying to tell contestants where the toilets were, and if at any point anyone tried to tell him the rules of the championship, he would attack with bone-crunching fury until nobody in the room was left standing. He won three world championships on the three occasions when unfortunate ski-jumping accidents (he wasn't a ski-jumper and never went within a hundred miles of a ski-jump, but freak gales caused ski-jumpers to land on him on three separate occasions) left him paralysed and unable to speak or otherwise do anything that might get him disqualified.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brillian Ben :-)