WSC/WPC 2014 Recaps: Part VII – WPC Day 3, Prizes

On Day 3, we had the individual round results displayed. I finished 23rd, which was an improvement on last year’s 24th by a single rank. At this point I remembered that there was a special prize for 22nd place at the 22nd World Puzzle Championship last year in Beijing. I wondered if that had become an annual thing and made a mental note to ask Alan. I hoped that no one would knock me down to last year’s rank. A small part of me also hoped I wouldn’t climb so I could claim that 23rd place prize if it existed, since there aren’t any big differences between 22 and 23.

Anyway, up next was a single team round, before the top 10 competed in the individual playoffs. This was a unique team round, with three phases and the third phase being a team playoff of sorts. The round was built around a puzzle which required formation of squares using some constraints moving counters and using knight moves from chess. It was a fun, easy round, but the first 7 puzzles were only the first part, or the first two phases. The third phase was for the top 8 scorers of the first two phases.

Round 15 – Square Bashing (TEAM) (Part I) (30 minutes) – 2040/1800. 7/7 solved.

Rohan is great at chess, and I’m good with moving pieces, so we complemented each other well, and with assistance from the other two team-mates we finished the 7 puzzles in good time. Not good enough to be top 8, but a solid enough finish to the WPC for Team India. The biggest reason this was a perfect team round though, is obviously the fact that my team didn’t have to deal with my handwriting for once.

The team finished 15th. Considering we missed the 2014 Indian Puzzle Champion, Amit Sowani, this was a good enough result. Jayant Ameta was a debutant and got some welcome experience. Hopefully he improves in the coming years so we have more depth in the team.

Anyway, the next part is purely from a spectator’s point of view… for the most part, anyway.

Round 15 – Square Bashing (TEAM) (Part II) (45 minutes) (2800 points for first finisher)

This round was more physical than other rounds. Teams running and jumping around on boards is probably not what you’d expect to see at a World Puzzle Championship so this was fun. Basically, the humans were the movable counters and the floor was the grid. All 4 team members stood on different starting points and there were numerous rounds of forming a square, reaching another starting point, and forming another square. The rules were quite strict and any wrong step that is submitted to the real-time judging personnel would result in a disqualification. Unfortunately, this is what happened to Team Japan, who ended up with 0 points. Otherwise, as far as I can remember, all other teams managed to finish the round fine, though I don’t remember rankings and scores.

After the round was officially done, some of the spectators, myself included, decided to try the puzzle out ourselves in seemingly random groups of four. Our huge advantage was that we’d seen that one of the squares formed took up all four corners of the grid, and another took up just a 2×2 area of cells. Even so, since we were playing for fun, we put that away. For some reason I played twice, I guess because there was a group with just 3 people in it and needed a volunteer to play it once.

WPC Playoffs –

Unlike the WSC playoffs, I attended these. Japan had three solvers in the top 10, and Germany were close to having three as well, but Roland Voigt just missed out with an 11th place. The playoffs were divided into three parts. The first part was between solvers ranked 7-10. Here, Kota raced ahead even though he started after 2 players, coming into it at 9th and ending up 7th. He advanced to the next part, which would be between the solvers ranked 4-7. Here, Palmer Mebane started ahead of the other three and finished ahead of the other three, to reach the final stage.

The final stage had Ulrich Voigt (Germany) starting around 2 and a half minutes before Endo Ken (Japan), 3 minutes before Florian Kirch (Germany) and 4 and something minutes before Palmer Mebane. In the second puzzle itself, Endo hit a roadblock and just couldn’t make things work, allowing both Florian and Palmer to jump ahead. He kinda sorta recovered and was catching up until the 5th puzzle (or maybe the 4th, there’s no list on the Instruction booklet so I can’t be sure) where he hit a roadblock again which took him out of the running altogether. Ulrich and Florian were both moving along steadily (or, well, blitzing through at unbelievable pace, but steadily by their standards I guess), but Palmer was having a great time of it here. He had two amazing solves in there, including (and my memory is foggy here on the details) an Unequal Length Maze in 20 or so seconds. At the end, Ulrich managed to hold fort, but Palmer finished 22 seconds after Ulrich, a much lesser margin than the staggered start of 4 minutes would indicate. But Ulrich is, deservedly, the 2014 World Puzzle Champion, making it 3 in a row. Ulrich is a 10 time World Puzzle Champion with this victory, but this was the first time he has a series of 3 in a row, so he’s stronger than ever right now. Florian finished at 3rd, holding steady with the rank he started the playoffs at. Endo had a bit of a fall, but thankfully due to the categorized playoffs, he still has an impressive 4th place to show for it. Congratulations once again to all the winners.

So that ended the WPC, and after that we had the traditional game of football. This time, I didn’t break anything! I also literally let out a celebratory yell right after the game stating that I didn’t break anything! This is a big deal after last year. I think. Anyway…

That night we had the closing ceremony. Here’s the big official list of award winners. I was obviously waiting for my nice little unofficial award. I had, by then, talked to Alan O’Donnell, one of the lead organizers, about the existence of the award for Xth place at the Xth WPC. Turns out that this award was around this year too, and since this is the only year where I could improve my ranking (23rd from 24th) and still win this award, I’m happy to get it. From the next year I can target better ranks in peace. This was all part of the plan… is what I’ll claim from now. Anyway, here’s the Mayor of Croydon presenting the medal –

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Incidentally, she is originally from India and settled in the UK. She requested to meet the Indian team as well. After a pleasant conversation, we had a photo taken.

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After the ceremony and dinner, we had the usual Karaoke night. Other than the fact that the World Sudoku Champion Kota Morinishi (Japan) gave a great solo performance AND stuck around for a duet with David Jones of Canada (how epic would a Champion duet have been? Should’ve asked Ulrich to stay on), we did manage to uphold the tradition we started last year of multiple countries’ participants getting together for Wonderwall…

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As always, I stayed up until my departure time and slept on the way to the airport and also while waiting for the flight. So that’s it for the recaps.

Just to summarize India’s rankings (only the A teams),

World Sudoku Championship –

India A – 6th (New Indian record for best team performance).

Individuals –

Rohan Rao – 14th. Myself – 21st. Rishi Puri – 36th. Sumit Bothra – 55th.

World Puzzle Championship –

India A – 15th.

Individuals –

Myself – 23rd (New Indian record for best individual performance). Rohan Rao – 36th. Swaroop Guggilam – 48th. Jayant Ameta – 90th.

To end these recaps officially, here’s the full Indian team. The front row: myself, Deb Mohanty (WSC team captain), Kunal Verma (WSC B team), Jaipal Reddy (WSC & WPC B team). The back row: Jayant Ameta (Also WSC B team in addition to WPC A team mentioned above), Rohan Rao (WPC team captain), Rishi Puri, Swaroop Guggilam (WSC B as well) and Sumit Bothra.

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WSC/WPC 2014 Recaps: Part VI – WPC Day 2

Day 2 had the rounds with innovative and new puzzles and some rounds with real scoring potential.

Round 8 – English Country Garden (60 minutes) 690/900. 10/12 solved.

This was a round featuring some new styles and some clever representations of old ones, all falling within a theme of objects/animals/etc. found in an English Country Garden. This round featured some big strengths and some bad weaknesses. I don’t know why Cobwebs need to be featured from a garden (edit: I realize they are part of gardens, I just think only the good stuff about gardens should be featured. Or maybe I’m just incredibly biased because I don’t like cobwebby puzzles 😛 Moving on…), but I am really bad at those so I left them for the end and couldn’t get either done. Unfortunately both were high pointers so my score took a hit, even though I started really well with Flowerbeds and Vegetable Plots (Garden!).

Round 9 – Loop The Loop (60 minutes) 670/900. 8/11 solved.

Obviously this was a round full of loop puzzles, both new and known. Overall it was a good mix. Considering I’m good at Loop puzzles this round didn’t go too well. Made a few mistakes, including the Ripple Loop where I spotted the mistake just as they called for time, meaning there was a horrible minute where I was staring at the mistake and couldn’t do anything about it. Ouch.

Round 10 – The 200 Club (90 minutes) 1200/2000. 6/10 solved.

This was my only problem with Day 2 – I don’t like the concept of organizing a round where all puzzles have the same value. I won’t even say the organizers didn’t achieve this as per my experience, because honestly its quite impossible to achieve 10 puzzles of the exact same difficulty. One example where the difficulties definitely did not match for me personally was with the Non Consecutive Kakuro, which had a difficult Global step while the LITS variant was mainly a local solve. Also, a puzzle like Yajilin or LITS variant is much easier to bifurcate and retrace on than something like a 3-in-1 puzzle with multiple constraints. All in all, I just think this could’ve been a perfect round without the same-points theme, and instead just calling it a round with 10 really tough puzzles.

Having said all that, the puzzles were really fun, and the round will be remembered for some of the well built logical steps, and not for the scoring, so the overall experience was still pretty good. Personally, I didn’t do well here because I finished the 6 puzzles I got right within something like 55-60 minutes, and kept breaking puzzles for the next 30-35 minutes. That’s the most frustrating thing to happen with really difficult puzzles, but that’s my own stupidity.

At least it wasn’t as frustrating as something my Swiss friend Fred Stalder did – solving the entire Non-Consecutive Kakuro and then finding out that you’ve switched a 14 sum row and a 20 sum row in an otherwise correct puzzle has got to sting.

Round 11 – Not Quite Classics (60 minutes) 1000/1200. 13/16 solved.

This round contained more extremes than Round 8 in terms of strengths and weaknesses. 5 Tapa variants and a LITS+ meant I pretty much had 6 high-value puzzles (a total of 550 points) in the bag in around 15 minutes. I only wish I wasn’t equally bad at other puzzles as I am good at these. I still think I could’ve done better here since I broke both Diagonal Numberlinks before fixing them. I always get scared of Cross Math puzzles, so I didn’t look at either of them and instead tried and failed to finish a 100 point Tetromino Sums at the end. Maybe I should work on facing my fears.

Round 12 – Something Different (60 minutes) 760/1200. 10/15 solved.

Probably the worst round of the day. This round had one strength (Mini Coral) and everything else was a weakness. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but even so, I would’ve liked to avoid breaking puzzles. Also, I completely forgot about the 140 point Flip Mirror Sums which I feel I could surely have done in the time I spent struggling on each of the two Chaos puzzles. Ah well. At this point all hopes of a top 20 had vanished unless I scored a substantial bonus in Round 13…

Round 13 – Afternoon Tea (45 minutes) 590/670. 7/8 solved.

… and I almost scored a substantial bonus in Round 13. This was a nice round themed around the “T” shape, and all puzzles featured usage of the T-shape in some way. There were two Tapa variants here too which saved a lot of time, giving me 210 points in about 5 minutes. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to spell when the timer is running, as we’ve established from Round 1 in the previous recap. I hit the T for Trees puzzle, which was a mix of Scrabble and the T shape constraint, and in the word list, one of the words was Macadamia. That’s MacadAmia. With an A. I’m emphasizing this, because I entered an E into the grid instead. Now this might not be a big error, and according to Roland Voigt, Will Blatt seems to have received points for misspelled words. However, it just so happens (typically) that this was a crucial letter to mess up. The word Papaya was supposed to connect here with the A. Since it was an E, I had no place for the Papaya and spent a huge chunk of time trying to figure out what was wrong. I noticed the mistake after 10 minutes of staring, time which could’ve been used to finish off the T for Time Tables puzzle quite easily barring any errors.

Round 14 – Doppelgangers (TEAM) (60 minutes) 4740/3600. 19 minutes bonus. 12/12 solved.

Technically, its 6 Doppelgangers solved, but that still makes it 12 puzzles. This was a round having two aspects. First, there were 6 puzzle grids, all of which were solvable using two separate rulesets. Next, these grids were broken into pieces and these pieces were given to us. Participants needed to figure out the relative position of each piece, enter the subsequent clues into the grid on two separate papers, and then solve each puzzle type made by the clues. The doppelgangers were –

Puzzle 1: LITS (240 points) and Star Battle (240 points)
Puzzle 2: Cave (420 points) and Fillomino (300 points)
Puzzle 3: Minesweeper (120 points) and Four Winds (180 points)
Puzzle 4: Masyu (330 points) and Yin Yang (270 points)
Puzzle 5: Nurikabe (330 points) and Numberlink (270 points)
Puzzle 6: Shikaku (220 points) and Cave (680 points)

In this, I took the Cave and Fillomino for starters. This took a while but I got the placement eventually and the solves went pretty quickly as both are strengths. After that, Swaroop gave me his Nurikabe to solve, because he was stuck on it, and had solved the Numberlink correctly. I finished the Nurikabe and by this stage most of the other puzzles were done except the Shikaku and Cave pairing. I’m foggy on whether the Shikaku was finished or not (I roughly remember I did placements for this pairing too, so maybe I solved the Shikaku as well), but the Cave fell to me to finish off, and as the highest pointer, this was pretty difficult. I finished this one with the team waiting and looking on and helping in places. Eventually we ended up with a 19 minute bonus and this felt really good and was a nice end to the day of solving.

BUT WAIT!

This wasn’t the end. After dinner, a recreational team contest was organized by David Bodycombe and his team, just for some light solving after a highly competitive day. This was fun if only because it featured a different kind of puzzle to what we deal with at the WPC. Overall I still prefer grid-based logical pencil puzzles but this was a refreshing change for the evening.

The last recap, maybe even later today, but mostly tomorrow, will deal with the single team round in WPC Day 3, the prize ceremony, etc. I’d like to take this moment to request anyone having photos/videos of Round 15 to send them to me (prasanna16391@gmail.com) so that I can share them and explain the round in a better way.

WSC/WPC 2014 Recaps: Part V – Team Building?, WPC Day 1

We return to WSC/WPC week in London, UK at the end of the sight-seeing day. That night was the WPC Q&A. I was extremely sleepy. Its a bit irresponsible of me, but I couldn’t really help it and was half asleep for most of the Q&A. Thankfully, misinterpretation or misunderstanding of rules wasn’t a problem in the next two days. There was an impromptu announcement during Q&A about a WPF General Assembly (or maybe it was announced earlier somewhere and I didn’t notice, I confess I was fully engrossed in other activities in the lead up to the Championships and didn’t read the schedule). Either way, I just think that was a bad time-slot to put it in. The WPC was the next morning. If it was, say, the night before sight seeing day, I’d have kept awake somehow and attended. But since it was obviously important to get sufficient rest before the competition, I decided to go sleep. This presented another problem….

To understand this problem, we need to go back to the day before the travel from India. One of our WPC A team members hadn’t received his passport yet (for some reason, he had applied for it almost two months after knowing he was on the team). Since he was scheduled to travel on the 12th and the rest of us were all scheduled to travel on the 10th, I told him to let us know by midnight on 11th whether he’s traveling or not. Thankfully, we had two B team members, and I could slot one of them into the A team in case this member did not receive his passport. On 11th, he confirmed he isn’t participating, and I made the change, and promoted Jayant Ameta, who was the higher ranked participant at the IPC out of the two B team members, to the A team.

On the 12th, however, I received a mail from the team member stating that he received his passport, re-booked a flight and would arrive on the night before the WPC. He requested to be placed back on the A team, but by this point we had discussed strategy, etc. with Jayant and as it would cause too much confusion to wait until the night before the WPC in uncertainty (not to mention it’d be unfair on Jayant), I declined this request. However, this still presented the problem on the night before the WPC, as I felt obligated to stay up and be around for the UK team in case they needed me (all the uncertainty in the lead up left me fearing more uncertainty on the night). I talked about this to the organizing team, and they said they would manage everything. I am very thankful to them for this, and in the morning he had reached and been allocated a room. So that problem resolved itself, and after a nice breakfast, it was time for the WPC to begin. No, not that wpc, the World Puzzle Championship!

Round 1 – Welcome Round (50 minutes) – 420/750. 11/15 solved.

I missed a high pointer Scramble UK (a scrabble-like puzzle) because I can’t spell. The round had some nice UK 2014 themes. It also had some weaknesses for me (including Scramble UK, why did I try that?!). Add to this the fact that I’m a slow starter and it was a recipe for disaster. Even after blitzing through the 80 point Fillomino, I couldn’t salvage the round, breaking a Triangular Minesweeper and getting stuck on both Digitiles (Oh, that’s why I tried Scramble UK. OK).

Round 2 – The Great Outdoors (30 minutes) – 465/450. 7/7 solved, 1:32 minutes before time.

Yay, a bonus! But eh, almost everyone I would consider myself competing with for rankings secured a bonus here. It was a really nice round, showcasing a well-themed, elaborate and fun way to get Simple Loop out of the way. I blitzed through everything except the Running Trail, and would probably have targeted a 15 minute bonus with a clean solve of that one. The puzzle had a path moving through flags, and having equal length between each flag. Determining the length was a simple calculation as the path(loop) must travel through all white cells of the grid. The length required was 11, and for some typically idiotic reason, I calculated it to be 12, and reached an evil contradiction. It took me a typically huge amount of time to figure out the reason for this and change it to 11, after which I blitzed through this one too. Ugh.

Round 3 – Classics (120 minutes) – 1570/1800. 26/29 solved, 25 correct.

This round went predictably well (me, long round, two Tapa, two Yajilin, a Masyu, and so on, bound to be good) and 1670 was my expected total. Unfortunately, I missed a double bridge on Hashi, which cost me 100 points. Again, typically, I chose the highest pointer for this error.

In spite of this, by this stage I was building a gap between the other members of the Indian team. Rohan had had a great Round 1, but started falling behind after it. Swaroop was steadily scoring just below Rohan and Jayant was doing ok for a debutant. Our placements relative to each other had already started forming the pattern that would stay on until the eventual rankings. Either way, that’s 3 rounds that could’ve gone better, to say the least (learn to spell, learn to count, don’t leave out double bridges. Important lessons for any aspiring puzzler out there). Anyway, after a break for lunch, there were 4 more rounds:

Round 4 – Latin Squares (60 minutes) – 590/900. 11/17 solved.

I expected to do better here, considering I do well in that other Championship… I broke 2 Fuzulis, Made a mess of some others too, and ended up with a decent score. I think I beat Palmer Mebane on this round, but can’t be sure. Also, I’m horrible at Mathrax.

Round 5 – On Your Own (45 minutes) – 200/600. 5/9 solved, 4 correct.

This was an Instructionless round where I didn’t do well at all (I guess Round 5s are just not for me. Petition to have Round 6 be after Round 4 from next year? Maybe). The rules were to be figured out from solved examples. I have three things to note here –

1. This was a nice way to get Hex Puzzles out of the way as well (All puzzles in this round were Hexed variants).

2. It is always difficult to execute an Instructionless round without clarity issues and nondeductible rulesets. Considering that, this round was really well done, even though I messed it up personally.

3. There was, however, one clarity issue. One of the puzzles had a rule that all cells must be passed, and this rule wasn’t expressly indicated and just implied by the solution having all cells used. Maybe I’m just bitter as I got this wrong because I didn’t obey the cell-usage rule, but probably a valid negative feedback.

Round 6 – Sprint (30 minutes) – 440/600. 14/19 solved.

The reaction to this round was unanimous among the participants I spoke to later – “What on earth were those No Four In A Row puzzles doing on a sprint round?!”. So yeah, there were these 2 50 pointer No Four In A Row (A.K.A. X and O) puzzles, which were either really difficult or required bifurcation. Either way, considering this was not a strength anyway, I struggled badly on them and (at least among the people I spoke with) so did anyone who decided to attempt them. Why attempt them when it wasn’t a strength, you ask? Because on one of the pages was a Walls puzzle, which was probably covered by invisible walls, because I completely missed the page. I forgot they were on this round, and thought the only other option was the Unequal Length Maze, which is an even bigger weakness. I am good at Walls, so this was a big miss and a big disappointment for me. Also a big disappointment? Because I missed these, I thought the only ones I didn’t solve were a No Four In A Row and two Unequal Length Mazes (20+20+50=90). Finding out about the Walls page meant I had missed another 70 points. Ouch.

Round 7 – Table for Four (Team Round) (60 minutes) – 2400/3600. 3/4 solved. 1 horribly messed up in four different colors!

This was another of those rounds with 4 different color pens, like in the WSC, but here we didn’t have to rotate the sheet. There were 4 different sets of clues, oriented differently so everyone could read their own clues normally, and you only had to solve the ones of your color. Communication was much more flexible here though, so we got through fairly quickly with the first Snake Pit puzzle, and the Tetromino and Pentomino puzzles went smoothly too. Then we reached the Battleships. The logic hidden here was really nice with many ‘squares’ restricting where the longer ships can go. Eventually we thought we had eliminated all other possibilities and proceeded with a configuration for the longer ships, but kept reaching a contradiction. In the end we made a quick guess and ended up with extra blue segments. Oops. Anyway, we knew this would be wrong, so it wasn’t a good round, considering many teams had finished. But in perspective of one of our teammates being a debutant, this was ok.

The Next recap will be about WPC Day 2.

WSC/WPC 2014 Recaps: Part IV – WSC bids, sight seeing

This one’s probably gonna be a little strong. Lets just jump right into it.

Right after the WSC closing ceremony, some of us were invited to a room to watch and discuss a presentation of some sort. This was mostly a last-minute thing because not that many people showed up. The people hosting the meeting were Puzzlium Inc. – represented by three Ukranians based in USA. Their presentation was related to a bid to host WSC/WPC 2015 using their app, Puzzlium.

I’ll first note down their proposals, as I understood them. Note that this is not an official post, I was just a spectator there who discussed some of these points during the meeting too. Since I am not personally a WPF member (and some others present at the meeting weren’t either), this seemed to be an open meeting. This seems to be an impromptu chance given by the WPF to the presenters to make their case in front of a group of WSC/WPC competitors. Anyway, what they planned:

1) The WSC and WPC would be in the USA, and the participants would attend as usual, selected by their respective countries. However, the solving would not be done on paper. Each participant will be given a device that supports the app, and the solving would have to be done on the device.

2) All puzzles would be created using the App, which automatically tests for solve-ability and uniqueness. No human dependency and so, zero chance of unsolvable or non-unique puzzles.

3) Even though the official participation would be on-site, anyone who purchases the app could participate in the same competition from their homes, as the puzzles would simultaneously be available for everyone on the app.

4) Printing costs saved, and all that financial stuff.

5) The difficulty will be decided in a dynamic way, based on a formula dependent on solving times for each puzzle as they were solved.

Now, my general reactions, including some things I didn’t mention on site, either because I thought they weren’t relevant to the organizational side of things, or because I thought of them only after further reflection.

Firstly, I’ll put up the point that was seemingly unanimously agreed upon by the puzzlers present there (but one that the presenters didn’t seem to fully grasp). We have National selections in each of the member nations and this selection process is what decides the teams eligible to compete at the World Level. This is similar to all World Level competitions. The Olympics don’t have officials sent to each home to ask the people to race and see if they are as fast as the competitors. They may or may not be, but that’s not the point. The World Championship is for those chosen to be the best at what they do. I fully support a process which encourages everyone from their homes, as a separate Championship, or even at a National level – but not the World Championship. Their way of combating this was to repeatedly ignore it and go on about how everyone must get a chance. I agree with that, but that should be before the World Championship, during National selections. Everyone must get a chance there.

Upon further reflection, I’ll add to this point – Just because they open it up to everyone using the app does not mean that they are taking the Championship to everyone either. It is simply opening it up to people who have heard of the App, have the money to purchase a device that supports the app, and have enough time on that weekend to devote to solving puzzles all day. Hardly a comprehensive selection. In fact, it is ironic that they used the argument for this that people might not be able to spend money to participate at the WSC/WPC, when money is obviously required for this too, unless they plan to send a free device with the app to every home in the world.

Another valid point brought up from our side – solving on the app means only using markings built into the app. This may be ok for Classics, but going to the rarer variations, and for puzzles different solvers have different notations. The most immediate example I can come up with for this is Fillomino, where some mark borders, some write in numbers, and some, like myself, draw lines passing through the middle of cells. Even if the app supports all of these solving processes, there may still be something I’ve left out that some other solver feels comfortable with. Limiting them to the possibilities of an app is not fair in competition. In reply, they said the app’s solving would be dynamic but did not feel the need to expand on this and resorted to the stance of  “this is a technical limitation which we will look at”. This is just one example, but there may well be many solvers who are at a disadvantage here for reasons other than puzzle-solving.

The third concern, is about the creative levels of a World Puzzle Championship being restricted immensely by the app. Some of us did raise this concern, as the only puzzles they could demonstrate to us were very simple in nature, and did nothing to indicate that they would be capable of designing an app dynamic enough to carry the variety required for a World Championship (108+70-ish types that appeared over the week in London this year, for example).

Also (something I didn’t talk about there as it didn’t seem fully relevant), as a puzzle author, I take offense to the insinuation that any random app can be as creative and innovative with puzzles as a human author can be. Its not that I don’t think this is ever possible – after all, human minds are the ones designing new technologies, and maybe in the future, a computer has an artistic artificial brain and is capable of innovation in our field. But this isn’t gonna happen anytime soon, and more than anything, there is no way you will convince me it is just by showing geometrical variants of Sudoku and a few dissection puzzles which appear random as far as themes go. Will they have cute themed rounds like the Great Outdoors, or English Country Gardens, as at this year’s WPC? Will they have a “Something New-ish” round with innovative variants? Will they be able to have an entire round each for Math variants, Neighbourhood variants, Geometric variants, Outside Clue variants, as at this year’s WSC? I have minor criticisms of this year’s World Championships too, but they are just that – minor. They are nitpicks based on personal preferences, but in general, the World Championships were of a high quality (and just happened to be one of the best ones I’ve participated in) which I don’t see being replicated by an app anytime soon.

The other big problem is the dynamic difficulty assignment. This completely eliminates strategy based on points (and also calls into question the presenters’ claim of going through WSC/WPC booklets and studying how things are done). They responded to this by saying they will have a group of pre-testers who will not participate which is fine, but negates one of their “positives” all the same. There were other topics that weren’t even brought up (mainly because some of these points turned into repetitive arguments that took us late into the night) like malfunctioning devices, or team round management, or the fact that to practice on the app for the WSC/WPC we still had to purchase a device which seems an unnecessary necessity in relevance to solving puzzles. But since I believe the points brought up at the meeting were more than enough to prove that this isn’t a good idea, its alright. Some suggested a compromise of one round being devoted to their software as a gimmick round, and as long as this is a low weight-age round, I have no issues with this plan, even if I won’t be a fan of it.

Ok, now moving on from all of this to a much lighter topic, the next day we had the Team photo followed by sight-seeing. Here, we saw Big Ben, which we learned was renamed, and is now known as Elizabeth Towers. We also saw Buckingham Palace and the Queen’s Guard. After this, the Indian team wanted to separate, as some of us wanted to finish some shopping, so I went with them.

During the time with the group however, I was mostly talking to Jarett Prouse and Fae Lau of Canada B (Yes, they Can B!) about the various ways guides directed their groups. We agreed that Magical Stuffed Fox was the most awesome guide-help (I was skeptical of it being magical, but Jarett insisted), but our own guide’s magical umbrella came close. This time, I can elaborate on why this was magical – each time our guide Sally raised the umbrella, the traffic stopped. This kept happening, about 4 times. At one point, I shouted out “UMBRELLA” just to see if it happened that way too, and it did! It was creepy. Anyway, we also agreed unanimously upon the worst guide-help among the ones we saw – a home-made “Follow Me” scrawl propped up on a stick. Ouch.

There was also a story about Canadian Geese in there somewhere, which was pretty entertaining, but I have apparently forgotten it now, so can’t go further. So I’ll fast forward to when I was with the Indian team, and we got back to the buses to get back to the hotel. 3 of the team were leaving at this point, to begin the journey back to India, as they were only there for the WSC. Deb Mohanty, Rishi Puri and Sumit Bothra all needed to get to the airport by the evening and couldn’t accompany us back to the hotel because of this. Goodbyes were said, and the rest of us got back on the bus. It was on the journey back that I spotted a restaurant with the best name any restaurant can have – it was solely titled “EAT.”. I like that. Anyway, other than that it was an uneventful trip back

Next time, I’ll post about certain complications with the Indian Puzzle team, and WPC Day 1.

WSC/WPC 2014 Recaps: Part III – WSC Day 2

Apparently, I was wrong about getting the bonus on Round 7. Should’ve known looking at the points, but eh. Anyway, Day 1 was made so bad by Round 5 that I was just hoping to climb a little bit in the rankings on Day 2. Last year, I was 27th and with 3 rounds in Day 2, climbed to 15th. This year, there were just two rounds in Day 2 and I was 28th up to Round 5. Though the Round 6 results weren’t out yet, I knew the climb wouldn’t be much in that one. I also knew that coming up was my favorite round…

Round 9 – Endurance round (90 minutes) – 16/17 – 870/940.

Before this round started, the UK Organizers had to handle a slight misprint, so they made us turn to the page with the Between Sudoku, where there was an extra line, and informed us about it. I thought this was a good simple way to handle it, and also noticed a nifty WSC theme for the lines of the Between Sudoku as I was correcting the bad line. We then had to close the booklet again and wait for the start. I solved mostly in order, with Windoku, Diagonal (I didn’t try it as a Classic this time!), Anti Knight and Palindrome getting done pretty quickly. I noticed another WSC theme with the shaded areas of the Renban Groups but skipped it as I don’t feel that comfortable with the variant. This would end up being the one I didn’t attempt on the round. I solved everything except the (Renban Groups and) Eliminate Sudoku with about 12 minutes left, and I thought I broke it for a minute in between, but it turns out I had eliminated a possibility which wasn’t forced by the eliminators. Maybe I’m an arrow too. Anyway, fortunately I recovered from this and finished the Eliminate Sudoku with 2 minutes to go. At this point, I knew there was no way I was finishing Renban Groups in under two minutes, so just went about checking for empty spaces in everything. There were none.

Round 10 – Overlapping Scattered Sudoku (20 minutes) – 1/1 – 130/100.

I confess I was dreading this round. I hate all such all-or-nothing rounds where its just one Sudoku to solve, because the difficulty is at the organizer’s discretion, and harder ones can lead to some unnecessarily high variance in the scores. To the organizers’ credit here, this one was easy enough to be ~10 minute solve in general, and indeed, some of the best times on it were 7 minutes. Rohan did really well here and finished in 8 minutes, but this wasn’t enough to get him in the top 10 unfortunately, and he finished 14th. Me? I had a repeat performance of my Times Sudoku Championship 4th round earlier this year, which was a Samurai with a similar round structure. I solved the entire thing, spotted an error, erased the entire thing, and re-solved the entire thing. There too, Rohan finished earlier than me, but there he made a mistake and I ended up having best score on that round. I’m really thankful he didn’t make a mistake here, but I also wish I’d stop making these Overlapping Sudokus into Double-Solve Overlapping Sudoku variants. Anyway, I still managed to finish with 3 minutes remaining, which was ok, but dashed my hopes of being within the top 20.

I finished 21st. Rohan, as I said, was 14th, Rishi was 36th, and Sumit 55th. If only Rishi was 35th and Sumit was 56th, we’d all be multiples of 7. I am thoroughly disappointed that this didn’t happen. Or maybe I’m just projecting my disappointment of my own performance over there. Something like that. Anyway, there was one team round to go, which didn’t need as much co-dependence as rotation or stripping… I mean Strip Sudoku.

Round 11 – Team Round – Linked Sudoku – 5/5 – 3360/3000.

Like I said, this didn’t have as much co-dependence as the previous team rounds. The structure was simple. There were 5 Sudokus, a Killer Pro, a Diagonally Non Consecutive, a Toroidal, a Sum Skyscraper, and a Musketry Sudoku (Overlapping grids). Each of these were uniquely solvable but were really difficult. There were some letters marked in some cells in each of them, and same letters would be the same digit throughout. e.g., if there’s an A in the Toroidal and the Musketry, and if A=5 in Toroidal, it’ll be 5 in the Musketry too. So it was a simple case of solving each of our own variants and communicating a letter’s value if determined. All the variants were strengths for me, so we went a different route and I took the one which was everyone else’s weakness – Toroidal.

Rohan took the Diagonally Non Consecutive, Sumit took the Killer Pro, and Rishi took the Musketry. We managed to solve things smoothly enough, and Rohan was the first to finish his I think, so he began working on the Sum Skyscraper. Sumit finished Killer Pro around the time when I had made the Toroidal easy enough to just have the last bit of filling done. Sumit grabbed the Toroidal and told me to help Rohan with the Sum Skyscraper, but almost immediately threw it back and told me to finish, because again, he couldn’t read my handwriting to finish (at this point I think it is only appropriate that I submit my humblest apology to the markers who had to put up with the handwriting that my team cursed on day 1 and gave up on on day 2). Anyway, not much damage done, as I quickly finished the Toroidal, and went over to helping Rohan with the Sum Skyscraper. We managed to finish this as a team, since Rishi was done with the Musketry too. We finished the round with 9 minutes to go and ended the WSC on a positive note.

We had been ricocheting between 7th and 8th in the Team standings throughout the WSC, so we expected a 7th with the last team round being good. A 7th would’ve tied our previous best ranking at a WSC, one which we have achieved twice before. However, the French team who were 6th for most of the WSC, were kind enough to goof up in the last team round, making an error that cost them almost 2000 points and pushing them one point behind USA, down to 8th. We got pushed up to 6th, making this our best team ranking, and also a newsworthy fact for our sponsors to report.

The funny thing here is, we wasted a whole lot of effort trying to get the UK WSC logo in the background, only for Times to photoshop it out anyway. I’m guessing its because of some policy against publicity to other brands, or something. I would probably not do that, but its their paper, their policy, no issues.

Anyway, I confess I went to my room and slept through the WSC playoffs, but only after proving how horrible I can be at Tennis, playing against the rest of the Indian team. The playoffs this year had a better structure than recent years simply because the top 10 were divided into groups, with the final group being 1st-4th. This means the preliminary rounds winner can only drop to 4th at most, so at least in my opinion, it was a fairer structure. The playoffs apparently went fine, except for a minor glitch – in the final playoff, the markers judged a correct solution wrong somewhere, causing minor confusion. This did not impact the top two, so it was resolved simply by declaring a tie for 3rd place. The top 3 were as follows:

1. Kota Morinishi (Japan).

2. Tiit Vunk (Estonia).

3. Bastien Vial-Jaime (France) & Jakub Ondroušek (Czech Republic).

I congratulate the winners, and going by performances in online contests over the past year, this is a fair reflection of the world’s best solvers. Also, this was a WSC which was a lot of fun, and left me wanting more. My only criticism is a really selfish one – it needed more long rounds. It is down to personal opinion and strengths and weaknesses of each competitor I suppose, but as far as preferences go I will always prefer the longer rounds. Maybe next time I should just ask the organizers if I can sit and solve all the rounds at a stretch…

Anyway, that evening, the WSC closing ceremony took place. I cannot begin to explain just how entertaining this turned out to be. The Indian team table probably had laughter throughout dinner. We just could not stop joking around, not that anyone wanted to. Within all this though (literally within all of it, we somehow managed to keep joking), we also discussed some serious matters. The discussion inevitably went to Logic Masters India’s future plans. We have come a long way from the Mock Tests that started on LMI, to having themed contests, Annual feature Contests and Beginners’ Contests. Every puzzle enthusiast probably knows what we’re about by now, so I need not go further. This year we started our patronage system to get some funds, in order to progress things in India. So apart from all this, we discussed some new ideas, which will probably be publicized in the near future. Most of these ideas go towards finding and developing talent within India, but there may be something to interest International competitors too in the process. Either way, stay tuned.

That’s all for this recap. The next one contains controversy, magic and Canadian Geese!

 

WSC/WPC 2014 Recaps: Part II – WSC Day 1, Sudoku GP Playoffs

As I said on the last post, I woke up fine enough on the morning of the WSC. It was one of those “memory of a headache making you feel woozy” situations, which made me dread the fact that Round 1 was a 20 minute sprint round with just Classics. As a slow starter who thrives on longer rounds and isn’t great at Classics, I just wanted to get this round over with and move to the variants without much damage done.

Anyway…

Round 1: Classics. 7/10 – 130/200.

I came out of this round feeling really good about myself. Relatively, I had done well, since Rishi had solved 7, and Rohan had solved 8. I had solved 8 too, so at that stage I was about 5 points away from Rohan (he’d done a higher pointer along the way). Unfortunately, this round contained my only (uncaught) error of the entire WSC, and it just happened to be on the highest (25) pointer. So 155 turned into 130. However, I didn’t know this until later in the day, so like I said, I was feeling really good about myself. Which helped with…

Round 2: Common variants. 9/12 – 445/535.

Again, I felt good about this round. The Surplus and Deficit were good to start with considering I’m a slow starter, since they didn’t take much effort. The Surplus was valued high and I could see why but I sped through it nicely. I did have just 5 digits left on a 50 point Arrow Sudoku though, so little margins and all that again. But that’s a part of competition, so I wasn’t dwelling on it, and 445 seemed to be a good total. The bigger mess-up in this round, which I did dwell on for a little bit, was the silly thing I did of trying to solve the Diagonal Sudoku as a Classic for 15 or so minutes. When I discussed this with other competitors, they said they found it hard even as a Diagonal, so you can imagine how stumped I was, and how foolish I felt once I realized this. Ah, well, I didn’t have much time to think about it, because coming up soon was…

Round 3: Outside Clue variants. 8/9 – 435/510.

Another round which I thought went well enough. With 5 minutes to go, I had an Even Sandwich Sudoku left, and the two Classics offered at the end of each round. I picked the Classics, and got them both done. Overall, this was going well.

Round 4: Neighbours/Adjacency variants. 6/10 – 300/560.

Yea, this didn’t go well. I broke the 70 point Consecutive Sequences Sudoku, and could not find the way to fix it, and this lost me a significant chunk of time. However, due to a difficult Inequality Sudoku, not many finished this round, so at least the competitors weren’t too far ahead.

After Round 4, we went away for lunch, and in the back of my head, I know I had messed up the Math round of the last two WSCs really badly, even though it is generally my biggest strength in online competitions. I really wanted to do well here.

Round 5: Arithmetic variants. 3/9 – 165/555.

Yep. 3rd consecutive WSC. That thing’s really going to weigh over me in coming years. Not sure what I’m supposed to do because it isn’t a speed thing – like I said, it is generally my biggest strength in online competitions. And its not even like I get stuck. For all 3 WSCs, I have broken half the puzzles of the round. I just seem to solve wrong for that one round, for the WSC. This year, I broke the Killer Sudoku, which was the first one I attempted. Determined to not let that ruin my round again, I restarted it… and broke it again. Maybe I was being unnecessarily stubborn, but I restarted again… and broke it again. At this point, I finally left it. The Arrow, Star Product and Little Killer all got done fairly quickly. Then I just skipped over to Killer Pro, which was the highest pointer of the round at 120… and broke that too. Then I went to the Diagonal Arrow with about 5 minutes to go, and got through 90% of it, but couldn’t finish it on time. After the round, I let out a bit of a groan and just threw my pencil down in disgust. However, there wasn’t much time to reflect (which is probably for the best) since coming soon was…

Round 6: Geometric variants. 6/9 – 390/525.

Considering how I felt after the last round, I thought I recovered well here. Relatively speaking, this was a pretty good score, even though I started in a little bit of an uncertain way, due to the previous round. I got all the high pointers done except the Toroidal Sudoku. The Hex, which was valued at 140 didn’t take me nearly as long as the 85 point Sudokurve, which had more connections than usual, across 9 boxes instead of the “usual” 4. I’m not a big fan of this as I believe it makes it more workmanlike and has a lot of searching. I also messed this one up by using rows where there weren’t any grey lines connecting boxes, meaning I broke it once and restarted. Thankfully, I was able to finish it eventually. Until now, the quality was high, and all Sudokus were fun to solve, so this is a minor blemish, and is probably only down to personal tastes.

The individual rounds were done for day 1. I wasn’t feeling nearly as good about my performance as I did for the morning rounds. Since there were two team rounds coming up, again, there wasn’t much time to reflect (again, probably a good thing).

Round 7: Rotation Sudoku – Team Round – 2640/2880.

This round consisted of 6 Sudokus, each being divided into 4 4×5 quadrants. Each quadrant was denoted by a different color, and we were each given a pen which wrote in a matching color to one of the quadrants. At first, we were given 4 of the Sudokus (the other two would be given as one of the originals got done or skipped), and every 90 seconds, Tom Collyer (organizer) would shout rotate in varying tones and mock accents and what not, because well, it’d be boring to shout it in the same way each time.  When he shouted this, we had to pass the Sudoku we were working on, and get to the one passed to us. The catch was that we could only solve within our respective colors. This meant there needed to be some creative help for other quadrants by way of markings in our own quadrants. This meant the rest of the team felt the need to punch me, after being put through the ordeal of reading my handwriting for the markings. Sorry, team. Still, we did well in this round. There was one Sudoku we made an error in, so this was frustrating to figure out every 90 seconds, and it got really messy (not just me, everybody, so its not a handwriting thing here!), but we managed to make the digits clear eventually and fix it. We finished the round, but missed a few points because of an accidental digit placed in the wrong color. We protested this, because we had communicated this to the supervising organizer during the round and were told that one digit is fine and would be considered. I think we got the bonus but not the points for the quadrant with the problem. Not much of a gain.

Round 8: Strip Sudoku – Team Round 800/1600.

Many jokes were made because of the name. Even the media coverage in London had a little fun with this name. The round was actually about ordering some strips of paper that had rows/columns, one on top of the other, in such a way that the final visible Sudoku grid would be a valid solution. The solution wasn’t the requirement, the order of the strips was. We probably didn’t have the best preparation/strategy for this round, and didn’t do that well. We solved 2 out of the 4, and broke the 3rd one. We made a guess for this but it went wrong.

After this, and a quick dinner, the Sudoku Grand Prix playoffs were held. The difficulty was generally easy (I knew this since I had written a Classic for these playoffs, and the difficulty guidelines were pretty strict. If you haven’t seen it yet, the variation I submitted, a Repeated Neighbours, got rejected for being too difficult, and appeared on GM Puzzles. Quality wise, it is pretty good, I think, and worth a try. I fully understand why it didn’t meet difficulty constraints for the GP), so there wasn’t much chance of overtakes. India’s Rishi Puri was starting from the 9th position in these playoffs, and couldn’t make up much ground, but also didn’t fall behind, so he did well. He got a certificate for being a ‘Grand Finalist’ so that’s nice.

Tomorrow I’ll cover Day 2 of the WSC, which had the only 90 minute round of the WSC (everything else was 20 or 45). I knew I had a bad Day 1, but how much could I cover up in Day 2? Stay tuned…

WSC/WPC 2014 Recaps: Part I

Before I get to these, I just wanna quickly say that I do plan to resume posting puzzles on this blog again. It might be restarting around mid-September, but we shall see. Now I’m gonna start a series of recaps for the entire week. I’ll begin with the day before the WSC, because this day was a little eventful.

We had a stopover at Dubai on the 10th. We being me, Rohan Rao, Jayant Ameta and Kunal Verma. Rohan and me had started our journey from Mumbai, whereas the other two had to get to Mumbai from Bengaluru first. Anyway, in Dubai, I was already drowsy because I just cannot sleep on a plane. Ever. Once we got on the one to London, we encountered our first puzzle – the pilot made an announcement that the batteries were dead and that new batteries would be required, and would need to be transported from the other side of the airport. Yup.

Anyway, this caused a delay of about 90 minutes. If nothing else, it gave us a preview of sitting idle after finishing (the boarding of the flight) early. We reached London without any further delay, but with added sleep deprivation for me, causing a huge headache. Once we reached the hotel, we were greeted with two ‘surprises’.

First, our rooms weren’t ready. I’m guessing there was some confusion about clearing out the previous guests. The only thing I am sure of is it had nothing to do with batteries this time. The other surprise was that somehow Team India’s room allocation was messed up. This problem was magnified by the fact that the hotel staff had misspelled Deb’s and Rishi’s names and at first we couldn’t even find them in the database. Finally, we just went up to one of the two rooms already allocated to some members of our team, and set up camp there until the rest of us got allocated.

We started discussing a little about the rounds and all that, and somewhere during this time I realized that I didn’t have my suitcase with me. Oops. I’d forgotten it in Reception, and this was one of about 10 times over the week where I forgot something really important somewhere, but fortunately I found it there later. Puzzlers don’t steal. Thanks, puzzlers. Anyway, I retrieved the suitcase, got back, sat through the discussions without contributing much (headache), and then we went down for dinner and the WSC Q&A session.

I have no recollection of dinner on the first day. The Q&A mercifully didn’t have many questions, I just wanted to get to bed (except that I didn’t have a room allocated yet). The WPF flag was hoisted, the Qs were A-ed, the WPF Newsletter was distributed, much fun was had. For some reason, I thought we already had the newsletter and my team believed me (I don’t know why they would considering the state I was in). Thankfully we were able to get some copies later. Even more thankfully, I was able to get a room soon after the Q&A session.

Each set of rooms in the hotel were a little different, and the pathways were a Missing Labyrinth puzzle worthy of a 400 Club (refer to WPC IB to understand reference). Rohan claimed (and we later verified) that to get to his room from the competition hall, 17 turns were needed. My room was on the 2nd floor, and had a doorstep. I did not notice said doorstep until the next day (woke up mostly fine, the headache had subsided), and I have absolutely no recollection of bringing my suitcase in, but it was there this time thankfully. Tomorrow I’ll recap the WSC rounds. Even with all the problems on day 1, I should note that this turned out to be a fun week with two well-organized events.