MEMORY MATTERS [From the MSO 1997 News Day 4]
One of the media darlings of the MSO has been reigning World Memory Champion Dominic O'Brien. His amazing skills are readily accessible to the public - everyone can understand the magnitude of the feats performed in this event. O'Brien started today's championships with a record-breaking performance. At the same time, rival Andy Bell made it clear that this year's Memoriad will be a vicious battle.
The first of the 12 challenges is the memorisation of a multiple digit number in an hour. This year the test number totalled 4,000 digits since the customary 2,000 was considered too low(!). O'Brien shattered his own world record of 1,392 by raising the mark to 1,512. Incredibly, Bell took an early lead in the competition by toppling Dominic from this list for the first time - the world record is now 1,620 digits!
O'Brien then resumed his customary spot at the head of the leader table by winning the 100 names and faces event, as well as the 500 random words (with another world record). Bell moved closer by winning the 300 spoken numbers - another O'Brien speciality - and another double world record, Andy raising the bar in this competition to 228.
The tension escalated as these titans continued to vault over earlier mental landmarks. In the one hour recall of packs of playing cards another double world record ended in a new theft of an O'Brien speciality. Bell managed an astonishing 1,170, eclipsing Dominic by over 200 cards. Nevertheless, O'Brien managed to extend his slender lead with an unmatched world record in the speed numbers.
After the seventh event, the recall of screen images, the first day of competition ended, and the warriors could retire to tend to their aching brains. O'Brien took another first, and must still be the overall favourite. Nevertheless, with Bell scoring remarkable successes in some of O'Brien's favourite events, tomorrow should provide further drama. As O'Brien remarked somewhat shakily early today: 'I'm a good each-way bet, but I wouldn't put any money on the nose.'
'I memorise ten packs of cards a day. When it's over, I usually have a headache.' - Dominic O'Brien,
THE £1 MILLION BRAIN [From the MSO 1997 News Day 5]
'Yes, I was worried - I was worried before the event and I was worried after the first round. But when I went home after the first day, after Andy (Bell) had crashed out, I knew I was safe. Andy knew he couldn't win then. You just can't crash out and still win.' - Dominic O'Brien
Dominic O'Brien retained his title as World Memory Champion yesterday after a tough battle. His win was celebrated in great style when the sponsors, Skandia, presented him with a certificate insuring his brain against accident for a year, to the tune of £1,000,000. Dominic accepted the award in evening dress and a blue crash helmet, demonstrating both elegance and due care for his valuable equipment.
This year O'Brien had to fend off a determined challenge from Andy Bell, who set three new world memory records before stumbling in the sixth event, speed numbers. Until this moment Bell and O'Brien had been neck and neck, but when O'Brien set another record here and Bell crashed out, the duel was effectively over.
Bell explained that he had lost his rhythm in the speed numbers (five minutes to recall as many digits as possible), having accomplished after three minutes what he felt he should have managed in one. Andy refused to post a low score: 'On the spur of the moment I walked out. I was very disappointed.' He added that he felt he would have moved ahead of O'Brien here.
Asked if he had concentrated his training on his rival's specialities, Bell offered a flat 'no'. 'That's just the way the cards fell. I think I could have done even better; there is huge room for improvement. It wouldn't surprise me if someone new came out of the blue next year and won this event at their first attempt. All it takes is a good technique.'
Watching the final event, speed cards (one deck, best of two attempts), it was clear that the rivals were both straining to set a new world record but, sadly for the spectators, both fell short.
This event illustrated a clear contrast in style between these two great memorisers. O'Brien speeds through the deck methodically, rarely pausing. When finished, Dominic sits with his eyes closed as he burns the sequence into his brain. Bell does bursts of several cards at a time, repeating this after a brief delay. He appears to fix his images while staring into space.
'Yes, I do them three at a time, Dominic does two,' Bell explained. 'I form an image like a kangaroo through a pineapple, and then assign a location to it.'
Six new records were set at the MSO:
One hour random numbers
One hour multiple decks of cards
Final Results of the Memory Skills Championship
1 D. O'Brien (England) gold