Friday, November 30, 2012

I love

There are a whole lot of scans of old newspapers on there now - on 4 July 1891, my great-grandfather was mentioned in the Sheffield Independent, in a list of people fined various sums for infringements of the Education Act. The scoundrel. Although he had five school-age children at the time and two younger ones, and I'm sure they had more important things to do than go to school...

Hmm, and again on 19 March 1892. Really, don't these people have better things to do than prosecute truanting Pridmores?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the abstract

If I'm going to be serious about the world championship this year, I realised today, I'm going to need to practice abstract images. And not just practice them, sit down and remember what my images for the patterns are supposed to be. Which is a bit of a chore.

I still don't like abstract images. And by that I don't mean I don't like memorising them in competitions, I mean I don't like the whole concept. We need to get rid of it and replace it with something else. Like actual abstract images, rather than the learn-the-patterns game that we've got now. I don't think I've whined about it quite enough these last seven years; I'll whine more loudly from now on. But first, I'll go and re-learn my images in preparation for the competition.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A few more memoriadditions

Andi said that the highlight of his weekend was finding that he and I both use our stopwatches to tell the time - it was a classic memory-geek moment, but I can't help thinking his entertainment threshold is a little bit on the low side. Andi, although he stuck firmly to his usual pattern of coming to the event with the expectation of winning piles of prize money and then giving up quite quickly when he didn't do as well as, was quite enthusiastic about the new spoken number-memorising system he's been working on, which is a bit different.

It involves creating locations using some of the numbers, as well as his person-action-objects, and Andi feels that this saves time and gives him an extra couple of seconds to think - I don't quite see how it does that, unless it involves some clever distortion of the laws of space and time, but Andi genuinely believes that the time spent on the locations doesn't count, and believing something like that is a major, important part of success at memory competitions. It could well be that the three-time-world-champion-who-isn't-me might be making a surprise comeback at some point in the future! (At a competition that has prize money, naturally).

Speaking of prize money, I haven't mentioned yet that the prizegiving ceremony was held in a small room with a huge pillar in the middle that prevented about 50% of the audience from seeing what was happening. I think it was a last-minute change because the competition in the main room ran so late. It was hosted by someone who had the traditional difficulty with pronouncing everyone's name - Akshita Shailesh Shah seemed to give him the most problems; whenever her name came up (which was often; she was one of the foremost small Indian mental-calculator-geniuses, often finishing in the top three of the adult competitions as well, and one of the few kids who entered the memory events too, and so finished in the top three junior rankings of those too) he eventually gave up on trying to get it right and called her "Akshita Sh-um-mumblemumblemumble Shah" over and over again.

I might return to blogging about something else now...

Monday, November 26, 2012


Dai said he can't get past the word verification, so I've turned it off again and will just put up with the occasional spam - it doesn't show up on the blog, but I do get an email to tell me there's a new comment, even when the spam filter has zapped it automatically. There's probably a setting I can change to fix that, but I can't be bothered to find out what it is. So please, Robot Dai, and any other robots out there who haven't been able to post, go ahead and comment!


I thought I should mention it, since the organisers of most memory competitions are used to me by now and just ignore me, but the Memoriad is new territory for me... I really like my competitions to be endearingly shambolic. I like to make light of their foibles, but please don't think that means I don't love all memory competitions everywhere!

For example, if the only thing I mention about my hotel room is that there was a pair of pants (not mine) under the sofa that had been missed by the cleaners, you shouldn't assume I was in any way unhappy with the hotel. Indeed, you should assume it was completely and totally awesome, if that's the only negative thing you see me say about it! And besides, they looked clean, and I can always use extra underwear. I see it as another free gift.

So, the Memoriad - I'd like to know the logic behind the seating arrangements, if there is any. Was it random? Everyone was assigned a different seat at a different computer for each discipline, but I was somewhere near the front for all the memory ones and somewhere more towards the back for the mental calculations, so maybe there was some kind of seeding involved, I don't know. Perhaps the super-computer decided everything, as part of its plan to take over the world.

We also had a name-sign to put on our desks, and an appropriate national flag along with the Memoriad flag - one of the British flags was upside-down until I fixed it, while one of the German flags was upside-down throughout the Memoriad; in fact, Jan van Koningsveld seemed to make a point of having that one on his desk every time, so perhaps he did it on purpose as some kind of cunning joke. He has got a Dutch name, after all, maybe he's subverting Germany from the inside?

We all also had T-shirts; one white and one blue, and an instruction to wear the former on Saturday and the latter on Sunday, with a note that anyone who didn't wouldn't be allowed to compete. The white ones had the sponsor logo, the blue ones just had the Memoriad logo. Boris's was upside-down. I think that one was intended for the Australian competitor.

And did anyone notice that there were two different designs of the Memoriad logo? It's five multi-coloured brains in the Olympic rings pattern - the T-shirts and the computers had them red-black-blue-yellow-green, and the nameplates and big posters had yellow-black-green-red-blue. Or something along those lines. I couldn't tell you off the top of my head what colour the Olympic rings are, so perhaps they change colours too, when we're not looking.

Okay, that's all out of my system now. Oh, and one more disclaimer - the money I won goes towards paying off the massive debt I accumulated during my latest not-working-for-a-living adventure; I'm really not financially stable, so you shouldn't come asking me for money, please.

Tomorrow - a few more of the really great things about the Memoriad!

The Memoriad Memory Money List

I came away with a generous wad of money from the Memoriad - quite literally, the prize money was paid to us in US dollars at the prizegiving ceremony, in front of any potential muggers and villains, but luckily everyone there was honest and decent and I'm almost sure that everyone got home safely with their cash. In contrast to the first Memoriad four years ago, when the only 'real' memory athletes competing were Boris, Andi and Gunther and they basically split all the prize money between them, there was a lot more competition this time for those top-three places. I'm sure in 2016 there'll be even more!

Results are now available here for the world to see.

By my calculation, it went:

Simon Reinhard $3,000 - two first places
Johannes Mallow $2,500 - one first and two thirds
Ben Pridmore $2,250 - one first and one second
Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar $1,500 - one first
Jonas von Essen $1,500 - two seconds
Christian Schäfer $1,250 - one second and one third
Akjol Syeryekkhaan $750 - one second
Boris Konrad $500 - one third
Lukas Amsüss $500 - one third

Which is a nice sharing-out of the hugely generous prize money, don't you think? Tsogbadrakh also got another $250 for the world record in flash numbers - probably. I don't honestly remember, because I'd fallen asleep by that part of the prizegiving. It was very long, as these things always are. And I got a new trophy that was too big for my rucksack (although I got it home somehow anyway) and medals and certificates and everything!

The Mongolian invasion was the most interesting part of it - well, also the Swedish invasion, but Jonas already did that at the Friendly - because it means the upcoming world championship might be more multinational than I was expecting. I'm excited about it now! Akjol was also fourth in binary, with more than 3000, and fifth in hour numbers, so he's obviously an all-rounder. Both Mongolians are young, too, like so many people seem to be nowadays. If they don't make the next Memoriad earlier than four years from now, I'll be 40 years old! That just doesn't bear thinking about...

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I knew the organisers were tempting fate when Melik said we absolutely had to stick to the schedule today, because we had to be out of the main room by 4:30, on the dot. This was the cue for a major software problem to set us back hugely before we could start the flash numbers, and eventually the day finished at six.

Which is good, because with the gala dinner at 7:30, I have time to come up to my hotel room, watch most but not all of the Chelsea-Man City game that's conveniently available on TV, and update my blog too!

Just two memory events left today - I did pretty badly with the flash numbers, but Turkish-man-whose-name-I-need-to-learn did very well, getting a perfect 300! Jonas was second, if memory serves, and Johannes third, all with excellent scores that would have been unthinkably good just a couple of years ago.

I had a go at the mental additions - managing to get six of them right in ten minutes (the task is to add up ten ten-digit numbers, and the top scorers do it in an instant). Japanese-man-whose-name-I-need-to-learn (blast these newcomers with long names! I think his is Naofumi, actually, but I'll make a point of learning it at the dinner) blew everyone away in this and the flash anzan later on.

I skipped the mental calendar, though, seeing as I'm so out of practice, and just joined in the second flash anzan trial before deciding early on that it was more fun to just watch the other competitors (the eight-year-olds I mentioned earlier, for the most part) adding up lots of numbers very very quickly, waving their fingers in abacus-like ways while they do it.

And so we finished with binary. Johannes, playing devious German mind games, assured me before we started that a score of 3500 or so would be enough for me to win. I, in an entirely innocent underestimation of my abilities, assured him that I wasn't going to get such a good score, since I'm out of practice. It went pretty well, and I ended up with a score of 3870, which is as good as I could have expected from the genuinely minimal training I've been doing. Johannes won with 4095, neeeeearly but not quite beating my ancient world record 4140, and Christian came third, just behind me.

So I end up with one gold and one silver, which is probably more than I deserve. Roll on the world championship! Roll on even more the next Memoriad!