My TCO17 Experience – Part 1

TCO17 was the first time for me on such a big event — and my first time to America as well. I wrote little during last year’s TCO — the primary reason being me not taking a PC. I thought there would be a lot of PCs, and in fact there were — the only thing was that competitors were using them all! So now is the time to do a full recap — the one I was preparing in my head for a whole year!

This year has passed quickly, but warm memories are still with me. Let me start in order, from the arrival.

The departure from Riga was at lunchtime, so I went to my regular work in the morning. The nice thing about my work is that they gave me extra vacation days instead of days off, for visiting TCO — thanks, that was a pleasant surprise! My flight was mostly daytime, and I adjusted to local time at the destination during the next day — that is quite a short adaptation time for me, taking into account -7 hour difference.

I had 2 main flight opportunities: Riga-Frankfurt-Washington-Buffalo and Riga-Moscow-New York-Buffalo. I had chosen the first, because I had no idea what to do during 6.5 hours at the New York airport. And to be honest, had I to choose today, I would not have missed the opportunity to visit New York city, even though I had only a few hours in the transfer.

I was met at the arrival zone in the Buffalo airport by a taxicab driver — he was holding a Topcoder label and there was nghi85 from Vietnam (UI Prototype track) in the TCO car already waiting. I had a talk with Nghi — it turned out we had two languages in common — English and Russian, so we spoke a bit of each until other Topcoder members arrived.

The Buffalo airport is located 9 miles from the event arena. The first impression about the traffic in the US was that there was no yellow light before green — I was thinking about this minor difference all the way, no idea why. My working hypothesis was that the reason is that most cars have automatic transmission in US, compared to manual being dominant in Latvia.

Our cab arrived to the hotel close to midnight, and after having a little chat with other participants in the lobby — and meeting for the first time algorithm admins hmehta and t-mac, blogger lead DaraK, Marathon Match superhero Psyho, and TCO Queen jmpld40, then I went to sleep. Proper sleep is important for me, and I guess even more important for competitors.

The next day, Harshit asked if I wanted to visit a local quest room — folks led by Psyho were looking for a team. That was an experience for me — first time in a closed room with a blinking light and the time is counting. The puzzles of all the 3 rooms were quite solvable, but we managed to get ourselves out of only the first one — Egyptian puzzle. And the final puzzle of the first room was solved by Przemyslaw alone — he cracked the puzzle without having a key that is needed to solve the puzzle normally. That looked impressive. What our team lacked in my opinion was cooperation — some of us had found objects, but the rest of the team was notified only at the end of the escape hour. I found some clues as well — the quest games for PC like Pilot Brothers, played back at childhood, helped a lot.

If I took my table tennis racket, I could have lost to (or with a little probability have won) wleite. But instead of beating me he beat blackmath, both in table tennis, and later in the main Marathon Match final.

The hardest part for me was covering the algorithm semifinals and finals. Solving the easy task from one of the semifinals together with Marathon finalist tomerun had boosted my self-esteem a bit, but still it did not help to solve any task from the grand Algorithm track final. Half of the competitors failed to do so as well, though.

The Marathon finals was a big race and deserve their own blog post; so do the Niagara Falls. I am finishing this one to save some memories for the follow up.

P.S. Don’t forget to compete in the Marathon Matches — they are regular again. The announcements are sent to email, so be sure you have preference to receive MM notifications set on.