Poly student scores personal bests in Open Memory Championships; Singapore 7th overall

Singapore Polytechnic student Ng Cheng Yu (left) managed to memorise a string of 132 binary numbers and recall the order of 25 playing cards in a deck during the second Singapore Open Memory Championships.
Singapore Polytechnic student Ng Cheng Yu (left) managed to memorise a string of 132 binary numbers and recall the order of 25 playing cards in a deck during the second Singapore Open Memory Championships.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - He started training in memory sports just two months ago, but Singapore Polytechnic (SP) student Ng Cheng Yu managed to memorise a string of 132 binary numbers and recall the order of 25 playing cards in a deck during the second Singapore Open Memory Championships.

Competing in all 10 events, which took place over the weekend (Sept 30 and Oct 1) at SP, Mr Ng, 18, forged several personal bests and climbed his way to 48th place out of 80 international competitors aged as young as eight and as old as 81.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Soh Wee Teng, 20, emerged as overall champion and walked away with $1,500 at the event, which was co-organised by SP, the Singapore Polytechnic Graduates' Guild and the Singapore Memory Sports Association (SMSA). There were participants from 12 countries.

Singapore Management University student Kenneth Tan was the highest scorer for Team Singapore, placing 7th overall. Mr Tan, 23, has six Singapore memory records under his belt, and  is ranked 180 in the world, according to the International Association of Memory.

During the final speed card round, Mr Ng, a Year 2 engineering and business student, was given five minutes to memorise a shuffled deck of 52 cards, and another five to rearrange another deck in matching order.

Using the linking technique, in which a story is created using images and items to aid memorisation, he bested his personal record by seven cards.

"I didn't have time to memorise the whole deck; I still need to practice... Around 50 out of 80 isn't bad for my first (competition) though," he said.

Mr Ng and a group of friends from SP formed an interest group two months ago to learn memory techniques, and received training from SMSA president Wellon Chou and vice-president Gerald Lim, both of whom are SP alumni, for the competition.

"It would have helped with our exams but since we started after exams, it's a bit wasted," quipped Mr Ng.

Japanese contestant Hiroshi Abe, 67, emerged as champion in the senior category - his sixth medal in as many international memory championships.

Mr Abe, who flew to Singapore for the competition, placed second in the same category of the World Memory Championships held here last year.

The retired school teacher began practising memory exercises six years ago to help with learning different languages, and can now speak English, Korean and Mandarin, which he demonstrated to The Straits Times.

"I want to make my world wider... I will keep doing this until the end," he said.