The South of Market resident won the USA Memory Championships in New York after reciting the order of a shuffled deck of playing cards in 2 minutes and 27 seconds. Now Santos, who recently quit his job as a software engineer to become a memory coach, is preparing for October’s World Memory Championships in Bahrain. For more information on Santos, go to www.chestersantos.net.
What system do you use when asked to recall the order of a deck of cards? In the past, I had one image in my mind associated with every card. For instance, if I saw an ace of spades, the image of my friend Abraham would come into my mind. But I’ve now expanded the system to 156, so each card has three different images associated with it.
When did you know you had a remarkable memory? I think it really became noticeable in college. I went to Fresno City College and then Cal, and at both places I was kind of known as the guy who never went to class and still did very well. I would read all the chapters from a textbook a day or two before an exam and get a perfect score, or close.
Can you ever turn the memory off and relax? Yes, but now that I’m training for the World Championships, my walks are kind of interesting. Right now, I’m working on a system to have an image associated with every three-digit sequence from 000 to 999. So when I’m walking around looking at addresses in San Francisco, I’m always practicing that. I guess that’s a little unusual.
One last question: When is your girlfriend’s birthday? That’s easy [laughs]. July 17.