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…

nh3csoon

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…
IMG_6446

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!