Monday, November 15, 2010

It's last Friday again

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[Pen-and-paper blog, Friday night.]

So, what have we learnt today?

1) I'm not nearly good enough to win the world championship; and
2) I'm much better at 30-minute cards than I always think I am.

You might remember that in London in July (or whenever it was. August.) I attempted a super-safe 12 packs in 30 minutes and finished the recall with plenty of time to spare. Well, today I tried a normal-safe 15 packs, and I STILL finished recalling them with half an hour left. Which suggests that I could have gone for 18 and had a sporting chance of beating the world record.

And that's quite strange, really, because I was nowhere NEAR world-record-breaking levels in the first four disciplines today, and the cards came at the end of a long, long day when I wasn't entirely sure I'd be able to stay awake until the end.

So, to start from the beginning, I eventually got to Heilbronn last night (my train was half an hour late, too, which very rarely happens in Germany) and got a good night's sleep, although I have a feeling that I woke myself up by snoring too loudly. This morning I decided to pass on the hotel breakfast (cold meats and suchlike - typical German fare) and walked into the city centre (it's officially a city, I believe, but it's a small one) to find a McDonald's. And I couldn't! What kind of town doesn't have a McDonald's prominently in the town centre? I passed TWO C&As looking for one!

So, after that disappointment, I went back to the Experimenta, venue for the 13th German Memory Championship. It's a smaller-scale kind of affair this year, no free T-shirt, less of a gigantic press conference to kick it off, and an unusually low turnout in the junior competitions (probably because it's not the summer holidays). But the adults' championship is super-ultra-mega-world-class, as always!

The seats were arranged with me and Simon at the front, Hannes, Cornelia and Gunther behind us, and Boris, Christian and J├╝rgen behind them. As Boris put it, the score you need to finish eighth in the German Championship would win any other national competition outside Britain and China. It's true, because there were several more rows of up-and-coming German memorisers behind the top seeds.

Incidentally, I don't know exactly what the Experimenta is. Some kind of science museum, it seems, but the memory championship took place on the fifth floor in what seems to be a school chemistry lab. Ample space for the 19 competitors, horde of efficient and experienced arbiters and German and Japanese media (Naoko from NHK again - looks like last year's coverage really did go down well!)

The timetable was different this year - instead of just the three "marathons" on the first day, we had abstract images and spoken numbers too. It was an ambitious schedule, and true to form it ran more than an hour late by the end, meaning the day took about twelve hours from start to finish.

The first event was images, and I got what I think is actually a personal-best 232, although that's nothing to be proud of as several of my rivals topped 300 and Gunther beat his own world record with 350. Two lessons for us here - 1) I should have spent less time whining about the whole discipline and more time practicing, and 2) We need to change the 1000-points standard, fast. It's becoming as silly as historic dates was, back in 2004, only it's much worse this time because it isn't ME getting the stupidly large number of points.

In 30-minute numbers my lack of preparation really showed - I accidentally skipped a journey-and-a-half (teleporting myself from Sleeperz hotel to the Lubbock Room as I went around Cambridge) and got horribly confused. Ended up with a score of 913, which could be worse, but if I don't get over 1000 in this one it counts as a rotten performance to me. Hannes performed splendidly, though, narrowly beating his own world record (again) with 1240 or so.

Spoken numbers (in German) was Simon's turn to shine - beating someone else's (Gunther's) world record this time, with an awesome 240. Simon had been below par, just like me, in the first two disciplines, and said he hadn't been training at all either, but this showed he's still up there with the world-beaters. I, meanwhile, was frustrated. In the first trial I memorised the whole 100 digits without a hitch, I thought, but when it came to write them down, I couldn't remember ANYTHING! I had to leave the first 24 spaces blank before I picked up the thread and recalled anything. Some of the missing images came back to me within the five minutes, but not all.

So with three world records in three disciplines, people asked me if there'd be another in the binary. No, I said confidently, there won't. The me of 2008-2009 is the unquestioned world's best at binary, but the me of today isn't quite up to his standard. I think I got a mediocre 3000-and-something, so if there's going to be a world record (we haven't got the results yet), someone else will have to get it. I hope they don't. I take great pride in being the best in the world at memorising ones and noughts.

And then, finally, it was the cards, at which I was unexpectedly awesome. I've probably caught up a little with the leaders, but I'm sure to still be a long way back. Not going to retain my German Memo Open title this year, it seems.

Still, it really is the taking part that counts. And it's been fun!

[Postscript - the McDonald's is tucked away sort of down a back street. That whole global domination thing still needs work.]

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