World Puzzle Championship History
2001 - Brno, Czech Republic
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The Czech Puzzling 
Photos by Serhiy Grabarchuk

WPC-10 Sample Puzzles
Sample puzzles from the Czech Republic

The 10th World Puzzle Championship
Article for Sept. 2002 Games World of Puzzles

Report by Zack Butler

When you get many of the same people together every year for a while, you tend to develop traditions. And of course the World Puzzle Championship is no exception. And the two recent traditions that I am happy to say was upheld were a wonderful experience and an American victory! (I would also like to report that I broke with tradition and recorded a positive score in Rifki!)

We all traveled this year to Brno, in the Czech Republic. On the way, the US Team continued a tradition of meeting up with other competitors in unlikely places when Metin Orsel of the Turkish team walked onto our flight from Zurich to Prague. We got a preview of Prague while waiting for the second bus to Brno, which was very nice despite buying possibly the worst ear of corn I've ever had. Once in Brno, we had the opening banquet, and were serenaded by quite an amazing musical impersonator - and Husnu, who was dragged up on stage as a blond sex symbol! Ron also chipped in with a bit of forced public singing, and since I didn't have to, it was a great time! 

As the week went on, we observed more traditions: drinking beer (almost impossible not to do there), playing Rifki in the bar (this year I also played bridge and Farmer's Bridge), listening to some folk music, and closing the bar on the last night (Nick had to catch a 4 AM taxi to the airport, so we did our best to keep him up). We also did quite a lot of puzzling, two long days of individual solving followed by some good team rounds. The puzzles were good, with some interesting new variations, if a bit heavy on the logical sequences and pattern matching - the kind of puzzles that you have to stare down into submission, and not my personal favorite - but I did well on them, and at least they weren't manipulatives. :) 

One thing we discovered as the week went on that once you do that many sequence puzzles, they are everywhere. We saw a building under renovation in Brno that had numbers painted on the insides of the windows: 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,[broken window]. We were served an appetizer that looked like a torte: ham, butter,cheese,butter,ham,butter.... But the best of all was the puzzle: -2, -1, 1, ?, 2, 3, 4. To which the answer is of course "PARKING", completing the sign on the garage across the street from our hotel.

After the puzzles finished, we managed to purchase time on a field of a local police athletic club, and played the largest football match in WPC history (another tradition) - 15 on 12, the Turks (and Poles) against the world. There may be disputes, but the official score was recorded 3-3. We then went on to a short walk around Brno and the awards banquet, which was truly suspenseful this year - the organizers were very efficient in getting scores out, but stopped posting results toward the end of the competition (I'm all in favor of that). In the team competition, the Belgians nosed out the Dutch for third and their first medals, with the Czechs second. And in the individual competition, a couple of surprises - I managed to just sneak past Wei-Hwa into third place and maintain the tradition of at least one American on the podium, and after a day or more of domination, Robert Babilon was caught by the defending champion Ulrich Voigt, who passed him at the wire to reclaim his title. We also placed all four team members in the top 12 (Ron 10th and Roger (our rookie) 12th), our best group finish in a few years, and the key to the team victory. The best part of all of this was that the individual trophies had nice large cups on top, suitable for drinking beer out of, something that (having been done twice now) is trying to become a tradition.

The 10th World Puzzle Championship
Article for Sept 2002 Games World of Puzzles

Every year some of the world's most creative puzzling occurs at the World Puzzle Championship. At last year's 10th WPC in the Czech Republic, for example, the organizers staged a fashion show in which a series of 10 models walked a runway displaying distinctive attire. Afterward the contestants--more than 100 of them from 21 countries--had to match the clothing items with the models who wore them.

Another event was in effect an extended three-card monte game, in which a document was placed in one of six identical attaché cases. Actors dressed as spies then secretly exchanged the cases on stage. The contestants were asked to identify the spy holding the original document at the end.

An especially popular event was a "screen test," consisting of a series of several dozen easy brainteasers flashed on a giant screen. The test would have been easy, that is, if the contestants had had a minute or so to solve each puzzle. Given just 10 to 30 seconds each, though, altogether the challenge was anything but easy.

Team USA - At work

For the seventh time in 10 years--and for the fourth year in a row--Team USA emerged victorious, finishing substantially ahead of the second-place, home team from the Czech Republic. Rounding out the top five were Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Team Canada finished a respectable 12th.

The individual competition was won by Ulrich Voigt of Germany (who also won in 2001) followed by Robert Babilon of the Czech Republic (who previously won in 1993 and 1996). All four Americans finished in the top 12: Zack Butler (3rd), Wei-Hwa Huang (4th), Ron Osher (10th), and newcomer Roger Barkan (12th). Derek Kisman was the highest-placing Canadian (9th). Full results can be found at the web site of the World Puzzle Federation (

The following pages contain some of our favorite puzzles from the competition--not counting the fashion show and the monte game, of course, which we can't reproduce in this magazine!

Team USA would like to thank its sponsors Binary Arts, for hosting the team's web site, and Random House, for publishing annual collections of the WPC puzzles.

The 11th World Puzzle Championship will be held in late September in Oulu, Finland--about two hours south of the Arctic Circle. The open qualifying test to select members for the U.S. and Canadian teams was held on June 15. Visit the Team USA web site ( for results, sample puzzles, and information about registering for future competitions.

- Nick Baxter and Will Shortz

Team standings:

1. USA


2. Czech Republic


3. Belgium


4. The Netherlands


5. Germany


6. France


7. Hungary


8. Poland


9. Turkey


10. Romania


11. Ukraine


12. Canada



1. Ulrich Voigt

2. Robert Babilon

3. Zack Butler

4. Wei-Hwa Huang

5. Niels Roest

6. Tim Peeters

7. Petr Nepovim

8. Sebastien Leroy

9. Derek Kisman

10. Ron Osher

12. Roger Barkan
USA 1,201

64. John Wetmiller

83. Nicholas McHaffie

90. Jan Suchanek

World Puzzle Championship History
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