Saturday, March 06, 2010

Cambridge Memory Championship 2010

The fifth Cambridge Memory Championship (wow! five years!) takes place on Sunday, May 2nd, 2010, at Trinity College, Cambridge.

It's part of the tenth (double wow!) Cambridge Mind Sports Olympiad, so please do come along and play something else on the Saturday. I'm playing othello, as usual.

The MSO website above gives you all the relevant details of how to get there, when things happen and so on. It costs £5 to enter, or nothing at all if you're new to the world of memory sports (or if you really convince me that you're so poor that you can't afford a fiver), and the competition lasts for the whole day, from nine o'clock in the morning until six o'clock in the evening. The schedule looks like this:

9:00 Welcome and introduction
9:15 Random words 5 min 10 min
9:45 Binary numbers 5 min 15 min
10:15 Names and faces 5 min 10 min
10:45 Numbers 15 min 30 min
11:45 Lunch break
1:00 Cards 10 min 20 min
1:45 Speed Numbers 5 min 15 min
2:15 Abstract Images 15 min 30 min
3:15 Historic Dates 5 min 15 min
3:45 Spoken Numbers 100 sec 5 min
200 sec 10 min
4:45 Speed Cards 5 min 5 min
5 min 5 min
6:00 Finish

Times are subject to change, but we usually get things done pretty close to that. Spoken numbers are in English, words and dates can be provided in any language of your choice, as long as you ask for it at least a week before the competition.

For lunch we'll go to a nice pub nearby, and afterwards we'll go to another nice pub (or, if we really liked the lunch, the same nice pub) and talk about the wonders of memory competitions in general.

Any questions, please comment on this blog post, or send me an email. A preview will appear on shortly.

Friday, March 05, 2010

And you're only smilin' when you play your violin

That's one of those blog titles I've wanted to use ever since I encountered that particularly awful rhyme in the strange Abba song "Dum Dum Diddle". I was thinking of jusifying it by writing about how I'm considering taking proper professional lessons in some musical instrument to get over my lifelong desire to actually play something well - it's true, I am, but not so seriously that it merits a blog to itself, and I'd only feel like I was just saying it so I could use that title. Still, it is something I'd like to do. I'm quite sure I've got the soul of a musician (the cool hippy kind) trapped in the body of an accountant-cum-memory-master.

Also, should I go out somewhere distant and exciting tomorrow, or just stay at home and try to memorise things? I can't decide.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

America's memory

Tch, it's the US Memory Championship on Saturday, and I can't use it as an excuse to visit New York this year, because I've got no holiday days left until the new year starts in April. It's probably my own fault for going to Japan so many times, but I'm still looking for someone else to blame. But at least Florian's going, so there'll be a full and interesting report on!

Incidentally, expect a lot of blogging about the Cambridge Memory Championship this weekend and for the two months thereafter. I've rather neglected it (in the sense that I've done absolutely nothing by way of organising it, telling people it's happening and other minor matters like that), so I'm going to make up for it now. Well, not now, but Saturday, definitely.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Boy With The Amazing Brain

I got an email today offering to use my amazing memory skills to win a fortune at blackjack and make me and my generous correspondent millionaires. I haven't had one of those for a while, and it's nice to know that some people out there still think I'm Rain Man. It always gives me a giggle, if nothing else.

But still, since I'm casting around for something new to try my hand at, perhaps I should learn to count cards properly. It does sound like fun, if you can do it well. Perhaps I'll break the bank at Monte Carlo yet. I'll just have to start wearing disguises and deliberately losing whenever I go to Las Vegas, in case they ban me from my favourite holiday destination...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A Buffy a day keeps the vampires away

Having acquired a complete collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer videos recently, as I probably mentioned in my blog, I've been watching an episode a night for the last week or so. It really is an awesome series, and there's nothing on TV nowadays quite like it. Somebody come up with another cool, clever and funny action show, please. I need more reasons to not do any memory training.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Time marches on

I was really taken by surprise today to notice that it's March. High time I sprung into action and did something new. To start with, I've trimmed my beard down to a sensible kind of length. But I've left the ends of my moustache quite long, because I've got half a mind to turn it into a villainous curly moustache. I think it'd look good on me.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Old Man of the Mountain

The coolest thing about the Cambridge International is generally the meals. Okay, there are people who go there wanting to win the othello tournament, but I personally never harbour any illusions about being good enough to consistently beat the best players in Europe. It's a tournament I'd recommend to anyone who likes good food in interesting places with very interesting people, though.

Friday evening, having got away from the office and made my way down to Cambridge, starts with The Salisbury Arms, just down the road from the train station and also just down another road from the hotel I ended up staying in because Cityroomz was full. But not having travelled that road before, I still got hopelessly lost on the way - the road the pub is on is in some kind of spacial topographical anomaly so that it's at right angles to each of two different roads I'm familiar with but which are at right angles to each other. Or that's how it seemed to me, anyway, even before I had anything to drink. Still, it's such a great pub that I thought I should throw in a link to its website. It's a bit excessively real-ale, and wildly expensive compared to pubs around my neck of the woods, but it's got a staggeringly groovy deco, and the best music you can possibly imagine. I'd go along with the website's claim that it "encompasses all that is great about English pubs", more or less, although I wouldn't recommend that you check out the poetry page.

On othello tournament eves, it also plays host to a whole lot of European othelloists crowded around a smallish table, playing othello and variants thereof (four-by-infinity) and suggesting a really quite cool idea for an extra competition we could have at the Cambridge Memory Championship in May (assuming I tell people it's happening - I'll do it next week, promise). Aubrey gets the credit for the othello variant and the memory idea, naturally. A couple of drinks later, I followed some very simple directions back to the main road, and luckily looked over my shoulder to find that I was pointed 180 degrees in the wrong direction now, eventually ending up back at my hotel.

This being a nice hotel, it came with a full English breakfast - self-service buffet with a waitress whose sole job it seems to be to open the metal box things (there's probably a word for them that everyone knows, but I can't think of it) that the bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs etc are in whenever a breakfaster comes towards them, and close them again when they're done. It was very nice. Definitely an improvement on the 'light breakfast' you get with your cheaper room at Cityroomz, which basically consists of a croissant.

Thus fortified, it was down to the Lubbock Room in Peterhouse, just round the corner, where the Cambridge International has been played since time immemorial if like me your memory only goes back to 2002. That's also a very cool place, a big spacious room with pencil sketches of Peterhouse-associated Nobel Prize winners on the walls and, this year at least, a great forest of laptops belonging to players. This is what happens when you advertise wireless internet availability. There was barely room for othello boards among all the laptops. Still, at least nobody had a secret othello computer down their trousers this year.

After the morning's first three games, the leaders were Matthias Berg, Erwin van den Berg and David Beck - a really good morning for people whose surnames start with 'Be', although it was a very bad one for people with 'Be' first names. Before the next tournament, I'll change my name to 'Pan', which Corrie de Graaf thought was my name after mishearing an introduction. It was also a good morning for people with surnames derived from geographical features, and for prompting me to use the blog title above, which is a Betty Boop cartoon - the fact that her name also starts with 'Be' was the clincher in choosing it.

Lunch is traditionally in the university canteen next door. Great food, including a hot pudding with custard - it was treacle tart this year, and it was delicious. Expensive, naturally, despite being a university place. Cambridge is just plain expensive everywhere. It keeps the riff-raff away.

We had an afternoon's othelloing too, although I can't remember exactly what happened to me, let alone to anyone else. I certainly didn't win very many games all weekend, anyway. Still, in the evening it was drinks in the pub down the road, along with debate about whether or not rosé wine is made by mixing red and white wine together, and a really heated argument about the difference between raisins, currants and sultanas. Especially currants. Luckily, it's the 21st century, and everybody had iphones and laptops and access to the source of all knowledge, Wiki Answers. Then away to an Indian restaurant where the conversation (at our table at least) was unprintable in a family blog like this. The food was quite nice, though.

Day two of the competition ended up with me on five wins out of eleven, which could be worse, I suppose. Imre won the final against David Hand, so yay and congratulations to them and everyone else!