Community Building

This is a bit of a ‘random thoughts’ kinda post. But before I go on, I want to share that my parents got me this T-shirt and I love it:

Anyway, the main reason for this post is, I’ve been thinking about the difference between casual puzzle solving and competitive puzzle solving. Soon I’ll be starting the 2023 editions of Sudoku Mahabharat and Puzzle Ramayan, and the WPF will start the 2023 editions of the Sudoku GP and Puzzle GP. There are competitions galore online and maybe some offline too as we start another season leading up to the World Championships. *Edit*: I shouldn’t mention all this without mentioning the lovely beginner-friendly contest this weekend on LMI, PANFOPCWHTTAPA 3. The first two editions were great for newer solvers looking to learn new puzzle genres and get into competitive solving for the first time. Check it out!

This process, largely, ignoring small mishaps and challenges here and there, has been carried out quite smoothly in recent years (in another discussion it may be worth actually appreciating what we are able to do as a community year on year with little to no monetary benefit and a heavy lack of personnel in some cases) and I have confidence that that will continue.

However, this post is for discussing other things we can do, to keep the casual puzzlers component of the community involved through the year to a similar extent. I’m very interested in exploring this side of things more. Over recent years I have been trying to capture people in different ways. One big way is trying to expand our author pool for SM and PR and give new and young authors a chance and platform. Puzzle construction doesn’t involve the same pressures of competitive solving and is probably more accessible in that sense for those who are interested in the hobby to keep in touch with it meaningfully.

Another way is to hold more casual mini-events as part of our National Championships. During the offline Indian Sudoku Championship there was a simple team round I ran after the main competition while the organizers were checking, where groups of 3 got together to figure out the connection between some Sudokus and try to solve them together. Similarly, during the offline Indian puzzle Championship, I simply put together groups led by some prominent authors of our community, to teach people the processes involved in writing puzzles. The aim of these side events (other than giving the checkers time to put out the results) is to introduce a social component within the experience.

The last way, which I don’t see enough of (I may just be missing it) across the community and probably want to focus on more here, is to hold meetups regularly. Since India is a large country, we mostly plan meetups specifically for Mumbai, the city I live in. The first meetup I had in Mumbai, was basically just a two-person hangout where I helped another solver get through some tough Sudokus. This was many years ago, and since then, with that other solver’s help and others along the way, we built a regular functioning group with monthly meetups in the area.

After the obvious gap caused by Covid-19, we are now rebuilding this meetup culture. We have a stable venue and a consistent agenda comprising of:
1. Casually start solving some (hopefully) approachable Sudokus that vaguely escalate in difficulty while I float around helping where needed, but also get aided by the stronger solvers who attend these.

2. Introducing and teaching a new non-Sudoku puzzle type.

3. Having a team-solving round from some past competition, trying to group more established solvers with newer/casual ones.

The feedback I’ve got from the participants is overwhelmingly positive, and over the years its given some casual solvers a good way to stay connected. It also gives some of them more encouragement to participate in competitions, knowing that the social component carries forward even if they’re not necessarily contenders for the top positions.

The other, more unexpected positive I’ve seen is the variance in demographic. While most of India’s (and the world’s) top solvers are males around 25-35 years of age, the Sudoku meets I conduct have many regular female participants. I can’t help but feel there’s something there, for whatever reasons, with casual solving being more appealing to female puzzlers than competitive solving. I remember conducting a meet pre-covid where there were 22 participants and 20 were female! The demographic has leveled out more post covid, but it is still usually a good ratio.

These meets are pretty easy to conduct. Find a local cafe that allows for group meetups, use some selection of puzzles from an old LMI set or GP set or WSC/WPC set and just get together and interact while solving. It probably helps to have some solvers around who are more established and can help, but it is quite doable without that too.

I’d like to see more offline meetups in different places. I think it definitely benefits the community in ways that competitions do not and goes hand in hand nicely with the competitive part.

I’d also love to see other suggestions to tap into casual puzzle solving audiences and keep them engaged. There have been some good attempts, with Tawan’s quizzes and contests, the Puzzle GP’s experiment with a casual section, etc. which are good ideas to build on too.

I’ll end this post with photos from our most recent meet, where they surprised me with a cake and a small celebration at the end of the meet to commemorate my WPC performance. It was a fulfilling and heartwarming end to the meet and shows that we are building a pretty cool community with these meets.


WPC 2022 Recap: Silver Solver

I loved this year’s WPC in Krakow. Even without a ridiculously awesome personal milestone, it was one of my most enjoyable WPCs. It’s a pity that I found the WSC underwhelming or we may have two recaps, but I don’t want to dwell on it much right now. Also, there’s been a delay in getting this published as I fell ill the moment I got back (just something that frequently happens when I travel to a colder place, because I’m way more suited to that place, get comfortable there, and then have trouble adjusting back to the climate here).

Anyway, my ranks prior to this year at the WPC event were 94th, 46th, 24th, 23rd, 19th, 18th, 20th and 16th in that order from 2011 to 2019. The usual joke I made was that I keep climbing slowly (lets consider that 20th as a blip) so in 15 years or so, the champions should beware! I only ever meant it as a joke, I thought I was capable enough to get into the top 10 in a good year but I thought it capped there. Yes, I’ve gotten better ranks than that in the GP but I have always felt the GP has a lot of unknown factors related to people’s home setup, internet connections, familial obligations, etc.

Heading into this year’s event, I inwardly got more hopeful when I got to know the playoffs were for the top 12 + Wildcard rather than top 10. More chances at a playoff, I thought.

…so ya, quick spoiler for those who don’t know and didn’t track it from the post’s title, I finished 2nd in the WPC. Here’s how that happened:

Round 160 minutes – 450 points My score: 400

Round 1 had 10 classic puzzles, and was named Countdown. The name telegraphed the theme and the note that the Ripple Effect could have empty spaces to make disjoint grids telegraphed that there’d be a message at the end of the countdown too. As expected, the puzzles started with irregular grids that made 9 down to 1 with the last puzzle making a “GLHF”. Not that any of this gave much advantage while solving of course. I figured that since the total points of the round was less than 10 points per minute by a significant margin, this might be a finishable round for top solvers. However, after the difficulty standards of the WSC I was still cautious about that.

The round started and I took a look at the 85 point Ripple Effect. It looked approachable so I started with it, and it was nice and smooth. I then started going backwards, and promptly broke the Slitherlink. I quickly moved on since I didn’t yet know how finishable the rounds would be, solved all the other puzzles at a good pace, and came back to the Slitherlink with just under 10 minutes left. However, I continued to break it. I’m sure there’s some dumb thing I was repeating, but I couldn’t see it and I ended up missing the Slitherlink. A lot of solvers I’d consider my competition for the playoffs finished this round. 15 of them had no errors. Ken Endo had an error and lost a humongous bonus. I was 18th (official) after round 1, and was kicking myself over the Slitherlink, but we move on.

Round 230 minutes – 300 points My score: 250

This round had 7 Araf puzzles (3 Classics and 4 variants) and they were all by Serkan, which probably gave me a slight edge having solved so many of his Araf puzzles before. I don’t know how much or whether that edge contributed but I finished the round with 1 minute to go. Unfortunately, I had an error in the Different Neighbours variant (a proper solving error where I had two 4-cell regions next to each other) and that lost me 60 points (50 for the puzzle and 10 bonus).

One thing I still can’t figure out though, is why these are marked with 7s by the checkers. I forgot to ask.

Anyway, 5 people finished this round without errors, but I still did well enough to climb to 14th.

Round 3 90 minutes – 900 points My score: 820

This round featured 32 puzzles from 8 new-ish puzzle styles that had originated mainly on the CTC and Puzzler Club discord servers. I’d solved some of them before but most of them were new to me too. I’m mildly active on those discords but I never got to solving some of the ideas. Shoutout to the authors, this was my favourite round in a WPC full of enjoyable rounds. I always love new puzzles at a WPC but putting it together in a 90 minute round where you had many small pointers that everyone could attempt to get into the round was a smart way to do it.

I generally kept a good pace here, solving 31 of the 32 puzzles and missing a 60 point Rail Pool to expect 840. Unfortunately I had a missed border on a 20 point Square Jam but 820 was still a pretty good score (3rd best in the round) with only Ken Endo and Thomas Luo finishing the round without errors.

Round 4 – 60 minutes – 600 points – My score: 610

This round had a mix of classic puzzles and hybrid mashups of those, aptly called ring of pain. There were 12 puzzles. By now I had kinda sorta began to adjust to the fact that maybe I’m more capable of finishing these rounds than I thought. It probably helped clear my mind a little bit because now I mostly just had to solve everything. Otherwise, I would have planned to avoid some of the Pentominous and Spiral Galaxies related stuff as I’m horrible at those genres.

As expected, the Pentominous and the Spiral Galaxies slowed me down but I was decent on their variants. I still managed to finish the round with a minute to spare, and I think it was largely because of the mindset of “I have to solve these”. Thankfully, unlike the Araf round, this time I had no errors. The first bonus of the WPC for me. 4 others finished the round with no errors. If I remember right, Rob Vollmert had a spectacular round here with a huge potential bonus but unfortunately had an error.

After this round I was 8th if I remember right, and sufficiently shocked at that. I’d started wondering if, maybe… but I was still quick to assure myself that it’s probably just a brief bump and it wouldn’t last.

Round 5 – 45 minutes – 450 points – My score: 420

Another Serkan round. Snake variants. 7 of them. Like Araf, I’d had sufficient practice but Snake is still such an up and down genre for me that I was bracing myself for a bad round.

I went for the Sea Serpent with about 30% conviction and managed to solve it after a few hiccups. I then went for the Persistence of Memory which I’m very confident about and it expectedly went pretty smoothly. The 100 point Easy As Snake was next and I had thankfully practiced that one because it needs your notations to be on point. I had about 12 minutes left and went for the 50 and 40 pointers and finished them with about 6 minutes to go. In a moment of false bravado I went for the 80 point Prime Snake instead of the 30 point First Seen Snake. This was the first puzzle I bifurcated in the round and it just worked, with some minor adjustments. I even had 1 minute left over to quickly check the puzzles and then 50 seconds left for a fun exercise to see how far I’d get on the 30 pointer (about 50%).

I still figured since everyone was finishing rounds, this one wasn’t that good, but it turns out my score was actually the best for the round. What’s more, many of my nearby competition scored a bit less in this round. I believe it was at this stage that I climbed to 4th or 5th and thought I was in a dream, still waiting for the bubble to burst.

Round 6 – 60 minutes – 600 points – My score: 285

My first poor round. This was a round with just 7 puzzles, but with a mixture of constraints like crossing loops, liar clues and toroidal grids being featured. There was one Slitherlink at the end that had all 3 constraints which I was too intimidated by, and probably in a more confident time post this year’s performance I would go for it, but for this year I didn’t want to. I thought I could bank on the Tapa-Like Loop to score me some good points and started with that… and broke it multiple times.

I didn’t know what to go to next, and picked the Suguru (Toroidal + Liar) since number placement is comfort food most times even if its not my favourite category. The puzzle was splendid and it helped me regain some confidence and go for the 115 point Myopia (Crossing + Liar) and it was also a brilliant puzzle that solved quite nicely. With not much time left in the round I just made sure I got 2 of the low pointers. While my score was definitely below par, it wasn’t so by as much as I thought it’d be, with others also struggling and nobody coming close to finishing the round. Ken top scored with 465.

I had lost some ground but was still 5th at the end of day 1, something quite extraordinary compared to my expectations.

Round 7 – 75 minutes – 3200 points – Team Round

The day ended with a nice team round where there were 3×3 pieces to be assigned into 9×9 grids of 8 different puzzles. We found some good logic but we messed up in eliminating one piece from Cave and pushing it to Fillomino, but we realized at the end and rectified that. We still lost a bunch of time on it, but it was a fun round nonetheless.

Round 8 – 29 minutes – 290 points – My score: 330

Day 2 began with a sprint round, having 29 small sized puzzles to be solved in 29 minutes, arranged in increasing order of difficulty. Funnily, the puzzle that probably took me longest was the first one, a Japanese Arrows where I failed to see for too long that it was forced for all the arrows to be 1. Once I got that though it set the tone for the round and there were some fun puzzles even with the small size.

I finished with 3 and a half minutes to go. This round had a special bonus of 20 points per minute saved instead of 10, but also with 29 puzzles there were more chances for errors, so I checked for 1 and something minutes before turning in my paper. I did fix one error so that paid off, and I was clean for the round. I was one of 8 solvers to finish the round without errors.

Round 9 – 75 minutes – 750 points – My score: 890

This round had puzzles that where to be solved in two different ways. For example the same Heyawake grid was presented twice but shaded cells cannot be in the same place in the 2 solutions, and this made it uniquely solvable. There were 14 puzzles (28 grids).

I finished with 16 minutes to go and checked for a while and submitted with 14 minutes to go. This meant I could leave the hall and sit outside. A new feeling. It also meant I had a LOT of points to lose with just one single error. Another very new feeling. Ken finished the round with a monstrous 27 minutes left, and was waiting outside with Ryotaro (I think, but maybe it was Thomas Luo?) when I left. Either way, they had errors I guess, because I had the 2nd highest score for the round after Ken. I was 3rd after this round but the results showed up after I’d already done Round 10 (you’ll see below) so I was pretty pessimistic while people around me were cheering.

Round 10 – 60 minutes – 600 points – My score: 125

This round had 12 puzzles with surprising twists. As can be seen by my score, I had a disaster round. I started with the Nurikabe (a puzzle with a single 50 clue and an irregular grid), and just couldn’t get it to work. Then I went to the Country Road, got the gimmick, but broke it and couldn’t figure out where. I then went to the Statue Park which had diagonally connected 5-cell shapes, and was making good progress, then broke that too. I then went to the Yajisan Kazusan which had diagonal clues and finally actually solved a puzzle. Then went to the Tapa (Alternative) which was full of letters, and broke that too. Went to the Aqre, and you guessed it, broke that as well. At this point I was done and just wanted some easy points. I went to the 30 point Sudoku and did that quickly to get some momentum going again, and then solved the Battleships (Loop). I then had 8 minutes left and spent it in a mix of getting the Overlapping Squares wrong and checking my other broken puzzles and not being able to see what to do.

Nobody finished this round but people still scored much better than I did. My score put me in the 90s for the round rank!

I think I just got in a bad rut in that round and couldn’t get out. I didn’t see anything to do but just shake it off and move on, and I tried doing just that. But my top 3 hopes were dashed in my head, I suspected a 7th or 8th is more likely and I reminded myself that would still be an all time high, so I cheered up and went into the next round as positive as I could be in the circumstances.

Round 11 – 45 minutes – 450 points – My score: 385

This round had 7 puzzles featuring some form of Knight constraint. It was latin square heavy so I was confident of doing decently but it had a Battleships (Knight Loop) which I just hadn’t had the time to figure out in practice sessions.

The round went as expected considering this, I finished the other puzzles easily, had 10 minutes for the Knight Loop, and couldn’t get it.

My score for this round was definitely below par as 10 solvers finished the round without errors. However, I probably got lucky in that the competitors closest to me (CJK, Thomas Snyder, Thomas Luo, Kota Morinishi) all had under-par rounds too.

Round 12 – 45 minutes – 450 points – My score: 410

This round had 12 Classic puzzles with an added constraint that neither shaded nor unshaded cells could have a run of 4 in a row.

This is the funniest round for me. In the moment it wasn’t funny. In the moment I was furious with myself. My brain is a funny specimen.

I started on the Mochinyoro, the last puzzle. It was 40 points, not a high pointer. I was completely stuck on it though, because I forgot the No Four In A Row constraint.

Anyway, not making any progress for 3 minutes, I shifted to the next puzzle, and seamlessly used the No Four In A Row constraint. I then went on to use the constraint again in 10 more puzzles, and came back to the Mochinyoro with a huge 10 minutes left in the round (I say huge because Ken Endo just had a bonus of 6 minutes in this round).

… And I seamlessly forgot the No Four In A Row constraint AGAIN for the Mochinyoro. And there I was, stuck, timer ticking down, wondering why this 40 point puzzle is so difficult. The painful thing is, with 40 seconds to go, I finally realized my stupidity, and solved 70% of the puzzle.

Like I said, my brain is a funny specimen.

Anyway, I didn’t suffer much because like Round 11, my main competition at this stage underperformed as well. I had the third best score in the round, with only Ken finishing without errors.

Round 13 – 75 minutes – 1000 points – My score: 590

Since this round was called Boss Rush and had just 11 puzzles for 1000 points most of us guessed it’d be either very large puzzles or very hard puzzles. Turns out it was largish hard puzzles.

I had an idea that the disastrous round 10 had pushed me down but maybe I could still have a good round here, so I went for the 130 point Rail Pool (Forgetful) right at the start. I got a lot of it logically, and then simply could not visualize a portion at the top. I tried for a long time, and just kept running into an issue. Finally (and dreading another round 10 like performance) I went to the 110 point Inverse LITSO which solved smoothly and the 110 point Checkered Fillomino with the same outcome. I then went for some of the “easier” 80 pointers, and finally went back to the 130 pointer in some mad hope with 5 minutes to go. That mad hope paid off and I finally saw the small error I’d been making, and solved it.

The round was still below par with a lot of time wasted on the 130 pointer but at least I’d got it and I’d had a good run other than that.

Many people outscored me in this round (Ken actually finished!) but again somehow not the ones who were direct competition. I had a hope I’d be 5th after discussions with some solvers and a vague idea of things.

Round 14 and 15 – Team

I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but these were 2 more fun team rounds, out of which Round 14 ended day 2 and Round 15 began day 3. Round 14 was about pairs of puzzles connected by instructionless rules that were given in the form of images with relations to each other on a separate paper. Round 15 was a tournament with 1v1 matches between individual members of teams, with some randomly drawn pots for the group stages leading into a round of 32 and the usual tournament bracket. India didn’t make it past the group stages and I feel it was largely my fault as I had an error on a Cave puzzle which made us draw 2-2 with France B.

Round 16 – Wildcard

This year the hosts came up with this lovely new idea where participants from different countries get to compete in a quick tournament of 1v1 matchups to determine the 13th place heading into the playoffs. The results had come out by now, and some people around me had made mistakes and I was 3rd. Since I was in the playoffs, Amit Sowani, as the 2nd best solver from India Team A, got an opportunity in the Wildcard tournament. He won one match and then got knocked out, the tournament led to James McGowan becoming the 13th place entrant into the playoffs.

Round 17 – Playoffs

2019 Champion Philipp Weiss won the 10th to 13th place playoff. After that, in an incredibly impressive marathon performance, Yuki Kawabe won the 7th to 10th place playoff, and then the 4th to 7th place playoff too, which meant facing Thomas Snyder in a playoff is still a nervy part of my bucket list. Then it was time for the 1st to 4th playoff. This was my first WPC playoff experience.

Of course, Ken Endo had a 1500 point lead over Thomas Luo at 2nd and a 2000 point lead over me. So Thomas was supposed to start 6-ish minutes after and I was to start 8:39 minutes after Ken, with Yuki starting just a little after me.

We got to choose from one of two sets and we chose the one with the Chained Block, Statue Park, Context and Skyscrapers (Parks) while discarding the one with Double Back, Aqre, Sigma Snake, Easy As ABC (Number). There was also to be a 5th secret puzzle, which Ken pointed out it would be difficult for the Japanese puzzlers to grasp on the spot with language barriers, and so it was revealed to be a Hidato (Knight).

When it was revealed I let out an audible “Oh no!” and then wrote it on my IB to show the people watching, with the appropriate emotion.

I then took a bit of a nap while Thomas was scribbling random stuff for the audience, knowing it’d be a while before I could start solving.

When it finally came to me, I raced on the Chained Block and broke it but thankfully spotted my error quickly and repaired to submit in decent time. The Statue Park went very smoothly, I was able to just visualize the last 4 shapes after a minor trial. The Context saw a small break in the top right which again I thankfully was able to fix without issue. The Skyscrapers (Parks) went the smoothest of all puzzles (Yuki requested to see my time later so it must have been good) and it was time for the Hidato Knight. I started quickly with a bifurcation which helped me figure out a starting path and I got going in what was a bottom to top solve. I had reached the middle and needed to tweak it which took a while. By the time I tweaked it and was mostly on the right track (I checked the solution after) and probably getting it soon, they said the time’s up and to stop solving.

Now here’s the thing: I had counted in my head the number of times the papers rubbed the surface of the table to track submissions. By my count, Ken and Thomas had finished and Yuki was on the last puzzle before I was. I didn’t know however, that Thomas had submitted and gotten back the Context 3 times with errors.

So Thomas was signaling “2” to me. I figured he was saying he’s second, and I figured I’m 4th, and I was still over the moon with 4th, because wow, its 4th! So I inquisitively pointed towards Thomas and gave him a thumbs up. Then Thomas frantically signaled “no, you are 2nd”, and I was in complete shock over that. I’d have thought Thomas was pulling a bad prank on me but they then announced it.

It turns out I reached the 5th puzzle before Thomas and Yuki and there was apparently a very small window where it looked like I could catch Ken. I was just solving and enjoying the puzzles and honestly had no idea.

So there you have it, I finished 2nd at a WPC. Unless I wake up and realize its the 14th of October and my flight to Krakow is tonight. I’m probably going to have that feeling for a while.

Thank you for reading!

2014: Year in review – including links to my puzzles over the year

Hello dear readers,

I’ve not been that active on this blog this year. Aside from a few League posts, an ex-contest post here and there, and the 500th puzzle special, this blog hasn’t had much activity. So, in an effort to make amends, I’ll just list all the places you can see my puzzles from the year 2014, along with a few other thoughts.

The first notable change this year was obviously my inclusion as a Guest Contributor on GM Puzzles. We started out with a Countdown to the year 2014 and after a Tapa with a unique theme, we asked a question about the author, before the reveal. You can find all my contributions to the GM Puzzles Blog here. In addition to this, if you are a GM Puzzles patron, odds are, some of the rewards will contain my puzzles. Other than this, you can also visit the GM Puzzles bookstore for a direct purchase of some of the e-books, which also contain my puzzles. Currently, there’s a series of posts on GM Puzzles highlighting the best puzzles of 2014. I am really pleased to see two of my puzzles already showing in an entry.

Another place you can find my puzzles related to GM Puzzles is in Sudoku Spectacular by Penny Dell Puzzles. Thomas Snyder, Wei-Hwa Huang, Serkan Yürekli and me have contributed a good number of variants to the title, including Tight Fit, Consecutive, Thermo, Arrow, Isodoku, etc. We have also contributed more Sudoku variants in a ‘Will Shortz’s Sudoku’ title by the same publications, set to be released soon, as mentioned here. So watch that space.

I also still had many projects with Logic Masters India. One of them was to start a Patron page of our own, and most of the Mini Packs and Main Packs available here contain my puzzles, along with a few puzzles by other Indian authors like Deb Mohanty, Ravi Kumar Macherla, Swaroop Guggilam and Ashish Kumar.

I also authored/organized/co-authored multiple contests on LMI this year. Here’s a list:

Parallel Universe: An LMI Monthly Sudoku test for the month of April, based on a unique concept.

Parallel Universe II: An LMI Monthly Puzzle test for the month of April, based on the same concept with slight differences.

Indian Puzzle Championship 2014: I organized this tournament with the help of some other top quality authors, and wrote some puzzles for the competition too.

Indian Sudoku Championship 2014: My contribution here was the same as with IPC above.

World Practice Championship Day 1 & World Practice Championship Day 2: Rohan Rao’s idea to have an LMI Test featuring one of the WPC rounds snowballed spectacularly into a contest featuring all 100+ puzzle types appearing in the World Puzzle Championship 2014, where I contributed quite a few puzzles.

Beginners’ Contest August 2014: Based on a patron request, I authored this Beginners’ Contest exploring the puzzle genres Cave and Yajilin.

I also authored contests outside LMI, most notably the Indian round of the WPF Sudoku Grand Prix 2014 which had a nice little ‘7’ based theme through the entire round which I was particularly happy with.

There are some other places which featured my puzzles in 2014 too, but other than my continued contribution to Akil Oyunlari magazines they are local ones like the ICT Evolve magazine (Pg 36) where it is likely to become a regular section, or college contests like the Saarang Sudoku Championship.

Apart from this, I’ve also participated in many competitions this year, so I’ll list the notable ones.

World Sudoku Grand Prix – 18th. Started strong, had a horrible few rounds in between, and was pretty much out of the reckoning for top 10 from Round 4.

World Puzzle Grand Prix – 17th. Started horribly, and it is really surprising that I finished at a better ranking than I did in the Sudoku GP, considering that the individual rankings read much better for the Sudoku GP.

Times Sudoku Championship – 1st. This was just my day, and I probably won’t have such a dominant day for a long time (even though I hope I do!). I won all of the four rounds against two great solvers in Rohan Rao and Rishi Puri. That’s… not usual.

World Sudoku Championship – 21st. I really really really need to stop my streak of horrible math rounds. It continued here, and Day 2 wasn’t long enough to mount a comeback like last year.

World Puzzle Championship – 23rd. At the start of the WPC, Rohan (team captain and all) told me that he gives me 23 choices to top last year’s rank of 24th, and I’d better get one of them. It is so typical that I chose the 23rd choice. Should’ve been more restrictive, Rohan. Either way, this is still a new record for an Indian at a WPC.

The World Championships’ results can be found here. One notable statistic here which I didn’t mention above is India’s team rank in the WSC. We finished at 6th, which is India’s best performance at a WSC. So, yay us. Also, yay French team for making a mistake and helping us make history.

So what else is new?

Puzzle Toketa: The Japan team, in collaboration with Serkan Yürekli, have been selling volumes 1 and 2 of this book at the last two WPCs (2013 & 2014). I’ve purchased it both times, and highly recommend it to puzzlers looking for a varied list of puzzle styles, both old and new, with varying ranges of difficulty.

Meraklisina Akil Oyunlari: The Turkish Puzzlers have started an online content circulation page with patron pledges. Unfortunately, I’m looking at saving up some money right now, so I haven’t been able to enjoy these puzzles, but considering the authors involved, and knowing Akil Oyunlari’s general quality, I’d recommend subscription.

So come 2015, I’m hoping to be a bit more active here. Doing what, I’m not sure. It is clear above that there are other avenues for which I need to contribute puzzles. But I’ll think of something, hopefully. One thing I’ll definitely make an effort with: being more active in the Daily League. I’ve definitely fallen behind on that front.

Other than that, there are already plans lined up for 2015. some projects with GM Puzzles, LMI, the WPF. You can already see a Sudoku Mahabharat Round scheduled for Jan where I’m the author, and I’ll also be involved in the Indian Sudoku GP 2015. Here’s to a great 2015.

Happy New Year everybody!

Non Puzzle Post : Jagran Championship, follow-up Interview

A little background can be seen here and here. Now, we have the interview they conducted with me after I helped with conducting the Lucknow Championship. Overall, it’s really good.

The link for it is but here’s an image below.

Dainik Jagran, Lucknow, Jan 30th

Dainik Jagran, Lucknow, Jan 30th, Page 21

So a gist for my foreign readers –

0) (the part in the middle) My birthday, place of birth, rankings in World Championships, educational qualifications, Dad’s name and job, Mom’s name and job, and that I had conducted one of Jagran’s events in Lucknow on Sunday.

1) They cover my childhood, and the list of things I tried and lost interest in as a kid before getting into puzzling.

2) My achievements, National Championships, rankings in World Championships, WPC author, and all that.

3) How I got into it, and when I was introduced into it (Rohan introduced me to LMI).

4) How I don’t feel cold and am allergic to the heat (yeah, this seems to fascinate people all the time).

5) That I see a future in Sudoku and Puzzles, and that there’s a big online community for all of this, and newcomers will feel more interested and inspired if they visit the sites and communicate with like-minded individuals, as opposed to solving alone at home and just considering Sudoku a one-off game.

Week in Beijing Part 4 : Indian Intrigue, WPC R4-14, Team Orange!

Lets jump right in to the 2nd half of WPC Day 1. This half was occupied entirely by the 4 one hour rounds that were by International authors, the Around the World in 80 Puzzles rounds.

Round 4 – Dutch Delight (60 minutes) (By Bram de Laat, Hans Eendebak, Tim Peeters, Richard Stolk)

This set went ok for me. I solved 11 of the 20 for a total of 56 points out of 120. These points would be normalized later of course. But going forward it seemed this was an ok score. Score after normalization – 412.

Round 5  – Indian Intrigue (60 minutes) (By me, testing and feedback by Amit Sowani)

Some people were wondering before the round why the puzzles weren’t arranged by difficulty in this round. I had themed this round such that the 20 puzzles were themed around a letter (or in one case, a number) and made the message “ENJOY WPC 22 INDIAN ROUND”. My personal favorite among these was the Liar Fillomino, which made the R, in case anyone’s wondering. Apparently this was Palmer’s favorite in the round too. Others liked the Dotted Wall quite a lot. It was quite an experience to hit the drum at the start and oversee the people solving. Pal was solving by himself at the organizers’ desk, and twice he came to me because of being stuck on a puzzle, which made me think of how funny it would be if everyone could do that for the 4 rounds 😛 Pictures of me starting the round –

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Round 6 – Doubled Decathlon (60 minutes) (By Thomas Snyder, Wei-Hwa Huang, Palmer Mebane)

This set was wonderfully themed too. Obviously the Doubled part itself added to that, with every second puzzle being a variation of the first with some aspect doubled. But there was also the added situation where some types had mostly the same givens across the two. Shikaku for instance had the exact same givens as Doubled Shikaku. I finished 11 of the 20 puzzles in this set too. I had a 53/120 which turned into 400.

Round 7 – Serbian Snacks (60 minutes) (By Nikola Zivanovic, Branko Ceranic, Zoran Tanasic, Cedomir Milanovic)

A nice round, where I got the general feeling that the easies were really easy and the big pointers were really hard. Which is probably how it supposed to be but the difference just seemed a bit more pronounced to me as I was solving. I liked quite a few puzzles in all of these rounds, but the Galaxies here was quite amazing, at least for me. It forced a huge middle region that spanned most of the grid. I had a 58/120 here, which I thought was actually pretty bad considering this was mostly the easiest of the 4 rounds. And it showed, as my score turned to 348.

Day 2

Round 8 – Black and White Matrix (60 minutes)

Before this round we were wondering if this would be the same difficulty as the practice on LMI or it would be more difficult. I just about finished the practice one within the hour. Turns out the WPC one was easier than the practice. I finished it 22 minutes before time and walked out to find myself in the company of the entire German team, among others. Obviously many people finished this round, and while that was a nice new experience, it also got that fear in that a few mistakes could cost a considerable bonus too. Thankfully, in my case, it was all clean. Score – 820/600.

Round 9 – Assorted Puzzles (90 minutes)

This was a big round consisting of 3 puzzles each of 10 types, meaning 30 puzzles. The theming was quite impressive. In all the sets of 3, the first one was themed around 2, the second around 3, the third around 4. There were NO other clues other than the theme ones on any of these puzzles. Even the Pentopia had one all double-arrow, one all triple-arrow and one all quadruple-arrow. The Minesweeper had number of given mines at 22, 33 and 44 too. There was nothing left out of the theme. What this highly restrictive theming meant was some puzzles probably needed some intuitive solving. Most though, were quite lovely in terms of solve paths too. I finished 22 out of the 28 puzzles, but left out many high pointers. I also spent 30 minutes on the 65 point Pentopia. Ouch. So not a great round. Score – 565/900.

Round 10 – Dissection (30 minutes)

This was the only round in the entire WPC that I didn’t like. i even liked the Visual puzzles round coming later, where I also did horribly. The reason I didn’t like this round was there were certain gimme puzzles (divide an X cell region into X different parts was one of them) that were there in the latter pages. Since it was a ladder points system, difficulties weren’t really known, and I thought they’d ideally be arranged starting from easiest. Probably I’m a bit to blame, but I stuck with the first page which took me a long time, given that this puzzle type is already a huge weak point. I ended up with just 3 solved puzzles and was later told by my team about the giveaway ones that were present in the other pages. I had a horribly low score. 30/300.

Round 11 – Visual Puzzles (30 minutes)

Even though these aren’t really the kind of puzzles I like, the ones present were nice. They involved counting/comparing shapes/memory. My weaknesses were pretty badly exposed in the 10th round and then this one. They were many people’s weaknesses, but even then after comparing scores, I’d done worse than most. This round also had my only uncaught mistake of the WPC, a 15 point puzzle about squares rotating into the middle square and seeing how they affect the middle square. Yeah, I’m bad at visual puzzles. Score – 115/300.

Round 12 – The Zodiac (45 minutes)

A nice round to finish things. This was a round were all grids were twisted into freestyle shapes that depicted various animals of the Zodiac year. The nice part was most of these puzzles used the freestyle grid shape nicely during the solve. I still couldn’t rescue my general bad run since round 8 though, as I just basically flicked through the pages doing nothing after completing 7 out of the 12 puzzles. I thought I had the Inner-Two Fences, but had a mistake at a spot, which I couldn’t quite fix on time. Score – 230/450.

Round 13 – Weakest Link (Team Round) (60 minutes)

This involved first dividing the teams into 4 groups and having them solve at least 4 out of 5 puzzles of the 5 different types used (Tapa, Trinaire, Tria4, Star Battle, No four in a row) and then meeting at the team table where these puzzles would be used as corner pieces that help solve the big main grid for each type. The team could pick which one of their players took the puzzles thought to be hardest, and so on. It obviously made sense for the team’s apparent best solver to take the hardest set so there’s more chances of the team meeting at the main table at around the same time, so I took the hardest set. Here, I quickly rushed through the Tapa, always a good way to ease into a round. I then broke the Trinaire, and kept breaking the Trinaire. So finished the other two, went back to the Trinaire… and broke it again. So then I forced myself to do the Tria4 which we had planned to skip as a team, and fortunately that went just fine, and I proceeded to my team table the last one from my team.

Thankfully this meant I could start right on the large Tapa with all pieces there, and made really quick work of it, making up nicely for lost time and then getting time to work on the Tria4s, while Amit and Rohan (who had fixed my rubbish Trinaire and then finished the main one too) worked on the Star Battle which was causing problems. Me and Rajesh did the middle Tria4 together, and then went to help with the Star Battle, where it seemed we were making progress, but ran into a whole bunch of contradictions which we just couldn’t finish before time. In hindsight maybe that would’ve been a good time to go around and recheck other puzzles because the Tria4 turned out to have a mistake. Score – 1520/2000.

Round 14 – Year of Snake (60 minutes)

Going in, this was a really intimidating round. There would be 4 puzzles in the middle, that would give clues about where to place certain pieces out of 20 pieces that would together form a big snake. In addition to this, there was a completely independent triangle snake moving around outside the grid. So we had our individual puzzles to work with and I got Fillomino. Once I was done with that, it was a bit chaotic, but in general, Amit and Rohan managed the Triangle Snake, I managed solving the individual pieces, and Rajesh managed seeing where pieces might fit, with Rohan coming around to help with that once in a while. We didn’t get many of the pieces fitting right, but I managed to solve all but one of the small pieces, while Amit, with Rohan’s help, managed to complete the outer Triangle Snake. So we did much better than expected. Score – 1730/2000.

WPC Play-offs

I had finished 24th, which is an Indian record at the WPC, but obviously nowhere near enough to get me in the play-offs. The play-offs were same as the Sudoku ones, so go back and read up for the format. The semi-finals started with Palmer having a similar huge advantage that Tiit had during the WSC semi-finals. Palmer managed to hold it till the end, making the finals easily. The real interest came when Thomas leaped ahead of Ulrich right at the start and then stayed a table ahead for most of the semi-finals. At the very last table however, Thomas submitted with a mistake, and by the time he could finish and re-submit, Ulrich submitted. Both Ulrich’s submission and Thomas’ second submission were right, finishing up the podium and setting up Palmer vs Ulrich.

For the first puzzle, Palmer quite obviously chose Tapa. This puzzle caused a lot of drama. In a gist, Palmer races ahead, but then sees he’s made a mistake, and calls for a new sheet, then Ulrich looks like he’s gonna pull off a relative upset and then he sees he’s made a mistake, and calls for a new sheet, then finally Palmer solves it fine with Ulrich halfway through. After this, I was basically more interested in somehow getting the Tapa that caused such problems for even Palmer. I spotted a sheet the Turkish team had drawn up with the clues, which had, according to them, probably one clue missing. Still, I saw through it and spotted a logical opening on the right. I couldn’t figure out what the missing clue might have been however, as there seemed to be 2 possible ways to force uniqueness. It really was quite a difficult puzzle, with a deduction thats quite difficult to see, much less on a platform for the final against a formidable opponent. Anyway, in the meantime, Ulrich had beaten Palmer on all of the following 3 puzzles, winning the finals 3-1. 9 time champion. And a switch of two finalists’ respective Preliminary/Play-off performances of 2011.

WPC Aftermath

First, the football match. So we lined up, like absolute professionals, complete with referees, and captains shaking hands. If only we had two flags to exchange. Anyway, we were given matching gear, so that we knew the team we were on. To be generic, it was team orange vs team green. Though I was not the worst player on the pitch, I mostly did nothing of note throughout the match, and yet my wonderful team was winning 6-2. At this point Serkan and I had a bit of a collision/tangle and I first twisted my ankle and fell in a very awkward way on my finger, completely jarring it.

So at first I went off the field just to get an ice-pack on the leg, but the finger ache just kept growing, so then the helpful volunteer Mike, with another helpful volunteer whose name I didn’t catch, drove me to the Beijing Royal Hospital, where I had an X-Ray taken. Turns out I had indeed broken the finger and dislocated the bone a little. Also, I couldn’t straighten the finger, so it had to first be straightened forcefully and put together with some sticks and some tape. Got some medicine, and went out back to the hotel to rest a bit before the Closing ceremony. A picture of our glorious winning team (the final score, I am told, stayed 6-2) –







The next highlight would come later that night after the closing ceremony. We were given some Hungarian souvenirs by Zoltan Nemeth, after which we proceeded down to the Archery room, where I saw Jason Z providing a masterclass in missing the target, Iliana Gounalaki providing a masterclass in suddenly being an excellent archer when the cameras were rolling while also hurting her own hand, and Jarett Prouse suddenly becoming that guy who knows everything about archery. After this, we went to the bar for some karaoke.

At this point I was generally feeling the effects of the strong painkillers I got prescribed at the hospital. I was mostly dazed and out of it, which I’m sure led to some good jokes from my lovely friends. The painkillers wore off eventually though, which then led to me being part of something nice. Wonderwall started up and all of a sudden there were 6 of us around the mic singing together. Whats better is, the 6 of us were all from different countries, namely Canada (David Jones), Germany (Robert Vollmert), Greece (Vasso Kalaitzidou), India (This guy), USA (Jason), UK (Tom).  Below are pictures of the same. Jason’s managed to shrewdly block Robert from sight both times for some reason.

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Week in Beijing Part 3 : WSC Play-offs, WPC R1-R3

WSC Preliminary aftermath

Since there were just 3 rounds on Day 2, the Play-offs could happen soon after, with a lunch break in between. As of this point, we still did not know the results and I was still wondering if I’d done enough in the last 3 rounds to reach the top 20. We were hoping Rohan would make the play-offs but he didn’t have a great last 3 rounds, his expected scores made that really improbable, with it being more likely he’d dip from 12th. As it turns out, that was exactly the case when we saw the results, and I had made no mistakes, to take me higher than I expected at any point after Day 1’s disappointment. I finished 15th, and Rohan finished 16th. Great for the team to have two in the top 20, but it would’ve been nicer with 3. Unfortunately Rishi had some health problems coming into Day 2, and really fell backwards in the rankings. He ended 28th. Jaipal stayed consistently around the late 50s, and finished 58th.

In the aftermath, there were some really funny scores given, as the checkers were probably in a hurry to get the play-off relevant results up quickly, and didn’t pay as much attention to the rest. A few notable scores displayed on the score page were, Fred Stalder getting 15 for a round where he’d actually scored 154, David Jones getting 34 (I think) where he’d actually scored 340+, and the best one of all, Helen Arnold getting 774 for a round where she’d scored 74, pushing her from 102nd to 50th or something, till the changes were made. There’s a tragic story of how she fought valiantly for the points before losing them, but thats for another day.

WSC Playoffs

The Semi-finals involved the top 10 sitting in a row of 10 tables, with the first ranked player after the preliminaries getting a time advantage over 2nd, and so on. As they went forward, the rows had lesser tables, and thus players would get eliminated until they had 3 quickest solvers. Tiit Vunk was a runaway leader after the Preliminaries and had a 5 minute advantage. Bastien Vial-Jaime was at 2nd place. They both got through the first table fine. The second table, I’m told, had a Killer Sudoku. Here, both of them reached a complete standstill. In the meantime, the rest of the field managed to solve the Killer and move on, meaning that the top 2 seeds were immediately knocked out.

Fast forward a little, and the Semi-final was finished first by Kota Morinishi, ensuring him a place in the finals and a chance to choose 3 out of the 5 Sudokus that would be used for the 1-on-1 final. Jin Ce was the 2nd one to finish the semi-finals, followed by an injured Jakub Ondroušek (he had hurt his foot before even arriving for the WSC, and was in some protective gear and crutches) to complete the podium.

There would now be the finals between Kota and Jin. I have a bit of a hazy memory of all things until it was 2-2. For the last Sudoku, Kota had chosen a Medium (?) Classic. I don’t know what was left in the pool, but it seemed to be playing to Jin’s strengths (not that Kota is any slouch in Classics). It was quite a dramatic finish, with Kota finishing mere seconds after Jin, and then both having to wait for confirmation that they had solved correctly. Turns out both had, and Jin Ce was crowned the new World Champion.

WSC Aftermath

Right after this, I assembled the folks of the Daily League on facebook, and we had a group photo, with almost all the authors in order from Monday to Sunday (Stefan was out of place, he should be Thursday with Rishi). See for yourself. We have, from left to right, Monday (Tiit Vunk, Christoph Seeliger, Jakub Hrazdira, Fred Stalder), Out-of-Place-Thursday (Stefan Heine), Tuesday (me), Wednesday (Bastien Vial-Jaime), Thursday (Rishi Puri, Sinchai Rungsangrattanakul), Friday (Tom Collyer), Saturday (Bram de Laat), Sunday (Seungjae Kwak).








Then, we had the traditional underground puzzle racing start up, with the Japanese team taking part. We had Jason, the undisputed Kakuro Champion, and a bunch of Nikoli legends disputing that, with Byron on commentary and quite an audience. At one point I believe this had more audience than the Champion’s press conference. Obviously, the underground racing is a big deal 😛

I skipped the Mahjong game session for reasons I have now forgotten. Oh right, I think I was late, it had already started, so I went exploring… Moving on then, to the WPC doubt solving session. This was nice as the 4 author teams of the Around the World in 80 Puzzles rounds were called up to manage their own rounds. So it was Bram for Dutch Delight, me for Indian Intrigue, Thomas for Doubled Decathlon and Cedomir for Serbian Snacks, each answering questions about our respective rounds. The teams other than the author teams were given a table where they were to mark the round each teammate would skip. The question of the night came from Ulrich Voigt, asking if he could skip the Digital Round if he solved all 4 of these rounds! Anyway, onward to the next morning, the start of the WPC.

WPC Day 1

Round 1 : Welcome to China (Team Round) – 60 minutes

This round made use of rotating tables. Eight puzzles were close to the solver on the stationary part of the table, with each having 13 rows and 10 columns. Then there were eight grids of 7 rows and 10 columns on the rotating part, and solvers must match the two parts to solve 8 complete grids. The puzzles were in two groups of four: four region types, and four black/white circle types. This round was really fun and had a “Welcome” message with either the region or the circles making a letter in each grid.

I took the Double Back and the Masyu. The Masyu had a lot solved in the bottom itself. The Double Back was slower going and I had to wait for certain eliminations. But once I had the top, the Double Back solved smoothly and was an excellent puzzle. I had 2 possible top halves for the Masyu, so I then went to check on the others. Different Neighbours (Only 4 Digits) was done successfully, I think by Rohan, We also had the Corridors solved fine by Amit, and Star Battle finished, either by Rohan or Rajesh (I think Rajesh). Rajesh was finishing the Binaire, Rohan had moved to the LITS where Amit was stuck, and Amit had moved to the Yin Yang. So I first went over to check the LITS which Rohan had finished, and found an error. Thankfully he had a clear marking of the area from where he’d guessed, so we erased that much, and I was able to solve it while Rohan went over to help with the Yin Yang. I then went to check other grids, and reached the Binaire which Rajesh had finished by then. Again, I spotted an error. This error was only in the top half of 7 rows, and since it is a mainly row-constrained puzzle type, we took a shot and just erased the top and re-did it. It solved fine thankfully.

Now what was left were the Yin Yang and the Masyu. With time running out, we just made a guess on which was which, because both worked for Masyu, and no one on the team was strong enough at Yin Yang to spot the deduction that may have been needed. I quickly solved the Masyu with that top half. It may have been wrong, or we made a mistake in the Yin Yang. Either way, the Yin Yang just would not get solved, even with all four of us looking at it towards the end. Thankfully we get points for correctly solved grids even if the piece might have belonged to another puzzle for the ideal overall solution.

Score – 1750/2000.

Round 2 – Classic Puzzles (Individual Round) – 90 minutes.

This was a round filled with common puzzle types. Everything seemed normal except for the existence of a Sudoku +/-4 (which is the reason for my practice-turned-league-post yesterday). No complaints from here though. It is a nice variant, I like math variants, and I was looking forward to getting to it. Unfortunately, I never got to it except for the last 3 minutes, when I decided it’d be less of a risk to go back and try to fix the Radar puzzle I’d broken along the way. I succeeded in that, so I feel it was a smart choice. The highlight of this round, at least for me, was the Yajilin. It had all 0 clues, and had a constraint that forced in a whole lot of black cells. I didn’t see this constraint during competition but figured intuitively that that was the way to go. I got out 13 of the 16 puzzles in this round. Even though the 3 I missed (2 Domino Halves and the Sudoku) I felt pretty good about it. Score – 440/600.

Round 3 – Digital Puzzles (Individual Round) – 40 minutes.

Bad. Good puzzles, the ones I solved at least, but this went really bad for me. I got 4 puzzles done out of 9, and missed out on the Digital Price Tags, a high pointer, after coming really close. I later heard that the other big pointers were probably overvalued, but I haven’t checked them yet, so I can’t comment on that. Score – 140/400.

The next one will cover the rest of the WPC, including my own round, Indian Intrigue, and also why my finger seems to be more famous than my WPC performance right now.

Week in Beijing Part 2 : WSC Team, WPF GP Finals, WSC Day 2.

In my previous post, I had left it at the 5th round, which was the last individual round of day 1. However, there was still quite a bit left in Day 1, 3 Team rounds.

Round 6 : Ball Sudoku (25 minutes)

This round consisted of 6 9×9 grids and 12 4×4 grids. The 4×4 grids were already completely solved. Each of these 4x4s connected 2 2×2 corners of 9x9s. It was part of solving to determine which pieces connect where. At the end of all the connection, it would be possible to curve the connected structure into a ball. Oh and, of course, the 6 Sudokus had to be solved too. Each Sudoku solved gave 120 points.

This was another really bad round, in my opinion. There were 2 reasons for this. Firstly, there was absolutely no way this round was even remotely finishable in the allotted time. Only one team (Poland) managed to correctly solve up to 4 out of the 6 Sudokus. No other team even had 3. There were many 0 scores, and unfortunately, team India was one of them. My personal experience was that I almost had a Sudoku solved logically, but couldn’t get it done in time. The rest of the team reportedly guessed their way through to a solution in one, but I guess that turned out to be wrong later.

My second problem with this round was, if at all any team HAD finished, there would be 30 bonus points for, of all things, sticking the grids together. Fortunately (?) the fact that this round was too hard made certain that no one had to get to the ball part. Score – 0/750.

Round 7 : Match (30 minutes)

This was a far simpler(nicer) team round, that involved being given 8 variants, and matching them into 4 pairs of double variants to solve. The variants given were Diagonal, Killer, Windoku, Consecutive, Little Killer, Inequality, Odd-Even, Anti Knight. After team discussions it had come upon me to tackle the Little Killer and whatever we figured out as its pairing. It turned out to be Consecutive. The pair solved nicely. The one major negative for this round, however, was that both grids forming the match HAD to be filled. So after solving using markings from one grid in the other, you’re essentially required to copy everything into the pairing to gain points. This seems so pointless that the question on whether this is necessary was asked multiple times during the doubt solving sessions before the WSC.

So after copying my Little Killer solution into the Consecutive Grid, I saw that Anti-Knight/Killer pairing and Odd/Inequality pairing were getting close to a finish by Rohan, Jaipal and Rishi, but the Diagonal/Windoku pairing seemed impossible. So I quickly went to that and made a guess, got it wrong, made another guess, got it wrong again, so then was making my way through the sure path to solution, when time was up. We had all the rest though, and it seems the Diagonal/Windoku pair was too difficult for many teams. Score – 600/800.

Round 8 : Mahjong Sudoku (30 minutes)

The only difficulty with this round seemed to be to memorize all the Mahjong rules and the Mahjong suits, as this involved completing the grid using Mahjong tiles, following certain Mahjong grouping rules, and Classic Sudoku rules. In the end, our lack of familiarity with the suit differences probably cost  big here. We got the grouping part quickly enough, but then got stuck with using the classic rules because visualizing the suit eliminations just wasn’t happening. We guessed a little and were making progress, but had to remove all the tiles when time was nearing the end, because there were negative points. In the end, we’d placed 39 tiles, out of which one was wrong, which meant 10 negative points. 10 points each for the correct tiles. Score – 370/800.

This was the end of Day 1, and I think India was at 9th after these team rounds, which overall went really poorly.

WPF Grand Prix Finals. 

The Grand Prix was a series of 8 online contests held across the past year. The top 10 were to compete in a separate finals, which was held at this point of the week, right after WSC Day 1. I had placed 13th in the online contests, so though close, I didn’t make the finals. I did volunteer however, as a proctor in the finals. Basically, I was to check the solution of a solver, if wrong, give the sheet back, if correct, give the next sheet, as the 10 solvers raced through 8 Sudokus. “My solver” turned out to be the number 1 seed, Japan’s Kota Morinishi. It was a nice little challenge trying to read his handwriting (and I thought mine was messy!). He started off pretty slow, and was falling behind the rest even after starting with a time advantage as the 1 seed. However, he suddenly started blitzing through the 2nd half, and ended up winning. It was quite awesome watching him solve at that speed towards the end. The rest of the podium was completed by Tiit Vunk from Estonia and Jakub Ondroušek from the Czech Republic, at 2nd and 3rd respectively.

WSC Day 2

As we’d left it, Rohan was 12th, Rishi was 21st, and me 27th. I feel the need to mention that 😛 Day 2 went quite well for me.

Round 9 : Close Relatives (88 minutes)

The round was another variant round, but this time, there were pairs, with one being a common variant, and the other being a slight variation to that variant itself. In all, there were 16 Sudokus. I solved 12 of these, with many high pointers. The highest pointer, a 6-cell Outside Sudoku, is one of the 4 I didn’t solve. I stared at it for 5 minutes, and thought my time would be better spent elsewhere. I then went and promptly broke the Irregular Sudoku with the time coming to a close. Not a good end, but my score seemed solid nonetheless. Score – 422/600.

Round 10 : Great Wall (15 minutes)

Though I did this well enough I do have some criticism here. This was a round with 5 connected Classic Sudokus, forming a “wall” together. Each grid completed would fetch 20 points. The problem here was, the main solve path was restricted to be in a right-to-left direction. This, coupled with the low time of 15 minutes, meant that some solvers were “teased” by the left side, only to reach a dead end and need to rethink, whereas some solvers started from the right and had an easy solve. I was somewhere in between this as I started seeing left, but quickly switched to right, for some inexplicable, but lucky, reason. I ended up solving 4 of the 5 grids, and was really close to finishing the last grid too. Score – 80/100.

Round 11 : Lucky Number 8 (35 minutes)

This went well enough. Not really good, but just par, I think. I did 6 out of 8 of the variants which were all themed on the number 8, because of it being the 8th World Sudoku Championships. Unfortunately one of the ones I didn’t do was the highest pointer. Score – 154/230.

Oh and, we have a detailed article about the week in Beijing now, which doesn’t just deal with my personal experiences.

Week in Beijing Part 1 : WSC Day 1 (Round 1-5)

Its been a while since I returned home from China, but I’ve had to jump right in to a bunch of deadlines here and there. So today I’ll finally start recapping the events and then maybe posting some puzzles after that.

Most of team India, including myself, got late due to missing the connecting flight, and ended up missing the opening ceremony. So the first night was pretty meh. The next day, we first visited the Great Wall, and climbed wayyyyyy too many steps to reach the top-ish area. Meaning it was at the top of the wall, but there was an area further away which was even higher that we decided to miss. I’d like to think its because we didn’t have time, and not sheer exhaustion. I like to think a lot of things.

After that we went to the Bird’s Nest, and the Water Cube, to experience in general the venue of the Beijing Olympics. The highlight here was the part where first Jason Z and then me nonchalantly went and stood in front of the camera whose content appeared on the big screen in the Water Cube. It took a while for them to realize we hadn’t paid to stand there, and for us to realize its paid, and for them to explain to us whether we should pay or not. I still have no clue whether we should or not, so score 1 for foreign communications.

We came back mostly pretty exhausted from the Great Wall climb, which actually turned out to be a good thing because it adjusted our sleep cycles nicely, and we all slept at a pretty good time and woke up fresh for the competition the next day.

WSC Day 1

Round 1 : Easy Classics

This round featured 1 4×4, 3 6x6s and 14 9x9s with a duration of 30 minutes. I started from the last page here, finishing 7 9x9s, and then seeing I had just 7 minutes left, got the smaller sized ones done, and I still had a minute and a half, and I somehow managed to blitz through the easiest of the 9x9s just in time. Final score : 134/200.

Scores were updated at the end of this round. As I remember it, I think Rohan was 8th, Rishi was 21st and I was 23rd at this point. Obviously Classics isn’t my strength. The harder ones of this round struck a little bit of fear in some, including me, about the Hard Classics round coming up later, because the hardest here was 18 points and the easiest there was 22 points.

Round 2 : Common Variants

This round had 18 variants, some of which were in different dimensions like Star/Ring shapes, while the rest were your normal variations. This was an 88 minute round, which I felt pretty confident about. I didn’t have a great round though. I broke the Non-Consecutive, the Untouch and the Kropki. I re-did and fixed all of them, but obviously lost some time there. Was quite close to finishing a high point Inequality Sudoku towards the end, but couldn’t. In the end I’d solved 12 out of 18. Score : 419/600. This turned out to be quite good, and place me much better than the Classics round where I had no mistakes.

Round 3 : Jigsaw Sudoku

This round was not good. It was a 15 minute round, where we would be given a blank grid that was expanded in a way that you had 12 3×3 boxes still forming 3 boxes in each row and each column. Then, there were the envelopes, A, B and C. A was with minimal clues, and the Jigsaw could still be solved, B was with slightly more, and C was with even more. If a solver chose A, and solved it, they’d get 100 points, and be eligible for finishing bonus. 50 and 20 for B and C, with no bonus applicable.

The problem was that the grid, unlike the Instruction booklet grid, didn’t offer any easy limitations for placing pieces, which I think is necessary for a 15 minute round like this. I went about risking it with A though, and thought I had it, and was solving till the end when I spotted a mistake that could not be rectified. So with about 3 minutes left, I opened B, didn’t get much, then with 1 and a half minutes left I opened C. C had all the digits given and it was just about arranging the pieces correctly. I did this, but then had just 30 seconds to copy it all into the grid. Not enough.

Final score – 0/100. I spoke to Rishi and Tiit later, who both had a bonus in the round and both said they got lucky. There were many 0 scores here including the top solvers. I don’t see how a solver aspiring to be in the top 10 could’ve done anything other than choosing to go along with A. There should either have been more time to the round, or the grid should probably have given more than it did.

Rankings displayed after this round showed I’d actually climbed 2 rankings in spite of the 0 score, mainly because of my good score in round 2 and because 0 was a common score for the 3rd round.

Round 4 : Hard Classics

My initial worries after Round 1 proved unnecessary. In fact, this round was probably more finishable. The classics were hard, but just with a bunch of nice techniques thrown in. There were 8 classics, in a 35 minute round. I did 6 of them, but left 2 of the highest pointers. Not too much difference in points though. I ended up with 148/230 having lost partial points to my only “uncaught” mistake of the WSC, leaving 2 cells blank on a Classic.

Round 5 : Math Variants

This round was my biggest disappointment of the entire WSC. Its no 0 score like the 3rd round, but its a round where I did horribly. There were 8 Math based variants for 40 minutes. Math variants are usually my strength so I was looking at scoring well here. I started off well enough, solving 4 of them in under 20 minutes. What followed was absolute disaster as I kept breaking each of the 4 variants ending up with just the solved 4 for the round. Final score – 103/250. Meh.

At the end of this, I was 27th, Rohan was 12th and Rishi was 21st.

Tomorrow, I’ll cover Team Rounds, the GP Finals, and Day 2, which had just 3 individual rounds.

Non-Puzzle Post : Update

Unfortunately, I am not able to keep to my schedule this week, as we are leaving for China tonight to participate in the World Sudoku and Puzzle Championships, and as always, I’m busy with packing and what not at the last minute. I am carrying my laptop though, so I’ll mostly be able to post stuff in the coming week, be it updates or puzzles.

I do actually have a good number of puzzles I’ve written for team India’s practice, and I’ll release them sometime after the WPC, so there’ll definitely be compensation for any inactivity during this week. I will post a Tuesday Sudoku for the league (provided of course my laptop doesn’t cause problems and the internet there’s fine), but beyond that I’m not sure, at least till 20th.

EDIT : See comments. Unfortunately, more than the Tuesday Sudoku isn’t possible till 20th.

Chennai Brain Games – Lead up and Event [Non-Puzzle Post]

I’m finally gonna get around to explaining what I was doing a week or so ago. Some of you already know, but still, the details might be worth the read.

As people who know me or have been following this blog regularly know, me and Rohan are contributing as authors for the Puzzle, Sudoku and Mental Math sub-events during local events held by a sports management company called SportzConsult. They already organized the Delhi Brain Games earlier this year. Having analyzed the inaugural Brain Games event, they started planning the next event in Chennai, Chennai Brain Games. For CBG, SportzConsult set up a few workshops for me to conduct in schools and colleges across Chennai about Puzzles and Sudoku and in general, promoting the events and their accessibility. Since I was born in the state, and had many relatives there, it all worked out quite conveniently. So anyway, here’s a little bit on each school/college I visited :

1.  PSBB School, K K Nagar

There was a little bit of a mix-up here on audience. What we wanted and had planned for was that the students with registrations would attend and I’d get an hour. What happened instead was that entire classrooms were sent to the auditorium to wait and I was given 20-30 minutes twice. The first session was for 300 10-year olds and the second session was for a similar number of older children, although I’m not exactly sure whether they were all just a year older or more. Obviously, there was a bit of a worry going into this one about how the reception might be in general.

Surprisingly enough, the students were extremely enthusiastic. Obviously, I had to adapt my material and also my interactions a lot to make the subject matter really basic and fun, but the audience was generally really excited that there are more possibilities existent in Sudoku and Puzzles. Kids came on stage, asked doubts, and in general were really enthusiastic.

2. Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

IIT is the foremost institution when it comes to higher technological education, and they generally encourage intellectual activities of any kind, so the target audience here was perfect for the workshop topic. As a result, I let the workshop go on long and with great detail. In hindsight, it probably went too long (2 and a half hours), but I’ll put that down to having a solving + doubts bit after explaining each new variant/type. There were 100 people who attended at the start. A few left midway because they needed to be at other events, but the majority stayed on and were pretty interested throughout, and even after the session there were eager students asking me to help with certain types.

3. The Velammal International School

Velammal International School is ever interested in extra curricular activities that sharpen their students’ intellect and are all about giving the students a platform to showcase any form of talent. They promoted this workshop wonderfully, to the extent that everyone knew who I was, my credentials, and were looking forward to the workshop. This one was in a huge auditorium, with kids of all ages, 10-15 I suppose, and teachers as well.

I got a good 1 and half hours for the workshop, so this was a bit of a mix of the 1st and 2nd, with me going into detail but really basic detail, and a quick overview. Again, there were kids coming on stage to ask doubts. The highlight of this workshop came when a student came up and challenged me on stage to a solve-off. The SportzConsult personnel with me did everything to distract me during this, even making me pose for photos with kids in between solving. The whole mini-event was extremely entertaining for me and also for the audience.

Afterwards, there were a few discussions about potential activities in the future, and I hope to post more about this school sometime later.

Now, to the main event –

Since this is a puzzle blog, I’ll focus only on the Sudoku and Puzzle events. We had 3 prizes for Open Category and 3 prizes for U-15 category. The attendance was pretty good and there was enough healthy competition in both categories.

We had 2 rounds of Sudoku, one classics and one variations, and then 2 rounds of puzzles. Each of these rounds was of 30 minutes. In the end, the Open Category winners were a few regular LMI members, although it was pretty close for a few newcomers in the Puzzle rounds. The U-15 category obviously had all new faces.

The most noteworthy fact is that the U-15 Sudoku winner, Pradeep Kumar, was the same kid who had challenged me at Velammal (read above). So I personally awarded him with a small prize on stage apart from the medal, and also shared that experience to the crowd.

After the event, we had a press meet including an interview from me, which there isn’t an online link for. A lot of the interview had me speaking in Tamil though, so I doubt there’s much in it that the International readers of this blog will miss.

It was an absolutely wonderful experience conducting the workshops, and I especially hope that some nice partnerships are made from this for future plans related to the Indian puzzle scene. Photos of the main event can be seen here.