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Do You Sudoku?
Cover Stories Series 2012> Do You Sudoku?
UPDATED: June 4, 2012 NO. 23 JUNE 7, 2012
A Numbers Game
Sudoku enthusiasts gathered in Beijing for a championship of intelligence and speed
By Bai Shi

PUZZLE OPENER: Hana Koudelkova, Director of the World Puzzle Federation, delivers a speech at the BIST 2012 opening ceremony on May 18 (CFP)

The Second Beijing International Sudoku Tournament (BIST 2012) crowned a new champion in Fengtai District of Beijing on May 20. Kota Morinishi, a 23-year-old Japanese university student, beat defending champ Jakub Ondrousek from the Czech Republic by one puzzle in the head-to-head final to win the tournament trophy.

Over two days of close competition, the tournament unfolded beyond people's expectations.

U.S. player Thomas Snyder entered the contest under high pressure as the prior three-time winner of the World Sudoku Championship (WSC). But he came short of reaching the finals during the second round on May 19. Spectators then turned their attention to Ondrousek, winner of BIST 2011 and new favorite to take first place.

To the surprise of onlookers, Morinishi solved all six puzzles in just 24 minutes in the final while Ondrousek was stumped by a puzzle that he chose himself. The narrow finish gave the tournament an unexpected twist.

It was the first championship title for Morinishi after playing the game for over 10 years, though he had long competed at a high level alongside past champions. Previously, Morinishi won third place at the BIST 2011 and was runner-up of the Sixth World Sudoku Championship (WSC) last year.

"I am happy to win BIST 2012. My dream has come true," Morinishi said excitedly at the award ceremony. "But I was really nervous in the final. The puzzles are harder than last year. I admit that I was a little lucky this time. As everyone knows, Ondrousek is not easy to beat."

According to the organizers, 52 Sudoku masters came to Beijing from 14 countries and regions for the BIST 2012 championship. The top 10 competitors were rewarded with bonuses ranging from $600 to $6,000. The tournament also had special awards for participants under the age of 18 and over 40.

Sudoku has been popular all over the world since the 1990s. Today, it is widely played by people in Japan, the United States and many European countries. The current world champions are from Japan, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and the United States.

Rising popularity

Though Sudoku has not been in China for long, its fans are growing rapidly among the Chinese in recent years. Many newspapers, such as the Beijing Evening News, have printed Sudoku puzzles on their pages to challenge and attract readers. Sudoku games were first broadcast in China nationwide on television during the BIST 2011 in May last year.

Internet sites also play a key role in promoting Sudoku in China. Thanks to the widespread Internet gaming industry, a grow-ing number of people play Sudoku on their cellphones and handheld devices.

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