Blogging from London! I love this internet cafe next to Charing Cross. Anyway, I got the train down here yesterday afternoon in the pouring rain, found my hall-of-residence-cum-hotel with a minimum of getting lost, then set out on a reconnaisance mission to find the venue of the UK Memory Championship and the MSO.
If you're ever trying to find MWB Business Exchange's Paddington offices (and you should, it's awesome, I can't recommend them highly enough), you really should follow the map on their website. It's a bit tricky to navigate, but don't give up on it and use Google Maps instead, because the address is "1 Kingdom Street", which Google Maps thinks is about a mile away from where it really is, and the London A-Z thinks doesn't exist at all. Luckily, London has internet cafes for weary and wet travellers (did I mention that it was pouring with rain all day?) to turn to after an hour or so of fruitless searching.
Having established where the memory championship was going to be, I made my way to the easily-found Soho Theatre for a bit of poker before getting an early night. The nightly poker tournaments at the MSO run from 6:30 to 10:30 every evening, but I'm a terrible player, so I figured I could count on being knocked out within an hour or two at most. But I'd forgotten I'm also a naturally lucky player, and by a combination of dreadful play and ridiculous luck I ended up coming second and being there until eleven o'clock at night.
Also luckily, it had stopped raining by that point, which was particularly lucky since I got lost on the way back to the hotel and ended up going to bed at a bit after midnight.
But after a couple of hours' sleep, I was all ready and raring to go for the fourth UK Memory Championship (and the first to be an 'international standard' event instead of a shorter and easier 'national standard'). I managed to find "Kingdom Street" without any real difficulty this time (although it's not really a street as such, just two enormous office blocks on a business park) and got to the completely wonderful venue of the championship bang on time.
I really can't enthuse enough about the venue - it might just be the best place we've ever had, and it's all thanks to the generous sponsorship of MWB Business Exchange. If you ever need an office or a meeting room, check them out, you won't regret it. Now, memory competitors don't ask for much from a venue. A quiet room, basically, but there are certain optional extras that are nice too, like an extra room for arbiters, a place for competitors to go and chat out of earshot of the competition room while others are still recalling, plentiful drinks, and so on. This venue has all of those, it's a huge spacious competition room, and it's completely and totally silent. Even though Paddington Station is right next door, you genuinely can't hear a thing.
It's a gorgeous modern building, made almost entirely of glass, with super-fast zippy lifts without buttons on the inside (you press a control panel outside and it sends a lift to take you where you want to go - only ever seen these once before, and that was at the South German championship. They're very groovy.)
We had 14 competitors turn up - less than was on the list of registered competitors, as usual (I didn't really expect to see "David Duchovny, USA", but it's a real shame that Simon Reinhard wasn't able to come along after all) but with a huge wide range of countries represented. Off the top of my head, it's England, Wales, Germany, Austria, Holland, Slovenia, Italy, wherever Robert comes from (somewhere Baltic, I think) and the Phillipines. The latter team consists of two players and a coach who have travelled about 7000 miles just for this championship, so yay for them. They also called me "Sir Ben" until I told them to stop it.
I did surprisingly well, considering my lack of training and sleep. In abstract images I got a passable 158, then an entirely acceptable 3650 or so in binary. We haven't had the scores for the other disciplines yet, but I think I got about 90 in names and faces, which is as good as I ever get. Then in speed numbers (tiredness and lack of training catching up with me by this point) I was thrown into extreme confusion by Warren saying "Neurons on the ready... get set... go!" instead of the standard formula without the "get set" in the middle and spent about two minutes thinking of nothing but the "get set" and not memorising any numbers. I eventually pulled myself together and got 216, by guessing and luck, and then in the second trial attempted 360 and probably made enough mistakes that I won't improve on my score.
Finally it was 30-minute cards, and I laid out my 18 packs on the table, but as soon as I'd started to memorise I could tell it was going to be an unmitigated disaster if I attempted to look at them all. I decided to play it ultra-safe and just do 12, and I think I got them all right. With 25 minutes of recall time to spare, so obviously I was playing it a lot safer than I needed to, but never mind.
So I'm in actually okay shape to maybe win the thing after all, touch wood. My main rival is Boris, and I will need to do something fairly good tomorrow to beat him, but we'll see. Anyway, time for more poker. It's London Lowball tonight, and I'll try my best to lose more quickly.