World Puzzle Championship History
1996, Utrecht, The Netherlands

1999   1998   1997   1996   1995   1992-4

Report filed by Zack Butler, 9/29/97

U.S. Wins 5th World Puzzle Championship!

In a word, it was wonderful. Again. Organized with typical Dutch efficiency (or at least the efficiency of a great puzzle mind or two), we spent five days eating, drinking, puzzling, laughing, sightseeing, puzzling, shopping, dancing, puzzling, bowling, sleeping a little, and puzzling. All of it went very well. The puzzling went better for both me and the team than last year. The puzzles were excellent, created in large part by Peter Ritmeester, perhaps the best non-mechanical puzzle creator anywhere. As a team, we finished first by a large margin over the Czechs, and retained the Puzzle Star. I used a strong first-round performance to hold on to second place individually. The other team members were 3rd (defending champ Wei-Hwa Huang), 5th (Ron Osher) and 7th (Nick Baxter), making for a dominating show, especially when combined with the best score in each of the three team rounds. Robert Babilon of the Czech Republic won the individual title quite handily, with two of his teammates, Pavel Kalhous and Petr Nepovim, in 4th and 9th respectively.

After arriving on Tuesday, we took it easy before the welcoming dinner that night. After a short bit of folk dancing (a friendly jab at the Romanians), we had a good dinner followed by bowling at the hotel bowling alley. (Here Kamer of the Turkish team won the Helene Hovanec Memorial Ankle-Injuring Award by attempting to kick the ball down the lane while wearing no shoes...) Wednesday we were taken to Amsterdam for lunch and an afternoon of sightseeing, although I would say that there are few things more frustrating than going to a wonderful art museum with barely more than an hour to look around. Dinner that night was at a ship-themed restaurant, where the theme was taken beyond the realm of anything I've seen in this country. Thursday and Friday were full puzzle days, with not much in the evenings, although I did learn a very complicated card game called "Kings" from the Turks, at which I was soundly defeated.

Saturday morning was the final bit of competition, including two very nice team puzzles. (Nice because having four people actually meant spending about 1/4 the time on them, unlike most team puzzles.) In the afternoon, most of the Americans, Turks, and Hungarians skipped the cultural programme in Rotterdam to go shopping in Utrecht. The downtown district there has an amazing density of clothing, shoe and music stores, to the exclusion of almost everything else. I bought music and chocloate, but no shoes, wooden or otherwise. I was also amused when passing a coffeeshop to see a 5 kilo bag of marijuana in the window. (For those of you that don't know, pot is not very dense. 5 kilos is a lot.)

Anyway, we returned from shopping and went back out to the awards banquet and party. This was also wonderful. We listened to a speech from the mayor of Koprivnica, Croatia, host of next year's WPC. The trophies were then awarded, and are very nice, each containing a simple mechanical puzzle. The Turkish team squeaked out a 3rd place finish over the Dutch team, which had its best finish ever. (Of course, it was the first time the Dutch team wasn't comprised of the sponsoring magazine's editors.) After the awards was some dancing with a cover band called the Clarks. I was momentarily confused, since there is a Pittsburgh band by that name, but apparently this is a different bunch of guys. We then retired to the hotel bar at about 1, bought some beer from the soda machine at about 3:30 (another great Dutch thing), and I caught a short nap before our return trip.

Other things to tell, perhaps:

• Red noses and Czech serenades
• How to play Kings
• How much do we really care?
• Scrabble in three languages
• Many many more...

Team standings:

1. U.S.A

2. Czech Republic 2557
3. Turkey 2149
4. The Netherlands 2135
5. Poland 1933
6. Russia 1872
7. Germany 1840
8. Japan 1726
9. Hungary 1657
10. Slovak Republic 1638
(14 total teams)


1. Robert Babilon
    Czech Rep.


2. Zack Butler


3. Wei-Hwa Huang


4. Pavel Kalhous
    Czech Rep.


5. Ron Osher


6. Paul Jacobs


7. Nick Baxter


8. Markus Gegenheimer


9. Petr Nepovim
    Czech Rep.


10. Guray Erus


World Puzzle Championship History
1999   1998   1997   1996   1995   1992-4

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