Saturday 19 November 2011

WPC '11: update 4

So I’m a little delayed, by approximately a week, but I’ll try and get things wrapped up.

So I guess we’re now past the rest day, ready to start competition on Thursday, the 1st day of the WPC. I’ve started writing this with only the instructions at hand, and without the results or my marked papers, so things will certainly be of a more impressionist nature. That’s the way it goes I’m afraid!

The first round was “in memorium,” dedicated to puzzle writers who recently passed away. Before things actually got going, some relatives were invited to the front to say a few words, and it was all a little poignant and sobering – I definitely felt moved as words were spoken about the puzzle community being a family, and how much it would have meant to the departed to see their puzzles being used at a world championship. Anyhow, the round got under way, and I recall solving a few puzzles which was something of a relief. My WPC campaign was up and running!

Round 2 was an hour’s worth of “assorted puzzles.” Whilst I felt I was solving reasonably well throughout this round I think my mistake here, as with many previous online puzzle contests as well as subsequent rounds in Eger, was my choice of puzzles. Generally I’m not amassing enough points to be making significant dents in the general classification.

The last round of the morning was “cows.” I’m not entirely sure where cows come into things, but essentially it was a round of star battle variations. This is a puzzle type that every time I think I have cracked, I always come across something new to throw me a little bit, and this was the case with this round. After getting the first two classic puzzles out reasonably quickly, I couldn’t get out the third for love nor money, and then proceeded to struggle away with some of the variations. With not much success – I only managed to complete one other during the time. Something of a disaster for me.

During the lunch break I think I finally got a chance to meet long time friend of this blog, Palmer “MellowMelon” Mebane. Palmer has the same sort of puzzling intensity about him as Thomas, and never seemed to be too far away from a puzzle. This probably seems a little vacuous given this much hindsight, but given Palmer’s results in LMI tests, as well as his spectacular victory in the USPC, but I always had Palmer down as a dark horse for the WPC title alongside the more experienced campaigners of Thomas and Ulrich. I also managed a little time to update the blog (wow – I’m blogging about blogging), but as I’m sure, dearest reader, you’ve already seen I had to quickly make tracks for the start of the afternoon session.

Round 4, “borderless,” was one I was more than a little apprehensive about, the idea of the round being you are given some classic puzzle types with outside clues, only the grids are much bigger than necessary, and there are some surplus rows and columns. In the half hour, I managed to get out the skyscrapers (much tweaking), and an easy as ABC which it turned out did use the whole grid after all. After the round it soon became apparent that the other easy as ABC was also trivial, in that it was a tiny 4×4 grid. Oh well. The round certainly could have gone worse.

Round 5 was one that I was more looking forward to, being a round of “evergreens.” Haha, what an evil round it was. I’ve not really had the chance to go over the numerous puzzles I didn’t do this round, but without the time pressure, and with my constructors hat on, I’m fairly sure I will fall in love with this round. Anyhow, basically there were all sorts of lovely twists to the puzzles in this round, to the point where rules to one puzzle were being used to define an almost entirely different puzzle idea. I basically remember struggling a whole lot with this round, maybe solving a meagre 3 or 4 puzzles during the hour – and pretty much on the spot resigning myself to a no more than mediocre debut WPC performance.

Speaking of debut performances, after the round was finished and I was necking several bottles of caffeinated sugar water, I got the chance to ask Ulrich how the round had gone. Speaking with fellow GBR-A debutant Neil Zussman I was astonished to hear that he was in the same ballpark for the round (circa 500 points), and I guess I was beginning to realise that we were going to see something completely spectacular. Certainly any pretensions of keeping up were disappearing rather rapidly!

The remaining rounds in the day were the team rounds. The first one was presumably courtesy of the sponsors, but was nevertheless a lot of fun. The idea is that you had various classic puzzle ideas presented in the form of board games. We were fairly confident we’d got 5 puzzles out, but were subsequently told only 4 were correct. Anyhow, I was fairly sure that the two puzzles I solved during the time were all good – the first was a set of cards with various arrangements of 5 matchsticks to be placed on a grid so that two cards in adjacent positions.

The second team round was also a lovely idea – a massive grid which combined four types: islands, snakes, anglers and lighthouses. Whilst 3 people were working on the main puzzle, the 4th team member was off solving an individual puzzle in return for a set of hints for the big puzzle. A priori, the implication was that these individual puzzles would be pretty easy, but in practice they were still at beast 3-4 minute puzzles. Perhaps what didn’t help was the fact that the first islands and lighthouse puzzles that I’ve ever solved were as part of this individual leg. The team as whole seemed to be making slow but solid progress, but unfortunately something seemed to break and we hadn’t quite done as well as we’d have liked to.

The puzzling done for the day, I was definitely in need of a beer, and was especially glad to grab one with Dave Baines of Canada. Dave has been angling for a mention in the blog, and I really like his idea of numberlink, except you are given that X cells in the grid aren’t going to be used so definitely keep your eye out for something like that in coming weeks. We were then informed that the evening entertainment was going to be a crossword tournament, which was good fun whilst I entering answers into firstly the American style square grid and then a more European style crisscross grid – but eventually both answers and beer dried up, and we left. I still have no idea just how well I did with this, although again with hindsight I can tell you that the Croatians were very good at this, taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd!

Time for some sleep? Not a a bit of it! We headed downstairs to the bar, which was also equipped with larger than normal pool tables and smaller than normal 10 pin bowling lanes. I flattered to deceive with my first bowl, hitting a clean strike whilst kissing the air but it went downhill from there. Jason again proved to be the dark horse, easily winning. Meanwhile, in the lane next to us, Alan O’D was once more winding up his international standard hammer arm, flinging bouncing bombs down the lane. I get the feeling Alan regards the speed gun at a bowling alley as more legitimate challenge than that of knocking mere pins down!

At about 1 or 2 or something we decided to leave the bar. To sleep? Don’t be stupid! To use the hotel table tennis and foosball facilities. Being a little tired and a few beers down I don’t think I impressed Jan M very much, but with a little warm-up I was playing some reasonable stuff with Sebastian M of Germany and Vasso of Greece. Finally I decided to call it a night, but not before chatting a little with Przemek of Poland. He is remarkable for any number of reasons, but two which came to mind were the fact he’s massively short-sighted without actually resorting to any sort of correction, and secondly that he enjoyed the evergreens round a lot.

Right, time for a break in blog posts. If nothing else, I need a pee.

1 comment:

  1. Not to spoil the climax for your regular readers – but the story of an Englishman leading a ragtag bunch of North Americans and their Japanese keeper to football glory was truly a Hollywood worthy end to the week.


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