The Friendly Memory Championship 2013 was a great and friendly success! For one thing, the weather was lovely and sunny after a pretty miserable, cold and rainy week - it always seems to improve when I hold an event at Attenborough Nature Reserve, I should do it more often and fix the whole British-weather problem overnight.
On Saturday people started arriving in Beeston or Attenborough, and we got together in the evening at the Victoria pub down the road, which I heartily recommended but turned out to be having a bad day, and took absolutely ages to bring us our food - but still, a good time was had by all. Dai Griffiths had brought along newcomer-to-the-memory-world Peter Broomhall, as well as a whole lot of pot noodles (I'm still not sure exactly why), to stay at my place and act as arbiters in the competition, and competitor Ryan Smith was crashing here too - I'm always impressed by how amicably memory people settle the question of who gets my spare bed and who gets my very small and uncomfortable sofa.
So to the competition day on Sunday! We arrived at the nature centre's conference room just a bit after nine, thanks to a lost debit card along the way (don't worry, it turned up in Ryan's bag) and greeted the gang of competitors who'd travelled from all over the world, mostly Scandinavia, to be there. We had Jonas von Essen from Sweden, Ola Kåre Risa from Norway and Søren Damtoft from Denmark, for a complete set of nordic languages represented; Takeru Aoki all the way from Japan, just for this competition (how awesome is that?); and Hein van Heck all the way from, well, Wales, but he's Dutch, so it counts as international.
We also had a whole gang of English competitors, all except Ryan being new to memory competitions this year - Darren Ferguson, Phil Peskett and Mike Outram who made their debuts in Wales, and Robert Frost and Phill Ash appearing for the first time here (Phill's appearance was a bit delayed, he turned up late and joined the fun after lunch, but it still counts). Hopefully we're genuinely starting to build up a crowd of regular British memory competitors now, because I'd been worried we were going to become extinct altogether. Completing the set was Darren's wife Claire, joining the team of arbiters.
I'd been very worried about the arbiting, since Phil Chambers couldn't come and he's usually so instrumental in making things work, but everything ran smoothly all day, thanks to our team. We were still able to keep the Friendly Championship tradition of marking papers and announcing results quickly and accurately, even with the need to triple-check a couple of particularly impressive results. The only glaring error came with the spoken numbers, when I'd managed to save a 400-digit collection with the 100-digit filename, and so played too many numbers before we realised what was wrong. It didn't seem to disturb the leading contenders too much, though...
The first of those particularly impressive results came in the second discipline, 5-minute binary, when Ola produced a phenomenal score of 1016! New world record, which he had obviously been working hard on ever since at the Italian championship this year he beat the existing record only to have it simultaneously beaten at the same time by two even better scores. Our other world record came from Jonas in the spoken numbers, with a completely awesome 318! Scores in spoken numbers are just skyrocketing lately, I don't know why that is.
For both of our Scandinavian superbrains, that was their first world record - breaking the German/Chinese domination of the world record list up a little! Ola's record gave him the lead in the competition which he narrowly held until the spoken numbers, when Jonas moved back ahead and eventually won, with both of them getting a safe but still impressive time of just over 45 seconds in the speed cards. Takeru and Søren fought it out for third, with Takeru ending up on top, Hein came fifth and the battle of the English was won by Phil, with Robert pushing him close all the way.
After the competition and the traditional drink in the pub down the road, a gang of us came back to my place to eat pot noodles and watch The Mentalists, which Dai had brought with him on DVD. During the day I'd been wearing my Memory Man costume, including the black turtleneck, and then changed into my Yellow Submarine T-shirt, so it was funny to see myself modelling both of those on the documentary from six years ago - possibly I need to buy new clothes more often. Still good to see that impressive capturing of the 2007 memory world, though the pot noodles didn't go down too well with our foreign guests. I think you have to be British to appreciate them.
The scores can all be seen here - Jonas's win moves him to fourth place on the world ranking list, displacing me down to fifth, and Ola climbs to number seven! But I'm sure our new team of English superstars-in-the-making will be up in the top ten in no time.
In the evening, Jonas and Ola asked me what my first world record was, and I couldn't really remember. There was the poem world record that didn't really count, in the MSO competition 2001 (it was a much more memorable poem than the rules dictated it should be), and I suppose that had already got me excited enough that when I did break an official record (historic dates, world championship 2003) it got swallowed up in the general excitement of doing so well in the world championship overall. Or maybe it did mean more to me, and I've just forgotten over the last ten years - I do remember taking some pride in listing the world records and seeing my name on the list alongside the real greats. I'm getting old...