Memory Sports

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The CMSA Honorary Memory Challenges

The plague might (for now) be preventing us from holding any in-person event, but it doesn’t mean you won’t have a pretext to train your memory skills this summer.

Here comes the CMSA Honorary Memory Challenge!

    • Location: Anywhere you happen to be in the Universe
    • Date: Any time from now until Oct. 28 for Round 1. Anytime from Jan. 5 until Feb. 1st for Round 2.
    • Cost: Nothing
    • Rewards: Nothing (except eternal admiration by all current and future generations)
    • Skills requirement: You need to be the legitimate owner of a human brain.

    Click here for everything you need to know about this event. All the disciplines for Round 1 are ready to be downloaded whenever you want.

    Other dates had been previously announced, but we’ve decided to extend the deadline to participate in the first round until Oct 28. And we’ve decided to add an optional “Round 2” in January. Same format, same rules, different challenges. For those who choose to take part in both, it will be interesting to see if they can manage to improve a lot or a little during those few months.

    As usual, we’re hoping to see plenty of complete beginners, newcomers, casual memorizers and experts participating and showing us what they can do!

 


 

Past CMSA Memory Championships:

 

 


Standard Events and Rules of the CMSA National Memory Championship

Below we explain all the regular events and rules used at a CMSA National Memory Championship. A few points before we start:

  • The CMSA Honorary Memory Challenges that we’re now organizing uses the same events and rules that are explained below. But as we’ve said all the results will be unofficial and there won’t be any titles or prizes at stake.
  • The current rules were first established in 2019 and chances are they will remain more or less the same in the future. The few changes that were made in 2020 are noted immediately down below. Our first event in 2018 had a very different format and different rules.
  • Even if you’ve been to many different memory championships in the past, you should still read those rules carefully. With the exception of 5 min IAM images, they aren’t quite the same as everywhere else. We did our best to try to make them fair, not too harsh and not too lenient.
  • Past and future CMSA provincial memory championships are free to use different rules and include different challenges.

 

Changes to the rules in 2020:

  • For Names and Faces, you can’t earn a point for a name you wrote more than once. For Words, you can’t earn a point for a word you wrote more than once in the same row. For the Exam, you can’t earn a point for a word you wrote more than once in the same section.
  • Our Championship Points scoring system remains unchanged since the 2019 National Memory Championship, but the “National Standards” used to calculate your score have been raised slightly for Images, Words, Names and Numbers. Those standards are changed each year whenever records are broken and the average skill level of participants keep going up.
  • For most events except the Exam, it is now possible to choose to be tested with the same format that is being used in IAM (International Memory Association) events. For those who choose this option, regular CMSA scoring rules will still apply, but the memorization material will be designed automatically using either standard-memory.com or the IAM training website. You should know this format can often be more difficult than the regular CMSA format, so it’s probably in your best interest to just stick with the regular CMSA material. However, there are a few cases where using this alternative option might make sense (memorizing words and/or names in a language other than English or French for example). If there are some events where you think you might prefer the IAM format instead, please click on this link that will explain how it will work and why it may or may not make sense for you.

Nothing else has changed this year. So if you’ve competed in the past at either the 2019 Quebec Memory Championship or the 2019 National Memory Championship and you remember the rules, there’s no need for you to read the rest of this page.

Participants can choose to sign up in either the Regular or the Advanced section:

Competitors can choose to sign up in either the Regular or the Advanced sections:

The Regular section – Most participants are invited to sign up for the Regular section. Only the first 4 challenges are mandatory for competitors in this section, while the last 2 challenges are completely optional. Although it’s no easy feat, it’s possible here for a beginner with no previous experience to perform quite well overall. With a few weeks of practice, a newcomer can win this section even if he or she doesn’t have a system for memorizing numbers and cards.

The Advanced section – For those who are better prepared and who already have a well-practiced system for memorizing numbers and cards. Rule of thumb: if you can memorize around 50 digits with relative ease in 5 minutes, you should probably sign up for the Advanced section. 6 challenges are mandatory for competitors in this section, and the scoring rules are sometimes harsher.

 

 

4 disciplines for everyone: IAM Images, Exam cramming, Names and faces and Random words

The events will happen in the order they are written down below. Whether or not you’ve competed in memory competitions before, we suggest that you take the time to read all the rules because in many cases we’ve changed them in subtle but important ways. Only the first challenge, IAM images, is exactly the same as anywhere else.

1st challenge – 5 minutes IAM Images

You will be shown rows of 5 pictures each and you’ll have 5 minutes to memorize as many rows as you can. You will then be shown those same pictures in a different order and you will have 15 minutes to correctly recall the orders of as many rows as you can. You get 5 points for each correctly recalled row and you lose 1 point for each incorrectly recalled row. You will indicate the correct order by writing the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 next to each image. There are no penalties for not answering any given row. The same 5 images will always appear on the same row they were in originally, just not in the same order. The images will be the same as those used at the International Association of Memory (IAM) competitions. Images will be printed in color. If you’ve never practiced this challenge before, we suggest you follow some of the methods suggested here.

Warning: Competitors who fail to sign up at least 72 hours in advance might have to use the black and white question and recall sheets.

Where and how to practice IAM images:

 

2nd challenge – 15 minutes Exam cramming

You have an exam starting in 15 minutes, you haven’t studied and you haven’t gone to class. Thankfully, the questions are given to you in advance, although not necessarily in the same order that they will be presented. You will have to remember 50 fictitious random facts. You will have a maximum of 20 minutes to answer all the questions. With a lot of focus and a lot of memory techniques, in the Regular section you should be able to obtain at least a passing grade.

The exam can be shown in English or in French, depending on what you prefer.

You will have 15 minutes for studying and a maximum of 20 minutes for recall.

In the Regular section, this will be a multiple-choice exam.

In the Advanced section, this will be a short answer exam (usually just one made-up word to remember per question). You will have to directly remember all the names and words and dates without being shown any multiple choice answers.

The exam will be divided into 5 short sections.

  1. Geography – You will have to remember the names of 10 countries and their location on the map of a fictitious continent.
  2. Alternative history of the 21st century. You will have to remember the year for 10 fictitious historical events, past or future. Since all those events were in the 21st century, you can focus solely on the last 2 numbers of the year (if something happened in 2048, you only have to remember the “48”).
  3. Foreign languages – You will have to remember 10 words in a fictitious language and be able to associate those words with their respective meanings.
  4. Identification – 10 superficially similar pictures will be shown and you’ll have to remember the names of whatever is shown on those pictures. It could be different parts of the human heart, different types of birds or insects, different species of Pokemon or anything really. The names shown will be completely made-up.
  5. Astronomy – A fictitious sky map will be presented and you will have to remember the names and locations of 10 constellations or celestial objects. It is also possible that this section will be replaced by another based on some kind of picture, diagram or map. In any case, the basic principle will remain the same.

In the Regular section, for each part of the exam you will be shown 20 possible answers including 10 wrong answers and 10 potentially correct answers. You will then have to associate the 10 correct answers with the right location, word, event or picture. The wrong answers are likely to look and sound similar to the right answers, so they can be easy to confuse if you’re not careful. In the Advanced section, you will have to do the same thing, but without being shown a list of possible answers.

  • There are 50 questions in total and you will receive 2 points for each correct answer. You can’t earn a point for a word or an answer than you wrote more than once in the same section. In the Advanced section, an answer that isn’t written down perfectly correctly but that sound exactly the same as the correct one will be worth 1.5 points. 
  • Competitors in the Regular section who have a system for memorizing numbers that they wish to use for the historical dates can, if they want, print it out on an 8.5 by 11 inches sheet (front side of the sheet only) and use that sheet during both the memorization and recall periods. Competitors in the Regular section who don’t have such a system will have the option to use one of the sample number systems that we will be providing.
  • In the Advanced section, a few additional more difficult bonus questions will be shown at the end of the exam. That means that results superior to 100% aren’t impossible.

Click here to see more examples and explanations of what you should expect from this challenge.

Where and how to practice this event:

  • A few sample Exams can be found on this page.
  • This is an unorthodox event that is designed to put everyone, even Advanced competitors, a little bit off balance and out of their comfort zone. And since it doesn’t exist anywhere else, apart from the few sample disciplines linked above, it’s a little bit hard to really train specifically for this event. But there are various creative ways you can use to train in indirectly. Here are a few suggestions that you can try.
  • You can choose to practice the classic “historic dates” memory discipline. Just go to www.standard-memory.com, click on “5 min Historic Dates”, study the sheet for 5 minutes (or more, or just 1 or 2 minutes if you prefer) using something else as a timer. Then click on “Recall online” to enter your answers and see your results. Just remember that in the Exam, the dates you’ll be asked to remember will be only 2-digit long (the “48” in 2048 for example).
  • You can take a bunch of random words, avoid looking at them and use either Google Translate or this awesome free translation service to translate them all in Dutch of something. Try to memorize everything quickly, then try to see if you can correctly remember the Dutch (or whatever) translations for each.
  • You can use the Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator to quickly make your own fake maps. Have fun experimenting with all the possible different configurations offered.
  • You can develop your memorization skills in a more general manner by trying out all kinds of real-world memory challenges. You can learn all the provinces of Brazil or India, learn some of the most common words in different languages, memorize lesser-known historical dates, learn the names of the human bones, learn to recognize different types of birds and so on. You can choose to memorize only for the short-term as an exercise. Or you can use spaced-repetition for everything that you want to remember long-term.

 

3rd challenge – 5 minutes Names and Faces

You will be shown pictures of faces along with their names. You have 5 minutes to memorize as many first and last names as you can. All the faces will then be shown to you again in a different order and you will have 15 minutes to recall what you can. There will be many international names and it will be almost impossible to remember them all, therefore it’s usually a better strategy to focus only on those names you think you will be able to recall. 1 point for each correct first name and 1 point for each correct last name. You can’t earn a point for a name if you wrote it more than once. Important note: On average the names will be more realistic and not quite as difficult as the names presented in most memory competitions. A few photos of non-human faces with goofy names will also be shown. Those should be particularly memorable, but don’t let the absurdity make you lose focus! Click here for an example of what the challenge might look like. Photos will be printed in color.

Warning: Competitors who fail to sign up at least 72 hours in advance might have to use the black and white question and recall sheets.

Where and how to practice this event:

  • Go to this page for examples of this challenge.
  • You can use the IAM training software. Or you can go to www.standard-memory.com, click on “5 min Names & Faces” and study the sheet for 5 minutes. Then click on “Recall online” to answer and see your results. You should know however that the names shown on those two websites are more difficult on average than those you will see at our competitions.
  • For much shorter attempts and a completely different format, an alternative way to train would be to use the website Memory League.

 

4th challenge – 10 minutes Random Words

You have 10 minutes to remember in order as many random words as you can and a maximum of 20 minutes to correctly recall them. Words will be presented by rows of 10. To get all your points, you will have to recall everything in the same order. You can choose to memorize words in English or in French.

For this particular challenge, all kids 13 years old or younger will be corrected just like participants in the Regular section, even if they chose to sign up for the Advanced section.

Correction rules for the Regular section:

  • One point for each word correctly written down at the right place. No point if there’s a spelling mistake. No point if you wrote the same word more than once in the same row.
  • Half a point for each word correctly written down in the right row, but not at the right place.
  • No point for words that weren’t written down in the right row. However, if a competitor realizes that, for example, he or she wrote all the words from the third row in the second row or vice-versa, he or she can simply correct that mistake with a simple note or an arrow. If the correction is clearly indicated, no penalty will be applied.

Corrections rules for the Advanced section:

  • 10 points for a row where all 10 words were correctly written down at the right place.
  • Only 5 points if there’s one error or one missing word in an otherwise all correct row.
  • 0 point for rows where there are 2 or more errors or missing words in one row.
  • However, only 1 point is subtracted for what we call “minor mistakes”, a spelling mistake for example. What differentiates a “minor mistake” from an error is explained below.
  • For the very last row that you tried to memorize, you will have one point for each correctly written down word up to the point where you stopped writing. All the penalties explained above will still be applied (minus 5 points for an error or a missing word, minus 1 point for a “minor mistake”), but you won’t be penalized for any missing word after the point where you stopped writing. So if, for example, you wrote the first 7 words of that last row and made one spelling mistake, you will get 6 points for that row.  
  • If a competitor realizes that, for example, he or she wrote all the words from the third row in the second row or vice-versa, he or she can simply correct that mistake with a simple note or an arrow. If the correction is clearly indicated, no penalty will be applied.

Again for the Advanced section, here’s what differentiates an error from a “minor mistake”.

Types of errors (minus 5 points for the row):

  • Any missing word.
  • You wrote a different word than the correct one, even if they mean the same thing. Writing “bicycle” instead of “bike” is an error.
  • You wrote the right word, but not at the right place. However, in cases where two correct words were inverted next to each other, we will count this as just one error instead of two. So if you wrote “chair” and then “angry” instead of “angry” and then “chair”, you will lose 5 points instead of 10.
  • If you write the same word more than once in the same row, we will treat them both as missing words.

Types of “minor mistakes” (minus 1 point for the row):

  • Spelling mistakes.
  • The word you wrote is a variation of the same word and it appears in the same entry in the dictionary. “Walk” versus “walking”, “sleep” versus “slept”, “easy” versus “easily” or “memory” versus “memories” for example. The two words need to appear in the same entry in the dictionary. “Improvise” versus “improvisation” may be very similar, but one is a noun and the other is a verb.
  • The word you wrote sounds exactly the same as the correct one, even if its meaning is completely different. “Sea” versus “see” or “canon” versus “cannon” for example.

As you can see competitors in the Advanced section will face much harsher scoring rules for this challenge. Therefore in this section it might be a better strategy to attempt to memorize 40 or 50 words perfectly than to attempt 80 while making many mistakes here and there.

Where and how to practice this event:

  • Go to this page for examples of this challenge.
  • You can use the IAM training software.
  • You can also go to www.standard-memory.com, click on “5 min Random Words” or “15 min Random Words” and study the sheet for 10 minutes.
  • For much shorter attempts and a completely different format, an alternative way to train would be to use the website Memory League.

 

 

2 optional disciplines: Random Digits and Speed Cards

For competitors in the Regular section, the last 2 challenges are completely optional. Competitors in the Regular section who wishes to take part are allowed to print out their number and/or card system on an 8.5 by 11 inches sheet (front side of the sheet only) and use that sheet during both the memorization and recall periods. Competitors in the Regular section who don’t have such a system will have the option to use one of the sample number systems that we will be providing.

5th challenge – 10 minutes Random Digits

You will have 10 minutes to memorize as many digits as possible and up to 20 minutes to recall them. Digits will be presented by rows of 36 digits*, each divided into three blocks of 12 digits each. To facilitate rapid reading, a small dot will be added every 2 or 3 digits, depending on what each individual competitor prefers. If you communicate with us at least 72 hours in advance, you can ask for your digits to be instead divided with a small dot every 4, 6 or 9 digits. Examples of what that may look like are shown here.

For this particular challenge, all kids 13 years old or younger will be corrected just like participants in the Regular section, even if they chose to sign up for the Advanced section.

* We don’t recommend it, but international competitors competing in the Open section can, if they want, choose to have their digits presented in rows of 40 each. Since most other international competitions use the 40 digits format, some people have told us that our 36 digits format can be confusing for those who are accustomed to something else. That option is only available to international competitors.

Correction rules for the Regular section:

  • You get 1 point for each correct digit written at the right place.
  • However, if there aren’t at least 4 consecutive correct digits in a given block of 12 digits, no point will be given for that block. The point of this rule is to avoid having competitors try to gain a few additional points by writing down random answers for rows that they didn’t attempt to memorize.
  • If a competitor realizes that, for example, he or she wrote all the digits from the third block of digits in the second block or vice-versa, he or she can simply correct that mistake with a simple note or an arrow. If the correction is clearly indicated, no penalty will be applied.

Correction rules for the Advanced section:

    • You will get 12 points for each block of 12 digits correctly written down at the right place.
    • You will have no point for each block of 12 digits where there is one mistake or more.
    • For the very last block that you tried to memorize, you will have one point for each correctly written down digit up to the point where you stopped writing. So if you had to remember “89.65.32.25.63.92” and you wrote down “89.65.32”, you will have 6 points for that last block. However if you instead wrote down “89.65.33”, you won’t earn any point because of that mistake with the last digit. So if you only have 6 seconds left at the end of the memorization period, you can try to use those last few seconds to try to gain a few more points.
    • For competitors who choose to use the optional 40-digit per line format, the same correction rules will apply, but the third block of each row will be 16 digits long instead of 12. That last block will be worth either 16 points or 0. That means that if you choose to use the 40 digits per row option, the scoring rules will be very slightly harsher for you than for others. Unfortunately, that rule was necessary to maintain some consistency with our normal scoring rules.

Where and how to practice this event:

  • Go to this page for examples of this challenge and for an Excell sheet that will generate an infinite amount of new digits presented in the same format we use.
  • For much shorter attempts and a completely different format, an alternative way to train would be to use the website Memory League.
  • If you’re an International competitor and you prefer to memorize with the 40 digits per row format, you can use the IAM training software. Or you can go to www.standard-memory.com, click on “5 min Numbers” and study the sheet for 10 minutes. Then click on “Recall online” to answer and see your results.

Note: Last year we instead used the common 5 min Speed Number format with two attempts. We decided to replace it with just one 10 minutes attempt because it takes less time overall, because longer events are a good way to train focus and because we want to see more participants successfully memorize more than 100 or 200 digits.

6th challenge – 5 minutes Speed Cards

You will have 2 attempts for this discipline, the best of your 2 results is the only one that will count. For each attempt, you will have 5 minutes (or less if you are fast) to remember as many cards in order as you can from a shuffled deck of 52 cards. You will then have to take another unshuffled deck (placed in the same order as a brand new deck) and place the cards in the same order as the deck you just memorized.

  • If you’re competing in the Regular section, you will have 7 minutes to place the cards in the right order.
  • If you’re competing in the Advanced section, you will have only 5 minutes to place the cards in the right order. One exception to this rule: all kids 13 years old or younger will have 7 minutes of recall time, even if they are competing in the Advanced section.

Depending on your current skill level, your goal will either be to memorize as many cards as you can in 5 minutes or, for the most experienced competitors, to memorize all 52 cards as quickly as possible. If you attempted to memorize the whole deck in less than 5 minutes but you made one or more mistake, for information purposes your attempted time will be noted in the scoreboard, but you will get the same amount of championship points as if you had used all 5 minutes.

For everyone who got less than a full deck of cards, we instead use a correction system inspired by Memory League where every correct data counts. So if you memorized 40 cards but made a swapping mistake with the third and the fourth cards, your final score will be 38. But unlike Memory League, we have two additional special rules designed to make sure that your final score is an accurate reflection of what you managed to recall correctly.

  • We stop counting after 4 consecutive mistakes and only start counting again if we can find 4 consecutive correctly ordered and located cards. This is to discourage guessing.
  • If your cards end up mostly in the correct order, but not at the correct place (for example because something was forgotten in the beginning and all the rest was displaced), we call this a “displacement mistake” and the competitor can tell us that this accident happened and we will start counting again at any point of his or her choice. A 4 cards penalty to the final result will be applied every time this happened.

Everything you needed to know about the way we’ll be counting correct answers was just explained, but you can check this page if it doesn’t seem clear and you would like to see some examples.

Where and how to practice this event:

 

 

Final overall championship scores calculations

For each challenge, we use a mathematical formula to convert your raw score into what we call Championship Points (CP). The addition of you 4 or 5 best results will determine the vast majority of your final overall result. Your worst results won’t significantly affect the final outcome.

  • In the Regular section, your overall championship score will be based on the addition of your best 4 results. Most of the time, those four best results will be Images, Exam, Names and Words. If someone in the Regular section wishes to attempt the numbers and/or cards challenges, one result from those two challenges could conceivably be counted among his or her four best results, but not two. Competitors who already have plenty of experience with numbers and/or cards are invited to sign up for the Advanced section instead. 
  • In the Advanced section, your overall championship score will be based on the addition of your 5 best results.
  • We also give a limited number of bonus points in some circumstances. Those bonus points will always be counted in the end, even when you happen to earn them in a discipline that isn’t among your top 4 or top 5 best results. Top-performing competitors might be able to earn enough bonus points to boost their final championship score by up to 5 or 10%. But for most people most of the time, those bonus points won’t affect the final ranking. So if for example you’re competing in the Regular section and you want to skip over numbers and/or cards, you should still feel free to do so.

The point of this system is to make it possible for someone to win even if he or she had a lot of trouble with one particular challenge. We also want to make it possible for newcomers to participate and obtain good results without necessarily having to invest a lot of time training for all 6 disciplines. If you’re competing in the Regular section, having a system for memorizing numbers and cards might help, but even if you don’t have one, you can still perform very well and possibly even win.

The number of CP for each event will be calculated with a formula where your score is compared to what we call the “national standard”. The “national standard” is based on the average of the top 3 scores ever obtained in a Canadian competition by local competitors. If you can get close to that, it means you rock. A score superior to the current national standard will be worth more than 1000 CP. If your raw score is half the current national standard, you will receive 500 CP (still a very impressive, way above average result) for this challenge. The national standard will evolve year after year as results keep getting better. As mentioned before, we also give bonus CP points in some circumstances, for example when a competitor manages to rank first, second or third place among his or her peers in a particular discipline.

You can read all the details related to CP calculations and bonus points by clicking here.

After the conversion from raw scores to CP, we will add up your 4 or 5 best results (plus any bonus points you may have earned) to see who won the Regular section and who won the Advanced section. The winner of the Advanced section will be declared to be the 2019 Canadian Memory Champion. As previously mentioned at the beginning of this page, honorific titles and prizes will also be given out in each section for those have managed to obtain the best results in the Senior (60 years old or older), Junior (14 to 17 years old) and Kid (13 years old or younger) age groups. If you’re not a Canadian citizen, you’re welcome to compete as either an advanced or a regular competitor in the Open section. Competitors in the Open section aren’t eligible to win the overall championships. However, the final scoreboard will clearly indicate whether or not the winner of the Open section managed to outperform the overall winner.

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