Oct 28, 2009

First In Chess, Now Sudoku; 'Eugene Varshavsky' Focus Of Cheating Allegations

By Mark Memmott

Any chess or sudoku players out there know a Eugene Varshavsky, who may or may not be from Lawrenceville, N.J.?

We ask because, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports today, somebody by that name is being investigated for possible cheating at Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer National Sudoku Championship. "Varshavsky" came in third, winning $3,000. The winner, Tammy McLeod, took home $10,000.

Too coincidentally, back in 2006 a "Eugene Varshavsky" drew officials' suspicions at the World Open chess championship in Philadelphia, as The New York Times reported at the time.

In both cases, there's a fear that the person might have had some sort of electronic device through which he was getting help:

At the chess tournament, "Varshavsky" defeated a far higher-rated opponent with moves that matched those that a computer program would have suggested. Before he could be searched, he disappeared into a bathroom stall for about 10 minutes.

At this past weekend's sudoku tournament, "Varshavsky" "blazed through the second round in world-class time," the Inquirer says, but then couldn't figure out the "easy first steps in the championship puzzle." He's described in the Inquirer, by the way, only as "playing in a hooded sweatshirt."

Among those who will be leading the investigation is Weekend Edition puzzle master Will Shortz. He and other tournament officials will be looking at videos, photos and "Varshavsky"'s completed puzzles.

We've added the quotation marks around the name because it's not entirely clear the person is who he says he is -- or even that it was the same person in both cases.

By the way, we contacted the only Eugene Varshavsky with a Philadelphia-area phone listing. The man who answered said he is a Eugene Varshavsky, but not the sudoku-chess mystery man. "I don't know who this guy is," he added.

So, with these clues -- anybody out there able to help figure out who this is?

Oct 26, 2009

Google programmer wins Sudoku title, after champ stumbles

For more than three whole minutes, Thomas Snyder - twice a world Sudoku champion - sat contentedly on the floor of a Convention Center stage today after he'd finished the final puzzle at the Philadelphia Inquirer National Sudoku Championship. It was the high-voltage $10,000 final round.
Behind him stood a large board with a tough advanced Sudoku puzzle he'd completed in a breakneck 4 minutes, 14 seconds. He looked relieved as his two competitors still worked to complete their boards, with the same puzzle. The next to finish was Tammy McLeod.
And that was when the numbers came crashing down, you could say, on Thomas Snyder.
He'd begun to walk over to congratulate McLeod on coming in second - a $4,000 award - when his board caught his eye. And there it was.
Two sixes in one column. You can't have two sixes in a column in Sudoku, a logic game you complete by filling numbers into blank squares. In a column, you can have the numbers one through nine.
And once.
Instead of congratulating McLeod for placing second, Snyder motioned to his Sudoku board to show that her (also impressive) speed of 7:41 made her this year's national Sudoku champion. In all, three boxes - or cells, as players call them - of his puzzle were incorrect.
McLeod was flabbergasted. Even through the soundproofing earphones the finalists wore as they worked, she'd heard the audience applaud Snyder. She was shooting for second - the position she'd won in the advanced-player final here two years ago. Last year, she came in third.
"I'm a little stunned," said McLeod, 32, a programmer for Google in Los Angeles.
Unlike several competitors today, McLeod does not travel the world playing Sudoku for pots of puzzle gold. "The only competition I've ever done is this competition," she said. Today's was the third annual championship sponsored by The Inquirer.
She'll receive $10,000, an iPod, and a seat on the United States team at the World Sudoku Championship, which will convene in April for the first time in its five-year history in the United States - in Philadelphia.
McLeod's generally high-flight performance slowed at one point, until she noticed empty cells she could fill instantly with the right numbers.
"When you play on a big board, it's hard to see the entire board when you're standing in front of it," said the diminutive McLeod, whose husband and 18-month-old daughter were watching from the audience. "But I wasn't stressed by it."
Indeed, not. Once she dispatched those little boxes, McLeod ripped through the puzzle. (Sharpen your pencils. The final-round Sudoku puzzles in the advanced, intermediate, and beginner categories will be published in the Nov. 1 Sunday Inquirer.)
As for Snyder: "I admit I had three minutes to check all the cells. What I checked was just whether all the cells were filled in. It was a mark of hubris."
Coming in third was Eugene Varshavsky of Lawrenceville, N.J., who registered as a walk-up contestant this morning. He received $3,000.
In cavernous Hall B of the Convention Center, 646 contestants went after $25,000 in prizes, and 183 spectators solved the puzzles for fun. The event is billed as America's largest puzzle championship because of the number of players it draws in daylong timed competitions.
At the end of all the puzzle-solving, Brian P. Tierney, chief executive officer of Philadelphia Media Holdings, owner of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, unveiled a sign heralding the world competition here next year - an event he had sought along with Will Shortz, the New York Times puzzle editor and National Public Radio puzzle master. Shortz hosts the National Sudoku Championship.
Contestants sat at long tables for the different skills divisions. The largest number competed in the beginner category - 323 at red-clothed tables. White-clothed tables were for 254 intermediate players, and black for 69 advanced contestants. The spectators sat to the rear and sides, just at the outside of the contestant tables.
In each of three elimination rounds, the contestants were asked to complete three puzzles at their levels within a half-hour. After a lunch break they vied in age categories and by the towns of residence.
Most were from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the farthest one traveled was from British Columbia. Many were repeats from the last two years.
All were attempting to fill in the boxes of the numbers puzzle that, according to an Inquirer survey, is the nation's most popular. Upward of 170 million Americans have played it.
The object of the game, which employs logic but requires no math skill other than the ability to count from one through nine, is to fill in all 81 squares in a grid divided into nine three-by-three boxes.
Each row, column, and box must contain every digit from one through nine. Between 17 and 33 squares are already filled with a number in each puzzle, and players determine what to place in the rest of the cells to complete it.
"I was in the intermediate level last year, and I was totally skunked, so I am in the beginner this year," said Richard Weishaupt, a lawyer from Chestnut Hill, who noted that the puzzles were different when your play is timed.
"Welcome to my world," agreed Patricia Schmieg, a Council Rock High School South math teacher who'd overheard him as the competition began. "I'm methodical. The clock was ticking and I felt the pressure, and it blew my process." She was back, though, for more.
The youngest player was Jack Neumann, 8, of Chalfont. (He was the youngest last year, too.) The oldest was Edward Radbill, 93, a Philadelphian who's been playing two years.
Twelve-year-old Kevin Cunningham's entire family, from Havertown - a twin sister, a younger one, and his parents - were there to cheer him on with signs. Robert Borucki, a physician from South Carolina, competed, and so did his 15-year-old son, Davis, who walked off with a first-place $3,000 in the intermediate finals.
"I learned first," the elder Borucki said. "But he learned fast."

National Sudoku Championship 2009

Oct 23, 2009


Join us Saturday for the competition!
The 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship will take place this Saturday, Oct. 24th, 2009 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pa. The largest puzzle championship in the U.S. returns for its third year with even more chances to win! $25,000 in cash prizes will be awarded, and an opportunity to represent the United States at the 2010 World Sudoku Championship in Philadelphia. The championship is open to all ages and all skill levels, so join us and puzzle master, Will Shortz, for this exciting competition!

The Prizes
  • $25,000 in total cash prizes.
  • Top winner of each level will receive an iPod Touch, courtesy of Hudson Entertainment!
  • First place - $10,000
  • Second place - $4,000
  • Third place - $3,000
  • First place - $3,000
  • Second place - $2,000
  • Third place - $1,500
  • First place - $1,000
  • Second place - $500
  • Third place - $300
Age Categories - $50
 10 years and under, 11-12 years, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18, 19-20, 21-23, 24-26, 27-29, 30-32, 33-35, 36-38, 39-41, 42-44, 45-47, 48-50, 51-53, 54-56, 57-59, 60-62, 63-65, 66-68, 69-71, 72-74, 75-77, 78-80, and 81 and older.

Oct 22, 2009

Video shows bus driver working puzzle

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- A Canadian bus driver faced possible discipline Wednesday after a passenger took a video of him allegedly doing a Sudoku puzzle while driving.
The unidentified employee of the Coast Mountain Bus Co., which operates municipal routes in Surrey was driving a bus Monday afternoon when passenger Gordon McDonald allegedly used his cell phone to record his actions.
"I can understand if you're driving and eating something, but we're talking about someone doing a complex numerical puzzle and trying to drive," McDonald told CTV News.
McDonald said he rides that route once a week and claims he saw the same driver reading last week as he drove through a heavy rain storm.
He said he posted his concerns on the regional transit authority's Web site and also uploaded the video to the YouTube online video sharing site.
Coast Mountain spokesman Derek Zabel told CTV he couldn't comment on what the company's plans were for the driver involved.

Oct 15, 2009

Think About The History Of Sudoku

Hailed as the Rubiks Cube of the 21st century, Sudoku is the current rage among number puzzles. It may sound surreal but at an age where bubblegum pop music has successfully reinvented itself as punk rock through the likes of Avril Lavigne and Simple Plan, a puzzle and a number puzzle at that is able to establish itself as a global phenomenon. Sudoku, which is sometimes spelled as Su Doku, is pronounced as soo-doe-koo. It is an abbreviation of the Japanese phrase suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru which means the digits must remain single. Most people are under the wrong impression that sudoku is of Japanese origin when the only thing Japanese about sudoku is the word sudoku.

Nikoli Publishing House Nikoli is the publisher of the leading Japanese puzzle publication Monthly Nikolist. The think tanks of Nikoli noticed an interesting number puzzle called The Number Place published by their American counterparts, Dell Puzzle Magazines. Sudoku made its debut on the pages of Monthly Nikolist in April of the year 1984. It was initially christened Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru by Kaji Maki, Nikolis incumbent president at that time. The maiden issue of Sudoku enjoyed modest success. Its success is due in large part to the fact that the Japanese people are inherently puzzle-crazy.

It was not until two significant developments occurred that the puzzle began to really catch fire. First, the name suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru was shortened to sudoku which was easier to remember and to market. Second, Nikoli modified the game by introducing two new rules in 1986: the digits of are to be arranged symmetrically; and the given numbers are not to exceed 30 digits. As of today, there are at least five publishing companies that print monthly magazines solely devoted to the game in Japan. Sudoku is, for all intents and purposes, a brand name; it is not the generic name of the game. It is a lawfully registered mark of the Nikoli Company in Japan. This means that the other publishers of the game in Japan are legally obligated to provide their own brand names for their versions of the popular number puzzle.

Made in Manhattan According to urban legends, sudoku was created by a team of puzzle creators from New York. Another version of the story credits a certain Howard Gerns, a retired architect and puzzle enthusiast, as the true father of the modern sudoku. Although the legends conflict and give credit to different inventors, they coincide on two important details:
Sudoku was first published in 1979 by Dell Puzzle Magazines under the title The Number Place; and
Gerns and the team of puzzle creators were both inspired by the Latin Square of Leonhard Euler. Sudoku: The Old Testament Leonhard Euler, a Swiss mathematician, presented a paper entitled De Quadratis Magicis before the St. Petersburg Academy in 1776. Euler demonstrated that a magic square can be created through the use of 9, 16, 25 or 36 cells. He imposed conditions on the value of his number variables to bring about the creation of his magic square. His magic square evolved into the Latin square in his later papers.

The versions of Gerns and the team of puzzlers differ from Euler in two ways: First, Eulers Latin square does not have a regional restriction; and Second, Euler neither created nor did he intend to create a puzzle. On the other hand, Gerns and the team saw the potential of a hit puzzle in Eulers works and proceeded to create the grandfather of modern day sudoki with this specific frame of mind. No Fools Gould Wayne Gould, a retired judge based in Hong Kong, chanced upon a sudoku puzzle in a Tokyo bookstore in 1997; Gould could not help but gravitate towards the blank squares of the puzzle. He felt compelled to create a digital version of the puzzle and worked on the sudoku computer program from 1997 to 2003.

In 2004, he found himself pitching an unknown puzzle called Su Doku to The Times of Britain. The results were overwhelming; within a few days, other newspapers began printing their own versions of the game. The popularity of the game snowballed and spilled over to Australia and New Zealand. By 2005, it had earned the moniker the fastest growing puzzle in the world. What Goes Around, Comes Around American newspapers caught wind of the sensation created by sudoku in Britain and the rest of the world, and found themselves jumping on the sudoku bandwagon. The New York Post published its own version of sudoku in April of 2005; this marked the homecoming and belated public acceptance of a New York native who went unnoticed in its own backyard since its birth for more than 20 years.

Within a few days sudoku made its presence felt throughout the country when major dailies such as USA Today and The Daily News began replacing their usual crosswords with the number game. The appeal of modern sudoku appears to be infinite and without boundaries. As a number puzzle, it does not make use of letters from any particular language; thus easily dispensing with the language barrier factor. Publications numbering in hundreds of thousands, from magazines to newspapers and digests, solely devoted to the game are testaments to the puzzles popularity and profitability. The numerous websites that offer digital versions of the game, for free or for fee, guarantees the games continuous development and improvement; it also provides a platform most accessible to the younger population.

Sudoku has even gone mobile as companies race to create sudoku games specifically for mobile phone users. Sudoku is a game of logic that challenges the young and old alike. In fact, studies on the mental benefits of regularly playing sudoku have been conducted; and the results have been positive so far. From the fastest growing puzzle in the world, sudoku has evolved into the most contagious puzzle virus the world has seen in years. Go and play sudoku.
 trinity services009

Oct 14, 2009

Kitty Spangles Sudoku puzzle game debuts for Mac

Swoop Software has announced Kitty Spangles Sudoku, a new game for Mac OS X that adds a unique style to the standard Sudoku puzzle game. It features a variety of animated themes that users can switch through, four different difficulty settings to try, and an endless amount of different Sudoku puzzles. The game comes with a built-in puzzle editor which enables players to design and create their own Sudoku board, or to copy a puzzle into the game from either a newspaper, book or website.
To help users deal with the increasing difficultly levels, the game also provides a series of tools such as undo and redo functions, pencil marks, in-game instructions and a few ways to cheat. When playing through the puzzles, the game keeps track of statistics including how many games were played, how many were won, and the length of winning streaks. All scores can be compared with other players, and each puzzle can be printed off or saved as a PDF file for sharing.

Kitty Spangles Sudoku requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher and can be purchased for $20. A bundle pack combining the new Sudoku game with Kitty Spangles Solitaire is also available for $35.


Oct 12, 2009

4th Philippine Sudoku Super Challenge regional eliminations at SM Supermalls

BALIUAG, Bulacan—The country’s Sudoku pros, otherwise known as masters, can now a have a chance to compete with the reigning champion, John Robert Valcos, by joining the regional eliminations of the 4th Sudoku Super Challenge scheduled on October 17.
Valcos, a college student at the Saint Mary’s College in Baliuag, was declared winner at the 3rd Brands Sudoku Thailand International Open 2009 held at the Central World, Bangkok, Thailand, on April 18 and 19 this year, three months after winning the national finals.
Marilene Ramos, a math coordinator of the Mathematics Trainers’ Guild Philippines (MTG-Phil) in Bulacan, acted as Valcos’s coach and trainer at the Sudoku competition.
Valcos earlier won the National Sudoku Challenge, organized by MTG-Phil with the BusinessMirror, in cooperation with SM Supermalls, in January this year.
The first runner-up to Valcos was Pangasinan high-school student Sara Jane Cua, who won last year’s First Brands Asia-Pacific Sudoku Challenge.
Regionals in 10 SM malls
Meanwhile, Bev Cruz, information officer of SM City Baliwag, explained that the 4th  Sudoku Super Challenge regional eliminations is set to take place in 10 SM Supermall branches on October 17.
The event will bring together Sudoku enthusiasts from different regions across the country. 
Cruz said the contest will simultaneously take place in SM Baliwag, SM Batangas City, SM Baguio, SM Pampanga, SM DasmariƱas, SM Lucena, SM Cagayan de Oro, SM Iloilo, SM Bacolod and SM Cebu.
Cruz added that the three-part elimination stage includes the Sudoku Whiz Kid for elementary level, Sudoku Wizard for secondary level and the Sudoku Grand Master tertiary and professional level.
Regional qualifiers will then compete in the Sudoku National Finals to be held at the Skydome of SM City North Edsa on January 30, 2010.
Cruz said at least 20 original Sudoku Puzzles answered correctly and published from the BusinessMirror’s July 14 issue onwards are needed to qualify for the regional eliminations.
Deadline of entries is on October 12. Interested parties may contact MTG’s Joyette Perez at 0928-6312146; interested Bulacan Sudoku enthusiasts may contact Marilene Ramos at (044) 766-2265 and at 0917-8659499. 

Oct 8, 2009

Made Up Phenomenon: Does sudoku make you fat?

Recent headlines claimed that doing puzzles such as sudoku and crosswords can make you fat - but Radio 5 live's Donal MacIntyre programme smelled a rat.
Donal MacIntyre and Hannah Barnes asked the Canadian academic who led the reported research, Dr Kathleen Martin Ginis, whether the unexpected link between brain teasers and weight was genuine, or was it just another Made Up Phenomenon?
Donal MacIntyre was broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live on Sunday 4 October 2009 at 1930 BST. Or download the free podcast.

Oct 6, 2009

Health Watch: Essential tips for keeping your mind sharp

Most people focus on the physical changes that happen as you age - muscles don't bounce back the way they used to, hair becomes gray, and skin begins to wrinkle. But we often pass over one area that really deserves our attention: the brain. Not only can a healthy and active brain help you ward off disease, it can also help you live a more satisfying life.

There are many ways to keep your mind active and sharp at any age:

1. Brain workouts: Engage your brain daily. Working with numbers is a great option. Try Sudoku, a numbers game using grids that has become very popular in the United States. If numbers don't appeal to you, quiz yourself about historical events and check your accuracy. Crossword puzzles and word finds are practical and affordable options as well.

2. Travel and explore: Stimulating your mind with travel and learning experiences is a great brain-health activity. Travel agencies devise all-inclusive programs that can give you behind-the-scenes access to interesting places.

3. Read whatever you can: Books, newspapers and magazines -- reading is a great way to keep your brain active and mind sharp. Plus, depending on what interests you, you might be able to learn something new. Visit your local library for a free resource to just about any literary work you're interested in.

4. Have quality conversation daily: Engaging in social activity is a great way to keep your brain active, plus it increases quality of life. See if there is a community group of your peers that you could join - card club, book club, Rotary. Or, start volunteering for a cause that interests you.

5. Learn something new: You're never too old or too young to learn something new. Try taking an affordable community education class or look for free opportunities in your neighborhood. Learn to play an instrument, speak a new language, plant a garden or start a new hobby. You might be surprised with how much fun you have.

6. Switch up your routine: A good way to keep your mind sharp is to change up your routine. Try opposite-hand exercises like brushing your hair or teeth with the hand you don't usually use or opening the door with your left hand instead of your right.

7. Get physically active: Moving your body and staying physically active can help with cognitive health. Physical movement increases blood flow to the brain and the act of walking, swimming, biking, etc., helps work the brain as it communicates with the body to move.

-- ARA
Norwich Bulletin

Oct 2, 2009

Puzzled on the R3

Some morning commuters on SEPTA's R3 train had a "puzzling" start to their daily trip today beyond the regular challenge of guessing where everyone would sit.

At Elwyn station, Will Shortz, puzzle editor of the New York Times, boarded what was billed the Puzzle Car and passengers were given Sudoku puzzles and pencils.

Then the challenge was on with Shortz helping first time Sudoku solvers, explaining the rules and offering tips.

The event promoted the third annual Sudoku National Championship, sponsored by the Inquirer, and hosted by Shortz.

The championship will take place Oct. 24 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and offers a wide variety of categories so nearly anyone can enter the competition. The grand prize for the winner in the advanced category is $10,000.

On the R3, many passengers quietly solved Sudoku puzzles to pass time during their regular morning commute. Some were first-time solvers.

"I've never been a fan of numbers, but I'll give it a try," said Anne Marciano, a regular R3 commuter.
"It's something different to do on the train," said Diane Byre, another R3 regular. "Our usual game is guessing where people are going to sit."

In addition to R3 riders, SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey was on board. He participated in a Sudoku challenge - a giant, one-star level puzzle he quickly completed in a few minutes. A passenger then challenged Casey to a three-star puzzle, which he also completed.

The puzzling trip ended at Suburban Station, where Casey, Shortz and Inquirer and Daily News publisher Brian Tierney addressed members of the media and SEPTA commuters.

Tierney expressed his excitement about the national tournament, stating that over 700 people have already pre-registered. Currently, the oldest entrant is 94-years-old. The youngest? Only four.
For more information on the Sudoku National Championship or to learn how to register, visit http://www.philly.com/sudoku.