Saturday, October 11, 2008

A successful but unconvincing display

I think my memory performance in all aspects of my life today mirrors England's performance on the football pitch - it got the job done, but it could have been better. It suddenly occurred to me in the bath this morning that I'd completely forgotten on Friday afternoon to email some figures to my boss, who needs them for a meeting at 7am on Monday. So I sneaked into the office for five minutes (remembering to put on some clothes first), printed them out and put them on his desk in a probably futile attempt to pretend they were there all along and avoid all the memory jokes.

With that out of the way, I checked the Radio Times to see if the England game was on proper telly, saw that it wasn't on BBC1 and concluded that it must be on Sky. I considered going to a pub to watch it, but you can't really watch a game in the pub without drinking a couple of pints of lager, and I do need to memorise stuff tomorrow, so I decided to stay at home and memorise some binary digits instead.

Having done that (a pretty decent result, but still not up to my absolute best), I came back into the living room, glanced at the Radio Times again and thought "D'oh! Of course, ITV have the rights to England games these days! I did know that, I'd just forgotten!" And sure enough, they were showing the game. As luck would have it, though, I only missed the first half, which by all accounts was dull and goalless, and saw the second, which was fast-paced, exciting and had six goals, five of them scored by England.

So, all in all, a pretty good day, memory-wise, but not one that's going to win me the World Cup. Sorry, World Championship.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Man Who Wouldn't Be King

Thanks for the interested comments about me becoming King, but I'm pretty certain I haven't got a drop of blue blood in my veins. Nothing but working-class Yorkshire folk in my family tree, I'm afraid, so you'd basically have to kill everybody else in the world, probably including yourselves, if you wanted me to end up on the throne. And I'd only abdicate and give all the money to charity anyway.

Still, it's the weekend, and that means it's memory time! All work and no play makes Zoomy a world champion, fingers crossed, touch wood.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


There's an advert on telly in between all the cartoons I watch for a Fisher Price pink fantasy castle kind of thing, and the narrator enthuses that "Princess Sarah-Lynn and Prince Andrew are getting ready for the party!" or something along those lines. Princess Sarah and Prince Andrew? Do they expect small girls to re-enact a thrilling fairytale divorce hearing?

Actually, is Prince Andrew even still alive? I don't seem to have heard anything about him for decades. If he is still alive and just not being in the newspapers, I approve wholeheartedly and think that the rest of the royals should follow his example. Especially if he's quietly doing some kind of charitable work instead of sitting around watching telly all day. Hey, maybe he's also a fan of Ben 10 and also giggles at that fairy castle Prince Andrew!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

First, a couple of adverts

Co-op own brand mint humbugs are delicious! Possibly the best humbugs I've ever tasted! Go and buy some, and share them with me!

Secondly, go and watch channel 4 tomorrow (Thursday) night at 9pm - a Cutting Edge documentary about narcoleptics, directed by Nick "The Mentalists" Holt.

And now our feature presentation - let's talk about the World Memory Championship! The "official" list of registered competitors now stands at 63 people (33 of them Chinese), which even if the usual 50% of those are no-shows would be a decent turnout. Who knows, if Team China really is that big, it might even do what the press releases inaccurately promise every year and have the most competitors ever! (Despite annual 'biggest ever' claims, the record still stands at 46 entrants in 2003 - and even then the press releases after the event claimed it was 53.)

So let's have a look at a few of the names that stand out on that list of 63. And let's start with Astrid Plessl, returning to competition for the first time since November 2004! She's still ranked number 5 in the world, it's just a question of how much she's been practicing since all those years ago. She came within a whisker of winning the world championship in 2003, really deserved to win it in 2004 instead of me, and was for a couple of years one of the absolute best. She always merited more than that lengthy list of second places in competitions (just one win to her name - Austrian championship 2003, in the middle of four runner-up medals, each one behind a different winner! Andi in the WMC 2003, Gunther in Prague 2003, me in the WMC 2004 and then Clemens in Austria!) and it'll be great to see her back again.

And to forestall the many queries I always used to get on the subject, I don't know if she's seeing anyone right now, but I doubt I would be able to set you up on a date with her. Of course, I haven't seen her for four years, she might be a hideous toothless crone by now.

Let's move on. Also registered is good old Andi Bell, three times former champion, unquestionably the best in the world in 2002-2003, but not quite able to keep up the championship temperament since then. I'm hoping that if he's prepared to travel all the way to Bahrain (an idea that he scoffed at the last time I spoke to him), he's planning to win. I don't think he'd make the trip if he didn't believe he could end up on top, it's just a question of whether he really is as prepared as he thinks he is. If he's on form, and doesn't give up half way when things aren't going well, you'd have to bet on him for a top three position (something he achieved for nine consecutive years from 1995 to 2003). If he's really at his optimum performance level, you'd bet on him to win.

Running down the list from top to bottom, we see Ronnie White, the American who, not aware that anybody had ever set a world record for memorising numbers before, claimed on national TV to have broken a record by memorising something like 23 digits. Since being enlightened as to the existence of memory championships, he's been promising to come to one for quite a while now. I'd say there's a sporting chance he'll be a no-show again, but I'm still hoping to meet him. He sounds like a nice guy.

A strong German team includes reigning champion (but how out of practice is he, and how's his motivation to try to win it again now that he's finally achieved it?) Gunther, German Champion Johannes (who I'm still extremely worried about, since he seems to have improved hugely since last year, and he was pretty good to start with), Boris (always hovering somewhere near the top of the scoreboard) and many more - Germany are my bet for team champions this year again.

Dai Griffiths and James Paterson are listed as representing 'Wales', while the rest of the British competitors are down as 'UK'. Well, if they've seceded, then I'm jolly well going to be Team England this year, and squish them like... I want to say Edward I, but whichever king it was who particularly squished the Welsh.

Yip Swe Chooi (the venerable Dr Yip - memory sports is a first-name-terms kind of thing, but there's something about Dr Yip that just demands the title) will be there again, I'm glad to see, although he doesn't seem to have an accompanying entourage of little students any more. He's capable of blowing anyone away when he's at his best, despite the comparatively lowly world ranking of 17th. One of these days it'll all come together for him and he'll be the shock world champion.

And now we're into that list of Chinese names. I don't know any of these people, and we really need to rectify that this year. Liu Ping was the pick of the bunch last year, with Guo Chuanwei not far behind, but I couldn't even tell you which ones they were if I was confronted by the whole Chinese team (admittedly this is more because of my difficulty with names and faces than because I've never spoken to them - we did hang out a little bit last year). But, the need for more international socialising aside, either one of them could be a winner this time round with only a little improvement on their 2007 results.

And let's mention Chen Yu Juan. She has been 'officially' stripped of her time in the speed cards last year (or at least it's been taken off the statistics website) after the widespread accusations of cheating, and it'll be interesting to see how she does this time round. Personally, I'm hoping she can prove her detractors wrong and do something amazing.

I think the top ten this year, in no particular order, will be made up of me, Andi, Astrid, Gunther, Hannes, Boris, Ping, Chuanwei, Lukas and Ed. But I'm rather hoping that someone I haven't even considered will come through and amaze the world. It's always great to see a new superstar!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Oops, nearly forgot to blog

That doesn't bode well for the memory championships, does it? Well, since I haven't left myself enough time to write about it tonight, here's a quick trailer: tomorrow I'm planning to talk about all the people who are apparently going to the WMC! Astrid! Andi! Gunther! And many more!

Monday, October 06, 2008

It's derived from the English words "MENtal math", "MEMORy", "ReaD" and "olympIAD"

At least that's what the website says. Personally, I suspect the name "Memoriad" is just derived from "memory" and "olympiad", like it was when other people coined the name years ago. Apart from that, though, I'm all in favour of the Memoriad, which happens in Istanbul on the 1st and 2nd of November, practically as soon as we get back from the WMC.

The coolest part of the Memoriad, which also involves a mental calculations competition identical to the world cup, which will nicely make up for me missing that earlier this year, is that everything's going to be done on computer. And they've got a software available for download which is very, very good indeed! Better, I would go so far as to say, than anything anyone has created before. Apart from a couple of little bugs, it works perfectly, and I think this is the future of the memory championships.

Distant future, of course. There's always the question of being able to arrange the necessary computer technology in large enough quantities for all the competitors to use, and I can't see that happening at the world championships for some time. But, barring software errors, this will make arbiting a lot quicker, easier and less prone to mistakes.

I objected to the idea of computerised memory competitions when they were first suggested to me, long ago, and I'm still not really comfortable with the idea of forcing competitors to stare at a screen constantly for an hour, but I'm looking forward to seeing how well it works. And that software is extremely nifty. Go and download it, even if you're not planning on going to Istanbul!

Also, go to Istanbul. There's prize money!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Memory, memory, memory!

I am so completely in the memory competition mood right now, it's fantastic! I've just finished an hour cards practice, without even caring that I was missing the first ten minutes of Match Of The Day, and I'd go and memorise something else afterwards if I wasn't aware I've got to go to work tomorrow. This is the first time I've done what I used to call 'a full weekend' of training (30-min binary, hour numbers and hour cards, all in one weekend) for I don't know how long. And I'm buzzing with things to write about the WMC and the Memoriad. I think I might devote the whole of next week's blogging to memory talk. Unless something else comes up.

I should also apologise for the way I'm neglecting the people I regularly talk to/hang out with, but I am really hitting the right frame of mind at exactly the right time this year, and it's exciting me. I'm starting to feel like I might win the world championship if I keep this up. Woohoo!