When you think of big international competitions that bring a lot of national pride with them, Sudoku is probably not the first thing that jumps to mind. You might think of the World Cup of soccer or the Olympics, but for the players that compete in the World Sudoku Championship, it's just as intense.
In 2006, the first World Sudoku Championship was held in Lucca Italy. The winner was 32-year old Jana Tylova, an accountant from the Czech Republic. In 2007 she finished 18th when the competition was won by Thomas Snyder, a 27-year old student from Hardvard University. Snyder, unlike Tylova, did manage to defend his crown in 2008. In 2009, Jan Mrozowski from Poland become the Sudoku world champion.
The World Championships is a good example of how Sudoku has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon during the past few years and the casual player might be wondering now how he or she could go from hobbyist to world class puzzle solver. If this is true for you, there are some things you can do to sharpen your skills so that you can compete with the big boys (and girls).
First of all though, you'll have to realize that not everyone is cut out to be a champion and this is nothing to be ashamed about. Some people just have an amazing set of skills and if you are going to be a Sudoku pro, you need to have very good math and logic skills and you'll need to be able to see things quicker and have your mind work faster than those around you.
Check out this quote in a Time Magazine piece that was given by Snyder right after he won the title in 2007 :""You need to be flexible in what you are doing," Snyder says later, still bobbing with enthusiasm as he explains his passion for difficult puzzles, his fingers piercing the cells of an imaginary round-shaped brain-twister in the air. I'm barely able to keep up with his detailed demonstration, before he concludes, with a broad smile: "You find a better way like that, and that's what I like about solving puzzles.""
The poor interviewer could not even keep up with Snyder's explanation on why he is so good at solving hard puzzles, let alone be able to keep up with him during a competition. But ok, let's say that you do possess the talent to be an ace in Sudoku, you are still going to need plenty of practice to keep sharp and having a better understanding of the game will always be a plus.
There are some great articles online that give you tips on how to solve a Sudoku puzzle and even "Sudoku solvers" that will help you step through the puzzles and give you detailed Sudoku solutions and strategies. Just like other pro athletes practice their skills and watch hours of game tape to gain an advantage on their opponents, players who want to excel at Sudoku will have to practice a lot as well.
Practice daily, play against a clock or play against someone else so you get used to the competition and trying to concentrate while knowing that another player is also gunning to beat you. Gradually increase the level of difficulty of your puzzles and also lower your time limit. Then try to put it all together by beating the puzzle, beating the clock and beating your opponent.