Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's Christmas Day

Or at least, it is in othello terminology. Today was the traditional "Christmas tournament", traditionally held some time around the end of November. I was meaning to get the very early train down to Cambridge this morning, and so set my alarm clock last night for some time before the crack of dawn, but then forgot to turn the alarm on. I did wake up in time - I generally wake up just before my alarm goes off, whatever time it's set for - but decided that since the alarm hadn't gone off yet, it must not be time to get up, and just lay around dozing until I finally decided to look at the clock and noticed that the train I was meaning to get had left five minutes earlier.

Still, I got the quarter-past-seven train with no problems, trusting that the half-nine starting time would really mean ten o'clock or a bit later, as it usually does, and I got to the Junior Parlour at Trinity College (the traditional location) just after ten. I was greeted with "Well, that buggers everything up, doesn't it!" from Aubrey, who'd just finished inputting everybody's name into the computer and pressed the button to generate the pairings for round one. Still, it turned out to be easy to fix.

The tournament itself went reasonably well - I lost to David Beck and Helen Starkey, then went on a sort of winning rampage, beating Roy, David Hand, Adelaide and Aidan before finally losing to Imre. Four out of seven is sort of what I aim for at this kind of thing, so I'm quite satisfied. I also surprised everyone by consistently playing the diagonal opening, which I never do - I'm very boring in my choice of openings normally, so I'd decided to make an effort to do weird and unusual things in this competition. Whether it helped or hindered me, I'm not sure. I was white in four games, in one of which I forgot I was playing the diagonal today and went perpendicular without thinking, and the other three games were my losses to David B and Imre, who generally beat me whatever I'm playing, and my win against Roy, who I generally beat. So it's hard to really analyse, and the only conclusion we can draw is that I'm a mediocre othello player.

Still, getting home tonight was unusually easy, given how hard it is to travel to and from Cambridge by train - I got to the station at exactly the right moment to catch the 18:12, and only had to sit around at Ely for twenty minutes or so to get on the Nottingham train. So, that's all the othelloing until next February, and now we're into the long winter mind-sports-free closed season. It's terribly boring.


Mike said...

Hi Ben, I have 'Ben Pridmore' set up as an alert (well, who wouldn't?) on a Google Mail account of mine. I also have a couple of other words which are to do with memory. The alerts arrive in my Google Mail and then, if I have time, I read them - that is how I found that article from yesterday.

Not sure why this chap is asking for a three people example of your cards method.
You've given loads of hints recently - more than enough, in my opinion. Maybe a computer English language 'translator' is making it unclear for him / her.

Each person that you use can only ever use 1 special unique action. If the person works at the cafe on the Eastenders 'soap opera' then their action might be to flip an egg which lands on object/person no# 2. Why use 'flip an egg' as an action? Because that is a typical action of a person who works in a cafe: the action is appropriate for the person. That person would never ever be capable of doing any other action.
For you, the action is not primarily for storing card information; instead, it is for linking together a story in a definite sequence visually.
The object or person no# 2 is only EVER capable of 1 unique action. eg. A pen might only ever be able to squirt ink over person/object number 3.
Anyway, just to say that I think I understand from your many recent examples what you do.

Zoomy said...

That's sort of correct, but it's not quite as restrictive as that - I don't have one fixed, unique action for each person. For example, Ian Beale, 975, who works (or worked, I haven't watched it for a while) at the cafe in EastEnders is often associated with cooking, since that was his 'thing' in the show for a while, but if the next image was a young single woman, he would probably be proposing marriage to her instead, since unsuccessful marriages are also his 'thing'.

All my characters interact with all my other characters and objects in ways that are appropriate for them, but the exact details of the interaction vary greatly depending which images are interacting with which. A pen, for example, might squirt ink if the image before it was a character who likes practical jokes, and if the image after it was a character who the first character might reasonably see as the butt of a joke. But if the previous image is a more serious-minded person, he/she would just use the pen to write something. If the previous image was an object, it would generally bump into the pen and cause the pen to leave a mark on image #3.

It's very difficult to explain, but every time I see a combination of images, what they do is controlled by what those particular images "would" do in that situation, based on my knowledge of my people and objects. I don't have pre-defined actions for them, I make it up on the spur of the moment. Some of my images always, or almost always, do the same action, while others have a wide range of possible behaviour.

Just to give a few more examples, Ian Beale, since you mention him, is a pretty pathetic figure - as well as cooking and marrying, he will generally be on the receiving end of some misfortune. Objects are more likely to fall on his head in my brain than they are to fall on, for example, Pat Butcher, who generally has a bit more dignity and would get out of the way of any falling object. If Ian is followed by a small, inanimate object, he'll generally pick it up and wonder how he can best use it to his advantage, but if the next image is a more domineering kind of person, they'll probably take the object away from him.

And so on. It would take all day to describe each one of my 2704 images' possible behaviour in any situation, and this is what our persistent friend is struggling to grasp - I can't sum up my "secrets" in a set of simple numbered rules that if he follows them exactly, will make him a memory superstar. Whenever I explain something like the paragraphs above, it's only useful for purely academic interest to people who want to know how my mind works. People who want to develop their own memory system need to use their own imagination to come up with a technique that works for them.

Johann said...

Hey Ben!

First off, congratulations in defending your title! [I know you got plenty of that a couple of weeks back but I just like to throw mine in]

It's been quite entertaining reading your blog, especially when you've been having some troll problems.Its kind of funny when you shoo them away for their silly questions but then answer it in a reply to someone else, indirectly at least. Which is something you did for a couple of times now and its more than enough to give a hint, as Mike said, on how a world champ's mind work. There are dozens of useful nuggets to be picked from here and some other places in the interwebs to draw upon strategies for the budding mentathletes, if they just know how/where to look.

Reading your account on how you do your associations, one is left at awe at how quickly you do those in your mind. Basing from your time in speed cards, it takes you less than a sec to generate an image in your head, and to think you can even do much faster in practice [not to mention Simon's 20s attempt and Dennis' 14s record at XL/OMC?]. So, I think the more appropriate question is 'How were you able to do it that fast?' Mere mortals does it in 4-5s.

By the way, how's that 10k peg you've mentioned coming along? I'm in the middle of shifting to a "BEN System" when you wrote that idea a couple of days back and thought "why not just do a 10k instead?" since the champ is playing with idea.

I read Simon's thread in the Brainboard asking them to do a group thing to fill up the 10k but then nothing came out of it, at least IMO. Is there anyone currently using a 10k? Or the top athletes just using your system or something similar? Would you advise someone to dive directly into 10k images?

Anyways, Thanks for your wonderful blog and your generosity in giving away your "secrets." And goodluck with your trolls!


dellas said...

Johannes, how you take Historic Dates as one image?

Johann said...

Sorry, I'm not that Johannes, but you can find the answer you are looking for here.


boss said...

Sir you imagine first image with second one and then again second with third one.
Then third with next image so you imagine four image in next location.

Zoomy said...

The only answer to 'how do you do it so fast?' is 'practice!'

I've memorised cards many, many times over the last nine years or so, and I've got a little bit faster every time I've done it. There's no short-cut of the kind that my 'troll' is looking for (he's not really what I would call a troll, let's not be too nasty here), the only good advice I can offer is not to waste time asking me to explain how to associate images with each other, but to sit down and practice yourself! I keep saying that, for all the good it does...

And no, just three images in each location. But the locations don't exist in a universe of their own, they form a continuous story.

And that is, once and for all, the end of this question-and-answer session. Unless somebody new comes along with an interesting question about memory techniques. But no more interrogation about pointless irrelevant details of how I memorise things, please! Practice!

boss said...

This is for sure going to impress my Sir,

Sir, how much funny do abstract images are?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Gave up on taking the train to Cambridge - now I take the train to St Neots and then get the X5 coach onwards (Ben might be able to catch it from Bedford and others can get the coach from Milton Keynes - both coachway and train station), which generally stops closer to tournament venues than the train (