Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Wang Feng

Wang Feng may not be a name on the tip of  cricketers' tongues.  Cricketers may stare blankly....but the grey matter is working - didn't Wang Feng made his name in an associate team in the Cricket World Cup of 2007? - or was it 2003?...............it was something like Wang Feng?...........wasn't he that roly-poly all-rounder from, now, where was it?............yes, yes Weng Feng that was him.......whatever happened to him?

Cricketers straining the brain in this way are on the wrong track - big time. Their memory is playing tricks with them.  And that is the point - for Wang Feng is the reigning world Memory Champion and begins the defence of his title on 6 December in China.  There will be 62 competitors from 19 countries in this elite sporting event.  There would have been 63, but Fantasy Bob forgot to send his application in on time.  He has decided to enter the obvious jokes championships instead.

Wang Feng having his brain pointed at
Memory competitions are one of a set of Mind Sports which rarely feature in the back pages of the newspapers, or the front or middle pages for that matter either.  FB discovers that there are also championships in Speed Reading, IQ, Creativity and Mind Mapping.  But Memory is the biggest.  So far these haven't really caught on as a spectator sport - largely because its action consists of people looking at things, remembering them and then writing them down in the order that they saw them or a different order as required by the competition.  Dynamic on field action is absent, almost like Scottish football.

Wang Feng and his competitors will undergo a series of tests including memorising the order of packs of cards - both a sprint, over 5 minutes, and a middle distance event over an hour.  There is memorising strings of random digits and binary sequences. Other disciplines include putting names to faces and ordering randomly generated shapes.

The current world record for memorising packs of cards in 30 minutes is 7 packs.   Wang Feng's world record for memorising digits in 5 minutes is 12 rows of 40 digits.  FB feels slightly dizzy in recording these feats.  It is a far cry from his days of playing Kim's game in the Wolf Cubs (FB's personal record 4 objects including the tray and the cloth...and the table...and the rug under the table.

These disciplines test the raw cognitive muscle and are content and meaning free.  The material is remembered specifically to be forgotten.   There are established mnemonic techniques which these contestants use and practice.  Apparently Feng practices for 7 hours a day.  FB has no idea if any of the contestants are any use when it comes to anything useful like cricket statistics.  Could they recite the outcome of every ball, all 582 of them, of Brian Lara's Test record innings of 400* in 2004?  There would be some point in that.

It is time for Memory Sport and real sport to join up to their mutual advantage. FB wishes to propose a new test for the next Memory Championships.  Each contestant should watch a T20 cricket match and record it down afterwards dot for dot.  After all this is only 240 events over 2 and a half hours - compared to 7 packs of cards in 30 minutes this seems too easy.  But it would be a start.

..................now, where is FB's application form for the Obvious Jokes Championships.  He is sure he had it a moment ago................

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