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by Phil Chambers | Apr 19, 2020

Edited transcript of Facebook Live by Phil Chambers 19th April 2020

Hello, welcome to this Facebook Live talking about the Historic and Future Dates discipline at the World Memory Championships. I’ll talk a little bit, first of all, about how the dates are created before talking about how they’re memorised.

I often spend a lot of time in airports and places like that, so I will always take a notebook with me. The dates are written in there, when I’ve got time to spare. I choose to be quite creative in writing the events, so some can be amusing, as well as the more banal ones. Like, “Farmer breeds cow which makes chocolate milk” or, “Suicidal snowman goes sunbathing” – these kind of things! Unusual scenarios that add a bit of humour. Although actually, when people are memorising they only pick a single key word from the event, so it doesn’t make a lot of difference what the content is. There are certain restrictions you have to abide by. You can’t have more than six words for each event. It’s a bit like writing newspaper headlines, and you can’t use products or brand names. You can’t use real people. You’ve got to be very careful about making puns that are language specific or culturally specific, because it’s going to be translated in different languages. If you use something that’s particularly European or English, then it won’t make sense once it’s translated to Chinese. You must be very careful about being as internationally ‘translatable’ as possible.

We have 40 dates to a page and four and a half pages. The trouble is that every year it gets harder and harder to create these because we keep getting records broken. It’s exciting to have a New World Record so I don’t mind the extra work needed to create them. Because I’ve been doing it for so many years, it can sometimes be a challenge to be original. I don’t want repeat myself. You have to be in a good state of mind and relaxed when you’re doing it to avoid going back to old ones that have been used before. You also need variety within the set of dates for that particular competition.

When you’re memorising them, as I said, the competitors tend to take a keyword from the event and then memorise the date that’s associated to it. It’s a completely random range of dates. There is no logical relationship between the date and the event. You can have something like, “Spacecraft Travels to Jupiter” in 1184. Obviously, that couldn’t possibly happen, so you have no way of deducing the date. The date must be completely ‘un-guessable’ for the competitors based on the event. You can cherry pick to some extent. You don’t have to memorise all the dates in sequence because, of course, on the recall sheet they are in a different order. You can choose which ones you memorise. Although, if you do cherry pick, it takes a bit longer because of choosing which ones to select and which ones to reject.

If you’ve got a three-digit number system, you only need to remember really the century, decade and year. You don’t need to remember the millennium because they all start with ‘one’, apart from those that are after 2000. Instead of remembering 1782, you only need to remember 782 and then perhaps avoid the ones that have ‘two thousand’ at the start. (Or you can have some extra coding for ones that start with a two.) You make your own associations. Some people like to memorise them on a journey. That helps with your memorization but on the recall, you’re not recalling them in sequence and thus must hunt for the relevant answers.

There’s no point guessing. With this event, you get a half point penalty for every incorrectly assigned year. If you guess you’ve got about a one in 1000 chance of getting it right, so it’s not really worth guessing. However, if it turns out there’s a date you’re not entirely certain and maybe you’re not sure if it’s 1782 or 1783, something like that. You can make one guess, because you’ll lose half a point, but then we round up the total score to a whole number. You can make one guess without any fear of losing points as long as you’re certain that all of the other ones are correct. If you lose two half points due to two mistakes, then you won’t get them back. If you have an odd half at the end, it’s rounded back up so you can make one guess but that’s all.

Hopefully this has been of interest to you. It’s a very interesting event to devise as you have to be creative in doing it.

Next week – next discipline.

Thanks for listening and bye for now.

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