SEE ALSO: scores for the 2012 World Memory Championship.
I attended the 2012 USA Memory Championship in New York City on March 24 as an observer. Here is a writeup of the event. These are the scores that were announced during the event, so check the official website for possible updates. Apologies in advance for any possible mistakes and for events without complete descriptions–I’m jetlagged and running on little sleep at the moment.
Competitors are given 15 minutes to memorize and 20 minutes to recall.
Nelson Dellis came in number one in this event with 163 points. Hannan Khan was second with 158 points, and Michael Glantz, the US record holder, came in third with 150 points. There was a glitch in the scoring, so it first appeared that Nelson wasn’t in the top five. After his score was corrected later in the morning, he moved to the number one spot.
This event is done in two rounds. There are five minutes for memorization and 10 min for recall.
In the first round, Nelson was ahead with 173 digits memorized. In the second round, Nelson then broke his own US record of 248 digits with 303 digits using a 3-2-2 digit PAO system in a memory journey through a house in the Bahamas.
I think that Ron White came in second with 136, and Brad Zupp third with 120.
Mental athletes have 15 minutes to memorize a previously unpublished poem, with 20 minutes to recall it. Capitalization and punctuation count. The title and author have to be memorized too.
Hannan and Michael tied at second with 213 points. Nelson scored 233.
In this event, mental athletes have five minutes to memorize a deck of playing cards. There are two attempts, and the lower score is discarded.
Nelson came in first with 1:27, Ron White second with 1:47, and Brad Zupp third with 2:06.
Majid Fotuhi’s Presentation
After lunch, there was a speaker named Majid Fotuhi with a presentation on 3 Steps to Grow Your Brain. It was about physically increasing the size of one’s brain.
This is what he spoke about:
The hippocampus is where memories are created. The hippocampus starts to shrink about 0.5% per year at age 50.
Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea, and other factors contribute to brain shrinkage. His recommendations were:
- Get fit – your brain needs a lot of blood. Better fitness is associated with a larger brain. Walking just 45 minutes three times per week significantly increased the size of the hippocampus, even after three months. More exercise, more new brain cells. It should be a workout with exertion.
- Tease your memory – mind training. New memories, new synapses.
- Eat well – avoid obesity. Have DHA in your diet—he recommends 1000mg per day. Six months of DHA can help someone perform at a level three years younger. He may have been affiliated with the sponsor, which was a producer of DHA products. I will read more about DHA studies when I get a chance, because it sounds interesting.
The eight people who made it to the finals were:
- Noah Ehrich (?)
- Sophia Hu
- Brad Zupp
- Michael Mirski
- Ron White
- Hannan Khan
- Michael Glantz
- Nelson Dellis
The contestants were given up to 15 minutes to memorize random words. In the meantime there were a couple of memory puzzles on stage to entertain the audience.
For example, volunteers from the audience had to memorize a sequence of shapes and colors something like: turquoise square, green triangle, yellow parallelogram, pink pentagon, lavender sun, red circle, blue hexagon, black star. Another puzzle was to examine a model of a brain, take it apart, and then reassemble it.
Random Word Recall Stage
The eight finalists then returned to the stage to go around and recite the words one by one in a elimination round.
After three contestants were eliminated, the remaining competitors went to the next round.
The contestants at this stage were:
- Brad Zupp
- Michael Mirski
- Ron White
- Hannan Khan
- Nelson Dellis
Five “tea party guests” got up on stage and gave information about themselves for no more than 30 seconds. I think the contestants also had written copies of the information.
While the contestants were in the back, Joshua Foer got up and spoke a few words.
Chester Santos then gave an impressive demonstration of how he has memorized all the congresspeople in the US, their political parties, their district numbers, and the committees that they sit on. The audience called out the name of a congressperson, and Chester would tell the audience about the politician. This was a great presentation of a real-life application of memory techniques.
Tea Party Recall
Each contestant gets three strikes before elimination. The tea party round looked really tough. The audience was loud and enthusiastic, and the spotlight was on the competitors.
Four competitors returned to the stage for the final showdown: Michael, Ron, Hannan, and Nelson.
At the second to last card of the first deck, all three competitors disagreed on the card that Tony Dottino was holding up. It turned out that the recall deck was wrong and the competitors were correct!
At the end of the first deck Michael, Ron and Nelson were left. Michael had only memorized one deck, so that left Ron and Nelson.
Ron made one guess at a card that he was uncertain about. He said that he was seeing an image of a truck, but that there was no truck in his card system. He got the card value correct, but missed the suit, and Nelson became the 2012 USA Memory Champion for the second year in a row.
UPDATE: Watch some videos of the 2012 USA Memory Championship.
I didn’t write down the scores from the Hershey High School Team, but they did really well, and it was great to see them scoring so well, and even holding US memory records.
I was surprised at the number of observers. It was good to see many people there. They actually had to turn people away at the door.
I would have found all the cameras distracting. They add another element of pressure to the event. In that aspect, it was different from the 2010 UK Open Memory Championships that I attended. I think I will bring goggles if I compete in the 2013 event.
Sitting in the audience during the event, I was really wishing that I were competing, but I didn’t register in time and haven’t been able to train anyway, because life has been too busy. I’ve been on the road for most of the past year. In the past month, I traveled from Europe to the Middle East, back to Europe, San Francisco, and then New York. It has been really crazy.
The good news, in that regard, is that my Austrian work visa was just approved a few days ago, and my work schedule will now be cut back to 40 hours per week, finally giving me a single place to live and a regular amount of free time to work on memory. (My training plans were delayed because of a glitch with my work visa that made life complicated.)
Congratulations to Nelson Dellis, and all the mental athletes that competed!