USA Memory Championship

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The USA Memory Championship is an annual competition that takes place every spring in New York City, and was founded by Tony Dottino, President of Dottino Consulting Group, Inc., and Marshall Tarley in the year 1997. Designed to test the limits of the human brain, the USA Memory Championship is an organized competition in which Memory Athletes (MAs) attempt at memorizing as much information as possible from Names and faces, to Cards, to Random numbers. Anyone is allowed to join so long as they're US citizens and are at least 12 years or older. The competition consists of 7 total events, 4 of which are qualifying events and the last three determine the champion.[1][2][3][4][5]


There are four qualifying events in the first part of the competition:[6]

  • Names and Faces: memorize up to 117 names (first and last) and faces in 15 minutes. 20 minutes are given to write down the names of each face, but in a different order than on the memorization sheet.
  • Speed Numbers: memorize as many digits as possible within five minutes. 20 digits are placed in each row with 25 rows per page. After memorization MAs are given 10 minutes for recall. For every complete row memorized in order, 20 points are given. For every row that has any mistakes 0 points will be given.
  • Speed Cards: memorize the order of a shuffled deck of playing cards as quickly as possible. A judge sits by the MA with a stopwatch to record the time. After memorization, 5 minutes are given for recall. After the recall the MA is given another set of cards in perfect order (i.e. diamonds 2, diamonds 3, diamonds 4 ..... etc.), and is then told to place the cards in the same order as the first deck memorized. Two trials are given and the best score will be counted. The MA with the fastest time wins.
  • Poetry: memorize an unpublished poem within 15 minutes. 20 minutes are given for recall, in which the competitors must transcribe the poem word for word from beginning to end in the same format as the original. Each MA is allowed to omit 2 consecutive lines from the poem. Scoring is graded based on correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Each line has its own number of points and each mistake made will result in zero points for the line where the mistake was found.

After the first four events, eight mental athletes then advance to the final round of Championship events. A round-robin tournament style is used for elimination. Three Competitors are eliminated after the first event, two after the second, and two during the third to determine the Memory Champion.

  • Spoken Words: memorize a list of 200 words in order in 15 minutes. After the period of memorization is over Memory Athletes are called by random, and are given 15 seconds to orally recite the first word of the first column. The words continue consecutively down the list and the first MA to either recall the wrong word or not remember the word is eliminated.
  • Three Strikes You're Out: The five MA's left in this round are given 15 minutes to hear and review facts about 6 strangers. Facts for each stranger includes their address, phone number, pet, favorite hobbies, favorite car, and favorite foods. It is scored like spoken words, but each MA is given three strikes before elimination.
  • Double Deck O’Cards: The remaining three competitors are given five minutes to memorize two decks of cards (104 cards). Each deck is arranged before the event in the same order identical to the other MA's decks. The first two MAs to make a mistake are eliminated. In the case of a tie, both decks would be shuffled together in identical order for both MAs.


Years of preparation is required in order to compete. By learning how to create a loci (memory palace) and other methods such as the PAO (Person Action Object) system,[7] and Major system, MAs are able to memorize randomized digits, cards, and poetry and much more. A competitor, Joshua Foer was able to win the 2006 competition with only 1 year of preparation by using these techniques and practicing every day. He wrote about his journey under the wing of a British Mental Athlete Ed Cooke who set him on his path of memory in his book, "Moonwalking with Einstein".


This is a list of USA memory champions since 1998:[8]

  • 1998 - Tatiana Cooley-Marquardt
  • 1999 - Tatiana Cooley-Marquardt
  • 2000 - Tatiana Cooley-Marquardt
  • 2001 - Scott Hagwood
  • 2002 - Scott Hagwood
  • 2003 - Scott Hagwood
  • 2004 - Scott Hagwood
  • 2005 - Ram Kolli
  • 2006 - Joshua Foer
  • 2007 - David Thomas
  • 2008 - Chester Santos
  • 2009 - Ron White
  • 2010 - Ron White
  • 2011 - Nelson Dellis
  • 2012 - Nelson Dellis
  • 2013 - Ram Kolli
  • 2014 - Nelson Dellis
  • 2015 - Nelson Dellis
  • 2016 - Alex Mullen
  • 2017 - no competition was held
  • 2018 - John Graham
  • 2019 - Lance Tschirhart
  • 2020 - Makenna Good
  • 2021 - Nelson Dellis


Records for the fastest times and most points in individual events.

  • Names and Faces: Nelson Dellis (2019) 235 points
  • Speed Numbers: Alex Mullen (2016) 483 digits
  • Poetry: Katherine He (2016) 335 points
  • Speed Cards: Alex Mullen (2016) 52 cards in 18.653 seconds

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "USA Memory Championship® – Official Olympiad for Mental Athletes".
  2. ^ Goudreau, Jenna. "U.S. Memory Champion On How To Remember Names, Faces And Where You Put Your Keys". Forbes.
  3. ^ "How to Train Your Brain and Boost Your Memory Like a USA Memory Champion". Lifehacker.
  4. ^ Following Joshua Foer to the USA Memory Championship
  5. ^ Miami Man Can Memorize 303 Random Numbers In 5 Min
  6. ^ "Events – USA Memory Championship®".
  7. ^ "Person-Action-Object (PAO) System - Memory Techniques Wiki". Retrieved 2016-05-23.
  8. ^ "List of USA Memory Champions - Memory Techniques Wiki".