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 –
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.
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.
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.
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.