[Photos credited to Thailand Crossword KumKom Amath and Sudoku Association, Supachai Thongsawang, Thananon Boonkrong and Yuhei Kusui]
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
When can we see more sudoku tournaments that offer such prize money?
And, dear future organizers, please scrap the computer-generated puzzles.