World Puzzle Championship History
2002 - Oulu, Finland
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WPC-11 Photo Album 
Photos by US Team and the WPC organizers

The 11th World Puzzle Championship
Article for April 2003 Games World of Puzzles

WPC-11 Sample Puzzles
Sample puzzles from Oulu, Finland

Oulu Can You Go?
Report by Zack Butler

WPC-11 Photo Album 
Photos by Nick Baxter, Wei-Hwa Huang, and the WPC organizers

Lappish Baptismal Rite

Reindeer at Kampsuherra, Arctic Cricle

Arctic Circle (66 33' 35") Tourist Trap in Rovaniemi

Mechanical Puzzle Exhibit and host Matti Linkola

Round 1 in progress

Solution for Oulu Blocks

Team USA solving the Gordian Knots

Team USA and the OULU-Tronic

OULU-Tronic co-inventor Ferhat Calapkulu

Ulrich Voigt (3rd), Niels Roest (1st), and Roland Voigt (2nd)

Team USA Entourage: Will Shortz (WPF chairman), Wei-Hwa Huang (team), Zack Butler (team), Ron Osher (team), Nancy Schuster, Roger Barkan (team), Helene Hovanec, Nick Baxter (captain), Stan Newman

The 11th World Puzzle Championship
Article for April 2003 Games World of Puzzles

Every year, the world's best puzzle solvers get together at some exotic location to match wits with their peers. In September of last year, the center of the puzzle world was exactly 66 32' 35" north of the equator, on  the Arctic Circle near Oulu, Finland. We knew this of course because of the big white line on the ground in the middle of a cluster of tourist shops! The fact that the true Arctic Circle is moving north about 25 feet a year didn't appear to slow the wheels of commerce!

Our Finnish hosts were very hospitable, treating us to an eclectic selection of authentic Lappish activities, including  formal baptismal rites and mock reindeer roping. After a day of acclimating to weather, cultural, and  time differences, we were finally ready for puzzles!

The team puzzles were particularly unusual this year. One puzzle was an electronic device called the OULU-tronic. The goal was to maximize certain aspects of the display, but which displays were even possible was initially unknown. It included four buttons that manipulated an LED display in a seemingly unpredictable fashion; teams had to discover that certain combinations of buttons--requiring at least two people working together simultaneously--were needed to find the solution. 

Teams then moved to the Oulu Art Museum. After enjoying a large exhibit of manipulative puzzles from a local collection, teams had to solve a large, 5-color Paint by Numbers puzzle, and a massive pattern matching puzzle that turned into a fruitless museum-wide scavenger hunt. 

The team competition was the closest ever, with three teams all within 31 points of each other. In the end, it was Japan who survived to win its first ever team title, with Germany and USA following close behind.

After two full days of solving, the individual competition came down to a 30-minute playoff round for the top three solvers. Reigning champion Ulrich Voigt pulled out to a big early lead, solving five problems in just eight minutes. Surprisingly he stalled, allowing his younger brother, Roland, to move into the lead by solving seven of the ten puzzles in 27 minutes. But after a slow start, Niels Roest of the Netherlands was not to be outdone and solved seven problems in just 25 minutes, taking the championship in dramatic fashion.

American solvers did not fair so well this year, led by Roger Barkan finishing 8th, followed closely by Zack Butler (13th), Ron Osher (16th), and Wei-Hwa Huang (20th). Canadian Derek Kisman had another fine performance, placing fourth, followed by teammates Brad Bart (18th), David Savitt (30th) and John Wetmiller (35th). Full results can be found at the World Puzzle Federation web site.

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 12th World Puzzle Championship will be held in early October in Papendal, Netherlands. Qualifying to select members for the U.S. and Canadian teams will be on May 31, as part of the online US Puzzle Championship. Visit the Team USA web site for complete rules and registration.

- Nick Baxter and Will Shortz

Oulu Can You Go?
Report by Zack Butler

Apologies to Roger for stealing his title, but unfortunately this phrase applied quite well to the other three members of the U.S. team this year at the WPC. In a close finish, we ended up with the bronze medal (for the first time), behind the Japanese and the Germans, and only Roger finished in the top ten as an individual. And also for a change, I didn't immediately send out a recap e-mail, since I didn't come immediately home. Instead I went to Switzerland for a few days of vacation before a conference (all of which went quite well), and by the time I got home, I had lost my momentum.

Which is not to say that I didn't have things to talk about, and aside from the competition itself (you know, the operation was a success but the patient died), everything went pretty well in Oulu. We played a lot of cards as usual (quite a bit of bridge this year), and my suggestion of a variation on Farmer's Bridge was quickly adopted all around, which was great. We had a trip to the Arctic Circle, which was basically a tourist trap (I mean, what did you expect, a big line on the ground?), but amusing in its own way. And of course the football match, which although played on a field with no grass with goals with no nets and a ball with no air, was surprisingly well-played. And we won, with me in goal, which I enjoyed a lot, helped out by great defense from Jan and others (in the first half, we didn't hardly need a keeper at all, but I made a few saves in the second half)...

Sandwiched in between was the actual competition, with some hard puzzles, harder puzzles, and manipulatives. Actually, there was an optimization round on which I fared quite well, which was an unusual turn of events. But after not doing well in the first round, I felt sort of down, and couldn't pick things back up from there. The team puzzles were by and large fun, but without time bonuses, did not help separate the teams (except for the Oulu-tronic, which is perhaps the coolest team puzzle we've seen yet). For the record, I was 13th individually, not far from the top ten, but a long long way from the top three. Those lucky folks (Niels, Ulrich, Roland) got to solve puzzles in front of everyone, in permanent marker!, to decide the championship, with Niels pulling it out in a tense finish.

After this was of course the traditional no sleep on the last night (cards until 2:45, then packing, then up to catch a 5:15 cab to the airport) - but this year, I didn't have 6-7 hours of jet lag to compensate for. So it was a long day, with a nice short hike in the Jura and fondue for dinner, and no report until now.

- Zack Butler

Team Results:

1. Japan


2. Germany


3. USA


4. The Netherlands


5. Canada


6. Belgium


7. Hungary


8. France


9. Czech Republic


10. Russia


Individual Finals:

1. Niels Roest
7, 25:55

2. Roland Voigt
7, 27:12

3. Ulrich Voigt
5, 7:42



   Niels Roest

   Ulrich Voigt

   Roland Voigt

4. Derek Kisman

5. Taro Arimatsu

6. Roger Barkan

7. Shinichi Aoki

8. Satoshi Shibata

9. Sebastien Leroy

10. Denis Auroux

13. Zack Butler
USA 364

16. Ron Osher

18. Brad Bart

20. Wei-Hwa Huang

30. David Savitt

35. John Wetmiller

World Puzzle Championship History
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