This is part 1 of 2 about my experience at the 18th 24 Hours Puzzle Championship (24HPC) which happened on 25-27th May 2018 in Budapest, Hungary. This first part will contain the events leading up to and after the competition. Part 2 will be a breakdown of my thoughts on each round.
Thankfully, in the one month leading up to the 24HPC, I’ve been talking to the right people and secured myself a leave from work for the competition. This year was my fourth appearance and, as always, my goal is to improve on previous scores and fall asleep less.
I was first to arrive into Budapest (again) and was picked up by Gyorgy to the hotel. I heard negotiations were made to relocate to a bigger venue but all efforts failed, so we had to settle at the usual Hotel Amadeus that could use a much-needed renovation.
The instructions booklet was slow to trickle out due to some authors being late. Pal was worried whether the regulars felt that the quality of the event had ebbed. He can be reassured that this is not the case. Tom (Collyer), Neil (Zussman) and Taro (Arimatsu) arrived later in the same evening and we met at the hotel restaurant. We had plans of visiting puzzle shops and escape rooms the next day.
The weather forecast was accurate in predicting rain on the first half of the next morning. We visited a couple of puzzle shops which had board games, cards and a plenteous variety of mechanical puzzles. Keeping us occupied on the train was Taro’s latest catch – an origami puzzle pad where the goal was to fold the paper in such a way that you end up with all blacks and all whites on each side. Not as easy as it looks!
After a nice lunch, we reached the location of the first escape room. I have nothing but praise for this venue. Fellow escape-roomers would be happy seeing 3-4 rooms within the room but this one had 6 rooms (!) in a span of one hour. The puzzles all made logical sense and there were a lot of interesting gadgets that made it such a pleasant experience.
For example, the first room had a coffin-portal where we took turns going into the second room which had a nice foosball maze. The next room had a bigger coffin (skeleton included), where I volunteered to be locked inside to release another contraption. The fifth room with a pillar of fake key holes stumped us for a while and we ended up being 2-3 minutes late. But what fun that was!
Coming off from a high, the second venue, held in a medical school dormitory, had big shoes to fill. This particular room had puzzles running in parallel. Puzzles in escape rooms are usually linear, that is they are to be solved more or less chronologically. The owner had a good point where he said the idea of running a room in such a way is that when a team gets stuck on a puzzle, they can reach the next point by solving something else instead.
There were a lot of mini puzzles, sometimes not culture-neutral, which opened more puzzles. I felt the room required too much specialty knowledge. Inside were a medical dramas criss-cross puzzle, cubes with cranial nerves on them, the renal circulatory system that needs re-arranging and a heart which asked for which chamber had a pressure of 24mmHg. Not necessarily layman knowledge. We escaped with around 15 minutes to spare, sometimes not knowing if things were done right.
After a brief stop for drinks and ice-cream, we joined other competitors at the opening dinner. There was an hour or so gap until the Q&A session because the Turkish team was observing Ramadan and had their dinner pushed back a bit. I wrongly decided to kill time in my room and the next I realize is that it was already midnight and I had overslept, therefore missing the Q&A.
Fortunately at breakfast Michael (Mosshammer) briefed me about what I had missed. And now… we were about to start the Puzzle Marathon!
I was coming in confident with my 838 points (9th place) from last year. With Ken Endo absent, improving my score seemed simple, right? My optimism swiftly came crashing down when right out of the gate; I was breaking everything I solve in rounds 1-3.
I spent the next 5-6 rounds playing catch-up, adopting a more risky strategy and slowly crept up to top 10. For reasons unknown, I felt very sick this year which never happened to me before. I had lost all appetite by dinner and didn’t even attend breakfast (which was at 4am). At one point, I had a really bad headache and felt pangs of nausea every few minutes. The marathon was surely brutal.
My traditional falling asleep came in Takeya’s round 9. I kind of predicted this because it was the 2-3am round. This was unfortunate because the puzzles were great and sleeping definitely costed me a lot of points. After surviving Sinisa’s strenuous round 10; I thought, hey, I’ve definitely slept less this year, only to nosedive into unconsciousness in Alberto’s round 11.
Hatice (Aydemir), Jakub (Hrazdira) and I were isolated into spots from 10-12th place. With our scores bunched up and nowhere near 9th or 13th place, my best result would be 10th if I can somehow overtake them in the morning rounds. I couldn’t. Jakub and Hatice had a nice run in the last 3 rounds and my final result was 12th place with 831 points. Gah!
Heartiest congratulations to Nikola Zivanovic for a convincing win over Michael Mosshammer (2nd place). Our vlogging correspondent Neil Zussman took 3rd place.
With a tight work schedule, I had to leave only a couple of hours after the marathon. I managed to attend the closing ceremony and breakfast before leaving by Pal’s car to the airport. We reflected on the puzzles, the future of the Hungarian puzzle team and possible relocation next year. As always, I enjoyed my time in Budapest and look forward to attending again if the management department lets me.
How many of you can say that the 2007 World Puzzle Champion gave you a ride to the airport? 🙂