What Actually Happens at a Sudoku World Championship?


Here are a few lessons from the Sudoku World Championship and other high-level Sudoku competitions:

Variety is important – so is speed

Players at the Sudoku World Championship play a variety of Sudoku puzzles with a variety of skill levels – easy, medium and hard. Every puzzle is timed, and players are judged based on how quickly they can complete the Sudoku puzzles. The fastest puzzle solver wins.

Competition conditions are different

When American Sudoku master Thomas Snyder won the first U.S. Sudoku National Championship in 2007, he completed a series of three Sudoku puzzles (easy, medium and hard) in 9 minutes, 59 seconds – more than 8 minutes faster than anyone else. In the final round, Snyder and his two finalist competitors solved the Sudoku puzzles on big 4 x 4 foot grids, so that the 1,000 people in the audience could see the numbers as they were placed, and could measure the progress. This was a special challenge for the players, because usually when solving Sudoku puzzles, players are used to looking at a small grid on a piece of paper, or on a mobile app or computer screen.

Going for the World Record

As part of every Sudoku World Championship, the players try to set a new World Record for the fastest solution of a Sudoku puzzle. As of this writing, U.S. Sudoku master Thomas Snyder holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest Sudoku solution – he once solved a “Very Easy” Sudoku puzzle in less than 90 seconds.

The prize money is significant

Although there are no full-time professional Sudoku players in the U.S., the prize money for big Sudoku competitions can be significant. For example, when Thomas Snyder won the U.S. Sudoku Championship in 2007, the Grand Prize was $10,000. Snyder was quoted as saying that he has used some of his prize money to travel to other Sudoku tournaments. You might never get rich from playing Sudoku, but if you’re one of the best players in the world, you can afford to fly first class to your next competition.

Sudoku tournaments are a unique community

In this video interview with Thomas Snyder, he talks about how fun it is to travel the world going to Sudoku tournaments and meeting with other puzzle enthusiasts from many other countries. There is a great sense of camaraderie at Sudoku tournaments, where puzzle champions from around the world share their tips and learn from each other. If you love solving Sudoku puzzles, perhaps you would enjoy trying your skills at a Sudoku competition.