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Sudokulogy

I enjoyed a bit of publicity this week with the release of the following video:

Reading the comments on the video have been highly entertaining, and I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts in response.

Sudoku is inherently a simple game. Unlike chess, there are finite number of boards. Solving sudoku by computer, thus is extremely simple — even brute force is a viable strategy. Or in layman terms, a computer can simply generate every single possible sudoku grid to find the one that matches the puzzle, and it will have found the solution. Because of this fact, some people feel that Sudoku is a meaningless pastime.

The truth of the matter is, that being human, I am unable to solve a puzzle by generating all possible grids. I have to rely on logic and heuristics, in order to produce a solution in any reasonable sort of time. Thus, solving a sudoku puzzle for me, is really a the mental analog of taking a jog. The solution that is produced is not really the end goal, rather I’m doing it for the exercise to keep my brain in shape.

I approach a sudoku competition in much the same way — it’s a race against other people, some more gifted, some better prepared, but all human and limited in their performance. In the case of Google Goggles, I lost in a foot race against someone driving a car. I found it a fun experience, and Google got to showcase an entertaining little feature of Goggles.

I am impressed by the creativity of the commentors who that claim that the program contains a complete index of all sudoku games, or that it simply Googles for a matching puzzle on the web. Really, solving is not all that hard. It’s finding the solution in the least steps that is. Just you wait Goggles, some day I’ll be able to write a billion numbers a second too, and we’ll have a rematch. :)

Tammy McLeod

Posted on January 13 2011 in

I made it home from Philadelphia, physically fatigued from lack of sleep and mentally exhausted from the cerebral calisthenics of the weekend. Despite my final condition, it was an excellent experience all around.

The puzzles at this competition were written by the 2007 and 2008 US Sudoku Champions, Thomas Snyder and Wei-Hwa Huang, both of whom have numerous world titles under their belts as well. Everyone had high expectations of the two, and I don’t think a single person was disappointed. Every single puzzle was beautifully constructed, designed to result in an elegant and enjoyable solving experience, and I certainly look forward to solving them again at leisure, once I’ve recovered sufficiently. Under the time constraints of competition (35-45 minutes per round), and given the difficulty level of the puzzles and sheer number we had to solve (8 or more a round!), it was impossible to give them their due appreciation.

The championship was structured as a decathlon — 10 rounds each comprising of puzzles designed to test a particular aspect of sudoku solving ability. The overwhelming majority of the puzzles were sudoku variants, which unfortunately, I am rather slow at, as a general rule. It was a well-executed concept, at any rate — and it certainly allowed each competitor the opportunity to realize his individual strengths.

The finals were especially interesting. One doesn’t usually think of Sudoku as a spectator sport, but Thomas and Wei-Hwa provided excellent commentary for the hour-long playoffs, accompanied by a real-time color coded chart that showed each person’s progress through the puzzles, as well as their projected performance for each upcoming puzzle, so the audience could clearly see if one competitor was likely to be faster than another in a particular area. This was made possible because each of the 10 playoffs puzzles was representative of each of the 10 championship rounds, and chart displayed the competitors performance in each round as a corresponding color.

2 days. 30 countries. 120 competitors. 100+ puzzles. 1 excellent championship.

A big thank you to all the organizers for a job well done and to the sponsors for making possible such a wonderful event. Congratulations to Jan Mrozowski of Poland for winning the individual trophy, and to Germany for winning the team events.

Tammy McLeod

Posted on May 6 2010 in

As the date for the championship draws closer, more information is being revealed about the puzzles and structure of the competition. Competition wiki page

Looks like there will be a lot of variants, and interestingly, a round containing puzzles that will be likely to need guessing. The US Sudoku Championships have never included puzzles that need guessing, as this starts to factor luck into a person’s results. But looking at the scale of the upcoming WSC, having one round that uses a little luck isn’t so bad, and may even keep things fun.

Actually, if I can get over the nervous excitement of participating in an international competition, I think I’m gonna find the entire event lots of fun.

Tammy McLeod

Posted on April 16 2010 in

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