A New 2-Card System

A note from the author, five years later:

The text at the bottom of this post, which is stricken out, has been left in for historic and informative completeness. It is stricken out because it should not be applied, and because it may mislead.

The Shadow System’s name has been problematic for a long time. If the method does not include shadows, as I’ve suggested openly for four years now, surely it can not be referred to as the “Shadow” System must be the rationale.

Credit is due and that credit is given to Hannes for devising the variable-locus shortcut which SS is predicated upon. His arrangement and extension of the Major System was sub-optimal though, which is evident by his card times, even after all these years, while he has set world records in binaries and digits with some regularity throughout those years. The optimisation of the Major System’s arrangement and extension is what I have been able to provide. It isn’t everything, but it is important enough to be widely helpful when applied. That is as much as I could ask for, and what I hoped would be the result of my sharing, which is why the effects of this “naming problem” irk me, such as in the following example:

Only the other day, I saw a person on facebook ask a verbatim SS user point-blank: “Do you use the Shadow System?” Their response was “I use a 2-block method.” Someone else joined in and commented, but are you aware that what you’re using is part 1 of the Shadow System? Their response was something to the effect of, “It’s a half-Hannes and half-Tschirhart method. The “Tschallow System,” haha.” This omission is common.

When asked point blank, and then prompted a second time to point out that they were using the phonetics on this page precisely, they opted to leave the questioner and any other reader with the impression that they were using some hybrid method which is neither written up nor described anywhere, which has no name, and which is unique, at least to some degree. This seemed more sensible to them than providing a link to this page where anyone could emulate that user’s method precisely.

So please, now, when you are in a position where it is appropriate, just call the Shadow System by name, or call it “Part 1 of the Shadow System,” and share the link so you can do your part to help raise the bar in this sport if you believe in its efficacy, rather than letting some poor fellow who is on the fence continue on with their PAO.

Hi, my name is Lance Tschirhart.

The following is a 2-card system which is described in two “phases”. The second “phase” is an extension which has been clearly demonstrated, in my opinion, to be not only unnecessary but also unwise. Though the naming phase is lightning fast, the process of getting them up to speed is not, and even then, it is high maintenance and seems to provide no benefit.

Though the “Shadow” in the name “Shadow System” came from the second phase, I used this as a nameless system originally in its 1352-image form, and it was only the idea that it could be possible to grab 7 +/- 2 images in the last moment that caused me to create the second part.

Many people are intrigued by the idea of building a 2-card system, but few actually complete the task. The Shadow System was created with the sole purpose in mind of being as easy as possible to fill out. Very special Thanks go to Ben Pridmore, Johannes Mallow, and the creator of the Major System for introducing the concepts central to the system.

Let’s begin by comparing the merits and potential disadvantages of these two systems.

Ben System


First consonant

club/club - k
club/diamond - t
club/heart - n
club/spade - m
diamond/club - r
diamond/diamond - d
diamond/heart - l
diamond/spade - g/j
heart/club – f/th
heart/diamond - b
heart/heart - h
heart/spade - p
spade/club - sk/sn/sm
spade/diamond - st/sp
spade/heart - sh/sl/sw
spade/spade – s


A = ‘a’ as in ‘cat’
2 = ‘e’ as in ‘pet’
3 = ‘i’ as in ‘kitten’
4 = ‘o’ as in ‘tom’
5 = ‘u’ as in ‘puss’
6 = ‘A’ as in ‘hay’
7 = ‘E’ as in ‘bee’
8 = ‘I’ as in ‘high’
9 = ‘O’ as in ‘low’
10 = ‘oo’ as in ‘you’
J = ‘ow’ as in ‘cow’
Q = ‘or’ as in ‘oor’
K = ‘ar’ as in ‘car’

Second consonant
A = t
2 = n
3 = m
4 = r
5 = l
6 = g
7 = k
8 = f/th
9 = b
10 = s
J = j/sh/ch
Q = p
K = d

This was almost certainly the first 2-card system invented. It cleanly translates 1000 images that can be represented by all of the digit combinations from 000-999, as well as 1024 images that can be listed as each of the 10-digit binary combinations from 0000000000-1111111111.

The Ben System is an extended major system that serves as an algorithm for producing phonemes. I believe single syllables are important for quick memorization because reducing subvocalization is difficult, and eliminating it is impossible. Most of the phonemes produced by the system are not actual words, and in some cases, the phonemes produced do not exist in any form in English. Even if the consonant and vowel sounds were altered to reflect those commonly used in any other language, this would still be the case - there are just too many combinations.

Some consequences of this setup are:

As soon as the system itself is learned, each of the 2704 card combinations can be pronounced with little ambiguity. However, there are exceptions in the five of the sixteen possible suit combinations that are italicized above. This also is a problem with the Major System, and thus, the Shadow System.

The phonemes that actually produce words on their own can be restrictive. For instance, when the words “Foot,” or “Feet” occur, it can be difficult to imagine anything else while reading them. On the other hand, it is a breath of fresh air to have words simply handed to you. This is a matter of preference.

Since they do not usually make words on their own, the phonemes will usually serve as reminders of the chosen images. As a result, it can be difficult at times to avoid pronouncing the images themselves, which are longer than a single syllable.

Each image is distinctly its own. That means that there is little chance of making errors of momentarily lapsed cognition when reconstructing the deck. This may sound like an obvious consequence of a two card system, but mistakes in reconstruction is a potential problem with the Shadow System, though I have not yet experienced it myself after becoming more familiar with the images.

It is simple. There is much to be said for this - it’s a very elegant system with perfectly consistent grammar. I am of the opinion that a system with more complex grammar may be preferable, so long as it is easy to fill out. This is a matter of taste.

Remember that the Ben System is tried and true: it has been used to set world records in various events and is a favorite of top competitors.

The Shadow System (SS)

SS uses the Major System:


SS is based on the assumption that it is easier to remember semantically related word pairs than words that are created based on phonetic cues, and that this is especially true when you create the word pairs yourself. Also, that it is easier to remember words that have been chosen with less phonetic restrictions. Finally, as opined above, that it is preferable (easier) to learn a new system of grammar than to fill out a system with nonsense syllables.

A member of these forums told me that after using the Ben System for six months, he had achieved a personal best of 44 seconds for memorizing a deck. He said that he felt he could improve much more, but the only problem was how difficult it was to decode the 16 suit combinations on the spot. Granted, this would become natural given enough practice. Still, this hurdle was the first to be eliminated. By pairing each suit combination with another, SS uses different phonetics for only 8 suit combinations. Thus, a greater variety of different sounds can be packed within each number 0-9, or with cards, 10-9, with the original Major System. All numbers in SS adhere to the Major System strictly. The first 4 suit combinations are as follows:

Initial consonants:

#:spades:#:spades: - S,Z
#:heart:#:heart: - S,Z
#:spades:#:heart: - T,D
#:heart:#:spades: - T,D
#:clubs:#:clubs: - K,G
#:diamonds:#:diamonds: - K,G
#:clubs:#:diamonds: - P
#:diamonds:#:clubs: - P

These initial consonants are represented by the suit combinations. Notice that for the Suits that are the same color, namely :spades::spades:, :heart::heart:, :clubs::clubs:, :diamonds::diamonds:, The Clubs’ sound is paired with the Diamonds’, and the Spades’ with the Hearts’.
These are not assigned as arbitrarily as it may appear at first. Because it takes so long to become familiar with such a large list, SS is built to facilitate as much training as possible before the list is complete. “#:spades:#:spades:,” “S,” is the easiest to fill out, followed by “#:clubs:#:clubs:,” (K,G) “#:spades:#:heart:,” (T,D) and “#:clubs:#:diamonds:” - §. In the Major System, these are represented in digit form by all numbers 000-199, 900-999, and 700-799. As the 000-999 list begins to be filled out, one can begin to train with a deck made of all of the # cards (A-10), for Spades and Hearts, and a similar deck with Clubs and Diamonds. This is a good starting point because in each of these two decks, there are only 200 images represented by the cards, while in a similar deck comprised of, for instance, Spades and Diamonds, there would be 300 images to keep track of: #:diamonds:#:diamonds:, #:spades:#:spades:, and #:spades:#:diamonds:.

The next four suit combinations, which are more difficult to fill out than the first four, are 200-299 (N), 500-599 (L), 600-699 (J,SH,CH) and 300-399 (M). These are to be assigned arbitrarily according to your taste. Mine are assigned based on the level of difficulty I had in filling them out, and the stage at which they would be added into my practice decks. Since (J,SH,CH) and (N) were the most difficult for me, they were assigned to the combinations that would show up only when all of the cards, A-10 of every suit, were put together.

#:clubs:#:heart: - L
#:heart:#:clubs: - L
#:spades:#:diamonds: - M
#:diamonds:#:spades:- M
#:spades:#:clubs: - J,SH,CH
#:heart:#:diamonds:- J,SH,CH
#:clubs:#:spades: - N
#:diamonds:#:heart: - N

Notice that there are 10 groups of consonants in the major system, and only 8 suit combinations. In total, SS Only translates 992 of the 1000 digit images, excluding 444, 448, 484, 488, 844, 848, 884, and 888.
Two of the most difficult groups to fill out are 800-899 (F,TH), and 400-499 ®. Other groups may be equally difficult, but there is good reason to use these two particular groups as exceptions. Since there is no room for their initial sounds to be represented by suit combinations, there are special rules to accommodate these images.

In order to translate the remaining 200 images into the system, there must be instances in which the suit combinations do not form the initial consonant sounds. This inequality also carries over into the “tens” place, though that may be less intuitive. Thus, face cards, when placed in either the first or both the first and second places, must take precedence over the suit combination preceding it. Since there are only two missing groups, the Jacks and Queens and used for this purpose, while the Kings retain a different set of rules. Queens Always make the sound “R,” and Jacks, when in the first place, make the sounds “F,Th.” However, when Jacks are in the second place, they make the sound “T,D.” We are free to make these kinds of changes because images in which a face card appears in the second place only are among the 352 images that are not in the 000-999 list. “T,D,” as an ending, is preferable to “F,Th,” because there are a paucity of words that end in “F” or “Th.” Because it can include past-tense verbs ending in “ed,” the “T,D” ending is preferable to all others except for “R” and “S.” “S” is only common at the end of words for plurality though, and “R” is already occupied by the Queens. Queens always retain the “R” sound because many professions, appliances, and gadgets end with the letter “R.” When both cards shown are Either JxJx, JxQx, QxQx, or QxJx, the rule of precedence continues to apply, for these combinations match up with the numbers:

QxQx: 440,441,442,443,___,445,446,447___,449

QxJx: 480,481,482,483,___,485,486,487,___,489

JxQx: 840,841,842,843,___,845,846,847,___,849

JxJx: 880,881,882,883,___,885,886,887,___,889.

The eight numbers which are omitted are the only eight from the 000-999 list that will not translate into card combinations. The first two digits are dictated by the face cards themselves, out of their precedence, so the digit in the “ones” place is determined by the suit combination.

For instance, “J♠Q♠” may be “forest,” and “Q♠J♥” may be “raft.”

Before explicit descriptions of the remainder of the phonetics, understand the logic of why my assignments of initial consonants is anything but arbitrary. It may help you grok the system as a whole more easily.

The only two consonants of the Major System which rarely produce English words when prepended with the letter “S” are “R” and “F,TH". There are fewer English words which begin with “Sr” or “Sf/Sph.” than begin with, for instance, “Sl”, or “Sp”. That is why these initial consonants, those of the 400-499 and 800-899 sets, are indicated by face cards – Queen-first and Jack-first, respectively – rather than by suit pairs. Those consonants which can produce words when prepended with an “S”, do use that “S” to produce those words in the Shadow System.

When a number is in the first place and a Jack or Queen is in the second place, this extra “S” is read before the suit combination. If it were not, then you would be required to create multiple images with the same phonetic code, which is problematic. For example, “3♣4♥” might be “Lemur,” but “3♣Q♥” would also have to use “L+M+R,” which as you can see, could be difficult. By adding an “S” in front, many new combinations are opened up. “3♣Q♥” Could be “Slimer” or “Slammer” or “Slimmer.” Thus, it is important that there be a vowel between the “S” and the second consonant in each of your 000-099 images. The words which begin with an “S” followed by a consonant must be saved for the situations in which a Jack or Queen appears in the second place.

Queens are read as an “R” in every possible case.

Jacks are read as an “F” in all cases except for the 80 instances of #/J.

Per face card, there will be only ten words for each of the suit combinations in which the first card is a number and the second card is a face card. Thus, for “#:spades:J:heart:,” there will be ten single-syllable words that begin with “St,” have a second consonant determined by the first card’s index, and either end abruptly (by ignoring the Jack) or are appended with a single letter which is not “R”.

For #:spades:Q:heart:, there will be ten more words that begin with “St,” have a second consonant determined by the first card, and end in “R”.

Two of the suit-pair consonants, “S” and “J/Sh/Ch”, require minor decorations. It will not produce new words to begin these card-pairs’ words with “Ss” or “Sj/Sch/Ssh.” So in place of “Sj/Sch/Ssh,” we use “Str,” and in place of “Ss,” we use “Sw.”

Thus initial sounds for instances in which Jack or Queen appears in the second position only are:

#:spades:J :spades: = “Sw” + index (+[?])
#:heart:J :heart:= “Sw" + index (+[?])
#:spades:Q :spades: = “Sw” + index + “R”
#:heart:Q :heart: = “Sw” + index + “R”

#:spades: J​:heart: = “St” + index (+[?])
#:heart:J :spades: = “St” + index (+[?])
#:spades:Q​:heart: = “St” + index + “R”
#:heart:Q :spades: = “St” + index + “R”

#:clubs:J :spades: = “Sn” + index (+[?])
#:diamonds:J :heart: = “Sn” + index (+[?])
#:clubs:Q :spades: = “Sn” + index + “R”
#:diamonds:Q :heart: = “Sn” + index + “R”

#:spades:J :diamonds: = “Sm” + index (+[?])
#:diamonds:J :spades: = “Sm” + index (+[?])
#:spades:Q :diamonds: = “Sm” + index + “R”
#:diamonds:Q :spades: = “Sm” + index + “R”

400-499 = “Sr”

#:clubs:J :heart: = “Sl” + index (+[?])
#:heart:J :clubs: = “Sl” + index (+[?])
#:clubs:Q :heart: = “Sl” + index + “R”
#:heart:Q :clubs: = “Sl” + index + “R”

#:spades:J :clubs: = “Str” + index (+[?])
#:heart:J :diamonds: = “Str” + index (+[?])
#:spades:Q :clubs: = “Str” + index + “R”
#:heart:Q :diamonds: = “Str” + index + “R”

#:clubs:J :clubs: = “Sk” + index (+[?])
#:diamonds:J :diamonds:= “Sk” + index (+[?])
#:clubs:Q :clubs: = “Sk” + index + “R”
#:diamonds:Q :diamonds:= “Sk” + index + “R”

800-899 = “Sf”

#:clubs:J :diamonds: = “Sp” + index (+[?])
#:diamonds:J :clubs: = “Sp” + index (+[?])
#:clubs:Q :diamonds: = “Sp” + index + “R”
#:diamonds:Q :clubs: = “Sp” + index + “R”

Please let me know if you need more examples or further clarification. :slight_smile:


When a King is in the First position, It takes precedence over the suit combination and is pronounced “H.” When a King is in the second position, it is silent, regardless of what the first card is. As always, a face card in the first position takes precedence.

For example:

“K♣Q♦” may be “Harp”
“Q♣K♦” may be “Rope”
“9♠K♦” may be “Mop”
“K♠5♥” may be “Huddle”

There are 8 distinct pairs where both cards are kings. These follow the same rules as has been described throughout. The first King takes precedent, beginning the word with an “H”, then the King in the second position, silent as always, is read next. Finally, the suit pair is read.

K​:spades:K​:heart:” could be “Hat”. “H + [silence] + :spades::heart:


The following text has not been edited since the original post aside from being stricken out.

Part II: Abbreviations and Shadows This is where SS is really special: If you've made it this far, your aren't just "half way there." You are actually on the final stretch of having a complete 2704 system. Up to this point, you could have made a list of 1352 images which can be used in a 2-block system like Johannes Mallow does, in which card pairs beginning with a red card are placed in a loci until a pair beginning with a black card comes up. Its image is placed in the loci alongside the others, and then the next loci is moved to until another card pair beginning with a black card is reached, ad infinitum. This always leaves a degree of uncertainty in how many images will be in each loci, which will vary from deck to deck, and is a bit more difficult for that reason. Still, it's a fun method that you may prefer to use. The biggest drawback is that at this point is that you only have a list for binary that covers 9 digits at a time. As the images are created, make a single syllable abbreviation for each object that is unique. Usually, it is the first syllable. Sometimes, you have to make an exception. Only read the objects using these syllables, (never vocalize or subvocalize the entire word), and they should become natural enough in time. This is a necessary step in order to fill out the second half of the list, so do it along the way. If you make the syllables carefully for each group of 100, you can fill out this entire system of 2704 with only a handful of exceptions along the way. To finish the second half of the system, simply come up with a list of Shadow Images - images that are related to your first in a memorable way. For me, 141, or 4♠A♥, is "Dart." "4♥A♠" is therefore "Dartboard." "J♠Q♥" is "Fred" (Fred Flintstone), so "J♥Q♠" is "Wilma." Notice that "Wilma" does not follow the phonetic code dictated by "J♥Q♠." Using the single syllable "Wilm" will be hard to learn to do naturally, because the cards just don't spell it. Thus, each of the shadow syllables are taken by converting the original syllables in a consistent and systematic way. Each of the shadow syllables uses the same vowel as the original image, but pronounces it in a way that is different from the first syllable. For example, "J♥Q♠" may mean "Wilma," but it is pronounced "FrEd," or "Freed." For "ir," "or," sounds and the like, "ar" is converted to "air" "er/ir" is converted to "or," and "ur," which is pronounced the same as "er/ir" but spelled with a "u" is converted to "Ur," as in a sloppy pronunciation "Sewer." In all other situations, just pronounce the short/long variation of the same consonant for the syllable. To make this clear, here is my list of 700-749 objects alongside their shadows. You will see that most of the "exceptions" were not necessary at all. They were just put there to experiment, or to remember neat instances of coincidence. For instance, when "7♣7♣ = Casp (Casper)," the first shadow that came to my mind was "ghostbusters." Instead of using "CAsp" = Ghostbusters as per the system's rules, I used "GOsb." I'll tell you now it isn't easier that way, and isn't even a good idea for a reason I'll explain below. These were just my first 50 to convert. 700 CAs (Briefcase) 10♦10♦ Cas (Cuffs) 701 cast (cast) 10♦A♦ CAst (CastTakesBow) 702 cus (casino=roulette) 10♦2♦ CUs (Plenko) 703 gas (gasmask) 10♦3♦ GAs (ScubaHelm) 704 gIz (geyser) 10♦4♦ Giz (Volcano) 705 Sul (Castle) 10♦5♦ SUl (Oubliette) 706 gach (gaschamber) 10♦6♦ GAch (Furnace) 707 Gask (Gasket) 10♦7♦ GAsk (Wrench) 708 Kis (Kissyfist) 10♦8♦ KIs (MasterHand) 709 casp (casper) 10♦9♦! GOsb (Ghostbusters) 710 kIt (Kite) A♦10♦ kit (Boxkite) 711 Kid (Katydid) A♦A♦ KId (Mantis) 712 cotn (cotton) A♦2♦ COtn (CottonCandy) 713 cut (cutman) A♦3♦ CUt (Megaman) 714 gAt (gator) A♦4♦ Gat (CrocHunter) 715 cuf (cuttlefish) A♦5♦ CUf (OctopusRide) 716 kij (cottagecheese) A♦6♦ KIj (fruitcup) 717 Kak (Catacomb) A♦7♦ CAk (WeddingCake) 718 caf (catfish) A♦8♦! Cat (cat) 719 cult (catapult) A♦9♦ CUlt (Trebuchet) 720 gun (gun) 2♦10♦ GUn (Gunslinger) 721 cand (candle) 2♦A♦ CAnd (RomanCandle) 722 can (Cannon) 2♦2♦ CAn (Doomcannon) 723 Gan (Ganewmede) 2♦3♦ GAn (Scorpion) 724 Grak (Gunrack) 2♦4♦ GrAk (SwordRack) 725 Cun (Canole) 2♦5♦! Kenl (Kennel) 726 Gonj (PottedGanja) 2♦6♦ GOnj (BigPurpleNug) 727! Gong (Gong) 2♦7♦ Conk (ConchShell) 728 conv (converseFloat) 2♦8♦ COnv (RedConsMoonwalk) 729 gub (gunblade) 2♦9♦ GUb (Firebomb) 730 cam (camera) 3♦10♦ CAm (Flashbulb) 731 com (meteor) 3♦A♦ COm (comb) 732! kO (Kimono) 3♦2♦ GE (Gi) 733 Cum (Chamomille) 3♦3♦ cUm (cumin) 734 kIm (Chimera) 3♦4♦ Kim (Seymour) 735 cul (camel) 3♦5♦! KEl (Chameleon) 736 Guj (Gumdrop) 3♦6♦ GUj (Icing) 737! cank (Camcorder) 3♦7♦! komk (Kamikaze) 738 Camf (Camouflage) 3♦8♦ CAmf (PolkadotSuit) 739 gumb (Gumby) 3♦9♦ GUmb (Goomba) 740! corp (Corpse) 4♦10♦! Cors (Corset) 741 cart (Golfcart) 4♦A♦ CArt (Sandtrap) 742 corn (CandyCorn) 4♦2♦! Grin (Grinch) 743 Krum (Krum) 4♦3♦ KrUm (Lydia) 750 gold (GoldBars) 5♦10♦ Gud (GoldGutter) 744 Cor (AppleCore) 4♦4♦! Cort (AppleCorer) 745 Gril (BlackGrill) 4♦5♦ GrEl (TheBigGreenEgg) 746 CArj (Carriage) 4♦6♦! GArj (Garage) 747 Crik (Cricket=Sport) 4♦7♦ CrIk (BagofCrickets) 748 corv (Corvette) 4♦8♦! Curv (StartingFlag) 749 crip (cripple) 4♦9♦ CRIp (CripWalk) Hopefully that's clear. Other than the easy of being able to pronounce each shadow immediately, there is an even bigger advantage to the SS' handling of shadow syllables: The syllables do not resemble the words they represent. This may sound like a disadvantage, but it is not! There is no need for them to resemble the words, since you know what the words are already, and the fact that they do not resemble the words means that there is no temptation - no possibility even - of you attempting to subvocalize any word that is longer than 1 syllable. In the long run, this is going to a be a huge time-saver.

Wow, congrats on making your own system! Do you know if this makes you the first American to use a two-card system?

I tried to read over your explanation of the system, and while I doubt I will ever make a two-card system, it looks pretty nice, although perhaps difficult to learn because the sounds associated with the second half of the images may not sound like the actual word. I especially like that the second half of the images are all related in some way to their corresponding first images. I did not see you mention people or actions, is this just an object only system or did you just not show them as examples? If it is only objects, do you just place one object per loci or do you have several interacting?

1 Like

Thanks! I am thrilled to have some feedback to respond to! I will be the first American to use a 2-card system in competition, yes.

Responding to your comment about the second half first, the second half was actually easier to learn than any list created I’ve created with any other method, including the first half of this list (MajorSystem).

The word-pairs are easy enough to learn simply by reading the list over and over - many of them I learned permanently the moment I made them up. For instance: 769 = 6♣9♣ = Kech (Ketchup), so 6♦9♦ = KEch (Mustard). And that was that - never studied it; never forgot it.

What I may not have mentioned above is that you come up with your 1352 images first, and once you know them, the pronunciations of the shadow images will become automatic after just a few days when the time comes to add those in, since those pronunciations follow stated rules (there are exceptions here and there, but those exceptions can all just be learned together in a flashcard list).

About there being no actions or persons, this is just an object list, but about 40 of my objects are people, and perhaps 100 more are animal or humanoid. Using 52 objects in 52 locations is still a viable way to memorize a deck. It is the preferred method of Boris Konrad, who has broken 20 seconds with it many times. Ben’s list is a mixture of objects and people too. He prefers putting 3 objects per loci, which fits one deck into only 9 loci. It isn’t as easy as PAO, which does the creative work for you, but a PAO system with 2704 PAO’s might be hard to make up, and I would never do it because people are hard for me to visualize distinctly. Now I am spending more and more time learning what single, distinct thing each of the 2704 objects can always do to the one following it, to make a pseudo-PA style system.

So for now, when I do single-deck, I just use 2 images per loci, which fits a deck into 13 loci. It’s should get easier after knowing specifically what the first image can always do to the second - even if it just falls on top of it. 3 objects per loci is more difficult because if you just have the first object “fall onto” the second, something new still needs to happen to make the third memorable, so more novel and creative associations are necessary, which takes more time, especially as a beginner. In theory, one object per loci is ideal for speed since no novel information needs to be created to add into the imagery by associating them together. Indeed, I am hoping that this will eventually become my preferred method, but the truth is, I’m still so callow that I have practically zero experiencing memorizing 26 (Let alone 52!) objects without review. I used to train single-deck with PAO, which uses only 17 loci per deck, so even a mere 26 is something I really have to work my way up to.


Thanks for answering some of my questions! I did not realize that many people with two-card systems used mainly objects, but that makes a lot more sense now that I think about it seeing as coming up with 2704 unique actions (and maybe people) would be much more difficult than coming up with 2704 objects.

One other question I have for you is how long did it take you to make all of your images and learn them fairly well(although I assume learning them really well is still somewhat a work in progress)? Also, have you noticed any major improvements in your times yet?

sorry if i didn’t read carefully enough, but what is “Mallow-style” actually :slight_smile:

Great job on the new system. I know you’ve been working on it a while all the while finishing school. I was also starting to study the Ben system as I am currently PAO and see the inherent weakness in binary translation especially. Did you get help from Ben on this new style or did you study his, as I’m doing now, and look for ways to make it even better? I’ve waffled between doing Nelson’s 1000 versus Ben’s objects…I guess it comes down to how you feel you can make the images the quickest.I think the binary might be a huge strength with yours over the 1000 person because of the natural shadow.

I forgot to ask if you initially started out trying to build a 3-2-3 PAO and saw that you could apply it to a Ben system or was this kind of a ‘loose’ plan to start?

Mine are objects. Nelson made 1000 People so that he could use 3.2.3 PAO with digits, presumably because he found linking mere objects difficult. It is. But I’m making adjustments along the way, adding more action and distinct movement to each object, just hoping it will all snap together in the end.

I named my first 1000 images in a week. Over time these were adjusted considerably, and at this point, there are very few exceptions to the major system rules. Within about week after practicing the first 100 with cards, I was able to spread through and recognize a pack of 52 spades, A-10, (100 different images) in under 20 seconds consistently, so the capabilities of the system were obvious. Still, every time I see a spade combo, it is recognized immediately. Club+Club is almost as fast, but none of the other suits are quite like that. In about 2 months, I realized I was almost as good with 3 digit numbers as I was with 2 (~130/5minutes.) In less than 3 months, I scored 180 on 5-min speed numbers on my first attempt that high! At about the 3-month mark, I knew my 1352 images fairly well, but was filled with regret - I believed that SS was a failure, because even though it was remember the shadow images, I continued to pronounce the shadow combinations the same as the original image, which conjured the original image in my mind at least for a moment, and it is very hard to say “Fred,” after picturing Fred Flintstone over and over, and picture “Wilma” while doing so. So I just practiced Mallow’s two-block system for 3 weeks and said, “I guess it was worth a try - but at least I made a fairly cool way to convert the Major System to cards…even though it doesn’t have any advantages over Mallow’s. Ugh, I should have just used the Ben System. Really thought this would work…” Then a couple weeks ago, I realized that my throat was just trained to read the card combinations, so as long as that need was satisfied in some way, the shadows could be incorporated! It doesn’t matter whether I know that “FrEd” means “Wilma” whenever the cards are around - that isn’t the point at all - “FrEd” can be read automatically because “e” converts to “E” as per the rule. It just gives my throat something to do while I look at the shadow image.

That little nugget of insight was very recent, which means that I had to go back (I am still in the middle of this process!) and give each of the 1352 objects a nickname that I know them by permanently in order to accommodate the shadow syllables. This would have been really simple to do along the way, but I lacked the foresight. In the past 4 days, I have made and memorized the shadow syllables for 700 objects, as well as memorizing the objects themselves. It’s every bit as easy as I had originally dreamed! The shadow images’ memorization is happening at > 1000% speed of the original 1352 images, and you can create them right off the top of your head! It’s nearly impossible to hold myself back from a continual expansion into 4-digits right away (I have a slightly different system for 4-digit numbers, but just like SS, I’m not going to talk about it until I’m positive that it is finished).

So I don’t even have all 1352 objects memorized yet!

But it takes about half an hour to create 100 of them, and learning them is as easy as quickly reading them together and picturing them together every day. I have my first 100 loci divided into sections like a telephone’s numbers, and it took considerable time to memorize my first 1000 well that way to supplement the phonetics. With 1000 loci, I bet it would have been easy. With just 100, it is harder. Recently, I’ve just dropped the shadows in with their pairs to aid in learning. I already know the location that the card combinations refer to, so I can just dip in to the loci, pronounce the shadow, and use that image. To practice the shadows, I just learn them related to the original image - it really doesn’t matter if I know what their syllable is off the top of my head at all (Even though it would be easy to figure out, like you need to do when reconstructing the deck).

I haven’t seen improvements in times, but over those three weeks of doing Mallow-style, I was memorizing at under 2:00, which is the exact same rate of improvement that I had when using PAO. The main difference is that I felt fairly skilled at PAO when I got to a consistent 1:30, but I still feel like I suck at this method even though I’m getting similar times. I’m staring at each and every image for 3-4 seconds, for God’s sake! With PAO, at my peak, I only stared at each card for <1.5 seconds, so my times were a little better, but further improvement was very difficult, and in my short time of practicing, this was my final plateau.

Plus, not knowing how many images per loci until the deck dictates it is very difficult for me, so the full 2704 will get rid of that speed bump, so I am hopeful.

However, even with Mallow’s 2-block method, memorizing 2 decks in under 5 minutes was really easy. On average, that used only 26 loci, and there was enough time to review the entire thing once.


I would never make a 3-2-3 PAO. The whole reason I stopped doing PAO is because even with only 52 people, it’s just too difficult to tell them apart. My people in this system are people like “bricklayers,” who always have a tool that they use in one or two specific ways.

The plan was never “loose,” but for a while it was imperfect, and it first it just didn’t exist. I had this exact plan (shadow images) for the 2-card system from the moment I knew I would be using my own. (Edit: Actually, that last sentence makes more sense if you phrase it the other way around. /Edit) At first, immediately after the competition, I was filling up the 000-999 list as fast as possible, not caring too much about exceptions, and at that time I still believed that I would learn the Ben System for Cards and Binary, and just keep the Major system for digits. I didn’t share it at first (except with Boris and Wessel) because I wanted to make sure that it really worked and there weren’t any major holes that I hard overlooked, but of course there was one big one. The thing I overlooked was just how hard it would be to work on the phonetics and then abandon the drive to “say” one word just because you know you should be thinking of another. That last adjustment of making the syllables was the only part that came in to play later.

Edit: Actually, the handling of some of the face cards changed later too, like changing the sound of the Jacks when they are in the second position and so on. Once the idea of shadow images was in place, it was all just fine tuning to make everything as simple as possible. In a PM to London007, who actually filled out a Ben System, I asked him to rank the order of the initial consonants of the Ben System, in order of how difficult they were to fill out, in order to help me organize how the suit combinations would be pronounced. He told me that “S,H,C,D” were the easiest, so I knew that Kings would be the “H’s,” since they aren’t in the major system at all. Most of the time I spent “working” on it, I was filling out that first half and puzzling over how to make the transitions to shadows smooth. The solution to that puzzle came all at once.

I did not get “help” from Ben, except for the fact that I ripped off the 2-card system from him whole-sale. I’m not sure he knows about this one yet, I’m thinking/curious if he might drop by and say a few words when he sees the thread.

I also did not study the Ben system, unless you want to count that day where I downloaded Josh’s Ben System template, looked at it for an hour, and said “I’m not going to do this.”


I didn’t explain it too well.

“Mallow-style” or “Mallow’s 2-block method” as I sometimes say, is a very cool idea that he dropped by and mentioned on the “post your best card times here” thread about 6 months ago. He has a 2-card system of his own where he uses either 800 or 1000 images. I read it just once, but he is a native German speaker, and it wasn’t a perfectly simple or straightforward method, so I’m still not sure exactly how he handles 1352 combinations with only 800 or 1000 images.

Anyway, his “2-block” idea (at least, I think it is his) was something he mentioned in a thread on these forums a while ago when explaining how he memorizes his cards. As in SS, he has his images in matching pairs by suit. He uses the exact same images in both situations. He is able to reconstruct the deck properly by telling them apart based on how he puts them in the loci. Let’s say that the first cards in the deck are Ah2h 3h4s 5d6c 7c8d 9h10s JcQc KcKc, and KdKd.

He would put the first 8 cards into one loci because the first 3 pairs begin with a red card, and so when he gets to that fourth pair, 7c8d, he knows that is the last image to put in that loci, because it begins with a black card (7c). The next 4 cards he would put into the next loci, because 9h10s begins with a red card, and JcQc, beginning with a club, is going to be the last image in that loci. The next pair, KcKc, he would put in the next loci, and then move on again immediately, because it’s a black pair. Finally, he would begin the next loci with KdKd, (the same image as KcKc), and keep going until he gets to a pair beginning with a black card.

It is fun, but it means that a deck will be memorized in any number of loci between 1 and 26, based purely on the order of the cards, and though it does tend to average out, sometimes (almost never) you have to put 8 images in one loci, and it’s risky. Even worse is when you have to put just a single object in a loci many times in a row, or just a few times in a row several times in the same deck. But it’s fun, and a good way to practice while setting up the second half. Yet, (and I hope this doesn’t come off the wrong way), I think that being uncertain of how to handle the objects in this loci and the next could account for Mallow’s PB card time being slightly slower than some of the competitors on his level. It can be really jarring at times, and for two people with equal skill, I think the full 2704 is always going to be the faster method because it’s the same thing but with one less speed bump to worry about. Whenever you always memorize in groups of 3 as Ben and some others do, you probably start to get a really good idea of how certain objects behave in the first, second, and third positions, and how to wrap things up in nice, neat packages. If you wrap up a nice package of three, and then find you have one more object to place in that loci, you have to make it interact with at least the last object on the spot, and then uh-oh I have one more to squeeze in here…and then, uh-oh, hopefully this is the last one. Of course, using the 2-block method, you don’t expect nice, neat packages, so it affects the way you learn, but I digress.


Thanks for the answer. I’m kinda at a crossroad as to doing a 1000 or 2 card as I said and your system looks very interesting and well thought out. I was leaning the other way but I think I’ll study your original post a little harder…I might have some more questions for you in the future. Thanks again!

1 Like

I hope you do think of something new to ask. We might learn something if you do :slight_smile:

1 Like

Hi Lance,

I’ve looked at your posts quickly and from my perspective, I think I would have to spend a lot more time to get to understand it. I do understand, in essence, the Ben system. I think a different way of laying out the explanation for your system may help me to understand it.

First of all, it takes you about 2 pages to explain the Ben system and 5 and half pages to explain the Shadow System, which I find a bit discouraging. Can you sum it up?
Also, can you answer briefly the following questions:
Why do you use the word “Shadow” for your system?
How many images do you need to memorize to use your system?
If it isn’t the same number as a Ben system (2752 or so), How can you say your system is a two card (per image presumably) system?
I see that you have highlighted some of Ben’s consonants for 16 options regarding the suit mix. Is your system the same as Ben except that it deals differently with those highlighted consonants?
What is an illogical consonant? How would you define a Shadow in your system?
Does your system involve posting images on a journey the regular way? With 26 images posted for a pack?



1 Like

Thanks for the interest, Simon.

  1. I’m not concerned with teaching the Ben System. I posted its rules because it is the only competing 2-card system that I have heard of. Looking at them side by side may help people who wish to make a 2-card system decide which system they would prefer to use. Also, the Ben System is simple, so there isn’t as much to say about it. I’m sorry that the length of the SS explanation is discouraging. The fact that it is not as simple as the Ben System may deter people from using it or even understanding it, but I do not believe it is more difficult to fill out and become familiar with after all things are considered. However, anyone serious about building a 2-card system must understand that they are committing to something that will take a lot of time, and they would do well to learn about and ponder their options, like Brad is doing.

  2. In summation: the SS is a 2-card system, whereby all combinations of 2 cards are considered distinct entities, thus allowing 2 cards to be memorized at once so that more cards could potentially be memorized in fewer loci.

  3. I use the term “shadows” to describe half of the images used in the list. These 1352 images spring from each of the original 1352 in the sense that the two are related and the second is necessarily preceded by the first. Metaphorically, this resembles a shadow.

    1. However, if you wish to disregard the second half of the system, the first half can be used as a clean way to create a two-block system, like the one Mallow uses.

5)It is just like the Ben System in this respect.

6). That is a major difference, but there are other, more important differences. For instance, the Ben system uses vowel sounds, while SS does not.

  1. I don’t know what you mean. There are probably some typos and other errors in my original post. If you are quoting me, then what I was probably trying to say is that the phonemes made by the Ben System are often nonsensical.
  1. See “3)”
  1. Of course. I’m not setting out to try to reinvent the wheel here. The Method of Loci is fundamental.

Hi Lance,

Thanks a lot for sharing your system which is in my opinion, the first serious attempt at translating the Ben system in the major system. I find it very ingenious, but perhaps I still don’t understand it very well. I have a few more questions.

So you appear to create Major images with blocks of images with the main block, the one that uses always 3 consonants, being the 10X 10 (or Ace to 10 X Ace to 10) 10 X 10 = 100 images X 8 possible suit combinations = 800 images. Make a second set of images (the shadows) and you have 1600 images created for this main block.
Now given that there are in fact 16 possible suit combinations, you will be using the first listed suit of combination for the normal major images and the second listed suit combination (the one that shares the same consonant as the first) for the shadow image.

Is this correct?

If this is correct, would it be possible for you to detail the image count of the remaining blocks of images, (the ones involving the faces) as I have done here, so we can see that all 2704 images are accounted for?



1 Like

Yes, it sounds like you have that right.

Since the blocks are designated by which color the first card is, if we only talk about the combos that bein with a black card, we will arrive at 1352, and that’s probably the quickest way to explain it.

You have that block of 800 #+# images,
Then you have images that start with a black court card and have a # second. There are 6 black court cards, (JcJsQcQsKcKs)
And each of these will make a combination with each of the 40 # cards, so 6x40=240 cards beginning with a face but ending with a # card. There are just as many when the faces are second, but if that is not intuitive, then just think of 20 black # cards each pairing with a face card of either color, of which there are 12. 12x20=240
800+240+240=1280. That means that the remaining 72 cards are combinations of Face cards. 2 black Jacks x 12 face cards=24
2 black queens x 12 face cards (12 possibilities of face cards that the second face card could be)=24.
Combinations that start with black Kings, as with Q and J, have 24 combinations.


Thanks Lance,

I now feel that I understand completely your new 2 card Shadow System. So I have no more questions. I will consider giving your system a try.

For those of you who may not have understood it yet and who notice that Lance does not appear to be taking into account a number of possible combinations. (Red court card followed by #, for instance) I wish to say that you simply have to deduce that when you have a red court card to start off followed by a number, you simply use the shadow image of the black court card with the same number for that particular combination.


1 Like

I hope you do! It is a lot of fun, and a challenge - just make up those abbreviations for the first 1352 along the way, so you don’t have to go back like I did.

1 Like


The thing is I’m very dedicated right now to my own Less L. System, which I have recently overhauled. Given that I’m all alone using that Less L. technique, I think it is best if I just try to find out how far I can take it. Dividing energies by working on two methods is too much time consuming.

The concept of shadow images is something I began to use myself in 2011. I used it with 4000 pegs (2000 of them shadows) where all the odd numbers become a true phonetic match and the even number the shadow. I have done this for my pegs 5000-9000. I also alternated with the true phonetic match being the even number for the 6000-6999 series and the 8000-8999 series ( because they start with an even number, 6000 and 8000).

I’ve never revealed this anywhere before because my memorization is still partial (about 95%) and consequently the system is quite slow. When I had the idea to try this, I thought it would be easier to conjure up images that way as opposed to having to find an accurate phonetic match for each number. It hasn’t turned out to be easier. It seemed just as difficult. What I found interesting was to develop an order system by which I could always know which one is the shadow and which one is the true phonetic peg. I’m not at the point though, where I would recommend to anyone to use this system for use as images for numbers.
However, I think the application you found for this shadow system (translating Ben’s system into the major system) is ideal.


1 Like


I am doing something really similar with Even and Odd numbers in my expansion of SS into the 4-digit system! A big part of me wants to have it ready to use for USAMC 2014, but I know my scores would be lower if I actually did pull it off. That doesn’t actually matter though, more important is that I wouldn’t have time to improve at random words, N&F, and poetry.

You’re definitely right not to divide your time up if building a Giganto-List. It takes far too much time. Did I understand you right, that you have thousands of pegs that you use?

But I think that the description of the SS as “translating the Ben’s System into the Major System” is inaccurate. What makes the Ben System unique is the way he expanded the Major System, which I didn’t replicate here. So he and I really just took different paths from the same starting point.