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Sunday, August 24, 2014

World Sudoku Championship 2014

The 9th World Sudoku Championship was held in London, UK in August, 2014.

Official Website

The Indian Team for the WSC were the winners of the Times Sudoku Championship: Prasanna Seshadri, Rishi Puri, Sumit Bothra and me.

Prasanna, Rishi and me were in the team last year as well, and we secured 15th, 28th and 16th rank respectively, so, we were hoping to do better this year, in the individuals as well as the team (India were 7th last year). We had a B-Team too, Swaroop, Jaipal, Jayant and Kunal.

I've been on a long break from solving puzzles, but after ISC, I decided to prepare for the WSC. I received a jolt with a pathetic TSC performance, but I was glad I made mistakes in TSC, rather than ISC and hopefully WSC.

When the WSC IB was released, I was a little disappointed. And after the WPC IB was released, I spent all my time in preparing for WPC. Well, so much that I organized the WPC (World Practice Championship) on LMI.

So, what was wrong with WSC? Nothing wrong, it was just that the WSC looked a little bland. All the usual variants, some repetition among types, no hard Classics and nothing specifically to practice or prepare for. The rounds felt easy-ish and finish-able, and it did turn out that way.

Round 1 was good, I missed a couple of low-pointer Classics.
Round 2 was bad. I messed up the Surplus, missed the Killer (and later had a terrible error in Diagonal).
Round 3 was good, just missed the Max Triplet.
Round 4 was excellent, just missed the Inequality (and later had a single cell error in a Classic).
Round 5 was ok, got stuck at Killer Pro and lost some time, but managed a decent score.
Round 6 was a round I was dreading, and I didn't do well. Wasted time on the Toroidal that went wrong towards the end. Few more seconds and I could've finished the Parquet.

Round 7 was a team round, where we finished with bonus. We made a single digit error and lost half the puzzle points and all the bonus :-|
Round 8 was a team round that we royally screwed up. Well, we certainly didn't prepare enough as a team.

So, that was Day-1. I was 12th after the Day-1 results were out. Felt OK-ish. Playoffs chances were bright, but had to do well on the second day.
Prasanna had a terrible Round 5 and Rishi had an average day, pushing them outside the top-20.

I was all set for Day-2.

Round 9 was the 'big round', the longest round with maximum points. During last year's WSC, there was a similar 'big round' on the morning of the second day, which I totally messed up and dropped a few ranks. This year, I didn't mess up, but I didn't do my best either. I broke Clone and Cylindrical. Didn't have time for Between. And later had a mistake in Diagonal. Why can't I solve Diagonal Sudokus this year?
After this round I knew I didn't have any chance for playoffs. So, my goal was to at least improve on last year's rank (16th).

Round 10 was the last round, an overlapping sudoku (similar to last round of WSC 2012), and I like these. I finished WSC on a high by completing this round in 8mins, securing a 12-min bonus. Only 3 players finished better, with a 13-min bonus.

Round 11 was a team round where we had to solve sudokus that were linked. We were confident of doing well in this round since we all had 'different' variants that we liked, and we did well.

So, that was my WSC 2014. I stood 14th. Better than last year, but still a big gap between 10th and 14th. I'm happy I've been performing consistently over the years, with/without practice: My last 5 WSC ranks are: 14, 16, 8, 12, 15

Prasanna never really recovered from that bad round 5, and finished 21st. Rishi's performance was below par, 36th. Sumit made a couple of mistakes towards the end, and dropped out of the top-50, with his 55th.

Our Team was swapping between 7th and 8th over the rounds, and we thought we'll be 7th (again!). But, special thanks to the French team for making a goof-up in the last team round. They lost nearly 2000 points, and that pushed us to 6th, which is India's best team rank ever.

The playoffs format was different from last few years, and even though there were 10 in the playoffs, it was mainly a fight between the top-4. I found this format better than most other WSCs especially since, the worst case scenario for the preliminary toppers is 4th place.

Tiit and Kota were going head-to-head, it was a very close contest between the two, which Kota eventually won. (If he had lost, he would be WSC runner-up for the 4th consecutive year!). On the other hand, Tiit has won the preliminary twice but still can't call himself a WSC Champion. Well... that's life. Maybe next year.
(There was some problem with Bastien's and Jakub's papers during the playoffs, but I think, the organizers found a way out by awarding them joint 3rd place)

Congrats to Kota Morinishi for winning WSC 2014, Tiit Vunk for 2nd and Bastien-Vial-Jaime and Jakub Ondrousek for joint 3rd. They have been performing well consistently and they are the deserving winners.

View the complete WSC Results

Overall, I think this was a much easier WSC than the last few years. I enjoyed the sudokus, the rounds and the experience. The team rounds were fun and easy. The playoffs were good and fair. So, that brings an end to a good and successful WSC, but a little bland one. Yes, the only little negative is that too many standard variants, and some unnecessary repetition. But, I guess that's what made it feel easy and fun :-)

Thanks to UKPA and the UK Organizers and Volunteers for conducting this wonderful WSC. Thanks to all the authors for the enjoyable sudokus and hope to see more in future.

This was my 6th WSC, and it would be in my favourite two.

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