Teen dubbed International Master of Memory

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WINDSOR, N.S. – Evan Xie’s eyes flutter back and forth as his fingers sort through a randomly shuffled deck of cards — all 52 of which the 16-year-old boy will recite in order moments later.

Memorizing the order of a deck of cards was just one task the high school student completed to earn the title of International Master of Memory at the World Memory Championships in China last month.

Xie, who is from eastern China but attends King’s-Edgehill boarding school in Windsor, N.S., also memorized the order of 12 decks of randomly shuffled cards in one hour and a random sequence of 1,180 digits in one hour.

The grade 10 student, one of only about 160 people in the world to earn the Master of Memory designation, talked to The CanadianPress about his accomplishment – a first for Canada – in an office at the school on Friday.

CP: What made you want to become a Master of Memory?

Xie: I just thought it’s very cool, so I started practising for that.

CP: How do you practise for such a daunting task?

Xie: It’s so easy — just look at it (everyone laughs). I have a photographic memory. I photographed a whole deck of cards in 32 seconds at the championships. But you have some one hour tasks, and it’s a lot of knowledge. I can’t recall too much information from my brain. So sometimes I use ideas or methods to memorize that. There is a way to memorize it. The name is memory and places. Normally people transfer numbers into images… and put them in different places. So if you’re a normal person you can train to be the master also.

CP: When did you realize you had a great memory?

Xie: When I was just three years old my mom figured out I had a good memory. My mom read a book to me and I didn’t know what the words meant, but I memorized that book. I could repeat it to my mom.

CP: If someone was standing near to you reciting numbers, would it throw you off?

Xie: Yes. I get mad at that sometimes. You need all of your mental focus on the numbers, because when I’m remembering, it’s to a rhythm. It’s a beat. So if someone makes a little noise, it could break the rhythm and I would need to start again.

CP: What will you do now that you have earned the Master of Memory designation?

Xie: I will keep practising, but just in my free time. I want to focus on starting high school, because I’m already in grade 10 and soon I’ll be in university. I want to improve my English, because it’s my second language.

CP: How does your amazing skill help you in school?

Xie: I have a test tomorrow. I could just review for one or two hours, for the whole year since it started and tomorrow I will have a good mark (everyone laughs). I like history, geography and some parts of science and biology. But I like remembering numbers better than Shakespeare.

CP: What else do you do for fun, besides memorization?

Xie: I like talking with my friends. When I train, I feel alone. If I’ve been memorizing the whole day, it makes me crazy. So I need to find someone to talk to.