14th World Puzzle Championship 2005

Eger, Hungary Oct 8th - Oct 13th, 2005

Trip Report

© Liisa Sarakontu 2005-10-27
Sama suomeksi - you can read the same text in Finnish too

My other WPC trip reports from Brno 2001, Oulu 2002 Opatija 2004 and Borovets 2006.

Some photos from Eger.

Time to compete once again

I like puzzles. So it would be fun to go abroad again this year, meet other puzzlers and perhaps try to solve even some puzzles there. And so I have to get to the Finnish team once again. During spring it was not announced how the team will be chosen this time, so I took part in the US online championship in May. In July we suddenly were told that there would have a Finnish online competition in a week or two, and that would be the qualifying test this year. Fine, I was just going for a holiday and didn't exactly have the time for this right now. I made just two little mistakes in it and that was enough to drop me to the 7th place. But it was a good reminder to read the instructions better from now on!

Finally in early September I found out that although I didn't exactly qualify for the team, they'll take me with them anyway because some people who did better then me in the Finnish championship were not able to go. So Hungary, here I come after all! Our team this year consisted of us oldies Juha Hyvönen (who was also the captain once again), Jouni Särkijärvi, me and one new guy, Juha Kivijärvi. Two Juhas in the team without proper nicknames, hmm. I solved the problem by calling them "Big Juha" and "Little Juha", but they didn't exactly like that. So they can be Juha H. and Juha K. in this report (this ok with you Juhas?)

Saturday Oct 8th

Juha H., Jouni and I met at the Helsinki airport around 7 o'clock in the morning, and Estonian boys Jaanus and Rauno soon joined us as they didn't have a suitable flight straight from Estonia that morning. The 4th Finnish team member, Juha K., had decided to take another flight from Turku later that day, so we would meet him only in Eger in afternoon. The five of us arrived at Budapest, met there Craig from US B team and jumped into a minibus. First we took a short detour and picked up the Polish team from the railway station, and then we were on our way to Eger. The trip went quickly, as Jacek, the captain of Poland, made us to solve his 3D puzzle in the bus.

It was just lunchtime when we arrived in Eger, so our Finnish trio + Craig decided to get something to eat after we had checked in to the hotel. We had lots of time for a stroll around the old city center too. Back at the hotel we were each reading the puzzle instructions and hanging around the lobby until Juha K. finally arrived. Later that night we had the official welcoming party. Saturday night was also the perfect time to notice that I had forgotten most of my pencils and all my erasers back home. No shopping opportunities until Monday.

Sunday Oct 9th

First puzzle of this morning: how to get to the breakfast room along all these winding corridors? This was first time in WPC when I didn't have any roommates, so I had to go alone. Luckily I ran into Annick from the Dutch team and we had fun chatting in the table and wondering if any of the boys from our teams were awake yet. We also had a nice walk around the city center together after breakfast.

This was the day of the traditional field trip. György managed to get all of us to the buses nearly in time, and off we drove to see a horse show in a nearby Lipizzan horse stud. Our bus had an excellent guide, who told us lots of interesting things during the drive there. After seeing the horses we took a small train which brought us to a meadow high on the hills and we had a lunch there in the open air. After that we walked back to the buses through a very pretty forest. After returning to Eger we had a few hours walk around the city center. We visited the big church, admired some statues of ancient Hungarian war heroes killing their enemies or something and then dived to the secret corridors under the old castle.

After the dinner we had the puzzle information meeting. All the puzzles were thoroughly discussed, so it took nearly to midnight. After it we knew everything we had ever wanted to know (and then some) about the correct use of word "congruent", that letters "EGER" in some order will most probably be the correct answer to at least half of the puzzles and that nothing should ever touch anything else, not even diagonally. After that we had some beer and I noticed for the first time that I'm getting a flu, dammit!

Monday Oct 10th

Team photos and the group photo were taken first in the morning on the sunny front yard of the hotel. Before that I had time to try to find any place which would sell pencils and stuff, and luckily I found one small paper shop just a few blocks away from the hotel! With my brand new writing equipment, some candy and the obligatory bottle of coke I was now ready for the competitions of this day.

First part was the Eger Grand Prix with very nice traditional puzzles. (And like many had guessed last night, "Eger" was really the correct answer for several of them.) A quick break and then to part 2, Street puzzles. A totally new puzzle type for me, but after reading the instructions for the second time I figured out how to solve them and also found out that I like this type of puzzle. First team puzzle was part 3, Tantrix. We all had got our own little Tantrix set of 10 tiles in Hungarian colors (red, green, white), and now we had to solve 8 puzzles with them. Finnish team managed to do all of them just in time.

After the lunch break we were back in the competition room. Part 4 was again rather traditional stuff - but in the form of 3D cubes! My brain works just in 2D, so I didn't do too well. Part 5 consisted of more traditional puzzles. Lots of easy ones among them, but there were just too many of them to even try to solve all of them! Part 6 was again just one puzzle, a devilish Spider Web with far too many little parts! But when you can ask for help, don't hesitate. After getting that help this puzzle turned out to be surprisingly easy.

Uh huh, that was that and oh boy I was tired! A big, cold beer should help - but oh, isn't it the time for the Crossword Puzzle Championship right now, before dinner? Perhaps I can sit somewhere in the room with my beer and just watch? Hey, what's this, they gave me the puzzles after all! Well, they look fun so let's try to solve them too. After all we came here to solve puzzles, didn't we?

During dinner the Finnish team just relaxed and discussed about WPC puzzles and crosswords. Food was good, and after that beer was good too. Back in the room I solved the rest of the Street puzzles and some Sudokus before falling asleep.

Tuesday Oct 11th

Another pretty but rather chilly morning, and again I had time for a little walk before the puzzle solving started. Part 7 was Classics, still more traditional puzzles but rather difficult ones this time. I'm still upset that I couldn't solve Thermometers, which is one of my favourite puzzle types. Part 8 was Fifty-fifty, a series of hexa shapes where you had to color some triangles black. Again a new type of puzzle for me, and again I managed to figure out some easy rules how to solve them. Part 9, Screentest, was a group of easy puzzles but only a minute or so time to solve each of them.

After the lunch we had part 10, the Weakest Link. It was a team round and it was by far the most difficult and probably least liked part of this WPC. First we had to wait for ages before the room was set ready. Then we were supposed to solve quickly a small individual puzzle, Darts, before going to the team table and start solving the rest of the puzzles. 30 minutes time for this all. But these Darts were very difficult for anybody who isn't that good with numbers, and it took at least 15 minutes before even first person (from Czech team, I think) had managed to solve all of them correctly and more than half an hour before the first team had been able to start the team part. When we finally stopped after more than an hour of hectic puzzling, I hadn't still solved all the "easy" Darts and I wasn't alone!

We had just few minutes time to recover from that before we had to start part 11, Innovative. Luckily they were nice puzzles and the headache I got from trying to count too much during the previous round soon went away. And then there was just the final team round, part 12 Jigsaw. We were given a bag of puzzle pieces, and while the puzzle was explained to us, I looked at the transparent bag. Gee, that's ME on that one piece! This has to be the group photo - and so it was. We Finns were good jigsaw solvers and this time even our team work was nearly seamless. We got the puzzles quickly made and got a 4th place bonus, what a nice way to end this competition!

The afternoon puzzles had taken much more time than anticipated due to those Darts, and so it was already dinnertime. The Pop Rock Quiz Championship was supposed to be before dinner, but now it was going to be after it. Before it started I tried to ask what it was going to be, and the Estonian boys told me that everybody has to sing there. Uh huh, should I really believe you guys? In that case it's better to have some more beer before the competition starts, because I'm going to take part!

Doors are open, everybody in. Where can I sit? Oh, there's a good seat just beside Jacek! Rules: listen to these 15 short parts of songs and write down the name of the song and the artist or band performing it. All right, no singing this far, good. Jacek and I knew we would recognize only oldies like Abba, but we decided give good guesses of other songs. Nobody had certainly ever heard the first two songs, but after that we got Beatles, Doors and Michael Jackson - and finally Abba and "Take A Chance On Me! Waves, waves!

27 best pop/rock gurus got to the second round, among them Juha K from team Finland. I got just one point less than the last semifinalist, but that was very good because I wouldn't have known anything on the second round. Now I could just sit in the audience, have fun and root for Juha. Juha made it to the top 9, but after that the competition got so hard that even he was dropped out. Like, there really exist people who can recognize "Walk Like An Egyptian" and such stuff from the very first chord. The final round around midnight was totally hot, and the winner was Byron Calver from Canada! He got to sing, so the Estonian boys were right after all.

Wednesday Oct 12th

Is it morning yet? What's wrong with my head? A hangover and a terrible flu, right. The flu was nice enough to wait until now so that I was relatively healthy during both previous days, but now it finally got me. So, after I found enough energy to get up from the bed, I went to buy a big bag of tissues.

Now it was time for the final puzzle round for the 10 best puzzlers. Ulrich Voigt from Germany was in good lead after two days, so he was the favourite once again, but right behind of him we had some really seasoned guys like Niels Roest from Netherlands and Wei-Hwa Huang from USA and a new talent, Taro Arimatsu from Japan. Can Ulrich keep his position during these last 10 puzzles?

The rules allowed competitors to skip puzzles and take a 5 minutes penalty as many times as they wanted. You also had to take the penalty if you solved the puzzle but the answer was not correct. As Ulrich was still trying to solve the very first puzzle after 5 minutes, most of the other guys decided wisely to save time and just skip it. The puzzles were probably all supposed to be solvable in under 5 minutes, but many of them took much longer than this and so you could get a rather good position by just sitting a penalty after penalty.

Finally Wei-Hwa reached the last table with the 10th puzzle, solved it and started sitting his last penalty from the previous puzzle. Soon Ulrich and Niels were at that table too, and they had already sat all their penalties. Will one of them have time to solve the puzzle before Wei-Hwa's penalty is over? Yes, Ulrich had and so he was the WPC champion of 2005! Wei-Hwa was second and Niels third. Congratulations!

My flu wasn't getting any better, so I spend most of the afternoon sitting in the lobby and just slowly solving some easy Sudokus. But when the eager football players started gathering in the lobby, I went with them to watch the game. Lying on the sunny grass and trying to take some decent photos was actually a good way to get some rest before the farewell dinner this night.

The farewell dinner included local dancers, speeches, final results, lots of funny discussion in table and good food. We visited shortly the karaoke bar in the next hotel, but that was too noisy and crowded and so we got back and just hanged around in the lobby. Our transport to Budapest would leave at 4:50 in the morning, so Juha H. decided to stay awake all the night but I thought that some sleep might do good and left the party after 2 o'clock.

Thursday Oct 13th

Dang, it can't be morning yet, I slept just 2 hours! And what is this weird feeling? I have hangover, flu and I'm dead tired. Okay, can't help. In the lobby I met Juha H. and Jouni (Juha K. was taking a later bus as he wasn't coming to the same flight), a few Americans and the Bulgarians. Bus left in time. We dropped the Bulgarian team at the train station, and naturally promised to see them all next year in Bulgaria. At the airport we had lots of time before our flight, and a decent breakfast made me finally feel nearly ok. Our flight was delayed, but luckily not cancelled unlike poor Roger Barkan's flight.

Still more Sudoku solving in the plane and we were finally back in Finland. Suitable buses for Juha and me just were just leaving after we had gotten our luggage, so there was time for just a very quick goodbye to the team and then I was back home again. Hubby and kid were happy with the whiskey and candy I brought. I bragged about being the best of the Finnish team until they told me to shut down. Then I managed to get them to play Tantrix with me with the full set I had bought, but after the teenager had beaten me twice in a row I didn't feel so clever anymore. Perhaps if I manage to make it to the Finnish team still a few more times, we could have a mom and daughter in the same team?

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