A whopping 151 memory competitors from all across the globe gathered together at Chung Ang University in Seoul for the first ever Korean Memory Championship – also the first memory championship of 2017! It was a big, fancy affair, kicking off on Friday 17 February with an opening ceremony that included a parade of the flags of all competing nations (as well as the Korean entrants, we had top-ranked competitors Simon and Johannes from Germany, Nelson from the USA, big delegations from Mongolia, the Philippines, Indonesia and China, and others from Japan, Singapore and Taiwan) and a display of traditional Korean dance and music!

The competition was a national-standard event, spread over a day and a half – the first seven disciplines on the Saturday, the remaining three on Sunday. It took place in a spacious hall with lots of natural light – galleries above the hall where people might have got a bird’s eye view of the memorising process, too! It was also, apparently, very cold – one day, maybe somebody will invent an air-conditioning / heating system that makes memory tournament venues just the right temperature. Until that day, everybody wrapped up warm in coats and hats, and got on with the memorising!

We started, as is traditional nowadays at memory competitions, with five-minute names and faces. The facilities at the venue included a big screen to project the results on, and they were also updated promptly on the IAM-stats website, so it was easy for people who couldn’t go to Korea to follow what was happening. Simon took first place with 63 names, followed by Chen Zhiqiang with 51 and Nelson with 47.

Next up was five-minute binary, one of the three disciplines here with new 1000-point standards (they keep getting higher and higher!) – now, to get 1000 championship points, you need to memorise 1178 binary digits. The young Mongolians have obviously been practicing this one, taking three of the top four places! Top scoring was Munkhshur Narmandakh with 984, closely followed by Johannes with 978 and Munkhshur’s sister Enkhshur in third place with 945.

Our third event of the day saw the first ever airing of the all-new Five-Minute Images discipline! Replacing the old ‘abstract images’, it follows the same basic principle, but the random pictures could be anything at all… The winner, and so naturally the first ever world record holder, was Pan Ziqi, with 288! Ariunsanaa Bayardalai was a close second with 284, and Lujian Zhou third with 248.

Back on more familiar ground, the fourth discipline is one that goes all the way back to the first ever memory championship in 1991 – five-minute numbers! The first trial took place before lunch, and the top scorer was Simon, with 400.

After lunch, the competitors came back to five-minute dates, which was won by the traditional dates-master Johannes with 122. Second was Enkhshur on 89, followed by Gan Kaoyuan with 84. Then we had the second trial of the speed numbers, and ended up with Simon increasing his score to 440, ahead of 400 apiece for the Narmandakh twins.

That took us up to the half-way point of the championship, with five disciplines completed, and it was still all to play for with a close race between the top five (two Germans, two Mongolians, one Chinese) at the top of the leaderboard! The top twenty went as follows:

1 Johannes MALLOW 3583
2 Enkhshur NARMANDAKH 3388
3 Simon REINHARD 3299
4 PAN Ziqi 3283
5 Munkhshur NARMANDAKH 3266
6 Lkhagvadulam ENKHTUYA 2673
7 CHEN Zhiqiang 2641
8 GAN Kaoyuan 2603
9 Ariunsanaa BAYARDALAI 2508
10 Fakhri Shafly ERLANGGA 2428
11 Nelson DELLIS 2317
12 LUJIAN ZOU 2099
13 Javkhlantamir SANJJAV 1944
14 Jiannan Wang 1902
15 Khangal BATTUR 1739
16 LU Shanchuan 1666
17 FANG Shiqi 1656
18 Takeru AOKI 1638
19 Namuundari BATTUMUR 1620
20 Badam-Ayush BAASANBYAMBA 1608

With discipline number six, we move away from the five-minute memory time and branch out into ten-minute cards (no super-long marathons at a national-standard championship, it’s all about the speed!). Four competitors got seven complete decks and a few extra cards, meaning Simon’s 365 was only good enough for fourth place, after Munkhshur with 370, Lkhagvadulam Enkhtuya with 371 and Gan Kaoyuan winning with a very impressive 390.

The day ended with five-minute random words. Simon won it with 94, enough to move him back into the lead, just 29 championship points ahead of Johannes. Second place in words went to Munkhshur with 84 and in third place was Indonesian memory competition veteran Yudi Lesmana with 79. At the end of the first day, the top four were pulling away from the field, but there was still everything to play for!

1 Simon REINHARD 4888
2 Johannes MALLOW 4859
3 Munkhshur NARMANDAKH 4787
4 Enkhshur NARMANDAKH 4680

Day two started bright and early with the longest discipline of the championship – 15-minute numbers. Johannes was the winner on 912 digits, but Simon’s 896 was a close enough second place to keep him just barely in the overall lead. And close behind them, Munkhshur and Enkhshur were third and fourth respectively, with 880 and 840.

Then it was time for spoken numbers – two trials, 100 and then 550 digits for the real hardcore memorisers (not everybody competed in every discipline, but 139 were still up for the task of sitting through all those spoken digits – at one a second, it still takes the best part of ten minutes to say them all!) To the delight of the Mongolian team, young Enkhlen Ganbataar was the clear winner, with an amazing 331 digits memorised! 200 for Johannes was enough to take him back into the overall lead before the final discipline, and Yudi picked up another bronze medal with a score of 188.

So there were still four competitors fighting for the title as we went into everybody’s favourite, speed cards! And the standard was quite astonishing – six times under what used to be the ‘holy grail’ of 30 seconds! The best of all was Zou Lujian, coming close to the twenty second mark, with 20.41 seconds. Compatriot Chen Ziqiang was second with 25.08, just ahead of Lkhagvadulam on 25.56.

But it was the seventh-best time, Johannes’s 32.11, that was enough to make him the first Korean Champion, taking him up over the 7000-point mark overall (which is harder than ever to do, now the standards have gone up!). Simon didn’t manage to get a complete pack (so close, though – the first 48 cards were right!), allowing Munkhshur’s 26.75 seconds to capture for her second place overall, and Enkhshur’s safe 55.69 enough to secure third place in the final ranking.

Full results can be found on http://iam-stats.com/competition.php?id=KROMC2017 – the final scores looked like this:

1 Johannes MALLOW 7044
2 Munkhshur NARMANDAKH 6849
3 Enkhshur NARMANDAKH 6305
4 Simon REINHARD 6298
5 GAN Kaoyuan 5946
6 PAN Ziqi 5668
7 Lkhagvadulam ENKHTUYA 5667
8 CHEN Zhiqiang 5161
9 LUJIAN ZOU 4978
10 Ariunsanaa BAYARDALAI 4654
11 Fakhri Shafly ERLANGGA 4561
12 Nelson DELLIS 4496
13 Jiannan Wang 4367
14 Yudi LESMANA 3680
15 FANG Shiqi 3410
16 LU Shanchuan 3410
17 Namuundari BATTUMUR 3350
18 Khangal BATTUR 3168
19 Javkhlantamir SANJJAV 3020
20 Takeru AOKI 2987
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