Saturday, October 31, 2015

They think it's all othellover

Congratulations to Yusuke Takanashi on his fourth World Othello Championship! I really need to play more othello. Maybe I'll make that a new year resolution? Remind me in two months, because I'll have forgotten by then.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Othelloing all over the world

The World Othello Championship is happening right now in Cambridge (traditional home of British Othello, but it's never been the venue for the WOC before - it was in London the previous times it was held over here). It's a competition that illustrates a lot of things that the world of memory sports would do well to copy. The competition moves from one country to another every year; it's been held in no end of different nations over the 38 years it's been going. The companies who sell othello sets traditionally foot the bill, with the finer details of organising generally being done by the players themselves. The prize of $3000 for the winner is pretty much set in stone as an age-old tradition (and inflation be damned) and is a token thing that nobody really cares about; it's all about winning and having fun.

Qualification tournaments all around the world provide the best three players in each country, which nicely prevents more than the top three places on the leaderboard being taken up by the all-conquering Japanese; players pay for their own travel and accommodation and don't grumble about it. A lot of the players have been at the top level of the game for decades, but a lot of others have more recently started and quickly dominated competitions with new strategies and approaches. It's something people can and do play online on many different sites (which nimbly avoid the trademarked name Othello by calling themselves 'reversi') where you can always be sure of finding an opponent of a similar skill level, however good you are or aren't.

It's thirteen rounds of Swiss-system matches over the first two days, then the top four play in semi-finals and the grand final on day three - as it stands at the moment reigning champion Makoto Suekuni is topping the leaderboard with eight wins out of nine, with three-time winner Yusuke Takanashi, Nicky van den Biggelaar and Takuji Kashiwabara a point behind. Still all to play for - top Briton David Hand is on 6.5, Imre Leader on 5.5 and Steven Robinson on 5. That puts us joint second in the team competition, too.

There's never been a British winner (nine of the last ten have been Japanese, it's not that often that anyone else gets a look-in), though our players have come second a few times (Imre first did it in 1983) and won the team title on occasion, though the last time was 1997. Let's all cheer them on and wave a flag or two!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hook a duck

There's a really quite big funfair squeezed into the small market place car park just up the road from me. It's got four hook-a-duck stalls. Fairs were so much better in the olden days when they had arcades, full of all the coolest new video games of two or three years previously (with the volume cranked up to deafening levels and most or all of the buttons not working). Nowadays, they're just dull. Ghost trains seem to be out of fashion, too...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I like baths. Can't start a day without one. But why isn't the standard bathtub size "big enough so you can stretch out your whole body in one"?

Meanwhile, I got under 20 seconds twice in a row today in XMT images, and got closer to consistently nailing a 21-22 second pack of cards too...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I really should cheer for Sheffield Wednesday

And not just when they're 1-0 up against Arsenal. Supporting the Owls is sort of a Pridmore family tradition. Come on you Owls!

Monday, October 26, 2015


Hmm, how to maximise my qualifying scores for the XMT? I need to be scientific about it. Qualifying will start in January, apparently, and almost certainly be based on the same 100-points-for-the-world-record system as last year, so obviously I need to consider which disciplines can get me the most points and also which ones will give me the biggest edge over my potential rivals...

Cards - world record 52 in 23.34 seconds. That's fast. And although sub-30-second times are becoming more and more frequent lately, it's fair to say most of the memorisers in the qualifiers still can't do it. If I can get myself somewhere near that time of Simon's, it'd give me a great head-start. I did three tries at everything today and my best time was 25.38 - it'd be good if I could get it into the 24s or 23s consistently by January.

Images - world record 30 in 14.40 seconds. That's not just fast, it's freaky-fast. And quite a lot of people have been going very fast in training, apparently. I need to work on whizzing through the images more quickly than I do at the moment, because I think they'd stick in my memory just as well if I didn't consciously think about them quite as much. In three goes today, my best time was 21.64; let's see if I can get down into the teens consistently.

Names - world record 28 in 60 seconds. Yeah, I need to work on this quite a lot, don't I? The best I managed today was 12, though I know I can get up to the dizzy heights of 15 or 16 if I carry on in my usual way. But instead, what I really have to do is sit down and think about it; start pre-preparing mental associations for common names and facial features, make a proper effort to do it. I need to make a short-term resolution to get above 20, and then move on from there...

Numbers - world record 80 in 21.01 seconds. Very fast, but the problem with numbers is you don't get any prompting for the possible sequence in the recall like you do with cards and images, so it's easy to make mistakes. I know this from experience, since my three tries today all had errors in the recall, but the third one was 24.16 seconds and I just carelessly typed one digit wrong (if I'd bothered to go through and read what I'd typed instead of just clicking 'finished' I would have caught that - no more laziness, even in practice, from now on). In qualifying it's going to have to be a safe-ish time first to make sure I get all 80, then go for fast after that, but I can hope to aim for a time of 22 or better.

Words - world record 49 in 60.00 seconds. Someone's going to get all 50 in 2016, I'm sure. My best today was 40, but having got a freaky 47 in the actual XMT itself this year, I don't see why I shouldn't do it again some time. Maybe I'll get lucky and it'll be during the qualification? Or maybe, rather than relying on luck and flukes, I could work on it a bit more seriously? I'm pretty happy with my technique here, actually, but I could concentrate on pinpointing the optimum number of words to read before repeating, and so on. Let's aim to get consistently into the mid-40s here.

Science! Dedication! Let's keep it up! (I'm being my own cheerleader here; I think that'll help.)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Extreme Memory Training

Since I can't go to the world championship for money reasons, I think I need to dedicate my time to practicing for the XMT next year. For one thing, that's the only kind of training I've been able to get excited about for quite a while now. I don't know if I'd ever be able to come close to winning the thing, but you never know what you can do until you try...