Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Triangular football

Quite literally eight times out of ten, the last match days of the European championship qualifying tournament are a waste of everyone's time, since it's already been settled who will qualify. But then you occasionally get a wonderfully cool arrangement like Wales vs Hungary, where the winner qualifies, but if it's a draw, it's Slovakia! I really hope there's an army of travelling Slovakian fans attending that game in Cardiff tonight (instead of, say, their own game, in Slovakia), enthusiastically cheering for a stalemate and urging both teams not to score any goals. I'd go along and do it myself, but it's cold outside.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Our Pathetic Age

Do you know what happened eight years ago this coming Saturday? That was the day I recorded the single coolest and best illustration of the kind of thing memory people visualise when they're memorising a pack of cards! Actually, a surprising number (ie greater than zero) of people do remember that, and it's currently being discussed on the Art of Memory forum, which is always nice to see! Let's share it with the world again, in case anyone hasn't seen it in this pathetic age of ours.


DJ Shadow "Scale It Back" from Ewan Jones Morris on Vimeo.

DJ Shadow has a new album out on the 15th, which nobody has asked me to make a music video for, but I'm sure it's wonderful. As a thank-you to the man who bought this bizarre concept for a video in 2011 from the visionary directors Ewan Jones Morris and Casey Redmond, please everyone go out and buy "Our Pathetic Age" next Friday!

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Vacationing

I've got this week off work, more to use up my remaining annual-leave days before the end of the year than because I particularly need to do anything, so I thought I'd devote the week to some interesting writing projects  - and have in fact spent the whole time so far cheerfully procrastinating and doing nothing. But I feel entirely entitled to do that anyway, since I could stay in bed all week if I really wanted to. Anything I do is impressively productive!

I really should blog about things a bit more often, though...

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The ice age

Perhaps we're not quite icy yet, but it's definitely getting cold. I really don't like winter. One of these days, I'll win the lottery, and spend the entire six months after my birthday in the southern hemisphere, every year.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The silver anniversary

Just to complete the series of memory championship posts, the length of time I've been competing in the things is another subject we were talking about in France - after all, next year it'll be twenty years since my first championship.

I've just looked up the date, and the first day of the World Memory Championship 2000 (Alexandra Palace, part of the fourth Mind Sports Olympiad), was Monday August 21st. That was, of course, not only the first time I took part in a memory competition, but also (after competing in the first day) the day when I bought a memory book and learned how to use these memory techniques I'd heard people talking about.

It would be nice if the MSO championship next year was on the exact anniversary, but the 21st is a Friday next year, so it's probably not going to be possible to do that. I'll look into it, though...

Monday, October 14, 2019

More by luck than judgement

As I wait for a plane in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport (beautiful sunny weather again, too, like we've had all weekend), let me wrap up my personal account of the championship - I'll write a less Zoomy-focused version for the IAM website when I'm back home, if for some reason you care about anyone other than me.

I should at least mention that I forgot Daniel Fogel when listing the people who've travelled here from the four corners of the earth (and also the middle, which is where whoever coined that phrase would presumably have placed Israel) - it's always great to see a new nation joining the world of memory sports! And I didn't mention that the sheer volume of French competitors was record-breaking too - this is a country that's really going from strength to strength.

And the race for second place behind the all-conquering Andrea was exactly as exciting as I said it would be - luckily, I managed to get a solid 100 digits in spoken numbers, leaving me still in contention after only 130 in images (I really must learn how to do that, one day - as I explained to everyone who asked, the discipline didn't exist when I was last in training for memory competitions), and it all came down to speed cards. On the first trial, I did a 'safe' 34.18 seconds, which really turned out not to be very safe at all - I misread the third pair of cards, 2 of hearts and 8 of spades, as 'chef', which is 2 of spades and 8 of hearts, and fortunately was able to remember all the others and deduce the mistake I must have made. It's strange, though - that's not a kind of mistake I ever make, but I suppose it's the kind of thing that's bound to creep in when I'm so out of practice.

Preeda had done a 40.48 seconds, though, and was slightly ahead of me, so I needed to improve on that time if I was going to get second place (Andrea had done 26.99, which is very leisurely and relaxed for him - I can't wait to see the kind of things he does when he's up against an opponent who can give him a run for his money!). I decided I might as well try to beat that old personal record I was talking about, so went as fast as possible... and still only managed to stop the clock at 25.31 seconds. I'm slowing down in my old age.

The recall, though, was wonderful - lots of gaps in my memory, putting them together in the end with thoughts along the lines of "well, all those images are ones I might possibly have seen, and I've used up all the cards, and I suppose it's at least possible that they occurred in that order..." and it turned out to be all correct! I've never in my life produced a correct pack that I'd been so dubious about!

So, perhaps undeservedly, I just managed to nab the silver medal spot. Andrea was of course the brilliant winner-by-miles, Guillaume took the title of French Champion, and the full results can be seen on the IAM stats site. Looking forward to the next one!

1ANDREA MUZIIItaly7604 (7604)
2BEN PRIDMOREEngland4338 (4338)
3PREEDA HONGPIMOLMASThailand4207 (4207)
4SUSANNE HIPPAUFGermany4009 (4009)
5NORBERT REULKEGermany3758 (3758)
6SILVIO DI FABIOItaly3722 (3722)
7GUILLAUME PETIT-JEANFrance3500 (3500)
8LARS CHRISTIANSENDenmark3070 (3070)
9MICHAEL KARIUSFrance2890 (2890)
10DANIEL EVANSWales2732 (2732)
11JOHNNY (JUAN) BRIONESUSA2727 (2727)
12FLORIAN MANICARDIFrance2661 (2661)
13YVES BLANCHARDFrance2262 (2262)
14SEBASTIEN MARTINEZFrance2174 (2174)
15LEO LEBARQUEFrance2111 (2111)
16DANIEL FOGELIsrael2053 (2053)
17ARNAUD FEGUEUXFrance1966 (1966)
18VICTOR SEGONDFrance1667 (1667)
19PIERRE BRUZIFrance1644 (1644)
20YANN CAUMARTINFrance1466 (1466)
21DIMITRI HEIDETFrance1188 (1188)
22MAXIME BERGERFrance786 (786)
23JOEL LICCARDIFrance675 (675)
24ROMAIN PERNIERFrance644 (644)
25JIMMY RICAUTFrance619 (619)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Age is just a (large) number

My new comment-giving blogling, the infamous executioner Jack Ketch, observes that I must be one of the most venerable, or at least elderly, names on the list of competitors in this championship - I'm not the oldest one here, I'm happy to say, but I am in the top five if you put us in order of age.

There's no denying that I'm the old man of memory championships nowadays - it's worth mentioning that today is Andrea's birthday, and he's 20. Tomorrow's my birthday, and I'll be 43.

It really is great that we've got a new generation arising to win these things and break all the records - between Andrea, new Indian superstar Prateek, Mongolian mastermind Munkhshur, and others, it's an exciting time! (And it really is awesome to see how excited Andrea gets when he breaks a record! It reminds me of me, when I was young...)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The need for speed

It turns out I'm in the middle of an epic battle for second place, after the first day's excitement. Andrea is, not unexpectedly, far and away ahead of everyone else, after some mind-blowing scores (ten packs and thirty cards of an eleventh in ten minutes!), but there are six of us fighting for the other places on the podium...


And with spoken numbers, images and speed cards tomorrow, it really looks like I'll have to get a good time in the cards to secure second place. I've been decidedly hit and miss with speed cards in competitions lately, but maybe this would be a good time to improve that personal best? It's been 24.97 seconds for ten years now. I've very literally stood still while everybody else surged ahead!

Salut from Cergy

It's the first morning of the French Open, and it's a high-tech competition using computers, so I can say hello to my long-neglected bloglings in this pause after the first discipline (we're running late due to technical problems, so it's definitely an official memory championship). We've got a room full of memorisers from around the world - I'm wearing my XMT 2015 shirt, and Johnny Briones is coordinating nicely in his 2016 equivalent. Norbert Reulke, another original XMT veteran, sadly isn't wearing his shirt, but everybody who was and wasn't there is firmly in agreement that we need another big World Memory League Championship.

We've also got Preeda, Lars, Susanne, Andrea, Silvio and Dan from places as exotic as Thailand, Denmark/Germany, Italy and Wales, lots and lots of French people (remember when there were nearly no French memorisers at all? Not any more!), Boris and Francoise running the show admirably, Guillaume expertly sorting out the aforementioned technical problems and even wearing a beret to make the event extra-French, Dimitri Heidet has an awesome Salvador Dali moustache, and everybody has their names in big letters on their desk, so I don't have to pretend I know who they are!

Okay, long numbers is about to start. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Back in the swing

I really haven't posted enough on this blog, lately. I'm going to have to fix that - I never did do a full write-up of the MSO championship in London in August, nor my holiday in the Azores in September, and I haven't at all mentioned that now it's October and I'm in France for the French Open Memory Championship.

Well, I'm in France right now. It's the French Open Memory Championship at the weekend, and I'm feeling entirely happy about things. Not my chances of winning the competition, because I've done literally no training for longer than even I can remember, but I'm downright delighted with my ability to find my way around places today! After an early start this morning to get the plane from Birmingham, I arrived in Paris early on, found the airport train station was temporarily closed, got a bus from the airport into the city centre, successfully found a comic shop that sells this week's American comics (allowing me to buy Powers of X #6 before anyone spoiled it for me, although as it turns out there's nothing really spoilerable in it anyway), then got on a train pointed in the direction of Cergy and got off at the first stop to see if it looked like the kind of place where my hotel and the competition venue might be. And it was - the hotel's practically right next door to that station, and it was only on a last minute whim that I got off at the first Cergy station rather than the middle one of the three!

And in the kind of situation that always makes me nostalgic for the days when I went to memory competitions more regularly, I was greeted by someone in the hotel reception whose face looked familiar, said it was great to see him again, acted like I was in a great hurry to get to my room and said I'd see him a little later, looked through old photos on Facebook until I was fairly sure who I'd been talking to, and now can confidently go to the "Optional Pre-Registration / Enregistrement facultatif" at the nearby competition venue in a couple of hours, nonchalently say "Hi again, Preeda", and then all the other strangers in the room will believe that since I know one person's name, I know all their names too, and all kinds of social awkwardness will be avoided.

Unless they read my blog, of course, but I don't imagine anyone still does that. After all, I never post here any more.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Azorean Adventures

I'm back home from my raffle-prize holiday on São Miguel island, and I've got a terrible cold, which probably isn't the fault of the Azores - I blame England. It was wonderfully hot and sunny out there (except when it was hot, cloudy, windy and rainy) on the little lump of volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic, and I wish I was still there. Can someone arrange another free holiday for me, please?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Online Memory League Championship, new season!

Apologies to anyone who's reading my blog and hoping I'll post my usual rubbish. I'll get back to it some day soon. Meanwhile, here's a post from the Art of Memory forum that I wanted to put here too because it's easier to post things from my Excel spreadsheet without messing up the formatting...


The new season of the Online Memory League Championship will start on Monday October 7th. If you want to register, please fill in the form at this link: https://memoryleague.com/#!/league/register 

New rules for this season - the season starts on October 7th, and ends on November 17th, with playoffs starting on November 18th. Divisions will be around 6 players, meaning everybody will have 5 matches to play in that time period. No exceptions - anybody who has not played all their matches by that point will be removed, starting with the players who have played the fewest matches, until everybody in a division has played everybody else.

Before the season starts, we will confirm with every registered player that they still want to compete, and make sure they have at least one match (preferably more than one!) scheduled. Hopefully this will mean we don't have so many drop-outs and we can get the season finished!

Players will be allocated to divisions based on their current ranking as at the date the season starts, but if they've already earned a position in a division based on the last season, they can't be put in a division lower than that.

The usual rules apply to the season - here they are, copied and pasted from last time:

 The Online Memory League Championship is a competition open to everybody. Competitors are divided into groups of around six players (with each division consisting of two groups) - new players this season are put into divisions based on their leaderboard position, so you will be playing against people at the same kind of level as you.

 In a season, each competitor will play each of the others in the group once, with one match per week, on a schedule drawn randomly at the start of the season. Players can be flexible about when they play their matches, depending on availability and circumstances, but should try to stick to the schedule as much as possible. You will need to communicate with your opponents - leave messages on the Memory League website, or the Art of Memory forum, or the Facebook group "World Memory Championships". We can help you get in touch with people - just send me a message if you need help!

 Matches will consist of six games - each player chooses three different disciplines, with the choice alternating. The first player on the scheduled match list chooses the first discipline; the schedule will be arranged so that each player gets a roughly equal distribution of 'home' and 'away' matches. Draws are possible, both in individual disciplines and in the match as a whole.

 If the match is a 3:3 draw, the players can (if they both agree to it) play a one-game 'decider', which can be any discipline they choose. If they don't both agree to play the decider, then the match is a draw.

 The league table gives two points for a match won, one for a match drawn. Players on the same number of points are ranked by number of disciplines won.

 At the end of the season, the bottom two in each division are relegated to the division below, and the top two in each division are promoted to the division above. There are play-offs between the runner-up in each group and the second-last in a group from the division above to determine promotion and relegation.

 The top four in the first division go into play-offs for the grand title, followed by a grand final to determine the League Champion!

All these rules can be changed if enough people want to change them, but I think this is the consensus of what people want! Please post any comments or questions here! :slight_smile: 

These are the players who have signed up so far - we will email everybody to ask for confirmation that they want to play, before the season starts.
ML name AOM name Rating Lowest possible division
John Graham @Johnnyworldwide 9095 Division 1
Léo Lebarque @Wist 8084
Sylvain Arvidieu @Sylle 7822 Division 1
Lucas Vo @LucasforV1 7682 Division 4
Silvio B. @SilvioB 7423 Division 1
ClaireBookworm @ClaireBookworm 7245
Eugene @Stanichnikov 7107 Division 4
akuta @akuta 7016
Silvio @SilvioSDF 6833 Division 1
Jan Zoń @zonjan 6830 Division 1
Andrej Savickij @Sava 6351 Division 2
Mohamed Ramadan @mohamed22 6239 Division 2
🔥BurningDesire🔥 @MemoryMasterN 6047 Division 4
Sanchit Sharma @Shasan 5788 Division 1
syustel @syustel 5491 Division 2
batman @batman 5483
Simon Orton @Simon 5449 Division 3
comeon @comeon 5449
Erol Ozvatan @Erol 5191 Division 3
guilfoyled @guilfoyled 5177 Division 3
Egor Dubrovin @EgorDubrovin 5151 Division 1
Max @Max 5151 Division 1
Anastasia Woolmer @Nicety 5145
mangocthang @mangocthang 5107
Andrey Safronov @AndreySafronov 5078 Division 4
Davide Carosini @davide.wiki 5060 Division 3
Ignacy @Ignacy 5046 Division 2
Ilya Gubenko @Ilya_Gubenko 5015 Division 4
pierre.bruzi @pierre.bruzi 5008 Division 3
Finwing @Finwing 4852 Division 4
Brainrunning @Brainrunning 4792
Alexander Panfilov @Alex92 4681
YOUngl @Gayankaa 4500
Nikolay Ershov @bredahaka 4471
SHAHiN @mahdi4264 4325
Dimi @myelife 4055 Division 4
ArMan kHaN @walterlewin42@gmail.com 3700
Ian Fennell @Ian_Fennell 3622 Division 5
dimimore @Dimimore 3616
erdemwisdom @Erdem 3181
udaysolanki @udaysolanki_141 2984
Binyamin @Binyamin 2700
angusbrock @AngusBrock 2600
Mircea @Mircea 2488
claudiafvickery @ClaudiaVickery 2000
Floortjeb @Floortjeb 1700
Rolando @butterworm 1400
mort @Mort 1300
twulf @twulf 800
Santi1bent @Santi 300
pun @punera 300
brandau.andrew @brandau101 200
Asta La Beasta @oscar4
israel_olaolorun @Akinsraeldplayer
justkow @justkow
matkow @matkow Division 4
p.plyukhin @p.plyukhin
Peaceful warrior @praveen2611
Ben Pridmore @Zoomy Division 2



Monday, August 26, 2019

Who do you think you are kidding

I really like the "new" old episodes of Dad's Army! The whole thing's really nicely made, and the cast really do a great job of copying the originals, especially Robert Bathurst, David Hayman, Timothy West and the actor Kevin Eldon with the particularly difficult role of Jones. Can they make some more? There were some radio episodes that weren't based on the TV series, right?

(A quick internet check later - no, there weren't. Well... the stage show?)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Olympia

On the way home from the Mind Sports Olympiad Memory Championship - it's the 23rd MSO, but I'm not sure whichth MSO Memory Championship it is, because there have been some years without a memory event there, and some years when the memory event was the World Memory Championship... I think it's the third, or maybe fourth, MSO Championship in this particular format, anyway. I'll write it up in full detail as soon as I get a bit of free time, but here are a couple of lovely photos to whet your appetite:



Here we have, from left to right, my ever-awesome arbiting sidekick Nick, MSO Championship veteran and thoroughly awesome Lars, noble and awesome representative of Britain Gordon, awesome pi-memorising juggler Susanne, EXTREMELY awesome new superstar of competitive memory Andrea (who won everything), me grinning like a loon in the background, and awesome all-the-way-from-Thailand card-memorising star Preeda.

It was awesome! Did I mention how awesome it was?

Sunday, August 04, 2019

And good news for fans of cryptograms

I don't buy X-Men comics as a rule - they've been really rubbish for many years now. But the latest 'epic' is weird and cool enough that I thought that even the ludicrously high price they sell for was justified here, and I've got the first two parts, House of X issue 1 of 6, and Powers of X issue 1 of 6.

It's "two series that are one", you see, and one issue of one or the other is coming out weekly over a 12-week period (in an interesting sequence, too, listed at the back of each comic to avoid confusion; House 1, Powers 1, House 2, Powers 2, Powers 3, House 3, House 4...). They cost $5.99 each, which means that British comic shops feel it's okay to round up the exchange rate and sell them for £4.99, so we're looking at sixty quid for the whole adventure. You could buy quite a lot of real books or movies for that money.

So what makes them worth the extravagance, you ask? Well, as comics go, they're chunky things - 56 pages, not counting the covers, and even excluding the ads (mostly for other Marvel comics, rather than the more intrusive kind of paid advert) you get well over 40 pages of actual content in each issue. And the way it's presented is intriguing and worth reading multiple times too, decidedly different from the average comic. A lot of text summarising different aspects of the universe it depicts, as well as the traditional visual storytelling.

The whole thing is written by Jonathan Hickman, and to describe the story is almost impossible, so I recommend that you check it out for yourselves - knowing anything about the X-Men beyond the basic concepts of the series (mutants with super-powers, hated and feared by humanity) isn't really necessary, and it's not really any kind of continuation of the storylines that have been appearing in the comics in recent years (which I haven't read, for the most part, so that's good). While House of X is set in the present day, it involves the X-Men behaving in a different and rather scary way, with revelations about exactly what's going on still to come, probably, by the end of the series if we're lucky. Powers of X covers four different time zones, brilliantly described as X⁰: year 1, X¹: year 10, X²: year 100, and X³: year 1000. "X means ten" has been done by X-Men comics before, naturally, but I love this kind of nerdishness in my comics.

X¹ is the present moment, with the events of House of X continuing on; X² is a really nicely done extrapolation of that into the status quo of 90 years of X-Men comics later. All the events of the present day have been resolved long since, but the whole general war is still going on. It actually works better than the previous famous X-Men future-based stories have in the past. I like it a lot, anyway.

There's extra nerdishness in the form of things written in the 'language' of Krakoa the living island, which is actually just symbols representing letters, for the readers to decipher - there's a separate symbol for 'th', which is another example of the kind of extra touch I like to see.

It's not perfect - the art is a bit ugly here and there, and I don't think it always conveys quite what the writer intended, and the whole thing feels a bit fan-fictionish (think up a cool idea and then try to write a story around it), and they do get those Krakoa characters wrong at least once, probably twice... but it's generally awesome enough that I'm getting it for the next ten weeks, just based on the promise of the first two issues. Sixty quid well spent!

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Always wanted to own one of these



In a charity shop in Nottingham today, I found a vintage othello set, late 1970s or very early 1980s, back in the days when it was produced by Peter Pan Playthings. Not only does it still have all the pieces, it even still has all the original paperwork, including the British Othello Federation insert telling you all about the British Othello Championships! Those were the days, or so I'm told - I wasn't there at the time.

Also, to read on the train I took with me "The Seeds of Time" by John Wyndham, a collection of short stories which I've owned for decades but haven't read for a while - strangely, I found I had no memory at all of ever reading one of the stories in it, even though I was very familiar with all the others. And since "Opposite Number" deals with alternate universes, I can only assume either I or the book have fallen into a very similar parallel universe where that story is/isn't in the anthology. Or else it's not as memorable as the other stories in the book, but I found it entertaining enough this time round...

Friday, July 26, 2019

Obrigado

I feel like I should be making an effort to learn Portuguese before I go to the Azores, even though it's a tourist resort where I doubt anyone will expect me to. But I tried and signally failed to learn the language back in the dim and distant history of thirteen years ago, when I went to Rio de Janeiro for that wonderful TV show that gave me the Brazilian Mystery Cloak, and (because I never throw anything away), I've still got the language course I bought back then. Granted, it's a course in "Colloquial Portuguese of Brazil", and I should more probably try to learn Portuguese Portuguese if I'm going to what is technically a part of Portugal, but I'm just impressed that I still own this big plastic box, containing a book, two CDs and two audio cassettes for people who hadn't upgraded to CDs yet.

I think I'll become fluent in colloquial Brazilian Portuguese, and make the locals tut about these Brazilian tourists causing trouble, instead of English tourists. It'll make a nice change.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

This beats Joe-from-the-office's hairdryer into a cocked hat

Do you remember my blog post a month ago, when I recommended you all to buy a raffle ticket or two on Raffolux? And did you do it? You probably didn't, but you definitely should have done, because if you had, you might have won a luxury 5-day holiday in the Azores, complete with swimming-with-dolphins and looking-at-whales experiences. But as it turns out, it was me who won it!

I'll be going some time in September, most likely, as soon as I sort out tricky little details like who gets to go along with me. Not bad for a £5 raffle ticket, eh?

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Vacation time

Just to follow up on that post about tennis players of the 1980s and 1990s generations, the main draw at Wimbledon this year featured 52 players born in the 80s and 74 born in the 90s, plus one from the 2000s (the aforementioned Félix Auger-Aliassime) and one from the 1970s (Ivo Karlović, forty years old, seven feet tall and possibly some kind of mythical long-lived tennis-playing giant species to which the laws of human aging don't apply). After the first round, the remaining 64 players are those two outliers, 30 of the 1980s team and 32 of the 1990s. The old men are still teaching the young ones a lesson or two.

But now there's no time for more unnecessary analysis of tennis players, because I'm going on holiday! Jetting off to America today to see the sights and the fireworks of Pittsburgh! Remember when I did that ten years ago exactly? I barely do, but you know what my memory's like. No more work for a week! Woo!

Monday, July 01, 2019

Roll of Honour

The British Othello Championships are basically the same age as me, so compared to memory competitions (which only date back to 1991), it's very cool to be part of such a long-established tradition. I really must get back into the habit of playing online, and go to more real-life competitions too, and come somewhere closer to winning the thing one of these days. I'd quite like to see my name on this list, and a little shield on the trophy...

1977Alan Woch
1978Geoff Davidson
1979Alan Woch
1980Neil Cogle
1981John Parker
1982David Stephenson
1983Imre Leader
1984David Sharman
1985Neil Stephenson
1986Imre Leader
1987Peter Bhagat
1988Graham Brightwell
1989Joel Feinstein
1990Imre Leader
1991Joel Feinstein
1992Joel Feinstein
1993Joel Feinstein
1994Imre Leader
1995Graham Brightwell
1996Joel Feinstein
1997Joel Feinstein
1998Graham Brightwell
1999Imre Leader
2000Graham Brightwell
2001Imre Leader
2002Garry Edmead
2003Garry Edmead
2004Imre Leader
2005Imre Leader
2006Graham Brightwell
2007Imre Leader
2008David Hand
2009Michael Handel
2010Imre Leader
2011Guy Plowman
2012Borja Moreno
2013David Hand
2014Guy Plowman
2015Imre Leader
2016Imre Leader
2017Imre Leader
2018Imre Leader
2019Imre Leader

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Being for the benefit of Mr Kyte

The 43rd British Othello Championship happened this weekend in the familiar surroundings of the Junior Parlour in Cambridge. The weather was nice and sunny when I left Redditch on Saturday morning, but after nearly four hours in pleasantly air-conditioned trains, I stepped onto the platform in Cambridge to find myself well and truly roasted alive by the hottest day in the history of the universe (or whatever it was; it's just possible that some of my readers wouldn't consider 30 degrees to be particularly warm). The Junior Parlour was also baking hot, with the windows being positioned just right to get the full blast of the afternoon sun, but we all survived the day, more or less.

Incidentally, did you know the big ancient wooden doors to Whewell's Court that let you into the bit of the college with the Junior Parlour in it have got an electronic contactless card-scanning thing disguised as an ancient bit of metal, and open automatically? This was news to me, but I asked one of the bowler-hatted porters who lurk around the university doing portery things, and he said it's been like that since he started in the job eight years ago, so obviously I just hadn't noticed. I assumed there was a huge, ancient iron key.

Anyway, our competitors included me, Imre Leader, Bruce Kyte, Iain Barrass, David Hand, Helen Dexter, Roy Arnold, recently-returned old-time player Graham Chappell, and Guy Plowman with even more children than usual - all five who belong to him (four of them playing, the other revising for her exams), plus brand-newcomer-with-a-cool-name Ben Smith, boyfriend of the non-playing Plowman who was nonetheless playing himself. So 14 players in total; the perfect number for a 13-round EGP tournament, if slightly imperfect for the 9-round nationals.

As well as the excessive heat, there was the usual sounds of the street outside the windows - as well as a huge amount of tour groups seeing the city and being told about what goes on at the university (some kind of story about ghosts, I think, though I didn't pay too much attention), there was a graduation or something like that which required students to walk around in black cloaks with fur hoods in the staggeringly hot weather, and our musical accompaniment for the first couple of hours of the tournament was an unceasing performance on a sitar by a busker. The tune kept nearly but not quite turning into Within You Without You while I was playing Bruce, which made me think of the blog title above, if you were wondering. The sitar player was replaced by a folk singer with a banjo later in the afternoon - altogether, I'm not sure how much revision Jessie got done with that going on, the stifling heat, and her siblings and boyfriend running around to distract her, but maybe that's how she likes to study.

After the traditional Indian meal that no othello tournament would be complete without on the Saturday night, we returned on Sunday to much more moderate temperatures to finish the remaining four games. My own performance in the tournament was what you might expect after about a year of not playing at all - I won four out of nine, which doesn't sound so terrible, but was always down at the bottom of the draw and didn't put up any kind of a fight against the top players who I came up against. David beat everybody, winning nine out of nine despite being confused (youthful internet-generation player that he is) by the analogue clocks being used on two of the boards - how do you know how many seconds you've got left? You don't. You just have to guess how long that little flag is going to take to fall. Behind him was a close race for second, coming down to Imre (who was as wildly enthusiastic about the concept of analogue clocks as he is about everything else connected with Othello) and Guy, equal in points going into the final round, and very close on Brightwell Quotient tiebreaker.

Those two therefore needed to maximise the amount of discs they got in their final games, and Imre ended up playing me. I put up a valiant performance to the best of my extremely limited ability, and the game finished on a score of 62-2 in Imre's favour. I don't think I need to feel particularly guilty about cutting Guy out of the final by means of my ineptitude, though - he'd ruthlessly wiped out his own small son Mark 64-0 in their game at the table next to us, which clearly isn't the kind of parenting that we should condone.

Those results meant that Imre got to contest the grand final against David, who had been saying all weekend that he always ends up in the final against Imre and losing. And although I had to leave at that point to get the train home, if liveothello.com is to be believed Imre has just won the final 42-22! Which is hard on David, who was really awesome all weekend, but congratulations once again to Imre! I think this might be his 15th Nationals win, and it's certainly his fifth in a row, unless I was lying in my blog last year that said it was his fourth. A great weekend's othelloing for everybody!

Friday, June 28, 2019

I need to do something about my memory

I was just looking through my bookcases, and found that I own a book called "The Memory Book", by Tony Buzan. Which came as a bit of a surprise to me. I mean, obviously he was giving them away at a memory competition, and it was published in 2010 so I assume it was in that year, but... I really don't recall ever seeing that book before in my life. Perhaps I should read it.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Oh, right, othello!

I don't seem to have played a single game of othello, or even given the game more than a passing thought, for a year or so. I really need to fix that, and as luck would have it, it's the nationals this weekend, in Cambridge. Losing lots of games horribly will surely inspire me to start playing more regularly!

Also, I had a meeting with a man called Jody today, and then the Simpsons episode with Vincent Price's grandson Jody was on TV this evening.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

I still don't like modern technology, though

Did you ever hear of such a thing as a TV that tells you your remote control's batteries are running out and you should change them? Look here, television, I'll change the batteries AFTER the remote control stops working, and no sooner! Yes, even if that means leaving the telly on the same channel for weeks until I get round to going out to the shops for some new batteries. I don't take orders from my television set.

I'll just switch it off and go out and do something less boring instead, since that classic lyric is back in fashion.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Down under

I've mentioned before that all video games created since roughly 1995 are rubbish, and I stand by that belief resolutely. There are exceptions to this rule, like Sonic Mania Plus, which I mentioned the last time I made that sweeping condemnation of a quarter of a century's hard work by game designers, and another one I think it's only fair to mention is Undertale.

In the old days, you see, video games had lastability. You could go back and play them again and again, because it's always fun to do. Shoot all the space invaders a bit more quickly every time, or whatever. You can always defeat Dr Robotnik over and over again, because you can have fun along the way, take a different route around the levels, challenge yourself in different ways. A lot of modern games, though, tend to be basically like watching a movie, and not a very good one either. You press a button now and then, but it's mainly just about sitting and watching the story. And once you've finished the game, there's no point in playing it again, because you already know what happens.

There's one game, though, that I finished three months ago, and would quite like to play again. But it's difficult, because one of the characters told me that restarting the game and playing it again would be tantamount to killing all my friends, after I'd given them all a happy ending. That's the kind of game Undertale is.

When the game first came out, back in something like 2015, I tried to avoid hearing anything about it, because it sounded like something I might want to play some day, without spoilers. So when I eventually noticed that you can get it on the Nintendo Switch now, and that I own one of those things, I had to finally give it a try. And I'll avoid any kind of spoilers here, as much as possible, in case you want to try it too, but wow, Undertale is the most amazing game. It remembers you.

You can go through the game and kill the monsters and win, but on the other hand you can also try talking to them and sorting things out more peacefully, and win in a different way. And when you start again, some of the monsters have a sense of deja vu, and act a bit differently this time round. And some of them remember everything, and tell you all about it. It's the kind of game where actions have consequences, as well as the kind of game that's often screamingly funny and entertaining to play! If you haven't played before, you really should go out and give it a try.

Meanwhile, until I find a way to wipe my own memory so I can play through the game again, I've been spending a lot of time catching up on all the fan comics, music, animations and other wonderful things Undertale has inspired in the last four years! But save them until you've played through the game. Spoilers!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

I also like cricket

In a sort of occasionally-watch-test-matches way, at least. But this last couple of days I've tuned in to the world cup and quite enjoyed it, so maybe I'm turning into more of a modern cricket fan.

But could we persuade a couple of West Indies players to change their names? Whenever I see "C. Brathwaite", I assume it's Kraigg, even though I know he spells his name with a K. I'm not sure what I'm mentally spelling Carlos with...

Friday, June 21, 2019

The lost decade

I like tennis at the moment. I recall blogging here, at some point in the distant past, that tennis was rubbish, but it's got better since then. One main reason for that is the continued dominance of three comparatively elderly men, which is always nice to see in any competitive sport (mind or otherwise).

As a general rule, I like useful pieces of trivial knowledge, like the fact that nobody born in the 1990s has ever won a non-senior/junior/wheelchair/female men's singles grand slam tournament (tennis is a sport where you have to specify exactly what kind of people are allowed to compete in the competitions you're talking about), and dislike it when that kind of thing stops being true. So I'm pleased to see that the latest new star of the tennis world, Felix Auger-Aliassime, was born in 2000. Now he can go on and win Wimbledon if the 1980s generation finally get too old for it, and that line at the bottom of the chart can remain at zero and provide a trivial piece of interesting small talk forever!


(Although of course the real reason is that there aren't as many best-of-five-sets matches nowadays, so the younger generations take longer to build up the necessary stamina to play in them, and Young Felix hasn't really shown any signs of being an exception yet, but possibly that's another thing you're not supposed to mention in tennis. Tennis people are sensitive.)

Actually, the one I feel sorry for in all this arbitrary grouping into decades is Kei Nishikori, who was born on December 29, 1989. If he'd come along three days later, he would have had the added motivation of trying to be the first 1990s man to win a grand slam, and he'd probably have won dozens of them by now.