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.

Competition hall

Round 2
Puzzles by Zoran Tanasic
Round 2 was my round so I solved Zoran’s jumping set. The presentation could’ve been improved, especially the Kropki dots since it was taking so much space. That aside, some of the big pointers were quite manageable. I was glad to get 175 points from the 3 Ripple Effects and both the Rekuto (85 points) and Loop Kropki (80 points) took some time but were cleaner than I expected.
Score: 660/880 – 9th place
Favourite puzzle: Kropki loop.

Round 3
Puzzles by Serkan Yurekli + Yunus Emre Buyukkale
I always look forward to Serkan’s puzzles and this year was no different. You’re always guaranteed a wide range of puzzle types; this set had loops and number-filling to shading and a pleasant word puzzle to top it off. I breezed through most of the easy-to-medium pointers and got stuck on the Zero Kakuro. I also had a costly mistake swapping two digits in the Kakuro. The large 140-point Top Heavy Number Place wasn’t as guess-y as I initially feared and it solved quite nicely.
Score: 821/1000 – 11th place
Favourite puzzle: Tight-fit Killer Sudoku.

Round 4
Puzzles by Silke Berendes
Silke’s set almost always consist of familiar types but with the difficulty level raised up a few notches. The puzzles came in an irregular grid but the solve weren’t too greatly affected. I botched up the large Yajilin and attempting both Japanese Sums (worth 200 points) left me with no time to collect easier points which was a shame. Five Fences scared me so much that I didn’t even look at it.
Score: 500/1000 – 9th place
Favourite puzzle: Japanese Sums.

Dinner time! The soup was pretty nice. Gyorgy walked in after 3 bites to announce that the next round is starting in three minutes. Ah. When will you ever be forced to hectically force down a handful of buns to get back to puzzling?

Dinner time!

Nice selection for dinner

Round 5
Puzzles by Fatih Kamer Anda + Hatice Esra Aydemir
There were classic types with weird rules that might trip up solvers who didn’t read the IB carefully. These were Slitherlink (with all possible 2s given), Skyscrapers (with all possible 3s given) and Countries (which, already, is not as common of a type – made harder with all possible 3s given). I always wonder why authors would do this to ruin otherwise a good puzzle. When numbers don’t go your way when writing puzzles; you tweak until it does – I find adding these random rules rather unpleasant.
The Slitherlink was most forgivable since the puzzle had just 2s and I can imagine the author aiming for this variation from the start. Not so clear with the other types. Battleships in Hexagon still remain unmanageable (again, the weird rule: all possible clues that apply to 2 rows are given) and the Non-consecutive Sudoku was senselessly impossible, even for Jan Zverina. And that speaks volumes.
Score: 640/860 – 12th place
Favourite puzzle: I thought the Fillomino was cute.

Round 6
Puzzles by Laszlo Osvalt
I immediately recognize Laszlo’s name from old 24HPC sets and it was good to see him back. He is partly the inspiration behind me routinely including a visual and a word puzzle into my sets. There were a lot of unfamiliar variants but they were straightforward variants and not some convoluted rubbish we were about to see later that night (see round 10). I really like the non-traditional Frame Game, Common Clues and Maximize – I feel having them worth little points is a good way to present these lesser-known (and non-culture neutral) puzzles so people who don’t enjoy them won’t quibble as much had they been worth lots.
Score: 620/1000 – 8th place
Favourite puzzle: Frame Game.

Round 7
Puzzles by Nikola Zivanovic
After this round was over, Prasanna, who I sat next to this year, asked if I had seen the theme. To which I gave a half-asleep confused reply, “Huh? What theme?”
Later after the competition, Michael Mosshammer pointed out that all the givens were numbers running from 1 to 200. Woah! I noticed the left-and-right theme in Nikola’s last set but I’m sure this was a lot harder to pull off. And the puzzles were nice too! Always enjoyed my share of Scrabble and the one-off puzzles were top-notch clean. False Fillomino was quite interesting. I also came in 4th too!
Score: 645/900 – 4th place
Favourite puzzle: Scrabble.

Results were published round by round.

Round 8
Puzzles by Pierre Billot
There were a lot of valuable sudokus in this round. The night before the competition when Neil, Tom and myself were going through the IB at the hotel lobby, I blurted out that the theme of the FF Sudoku (all 8s had to be in the shaded F’s) was probably the newly-released Fast and Furious 8. Boy. I couldn’t be more wrong. At the beginning of the round, Pierre made a speech that the puzzle was a tribute to his late father who passed away at 88 years old.
More than half the puzzles were Latin-square types (2 Skyscapers, 4 Central Parks and 4 Sudokus). The Masyu-Sweeper was interesting and Mountain Routes were a nice diversion from all those Latin squares. The Killer Sudokus (with all possible 8-cages given) were a bit too tough to chew for me.
Score: 650/760 – 6th place
Favourite puzzle: Worm Sudoku.

Round 9
Puzzles by Andrey Bogdnanov + Olga Leontieva + Vladimir Portugalov.
The beginning of my downward spiral! I only solved for an hour and slept for close to 30 minutes as this was held around 2am. My score for this round was alarming 20th. I was surprised it wasn’t lower. Resurveying the puzzle booklet; I don’t even recall solving Battleships, Nurikabe, Tapa or the Fillomino. Good to know that I could solve well-known types without my central nervous system working properly (zombie reflexes!). Not much to say since I was hardly conscious, but the Belorussian trio never disappoint. The puzzles were clean though I miss their regular sudokus this year.
Score: 435/1000 – 20th place
Favourite puzzle: Uhh.. my bed and my pillow

Round 10
Puzzles by Anurag Sahay
After that ordeal I went to shower my face with cold water and swigged a good portion of green tea hoping the caffeine would keep me alert. Did it work? Not when Anurag’s round is coming up!
Every year, I eagerly await the IBs of the 24HPC which is like a treasure trove of puzzle ideas. And when you’re competing, that eagerness shoots through the roof. Literally, my first thought when I saw this author’s name on the list was, “Oh no Pal. What have you done..”

Every puzzle author should live by this mantra; a puzzle is like a battle between the solver and the author, where the solver always wins. In other words; the author has to give enough tools for the solver to dismantle the puzzle, and most importantly, the solver should enjoy the process.

So I’m not so sure what these puzzles’ aim was. Was it to show that the author is capable of concocting puzzles that can fry our frontal lobes at 3am? Was it a gallant attempt to showcase as many “creative” variations as the author can? Or have we forgot that the entire point of writing puzzles is so that solvers enjoy solving them!? Argh!
To get a better picture, I highly recommend Neil’s vlog recap for this round.

I only got through 4 puzzles (Yes. Four. Out of 28) before I glanced at my neighbour Prasanna, he was (in this order) sighing heavily, shaking his head, erasing, threw both arms up, look back down and repeat step one. I looked up to see that there was 80 or so minutes left. Unlike the previous round, the decision to snooze through this round was a conscious choice.
See you at breakfast fellow warriors.
Score: 120/525 – 18th place. (Now that I know Ken only scored 525, I regret not putting in the effort to gain some precious tournament points).
Favourite puzzle: figuring out the optimal duration one should sleep for without feeling too groggy for the last 3 rounds.

Breakfast time! I didn’t eat anything. Only had one cup of hot chocolate and trying not to fall down the stairs.

Prasanna, Tom and Liane having breakfast.

Round 11
Puzzles by Sinisa Hrga
Sinisa’s round is slowly establishing itself as a sadistic fixture at the 24HPC. I can never logically solve Barriers, Arrow Maze or Arrows (usually the second one – made large and laborious). The last word puzzle was a gift in this set of difficult puzzles – not too hard, just methodical tracking and the points are yours for the taking.
Score: 430/940 – 12th place
Favourite puzzle: NBA.

The pain of losing 120 points 😦

Round 12
Puzzles by Alberto Fabris
During my high school days I was a regular on Alberto’s Puzzle Fountain so I was familiar with Alberto’s style. The Scrabble was a godsend because when it is tightly-packed (like this one), intuition kicks in and the puzzle swiftly falls. The rest contained mostly well-known types and I went through a healthy portion them before running out of time.
Score: 660/925 – 5th place
Favourite puzzle: HD Crossword.

Neil, Ken and Liane solving the farewell puzzle

Round 13
Puzzles by Bram de Laat
Bram’s puzzles have a reputation for being that much harder than your typical offerings. There was a small pairs theme going on here but otherwise these were just 18 clean puzzles. Either this set was easier than Bram’s usual level or I’m getting more familiar with his style. Both Retrogrades puzzles were amazing and the Gemini section was interesting. Wish this round lasted longer because it was a pleasure to solve.
Score: 630/865 – 8th place
Favourite puzzle: Retrograde Pentomino and Retrograde Sudoku.

If anyone beats Ken Endo in any round – they would get this sumo-killer certificate. Prasanna won in round 13.

Thanks to all the authors for many beautiful puzzles this year. I hope I can see you again next year!

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

My hopeless circadian rhythm got me waking up at 4am which was followed by a series of ineffective naps. The three of us used the free day to enjoy some escape rooms in the city. We bused down at noon and were joined by Gyorgy at the first venue down a fancy alleyway. Aptly dubbed the “White Room”; all 360 degrees of the room were all white. It was a non-linear room containing 5 separate passwords for unlocking the final puzzle.

Neil wins 7-4!

We used 58 minutes of the generously given 90 minutes without using any hints. I accidentally left my own pen inside the room and kind of missing it right now (I also forgot my iPad adaptor at a store). Before walking to the next venue, we visited a nearby arcade. Here, you could tell that Neil’s arcade games experience is higher than the average John Doe. First, he smoked Tom at air hockey before smoothly beating me and Tom (simultaneously) at foosball. We then tried out a variant of air-hockey where we were given swinging sticks instead of a hand-puck. A blackout prematurely ended my misery before my score against Neil was to be anymore embarrassing. (I did have my moment of glory by beating both of them at a flashy light-punching game.)

Rainy day at Budapest

Now to the next escape room; this one was at Kalahu, a restaurant where you order using screens planted on each seat. We were warned that this venue was more about “hunting for stuff” than actually figuring out methodically what to do. The room had a stunning first impression, easily the best production value I’ve ever seen. We entered a very realistic submarine and the props were very good. Alas, I couldn’t say the same for the puzzles in there. The format was linear but the instructions were too vague to be any enjoyable. We burnt our last 15 minutes on a Twister-like activity where you had to press light bulbs (placed far away from each other) using all our available limbs combined. We were told there was a whole extra room we hadn’t cover when our time was up which definitely left a horrible taste afterwards.

Jakub, Jan and Matus at the Q&A session

That night ended with a poorly-attended Q&A session and the next morning we were about to start the puzzle marathon! Pal announced that this year was about finding 2nd place as he was very confident that Ken Endo would easily win outright. Other favourites I pre-picked were Neil, Nikola, Prasanna, Michael and Matus

Previous winners of the 24HPC

[24 hours later]
And we have survived the 17th 24HPC! Prasanna said he could go for another few rounds but funnily he and Ashish were absent during lunch. We made fun about them probably being unconscious right now ;).

Podium finishers. Ken Endo (1st), Neil Zussman (2nd) and Nikola Zivanovic (3rd).

It was a no contest for Ken Endo who annihilated the field. Neil zoomed up to second during the last half overtaking Nikola. Prasanna came 4th and Matus came 5th. I was glad to fulfill both my goal of finishing in the top 10 (I came in 9th) and improving my score (I scored 838).

Results of the 17th 24HPC

This year I decided to make my return trip straight away, previously I ended up asleep until late at night at the hotel anyway. I joined Tom for one last drink together at the airport before leaving for home. It has been a week since the 24HPC and I haven’t touched a single Skyscrapers, Doppelblock, Gaps or Easy as ABC since.

Last hot chocolate in Budapest. You can see Tom’s arm in the background.

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]

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Budapest Ferenc Liszt Airport

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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?”
Ok.
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.

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Yum!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Another 300 or so puzzles to understand the rules of

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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?”
Yep.

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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.

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zzzzzzz…..

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I listended to a few podcasts and slowly nodded off…

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Home time!

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Quiet Melbourne Airport at 5am

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

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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

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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

Semifinals

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

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.

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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.
2-2

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?

WSC in brief

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Due to exams, I had to rebook my flights to arrive in Beijing on Monday morning, only hours before round 1.
Exams took away most of my preparation time so I was relying on experience.
Quite ironic, a newbie at a WSC has to rely on “experience”.

Results were first posted after the first classics round: I was at 11th!
Then R1-R3: where I dropped to 14th
I ended day one, after round 5 at 17th

After a talk with my team, we thought if I kept this up, I would probably finish somewhere between 10th-20th. So we decided it is best to take a risk in the lengthy round 9, namely by tackling the 6-outside sudoku (at 66 points, it was worth three easier puzzles) at all cost. Well, it did took away 35 minutes and I could not finish it.

The gamble backfired and I end up at 29th/31st (some last minute corrections I’m not aware of). Not the best debut performance but I try to convince myself I’m capable of a top 20 finish since that was where I was most of the time.

Fantastic experience. Great meeting puzzle people in person for the first time.

Today I purchased two copies of something. One for myself and another for the winner of my next event. Sadly, my laptop is being fixed so everything has to wait. I do have a longer version of my WSC experience which I hope to share once my computer is ready.