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by Phil Chambers | Apr 5, 2020

Edited Transcript – Facebook Live – Phil Chambers 5th April 2020

Hello and welcome to this Facebook Live talking about the Names and Faces discipline of the World Memory Championships. If you go back to the very early days of the competition, the names were very straightforward. They were all English names and all the competitors were generally English speakers. So it was a relatively easy discipline for people to do well in. As the championships has expanded, and we have people from many, many, different countries speaking different languages, using different alphabets, we’ve had to change the discipline slightly to make the names much more international. This means they’re universally difficult to everyone. I think this makes the names and places one of the hardest disciplines for competitors and that’s why in recent years, we haven’t seen New World Records set. Yanjaa from Sweden is still the World Record Holder in Names and Faces.

I’ll talk a little bit about how the names and faces discipline is created when we’re making the papers for it. The first step, of course, is to source as many faces as we need. These need to be an equal mix of male and female, and a range of different nationalities and different cultural regions that the faces come from. Some kids, some elderly. We have a really good mix of different faces to work with. We need to take the backgrounds off each. We don’t want people to be aided by what’s in the background of the picture. So we use Photoshop, take backgrounds off, resize them to all be the same size. All will be the same 300dpi resolution, and then save them as logical file names. We have female1, female2, female3 and so on. Male1, male2…

The next step then, of course, is creating the names. We have a big database of thousands of different names: Female names, male names and surnames. These are split into eight different regions. We have names for Africa, Hispanic names, European names, Anglo Saxon names, and so on. We take the range of names and sort each of the eight columns to give us a random selection. We take the top six or seven from each of these and copy across to a new spreadsheet. That gives us our male names, our female names, and we do the same with surnames. At each step we randomise because we want to make sure we don’t have all of the Hispanic names, for example, grouped together. We have to re-sequence once we’ve copied across, and we want to make sure there are no clues as to a first name from a surname. You will have a complete random mixture – You can see somebody like ‘Guo Johnson’, rather than being ‘Craig Johnson’. There’s a set of different nationalities intermixed, so you have no clues for the competitors in that sense. Of course, there’s no relationship between the ethnicity of the name and the ethnicity of the person in the photograph either.

Once we’ve got a list of names, we add a file name to each of those so that the face and name are associated in the spreadsheet. We then take the names, sequence them for memorization, sequence them for recall, and then that goes into a ‘mail merge’, which creates a Word document with all of the names laid out against the boxes, where the face will go. We then, manually, look up the file name and add the face for each of the names for both memorization and recall. Of course, the recall will have the names on it because that’s going to end up being the marking sheet.

We export to PDF giving one set for memorization and one set for marking. Then we take the marking sheet, duplicate it, and then put two dashes under each of the names to create the sheet for recall. The recall sheet is the same for everybody. The memorization sheet is transliterated into different character sets. If you are European you have the Latin alphabet, but if you’re from China, of course, you have Simplified or Traditional Chinese. We use Arabic and we often have Russian Cyrillic, so there will be different memorisation papers for each of the different character sets which people use in the competition. We also convert the marking sheets into black and white. We don’t waste resources printing colour when we’re only marking.

So that’s really how we create the papers. It’s quite a lot of work. It’s about a week’s work to actually create all the Names and Faces papers for the World Championships. As I say, it tends to be one of the hardest disciplines that people have to compete in. Hopefully that has given you a little bit of insight into what we do behind the scenes.

No real strategy I can give you for getting extra points or doing especially well. It’s really a case of recognising the faces, breaking the names up into different things you can visualise and then linking together. Just a very general principle.

That’s all for this week. Next week we’ll come on to the next discipline.

Thanks for listening and talk to you soon.

Bye for now.

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