It's the usual dilemma - do I write about the UK Championship before I've got the results to hand, and forget something or get something completely wrong, or do I wait until then and get everyone nagging me about when I'm going to give my rambling bloggy account of the event?
Well, there's no MSO today, so I'll write a bit and maybe fill in the gaps at a later date. The competition took place in the headquarters of TVapex, who did a live streaming of the last bit of the championship (sorry, if I'd known about it earlier I would have mentioned it here) and had a nice venue for us, with a stage at the front, good sound system for Chris's music and the right amount of desks. I did a quick interview with a local radio guy who thought my first name was David and my surname was Pridditch, and so was someone I can hugely sympathise with. Saying hello to the other competitors and trying to remember whether I'd met them before and was supposed to know who they are, I had conversations like "I'm Milan, I talked to you at the World Championship, I was asking you about what brand of cards you use, don't you remember?" Of course, I said. It's nothing personal, it just takes me two meetings at least before I can remember people.
Indeed, meeting up with Yanjaa at the train station to get there involved a bit of guesswork - I saw someone with the kind of hairstyle I was pretty sure she had, standing in the middle of Liverpool Street station and looking like she was waiting for someone, and just sort of walked in front of her, prominently wearing a hat, until she saw me and said hi.
More competitors need to follow the lead of Krzysztof Kuich and wear a T-shirt with their name and nationality prominently written on it. Compulsory name-badges worldwide would make my life so much easier. I may not have the results here, but I did write down everyone's names on a piece of paper, so that I could blog about them without forgetting them entirely or forgetting just how many unnecessary Zs their names contained.
Team England were me, Marlo Knight, Clay Knight, Phill Ash, Jake O'Gorman and Mohammed Afzal Khan. Jake was accompanied by his girlfriend Starr Knight (no relation - I very much approve of everyone at these competitions having the same surname, so hopefully Marlo and Clay will have success in their plans to get their nineteen siblings competing too. That's not an exaggeration, by the way.)
There was a three-man Team Wales - James Paterson (no relation to the writer with two Ts), Daniel Evans (no relation to the tennis player) and Dai Griffiths (returning to competing instead of arbiting for the first time in six years). And a huge international contingent, made up of Yanjaa Altantuya (Sweden), Wessel Sandtke (Netherlands), Javier Moreno (Spain), Søren Damtoft (Denmark), Krzysztof Kuich (Poland), Milan Ondrašovič (Slovakia), Melanie Höllein (Germany), Sebastien Martinez (France) and Ekaterina Matveeva (Russia). Isn't that a great sampling of European memorizers! And I've made a real effort to remember what they all look like, too.
The team of arbiters was small but widely experienced and capable - Nathalie Lecordier, Peter Broomhall and David Sedgwick, under the watchful eye of Phil Chambers and Chris Day. A great gathering, all in all!
As for the competition itself, I was probably more out of practice than I've ever been; I just haven't been able to do any training at all for months. We started with names and faces, which was a pitched battle between James and Yanjaa, then I got a really terrible result in binary which Phil described for the cameras the next day as being astonishingly wonderful, and we followed that up with abstract images, speed numbers and hour numbers, which all followed the same kind of pattern for me.
There was, however, a close contest going on, as we found out when we got the results on day two. James, Yanjaa, Marlo and Milan were all tussling for the top position, setting personal bests, national records and other milestones. And everyone else was happy with their results, too (Søren and Wessel at the head of the chasing pack) - hopefully in my role as the old man with a huge supply of anecdotes about memory competition history, I enhanced their experience as well.
I did rather better on day two - in words I got a low score with lots of little mistakes, but the important thing was that I was memorising a lot more fluently than the day before. 30-minute cards I got 11 packs, attempting 12, which was enough to comfortably beat everyone else even if it's below what I'd normally go for, dates and spoken numbers were okayish, and I just about managed a pack of speed cards, getting 38.11 in the second trial with a recall that took a lot of brain-racking. Milan, though, was the star of the day, getting a time of 29.96! That makes him the seventh person in the under-thirty-seconds club, which really isn't such an exclusive thing any more.
We should get a clubhouse and a secret handshake.
Anyway, that made Milan the winner! By virtue of Marlo and Yanjaa not managing to get a complete pack, I ended up second, pipping James to the post by the narrowest of margins and annoying him immensely, since I did basically the same thing in the crucial speed cards at the XMT. It was a great event! I'm looking forward to the next one already, and maybe I'll manage to do a bit of training and keep up with all these youngsters next time...