What Happens During a World Sudoku Championship?

Competitive Sudoku Championships

While doing your daily Sudoku and slowly scanning the grid to fill in your numbers, you may wonder what it's like to play it competitively. Are there more missing numbers or fewer numbers to work with? How would people compete in it?

If you’re not familiar with how extensive the Sudoku kingdom and puzzle world can be, there is a real competitive scene to the game! Many players have learned and studied Sudoku to the point they can challenge further heights and pit their hard-earned skills against other expert Sudoku players.

Sure, Sudoku was primarily made as a calming pastime you can play alone. But some Sudoku players have become so good at solving Sudoku puzzles that they need to challenge themselves and others to become the best at playing this puzzle game.

The difficulty is no more than a classification for them, and they seek out a good, new puzzle to compete with others and prove their mastery. Aside from furthering their skills, competition and rivalry create better motivation in Sudoku puzzle solving and creation. For them, to play Sudoku is not just to solve and stop at hard Sudoku puzzles, but to go beyond and find fun and thrills on an international stage.

So what’s the World Sudoku Championship? And how does it happen? Who gets to play in it? Continue reading here to learn more Sudoku tips and info!

Who Hosts the World Sudoku Championship?

While there are many known international Sudoku tournaments, the most prominent organization of them all is the World Puzzle Federation (WPF). As you may have guessed from the name of their group, they host tournaments and activities for all kinds of puzzles, and Sudoku is one of their most well-known games. Attended by many players worldwide, the World Sudoku Championship (WSC) is the premier Sudoku event and the best place to make a name for yourself in the international Sudoku community. And if you're a new puzzle game enthusiast, attending the event is a great experience!

When Was the First One Held?

Based on the public information provided by the WPF, the WSC dates back to 2006 and has continued to be held in different countries and dates annually (though missing during the years 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic), with the first WSC event being hosted in Lucca, Italy. As of writing this post, the last WSC was held in Kraków, Poland in 2022, and the next one in 2023 will be held in Toronto, Canada.

Who Gets to Play in the World Sudoku Championship?

By tradition, every player and team that gets to play in the WSC needs to be a member of the WPF first, and they need to have a local governing body to be the international representative of that country. For example, in India, their national representative body is the Logic Masters India, and aspiring WSC participants in India must win in their country’s nationwide Sudoku championship first to get selected.

The selection process involves all sorts of patterns and Sudoku puzzles, with a fluid difficulty setting and each game different from the last. From easy to hard Sudoku, every participant's focus and personal technique are tested and pitted against fellow players.

Open for All Enthusiasts of the Sudoku Kingdom

However, the WSC as an event is open for any Sudoku enthusiast to spectate, but joining as a participant has to be done through the established method above. Aside from selected players, the WPF directly invites prolific players who have already proven their skill in playing Sudoku puzzles to join the event, such as Thomas Snyder of the USA and Kota Morinishi of Japan.

How Does the World Sudoku Championship Go?

The WSC works in a round-based system, and each round has a different event, puzzle and score set and other specific criteria to work on. For reference, the 2019 WSC had 13 rounds, while the 2022 WSC had 15.

Generally, the whole event is split into individual, team and playoff rounds, where scores are determined by fully and correctly solved puzzles. Some rounds allow partial scores to be added based on criteria as well. It usually starts off with individual rounds, then team rounds and the main event being the final playoffs.

Iterations of Sudoku Puzzles Can Also Appear

Different WSCs have different game sets. Aside from the classic 9x9 grid with the familiar box, row and column pattern, some events have their players solve Killer or Samurai Sudoku puzzles and other iterations, like Thermometer and Fortress. This is to prevent the game event from becoming stale and too obvious, as more experienced competitors can easily solve classic puzzles with just a glance of a row or two or get enough time scanning for a pattern in a grid. Each WSC is filled with exciting Sudoku puzzles that encourage everyone to guess what to expect next.

Scores Decide the Winners

Using the different scoring systems on each new puzzle based on difficulty and challenge, players are ranked on how many accumulated points they have. The highest-scoring Sudoku player, regardless if they made a mistake on the left column of a puzzle while others did not, will be the WSC champion for that event. The scores are posted in a long list, showing the score of each participant, from the topmost rank to the last.

How Much Do World Sudoku Champions Get for Winning?

To be frank, there is no monetary prize of any sort to the winners of the WSC—players who compete in this event are here to challenge themselves and others in competitive Sudoku puzzle-solving. What they get is the prestige of being the top-ranked Sudoku player globally and being able to influence what happens in the next WSC as a member of the WPF.

However, some of the countries that participate in the WSC, such as the USA and India, offer sums of money to their local champions. It varies from country to country, but to give examples, the US Sudoku Championship winners get $10,000 and the Indian Sudoku Tournaments hand out as much as ₹7,000.

Who Are the Most Famous WSC Champions in the World?

Since its first official event, there have been many notable WSC champions internationally. Some of the most well-known names are Kota Morinishi, a four-time champion, Thomas Snyder and Jan Mrozowski, both three-time champions and Jana Tylová, the first winner of the WSC back in 2006.