So, I finally made it back to Sweden, after promising to get to a memory competition there for I can't remember how many years! Lund is a studenty kind of town, which maybe explains why every other shop there is a hair salon, but it's a fun and convenient half-hour train ride away from Copenhagen airport, and it's got a great competition venue in the local high school, courtesy of Martin Nilsson (who along with Idriz Zogaj was organiser, host and also competitor). Our first day of competition was in the school dining room - the morning was taken up by a championship for students, which was won by newcomer Victor Bull, who had the advantage of already having started to learn memory techniques. He joined in the 'elite' competition afterwards, and the 2nd and 3rd place Alva Nihlgard and David Andersson returned on Sunday for the knockout phase too.
Victor, incidentally, is one of those names I'm doomed to never remember. His username on Memory League is 'Viggo', which for some reason made me get the idea in my head that his surname is Boggis, even though I know perfectly well it isn't. And then I was subconsciously correcting myself into thinking his first name is Dennis... I really don't know why my brain works like this, but I'm always going to think 'Dennis Boggis' any time I see him now. I don't know if I've encountered a Victor or Dennis Boggis before now - possibly in a Roald Dahl story, because he was very fond of that name.
Anyway, the Saturday afternoon started with a first round where we each had one trial of the five disciplines and were ranked in order for group stage seedings. We were using the 'international' names in this competition, rather than the usual local ones, which made it a lot more difficult than usual (although I'm pretty much resigned to losing names matches whatever the names might be, so it didn't make much difference to me). Otherwise, everything was the same as the normal Memory League events - 52 cards, 30 images, 30 names/faces, 80 numbers and 50 words, with one minute maximum to memorise. I was feeling very slow for some reason, and completely messed up the words, which is probably just a lack of practice, but managed to narrowly grab the second seeding spot ahead of Martin. The top seed was Konstantin Skudler, and our other competitors were Florian Minges, Victor and Idriz.
So I ended up in a group with Martin and Victor, and we had an all-play-all. The competition was following the great memory sports tradition and running late - the janitor came in (in the middle of one match) to tell us we had to be out of the school by five o'clock, which meant that the final round relocated to a conference room in Martin's office nearby. It's nice to have a backup venue, just in case! Anyway, the matches were six disciplines, in the style of the online league championship (each player chooses three disciplines), and I beat Victor 5-1 in the first match, losing one images game - nobody had told him that I always lose at names, or otherwise it would probably have been 4-2. Then Victor and Martin had a 3-3 draw, and finally in the backup venue I beat Martin 4-2, giving me the top spot. I was speeding up and getting my brain working right progressively through the day - all weekend I impressed everyone by always getting the cards correct, with times around 30 seconds, but I was much too slow on images, and generally terrible with words. Against Martin, though, I managed a 40 words, so I was hopeful of improving on that the next day.
Konsti had won his group, with Florian second and Idriz third. On Sunday morning we re-convened in the school's main hall, which has a really awesome lectern kind of thing, and also one of those pencil-sharpeners fastened to a table, where you turn the handle. I've never actually seen one of those in real life. There was a big screen for spectators to watch the action, too! Alva and David from the students' competition rejoined us and played off against the group third-places to see who'd play who in the quarter-finals. I ended up against Alva in mine.
The best part of memory league competitions, of course, is the surprise events. These ones were created by Simon Orton - who had been running everything remotely from Australia into what must have been the early hours of the morning when the first day over-ran, and he and the surprise events were entirely awesome. In the first one, we had an images event, in which all the images were squares with one or more playing-card-suit symbols in the corners. As usual, we had five minutes to think of a strategy, and mine really wasn't very good. I need to get better at ad-hoc strategies like this. I did still beat Alva with a score of 7, but simultaneously Florian had got 13 in his match against Victor. We both won our matches (best of 5) 3-0, with a 29.95 second pack of cards and 39 words from me, very satisfactory.
Then the other two quarter-finals had their surprise event, which was a similar kind of thing, but this time the symbols were a circle, a square or a triangle. Konsti clearly has a knack for surprise events, winning his one with a score of 17. He and Martin both won 3-0 too, against David and Idriz respectively.
So the semis were Konsti against Martin, and me against Florian. Our surprise task for this one - names and faces, except that instead of faces, it was the backs of people's heads! Actually, this really didn't make a big difference to me at all, since I'm famously incapable of recognising faces anyway. And in fact, I won, getting six right compared to Florian's five! Florian did go on to beat me at normal names, but then I won cards (28.95 this time) and images (stopping the clock at 33.42, compared to his 33.49!) to go through to the final. Konsti, meanwhile, had won 3½-½.
That gave us a break while we watched the third-place playoff. Their surprise task was a doozy - words, except that the 'words' were strings of between one and six binary digits. It turned out to be a draw, which caused a bit of confusion, because the loser of the surprise event chooses the next discipline, and nobody had written a rule specifying what happens when the surprise is a draw. Idriz thought of a number between 1 and 100, and asked them both to guess it. They both guessed 50, cleverly playing the odds. So it was 'guess what hand Victor's holding a coin in', which Martin won. But Florian went on to win the next three very close games, to seal third place.
And so to the grand final! Our surprise task here was images, but all the images were of Simon Orton, pulling silly faces. Brilliant. But Konsti got to grips with it much better than I did, and won easily. So I knew I'd have to do something special in the non-names discipline he'd pick, and I really didn't. I don't normally get affected by pressure in these events, but something must have rattled me in words, and I only managed 24. It wouldn't have made much difference, though, because he scored 45, which is more than I do except on occasional freaks when everything goes right. And since I'd also been lucky to win in numbers when Konsti stopped the clock before me but mis-remembered one image, I can't really complain about losing 4-3.
Hooray for Konsti! As people cheerfully pointed out, he was one year old when I first entered a memory competition. And now he's a very well-deserved winner, who I'm going to have to try to get my revenge against next time! Looking forward to the next memory league championship!