World Sudoku Championship 2017 Experience by Pranav

12th World Sudoku Championship 2017
Hi everyone, this is Pranav Kamesh S from Chennai, and I would like to share my experience of the recently concluded 12th World Sudoku Championship in Bangalore in 2017. I had qualified to represent India in the A team in WSC by virtue of finishing  4th in the Indian Sudoku championships and winning the Times Sudoku Championships 2017.
The 3 Indian teams consisted of

India A

Team India A during World Sudoku Championship 2017
India A Team for WSC 2017
Kishore Kumar
Rishi Puri
Jaipal Reddy

India  B

Hemant Kumar Malani
Gaurav Kumar Jain
Aashay Patil
Shaheer Rahman

India C

Vishal Jain
Harmeet Singh
Varun Ramachandran
Lenson Andrade
I arrived at Bangalore airport along with my fellow competitor, Kishore on the morning of 15th October. We were received by Rajesh and proceeded to have breakfast at the airport. After waiting around for a bit more, we boarded the bus to the Presidency Hotel, where we met up with the rest of the Indian team. After freshening up and having lunch, the  Indian teams attended the workshop hosted by 3 times World Sudoku Champion Thomas Snyder. A fun contest was held after that workshop, with Hemant solving second fastest in the newcomer category. He opened the medal tally for India at this WSC, and he wasn't even done yet ;).
After that workshop, most of us decided to give the second workshop by  Gareth Moore a miss and decided to head back to the hotel, where we discussed the team rounds. After having decided upon suitable strategies, we came back to the competition hall, registered ourselves for the competition, and had dinner. After attending the surprisingly short-lived Q&A session, we retired to the hotel for a  good night's rest.

  Day One of World Sudoku Championship

Team India about to get in WSPC 2017 Competition Hall
Team India about to get in WSPC 2017 Competition Hall
Day 1 dawned bright and clear. After enduring a very nervous breakfast, (no matter how many times I participate in the WSC, I have a feeling that the butterflies in the stomach feeling just before day 1 of the competition will never fade :p). We went to the competition hall, and I took my place beside Estonia's Jaan Laks and finally, Round 1 started. 


Pranav Kamesh during World Sudoku Championship 2017
This was a tricky round, with 6 classics and 6 variants (Coded, 12 Sum product pair, Curvy Renban, Substitution, X sums and Killer Sudoku). I started off with the Renban and broke it quickly. I went on to the Coded Sudoku, which I solved fairly quickly. Then the substitution Sudoku, which I broke two times (both times very late in the solve  :(. By then, I knew this Round had gone horribly wrong, and I had to salvage some points out of it. I managed to solve the X Sums Sudoku quickly and went on to do 2 Classics before time. I had a very bad start.


World Sudoku Championship 2017 Competition Hall
This was the longest Sudoku round in the competition, with 24 simple variants to be solved in 90 minutes. I knew this round was key to a good finish and took it on with full concentration. The result was a heartening 12 Sudoku puzzles solved out of 24, with 505 points out of a possible 1000. I knew I could have done slightly better, but was reasonably happy that I performed so well in a variant round. :)


This was a 40 minute round, with 8 hybrids (combination of variants) Sudoku puzzles. I managed to complete 4 of them with another reasonable 200 out of the 400 points on offer. I truly did enjoy the last two rounds and my mood was upbeat.

Round 4-WHERE IS IT?

Pranav Kamesh solving Puzzles at World Sudoku Championship 2017
What better way to cap off session 1 than by completing a round with 6 minutes to spare!!.
That's exactly what I did here, in a very workmanlike round with just 120 points on offer.
We were asked to spot 6 particular grids that satisfied 6 different variants out of a maze of numbers, copy some rows to a blank Sudoku, and solve with classic rules.
I got 150 points in this round. ;). Harmeet got a 7-minute bonus, while Rishi and myself completed this round at the same time. There were many finishers in this round.
I felt pretty happy considering the way things had gone after that first round mishap.
They say, "Ignorance is Bliss" and they couldn't be more right, considering the way things were about to unfold for me from now on.
I had a good lunch and got back to my seat in time for round 5, Classics.


12 Classics in 30 minutes. I had planned on going from the high pointers, but got stuck in the highest pointer for a long time and forgot to guess. I had to forego it and finished 5 classics in the middle for 155 points, a total I rued, considering the fact that I had blown a great chance to climb up the Leaderboard :|
At the end of the day, I found out that I had broken a Classic out of the 5 with a guess that had gone wrong. 40 points blown. Ended up with 115 in the classic round, with 160 being the par score among the Indians.


World Sudoku Championship 2017 Competition in Progress
11 innovative variants to be solved in 50 minutes. I had resolved to start with the highest pointer, the Unique Squares Sudoku, and that was my fatal mistake in this round. I toiled on it for over 20-25 minutes but finally solved it. Tried to solve as much as I could in the remaining time, but managed only 3 more in the rest of the time, for a meagre total of 200 points out of 500 on offer.
Kishore aced this round, getting a whopping 335 in this.
I should have started from the lower pointers and then progressed further after upping my confidence. But instead, I went for the stars too early and ended up in the gutter:|.
This round too left me with an unfulfilled feeling, that I could have gleaned more off this round.


This was the last individual round of day 1, with Puzzles Sudoku Puzzles on offer. After a morale-sapping few rounds, I decided to give my best for this round and managed to solve 6 Sudoku Puzzles out of 8, for a total of 200 points. I was elated with my performance, but imagine my dismay when I found out that I had broken the Japanese Sums Sudoku. I had assumed that shading was enough and did not solve the Sudoku when the exact opposite was given in the Instruction Booklet :|. I was livid with my negligence regarding that. It was a rookie mistake to make :|.


This was a Team Round which we had made good preparations for. It involves 2 sub-teams within the team, who have to solve as many Sudoku puzzles as possible in 30 minutes in intervals of 10 minutes, after which sub-teams exchange the Sudoku sets they were working on. We bombed this round. Rishi and me, being a sub-team, couldn't simultaneously solve different Sudoku puzzles with him being a leftie and me being a rightie, and I would be lying if I said that didn't affect our respective solves. This was the only round where I felt the placing of all the 4 sudokus in one sheet could have been in one row so as to aid lefties and righties working together. I couldn't fill in a number without bumping into his elbow, and vice versa. We managed to solve only 2 sudokus that round. India B got more than 300 points more than us :|. When we thought things couldn't get any worse, guess what? They did.


In this team round, we had to match grids with their variant rules and then solve them. I am personally very bad at matching stuff and this sure did not bode well. We managed to match and finish only 2 sudokus and later found out we had broken one of them too.
India B also beat us in this round. Yeah, we suck at team rounds :(.


This was the figure-out-the-rules Samurai round with 2 Samurais to be solved. Rishi took one samurai and proceeded whereas the rest of us took the other. We managed to complete ours within the dying minutes and had also completed the other one partially. I felt that we had ended the day well, after a series of mishaps.
Team India at World Sudoku and Puzzle Championship 2017
Team India at World Sudoku and Puzzle Championship 2017

I and Kishore decided to give the PvP tournament (which Tantan Dai won) a miss and went back to our rooms after dinner, and discussed the next day's rounds. After a tiring day filled with great Sudoku solving, I went back to my room to have a good night's sleep.

Day Two of World Sudoku Championship ( My Disaster Day)

After having a good breakfast, the Indian team came to the competition hall. Scores till round 10 had been put up, and I found myself at 52nd place unofficially. Kota Morinishi of Japan was leading Tiit Vunk by a mere 10 points at this stage. I also learnt that I had broken 2 Sudoku puzzles for 80 points. I was devastated at this turn of events. I knew I had blown a great chance for a top 40 official finish. The team rounds didn't help my morale either, given we blew it big time. I got into my place and made myself mentally ready for the day's rounds.

Round 11-ALL IN ONE

World Sudoku Championship 2017 Round 11

This was a classic based round, with 10 classics having some common numbers that needed to be solved. I managed to buckle down and solve 8 classics and topped this round from the Indian side too. I felt this was an auspicious start to the day. Boy, how I was wrong!!.

Round 12-WHAT IS IT?

This was the instruction-less round, with 9 instruction-less Sudoku puzzles worth 500 points to be solved in 50 minutes by looking at the given solved examples to find the rules. I made a huge mistake by again starting off with the highest pointer, whose rules were easy to find, but was devilishly hard to solve. I toiled on it for 20-25 minutes to no avail, and that's when I knew I had blown this round. I managed to solve only 2 more easy ones for a total of 95 points. The average, from what I gathered, was around 200 points. This was a hard pill to swallow, given the next round was the dreaded joker round. I really enjoyed solving this after the WSC. The logic used to solve the Sudokus were phenomenal.

Round 13-THE JOKER

600 points in 50 minutes. The dreaded Joker. I took up the first fortress joker and broke it. Erased and broke it again. Went to product Joker as I had practised it a lot and finished it. Then took on 2 more easy jokers and completed them in a slow time. Came back to the fortress and was trying to correct my earlier mistakes when time got over. I had attended for a disappointing 150 points in this round. Although not terrible, it sure was not my best. When I received the papers for this round, I was shocked to see my score being only 85. I had left 2 digits blank in the product joker!!. This was a tough pill to swallow and left me in misery. It was a crushing blow.


This was the usual suspects round, comprising the normal variants all were used to. I completed 6/12 Sudokus in this for 225/500 points. I could have done one more for 270 points but ran out of time just as I was putting in the final digits. I was reasonably happy with this round. All things considered, session 3 was a nightmare for me, as expected. This is one area that needs huge improvement from my side, the ability to adapt to innovative rounds(12,13) and score well in them.


Session 4 started with a linked classics round (4 classics in 30 minutes). I found this really hard to make progress in, and although I did make progress, it was at a snail's pace. I couldn't complete even a single grid and even though part points for solved boxes were given, they were not much. I had assumed that most would have had difficulty in this round, but I was proven wrong when I found out that quite a few of my fellow Indians had solved at least 1 grid correctly for a good number of points. I ended up with a lacklustre 77/250 points, in a Round in which I should have ideally gotten at least 150+, and that was disappointing.


This was the screen test round. 16 Sudokus were shown on the screen, with one cell circled in each. We had to find out the digit in the circled cell in 1 minute's time for each Sudoku.

I attempted 15 and got 14 right for a total of 107 points out of 150. This was a pretty high score and I was happy at how things had ended from an individual perspective, but the damage had already been done :|. Rishi finished with a superb score of 130 points. He was clearly the best solver from the Indian camp in the WSC, and even after a hiatus of 2 years, still did well.

Round 17-SIXERS

This was the penultimate round of WSC 2017 and also a team round. In this round, we had to solve 36 6*6 Sudoku puzzles of 6 different variants and the place tiles on a base grid and copy them onto another answer sheet. The rules were very strict. We were not supposed to mark anything on the answer sheet, and that was where I made a fatal error that ended up costing us 325 points. We had blown through the 36 sudokus pretty fast, but while copying them onto the answer sheet, I had assumed that we could write the variant name as well as the number of the grid. We later found out, that we weren't awarded the 325 points because we had written the variant name as well in the answer sheet. I felt pretty guilty about this mistake of mine. No-fault on the organizers, who had expected us to solve them mechanically, which we didn't.:(


This was the last round of WSC 2017 and was also extremely enjoyable. 25 Sudokus to be solved by the four of us (12 classics and 13 variants) in 45 minutes. We did incredibly well in this round, solving 22/25 in the allotted time. I have to mention Kishore here, who solved brilliantly, mowing down variants like a charging bull. He would have solved at least 8-10 Sudokus in those 45 minutes, which in my opinion, is a whopping figure. Although we broke 3 sudokus in this round, which we found later, it was still a good performance. There ended WSC 2017. Although Day 2 turned out to be a bad one, I had had a lot of fun over these 2 days and felt sad that this had come to an end. We returned back to our rooms to relax and made our way back to the hotel for the gala dinner.
The dinner at the galaxy hall was an extremely well-conducted event, and even though the organizers were running late on the scores, they paced the award ceremony very well so we didn't notice it to be honest. 
The results were declared shortly after and they are as follows:     WSPC 2017 Results
Kota Morinishi ended up winning the WSC by a mere 3 points over Tiit Vunk. I don't think the WSC has ever been decided by a closer margin than that!!. Qiu Yanzhe of China finished 3rd.
Also, the Chinese team won the Team Event with an impressive performance, with Japan and France finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively.
The Indian team finished at a very disappointing 14th in the world, badly hurt by team round fiascos.
I ended up at 57th in the world with an official rank of 44, my personal best by a huge margin :) too. Rishi topped from the Indian side, with a 34th official rank, with Kishore not far behind at 35th.
I also finished 7th in the under 18 category :).
I do have to commend Aashay Patil and Hemant Malani for their incredible performances as debutantes. Hemant was not done yet, even scooping up second place in the Puzzle Innovation contest, behind Akash Doulani.
I also have to thank Matus Demiger of Slovakia for gifting me with a book of Sudoku variants, that I really look forward to solving.
Personally, I felt that I could have done much better with a more clever performance (picking the right Sudoku puzzles) on Day 2, but I was quite satisfied with my performance at the end of the day. After all, there are many more WSC's and WPC's to look forward to :).
World Sudoku & Puzzle Championship 2017 participants
On Day 3, I went for an excursion to Cubbon Park in Bangalore and then had a great lunch at Barbeque Nation. Interacting with Thomas Snyder and Tiit Vunk was also a nice experience.
There was still the small matter of the GP playoffs, in which I got to proctor the newly crowned world champion Kota Morinishi, who ended up 5th. It was a wonderful experience, getting the chance to see a world-class solver in full swing. Seungjae Kwak of Korea raced through a particularly difficult XV sudoku to come from 2nd place to clinch the Grand Prix for this year, with Tantan Dai from China and Tiit finishing 2nd and 3rd.
Pranav Kamesh during WSPC 2017
I thank all the organizers and the volunteers for ensuring that the event went smoothly (It sure did).
I thank Rajesh Kumar for giving me the opportunity to share my experience on his blog :).
I had a great time at this year's WSC and hope to have the same fun in the coming years.
See you all next year in Prague!


kishy said...

Very cool write - up Pranav.Good to see that you had realized where you went wrong which is really important for improvement.A great improvement compared to your rank in Slovakia.Keep getting better.Good luck :-)

kishy said...

Very cool write-up Pranav.It's good to see that you had realized your mistakes which in turn is very important to improve in future events.Keep getting better .Good luck :-)

Unknown said...

Nice write up . Congrats for your achievements . Set your goal and keep going.
We are proud of you Pranav.