World Sudoku Championships - retrospective

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World Sudoku Championships - retrospective

Postby Pappocom » Tue Mar 14, 2006 3:03 am

I'm back in Hong Kong now after an exciting few days in Italy at the World Sudoku Championships.

It was an amazing event. I would urge you all to attend one if you get the chance.

The first day was exciting enough, although as a non-contestant who was constantly being re-directed from the tournament hall to do another interview, I didn't get into it as much.

But the second day was electrifying. The top 9 contestants from the previous day's 85 participated in a knock-out series. After each round, the slowest or lowest-scoring contestant was eliminated. That added tension of its own, plus also the fact that puzzles were solved "publicly" - that is, instead of scribbling away at their desks, contesants worked at large puzzles on a stage in full view of the audience.

With a privately-done puzzle, you would have to track solvers' eye-movements to get a glimpse of what they were thinking, but in a publicly-done puzzle you get to see hand-movements and gestures, as solvers concentrate on different areas of the grid. You also get to see their pencilmark-notation systems. Some of the methods used were (to me) unusual.

The audience was riveted. You could see and feel the tension amongst those watching the proceedings. Imagine what it must have been like for the contestants themselves.

I could see Yanna (the eventual winner) as she worked her way through the final puzzle. I could see the point at which she began to circle certain numbers. The pencilmarks were small to start with, but as time went on and her confidence grew the numbers came faster and got larger, and she switched to a different colored pen. One of Yanna's distinctive styles was to use different colored pens.

There was drama in each of the elimination rounds, quite apart that Yanna (the only woman in the final 9) made it through to the end. The penultimate round, which Thomas Snyder (Motris) has written about here, was just this side of incredible. After he solved the puzzle, Thomas briefly "crumpled", physically - perhaps with the release of pressure and the realization of what he had just accomplished.

The broad-scale organization of the tournament was impeccable, although there was a little chaos on the tournament floor at times, brought about no doubt because of the unexpected intensity of the interest from spectators. Sudoku has become a spectator sport!

The interest from the press and photographers was huge. The finalists needed to concentrate exceptionally hard to blank out the attention of the still photographers and the video cameras. Will Shortz of the World Puzzle Federation commented that the media interest was more than for usual WPF events, by far.

I think it is inevitable that there will be another WSC, so get planning now. Perhaps you should think about getting your country to officially join the WPF - it makes participating in the WSC much easier. Try organising a national tournament, so that you can send an "official" team representing your country. Newspapers are good sponsors/organisers for such national contests. e.g. El Nacional conducted the national tournament for Venezuela.

There were 22 countries represented in this year's WSC. I would expect there to be many more in next year's.

As far as I know, it has not yet been decided where next year's tournament will be held.

- Wayne
Posts: 599
Joined: 05 March 2005

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