We all know at least that one person who hunts through magazines or newspapers for that illusive Sudoku puzzle while they wait at the airport or at the dentist. Well, you may be one of them. These people, to whom the empty boxes on that 9x9 grid speak louder than any audible voice, are to be commended. They have taken after this mental sport, a puzzle that has enticed great minds, given rise to chilling challenges and has gone far enough to have a World Championship Competition in its name.
By 2005, the World Puzzle Federation estimated it as the No. 1 logic puzzle in the world. Will Shortz, the founder of the American Crossword Puzzle tournament and the only person in the world to hold a college degree in Enigmatology, the Study of Puzzles, says that Sudoku gets its’ addictive, universal appeal because it first offers the mystery and then the joy and satisfaction of solving it. There are (in fact) 5,472,730,538 different Sudoku grids. There are many competitions posing these puzzles at different levels of difficulty to participants worldwide. The World Sudoku Championship is an international competition, hosted by different countries every year. Individual participants, as well as teams from all over the world, gather to solve over 100 puzzles to decide who the ultimate Champion of this seemingly simple but mind-boggling puzzle is.
The first Sudoku World Championship was held in Lucca, ltaly hosting participants from over 20 countries. All the rounds were timed and the one who solved the puzzle in the least amount of time was the winner. There is a great thrill but also immense pressure on the participants while they are a part of a World class competition, representing their country, doing what they once did for fun and relaxation. Many countries have their own National Sudoku Competition, where players are chosen to represent the country at the International level. America's puzzle expert and Sudoku master, Thomas Snyder who still holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest Sudoku solution, was one such player who won the first U.S. Sudoku National Championship in 2007. The final round of this competition, Snyder went head-on against his two competitors by solving a Sudoku puzzle on a 4x4 grid on the floor in view of a thousand people — a challenge of its own to people who are used to solving the puzzle on a small square on a magazine or a computer screen.
lndia also has its own National competition, lndian Sudoku Championship (ISC), conducted by Logic Master’s lndia — the Indian affiliate of the World Puzzle Federation. There are also many online Sudoku competitions where players are timed and can compete against each other. They are ultimately chosen for the World Championship which of course is played in person. Unlike many other World Championship titles, this doesn’t bring in a fortune. There is a small reward, which many people have said, facilitated them to travel the world and watch or participate in other Sudoku tournaments. It wouldn’t have come as a total shock if this worldwide interest in Sudoku had slowly diminished over the years but Sudoku has prevailed over this easily bored mentality of man. In the World Puzzle Championship 2016 which was held in the Seneca Slovak Republic, there were 213 contestants from 33 countries. Quite puzzling, how nine simple numbers, arranged nine times in squares could fascinate millions worldwide.
Apart from being a challenging and engaging mental sport, Sudoku also seems to contribute to a kind of mental catharsis. The process of focusing refreshes the mind so much that it is even said to keep away the dreaded Alzheimer's. So, it’s not surprising then that it has such a universal appeal that has lasted long enough to be remembered.