Now in its 15th year, the USA Memory Championship in New York City seeks to find the person with the best recall capacity in the country. And for a second year in a row, Miami's Nelson Dellis, a 27-year-old man who competes on behalf of his Alzheimer-afflicted grandmother, has won the title, beating 50 other memorythletes.
The meet is divided into seven sections, Mnemotechnics.org reports:
1. Names & Faces: You get 15 minutes to memorize as many names and faces as possible, and another 20 to recall them.
2. 5-Minute Numbers: Dellis won this by memorizing 303 digits in five minutes, breaking his own record. He did it by visualizing a "memory journey through a house in the Bahamas." (Dellis also says he assigns people to certain number arrangement: "When I see 3-0, it's Conan O'Brien."
3. Poetry: You get 15 minutes to memorize an unpublished poem, another 20 to recall it. Punctuation counts.
4. Speed Cards: A deck of shuffled playing cards must be recalled, in order. You get five minutes. Dellis came in first, recalling them in 1 minute, 27 seconds.
5. 200 Random Words Elimination Round: 15 minutes, 200 words.
6. Tea Party Round: Five people offer 30 seconds of personal information about themselves. The five finalists must then must recall the information. Three mistakes and they were out.
7. Final Card Sudden Death: More random card recollection insanity, this time using multiple decks.
Dellis insists he isn't a savante, and that his superhuman memory is a result of extreme training, like any Olympic-level athlete. (He's also an actual athlete. He climbs mountains, dedicating his recent journey to the peak of Mt. Everest to his grandmother.) Watch Dellis train, and explain the methods behind his training, in this CNN interview:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.