Last time, I explained a little about the format of the World Puzzle Championships, and, in part two of this series of posts, I thought I’d explain a little about the experience of taking part in the Championships, which I did, for the fourth time, this summer in sunny Croydon.
The UK Puzzle Association has been planning the World Sudoku and World Puzzle Championships for at least a year. It’s worth pointing out that the UKPA consists entirely of volunteers, whose ranks when it comes to preparation were depleted by some competitors necessarily removing themselves in order to compete. There’s far too many names to thank and congratulate here, and apologies for anyone that I’ve missed out, but Alan O’Donnell, Liane Robinson, Tom Collyer and Gareth Moore and many more worked their socks off to make this tournament work. I was able to do a little bit to help by means of invigilating and marking the Sudoku Championship – the highlight being one of the live markers in the final and getting a photo of the back of my head in the I newspaper (for some reason they seemed to prefer pictures that focused on the competitors – go figure!) But once that was over, it was time for the World Puzzle Championship!
Each country has its own qualifying procedures, and the UK has a generous one – there are two ways to qualify. Two places are up for grabs at the UK Puzzle Competition, an onsite competition that resembles the WPC, the other two places from an online competition run by the UKPA. It’s nice to get two chances, as if it had only been the online one, then I wouldn’t have qualified this time!
This is the fourth time that I’ve taken part. While I’ve qualified for the team (I think) every year since 2006, the competition tends to be run in early November, so, being a school teacher, I can only go when the competition coincides with half-term. I’ve been to Bulgaria, Belarus and Minsk, but as the years go by, the standard of the competitors gets higher and higher, while mine stays the same. Each year my ranking drops a little lower – my target was 50th, but I came in 69th this time. And the score that I would have needed for 50th was way out of reach.
Imagine sitting an exam. Now imagine sitting about six hours worth of exams for two consecutive days. Now, imagine they are the sort of exams where the majority of candidates are expected to be able to finish only about half of the paper. Not everyone’s idea of fun, is it? And what’s more, imagine a competition that you have absolutely no chance of winning…
But it’s an amazing experience. Tense, at times stressful (ask anyone who I spoke to immediately after a disastrous Round Nine – and if I haven’t apologised to you yet, sorry), but the chance to stretch yourself and compare yourself to the best in the world is unmissable. Add in the fact that puzzlers are some of the friendliest people that you can meet, and the competition is a wonderful experience.
How much longer I can keep taking part is anyone’s guess. The UK has at least two genuine contenders in the team now (not me!) and, hand on heart, there must be more out there – either people in the current set-up who have more time than me to climb the ladder, or people who we haven’t encountered yet. Maybe even someone who’s reading this blog…
… and if they come back to the next (and final) post in this mini-diversion, I’ll let them, and anyone else, know where to find loads of practise puzzles for free, how to compete against the world puzzling community and how, if they’re in the UK, how to try and qualify for next year’s team.
Oh, if you want the solutions to the puzzles in the last post, pop over to Rich’s Complete Disregard For Spoilers blog where he’s written a walkthrough for both of them. Thanks, Rich.