Brain power put to the test as hundreds come to Croydon for World Memory Championships


Athletes from 33 countries took part in the event.


By Chidi Ogundu

We all like to think we have a good memory, but would you be able to remember the exact order of 30 shuffled playing cards?

Croydon held the 22nd World Memory Championships 2013 last weekend, with an opening ceremony hosted by the Mayor of Croydon.  

Over three days 130 mental athletes from 33 countries put their brain power to the test, by memorising binary numbers, historic dates and abstract images in impressive quantities.

“I was so excited when I heard the World Memory Championships were being held here in Croydon,” said Councillor Yvette Hopley, Mayor of Croydon.

“They will be facing a series of pretty gruelling memory challenges. It promises to be great fun and hugely entertaining.”

Eight times World Memory Champion, Dominic O’Brien, was overseeing the competition as Head of Ethics making sure everyone was playing fare.

“The point of the memory championships is really to push the boundaries and reveal the true potential of the human brain,” said Dominic.

“It’s a beautiful mind sport and it’s something we can all identify because without your memory you have nothing.”

Dominic’s latest book, You Can Have An Amazing Memory, talks about the different memory techniques that anyone can use to increase their memory.

Croydon hosting the World Memory Championship has reinforced the town’s credentials as a destination of choice. Croydon is a popular destination for all sorts of events because of its great transport links, making it easy for the competitors to travel to and from the venue.

“As a Croydon boy I’m proud that the championships are taking place in my hometown this year,” said Chris Day, General Secretary of the World Memory Sports Council and Waddon resident.

“It has a great deal to offer the Championships with lots to see and do and is in close proximity to the capital without the cost.”

Some of the countries included Denmark, Spain, Italy, USA, Germany and England. This year Algeria was taking part in the World Memory Championship for the first time.

Jake Ogorman, 22 was the flag bearer for England. He had competed in the UK Opens in August after practicing for a week but lost.

Jake was inspired by US journalist, Joshua Foer, who trained for the US Memory Championship and won.

A special tribute was made to the team from the Philippines who were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan on November 8.

Despite that, they managed to get a team of 15 competitors and travelled to Croydon, showing extreme dedication towards the sport of memory.

Towfer Christoper, a competitor from the Philppines said: “I feel honoured and proud to represent my country.”

Jonas Von Essen, 22, Sweden, is hoping to break the world record in memorising 4,000 binary digits in 30 minutes. He said: “It would be cool to be the one who has that record.”

Proud father of two Thomas Hirt, 46, Germany, read some books about training memory sport a few years ago and found it interesting.

His son, Florian Hirt, 13, is competing in the tournament and is looking forward to the numbers discipline.

“It’s not important that they win this tournament, they do things other children cannot do,” said Thomas. “If you give a child who has not trained in memory sports a paper with 100 numbers and tell them to learn them in 5 minutes, it’s not possible if you don’t know the techniques.”

The most popular memory technique used by the competitors is the ‘journey technique’ where they go on a mental walk and change what they are going to remember into an image.

The World Memory Championship was founded by Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene OBE, the Chess Grandmaster, in 1991.

They looked through the Guinness Book of Records to find all the people with a record and invited them to compete in the Athenaeum Club in London.

 “We really felt that memory was something that was overlooked – there were several people with memory records but there was no actual competition. In 1991 we decided to start a competition to see who had the best memory,” said Raymond.

This unique sport of memory is open to everyone, so buy Dominic O’Brien’s book, learn the techniques and you could be a World Memory Champion one day.

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