Results of Nikoli Hurdles 3

Results time!
42 entrants have made it to the finish line of Nikoli Hurdles 3.
In order of submission, they are: 1. Swaroop Guggilam, 2. Edison He, 3. Robert Vollmert, 4. Zach Polansky, 6. Ivan Koswara, 7. Gavriel Hirsch, 8. Arturo Vial, 9. Kishore Kumar, 10. Ken Levine, 11. Nikola Zivanovic, 12. Matej Uher, 13. Raphael Lehrer, 14. Franck Wallez, 15. Michael Mosshammer, 16. Maja Gribajcevic, 17. Rakesh Rai, 18. Nick Brady, 19. Prasanna Seshadri, 20. Dylan Gibbs, 21. Manea Constantin, 22. Alan O’Donnell, 23. Jack Bross, 24. Jason Zuffranieri, 25. Tom Collyer, 26. Liane Robinson, 27. Eva Myers, 28. Thomas Powell, 29. Walker Anderson, 5. **Emma McCaughan, 30. Antonis Lalatsas, 31. Grayson Holmes, 32. Andrew Brecher, 33. Neil Zussman, 34. Gareth Moore, 35. Michael Lasserre, 36. Sumet Juariyamark, 37. Steve Barge, 38. Jakub Ondrousek, 39. Jakub Hrazdira, 40. Anthea McMillan, 41. James McGowan and 42. Sinchai Rungsangrattanakul.


The above list of 42 racers includes 10(!) past prize winners and 4 newcomers. Interesting mix!

Never thought giving away byes in further rounds could cause so much trouble. I ignorantly assumed there would be a magical tournament bracket generator somewhere in the world-wide-web where you could input these byes in, but when searching for such program came out empty-handed, I had to work this out by hand. Our tournament bracket is summed up below.


Swaroop (labelled “1”) would enter the tournament at the final 8, while Edison (2), Robert (3), Zack (4) and Emma (**who although was 29th to enter will be labelled 5th for convenience) will enter from the round of 16. Three more byes are given to Ivan (6), Gavriel (7) and Arturo (8) -earliest to submit among the remaining – for round of 32, while everyone else fights for the remaining 17 spots. All pairings follow the single-elimination seeded tournament rule (where the nth-to-last seed always play nth-seed) as normal.
Find that confusing?
Me too.

Note your number, let’s look at Round 1!

Most matches are decided by one hand. What are your methods of choosing these hands?
Jakub Ondrousek bravely copied the example I provided and … hope that your example will be the best one for the tournament ;). It produced the longest match (4 hands) but he ended up losing to Raphael anyway. Better luck next time!
Both Tom Collyer and Walker Anderson submitted PPPPPPPPPPPP – no voodoo powers here, as they’re both eliminated in round 1. I’m not sure if Neil Zussman‘s fingers slipped as he entered PPPPPPPSPPPP.

Round 2 and round 3:
Getting the boost helped after all, the top 6 all survived! Alan (22) and Jason (24) are definitely the underdogs as they had to beat three people to get here. Let’s see if they can keep their hot hands. This is also the third time Prasanna eliminated Matej in a RPS-tournament, their encounters date back to 2013!
From this point first seed, Swaroop now make his entrance. 

Round 4 and 5:
Robert edges out second-seed Edison for a showdown between first and third seed! (Not shown is two papers -drawn- between Edison and Robert)
For the finals;.. paper, scissors… rock!nh3finals

Congratulations to Robert Vollmert of Germany!
He will receive the latest Nikoli no Penpa 2016 for winning this event. A little story here, I’m happy that Rob won since during the last event, Manila, he lost a tie-breaker to Nick Brady (who won a prize) but an early miscalculation from my part got me sending a congratulatory e-mail to Rob that he had won! Before Rob can even send me his address I had to reply that oops… you didn’t win after all. This time, however, it’s yours!

Here’s the full tournament results:

Thank you for joining me in this event. I hope to see you next time – some puzzles have already been written but I’m still uncertain when the next event will be held. Keep up to date with the latest SOTR events by subscribing – click the Subscribe button on the right hand side of this page. I don’t post often so I won’t be flooding your inbox anytime soon.

Puzzles from Nikoli Hurdles 3 has been added to the “Past Puzzles” page on the menu above.
Also, as part of Readers’ Choice for the next Nikoli Hurdles, please spend a minute to vote for your favourite puzzle types here (you can choose up to 5 types):

[Voting closed – 28/11/15]

Until next time.

NH3 extended by 2 more days

Nikoli Hurdles 3 will be extended by 2 more days to 21st November. The competition will now close in exactly one week from now. All entries, thus far, should have received a reply email from me. If you believe you’ve entered and did not hear from me. Please try resubmitting again.

Our prize, Nikoli Penpa 2016, is now available on Nikoli. You could help yourself to a copy there or you could try winning the rock-paper-scissors (RPS) tournament at the end of this Nikoli Hurdles track. If you haven’t already, head over the Puzzle 1 and start now!

As mentioned before the start of this event, 5 lucky people (1st-4th and the 29th entrant) will be awarded with byes in the RPS tournament. As of now, more than 29 runners have already reached the finish line so let’s announce who those 5 lucky entrants are!

First place goes to Swaroop Guggilam, submitting from India, he was also first to enter on two other events. Rightly deserving a boost to round three in our RPS tournament, a top contender to win this event for sure!

Four spots in round 2 goes to Edison He (2nd to submit from Hong Kong), Robert Vollmert (3rd to submit from Germany), our last winner Zach Polansky (4th to submit from USA) and 29th place Emma McCaughan (from the UK). These five people have increased odds of winning but ultimately it all comes down to luck. The winner may very well be from the majority starting from round 1. We’ll see what happens in one week from now.

Happy puzzling!

NH3: Problem with Puzzle 6

An error in Puzzle 6 caused problems for a few solvers. I understand and agree with suggestions that I should have test solvers. However, the idea of having someone to not be eligible for prizes irks me.

So what I do the last couple of years is this: I launch an event. And then I stay in front of the computer screen for a few hours until several entries start trickling in. The early solvers essentially act as test solvers and, even better, they can still win prizes. What happened last night was that Nikoli Hurdles 3 started and a moment later, I received a handful of submissions.

Thinking nothing went wrong, I went to bed and then to class. Now I realize (from a lot of emails) that Puzzle 6 indeed had multiple solutions, it is fixed now. I hope this does not distract you too much and I will try even more to get rid of these errors in the future.

Nikoli Hurdles 3 starts now!

Nikoli Hurdles 3 is finally ready.
So we’ll have 8 puzzles to be solved in chronological order starting at Puzzle 1 and all the way to Puzzle 8.


Everyone who reaches the finish line will have a chance to win the latest Nikoli Penpa 2016.   For Nikoli Hurdles 3, we will be revisiting Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine our winner but with a little twist. In a knockout tournament, we lose half of the competitors in every round, eventually ending with the sole winner. This time, 5 solvers will get an extra-boost to increase their odds of winning.

The first solver to reach the finish line will enter the tournament in round 3! That means he/she will compete with only ¼ of the solvers. That’s a huge advantage, but does not necessarily mean that he/she will win. Additionally the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 29th solver to reach the finish line will start the tournament from round 2. Those 4 will start competing with half the original line-up of competitors. The rest is fair game.

More information can be found at the ABOUT NIKOLI HURDLES 3 page on the menu above.
To get started, head to START-0m and start puzzling!

Good luck and have fun!

October already?

I still find it hard to believe SOTR has been deserted for two months. On the flip side, Nikoli Hurdles 3 is pretty much ready but while patching up loose holes here and there, another look at the calendar told me that WSC/WPC was already approaching. At this time of writing, Kota Morinishi had just defended his title, becoming the 2015 World Sudoku Champion.


So it is probably best to run Nikoli Hurdles after WSC/WPC. Speaking of Nikoli, the 15th Nikoli Derby ended today and I finished at the best possible place to not win a prize: 11th! That. Disappointment! I’d love to run a Nikoli Derby when this blog gets more readers.


Safe travels to those in (or heading to) Bulgaria. Sadly, I’m not there but my puzzles will be! Long time readers might recognize my contributions. The WPC instructions booklet is not available online; I’m guessing competitors might’ve received printed versions of it instead. Although, I do wish to see what the organizers have in store for this year.

A quiet July

I have been preparing big puzzles for July Giants since June. Well now July’s over so there will be no July Giants this year – the completed puzzles will be saved for later. What I have for you instead…


The track is almost ready. Nikoli Hurdles 3 will feature Fillomino and Ripple Effect as Readers’ Choices, another look at Five Cells and… uh. Let’s not spoil the track shall we? I will not be limiting myself to familiar Nikoli types, that’d be dull, so expect more unfamiliar puzzles this time round.

Don’t miss it!

3rd Brands Queen’s Cup win for Kota

[Photos credited to Thailand Crossword KumKom Amath and Sudoku Association, Supachai Thongsawang, Thananon Boonkrong and Yuhei Kusui]

There are several events in the three-day competition including Quizzes

There were several events in the three-day competition including English quizzes

The 9th Brands Sudoku Queen’s Cup was held alongside the 30th Brands Crossword (Scrabble) King’s Cup last weekend in Chaengwattana, a district in Bangkok, Thailand, a country where Scrabble reaches schools in the most isolated communities. With kids learning the rules of Scrabble before they even finish kindergarten, one can’t help but wonder how Thailand manage to produce two Scrabble world champions while the population still speak no English. The media never fail to cover the New Zealander Nigel Richards who impressively captured his 12th King’s Cup (and earning $10000 USD) by outscoring Singaporean Scrabbler Hubert Wee in the finals. Moving on to our interest… obviously the Sudoku aspect of the competition…

Current World Scrabble Champion, Nigel Richards, remains perfect

Current World Scrabble Champion, Nigel Richards, remains perfect

5 preliminary rounds were used to select the five finalists. All eyes are on the international favourites: current and former world champions Kota Morinishi and Jan Mrozowski. Two more Japanese were also labeled as ones to beat in Yuhei Kusui (winner in 2012) and Takuya Sugimoto. After skipping last year, Indian Rishi Puri was also looking forward to another podium finish after two consecutive silver medals in 2012 and 2013.

Main attraction: Scrabble, Scrabble and Scrabble.

In their tournament of a lifetime, hundreds (if not thousands) of kids of all age groups compete in Scrabble.

So who are Thailand’s hopes?
Sinchai Rungsangrattanakul is no doubt the most consistent player netting wins after win in various local tournaments throughout the year. However, the Queen’s Cup had mysteriously been untouchable for him since his win in 2010. The spotlights shining on Sinchai might want to look at another candidate; national team member Supachai Thongsawang, who just finished high school. A little reminder that Supachai eked out 3rd place last year against this tough field.

Not to be underestimated; Supachai Thongsawang in his new university attire

Not to be underestimated; Supachai Thongsawang in his new Chulalongkorn University attire

Sudoku playing field

Sudoku playing field

The qualifying rounds saw 4 people running away with tickets to the finals: Jan, Kota, Sinchai and Takuya. The 5th and final spot was somewhat undecided until the last day where Supachai, Yuhei and Rishi all had realistic chances. Repeating a miraculous feat, it was Supachai who once again squeezed through to the finals, producing the same set of finalists as last year!

Tight race for the finals

Tight race for the finals

In a new twist, the finals would consist of 4 well-known Sudoku types to be solved simultaneously on a large board. An exciting final was brewing up. Kota took a slow but steady approach and was first to tear through all the puzzles, winning his 3rd consecutive title. Surprisingly, the youngest finalist Supachai was second to finish! He would spend a few extra seconds too long checking his answer which opened the door for Jan to raise his hand, submitting his answer and overtaking him! Both Sinchai and Takuya were filling in their last digits of the diagonal sudoku before turning in.

Standing from left to right: Takuya, Sinchai, Jan, Supachai and Kota

Standing from left to right: Takuya, Sinchai, Jan, Supachai and Kota

In an unbelievable turn of events, Jan had 1 error in the alphabet sudoku which bumped Supachai, who had no mistakes, up to second place! Jan settled for 3rd while Sinchai and Takuya’s error-ridden boards were only good enough for 4th and 5th this year. Kota leaves Thailand with $5000 USD.

Hat-trick. Kota has won the Queen's Cup in 2013, 2014 and now 2015

Hat-trick. Kota has won the Queen’s Cup in 2013, 2014 and now 2015

You can try the puzzles used in the finals yourself

You can try the puzzles used in the finals yourself

When can we see more sudoku tournaments that offer such prize money?
And, dear future organizers, please scrap the computer-generated puzzles.

Past events now available

You might notice something different in the menu above.
That’s right! Past puzzles now available!

You can grab puzzles from the very first event way back in 2012 up to the latest event, Manila, held last month. Speaking of which, a parcel from Nikoli arrived containing…

These three books will be mailed out to Zach, Michael and Nick as SOTR celebrates its 3rd birthday. I have other events lined up for another exciting season.

Watch this space!

After Manila #2 – Decorations

I love including minor details into puzzles. For example did you notice the siren-shaped blanks in the coffee wordsearch? Two big examples of minor features in Manila:

Bulletin Board
A childhood of Mario Kart courses made me a huge fan of unused details. Though “unused” is not entirely true since it certainly adds depth to the gaming experience. Incorporating details (like signs on a Mario Kart course) into a logic puzzle contest on a blog like this is sadly pointless. Starting at the Harbour to read a paragraph of introduction might come to mind.


After solving the commodity puzzles, another seemingly meaningless feature appears: the Bulletin Board. I’ve had the idea of solvers leaving their mark as the make their progress at the back of my head for a while now. It takes Manila for an excuse to introduce it since both the Harbour and the Bulletin Board housed sneaky hints to Rick the Pilot’s whereabouts (as mentioned in the previous post).


With only 6 solvers posting, the reception of the Bulletin Board was quite dim. Edison was actually first if you exclude Rick. Then the board was left to rust for two weeks until Alan, 11th person to finish, came along to break the ice. Also I’m left to wonder who Rato is. Perhaps his boat capsized somewhere en route to Manila Bay Pier?

Captain Alokin
Our pirate had a rather brief showing in Puzzle 4, that’s very little to invest in a character. The Captain and his crew was originally a four-part mini puzzle series; invade his ship, prepare cannonballs, fire and take the loot.

What you saw was only the “fire” part (Outside Battleships) since three other puzzles all broke and I had already spent too long tweaking them to no avail. The loot at the end was a loop puzzle which would spell out MALACHITE. Rick was also going to give you malachite taking you to the finish – but alas, he had to give you a random string of letters instead.

Why Alokin? That’s a shout-out to Nikola Zivanovic, who is currently the highest-ranked solver at SOTR to have never won a prize. Closely behind is Ivan Koswara, both at 8 events and still without a prize. So that’s the drill. If you don’t win, take consolation in the fact that you can become a bad guy in SOTR. Perhaps Ivan can be an earth-hungry alien next time…

After Manila #1 – Rick the Pilot

Before the event started, a little info was given about the board game.
postman1Yet in the journey, there was no apparent way to find a pilot. And a lot of you wondered what was up with Pilot Service. Second clue was at the Harbour where several signs were plastered with notices, one of which was…

postman2Or you could have reached the Bulletin Board and found that Pilot Service was indeed available. Unfortunately it was locked.

postman5So if pilots are available, how do we hitch a ride?
The Bulletin Board might help…

postman3The coffee house word search had blank cells that spell out a trivia question for the answer key. Most of you might work out the question without having to even find all the words.
But what happens if you did find all the words?

IMG_6291Reading the leftover letters: “Hello there! I’m Rick, I am a pilot. Can you buy me a coffee? I forgot my wallet. Wow! Thank you! Say, should you be in a leaky situation, call me. My number is the two digit number on the first oil barrel.”

So what is this leaky situation?

postman4 Remember this other sign at the Harbour?
The picture of oil barrel is similar to the one on the map. This suggests that somewhere along the journey you will have some sort of oil leak.

Sure enough, at puzzle 3, this happens and Rick does come to the rescue.
The double-digit number on the first barrel is 48 and this opens up “Pilot Service”. Most of you probably haven’t seen it but here is the pilot puzzle:

Find 5 planes in the grid. Cells occupied by a plane cannot touch each other, not even diagonally. Each plane parts have different weights. An example of a plane is given. The numbers outside the grid represent the total weight of all the plane segments in that row or column.


Once this is solved, Rick takes you straight to Manila Bay Pier, skipping the last three puzzles entirely!

I only know of two people that hitched a ride with Rick; first was Nick Brady. But only after he went all the way to Puzzle 5, couldn’t solve the puzzle because it initially had multiple solutions, and then return to find Rick.

“I ended up coming here thanks to Rick’s Pilot puzzle, but I had made it all the way up to a solution to puzzle 5 that I believe is valid, but wasn’t accepted. Only then did I try tracking Rick down, solving his puzzle hoping for a clue and to my surprise being given a direct answer.”

Another person was Ivan Koswara who had an alternate (better?) approach. Once he got the message at the coffee house hinting at a two-digit number, he immediately tried all possible two digit combinations to hack open Pilot Service! Eventually he got to 48 and solved… “Perhaps my most favorite puzzle among the [puzzles] I solved”.
You cheater, you!

 Did anyone else find Rick?