15th World Puzzle Championship 2006

Borovets, Bulgaria Oct 7th - Oct 12th, 2006

Trip Report

© Liisa Sarakontu 2006-11-01
You can read the same text in Finnish too.

My previous WPC trip reports from Brno 2001, Oulu 2002, Opatija 2004 and Egeri 2005.

Some photos from Borovets.

Saturday Oct 7th

I was the best Finn in the open US online championship competition, so I could happily wait for the Finnish championship later in the summer. I was best in it too, so I had once again earned a place in Team Finland. This year the team consisted of Jouni Särkijärvi, who has taken part two times before this, Saku Huttunen who had been in the team in 2002 Oulu and Markku Lahti, a first timer. Our old war horse Juha Hyvönen was the captain this year.

All of us bought our own flights to Sofia, so we ended taking three different routes there. Markku and I had same flight, and Jouni and Juha travelled together. Because our flights left very close, four of us met at the Helsinki airport 8 o'clock in the morning. Sakke would take a later flight. Juha, Jouni and I arrived at the airport just few minutes from each others, and Markku got there also in time although his flight from Oulu arrived only after we three were already at the airport.

Markku and I first flew to Budapest, where we had two hours to kill before the next flight to Sofia. We met the Croatian team while waiting there, and they took the same flight. In rainy Sofia we had to wait for the bus about an hour, and during that time some Brits, Germans and Americans joined us.

Finally we left for Borovets. The ride took about an hour, and it went along dangerous-looking mountain roads. We saw two car crashes on the way, and we were very happy to ride in a sturdy bus during daytime. We arrived at Borovets at 6 o'clock, and Juha and Jouni were waiting for us in the lobby of Hotel Samokov. Their flights have been much faster than Marrku's and mine. When I entered my room in the 6th floor, all I saw from the window was dense fog.

Welcome dinner started at 7. Food was tasty, and we got to listen some traditional folk music like normally. Many competitors joined the last number, a fast line dance. Hey, if you are going to make a fool of yourself anyway, it is best to do it already during the first night! We sat at the tables as long as they served us wine, and after that we had a quick team meeting in one of our hotel rooms.

Sunday Oct 8th

Second day was the field trip day, like normally. The weather was still foggy and rainy, so several competitors decided not to go. Among them was Sakke, who had finally arrived at Borovets during the night after two car accidents and several other happenings. Luckily he was alive and safe after all that!

Buses took us to the old Rila monastery on the other side of the mountains. The monastery was founded during 10th century, but all the buildings except one stone tower were from the 19th century. We had our lunch in a local restaurant abd then returned to Borovets at 5 o'clock. Oh, now I can see another big hotel from my window! The weather might be getting better.

Before dinner we had a team meeting and went through the puzzles. After dinner there was the Questioning time. In it we hardly got through half of the puzzles in 1.5 hours before people decided to continue it next evening.

Monday Oct 9th

It is the first competition day, and hre we go! First part was called Welcome, and so it would be rather easy basic puzzles - but not this time. Basic puzzles ok, but they all were so big and difficult that I got only few done in time. Next part was the same, basic but real big puzzles. Always so careful and diligent Jouni took easily the lead in our team.

Before the lunch we had Screen Test, again with difficult puzzles. Also the accompanying texts and other figures were so small that it was very hard for me to read them, although I sat in the 2nd row. I really got to guess several of these puzzles. This morning was really a rather rough ride, and the best part of it was Maho, who was sitting at the same table. He was a 17-year-old member of the Japanese team, and he spoke good English. We talked about the puzzles between parts.

In the afternoon the puzzles just got larger in Paint-By-Numbers part, but luckily Assorted consisted of smaller puzzles. Finally something for me! We still tried to solve some Skyscrapers with the full team before the day was over.

Oh, now I can see a real mountain from my window! It was time for a little walk before dinner, because the weather had gotten much better. I walked to the skiing slopes behind the hotels.

Tuesday Oct 10th

After the breakfast we had the group photo session, and after that we went to solve more puzzles. First we had Sprint with quick, small puzzles. Next there was Assorted with traditional puzzles, and after that Twins presented us more basic puzzles in a hard way. After lunch we solver Hexagonal puzzles and more traditional ones in another Assorted.

The last puzzle part of the day was The Weakest Link, which was a team effort. Just like last year, everybody had first solve some easy number links and then go to the team table to solve a giant sudoku. And just like last year, those "easy" starter puzzles turned out to be not so easy after all. Sakke was the only team member who got to the team table before time run out. Everybody else either was disqualified for too many mistakes, or just didn't have time to solve them all.

After the dinner we already could relax a little, because there would be just few puzzles in the morning before finals and free time. Most of our team took just a few beers, but well, not everybody...

Wednesday Oct 11th

It is nice that we have puzzles on a third day too, and not just finals! Because we are here to solve them, aren't we? First we got multicolour pieces of paper and were told to make a square according to certain rules. The first square was easy, and I could also solve the second one in no time after I asked for help. They were actually so easy that I was afraid that I had understood the rules somehow wrong. I tried carefully to look at what other competitors were doing, and as several good puzzlers clearly had something rather similar in front of them, I probably had managed to solve them correctly.

Then it was time for the very last team puzzle, Metatour. We were supposed to create 4 separate puzzles out of small slips of paper and also solve them. Our team tried to do this as a trio, because our fourth member wasn't still in able to do much after last night's partying. Well, it probably didn't matter too much because I don't think we could have solved them even if we had had a bigger team. Only the sudoku part of this puzzle was nearly solved, but we didn't get any points from that.

It was time for the semifinals before lunch. 10 best puzzlers were given a group of nice-looking puzzles, and the audience also got these to solve. Look, there's a Star Battle, one of my favourite puzzles! Oh wait, I made a mistake, let's start it again. Oh, I'm stuck again at the same place. And what's that whispering and running around there among the organizers? That puzzle had a mistake, and it couldn't be solved. Semifinals were stopped and they should continue after lunch.

The audience gathered again in the afternoon. We waited for a while, and soon wer were told that the semifinals were going to start only at 5 o'clock because the puzzles still needed some checking. It was soon 3 o'clock, and so we had now just 2 hours of free time instead of whole afternoon. What should I do? The mountain was still visible from my window, and it was clearly calling me. I had just time to climb to the top of the nearest downhill skiing slope and come back to the hotel. Nice view up there!

Semifinals finally started with new puzzles. Now these gues were competing for the three places in the finals. Wei-Hwa was the only one who managed to solve all of the puzzles in time, but Ulrich wasn't that far behind. There was hard competition for the third place in finals, and my pal Maho managed to get there!

The final started after a short break. Now every competitor solved the puzzles standing in from of audience, so it was easier to follow the competition. The puzzles were difficult, but not too difficult for Ulrich Voigt from Germany. Wei-Hwa Huang was second, and young Maho Yokota was third. Congratulations for them all!

The farewell party started immediately after the finals. After the official part we kept on chatting in the dinner hall as long as wine bottles were open, and after that we went to the hotel lobby to play cards. When some of us went to bed, Niels from the Netherlands and two Polish guys joined us and the card playing continued. When guys decided to go the hotel night club, I stayed in the lobby and chatted with folks in other card tables until the first transport to the airport was about to leave at 2 o'clock or so.

Thursday Oct 12th

Today there was nothing else in the program than breakfast and a ride to the Sofia airport. Jouni has left already very early, but the rest of us Finns had our flights in the afternoon. As none of the transport buses didn't fir to our schedule, Juha hired a roomy private cab for us four. We said farewell to hotel Samokov at noon. At the Sofia airport we met lots of folks who had arrived on the morning buses but were still waiting for their flights.

Juha and Sakke took their flight to Praguem and Markku and I again flew to Budapest. Croatian team again shared the flight with us. I said farewell to Markku at Helsinki airport, where he had to hurry to catch his flight to Oulu. I was at home only after midnight.

They said that the competition will be in Rio next year. Mmm, I got to get there!

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