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Playing Mind Games—Mental Calculation World Cup Winner Announced
October 13, 2012
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It may not be as popular or as coveted as physical sports trophies like the FIFA World Cup, or an Olympic medal, but for those who like to exercise their brains, it's a championship that adds up to a major achievement.

Abacus instructor Naofumi Ogasawara has won the 5th Mental Calculation World Cup at the recent competition held in Germany.

math-asset.jpgThe biennial event began in 2004 and attracts the most arithmetical minds in the world to the exclusive contest. Just reading the categories is enough to give you a headache, let alone looking at the actual numbers these brainiacs had to crunch during the intense three-day event.

The categories included Addition, Calendar Calculations, Multiplication, Square Roots, Cube Roots, and Swimsuit Competition. OK, we made up that last one.

If you want to see just how hard these number-crunchers had to work, take a look at the exam here.


The 22-year-old Ogasawara, who competed here for the first time, actually set a new world record in the Addition section, where it only took him 3 minutes and 11 seconds to add ten sets of ten numbers together, with each number 10-digits long.

What's interesting, though, is that the winner is based on overall score from all the categories. And Ogasawara actually got a ZERO in the Calendar section (where, given dates from a five-hundred year span, 1600-2100, you have 60 seconds to name the day of the week for as many as possible).

math-exam-2-small.jpgRemember, all computations must be made on your own, without the use of calculator, computer, smartphone, or any aid (including abacus, which must have placed Ogasawara at a disadvantage).

We assume counting on your fingers is allowed, but probably won't do you much good at this level.

Take a look at Ogasawara's amazing mind in action in the video below. Starting at about the 1:30 mark, he first has to add 15 four-digit numbers as they flash by on the screen every 0.4 seconds. Then he has to add 8 five-digit numbers flashing every 0.5 seconds. (Some footage of the event in action follows. Although watching a bunch of people sitting in an examination room doesn't really offer much by way of actual "action.")

And what do you get for all this mental prowess? The winner receives a free flight and accommodations to Memoriad 2012, the "World Memory, Mental Calculation, and Photographic Speed Reading Olympiad." This year's event is being held on November 24 and 25 in Antalya, Turkey, where up to $30,000 (US) in prize money will be awarded to the contestants.

If you're a human calculator, you might want to sign up now for the next World Cup event in 2014 here. We're counting on some Canadian genius out there to enter and represent our brilliantly educated nation to the world!

You may also be interested in the Mind Sports Olympiad, which, according to their official website, has awarded medals to competitors from over 50 countries in over one thousand tournaments since their inception is 1997.

The most amazing part of this story? That there's such a thing as an abacus instructor. Count us among the surprised.

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