Tuesday 3 April 2007

2007 World Sudoku Championships

I’ve neglected this blog for a long while, but i think this should be worth reading – I’ve spent ages typing this up as a facebook note so I may as well let the wider world know about things too…

So with exams looming on April 24th and 25th, instead of beginning the inevitable revision grind, I started to prepare for the 2007 World Sudoku Championships (WSC) – thus giving myself a mere 20 or so days to prioritise towards maths. As should become very clear, it seems all sudoku solvers have one screw or another loose.


(and yes I realise this is a big-bastard of an introduction)

Preparation the week before flying out to Prague had involved forcing myself to stay indoors and doing some puzzles. Though that’s a slight lie…by some I actually mean that by Tuesday 27th I had a wad of print-outs about an inch thick. These included the example puzzles, and various examples and national qualifiers from the likes of France, Czech Republic, Russia, Japan and India amongst others.

However the sheer amount of sudoku variants that have been dreamt up is mind-boggling, and I was essentially heading into the championships having only done a lot of the variants that were going to come up once or twice. Which was as good as walking into this half-blind and totally reliant on my own mental sharpness, alone in a jungle amongst (judging by the standards of the other national qualifiers) a herd of sudoku monsters.

In theory this was a disadvantage held by all, but skipping ahead the story a little it transpired that a large proportion of the WSC field also had lots of experience in World Puzzle Championships (WPC). This is even more intense and varied than a WSC, which meant that not only did a lot of people know what to expect from a championship, but they were also masters of adapating to something unseen.

On the other hand, I began my journey to Prague a total rookie, with my only competition experience a 4th place finish at the UK sudoku championships in October 2006 – which gave me confidence about my basic speed – but ultimately was nothing on some of the other competitors.

Now would be a good point to introduce the UK team:

Rachel – The winner of the UK championships, perhaps a litte quiet, I didn’t really talk to her in October, but obviously very bright and with a newly found addiction to Big Brain Academy on the Nintendo DS along with I should imagine an intense hatred of Italian schoolkids.

David – The runner-up in October and one of the most infectious, friendly and modest people you’ll meet, he’s a seasoned war-horse of just about any kind of puzzle going – but don’t let that fool you about him also being lightning-quick too.

Simon – armed with (much to David’s bemusment) tons of gadgetry, his puzzling background came from crosswords. Always had something interesting on his mind, be it card-games, compiling a Big-Brain Academy league table or devilish brain-teasers.

You can read his excellent account of proceedings here: http://thepiemansimon.livejournal.com/27373.html ... I especially like the description of me: “boy can he solve sudoku fast.” hehe

Warren – a free-spirit at heart, always seemed to be wandering off to find the next bar or casino with the Irish – even if that was at the expense of silly little things like sleep!

Nick – a representative from Puzzler Media (who organise the UK teams for things like the WPC and WSC) also another seasoned WPC veteran, and editor of puzzle magazines. As Simon mentions in his account, he has the saddest (quite a feat amongst a hotel full of sudoku solvers) hobby EVER.

and finally our non-participating team captain (also from Puzzler Media) Ariane – editor of countless sudoku magazines, and closest in age to myself. Lots of entertaining stories about the glazing industry, and a natural talent at getting things organised and done. And a welcome female presence at (despite the headlines that women are much better at sudoku) a male-dominated event.

Other notables include:

Yuhei Kusui (from the Japanese team) – we bumped into him on the first night in a lift, and although didn’t really speak much english, whenever we saw him he seemed to radiate enthusiasm and a sense of excitement.

The Irish team – who you got the feeling weren’t exactly in Prague to be competitive when we found out that they had no qualifiers, and in fact one of them still has NEVER finished a sudoku in his life. A great bunch of lads, we were in it together when we found out on the first night that I’d be sharing a room with Rob.

The USA team – headed by non-competing captain Nick Baxter (think your usual “GO TEAM” all-American coach complete with ever present blue sleaveless jacket), and several astoundingly brilliant minds – a few of them are Google’s brightest and best – but the spearhead of their assault on the title was led by Thomas Snyder (runner-up at the 2006 WSC, and desperate to make-up for that disappointment) and Wei-Hwa Huang (3rd in 2006, also a WPC winner).

The location of the event was the amusingly named Top Hotel in Prague. It was a bit out of the way, and self-contained. Though it claimed to be situated amongst vast greenery, much of this seemed to be hidden amongst the jungle of tower blocks, sad relics from the Communist era. The hotel itself was huge, with large conference facilities, a casino, restaurants, bars, tennis courts, swimming pool and a wellness centre that specialised in treating back and neck pains – though they were powerless to stop the eternal pain in the neck that were literally hundreds of Italian schoolkids running riot.

Ok with characters and setting introduced, it’s time to move on with the story.


I arrived at Prague airport still unaware of the identity of my fellow UK team-mates, but after picking up my bag we met up with all but Rachel and David (who’d been on an earlier flight) along with the Irish team, and we got a coach to the hotel.

Upon arriving and picking up our freebee bag we found out that we’d been pretty much randomly scattered throughout the hotel, and after a few issues about the rooms (Myself and Rob were initially given a room with only a double bed, when it transpired that some of the “single” rooms had 2 or even 4 beds) were resolved we met up to try and get dinner. Unfortunately we were too late for the buffet thing organised for us all, but after David had had a word with one of the organisers, we were able to get a free meal at one of the restaurants.

So our first sit-down together as a team (minus Rachel who was tired after the flight and attempted to sleep amongst the carnage the Italians were wreaking) was an interesting one. Here we learned that David and Nick knew roughly how the event was going to turn out from previous experience at WPCs, became utterly bemused by David and Simon’s crossword talk, and in general despite the team being a lot older than myself bonding well and finding lots of common ground. Eventually we headed up to bed.


We got up at 8ish and had our buffet breakfast, notable for the excellent coffee, and for Thursday only included donuts! After faffing around for a while with team photos of one kind or another, we were invited into a large conference hall where we were instructed on how everything would work. One of the questions was from the US captain Baxter about what to do should you finish a round of puzzles. The answer was to put up your hand and (for example) say “Baxter” or “finished.” This later led to a couple of jokers shouting out “Baxter!” when they had finished a round. After that we had lunch and discussed the upcoming puzzles in Simon and David’s palace! As mentioned before, the rooms were randomly distributed throughout the hotel, but they really had struck gold with their suite.

The organisation of the hall was exam-style, with dividers between competitors to prevent cheating, and a raised podium area at the front. There were 6 rounds to be completed, then 2 team rounds and then the play-offs. The schedule for Thursday was the first 3 rounds. (i’ll put up pictures of both my efforts at solution and blank copies soon).

Round 1: 1 hour

In this round: Picture (essentially a normal sudoku with the starting clues set up as a picture), Isosudoku, Parquet, Little Killer, Lucky Seven (x2), Star, Twins, Distance, 9 + 8 = 17. All these are easier variants, but at the same time finishing 10 puzzles in an hour equates to one every 6 minutes, which is very quick when you’re still looking at the very least as much brainpower as your average Difficult/Fiendish level sudoku. I got 7 finished – the star probably being toughest but I messed up distances a couple of times before finishing it. I missed out the 2 Lucky Sevens and the Isosudoku…but it turned out that I’d made mistake 1 of 4 on the 9 + 8 = 17 and left out the last two numbers…Grrr. My score of 85/135 was 49th best…without the error it would have been around 30th best.

A quick break, and then onto:

Round 2: 30 minutes (The Speed Round)

In this round: Capsules, Diagonal, Snowflake, Triangles, Irregular (6×6), Small Pieces, 4th from 3, Chain, Up (a normal sudoku). 9 puzzles in 30 minutes is just over 3 minutes each, although it has to be said the variants were all pretty easy. I had my doubts as to whether I’d actually be able to finish any round, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found i was able to hand in (without shouting out “Baxter!” as Michael Ley of Germany did) with 15 seconds to go. This would have been about 15th best, but here mistakes 2 & 3 (on Small Pieces and frustratingly Up) ensured that 70/90 was only 38th for this round, putting me 46th overall. I should also note that David was actually fastest for this round, completing everything in 21 minutes, a phenomenally quick time.

Another break, and then:

Round 3: 1 hour

In this round: Cross, Magic Square, Zigzag (which had 2 solutions, both needed to be found), Quadruple, Even, Transfer, Killer (x2), 1 + 2 = 3. A couple of tricky ones thrown in here, and I panicked a bit after being a retard and forgetting how to add-up for one of the killers. I only finished 6 of the 10, not realising that Magic Square was quite easy – if I’d spent a minute or two perservering with the Magic square element to the puzzle it then left an easy diagonal puzzle. The 2 Zigzag solutions were trivial once you’d spent enough time getting into the puzzle – essentially the same puzzle but with each number n in one grid substituted with10 – n in the other. Additionally I’d made mistake 4 of 4 on Quadruple, meaning I scored a fairly meagre 65/150, 60th best for the round, and leaving me 52nd overall.

At this stage the championships arguable favourite, Thomas Snyder, was leading on 392/385 (bonus points were awarded for finishing early), with David doing fantastically well in 3rd with 377. My total was 220 – though this really should have been 270.

The rest of the day was spent having dinner, and then relaxing in the evening with a few beers & playing cards, a whist variant with varying trumps where you predict how many tricks you’ll win in each hand (there’s probably a better name for it than that). There were 8 of us playing in the end making it a bit of a lottery, but despite being last pretty much all game I managed to steal 4th place right at the death. After that we headed to bed.


Breakfast, then an early start to competition at 9.30am. Early starts are bad because I feel more sluggish, but good because slowing me down means I’m far less error prone – no mistakes made on this day!

Round 5: 1 hour

Surely 4 comes after 3!? Well yes normally that’s the case except round 4 got printed out, we started – only for some people to find that their puzzle booklets were misprinted. So they were gathered up, and so we got on with round 5 instead.

In this round: Creasing Sudoku, Ratio, No Touch, Odd, Many Times Times, 12×12, Dual Doku, XV. A few trickier ones here, including the potential mistake-fest which is 12×12. I made attempts at Many Times Times and Dual Doku, but didn’t have the confidence to keep with them once I’d hit a wall. only managed to get 4 of the 8 done, scoring 55/145. This was 60th best for the round, but interestingly brought me up to 51st.

Unfortunately there was no break to try and get that bad round out of my system.

Round 4: 1 hour

These were handed back out, which was a slight advantage for me because I’d got halfway through one of the puzzles before the printing error was noticed. In this round: 7×5 = 35, Dots, Greater and Less, Multi, Big Bands, Paint It Black, Sudoku 2007 (a big bastard with 4 interlinked diagonal grids, with products between adjacent grids providing clues – makes more sense when you see it). My foolish strategy for this round was to totally ignore the Sudoku 2007, worth a massive 60 points, and instead picked up less points doing trickier things like Greater and Less. I only did this because one of the puzzle setters, Vladimir Portugalov, had been showing Ariane a similar puzzle which looked interesting but one with which she was struggling with somewhat. Anyway, i got 5 completed, worth a seemingly decent 95/175 but because the majority had got the easy 60 points this was only 73rd best for the round, leaving me 53rd overall.

A quick break before the last individual round, one I wanted to finish well on as I was beginning to wake up!

Round 6: 1 hour

In this round: Neighbouring Sudoku, Untouchable Sudoku, Irregular, Product, Diagonal, Crossnumber, Transparent Sudoku. This round had arguably one of the toughest variants in Neighbouring Sudoku, and whilst in general some of the other variants are not too bad, for this round there were some particularly tough examples. Also it had the Crossnumber which i am rubbish at despite the rest of the team trying to explain it to me. I managed to get 5 done in about 50 minutes, but my guess attempt at the Crossnumber didn’t come off, and there really was no time to finish off the Neighbouring Sudoku. Still I scored a pretty decent 95/135, 29th for the round, which dragged me up into the top 50 to a final position of 47th, with a grand total of 465/875.

David had a couple of “bad” rounds too, but held on to claim 6th place overall with 727 points. The winner after the first 6 rounds was Thomas “the machine” Snyder – no surprises there – with an astonishing 869 points. One of the Japanese guys who finished 4th had to pull out of the play-offs for the top 8, and was replaced by Yuhei who had finished 9th. He looked pretty happy about this!

Final standings for the UK competitors:

David, 6th with 727
Me, 47th with 465
Nick and Simon, joint 58th with 425
Rachel, 66th with 390
Warren, joint 100th with 280

The top 4 individual scores were used to provisionally score the team round, which put the UK 9th of 25. To put into context how well we had done (especially considering most of us had never done anything like this before) last years winner – Jana Tylova of the Czech Republic – had finished 18th, and Wei-Hwa Huang – 3rd last year – finished 34th. The standard of competition really was very high.

We then had some lunch, and David, myself, Nick and Simon (as the top 4 UK competitors) proceeded to submit ourselves to a further 2 hours of bloody sudoku in the 2 team rounds. I think Rachel joined up with some other people who weren’t in the top 4 of their countries – but perhaps Warren and Ariane had the right idea in having the afternoon off and went bowling.

Team Rounds 1 & 2: 1 hour each

Apparently at WPCs these have an actual team element to them, but this doesn’t quite work with sudokus – so we ended up splitting lots of puzzles between us – though myself and Simon had a decent strategy on the Neighbours puzzle – we ended up passing the puzzle between us when we alternately got stuck! It’s safe to say that David carried us somewhat (despite continual mutterings of “this is hard” or “no, I’m not getting anywhere with this”), and we were relatively poor. My personal highlight from the round was finishing what I like to call “The Big Bastard.” Basically it’s a 27×27 grid with 9 sudoku puzzles tiled together, with the middle square from each of the 81 3×3 boxes forming a 10th puzzle, an absolute monster.

After the team rounds, we had slipped from 9th to 11th. Japan won the team competition, with the US close behind them in 2nd. But by this point I think everyone was sick of sudoku, and the hotel in general. 5 hours of sudoku is abit much in one single day, and by this point I’d not left the hotel, which as I’ve said was huge, but beginning to feel a little oppressive.

In the evening we decided to head into the centre of Prague for a proper meal (as opposed to the buffet stuff we were being provided with, which was very much hit-and-miss). We went to a place called Kolkovna, one of those wonderful Czech pub-restaurants with a lively atmosphere, where the beer is cheaper than the water, the soup is served insides loaves of bread, and the food is fairly cheap but nonetheless tasty, and certainly fills you up.

It was good to get out of the hotel and everyone really enjoyed the chance to relax. Puzzles didn’t quite escape the conversation, with Simon’s fiendish brainteaser occupying some attention – using only arithmetic rules (i.e. no taking roots or taking powers), make 24 using exactly the numbers 1,3,4,6. Not easy!

Afterwards myself, Ariane and Warren trekked across town to join up with the Irish team. They had found one of Prague’s innumerate underground taverns, with a lively atmosphere so thick you could barely see through it. The Irish were kitted out in their team t-shirts, which attracted lots of attention from the locals. We ended up chatting, laughing, singing – one of the locals seemed to know the words to “Danny Boy” much to the delight of the Irish – and not least drinking. We ended up getting a taxi back to the hotel in the small hours of the morning.


I struggled to drag myself out of bed, deciding to sacrifice breakfast for the extra hours sleep – but in the end it was the least I could do to get up and support David in the playoffs. It was fairly amusing to hear that some of the Irish guys and Warren had walked in to the hotel as David and Simon were heading downstairs for breakfast! The UK championship in October was fairly low key, but the playoffs here were absolutely buzzing. Journalists, photographers and TV cameras everywhere, and even a visit from the president of the Czech Republic – who as it turns out is a bit of a sudoku fan himself. The setup was that the competitors were up on the front stage, with EVERYONE’s attention focused on them. The had little spot-cameras above their working area, which then linked up to big screens so that everyone could see just what was going on.

Simon has described the playoffs as “some of the best live sport I’ve ever seen.” To be honest I think he’s right – what you do as a spectator is compare what everyone is doing on the big screen, which then makes it easy to spot when someone has gone wrong. You often spot this quite a while before the competitors themselves do, and let me say now that it is the most incredible drama looking at these poor souls up on stage desperately trying to find where they had gone wrong. Obviously it’s going to alienate a lot of people who won’t see what the fuss is about, but especially with some kind of commentary I think there’s definitely a niche market for that kind of thing.

At this point I’m going to shamelessly plagiarise Simon’s report on how the playoff’s unfurled. I don’t think I’ll be able to come close to describing things either as accurately or as eloquently as he did:

The first quarter-final featured positions 1 (Thomas),2 (Hideaki Jo – Japan),7 (Senem Gulce Ozkutuk – Turkey – the last lady left in the competition) and 8 (Yuhei Kusui – Japan) with the best two of the four going on to the semi. There were two puzzles to be completed (an Even and a Little Killer) and each competitor had a camera placed over their paper which beamed their solving onto the big screen. What follows is my estimation of what was going on and may not be completely accurate as things were moving FAST.
The solving speed of Thomas especially was quite simply astonishing. Looking back I suspect this was the round when Thomas actually went close to flat out (in several other rounds he knew he just needed to be correct to progress and so was very careful). He just demolished it and then employed his amusing checking method which I really hope ends up on Youtube – it involves him running his pen across each row, then column then each 9×9 but the speed of it beggars belief. Yuhei also finished the puzzle correctly and looked very quick – using bold confident strokes of the pencil, his digits often seemed almost too big for their squares. It seemed to me like Hideaki Jo guessed a route early which turned out to be wrong and this really messed him up. He didn’t quite finish in the 10 minutes. Gulce also didn’t quite finish and, quite understandably, seemed affected by the pressure of the situation – which was huge. 
Little Killer 
Hideaki Jo was the fastest here and got through it first. Yuhei also finished it. There was quite a bit of drama as Thomas (who knew he just had to be correct to go through) took his time but incorrectly placed two digits in his completed grid. Would the patented checking technique come to his rescue?! Answer: yes (in fact it wouldn’t have mattered as only two mistakes in the puzzle would still have got him through). They may have to think about using headsets in future as I could see a situation where a mistake was made during the solving and the collective gasps in the audience could alert a solver to a possible problem.
So Thomas and Yusei advanced and it was time for the second quarter final. 
This one starred Michael Ley (Germany), Nikola Zivanovic (Serbia) – whose name when read out sounded like Nicolai Ivanovich and kept making me think of Tom Lehrer’s song about Lobachevsky, Peter Hudak (who bears an uncanny resemblance in photographs to the UK’s Tom C!) and, of course, David M! 
David did very well on the Even, easily the fastest of the four (though my impression was that he was slightly slower than Thomas and Yusei). Peter cut it very close to the wire and just finished in the measly ten minutes. Nikola was getting there but ended up filling in 5s in most of the bottom third of the grid in the hope of getting a couple of random points for correct digits. The surprise was Michael, who some thought might really trouble Thomas, but he couldn’t get the puzzle out. 
Little Killer 
David knew he just had to get this right and, promptly, made an early error. He then used what should be a patented technique of ringing in red every forced digit to that point in his progress to identify the problem. I think he finished this puzzle second to Nikola with Peter again cutting it incredibly fine but finishing correctly and thereby securing a place in the semifinal.
The semis were held about 15 minutes later and featured an Irregular 9×9 and then a Multiplication type puzzle where 2×2 pieces throughout the 9×9 grid had to obey the rule that the two top digits had to multiply together to give the bottom digits. e.g. 
Both Thomas and Yusei started to dissect it pretty quickly. I’d heard Thomas say before this was a good puzzle type for him so it was a surprise to see Yusei keeping up and even going faster at times. David (who is also brilliant at this type) just couldn’t see the way in – which seemed to involve lots of hidden singles (ie digits you can find by cycling through the digits 1-9 and seeing where you can place them as opposed to approaching the puzzle holistically. My recollection is that Yusei finished this puzzle first, followed by Thomas (who did his usual thorough check – whereas Yusei would hand in almost immediately he inserted the last digit). Peter didn’t quite finish but David really got stuck and, although he suddenly saw the way in near the end, he didn’t have quite enough time to overhaul Peter. 
My impression was that this was the hardest puzzle of the finals as no-one whipped through it. You could almost hear the frustration of the finalists as they had to pause for thought for what seemed to be the first time. Thomas finished first, then Yusei or David (who finished in style), I can’t remember. Yusei had made a mistake in his solving process and his final grid resembled a graveyard of spiders – the invigilators forcing him to ring the digits that he was actually wanting to be assessed in the marking. I can’t quite remember whether Peter managed to finish but whatever he’d done enough to secure third place. The final would be between Thomas “the machine” Snyder and Yusei Kusui – and, while I’d have bet on Thomas it wasn’t completely clear cut who would win as Yusei was also very fast. 
The first puzzle was a Diagonal to be followed by a new type of puzzle called Jigsaw – which was really a fairly basic form of Irregular. The Diagonal looked pretty monstrous and I can’t wait to try it. Although both got off to a flying start, Yusei ground to a halt that he would never recover from while Thomas steadily ploughed through it. You could see it was tough as these guys normally destroy puzzles once they get a grasp on them but everything came fairly sedately even for Mr S. Thomas finished while, after the 10 minutes, Yusei still had several gaps. This meant that all Thomas had to do was finish the jigsaw. 
Yusei absolutely whipped the Jigsaw – it was one of the quickest solves we’d seen in the final – he placed three digits almost as soon as he’d turned the page and never looked back. Strangely he spent about a minute checking his solution before declaring (I thought he would have been better declaring early to try and psyche Thomas out). This puzzle was never going to be a problem in terms of finishing it for Thomas (and David M was disappointed in its standard proclaiming it “too easy”!). It still took me 6 minutes when I saw it in this morning’s Times. 
And so there it was, Thomas Snyder won the 2nd WSC. Thoroughly deserved and a more classy champion you won’t find. Yusei seemed a wonderfully happy character too and he’d put up a hell of fight. Watching it all unfold live on the screens was just superb and it would be great to have live commentary ala the American Crossword Championships in future years.

(Taken from http://thepiemansimon.livejournal.com/)

After that there was a press conference which we stuck around for – it was very entertaining to listen to the enthuastic Yuhei through the Japanese interpreter, and also quite enlightening listening to the crisply eloquent Snyder, though I felt a bit sorry for David who received no limelight at all despite finishing 4th. Being the terrifically modest man that he is, it didn’t seem like he was too bothered by it. We then had some lunch, after which I had to head upstairs and continue to recover from Friday night by sleeping some more!

Later that afternoon I tried to get the computers working at the hotel, but failed miserably. I hope this report makes up for that particular disappointment haha. If not then at least it’s torturously long and you’re all suffering!

In the evening we had dinner, which was combined with the final ceremony. We managed to mingle with the other competitors a lot better – I had a fairly entertaining encounter with the French team that ended up in a manic 4-way joint effort to solve some of the puzzles from last year. Simon had introduced Rachel to his DS after they had gone back on Friday, and she was absolutely engrossed by it! However, she eventually relinquished it, and Simon had the great idea of seeing how the champion Thomas Snyder compared on Big Brain Academy. We then spent the next few hours with the US team having a go at some puzzles, and generally finding out a little more about what are surely some of the brightest minds on the planet.

I was still feeling a little tired and didn’t really speak much, but it was fascinating listening to Snyder talk about just about anything. He’s obviously a quick-witted chap, but as demonstrated at the press conference very eloquent with it. I think we go about solving sudoku in the same kind of way, but he’s obviously a lot quicker than I am. This was demonstrated when he had a go at a sample sudoku from a Turkish booklet. He did it in 1 minute 11, whilst talking. David had a go and completed it in 1 minute 24, and later I had a go finishing it in 1 minute 31.

That night we stayed up late, and perhaps sadly ended up collectively doing more WPC style puzzles. I was too tired to notice anything except for David announcing every so often that he’d seen “some beautiful logic” or “a thing of beauty.” I’ve no doubt that they were, but I was in no state to appreciate it, and it didn’t seem to register when Neils Roest (another former WPC winner) came over to give us his input. We then headed up to bed, this time I had the room to myself as Rob had flown back to Ireland with another to run a half-marathon!


Again I got up later than normal, and found out that not only had Rachel and David left for their earlier flight, but Simon had also gone to book an earlier flight. This left myself, Ariane, Nick and Warren to explore Prague, joined by Bob from the Irish team. After checking out of the hotel at 11, we then started on a long and painful journey on coaches, buses and tubes, dropping our bags at the airport and heading back into town. This was not helped by a text I received from Nai cheerfully informing everyone that she had Glastonbury tickets.

The rest of the afternoon was really pleasant, Prague was bathing in glorious sunshine – our first objective was to find somewhere to eat. We sat down and had a meal in the outside part of a restaurant situated in the Old Town Square, which was really lovely (apart from the 20% service charge, on top of charges for extras like sauces and bread). We then split up for a bit, with myself and Ariane dawdling through the sites in the Jewish quarter of Prague – just about the only bit of Prague i’d not seen! We met up with Nick and Warren towards the end of the afternoon, wandered through a film set, and across the Charles Bridge, before heading back to the airport.

After endless queueing and waiting around, we eventually arrived home! What a totally strange and unique experience – the opportunity to participate at a World Championships is something that many people simply don’t get. And whilst I was perhaps a little nervous beforehand about what kind of person turns up to this kind of thing, at the end of the day I also had a lot of fun and met some great people along the way. If I get the chance to do this kind of thing again, I’ll grab it with both hands!

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