In the wake of Week 1 Cards ending yesterday for the 2016 XMT Qualifiers, I wanted to discuss some history concerning Speed Cards - probably the most exciting event at any memory competition. How fast can you memorize a single deck of cards? 

Years ago it was considered insanely impressive and rare to memorize a deck of cards sub-30 seconds. If you could do that, you were a god amongst men. Ben Pridmore was the king of memory back then and had just come up with - correct me if I'm wrong - the first ever 2-card system (aptly named, the "Ben System," allowing him to hold the world record for memorizing a deck of cards at 24.97s). Here's the 2009 flash back: 

Then a year later, this kid Simon Reinhard (this late-20-something-year-old kid) comes along and slices off 3 full seconds off that record at the South German Open, putting together a 21.90s time for memorizing a single deck. WHAT?

The record was even furthered by nearly a whole second, one year later, at the 2011 German Memory Championship by Simon once again, bringing it down to 21.19s. You could say Ben was dethroned as the cards god by Simon at that point. He even lowered the record down to 20.438s last year at the South German Open:

Until this past year, no one else was really threatening Simon with beating his record. Maybe Ben had it in him to get there, maybe even Ola Kare Risa, the Norwegian Speed Cards Demon, possibly even former champ Wang Feng (who actually did a sub-20 second time on live Chinese television up against Simon in early 2015, but that wasn't done under WR testing conditions....). 

In a country plagued by historically mediocre memory competition performances, Josh Foer blazed the trail back in 2006 for the USA, setting the US Speed Cards record at 1m40s (at the time Andi Bell had the WR for cards at 31.16s - pre sub-30s era). Then Ron White took it in 2009, getting it down to 1m27s. Then me (Nelson Dellis) with 1m06s in 2011 (I then broke the international US record at the 2012 WMC with 40.65s).

But that was kind of it...I flustered in subsequent USA competitions, hitting some 34 second attempts, some 41 second attempts, but missing a card or two and always ending up with safer second trial scores of 1m06s, 1m07s, or 1m09s. Meh. Then the 2014 USAMC happened, and Johnny Briones finally hit the 1 minute mark for the first time at a US competition with 60 seconds (although I think he got 59-point-something but they rounded up). 

Then 2015 happened, and everyone just shit the bed. At the USAMC in March, Johnny hit 58 seconds! But that was nearly completely ignored because youngster and new-comer Everett Chew nailed 41 seconds. HUH?? But even that was ignored because Alex Mullen (who had made it to the USAMC finals the year prior, but lost in the final 2 decks of cards event) nailed 39 seconds. But EVEN THAT was ignored because on the second Speed Cards trial, heavily-moustachio'd Lance Tschirhart, trembling like a leaf, managed a MIND-BOGGLING 29 seconds:

Then later that year, Alex Mullen set a semi-confirmed US record at the MAA Open in LA, just edging out Lance's 29 seconds with 28.66 seconds. 

Line this all up with the 2015 WMC and now the 2016 XMT Qualifiers, and you have 2 americans: Alex and Lance, whose card systems seem to be both hitting their stride (both use a 2-card system, semi-influenced by Johannes Mallow, semi-invented by Lance - read here: Alex hit 21.50s UNDER PRESSURE at the 2015 WMC to clinch his WMC title, then in a live performance a week later, tied the WR of Simon's (20.44, although not WR sanctioned, of course):

And now, in just the last week, we received 2 attempts BOTH under 20 seconds for the XMTQs. Now, I know Simon and Wang can both do sub-20 seconds - let's not put their efforts down here - but these two videos might be the first ever, completely legit recordings of someone memorizing a deck of cards in less than 20 seconds. First Lance with 19.08s:

Then Alex with 17.08s. These aren't official World Records, but if they can pull this off at the 2016 XMT....god damn, that would be a sight to see. If anything, you know it's going to inspire other memory competitors to learn new card systems and push the boundaries of the sport even further. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!