Sunday 30 October 2022

Unofficial Championship Host's Guidebook

Before I get going, a couple of quick note to self: 

  1. Move this somewhere more permanent on the blog, and dig up other similar posts!
  2. Finish the post!

I don't know exactly how much appetite there is for this kind of post, but I don't think it's of no interest at all.  Hopefully it's of more interest than the existing WPF guidebook that exists somewhere on the internet, but that I am not interested enough in to find and link to right now.

The best approach to this kind of thing is to somehow work backwards from a successful outcome.  To that end, I will draw on my many experiences as a competition participant as well as my experience as a competition organiser to run through all the things a participant tends to experience at a well-run event.

These then can be regrouped from an organiser's point of view.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

WSPC 22: Aftermath

So the intention wasn’t to leave the last post as something of a cliffhanger, but it turns out I didn’t really have the energy to do updates during the week. 

The first thing to say is that the week was a bit of a rollercoaster. There were some unpleasant lows I won’t speak more about, but they left me feeling greatly saddened and robbed me of both self-esteem and proper sleep during the week. That’s never ideal when you want to be at peak mental sharpness, to say the least.

But overall it was great to return to things after 3 long years away. The puzzle solving itself also had its ups and downs; that’s usually the case but this year I was well within my usual abilities. I do think the WPC in particular will go down as a classic vintage. The 3 years away has given the opportunity for a new generation of solvers and authors to break through, and it has been a real delight to meet some of them and start new friendships. And of course to meet dear old friends once again.

I’ll be doing some posts with the added benefit of hindsight when I’m back to London. These will probably focus more on the highs as I think it’s about time to put the aforementioned lows behind now. 

Tuesday 18 October 2022

WSPC 22: Ouch

I didn’t get around to finish posting yesterday, having been totally drained of all energy: mental, physical, emotional. It seems cruel that insomnia now prevents me from finding rest and peace for the night. 

I don’t know if I’ll keep posting through the rest of the week. To be honest, yesterday hit me pretty hard, as I’m sure anyone reading this is beginning to realise. I really wanted to make a good year of it, and I thought I was supposed to be reasonably good at this stuff, but everything seems to be falling apart and I can’t seem to process any of it. I’m in a pretty low place, feeling helpless and useless and in need of a hug. 

Monday 17 October 2022

WSPC 22: Day 1

On to the first day of competition at the world sudoku championships. I started the day full of excitement, but perhaps not quite with a level of mental sharpness ready to start the competition. 

We’re up to lunch now and I’m licking my wounds; the morning’s solving counts as one of the more chastening experiences I have had in 15+ years of solving. 

I’ll edit in more later, but for now I am at least comforted by the general consensus in the room that it has been hard! Seriously hard! Hard enough to make me wonder whether having a non-zero round represents a good achievement now. I will be even more studiously avoiding anything looking like scores or a leaderboard from now on. That was always going to be the case, but the readjusting of expectations this morning has hit me hard and left me low and disappointed. 

The first round was classics only, and I think the only way to look at things is an acceptance I choked. I got one puzzle done, tried enough twice, convinced myself there was an unresolvable contradiction and from there on in I was making errors left right and centre. 

The rounds after were disappointing in many ways. The second was looking ok, but ended up spending a lot of time on a puzzle without being able to finish it. Round 3 had a combination of 1 and 2’s woes, wasting a large amount of time on a puzzle I was convinced could not have a solution. Round 4 was just hard all round - no contradictions this time, but also not much in the way of puzzles solved either. I think I might have one. 

The morning ended with round 5, a very large samurai sudoku with 14 overlapping grids. Speaking with others this was also very hard, but I finally managed to get a good round under my belt. I’ll claim 11/14 completed grids in the 30 minutes - which is going to be close to my round 1-4 scores combined if there are no errors. Let’s hope not!

As far as the contenders are going, I don’t really have a feel for things. I had a nice chat with the ever-kind Tiit Vunk about the mental side of long distance running - he’s not feeling the pressure too much this year and is instead focussing on enjoying all the puzzles he’s able to solve. I’m not sure many are finishing rounds, or even close to, but performance of the day goes to Kota Morinishi - he got that Samurai out in what I think was 18 minutes. 14 9x9 grids in 18 minutes! And that’s with what felt like the requirement to place numbers in about 8 of them before you could really get going. I think I heard Tantan declare with roughly 5 to go as well, but I think given how things have gone so far I can imagine Kota being an imperious position at the front of the pack. 

On to the afternoon!

Sunday 16 October 2022

WSPC 22: Day 0

So I was hoping to post a bit more earlier today but now I’ll keep it brief. The official arrivals day started pleasantly with breakfast with old friends from Poland on the organising team. It’s like 3 years of madness that have past since we all last met in 2019 washed away - and pretty much references to “last year” throughout the day as people arrived became an agreed standard. 

It was nice to share stories from fellow championship organisers - our efforts date back a few years now to 2014 - but also a little sobering to hear about the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Poland, particularly with regards to military logistics. Later meeting some of the Japanese team brought tales of longer flight times due to diversions around Russian airspace. This year, there is no Russian presence at the championships as there usually would be, although a good friend from Belarus did manage to make it. These issues of course are far bigger than a puzzle championship, but that doesn’t mean they should not be discussed or shied away from. 

After a walk through some nearby woods in the crisp autumn sunshine, the rest of the day was spent in the hotel greeting a steady stream of arrivals. The UK team is all here now and looking forward to the competition. I’m curious to see how newcomer Jack does at his first competition, and I was pleased to tease Cracking The Cryptic’s Mark Goodliffe that he was probably the most famous person here, with his 500,000+ follows. Probably enough to outdo the likes of Will Shortz, even if he has had cameos on the Simpsons and his I met your mother. 

Perhaps my favourite time of the day was spent well with my good friend of many years now and anlso general all-round Chinese phenomenon Tantan Dai. I’m probably not totally partial here, but I think she is a narrow favourite for the Sudoku title ahead of the likes of Estonia’s Tiit Vunk and serial world champion from Japan Kota Morinishi. Those three are all mind-blowingly talented as well as being really good decent people in a way that it is hard to do justice - whoever comes out on top will be a worthy winner - but this year I’ll be firmly rooting for Tantan!

No surprises in the evenings Q&A - although the team rounds sound like they might be eventful. More to come tomorrow!

WSPC 22: Day -1

So here’s to the revival of detuned radio’s championship reports!  I don't have a laptop with me this year however I’ll see what I can do tapping things out on a phone. I don’t think I’ll be in depth with all the gory details as I once was, and I think I’ll try to be at least somewhat journalistic about proceedings, aiming at an audience who sort of knows what puzzles are but don’t really know what the world championships are all about. 

I am here, finally, in Krakow. About 4 hours late, and sorely missing the company of others I’d hoped to catch this evening who have very sensibly gone to bed. I have sworn many times never to fly Wizz Air again, but I think this time is probably the last. I look forward to an epic fight to claim my rightful €250 when I get back home. 

To set the scene about the championships, I can share some of my day idly spent staring at a phone within the confines of Gatwick airport. 

At both the WSC: and the WPC: there is about as much variety in sudoku and logic puzzle grids that you could hope to throw a forest worth of sticks at. (Maybe that should be pencils?).  I encourage my dearest readers to follow those links, scroll down to view the instruction booklets, and prepare yourselves.

I have been doing these things since 2007, so I reckon I qualify as a seasoned pro at these things by now; but I doubt you will be that much more bewildered by it all than I am. I suppose I’ve done just enough reading to at least understand all the rules now, but there will be more than a few types that I will encounter for the first time when it really matters, in the competition itself. 

I might save more on the puzzles themselves for tomorrow. It’s getting late and there’s a long week ahead. I’m glad to be back at championships for the first time since 2019, to seeing old friends once again, and also to see how well the competitive juices get going again. My thanks also to the organisers for all they have already done in preparation - I was there in 2014 and once you’ve been through that, you certainly have my solidarity!

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