There are 12 coders representing the Russian Federation in the TCO07 Algorithm competition onsite, and one coder representing the Russian Federation in the Marathon track. Considering previous Algorithm onsite events, we had 6 competitors in the TCO 05 finals, 8 competitors in the TCO 06 finals, and 16 competitors in the TCCC 06 finals — so this year marks the end of steady growth for Russia. But the more interesting stat is that prior to the 2005 TCO only one Russian ever advanced to a TopCoder onsite Algorithm event — venco in the TCO 03. Then, what was the reason for that jump in the TCO 05?
That jump unveils one important property of Russian programming challenge competitors — we all keep in contact. There are many All-Russian competitions, including, but not limited to the ACM ICPC semifinal NEERC as the biggest event for university students and the All-Russian high school olympiad as the community center for highschoolers. These two biggest shows are accompanied by many other internet and onsite challenges, and most Russian competitors try to participate in many, if not all, of them. That means frequent meetings, and constant competition, and search for more fun challenges to participate in. That's why when several Russian competitors started to participate in TopCoder SRMs regularly -- after finding that they brought so much fun and experience, the entire community followed suit and jumped into TopCoder.
Another exciting thing such a community brings for Russian competitors is that older competitors tend to teach the newbies, thus passing and accumulating the experience. Let's take a closer look at this year's finalists by 'generation' — from the most experienced ones to the powerful youngsters. :)
Generation 1: The gurus
Andrew joined the Russian progamming challenge community in the late 1990s, and has become one of its key figures since then. Having participated in the ICPC World Finals in 2000 and 2001, and earning fourth and the third place respectively, he continued his career as a coach, and became one of the best (and most successful) coaches in Russia. As a result, he led the SPb IFMO team (with pashka as one of its members) to the world championship in 2004. However, in the summer of 2005 TopCoder made him return as a regular competitor (after about 4 years!), and he gradually regained his form to become a target in less than a year.
Andrew (again :)) was one of those at the origin of the programming challenge community at the Saratov State University. Unlike many other bright students who decide to study in major Moscow and St. Petersburg universities, he stayed in Saratov, and formed a team together with Mike Mirzayanov and Dr.Gluk that made the world know of Saratov programmers by placing 6th and 7th in the 2002 and 2003 ICPC World Finals. Later, he helped coach other Saratov teams, and Saratov State finally became World Champions in 2006. He was one of the few Russians actively participating in TopCoder SRMs before 2005, and has also become a respected TopCoder problem writer.
Generation 2: The veterans
Pavel is one of the most sucessful graduates of andrewzta's 'school'. He moved to St. Petersburg after earning a silver medal at the IOI 2002 and thus being accepted freely into SPb IFMO, and found himself under the strong supervision of Andrew. As it was mentioned before, this resulted in his team winning the World Champions title in 2004. Having retired from the ICPC after placing 3rd in 2005, Pavel became an assistant coach, but returned as a competitor shortly after TopCoder spread over Russia. However, he started participating regularly in TopCoder SRMs only in 2006, and is in my view still trying to get used to the TopCoder style and to regain all his skills. This guy might become a target very soon.
Alexey is one the four finalists representing the Ural region of Russia. As a member of the Ufa SATU team, he earned 10th place at the 2006 World Finals. His alliance with Revenger is a good example of a self-made team. Ufa was never famous for its programming competition achievements (unlike Moscow, St. Petersburg, Saratov or Yekaterinburg), but those guys put in a lot of hard work, participated in a lot of online challenges, solved most of the available problem archives — and they got rewarded. gevak is a stable red at TopCoder, notable for his amazing challenges. He has also become a regular problem writer.
The story of Denis is similiar to the one of his teammate gevak. Having earned the 13th and the 10th places in the ICPC finals, he is still actively participating in online programming challenges after his ICPC retirement. Denis was quite close to becoming a target this winter, so he is capable of putting in some really amazing performances. Maybe one of them will to be seen at this TCO?
Alexander is representing the biggest city of the Ural region - Yekaterinburg. His school, Ural State University, has participated in the ICPC World Finals five times, however, Alexander's team was never able to get there, thus he is an exception among this year's Russian finalists. He became red in early 2007, and has been constantly rising until the middle of May, achieving a near-target status. Who knows, maybe TopCoder format suits him better?
Maxim is representing another diamond in the crown of the Russian programming schools — the Petrozavodsk State University. Heavily supported by the University, and even by the local government, Petrozavodsk students are among the most motivated to perform in programming challenges. Regular two-week training camps for all the top Russian teams take place in Petrozavodsk twice a year, so it's a base for a constantly evolving Russian university students' programming challenge community, and Petrozavodsk students have a chance to compete with and learn from the finest Russian teams and coaches. Maxim's team earned the 19th place at the 2006 ICPC World Finals.
However, it is the introduction of the Marathon Matches that allowed Maxim to show his best and get a ticket for the TCO. Many have wondered before the TCO online rounds whether the top ranked algorithm coders would occupy all the top marathon spots if they put enough effort in it, however, it turned out that Marathon Matches' 'usual suspects' have a skillset better adjusted for the format, and the participation of many algorithm reds didn't make much difference. Maxim is clearly in posession of the required skills, so let's wish him luck in the Marathon track!
Generation 3: The rookies
Mikhail became famous among the Russian programming challenge community by placing second in the 2003 All-Russian high school olympiad and then moving to the U.S. for the last two years of his high school studies. However, he then returned back to Russia and joined the SPb IFMO, and together with falagar and A.I.R. formed the first team of the school (after the retirement of pashka and his teammates). They have only managed to place 19th at the 2006 World Finals, but fought back in 2007 to keep the tradition of SPb IFMO teams placing third in the odd years (true for 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007). Mikhail is now at the turning point of his life (at least with respect to programming competitions), and we hope he will stay in the community to help andrewzta, pashka and all of us to find and teach new champions.
Roman's greatest achievements also belong to the SPb IFMO team. However, he perceived placing third at the 2007 ICPC World Finals as the top of his career, and is starting to abandon the programming competitions world and to move into the world of mathematical research. Well, let's hope he will at least find enough time to participate in TopCoder SRMs and tournaments!
Vitaliy is representing another major St. Petersburg school — the St. Petersburg State University. After the astounding success of their team led by K.O.T. and KOTEHOK in 2000 and 2001, winning two world championships in a row, they're still trying to at least come close to that level. Vitaliy's team has managed to come 6th and 14th in the last two years — but we expect more from the team of Burunduk1, Burunduk2 and Burunduk3 next year. Vitaliy has also made a solid contribution into the teaching of high school students by participating in training camps, and is still helping the community. He has placed 16th at the TCCC 06 last online round, and 14th at the TCO 07 last online round, showing he can pull himself together and perform well when it is required — this can surely help him onsite.
Vitaliy has spent a lot of time solving programming challenge problems during his last year of high school, and that allowed him to jumpstart his career by winning the All-Russian high school olympiad in 2004. Ever since, he has been participating in almost all programming competition events, in the university ones as a participant, and in the high school ones as an assistant coach. As the ICPC participant in the Saratov State University team, he earned 17th and 6th places at the World Finals. His interest in working with high school students has also allowed him to author several HS SRMs, and the TCHS tournament semifinal. More than that, VitalyGoldstein has always been a permanent source of good cheer at any event he participated in.
Vladimir is the fourth, and the youngest representative of the Ural region, and the second representative of Yekaterinburg. His ICPC team, Ural SU Osliki, has achieved quite a success in many online and onsite programming competitions, culminating in advancing to the World Finals twice and earning 17th and 26th places. yava is still quite unaccustomed to TopCoder, alternating really good performances with awfully bad ones. Let's hope he'll do the former at the TCO!
That completes the Russian team — are all the others ready for battle? The strengh of the Russian team lies both in its diversity and in its unity. You will surely see all the Russians chatting in their native language during the onsite, cheering and encouraging each other. But during the challenge different skills can appear to be in the limelight — will it be the experience of andrewzta and Andrew_Lazarev, or the youth and creativity of darnley and VitalyGoldstein? Regardless, the Russian team is ready to show its best.
P.S. And andrewzta's dog's name is Chelly.