There are few people in the world with such a brilliant memory like him. Although everybody can learn and train the same techniques Johannes Mallow is using, only a handfull of athletes juggle their images as skilled like the postgraduate from Magdeburg, Germany. Suffering from a cureless desease, the young man is phisically handicapped. Memory-Sports spoke with the sparkling mind:

It is equilibrium to be able to compete with others When did you start to train your brain?

Johannes Mallow: In 2003 I watched the „Grips Show” (Grips means savvy in German) in television. Former German champion Dr. Gunther Carsten has shown the technique to memorize 20 digits to a celebrity. When I heard, that everybody could learn it, I searched online, found MemoryXL and started to train. How long did you prepare before you entered your first championship?

Johannes Mallow: It was about a year. On the MemoryXL-Website you can download a free tool to train the techniques and compare your results with other users. I thought it was pretty cool, because it is a big difference than train for yourself. Since I was quite good with it and reached a high rank, I wanted to try it on a real competition. In addition it was a chance to meet the people behind their online aliases. You are suffering from a physically limiting affliction?

Johannes Mallow: Yes, it is called muscular dystrophy. There are different types of it. In my case it affects my skeletal muscles, which are reducing over time. Has your affliction been a motivation to train your brain, since you aren’t able to compete physically with other people anymore?

Johannes Mallow: Not originally, but in retrospect it is equilibrium to be able to compete with others. Back then I played table tennis in a club, which wasn’t possible anymore at a certain point. Therefore it is likely, that subconsciously I am motivated to give my best.

Johannes with his favourite drink Does the memory sport help you to deal with your handicap?

Johannes Mallow: Probably not only the sport itself, but the whole community behind it. I’m getting great self-confidence from the positive feedback for my classes and performances. Tell us more about your classes.

Johannes Mallow: I work for the Verein für Hochbegabtenförderung e.V. – a German club for intellectually gifted children. Twice a month I teach them the memory techniques, with a strong focus on tournaments. Right now we are preparing for the North-German-Championship. Furthermore I speak in schools, adult education centers and in private seminars. It is sort of my second foothold. What do you do for your living?

Johannes Mallow: Last year I finished my studies in communications technology. Currently I work as a Ph.D. student at the University of Magdeburg. Originally I am responsible for the magnetic resonance tomography. But since I work for a brain research study, I do a combination from both of it. How did the training help your daily memory?

Johannes Mallow: Actually it didn’t help much. If I want to remember something and consciously use the techniques, I can memorize much more than before. But partly I am still as scatterbrained as always and forget my keys or appointments. If I don’t use it consciously, I don’t have any advantage. How much do you train each week?

Johannes Mallow: It depends on an upcoming championship. But normally I train about half an hour a day.

I don’t set limits to myself and automatically get better and better. How long did it take you to learn the master system with 1.000 images (3-System)?

Johannes Mallow: The learning process itself didn’t take much time. But to find proper varying images was a good deal of trouble. Having rum and vodka in your system confuses you. You’re only remembering being drunk in your story – but not with whereby. The first memorizing of the system took me about two weeks. Over the years the recall picks up the pace. Do you think that you would have come so far with the normal Master-System with 100 images (2-System)?

Johannes Mallow: Definitely not! Especially with Historic Dates it helped me a lot. You can memorize a whole date with only one image. Otherwise it would be two images – that’s twice as much to remember. When your 3-System is running properly, there is no difference with the recall of your images compared to a 2-System. It’s definitely worth the effort. On the other hand you can become pretty successful with a 2-System, as you can see with athletes like Boris Konrad and Clemens Mayer. You have two world records: Historical Dates (110 ½ dates) and Speed Numbers (405 digits). Are those two your favorite disciplines?

Johannes Mallow: Yes, especially the Historical Dates. But with both disciplines I recognize an ongoing amplify in my results. I don’t set limits to myself and automatically get better and better. This is fascinating and a lot of fun. Are your training results close to your records?

Johannes Mallow: Pretty close, yes. The 405 digits at the World Memory Championship last year have been my personal best at this time. A year ago, I could safely memorize 320 digits. Today – with a bit of luck – it is far more then 400. I think there is still a lot of potential.

Numbers, so many numbers You have been North-German Champion three-times in a row, German Champion and placed third at the World Memory Championship last year. Do you aim for the crown?

Johannes Mallow: Of course – at least I’ll try. Last year it was a close heads-up for the second place. But on the other hand there are many strong opponents in the field, like Ben Pridmore, Dr. Gunther Carsten, Simon Reinhard and Cornelia Beddies – just to name a few. It will be a hard battle, but I’ll give my best. What do you think about the World Memory Championship being hold in Bahrain for the third time in a row?

Johannes Mallow: Personally I don’t like it very much. I’ve been to Bahrain twice now and it was a great experience. But the location should change more regularly. On the other hand I can see their point: Their sponsor is really generous and funds the World Memory Sports Council the Championship and the high prize money. What did change in the world of memory sports since your first competition?

Johannes Mallow: There is a big community effect, thanks to the different platforms. The German Brainboard for example is great to exchange knowledge. And then of course the Memory Sports Statistics and the Online Memory Challenge. Once a week you can meet people in the internet and compete against each other. Everything grows together. Back then the athletes saw each other only at the competitions. Nowadays it intertwines much more. Do you have any suggestion how to make the sport more popular for visitors?

Johannes Mallow: I philosophized with Simon Reinhard once about creating more heads-up situations like in the US Championships. Imagine duels where the opponents surpass each other, like one is memorizing 80 digits in a minute and the next one 100. That would be pretty interesting for any visitor. But the old disciplines shouldn’t be neglected. A good mix would be perfect. Something like this should happen. What do you wish for the future of the sport?

Johannes Mallow: More and bigger competitions. It would be nice, if more people would start with memory sport and compete regularly at championships, so that there would be a necessarily preselection. I would love to see a growing community. Thank you for your time and good luck with the crown!

Check out Johannes memory records on MemoCamp:


Johannes Records

Images with Johannes Mallow: Dirk Mathesius