Thoughts on the World Puzzle Championship

The World Puzzle Championship (WPC) in 2013 will be hosted by China. With the combination of this event and the World Sudoku Championship (WSC), it has now become incredibly difficult for one host to put together all the puzzle content while dealing with all the other organizational tasks too. Recognizing this challenge, the Chinese delegation asked for assistance from the World Puzzle Federation (WPF) to handle the puzzles at the WPC. The WPF asked for volunteers who might be willing to organize an entire WPC to step forward, and then set-up a vote between the two designers (Zoltan Nemeth of Hungary and Nikola Zivanovic of Serbia) who offered to help.

I, alongside many other top solvers, was asked to give my opinion on the two choices before the final vote. I decided to abstain from making a choice between Zoltan or Nikola, and instead wrote the following which includes my thoughts on a way for the World Puzzle Federation to rethink its approach to WPCs in the future. Since this letter has influenced the shape of the next WPC, I wanted to share it in its entirety here.

Short Answer: My vote is to abstain.


I think the proposed solutions to address China holding a WPC do not address the largest problems of the puzzle content at the WPC, who should be providing this content, and how to grow the WPC into a consistent, sustainable, and thriving event. The choice you are asking my opinion on suggests to me the WPF is missing the large problems and looking to have a one year fix, and shutting off other discussion.

Each year the WPC is written by a small subset of puzzle authors, who write in the puzzle disciplines where they have most interest, with more or less new puzzle styles, with more difficult or less difficult rounds, with a lack of event consistency and oversight, and challenges for the WPC to grow and sustain growth. Managing hosting is one job, and managing puzzles is a second job, and that they have always been combined seems a mistake to me worth fixing. In the questions to both Zoltan and Nikola in your attached files, both talented authors and capable organizers in my opinion, the concern of having authors from other places with top solvers was dismissed as risky or unwise. In the view of the old model, this makes sense. I think the old model is broken and a new paradigm is needed.

I think the WPC needs to have puzzles from throughout the world, and a model like Hungary’s 24 hours championship would be perfect. Team USA writes a round. Team Hungary writes a round. Team Turkey. Team Japan. Team Germany. If individual countries cannot put together a whole round, they can band together. But imagine 12 one-hour rounds. Team USA solves 11 of them…. I’ve been waiting for years for certain countries to provide puzzles at a WPC that would be eminently publishable, common types that could expand the audience. I’ve been waiting myself for the chance to write these puzzles and WSC5 feels more like a once in a decade shot than a renewable occurrence of value for the WPF when top puzzle designers do not consistently provide content.

Yes, the organizing nation should write additional pieces. Team rounds are not dealt with in this model, and the host can create new ideas here. A “welcome” round themed around the host country would be a great start for all the competitors too. But the old model where 200+ puzzles and 20+ rounds of WSC and WPC puzzles are made by less than a dozen people from one nation that has not recently hosted or may never have hosted will continue to have failures that the WPF board should no longer accept.

So if you must have my vote, my vote is to abstain. Either will make a good WPC like past years. I’m not convinced I will have the time or interest in another good WPC. But I do already intend to construct for, and not compete at the USPC in 2013. I already intend to construct for the USA’s international sudoku cup round sponsored by WPF. I would offer my help constructing for the next WPC. But not the whole thing. Just one round. With highly innovative classic puzzles and some variations. And if team USA wanted to help and that was allowed, we could deliver just as we did a few months ago for the 24H competition.

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