Monday, August 23, 2010


I didn't bother to check the exact dates until tonight, thinking it was later in the week, but in fact the Saturday and Sunday just gone were the 10th anniversary of the first memory competition I ever took part in. It was the World Memory Championship 2000, and the scores are still hanging around on the internet here!

I think 16th out of 21 competitors was pretty good, all in all, considering that I had never used a memory technique before the evening of the first day. Let's be nostalgic and look back a decade to see what things were like back then...

The first thing of interest is that the WMC was just a two-day event back then. Starting at 10am and carrying on until 7:30 in the evening each day. The hour-long marathon disciplines had shorter recall times - I think it was 75 minutes, but I'm not 100% certain - which cut the overall championship length down a bit, and of course there were fewer competitors, so less organisational hassle for everyone. It expanded to a three-day event with longer recall times in 2002.

Dominic O'Brien won quite easily, as he always did back then, with Andi Bell coming second, getting great scores in some disciplines but bad ones in others, which was also quite traditional by that time. And Gunther won the binary and spoken numbers on his way to third place, which he also always did in those days. The World Memory Championship was a little bit stuck in a rut in 2000. It shook itself out of it in 2002 and 2003 with some status-quo-smashing performances.

Whatever happened to... Well, Dominic is still hanging around, albeit as an organiser rather than a competitor (although he still hasn't "officially" retired, you know), Andi pops up from time to time (he won't be in London this week, but apparently he's still planning to be in China), Gunther is still ever-present and still at the very top of the memory world, but what about the rest of those 21 participants ten years ago? Daniel Corney now calls himself Daniel Tammett and writes books about how great he is. Rob Carder last competed in 2002, but kept in touch with things on internet message boards until a few years ago. You never know, he might pop up again some time. Dr Yip is still teaching small Malaysians about memory skills and is sure to turn up at a competition again one of these days. Tom Groves I saw in New York a couple of years ago, and Graham Old has a blog on the internet somewhere that I should go and check out while I'm thinking about it. It'd be good to see them both at another championship. Michaela Buchvaldova is now Mrs Dr Gunther Karsten, and so still involved with championships interspersed with motherhood. I haven't actually heard anything from Christiane Stenger for quite a while, but I think she's still technically a memory celebrity in Germany. Then we have four Malaysians - Dr Yip's class of 2000. I know nothing about them and none of them ever came back to a memory competition. The next year, though, there were some really really talented youngsters who came along with him! I'll write about that next year, maybe. Tatiana Cooley was the American champion - we haven't heard from her for a while, and I have no idea what she's doing now. That great berk Ben Pridmore is still turning up to competitions, but nobody likes him, so that's enough about that. Hew Kian How got the booby prize from Dr Yip that year, then we have Harald Lammermeyer who I think I know, but I can't remember what he looks like or what kind of person he is. I've got a bad memory. Edison Hong won a trip to London by coming third in the US Championship, he was a friendly and fun young high school student, but he didn't carry on with the memory sports thing after this. And the last two are more Germans, I think, but I don't remember them.

And look at how rubbish those top scores and world records were! Except the poem one, that was really really cool, until the likes of Astrid came along a few years later and blew it away.

I'm still meaning to write a book called "Noughty Memories" about all the memory competitions of the 2000s, you know. I'll get round to it one day, possibly after I retire.

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