WPC 2017 Recap – Part 2

This is post 2 of 2 about my experience in the 2017 WPC in Bangalore, India. The first part contains the non-puzzling side of the event while this post will be my thoughts of each round.

With no play-offs, 23 rounds of puzzles (17 individual rounds and 6 team rounds) were crammed into three days. I feel most of these rounds were sadly undertimed and a lot of beautiful puzzles were missed. Or I’m just slow, but to the best of my knowledge, I don’t think many solvers were finishing these rounds.
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WPC 2017 Recap – Part 1

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.
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See you in Bangalore!

This post was meant to go up before I leave for India. As you can see below, I’d made some frighteningly accurate predictions! Let’s see if they will hold true for the WPC as well.

  Hello readers,

Last month, I have been extremely busy with work and sorting out papers to ensure that I will be participating in the World Puzzle Championships! I’ll be heading out to India tomorrow night and join the ongoing World Sudoku Championships.

I couldn’t get a longer leave to compete in both WSC and WPC – so only one choice was possible. I opted for WPC because Thailand had already field in a WSC team (led by the energetic Sinchai), and pushing out one of our younger solvers is something I’m not eager to do. Most importantly, though, I enjoy puzzles more!

Interestingly, this will be my first time competing – which means I can potentially win the Best Debutant prize! Unless there are dark horses lurking in the Chinese or Korean team – I feel I have a decent chance.

The organizers made a bold choice by not having play-offs this year and this was reflected in the higher amount of puzzles than previous editions. We’re talking 23 rounds in 3 days! The last two weeks were spent digesting the heavy 90-page instruction booklet.

This year also sees the return of Thomas Snyder (USA) after a three-year hiatus from the championships. The new format without the finals might favour the consistent Ken Endo (Japan) over the 11-time and defending champion Ulrich Voigt (Germany). There are promising and scarily young talents; like Walker Anderson (USA) and Qiu Yanzhe (China), who make guys like Palmer Mebane (USA), Bram de Laat (Netherlands), Hideaki Jo (Japan and somehow in the B team?) or Nikola Zivanovic (Serbia) look like old guards.

The WSC is currently underway and I don’t see Jakub Ondrousek’s (Czech) or Jan Mrozowski’s (Poland) name in the starting list – so I predict another battle between Kota Morinishi (Japan) and Tiit Vunk (Estonia). However, team-wise we should also look at China who’s been steadily creeping up the world ranks with their young team.

Much excitement, can’t wait to be there. If you’re attending (or already there), please drop by and say hi!

See you in Bangalore!

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.

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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

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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!

24HPC recap without the puzzles

[Personal recap of the 24HPC]


Budapest Ferenc Liszt Airport

On the forward trip, I sat next to a Turkish college student who was studying in Hungary. I asked what “Akil Oyunlari” meant in Turkish. He said “umm…like brain games”. He was born in Antalya so I was like, “hey, that’s where they hosted the 2009 WPC”, which was an excuse to explain why I was going to Budapest to solve puzzles. Pushing my luck of shoving puzzle talk to a stranger’s face, I also asked if he knew who Serkan Yurekli was. And I got a positive response!
“Yeah. He was on TV one time, I think he makes puzzles right?”
I admit I’m terrible at coming up conversation topics.

Like last year, I was the first to arrive and the last to leave Budapest. It certainly helps to spare a couple of days rinsing off your jet lag, especially when one had just covered over 17,000km in about a day and half. My first priority of looking for non-sparkling water was achieved at a dairy just across the road. Illiterate in Hungarian had me buying bagfuls of snacks based solely on its marketing appearance. I did enjoyed most of them fortunately.



The next day, I met Tom and Neil at breakfast and had plans for two escape games in the city. We went early in case of the very likely event of us getting lost, which meant we had a good hour munching on coffee and cake at a lovely store next to the location of the first escape game.

We were joined by the German puzzle team of Silke, Robert and their friend Hammond. The first game was held in a quiet residence and was hosted by a polite woman who apparently wasn’t the host of the English-language version, but we can agree that she did a fantastic job running the game.


On board the SS.Elzzup!

As with all escape games, the theme was loosely-based on a narrative. Hell, I can’t even remember the theme now. A friend is getting married in France? Somehow you’re on a boat to New York? He was framed for something? We needed to find a train ticket? A ring? Oh, I give up.

[Spoilers ahead: if you plan to play an escape game in Budapest, you might suddenly be the most competent member of your team]

So the first room was decorated like a boat and we had to find 5 coins to open up the next room. It wasn’t obvious, but there were 5 “things” to do and it was sensible to assume that they run independently and each lead to a coin. We had no system going in, everyone just solved whatever they felt like they could. All I can recall was peeking through a chest to see a picture of a sailor, holding a mop and hitting a seagull. On the ceiling was a seagull and there was a mop lying on the floor. The clever trick was that the mop was magnetic and it had to drag a key from a ledge on the ceiling. Going on simultaneously in the room, was a map puzzle being solved to unlock a rope ladder which Robert had to climb to a balloon which contained a coin.


Tom’s head on a bus

The second room was the train scene. We had to fill a briefcase with the correct set of five items to finish. There was an invisible code written on the mirror that Neil helped me solve, a classic logic puzzle that Hammond and I solved, while others revive a dead cellphone to get specific time schedules for a train ticket hidden behind a picture. There was a dummy in the room (I think it was the ticket collector) which we mercilessly murdered because what else do you do in escape games? You flip the whole room upside down and look into every inch of every single item that was there. The dummy’s head rolled right off by the time we finished.

We clocked in at 36-37 minutes, without hints, and were told that the current record was around 34 minutes. Ah, we did great. Afterwards, we returned to the same café (called Death by Decaf) for seconds and headed to the next escape game. It was held in a spacious cellar (or “dungeon”, as Neil insisted). The theme this time was that we had to stop a biotechnical warfare by finding some sort of poison concocted by some mad professor. The room was his lab and there were heaps of things to solve.


We had better times

My favourite had to be where a box was opened by placing a stethoscope on to the heart of a skeleton. Several puzzles ended up adding one piece to a chessboard so we incorrectly assumed that the chessboard was probably the last thing to be solved and proceeded to solve other puzzles in the room. We burnt at least 20 minutes trying to figure out how to make sense of colourful chemicals on the table and got nowhere.

We had to phone for help and the host directed us to “a green monster”. There was a green rubbish bin and surely enough, magnetized to inside of the lid was the crucial final chess piece. Gahh, honestly we must’ve opened that bin at least five times each. Good warm-up for the 24HPC.


Another 300 or so puzzles to understand the rules of


Listening to my occasional sighs; my table neighbour Matthew Stein from USA.

Fast forward to the end of the competition, I left Budapest for Dubai. The purpose of entry on my VISA was cultural/sports which prompted “what sport were you playing in Budapest?” at the customs. I thought for a second before replying, “puzzles.”
Of course I got a confused look.
“Like sudoku”
That elicited an “Ahh… I know sudoku. Wait. You flew all the way from Auckland to solve sudoku?”


The newly renovated competition room meant generous working space for us

In Dubai, I tried their Snooze Cube, which was a little bedroom for transits. Air-conditioned, free Wi-Fi, universal outlets and the room goes pitch black when the lights were switched off. Absolutely perfect.




I listended to a few podcasts and slowly nodded off…


Home time!


Quiet Melbourne Airport at 5am

After two more transits at Melbourne and Auckland. One last domestic flight carried me home.


No more planes for me.
Until next time!

Nikola, Robert and Zoltan tops 15th 24HPC

10395820_826304097429959_4078698941160149976_n The 15th 24 Hour Puzzle Championship is already behind us and I had a blast! Undisputed winner Nikola Zivanovic was in a league of his own and soared away from the competition very early on, earning another (his second or third?) victory at the 24 HPC. The race for second place was won by the very consistent Robert Vollmert. Zoltan Horvath, who came straight from his third place win at the Poland Championships, rounded off the three podium finishers.

Left-Right: Robert Vollmert (Germany), Nikola Zivanovic (Serbia), Zoltan Horvath (Budapest) [Photo courtesy of:  Rejtvényfejtők Országos Egyesülete]

Left-Right: Robert Vollmert (Germany), Nikola Zivanovic (Serbia), Zoltan Horvath (Budapest)
[Photo courtesy of: Rejtvényfejtők Országos Egyesülete]

Speaking of consistency, I scored 774 (just 3 point less than my last year’s score) appropriately finishing at the exact same position: 12th place. A clear and mildly depressing indication that one year went by with no improvement whatsoever. My thumb is still numb from 24 hours of pencil-gripping.

Full results

Full results

Big thanks to the organizers, authors and the lovely company of Neil, Tom, Liane, Michael, Rob, Adam and Katrina for such an amazing weekend. 11095083_878410352219333_6284051748742055371_n A little funny story before ending this post. Our booklets are returned after each round and at one point, Neil’s had “Sorry, no points” written in red pen next to a sad face. Wondering for a second why he wasn’t awarded his points for the Futoshiki, we realized that he was solving the accompanying example! Even better, the answer was right next to it! I have another 24-hour adventure in the form of 4 long flights back to New Zealand starting tomorrow. Only this one, I’m not looking forward to with as much enthusiasm.

15th 24HPC this weekend


The 24 Hour Puzzle Championship has reached its 15th edition this year and is happening this weekend. I will be taking part for the second time so if you’re making the trip I’ll see you there!

Last year after hanging around in the top 10 most of the time, I ended up at 12th likely due to the many 5 minute naps that I stole during the early morning rounds. The podium spots are personally unrealistic for now so I hope to just improve on my last year’s numerically-beautiful score of 777.

Ever since I knew about the 24HPC, flicking through the newly-released instruction booklets was an exciting moment to look for new puzzle ideas. Now that I’m fortunate enough to participate, it won’t be a casual browse anymore!

The very first Minesweepers with Duds coming to Hungary.

Instructions for Minesweepers with Duds

A little bit about my set: every year I more or less follow a prototype of my original set back in 2010. A new variant this time is the Minesweepers with Duds which the harder one will be worth the most points in my round. I will be eager to see if anyone can haul in the maximum 1000 points in those 100 minutes. Very plausible.

Safe travels and see you in Budapest!

WSC Semifinals + Finals Coverage


Half the room was taped off by two large screens separating the semi-finalists and the audience. China is a great host with access to a lot of high tech gadgets: fancy cameras, professional lightings and what have you but unfortunately they had Mickey Mouse running them.

Instead of close action of speed solvers we got something like one screen showing a reflection of the audience while the fire of the semis was ever blazing. Most the time you also wonder why would we be interested in looking at an extreme close-up of Jakub’s pencil case or Jan Novotny’s hat? Show us the puzzles!!

Two screens were erected for the audience

Two screens were erected for the audience

Eventually we did get ‘some’ action. By ‘some’ I meant a shuffling of close-ups from a random competitor’s progress. Even when that competitor is in last place – far from the heat of the competition.

Here’s a rough run down:
The preliminaries were dominated by Tiit Vunk who was rewarded with about an 8 minute head start over Bastien. After every three puzzles, the field is trimmed down by 2-3 players.

The first puzzle was a classic, I think Tiit finished it before anyone else even started. The second puzzle was a Killer sudoku, which provided a break for the rest of the field as neither Tiit nor Bastien seem to have made any progress on it. Also: Tiit uses twink! (In America, you might know it as “white-out”). Pen/twink in the semi-finals!?

Killer Sudoku that stumped Tiit and Bastien

Killer Sudoku that stumped Tiit and Bastien

The third puzzle was an Anti-diagonal sudoku. The first seven solvers to cross this mark proceeds, eliminating the last three. Jan (M) and Kota emerged from the field and were the first to move onto the second phase.
One by one, the rest of the field took a vacant spot, leaving the top 2 seeds Tiit and Bastien eliminated in the first bout! Hideaki took the last spot and 10th place Jan Novotny couldn’t make up for his handicap.

The 4th puzzle, another classic, was followed by Antiknight sudoku. Jan and Kota were closely followed by Jin Ce. At this point, Jakub (with crutches) lagged behind and was on the verge of being eliminated with Hideaki. The real shuffling was done by the 6th puzzle – Product Star sudoku. This really impeded Jan and produced a new leader in Jin Ce.

Kota and Jin Ce were first to the second checkpoint. China’s young star Sun Cheran (can anyone make me feel worse about my solving ability by telling me how old she is?), passed Jan at this point and joined Jin Ce in chasing Kota. Jakub somehow made up for his lost time and was literally limping to secure a spot in the top 5. Jan eventually finished and eliminated Hideaki and Seungjae.

And we're down to five

And we’re down to five

The 7th puzzle was a third classic sudoku which didn’t produce any drama, unlike the 8th puzzle – a scary-looking Irregular Sudoku.
Kota had about a minute lead over Jin Ce going into this puzzle, but he made quick work and left for the final puzzle – Pyramid Sudoku (an extra-regions sudoku with a different name).

So it was Kota leading by a slight margin with two young Chinese solvers breathing down the back of his neck. When things got really close, disaster struck one of the two pursuers — Sun Cheran erased her entire Irregular sudoku puzzle.

The audience gasped as Sun Cheran erases her entire Irregular Sudoku

The audience gasped as Sun Cheran erases her entire Irregular Sudoku

This window of opportunity provided Jakub with a much-needed break as he quickly passes Sun. The audience held their breaths to see whether it was Kota or Jin who would be the first to submit. A wild applause broke when it was Kota who secured the first ticket to the finals.

Kota taking a well-deserved drink after securing the first spot in the finals

Kota taking a well-deserved drink after securing the first spot in the finals

Another moment of suspense to see if Jakub would be able to pass Jin. About a minute later, Jin raised his hand – during the one minute verification period Jakub submitted! Jin’s 30 second lead kicked Jakub out of the finals.

Jin takes the last spot to the finals

Jin takes the last spot to the finals


The final showdown was a best of five match done on giant boards for all to see. I assume this was televised since the emcee looked more formal than usual and speaking in Chinese before translating himself in English.

Puzzle 1 – Hard Classic won by Kota.

Puzzle 2 – Easy Classic won by Jin.

The match was tied 1-1. It was funny looking at Kota performing some sort of tennis manoeuvre and cheekily smiling every time he lost. He did this again after the third puzzle.


Kota VS. Jin on stage

Puzzle 3 – Consecutive Sudoku won by Jin.
When puzzle 3 began, Kota immediately shoved a run of 1-2-3-4 into the grid. Me and Sinchai were astonished at how the deduction was done. About a minute in, Kota erased them and we realized he was just bifurcating – probably a logical approach given the speedy format of the play-offs.
Jin takes the lead 1-2.

Puzzle 4 – Ratio Sudoku won by Kota.
A nail-biter. Kota needs to win to force a 5th puzzle. And he delivered.

Final Puzzle – Medium Classic.
Interesting to see all the Classics being selected in the finals. Everyone knows that Chinese players produce stunning results in the Classics, I thought Kota would’ve chosen some weird variants to drag Jin out of his comfort zone. This final puzzle was pure excitement to the last cell.
We saw Jin filling in his last square and raising his hand only to turn our eyes to Kota doing his tennis swing in thin air. What does that mean? The gap separating them was only about 3 seconds!

I can’t help but think that the crowd was cheering on Kota. The post-competition atmosphere wasn’t as lively as I anticipated. Is it because the winner being from the host nation raises eyebrows?

A full reception witnessing the finals

A full reception witnessing the finals

Kota, clearly with energy left, gathered a small crowd when he joined a group of Nikoli members race-solving Kakuro. I’m not too bad at Kakuro myself, yet I didn’t have enough audacity to challenge anyone there at that time. Hope to see everyone at future World Kaku- er, I mean World Sudoku Championships again soon.

World Kakuro Championship?

World Kakuro Championship?