Learning Technologies Newsletter


ISSUE 15 - September 2006 - by Phil Chambers

TIME TO READ: 6 minutes (Average Reader), about a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1586. To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us.

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Welcome to the September issue of the Learning Technologies Newsletter, Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

This month, as well as our regular quote of the month, we have a full report on The World Memory Championships that took place in August.

September's Quote of the Month

"We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."


(This is backed up by modern brain research:
Any thought or action repeated often causes a
change in the connections between brain cells
making it easier to perform it again.)

For many more quotes click here.

World Memory Championships - Report by the Chief Arbiter

On the morning of August 19th 2006, 33 of the top memorizers from 10 countries sat in a classroom at London's Imperial College, eagerly waiting in anticipation of the competition ahead. Tony Buzan, Founder of the World Memory Championships gave a brief welcome before the first event was set underway.

For the first time in a World Championship, competitors had to memorise a set or abstract images. This event replaced the traditional 'poem memorisation' discipline that has been dropped due to the complexities of devising a fair test in multiple languages. The images event had been held twice in the past, in Cambridge and Australia but was new to many of the competitors.

Dr Gunther Karsten, who set the World Record of 199 in Cambridge, smashed his old record with a raw score of 228. His, secret system proved so effective that he had an immediate 300 point lead over defending champion, Clemens Mayer. World ranked number one, Ben Pridmore languished in 15th position, almost 700 points behind.

Event two was the Binary Digits, traditionally a strong event for Ben and Gunther. Ben didn't disappoint, just breaking his own World Record with a score of 3710 digits. However, Gunther came in a very creditable second with 3462 extending his lead to 550 points. Joachim Thaller from Austria also did well moving up from fourth to second place overall.

Event three, the last of the day was the Hour Numbers event. No World Records this time but a brilliant performance by Yip Sew Chooi from Mayalsia with a score of 1820 taking him from 28th place up to 8th. Andi Bell, clearly on much better form this year than he was in 2005, came in second with 1800. Joachim and Gunther came third and fourth respectively with almost identical scores.

So at the end of the first day Gunther maintained his commanding lead. He said that these were all his best events and he didn't expect to do so well on day two, but with such a lead there was a distinct possibility he could take the title for the first time after so many years of coming second.

Ben wrote in his blog that evening: "Day one went just about according to plan. Although I know I could have done better than I did. If you remember, the plan was to do really badly in abstract images, which I haven't bothered to practice at all, and then to make up for it in the other two disciplines today, binary and hour numbers."

Day Two

True to form, Clemens Mayer broke his own World Record in the first event of the day, Names and Faces, with an impressive 181. This was enough for him to leapfrog Joachim (who came in second with 168) moving into second place overall. Gunther hung onto his lead but with a relatively poor 14th position in this event, his margin was significantly reduced to 100 points. Ben also put in a poor performance leaving him in 6th place in the competition behind Andi Bell and Cornelia Beddies from Germany (9 th placed competitor in 2005).

Clemens also won the next event, Speed Numbers with a score of 316. However, Gunther just clung onto his competition lead with a second place of 292. Now with a difference of only 36 points over Clemens, his gold medal place was slowly but surely slipping away from him. Ben was third with 284 taking him from 6th to 5th place.

Ben is traditionally very strong in the Historic Dates event. In an incredible performance he not only smashed his previous Word Record of 80 set in 2004, but also broke the Millennium Standard. (This is the ultimate standard expected to last for many years.) His score of 96 added 1056 championship points to his total and launched him into third place. Gunther and Clemens tied for second place with 63 correctly recalled dates. Joachim came fourth with 47 trailing Ben in the competition by a mere 13 points.

Event 7 of the competition was the Hour Cards discipline. The second 'marathon' event and a favourite of Andi Bell, the Word Record holder since 2002.   Sadly, Andi overstretched himself and declared zero. Gunther and Clemens were almost neck and neck with a creditable 15 and half and 15 decks respectively. But it was Ben who pulled another stunning display out of the bag. For the second consecutive event he broke both the World Record and Millennium Standard. An amazing 27 correctly recalled decks! This was enough to put him in the lead overall, relegating Gunther to second place for the first time in the competition.

Day 3

The final day of competition began with the Random Words event, which interestingly has a very different set of strong competitors, probably because it doesn't lend itself as easily to a system as the other events. In fourth place was Corinna Draschl, Junior competitor for Austria. Fellow Austrian Joachim came second with a New World Record of 203 words. This was beaten by Boris Konrad, the previous World Record holder, with a raw score of 214. Of the competition leaders - Ben remained in first place despite coming 6 th in this event, Clemens moved up to second overall and third in this event with Gunther dropping to third overall with a disappointing 8 th place.

The spoken number event had a dramatic effect on the standings, being Ben's least favourite event and Clemens' best. The event consists of three trials with a progressively longer number of digits. In the first trial Gunter put in a perfect performance of 100 digits. However, this lead was soon overtaken by Clemens with a superb 188 in the second trial. This was enough to put him in the lead overall. Ben came in 14th thereby dropping down to third place in the competition. Leaving Gunther in second.

Going into the final event Clemens had an almost unassailable lead. In order to lose he would have to completely mess up both attempts at the cards with Gunther getting a perfect deck in about 1 minute 20 seconds or either Ben or Joachim getting a time of about 50 seconds. Andi Bell, who held the Speed Cards record for a long time before being beaten by Ben was clearly trying to get the record back. In the first trial he went for a time of 30.14 seconds but made a mistake after 19 cards. In the second trial his clock stopped at 31.16 seconds. Recall is done by sorting a second deck into the order of the one memorised. All eyes were on Andi as the cards were checked one by one. Could he pull off the new World Record or would he blow it? As the last card was turned revealing a perfect deck the room erupted into cheers and a standing ovation. Andi is once again the King of Speed Cards.

In the end it was Ben who messed up both attempts. He decided to go out with a bang, attempting an impressive 33.38 seconds and 30.09 but failing to recall in each case. This ruled himself out of the medals. Boris Konrad did an impressive time of 40.59 seconds - the second fastest. Gunther came in fourth with a time of 52.90 seconds. But it was Clemens in third place with a time of 50.69 seconds who did enough to retain his title of Word Champion. Joachim came in 7th but took the bronze medal due to Ben's collapse.

After a remarkably hard fought tournament with 7 World Records and some of the highest scoring ever, it is incredible that the first 5 places were identical to 2005:

Clemens Mayer (Germany) - GOLD
Gunther Karsten (Germany) - SILVER
Joachim Thaller (Austria) - BRONZE
Ben Pridmore (England) - 4th
Boris Konrad (Germany) - 5th

For the full table of results see http://www.worldmemorychampionships.com/SCORES_2006_WMC.htm

You can also see a video of the prize giving ceremony at http://www.worldmemorychampionships.com/


It is interesting to note that Dominic O'Brien proved in the 1990s that it is consistency that wins Championships. Ben broke more World Records than any other competitor but scored poorly on several disciplines. Clemens only came first in 3 events with one World Record but was consistently putting in good performances. That's the difference between 1st and 4th !

That's all for this month. If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to contact me.