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The Speed Cards Discipline

Edited transcript – Facebook Live by Phil Chambers 31/5/20

Hello and welcome to this Facebook Live talking about the discipline of Speed Cards in the World Memory Championships. It’s the most exciting discipline because it’s the final event and often the entire championship is decided by the Speed Cards. There’s lots of tension with strategy. There’s always the question of has someone overstretched themselves, gone too fast and made mistakes? Have they got their full 52 cards correct in a record breaking time? There’s lots of interesting things that happen in this event. Think about watching binary numbers. It’s like watching paint dry, but the speed cards is media friendly and exciting to watch. 

Way back in the early days. They used to have an arbiter for each competitor standing behind them with a stopwatch. This presented a number of difficult questions. First of all was, what was the signal? Obviously, the competitor had to signal to the timer when they’d finished. There was often some confusion as to how they would signal to make sure that it was obvious they had finished their memorization. If they went through the cards more than once they had to make sure that when they finished their second go through, the cards were on the desk and the arbiter could stop their stopwatch in time. Also, the other question was when it comes down to fractions of a second, how fast would the reaction times of the person with the stopwatch be? If somebody had a quicker reaction time then that could advantage one competitor over another. 

We came up with a solution – the “Speed Stacks Timer” which has two pressure pads. The competitor starts the timer by releasing either one of their hands, then they put both hands back on the pressure pads to stop the timer after memorisation. There’s no question about reaction time. There’s no question about signalling. It’s far, far fairer and there’s no way you can really cheat. It’s a much better system for timing. Of course the aim is to get 52 cards correct as fast as possible. As soon as you get the first mistake in the deck, we stop checking at that point. If you get less than 52 your time is set to five minutes so you don’t get many points. 

There is a strategy you can use if you do get less than a deck to give you a better chance of getting at least some points on the board. You can always choose whether to check top down or bottom up. For example, if you think your 10th card is wrong, and you start from the back of the deck working forwards, you’ll get 42 points. Whereas, if you start from the front of the deck going the other way, you only get nine points. Depending on your choice of whether you ask the arbiter to mark from the bottom up or the top down determines how many points you get. As the idea is to get 52 cards correct you won’t get many additional points though for less than a full deck. In fact, a lot of the top competitors will just declare zero if they know they haven’t got a full deck. It’s just not worth checking. 

We’ve done all the disciplines now, so next week I’ll go on to a slightly different topic – looking at some of the memory heroes of yesteryear. I look forward to talking to you about that. 

In the meantime, stay safe and have a good week. 

Bye for now.

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