Memory sport

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Memory sport, sometimes referred to as competitive memory or the mind sport of memory, is a competition in which participants attempt to memorize the most information that they can then present back, under certain guidelines. The sport has been formally developed since 1991, and features regional and international championships.

One common type of competition involves memorizing the order of randomized cards in as little time as possible, after which the competitor is required to arrange new decks of cards in the same order.

Mnemonic techniques are generally considered to be a necessary part of competition, and are improved through extensive practice.[1] These can include the method of loci, the use of mnemonic linking and chunking, or other techniques for storage and retrieval of information.


Techniques for training memory are discussed as far back as ancient Greece, and formal memory training was long considered an important part of basic education known as the art of memory.[2] However, the development of trained memorization into a sport is only a development of the late 20th century, and even then has remained relatively limited in scope. The first worldwide competition was held as the World Memory Championships in 1991, and has been held again in every year since.[1]


Following the establishment of the World Memory Championships in 1991, regional competitions have been set up in numerous countries. These include the U.S. Championships, which started in 1997,[3] the Indian National Memory Championships,[4] the German Memory Championships,[5] and the UK Open Memory Championships.[6] Other countries with national championships include South Africa, Australia, Singapore, China, Japan and Mexico.[5][7]


The highest designation set up by the World Memory Sports Council, which organizes the World Memory Championships, is the Grand Master of Memory. Joshua Foer wrote in 2005 that there were 36 Grand Masters in the world, including one in the United States.[8]


Competitors describe numerous methods and techniques for improving their memorization skills, with some having published and named their specific methods. These include, for instance, the Mnemonic dominic system, named after former World Champion Dominic O'Brien, the Mnemonic major system, as well as the Person-Action-Object System which involves encoding cards and numbers into sequences of persons, actions, and objects.[9] These methods are sometimes referred to as "mnemotechnics."

Joshua Foer has written, "Though every competitor has his own unique method of memorization for each event, all mnemonic techniques are essentially based on the concept of elaborative encoding, which holds that the more meaningful something is, the easier it is to remember."[8]


While the potential subject matter for memory competitions could be limitless, the World Memory Championships features ten specific tests as follows:

  1. One Hours Numbers
  2. 5 Minute Numbers
  3. Spoken Numbers, read out one per second
  4. 30 Minutes Binary Digits
  5. One Hour Playing Cards
  6. Random Lists of Words
  7. Names and Faces (15 minutes)
  8. 5 Minute Historic/Future Dates (fictional events and historic years)
  9. Abstract Images (black and white randomly generated spots)
  10. Speed Cards: Memorize the order of one shuffled deck of 52 playing cards as fast as possible. This is always the last discipline.

Other types of memory competitions may not feature timed events. For instance, records for the memorization of π (known as piphilology) have been recorded since the 1970s, with the current record holder having produced from memory more than 70,000 digits.


Memory sport continues to have its records broken rapidly. A recent world speed record for memorizing a deck of cards was 20.44 seconds, held by Simon Reinhard of Germany. On 6 March 2015 Reinhard was defeated by Wang Feng of China with a new world record of 19.80 seconds which was broadcast in The Brain on Jiangsu TV.[5] A recent world record for the most digits memorized in five minutes was 500.[2] Two years later the record was beaten by Johannes Mallow by just one digit.[10] In 2016, this record was broken by American Alex Mullen, who memorized over 550 numbers in five minutes.[11]

Mullen became the 2015 World Memory Champion after winning the 24th World Memory Championships, held Dec. 16-18 in Chengdu, China. He is the first American to win the title since the competition's inception in 1991. He achieved the highest overall score ever at a World Memory Championships, breaking one world record and five US records and taking home over 40,000 USD. Mullen became the first person in the world to break the 3,000 digit barrier in the hour numbers event by memorizing 3,029 digits in one hour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Contact Us - The World Memory Championships". Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Foer, Joshua (February 15, 2011). "Secrets of a Mind-Gamer". Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  3. ^ "FAQs | USA Memory Championship". Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Grandmaster of memory stays on top". The Hindu. November 12, 2010. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Gemma Luz Corotan (August 31, 2010). "Filipino nurse, 'kristo' excel in UK memory tilt". Archived from the original on September 1, 2010. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Memory champs meet for UK contest". BBC News. August 15, 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  7. ^ "List of Memory Competitions". Memory Techniques Wiki. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Foer, Joshua (March 16, 2005). "Forget Me Not: How to win the U.S. memory championship". Slate. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Person-Action-Object (PAO) System". Memory Techniques Wiki. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Discipline: 5 Minute Numbers". World Memory Statistic. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  11. ^ Frisch, Ian (May 18, 2016). "Lessons from America's first memory world champion". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 


  • RNG v1.0 Random Number Generator for training Working Memory

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