This is 1 of 2 posts about my experience in the 2017 WPC in Bangalore, India. This first part contains the non-puzzling side of the event while the next post will be my thoughts of each round.My flight arrived into Bangalore late Tuesday night. Ashish (Kumar) and Rakesh (Rai) picked me up from the airport and caught me up on the news regarding Kota’s miraculous 3-point win over Tiit (Vunk). Once at the hotel, I got to meet a long time acquaintance Rishi (Puri), who was leaving Bangalore later that night.
Next morning, I had breakfast with an under-the-weather David (McNeil) before leaving for the excursion. My first WPF event appearance was at the WSC in Beijing (2013) where I had missed the tour day so I had no idea of what these tours are meant to be like. This year, about 5 buses took us to three stops where we were loosely escorted around the sights. I sat with the Serbian team and have new-found respect for Nikola (Zivanovic) who was handcrafting what I think is an Akichiwake. At home, the perfect atmosphere is all I settle for when writing puzzles, so if Nikola can do it on an Indian tour bus – he gets my applause.
At the first stop, we had a brisk walk across a park to see some parliament buildings. Then we stopped at an alleyway of shopping malls, experiencing the hectic Indian traffic which I’m sure is much worse in other bigger cities. We had a lovely lunch at a barbecue diner with unlimited desserts.
I’m the least picky eater I know so my miniscule initial fear of Indian cuisine wasn’t impeding me from trying out new food. The staple seems to be flour-based pastries with an assortment with various curries. I also learn that they sure love their spices; or “masala”, the general term for South Asian spices. Despite all this new-culture excitement, even my eagerness couldn’t bring me to down the masala coke. One sip and no more.
Back at the hotel, where there was a generous selection of sports facilities, me and Sinchai were playing table tennis where the table nearby would join us for doubles. At the after-game handshake, we learn that they were no other than Seungjae Kwak and Hwangrae Lee, the biggest sudoku talents from Korea!
Seungjae would later win the Sudoku GP finals ahead of second-place Dai Tantan (China) and third-place Tiit (Estonia). The Puzzle GP finals that followed saw an all-Japan podium led by the unfatigable Ken Endo. Kota Morinishi and Hideaki Jo took second and third respectively.
Wrapping up the night was the Q&A session which ended shortly after midnight. With a tough schedule coming up, I thought it was way too late to end things at such an untimely hour.
The 3 days of competition had two sessions of 3-4 rounds (one in the morning, and one after lunch) per day, finishing around 6pm. Team Thailand (whose primary focus was the WSC) left Thursday night, so I had to seek refuge with whichever table was free. This usually meant I was having lunch/dinner with the UK team, the Turkish team or Team Japan.
There was a “United We Stand” fun event on Friday night where there were several rounds of various puzzles to be solved by groups based on their primary languages. I was working on a UK-themed Only Connect puzzle with Tom (Collyer), while at the same table, a USA map puzzle was being completed by Robert (Vollmert) and Neil (Zussman).The next wave of puzzles had numerous word-searches using many languages combined. Naturally, I helped out the Asian grid consisting of Korean, Japanese and Indian characters. The solutions from each grid were given translations into Hindi and we had to work out, from the examples, how to pronounce a final phrase – a short poem. The night was capped off with a dazzling fireworks display and the releasing of several lanterns.
Saturday was business as usual with the last two sessions and the WPC was over! I managed to snatch a copy of the NYT magazine Puzzle Mania issue that Will Shortz distributed and spent the evening solving word puzzles with Bastien Vial-Jaime (France) who was actually quite proficient at crosswords. When walking back to my room, I saw Neil beside the pool and that turned into a long session of solving word puzzles and playing Codenames featuring David (McNeil), Angus (Walker) and Michael (Mosshammer).
I couldn’t stay for the entire closing ceremony and left the venue around 9:30pm for my late flight. Organizer Prasanna (Seshadri) rushed to the lobby to give me the Best Debutant prize which I was convinced I didn’t win after a poor third day of stupidly losing so many points. I shared the bus with Robert before splitting up, and managed last goodbyes with the Korean team who were leaving for Singapore at a neighbouring gate.
It had been a fantastic week and I immensely enjoyed my first WPC. Thank you all for stopping by to say hi (it’s always good to be able to put names to faces), and hopefully I can attend and see you in Hungary for the 24HPC next year or the WSC/WPC in Czech.