2018 WSC Recap – Part 2

This is part 2 of 2 about my experience at the 2018 World Sudoku Championship which happened on 4-7th November 2018 in Prague, Czech Republic. This second part will be a breakdown of my thoughts on each round.

Round 1 – Classic Start [Individual]
Me and Sinchai correctly predicted 13 puzzles with the givens forming numbers 1-13. 30 minutes was going to deplete fast and I started panicking when my second grid had an error. Quickly recovering, I turned in a 9/13 puzzles where my 10th puzzle needed about 20 more seconds.
I was quite confident in classics but having stumbled I was therefore surprised to finish in 17th. Wow!
Points: 240/345 – 17th place (unofficial ranking which includes non A-team members)
Top score: 325 by Jakub Ondrousek
Favourite puzzle: I don’t think any fast solver would remember any particular grid.

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2018 WSC Recap – Part 1

This is part 1 of 2 about my experience at the 2018 World Sudoku Championship which happened on 4-7th November 2018 in Prague, Czech Republic. This first part will be a personal account of events leading up to, during and after the competition. Part 2 will be a breakdown of my thoughts on each round.

Preparation
My WSC adventure started well before November. After convincing my management department and a successful tussle at the embassy, there was a period of about 4 weeks to prepare. All my spare time, where I would normally solve or construct puzzles, were channeled to solely practicing sudoku.
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See you in Prague

In a few days I’ll be flying to Prague for the WSC/WPC. My participation was in doubt up until a few weeks back so it is good to have an ample period of time to reflect on the promptly-released instruction booklets.

As hinted in the participants list; Thailand is fielding in only 2 sudoku players. A bummer since I was looking forward to solving the team rounds together. An important conference later in the week meant I couldn’t stay for the WPC. Fortunately being one of the test solvers, (along with Hideaki Jo, Michael Mosshammer and probably a few others) I have a rough idea what I’ll be missing out on.

The WPC/WSC seems to elude me year after year despite my immense eagerness to take part. The grueling back-to-back combo being over a week long doesn’t help either. Guess I’ll seek refuge in the more forgiving schedule of the 24HPC for now.

Weirdly, this is only my 2nd attempt at the WSC. My first being in Beijing (2013) where I finished 30th, so any improvement on that would be goal achieved. My close puzzle friends have heard enough of me moaning about how I’m more keen on puzzles in general so it is also an incentive to show that I can also solve a sudoku or two (or twenty).

The IB struck me as quite Czech-centric so I think regulars in the European circuit would have a sizable advantage over people who’ve, say, just heard of Fed Sudoku last week. By jove, there’s an oil well of neat puzzles there!

Predictions!
WSC: Because of the aforementioned reason; I predict a Tiit Vunk win over Kota Morinishi this year. However, local favourite Jakub Ondrousek might have something to say about that. Team-wise, it is going to be hard, if not impossible, to top China. Despite missing Qiu Yanzhe, the enormous (and ridiculously young) talent pool China has will assure their dominance for the next few WSC’s.

WPC: A boring prediction in Ken Endo. Although with play-offs back in business; Ulrich Voigt might work his magic to claim his 12th WPC title. For the last 9 years; USA, Japan and Germany have been hogging all the WPC team medals. Hideaki Jo missing from Team Japan means my virtual bet is on Team USA.

Just to shot-gun some potential dark horses;
WSC: Dai Tantan, Seungjae Kwak and Keisui Okuma.
WPC: Walker Anderson, Robert Vollmert and Nikola Zivanovic.
Go horsey go!

I plan to blog this year’s WSC experience here and maybe a few thoughts and comments on the WPC puzzles would go up shortly after the whole ordeal is over. If you’re attending; best of luck and do come by and say hi!

See you in Prague!

2018 BRANDS Queen’s Cup Returns to Thailand

[Photos in this report are courtesy of Thailand Crossword Association and Thananon Boonkrong]

Trophies from the Royal Family up for grabs

The 2018 BRANDS King’s Cup happened earlier this month drawing the world’s top Scrabble players to Bangkok from 6th-9th July. At the same venue, Central Plaza Westgate, some big names from the world of sudoku also vied for the BRANDS Queen’s Cup.

Packed house at this year’s BRANDS King’s Cup

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Results of SOTR Holiday Quiz 2017-18

Happy 2018 everyone!
How are your holidays?
I still had to work throughout New Year’s but because of that, I’m currently enjoying my share of break (albeit a week later than everyone else) back home. As per tradition, we find out our first winner of the year by announcing the results of the SOTR Holiday Quiz!

Here are the answers.

Q1: Bonjour [2 points]
The 2015 French Scrabble Championship was held in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. What was especially peculiar about that year’s championship?
It was won by Scrabble god Nigel Richards who spent nine weeks memorizing the French lexicon and he doesn’t speak a word of French. Back in 2015, he won the Classic Match Play division and just last year he beat Thierry Chincolle of France in the finals of the Elite division. Woah!

Q2: Secret Santa [4 points]
Who is this person dressed up as Santa Claus?

Only two of you recognized South Korea’s number one sudoku solver, Seungjae Kwak. He won the 2017 Grand Prix final held in Bangalore, India. To be fair, the picture on the left does look somewhat like Hideaki Jo (which a lot of you submitted).

Q3: Puzzle Spy [3,2,2,3,2,3,3,3 points]
Shh! Take a peek at these grids. Can you name these puzzles?
Some of these maybe debatable, but since these pictures were taken from actual puzzles, no points were given to different answers.
1 is Visionary Tapa, I didn’t accept Colour Tapa (my creation!) because the clues aren’t arranged in an arc.
2 is Odd-Even-Big-Small Sudoku, I tried covering up the Kanji but most of you still got it.
3 is Hidato, also accepted Hidoku. I’ve also seen another name for it: Mazuko. Are there any other puzzles with numbers this high?
4 is It’s Yours, created by Ko Okamoto.
5 is Slovak Sums, which was also the inspiration for this question. I was solving Slovak Sums and couldn’t get over how awesome the layout looks.
6 is Tight-Fit Killer Sudoku, a tricky one. Killer Sudoku is not accepted because there is a slash that separates a single cell.
7 is Sums Fillomino, another personal favourite.
8 is Pills, taken from the Swiss Puzzle Grand Prix. If you look carefully, the dots aren’t uniform.
Only James McGowan and Giovanni Pagano identified all 8 puzzles. Well Done!

Q4: Yokai [4 points]
An invisible Japanese monster who appears in front of passersby to block them from traveling, gives its name to which puzzle?

The pictured yokai is Nurikabe, whose name means “painted wall”. Legend of the Nurikabe dates back since the Edo period, the much younger Nurikabe puzzle was created in 1991.

Q5: Anecdote [2 points]
In 2006, a journalist tried competing at a particular national competition for the first time and won. He later recollect how he won the finals:
“…At the front door, I saw my friend Liz vivisecting a pig. Just inside, the Incredible Hulk rode a stationary bike while a pair of oversize, loopy earrings weighed down his earlobes… In my brother’s bedroom, I saw my friend Ben urinating on Benedict XVI’s papal skullcap…and at the foot of my parents’ bedroom door, myself moonwalking with Einstein…”
What on earth is he talking about?

In Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer chronicled his adventures practicing for, and later winning, the 2006 U.S. Memory Championship. The excerpt above is a common technique mental athletes use to memorize a deck of cards. An image is assigned to each card and multiple images combine to form weird scenarios that stick in your mind, hopefully long enough for the competitor to recall the entire deck.

Q6: Cryptic Crossword [3 points]
This crossword appeared in the Guardian back in 2013. What was so special about it?

Appropriate answers are highlighted.

Reverend John Graham, crossword writer for the Guardian under the byline “Araucaria”, announced in a crossword that he was terminally ill. The crossword ran in January 2013 before the 92-year old constructor passed away in November the same year. He had been providing cryptic crosswords for the Guardian since 1958.

Q7: Infographics [3,2,4,2,2 points]
Below are five graphs, each depicting some information. Can you decipher what each diagram represent? A short sentence briefly explaining each graph will be acceptable. (Click to enlarge).

A: Individual WPC titles won by each country.
The 11-title German slice were all from Ulrich Voigt, while America’s 6 titles were between Wei-Hwa Huang (4), Ron Osher (1) and Palmer Mebane (1). I predict that in the next decade Japan’s slice will grow due to the arrival of Ken Endo.
B: 
Count of different cell shapes in a standard Battleships puzzle. There are 20 ship segments in Battleships. 4 are submarines (circle), 4 are squares (middle segments) and the rest are the curvy ends of the ships.
C: Progression of the 3x3x3 
Rubiks Cube world record. The current record stands at 4.59 seconds by SeungBeom Cho (South Korea) during ChicaGhosts 2017 held last October. Competitively-speaking, cubists duel it out over 5 attempts and taking the average time, while excluding the fastest and slowest time. In that case, the current record is 5.80 seconds by Feliks Zemdegs (Australia) – who is also the record holder of several other Rubiks disciplines.
D: Letters that are also pentominoes. The standard set of 12 pentominoes have letter labels. There is actually an alternate labelling proposed by mathematician John Horton Conway which uses 12 consecutive letters from O to Z. Puzzlers will no-doubt prefer the original labels because of the resemblance to the letters.
E: Reinfeld values of chess pieces. Chess clubs all over the world will teach you not to swap rooks with a knight or bishop and that the King is worth 200. However, there are endless debates and other proposed values to chess pieces but let’s stick to the basics for now.

Q8: Cryptogram [8 points (1 each)]
Can you work out what these 8 entries are?From top to bottom: PIXEL PUZZLES, OEKAKI, KARE KARALA, PI-CROSS, PIC-A-PIX, PAINT IT BLACK, HANJIE and NONOGRAM. These are different names for the same puzzle depending on where you get your puzzles. Online cryptogram solvers could not decipher this so if anyone hacked their way through this, please share your experience!

Q9: Sequence [3 points]
What comes next in the following sequence?
Masyu comes next. The original type was called Shinju no Kubikazari (Pearl Necklace) and had only white circles. Black circles were later added and it was renamed Shiroshinju Kuroshinju (White Pearls Black Pearls). Nikoli president, Maki Kaji, misread the kanji as “Masyu” and the name stuck.

And the winner is….!!
Congratulations to James McGowan from New Zealand!
With this win, he breaks two records!
The perfect 60/60 is obviously the highest score we’ve ever had in our Holiday Quiz and he also becomes SOTR’s first triple winner! Balloons! Celebration! Applause! James will receive the Nikoli Penpa 2018 issue for winning.

Each year I always think this quiz is harder than the last but the scores indicate otherwise. I wasn’t aiming for difficult non-Google-able questions but I tried to make sure that you have to earn these points. Was the quiz too easy? Did anyone wing through this without Google? Had fun?
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the quiz and I wish everyone a fantastic year to come. Subscribe to the mailing list on the right hand side to not miss any future events.

Happy 2018!

SOTR Holiday Quiz 2017-18

Puzzles from Nikoli Hurdles 5 have been added to the PAST PUZZLES tab above. I’ve also attached links to the previous Holiday Quizzes and the answers at the same place. This will be the last post for 2017, the year flew by didn’t it? As per tradition, we cap off the year with the SOTR Holiday Quiz!

Instructions: Answer as many questions as you can. You don’t have to answer all the questions. Submit your entry at the entry form below. The highest scorer will receive a copy of Nikoli no Penpa 2018 published by Nikoli.  You can submit multiple times but only your latest submission will count – so you can change your answers until the deadline on Tuesday 9th January. Questions can be made by commenting on this post or by e-mail to roygbivpuzzles (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tie-Breaks: If the highest score is achieved by multiple entrants, the entry that scored the highest in Puzzle Spy (question 3) wins. If the tie remains unbroken; the entry that scored the highest in Infographics (question 7) wins. Rock-Paper-Scissors will decide any further ties.

Here we go!

Q1: Bonjour [2 points]
The 2015 French Scrabble Championship was held in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. What was especially peculiar about that year’s championship?

Q2: Secret Santa [4 points]
Ho! Ho! Ho! Have you been good? Who is this person dressed up as Santa Claus?

Q3: Puzzle Spy [3,2,2,3,2,3,3,3 points]
Shh! Take a peek at these grids. Can you name these puzzles?

Q4: Yokai [4 points]
An invisible Japanese monster who appears in front of passersby to block them from traveling, gives its name to which puzzle?

Q5: Anecdote [2 points]
In 2006, a journalist tried competing at a particular national competition for the first time and won. He later recollect how he won the finals:
“…At the front door, I saw my friend Liz vivisecting a pig. Just inside, the Incredible Hulk rode a stationary bike while a pair of oversize, loopy earrings weighed down his earlobes… In my brother’s bedroom, I saw my friend Ben urinating on Benedict XVI’s papal skullcap…and at the foot of my parents’ bedroom door, myself moonwalking with Einstein…”
What on earth is he talking about?

Q6: Cryptic Crossword [3 points]
This crossword appeared in the Guardian back in 2013. What was so special about it?
Q7: Infographics [3,2,4,2,2 points]
Below are five graphs, each depicting some information. Can you decipher what each diagram represent? A short sentence briefly explaining each graph will be acceptable. (Click to enlarge).
Q8: Cryptogram [8 points (1 each)]
The letters in the 8 entries below have been substituted with another letter. All substitutions are constant throughout the list. Can you work out what these 8 entries are?Q9: Sequence [3 points]
What comes next in the following sequence?

[Submission closed]

Thanks for playing!
See you in 2018!

Results of Nikoli Hurdles 5

23 people crossed the finish line after twenty days of Nikoli Hurdles 5.

In order of submission, they are; John Davis, Swaroop Guggilam, Gavriel Hirsch, Nick Brady, Ivan Koswara, Murat Can Tonta, Edison He, Lewis Chen, Prasanna Seshadri, Kishore Sridharan Kumar, Michael Mosshammer, Grayson Holmes, Franck Wallez, Michael Tang, Michael Lasserre, Andrew Brecher, George Xing, Nikola Zivanovic, Arturo Vial Arqueros, Amit Sowani, Rakesh Rai, James McGowan and Anthea McMillan.

The winner will be determined by playing a game of Scattergories. Each player was to come up with 4 entries (beginning with S, O, T and R) for each of the 5 categories; sudoku variants, green things, body parts, sports and things you see in the sky. Each valid entry scores 1 point, but if any other solver came up with the same response – that entry scores nothing.

It was tough going through all individual entries. I was impressed by a lot of creative entries and even more impressed when other people repeat those entries! Let’s take a look at each category one by one.

[Note: a green box represents a unique entry that scores 1 point, a white box is a valid entry that has been repeated (scores nothing) and a yellow box is an invalid entry or the competitor had left it blank.]

First up is Sudoku variants:
Most popular entries were ODD-EVEN, OUTSIDE and THERMOMETERS. General judging criteria is that the sudoku type must be established and accepted among the puzzle community. A one-off puzzle on an obscure blog would not suffice. Edison’s TWELVE TONE was (frustratingly) considered valid because the “creator” went as far as having it self-published in book form.
Grayson’s OCTO-SUDOKU may have referred to the Octo puzzle, which is not a sudoku (but another sad, self-made, computer-generated clutter), or the Octothorpe Sudoku which would have been valid. Also unsure if TEMPERATURE was meant to be Thermometers but would score 0 points anyway.
Prasanna accompanied his entry (specifically ‘ROLLING THE DICE’) with a little note saying that he hopes Nikola wouldn’t enter. A few days later, Nikola submitted his own invention. Bam!

Standings: after round 1, we have a five-way tie for first between Swaroop, Edison, Kishore, Nikola and Rakesh.

Round 2: Green things.


We have sneaky entrants interpreting “green” as in “eco-friendly”, which produced a lot of creative answers; RECYCLING and TESLA. I also learnt that there are a lot of Pokemon fans among puzzlers who end up repeating each other.
You could see Andrew adopting a popular strategy of using scientific names of plants and scored a perfect 4/4. The obscure TARRAGON and RAPINI didn’t fare so well (I have never heard of both). SOTR’S BACKGROUND earns my applause but surprisingly didn’t score! STARBUCK’S LOGO and ONE-UP MUSHROOM were my favourites.
I didn’t accept RIVER ALGAE because RIVER merely acts as an adjective. Other invalid entries were OCTOPUS (too vague), SKIN OF HULK (doesn’t strictly start with S), TURMERIC (no matter how hard I try, it seems yellow to me) and RADIUM (science gurus will know that the cartoonish green glow of radioactive material is not due to radium, but to alpha particles hitting phosphor in the paint, however RADIUM WATCH DIAL would’ve been an excellent valid entry.)

Standings: Edison pulls ahead with 6 points. Nikola and Rakesh are close at second equal.

Round 3: Body parts
The amount of repeats for R was surprising, even RIBOSOMES didn’t score. RIBS and RIBCAGE were treated as the same thing. I could not find anything to validate Nikola’s RECTRICES (a flight feather) being a part of a human’s body and also gave him a benefit of doubt with SCALES (as in the plaque formed in wound healing process).
Rakesh’s OCULUS (latin term for eye) and RIGHT ATRIUM (even though “right” is an adjective, the right atrium is more clinically significant as opposed to, say, right kidney) were accepted after careful consideration.
RETINA, RADIUS and RECTUM were very common. And the alternative spelling of OESOPHAGUS didn’t score either.
There were a lot of muscles, nerves and bones you could’ve used here but a lot of points were awarded.

Standings: Edison and Rakesh leads with 9 points. Nikola and Andrew have 7 points.

Round 4: Sports
There were a lot of “games”, rather than “sports”, but as a chess fan who’ve read far too many games vs. sports debates; I’ve accepted them all. There were no invalid entries in this round. One way to score was using variants of a sport; OPEN-WATER SWIMMING, ONE-POCKET BILLIARDS, THREE-CUSHION BILLIARDS and ONE DAY INTERNATIONAL CRICKET were all valid.
Some clarifications; OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING is the proper term for the discipline (ie. OLYMPIC wasn’t used as an adjective) and similarly, TEAM HANDBALL is the common term for the sport and not treated as an adjective.
ORIENTEERING was by far the most common response; another four of you came up with OINA and my favourite entry SEPAK TRAKRAW hits close to home (if your home is in South East Asia).

Standings: Edison, Rakesh and Andrew are one point from each other. Can Edison be caught?

Round 5: Things you can see in the sky
A valid entry has to be something that can be “seen”; OXYGEN and THERMOSPHERE aren’t something you actually “see”. Almost everyone interpreted “sky” as “outer space”, which I didn’t have in mind at first, so the tons of other celestial phenomena that can’t really be seen (especially with naked eye), but can be “observed”, I generally accept them as valid.
Understandably, there were a lot of constellations and birds, unfortunately you were equally creative and repeated each other. Only two scored in O; ORIOLE and OLDWIFE UNDERWING.
ORBITING SATELITTE and TOY HELICOPTER are adjectives, THE BIG DIPPER starts with a B, while OUTDOOR LIGHTING is too grounded to be something you “see in the sky”. My favourite entry was Murat’s SUPERMAN.

And scoring 15/20… congratulations to Edison He from Hong Kong!

Thankfully Edison won with such a margin that even if all of my rulings were reversed; he’d still win. Hopefully that discourages anyone who wants to continue further arguments. Phew! That was a tiring game of Scattergories. You can be assured that I’m not going to bring it back next time.

This is Edison’s first win after 10 events at SOTR. I’m extra happy when a regular visitor wins 🙂
He is second to only Nikola, who is still winless after 11 events. Other people overdue for a win are Alan O’Donnell (9 events) and Swaroop Guggilam (8 events). One day!

I hope you had fun, and please take the time to vote for your favourite puzzles to be included in the next edition.
You can pick up to 3 choices among these recent Nikoli types.
[Poll closed]

Holiday quiz coming up very soon.
See you then!