Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cambridge in the spring

The Cambridge Memory Championship this year was a resounding success, I thought. Held at Attenborough Nature Reserve, which is nowhere near Cambridge but is just down the road from me, we had a great lineup of competitors including world number 2 Johannes Mallow, Boris Konrad, rising Norwegian star Ola Risa, British star James Ponder (there are so few British memory people that they all count as stars) and more. A large number of people were staying at my flat - Ola brought Norwegian chocolate, which guarantees you preferential treatment in any memory competition. Not really, I'm only joking. Dai Griffiths and John Burrows were coming on the train from Wales, which apparently takes six hours. Raj Jain had come all the way from India, which takes slightly longer. We also had Swedish superstar Mattias Ribbing, plus Ameel Hoque and his non-memory-related friend Mo, all the way from Manchester, and Conor Muldoon from wherever he lives at the moment, I've forgotten. Anyway, most of us went to the Victoria pub down the road for a meal and some serious memory-talk on Friday night before getting a good night's sleep. John ended up getting my one spare bed, I'm not sure exactly how - possibly because he's bigger and stronger than any of my other guests.

Saturday turned out to be a lovely day - I was planning for us all to get the train from Beeston to Attenborough, but James was staying in a hotel near my place and had brought his car, so he ferried us all there in groups of three or four at a time. Whoever was last out of my flat in the morning neglected to close the door, so it was standing wide open all day, but luckily nobody noticed. We were joined at the venue by ever-awesome arbiter-in-chief Phil Chambers and new-to-memory-competitions Sunjay Parmar, and found our way into the nature reserve's conference room.

This is a perfect room for a small memory competition - quietish, spacious enough for nine competitors and five arbiters to move around and swing cats if necessary, equipped with laptop and projector for the groovy Powerpoint slides I'd prepared and commanding a lovely view of the lake filled with swans, geese, coots, grebes, ducks and whatnot. It also came with a downright delicious lunch - a choice of several meals and desserts which people ordered at the start of the day and then, in the traditional way that memory experts have, forgot what they'd asked for. Also, everyone there was friendly and helpful, and the place is hugely recommended for anyone who's in need of a conference room, any time!

The competition itself was won by Johannes, as everyone had confidently expected, although he wasn't entirely happy with his performance. Ola, who's been working on his Ben System lately, had some really great results and came second. Sunjay, by virtue of being the only competitor who qualified as a beginner, won the much-coveted "Best Beginner" prize. The whole thing ran smoothly and less than half an hour behind the ambitiously tight schedule, so I was pretty happy with it, all in all. Full results can be seen already on the awesome website.

After the competition we went to the Village Hotel down the road, where Hannes was staying. Or at least most of us did - my ambiguous directions sent Phil, Conor and Sunjay to a different pub, where they had a drink before noticing they were alone and coming to find the rest of us. Then a small rebel faction decided that rather than having an expensive hotel-pub meal, we'd rather eat at McDonald's over the road, so my fellow junk-food aficionados John, Ola and Sunjay went there. Sunjay, who's a magician and clearly in league with some kind of demon who grants him supernatural powers, boggled my mind completely with an impossible card trick. Seriously, it was sinister. Then we went back to the Village and successfully arranged for everyone to get on the right train home - trains only stop at Attenborough once an hour, so that's quite a feat.

At around this time I realised that I'd forgotten my world-championship-souvenir jacket back at the nature reserve, but with it being such a nice place, I'm sure someone will have found it and kept it safe, along with the numerous other things that the memory masters will doubtless have forgotten to take with them.

And we've (rather late in the day) now been told that the UK Championship will happen on August 25 and 26, so that gives me something to work towards. I'm planning to get down to some serious memory training over the next few weeks (work and hanging out drunkenly with my brother permitting) and hopefully being on reasonable form by then - I was in a good shape a month ago, but TV and psychology-studies have interrupted my training schedule quite fatally since then.


Anonymous said...

Great report! ;-)
Are you going to come to the german
memory championship in september?

Anonymous said...

Apologies for your door being left open Ben - You can blame John and Mathias for that - they told me they had shut the door before they got in my car!

Anonymous said...

We had shut it, but we couldn't lock it because we didn't have a key. According to Ben it blows open somehow when it's not locked.

Anyway, thanks Ben for a great weekend and an awsome report! /Mattias

Zoomy said...

Obviously I need to instruct people on how yale locks work before I invite them to my house again. You don't need a key, you just need to not click the thing that keeps it unlocked. (This was almost certainly done by Dai, who likes to go out every three minutes for a cigarette).

But anyway, yes, I'll be at the German championship, assuming I have enough money to get there!

Ola Kåre said...

Thanks for a great competition Ben! I`ll bring you more norwegian chocolate next time ;). And thanks again for sharing your system!

Dai Griffiths said...

It certainly was Ben. I was already outside having a fag when you said asked me to go in the first car with James. Sorry, I didn't realize a door was so complicated.

Technically that makes you the last person to leave that also knows the technical detail of Yale locks. lol

Here are instructions for the others for future reference. There is a little thing on a door lock that slides up and down. What you have to do is slide it up and down. These instructions must be followed to the letter. The bottom door requires a Yellow Pages telephone directory. ;-)

Anonymous said...

hi ben, it was a really great venue, and for me a great adventure.
there was some confusion with how yale locks work, and some being blamed for no reason, as a result.
i checked the main outside entrance door, and it was shut,so could not go inside to lock your front door. but i presumed that someone had done so, and left with james and mattias, mattias's statement was not needed because he did not check anything, so he is exonerated from the proceedings.
yours truly inspector morse.