2017 IAM World Memory Championship Recap

WMC No. 3! I’m home after three long weeks—a Florida wedding followed by the 2017 IAM World Memory Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia. I can’t resist giving a shoutout to my friends Saumya and Khush for an awesome wedding week. Those guys know how to throw a party! After five days in Palm Beach, Cathy and I hopped back in a plane trying not to think about how we’d be spending the next 50+ hours traveling. Fort Lauderdale to Memphis, to our hometown of Oxford for a night, back to Memphis, to Atlanta, to Tokyo, to Jakarta. A slew of Silicon Valley, Modern Family, and Last Week Tonight episodes later, we were riding through the hot Indonesian night with fellow American competitor John Graham, Mongolian competitor Yanjaa Wintersoul, and WMC organizers Yudi and Bey. After two days of milling around the city—seeing the National Monument and an Indonesian puppet show, among other things—I found myself face-to-face with another WMC. Things were destined to be different...

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Flash Profile with Chinese Memory Athlete Su Zehe

Chinese memory athlete Su Zehe just won the 2017 Philippine Open and broke the world record in the IAM's new 5 minute images event. I had the fortune of meeting him at the 2016 World Memory Championship in Singapore and again in Nanjing for the The Brain TV show. I had a chance to do a short interview (more of a flash profile) with him in Nanjing. Hope you enjoy!

At the 2016 World Memory Championship in Singapore. Left to right: me, Huang Shenghua, and Su Zehe.

At the 2016 World Memory Championship in Singapore. Left to right: me, Huang Shenghua, and Su Zehe.

Name: 苏泽河, Su Zehe (Su1 Ze2He2)

Recent competition results: 2017 Philippine Open – 1st place (full results here), 2016 World Memory Championship – 3rd place (full results here).

Rank: world #9, national (China) #1

You can read Su Zehe’s full IAM profile here.

From: a Southeast province of China, close to Taiwan

Intro to memory sports: came across a book about memory techniques in high school; interest was again piqued by watching memory athletes on the Chinese TV show 最强大脑 (“The Brain”).

Su Zehe was himself a contestant on the show this season. You can watch his challenge here. You can find his Weibo page here (although you will need a Weibo account to view).

Career interests/hobbies: interested in working for a memory company; likes practicing magic.

Training tools/history: practices mostly on paper; will occasionally use the Chinese Extreme Memory website (which had an online competition this past year), although not very often; trained alongside Zheng Aiqiang (world #17); will often communicate with other Chinese memory athletes via WeChat groups.

Systems: 2-digit/1-card, 2 images/locus, similar to the majority of Chinese competitors.

Interview with a Memory Expert: 2x World Memory Champion Wang Feng

At only 20-years-old, China's Wang Feng burst onto the memory scene, winning the 2010 World Memory Championship. The first non-European to win, he defended his title in 2011, signaling a cultural shift in the competitive memory world. China had become a new powerhouse in a sport dominated by England and Germany. Although he retired from official competition following his '11 victory, Wang Feng, now 27, has remained active, teaching and repeatedly appearing on China's #1 TV Show, The Brain. I had the recent fortune of competing with him on the show. Here's an interview I conducted with him shortly thereafter. I hope you enjoy!

2010年,年仅二十岁的王峰以黑马的姿态赢得世界脑力锦标赛总冠军。是第一个来自欧洲之外获此殊荣的的人。隔年他再度出赛, 成功卫冕2011年世界总冠军,开启了记忆竞赛的新时代,在一向由英国和德国主宰的记忆运动舞台上,中国成为新兴的强大势力。获得两次世界冠军之后,王峰从官方比赛退休,忙于教学,并屡次出现在中国收视率第一的脑力竞技电节目—最强大脑。我最近很荣幸有机会和王峰在这个节目中竞技。以下是赛后不久我对他的访问,希望你们喜欢。

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Numbers System Details

I've added a slightly more in-depth description of my numbers system to the FAQ:

Since mid-2014, I have used a 3-digit system (one unique image for each 3-digit combo from 000-999) based on the [Major System phonetic code][9], shown below. My system is approximately ⅓ people and ⅔ objects. I place two of these 3-digit images per locus. 

Each digit is assigned a corresponding phonetic sound:
0    s, z
1    t, d
2    n
3    m
4    r
5    l
6    j, ch, sh, soft g
7    k, hard g
8    f, v
9    p, b

For a given 3-digit combo, I squeeze the three sounds together to form an image. For example, 375 might correspond to MKL, so I chose “Michael Jordan” as my image for 375. 357 became “milk.” 604 became “chess rook.” 970 became “Biggie Smalls.”

Here are a few links I used to brainstorm Major system images (if you're stuck on a number, try plugging it into these for some ideas):


Interview with a Memory Expert: U.S. Memory Athlete Everett Chew

Just 14 years old, Everett Chew is striking fear into the hearts of America’s top memory competitors. At his first ever competition, the 2015 USA Memory Championship, the Southern California native posted a 41 sec speed cards time on his first attempt and went on to reach the finals. In a few weeks, he’ll be competing right next to me in Group D at the Extreme Memory Tournament. He’ll follow that up with his first-ever WMSC competition: the U.S. Memory Open. What will he do next? I contacted Everett late last year to discuss his future plans, his advice for breaking through plateaus, and how he applies memory techniques in his school and personal lives.

"I have found two techniques mentioned in Moonwalking with Einstein called deliberate practice and the 'plateau breaker.' The idea of the 'plateau breaker' is to push myself outside of my comfort zone so that I’m forced to make mistakes. I then identify what’s holding me back and use deliberate practice to clean up those areas. Combining these two techniques is an extremely efficient way to practice and my go-to training method, especially when I attempt to beat one of my personal bests."
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Recalling the Order of Images on a Locus

Here's a question I've been getting a lot recently. I've added it to the FAQ.

When you have multiple images in one locus, how do you remember their order?

Since I use "single-image" systems -- each digit/card/etc group always translates to a single image -- I must still recall the order of images within each locus. Contrast that with PA- or PAO-type systems, which by definition give you...

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2016 XMT Qualifying: Cards Attempt

After three weeks of break, I eased back into a little training earlier this week. With a few rusty days behind me, I decided to give the XMT Cards qualifying a go. Thankfully I'm already qualified for this year's XMT, having been in the top 8 in 2015, so this one was just for kicks. Cathy and I were just heading out of the house, but I wanted to knock out a quick attempt before we left. 17.08 seconds! That's a huge personal best for me (previous PB was 17.59). Speed cards PBs don't come often. Here's the video (unfortunately my phone ran out of space about 20 seconds before I hit submit, although I'd already finished recalling the cards; the photo below shows the final screen):