Memory Tournament Rules

What are the rules for a tournament game?

Once you learn some memory techniques it’s fun to see how far you can go with it. With a little practice you will find that you can take the random sequence list technique and memorize hundreds of items in a row. Then you want to see how fast you can do it.

That is how memory tournaments were born. This is an honest attempt to push the brain to its limits and have fun and show off while doing it!

The basic game is simple. Anyone can do it and you can start with your Memory Club right away!

  1. Requirements
  2. Monumentums
  3. Game Play
  4. Rules
  5. The Winner
  6. Quick Recap
  7. Game Variants
  8. Official Rules


You Will Need:

That’s it! That’s all you need to get started!

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Monumentums are the official information sets Memory Club Players memorize during the game. The item in the middle of the table between tournament players is called the monumentum because it comes from a Latin word that means: a recording for the purpose of remembrance. It is where we get the word monument.

Monuments are often huge structures that serve the purpose for helping us remember something important in the past like a battle or invention. It is the oldest form of memory technique. We at the Memory Tournament Federation™ also see memory games as mental feats that are monumental.

Monumentums are tools you can use to practice your memory techniques. Monumentums are collections of objects. These can include: numbers, words, formulas, images and pretty much anything you can imagine that will challenge you to practice your memory.

Any information can be used as a monumentum but only official World Memory Tournament Federation™ Monumentum™ forms will be allowed for competition and ranking.

They are in your memory kit or are available online.

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Two players sit opposite each other with something to memorize (a monumentum) between them. For a proper tournament game there are two phases the Memory Round and the Tournament Round:

Memory Round!

A judge starts the clock and the two players focus on the monumentum trying to memorize the row or group of information that was decided on ahead of time. When the timer ends the judge stops the “Memory Round.”

Tournament Round!

Flip a coin or use rock-paper-scissors to determine the starting player. When you flip a coin one player flips and the other calls it. This ensures the flipping is an equal distraction between the players. The person who won the coin toss gets to chose who starts. The starting player has a slight disadvantage because they will be one bit ahead at all times.

The first player says the first bit of information in the row, group or set of information from the monumentum.

The other player counters with the second bit of information from data set.

The game is on.

Back and forth each player adds one bit of information (a word, number or card etc.) until one makes a mistake. (Some variants of the game will modify these rules slightly like allowing three strikes).

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Time Limit Rule

Each player gets a reasonable time to recall their bit. To keep the game going at a reasonable pace the judge may use a timer if the player looks like they have forgotten a bit. The judge may prompt the player by asking if they know it and need more time. If the player is unresponsive or taking excessive time to recall their bit the judge can give a deadline. “You have 10 seconds or 20 seconds” for example. However, the judge and or the spectators should not count down the seconds out loud. This would provide a distraction that is unfair to the player.

For some ranked tournaments, players will use a two clock timer often used in chess matches to ensure they don’t take too long to recall. Each time a person recalls an item they hit the plunger then the timer waits for the opponent to do the same.

One-to-Win Rule

When a player makes a mistake on one bit they have not lost yet. It would be unfair to end the game without proving that the other player has recalled more bits.

The opponent has to recall the next item in the sequence in order to win the match. If they can’t recall the next item it is considered a draw.

For final tournament games that end in a draw the match is repeated until there is a winner.

Video Recording Rule

All official matches sanctioned by the World Memory Tournament Federation™ that are ranked need to be recorded on video. A simple camera, hand-held device or phone is all that is necessary. Both players and the judge must be clearly visible in the video frame at all times. These videos will be posted online on the official tournament channel so other players can see the match. Often, the camera can see things people don’t at the time and this precaution will prevent any suggestion of cheating. No tournament game will be considered official unless filmed and posted.

It is not necessary to post practice games but any club is allowed to do this if they wish. In fact, we encourage it to show off how much your club is growing!

The Bragging Option

After the player makes a mistake the opponent can recall the next item and is encouraged to recall as many of the items left in the sequence as possible. This number will be recorded but does not affect the rank as they have already won. This will allow the player to show how far they could have gone from memory in order to intimidate future challengers.

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The Judge declares a winner for this round and the players shake hands in the spirit of good sportsmanship.

In a larger tournament the winners from the first match would compete against each other to determine the winner for that category. Categories are usually based on the type of information memorized (e.g. numbers or cards).

The winner from each category will compete to win the overall tournament.

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  1. Get a monumentum of a list either prepared by a friend or in your kit.
  2. Place the monumentum between you face down. Neither player should have prior knowledge of the contents of the Monumentum. Make sure you order fresh ones from before an official game so all scores are valid.
  3. Place the monumentum between the players facedown.
  4. Set the timer for the decided on time (usually 5 minutes) and confirm verbally both players are ready.
  5. Start the timer and flip over the Monumentum.
  6. Memory Round begins. The players memorize!
  7. When the timer ends or both players agree to stop the monumentum is placed facing the judge or third party or spectators and out of eye sight of the players while the Tournament round begins.
  8. Tournament Round begins. Flip a coin or use paper rock scissors to determine the starting player. That player says the first bit of information on the monumentum row or area memorized.
  9. The other player counters with the second bit and the game is on. Back and forth each player adds one bit of information (a word, number or card etc.) until one makes a mistake and the match is over.
  10. Keep in mind the Timer Rule, the One-to-Win rule, the Bragging Rule and the Recording Rule.
  11. Declare a winner for this round and continue with more rounds and more players.

“The beauty of the memory tournament game is that it cannot be won, it can only be lost. It is the ultimate test of mental discipline” –Dave Farrow

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Immortal Game Variant

In this variation the players get an unlimited time to say their bit. That is, the Time Limit Rule is suspended. This is typically for new players to lessen the pressure to recall.

One-Minute Memory Variant

In this variant players are given only one minute to memorize as much of the monumentum as possible. Also during recall they have only 5 seconds to recall their bit and say an answer before their round is up. Judges should use a stop watch to ensure unbiased tracking of time.

Psyche-Out Variant

This is our favourite variant. When recalling a bit the opponent is allowed to distract the recaller verbally and visually in any way they wish without touching them. Both players must agree to this variant before the game begins.

Players who agree to use this variation often say random numbers or cards to trick the opponent into saying the wrong one or wave their arms to provide visual distraction. This raises the difficulty of memory feats considerably and can be exciting and entertaining to watch.

Be warned! This tactic can backfire. Don’t be so focused on tricking your opponent that you lose your place in the data set being recalled and make a mistake yourself.

Distraction Variant

Often used to train for a tournament, the players can chose to add distractions to their game. The best distraction for training is spoken word or talk radio playing in the background. When there is a conversation going on in the background, while a person is trying to recall, it raises the recall level of difficulty considerably. Other distractions can include TV, movies and stimulation like doing the match on a moving vehicle like a bus or car. The point of this variation is to get the player used to dealing with distractions while recalling information so they will be better able to concentrate during tournaments.

Vocabulary Variant

Changing the information on the monumentum can add fun and real life memory skills to the game. Improving your vocabulary is one thing that helps influence how people judge you in life. A better vocabulary makes you smarter. Try using foreign language information or vocabulary words in a game. Make sure, of course, it is random and no one playing has experience with that language. This can be a great game for language classes including English courses as well. Learning vocabulary is a big part of learning a language and mastering the spoken word. Using memory techniques is by far the fastest way to acquire native and foreign language vocabulary. Teachers try getting students to compete for prizes based on how many words they recall.

All Stressed Variant

Combine the One-Minute Memory variant and the Psyche-Out variant in a winner take all sudden death match!

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Please note that tournament manual rules are subject to change and only rules published by the World Memory Tournament Federation&trade are considered official for the purposes of ranking.

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