Memory Competitions

In my first competition, I was delighted to win the 2017 Senior division (over 60) of the Australian Memory Championships as run by the IAM (International Association of Memory).

There were 10 events in a total of 12 trials involving memorising shuffled decks of cards, lists of words, names for faces, the order of images and strings of numbers in both normal digits and binary.

In the image below, we are memorising the order of a shuffled deck of cards. From left in this row of competitors, or memory athletes, as we are known: Anastasia Woolmer (AUS), Chris Griffin (New Zealand), me (AUS) and Takeru Aoki( Japan). The International event was won by Liu Renjie of China closely followed by Kwon Soon-Moon Orissam of South Korea.

The Australian National title was won by Anastasia Woolmer for the second year in a row.

I competed in the Australian Memory Championships for a second time in November 2018, despite my writing in The Memory Code that I could never do it. Yet again, I found the pressure difficult to handle. By the end of the second day of competition, my brain was mush and my nerves frayed.

The competition was again run by the IAM and organised by Tansel Ali. There were ten events, including memorising shuffled decks of cards and long lists of numbers, both integers and binary. We memorised pages of names to match faces, dates of imagined events, images in order and lists of words. And all under strict time limits. It is really high pressure and I don’t handle pressure well at all.

Motoro Ohno

We had international guests, competitors from Japan, China and Indonesia. The entire competition was won by Motoro Ohno from Japan. The Japanese team was led by Takeru Aoki (at right in the picture below). Also part of the team was Hiroshi Abe (on the left).

Hiroshi is a Senior (over 60) and came with the express purpose of competing with me. He is higher in the IAM rankings, and rightly so. But these competitions have a harsh side with the scoring. A mistake in a row of numbers of the suit of a card and you can end up with a score of zero for the row or the card trial. You need to make a decision. Do you go for speed and risk accuracy or take the careful way out and go slower, hoping to be more accurate?

Hiroshi Abe (Japan, Senior), Lynne Kelly (Australia, Senior) and Takeru Oaki (Japan, Open)

Knowing I don’t handle pressure well, I went far slower than I did in training, but was mostly accurate. Hiroshi was faster but had some accuracy slips and ended up scoring a few zeros. But the end of the competition, I had beaten him comfortably. I would not have managed it had he been on form!

I won the Senior section and retained my Australian Senior Memory Champion title. As there have been no Australian competitions since, I am still the reigning Senior champion.

The Australian Memory Champion for the last two years, Anastasia Woolmer, was unable to compete due to illness. I was really disappointed to miss spending time with her again. She would have had tough competition from Zeshaan Khokhar who took the 2018 Australian Memory Champion title.

Lynne Kelly ( Australian, Senior), Zeshaan Khokhar (2018 Australian Memory Champion).

I now do most of my training on Memory League, a really fun way for anyone who wants to start playing around with memory competitions.

You can compete against others at your level, but I just compete with myself. Click on the images to try it out. You need to register but the first levels are free.

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The training screen. There are five events: cards, images, names, numbers and words.

All help for getting started is available through the super-friendly associated forum at Art Of Memory

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12 thoughts on “Memory Competitions”

  1. Hello Lynne! I am very excited about your upcoming book, and have put the date on my calendar (my current memory device). Will it be available in the US as well, or only in Australia? Many thanks for all your amazing work.

    Also, I really like your red ribbon down your braid. Is that a mnemonic device?

    1. Hi Anne
      Thank you so much for your enthusiasm for Memory Craft. It will be published first in Australia but available globally through Book Depository. The US publisher has not been settled yet.

      I am chuffed that you like my ribbon. I have ribbons to match everything I wear. Lots of colours and various lengths. I have thought about trying it as a memory device but not worked out how yet. The number of crossovers varies depends on the thickness of the ribbon. I wonder if I consistently used a patterned scarf or ribbon if that would be consistent enough to use as a device? I must try that! Thank you for the prompt!

      Ahh – I just thought of one which might just work. Excuse me. I have some playing to do …


      1. Oh, awesome! One of the reasons I am looking forward to your book, is that I am thinking that clothing and self-adornment (tattoos?) were probably often memory devices (helloOOOO embroidery!), and I’m wondering how I might want to structure that. How a woman wears her hair could definitely be an interesting “device”, perhaps dictated less by society and more by what she chooses to master? Just thinking, here… Also, what do Rapscallions wear? So many possibilities!

        1. Tattoos definitely were mnemonic in traditional cultures. Clothes are certainly! I talk about jewellery in particular in Memory Craft. I have beaded necklaces as mnemonic devices for Shakespeare’s plays. But that was just stringing them on a a thread. I have so many plans to bead up memory devices – Native American’s certainly did it with their wampum belts and the Luba people of Africa did it with their headdresses (oops, I didn’t mention that in Memory Craft – too late now). And knotted cords like the khipu/quipu I wear as a belt/ hangover-my-skirt decoration. Embroidery – the best I know is the Paracas Textile in the Brooklyn Museum:

          But that was the method with the Bayeaux Tapestry and so many others. The possibilities are endless – and there are so many that I couldn’t mention them all in the book. Learning and having creative fun at the same time. How much better does it get?


          1. All right! Woo hoo! Thank you for all these fascinating things to investigate.

            I’ll offer you this: have you read the books of Martín Prechtel? He’s from New Mexico, and was trained in Guatemalan Mayan shamanic practice in the 60s. His books, sponsored by Robert and Ruth Bly, are: Secrets of the Talking Jaguar; Long Life, Honey in the Heart; The Toe Bone and the Tooth (aka Stealing Benefacio’s Roses); The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic; The Smell of Rain on Dust (Grief and Praise), and perhaps some others. There is quite a lot there about indigenous traditions, but what moved me the most was a paper he wrote about backstrap loom weaving as a “metaphor” (metaphor is its own metaphor in a non-to-be language) for the human body. (I will see if I can find this, I think I just have a photocopy) Some of it is mentioned in his earlier books, about the layers of clothing that signify the layers of knowledge and accomplishment within the community. If you have not read them, or heard of them, yet, I enthusiastically suggest that you do. He currently has a school, in his native New Mexico, called Bolad’s Kitchen, or He there imparts the wisdom he has gathered from his worldwide travels, including with shamans (and their like) of Mongolia, North Africa, and Europe. Anyways, your and his writings have led me to wonder if the human body (and its clothing and ornamentations) is not properly its own memory device? After thinking about Mayan calendrics (a “twenty” is both a fully made human (# of digits) and a span of time (multiplied by the number of major human joints, 13, makes 260, the number of days in the Mayan calendar, and totally related to the weaving mentioned above, oh my gosh I don’t even know how to explain….) The 13 joints are used in the setup of the backstrap loom weaving, I don’t even have the words for this. In any case, the calendar itself is a kind of weaving into life, similar to the Fates of ancient Greece, with their spinning and snipping of threads. OK, I’ll stop there. Rambling for sure…

          2. Hi Anne,

            Apologies for taking so long. I have been interstate working with a museum on revamping their First Peoples display and approach for the next 5 years. Very exciting. But I am back home now and normality resumes. I love normality.

            Thank you so much for all this information. I have looked at Martín Prechtel’s website. I did not know about his work. I look forward to checking that out some more. I love the artwork on the site, although I see it in some windows and not others. Very confusing!

            As for the human body, clothes and jewellery as memory devices. I talk about that in Memory Craft which is now on my publisher’s website, but not published util June.


            Thank you for such enthusiastic communications!


  2. WOW
    Well Done Lynne!
    Do some competitors have advantage of Photographic Memory ??

    New Book !
    Well Done again

    I will have to come “out” in June to the signings !
    After reading your first book I learnt about “songlines”, so I then went to BUANGOR in Ararat to protect an Aboriginal songlines from eradication.
    We Are still there !!
    There is also a huge area that still has scattered and concentrated artefacts…culturally modified trees, Birthing Trees and a strong spiritual “directions” tree.
    I hope we can prevent the destruction of these things.
    Your book helped get me there !

    1. Thank you! I am so pleased to have been part of such an important action at Buangor.

      The general belief in neuroscience is that no-one has a photographic memory. Some people have very good memories, but when tested in terms of the details that a photograph would record, no-one can do it. If anyone did have a photographic memory, they would blitz memory competitions and not need to use the methods. No such competitor has appeared. I’d love to see that happen!

      Memory athletes are often people like me who had bad or average memories and wanted to do better hence looked at training their memories. I suspect the really top memory champions do have good natural memories. I’m not one of them! I’m doing well as a Senior, though! I beat some competitors much younger than me. All good fun – if a tad stressful.

      Thank you for your comments!


    1. Hi Pete,

      It’s good to hear from you. Memory Craft will be in all bookshops from June 3. It will also be online at Booktopia (Australia) and Book Depository (global) and many other online sites.

      I do hope that all is well with you way up north!


      1. A little water on the brain up here Lynne, with all the rain. But otherwise I am doing well thanks.
        I hope you have great success with this book.

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