USA Memory Championship Events

The USA Memory Championship is a tournament style competition of memory games to challenge our competitors, known as Mental Athletes. The event is done in two stages: Qualifying Events (online virtual) and Championship Events (live staged events).  

USA Memory Champion: The top scoring MAs from the Qualifying Events advance to the Championship Round, known as the Finals, to determine the USA Memory Champion for the year.

Qualifying Events

MAs must compete in all four events to be considered for the Championship Round. Raw Scores for individual events will be calculated into Championship Points utilizing a Bell Curve and will be rounded to two decimal places. After all four events, the top scoring MAs will advance to the Championship Round.

Mental Athletes will have 15 minutes to memorize 135 color photos of different people (head and shoulder shots as demonstrated above) with a first and second name written below each picture. Maximum score for this event is 270 points.

Once the memorization period is over, competitors are given 20 minutes for recall. Mental Athletes are given the same photos again but without the names and in a different order from the memorization sheet.

A point is awarded for every correctly spelled name, either first or last. No points are awarded for phonetic spellings. No more than TWO names may be presented for recall per image. Incorrect guesses do not result in a loss of points.

Cindy Smith
Cindy Smith
Ralph Bryant
Ralph Bryant

Mental Athletes will have 5 minutes to memorize one page of computer-generated numbers which are presented in rows of 20 digits with 25 rows per page. Competitors start with the first digit in the first row and continue with consecutive rows. Skipping rows is not permitted.  Once a row is skipped, scoring stops.  Maximum score for this event is 500 points.

Once the memorization period is over, the Mental Athletes have 10 minutes for recall. There are 2 trials for this event (with new numbers for each attempt) and the best score is awarded.

20 points are awarded for every complete row that is correctly recalled in order.  Any mistake in a row scores zero points for that row, even if it is completed.

Scoring continues using the completed rows that were attempted.  Points are awarded for each correct row independently.  (A mistake in a prior or subsequent row does not stop scoring.)

For the final row completed, scoring is different. If the final row is partially complete but all of the digits are correct, then the points awarded will equal the number of digits recalled.

Speed Numbers
Memory Athlete

The object of speed cards is to commit to memory and recall a single pack of 52 playing cards in the shortest possible time. There are two trials for this event and the best score is awarded.

Mental Athletes have 5 minutes to memorize a freshly shuffled pack of 52 playing cards. For Mental Athletes who want to try and memorize the complete pack in less than 5 minutes, a judge is nearby with a stopwatch to record the precise moment memorization stopped. The recall takes place after the entire 5 minute memorization period is complete.

Once the memorization period is over, the Mental Athletes have 5 minutes for recall. After the memorizing phase, everybody gets a second stack of cards which is in perfect order (e.g.; 2 of diamonds, 3 of diamonds, 4 of diamonds.). The second stack of cards must be put in the same sequence as the memorized one. 

After the recall phase, both stacks are put beside each other on the table with the card on the top marking the beginning of checking/ scoring. The Judge compares each card from the memorized stack with each card on the recall stack at the same position. If there is a discrepancy, only the cards to this point will be counted.

The Mental Athlete who recalls all 52 cards with the shortest memorization time wins the event. If no one correctly recalls an entire pack, one point is awarded per card correctly recalled in sequence. The first mistake made ends scoring. To score a time bonus all 52 cards must be correctly recalled. The best score from the two attempts will count.

Mental Athletes have 15 minutes to memorize a previously unpublished poem.

Once the memorization period is over, Mental Athletes have 20 minutes for recall. Competitors must recall the poem from the beginning by writing it down exactly as it was written (including the title and author). Mental Athletes must make it clear where one line ends and the next line begins as well as indicate where lines were omitted from their recall. A maximum of 2 consecutive omitted lines is allowed before scoring ends. Multiple lines may be omitted but must be marked clearly.

Points are awarded for correctly recalling:

  • every correctly spelled word
  • every incidence of a capital letter
  • each punctuation mark (to include italics, underlining)

Each line has a different number of points available. Zero mistakes in the line scores all of the points. One or more mistakes in the line scores 0 points. The last line is scored differently. A partially completed final line scores for the portion remembered as long as the partial line is correct.

Carpe Diem
By: Patricia Anne Pinson

The horizon beyond me is vast,
And possibilities are infinite.
There are chasms, cracks, and cliffs up ahead.
But I am ready
To seize the day.

To my left,
Are the people who were with me from the start –
They are walking, slowly, closer to me.
The smiles on their faces tell me,
They’re here to help me on my journey.
On my right,
Are the friends I have made along the way.
They hold banners with my name,
And shout words of encouragement.
They believe in me.

Behind me,
Are all of the mistakes I have made on the way.
While I would rather not remember them,
I have learned something from each one of them.
And I will not look nor turn back.

Ahead of me,
Is darkness, pitch black.
The uncertainty of the future is intimidating,
But I know what my ultimate goal is.
I am ready for the journey.

My legs begin to move,
And my feet pound against the ground.
Despite the obstacles that arise,
And the amount of times I get knocked down,
I still press onward.

I am beaten, bruised, and bloodied.
And I’ve lost some companions along the way.
They were not ready to face this.
But I know that I am.
So I press onward.

My feet ache, my legs burn,
My chest heaves up and down.
As I trek onwards, the difficulties get greater and greater,
But I refuse to give in; I refuse to back down from this.
I will come out of this stronger than I ever was before.

And as I feel like I’m ready to collapse,
I can see a faint, shimmering light in the distance.
My fatigue washes away as I take off, running,
And reach for that beacon of Hope.
I have finally made it.

I look to my left and right,
And I see that some of my friends have left me.
But most of them are still here.
They were the ones who held true to my values.
“Carpe diem.”

Championship Events

Each of the announced events is conducted in a round-robin style tournament.   

The Championship Events, not necessarily in order, are:

Finalists have 15 minutes to memorize a list of 300 words organized numerically in five columns with 20 words per column (3 pages).  Memorization starts at the first word of column 1. The word list is comprised of concrete nouns, abstract nouns, adjectives and verbs. 

Once the memorization period is over, the Finalists are randomly ordered to begin the oral recall of words.  

Recall begins with the first word in the first column and continues consecutively. Each Finalist is allowed up to 15 seconds to answer. A Finalist is eliminated when either incorrectly recalling a word or failing to recall a word. One error or omission per Finalist results in elimination.  

In the event of a “tie” where all 300 words have been recalled successfully without eliminating the required Finalists, remaining Finalists advance to the next round.

TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: Two MAs will represent each school.  The MAs will be seated from the lowest to highest seeded school, and an MA from the lowest seeded school will be asked to begin the oral recall of words.  MAs who fail to recall the correct word are eliminated.  When both MAs representing a school are eliminated, that school is eliminated. Play continues until two schools are eliminated.

1. fairy
2. acorn
3. jam
4. drown
5. noodle
6. lamp
7. hotel
8. cloud
9. palm
10. raft
11. essay
12. ink
13. onion
14. bargain
15. kangaroo
16. moon
17. tree
18. snail
19. queen
20. good
21. vase
22. young
23. cabin
24. ear
25. jelly
26. arcade
27. girl
28. igloo
29. wrist
30. dwarf
31. meat
32. urge
33. kite
34. nickel
35. ball
36. zebra
37. forget
38. letter
39. heart
40. ocean
41. alarm
42. vein
43. pity
44. cactus
45. factory
46. tongue
47. yolk
48. hammer
49. rant
50. bean
51. jaguar
52. wreath
53. gallery
54. quiet
55. isle
56. duck
57. umbrella
58. earth
59. swell
60. key
61. magic
62. list
63. skin
64. question
65. yard
66. octopus
67. uplift
68. beetle
69. ditch
70. reptile
71. zoom
72. neck
73. ace
74. tomato
75. vulture
76. castle
77. poor
78. fiber
79. wig
80. empire
81. lump
82. hair
83. tarantula
84. rail
85. grace
86. organ
87. wagon
88. angel
89. jacket
90. night
91. bowl
92. knock
93. patio
94. ulcer
95. image
96. venom
97. mother
98. quit
99. shrine
100. yarn

Finalists have 15 minutes to hear and review facts about 6 different people. The information may include name, date of birth, address, phone number, pet, favorite hobbies, favorite car, and favorite foods. The information will be presented to the MAs both orally and in a Mind Map.


First Person

  • Name (first, middle, last): Rebekah Lynn Hughey
  • Date of Birth (month, date, year): August 26, 1976
  • Residence (city, state, zip code): Pittsburgh, PA 15212
  • Phone number:  919-225-1146
  • Pet (type, color, name): black tarantula Sweetie
  • Favorite 3 hobbies: watching baseball, writing, playing bridge
  • Favorite car (year, make/model, color): 2019 Audi Q5 white
  • Favorite 3 foods: peas, Brussels sprouts, Primanti sandwiches

Once the review period is over, Finalists are randomly selected and ordered to begin recall of information.   Each of the six people are brought back on stage, but in a different order than they appeared. 

The host asks the first MA to begin recall with the first piece of information about the guest on stage.  With a correct answer, the host asks the second MA to recall the second piece of information about the guest.  If an MA answers incorrectly, they receive a strike and recall proceeds to the next MA.  Play continues until either 1) an MA correctly recalls the information, or 2) every MA incorrectly recalls the information and receives a strike.

Each Finalist is allowed no more than 15 seconds to answer. All pieces of information presented must be correct as well as complete (i.e., date of birth must include correct month, date and year).

Each Finalist is allowed 3 incorrect or incomplete answers before being eliminated from the competition. 

In the event of a tie or if all guests are correctly recalled, the remaining Finalists advance to the next event.

TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: Two MAs will represent each school. All information recalled must be correct as well as complete (e.g., date of birth must include correct month, date and year).   The team of MAs representing a school will be allowed 3 incorrect or incomplete answers per MA (6 in total) before their school is eliminated.

5 minutes to memorize 2 decks of 52 playing cards. All Finalists have identical decks of cards, previously arranged to be in the same exact order. The decks of cards are not mixed together and will have different colored backs to distinguish them.   The order of memorization AND recall (top to bottom or vice versa) will be determined prior to the beginning of memorization.

Once the memorization period is over, Finalists have a 2-minute break prior to beginning recall. Finalists are randomly ordered prior to the beginning of the recall period. Each Finalist is allowed up to 15 seconds to answer. After the Finalist calls the card, the host flips the card in the master deck to determine if the Finalist is correct. An incorrectly recalled card eliminates the Finalist from competition. 

***   In the event that there is a TIE in Double Deck Or Bust, the following tie-breaker will be used:

2 decks are shuffled TOGETHER for a total of 104 cards.  Identically arranged decks are presented to each Finalist.   The order of memorization AND recall is TOP CARD DOWN (the first card is on top when the deck is placed face down on the table).  Card backs are the same color.  

MAs have 60 seconds for memorization.  There will be a 1-minute break between memorization and recall.  Finalists are randomly ordered prior to the beginning of the recall period.  Each Finalist is allowed up to 15 seconds to answer.   After the Finalist calls the card, the Host flips the card in the master deck to determine if the Finalist is correct.  An incorrectly recalled card eliminates the Finalist from competition. 

TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: The remaining two teams will choose one Mental Athlete to represent them to compete in the final event.

Approximately one month prior to the USA Championship @ MIT, information will be sent to all Finalists that will be used to test their long-term recall.  Subjects previously tested include The Periodic Table (element name, abbreviation, atomic weight, etc.), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  (inductee name, year inducted, famous song, etc.), Football Hall of Fame (inductee name, year inducted, team, position, etc.), and the Academy Awards (year, best picture, best actress, best actor, etc.). The information will be presented in a spreadsheet and have multiple columns of information per row. 

Selection of topic categories will alternate after each complete round. Difficulties will be as follows (one round being all Finalists are presented with a question):

  1. At least two rounds of level 1 questions 
  2. Move on to rounds of level 2 questions
  3. Move on to rounds of level 3 questions
  4. Infinite level four until MAs have been eliminated

For example, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 


2018 Moody Blues Nights in White Satin Anne Wilson

2018 Nina Simone Bye Bye Blackbird Mary J Blige

2001 Solomon Burke Cry To Me Mary J Blige

2008 John Mellencamp Hurts So Good Billy Joel

1999 Billy Joel Piano Man Ray Charles

Questions will be driven by completed rounds (all Finalists having attempted a question) of deeper detailed information:

First level: the basic information

Second level: Includes the basics plus another data bit

Third level: Includes second level plus additional information

Fourth Level: Anything goes

If a Finalist incorrectly answers a question (or does not answer at all), the host will give the correct answer and the next Finalist will be given a new question by the host in the same category and difficulty level.

A Finalist is allowed two errors before being eliminated from the competition.

In the event of a tie or if all questions in all rounds are correctly answered, the remaining Finalists advance to the next event.

TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: This event is not conducted in the Team event at this time.

1st Level Question
What year was Billy Joel inducted?
Who was inducted in 2018? 
A: Moody Blues or Nina Simone

2nd Level Question
“Hurts So Good” was a song made popular by what performer and what yearwas s/he inducted?
A: John Mellencamp, 2008

What song was inductee Nina Simone well known for and what year was she inducted?
A: Bye Bye Blackbird, 2018

3rd Level Question
In What year were the Moody Blues inducted, by whom were they inducted, and what song are they well known for?
A: Nights In White Satin, Anne Wilson, 2018

Piano Man is a famous song by what inductee? What year was the induction?
Who inducted the artist?
A: Billy Joel, 1999, Ray Charles

4th Level Question
Mary J Blige inducted two members in to the Hall of Fame. Who were they and in what year were they inducted?
A: Nina Simone in 2018, Solomon Burke in 2001

What year was Billy Joel inducted and whom did he induct himself and in what year?
A: Inducted in 1999 and he inducted John Mellencamp in 2008


100 Championship Points per event will be awarded to the MA with the highest score in each event. All raw scores will be calculated into Championship Points utilizing a Bell Curve and the value will carry 2 decimal points. For example:

Scoring for the Speed Card event will be slightly different than the other events. The amount of cards memorized and the time completed for each trial will be computed into a value. The highest value from both trials will win the event and score 100 points. All remaining scores will be calculated utilizing a Bell Curve.

Example: Tom memorizes 52 cards in 120 seconds, Dick memorizes 52 cards in 180 seconds, Jane memorizes 52 cards in 90 seconds and Harry memorizes 26 cards. These results will be calculated into a raw score utilizing the formula (52*(x/52)+((300-y)*.16666666) where x represents the number of cards memorized and y is the time. The calculation factor of .166666666 is a time bonus for memorization in under 300 seconds only.

Please note if x<52 then y=300. Only MAs who correctly recall 52 cards will be eligible for the time bonus.


The USA Memory Championship is a competition for ‘thinking’ games. Set up as a sporting event for Mental Athletes, the tournament consists of memory challenging tournament-style competitive events including memorization of 135 names and faces, a shuffled deck of cards, an unpublished poem, and speed numbers. Mental Athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze awards in individual competitions. The top Mental Athletes from these events will advance to the Championship Round to compete for the title of USA Memory Champion.

The USA National Memory Championship was introduced by Tony Dottino, President of Dottino Consulting Group, Inc., in 1997. While applying neuroscience to pragmatic applications in the business world, Tony was amazed that most people are unaware of the amazing potential of their own brain. As he discussed their “unlimited and amazing brain” he discovered that most were deathly afraid to talk about the subject, especially as it related to memory. Their number one concern: as you get older, you lose your memory.

Tony set out to educate people, both professionally and personally that, “Your brain is like a muscle. Exercise it! When given the proper training, it gets stronger, regardless of age!” While attending a business seminar, the speaker suggested that you do something unique to get your message across, like conduct the first competition of something. As timing would have it, Tony Buzan had been talking about a local event he conducted in an English Pub where people competed with each other to demonstrate their memory. The links and connections between the “two Tonys” got going and the 1st USA Memory Championship was held. The rest, as they say, is history.

The USA Memory Championship and its organizing committee are dedicated to the intellectual achievement of people by providing an understanding of the unlimited abilities of the human brain. We provide a forum to compete in the most important and fundamental skill of mental ability – memory.

ONLY UNITED STATES CITIZENS thirteen (13) years and older are eligible to compete. If requested, the applicant must prove eligibility status by providing documentation as listed below:

United States of America citizen as supported by official government-issued documents such as a state notarized birth certificate with a photo ID or USA issued passport. 

Spectators are invited and welcome to attend the live event.  Additionally the event will be live streamed via YouTube.