Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fun fun fun in the Sun Sun Sun

They've cleverly redesigned the layout of the Kings Cross St Pancras tube station so that it takes five times longer to get to the trains than it used to, but even so, I managed to get to our new London Regional venue, the Sun public house, with plenty of time to spare. In contrast to previous London pubs that have hosted othello competitions, there was also somebody at the pub with a key to let us in at the agreed time.

David had booked the room but then been unable to be there and act as tournament director, so there had been a bit of a flap on the mailing list for the past week about who was going, whether it was worth having the competition at all, how we'd get clocks and boards there, etc. (the British Othello Federation does own lots of boards and clocks, but has yet to invent a good system of arranging to leave them with somebody who can bring them to the next tournament - when last heard of, half the clocks were in Imre's office and the other half in Steve Rowe's house). But everybody and everything that had been worried about turned up at the Sun. Lots of boards and pieces, lots of clocks (albeit most of them old-fashioned analogue ones and not the groovy digital clocks that we prefer), enough players to exactly cover the cost of the room hire (this is inconvenient for me, because it means I don't have to bank any money, and so when I come to put together the BOF's accounts in the autumn I'll think I've lost the London Regional's profits somewhere, forgetting that there weren't any), a laptop with a pairings program and everything we could possibly have needed.

Except transcript sheets. The tournament director brings transcript sheets for people to fill in, and nobody had so much as mentioned this on any of the internet forum discussions, so nobody had thought to bring any with them. Still, it turns out that modern technology allows us to create them and print them out at a place down the road from the Sun, so all was well in the end.

We had nine players, which is exactly the worst possible number for a seven-round swiss-system tournament. There's a bye, which nobody likes, and everybody plays all but one or two of the other players, which is just silly. But with not enough time to make it a nine-round round-robin, we just had to put up with it. And it all went very smoothly, we finished in ample time and there was a lot of excitement and intriguing results. Iain won, with Ian second, and I played uniformly badly throughout.

Lunch in the pub was interesting, too - the pub "does food", limited to a choice of pizzas or baguettes, but it turns out that when you order it, the pub phones up a pizza place down the road and orders a delivery for you. This unnecessary middleman did lead to us getting completely different pizzas from the ones we'd asked for, but never mind, pizza is always good food.

There was a bookie's just across the road, but I still didn't have a flutter on the Grand National.

Friday, April 09, 2010

London calling

Othello in the Sun tomorrow, in more ways than one. The pub we're going to is probably called the Sun, unless I'm misremembering, and the weather's nice. And maybe there'll be a major tabloid scandal that'll make the front pages, too.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Cambridge again

I sent the following to Florian to put on, but he seems to not be around at the moment, so here's a sneak preview. Stop-press news - we've got really quite a lot of competitors, a surprisingly large number of them being from Sweden and Denmark, but also at least one, possibly two, Americans and one Ukrainian! There might even be some British memorisers there too, although I can't promise any miracles...

Oh, and also, the competition will be filmed for Japanese TV!

What is the Cambridge Memory Championship?

The Cambridge Memory Championship is the coolest memory championship in the whole universe, because it’s organised by the World Memory Champion and his extremely cool friends.

I’m just being silly. The Cambridge Memory Championship is a small, friendly, annual memory competition, ideal for beginners to have their first experience of a real-life memory championship, or for seasoned veterans to relax and have fun with the weird and wonderful memory competition people.

So is it a real memory championship?

Completely and totally ‘real’! And ‘official’ too! It’s arbited by top WMSC-approved arbiters Phil Chambers and Nathalie Lecordier, it follows the official ‘National standard’ memory championship format, and everyone who competes in it will get their official place on the world ranking list (or, if they’re already on the list, have the chance to improve their position).

When is it happening?

Sunday, May 2nd. It starts at 9:00 in the morning, promptly (unless we have to wait for someone to arrive with the key to the competition room. It’s the kind of competition where that might happen.) and finishes at around 6:00 in the evening. There will be a break for lunch at around 12:00.

Where is it happening?

This year’s event takes place at Trinity College, Cambridge, an ancient and extremely beautiful old university building. It’s right in the centre of Cambridge, and easily accessible by public transport – although the Cambridge train station is a very long way away from the city centre, so be prepared for a long walk or a bus journey after you arrive. Cambridge itself is easy to get to from around the world – if you’re on a budget, look for a cheap flight to Stansted Airport, which is 25 minutes away from Cambridge by train.

Once you’ve found your way to Cambridge, find your way to Trinity College, which can be seen on the map here:

The competition takes place in Whewell’s Court, through a little gate across the road from the main college gate. Someone will be hanging around to point the way. The W in ‘Whewell’ is silent, by the way – it’s pronounced ‘you-ell’.

More details of how to get there, where to stay (I recommend Cityroomz, right next to the train station: ) and the other things that are happening that weekend can be found here:

What does it cost to take part?

Participation is completely free of charge for beginners (a beginner is someone who has never competed in any memory competition, anywhere, before) and £5 for everyone else. Which is so cheap that it really doesn’t count as costing anything at all, wouldn’t you say? You’ll also need to pay for your own travel, accommodation and food, of course.

What can I win?

The winner has the great honour of becoming the Cambridge Memory Champion. That’s it, basically. Sorry, there aren’t any prizes. But it’s not about winning, anyway, it’s about taking part, and meeting other memorisers.

What kind of things will we be memorising?

The schedule looks like this:

9:00 Welcome and introduction
9:15 Random words 5 min 10 min
9:45 Binary numbers 5 min 15 min
10:15 Names and faces 5 min 10 min
10:45 Numbers 15 min 30 min
11:45 Lunch break
1:00 Cards 10 min 20 min
1:45 Speed Numbers 5 min 15 min
2:15 Abstract Images 15 min 30 min
3:15 Historic Dates 5 min 15 min
3:45 Spoken Numbers 100 sec 5 min
200 sec 10 min
4:45 Speed Cards 5 min 5 min
5 min 5 min
6:00 Finish

Full rules are attached to this email – Florian, can you host them somewhere?

We’ll explain exactly what each discipline involves before we start memorising, but it’d obviously be a help if you know the rules before you get there. Any questions, please ask and I’ll do my best to answer!

You can ignore about 95% of those rules - all the bits about tiebreaks have never, as far as I know, ever been applied in any competition, ever.

What else could I possibly need to know?

If you want the dates and words to be translated into your own language, please let me know as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’ll get them in English.

The competition is now in its fifth year! Three of the four previous winners have been German – Clemens Mayer, Gabby Kappus and Dennis Müller – with just Ed Cooke’s win in 2007 flying the flag for Britain. There might be a trophy one day, if I get round to buying one, and maybe your name could be the next to be potentially inscribed on this wonderful hypothetical trophy!

See you there!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Never forget where you're coming from

I probably should have mentioned yesterday that it was Grandma's 90th birthday. Happy belated birthday to her!

Here's an interesting fact about Grandma - her grandmother, my great-great-grandma, was Scottish. A Graham, to be specific. And I just found out today in the course of randomly wandering around the internet that the Graham clan motto is apparently "Ne oublie" - Don't forget. I think that's quite groovy, and I'll be representing Scotland at memory competitions from now on.

Incidentally, I hear from a friend in Denver, Colorado, that I was on the radio there last night, in some programme about the brain, or something. Talking at the world championship last year. I talked to a lot of people there, I don't remember which particular interview this would have been, but I hope anybody out there who heard it enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


I must confess that over Easter I've got quite hooked on Deal Or No Deal. I've never watched it before, but now that I have, I think it's completely awesome. The most feel-good game show I've ever seen! A real celebration of the people of this country all getting together to support one another. I'm going to watch it every day after work from now until I get bored with it!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Don't warn the tadpoles

I had a dream last night that woodlice were stealing my sharp kitchen knife. There was a missing floorboard in my flat somewhere, and the woodlice were (somehow) manhandling the knife down it and into their secret lair. I just rapped my knuckles on the floor a couple of times, the woodlice scurried away and I retrieved the knife, thinking to myself "I'll have to keep an eye on those woodlice, I'm sure they're up to something..."

So just be careful, everyone. Watch your backs.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The joys of Easter

It's great to have spent three days doing absolutely none of the important things I was planning to do this weekend, and still have a day left to do them before I have to go back to work. I don't feel remotely guilty, and I can lounge about on my settee, listening to Jive Bunny with a clear conscience!

That said, I really do need to do a lot of stuff tomorrow. It's going to be a busy day...