The WPC begins tomorrow morning. Still getting some last minute preparation and strategizing done for the day ahead.
This morning I watched the WSC playoffs, which ran under the same style as the WPC ones. Many of the problems I had foreseen with the format came to pass, and Thomas‘s post discussed pretty much all of the ones I did not. The amount riding on each individual puzzle still feels inappropriately high. Being used to the easel is a huge factor too. 1st seed Kota in particular seemed to be struggling with it, and it may have been the primary reason Jan M (2nd seed) nabbed the title in the finals. In that series, there was a particularly wacky irregular (aka jigsaw) that Kota was stuck on for awhile, despite (I was told) irregular being an extremely strong variation for him. Thomas pointed out the critical long-range deduction that he was missing for awhile (before Kota even found it) and noted that with these crazy shapes it’s far easier to see the logic on paper than when trying to deal with a huge easel.
(I guess complaining like this is kind of cruel to Jan, since another of his WSC wins already came from a maligned playoff format, but it’s not his fault a good match couldn’t be had. His playoff solves were far and away the most impressive of the lot in all of his series, even starting over a broken finals puzzle done in unerasable marker by circling the numbers he had reconfirmed and writing over the wrong ones. That could not have been easy.)
Furthermore, there seemed to be a very low correlation between whether you chose a puzzle type and how it went for you. In each series the 1st and 3rd puzzle types (and 5th if finals) are chosen by the higher seed, and the 2nd (and 4th if finals) are chosen by the lower seed. In two of the WSC series, one of them the finals, the first three puzzles were Loss-Win-Loss for the higher seed. That’s three out of three losses for the one that picked the type. What kind of advantage is that? The problem is probably exacerbated for Sudoku, where the pool of types is not all that varied, but even for the WPC you have no idea what kind of instance will come up when you pick a type. The reason this matters so much is because this is the only advantage given to higher seeds in the format, excepting a tiebreaker contingency that I can’t imagine happening. I won’t bat an eye if #1 falls to #8 in the quarterfinals in a few days.
I said last post I wouldn’t put much weight on the playoffs and aim to top the prelims. I also hypocritically said I would keep quiet about what I did well on each round in anticipation of the head-to-head format. I’m retracting that, to prove that I really have little confidence the format and its results. I’ll be posting full details about my experiences on each round in my updates. If I do make the playoffs, my adversaries can make use of what I post. Fine by me.
I also get the impression that there are others who are sick of people like Thomas (and now me) moaning about the format problems every year. Even for last year’s outstanding Hungarian-run tournament we both still had issue with how the playoffs were done. I don’t think either of us would be so upset if it weren’t called a world championship. What’s the point of being competitive when all that effort can get thrown away by a stupid format or an organizer error? Imagine such things happening in the olympics. Or even in chess: google “Toiletgate” for a fun, borderline hilarious, world chess championship story.
Well, there’s still the preliminaries. May the best man (and team) win after two days.