Edited Transcript – Facebook Live by Phil Chambers 22/3/2020 (see video below)

Hello and welcome to this Facebook Live. This time talking about the binary digits – the second discipline in the World Memory Championships. 

I’d like to start by telling you a story from the Schools’ Memory Championship. In the school championship, we don’t have penalty points because, of course, we want to encourage the kids and give them credit for what they memorise and not penalise them for any mistakes. So in binary, you get one point per digit, as I say, no penalties. We had a very clever kid in one of the competitions, and he came up with a really great strategy to, not break the rules, but make use of the rules to best effect, When memorising, he just counted the number of ones in each row and the number of zeros in each row. He just memorised the line numbers of the rows that had more ones than zeros, so he only had to memorise about maybe 10 to 15 numbers or so. In his recall phase, he just wrote entirely ones in the rows with more ones than zeros, and zeros everywhere else. So he knew that although he was going to get a lot wrong, he was guaranteed to earn some points from each of the rows he attempted, so he wrote down, maybe 20 or so rows, and he got loads points, more so than if he’d actually memorised any of the binary. Of course, we couldn’t give him the medal for that. Yet he won the competition, we couldn’t him the medal, because it was against the spirit of competition. We did give him a special dispensation for his initiative: Very clever way of using the rules to his best effect. Of course, you can’t do that in the World Championships because we have the penalty whereby if you make one mistake in a row, you lose half the row, two mistakes, you score zero, so very, very tough penalties. 

However, there are certain things you can do to help you out when you’re memorising. You might think, “How on Earth can they memorise all those ones and zeros?” It’s almost impossible to do from the lay-person’s point of view. But of course, what the competitors do is they take groups of numbers (groups of ones and zeros) and they convert them to a decimal Then they memorise the decimal rather than actually memorising the ones and zeros themselves, and then convert it back when they do their recall. So if you take three binary digits, 001 becomes one, 010 becomes two, etc. You just convert it into decimal. If you take in threes, and then two groups of three, you end up with a group of six. A two digit number makes a group of six and then you just memorise those across the line – convert the two digit numbers into objects or people and then you only need five locations to memorise those objects to give you a line of 30. It becomes a lot easier than it appears when you’re just memorising ones and zeros. 

One way of getting extra points for free, if you like, is, as long as your final row that you recall is an entire row, it’s worth writing one digit on the on the next row down. Because the rule states you get half of what you attempted for one mistake. If you get the digit right you score a point, if wrong, you score half a point, but we round up the score. So you get one point absolutely for free just by writing one digit down. Of course, one point in the scheme things is not a great deal but often the championship does come down to a very, very tight margin. If you can get free point it is well worth it. If you write down two digits on your last line, you have to take a slight gamble because you won’t guarantee points. You have a 75% likelihood of getting points, because if you got both digits right, then you score two points. Of course, if you got the first one, right, and the second one wrong, you score one point. The first one wrong and second one, right, you also score one point. If you got both of them wrong, you score zero. So, in fact, in three out of four possibilities, you will score points. So it’s a reasonably good gamble. But there is the slight chance that you will get zero points rather than the one point you’re guaranteed by writing down the single digit. But either way, there’s nothing to lose, you don’t lose any points for adding something on that final line. So it’s well worth doing. But if you guess three digits, you’re then starting to move into more ‘evens’ territory, it’s going to be much more of a gamble, so I wouldn’t do more than two. But by writing down two, you’ve got a reasonably good chance of at least scoring some extra points that you wouldn’t otherwise have. And you don’t actually have to memorise those two digits, they’re just there because of a consequence of the way the rules are described. 

So always when you’re doing memory competitions, learn the rules. And then you can use the rules to your advantage just like that kid did in the Schools’ Championships. So hopefully this has been a useful, quick description of the Binary competition. 

Next week, we’re going to look at the next discipline. 

Bye for now. 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai