Waarm greetiings from Fiinlaand.
No do not aadjust your set - aall words here haave at leaast two aas aand/or two iis. We even paased the town of Ii yesterdaay on our waay home from Faather Chriistmaas (hiis offiiciiaal post offiice - aall letters to Saantaa aare sent here) aand the Aarctiic Ciircle (wiith reiindeer soup for lunch!). [Note - Finnish has no parallels with Anglo-Saxon or Romance languages hence it is impossible to even guess what any word means.... frustrating at times!]
Getting here was a puzzle and we only discovered on our arrival that getting home would be a bigger puzzle as our connecting bus does not run on a Sunday morning - timetable dyslexia (plus Finnish days of the week). A saga (as they are fond of writing here), but we won't bore you with the details as we know you will be keen for an update on the action. However, Erja our host resolved the problem for us ths evening - so we don't have to walk 26km from Kemi to Tornio (around the north east tip of the gulf of Bothnia) or burn euros on a taxi.
There are 17 teams represented (plus a scratch five individuals forming an ad hoc team) - and UK are part of UN2 alongside Romania and Belgium (their captain - and fifth member).
Finnish time and time keeping is very laid back - so much so that results for round one were posted at 10pm tonight, and we had completed the first four rounds by half past five. Nick has just informed me that round 2 has just been posted at twenty past 11 (sorry Finnish keyboard doesn't have a colon so not easy to represent the time). So we were 40th (Nick) and 52nd (Ken) respectively (Nick just found the colon for me - it's now 11:22pm!) and after the second round we are now 42nd and 50th so boo/hooray - but it's all relative and Ulrich Voigt (last year's winner and two or three times champion) has a twenty point lead over second place and around forty to fifty points over the pack - an amazing achievement. The Americans are nowhere but third overall. Germany way out in front with the Dutch in second place.
Nick did well in the third round finishing second in the first of three timed puzzles scoring an 18 point bonus for battleships (a moving problem where you had to place the pieces in two grids three places apart).
The team competition was a bit of a damp squib where every team solved the first of three puzzles in time (three celtic knot puzzles), and then every team didn't solve the second one - a three coloured/three way graph with pieces to join 14 of 17 dots on a grid. Someone after the event suggested that everyone be given 10 more minutes as it wasn't much point otherwise and fair play to the Japanese they solved it after a few more minutes - but it didn't count. Then the third puzzle sorted the men from the boys - about seven teams got it - we didn't. [...]
So, we both think that we are doing better than last year - and especially after Nick's great third round. Tomorrow, we have the main individual test first in the morning, then an optimisation then in the afternoon VERY DIFFICULT puzzles. Then we are all off to Oulu Art Museum to do the final team round in public. One puzzle uses an electronic display of OULU (written in square letters 3x3) and we have to find the optimum layout to count the most Oulu's in any direction. [...]
And we made the TV - Finnish 2 station for the cognisenti amongst us. A good piece featuring Erja, a friendly Turk and Good ol' Zack Butler who pointed out that practice is all that you need (but he didn't say how much!)
Well we'd like to tell you more but then we will probably have to change our travel schedule and wait until Monday for the final results anyway. And we are also too sober as Finnish alcohol prices are not the cheapest 4.20 for 0.4 litre.
So we'll give you a final update on Saturday(The top three play off on Saturday morning - and after Nick's performance this afternoon - he's the man!!!!).
Bye for now
Ken and Nick
Since then, Ken has added...
No problems with distributing further and just a quick update for you - Nick was 20th going into today but he felt he fell back a bit on this morning's puzzles.
Tomorrow's update will have details of next year's champs in Arnhem
Chris again. Nick twentieth? That's mighty, mighty impressive. Extrapolating wildly, the British team really might be up there in the mix next year if we can get two people to knock on the door of the top quarter and two more to struggle into the top half. That's asking a lot, though, not least to try to make it into a team with such lofty ambitions. We shall see!