SRMs to Marathon Matches: Should You Make the Transition?

Lately, quite a few top-rated SRM competitors at Topcoder are making successful transitions into Marathon Matches, proving the general perception of Marathon Match problems being harder nuts to crack, to be wrong.

Gorbunov, one of our veteran members and seasoned Marathon Match competitors, thinks that members shy away from the long form contest mostly due to time constraints.

The skill sets required and the competitiveness for both the formats are the same. However, Gorbunov believes that unlike SRMs, Marathon Matches are more rewarding in the long run as ‘rigorous training’ is replaced with ‘regular participation’.

Besides, Marathon Matches can also help in improving one’s programming skills. One other advantage of participating in Marathon Matches is forum conversations. SRMs are open to forum conversations too, but the scope of engagement is far less. MMs, on the other hand, provide you with the opportunity to not just discuss the problem, but interact with other members as well. We often underestimate peer discussion as a means of learning. The Marathon Match forum discussions are a mine of information on how to approach a problem and submit relevant solutions.

A Marathon Match typically gives you a week to come up with your best solutions. You can submit solutions more than once but only your last submission would be counted as valid. Gorbunov lists the steps of a Marathon Match thus:

  • Read and understand the problem/task at hand
  • Prototype the simplest solution
  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Implement ideas
  • Run local tests
  • Repeat the above!

TCO17 finalist wleite had an interesting take on transitioning to Marathon Matches from SRMs, in a blog he wrote last year.

“Well, (Marathon Matches) are not as hard as it seems! We do have some scary folks around! So the competition level is not easy at all. But I can tell from my personal experience, when I started competing I had this same vision: “It is too hard for me”… With time though, I got experience and confidence, and both of them help (a lot) in this kind of competition! Because of the longer schedule, competitors don’t need to “know” in advance how to “solve” the problem. There is time to research a bit, learn, and try different things, and that is a large part of the fun.”

This year Errichto, already a star algorithm competitor started competing in Marathon Matches and went on to win TCO Marathon Match Round 3. Errichto is a red rated SRM competitor along with a 1609 rating for Marathon Matches.

While writing an introduction for analysing the Round 3 problem, Gorbunov says: “Congratulations to Errichto for winning the match and securing a spot in the finals. He showed that a transition from SRM participant to a Marathon Match participant is possible and can yield high results.”

Give Marathon Matches a try. You could probably win one during a TCO19 stage. Happy competing!