The USA Memory Championship was founded in 1997 by Tony Dottino and Marshall Tarley. It is an annual one-day event open to US citizens that invites competitors of age 10 and older to compete for the opportunity to be recognized as the national US Memory Champion.
Participants compete in 4 events in the morning (qualifiers) and the top performers in the qualifying events compete in 3 afternoon events. Morning events are traditional “paper and pencil” events, including names and faces, random numbers, a poem, and a deck of cards. Afternoon events consist of Words to Remember, Three Strikes and You’re Out (interactive names and faces), and Double Deck Or Bust (two decks of cards). Because of their interactive nature, afternoon events are more popular with the audience and create a tension similar to a live sports championship.
The USAMC was held in New York City from 1997 to 2015, moving in 2016-2017 to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The 2nd annual team competition and qualifying round for the 20th anniversary event will be held in Harrisburg, PA in March 2018. The 20th Championship finals will be held at MIT (Cambridge, MA) in July 2018.
For the first half of its existence, USAMC participants had typically received little formal training on memory skills. A watershed moment in USAMC was the year that Josh Foer won the event (2006) and subsequently published the book on his training for the event (Moonwalking with Einstein).
Over the years, level of performance has greatly improved, and elite MAs prepare for the event by practicing hours per day. To reflect this new level of professionalism, the USAMC coined the term Mental Athletes. Many US MAs compete in international competitions, and the performance of elite US MAs is comparable to the best in the world. Many retired former champions now have lucrative careers as public speakers and/or memory experts.
Although the professional MAs are the most visible and successful USAMC competitors, the largest demographic of MAs are from Pennsylvania high schools. These teenagers typically compete as both individuals and on a school team. Interest from this demographic and from hobbyists have been the largest drivers of the increase in the number of competitors.
The USAMC has been televised in 3 years of its existence; twice by HDTV and once by Discovery Network. The event has been covered in dozens of newspapers across the country, and articles have been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and USA Today. The event has generated interest in the entertainment industry from both production companies (Fox Productions, dick clark productions, IMG, ITV) and broadcast networks (ESPN, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, Discovery, Nat Geo, HBO Sports).
Prior event sponsors have included Con Edison, British Airways, Subway, and Dottino Consulting Group. Sponsorship has also been provided by various companies offering “wellness” products and by a technology company that specializes in computer hardware for memory storage. Previous guest speakers at the event have included brain/neuroscience experts such as Dr. Richard Restak, Dr. Majid Fotuhi, Dr. David Perlmutter and Dr. Robert Ajemian.