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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

World Sudoku Championship 2015

The 10th World Sudoku Championship was held on 11th-15th Oct, 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Championship Page
Download Instruction Booklet

The Indian Team was selected from the Indian Sudoku Championship and Times Sudoku Championship 2015, where Prasanna Seshadri, Rishi Puri, Kishore Kumar and I form the A-Team.

Prasanna Seshadri, Rishi Puri, Kishore Kumar and Me

"We are the best four players of the country, as we finished in the top-4 of ISC as well as TSC. It looks like a strong team with Prasanna and Rishi in good form, being finalists in the Sudoku GP and Kishore being consistent among the Indian circuit.

The Indian team stood 6th last year, which is the best performance ever, and I hope we can break into the top-5 this year. That's our goal and its probably our best shot at it in the near future, since, Rishi is not planning to continue being an active participant from next year. It will be hard to find a replacement for someone at Rishi's level, but we'll hope for the best.

On a personal level, I'm aiming for a Top-10 finish. Its been a disappointing couple of years, where I stood 14th last year and 16th the year before.
Haven't been in the best of forms lately, with some career changes and travelling going on, but hoping to give my best and make India proud!"

All of us travelled separately. Prasanna and Rishi had to reach one day before for GP Playoffs, I was flying from Mumbai, Rishi was flying from Hyderabad and Kishore was flying from Greece. Well, so much for 'best team'.

The instruction booklet just looked like a shadow of WSC 2014 in London. Very similar structure and rounds and format. I was surprised, but then realized that the main authors of WSC are Richard Stolk (Netherlands) and Yuhei Kusui (Japan) and they might've been called at the last moment to save the event.

Being a big fan of Stolk's sudokus, I was looking forward to the championship.

The rounds and points (My points vs Highest points) were as follows:

Round 1: Classics (265 vs 330)
Classics! This round went fairly smooth, I solved in reverse, attacking the hard ones first and it paid off. I scored 265 and thought that is a good start.

Round 2: Assorted (410 vs 485)
Assorted sudoku variants. That's when the aroma of Richard started. Beautiful sudokus, enjoyable round and I did well.

Round 3: Assorted (395 vs 700)
This was a bad round. I broke Inner Frame and Sum Frame, and was generally slow in a couple of other puzzles. It broke my flow and I dropped a few places.
I spent far too much time on Max Triplet (which was an excellent puzzle).

Round 4: Straight (265 vs 285)
It was expected to be a simple puzzle. It was nice, mostly got solved using row and column non-repetition. Traditionally, I've done well on such rounds (reminded me of the WSC 2012 where the Overlapping round got me into the playoffs), and I'm glad I could finish it fairly smoothly.

Round 5: Assorted (640 vs 750)
The big round! I've messed up the big round in the previous two WSCs and I really really wanted this time to be different. It was. I solved in a very nice flow, cracking one sudoku after another, without a glitch. I got a Classic wrong at the end, but still, it was a solid score, that boosted me up a few ranks.

Round 6: Assorted (375 vs 465)
The dreadful round of irregular variants. It was surprisingly good. I took the safe way, solving the easy and medium ones and leaving out the hard ones. Worked. And worked well.

So, that was the end of the Individual Rounds for Day-1. When the results came out, it was a pleasant surprise to see myself in a solid 5th position. I felt I was closing in on my dream to get into the top-5 this year.

Round 7 (Team): Relay
The team round was interesting. Sudokus were nice, and we were hoping to finish the round. Kishore and Rishi got stuck up on the Irregulars. Rishi gave up on his and Kishore didn't manage to finish his either. Prasanna had to guess on his last grid (since Rishi's Irregular relay didn't come through) which went wrong.
And to make it worse, I left two cells of Extra Region as pencilmarks, thus losing chunks of points :-(

The Great Indian Team Round Debacles continue... year after year.

Round 8: Zodiac (275 vs 625)
Ahh, feel like kicking myself. This was the only big round on Day2, and even with a mediocre performance I would've maintained my top-10 position. But it was not to be. I broke two Arrow sudokus during the round and was never able to recover from that. To make things disastrous, I swapped 6 cells in the highest pointer - Gemini, which screwed my round completely, and I fell way below 10th.

Such a disappointment. We were on track to see two Indians in the playoffs for the first time, but I messed up. Thankfully, Prasanna maintained his calm and managed to be joint 8th before playoffs.

Round 9: Multi Sudoku (140 vs 170)
I was feeling so low... and fortunately this was a low scoring round. I felt like my hands were moving in slow motion during the solve, but it wasn't too bad at the end.

So, that completed the Individual rounds of WSC 2015. I finished 14th (same rank as last year), and certainly could've done better. Maybe next year.
But that also adds to me being in Top-20 in the last 6 WSCs. Only once in Top-10 :-(

Prasanna finished 8th and made it to the playoffs, so there was something to look forward to.

Round 10 (Team): X-Killer
This was a round that most teams were looking forward to. But the organizers cancelled it due to technical issues.
Disappointing, since we had practised this well. In fact, we hosted the practise set as a contest on LMI: X-Killer
Wonderful sudokus by Deb Mohanty.

Round 11 (Team): Fractal
With our first team round going bad and second being cancelled, we had to do well on this one. It was a nice simple linked multi-sudoku, where each of us started solving from the four corners and came to the centre. We finished fairly quickly, but... The Great Indian Team Round Debacle hit us again! We swapped two digits in Kishore's corner, lost 'a lot' of points, including all the bonus.

Nice to see Prasanna Seshadri in the playoffs, we had an Indian there after my playoffs in 2012. He surely is a crowd-entertainer with a phenomenal performance in the playoffs first leg where he finished first among the four, thus taking him into the second leg and guaranteed 7th place.
The second leg was hard, with Bastien in 4th and having a time advantage. Bastien managed to win the leg to join Kota, Tiit and Jakub for the final leg.

Well, the same four finalists of WSC 2014 battle it out again in WSC 2015. Kota having a big lead and time advantage, raced through the playoffs, winning his second WSC crown on the trot. Tiit came in second and Jakub third, all as expected. Playoffs wasn't really exciting.
Congrats to Kota, Tiit, Jakub for the podium finishes.

Download Complete Results

Tiit Vunk (Estonia), Kota Morinishi (Japan), Jakub Ondrousek (Czech Republic)

So, Prasanna finishes 7th, which improves on my best Indian rank of 8th at the WSC. Congrats to him and this made Rishi's (so-called) last WSC memorable. Rishi finished a disappointing 38th and Kishore did well on his debut with 47th.

7th - Prasanna Seshadri (2825)
14th - Rohan Rao (2765)
38th - Rishi Puri (1950)
47th - Kishore Kumar (1748)

B-Team and UN-Team
Rakesh Rai (1890)
Amit Sowani (1845)
Jaipal Reddy (1509)
Swaroop Guggilam (1287)
Gaurav Kumar Jain (1185)
Puneet Goenka (900)

Team India finished 9th. This is bad, considering we have been in Top-8 for the last four years. Something to dwell upon and improve.

Thanks to Richard Stolk, Yuhei Kusui, Deyan, Galya, all the other organizers and volunteers for conducting this WSC. Puzzles were fantastic, hall and seating was comfortable and overall a great experience.

Lets hope the WSC 2016 in Slovakia proves to be bigger and better. And I really hope the Indian team breaks newer and more records next year.

And guess what? India won the bid to host the World Championships in 2017! So, hoping to see you all in Bengaluru in two years time!

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