World Records

I am curious about what the official IAM position is toward world records and what constitutes a world record and what does not. Does the IAM consider world record scores from WMSC as “world records?” Are any future scores from the WMSC not considered official by the IAM? Conversely, are past records from competitors who broke records at WMSC events who now associate with the IAM considered world records? There are world record scores posted to the IAM that are better than what the WMSC is claiming to be world record scores. What is the WMSC position on world records? Do they view records set at IAM events as official? Or are they completely disregarding the achievements of IAM competitors?

I logged into the Guinness Book of World Records website and found some information. Some of the records on their site are over 10 years old and obviously out of date. However, some of the memory records have been updated as recently as 2017. On some of the memory records it states Guinness does not keep track of them anymore and has outsourced to another organization. Does the IAM have official authority from Guinness to validate specific world records? Also, would it be possible for a memory organization to petition the Guinness Book of World Record organization to be the designated keeper of all memory related world records?

Has the IAM already stated their position on this topic? If that position has already been stated elsewhere, I apologize for not finding it. Thanks


The IAM has kept the WMSC results from pre-2017 as a baseline. So early 2017 the IAM world record were aligned with the WMSC’s.

The WMSC results are no longer considered by the IAM. I think this was the case since right before the 2016 WMSC WMC.

If a world record was broken at a WMSC event in 2017 or after (or even at the 2016 WMC) then it’s just not counted by the IAM.

Yes, and the other way around.

The WMSC is not counting the IAM’s results either.

I believe that the Guinness Book requires one of their arbiters to be present for a record to count, and that this costs money, that’s probably the reason why not all records kept by either the IAM or WMSC are counted as records by Guinness.

The statements above are just reflecting what is visible on the two statistics sites (IAM’s and WMSC’s).

I understand that Guinness Book doesn’t make updating world records easy and I understand why memory organizations have not regularly submitted records to Guinness.

Is there a better way that memory organizations can record world records? I believe one of the goals of the IAM is to grow the sport of memory. Shouldn’t it be easy for a newcomer to the sport to understand who holds a true world record? If a newcomer to memory sports googles memory world records, they could find 2 different WR lists. If they have no understanding of the past 4 years history of world memory sports they would be confused as to why the lists have different names and scores.

Maybe the current state is the best that can be accomplished due to the circumstances surrounding the IAM and WMSC. I know the WMSC has not been amicable and have been publicly hostile towards the IAM. But imagine if Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile and then a leading Running organization put out a press release stating they did not recognize his mile time. The only reason they did not recognize his mile time was because a different organization arbitered the event.

I am not an IAM insider but has the board considered any other solutions to counting world records? Are there no current relationships with the WMSC where some sort of agreement could be reached?

This has been on my mind for a while and wanted to see what other people think about the state of world record keeping.

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I don’t think the Guinness Book should be considered the be all end all as far as memory sports… entertaining as it is to find out who’s got the longest fingernails or longest eyelashes:

So there are two lists… what is the big deal? As far as the question whether one organization should recognize the other organization’s record as the “true” record in case of a better score… what about “unofficial” practice records then? A lot of competitors have scored higher in practice than they have in competitions. Same goes for Roger Bannister… if he broke the 4min during training it would probably not be considered the “official” world record.

Could be worse though… consider the multiple world champions in boxing (and I don’t mean the different weight classes):

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I personally think this an issue that the new IAM board needs to give some attention and thought. Lots of memory athletes have listed that they are a current or former world record holder in their bio’s and if setting those records weren’t a big deal or great accomplishments (which they are!!!) they wouldn’t list them in their bio’s. The Guinness book may not be the end all be all but I think the new board needs to consider different solutions to this issue. The IAM may never be able to have the WMSC recognize records broken at IAM events but I don’t think that the IAM should make decisions solely based upon what a different organization else does or doesn’t do. I think the IAM should consider recognizing records broken at WMSC events or at least consider recognizing them it some format. The world memory statistics website, run by the WMSC had statistics from the USA Memory championship on the site and other memory events not run by the WMSC. They did include at asterisk noting a WMSC arbiter wasn’t present at the event but they did recognize the results. Maybe that’s a solution the IAM considers. Noting world records from WMSC events and then having an asterisk denoting the record was broken at a WMSC event. We may not be able to get the WMSC to do the same thing but maybe it doesn’t matter what the WMSC does. Maybe we take the first step because I think the ideal situation would be that both organizations recognize each other’s records if they are arbitered correctly and fairly.

Wikipedia recognizes this as an issue and it lists the best scores from both organizations. It’s not just Wikipedia that sees the importance of recognizing true world records. I’ve found other websites that list scores from both organizations. I have been a fan of memory sports for years for the past 2 years I have looked at the scores from both the WMSC and the IAM to see if anyone broke world records and then I’ve compared the results from both events. I am probably not the only person who has done this.

I don’t know what the ideal solution to this issue is but it is an issue that’s not going away and even though there are no good solutions there may be a “least bad” of all the bad solutions.

I’m sorry but I still don’t see the issue. I just checked the T&C on both websites and it seems that neither excludes you from competing in both organizations. Technically, you could have gone to the IAM World Memory Championship in Vienna and then the World Memory Championships (this one spelled with an “s” at the end) in Hong Kong afterwards. If competitors choose to do so or not is of course entirely up to them, but they don’t seem to be restricted by affiliation.

Your statement about Wikipedia is not entirely accurate. Firstly, they don’t “recognize” anything as it is not Wikipedia writing the article. You’ll also find that if you change languages on Wikipedia, the German article lists only the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place overall (for both) and no individual records, the Indonesian article lists only the IAM world champion for 2017, the Turkish article is only updated up to 2016, and the Portuguese article simple states that such an event exists.

If this is simply a matter of newcomers to the sport getting confused by the two lists, I think they will be able to figure it out after not too much research. Of course somebody could start an independent blog/webpage that aggregates all World Records and states if IAM or WMSC is the “true” (definitely not the right word) record in the discipline.

it is really not that uncommon a case. Please note the following in the second to last paragraph in the link: “A rule introduced by FIFA in 2010, however, states that only official World Cup wins enable you to print a star on your shirt – which Uruguay have only done twice.”

But you said:

I personally think this an issue that the new IAM board needs to give some attention and thought.

…what do you mean by “this” if you don’t mind me asking? The fact that people list that they are “record holders”? If they have been awarded such a designation what should keep them from doing so? One would be the record holder according to IAM and another according to WMSC – the same is the case in boxing (see link in previous reply).

You are confusing world records with world championships and you are also introducing arguments that are not relevant to what I’m talking about. I don’t care if both organizations claim world champions as this is common in different sports as you mentioned… aka boxing. I don’t have an issue with people competing in one or both of the championships and I don’t’ think the organizations have an issue with that either.

As I can only speak read and speak English changing the language setting would be pointless as I wouldn’t be able to understand what is written on the Wikipedia page.

The “this” that I’m talking about is the definition of a world record and whether that matters or doesn’t matter. To me the definition of a world record is achieving a score or time in a standardized event that no other competitor has previously achieved during a competition. Memorizing a deck of cards or random numbers is about as standardized as you can possibly get. You don’t have to deal with other circumstances as you do in other sports. For example, in running things like the wind or running downhill or uphill can have a huge impact on your time. In memory sports the events are like a math problem where there is only one correct answer.

I’m basically saying if the WMSC and IAM both claim world record holders of a standardized event and one of the scores is lower than the other then it is not a true world record. It may be an organization record but I don’t consider it a legitimate world record and I feel that claiming it as a world record is silly.

Well, then we’re just arguing semantics now. Merriam-Webster defines a “world’s record” as: a record officially recognized as the best established anywhere in the world (see’s%20record)

As @Sylle already pointed out, IAM does not “officially” recognize MWSC records and vice versa. So either there are two records or you have to choose which of the two you consider the leading (read: official) organization, due to the fact that there is no umbrella that both operate under.

Do you mind me asking if you have been to any of the recent World Championships (either of the two)? Cards are not as standardized as you might think. There is no restriction on poker decks you can use… there is no rule that they only allow Bicycle Standard Index playing cards.

There are competitors that use cards with larger pips (completely legal) which you may argue makes them easier to read. Others use the German deck, which has pips in all four corners as opposed to just top left and bottom right. This might give an advantage to right handed people using a two card system because they can more naturally swipe the top card to the left. By comparison, with a US Bicycle deck you’d have to slide the bottom card to the left, which has a less natural feel to it, because you don’t have a pip in the top right corner to look at.

Spoken Numbers, even though standardized at 1 per second is influenced by the noise level in the room (wind speed, downhill example you give). Secondly, the recording is playing in English only which is a second language to the majority of the competitors. Not to mention that really old records had the numbers played at 1 every 2 seconds. As far as written numbers… not everywhere in the world are the Hindu-Arabic numerals that you are used to in standard use.

Random Words is translated into the language that the competitor chooses. So you could argue that the Chinese “出口” is a pre-made mnemonic when read as “double mountain + mouth” as opposed to the English translation “exit” which is more abstract and needs to be turned into a memorable image first. Also words in Finnish for example are generally longer than their English translation, so there is a higher risk to run out of time during recall.

You are right we seem to be arguing semantics and yet each time you post you bring up more semantics. You mentioned the ease of visually recognizing the cards. Should be regulate that competitors’ eyes remain within 12-18 inches of the card deck while memorizing? If they move outside that range should there memorizing attempt be disqualified? You can argue the tiniest little details that aren’t relevant but that is just distracting from what I am talking about.

You don’t have to agree with me. You can have your own opinion on the subject and I’m not trying to change your thoughts on the matter I’m just bringing up something I believe is an issue. Feel free to disagree with me. It won’t hurt my feelings.

Okay, I don’t think it’s a tiny detail that you can swipe a German deck with pips in each corner in four different directions and a US deck only in two directions, especially with regards to a 2-card system. Plus, I didn’t bring it up to “distract” from anything… I brought it up because you said that cards is as standardized an event as they come and that is definitely not the case.

To recap, you’d like IAM to recognize WMSC records and vice versa so that newcomers to the sport don’t get confused as to what the world record is when they use Google to find out – fair enough; but I doubt it’s gonna happen.

I understand that there are variances- the different pips, different number system ect… I agree with you that in the names and words events these variances are much more pronounced making it extremely difficult to have a standardized degree of difficulty between languages and even between different attempts.

We do agree that the IAM and WMSC will never recognize each other’s records. I think it would be the best solution but we don’t live in an ideal world so it’s extremely unlikely this will ever happen.

Just to clarify what you said about my reasoning. My beliefs on this subject are not only about making it easier for newcomers. But also because I believe the term world record should apply to a person who has achieved something no one else has ever achieved in competition.