Sunday, 1 December 2013

Participation at the WSC

This is a post in a series of blogs where I'd like to engage the Sudoku community in various discussions relating to the World Sudoku Championship.

The first two posts I've made have general been exaggerated versions of opinions I'm curious about, and wondering whether I have really considered all the relevant points of view.  Certainly not, I'm pleased to say given the excellent ensuing decisions we've had.
This time I'm going to jump off the fence and have a bit of a rant about something that is really beginning to annoy me.  Admittedly the examples I am about to raise have more to do with the World Puzzle Championship (WPC), but the WSC operates under exactly the same rules.

For many years the set up at the WPC was that a country could send at most 4 people to the competition to compete.  If 4 members were sent, they formed an official team for the team rankings, and if not, there was an opportunity to mingle with other short-staffed countries to form unofficial UN teams which didn't appear in the official rankings..  Everyone who participated individually was ranked!

At the WSC the situation was a slightly different, to reflect the popularity of Sudoku and the WSC.  Teams used to be of size 3, and a maximum of 6 people per country could be sent to compete.  Again, where the numbers didn't add up, unofficial UN teams could be formed.  Again, everyone who turned up ended up with an official ranking.

The one complication came with countries who had both an A and a B team.  What if the B team's ranking in the team competition was higher than the A team's ranking?  Well, then the B team's ranking was used to display the final result for that country.  This happened to the UK, for example, in 2009.  A completely natural and sensible compromise, you'd have thought.

In 2011 things changed when the WPC and WSC merged and players from one championship were able to have a go at the other.  A new set of rules was brought in, and in my opinion this was a change for the worse.  Given the status quo is not entirely clear, let me spell it out to you.
  1. WSC and WPC teams are defined as 4 players and possibly 1 non-playing captain.
  2. Where a country sends 1-3 players, they will appear in the official individual rankings, but the country will not appear in the official team rankings.
  3. A country can send at most an A and a B team.
  4. Only the A team will be considered in the official team rankings.
  5. The formation of UN teams, including from guests, is at the host's discretion.
  6. B team members aren't included in the official individual ranking.
  7. Guests aren't included in the official individual ranking, but may appear in the full individual rankings if they are in a UN team (since individual scores contribute to team scores).
Perhaps some of you, like me, are a little bemused by all this talk of unofficial and official rankings.  Aren't all these rules overcomplicating things a little bit?  Should alarm bells be ringing?

The best 10 solvers at the 2011 WPC were, objectively:
Ulrich Voigt5075 points
Palmer Mebane4769
Thomas Snyder4546
Hideaki Jo4280
Bram de Laat4189
Peter Hudak4174
Michael Ley4062
Nikola Zivanovic3974
Roland Voigt3967
Wei-Hwa Huang3896
Is it not very strange then, that Michael Ley was not allowed to be one of the 10 finalists, and instead my compatriot Neil Zussman was - even though Neil's points total of 3864 was nearly 200 down on Michael's?

The reason was that Michael Ley was on the German B team.  And so his results were null and void.  They didn't count.  He may as well have not bothered.  Of course this situation was known to everyone beforehand, and Michael will be the first to admit that participation is equally as important at the result.  Even so, I'd argue it makes a mockery of the notion of a world championships if some of the best solvers in the world are not getting a fair chance at the title.

We were fortunate enough not to have a situation like this in 2012, but let's examine the situation in 2013.  Objectively, the best 10 solvers at the WPC were:
Palmer Mebane6060 points
Ulrich Voigt5169
Hideaki Jo5127
Thomas Snyder5107
Bram de Laat4893
Ken Endo4797
Ko Okamoto4776
Qiu Yanzhe4553
Peter Hudak4506
Kota Morinishi4301
And who were the 10 finalists?  Well, no sign of Ken Endo, who was on the Japanese B team, and so his results were null and void.  No sign either of Ko Okamoto, who wasn't even on the Japanese B team, but was instead competing as a guest, and a member of a UN team.  He had an individual score in the results because individual results are counted towards the final team score.  But to add an extra element of farce, he wasn't even give a ranking!  Qiu Yanzhe was listed as 6th on the official list, and 7th on the "all" (hahahaha) list - despite the fact his was objectively the 8th best score.  Count them!

Instead we had the 11th and 12th best solvers, Sebastien Matschke (4251 - nearly 550 down on Ken) and Will Blatt (4240 - over 500 down on Ko) making up the final.  Both are great solvers, but 500 points is the equivalent of an entire round.  Go figure.

I think everyone can agree that these situations are immensely undesirable.  I'd go so far as to say they were embarrassing.  So what is there to be done?

Well, some might say nothing is broken at all.  In 2011 Germany were at fault for not selecting the best A team, and ditto Japan in 2013.  Everyone knew the rules.

But what if I were to say the rules were stupid.  What if I were to say I think things would be better another way.  What if everyone who competed in the WSC was actually given a ranking!?

Why not operate like the WSC used to?  That is to say:
  1. WSC and WPC teams are defined as 4 players and possibly 1 non-playing captain.
  2. Where a country sends 1-3 players, they will appear in the individual ranking, but not the team ranking.
  3. A country can send at most an A and a B team.
  4. The highest scoring team (A or B) will represent a country in the team rankings.
  5. The formation of UN teams, including from guests, is at the host's discretion.
  6. B team members are included in the individual ranking.
  7. Guests are not permitted to compete in individual rounds, but can help make up the numbers for a UN team at the host's discretion.
Given that proposals to stop spitting in the face of anyone competing as a B team member and actually give them a ranking have been continually voted down at WPF general assemblies, perhaps my opinion is a minority opinion.

But I also believe that if this really is the way the WPF thinks, then they should stay consistent to their principles and explicitly limit participation to 4 people per country, and end the farces that we've seen in 2011 and 2013.

I believe my proposal is better.  And I'd love to know if people can tell me where I am wrong.

39 comments:

  1. I don't think it is as much of a farce as you make it out to be, because each country has their own National championship. I know you addressed that maybe Germany/Japan didn't pick their best team, but my point is more that a Championship might not necessarily always pick the best, and it's all about who's good to compete on that day.

    For one thing, a National Championship format might be vastly different from the WSC/WPC format, because one has an added goal of needing to bring in new faces whereas the other is only to decide the best. I can see the merit of the best X only being eligible for glory because that motivates the players who think they're good enough to step it up at their National level too. I can also see the merit of having a B team because that helps countries give their "reserve" team some exposure.

    So I can see reasons for the current system to exist. If you extend it to effectively 8 players being eligible for individual ranking, that means at the National level someone has to only come in the top 8. I think you will always have strong B team members for countries that have many top players.

    I think the best way is as it currently stands now but maybe display the B team/Guest individual rankings separately rather than in the middle of the A team rankings. Or perhaps (just throwing a suggestion out there), have a quick play-off round with only (number of players in the top 10 not on A teams) and (number of players outside the top 10 on A teams who would usually have been in the finals outright). The reasoning behind this is, while the B members proved themselves at the world stage, the A members did earn some preference by standing out in their own countries. But this would require planning of a round that would accommodate any number and can be put together quickly.

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    1. Like I said, if you take the view about proving yourself on national/world stages and so on being most important, I think the only consistent position is to not allow B team participation at all.

      In my opinion, the world championship should be a celebration of the world's best solvers, regardless of where they come from. Having 8 participants per country helps grow the competition.

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    2. I also think your solution about having slightly different lists is not addressing anything. Your solution about an extra play-off is, frankly, ridiculous.

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    3. Well just because you extend it to 8, it won't really address having all the world's best solvers there. For example, Japan have about 10-12 people in the top 20 a lot of times on LMI, so you'll still have people who are really good sitting out. It seems like extending for the sake of it rather than extending to achieve your goal.

      I repeat that 4A + 4B covers two goals, i.e. one to keep the National Championships meaning something, and the other to give the other individuals exposure, and keep them motivated to get into the top 4 in the next year. It seems progressive to me. It's good for the not-so-strong countries, and it's silly to change it just because of the stronger countries, because they'll still have top quality solvers sitting out anyway.

      Reading the posts below, I also agree that unofficial results need not be published at all on the websites and any other records of the Championship. Just show them on-site to give the solvers an idea of where they stand maybe. I think this is a much simpler solution than extending to 8.

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    4. What's wrong with these unofficial results? Why not keep them also in websites and other records? It is good for on-site comparison during competition. But it is also good to keep these results for statistic purposes, so anyone can look up, where some competitor finish through all years, irrespective of official or unofficial status.
      If that status is clearly recognized in the results list (Double rankings - Official/All - like it was in China is good enough), than I don't see any problem with it.

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    5. Gotroch - do you think there is nothing wrong with what happened to Michael/Ken/Ko? If not, then I guess we must agree to disagree.

      Prasanna - It sounds a lot to me like you are trying to have your cake and eat it. Elitism is fine, but as I keep on saying if that's the case the only consistent thing to do is to give no sort of recognition to B team results at all. And yet you are suggesting to give them more recognition!?

      If you are going to keep anything like the status quo, then there should be one set of results published, and B team members should not appear in these results, as Nick suggests. It would seem lots of people who think that B teams should not be on *the* list should at least be on *a* list. Does this not seem ridiculous to you?

      Or perhaps you don't think the Michael/Ken/Ko cases will ever happen again, or that incidents like that are not a problem? Everything you've suggested does not address what I see as being a fundamental problem. In fact, it actively encourages it! Labelling that as "progressive" makes a mockery of the word...

      Now, onto my suggestion of 8. I agreed it does not achieve the same goals as an open competition would, but it is a practical compromise. You will already have this number of people on site because of the nature of a dual event. Since these people are competing anyway, I don't see why you would not have them on the rankings.

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    6. Tom - My initial post was just about disagreeing with Prasanna (about leaving out unofficial competitors from results archives)

      To your question, Yes I agree with you, I would like to see Michael/Ken/Ko competing in playoff as they deserve it thanks to their great performance.
      But I also like the way how the field is divided to official and unofficial - so official ranking is somewhat comparable through years and that ranking is not affected by strentghs of B-teams (which can have different strenghts each year - thanks to host location and other factors).

      So I would like to keep it same way as it is, but some exceptional performances from B or Guest competitors could be allowed to compete in playoff. (With applied regulation about number of competitors from same nation in playoff - 4 is good)

      Another idea is to not have official/unofficial dividing of individual competitors before the start. But apply that after completion of preliminary rounds. (In a way that first 4 from each nation go to official and rest to unofficial part of the result)

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    7. Tom - But Michael/Ken/Ko could easily not have participated at all. For them, it would be a great experience just to participate that year anyway, otherwise they would never have paid the fees and come there right? It IS progressive because it motivates a Michael to make it to the German top 4 in 2012 because he knows he's good enough at the world level.

      The problem is, unlike the case where he's sitting at home and we're probably wondering if he'd have been in the top 10, he's gone there and proven that he would have been. That still doesn't change much, except that the results displayed now look confusing.

      I've been on the B team twice, one was the WPC B team where I was a complete newcomer, and that was certainly invaluable experience and I probably never would've become interested in puzzles as much without that. The next year I was on the WSC B team with full knowledge that I'm good enough on my day to have been in the team, and I knew right from the start I was simply coming there to prove that to myself, as a competitor. Even if say I was on the B team this year and with a little better performance made the top 10 "All" rankings, I'd still just value that knowledge that I have improved at that level, and just need to do what's necessary to qualify in India.

      The key here is, 3 unofficial participants so far in 3 years across 6 competitions have made it above the top 10 score. But if you're gonna see just that and completely ignore the many who have just had the valuable exposure of competing in both Championships as part of the B team, then you're obviously not going to see any merit in it.

      I think each country has their system of getting the top 4 in there. It might not be their best 4. But it's the 4 that excelled on the day of their National Championship/ Team selection. The problem we have in keeping 8 is, a lot of the countries just about make even 4 with most solvers being the same for both, or some solvers not wanting to do one at all. 8 per country would make for a lot of lopsided representation, and it's not really a practical compromise in that sense.

      Gotroch - I think not publishing the unofficial results is better to present it out to the casual audience. An outsider looking in will not immediately understand about B teams and unofficial participants. The WPF can always keep it in their records and accessible to members to have a tab on the statistics of it.

      But I like your idea of official/unofficial dividing of individual competitors after the preliminaries, but see two complications there.

      1. The individuals may have already participated in the Team rounds. So have the Team rounds after all individual? Have the 4 individual scores added to the team be different from the individuals who participated in the team round?

      2. I think it should be left to the team to choose if they want to take that option, while simply making it available.

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    8. You apparently see nothing wrong with what happened to Michael/Ken/Ko - in fact you are trying to paint it as a good thing they missed out with all this talk of motivation etc.

      In which case, we must agree to disagree.

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    9. I'd also like you to explain lopsided representation, and how this isn't practical? It's already the case that some teams don't even have 4. No-one is saying you have to have 8...

      I'm also not saying B team members cant come if you want to pursue something more elite. Just that they don't get *any* kind of result.

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    10. Prasanna - No, composition of each national team should be done before competition. So members can train and prepare together for the event.
      For individual competition just count only top 4 from each nation for official rankings.

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    11. Gotroch - this presents logistical difficulties for the organiser, because the top 4 from each country could change during the competition. The organisers should certainly aim to have several sets of preliminary results, and it's a bit funny to have different names on different lists.

      Another suggestion is to rank the A team officially, plus (up to) 2 more from the same country. This maintains a semblance of "balance" (that is, not having too many people from one country vs. another country with only 1-2 people), and almost certainly rules out the play-off problem.

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  2. I agree with Prasanna that the national championships (which ever format it is) should have a role here to select the official participants. And there needs to be a suitable limit on the count so that we will continue having a "World" championships instead of ending up with finals having maybe 2-3 countries represented. But what should then be the optimal count? If the finals continue with having 10 top players, then 4 is in my opinion the maximum count per country to ensure that at least 3 countries are represented in finals - most likely more though :-).

    Now, here's a thought that just occured to me - what if we would extent the number of participants in the finals? I assume that might cause some grey hair for the organizers, but from the spectator point of view, I think it would make it more entertaining as, most likely, there would be more variety from nationality point of view and more "underdogs" to root for. If I take this thought a bit further here on the fly, I think that if there would be 20 finalist and countries were to send at most 6 official competitors, we would have at minimum 4 countries represented in the finals. So these six would have the right to compete officially on individual level, but only 4 would make up the team that would counted in official team rankings. This way the "small" countries would have a more equal opportunity to be at the top on the team event, but also the "big" countries would have the change to send more individual competitors to make up the harsness of the national championships.

    As said, this was written on the fly and I haven't thought about this too much, so I might as well change my opinion later :D

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    1. There will be a future post on play-offs :)

      Ulla - your solution is the same as mine - the only difference is the numbers. You say 6, I say 8. It all comes down to how much you want to expand the competition!

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    2. Yes, it is quite similar. I don't want to "punish" the countries that have many good solvers, but at the same time I also want to keep in mind the countries that have less of those - hence, the difference in count of official competitors and in teams (only one official team, no B teams).

      Maybe this just shows that I really don't have a strong opinion on this one :-)

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    3. I'm afraid I don't understand - how have I not kept in mind teams with less players? How does another team potentially having extra players change anything?

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    4. Well, if you would have A and B teams, and either one of those could be the highest scoring team in the official list, then those countries would have a slight advantage over the others.

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    5. good point - that could be a slight advantage :)

      In practice the B team being higher than the A doesn't happen very often - but it's not impossible either!

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    6. A podium with both A and B from one country would be a very real possibility though.

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    7. not under my system - its A or B, not both.

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    8. Although it's certainly an interesting point. Haven't there been Olympic finals where one country have taken Gold, Silver and Bronze?

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    9. The IOC has a rule limiting individual participation to a maximum of three per country per event. And yes, there are plenty of examples of one country winning all three medals in an event.

      For team events, I don't find a similar rule, but it's clear that it's one team per event (with limited exceptions, such as bobsled/bobsleigh).

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    10. I deliberately chose to focus on the Olympic here because it's inevitable that the IOC will be brought up in a discussion like this, given the WPF states that the IOC is its model. I did so because the IOC is far from a perfect organisation, with far from perfect levels of corruption and with far from perfect levels of accountability.

      Another relevant example of this is when the IOC suddenly decided that the track sprint cycling would ignore this de facto max of 3 cyclists for the event, and reduced it down to 1. Needless to say, this reduced the credibility of the event compared to track world championships because the overall quality of the field wasn't as good.

      I think the limited exceptions serve as a great lesson. Rules and regulations are good, but we shouldn't get lost in blindly following them. We should have these discussions and actually work out what makes sense.

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    11. I have yet to run into a perfect organization with perfect levels of corruption and accountability. So I still accept the IOC model of how to size a competition with 3 target prizes, and how that too might inspire the WPF despite imperfections.

      Being a traditionalist with WPC participation, I see things two ways: you either organize based on nations and those nations send one team of X players, (X= 3 or 4) or you don't organize on nationality at all and hold open championships where anyone can compete.

      My hybrid proposal of these then, tied to practicality on the ground, is all individuals reasonably present at the event are official individual competitors, but a predesignated group of X is the one and only official team for any nation.

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    12. OK, point taken about organisations in general. I was calling for people to think about this case on the issues at hand, rather than lazily invoke a "well this is what happens in sport" argument.

      Your hybrid proposal sounds fair to me.

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    13. I also like the proposal by Thomas that all individuals are officially competing and one team per country. What I do for myself is that I always count my proportional place compared to all participants (official + unofficial) in order to have more comparable results between different years. And I do the same with only official results, if I was an official competitor. So, one less calculation for me if every individual would be official :D

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  3. The historical WPF aversion to any B-team participation is the fear that teams with more money could have the ability to dominate the competition. I'm not saying that's correct--it's just the fear that was expressed and acted upon. I'd add that this "fear" could be extended to include countries that are geographically closer to the competition site, and therefore have less of a cost to participate.

    In 2005, Gyorgy got formal permission to allow B-teams, I believe for budgetary reasons, and this was allowed. Note that the minutes from that year's WPF General Assembly show an explicit future ban on WPC B-team, making the WPF's opinion very clear.

    What's not clear to me is why this rule wasn't applied to the WSC. I suspect it was because no one was really quite sure how best to organize WSC teams.The first WSC was organized very rapidly and with little or no WPF oversight, and that started the experimentation. For WSC2 in Prague, team scores where the best four of six, and the participants in the team rounds left to the captain's personal selection half-way through the competition.

    So the merge in 2011 was a good thing, in that some consistency was achieved. And this marked the official return of B-teams. The justification was that the competitors would already be on-site, and there would be no harm in allowing them to participate. I believe there was also some implicit acknowledgement that the ban on B-teams and additional competitors wasn't justified.

    What is supposed to happen is that B-team participation is "unofficial". My recollection was this meant that the scores would not be published. But the WPF isn't good at documenting or enforcing such things. You will note that the WPF site does not include any B-team scores. But most (not Philadelphia!) host sites don't follow this guideline and in fact report the unofficial results. In my opinion, publishing unofficial results makes them de facto "official". One way or another, this inconsistency in unfortunate, resulting in seemingly anomalous results.

    But this interesting history doesn't directly answer the question being raised here--should the WPF championships limit the number of participants from each country? My simplistic answer is that the strange results are due to a practical compromise and improper reporting.

    But the points raised are valid and the pros and cons could be debated for a long time. The real answer lies with the WPF--what are THEIR priorities for holding a competition? We've seen similar discussions about the arguably flawed role of playoffs--why devalue two days of solving with a made-for-media event? And also good questions about round length, difficulty, and appropriate bonuses.

    I look forward to some initiatives coming from the newly formed "players committee", who I expect will provide the WPF board some inspiring viewpoints on most of these issues.

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    1. Thanks Nick - I think you have a much better grasp on the history here than I do so it's very interesting to hear what you have to say.

      I think you highlight the key point: publishing unofficial results makes them de facto "official." I couldn't agree more.

      If everyone agrees to this principle and the organisers actually uphold it, the nature of this discussion is simplified immensely. How many people can fairly represent a country at the WPC or WSC?

      We've already had a suggestion of 6 from Ulla, and a lot of my motivation in suggesting 8 is because it's a multiple of the team size. I don't think many people are arguing for a truly open event, and that an upper limit on team sizes is therefore both practical and desirable. However, I think since the events have merged, 4 is almost certainly too small for an upper limit.

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    2. I'd also like to add another point about the results listed on the WPF page. They only list the top 10, which is of not much use to most people (although, admittedly better than nothing at all).

      However, the full unofficial results are still published in the official WPF newsletter.

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  4. I think the simple solution here is just to rank the unofficial individuals and teams separately. They will be able to compare their scores on where they would end up in the official ranking, but the ranking still looks neat and clear to everyone from the outside. I think there might be a case to be made to make 2 types of UN-teams possibly. UN-teams of all official individual participants to be included in the official rankings, and UN-teams that contain some or all unofficial individual participants to be ranked with the B-teams. But as that is not the case now, that probably won't happen.
    I don't think increasing the number of individual participants or official teams is the right solution here. I feel that creates an unfair situation. It can happen in any sport that people among the best in the world don't qualify for the World Championship or Olympics in their national qualifiers. It's part of competition. It will be up to the representative of the WPF for each country to decide how to deal with such a situation, just like it is up to them in any sport. They don't have to choose to send the best of their championship, but they generally do as that makes it fairer. It happens regularly in speed skating in the Netherlands that there are skate-offs, because the best fell or got disqualified on the main qualifying tournament as to still send that skater to the Olympics or World Championships in a fair way.
    I thought the use of B-teams and/or guests is to expose more people to the WPC/WSC to help them get the experience of participating is such an event. I think that should remain the reason. Hopefully there will come a point where we no longer need the B-teams for financial reasons as we can host a similar amount of participants when more countries decide to fully compete.

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    1. Para - I've already stated I believe that having slightly different lists does not address anything. I'm going to go into more detail in the comment above, but the summary of my argument is as follows.

      If elitism is your goal, then I have no problem with that - limit to 4 individuals to country. If anyone else happens to compete, then you cannot publish their results if you think what happened to Michael/Ko/Ken is a big problem.

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  5. Tom
    It seems you are taking this discussion too hard. Some of the terms you use are very hard and a bit out of shape. For example, taking the words of Prasanna, I don’t think he felt having been “spat on the face” or involved in a “farce” for having been allowed to compete in team B and having his result listed without a digit next to his name.
    In all the world championships or Olympic games the number of players and of teams is fixed to allow good and mixed representation in the final. From this point of view, in contests like WSC or WPC, my personal opinion is that this number is either 3 or 4. No more. Otherwise we could have, for example, 12 Kenyan runners in the final of the 1500 meters, while in the past having 8 hammer throwers from the URSS was a real possibility.
    The team captain has an important role, to select the best players for the event. If he/she makes the wrong decision, the first to be impacted is the performance of the team. For example, Japan could have scored better if Endo and Ko would have been included in the team A. But they didn’t. Problems for the captain. And there are always problems for the captain when a member of the B team outperforms members of the A team (and reason for subtle satisfaction and revenge for the player, perhaps). The captain is a member of the team and can make decisions which can be good or bad for the team. As you say, the rules are clear and consistent for everybody and every team.
    On the other hand, some of YOUR proposal could end up in a farce. Imagine that in the Olympic final of the 4x100 relay the participation of two Jamaican teams is allowed, with the team B counting only if the team A drops the baton. Too much advantage for the rich and strong teams.
    I have to say, the comparison with the Olympic games holds only up to a certain point. In no case somebody which has been excluded from the squad is allowed to participate “unofficially” in lane 10. Comparisons with players left out is impossible.
    We should consider why we got to this mechanism. The combination of two previously independent events allows players strong in Sudoku to have a go at the WPC and viceversa, with only a marginal extra cost. So why not to give this possibility? We mainly play for fun, would you deny a lot of players having fun?
    There is another reason for me to be in favor of the current formula. The innovation introduced this year in China, I mean the award of titles for the U18 and 50+, has allowed countries to play with a strong A team, at the same time including U18s and 50+s in the B team without affecting the ranking of the A team; the restriction of the championship to only 4 players of the team A would have deprived of much sense these two awards.
    There are always ways of improving the mechanism of the WSC and WPC, but in my opinion if the WPF has repeatedly voted with a strong majority against proposals like yours, this happened for a lot of good reasons.

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    1. Stefano, you raise some interesting points - however I believe the play-off situation in 2011 and 2013 is something that needs to be avoided. Could you imagine what the media would make of it if they were there? It then becomes not just a problem for the team captain, but also for the organisers, and by extension the WPF itself. I certainly think farce is not too strong a word, and it is something we should look to improve upon.

      My proposal is not perfect, and indeed the purpose of this post is to put it out there for discussion and to find out what is wrong with it. It seems the majority opinion is that picking the best of A or B for the team rankings is not fair. Considered arguments have been made and I can see the merit in them.

      My proposal certainly does not rule out people playing for fun, as you suggest. Quite the opposite! The status quo denies people playing for fun a ranking. As Nick says, the WPF has indicated these unofficial rankings shouldn't really exist. So why do the organisers defy the WPF? I think it's because it would be very unpopular if a host were to publish just the official results.

      I seek to end this inconsistency by giving them a ranking! Why not? Let's hear these good reasons the WPF has for why not!

      This does raise another important point however. What are the purpose of the B teams?

      My answer to this question is *this* is a problem for the team captains. Maybe you fill in a B team with 4 more GC contenders. Maybe, given the new junior/senior side competitions, you give these people a chance they would not ordinarily have because they aren't good enough for the A team. Or maybe you just give the WSC players a go because they are there. There is plenty of choice - but this is not something I believe the WPF should be dictating.

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    2. Perhaps I should clarify my point of view. if the objective best 10 had been in the play-offs in 2013, then 4 would have been Japanese. Is this too much?

      Personally, I don't think we should be worried about having too many people from one country at the top. If they are the best solvers, what does it matter where they come from? We should celebrate excellent performance wherever we see it - and not penalise these top solvers just because they happen to come from the wrong country.

      This should be of no consequence to smaller nations. If their scores are less, the scores are less. You can't argue with the numbers. If anything, this should spur on smaller countries to improve their performance. Money is certainly not an issue that discriminates against whether you can solve puzzles well or not - where it might be the case when it comes to sports training facilities and so on.

      I have faith in the diversity of nations to ensure that the play-offs remain diverse. Look at the recent results! It would be a big surprise if there were not two americans, one german, one japanese and one dutch in the final for many years to come.

      Indeed, I'd suggest that where one country seemingly dominates an event, in the world of athletics anyway, it suggests that country is cheating. This was certainly true of the USSR, and all the indications show this is true of Jamaican sprinters and Kenyan distance runners. Perhaps my philosophy does nothing to guard against cheating on this scale, but I would prefer to remain optimistic about puzzles solving as opposed to the deep cynicism I have for most athletics today.

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  7. as a general sport fan (sudoku is fun to),i think strong countries should be break into smaller pieces.It's very easy for Great Britain ( we have England,Scotland,Wales, Ireland).The 6 nations rugby championship is an example.
    or the opposite:qualifications on biger areas(europea,Asia,America)including south America.America with south America,i insist on that.In this case,we have the 9 germans and 1 french player wishes speaking about Europa.
    official language for all those teams? I'd say english...
    sorry for this geographic lesson,it is what it is.
    Thomas Snyder made a suggestion tambien with less complications.
    Hope the next discussion will involve the visa problem,i love speaking about administration.
    fear of air then.Worries about the plane and the pilot health,bad weather...please

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  8. My perspective is that of a hopeful competitor in 2014, with limited chances of A team anything, or of a finish in the top half. I currently follow the championship much like a horse race on the radio, and get to look at a few puzzles a long time after the fact.

    The notion that inclusive result reporting is somehow improper is shocking to me. As an observer, I would lose some interest if people I like to follow were to disappear from the rankings. Similarly, I am more invested in the exploits of a UN team with three Greeks and a Cypriot in them than I am of the standings of the Belarus A team. As a competitor, I would feel, well, spat at at such a turn of events. And practically speaking, the rankings would be of greatly diminished utility to me, as I wouldn't be able to track my progress against a lot of people I consider in my league, which would also be removed. Such a state of affairs, where people come in a competition, presumably to measure themselves, but have to do so in private, is effectively unheard of. It is no great surprise that such instruction is soundly dismissed by organisers.

    More provocatively, I would argue that rankings are largely obsolete artefacts of the limitations of an analog world. In the digital age, what I'd like to see become available is raw data, from which the view meaningful to the observer is extractable. So I'm not arguing for any one scoring or rating system, I'm arguing in favour of all of them, and quite a few of those views would only be possible with this access. Want to get players ranked by their skill on dissection puzzles alone? Want to find out who are the early birds that test well early in the morning? Want to find out which countries co-operate the best (performing better as a team than as individuals?) Which contestants handle the marathon rounds the best? Want to fix the broken scoring system, exclude the trial-and-error puzzles and get rankings on your version of fair? Our technology is now good enough that all this would take on the organisers' part is a couple of laptops, a spreadsheet and willingness.

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    1. Remember that "largely"? There are caveats, but I'm going to argue that these can be taken care of by a single official ranking that looks almost identical to the current one. There are issues of logistics, say interactive or mechanical puzzles. There are reasons of PR, like giving out trophies and providing media coverage / interview fodder. And there are round structures which only work on limited fields (and I'm not enamored of, but that's another topic). All ranking structures are equally good for these purposes for individuals.

      Our blogger considers overperforming B-list players being not considered for inclusion to participant-limited events as unjust. I'd argue that that's too narrow a focus. One could think of that as a statistical fluke to be averaged out with their performance on their qualifier, often resulting in a truer measure of their season. This assumes fair and open qualifying procedures, which not all countries are known to have, but that's another can of worms. And the results of knockout tournaments in particular are pretty fuzzy anyway as you move away from the very top.

      What the current system offers is a more level playing field for a nation-to-nation competition, and, considering regulating authority flows from country representatives, I'd think it's pretty much set in stone anyways. The one scoring team of four aspect largely works to neutralise the benefits of wealth. More people and teams make a competitive presence more expensive. Lifting the restrictive effect would effectively lead to (WPC) top tens where Japanese, Americans and Germans are solely represented, and this would eventually ripple out to the detriment of participation in the event by other nations. This can't be good for the popularisation of the activity. So all in all, this seems like a fair trade-off. If I would argue for any change, it would be that UN teams composed exclusively of competitors from countries with no A team of their own be promoted to official status.

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    2. The answer is yes to all the questions.The trial and error system isn't an improve that consider the large part of disfonctional abilities.Hand and brain are much more separate than we saw it on the usual follow of mean.Ignorating left and right,we saw good enough jumps to the entire spell of rights that involve meaning and misleading activities.Targets and implosive fences,so to speak,gave much more advantages than the view of an appreciation and much more than a desagreement-agreement made by equal chance on the edge.

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