Jan Wins 2016 BRANDS Queen’s Cup

[Photos from the event courtesy of Thailand Crossword Game Association]

The annual BRANDS Crossword Game King’s Cup was moved from the capital to the province of Nonthaburi. Last weekend, hundreds gather at Central Westgate, a newly-built shopping complex which was just opened less than a year ago last August. The main event (Scrabble) attracted competitors from 20 countries. This year the narrative was more exciting than what the organizers hoped for.


Central Plaza Westgate was opened just last year

Before the event Pichai Limprasert, ranked 101st in the world (due to less opportunities to play in official matches), had collected seven (!) consecutive wins in national events throughout the season. The level at the top of Thailand’s Scrabble players is very narrow – which made this record previously unimaginable. Would he be the one to snatch the 31st King’s Cup from 3-time world champion, New Zealander Nigel Richards?

Every square inch of the hall was used to accommodate thousands of competitors

Every square inch of the hall was used to accommodate thousands of competitors

Another venue inside the mall

Crowds gather at other venues inside the mall

When the 29-round qualifying matches begun, Pichai looked like a champion in the making as he led the pack from round 2 to round 5. His dominance was briefly interrupted by Singaporean Ming Hui Wee for four rounds before Pichai reclaimed his lead. Pichai reigned supreme until the very end (round 9-28!) until finally succumbing to Nigel Richards in their round 29 encounter.


Scrabble players compete in 29 qualifying rounds…

The main event: Scrabble Open Division

… but only two spots in the finals

The two qualified for a three-game playoff and traded one win each allowing a cinematic last game. Nigel won that 469-356 and defended the King’s Cup once again, pocketing a handsome $10,000 USD.

Nigel Richards (left) defends his King's Cup from a new challenger, Pichai Limprasert (right)

Nigel Richards (left) defends his King’s Cup from a new challenger, Pichai Limprasert (right)

The match extended to a third game

The match extended to a third game

For the last two years, the King’s and Queen’s Cups remained with their defending champions – but this was to change since Kota Morinishi, after getting a new job, was absent from this year’s tournament. Familiar international favourites include Jan Mrozowski (his 4th trip to Thailand), Yuhei Kusui (who won in 2012) and his compatriot Takuya Sugimoto, who is still looking for his first podium finish.

Like previous years, the prizes were donated by the Royal Family

Like previous years, the prizes were donated by the Royal Family

A new name struck fear among the competitors in Tiit Vunk who flew in from Estonia to have a go at winning the Cup. Once again, putting up the resistance is half the Thai national team; Sinchai Rungsangrattanakul (who won in 2010) and Supachai Thongsawang (who came 3rd twice in 2014-15).

Jan Mrozowski, his 4th time in Thailand

Jan Mrozowski, his 4th time in Thailand

Yuhei Kusui was the last holder of the Queen's Cup in 2012, before Kota's three-year reign (2013-2015)

Yuhei Kusui was the last holder of the Queen’s Cup in 2012, before Kota’s three-year reign (2013-2015)

Sinchai Rungsangrattanakul, looking for his 2nd win

Sinchai Rungsangrattanakul, looking for his 2nd win

Newcomer, Tiit Vunk

Newcomer, Tiit Vunk

The format of 6 qualifying rounds provided little drama and 4 names quickly distanced themselves away from the field to secure spots in the final 5; Jan, Tiit, Sinchai and Takuya. Only Supachai and Yuhei had realistic chances to earn the 5th seat in the finals. When the preliminaries were over it was Yuhei who remain in the fight for the 10th Sudoku Queen’s Cup.


2016 finalists: Takuya, Sinchai, Tiit, Jan and Yuhei

Ready..set.. go!

Ready..set.. go!

The finals consisted of 4 basic variants to be solved on stage. After three years of getting used to the whiteboard, Jan Mrozowski finished all four puzzles, just 21 seconds before Sinchai, and is rewarded with $5000 USD. Tiit Vunk earned the bronze medal despite having 4 errors in the Irregular Sudoku. The two Japanese finalists had uncompleted grids and finish 4th (Takuya) and 5th (Yuhei).

In action

In action

Jan Mrozowski adds another title to his name

Jan Mrozowski adds another title to his name

Sounds like a fun weekend to me!

Previous winners of the BRANDS Queen’s Cup
2007 – Chatchakarn Roongsiri
2008 – Panupol Sujjayakorn
2009 – John Robert Valcos
2010 – Sinchai Rungsangrattanakul
2011 – Poramet Yosamornsoontorn
2012 – Yuhei Kusui
2013 – Kota Morinishi
2014 – Kota Morinishi
2015 – Kota Morinishi

Only Kota has won more than once. Runners-up have included Rishi Puri (on multiple occasions) and well-known Chinese author and solver Chen Cen (2010).

Flashback #16 – Akasuke

The last puzzle in this series of Flashbacks is the hardest of the lot. Only 1 solver (Thomas Snyder) managed to solve it. Nowadays I use a computer when writing a difficult puzzle with many deduction-paths, but back then it was all grid paper and a lot of erasing. Because of the very-restricting nature of the type, I don’t think Akasuke will see any of its siblings soon.

So here is the devil that hardly anyone solved. Have another go at this in an untimed environment.

Akasuke: Fill in the grid of shaded cells with the listed numbers. Afterwards, the numbers become Akari clues, which are used to solve Akari in the usual manner.


Flashback #15 – Searchdoku

Searchdoku is credited to Dave Tuller in his AARP Wordsearches book. The back story of this puzzle was shared in the LMI forum. The original puzzle had a Maori-birds theme and because of the Maori language’s vowel-heavy nature, it ended up being difficult and too guess-y. This last-minute product below, finished just hours before the test was to start, was a gem.

When a puzzle is garnished with compliments, including one from logic puzzle-jesus Thomas Snyder, it means a lot to any puzzle constructor. But what excited me the most was that it got me writing for Akil Oyunlari for the next 4 years. That morning is vividly etched into my mind; I woke up late in the morning to read my e-mails. One of which was from Serkan Yurekli, who invited me to write a Searchdoku for issue 72 – which also had a similar concept.

Here is the puzzle below, can you see the break-in?

Searchdoku: Find the listed word in the grid going in any straight direction. Some words may be found in, or going through, the blank 9×9 grid. After several letters are filled in, the empty 9×9 grid becomes a Sudoku puzzle using 9 different letters.


Flashback #14 – LITS2

LITS^2 is possibly my only creation that has caught on. There aren’t many LITS variations, let alone five years ago. The idea of cramming two pieces in each region proved to be a success as several other authors are now writing their own LITS^2.

The puzzle in the online test had a simple LMI theme. I recall tweaking for hours to get rid of that notch on the “M” – but gave up when the deadline was approaching.

LITS^2: Shade in two tetromino pieces in each bolded region. The two pieces in the same bolded region may not be adjacent to each other. Otherwise, standard LITS rules apply.


Flashback #13 – Kropkuro

A big milestone for me has to be Puzzle Fusion, which was held during the early days of LMI back in the end of 2011. I still remember the frustration of tossing piles and piles of scrambled-up grid paper until every corner of my room was slowly drowning in litter. I completely underestimated how hard it would be to write this 24-puzzle test.

The concept was two puzzle types combining to get a hybrid type. There were 8 sets of combinations and most of the solvers’ ratings were for the hybrids. The first hybrid was Kropkuro. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this was Kropkuro’s first appearance –before it started popping up in several European tests and most recently in Matus Deminger’s Kakuro contest.

I was still new to constructing and Puzzle Fusion ended up with a really poor balance of difficulty-spread among the puzzles. The Kropkuro ended up being too massive for such a test but as a stand-alone, I’m sure it is still enjoyable to solve.
Go get it!

Kropkuro – Fill in the grid with numbers 1-9 so that each number adds up to the given sum for that row or column. No number may repeat within a single entry. A white dot is given when the two neighbouring cells contain consecutive digits. A black dot separates two numbers where one is twice the other. 1 and 2 may be separated by any coloured dot. All dots are given.


LMI, November 2011

New Flashback Tab


Flashback (the first tag on this blog) denotes puzzles that have previously appeared elsewhere. Once every blue moon, I would stroll down memory lane of past contributions to see if any ideas can be revamped for future projects. Flashback is where I will pick a few of my personal favourites and possibly add a few words about how it came to fruition.

Links to previous Flashbacks are now on the menu above. I will occasionally add more every now and then, especially in between competitions, when the site gets a little too quiet.

UKPA Open 2016


Next weekend is the UKPA Open 2016, to be held at Selsdon Park Hotel in East Croydon (WPC/WSC 2014 venue) from 27-28th February. If I live in Europe, where intracontinental travelling is less of a hassle, the UKPA Open would certainly be my yearly fixture.

Over 2 days, you can compete in the Puzzles or the Sudoku section (ever better, why not both?). Not everyone might be familiar with who’s who in WPC-style puzzles, but I can assure you the line-up of the authors is impressive. We’re talking years of experience in both small events, online blogs and all the way up to the World Championships.

Also, at the UKPA Open, the lack of restriction gives authors a lot of room of creativity; and you can definitely see that in the instruction booklets. My round is called “Ticket to Puzzle” (a rip from a well-known board game) and will feature railroads, train tickets and even Thomas the Tank Engine.

If you’re interested, applications can be made here.
Have fun!

Light Read #5 – Searching for the 100th solver


Here in the SOTR headquarters there’s a spreadsheet keeping track of all submissions since this blog began. I wanted to have a rough idea of how many solvers are entering, which events are popular, who’s been winning what, who hasn’t been winning, which events they liked, disliked – so improvements can be done. It is also a joy to see the list growing every year.

At one point, it looked like solver Arturo from Chile (!) was SOTR’s 100th entrant (not 100th entry since one entrant enters multiple events). But that was not to be. Solver Zach also entered Manila, but a good year before that he entered Colour Restore under another name. I found out only because he ended up winning:). Which meant Arturo was the 99th solver and the next newcomer would be the 100th.

That next newcomer is Jason V. Zuffranieri who entered Nikoli Hurdles 3 last November. (Applause). I remember seeing him race-solve Kakuro with World champion Kota Morinishi back in Beijing WSC 2013. Jason might lose this distinction if earlier entrants end up being the same person as another existing entrant. One frustrating example is Indian solver “Skynet”, who, despite being asked for his/her real name 3 times, continues to ignore me.

It may be uncomfortable giving away your name on the internet to a stranger, but I’m only using it to send you stuff when you win. And if it’s really that unsettling – you can always tell me to omit out your name.

By last count, SOTR has now reached the 100-solver milestone! (Applause).
Thank you for being a part of this achievement.
Here’s to another hundred!

Results of SOTR Quiz

Whether it’s the ill-timing with the holiday season or just that puzzlers don’t like quizzing in general as only 8 people entered the SOTR Quiz. Nevertheless, some impressive scores!
Let’s cruise through the answers.

  1. CHRISTMAS MAZE (2 points): You were given an easy maze to start off with. The correct path should have 13 turns.

  2. QUIZ #1 (2 points): Who is second most prolific solver, winning the second-highest number of individual WPC titles? That would be Wei-Hwa Huang with 4 wins. 
  1. QUIZ #2 (2 points): Who is the only female solver to have won an individual medal (gold, silver or bronze) in either the WPC or WSC? Jana Tylova, gold in at the 1st WSC, Lucca-Italy 2006. 
  2. SECRET SANTA (2 points):  Who is this person dressed up as Santa Claus? This is the current World Sudoku Champion, Kota Morinishi.
  3. NOT TYPOS (1 point each): Puzzle names can come from weird mash-up of words, words from different languages and even made up words. Therefore, sometimes Microsoft Word thinks it is misspelled and promptly auto-corrrects them. Below are 8 puzzle names that have been auto-corrected, can you guess what the original puzzle names were?nottyposIn order: Nurikabe, Tapa, LITS, Araf, Kakuro, Nanro, Hitori and Masyu

  4. QUIZ #3 (2 points): In 2009, a man allegedly cheated his way to the finals of a Sudoku tournament. His poor onstage performance called for a retest a week later. Seeing his dismal results, the organizers disqualified him. Name this man. The man is Eugene Varshavsky, who was also believed to have cheated in the World Chess Open back in 2006 as well, nonetheless, we never knew how he did it.

  5. QUIZ #4 (2 points): In what U.S. state did the above event took place? A tricky question which called for Pennsylvania and not Philadelphia (which is not a state). 
  6. FLAG DAY (5 points minus 1 for each incorrect/missing solutions): A new tradition to the WPC is the new WPC flag. Nope. It isn’t the one below. The flag below consists of several past WPC logos. How many past logos were used? And from what year(s) were they from?wpcflagThe logo was made using 4 elements from the logos of 2001 (Brno), 2007 (Rio de Janeiro), 2011 (Eger) and 2014 (London). flagdayans
  7. QUIZ #5 (3 points): Ever since this blog started in 2012, one and only one Pokemon have made an appearance somewhere throughout the years. What is this Pokemon? Back in 2013 (it’s been 3 years already?), Pikachu appeared in this Tentai Show puzzle.hereheispika
  8. QUIZ #6 (3 points): How is the picture below related to logic puzzles? This is Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory (1931). Eureka! That’s a name of a logic puzzle! Invented by Serkan Yurekli (he named the type after this painting) for the OAPC.whatpicture
  9. QUIZ #7 (3 points): Who won the individual gold medal in the year when the WPC host city’s name has the highest percentage of vowels (than consonants)? Niels Roest, gold in 2002 WPC Oulu-Finland.

  10. QUIZ #8 (3 points): Twice have there been a WSC host city where there are more vowels than consonants in the city’s name. Who won the individual gold medal in those years? Thomas Snyder (2008, Goa-India) and Kota Morinishi (2015, Sofia-Bulgaria).

  11. PATCHWORK (3 points): Which of the following pictures is the odd one out? Briefly explain why. You either see it or you don’t. A is the odd one out because every other picture were taken from this blog’s logo.oddoneout patchworkans
  12. CONCOCTION (2 points each): Never before seen by mankind is the puzzle below. It is made by combining several specific puzzle types together. Can you extract all the ingredients? Not easy! There are 5 types here: the symbols on the left are from Weather Symbols (I also accept its old name Ikebana), the grid is clearly Kenken (also accept Calcudoku or Tomtom, although strictly speaking, Tomtom is handmade and not computer-generated), the sudoku variant seen is Triangle Sums Sudoku, the numbered arrows are from Pusula and the bottom-right segment of the grid is Blind Spot. Only one solver got 10/10, well done Walker Anderson!concoction
  13. PLACES TO PUZZLE (2 points each): What better way to spend Christmas than surfing the web for puzzles to do? Below are 4 places I visited, can you tell where I’ve been puzzling this Christmas? Active puzzlers should quickly identify The Puzzle Robot, Nikoli.com, Logic Masters India (sneakily taken from the ratings page) and Cleverly-titled Logic Puzzle Blog.  placesmeptpans
  14. LAST QUESTION (2 points): If you had answered all questions above correctly, one answer is used twice. What is this answer? Kota Morinishi was answer to questions 4 and 12…and now 16!

And now to the results…
The highest you can get is 60 points. First prize of Nikoli no Penpa 2016 will be sent to the highest scorer. No one aced the test but two were very close, scoring a nice 58/60. Woah! Those two are Gavriel Hirsch and a past winner Walker Anderson. This goes to the tie-breaks! The closest guess to the average score wins.

And the winner is…


Congratulations to Gavriel Hirsch from the United States! Our first winner for 2016!

Now on to some bad news. As for the consolation prize, less than 10 solvers entered – so I’ve decided to keep Dekabiro Kakuro for another occasion. The reason for this is because the winner of Guess the Average is ambiguous. The rules were to guess the average score of the Top 10 scorers, but only 8 entered and their average is 49.375 – which means either Prasanna (who guessed 49, only 0.375 off) or Kishore (who guessed 37.5 and if two zero scores were added, the average drops to 39.5) would win. Luckily this ambiguity doesn’t change the overall winner betwenn Gavriel and Walker. I apologize to both Prasanna and Kishore for this ruling and to make up for it – I promise an extra prize for the next event.

It’s been a long post. Thank you for being with SOTR at the turn of the new year. Next event drops early so stay tuned!
Have a great year to come!