It's been a while since I competed. Almost a year actually, since I wasn't able to compete in the 2016 USA Memory Championship earlier this year. But that all changed in a hurry this past month as I threw myself into the ring again for two competitions: the quad-annual mind sports event called Memoriad and the all-new UK Memory League Championships. Here's the DL on what happened at each.
I had been looking forward to this competition for years now. It only happens every four years and is usually in some far away land that's tricky for Americans to get to (okay Turkey isn't that far). But this year was going to be in LAS VEGAS! Cards! Numbers! Money! Lights! Unmentionables!
The last time I made it to Vegas, I was 20 years old. Probably the worst age to visit that town. In retrospect, I'm not really sure what I was doing there at the time since I could barely even set foot into a single casino, but I went anyways. And, of course in typical Nelson fashion, here I was 12 years later, in Sin City, where everything that happens stays there...going for a nerdy memory competition. Yeah. Who would have thunk it?
Memoriad isn't just a memory competition though, it's also a mental calculation and speed reading competition. It really maps well over three popular and different mental training domains. I had had broad goals back in the early part of of the year and I had registered for all the events (except speed reading), but when it came time to compete, I mostly stuck to memory stuff. The nice thing about this competition is that there is no overall winner, just winners of events, like the Olympics. You get a gold medal and that's that; it doesn't count for some higher award or anything. That was good news for me because it meant no pressure.
The first event on day 1 was Speed Cards, which I knew I wouldn't win. But my goal here was to get a sub-50 second time and prove to myself I could actually still hit that kind of time in competition (last time I did that was in 2012, yikes). I managed a solid 48.44 seconds. SUPER happy with that. As expected though, it was only 8th best, with the top score going to Alex Mullen with a 17s deck (is this real life?) and second place going to Simon Reinhardt with a time of just over 20 seconds (holy fast). The rest between 2nd and 8th place were all sub-40 second times. Jesus christ people are so fast these days. I really need to upgrade my cards system. My best ever was 29.84 seconds back in Dec. 2012. That's so fricking long ago.
Next up was Names and Faces, my bread and butter. I step back sometimes and think to myself how the fuck did I get good at this event? I used to HATE it. Seriously, I hated it. It was the hardest of all the events. It still is, I suppose. Although, I guess I was always somewhat decent at it, but something changed when I realized people were better than me at numbers and cards (which used to be my bread and butter). The funny thing is, I don't even really train for names and faces anymore and I don't really have any special technique better than anyone else. Anyways, I scored a good-but-thought-I-could-have-done-better score of 198. The pictures of the people on the software we used were absolute garbage, so I guess I can chalk up my low score to that. But hey, I got gold! Gold medal winner at an Olympic event. Move over Phelps.
There were a couple more events that first day I was supposed to compete in but I was lured to the Blackjack tables with my buddy who counts cards for a living. I know basic strategy well enough, but he would count and let me know when to up my bet. I was up, then I was down, then I was up again, then I got hasty and greedy, then I went down, down, down. Maybe gambling is not my strong suit.
Day 2 I threw myself into one of the mental calculation events just for shits and giggles. I think I was the only memory competitor who did that...and it showed. I did well comparatively to my training scores, but got absolutely thrashed by the Indian team, made up of mostly 10 year olds (and younger). Nothing like having kids beat the crap out of you to boost your overall confidence, amiright? I did one of the memory events in the morning as well, albeit a little half-heartedly, but soon found myself trying to be Rainman in the casino shortly thereafter (I'm not).
Day 3 I attempted Spoken Numbers, but realized quickly I was badly out of practice. Darn. Then, in a bizarre turn of events, I entered into the Speed Reading event (just for fun) and won third place. Don't ask me how, I'm not a speed reader...like, at all. I've actually always thought speed reading to be total garbage and hogwash. I think the fact that I won bronze further proves that. I mean, people "pretended" like they were reading (I call it pretending because it looked so ridiculous to see these kids turn pages like it was a speed-page-turning contest) 2000+ words per minute. What is that, even? Not bashing speed readers here...I mean, read as fast as you like, but I just don't think it's possible to read over 1000 words per minute and claim to have a top-notch reading comprehension level, sorry. And if you feel like arguing with me on that, I'll challenge you to a speed reading contest, which I'll probably win because I'm a FLIPPIN' BRONZE MEDAL SPEED READER!!!
So that was the end of that competition. Overall, really well run. Big thank you to Zappos, Scott Flansburg, Yusnier Viera, and Melik Duyar for doing such a great job. I loved being there and competing with all my memory friends. Good Times.
On to competition two...
UK MEMORY LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP
Formerly known as the XMT, the Memory League was bringing its talents to London for a regional memory competition - something that had never been done before. The rules were generally the same as XMT, but smaller scale and only for UK citizens (there was some controversy around this, but I'm a UK citizen...I have dual-citizenship...hence why I competed). On a more serious note, the whole purpose of this competition was to test out the mini-competition format in an overseas location. If we managed a successful and disaster-free competition, this would mean the go ahead to spreading MLC all around the globe. MNEMONIC GLOBAL DOMINATION!
I wasn't planning to do well here, I just wanted a fun and successful event, but I ended up doing decently and finished in 2nd place, competing in the finals with (and losing to) the incredible Katie Kermode. Over the course of the two day competition you could say my scores were nothing special (I was mostly happy taking the full 60 second time limit and trying to nail 100% of the recall), but it managed to carry me a long way. On day 2 I won the first two Surprise Events against my opponents and put up some strong Names scores when it counted (nearly even broke the world record of 30 names in 60 seconds with 30 names in 56 seconds....I got one name wrong - ARGHH SUSANNE I THOUGHT YOU WERE SUSAN!). In the end though, Katie, who didn't lose a single damn match all weekend and in similar fashion to the Indian mental calculation prodigies, thoroughly thrashed me to pieces to gain a 1st place finish. Congrats Katie for becoming the first UK MLC Champ! You earned it!
These two competitions were nice little sorties getting me back into the swing of things for 2017. I look forward to training up to the next competition and really doing some proper damage. If some of you want to challenge me while I train, I'll be on the new Memory League training site trying to up my rating (you can challenge me under the username: "nELSON"). See you there!
PS. I made an artsy-fartsy video of my short trip to Vegas, in case you enjoy artsy-fartsy things: