Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Memory World

Competitions continue to happen around the globe - since I last mentioned them, we've had the North German championship beziehungsweise* championships (a regional-format, seven-discipline thing with the other optional three disciplines the day before to make it into a national-standard open championship; there were also junior and kids' competitions, so really it was a whole lot of championships all merged into one). The winner of the one that counts was Simon, in another of those pitched battles between him and Hannes.

There was a fiercely-contested Mongolian championship, won by Lkhagvadulam Enkhtuya ahead of the two Narmandakhs - Germany and Mongolia have entirely dominated the year of memory competitions so far (Shijir-Erdene Bat-Enkh, now living in America, won a typically American non-standard competition as well), with the American, Swedish and British contingent presumably biding their time to burst onto the scene...

Next month, though after the excitement of the Tokyo Friendly Championship, we move away from the national-standard format and into the exciting realms of Memory League! There will (hopefully) be Scandinavian and German ML competitions, along the lines of the UK pilot episode last November, taking place in May, and I can't wait to see what happens!

Then at the end of May, I invite everyone to come and enjoy the twelfth (!) annual Friendly Memory Championship in its new home in Birmingham! It'll be great, I assure you!

We will also (very hopefully) have our own UK Memory League Championship again in November; with any luck, I'll be able to share details of it shortly, but this does rather depend on somebody (anybody) else arranging a venue and talking to people about it. We'll see what happens...

*It's a German word that means something along the lines of 'or as the case may be...'. There isn't really an English equivalent, but Germans say it all the time in sentences like that.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Mind Sports Olympiad 2017!

You can now register for the MSO - the timetable is here!

I really recommend going along to this, it's always a lot of fun. Take your pick from a week's worth of mind games, try something new or something you haven't played for years! Here's what I'm probably doing...

The first two days, Sunday and Monday, August 21-22, we have the European Memory Championship (open to everybody around the whole world, we already have confirmed competitors from Asia, North and South America and I bet we can complete the set by luring some Africans and Australians into the mix as well; the MSO traditionally likes everything to be a world championship, but it'd be a bit silly to keep the title "Memory World Cup" going when there's going to be two other world memory championships elsewhere in the world this year..).

This is an international-standard event, split into three "modules" that MSO all-rounders can pick and choose from as they please, but with the total scores added up in the usual way. So Sunday gives us our three half-hour marathons - numbers, cards and binary, 30 minutes to memorise, 60 minutes to recall. This starts at 10am and finishes safely before 6pm, so you can do one of the evening sessions in another sport if you like.

Day two, Monday, is split into two sections - the morning session (10:00am to 1:45pm) is "natural memory", with 15-minute names, 15-minute words, and 5-minute images. This is the kind of thing a newcomer could walk in off the street without knowing the first thing about memory techniques and still do well in.

The afternoon section is the miscellany of speed disciplines - 5-minute numbers, 5-minute dates, spoken numbers and speed cards. A little mini-championship in its own right of the fastest disciplines you can find in a big international competition like this!

Entry fee is £15 for the marathon memory, £10 for each of the others, making £35 in total for the "European Championship". Or you can pay £120 for a whole-week ticket and play in as many MSO events as you like. You should!

Okay, what shall I do for the rest of the week? In the evening session on Sunday there's the always-entertaining daily poker tournament, and this one is everybody's favourite, Texas hold'em. It's a great way to end the day! But we also have the othello championship that night - 15-minute games, an MSO tradition - so I think I'll do that.

Monday evening gives us London lowball, which I think I somehow won a medal in the last time I played, but there's also the mental calculation blitz, which might be a lot of fun. It's way too long since I did mental calculations!

Tuesday, with the memory out of the way, I can start playing games for the rest of the week. Let's see.. there's acquire, a very fun game, in the morning/afternoon double session, or else I could play the morning session at quoridor (I wasn't very good at that one the one time I've tried it before) or the big mental calculation championship, then in the afternoon session play continuo (always a good way to spend an afternoon). In the evening it's Omaha in the poker, or the really great new game blokus, or the really great old game backgammon (the no-doubling-die version,so outrageously lucky rolls of the dice can make all the difference), which is a tricky choice.

Wednesday there's that MSO favourite the decamentathlon in the morning, I think I'll have to do that. If you're new to the MSO experience, it consists of written puzzles in ten different mind sports events - brilliant stuff. The afternoon gives us mastermind, I've always liked that game. The evening gives us five-card draw poker, or else another MSO favourite, oware.

Thursday is all double-sessions in the daytime - I think I might do monopoly, I've always said I'd like to do that at the MSO but never actually played it there before! Pineapple hold'em in the evening is a must.

Friday I think the pick of the bunch is the double-session lines of action, a really cool game that stretches your brain in unusual ways. I'm no good at it, but I like to play anyway. Alternatively, there's cribbage singles in the morning and doubles in the afternoon if I can find a partner. No evening session on Fridays, or anything at all on Saturdays - the venue is a Jewish community centre and they're big on observing the shabbat.

So we resume on Sunday 28th, with maybe a day of rapidplay chess, or more likely (since I'm still hopeless at chess and need to maintain everyone's vague impression that it's something I'd obviously be good at) a morning session of kenken and sudoku puzzles! Followed by either Chinese chess (I do like that game, though I haven't played for a good few years now) or else the traditional brilliance of the creative thinking world championship. In the evening we have seven-card stud, or maybe twixt (it's a good game) or I could get all nostalgic about my schooldays and play exchange chess...

And the last day, bank holiday Monday, there's a new-to-the-MSO Countdown event that I think I'll have to enter. I always wanted to be on Countdown...

So that's the week-and-a-bit of the MSO! See you there!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Memory world news

I need to post a whole lot of important information on this blog. I'll do it over the Easter weekend. But I said I'd say this tonight - if you want to play a Memory League competition in a scenic location against the world's best, please consider joining the Scandinavian Memory League Open on May 13-14 in Gothenburg! In the same format as the wonderful event here in London last November, but they're struggling to fill the places with 12 Scandinavians, so have thrown it open to the world!

I'd really like to go, and I'm trying to resist the temptation, because I'm really trying not to spend all my money right now...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Oh for crying out loud

I just spent absolutely ages, maybe as much as 20 minutes, searching around the internet trying to remember which student hall of residence I stayed in the last time I spent a week at the MSO in London - I didn't see fit to mention the name on my blog and searching the usual websites didn't come up with anything just down the road from JW3 as I knew this place was. I finally identified that I'd booked it in 2014, searched through my emails and found that it was Hampstead Residence, belonging to King's College - but it turns out they've sold it now and it's not available to rent a room in the summer any more. Now I'll have to book somewhere else.

Assuming I get round to it, I'll detail where I'm staying in another blog entry, along with the extensive preview of the MSO I'm going to write any day now. Promise.

Monday, March 13, 2017

French memories

That was a fun competition! The scores are online here and more-or-less accurate - it was an exciting battle all the way through between Simon and Johannes, with me a fairly distant third but still producing the kind of decent results I was entirely happy with, considering how very long it is since I even sat down with a real pack of cards or a piece of paper to memorise. And our gallant band of French memorisers all put in great performances, particularly Sylvain Estadieu - he's going to be a force to be reckoned with before long, I'm sure.

I'll see if I can get into some kind of regular training and start competing again - this one has achieved its aim of getting me in the memory mood, I think (old-fashioned memory, that is; I've been in the Memory League mood for months). The only problem is that the only memory championships in this country are run by me nowadays, and travelling to other places costs all that money I'm trying not to spend right now...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Other important things about the competition

The lift up to the competition room (on the first floor of the Espace Moncassin) doesn't go 'ding' like normal lifts, it plays a tone of exactly the same pitch and length of the first note of Sloop John B by the Beach Boys. So that's my mental soundtrack to the championship.

Also, I can confirm that there is such a thing as the Eiffel Tower - I saw it with my own eyes last night. It lights up after dark, too!

Saturday, March 11, 2017


The most important thing I learned today - on the French dubbed version of the Simpsons, the Duff beer logo is blurred out, because it's an actual real beer now, and so contravenes product placement laws, even in episodes made when it was just a fictional thing. That's weird.

Anyway, there has also been the first day of the French Open Memory Championship! The one in 2008 attracted only two French competitors, a French-only competition in 2015 drew in eight, but this year's event breaks all the records - nineteen entrants in total, 13 of them French! That's enough for a national Memory League event!

It's the first old-fashioned memory championship I've competed in since the UK Championship in August 2015, and my complete and total lack of training shows, but it's still been fun! All the new French competitors have identical dark hair, glasses and beards, so I'm not at all to blame for not remembering who's who, but it's a two-day competition so I'm sure by the end of the day tomorrow I'll be familiar with them all.

I'll write a full report just as soon as I can get round to it - meanwhile, I've got a French dub of the Simpsons to distract me - most characters' voices are imitations of the American originals, but for some reason Krusty is totally different; he's got a sort of deep, booming voice. Foreign countries are strange and different.