Thursday, August 25, 2016

Memory Competitions!

Lots of them! Coming soon! I will 100% definitely announce anywhere up to four memory competitions at the weekend! Stay tuned! Something for everyone! Maybe even a special "Tall German People With Cool Beards" prize for Simon, since I seem to have spent a lot of time taking the opposite side to him in various memory-themed debates lately, and arranging competitions on dates that are inconvenient for him, so I feel like I should apologise with some kind of special trophy. But then I'll feel like I have to get trophies for absolutely everyone else, too, and my original resolution for this year was to save money (which I still haven't got any of) and hassle, and it's all turned out quite the reverse somehow...

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Premier League 2016-17 predictions

Everybody got the pre-season Premier League predictions so totally wrong last year, I can safely do my own soothsaying act without fear of looking any more stupid. And since last season proved that anything can happen and probably will, as long as it's totally unexpected...

1. Bournemouth - hey, if Leicester can do it, why not?

2. Liverpool - no Europe to distract them, it'll be another good year that they'll make a mess of at the end.

3. Man City - splashing out lots of money without any concrete plan in mind is good enough for third place.

4. Leicester - see, nobody's expecting them to get into the Champions League again, but they'll do it anyway.

5. Southampton - 8th, 7th, 6th the last three seasons, and I know a pattern when I see one.

6. Tottenham - a disappointing season always follows a good one, but the silver lining is...

7. Arsenal - people have been expecting the mythical 'bad season for Arsenal' for so long, it might take us by surprise when it actually happens.

8. West Brom - due for a good year.

9. Burnley - the newly-promoted side who'll do better than expected.

10. Swansea - safe but boring season.

11. Watford - settling down to a role as the mid-table team.

12. Chelsea - it'll be a confident start followed by a calamitous crash, this time.

13. West Ham - caught up in a Europa League campaign, their league form suffers.

14. Stoke - flirting with relegation most of the season, they pick up at the end.

15. Man Utd - headline-grabbing disaster, all season long!

16. Middlesbrough - just about stay out of danger all year.

17. Sunderland - it's traditional now, under 40 points but staying up.

18. Everton - they've lost their way quite a bit of late, but this year's results will be unexpectedly terrible and down they go.

19. Crystal Palace - never look like being in it.

20. Hull - even worse than Palace.

Wonder what kind of odds I could get on that?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Get your kicks on Cycle Route 5

Remember when I lived in Beeston and National Cycle Route 6 went right past my front door? Well, now I'm in Redditch it's a whole different ball game. Now I work in an office that's on Route 5, so while the weather's nice, I'm going to have to spend some time exploring its twists and turns! I've already been down to Alcester, and up to Birmingham (via the short-cut route 55 that avoids going via Bromsgrove), I think tomorrow I'll go to Stratford-upon-Avon, and see if Shakespeare's still there.

The route goes all the way to Reading, where I'm actually planning to go next month, but I probably won't cycle the whole 90 miles or so. In the other direction it ends up in Holyhead (and has to stop there because otherwise you'd end up in the sea), which might be a fun place for a holiday. I should really get my brakes fixed before I do too much more biking, but on the other hand it does get me where I'm going all the quicker...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Killed by a bad review

You see a lot of negative criticism on the internet nowadays. I think people need to learn the lesson taught us by Mrs Henry Wood in her 1869 novel "Roland Yorke" - bad reviews can be very harmful to the health of sensitive creators.

Hamish Channing writes a wonderful book (the narrator explicitly assures us that it is objectively very good, and that Hamish has a rare genius for writing), while Gerald Yorke writes a very bad one (again, there's no question of personal preference coming into it here; it's a terrible book) but takes advantage of his career as a literary reviewer to fill the newspapers with good reviews of his own work and scathing criticism of Hamish's. The shock of this ruins Hamish's health, and he dies a long, lingering death as a direct result of the bad reviews.

Mrs Wood (generally known nowadays as Ellen Wood, which seems a little unfair of modern literary types - she herself firmly believed that a married woman writer should be credited under her husband's name) might just possibly have been speaking from experience when she wrote this particular subplot; she was one of those writers who peaked too soon, never again reaching the heights of her first and best novel, "East Lynne". Popular though she was throughout the 1860s, her follow-up novels always had 'by the author of East Lynne' as their major selling point. Let's look at the two novels in particular that probably led to the tragedy of Hamish Channing, "The Channings" and "Mrs Halliburton's Troubles".

After the huge success of East Lynne (much deserved, too, it's a really great book) in 1861, readers didn't have to wait long for more Mrs Henry Wood novels; early the next year, they got The Channings. Set in Helstonleigh (thinly-disguised Worcester, Mrs Wood's home town), it chronicles the lives of the virtuous and hard-working Channing family, who suffer hardship and unjust accusations of stealing a twenty pound note but eventually end happily, and the Yorke family, wealthy but proud, lazy and unvirtuous, who eventually come to no good. It's not up to East Lynne's standards, but it's a good read, largely thanks to the breakout character Roland Yorke, who's much more likeable than he was probably originally intended to be. A scant few months after that, out came Mrs Halliburton's Troubles, also set in Helstonleigh, also involving one virtuous and one unvirtuous family, but without the charm and subtlety of The Channings. While the Channings are rounded and human (the reader is invited to suspect Hamish of stealing a twenty pound note, although of course he's innocent), the Halliburtons are nauseatingly perfect (when in a very similar subplot a cheque goes missing and William Halliburton is the only one who could have taken it, nobody considers for a second that he might be guilty). The Yorkes aren't entirely a bad lot, especially Roland, while the Dares are uniformly repellent and evil-spirited.

Not that Mrs Halliburton's Troubles is an especially bad book, but it's such an obvious hasty re-write of The Channings, there's a real sense of deja vu in reading it. Readers must have started compiling a list of Mrs Henry Wood idiosyncrasies - not just her strange fondness for surnames starting with Halli, but the repeated plot points that will go on to feature in all her later novels too. There'll be a woman who suffers terrible shame or hardship and has to bear (italicized and intransitive) and trust in God to sort things out in the end, which He always does. There'll be at least one character who has a protracted illness (usually consumption) and eventual death, which they meet with pious patience (in adults) or beautiful simplicity (in children) and an unwavering belief in the blissful afterlife to come. Issues of rank and status will certainly come into play, as will a lack of money and the need to work hard at demeaning jobs below one's station in life.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I would imagine that the reviews of Mrs Halliburton's Troubles were the first that Mrs Wood found hurtful. There's a lot in the book that she clearly cared about - the Halliburton family are shining moral examples in every possible respect; the book lays out a detailed proposition for how to prevent the working classes from falling into evil ways; there's a huge amount of fascinating detail about the glove manufacturing industry (Mrs Wood's father's trade), and so on. She might well have thought it a masterpiece, and been surprised that not too many readers agreed with her. I would expect that there were more than a few people in 1862 who came to the book hoping for the scandal and sensation of East Lynne, only to get a hefty helping of moral improvement and gloves, and went away disappointed.

That's the background to the writing of "Roland Yorke", a direct sequel to "The Channings", chronicling the further adventures of Roland, last seen giving up his office job and setting sail for Port Natal with two dozen frying pans (having vaguely heard that it's possible to make a fortune selling them out there), despatching a letter along the way confessing that he was the one who stole that twenty pound note all along (after having spent the entire second half of the book passionately defending his good friend Arthur Channing, who is accused of the crime and suffers extensive shame and hardship as a result). Roland is a truly wonderful character, so unlike most Mrs Wood heroes - he's not even religious, barring a last-page resolution to live his life in a more Christian way from now on, and he cares nothing for his station in life, gladly taking a job as a clerk for twenty shillings a week (with selling pies on a street corner being his backup plan) and dreaming of earning three hundred pounds a year (if his prospective wife doesn't mind working as a governess or whatever to bring in a hundred or so). Roland's idea of work is to get to the office, put his feet up on the desk and chat with his colleagues all day, occasionally stopping to complain about how hard the bosses make him work. He's a real joy to read, the best of the many examples of Mrs Wood's wonderful gift for character and personality.

As a subplot to the book, we have Roland's younger brother Gerald (who has grown and developed from the smarmy, annoying, unpleasant schoolboy of the first book into a smarmy, annoying, unpleasant adult) and Hamish Channing, and their book-writing careers. At the end of "The Channings", Hamish revealed that he had made a little extra money as a writer, but he has spent most of the intervening time between the books as the manager of a bank, which had recently failed. As the narrator is at pains to explain, this is not in the slightest way Hamish's fault: "Had a quorum of the wisest business-men in the world been at its head, they could neither have foreseen its downfall nor have averted it." He has moved to London (like a surprisingly large number of Helstonleigh residents) and started to write his wonderful book. The contents of the book are never described in any detail, we're just told, over and over again, that it is wonderful. "Hamish possessed in a great degree that rarest of God's gifts, true genius." His wife Ellen (a strange thing about "The Channings" is that the minor characters include a sister and brother called Ellen and Henry) worries that he's working too hard, but loves and encourages him faithfully. Gerald, meanwhile, has a talent for writing book reviews, but none at all for writing novels; the one he's working on is terrible in every way, although once again we're not given any details. Believing it to be a work of genius, he gives it to Hamish and asks for an honest opinion - when Hamish tells him the truth, Gerald secretly vows a horrible revenge.

Hamish, model of goodness that he is, has secretly been helping out Gerald's wife with money to pay off Gerald's enormous debts, and otherwise depriving himself of all but the barest essentials, so his health is already not the best, but it's Gerald's reviews of his book that finish him off. He's forgiving - when on his deathbed he finds out that Gerald was to blame, he's only anxious to make sure Gerald knows he forgives him. He's sorry to be leaving his wife and daughter, but knows he'll see them again in Paradise, and so on. But let's look at what we know about the two books, and see if the narrator is right to so rigidly tell us that one is genius and the other is awful...

Gerald's book is "full of mistakes and faults," which is a little vague. The most concrete accusation against it is that there isn't enough content to fill a three-volume novel (when published, it uses very large print). The massive, lengthy, Victorian three-decker has long since gone out of fashion - the length of Gerald's novel is probably much more to modern tastes than Hamish's (which, we're solemnly informed, is lengthy even by three-volume standards). Maybe in 1869 it was "utterly worthless and terribly fast," "offending against morality and good taste," but perhaps it was just ahead of its time! Hamish's book, meanwhile, is "rare, excellent, of unusual interest; essentially the work of a good man, a scholar and a gentleman." It sounds suspiciously heavy on the Victorian morality - "While enchaining man's deepest interest, it yet insensibly led his thoughts heavenwards." It is "one that a man is all the better for reading," it has "not a line that, for purity, might not be placed in the hands of a child." It's very like Mrs Halliburton's Troubles, I suspect.

The writers get their just deserts at the end of the book - Hamish, we assume, gets his eternal reward in Paradise; Gerald, we're more concretely informed, ends up in debtor's prison - but I have a sneaking suspicion that when the BBC are next looking for a book to make into their latest costume drama, they would go for Gerald's worthless book and leave Hamish's languishing in obscurity. So don't give anything a bad review, whether the thing you're reviewing is good or bad! And go and read the works of Mrs Henry Wood, even Mrs Halliburton's Troubles! You won't regret it!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Another XMT recap!

Make sure to check out Alex Mullen's blog for his account of the XMT and the US Open (which didn't even get a mention from me, since it falls into the category of "things I can't afford to go to"). It's great reading!

There's been nothing but memory on this blog lately, so I apologise to the people who tune in for other things. I feel like spending time at the weekend talking about little-known Victorian novels, if that interests you more, so stay tuned. And there'll also be some kind of announcement before long about what I'm calling the 'brexmt'...

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Talking to Americans

If you long to see me rambling on YouTube about memory competitions and things, there are two recent chats with two former US Memory Champions out there for you to watch. Here's me having an extensive chat on Skype (I'm no good with modern things like Skype) with the always-awesome Nelson Dellis:

And please also check out Nelson's blog, where he says nice things about me and also talks about a wide range of much more interesting subjects! I wish I remembered where that photo of the top half of my head in front of a brick wall came from, too, it's really cool!

That one was actually done a little while ago, while this next one was a chat with Ron White at the Extreme Memory Tournament:

Ron also said some excessively nice things about me, including saying that my number one piece of memory advice ("don't keep thinking about each image until you're sure you've got it fixed in your head; move on to the next one and you'll probably find you remembered the first one just fine") really actually helped him! When I come to think about it, I don't get much positive feedback like that, and it's very much appreciated!

The thing about this pair of Americans is that they're both really good at self-publicity and memory-sports-publicity, and making themselves and others known to the world. I totally suck at those things. I haven't even watched the two videos above, just because I really hate hearing myself talk (and also, I always find that I unintentionally said something horribly rude and unfair about someone I actually really quite like - I have serious problems with that kind of thing). I quite urgently need a publicist/agent/something, but nobody seems to want the job...

Monday, June 27, 2016

The sights of San Diego

The flora and fauna around here are just wonderful to behold - cactuses and spiky things, strange flowers and trees, all sorts of vegetation kept alive by recycled water (lots of signs warning people not to drink it), and then there's hummingbirds hovering around and drinking nectar from the flowers, little lizards wandering around everywhere, really quite a lot of snails, plus at least one squirrel and rabbit. I haven't seen any rattlesnakes, although there are signs warning people that they're around.

Other wildlife gathered at Dart Neuroscience this weekend included 24 extreme memorisers, and a whole lot of other people working extremely hard to make a truly wonderful Extreme Memory Tournament 2016 happen! Let me start by directing you to the website with all the scores on it, and then thank from the bottom of my heart Nelson Dellis the driving force behind the XMT, Simon Orton the technical wizard who created and maintains the software, sidekicks and generally amazing people like Brad Zupp and Beth Lawrence, Jared Alderman (who took me to task for forgetting who he is two years in a row) and many many more, Dart people like Mary Pyc and Linda Soimany, the Washington University in St Louis people, our live-streaming-coverage commentators Florian Dellé and Max Berkowitz and plenty of others who made it possible. What a great show they all put on!

The competitors all gathered together on Thursday afternoon for the briefing (well, all except those who were still travelling the world and didn't arrive until the morning the tournament began), and those who were unfamiliar with the setup got to know how it all works while old hands like me just got to meet everyone again and chat about the world in general. Except bloody Brexit, I came to San Diego specifically to get away from talk about that, thank you very much. Nelson handed everyone a piece of paper with 1000 letters and numbers to memorise in advance, telling us it would be used in the final surprise task. I'm not sure how many people started memorising straight away, but I suspect most were like me in thinking they didn't have a chance of getting to the final, so didn't bother.

The competition location is really close to my hotel - in fact, I can see it from my bedroom window. You can't quite walk there in a straight line without some kind of mountain-climbing equipment, but even going around by the roads it's not a difficult walk.

Friday was the group stage, and my preparation for it included getting a really really bad night's sleep the night before. I don't know what it was, I think we can rule out nerves, but I just couldn't sleep at all. Memory competitions generally wake me up regardless, but I don't think I was at all at my best. Still, even if I had been at my best, I'm not sure I would have progressed to the knockout stages - I had thought my group wasn't particularly group-of-deathy, but it contained three very very tough opponents, as it turned out. We had reigning champion Johannes Mallow, who needs no introduction, Tsetsegzul Zorigtbataar (known as Tsetse or Sisi - I'm going to go with Sisi here, just because tsetse is a kind of fly that sucks your blood and gives you diseases), the latest new young star of the Mongolian memory team, and Jan-Hendrik Büscher, the latest new young star of the German team. I started okay, with a solid 31-seconds cards to beat Jan-Hendrik, but then followed it up by switching the order of two images and losing to him in the next round. After that I really wasn't on the pace at all - the only one I really totally messed up was cards against Sisi, but in all the others I was generally beaten just by virtue of not being as good as my opponents. I did a 44 in words, only to be beaten by Jan-Hendrik's 47, and was aiming for a fast time in cards only to be beaten by Hannes's 22.77 seconds. You get the idea. Hannes won the group with 10 wins, Sisi had 9 and Jan-Hendrik had 8, leaving me well and truly in the dust with three.

Group B, who played their matches simultaneously with us, was made up of Boris Konrad, Lance Tschirhart, Anudari Adiyasuren and Clay Knight. All four of them were gunning for the images record, and Lance snatched it at the last with an astonishing 13.91 seconds. Lance won the group in impressive style, with Boris second and the other two missing out on qualifying for the second day.

Group C was the one I'd identified as the group of death to start with, and so it proved, unfortunately for Johnny Briones who ended up against a seriously in-form trio of Simon Reinhard, Marwin Wallonius and Sengesamdan Ulziikhutag. Simon topped the group, winning 12 out of 15 matches, but didn't end up with any of the highest-score prizes this year, for a change, even though he was getting better scores than ever. The standard is just getting so high here, it's terrifying!

Group D was dominated by world champion Alex Mullen, but he was given a real run for his money by his fellow American, tiny little 15-year-old Everett Chew and Swedish superstar Yanjaa Altansuh. The three of them progressed to the knockout stage at the expense of Shijir-Erdene Bat-Enkh, with Alex along the way setting two flabbergasting new world records - 16.86 seconds in cards and 17.65 seconds in numbers! This is so far beyond the realms of what I thought was possible only a couple of years ago, I can still hardly believe it...

Group E was won by Purevjav Erdenesaikhan (Puje to his friends), who I think people thought of as just making up the numbers of Team Mongolia before he started producing amazing scores all weekend. Katie Kermode came in second, blowing away the rest of the world in names and words as always - 50 words in 53.65 seconds and 30 names in 60.00. Melanie Höllein and Wessel Sandtke were knocked out, but both contributed a lot to the fun of the weekend!

And finally group F went to Johannes Zhou, very impressively, ahead of Christian Schäfer and Marlo Knight, who left it until the last moment to secure his place in the final day's excitement, with XMT veteran Johann Randall Abrina missing out.

Saturday dawned, and after a good night's sleep I was in a much more sunny mood myself, ready to watch those knockout matches in the round of 16! As usual, it was done in two sets, with eight competitors being locked in a cupboard somewhere to stop them seeing the surprise task while the first four matches took place. We started out with Sisi v Everett, Lance v Marlo, Simon v Jan-Hendrik and Johannes Z v Katie, and after they took their seats, Nelson announced the first of this year's always-brilliant surprise tasks. This was simple, but fascinating - competitors had to recall their final numbers match from the previous day! When you consider that our memory techniques are geared towards memorising, recalling and then forgetting what we've memorised when it's no longer necessary, it was a real struggle to dredge those numbers from the recycling-bin department of my brain (I was playing along, to see how I'd do). I figured out that I would have got 21 of the 80 digits (and then I would have put zeroes in all the blank spaces and picked up another five or six points that way), which would have beaten Sisi and Everett, but lost quite heavily to some of the others. Nobody came close to a perfect 80, though. The winners were Everett, Marlo, J-H and JZ, meaning that the others got first pick of discipline in the next round as we went back into the standard five for the rest of the best-of-seven competition. Lance, though, hadn't quite realised that point, thought we were still recalling from yesterday, and had his equilibrium seriously thrown out by the whole thing.

Around that time, I went into the auditorium to join Florian and Max on commentary, and we had a great time! Chatting about every aspect of memory competitions past, present and future as we watched the action and cheered the competitors on. I hope it sounded as much fun to the listeners as it was to us! Marlo ended up beating Lance 4-0, Simon took care of J-H 4-1, Katie defeated JZ 4-2, including surpassing her own words record with an amazing 51.31, and Sisi beat Everett in a closely-fought and exciting battle, 4-3.

Then it was the turn of the remaining eight, who were released from the cupboard and pitted against each other in the same surprise task as before - this time we had three scores in the seventies! Some people just aren't as good at forgetting as I am, obviously. Alex demolished Senge 4-0, while Puje got the better of Boris (who tried fast times but made mistakes in images and then cards) by 4-1, Hannes beat Yanjaa 4-2 and Marwin came through 4-3 against Christian.

This left us with two Germans, two British, two Mongolians, an American and a Swede in the quarter-finals. Bear in mind that the first two years' XMTs had four Germans get to this stage, and maybe Florian's outlandish prediction of a completely non-German top three starts to seem a little more plausible...

Our quarter-final surprise task was another classic. Images, except that fifteen of the thirty images were playing cards. That's the kind of subtle change that really rattles me, and I expect I would have done very badly at it. My strategy, I think, would have been to use a single image for each card, rather than pairing them together (this is why I have images for three-of-clubs-and-three-of-clubs and so on), but mixing them up with random photos would be supremely distracting.

The pick of the quarter-finals was Puje against Alex. Having beaten last year's runner-up in the previous round, Puje presumably thought nothing of taking out the world memory champion; he won the surprise task comfortably. Alex then chose cards and won, then beat Puje at names, but then lost to an awesome 49 words and 22.74-second numbers. Alex chose cards again and won when Puje made a mistake in the recall, making it 3-3, but Puje held his nerve to win at images in the deciding match, going through to the semis 4-3. Simon held his nerve to beat Katie at words along the way to a 4-1 win, Hannes beat Marwin 4-2 and Sisi did the same against Marlo.

Our semi-final line-up, then, consisted of the 2014 and 2015 XMT champions, the seasoned German veterans Simon and Hannes, going up against two very young, very new Mongolian memory masters in Sisi and Puje. Their next surprise task was a doozy (as the Americans say) - memorising the order of 31 random 1-second sound clips (clanking, screaming, shattering, a laser-gun sound of someone saying "pew pew pew!", all kinds of things). The Mongolians proved superior at the soundbites, but while Puje followed it up with a thumping 4-0 win over Hannes, Simon went on to book his place in the final with four consecutive wins over Sisi.

This year, the third-place playoff and grand final took place on the following day, Sunday, which is a good change - last year especially, I think everybody was completely worn out by the time they got down to the final. This year, they were able to go into it fresh! We started out (eventually, after a slight technical problem during which Nelson kept everyone entertained by telling a bad joke - don't give up the day job, Nelson) with Hannes against Sisi for third place. Their surprise task was yet another stroke of genius - memorising a path moving around a 20x20 grid. It provoked interesting discussions about the best way to approach it; do you use a strictly scientific system, or are you more guided by the patterns the line makes on the paper. Myself, I used a combination of both, and I think that's the way the competitors went, too. Their first attempt was actually a dead heat, but Sisi won the second comfortably.

Hannes then chose cards, and won with a safe time, without too much difficulty. Sisi then chose images, and Hannes stopped the clock fractionally before she could - 18.53 seconds versus 18.96. There were quite a few neck-and-neck finishes like that this year, actually! But Hannes was unsure about the order of four of his images, and kept changing them back and forth... only to settle on the wrong sequence in the end. 2-1 to Sisi. Hannes chose numbers next, but had a blank on two images, so ended up 3-1 behind, and Sisi polished him off with a win in names, to take a well-deserved third place in the tournament!

I remind you that I was in group A with both these two, so I hope that goes some way towards excusing my failings on the first day.

And so we came to our grand final! Best of 9, here, with two surprises. Simon and Puje started out with another of those ingenious tasks - this time, they had to choose another competitor from the audience to assist them, then work as a team to memorise a 1000-digit number in one minute, and then recall it, head-to-head, one digit at a time, first mistake loses. Simon picked Alex and Puje picked Senge, but in the end they only got to the seventh digit before Puje made a mistake, which is a bit of an anticlimax - the kind of thing that's always bound to happen with first-mistake-loses competitions, I know it's happened many times in the US Championship before now.

Could Puje (after, remember, beating Boris, Alex and Hannes) add the ultimate scalp to his collection by beating Simon? Or would Simon's all-round class prevail. Puje picked numbers (strategic; easiest discipline for your opponent to make a mistake in), and Simon did a fast time of 20.85 seconds but struggled with the recall. While Puje, who took the full minute to memorise, rattled off his numbers but made one typo to give him a score of 79, Simon was struggling with two of his four-digit images. He remembered one in the end, but for the final gap he spent the whole recall time playing with different possibilities. None of the answers he filled in, deleted and filled in again was the correct one, but one of the permutations he was playing with was only one digit different from the correct answer! Which gave him a score of 79 and the win for stopping the clock first! And luck was with him; that was the final answer when the recall time finished. 2-0 to Simon. There followed an equally thrilling cards - this time, Puje stopped the clock 0.3 seconds before Simon did, only to make a mistake in the recall and go 3-0 down.

Then it was time for the last of the day's surprise events, and sadly this was the one that didn't really work - they had to recall bits of that alphanumeric 1000-character sequence, again head-to-head one character at a time, and again more often than not it didn't go farther than the first answer. The big problem was that Puje, coming from a country that uses a different alphabet, was clearly at a big disadvantage, and there were serious difficulties and confusions with pronunciation. It was sort of unsatisfying for everyone, this time. That's a problem with the XMT, of course - non-English-speakers are handicapped by the predominantly American-English names and the distinct possibility of not-quite-perfect translations of the words, as well as difficulty understanding the often complicated surprise task rules (although, granted, the only one to seriously misunderstand them this year was native English speaker Lance...), but if you remove any language-related tasks from the surprises it severely limits the options there. It's a bit of a conundrum, but it didn't significantly affect the outcome today. Simon took a 4-0 lead into the next contest, images, and won it when Pure made a mistake in his recall. All hail the now two-time Extreme Memory Champion, Simon Reinhard!

No significant change to the best scores today, but Sisi got a perfect 80 numbers to nudge her up just a bit:
 photo XMT 16 ranking day 3_zpszjsksxgi.jpg

And those final Elo ratings everyone's* been talking about!
(*THREE people have now expressed at least polite interest in them!)

ALL Name Matches Rating
1 Simon Reinhard 96 1744
2 Purevjav Erdenesaikhan 36 1570
3 Alex Mullen 62 1560
4 Tsetsegzul Zorigtbaatar 38 1533
5 Katie Kermode 51 1528
6 Jonas von Essen 54 1509
7 Johannes Zhou 42 1497
8 Enkhjin Tumur 25 1470
9 Johannes Mallow 109 1465
10 Boris Konrad 75 1458
11 Lance Tschirhart 34 1453
12 Marwin Wallonius 60 1452
13 Christian Schäfer 66 1451
14 Everett Chew 22 1431
15 Jan-Hendrik Büscher 20 1430
16 Marlo Knight 40 1420
17 James Paterson 12 1399
18 Sengesamdan Ulziikhutag 19 1398
19 Gunther Karsten 12 1395
20 Andi Bell 12 1385
21 Mark Anthony Castaneda 45 1381
22 Akjol Syeryekkhaan 19 1375
23 Erwin Balines 12 1369
24 Yanjaa Altansuh 41 1364
25 Melanie Höllein 15 1363
26 Anudari Adiyasuren 15 1363
27 Ola Kåre Risa 37 1354
28 Enkhmunkh Erdenebatkhaan 15 1337
29 Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar 15 1320
30 Shijir-Erdene Bat-enkh 15 1315
31 Annalena Fischer 31 1314
32 Ben Pridmore 53 1314
33 Anne Reulke 15 1313
34 Norbert Reulke 15 1306
35 Clay Knight 15 1305
36 Bat-Erdene Tsogoo 12 1293
37 Wessel Sandtke 15 1279
38 Tuuruul Myagmarsuren 15 1279
39 Johnny Briones 15 1270
40 Johann Randall Abrina 42 1240

Simon stretches away into a huge lead at the top, with his all-round awesomeness and tendency to win everything! Note that he and Hannes have each reached two finals and one third-place match over the three years the XMT has been running, but while Simon almost always wins his knockout matches 4-0 or 4-1, Hannes is much more likely to go through with a 4-3 win - that's why he's played 13 more contests than Simon. This system penalises Hannes quite harshly for losing eight of his last nine games (in the semi-final and third-place match), and he slides to 9th place overall, which is perhaps rather unfair. Puje, meanwhile, soars up to second place and Sisi jumps into the fray in fourth.

At the other end, poor Johann is penalised for having competed in more games than the others at the bottom - he really deserves a reward of a few bonus points for competing in all three XMTs, even if he's failed to get past the group stage each time. I myself have plummeted down to 32nd place, which is really quite alarming.

CARDS Name Matches Rating
1 Simon Reinhard 17 1576
2 Johannes Mallow 22 1525
3 Alex Mullen 14 1514
4 Mark Anthony Castaneda 10 1478
5 Ben Pridmore 11 1463
6 Marlo Knight 8 1434
7 Shijir-Erdene Bat-enkh 3 1420
8 Purevjav Erdenesaikhan 7 1418
9 Everett Chew 5 1417
10 Enkhmunkh Erdenebatkhaan 3 1416
11 Gunther Karsten 3 1416
12 Anudari Adiyasuren 3 1416
13 Melanie Höllein 3 1414
14 Lance Tschirhart 7 1413
15 Jonas von Essen 11 1409
16 Sengesamdan Ulziikhutag 4 1404
17 Johannes Zhou 8 1402
18 Enkhjin Tumur 4 1401
19 Ola Kåre Risa 9 1388
20 Tsetsegzul Zorigtbaatar 8 1387
21 Anne Reulke 3 1387
22 Andi Bell 3 1387
23 Akjol Syeryekkhaan 3 1385
24 Erwin Balines 3 1384
25 Bat-Erdene Tsogoo 3 1384
26 Boris Konrad 14 1383
27 Jan-Hendrik Büscher 4 1382
28 Norbert Reulke 3 1382
29 Marwin Wallonius 11 1367
30 Johann Randall Abrina 9 1366
31 Johnny Briones 3 1356
32 Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar 3 1356
33 Tuuruul Myagmarsuren 3 1356
34 James Paterson 3 1355
35 Clay Knight 3 1355
36 Wessel Sandtke 3 1352
37 Annalena Fischer 7 1352
38 Christian Schäfer 11 1351
39 Yanjaa Altansuh 9 1337
40 Katie Kermode 9 1315
I think you have to have played about 20 games for this kind of ranking system to really be any kind of meaningful, so the individual discipline rankings are something of a work in progress. But they do highlight who's good at a discipline and who isn't - Simon can usually be relied on to win a cards contest, and Katie I'm sure would admit it's very much not her strong point.

IMAGES Name Matches Rating
1 Simon Reinhard 11 1478
2 Tsetsegzul Zorigtbaatar 9 1473
3 Christian Schäfer 9 1467
4 Boris Konrad 10 1457
5 Purevjav Erdenesaikhan 7 1454
6 Marwin Wallonius 9 1451
7 Johannes Mallow 15 1447
8 Johannes Zhou 7 1444
9 Katie Kermode 9 1442
10 Alex Mullen 11 1418
11 Wessel Sandtke 3 1416
12 Enkhjin Tumur 5 1415
13 Mark Anthony Castaneda 3 1415
14 Jan-Hendrik Büscher 4 1405
15 Akjol Syeryekkhaan 4 1403
16 Annalena Fischer 4 1397
17 Jonas von Essen 4 1397
18 Ben Pridmore 7 1391
19 Yanjaa Altansuh 7 1390
20 Everett Chew 5 1386
21 Johnny Briones 3 1386
22 Lance Tschirhart 7 1386
23 Norbert Reulke 3 1385
24 Clay Knight 3 1385
25 Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar 3 1384
26 Enkhmunkh Erdenebatkhaan 3 1384
27 Marlo Knight 9 1364
28 Anudari Adiyasuren 3 1355
29 Ola Kåre Risa 3 1355
30 Melanie Höllein 3 1355
31 Tuuruul Myagmarsuren 3 1353
32 Anne Reulke 3 1353
33 Shijir-Erdene Bat-enkh 3 1353
34 Sengesamdan Ulziikhutag 4 1341
35 Johann Randall Abrina 6 1315
The numbers are even smaller and less meaningful here, since there was no images discipline in 2014, but Simon secures his place at the top of this list again, fighting off some strong Mongolian opposition.

NAMES Name Matches Rating
1 Simon Reinhard 19 1560
2 Jonas von Essen 14 1512
3 Katie Kermode 10 1500
4 Alex Mullen 9 1464
5 Akjol Syeryekkhaan 3 1446
6 Jan-Hendrik Büscher 4 1430
7 Ola Kåre Risa 9 1428
8 Johannes Zhou 10 1426
9 Christian Schäfer 12 1426
10 Sengesamdan Ulziikhutag 3 1421
11 Yanjaa Altansuh 8 1420
12 Enkhjin Tumur 5 1417
13 Andi Bell 3 1416
14 Erwin Balines 3 1416
15 James Paterson 3 1415
16 Tsetsegzul Zorigtbaatar 5 1411
17 Lance Tschirhart 6 1408
18 Anne Reulke 3 1404
19 Purevjav Erdenesaikhan 4 1402
20 Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar 3 1398
21 Johann Randall Abrina 9 1388
22 Marlo Knight 7 1386
23 Everett Chew 3 1385
24 Tuuruul Myagmarsuren 3 1384
25 Melanie Höllein 3 1384
26 Enkhmunkh Erdenebatkhaan 3 1383
27 Anudari Adiyasuren 3 1382
28 Boris Konrad 15 1375
29 Annalena Fischer 6 1373
30 Marwin Wallonius 10 1369
31 Mark Anthony Castaneda 11 1365
32 Johnny Briones 3 1359
33 Johannes Mallow 20 1358
34 Wessel Sandtke 3 1355
35 Bat-Erdene Tsogoo 3 1353
36 Gunther Karsten 3 1353
37 Shijir-Erdene Bat-enkh 3 1353
38 Norbert Reulke 3 1352
39 Clay Knight 3 1350
40 Ben Pridmore 12 1271
And who's top in names? Three guesses. Even losing to Katie in the quarter-finals didn't knock Simon off the top spot there. Meanwhile, Clay has been going around claiming to be the worst in the world at names, but he'll need to go some to catch up with me in that department!

NUMBERS Name Matches Rating
1 Johannes Mallow 19 1476
2 Purevjav Erdenesaikhan 7 1474
3 Christian Schäfer 15 1451
4 Enkhjin Tumur 5 1447
5 Marwin Wallonius 13 1440
6 Katie Kermode 9 1440
7 Simon Reinhard 20 1439
8 Lance Tschirhart 6 1432
9 Alex Mullen 10 1428
10 Andi Bell 3 1416
11 Gunther Karsten 3 1416
12 Clay Knight 3 1416
13 James Paterson 3 1415
14 Sengesamdan Ulziikhutag 3 1413
15 Tuuruul Myagmarsuren 3 1411
16 Ola Kåre Risa 7 1409
17 Jonas von Essen 9 1409
18 Johannes Zhou 8 1408
19 Everett Chew 4 1402
20 Annalena Fischer 6 1401
21 Yanjaa Altansuh 8 1401
22 Akjol Syeryekkhaan 4 1397
23 Enkhmunkh Erdenebatkhaan 3 1387
24 Melanie Höllein 3 1387
25 Ben Pridmore 11 1386
26 Norbert Reulke 3 1385
27 Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar 3 1384
28 Erwin Balines 3 1384
29 Shijir-Erdene Bat-enkh 3 1384
30 Anudari Adiyasuren 3 1384
31 Bat-Erdene Tsogoo 3 1383
32 Tsetsegzul Zorigtbaatar 6 1376
33 Marlo Knight 6 1375
34 Jan-Hendrik Büscher 4 1370
35 Johann Randall Abrina 9 1357
36 Wessel Sandtke 3 1355
37 Anne Reulke 3 1353
38 Johnny Briones 3 1351
39 Boris Konrad 16 1349
40 Mark Anthony Castaneda 9 1310
Numbers is the one discipline to keep Simon off the top! Instead, Hannes holds off the challenge of Puje, with Christian not far behind. Down at the bottom, Boris is surprisingly lowly-ranked; he lost four out of four this year.

WORDS Name Matches Rating
1 Simon Reinhard 16 1597
2 Johannes Mallow 20 1526
3 Jonas von Essen 11 1520
4 Boris Konrad 13 1495
5 Christian Schäfer 15 1480
6 Katie Kermode 10 1468
7 Tsetsegzul Zorigtbaatar 6 1467
8 Johannes Zhou 7 1443
9 Purevjav Erdenesaikhan 6 1441
10 Everett Chew 4 1428
11 Lance Tschirhart 7 1422
12 James Paterson 3 1416
13 Alex Mullen 12 1409
14 Sengesamdan Ulziikhutag 4 1403
15 Gunther Karsten 3 1400
16 Mark Anthony Castaneda 8 1391
17 Jan-Hendrik Büscher 3 1389
18 Anudari Adiyasuren 3 1388
19 Ola Kåre Risa 7 1387
20 Melanie Höllein 3 1386
21 Annalena Fischer 7 1385
22 Erwin Balines 3 1384
23 Norbert Reulke 3 1382
24 Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar 3 1381
25 Marlo Knight 8 1379
26 Enkhjin Tumur 4 1377
27 Akjol Syeryekkhaan 4 1370
28 Yanjaa Altansuh 7 1361
29 Anne Reulke 3 1358
30 Johnny Briones 3 1358
31 Clay Knight 3 1356
32 Enkhmunkh Erdenebatkhaan 3 1356
33 Andi Bell 3 1355
34 Bat-Erdene Tsogoo 3 1355
35 Wessel Sandtke 3 1354
36 Shijir-Erdene Bat-enkh 3 1353
37 Tuuruul Myagmarsuren 3 1353
38 Ben Pridmore 10 1323
39 Marwin Wallonius 14 1322
40 Johann Randall Abrina 9 1280
Simon tops the table again with words, and I'm really quite annoyed at being so close to the bottom myself; I have managed some good scores here and there, after all!

SURPRISE Name Matches Rating
1 Simon Reinhard 13 1484
2 Marwin Wallonius 3 1442
3 Boris Konrad 7 1440
4 Marlo Knight 2 1431
5 Alex Mullen 6 1428
6 Jan-Hendrik Büscher 1 1419
7 Everett Chew 1 1416
8 Purevjav Erdenesaikhan 5 1416
9 Jonas von Essen 5 1414
10 Enkhjin Tumur 2 1403
11 Tsetsegzul Zorigtbaatar 4 1401
12 Johannes Zhou 2 1400
13 Ben Pridmore 2 1399
14 Katie Kermode 4 1398
15 Yanjaa Altansuh 2 1396
16 Sengesamdan Ulziikhutag 1 1385
17 Akjol Syeryekkhaan 1 1384
18 Annalena Fischer 1 1384
19 Lance Tschirhart 1 1384
20 Mark Anthony Castaneda 4 1371
21 Ola Kåre Risa 2 1369
22 Christian Schäfer 4 1369
23 Johannes Mallow 13 1267
Here we reach the point where there are so few matches as to make the numbers almost entirely meaningless, but it does show up Hannes's problems with surprise tasks - of the thirteen he's faced, he's won one (the noisy cards in 2015) and lost twelve. Simon, meanwhile, has won ten and lost three.

All hail Simon once again, all hail everyone else who competed, helped out or attended! Roll on the next XMT!

(And stay tuned for an announcement about that, if you're British!)