Coming up in March: the UK Open Sudoku and UK Open Puzzle Tournaments

rsz_selsdon-1News reaches this site of the precise details regarding the UK Puzzle Association‘s upcoming UK Open tournaments in sudoku and puzzles.

This year’s UK Open tournaments will take place over the weekend 21-22 March 2015, once again at the Selsdon Park Hotel in Croydon. This is the venue that we used for the 2014 World Championships. This growing annual event is a must for anyone with an interest in puzzles or sudoku. Although there will be a competition element to the weekend, more importantly it is the annual opportunity to mix with others sharing your interests in a relaxing environment.

For the competitively minded, there will be competitions. Each competition will be made up of manageable rounds, much like a mini world championship. There will be a variety of prizes on offer, including best newcomer, and best overseas competitor for each event. These events will be used as part of the selection process for the UK teams, where the top 2 British competitors in each event will earn a place on the A-team to represent the UK at the 2015 World Sudoku Championships (WSC) or World Puzzle Championship (WPC) that will be held in Bulgaria in October. Everyone is welcome to participate, including overseas competitors. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The sudoku tournament happens on the Saturday between 10:30am and 3pm; the puzzle tournament has its first session between 4pm and 6:30pm on Saturday and its second session between 10am and 4pm on Sunday. There will be a communal meal after the Saturday session and the reports of the catering from the World Championships (and the previous year’s UK Open) were very favourable.

The pricing is based on obtaining a mixture of day and 24-hour passes. What it means is that attending from 4pm to 4pm for the puzzle tournament and meal will cost £90 including bed and breakfast accommodation; if you want to attend both sudoku and puzzle tournaments, attendance will cost £120. Alternatively, if you live sufficiently locally that you just want to turn up for the tournaments only, that can be done for £60 – but when so much of the appeal is the good company and good food, that may be a false economy. (A more expensive, but possibly better still, option might be to stay for additional nights at the start and end, to enjoy more of the company and the venue.)

This site loves online puzzle contests, but getting together for events in person takes things to a whole new level, and attending the counterpart event in 2012 was a highlight of the year. If you have ambitions to represent the UK at the world championships, this event is particularly strongly recommended, though not absolutely essential; there’ll be at least one space on each of the sudoku and puzzle teams given to top performers on the online UK championships. Whether you consider yourself championship class or not, it’s recommended either way!

(Ooh yes, and if you fancy winning some money to help pay for your attendance, the second Quiz The Nation happens tonight from 8pm onwards, as discussed last week. New versions of the apps have been released for both Android and iOS; this site was among the proportion of players who struggled with the tech last week, though most people seem to have been fine, so update now in good time for tonight’s 8pm start. Downloading the app comes with free tokens to play the quiz; the top ten finishers get paid cash prizes of between £50 and £1,000 and there are spot prizes to be won along the way as well. It’s slightly more quizzy than puzzly, but the mental agility and intelligence rounds may well make it to puzzle fans’ tastes.)

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.

A week and a half until the World Puzzle and Sudoku Championships

World Puzzle and Sudoku Championships logoOne of the highlights of August will be the World Puzzle and Sudoku Championships, taking place in the UK for the first time – specifically, in Croydon between the 10th and 17th. These will include the ninth World Sudoku Championships, held on Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th, and the 23rd World Puzzle Championships, held between Thursday 14th and Sunday 16th.

The registration lists have been published for both the sudoku and puzzle championships; this site hopes to be able to treat the championships as the sporting events that they are and provide a preview, paying respect to the competitors’ past achievements. Both individual and team contests should be interesting for each discipline. You can also look at the sudoku and puzzle competition Instruction Booklets and admire the invention that has gone into the design of the puzzles to be solved.

There are both individual and team rounds to be solved, with the puzzle championship in particular remarkably thematic in its partition of puzzles to rounds. One particularly interesting collection is the “Afternoon Tea” round, where the puzzles are “T Sets”, “T Rooms”, “T for Tapa”, “T for Trees” and “T for Times Tables”, the last of which look interesting and original here. Also noteworthily smart is the “Table for Four” team round, which sees a different coloured pen given to each member of the four-person teams – then each player is restricted to marketing in 20 of the cells in their colour in each 81-cell puzzle, according to the puzzle’s rules. Great teamwork and co-operation required!

Many thanks to all the puzzle suppliers for the contest – the puzzle design has been a global effort with well over a dozen suppliers for each competition – and, of course, to the organisers. It’s not too late to join in if you’re interested as the event is still looking for further volunteers. If you’re sufficiently interested in puzzles to be reading this site, it’s likely you’d enjoy helping out behind the scenes, and it’s also unlikely that you’ll get this chance again for quite a while. The volunteering opportunities page describes what positions are on offer to choose from and also what’s in it for you in return. If it sounds fun, it’s too good an opportunity to turn down!

Could the World Puzzle Championship make your company a star?

"Walk of fame" star marked "your name here"The 23rd World Puzzle Championship and 9th World Sudoku Championship are happening in the UK this year – specifically, in Croydon between the 10th and 17th of August. They are looking for sponsors.

Sponsoring the championship offers very particular targeted publicity to an audience who are sufficiently interested in puzzles to travel around the world to solve them. There is expected to be between 200 and 250 attendees from 25 to 40 nations, representing six continents, of which probably two-thirds will be competing in one contest, the other or both.

Aside from the contestants, most of the other attendees will be representatives of national puzzle bodies but also there will also be people from various aspects of the puzzle business in attendance. The World Puzzle Federation has a list of members so you can see the sorts of publishing companies and other organisations that run national puzzle bodies, and what sort of people you might reach through the World Puzzle Federation members. The connection is particularly strong in China; Beijing Media Network are sponsors of the Chinese team, and provided wide coverage of the events last year. There was also a piece in the Guardian about the 2006 event which may give you a better feel of who turns up and what goes on.

The commonality is that everyone who turns up is massively interested in puzzles, and the competitors are extremely able – at the top end, definitively world class. Many of them are very successful in their outside lives, whether they are competitors or not. Because so many people there have demonstrated a massive commitment to puzzles, they could well have the combination of resources and wherewithal to be considered potential investors or at least making extremely valuable contacts.

Additionally, because there are so many representatives from national governing bodies present, you would have the chance to get your message out to the puzzle communities of dozens of nations at once, and in turn they would pass it on to their own members and local puzzle contacts. It would be likely to be possible for a sponsor to negotiate access and introductions to the people involved, if this were of interest.

In terms of publicity, there are plenty of solutions possible. A lightweight solution could be distributing flyers to contestants for both championships in the arrival packs. More intensively, there could be the scope to brand a logo on question packs, event banners, web sites or to sponsor evening events. At the top end, a title sponsorship of the event could be possible; imagine having the championship trophy presentations in front of a banner with your company’s logo!

If this is of interest, the best person to contact is the chairman of the UK Puzzle Association, Alan O’Donnell. (His phone number is available on request, but it seems unwise to post it out in the open!) He’d be the person able to answer any questions you might have.

UK Puzzle Championship: the stats

Latest UK Puzzle Association logoTwo weeks ago, this site previewed the UK Puzzle Championship taking place that weekend, then reviewed UK performances in puzzle contests. The results are published and this site congratulates everyone who is happy with their result.

The biggest congratulations of all go to James McGowan, the 2014 UK champion, who matched Neil Zussman’s achievement in 2013 of being not just the UK champion but also the top global scorer; Neil finished second in the UK this year, with Tom Collyer getting a UKPC personal-best third place. The number of UK participants on the scoreboard also continued its annual increase, with 25 troubling the scorer this year as opposed to 20, 22 and 23 in the previous years.

In fact, we can produce a year-on-year chart of UKPC performances, in the style of Tim Peeters’ charts:

 2011201220132014BestTimes
James McGowan112114
Neil Zussman 21213
David McNeill23  22
Tom Collyer864334
Steve Barge3 3533
Michael Collins946944
Adam Dewbery 13 442
Ronald4   41
Roderick Grafton125101054
furudo.erika 125753
Paul Redman5   51
Emma McCaughan61081164
Nick Gardner 106 62
Adam Bissett  13662
Nick Deller107 1573
Eva Myers147 1673
AJ Moore  9772
Mark Goodliffe7 131373
Chris M. Dickson10181922104
Gareth Moore16 11 112
Chris Nash  11 111
Heather Golding   12121
tom123513   131
Paul Slater   13131
Liane Robinson1514  142
Timothy Luffingham 14  141
Anthea McMillan  1517152
Kenneth Wilshire18201621164
Sam Boden 161719163
Robin Walters 1718 172
Abigial See17   171
Alison Scott   18181
blueingreen19   191
quixote 19  191
Andrew Brown20 21 202
Laurence May 20  201
United Kingdom  20 201
David Cook   20201
Eilidh McKemmie 22  221
Gary Male  22 221
River Edis-Smith  23 231
Daniel Cohen   23231
Abdul Hadi Khan   24241
shirehorse1   25251

Errors and omissions excepted and corrections are welcome; note that I decline to split places between players on equal scores on the “time left” tie-breaker. Many thanks to everyone who has been involved with setting the puzzles or organising the contest over the years!

There’s one online puzzle contest taking place this weekend: the sixth round of the World Puzzle Federation’s Sudoku Grand Prix. The instruction booklet for the 1½-hour Bulgarian round is available and the puzzles will be available to solve until Monday evening.

UK puzzle contest history

Mixed US and UK flagYesterday, this site discussed the upcoming UK Puzzle Championship, which starts at midday (UK time) today and runs through to the end of Monday. Looking further around the UK Puzzle Association site – and then going a little further and looking “underneath the hood” – there is (apparently an early version of) a UK puzzling “Hall of Fame” page, which is a lovely piece of work.

There are two areas to focus on: first, mention of the results of the past three years of the UK Puzzle Championship. James McGowan won the first two in 2011 and 2012, with Neil Zussman pipping him by 26 puzzles to 25 in 2013. (Neil also had the distinction of being the top global solver out of the 164 entrants from around the world, taking some extremely accomplished names with his accuracy and speed.) Secondly, the chart of UK team members at the World Puzzle Championships is extremely interesting. It still needs a little interpretation; for instance, I am listed with a position in 2004 despite being a non-playing captain, earning my position for solving on a United Nations team – but, on the other hand, that Guardian article I linked to yesterday reminded me that Nick Gardner was captain in 2006 and is yet not listed.

Nevertheless, we can use this to create an all-time A-team appearance table for UK team members. (This does give credit for appearances in 2002, where there were two UK team members attending but no UK A-team as such.) Credit, also, to Tim Peeters’ site for information about the UK team in 1996.

Six appearances: Nick Deller
Five appearances: Nick Gardner, David McNeill
Four appearances: Ken Wilshire
Three appearances: Simon Anthony, Steven Barge, Tom Collyer, Alan O’Donnell, Liane Robinson, Ronald Stewart, Neil Zussman
Two appearances: Chris Dickson, James McGowan, Gareth Moore
One appearance: George Danker, Meriel Lewis, Stuart Madison, Thomas Powell, Nick Savage, Lionel Wright, Chris Yates

We can also put together some stats about UK participation in the US Puzzle Championships, with a counterpart hall of fame as to which UK participants were highest-placed each year:

2014: Adam Bissett (6 participants)
2013: James McGowan (12 participants)
2012: Neil Zussman (22 participants)
2011: David McNeill (24 participants)
2010: Steven Barge (13 participants)
2009: Steven Barge (13 participants)
2008: Steven Barge (20 participants)
2007: Michael Collins and Nick Gardner (12+ participants)
2006: Steven Barge (26 participants)
2005: David McNeill (12 participants)
2004: David McNeill (6 participants)
2003: Luke Pebody (12 participants)
2002: Nick Gardner (4 participants)
2001: David McNeill (6 participants)
2000: Lionel Wright (6 participants) (courtesy of e-mail from Michael Curl of thinks.com)

A sharp fall in UK participation in the US Puzzle Championships in recent years, but this can be explained in part by the rise in emphasis on the UK Puzzle Championships, the USPC’s fixed timeslot, the shift in selection practices for the UK team for the World Puzzle Championship and a fall in the global participation in the US Puzzle Championships. Another interpretation is that there are dozens and dozens of past UK puzzle championship participants who have been lost to time; surely a challenge for the UK infrastructure is to get them involved once again.

UK Puzzle Championship this weekend

UK Puzzle Association logoGrief, there are a lot of online puzzle culture-free language-neutral contests all happening this weekend. (Next weekend looks almost totally bare by comparison!)

The highlight is undoubtedly the 2½-hour UK Puzzle Championship; start at any point after midday on Friday, so long as you finish by the end of Monday. As you’d expect for a UK tournament, these are based on the UK time zone. Score as many points as possible by answering some or all of the 26 puzzles. The instruction booklet is available so you can see what sorts of puzzles you’ll be asked in advance; perhaps there’s something of a focus on number puzzles, word puzzles and loop puzzles.

The UK Puzzle Championship is definitely deliberately at the accessible end of the long-form puzzle contest tradition – and 17 of the 26 puzzles are relatively low in tariff, so even relatively moderate solvers may well find good opportunities to surprise themselves that they really are able to solve puzzles that looked impossible at first site. More advanced competitors are requested to identify themselves for possible selection for the UK team in the World Puzzle Championship, this year held in mid-August in Croydon. (Recently, the report in the Guardian from the 2006 World Puzzle Championship turned back up again – broadly, good stuff, all round.)

The UK are also holding their 1½-hour round of the World Puzzle Federation Grand Prix this weekend on a similar timescale. This has 15 puzzles, the first 10 of which are reasonably familiar formats and the last five look slightly more unusual. There are two particularly high-value puzzles in the fifteen, so going for either of them would pose a rather high-variance strategy.

As well as the UK holding their annual Puzzle Championship, this weekend also sees India do the same thing. It too is the standard 2½-hour national championship length; while Indian solvers have very little leeway in their timing, global solvers have all weekend to choose their 150-minute solving window. There are 35 puzzles here, though slightly fewer different types. James McGowan has set some of the puzzles here, and also for the UK round of the WPF GP, both of which bode well.

Lastly, if you’re up between 6am and 8am UK time on Saturday 24th, there’s the 2-hour Japanese Puzzle Championship, whose 25-puzzle instruction booklet is something of a work of art in interesting variants. Unusually, the 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th… and so on finishers each win an official T-shirt, which is cute!

All of these are free to play and open to solvers all around the world. Enjoy!

What’s happening this weekend

weekly calendarSo there have been a couple of preview posts recently, but this weekend is as busy as any yet seen by this site.

Are you in Norwich? The Knightmare Convention, discussing one of the most beloved children’s puzzle shows in UK TV history, starts today, featuring a hunt very late on Saturday night, which promises to be distressingly cool.

Are you in Wrexham? Saturday sees the Silent State hunt through the town, as part of the European Opera Day celebrations. Tickets are still available, with the ticket page promising “a mixture of puzzles, music, intrigue and theatrical happenings”. Even if the puzzles were dialled down fairly low, this would still promise to be distressingly cool.

Are you in London? If murder mystery is your thing (and if it isn’t, you’re probably lost) then “get ready to explore, puzzle and pun your way through the streets of London” with a door in a wall‘s The Diplomatic Corpse hunt. Tickets are £30 per head for a 4½-hour team game, though twentysomethinglondon have a discount code for Tuesdays. Early reviews seem as positive as you would hope for an event that promises to be distressingly cool.

If any readers go to any of the above, this site would be delighted to feature reviews or reports from any of these events; please send e-mail to the usual address.

Are you far from Wrexham, Norwich and London? It could still be a big weekend! Solvers from all nations are invited to take the two-hour UK Sudoku Championship paper online between now and Monday night – and, if that’s not enough, the World Puzzle Federation’s Sudoku Grand Prix features 90 minutes of puzzles from Japan this weekend. Alternatively, Logic Masters Germany feature the 2½-hour online qualification round of the German puzzle championship this weekend; instructions are available in English, and it’s good practice for the US and UK counterpart puzzle contests of the same length over the next two weekends.

Coming up later this year: Spring

Spring logo(If you’re following a feed, you may recently have seen an early version of a future article posted in error that I have not been able to recall. Please ignore it, and sorry for the confusion.)

News has reached the site of events coming up later in the year: there’s enough to justify a two-part feature. First, the events coming up sooner rather than later.

Spring has become online puzzle contest season, for May is fully loaded with them:

May 9-12: WPF Sudoku Grand Prix round 5: Japan, online
May 9-12: UK Sudoku Championship, online
May 17: US Puzzle Championship, online
May 23-26: WPF Puzzle Grand Prix round 5: United Kingdom, online
May 23-26: UK Puzzle Championship, online

It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, you’re welcome to participate in all of the above. There is a particular initiative for UK participants, though; the top two participants in the UK Sudoku Championship will earn places in the UK team at the World Sudoku Championship, which will be in Croydon this year between the 10th and 17th of August. It’s likely, though not yet confirmed, that one or two places for the UK team for the World Puzzle Championship will similarly be awarded to top UK performers in the UK Puzzle Championship.

The instruction booklet for next weekend’s UK Sudoku Championship has been published; it’s a two-hour contest. The two WPF Grand Prix events are 90-minute contests, and the UK and US Puzzle Championships are traditionally two-and-a-half hour events, and likely to be two of the most interesting online puzzle contests of the year.

If you’re a real World Championship contender, you might want to take part in 3½-4 hours’ worth of puzzle contests in a single day, as practice for the real event (though both world championships tend to feature many, shorter, rounds, rather than two very long rounds). As for the rest of us… I tried it once, and consider it to be for the hardcore only!

Fast online contest, plus contest results

Logic Masters India logoI’m rushing ahead with what would have been Wednesday’s entry to point to the “FAST” online contest held by Logic Masters India, now in progress. You have one hour to score as many points as possible by completing up to twenty culture-free language-neutral puzzles, and they’ve been deliberately set at a difficulty level to give the best solvers a chance of sprinting their way through in an hour – but the deadline for completion is 11pm BST on Wednesday night, so you really don’t have time to hang around. You can see what types they are in the instruction booklet.

I haven’t written about Logic Masters India before; they are the Indian affiliate of the World Puzzle Federation, and have a long and glorious history of running online puzzle contests, usually one or two per month since 2010, usually to an extremely high standard. My favourites are their Screen Tests, which require quick thinking to the extent that they make even sprints like this “FAST” contest look like marathons. The site has had tests from very many different authors, with Russian crossword magazine editor Riad Khanmagomedov contributing his fifth contest from April 4th-12th. Our puzzle event calendar has been updated; with at least four online contests plus Puzzled Pint and DASH, April will be a busy month.

Last Thursday, I previewed two events that happened at the weekend. In the UKPA’s UK Open Puzzle Tournament, Neil Zussman swept the competition away to win handily, defending his title from 2012 in the UKPA’s largest face-to-face contest yet. The deliberately open nature meant that the Sudoku Tournament had a winner from Belgium, Vincent Bertrand taking first place, with the UK’s Tom Collyer placed second in both. Congratulations all round!

Strong UK performances also in the third round of the WPF’s online Puzzle Grand Prix; 287 solved at least one puzzle to earn a final placing, and two of the top six being UK solvers. Neil Zussman, that man again, finished sixth (after a second place finish in round two!) but he was pipped by a single point to fifth place by James McGowan. The UK really benefits from their friendly rivalry in the World Puzzle Championships and every other event they both enter. Kota Morinishi from Japan was the global number one this time. The weekend after next sees round four of the Sudoku Grand Prix.