Sunday, August 28, 2011

Remembering memory

Right, where did I leave off? Oh yes, Thursday night. I remained delighted with the bikes for hire in London, and managed to avoid getting too lost all the time I was there. So I got to the second day's competition without any difficulty, and found that I'd got a score of 897 in the 30-minute numbers - so just one mistake out of the whole lot I tried to remember. That's quite good, really, and I'll have a go at taking that approach with five journeys in Germany, maybe.

We started on Friday with random words, and I've been practicing that with a home-made word-o-matic which isn't very good, but does have the advantage of giving more difficult words than you generally get in competitions. I tried for 200, and ended up getting 189. Which is nowhere near what the really good word-memorisers get, but was good enough to beat everyone else on the day.

Then it was time for 30-minute cards, and I had a go at 18 packs, and wasn't too far off getting them all right - there were mistakes on four packs, but they were only little ones, not any really big memory failings. I can improve on that with that little bit of practice I keep talking about.

Rob Carder, competitor of the olden days (back in 2002, when the lack of British competitors really started to become obvious, the British team at the WMC was me, him, Dominic and Andi. I wasn't in the top three Brits.) came by to say hello at lunch, which was a good excuse to reminisce about past memory championships for the benefit of all the newcomers. It's a sad but unavoidable fact that I've now been taking part in these things for longer than practically anyone else.

Back at the competition, historic dates didn't go as well as it could, there were a lot of gaps in my memory and I ended up with a not-very-good-by-my-standards eighty-something. It's the stamina thing again - after a day and a half, my mind was wandering. Then came spoken numbers, including a bit of last-minute debate as to exactly how many trials we were supposed to be having and how many digits in each one. I don't think anybody had ever set any rules for the international standard competitions, but they settled on 100, 300 and 400. I got the hundred perfectly right in the first one, but couldn't improve on it afterwards. Since 300 and 400 are a lot more than anyone in their right mind would try to memorise, Dominic suggested some kind of system whereby competitors signal when they've stopped paying attention to the numbers, so they wouldn't need to play them all - the idea was to save time and stop the competition overrunning, but everyone agreed that that would just be confusing and distracting, not to mention against the rules, so it didn't happen.

Actually, though, we weren't running late at all. The small number of competitors cut down on the marking time, and we'd even finished some recall periods early because everyone was done. And the speed cards took a minimum of time to set up, too - everything ran very smoothly the whole two days, to the great credit of the hard-working arbiter team. I tried for fast times twice, but I was a) slow and b) wildly ineffective in recall, so didn't get anything. And I realise that this entire blog has been about me and not about everyone else, but to make up for that in some small way, let me just congratulate Mattias on beating his personal best time and winning the discipline.

So I ended up winning with a score of 6489 - a good speed cards time would have put that into the mid-7000s, which would be good but not good enough to seriously challenge for the world championship. We'll just have to see how much I can improve in Heilbronn.

And all that was left after that was to wait an hour for them to print out the unnecessarily huge pile of certificates (top three in each discipline) and then endure the prizegiving ceremony. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but it wasn't really a big enough event to justify the music, photos, awards, applause etc, especially without there really being anyone there to see it (one photographer was hanging around earlier on, and we had an audience of one passing family who wanted their daughter to learn memory techniques to help her pass exams). Still, it was all very nicely stage-managed as usual.

So, onwards and upwards. A couple of weeks of practice and Heilbronn here we come!

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