After all the visa problems and yes-no about participating in WSC Zilina, the Indian Team of 6 finally made it to the city. It comprised of a pretty young, inexperienced team as no sponsorship meant few good players were already out!! Ritesh Gupta was the only experienced player having participated twice in WSC before. Myself had been to WSC Goa but only as a guest participant whereas Rohan had been to WSC Belarus few months back. Rest of them - LovelyKrishna, Himanshu and Puneet - were first timers.
After a 5 hours journey from Vienna to Zilina, everyone was tired but excited... excited to show their skills in the 9 digits game... excited to see if we can be amongst the top solvers in the world. But none of us knew what was going to come at us!! The Instruction booklet was released couple of days back but it was without any instructions for the team rounds!! The puzzle types were given but it wasn't shown what to do with them!! So the Q&A session was a very important one (for all teams). And not surprisingly it took almost 3 hours for everyone to understand all the rules and instructions /or so we thought/.
When we reached Holiday Inn for the dinner and Q&A, first I came across the Chinese team. It was fun to meet all of them and we immediately took out our cameras... Then the opening ceremony began, before which I met Yuhei and other Japanese friends. Then while standing in the que for dinner, we had a nice chat with David McNeil and Snyder. While David was busy admiring about Rohan’s blog, Snyder was discussing about Mock Tests…"The tests were good but EVERY WEEK!! How do you expect people to participate every week!! And then there was that 13H competition!!” Those were his words… We had a nice laugh but we knew he was being modest and would have definitely practiced lot more than that!! J. I had the chance to meet Gotroch, Jan Novotny, Jakub O and others of the Czech team later on. I was bit disappointed that we couldn’t meet few others from fed-sudoku due to their other commitments.. but anyway it was all fun talking to the Czech team.
After the instructions, it all looked extremely interesting especially the team event which was such that it would test all aspects of a team from solving together to solving on others pencilmarked sheets to having awesome relay rounds. We also enjoyed the opening ceremony (specially the performance by Michel and the girls), the dinner and meeting our online friends and having few chats about the competition etc. After understanding all the instructions we were keen on practising few things for the team event but as it was way past midnight when we reached our hotel, we decided to have a good rest before the competition!!
The Competition Day!! I was all set... I had marked 1st and last rounds to be the make or break parts of the tournament and wanted to have a good start to my campaign.
Part A: Mix
With 29 puzzles in 2 hours half of them interlinked minis, I had a feeling it could be possible to finish all. So i chose a table in the front and kept everything ready and started solving easy boldts classics to get in the groove /I always do it before a classic sudoku round so that when the round starts i am up to my fastest/. As I was easing through these 9x9 grids, Thomas Snyder took the seat in front of me... and pali7 aka Pavel Jaselsky, the that time record holder, behind me. Well as if it matters!!, I said to myself. The 1st round began and knowing it was an important one, I was well prepared, fresh and raring to go. I went through few puzzles quickly but then continuous flipping of pages meant that I wasn't getting the exact momentum that I would love to in a classic round. And then something funny happened!! I just looked up to see the timer and BANG a flash went straight into my face blinding me for few seconds!! Well it didn’t matter much in the context of the competition... I had a nice smile on my face and thought At times thats the price you pay for sitting behind a Champion!! What a Coincidence it was!! Anyways I finished all but 4 puzzles left with 2 min to go. I took up the 8x8 irregular and ran through it. But with 20 sec remaining, I was left with a 5-6 patterns which could be found only through solving its corresponding 9x9 classic. No time for that, I quickly did Ini mini miny moe and finished the grid hoping it to be right..!!
First round ended!! I wasn't happy because I couldn't get the groove in the entire round - mainly because of the continuous flipping of pages and requiring guess work in atleast 5-6 puzzles. But nonetheless I was satisfied that i left only 3 puzzles with one left hanging on pure luck... only to find out immediately from Rohan that my ini mini miny moe had gone wrong :
Part B was about to start in 15 min and after few chats with top players I assumed that I might be in the top15 or so in 1st round!! Someone from our team asked me why didn’t they put all the linked puzzles next to each other!!?? Well I didn’t reply at that time but now to think of it that would have saved lot of time and also helped good solvers get some rhythm in the round. Afterall you want the participants to use the entire time for solving and not turning pages!!
Part B: Symbology
It was told that 29 fastest players in this round will go to part H for a playoff and will have a chance to enter Little Finals. Once again I felt finishing all 3 is possible but digital aint my favorite variation so probably 2 and half puzzles solved would be satisfactory!! The first one Maya/Mayan (or whatever it was called) was just a classic which almost everyone finished in no time. I transferred all symbols to digit in the grid itself and solved it like a classic and later transferred all the bars, circles, triangles etc with pen. Then moved on to Roman and here came my first mistake..!! I had to restart the puzzle after wasting some 7 odd minutes on it. Still kept my cool and finished it quickly. With 8 min left on the clock and pretty confident on my accuracy on paper, I decided to finish the Digital sudoku as much as possible so that I would have a better chance of going to Part H on tie-breaker. And surprisingly so I was moving pretty fast in the grid!! I finished 50-60% of the grid and would have finished it in another 2 min or so. But my only fear was I didn’t check the previous 2 puzzles specially the Roman!! One scary thing was many raised their hand before 26min and Snyder wasn’t one of them!! I saw immediately Nick Baxter coming to his table and saying something like “Around 10 people finished before 26min… you got to make a call…!!” I didn’t understand anything except the first line and immediately as I always do after every exam, check the neighbors how they fared. Snyder told me that he finished 2 with Digital almost 80% done, so he should have a great chance to go through to Part H on tie-breaker. But like me he too was a bit scared on the Roman. Well I felt like it would be touch and go for me!! Anyways not too bad a round and was feeling good about the entire competition and my goals…
Part C: Snowman
After 2 solid rounds (that’s what I thought at that time), I kept telling myself Consistency is the key in big tournaments like this… If you have average/above average performance in all the rounds, you will be much higher in the ranking list.. 4 puzzles in 30 min looked good but I wasn’t knowing how or what the role ‘=’ symbol have. It was said that cells of 2 different puzzles connected by ‘=’ symbol will have same digit but all puzzles are independent of each other!! Those were the exact words and were really confusing!! But anyways I trusted on them when they said everything will be clear when you look at the sheet.. and so it was. With the first glance I understood what the round is and how to go about things. I had earlier decided to solve the Pencilmark sudoku at the last but then it being at the centre there was no option than to go for it. I finished it pretty fast and finished the rest of the puzzles too. Just as I was going to raise my hand, I heard Mr. Jan Farkas shouting ‘5th and no more bonus’ Oh well I just missed the bonus so I thought I would rather check till the end than submit.. Everything seemed correct but then I donno… some doubt crept in my mind and I called Mr. Farkas at my table. I knew it was asked to circle the digits in pencilmark sudoku but I thought the organizers would be lenient enough to accept my large, dark digits written in the cells. I asked him is this ok and his immediate reply was,” NO. Complete Zero!!” Shit!! Shit!! Shit!! I could have lost all points for that puzzle if I would have submitted as the 5th fastest. However I kept my calm and with 6min still on the clock, I started changing the presentation of entire grid. Another good round I believed with only 5 players scoring higher than me.
Part D: World Record
I was feeling very confident after a decent start to the championship but I was amazed to see the number of people telling that I had a chance to beat the record!! :O I knew it was going to be a guessing puzzle and my realistic target was to try and finish under 5:25min or in 10min at the very least. I believed someone would break the record and handed my handycam to one of the translator Terka (I hope I got the name right!!) to get the video of the entire round.
Anyways back to business, with 3, 2, 1 go… we all started trying to break the 5 points puzzle. After entering 2-3 digits in about 20 odd seconds, I said here we go again… ini mini miny mo!! And I made a guess. After solving about a min or two, I was left cursing myself as I made the guess in such a bad place that I had to do another guess in it only later to find that everything was wrong!! Well before that the record was already made and 5:25min limit was just around the corner. Only thing left was to try and finish the puzzle in time but I was back to the starting point with just 4 digits filled now and 5 min remaining!! As again due to the poor placement of that guesswork, I had to make another inner guess and luckily this time it came out right. I finished the puzzle in about 7:30min but felt lucky to get the 3rd guess right!! Horrible puzzle!! But didn’t know how others fared. As soon as the round was over I found only 6-7 players finished it with only Vincent Bertnard under 5:25min time. It was a new record of 3:06min. It was a great achievement knowing that many great solvers struggled badly on that guessing puzzle!!
Now I was really feeling good… expecting to be atleast in the top 10 after 4 good rounds!! But had no idea what was going to follow!!
Just as we were heading to our bus, our papers of Part B, C n D were handed to Ritesh. And to my horror, I got a zero in Maya sudoku thanks to the centre cell which was left blank!! STRIKE ONE. And more, I had a zero in World Record puzzle as well!! What was happening! I immediately checked my solution and found it to be correct. Went to the organizers and got the 5 points back. Immediately hurried to the bus to see everyone waiting for me (for the second time now : ) On my way back, I also took a glance at the list of 29 players going through to Part H. I was sure I won’t be there but it was good to see Rohan and LovelyKrishna’s name in the list. Also the fastest player had 21 points!! I was confused… What was going on..!! About 10 people submitted before 26min and surely everyone couldn’t have made a mistake!! And I never came to know about it until the next day!! Anyways I was pretty disgusted with myself mainly for the fact that now I will now be playing 2 rounds less than all the top players. I had a pretty silent lunch, took some breather in my room with some floyd songs to calm me down. We also talked about the next rounds as we didn’t get enough time the previous night and then set off to Holiday Inn.
Part E: Power of Teams
This was my first ever experience in solving as a team. It seemed really nice and we were all enjoying while solving the puzzles. We finished some 22min before time and once again the 6th one to raise our hand. No bonus points but we still submitted after checking everything once. It was the first poorly timed round with around 20+ teams finishing all puzzles. The 2nd Indian team also finished few minutes after us. A bit disappointed that such beautiful puzzles went to waste!!
Part F: Musketry
Once again a round which seemed interesting was nothing but disappointment!! It was difficult to solve on someone else half-solved sheet. I decided to go first hoping to give a good start for the team and was pretty satisfied but then the centre part of puzzle was too difficult to crack. Only one team managed to get some points on board and scored full 20 + 5 points for the round. Rest all got a big zero!! Once again all teams on same points with team Hungary 25 points ahead and those with the bonuses in Part E.
Part G: Relay Round
This was the round that decided the team event. The 3-4 teams which did well in this round were at the top in the end (in the same order!!). Again the puzzles were a bit too tough for most teams. Half getting 1 correct and rest getting 0 points with few 3-4 exceptions!!
Just after the round, I received my Part A sheet and guess what…!! Two silly mistakes costing me 16 points STRIKE TWO!! In one of the puzzle I wrote a 5 instead of 4 and in other there was a bigger mistake. Probably the guesswork that I had to do in that puzzle went wrong without me noticing it!! I felt like putting a soap in my mouth.. 27 points mistake in a tournament as big as this plus a chance to play 2 more rounds!! It couldn’t get worse. I felt like the chances of getting in top 10-15 were gone. Even if I made it to the semifinals it would be too tough to catch up with others as till then I believed top players will have some advantage in the semis. The only thing left to redeem myself was the last round of the night ‘Nightmare in Zilina’. In all this drama I almost forgot that I still scored 133 points in Part A which was a decent score but nonetheless not good enough /or so I thought/.
Part H: Play off Extra
The round for top 29 players of Part B. The round which I should have been playing but for one missing cell. There were 28 players on 21 points and many on 11 but only one of them made the group of 29 and it was my Chinese friend Lin Minfang. But I still wasn’t aware of how she made it. How stupid of me!! But I was busy cursing myself all this time. The round started and already I felt like returning to the hotel. Many of them finished the round including Rohan but only couple of them felt finding the secret in puzzle worthwhile. Vincent Bertnard!! What a day he was having. He not only finished in 5th place but also got full 5 points!!
We went back to our hotel for dinner and all of us were discussing how acquainted I am in making mistakes. But in reality this is probably the first time I remember making any sort of mistake on paper!! Hard to believe cause I am a regular in such things while solving online…!! Anyways I was badly waiting for overall result till now. I consoled myself gathered the strategies for the last round and decided to go all out.
Miss and Boy World Sudoku 2009
When we reached Holiday Inn, there was some special program planned for us. None of us knew what it was. Some even made wild guesses like striptease etc!! Then Mr. Jan Farkas announced that we will be having Miss and Boy Sudoku 2009!! And to my surprise when he started announcing the finalists selected by the jury, he said No. 147 from India!! And it was me!! : All 16 (8 pairs) of us were having a laugh least expecting what was going to come at us!! First it was the girls round and the moment they brought out the lipsticks, there was a big O o from me. I kinda guessed it. They had to put make-up on our face with that pink lipstick using some creativity: in other words they had to paint our face in any which way they like!! And at the end of it, I had everything from lipstick to moustaches to ear rings and what not!! We all looked like jokers while the audience could barely control their laughter. It was a perfect chance for all photographer and we could see strings of flashes all around the hall. But the best part of it was all of us took it sportingly. Then it was our turn. True gentlemen are supposed to be good at cooking.. so we were given our weapons and 3 potatoes and asked to peel them off. Whatever it was there was no competition to me for the last place!! Anyways it was fun… me and the Ireland guy next to me had a laugh during that period. Atleast Snyder and others can’t beat us here… we are in some finals atleast!!! It was great fun and we also couldn’t help but laugh on each other!!
It was not over. After that we were asked to dance on some trippy tune. Initially my partner Daniella from Vienna was going too fast for me. She was doing it gracefully while I was negating her effect by going left, right, forward, backward!! Also tried to pull off some funny stunts which went horribly wrong!! Oh well nobody really cared what we were doing or not doing!! It ended with that dance and the result were to be announced next day. The special program did well to relax the intense competition atmosphere and the effect could be seen on everyone face.
Part J: Little Finals (where was Part I??)
With 9 fastest players competing in the Little Finals, I took some time out gathering my concentration back for the last round. Potentially 8 points puzzle, I felt like the already big lead between me and the top guys would only get bigger after these 2 rounds. Pavel Jaselsky, Jakub O. and Peter Hudak made the top 3.
Part K: Nightmare in Zilina
This was the moment of truth for me. I needed to do well in this part in order to make up for the lost points. 6 puzzles in 60min, I started off well. Finished 4 puzzles with 14min left on the clock. I had a look at The Wall Blocks, the very first puzzle. But it looked too evil for me. And after wasting some 2 min, I came to a conclusion that a guesswork of sorts was needed at the beginning!! So I went to the other remaining puzzle, The Predator. It was a Killer Sudoku where digits can repeat in the cages!! But the presentation of the cages in the puzzle was so horrible that my head started spinning. I even thought of remaking those cages with coloured pens and then solving it but then the time was already running out. With me finding no way to crack the puzzles and already feeling a bit tired, I decided to check the 4 solved puzzles instead of wracking my brain on them. Pretty satisfied with 4 highest point puzzles!! Immediately after the round while I was having a chat with Jakub H. (aka Gotroch) we found that the overall results were out. I started searching for my name from around 30th rank or so. And then what a pleasant shock it was..!! I was in 7th place!! I had a big F in my mouth… 7th place despite all the things that happened!! I was ecstatic… but immediately when Ritesh came to me, I realized that I would have been in 2nd place with a potential chance to further narrow down on Snyder’s lead. Anyways If’s and But’s don’t matter in these tournaments and such things separate the best from the rest!!
I went back to the hotel satisfied with the days result and knowing that I had a decent last round in order to atleast maintain my 7th position.
Day 1 ended on a high note for me but could have been lot better!!
When I got up for breakfast, I found out that after the last round I had moved to 5th position …who cares now!! Because last night itself we found out that there is going to be no advantage to top ranked participants and that all 36 competitors are at par!! Seeing that the 36th player was at 151 points, I questioned myself What did we play the previous day for!! Team event was just a waste of time and now the individual rounds were also of no use!! Anyways rules are rules and it will be same for other top ranked players as well. But before the semifinals we had a team round to be played and a crucial one too.
Part L: Strategy
There is a reason why I haven’t written much about my experience in the team rounds before because frankly there wasn’t much to talk about!! The puzzles were either too tough or too easy so that everyone could solve it with only one round separating top 4 teams. However this round was the funniest!!
Knowing that there wasn’t much to choose between many teams, this was the round that could make the difference. With 10 puzzles in 2:15 hours, it looked very doable. We started off nicely finishing one puzzle after other and very soon we came on the 9th puzzle with 1:20 hours remaining on the clock!! I looked around to see Indian B team was also on 9th puzzle while USA had moved on to the last puzzle. Is it going to be the same story!! Everyone finishing everything!! No. It was even worse. The last puzzle (which was actually the first one), the dreadful Dominos optimizer… Everyone wracked their heads but none could get it. Imagine what kind of puzzle it would be when the best of teams couldn’t get even one solution to it in almost 1:20 hours!! Many teams surrendered 20 min before time. And the announcement came no more bonuses!! As if anyone was going to get any!! What a waste of time and energy!! Seriously the dominos puzzle took a lot out of me. And already sapped by continuous 10 days traveling, I felt tired just before the semis. Just the wrong start to Day 2 for me. Anyways something even more dramatic happened in this round. Japan A team found 2 solutions of the puzzle. I had a laugh at them and also pitied them. Cause what they got for those 2 solutions was a mere 10 points!! No Bonuses as per the Rule!!! A badly timed overall team competition turned out to be even worse!! I am sure not many would disagree with me that Japan should have got minimum 50 bonus points for getting those 2 solutions!! This was a round where teams who solved 9 puzzles in 45 min or in 90 min got the same points!! Whereas when someone actually solved all 10 puzzles, they got just 10 points more than the rest which didn’t even matter in their ranking at the end of it!!
With all due respect to everyone, the team competition was a one to forget and everyone was looking forward to the individual playoffs and finals.
Part M: Semifinals
This was the business end of the Championship and me being in good form was pretty confident. For the first time I believed that I had some sort of chance to get into the finals. But I also knew anything short of my best in this round and it was the end!! As the rules were being announced, 4 winners from each group plus 4 best competitors from the rest seemed a very good idea. But then it was announced that the rule for tie-breaker would be time-stamp and not the number of digits filled in incomplete puzzles!! It was then that I realized why so many people raised their hand in Part B inspite of not finishing all puzzles!! What kind of rule was that!! I thought, So we will have to make a call at some point whether to submit or to continue!! It seemed way weird.. even more weird than Japan team not getting the bonus points for dominos puzzle!! But anyways it was same for all.
The round started and I took the 2nd sudoku, Margin sudoku. I solved for about 10 min and found out I had made a mistake!! I yelled a big F. And it was a mistake I knew of just 1 digit but after wasting another 2 min, I found out that it wasn’t easy to track it down!! STRIKE THREE!!! With 13 min gone, I was back to zero level and my campaign ended there itself!! There was absolutely no chance to recover from that position in a tournament like WSC. I then solved just for the sake of ranking and could finish 2 puzzles when there was some 5-6 min left. Once again I ended cursing myself as 13+5 min would have been perfect to solve one more puzzle plus the two puzzles were solved at half the enthu that I had shown in previous rounds. A lot disappointed at my performance, we went for dinner. Spend some time with the Czech and Japanese teams. It was then that I found out that 3 was the limit and many great players also struggled in the round.
When the results were put up, it was strange!! No Thomas Snyder… No Jakub Ondrusek… No Jan Novotny… No Hideaki Jo and No Yuhei Kusui!! Looking at the list it felt as if Jan Mrozowski had one hand on the Championship already!! I was curious to know what happened with the others. And later found out that 36th rank competitor Ko Okamoto had knocked Snyder out from group Alpha on the tie-breaker!! And even worse Snyder had solved 3 puzzles with 4th almost 70-80% done!! In other words he had solved the maximum amongst all 36 participants!! Closest to getting all 4 puzzles than anyone else!! And still he was out of the Finals!! Same was the case with Jan Novotny and Hideaki jo!! With Peter Hudak, Jakub O., Vincent Bertnard and Yuhei kusui all screwing up like me. It felt like as good Day 1 was, Day 2 was equally bad.
Then we headed to our hotel and from there went for a walk. It was fun talking to others from Bulgaria, Jason from US, UK Captain Ariane, David McNeil, Italy Captain Ricarrdo and also the translators who believed I was always lost!! :( : Well for once Yes!! My head was always occupied after that semifinals. It felt like something was nagging me… something was wrong!! To be frank it seemed like I had no interest in taking a walk. I wanted to compete at that moment and felt something very incomplete about the tournament. David McNeil told me how he misread the rules and could have easily finished 3 puzzles way before time. Well I realized that the yuheis, the jakubs and others will also have a similar story as 3 puzzles were easily doable for most good solvers. But it was about the others that was disturbing me more. Snyder, Jan Novotny and Hideaki Jo missed a trick or two but was the tie-breaker rule justified!!
Well anyways while in a long conversation with Mr. David McNeil and Mr. Ricarrdo, I and Rohan went with them to Holiday Inn instead of Hotel Slovakia. Nothing was going right for us!! There we found out that all teams are going to compete in the team finals but I don’t know how many actually wanted to. We were without our bags, pencils etc but who cared… we were going just to enjoy the last dinner and the drinks!!
Closing Ceremony with the Finals
Closing ceremony was one of the highlights of Day 2. As all the teams took their respective tables, some Slovak dance/drama/ music began. It was really good as most of them were kids. However the most memorable of them were the mime performance with some vista jokes to obsession over sudokus. Later the winners of Miss and Boy World Sudoku 2009 were announced. And Daniella from Austria and Goran Vodopija from Croatia were the respective winners. Then there was also a bollywood dance which took the entire Indian team by surprise (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E983ViMBBJs). While I went to get my drink, I got a chance to meet the girls who did Bharatnatyam type of moves!! One of them asked me, “You know the song?? Did you like the movie??” to which I sheepishly replied, “I haven’t seen it”. :P Then there were more dance and other performances.
In between we had the team finals to be done on our dinning table!! Oh well we had almost no interest in it that time. If one had said in the beginning that Indian team would have finished in 15th place, then it would have been a disastrous result for us. But here we didn’t even feel like actually competing to finish so low!! We didn’t feel like losers despite being at the wrong end of the table. Anyways team finals Part 1 was once again a poor puzzle with no teams finishing it in time!! Part 2 was the 4D Sudoku… It seemed really interesting but then again with just 15 min given to all teams, getting 5 out of the possible 17 solutions was the limit and 3 was the minimum!! Most teams were having a good laugh instead of trying to solve the puzzles. But you can’t blame them!! Later after seeing the final result, I questioned myself, If the team points of the previous day were carried forward in the Team Finals then why didn't they do the same for Individual semifinals!! I forgot about it and we moved on..
The Individual Finals had some controversy in it. But I believe the winner was half decided before it even started!! With the players asked to solve on larger grids on the wall (many championships adopt this method for the finals which really ain’t that bad… and the audience truly love it more than using the cameras on the sheets!!), the classic sudoku with a trophy-like theme was opened and all 8 finalists could see it!! And it wasn’t until some 2 min or so that they actually started solving it!! Shit!! What is this happening!! I went sick, “This would have been a serious advantage to me over atleast 3-4 people in the finals as I many times try to solve newspaper sudoku in mind without filling any digits!!” But then there was no point in dwelling on the past. The first puzzle was finished by Jan Mrozowski (the one I had picked months ago to challenge Snyder for the title) in no time and having a huge advantage going into the 2nd one. He was the clear cut winner in the finals but the other notable performances were from the Serbian duo of Branko and Nikola who finished 2nd and 4th respectively. Robert Babilon, 5th fastest Czech player showed why they are the most feared team, by finishing in the top 3.
Anyways It was all over… or was it!! The 8 finalists were asked to solve the 4D sudoku on stage. After 2 tiring days who would want to take that sort of puzzle in his hands!! And you can’t blame them when they were busy playing with the cubes and making towers, robots and what not!! However Wei-Hwa had all the enthu to finish it off in about an hour… the 4th official person to solve the 4D Puzzle. Yes it’s mainly a puzzle with just sudoku rules applied. You won’t find any hidden/naked pairs or triplets. You got to use a puzzle-type analogy to solve it. But whatever.. Kudos to the creators for inventing such a thing. (couple days later I found out that even Ritesh Gupta finished it in about 2 hours time… could be amongst the first 10 to solve it completely). It all ended with the prize distribution ceremony and few more programs.
It was all over we all started with our drinks and dinner. I was invited to a party by my Chinese friends on their floor. It was great fun discussing various things, having good laughs and obviously the beer added extra bit to the party. Despite all the language barriers we didn’t seem to have any problems communicating. :) It was a pleasure meeting their captain also. Couple of them kept questioning me that how can the top players (and they were referring to me!! Am I really amongst the top players!! Atleast currently, I don’t think so!! ) be so fast!! Well to tell you the truth, I had the same perception last year. I felt people like Snyder, Jakub O. etc were immortals!! But this championship made me realize that their speeds can be matched…. that its all about practice in order to reach those levels. And the Chinese team seems to be improving every month… Anyways it was all great fun. I went back to the hall spend some time with the Morocco man Ahmed Assalih, then the Czech team. After that I went to meet Peter Hudak and Stefan Gyurki. We had a chat about fed-sudoku… Peter said to me, “You are good.” To which I gave a shrug and he replied back, “What!! 5th place ain’t good enough??!!” I thought about it. Yeah 5th place was definitely good and even the 12th place finish at the end wasn’t that bad for me… but still something told me that I wasn’t satisfied…. That I didn’t know whether my name can be deservingly taken amongst others like Jan Novotny, Snyder, Jakub O. etc!! Day 2 was no where close to the expectations we all had… But anyways there’s always a next time.
At the end of the day, I thought, For a 12 months old player, it wasn’t such a bad result. Yes exactly a year back during our NSC 08, I realized that we are allowed to fill small numbers inside the cells (which is commonly known in the sudoku community as pencilmarks!!). That time during WSC Goa, I felt like I was a 1 yr old kid trying to stand up and compete in Men’s 100m!! And then like most others, I took a break from sudoku for 3-4 months!! August was precisely the period when I started my practice and now I can’t let a day go by without solving atleast 20 odd sudokus(not talking about the variation :P). Now it felt good that I was slightly able to bridge the gap between the top players. But still this is where the hard part creeps in!! If bringing a 4min puzzle to 2min was difficult then breaking the 2min barrier is even harder!! But the morale of the story is “Its all about Practice!!” You will never know how hard work can do wonders to you in any field unless you actually experience it!!
With some disappointed, but still having lot of fun (specially meeting all the online friends!!) we left for our hotel to take a well deserving rest… Zilina was truly a beautiful place and it felt awesome to see the hospitality towards all the teams. The overall organizing was tip top, though one can argue that there was a lot of scope for improvement in the puzzles!!
Big thanks to the entire organizing team, the performers, the translators and to Mr. Jan Farkas. :)
(Lasly my sincere apologies to all if you feel offended by any comments... but these are my honest views and thoughts during the Championhip)
Gaurav Korde, India