On Saturday, the 8th of May 2010, the 2nd Welsh Memory Championship took part in Newport, Wales. With seven competitors it is one of the smaller tournaments but still with a lot of public recognition. Organizer Dai Griffiths has written a report from this event for Memory-Sports.com.

Troublesome Preparations

With just a few days to go before the competition, I was visiting my parents when I had an unexpected telephone call. The community centre where the competition was due to be held wanted to know if I had made a booking for the coming weekend. I told them that I had and felt a sudden feeling of panic as thoughts of a children’s party or disco being booked in the room next door flooded my mind.

They informed me that there had been no such booking so, my mind was at ease. They said to me that someone had come into the centre asking about the competition. It turned out that he was still there and it was Roy Lam.

Roy had come all the way from Hong Kong and wanted to be sure that he knew the location of the competition.

As I had to delay the competition there were less competitors so, I requested the smaller room to save some money. I was told that would be fine and was over the moon to be able to give back a prt of the entry fee to the competitors.

Roy then left, only to find that, the £300 bicycle he had borrowed from a friend to cycle there, had been stolen from outside

The day before the competition, I had a few people due to stay at my house to save them hotel costs and to generally socialise. Namely: Mattius Ribbing, Dr. Warren Day (arbiter), Idriz Zogaj, Dr. Conor Muldoon and Ben Pridmore in that order.

First to come was Mattiuas Ribbing shortly to be followed by a phone call from Ben Pridmore. Ben’s train had been cancelled so, he wanted to get somewhere near in the hope that he wouldn’t be late for the competition.

Then came Dr. Warren Day whose internet directions managed to take him completely out of his way when he only needed to stay on the M4 motorway which is direct from his home-town of London to Wales (It’s a straight road).

Some time later, Idriz Zogaj turned up having spent some time with Dominic O’Brien, Ray Keene OBE, Chris Day (WMSC secretary) and Tony Buzan. Idriz had driven all the way from Sweden in order to avoid all the hassle he had with transport last year when, his aeroplane’s co-pilot had informed the passengers that the engines were running reasonably well followed by some mess up on the train. If that wasn’t enough of an example of the British transport system to send to a foreign tourist his bus had broken down as well! This time Idriz wasn’t taking any chances and was going to make sure that his trip ran smoothly.

Tony Buzan had a broken leg. Also Chris Day had driven down to Ray Keene’s house to meet with Idriz and Ray and had his car broken in to. And that was just the beginning ! 🙁

Anyway. Later on in the evening, Ben called to say that he was in Newport and was going to stay there for the night as, it was quite late but, at least he would make it on time.

Dr. Conor Muldoon the Irish competitor, now living in Oxford, had a train delayed by an hour until 11.30pm but, surprisingly it was spot on time when I picked him up.

The Day of the Competition

New Welsh Champion: John Burrows

Dai Griffiths and John Burrows

Organizer Dai Griffiths and Welsh Champion John Burrows

The Morning of the competition, we went to the venue where the people decided to inform me that the price that I had been quoted, for hire of the hall, was a mistake. It was now going to cost £20 per hour irrespective of which room we used. Quite a lot more than the quote of £6.50 for the small room or £10 for the hall. A fair bit more than the quote I had been told. This meant that the competition was going to run at a loss of just over £100!

The competition went without a hitch due to some great arbiting from Phil Chambers and Warren Day (unless you count Antonio Campo getting an ordered deck to memorise in the speed cards).

A new Welsh Memory Champion was crowned (Johnny ‘Mnemonic’ Burrows). John now holds 2 Welsh Records. He broke one at the Welsh competition this week. Mattias had broken two Swedish records just to make Idriz have a more memorable holiday.

The key, the car and the police

After the competition most people wanted to go straight home after all their hard work. However, Antonio Campo (from a place called Splott in Cardiff) had lost the keys to his girlfriends house so he wouldn’t be able to get in (she wasn’t going to be very happy either). Dr. Conor Muldoon had lost an Oxford bus pass worth £50 and Idriz and Mattias had changed their plans to stay at my house and go elsewhere so they wouldn’t have to leave so early in the morning but, Idriz couldn’t find his car keys ! Disaster strikes ! We searched everywhere thinking he might have dropped them. Eventually, Idriz came to the conclusion that he had accidentally dropped them in the boot but, he had no spare key. Antonio found his key though 🙂

There was nothing else for it. We were going to have to break into the car. It started to rain so, I took Conor, Warren an Mattias to the carvery where we had lunch earlier in the day. John Burrows stayed with Idriz. As we drove to the carvery (which was only just around the corner) a police car came blazing past in the opposite direction. With sirens and flashing lights. We thought nothing of it. After all, we had only been at a competition.

I dropped them off and went back to Idriz and John and was quite surprised to see that the police car as well as a police riot van had blocked Idriz’s car in. I was baffled. What could they have done ?

Idriz was explaining that he suspected the keys were in the car and that it seemed there was no option other than to break into it. He didn’t appear to be breaking in to it though which was odd.

Having established that the car did indeed belong to Idriz, the riot van left (probably scared of John really because he’s quite a big man). The remaining officer was on his own and very helpful. It seemed that a camera positioned on the car park had spotted a young lad removing the car keys from Idriz’s boot and running away. This was a disaster for poor Idriz who was meant to be leaving early in the morning.

We discussed it with the exceptionally helpful officer and Idriz concluded that the best plan was to stay with me after all. It seemed that they knew the lad that had stolen the keys. The downside was that the lad would inevitably come back and take the car after dark if the police didn’t find him first. They had been monitoring the car park looking for him all day without our knowledge.

Getting a recovery company to take the car to my house was agreed to be the best option even though Idriz was likely to have to fork out at least £100, probably nearer £200. A lock-smith would have been worse as it was a weekend and by now, the evening. Idriz had insurance to claim it back but it was an inconvenience.

The officer booked the recovery lorry and took a statement from Idriz as John and I did some shivering outside the car in the rain. It was all over. Idriz was about to leave the police car and the officer was going to go about his daily business.

Then, at that very moment, a call came through. The officer asked Idriz the colour of his car key. Unusually, it was blue. His luck had changed. They had the lad and he still had the key. The recovery lorry was cancelled and we went to the carvery to tell the story to the others.

The irony of a memory athletes forgetting their keys

Idriz Zogaj

Swedish memory athlete Idriz Zogaj

Newport police station (the largest by far in the area) had pulled out all the stops to help Idriz. Partly because of his difficult situation and the fact that they couldn’t contact him as, foreign cars aren’t registered in Britain. Partly because it is good community relations between our countries but, most importantly, because they thought it was so funny that someone with one of the best memories in the world had forgotten his keys. They thought it was great.

After being bought a stunning curry by the very relieved ‘Mastermind’ of Sweden (about two hours after), the same police officer (now with his mate) had personally driven half an hour distance and brought the car keys to us!

We went our separate ways after being given the game Zogaj by a very grateful Idriz so, John, Conor, Warren and myself went to my place for a much needed beer and to talk about how good the police were to Idriz.

Next year Idriz will be walking and swimming to Wales and Conor will be walking with him having never found his bus pass. They aren’t planning on staying with Antonio either. Ha ha. Hopefully, Conor will bring us a four leaf clover for luck next year 🙂

Thanks for a very memorable weekend. It certainly served it’s purpose because we won’t forget this any time soon 🙂


The 3rd Welsh Memory Championship in 2011 was already announced. It will take place on March 26th in 2011. Join the Facebook-Group if you are interested in learning more about it.