The 11th World Sudoku Championship (WSC) was held on 17th - 18th Oct, 2016 in Senec, Slovakia.
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Pranav was our Under-18 participant, and after a good show at last year's World Junior Championships, he made it to the Top-2 inexperienced solvers of TSC this year.
I've been off the grid, primarily due to my work and career aspirations of pursuing Machine Learning, so I didn't have high expectations this year. This might also be my last World Championships as a participant, as I'm one of the organizers for next year's championships in India, after which I'm uncertain of continuing.
The Slovak team have been doing well in recent years, in contests, in authoring, in communicating, and I think a lot of people were expecting these championships to be good fun. And it definitely was. The IB was crisp, rounds were well thought of, themes were really nice.
Retrospectively, the timing of all rounds were spot on, and it was one of my best WSC experiences in the last 8 years.
The puzzles were all well-made, a good mix of easy, medium and hard puzzles, a good variety of standard vs new variants, some really exciting team rounds, and overall it felt like a complete well-balanced WSC. Thumbs up for all the authors and organizers for the excellent event.
I must admit that there were some parts where I felt deja-vu, strikingly similar to some of the ideas we've been discussing for next year's WSC. Well, there's no limit to innovation!
The Indian team performed average-ish this year. I was the top ranked Indian on 18th, which is our worst 'top rank' in the last 9 years! But as a team, all four of us were ranked in Top-40, which is a first.
Prasanna finished 21st, Rakesh 32nd and Kishore 38th. Rakesh's and Kishore's personal best.
We finished 6th in the team standing, equalling our best team rank in 2014.
The unofficial players: Amit stood 53rd, Gaurav 73rd, Rajesh 76th, Swaroop 85th, Jaipal 93rd, Pranav 94th, Akash 104th and Ashish 141st.
Prasanna has been in tremendous form in the GPs, but had quite a bad WSC this year.
He's doing well in elections too! (Yes, he got elected as a board member in the World Puzzle Federation, but more on that later)
Jakub Ondrousek (Czech Republic) performed extremely well in the rounds and was on top with a sizeable lead over Tiit Vunk (Estonia) and Kota Morinishi (Japan). The three of them have been consistently topping the WSCs last few years, and this one was no different.
But it was the Estonian who flew through the playoff puzzles and pipped Jakub to take his first title, after finishing runner-up in the previous two years. Hearty congratulations to Tiit! A well-deserved win.
Jakub was second and Kota stood third.
Among the teams, Czech Republic blazed through the playoffs to win it, while the Chinese came in second, with an amazing performance, where three of them were in Top-10 too (let aside the fact that they are all U-18!) and Japan came in third.
View Complete Results
I've always enjoyed the GP rounds through the year, but never perform well in them, quite unlike the WSCs. Somehow, it makes me feel I'm more of an offline solver, rather than an online one (Even of the 10 ISCs so far, only 4 were held offline, and those were the 4 I won!).
There was a lot of debate on the new scoring system, and I didn't share my thoughts earlier since I was just uninterested and busy. But, I ended up 14th in the GP, and due to high dropouts in the Top-10, I was invited for the playoffs.
And I decided not to compete. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is, I reviewed my performance and felt I didn't deserve to be in the playoffs. Using some simple normalization, I would lose at least 2 more ranks, which is a fairer position for me. And secondly, the schedule this year had more rounds, and having the GP in between them is just exhausting. Besides the fact that I wanted a decent rank in the WSC if this is my last one, so preferred resting.
I don't want to comment too much on the scoring, but there's no harm in trying new ideas, I'm always in favour of experimenting. Tom Collyer, the Sudoku GP Director, received some slack on this, and I'm not sure its completely fair to him.
It is just my personal opinion and preference that some form of normalization does make a better scoring system. We (LMI organizers) have seen it in the past... we even changed it in the middle of SM and PR, and decided to add normalization after 2 rounds, when we realized it is extremely difficult to curate 8 rounds of 'equal' solving experience.
It remains to see what happens next year. The Sudoku GP Director spot is currently open (Tom stepped down).
Overall, the GPs were still a lot of fun with high-quality puzzles. Thanks to Tom, Hana, Wei-Hwa, all the authors, testers and everyone else who put in effort conducting these year-on-year.
The top-3 in the playoffs were Tiit Vunk (so he won the double), Kota Morinishi and Hideaki Jo. Congrats!
Kudos to Zuzana Hromcova and the entire Slovak team for hosting this wonderful event. It was smooth, it was punctual, it was lively, it was fun! Thanks a lot!
This year, there were several prizes (and some spot prizes too!), which is generally nice to have.
There was a prize for guessing the 11th place player (being the 11th WSC), and we analyzed the results after two rounds, to choose the most probable twelve people who'd be 11th, distributing the votes among us twelve Indians.
And we bombed it like anything. We ended up guessing the players ranked 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 19th, etc. Damn we missed Takuya! :-)
Slovakia have set the bar high, and the Indian team will be hosting all you wonderful people next year during the same week (15th - 22nd Oct, 2017) in Bengaluru, India. I look forward to it as much as many of you, and hope it is a successful and enjoyable WSC.
I've got some plans through the year, so, its going to be an interesting next few months and I hope most of them work out as expected. Fingers crossed!
Feel free to write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org in case of any help/queries/questions regarding next year's event. We'll have our webpage out soon, and the LMI forum is always available and active for other discussions!
And now, back to boring non-puzzle life :-|
P.S. Will be writing an update on WPC by the weekend.