WSC/WPC Impressions – October 18-19 (WPC Day 3)

As I didn’t make it to the play-offs, the WPC was essentially over for me. Still, we went to watch the finals, which was in the morning. The setup for the WPC finals is essentially the same as the WSC’s, with the decreasing rows of desks. Unlike the sudoku finals, however, there were no fancy cameramen and projectors. The difficulty of the semi was also a lot easier than that of the WSC’s in comparison. On the other hand, the final head-to-head puzzles were a lot harder.

Anyways, the final 3 were Ulrich Voigt, Palmer Mebane, and Thomas Snyder. Palmer was far ahead in the semis due to the advantage carried over from day 1 and 2. Thomas finished second, but due to an error in his final puzzle, he got a 1 minute penalty during which Ulrich finished his final puzzle. So, the finals was between Palmer and Ulrich.

The first puzzle was a tapa that was made of 6’s and 7’s. Both contestants made a mess of their paper, and had to get new sheets. Palmer made a mess of the 2nd one and wanted a new sheet, but they ran out. In fact, the sheet was so messy that I wondered whether he guessed. (Turns out he didn’t, but guessing may not be a bad choice here.) Still, he was able to finish the puzzle before Ulrich, making the score 1-0 Palmer.

The next was a Kakuro that Ulrich beat Palmer on, even if Palmer didn’t make a mistake on the top left. This tied the score to 1-1.

The third puzzle was a digit place. Palmer wrote a 0, then a 3 on 1 of the digits. In retrospect, this was from adding up the number of times a segment for all the digits from 1~9. I was thinking that Palmer was guessing on that puzzle since I couldn’t see the other digits, but that made no sense. Anyways, the mistakes cost him this round, giving Ulrich 2-1.

The fourth puzzle was a pentomino place, which given the number and position of the shaded squares, made it very difficult. Both contestants slogged through the puzzle, but in the end Ulrich was faster and knocked out Palmer 3-1.

After the finals were over, we stuck around and tried to solve the remaining puzzles that they had, as a group. We managed to get through all of them, before we headed to lunch. After lunch was soccer, which I did not attend. I just stayed in my room and solved puzzles and played with my iPad. From what I heard though, they had a pretty good setup with refs and jerseys. Prasanna of the Indian team broke his finger and had to go to the hospital as well.

Afterwards was dinner and closing ceremony. We discussed over dinner on the directions of our team, which lead this the existence of this very blog. After dinner, I went down to the karaoke and the bar to see whether anyone was there. Since there wasn’t, I went back to the hotel and went to sleep. Apparently, they went to the bar a short while after I left, and I have completely missed the party. Sad.

Next day was the departure day. Most of the teams were leaving in the morning, and only ~10 people were leaving in the afternoon, Canada team included. We had breakfast with the US team, and I asked Thomas on whether Palmer was guessing since it looked like it. Turns out the answer was no. Then, the staff came and told us there won’t be lunch! We were not happy. They changed that decision pretty quick, and we ended up having lunch. The lunch queue was separate between us and the normal customers, though I can’t actually see any difference between the 2 except for the skewers. Anyways, we took the shuttle to the airport, where a lady was trying to get someone to carry some luggage for her. She claimed those were costumes, but chances are, there were probably drugs. Anyways, we went back to Canada without hassle, though again without sleep in my case. After arriving in Toronto, I had to take another shuttle back to Waterloo, and came back very tired.

This marks the end of my WSC/WPC trip in Beijing, and the end of this series of posts. I hope you all enjoy my ramblings, and wish me luck for next year.

P.S. I bought a lot of puzzle books from the championship, including last year’s WPC and WSC. Instructions were in Chinese, but that’s no barrier for me since I read Chinese. The Four Winds book they had was very disappointing, but the “Extra Spicy” Sudoku books were quite good.


WSC/WPC Impressions – October 17 (WPC Day 2)

Round 8 was unlike any other round of the WPC so far. Instead of having separate puzzles independent of each other, we had twelve 10×10 puzzles laid out in a 3×4 grid. For each pair of adjacent puzzles, the squares on the edge must be in the same state. ex. If the right-most square of row 5 in puzzle 1 is shaded, then the left-most square of row 5 in puzzle 2 is also shaded. This meant that you need to jump back and forth between puzzles using information gained from other puzzles. A practice run of the round can be found The round itself was a lot easier compared to the LMI one. In fact, it was easy enough that I managed to submit 16 minutes early. I was worried whether I missed a squared on the battleship after I came out, but in the end, I got the points and bonus, so that’s all good. One funny thing about this puzzle was that the top left grid shaded out the letters CHINA, except that the I and the A was slightly distorted so that you can’t guess on it.

Round 9 was another classic. The round had 10 puzzle types, each with 3 puzzles, themed with the digits 2, 3, and 4 respectively. I was familiar with some types, but not so much with the rest. I spent way too much time on the 4 cave and the 3 minesweeper, and didn’t even manage to get the latter in the end. That screwed with my points so bad that I scored way below other people at my rank. It also didn’t help that I wanted to go to the washroom for the whole 90 minutes of the test.

Round 10 was the sprint round, where we were asked to divide the given shapes into congruent pieces made of 1×1 squares. The shapes can be rotated but not reflected, and they do not have to touch orthogonally. The words China (in both Chinese and English), and the digits 2013 were used as the shape for the division. The letter 国 was so complex that it had to be divided into 75 pieces, which were all 1×1. Personally, I think I did ok on this round, all things considering.

Round 11 was the “Screen test without a screen”. ie. It’s a visual puzzles round that was done on pencil and paper. The puzzles in this round are more like some of the brainteasers and MENSA books you can buy from bookstores, instead of the more grid based types like the ones from Nikoli. It was fun, but apparently, I suck at these, and my score was pretty bad compared to other people. I made a wild guess on the last one, but didn’t get it correct. I was close, though.

Round 12 was the Zodiac, where you were given standard puzzle types, on grids that shaped like the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals. All in all, I did really well this round, and got 9 of 12 puzzles. The only ones I missed were the Hamle, which was a slog; the ox division, which I should have tried to get it; and the nurikabe scrabble, which was actually quite easy, though I didn’t have the time.

Round 13 was the weakest link, where there were 5 big puzzles, each of a different type, and 20 small ones. Each team member is given 5 of the small puzzles, one of each type. When a person solved at least 4 of of the 4 given, s/he can go to the main table to solve the big ones. The big puzzles were samurai puzzles. ie. The center puzzle depends on 4 outside ones, which were the small puzzles given to the team members. However, which small puzzle is matched with which corner was not given, and we had to test for that. Ultimately, we decided to skip the Tapa until we got to the main table. The small puzzles didn’t possess a big challenge for me, though I must admit the Tria puzzle was annoying. At the main table, I solved the rest of the Tapa that the group brought down, as I suck at the other puzzle types in comparison. Then, I started solving the big Tapa. Unfortunately, I made a few mistakes at the bottom and had to erase a section, which slowed me down drastically, and didn’t manage to finish that. I also forgot to fill in a square on 1 of the other tapa and lost 50 points, which really sucked. Go me for screwing up the team……

Round 14 was another team round, where we were given a big outer snake, a few fixed puzzles, and 20 tiles that together formed an inner snake. From what I heard, this round was toned down a lot. Originally, the possible locations of the 20 inner tiles were not given, and we had to figure that out from the boundary given by the outer snake. This describes why the 2 snakes seemed like they have nothing to do with each other in the final puzzle. Anyways, that was a fun round, and the puzzle was amazing. The outer snake was actually the boundaries of China, to boot. We first solved the fixed puzzles that clued us to the position of the tiles, then solved the inner snake and had ~15 minutes left. We solved the outer snake afterwards, and had 6+ minutes to spare. Luckily we decided to make a quick check before handing it in. Dave noticed that 1 end of the outer snake touched the water while the other almost, but didn’t. We corrected that and handed in the puzzle at 6:01, giving us some bonus points.

After dinner, it was Mah-jong time. Jarret, Byron, David, and I went to play, so we had enough people to form a table. As I was the only person who knew how to play, Wei-Hwa of the US team and I taught the others. To make things easier, we played without scores, which IMO really made the game not interesting. The reason is that if you are allowed to make any hand, you can’t gain meaningful information from watching another person’s discard. Still, David’s luck was very good, and he scored 5 out of the 7 hands that we played. By 11pm, we were bored and went back to the hotel.

P.S. The beer there has no alcohol content! I swear!

WSC/WPC Impressions – October 16 (WPC Day 1)

Ah, the beloved WPC, and the reason why I went to Beijing. This year Canada’s A team consists of Byron, Derek, Dave, and I, the same team we had back in 2009 in Antalya, Turkey.

Round 1 was a team round where each team was given 8 puzzles: LITS, doubleback, starbattle, only four digits, corridors, masyu, binaire, and yin and yang. The twist is that the 10×20 grid is broken up into a 10×13 and a 10×7 section, and we have to match and solve them. Before the competition started, we decided on who to handle which puzzle, and I took Masyu and LITS. In the beginning, we simply started solving the 10×13 fixed grids, then started to look for matches. There were two tops that clearly could not be Masyu, but the other 2 were inconclusive. I then started looking at the LITS and noticed that 3 of the 4 top grids have regions of size smaller than 4. That meant that I got a LITS match and started solving it. The next bit was kind of a blur but I managed to solve the LITS, and the rest of the team was similarly able to figure out and solve which was the double back loop, star battle, and only four digits. Byron then worked out which was the corridor. The Binaire was also inconclusive, so I thought that the break-in puzzle was yin and yang. It turned out I was wrong, and that the Masyu was the break in. However, the contradiction was only evident when you complete the top grid and combine it with the bottom. As I was figuring that out, Dave started solving both of the remaining grid as binaire, and found no contradiction, which meant that we had to figure out which was the Yin and Yang. We managed to pull that one off, and solved everything with less than 1 minute left on the clock. Luckily for us, we made no mistakes, and got the 2000 points.

Round 2 was the classics, a round that served me well. Most of the puzzles on this round were fairly typical, without too many twists and turns. The thermometer was funny, but easy, while the yajilin had me staring at it in shock as it was nothing but zeroes. From what I heard later, the clues were placed on a checkerboard like pattern that forces all the squares not pointed at by a zero must be black. I didn’t notice that, but was able to break into it with minimal trial and error regardless. In the end, I solved everything except for the domino halves and the sudoku +/-4. Since when did sudoku +/-4 become a classic puzzle anyways?

Round 3 was the round feared by everybody, including some of the top solvers. According to Palmer’s blog, Ulrich asked the organizers whether he could skip this round instead of one of the next 4 rounds instead. Just before the round, Derek came in with a tip of drawing out which segment is possible for which digit, which I promptly copied and used. In the end, I was able to do the masyu, the digital paint, and the price tags. I solved the first skyscraper, but botched the other and was unable to fix it. My biggest regret for this round was that I foolishly decided to skip the digital mess, despite the fact I saw that the digits can be broken up into groups somehow.

Round 4-7 were rounds designed by puzzle authors from 4 different countries. Furthermore, each contestant must pick a round to skip so that the contestant of each team all skip a different round. Byron picked round 5, I picked round 7, Derek picked round 6, and Dave was stuck with round 4. In retrospect, that may not have been the wisest decision, as I did horrible in round 4, compared to the rest of the rounds.

I hated the Dutch Round 4 after the competition, despite of me liking it the best before going into it. The so-called 4 point tents puzzle took me over 20 minutes, and I still did not manage to solved it. On the plus side, after taking some hints from Byron, I managed to get the 8 point neighbours, and a few guesses netted me the masyu battleships. The pento fences was surprisingly easy as well. The rest of the puzzles I did though were low pointers, which contributed to my low score for this round.

Round 5 was the Indian round, which I was most worried of before the afternoon started. It was not as bad as I imagined as I grabbed the gapped kakuro, tapa, slalom, heyawacky, and a couple of low pointers to get my a score of 49. While I did not noticed it at the time, the puzzle was designed so that reading across the puzzles you can get the message “ENJOY WPC 22 INDIAN ROUND”, which was very nifty.

Round 6 was the US round, which was very interesting. You are first given a standard puzzle, then a related puzzle that replaces some elements with a doubled up version. For example, they replaced the black cells of the Yajilin and the Kuromasu by blocks of size 1×2. Furthermore, the 2 puzzles further linked by keeping some elements of it, such as the digits common. While the puzzles themselves were neat, they were also brutal, as one of the designer was Palmer. In particular, the 2 Nurikabe was absolutely nasty, though I managed to get them both. I also did the 2 Yajilin and Shikaku, as well as a few other classic puzzles.

Round 7 was the Serbian round that I was supposed to skip. However, we were allowed to stay in the contest hall and do the puzzles as long as we do not hand it in. As it was the last round of the day, I saw no reason not to. My performance for this round was not specticular, as I the only high pointers I was able to do were the tapa and the Easy as ABCDE no touch. The Arukone (numberlink) turned out to be not unique, but that did not really matter.

This concludes day 1 of the 22nd WPC. After dinner, there was supposed to be a Jackie Chan movie of some sort. I didn’t stay to watch it, and from what I heard, it wasn’t very good. Furthermore, the results of round 1-3 were out, and I was tied with Byron. At least, until that I spotted a counting error in round 2 that netted me an extra 50 points. While not delighted about my afternoon performance, I am still fairly satisfied with my overall performance in the day.

WSC/WPC Impressions – October 15 (WSC Day 2)

Day 2 of the WSC only had 3 more rounds, unless you were one of the individuals good enough to make the playoff. Round 9 was another variants round, where a common variant is paired with a more exotic variant similar to the common one. Some of these variants are quite brutal, especially the 66 points one, which I didn’t even bother to look at. Anyways, I botched the consecutive sudoku on this round, but in the end I was able to fix it. However, that did took some time, time that I could have used to finish the anti-knight-and-queen sudoku that I was 2 minutes or so from completing. Grrr……

Round 10 was called the great wall, and consisted of 5 linked classics in the shape of a W. The puzzles themselves were not particularly hard, but given that there was only 15 minutes to solve, it was not nearly enough for me. I started off on the left side, which was a bad idea, as I later found. The right side was much easier to start, and in the end, I only got 1 done, which netted me 20 points.

Round 11 was (mostly) based on the number 8. 8 is a lucky number in Chinese, as it sounded similar to the word for wealth. It also happened to be the 8th WSC. There was a 8×8 classic which was surprisingly hard for 12 points, as well as a bunch of variants involving the number 8 one way or another. This round was one that I felt truly disappointed in, as I spent a huge amount of time on the answer 8 sudoku, and was again a few minutes away from completing the 4 by 2 sudoku when time was called.

The afternoon was the play-offs. There were 9 rows of chairs lined up, with the further rows having less chairs. The top 10 contestants that made it to the playoffs were seated in the back row, and after successfully solving a puzzle, they can move up to the desk on the next row. However, if there are no more desks available, the contestant is eliminated. This was to continue until 3 contestants have solved all the puzzles, and the first 2 will move on to the grand final. Apparently, sudoku is very big in China, as one of the sponsor was the Beijing Media Network, and they had a camera crew and a broadcast vehicle there. It probably also helped that BMN was the company publishing the sudoku/puzzle books on sale at the competition. From what I heard from Jerry the next day, we got on TV, yay. Anyways, during the semis, they had 2 projectors screens for the audience, and the cameras were filming in such a way we can see the actual sudokus being solved. The semis took an hour, and by the end Jin Ce from China and Kora Morinishi from Japan moved on to the finals.

The finals was a set of 5 puzzles, selected from a set of 10. There were 3 classics, one consecutive, and I can’t remember the last one. Compared to the puzzles of the semis, the final puzzles were very easy. In the end, Jin was able to beat Kota 3-2, and clinch first prize on the sudoku championship.

After the championship came the award ceremony. I had a bad stomach so I ended up showing up 15 minutes late, and I missed the part where they handed out the lottery tickets. Furthermore, the Canada table was full, and they had to squeeze around to fit me in. At the dinner, there were some impressive performances, including a contortionist, and the face-changing opera act. The music, however, was way too loud, and caused discomfort to my ear. The lottery draw that follow saw Dave winning the first prize. When the speaker spoke the number 208 in Mandarin, I was poking at Dave and pointing at the stage in excitement, completely forgetting the fact that Dave do not understand Mandarin. Anyways, despite the fancy ceremony, the dinner itself is essentially hotel food, though better presented. This concluded the WSC, and I skipped the question session to get some much needed sleep.

WSC/WPC Impressions – October 14 (WSC Day 1)

I really should finish up writing the rest of my impressions series, before I forget about them:

The competition was 2 days of World Sudoku Championship, followed by 3 days of World Puzzle Championship. I qualified for the WPC’s A-team via the US Puzzle Championship, and tagged along as a B-team member of the WSC simply because there was still room for me to join. As such, I did not expect to perform well on the WSC.

Round 1 was easy classics, which the first puzzle was a 4×4 sudoku with the numbers 2013. This was followed by three 6×6’s, and then a bunch of easy~moderate classic sudoku. The round was short (30 minutes), and I finished about half of the easier puzzles.

Round 2 was the “common variant” round, where we get to see some of the common (and less common) sudoku variants. This round is significantly longer than the previous, and contains many harder puzzles. The ring sudoku was as I suspected, and could be decomposed into two 5×5 latin squares. I botched the interconnected sudoku on this round, and had to re-solve, wasting a large amount of time. In the end, I didn’t do too well on this round, partly due to the amount of time wasted on the interconnected sudoku.

Round 3 was interesting. The round had 3 envelopes, worth a different amount of points, each containing a set of sudoku jigsaw pieces which you will need to fit on the main board. Opening the A only gives you 100, opening B gives you 50 (regardless of whether you opened A), and opening C gives you only 20 (regardless of whether you opened A or B). I started off with the A, and realized I can’t solve that in a minute, then opened the B. At 7 minutes remaining, I realized I can’t solve that neither, so I opened C. The pieces in C has all the digits filled, so all you need to do is to find how it fits, and copy the digits onto the solution grid. I managed to do that in time, but sadly copying the digits wrong, so in the end I got 0 for this round.

After that was lunch, where they still didn’t have water or tea. Round 4 was more classics, except this time they were much harder than the ones in Round 1. I ended up solving only 2 out of 8 on this round, giving me a disappointing score of 46 out of 230. I probably should have guessed on some of them.

Round 5 consisted of variants that had to deal with arithmetic, such as sum, arrow, product, and killer. When I looked at the product, I laughed as I have never seen the products being stacked like that before. I wasted a lot of time on the sum sudoku in this round, which did not came to fruition.

Round 6, 7, and 8 were the team rounds, where we have a group of 4 players solving a set of puzzles together. From my experiences from previous WPC, these can often be brutal, especially to weaker teams. Round 6 consists of six 9×9 sudokus and twelve 4×4’s, which we need to solve and then clue together to form a ball in such a way that the digits of the glued sudokus match. As we suspected, we can’t solve any of the large sudokus alone, but have to refer to the small ones to find what is and what isn’t possible. This meant that we had to go through a tedious checking process to see what corner can be fitted with which sudoku. In the end, we were only able to place together 3 corners on a single sudoku, and that still wasn’t enough to solve it, which gave us a big fat zero.

Round 7 was the matchmaker, where you are given 8 different variants and were told that they could be matched in pairs so that each pair has the same solution. A practice for can be found on the Logic Masters India website: The first 2 pairs were relatively easy to find out, which we gave to Carolyn and Anil to solve. However, we were unable to determine how the last 4 sudokus paired up, and in the end only Carolyn’s pair was solved. On the plus side, this meant that we didn’t get zero on this round.

Round 8 was the Mahjong round, where we were place the given Mahjong tiles onto the grid subjected to sudoku rules, as well as additional rules given by lines drawn on the grid. During the solve, we ended up guessing a large chunk of tiles, as we could not logically determine the direction of one of the line give by the additional rules. Luckily this was correct, and we had 48 tiles placed.

This concluded day 1 of the WSC, which was followed by dinner and bed. *and Sudoku GP* While I wasn’t particularly pleased with my experience, it was within my expectations given that I had no training coming into the WSC. Next year, I will do better.

Edit: What was I thinking. The Sudoku Grand Prix was on the 1st day of the WSC, not the 2nd day. The GP was a series of 8 online sudoku contests organized by the World Puzzle Federation, where each of them is ran by a different countries. The top 10 contestants of the GP were invited to the finals, which was hosted on the night of the 1st day of the WSC. Unlike the WSC and WPC, the play-off is a very simple structure. The first person to solve all 8 puzzles (one from each host) is declared the winner. It was very nice to have the set of puzzle available for the spectators, so we don’t have to simply sit there while the competition was going on. Furthermore, we have commentary from our own Byron Calver and UK’s Tom Collyer. The commentary were both witty and informative, giving us background on the various puzzle authors, as well as numerous tennis jokes on the tennis sudoku. The GP was eventually won by Kota Morinishi, one of the best Japanese solvers and (as we shall see) the 2nd place winner of WSC this year.

WSC/WPC Impressions – October 13 (Sightseeing)

Despite not getting any sleep on the airplane, I still managed to wake up too early. I spent sometime doing puzzles and read over the instruction manual, then headed off to breakfast. Breakfast was strange, as they served hot milk, hot juice, and coffee, but no tea or water, much to the aggravation to some of the people there. The food was a mix of Beijing style food and “western” food, and was decent, though not outstanding. After breakfast, we headed off to our touring bus, from here on to be known as “Bus A”.

We first went to see the Mutianyu section of the great wall. After arriving at the base, we took some group photos for the organizers. The tour guide told us that there are 2 ways to get to the great wall, either by paying extra and taking the lift, or walking up a trail. What he did not told us was that the “trail” was ~1000 steps of stairs. Most of us eventually got up, though we felt half dead at that point. We then took some photos, and cracked jokes about how we should host the championship here with everyone finishing a puzzle having to walk up 100 steps to get to the desk containing the next one. We took some more photos then headed back down the stairs. Apparently, there was a toboggan ride down from the side which I have missed. That would have been extremely helpful for my legs at that point.

After lunch, we got back on Bus A to go to the Ming tombs. That did not worked out as the road going there was blocked by bicycle race. Instead, we went to see the Olympic Stadium. a.k.a. Bird’s Nest. As our tour guide had been shouting “Bus A” to gather our group the whole day, the Czech team, and latter our team, started shouting Bus A as well. At the Bird’s Nest, we went up more stairs to the balcony, and I even walked up to the top seat to take some pictures of the stadium. We also went to see the Water Cube stadium near by, after which we went back to the hotel for dinner and bed.

WSC/WPC Impressions – October 11-12 (To Beijing)

I got up early in the morning, and took the shuttle from Waterloo to Toronto airport, which took 1 1/2 hours. After checking in my luggage and clearing security, I met Dave and Anil in the waiting area, among with Will Shortz and some members of the US team. It turned out that our plane was delayed by an hour due to maintenance, though that was nothing compared to the 10 hour delay that Byron got. During the flight, I spent most of the time solving the example sudokus and puzzles in the instructions booklet. The remaining time I used to watch movies, which meant I got no sleep.

By the time we got to Beijing, it was already 6pm. Luckily for us, clearing customs was a breeze, unlike trying to get the Chinese visa. After meeting up with the organizers and the Indian team, we then took the Shuttle to the Beijing Chateau Laffitte Hotel. During the way, our driver took the wrong road, and we ended up at a construction site. By the time we ended up at the hotel, it was 7:40, and dinner ends at 8. We hurriedly ate, checked in, then went to bed.