Kiwi lads take on World Puzzle Champs in India, lose pretty much everything
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ
It’s official, New Zealand is the worst in the world at puzzles, well, one Kiwi in particular that is.
Finbarr Nobel, 26, from Wellington, garnered the title of the world’s worst-ranked Sudoku player, while recently competing in the week-long World Puzzle Championships in India.
So in true Kiwi fashion they gave it a try, but perhaps shouldn’t have, taking an “absolute beating” on the score board.
To be fair, their preparation may have been a bit on the light side.
“Most of us brought a stock standard Sudoku puzzle book on the plane as our sole form of preparation,” team member George Meale said.
And from that inauspicious start it went a little downhill.
They missed the introductory meeting after parking up in a local pub, had to borrow pencils from the Australian team on the first day, and were given “unfathomably hard” Sudoku puzzles.
Despite this, the lads said they had a “fantastic” week, meeting and playing cricket with locals, sight-seeing, visiting jungles, parks and temples – all topped-off by the fact they were invited to another puzzle tournament next year.
This year’s World Puzzle Championship, put on by the World Puzzle Federation, was held alongside the Sudoku champs from October 15, in Bangalore, India.
More than 200, from 10-year-old children to retirees, came to compete from 30 countries.
The Kiwi team featured Nobel, Matt Russell, 26, Simon O’Donnell, 25, Sam Shillson, 25, and Jordan Hamel, 25, from Wellington, and George Meale, 25, and Henry Taylor, 25, from Auckland
“There was one thing the other teams had in common,” said Meale. “They had all been through a competitive domestic tournament in their home countries to qualify for the worlds. We had not.
“Some of us had never even done a Sudoku before.”
This severely disadvantaged the Kiwis as most of the of the puzzles in the competition were variations on Sudoku with ominous names such as killer Sudoku, fortified Sudoku, cross-Sudoku and jig-saw Sudoku.
The competition was held in one big room with 206 competitors, and consisted of two 10-hour days of brain teasers and number puzzles in exam conditions.
Individual competitors from Japan, Estonia and China took out first, second and third respectively, with scores in the high 4000s.
New Zealand averaged just 200 each.
“It was like being back in NCEA exams except we were getting schooled by kids,” Meale said.
China took out the gold for the teams tournament, with Aotearoa Puzzles Inc coming last – so naturally the two teams took a photo together as a keepsake.
Meale said the puzzle champs coincided with the Black Caps touring India.
“When locals saw the silver fern on our shirts, we were often asked if we play cricket for New Zealand.
“Imagine their disappointment when we explained that we were actually at a puzzle tournament,” Meale laughed.