Memory News

British man, 60, triumphs at 2017 World Memory Championships

Eight-time victor and senior winner of the 2017 World Memory Championships Dominic O'Brien pictured with overall winner Munkhshur Narmandakh (Photo: World Memory Championships)

Eight-time victor and senior winner of the 2017 World Memory Championships Dominic O’Brien pictured with overall winner Munkhshur Narmandakh (Photo: World Memory Championships)

by Katie Grant Sunday December 10th 2017

Taking a stroll down memory lane?

Dominic O’Brien claimed the 2017 senior world memory champion title this weekend. The Briton, who competed and triumphed at the first ever world memory championships in 1991, retired a decade ago after winning the overall competition eight times. This year he came out of retirement and put his reputation “on the line” to compete at 60 in the seniors category and prove his grey matter was as impressive as ever.

What does the competition involve?

Let me jog your memory: entrants from around the world participate across 10 different disciplines; the competitor with the highest cumulative score in all the disciplines is declared the winner. One of the most challenging rounds, “hours cards”, sees participants commit to memory as many randomly shuffled packs of cards as they can. They have two hours to recall them precisely. Championships general secretary Chris Day described it as “a gruelling discipline”.

What’s the record?

It was set this year by a Mongolian teenager, Munkhshur Narmandakh, who was crowned the overall world memory champion at the event in China. Narmandakh, 18, memorised and recalled the order of 37 decks of cards (1,924 cards). She became the first woman to win the competition and scooped the $10,000 (£7,470) prize money.

How did Mr O’Brien fare?

He set three senior world records, including in the hour cards category; Mr O’Brien, from Dorset, correctly recalled 14.5 decks of cards (754 cards).  His power of recall is so strong he is banned from casinos around the world. Contenders from across four age categories compete at the Championships: kids, juniors, adults and seniors.

Different ages but presumably all geniuses?

Apparently not. “You might think they are savants, that they were born with this, but that’s not the case. These are all ordinary guys and gals,” claimed Mr Day. They have simply discovered the sport and “practiced their socks off”. Mr Day added: “Anyone can do it.”

Doesn’t your memory fade as you get older?

Mr Day pointed out that Mr O’Brien built up a reputation over decades and “put it all on the line” to compete at 60 and prove he is still sharp as a tack. “Memory has nothing to do with age it’s how we use our brains,” Mr Day insisted. “There is hope for us all.”

New World Memory Champion, beating all the men, is the Mongolian teenage girl Munkhshur Narmandakh  She is the FIRST female absolute World Memory Champion!


The twenty sixth world memory championship which finished last night in the city of Shenzhen, PRC, will go down in the history of Mind Sports as the best ever….so far. The championship was marked by a number of truly memorable elements…a magnificent $100,000 US dollar prize fund, a shattering of the speed cards record , bringing down the time taken to correctly recall a shuffled deck of cards to a level which nobody had remotely predicted. Finally, most historic of all, the first victory by a female contestant in the twenty six years of the championship. To think that an 18 year old girl might topple the male Titans of memory , would have been virtually inconceivable before the competition began. Now it has happened, proving in the process that Memory Sport truly knows no boundaries of gender, age or physical strength.

And then there was the return of that male Titan of memory, Dominic O Brien. Having won the main championship title a record eight times, Dominic now returned to capture his first senior ‎victory.

On the team front China dominated, followed as expected by Mongolia, with their supercharged team of teenage girls. Bronze resulted in a stand off between Algeria and Malaysia, a triumph for the former, whose team will be welcomed by state recognition on their return home.

New World Memory Champion, beating all the men, is the Mongolian teenage girl Munkhshur Narmandakh  She is the FIRST female absolute World Memory Champion.  She has practiced three hour a day and has now become the World Champion!

Silver Medallist – Shi Binbin  and  Bronze Medallist – Su Zehe of China

Congratulations to our new World Record holders

Binary Digits: Enkhshur Narmandakh (Mongolia). 5445 digits

Hour Numbers: Shi Binbin (China). 3040 numbers

Hour Cards: Munkhshur Narmandakh (Mongolia). 37 decks of cards (1924 cards)

Speed Cards: Zhou Lujian (China). 13.96 seconds

New Senior World Records:

Hours Cards: Dominic O’Brien 14.5 Decks (754 cards)

Spoken Number:   Dominic O’Brien  121 (1 digit per second)

Speed Cards:   Dominic O’Brien  52.83 seconds

TOP COUNTRY TEAM – China.  Algerian team shares team bronze with ‎Malaysia after recount!! TEAM INDIA in 4th place

An overwhelming fact struck me during the championship, ‎that the young people who take up early memory training are forming a race of superhumans…more intelligent, more poised, more self confident and more dynamic. Memory training truly revives the classical ideal of mens sana in corpore sano.

As for global outreach, representatives‎ gathered in Shenzhen from Mexico, USA, Poland, Liechtenstein, France, Belgium, England, Scotland, Algeria, Australia, China, Mongolia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Russia, a veritable magnet for a mini UN!

The tide of history is on the side of the brilliant young WMSC champions‎. I now challenge the old guard who were too scared to face the new wave to enter next years 27th World Championship and test their skills against the dynamic younger generation. If they lack the courage, the tsunami of the future will overwhelm their fading laurels…with the exception, of course, of the Immortal Dominic O Brien!

The 26th World Memory Championships  has proved, once again, that we continue to underestimate what the brain is capable of.  The top story is the new World Record for memorising one randomly shuffled pack of cards has been slashed to just 13.956 seconds by Zhou Lujian of Team China knocking 1.654 seconds from previous World Champion Alex Mullen of the USA. This now becomes the new Guinness World Record.

The World Records that have been broken during in the ten separate memory tests over three days, it is worth remembering that none of the competitors were born with any special memory gifts or have any special qualities. They are all ordinary mental athletes who are using very simple techniques to enable their brains to memorise seemingly impossible amounts of information, and to recall them accurately against the clock. With enough practice, anyone can do the same.

Unlike some physical sports, which can take years to reach world level, in the Mind Sport of Memory we have seen new competitors go from a standing start to becoming a World Champion is under two years!

So what is it all about?  It is not a quiz and has nothing to do will cramming your brain full of random facts. Instead it is all about the ability to be presented with new information – such as list of numbers, dates, names and faces, words or playing cards, and seeing how many you can commit to memory in a specific length of time. Then, in a fixed period of time, accurate recalling that same information. It has to be 100% accurate as there are no prizes for forgetting.

The sport, as indeed it is, was founded by Tony Buzan, author and inventor of Mind Mapping, and Raymond Keene OBE, the Chess Grand Master and is now practiced in 62 countries. The highest achieving competitors in the qualifying rounds are eligible to compete in the World Championships.

This year the event took place in China and has in the past been in London, Oxford, Manchester, Bahrain, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hainan, Guangzhou, Croydon, Chengdu and now Shenzhen. Bids are open to host the 27th World Championships in 2018. A great incentive this years was a prize fund of US$100,000 which was distributed around the winners.

The Sport has also attracted Royal patronage. Prince Philipp von und zu Liechtenstein, who graced the front page of the South China Morning Post as soon as he arrive in Shenzhen. granted the first Grandmaster of Memory titles by royal decree at Hanbury Manor UK over two decades ago, thus helping to fuel and launch the now burgeoning world memory movement.

Prince Marek and Princess Petrina Kaspersky of the Polish Royal house, are presidents of the World memory sports Council in Australia and also edit the magazine of The Brain Trust Charity, Synapsia.

This year the competitions was organised by David Zhang, the President for the WMSC Asia Pacific region and was sponsored by Shanghai Wits Publishing Ltd and Guangzhou World Mind Education and Technology Ltd.

Ray Keene OBE Shenzhen 9/12/17

A Memorable 25 years for the Mind Sport of Memory

Welcome to the home of Mind Sport of Memory 

The Mind Sport of Memory was jointly founded by Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene OBE in 1991 when they staged the very first World Memory Championships. The created a competition format based on ten memory disciplines which is still used today in competitions around the world.

The vision of the World Memory Sports Council is

  • to put memory skills training and mental literacy skills at the heart of the education system worldwide
  • to make learning mental literacy skills and memory techniques accessible to all irrespective of income, culture, circumstances, location, age, or gender
  • to inspire people to take up the sport at every level by the achievements of our elite mental athletes
  • to raise the profile of our memory stars and to ensure they receive the international recognition that their achievements so richly deserve
  • to promote the highest levels of integrity, ethics, values and sportsmanship throughout the sport
  • to attract commercial sponsorship to be able to support the educational and charitable objectives of the organisation
  • to grow the sport in all continents and to eventually make it an Olympic sport

SCHOOLS MEMORY CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTATIONS Pictured at the first SCHOOLS MEMORY CHAMPIONSHIP at the Park Inn in Northampton is Raymond Keene for info contact Ray Hodges 01628 894793 or Picture by Adam Fradgley

Joint founder of the sport Raymond Keene OBE,  has the executive role of Global President of the Sport.  Joint founder Tony Buzan continues his role as Ambassador Emeritus for the sport.

There are five separate regions for the sport worldwide, each run by a Regional President.  They are:  Dominic O’Brien for the UK, Europe and Russia;  Dr Manahel Thabet – Middle East and Africa;  David Zhang – Asia Pacific Region; Prince Marek Kasperski – Australia and New Zealand;   Michael Gelb – North America and Canada; and  Dr Jorge Castenada – South American Region.  The regional presidents will be responsible for the National Memory Sports Councils in their territories, plus all certification and accreditation.

One of the most successful achievements of the past 25 years of the sport has been the exceptionally high level of arbiting of memory competitions by Chief Arbiter Phil Chambers and his international team of voluntary arbiters worldwide.  Some time ago The Guild of Mind Sports Arbiters was formed to train, develop and certify volunteer arbiters. Phil Chambers has now been appointed Life President of G.O.M.S.A in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the sport over the last 25 years.

“This is an exciting moment for the Mind Sport of Memory,” says President Raymond Keene. “The last 25 years has seen interest in competitive memory grow in every continent.  The sport now needs to be moved onto a more professional footing to better support our competitors, our competition organisers and fulfil our vision to put memory skills training and mental literacy skills at the heart of the education system worldwide. I am excited to have such  a strong line up of Regional Presidents who will be Ambassadors for the sport in their territories and attract the attention of governments, educationalists and commercial sponsors.”

 The Brain Trust Charity is the official Charity of the World Memory Sports Council.  The mission of the charity is To promote research into study of thought processes, the investigation of the mechanics of thinking, manifested in learning, understanding, communication, problem solving, creativity and decision making; to disseminate the results of such research and study and to promote generally education and training in cognitive processes and techniques and to develop and exploit new techniques in cognitive processes.

The Brain Trust also provides financial encouragement for mental awareness and practical cognitive activities of all kinds.To donate to the Brain Trust Charity or to support its work in any way please feel free to contact
Our representation worldwide includes London, Cape Town, Dubai, Hyderabad, Liechtenstein, Mexico City, New York, Santa Fe, Shanghai and Sydney.

2017 WMC

Location: Shenzhen, China.  December 8th -12th


On the 10th of January the press conference took place in the Beijing National Convention Centre to launch the countdown to the 2017 World Memory Championship with over 200 people in attendance .

Present at the event was the global president Raymond Keen OBE and the eight times World Memory Champion Dominic O’Brien, David Zhang the president of the Asia Pacific Region of the World Memory Sports Council the media, sponsors, and members of the organising team.

This will be the 26th World Memory Championship since the sport was founded by Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene in 1991.  Work is now underway to select the venue for the Championships and a further announcement will be made shortly..

In addition to the World Memory Championships which will be taking place in December, it was also announced that the first China Schools Memory Championships will also take place this year.

The location will be Shenzhen, in southeastern China. It is a modern metropolis that links Hong Kong to China’s mainland. It’s known for its shopping destinations, including Luohu Commercial City, a massive mall with a vast array of wares, from tailors’ custom clothing to faux designer bags. The city also features contemporary buildings, such as the 600m-tall skyscraper Ping An International Finance Centre, and a number of amusement parks.

Brain Trust Charity

25 Year Celebratory Dinner. Tuesday 14th April 2015


A fabulous Banquet held at the RAC in Pall Mall and hosted by Dr Manahel Thabet.


I am trying to re-enact the feat by Simonides of Ceos in 5th Century BC when he named all the dinner guests from memory after they were sadly crushed to death when the building collapsed. Fortunately the RAC has very sturdy walls so thankfully the guests remained fully functioning breathing beings.



Thank you to the Brain Trust Charity for presenting me with a lifetime achievement award: A beautiful Crystal “Ace of Spades” presented by Chess Grandmaster Raymond Keene OBE.

Also, the re-launch of Synapsia brain magazine by Brain Trust Founder Tony Buzan:


Memory Slam

Congratulations to George Watts who wins our new format for the UK Schools Memory Championships:


Click here for a clip of the show


Memory Slam, the last in Watch’s season of factual entertainment pilots, combines documentary with the tension of a real-world competition, following gifted youngsters at the final of the UK Schools Memory Championships.

Co-founded by Dominic O’Brien, the UK Schools Memory Championship has established an enviable reputation for helping students acquire powerful mental skills to improve both learning and self-confidence.

And now, for the first time in its seven year history, the eight highest ranked competitors from eight UK regions were invited to London to take part in a televised final, which also went behind the scenes to discover what it takes to become a national memory champion.

By the end of this nail-biting contest one winner was crowned the UK Schools Memory Champion 2014: George Watts from Cardiff.

Take a look at the clip above to see them in action. Think you’ve got a good memory? Take a look at what these kids have to do! It’s no Generation Game, er is there a cuddly toy?

Rachel Riley now uses Memory techniques


After working on the show “Memory Slam” :

 Yeah, I’ve started trying to do it on Countdown with names, because so many contestants come through. We have at least six a day so I’m just trying to imagine them in weird situations doing weird things! That’s the thing: it’s all about building mental images and the weirder the images the better. But you do remember things; they do stick in your mind for a lot longer.”

Full interview with the Guardian


2014 WMC   12th – 14th December

Haikou, Hainan China

Congratulations to Sweden’s Jonas von Essen who wins the 2014 World Memory Championships from a field of  more than 160 competitors from 20 countries!



Jonas von essen

In a nail-biting final Jonas von Essen the 2013 defending champion clinched the Championship by successfully memorising a deck of shuffled playing cards in 35.55 seconds.

Simon Reinhard from Germany attempted 18.72 seconds which would have secured victory for him. However, it was just too much of an ask for Simon and after hitting an error on the third card he showed true sportsman-like generosity by immediately congratulating Jonas on a well-deserved win.

A strong performance was seen from Mongolia with four competitors in the Top Ten including bronze.

Gold: Jonas von Essen from Sweden

Silver: Simon Reinhard from Germany

Bronze: Sengesamdan Ulziikhutag   from Mongolia

4. Marwin Wallonius Sweden

5. Boris Konrad Germany

6. Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar Mongolia

7. Zheng Aigang China

8. Enkhmunkh Erdenebatkhaan Mongolia

9. Nelson Dellis USA

10. Bat-Erdene Tsogoo Mongolia

For full details of the Championships Stats follow this link:

2014 World Memory Championships Results

More on the Championships…

Overall Team  Ranking by Country:


WMC main logo copyThe 23rd World Memory Championships. 10 -14 December in Haikou, Hainan (Island), China’s Most Southern Province.Baohua-Harbour-View-Hotel-photos-Exterior
The venue for this year WMC was the Baohua Harbour View Hotel.  (Chinese Only)
 7th – 9th Dec Arrivals, Orientation, WMSC Meeting
 Wed 10th Day 0 Registration and Arbiter Training
 Thurs 11th Day 1 Competition
 Frid 12th Day 2 Competition
 Sat 13th Day 3 Competition
 Sun 14th Day 4 Closing Ceremony Daytime at Sports Stadium


About the Venue

Haikou on the northern coast of Hainan Island is the capital whilst Sanya is a well-known tourist destination on the south coast. Population 9 million 1 hour flight from Guangzhou or Hong Kong Will this give a competitive advantage to the 50% of competitors who flew half way around the world to compete in last year’s championships? Will be interesting to see what happens when the Jet Lag is on the other foot!! See you there!! Did You Know… The first World Memory Championships took place in London in 1991

World Memory Champions
Most Wins
Dominic O’Brien 8 UK
Ben Pridmore 3 UK
Andi Bell 3 UK
Jonas von Essen 2 Sweden
Wang Feng 2 China
Clemens Meyer 2 Germany
Johannes Mallow 1 Germany
Dr Gunther Karsten 1 Germany
Jonathan Hancock 1 UK


Ten different disciplines are conducted over the three days of the World Memory Championships. They are:

1. Names & Faces 15 min

2. Binary Numbers 30 min

3. Decimals 60 min

4. Abstract Images 15 min

5. Speed Numbers 5 min

6. Fictional Dates 5 min

7. Playing Cards 60 min

8. Random Words 15 min

9. Spoken Numbers  1 per second

10. Speed Cards 5 min

Scores are cumulative. The player with the most points at the end of the three days of the Championships is crowned The World Memory Champion for 2014.

There are four Age categories for competitors in a Memory Championship: Kids – must be 12 years or under in the calendar year of the competition. Junior – must be between 13 and 17 years old in the calendar year of the competition.

Adult – for those between the ages of 18 and 59 in the calendar year of the competition. Senior – for those 60 years and over in the calendar year of the competition.

Junior and Kid competitors may elect to compete in an adult competition if they desire. Their results will be listed separately from the Adult competition. MEDIA ENQUIRIES Please contact Chris Day, General Secretary WMSC Telephone +44 (0)7802211587 email:



Tony Buzan is acclaimed as the world’s most innovative educator. His passion is to teach children how to Use Their Heads and to acquire the essential skills of Mental Literacy. These include the Keys to Creativity, the Powers of Memory, Speed Reading and IQ, all channeled through his unique invention of the Mind Map. In search of his Quest, Tony has addressed, by Royal Invitation, the World’s Intellectual Elite at a conference of Nobel Laureates in Jordan. He has entranced vast crowds of aspiring schoolkids in Sierra Leone, Soweto and Sri Lanka. These are but a few of the destinations where he has carried the flaming torch of his powerful and inspirational message. “My dream is to Enlighten the Planet” Tony Buzan
Now Tony has joined forces, with the Educational Philanthropist, Dr Manahel Thabet, President for MENA”(Middle East and North Africa)” of the Global Brain Trust Charity to unleash the vast untapped resources of the planet’s young and educationally deprived. Read more

Study Finds Learning by Repetition Impairs Recall of Details

Technique does enhance key facts in memories but blurs nuance and complexity. When learning, practice doesn’t always make perfect. UC Irvine neurobiologists Zachariah Reagh and Michael Yassa have found that while repetition enhances the factual content of memories, it can reduce the amount of detail stored with those memories. This means that with repeated recall, nuanced aspects may fade away. In the study, which appears this month in Learning & Memory, student participants were asked to look at pictures either once or three times. They were then tested on their memories of those images. The researchers found that multiple views increased factual recall but actually hindered subjects’ ability to reject similar “imposter” pictures. This suggests that the details of those memories may have been shaken loose by repetition. This discovery supports Reagh’s and Yassa’s Competitive Trace Theory – published last year in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience – which posits that the details of a memory become more subjective the more they’re recalled and can compete with bits of other similar memories. The scientists hypothesize that this may even lead to false memories, akin to a brain version of the telephone game. Read more…

Scientists reverse memory loss in Alzheimer’s-afflicted mice

April 24, 2014 11:21am

MADRID, SPAIN – Spanish scientists have for the first time used gene therapy to reverse memory loss in mice with Alzheimer’s, an advance that could lead to new drugs to treat the disease, they said Wednesday.
The Autonomous University of Barcelona team injected a gene which causes the production of a protein that is blocked in patients with Alzheimer’s into the hippocampus — a region of the brian essential to memory processing — in mice that were in the initial stages of the disease.
“The protein that was reinstated by the gene therapy triggers the signals needed to activate the genes involved in long-term memory consolidation,” the university said in a statement.
Gene therapy involves transplanting genes into a patient’s cells to correct an otherwise incurable disease caused by a failure of one or another gene.
The finding was published in The Journal of Neuroscience and it follows four years of research.
“The hope is that this study could lead to the development of pharmaceutical drugs that can activate these genes in humans and allow for the recovery of memory,” the head of the research team, Carlos Saura, told AFP.
Alzheimer’s, caused by toxic proteins that destroy brain cells, is the most common form of dementia.
Worldwide, 35.6 million people suffer from the fatal degenerative disease, which is currently incurable, and there are 7.7 million new cases every year, according to a 2012 report from the World Health Organisation.
In 2010 the total global societal cost of dementia was estimated to be $604 billion, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International, a federation of Alzheimer associations around the world.