Tiit Vunk Wins 2017 BRANDS Queen’s Cup

[Photos in this report are courtesy of Thailand Crossword Association, Thananon Boonkrong and Yuhei Kusui]

Central Plaza Westgate was once again the venue for the annual BRANDS King’s Cup International Open. The $10,000 USD winner’s purse attracts a handful of top Scrabble players in the world each year. Held alongside is the Sudoku Queen’s Cup where the winner takes half as much at $5,000 USD. There were many side events including A-math (an equation-building boardgame) and Kumkom (a Thai version of Scrabble).
Continue reading

Annual Pilgrimage to the USPC

One event I look forward to every year is the USPC. What makes this event stand out from your regular online tests is the amount of innovation that constantly pop-up year after year. Forget the usual types that you routinely solve all year round, here, it’s not an exaggeration that the USPC showcases some of the most creative constructions I solve puzzles for. These are the heavy-pointers which require insight and thinking-on-the-spot rather than common types which needed constant practice to get good at. Therefore, most of them end up being elegant one-off puzzles and will likely not see any of its siblings in the future (a notable example is the Criss-Cross Sums from the practice test).
Continue reading

PuzzleDo Mystery Revisited

I haven’t properly sent off PuzzleDo that happened three months ago, both Michaels have already received their prizes long ago. PuzzleDo has been a project lying dormant for about 7(!) years; the logo, characters, weapons and room cards were all drawn 7 years ago before I even entered college. It was originally intended to be an LMI test with a completely different format and progress on it went on and off numerous times. Late last year, while hunting for ideas, I re-explored my old files and saw the raw materials for PuzzleDo.
Continue reading

24HPC 2017 Recap Part 2

This is part 2 of the 17th 24HPC recap. Part 1 contains the event leading up to and after the competition. This part will contain my thoughts on each of the 13 rounds.

Everyone signed the welcome/farewell puzzle – made by Zoltan Horvath.

Round 1
Puzzles by Matus Deminger
Matus came up with a very interesting idea this year. The puzzles came in pairs with one classic type followed by a loop variation of that type. I jumped around quite a bit and enjoyed what I solved, largely due to them nicely being logically approachable. The large Kakuro loop was especially very clean.
Score: 620/1000 – 8th place
Favourite puzzle: Kakuro loop.

Continue reading

24HPC 2017 Recap Part 1

This is part 1 of 2 of the 17th 24HPC recap. This part contains the event leading up to and after the competition. Part 2 will contain my thoughts on each of the 13 rounds.

Group photo of this year’s competitors

The 24-Hour Puzzle Championship is a puzzle marathon that reached its 17th edition last weekend. I arrived on Thursday evening and joined two-thirds of the UK delegates; Neil and Tom, for dinner at the hotel’s lobby. Afterwards, we casually went through the IBs before retiring to bed.

Budapest train station

Continue reading

See you in Budapest

The 24 Hour Puzzle Championship is happening this weekend, and I’ll be attending for the third time. All eyes are on Ken Endo to see if he can live up to his number one rating position!

I’m aware that the Japanese puzzlers traditionally gather at Hideaki Jo’s house over the Golden Week period to simulate the 24HPC each year.
They would post their results online and the scores would always be ridiculously high, and more often that not, one (or four) of them would even surpass the winner of that year’s 24HPC.

Defending his title will be Neil Zussman who would need all the lucky breaks he can get. My bet is on another solver with the same initials – Nikola Zivanovic, a great author as well as a great solver. He has won before so he knows what it takes to regain his title!

As for myself, I came 12th in both of my previous appearances (2014 and 2015) with the same score of 777. So improving either the position or the score would be great. But the 24HPC scoring system is based on the top solver of each round – so I’d have to put in a ton more effort to catch Ken to keep my triple-7 mark.

If you’re in Budapest this weekend, come by and say hi!
Happy Easter!

Puzzledo Wild Cards

You were told there were 9 rooms in Tudor Mansion, but only a handful realized that there was a 10th room. That room was the basement.

In the billiard room, you were given 5 sudoku puzzles to solve. Once that was done, you could hear Mr. Black mentioning a basement, something about South Africa and a colourful lock.

However, the video footage of the billiard room had more to offer. Once you’ve finished reading you might’ve been tempted to close the tab and solve other puzzles – but if you looked at the scroll bar, you would notice that the room had something more below.

Scrolling down…

You see the secret basement!
But alas! It is locked.

Maybe the sudoku had something to say…

If you weren’t too carried away, you might have seen something in S is for Sudoku.
The given letters of each row, except for the top one, spell out LESOTHO LONGEST RIVER.

Lesotho, a country completely landlocked by South Africa, has a few rivers emptying into the Atlantic. The longest (and the only “colourful” one) is the Orange River. ORANGE opens the basement and reveals an optimizing puzzle which only two people solved (the two highest scorers would earn wild cards).

Basement: Billiard Champions
[Wild Card]
Enter the listed billiard champions into the grid so that each word is read in any one of eight straight directions.
Scoring: Total number of letters in all the words you can fit into the grid.
The two highest scorers will earn the Wild Card spots in the main tournament. You can enter multiple times but only your latest entry will count.

Can you beat Michael’s score of 107?

Results of PuzzleDo

16 solvers participated in PuzzleDo. I promised two prizes; one for the main tournament and one for everyone who scored over 100. All 16 of you scored over 100 so everyone is qualified for the second prize.

First, let’s take a peek at the standings:

The main tournament will be filled up as follows:
Early bird awards go to Ivan Koswara (first to reach 100 points) and Stefan Tomlins (first to correctly solve the mystery). Two wild card spots go to Michael Tang and Giovanni Pagano in that order (more about these wild cards later). Once you take those 4 out of the standings, the next top 4 scorers (coincidently, all with 190 points), are Nick Brady, Franck Wallez, James McGowan and Arturo Arqueros. This was the order I received their latest submissions.

Now for the consolation prize, people in the least picked room will face off in duel. As you can see in the grid above, there must be something in the lounge and the library as those two rooms attracted 10 solvers! The two facing off in Duel for the consolation prize will be Michael Lasserre and Grayson Holmes! They were the only two people alone in their rooms.

Shall we look at that match-up first?
In Duel, points are scored by shooting at the opponent or bluffing a protected opponent. In case of a tie, the first scorer wins.

Congratulations to Michael Lasserre from France!
Michael, and some others, picked the example as their Duel hands. Although the score was tied at 1-1, Michael drew first blood and therefore, wins the first Nikoli no Penpa 2017!

We now return to the main tournament, starting with the quarter final matches:

QF1: Nick vs. Giovanni
Not so efficient strategy from Nick. Since draws are broken by whoever scored the first point; Nick’s protecting and idling for the first three turns seemed eerie. Both duelists bluffed successfully and the match came down to the wire! Wild game!
Giovanni moving on to the semifinals.

QF2: James vs. Ivan
Now we’re talking strategy! Both James and Ivan started out with guns blazing for that important first point! Pew pew pew! Ivan’s string of shoots eventually penetrates through James’ bluff and he takes the match 1-1!
Ivan moving on to the semifinals.

QF3: Arturo vs. Stefan
A brave early bluff by Stefan scored a quick 0-2! Even a successful bluff from Arturo couldn’t make up for that deficit.
Stefan moving on to the semifinals.

QF4: Michael vs. Franck
An aggressive string of shoots from Franck secured an early 0-2! Just when it looked like the end for Michael, he turned the tables around with a successful bluff and a hit! Exciting game!
Michael moving on to the semifinals.

SEMI 1: Giovanni vs. Stefan
Another wild game and another successful bluff from Stefan! Giovanni’s bluff couldn’t overcome the draw odds when the match ended at 3-3.
Stefan moving on to the finals.

SEMI 2: Ivan vs. Michael
These two fought hard. The first match, which ended at 0-0, didn’t produce a winner so they replayed. Michael saved his last bullet against Ivan’s aggressive play and that earned him a spot in the finals!
Michael moving on to the finals.

Finals: Stefan vs. Michael
Stefan’s bluff failed and Michael narrowly escaped with the victory!
Congratulations to Michael Tang from the United States!

What are the odds of 2 Michaels winning PuzzleDo? They will both receive the Nikoli no Penpa 2017. I will be posting some secrets of Tudor Mansion in upcoming posts. Puzzles are now available at the Past Competitions tab on the menu above. I would like to give credit to Freepik who produced the lovely icons (weren’t those flowers in the Nurikabe beautiful?) which were used in PuzzleDo.

To not miss information on future events, subscribe for updates to your inbox on the right hand side.
See you next time!