Last championship, all I was good at was digits and cards. I had done probably 15 poems, and names and faces about 3 times. Random words only maybe 5-10 times. (Even now, the only things I’m really good at are digits and cards…but I’m better at them than I was last year :). )
But in all honesty, I believe that I have as good a chance of winning this year as anyone else…and I believe that because four months is ample time to learn words, poetry, faces, and even the Tea Party and be among the best of them with daily practice. For cards and digits, you need to know a system really well. For faces, poetry, and words, you don’t need a system at all. All you need is a technique that you like to use, so improvement comes much more quickly for those events. The time it takes do gain proficiency in cards and/or digits is not representative and therefore potentially misleading. If you make up a lot of “sound-alike” images for first names, or learn the ones posted on the memory wiki, it can make a big difference in your N&F score, by the way.
But the championship was one of the best things I’ve ever done. In terms of performance, I saw that after a short period of time practicing, I could stack up against the best competing Americans. In cards AND digits, I did better than or equal to a small handful of people that had been in the top 8 before or were in the top 8 this year. If you like cards and digits, you could do the same. It doesn’t matter for the purposes of this conversation - I’d advise you to go no matter what you responded, but would you tell me your card and speed numbers personal bests?
Even if you were better prepared, you still probably wouldn’t win…because only one person does win. And if you didn’t win, you’d be in the same boat as everyone else - and none of those people regret going year after year.
But the other thing is that if you really do boost your scores over the course of 2014, and you know they’re good enough to give you a real shot at the title, you would be at a real disadvantage because you would have never experienced the feeling of being in that room and memorizing. I feel I am at a disadvantage this year because I haven’t felt what it is like to be on stage or memorize backstage. Those things make a big difference. So in spite of Foer, it is probably wise to assume that no matter your skill level, (within a reasonable range…) you won’t win until your second competition at least.