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 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.

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) –

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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).

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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.