World Puzzle and Sudoku Championships, London 2014: a personal opinion

"FIN" film stripThis will very probably be the last post this site makes as part of its London 2014 coverage. This site generally tries to keep its coverage relatively neutral and personality-free; this, unusually, is an opinion piece from one of the Exit Games UK authors.

It’s probably no surprise that people in the UK Puzzle Association started seriously kicking around the idea of bidding to host the World Puzzle and Sudoku Championships in the UK around the time of the 2011 event; the bid to host the event in 2014 was made, and accepted, as part of the 2012 championships. At the time, I was a dissenting voice. My opinion on the proposed bid ran as follows:

Bluntly, but completely honestly, I think 2014 is – at the very least – a year or two too early for the UKPA to be considering running the annual WPF tournaments. I get the impression that it’s going to be a huge process and will largely consume the efforts of the association for a year or two.

While the UKPA is so small, my preference would be to spend at least the next couple of years focusing on expanding our membership and getting a strong domestic puzzle scene going, so that we can build up really strong and enthusiastic resources before we take on the biggest project of them all.

I sent this by private message to the UKPA’s directors. It was clear that mine was a minority opinion, so I had my say once, left it at that, and drifted away from the UKPA, leaving them to do their own thing. They do it extremely well; I wrote a preview of the UK Open face-to-face puzzle and sudoku championships in March, and of their online UK Puzzle Championship, probably my single favourite long-form online puzzle contest each year, in May. I’ve given publicity to the UKPA’s activities where and when I can, without otherwise being involved.

After having attended the face-to-face UK Open events in 2012, I was convinced that, while the UKPA membership was small, it had sufficient talent to be able to run the world championships… barely. I would never have said that I thought they couldn’t do it, but I did think (but not say out loud) that, in practice, the organisation was so small that they couldn’t do it without driving themselves incapable through overwork, to the point of putting the organisation itself at risk.

The last two weeks show that, as it turns out, I was wrong. I acknowledge that and am delighted to have been proved wrong.

It’s likely that the team putting together the event was one of the smaller teams in recent years. It’s definitely true that there was an immense amount of work put in long before the event came to fruition, and very little sleep indeed was had by the people running the event while the week itself was in progress. I haven’t yet seen a great deal of long-form blogging about the event itself (though see Roland Voigt, Palmer Mebane and the Canada team) but the social media instant feedback I’ve seen has been extremely positive.

Accordingly, while there is not yet necessarily much primary source material to suggest how this year’s championships compared to previous years, the second-hand feedback implies that it was about as good as the event has yet been, and certainly at the very top end of expectations. I get the impression that the event was relatively low in terms of bells, whistles and miscellaneous “jazzmatazz”, but that the important bits were all present and correct. Certainly there were no broken puzzles, which is to the event’s massive credit.

While thanks and praise should be given to puzzle authors from around the world, for the puzzle-writing has been a global task for years now, as far as editing and testing are concerned, the buck stops with the local organising committee, and they did not disappoint in the least in that regard. Full spreadsheets have now been published with the World Sudoku Championship scores and World Puzzle Championship scores; while my preview may not have picked the winners, I’m adequately pleased with the extent to which I was there or thereabouts.

Many congratulations and great gratitude to the organisers and volunteers who put on the year’s event. Their hard work and excellent results have done the UK proud. Next year’s championships have been announced as taking place in Bulgaria; if you’ve enjoyed this site’s coverage of this year’s events, and think you might enjoy taking part in an event that will get covered in the same way around the world next year, start your practice now! Details of qualification for the 2015 UK teams will be published as soon as they are available.

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