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2001 TopCoder Collegiate Challenge Recap

From June 5-7, 2001, 16 of the top collegiate programmers in the country traveled to the San Francisco Hilton and Towers for the semifinals and final of the 2001 TopCoder Collegiate Challenge. The tournaments purse was $250,000, with the winner receiving $100,000.

The tournament began in April with 256 of TopCoder's top-rated collegiate members competing in three online elimination rounds, which reduced the field to the final 16.


jonmac , agmarut, dpecora, and unlord got the semifinal rounds started at 10:00 am on Tuesday morning. During the "Coding Phase", jonmac, unlord and dpecora were able to finish all three problems, while agmarut completed two. jonmac finished the problems the quickest, earning 1217.74 points. unlord and dpecora were close behind with 1101.96 and 947.40 points, respectively, while agmarut earned 505.15. jonmac was able to distance himself from the field by successfully challenging the 1000-point submission by unlord, which added 100 points to his score, and caused unlord to lose the 534.51 points he had earned from that problem. agmarut and dpecora both failed in their challenges of the 1000-point submission from jonmac, and unlord failed in his challenge of the 250-point submission of agmarut, casing all three to lose 100 points each. When the "Challenge Phase" ended, jonmac continued to lead, with dpecora now in second and unlord in third. The system test shuffled the places again, as the 250 and 1000-point submissions of dpecora failed, as did the 250-pointer from unlord, causing them to drop to third and fourth, respectively. The 500-point code submitted by jonmac failed the system test as well, but he had earned enough points on the other problems to win the match by 475.83 points (880.98 to 405.15) over agmarut, who went through the system test unscathed.


Tuesday's afternoon session began very similar to the morning, as three coders, vulture, Spam_vt, and dmwright completed all three of the problems, while wickamos finished two of them. In an extremely close battle, Spam_vt held the lead with 1363.82 points. dmwright (1291.96) and vulture (1220.73) were just behind in second and third, with wickamos (823.09) in fourth. vulture distanced himself from the field in the "Challenge Phase", earning an impressive 300 points by successfully challenging the 1000-point submission of Spam_vt, and both the 500 and 1000-point submissions of dmwright. dmwright was able to gain back 100 of the 1058.13 points he lost in the "Challenge Phase", by successfully challenging the 1000-pointer from wickamos. All of the remaining codes passed the system test, and vulture advanced to the finals. Spam_vt finished second, with dmwright third and wickamos fourth.


In the Wednesday morning semifinal, UMdrone had the lead after the "Coding Phase", earning 1188.63 points for submitting code for all three problems. stevevai, who like UMdrone completed all three problems, was second with 992.25 points. seacow and zbbrox completed two of the three problems and stood third and fourth, respectively. During the "Challenge Phase", stevevai took the lead when he successfully challenged the 1000-pointer from UMdrone. The only other challenge in that phase was an unsuccessful attempt by zbbrox on the 1000-point submission from stevevai. stevevai lost his lead during the system test, when his 500 and 1000-point codes failed. seacow, whose 250 and 500-point submissions both passed the system test, won the round with 612.60 points. He was followed by zbbrox, whose 250 and 500-point submissions also passed the system test, stevevai, and UMdrone, whose 250 and 500-point submissions failed.


In the final semifinal round, qubits produced the highest "Coding Phase" point total by earning 1534.91 points from his three submissions. Orbus also submitted code for the three problems, and was in second with 1154.56 points. Aleksey, who completed two of the three, and freshStart who completed one, were in third in fourth, respectively. qubits put considerable distance between himself and his competitors by successfully challenging all three of their 250-point submissions for 300 points. Orbus tried to keep pace, but failed in his challenge of the 1000-point submission from qubits. Aleksey gained 100 points back in his successful challenge of the 500-pointer from Orbus. Rounding out the challenges was a failure by freshStart on the 250-pointer from Orbus. The 1000-point submission from qubits ended up failing the system test, but it didn't matter, as he had accumulated enough points to win the round and advance to the final. Orbus, Aleksey, and freshStart finished second, third and fourth, respectively.


All four coders put on an impressive display during the "Coding Phase", as they all completed the three problems and earned point totals over 1000. jonmac led the way with 1419.32 points. He was followed closely by seacow (1351.96), qubits (1276.62), and vulture (1220.15). In a very active "Challenge Phase", jonmac gained 200 points from successful challenges of the 250-point submission of qubits and the 1000-pointer of seacow, but then lost 468.04 points, when vulture successfully challenged his 1000-point submission. He finished with 1151.28 final points. That total was 7.64 points behind the final total of the 2001 TopCoder Collegiate Challenge Champion qubits, who did lose 217.70 points from the 250-point jonmac challenge, but was able to successfully challenge two of three algorithms and gain 100 points back for a total of 1158.92 final points.


Following the second semifinal, the finalists were treated to a San Francisco Giants baseball game at Pac Bell Park, and witnessed a piece of history as Barry Bonds hit his 31st home run of the season. Bonds went on to hit 73 home runs in 2001, breaking Mark McGuire's single-season record of 70.

After the finals, the coders were treated to a San Francisco Bay boat cruise around the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.