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National memory competition not to be forgotten comes to Ilford

Yanjaa Altantuya from Sweden preparing to take part in the 'Speed Cards' challenge (Picture: Ellie Hoskins) Yanjaa Altantuya from Sweden preparing to take part in the 'Speed Cards' challenge (Picture: Ellie Hoskins)

Sunday, August 31, 2014
9:00 AM

Mnemonists from around the world descended on Ilford last week for a celebration of an oft-forgotten art – memory.

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All the UK Open Memory Championships participants (Picture: Ellie Hoskins)All the UK Open Memory Championships participants (Picture: Ellie Hoskins)

Global players, including those capable of recalling 250 random digits after just minutes of studying them, came from as far as Russia and Sweden for the UK Open Memory Championships.

Held on Thursday and Friday at the newly opened TV Apex studios in High Road, Ilford, the contest saw participants take part in a series of memory challenges.

In one – speed cards – contestants get five minutes to memorise a shuffled deck of cards before trying to recall their order in the fastest time possible. The world record is 21 seconds.

In others, so-called mnemonists are tested on their ability to put names to faces or to recall invented historic events.

Dutch speaking Wessel Sandtke at the championships (Picture: Ellie Hoskins)Dutch speaking Wessel Sandtke at the championships (Picture: Ellie Hoskins)

The overall winner of this year’s competition was Milan Ondrašovic, from Slovakia, who is 52nd in the world rankings in the five-minute number challenge.

The 19-year-old once correctly remembered 244 digits in 15 minutes after spending just five minutes studying them.

Championships organiser Chris Day said: “He’s been practising very, very hard. The scores are cumulative over the 10 disciplines and Milan did the best overall.

“He’s a very talented memoriser.”

The UK Open Memory Championships, now in their eighth year, are a warm-up event for the international World Memory Championships, which are going to be held in Hainan, China, later this year.

Mr Day said they began as a reaction to the countless world records held for trivial challenges, such as the length of time spent in a bath full of baked beans.

“There were no competitions for the most important skill that we have – and that’s memory,” he said.

“Without our memories we have nothing. It’s the one most important skill but we never think about it.”

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