• Germany's news in English

'I was a lazy student, that's how this started'

Alex Evans · 12 Dec 2013, 12:02

Published: 12 Dec 2013 12:02 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Whilst the individual championship title went to Swede Jonas von Essen, Germany's three-man team of Konrad and team-mates Johannes Mallow and Christian Schafer beat 31 other countries and around 120 rival brain-boxes to defend Germany's title as world memory champions in Croydon at the start of December.

Konrad also holds the world record for remembering names and birthdays - 21 people in two minutes. 

The teams were pitted against one another in events such as memorizing numbers, names, words and birth dates.

This year's competition had been tougher than usual, Konrad told The Local. “In recent years it was often pretty easy for us to win, because few other countries had a good overall team, just one or two strong members," he said. “But this year Sweden, Mongolia and the Philippines all had really great teams – it's getting harder all the time."

Germany still came out top overall by a wide margin and Konrad's individual win in the "remembering names" category – in which contestants are given a file of headshot photos with fore- and surnames to memorize and repeat – contributed to their storming victory.

'I was just a lazy student'

The feats of name memory are made possible by special techniques he has mastered, but there is no deep mystical knowledge involved, he insisted. "These are not secret methods – the Greek rhetoricians knew about them 2,000 years ago,” he said.

And his original motive for mastering his memory was far from winning international competitions. "I started just before going to university,” he said. “I had heard about the techniques and I just wanted to make university life as easy as possible," he said.

"I was actually just lazy, and that's how I discovered this whole thing," Konrad added.

The researcher, who studied physics and IT at Dortmund's Technical University and Reading University, uses different types of thought association to remember long strings of data.

For the name memory event, Konrad constructs a picture in his head and then links the picture to the person.

Another trick is to associate the data with items in a story. When he recounts the story he can then remember which bits of the data are associated with each parts of the story.

But the hardest discipline for him is an event based on holding long sequences of numbers in your head for a whole hour. "It's especially difficult because you have to hold such a high level of concentration for so long," he said.

Konrad works at Munich's Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry researching the effects of memory training on subjects. "I teach the methods to a student, they have to practice them half an hour a day for six weeks, and I investigate how much they improve," he explained.

The research comes alongside selling training materials, including his book "Superbrain: Memory training with a World champion" – and preparing for his Spring 2014 seminar tour, for which tickets for a day-long seminar will cost €390 per person.

Story continues below…

Since growing up in Hattingen, near Essen in western Germany, Konrad has made television appearances in several countries.

And in 2006 he took the helm of MemoryXL, which his website describes as the largest memory competition club in the world, aiming to spread awareness of the little-known brain training sport and, "similarly to the German Chess Association, unite as many memory technique enthusiasts as we can under one roof."

"We're active across Germany and have members in six other countries," Konrad said. "We promote memory-sport, run championships and events…training seminars and beginner tournaments," he added.

"I always try to create as much publicity as possible for the sport," he said.

READ MORE: German Nobel Prize winner yearns for home

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Alex Evans (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd