Times Sudoku Championship Review 2013

I think today I will just write about the Times Sudoku Championship in India which took place last weekend to determine Team India for the WSC 2013 to be held in China.

The prelims were conducted across 4 cities in India and top four from each location were invited to the finals.

The finals were preponed to 2nd August making it crazy to have it on a weekday. I was not even sure I would go as it clashed with the Annual Day celebrations at my sons school. However a few people, which included my wife, Jaipals Wifecompelled me to go and I booked my tickets at the last minute.

The only thing wrong about it was that all candidates outside of Mumbai had flights early in the morning, which meant that all of us had to be up by 3am to get ready and reach the airport in time to catch their respective flights. This can actually be physically taxing and mentally draining as the tournament progresses.

Anyways we all reached the airport in time and it was great catching up with all the finalists. Quite a few techniques and ideas were exchanged.In the name of breakfast a sandwich and a cup of tea/coffee was arranged and the competition began at 9am. Funny thing was there were no tables. Just chairs which had small writing desks attached to it as we have at most colleges and universities. Being a left handed person this was inconvenient for me and I decided to sit on the floor and solve the puzzles.

The first round was a sprint round consisting of 16 6x6 sudokus. There were pairs of classics followed by regular variants. The sprint round was of 25 minutes. IT was a nice sprint. I got stuck in a killer, for which I was kicking myself later as I wasted about an extra 2 minutes on it. I completed them all in 20 minutes but spent around 3 minutes checking to make sure there were no errors. I submitted with 2 minutes to spare. Rohan and Prasanna also completed the round but they also checked for errors and they submitted without any time remaining for bonus. So I assumed if all of us have correct entries then I have gained a vital 20 point lead over them due to the time bonus.

After a quick 10 minute break. The second round of Classic Sudokus began. 8 sudokus to be completed in 45 minutes. Now PS, Rohan and I are all strong and we were seated in a single file. I was ahead, with PS sitting behind me and Rohan bringing up the rear. We all began in earnest and Rohan was the first to submit with 13 minutes remaining. I finished a minute later but then again spent 2 minutes checking for errors and finally submitted with 10 minutes remaining. PS completed, checked and submitted with no bonus. No scores had been announced as yet so keeping the assumption that no mistakes by any of us, I had a cumulative time bonus of 12 minutes, Rohan had 13 minutes and PS none. Jaipal reddy in the mean time had completed round two with 2 minutes to spare. Which meant Rohan had taken a 10 point lead over me.

Another short 10 minute break and Round 3(Variants) started. No scores of previous rounds yet. This was the round where my body and mind started acting up due to the early morning flight. We had 8 variants to complete in 60 minutes and Prasanna came back with a vengeance. He completed it with a whopping 20 minutes to spare. Rohan completed with 11 minutes to spare. I got stuck on an Irregular and the mind just went blank. Left it and finished the last 2 puzzles before coming back to the Irregular. The moment I came back to the puzzle the opening was staring me right in the face and I quickly finished it. I submitted with 8 minutes remaining. Which means at the end of Round 3, Prasanna and I both had a cumulative time bonus of 20 minutes and Rohan with 24 minutes time bonus. Which meant Rohan was ahead of us by 40 points with PS and I joint second.

We broke for lunch and when we came back yet no points displayed. So we had no clue or idea as to where we stood. The fourth Surprise round was basically a mechanical sudoku. 9 tiles to be placed and the Squared Outline Sudoku to be solved in 50 minutes. Now this is more of a puzzle than a sudoku which is definitely not a sudoku. There was no time bonus in this round, just position bonus. The first person to finish would get 50 points bonus and the fifth person getting 10 minutes bonus. Now I knew with Rohan and Prasanna being really strong in puzzles I had no chance of catching up with them and mentally resigned myself to the third position. Rohan was the first to submit.and then with the clock reading 29 minutes into the puzzle I submitted. I was surprised to see that I was the second person to finish behind Rohan. It was a wonderful puzzle with a great break in. Prasanna was the third to complete but I was atleast assured that I had taken a 10 point lead over him and would be second in the worst scenario. Jaipal was the fourth person to finish this puzzle. Now all we had to do was anxiously wait for the final results and the final points tally.

Deb in the mean time had computed the results and within 5 minutes of end of round 4 the results were announced. Jaipal having finished 2 complete rounds was announced the fourth placed competitor with 1205 points, as was expected. Then to everyones surprise the third place went to Rohan with 1750 points. It seems he had made 3 errors in Round one which cost him 90 points.Prasanna got the second place with 1750 points again as he had also made an error in Round one costing him 30 points. Since Prasanna had a better score in the variant round he was placed ahead of Rohan. I breathed a sigh of relief when I was announced the winner with 1790 points. Biggest plus for me over the last couple of years in international events has been my ability to control and eliminate all the stupid mistakes I would make. Finally it was a great feeling to be on top in India. So the Indian team comprises of me, Prasanna, Rohan and Jaipal. This in my view is a really strong team which can give the other top countries a run for their money in the team championship.

So Team India go give it your best shot.