US Memory Champion, Nelson Dellis, on the Today Show

I was looking for this video of Nelson on the Today Show and just found it:

Here is some more coverage of the 2011 USA Memory Championship:


  • Nelson Dellis lives in Cambridge, MA and was at the book talk Foer gave at Brookline Booksellers. Dellis and Foer did a number recall demonstration. It was packed and the crowd (based on questions and questions i herd addressed to Dellis afterwards) clearly did not read the book or know much about memory sports, current memory techniques, etc.

    Dellis uses a memory palace. In the 5-minute numbers he used his grandmother’s house in France.

    I overheard him talking with others afterwards. He used a 2-digit phonetically based PAO system. He said he practiced 4 hours a day since the last championship.
    Josh, if you get down Ben’s system, and practice, you’ll mop the floor in the 2010 U.S. Memory Championship.

  • Sorry for the typos “heard”…”you’ll mop the floor in the 2012…”

  • Hehe.. I doubt it. I’m not in it to win competitions — just to do well, get my Grandmaster of Memory level, and promote memory techniques. 🙂

    I wish I could have been there to meet everyone…

  • I read somewhere that Nelson was using Dominic’s system but that Ron White told him to add an object to it.

    4 hours a day. Man that’s awesome! He deserved the win!

    Btw Josh would you be willing to share your Ben’s system images with me please?

    I’m using your phonetic system pdf to build images but it is taking too much time.

  • In heard Dellis tell someone that the number 9 is the sound “n” for him, which would be the same in the Dominic System. But the Dominic System is not really phonetic and that’s why I think it is superior. It gives less of a crutch while getting it down pat, but after that you never are not distracted by the representative sounds.

    I am still of the opinion that a PA system is better than a PAO one. IMO, I think two person with actions in a location (8 digits) would be easier to remember than a PAO in one location (6 digits). Dellis says he uses one PAO per location.

    Also, both Foer and Dellis use a memory palace rather than a journey like Dominic. Dominic clearly says that open spaces are preferable and more memorable.

  • I’ve heard several people say that they don’t like phonetic systems, but I think a lot of the problems that people mention about translating the numbers into sounds disappear after some practice. 🙂

    I used the Dominic system for about seven months, then experimented with the Major System, and eventually switched to a modified Ben System. The ease at remembering the numbers is the same, except more digits fit into a locus with a 1000 image system. Also, I don’t think anything approaches Ben’s system for binaries.

    With Ben’s system, a row of 30 (competition) binaries like this:

    can easily be marked with a pencil like this:

    And quickly translated into “car”, “Nostradamus”, “beaker” (though I’ve created all my images as one syllable sounds with a certain notation: “KAR”, “NOS”, “BIK” — I think of it as a kind of artificial language). I don’t think 10 binaries can be encoded at once without a phonetic system.

    It’s definitely brutal to learn in the early stages, but I’m convinced that it will pay off. 🙂

  • Btw Josh would you be willing to share your Ben’s system images with me please?

    I’m using your phonetic system pdf to build images but it is taking too much time.

    It definitely takes a long time. I’m still not done… 🙂

    I don’t have it computerized. It’s only handwritten. I could scan it and e-mail it to you this weekend, but there are still many images missing. Only my two digit system is complete…

  • I guess any system works but it all comes down to the person using the system.

    Dominic’s system works. Ben’s system works too. And now Fang’s 2 digits system does the job too. It all comes down to familiarity with the system.

    Yeah Josh, please email it to me and I’ll try to help you out with completing it. 🙂

  • Did you guys get Ben Pridmore’s book and is there useful info on his system in it?

  • Wow, I just watched a Japanese video of the 2010 World Memory Championships. It was all in Japanese, but they had a clip of Wang Feng explaining how he remembers numbers. It shows him leafing through a guide with 2-digit numbers each with a image. He uses the major system with loci in a room (small area w/o much distance between each).

  • Was it this video?

    I have Ben’s book. It doesn’t have much more information about his technique than what you can find online. I would love to see him expand it with a lot of details and examples… 🙂

  • Yep, this is the video. I wish the clips of Wang Feng discusiing his method could be translated into English. It is apparent he is simply using the unsophisticated old memory system of major system of roman roman. This should be evidence that it is all about practice than some sophisticated system. Wang Feng using the old system blew away the 3-digit PAO and Ben System.

    Both Scott Hagwood and Christiane Stenger, both Grandmasters of memory, use the 2-digit Major System (this is what they say in their memory books).

    So, now I have decided to stick with the major system, roman room (or nook and cranny or Vaughn Cube) and just practice 2 hours a day on my memory.

  • Btw Josh, my goal too is to get the title of Grandmaster of Memory. How can I do this w/o competing at the WMC? And what events/req’ts are currently needed to get this title?

  • Hi Dan,

    I, too found it amazing that Feng could achieve such results with such a system. I remember reading somewhere, I think it was an interview on Memory Sports, Ben saying that such a system is limited for competitions.

    But after having practised a bit and having analyzed the results, I came to the following conclusion.

    The hour events and the speed events are basically different and thus need different strategies. What works for the speed event may not work for the hour event.

    For example, for the speed card event, I usually manage it under 60s with a simple 1 card – 1 image system. Anything more elaborate than that and it takes me more time to encode the cards into images and place them on the loci.

    But using the same system, it becomes much more difficult keeping track of 10 pack of cards.

  • Hey Dan, you can participate in the Cambridge Championship, UK Open and the german ones I think. And now Chinese Competitions too.

  • I’ve started adding qualifying competitions to the wiki:

  • @Dan
    By the way, I’m working on getting the important parts of the video translated soon…