Well, that's another successful XMT in the bag! Three years running now. I honestly never dreamed that that idea I had back in 2012 for a different kind of memory competition would ever amount to much more that that, but here we are.
The 2016 XMT started for me last Wednesday. Simon O., the brains behind the XMT software, finally made the long trip to SD from Australia to be a part of the competition in person this year. So I finally got to meet him in the flesh! Can you believe I had never met him before? Anyways, we spent all of Wednesday setting up the live stream situation and testing out a few matches just for some good practice. All good. Then had some horrible hole-in-the-wall Indian food for dinner with Brad, his wife, Simon, Josh, and Issa. Worst butter chicken ever.
Thursday was orientation day. We started with some more live stream tests and then just like that, it was afternoon already and competitors were starting to file in. It always gets me excited to see so many international faces coming together, and this year was no different. The qualified competitors were a really good group - it was gonna be a heck of a competition for sure. I gave them my whole XMT spiel and answered some questions and then let the competitors test out the software in conjunction with their laptops. Everyone was pumped for the tournament! We all went out to Chili's for dinner, which was fun. It was Everett's birthday, so he got a little birthday cake and blew out his candle with the wish: I want to beat Alex Mullen in at least one match tomorrow. He ended up doing just that.
Day 1 of XMT started with some safe scores and some interesting results. Through the first 15 rounds Katie, Purevjav, and Yanjaa went undefeated for 4 or 5 of their first matches while Alex had a losing record and was next to last in his group. I think people were still trying to find their rhythm at this point. Soon after, the groups started to settle and it was obvious who was going to lead each of their groups: Johannes M. and Sisi, Simon and Marwin, Puje and Katie, Lance and Boris, Yanjaa and Alex, and Johannes Z. and Christian. That allowed for the last part of the day to be a bunch of WR attempting. Those top competitors had nothing to lose and $2000 to gain if they set the best score of the day. It led to some really entertaining matches and rounds. The highlight for me was one of the last Images rounds where 4 people went for a WR: Johannes M. went for 14 or so seconds, Clay, Boris, and Lance went for 13 seconds. Lance was the only one to recall correctly though, and went on to set the new WR for that event with a time of 13.91 seconds. Amazing. Alex also did an amazing set of cards, setting the record at 16.86 seconds. Katie demolished words and names, setting records in both. And Alex also broke the numbers record with an astonishing time of 17.65 seconds. All in all, an insanely entertaining day.
Day 2 though, for me, was really where XMT shined. We had some really great match-ups, saw some serious upsets, and a tad of drama. What more can you ask for in a competition? In the Round of 16, the top competitors who were supposed to win, won as expected for the most part, but others had some interesting results. Lance lost 4-0 to Marlo and Sisi beat Everett 4-3. Both series had some glitches and I had to make some uncomfortable calls, but in the end I think I made the right ones. The next round saw some exciting match-ups and some tough loses. Puje beat Alex 4-3, which to me was the upset of the day. Johannes beat Marwin in a series that could have gone either way. Sisi beat Marlo and Simon beat Katie. In the Semis, Puje continued his role, completely pommeling Johannes 4-nil! And Simon continued his streak beating the surprise of the event, Sisi, 4-1. I was excited at potentially having a match-up of the two last XMT champions Simon and Johannes, but was equally excited to have 2 relative new-comers from Mongolia in the final rounds.
Day 3 was a new addition to the XMT schedule. We had decided last year that doing all the playoff rounds in one day was absolute mayhem and torture for some of the competitors, so we moved the 3rd place match and finals to a separate 3rd day. I think it worked nicely and allowed for a nice calm, enjoyable day. For the runner-up match I expected Johannes to win, but Sisi just kept on attacking and caused the upset 4-1, locking up her 3rd place position. I was excited for the finals and curious to see if Puje could cause another upset, but Simon was to good for him in the end, too consistently good. Simon blasted through him 5-0 in true Simon Reinhard style. In fact, Simon won his last 9 matches of that day - he really got in the zone and was in prime victory mode. Congrats to him!
And just like that, the competition was done. We had streamed the whole thing live online with commentators and it got thousands of views. Now we here on the XMT organization committee take a couple weeks rest and will then get back to work for XMT 2017. Next year we will be leaving Dart and exploring bigger opportunities. The goal is to make this competition HUGE.