WPC 2012: WSC over, WPC starting tomorrow

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.


3 Responses to “WPC 2012: WSC over, WPC starting tomorrow”

  1. David McNeill Says:

    Delighted that you’ll be blogging during the championships. Feeling a bit out of it here. Only redeeeming feature is that my scoring has improved slightly on Crocopuzzle with all the absentees.

    Understandable that you’re preoccupied with the playoff format, as I’m expecting you to be on stage right up to the death. However, I think there is a lot of kudos for the puzzler who finishes top after the first couple of days. I think everyone will recognise Kota’s achievement in topping the Sudoku rankings after the first day. At the same time, we should congratulate Jan for pipping Kota at the post after beating everyone else over the first day.

    Putting the playoff to one side, there is surely going to be an epic competition for the accolade of top solver over the frst two days. It will be interesting to see how fresh Thomas and Ulrich are after sitting out the Sudoku championship, and whether this will make them more competitive in the WPC.

    Will be interested to hear how you found the puzzles. Expecting Round 3 to sort the men from the boys. Good luck to you and all the other competitors (especially UK).

  2. Thomas Snyder Says:

    I don’t complain about the format to make friends. And I know my strong language may diminish the view some have of me, by being able to pigeonhole me as the also-ran who never won and just whines all the time about just about everything. I am very cognizant of the criticism I’ve received that “I whine when I lose, and love the puzzles when I win.” This overgeneralizes things a bit, but is a view a reasonable person could have if they read my reports.

    But, as I said, I’m not in this to make friends. I speak out because I think there are serious issues and the competitors’ voices aren’t often heard. We are the ones with the most at stake in an individual competition, and it would be useful if proper considerations were made to build a sustained and thriving ecosystem of puzzle creation and competition. Puzzling cannot be a serious sport, or grow beyond this small community, if we keep following the path we’ve been on. Any set of rules can allow a Toiletgate, but there should be a learning process. My “Open Letter to the World Puzzle Federation regarding Sudoku Championships” (http://motris.livejournal.com/70037.html) was when I could simply not be silent any longer, and I’ve been outspoken since. Months later, with another open letter, I was willing to risk my reputation and also give up my second place prize by publicly calling for an investigation of Eugene Varshavsky after suspicious performance at a sudoku tournament with odd rules regarding electronic devices. The investigation disqualified Eugene, but I’m not sure I see this injustice rectified if the world champion wasn’t being the source to several media outlets raising the stink.

    And its not just that speak out. I took a year off from the WSC to help show countries how a team can run a dynamic and interesting and fair event that includes playoffs. For all the years fighting jet lag at these tournaments, I could have simply gone to Philly and slept soundly with a great chance to win a 3rd title. Instead, I gave up this chance to show how tournaments can, and should, be run in the future. I still get complements all the time about our great rounds and puzzles, and especially for a playoff that let the best solvers show their skills while entertaining and educating the audience in new ways. I value what we accomplished at WSC5, particularly the ovation Wei-Hwa and I got at the awards dinner as the puzzle/competition designers, as more meaningful than any title I’ve ever won, and I’ll value that moment more than almost any other for the rest of my life.

    So having “walked the walk, not just talked the talk”, when I’m at WPCs/WSCs and see unacceptable mistakes about 50% of the time in playoffs that cause serious problems, including two full reruns for broken puzzles or solutions, one other scrapped round (which deprived Ulrich of his puzzle selection option) for a repeated puzzle, repeated puzzles, formats that do or do not reward the best solver, formats that reward quitting and not solving puzzles, and so on, I cannot stay silent when there are obvious and easy fixes. Was any competitor asked to pre-test the playoff puzzles or check the solutions? This is always called on before the second re-run, cause organizers are panicked, but the WPF could set up a puzzle review board easily to make sure mistakes don’t happen. It might take 4 years of discussion to decide to maybe possibly vote to vote next year on such a thing, but this is just complete disfunction in the face of glaring evidence. So I’ll speak out and it won’t necessarily make me many friends, or endear me with some organizers who I criticize, but I simply cannot remain silent when I see a crazy world and don’t hear enough other voices saying we can do better. If someone ripped Hemingway (to let me rip from the film Se7en) and wrote “The World [Puzzle Championship] is a fine [event] and worth fighting for”, I’d say I agree with the second part. I’ll be fighting for a meaningful logic puzzle championship for the rest of my life.

  3. Fred Stalder Says:

    Concerning the irregular diagonal of the WSC playoffs:

    You can’t blame the organizers about the amount of time Kota and Jan spent on this puzzle. Yes, it was probably the most difficult puzzle of the playoff set; Yes, it should not be easy to solve it on a large board. BUT: Jan solved it almost 2 times, because he had to start again after discovering he made a mistake. Without the mistake, He probably would have done a far better time.
    Kota solved the “Snow white irregular diagonal” of round 3 (which one did not solve Jan, or at least he had not the right solution), which has exactly the same region shapes, so he probably remembered some important points with that puzzle (applying LoL technique between rows and columns 3/4 and 6/7, etc…). If he failed to solve it once during the time needed to Jan to solve it almost twice, I think it’s not disrespectful to say that it’s his own fault ! I’m pretty sure he regrets not being able to solve it faster, and if he try it again, I’m sure he’ll be able to solve it in less than 10 minutes (at least on paper). Come on, guys, A world champion should be able to solve this sudoku (and I’m sure Kota is able to do so).
    In the final match Kota vs Jan, there was no “starting” or “judging” problems, Jan simply played better than Kota. I wouldn’t say the match was not good, shapes of irregular were too crazy, or I don’t know what else.
    I’m happy to see that the puzzles in the playoffs weren’t not too easy, not bringing only advantages for “sprinters”. It was a motris’s critic after the BIST tournament 2011 and probably that organizers knew that some players don’t like that playoffs puzzles advantage some types of player.

    If we want that things change, we (players) must find some guidelines that a majority of players agree (it’s a bit like swiss politic: you must work hard to find a majority to have a chance to change something).
    I think there could be a lot of things about which lot of players would agree, we should use the topic opened by onigame (http://forum.worldpuzzle.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=88&p=226&sid=bd3a8533c911bfafb1d3de39de4c6b59#p226) to construct some guidelines, instead of complaining each on our own blog.

    Making some criticism is useful and we need it. Not talking only about things you disliked, but also mentioning things that were good/better than previous years can help to digest harsh critics (I think there were some good things this year).

    I can’t agree with the sentence: “his (Jan’s) WSC wins came from a maligned playoff format”, probably it was right in Zilina, but in my opinion it is far from the reality this year. And even if I would agree, I find disrespectful to Jan and the organizers. These kind of words will surely not help to improve the competition.

    When I read your blog and motris blog, I sometimes think that I was not at the same championships !


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