June is a very interesting month for puzzle contests. Taking place this weekend at Logic Masters India is Fillomino-Filia, a two-hour contest where all the puzzles are Fillominos or Fillomino variants. If you're a puzzle fan in general and not wildly opposed to Fillominoes, I give it a very strong recommendation. In fact, I would say that I probably enjoyed the test more than any puzzle test that I can remember; over the two hours, I attempted nine out of the eighteen puzzles and completed all nine. Under other circumstances, I might have been quicker still and tried some of the good-looking other puzzles that I didn't have the time to try. It's a bit of a joke to say that logic puzzles contain "imperceptible witticisms", but one of the puzzles was particularly outstanding; it would be a spoiler to say which one before the test is over, but it comes as close to "ridiculous to the point of hilarity" as puzzles get - and still solves smoothly, surprisingly and satisfyingly.
Of course, this all relies on a passing familiarity with the Fillomino format to begin with; it's not the most familiar type in the world, but it's very quick to learn. Fill in squares in a grid with numbers so that all the 1s are in blocks of 1, all the 2s are in blocks of 2, all the 3s are in blocks of 3, all the 4s are in blocks of 4 (like Tetris pieces), all the 5s are in blocks of 5 and so on. It's probably best learnt by doing; A Puzzle Zone has some pretty examples, some of which are very easy, Puzzle Picnic has lots of examples, so does Vegard Hanssen's site, so does janko.at (listed from leicht to schwer - and the latter ones really are hard enough to make you do so). I enjoy Fillomino, though I'm not great at them; one of the nice things about croco-puzzle is that you can get rated puzzle type by puzzle type. I'm 1145 at croco-puzzle Fillomino, which translates to "not bad, but nothing special". This test is definitely accessible to general puzzle fans without great practice in the genre, though the variants are enough to keep the experts interested. The test closes at midnight UTC on Sunday/Monday - so 1 a.m. BST on Monday in the UK, 8 p.m. EST on Sunday, 5 p.m. PST on Sunday.
That's not all the puzzle news, though. The test works well on its own merits, but it also forms part of one of the routes to qualification for the UK team. If you haven't been following the monthly tests, then you can zoom straight past them onto the 'plane to this year's World Puzzle and Sudoku Championships in Eger, Hungary by picking up the single place on offer to the winner of the UK Puzzle Championship, on the weekend of 25-26 June, or the place that goes to the winner of the US Puzzle Championship, expected Real Soon Now. As we don't have a date for the latter, there may be time to practice with the Puzzle Cruise on 18-19 June, exactly in the USPC/UKPC style - and, before then, there's the UK Sudoku Championship next weekend. Lots to see, lots to do.
In other news, the latest World Series of Poker has started, and people are talking about... well, not about this year's poker, yet. There has already been the eye-catching announcement of a tournament scheduled for the 2012 World Series with a buy-in of a cool one meeeeeellion dollars; global water charities are set to finish in third place in the tournament, earning a payout of one-ninth of all buy-in fees. Negative Eee Vee, sure, but there have been fifteen sign-ups for it already!
The last few years have seen a trend for bigger and bigger buy-in tournaments as well as the proliferation of smaller buy-in ones as well at the World Series, with the biggest tournament so far being a near-impromptu Australian $250,000 buy-in event when three juicy-looking Chinese businessmen stumped up the big bucks and seventeen sharks descended upon the value provided by the three apparent fish. This impromptu supertournament caused debate about what should be eligible for the all-time tournament winnings chart - which is just a bit of fun, anyway, as nobody computes an all-time tournament losings chart to put the L into players' P and L accounts. At least there's plenty of warning, and lots of time to think of a good name for it. (I like "Über High Roller".) Five years ago there was talk of a not-very-high-profile poker site inspiring a $10,000,000 buy-in tournament, with the winner of the six taking all, but that never came to fruition. This looks more plausible.
People are also talking about Phil Ivey having announced that he won't be playing that he won't be playing at this year's World Series. He also has announced (on Facebook, which is the way that you do it these days) that he has filed lawsuit against one of the companies behind the Full Tilt Poker web site, a site of which Ivey is considered a part-owner, because Full Tilt have been so slow at paying US online poker players the funds that they had stored there after Black Friday, the day on which the US Dept. of Justice charged principles of three of the poker sites with most US players with bank fraud, illegal gambling and money-laundering charges. Certainly turning up with a Full Tilt sponsorship patch is seen as a faux pas at best. (Poker Stars started to pay their US-based players within about five or six days, so are in the populace's good graces.) It has also been suggested that Ivey would have skipped the WSoP anyway, even risking rumoured millions he stands to have to pay out betting on himself to win events there.
And what of the poker that people aren't talking about? Well, there has only been one big event so far; 128 players each plunked down US$25,000 for a seven-round single-elimination heads-up contest in no-limit Texas Hold 'Em. The only player to go 7-0 was one Jake Cody, already a contender for the most accomplished sportsman to hail from sleepy little Rochdale in Lancashire. In the space of 18 months Cody has won substantial six- (and one seven-) digit prizes by winning tournaments on the European Poker Tour, the World Poker Tour and now at the World Series of Poker, thus being only the third player to compete the Triple Crown, and doing so in about a third of the time of either of the other two. Hurrah for prize money flowing to British bankrolls, especially to that of someone about whom I am yet to read a single bad word. That said, I fear that even if Cody were to win all his championship bracelets and other poker finery, he'd still get carded when he tried to buy a drink; he may be a veteran at an age of mearly 23, but I've seen older, rougher-looking thirteen-year olds.
In other news: still no news from the International Mind Sports Association regarding a possible 2012 World Mind Sports Games, though the same source who reported initial contracts had been signed for August 2012 in Manchester now suggests that "Proposals from various locations, including the city of Manchester, were currently being considered"; Manchester has been considered as recently May to be "the leading candidate to host". I'm fairly bullish about the event happening in some shape or form; the World Bridge Federation probably have the most to lose ever since they bundled their World Team Olympiad into the WMSG, and they have not yet shown any signs of bundling them back out of there again.
SportAccord's World Mind Games are now scheduled for 8-17 December, and their Facebook page suggests they're headed for Beijing, China, with another report putting them at the Beijing Conference Centre. FIDE has quite a bit more detail: 16 chess players rated 2700+, and 16 more female chess players rated 2450+, will be invited to participate in rapid, blitz and either pairs or blindfold events, so this should be something pretty special. (On the other hand, it'll clash with the 3rd London Chess Classic. D'oh.) Open event participants are guaranteed US$4k and female event participants are guaranteed US$2k; a total prize fund of US$320k is claimed, but I'm not sure whether that's for chess alone or for the whole shebang. FIDE also have the schedule for the whole event; looks like they'll have the same five mind sports as at the first WMSG: chess, bridge, go, draughts and home banker xiangqi. No sign of poker breaking in yet, whether duplicate or otherwise.
This does take us rather full circle; if online poker sites can't legally run real-money cash games with players from the US, will it be worth their money to keep sponsoring other events in the US? No sign of the PokerStars banner being taken down from the US Chess League site; I have a feeling (more a gussied-up hope, really) that the USCL would continue to run without PokerStars' support, noting that some other teams have managed to get their own sponsorship. However, it would become rapidly obvious which players were in it for the love, and which ones saw the green as a major part of the incentive. No developments on the USCL site at all recently, so odds must be against any expansion for 2011. Still, only a couple of months until we'll know for sure!
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