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What happened in Vegas: TCO07 winners tell all

We asked the five winners of the 2007 TopCoder Open five simple questions each to find out just what the winning experience was like. Here's what they told us:

Algorithm Competition
Winner: Jan_Kuipers

Q: When did you realize you were going to win?

A: I only realized it the exact moment I won. When my solution passed, I was going to be second anyways. Whether I would be first only depended on tomek's solutions. He expected them to be correct, but a small bug is easy to make. Fortunately...

Q: What do you think was the one most important thing that made the difference and helped you win?

A: Chill out and relax... The night before the final I played some poker in the Mirage poker room until around 2:00 AM. I slept in until about 10:00, got up, enjoyed a good breakfast and went to the AOL presentation. After a quick lunch, I spent half an hour swimming in the Mirage pool before going to the challenge area and arrived there completely relaxed and not nervous at all.

Q: What was the hardest part of the competition?

A: Beating tough opponents such as tomek and ACRush. On the other hand, since I know they are much better than I am, I had nothing to lose. That might've helped.

Q: If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?

A: I would do nothing different apparently... I won! :)

Q: What was it like to win?

A: When tomek's solutions failed, I just couldn't believe I had just won. I was completely surprised by what just happened, but it felt great of course!

For a play-by-play view of the Algorithm Competition final round, check out Petr's blog.

Marathon Match Competition
Winner: Mojito1

Q: When did you realize you were going to win?

A: After 3 hours I was almost certain I had no chance to win and my only aim was to be in the first four. After another 3 hours I was leading. However, I also ran out of simple ideas and was very anxious seeing others coding hard. 10 minutes before the deadline I saw that doudouille had given up and then I was pretty sure that I reached my goal - the first two. However, because of a very unstable scoring formula, I wasn't certain if I was going to win. My doubts were multiplied when I saw the first final results - Maris overtook saarixx and jdmetz beat .Invader. Note that, if jdmetz had beaten .Invader I could have been easily beaten by both grotmol and doudouille. Therefore, it was a long couple of seconds when I was waiting for my final result to appear.

Q: What one thing most helped you win?

A: I decided to follow a simpler path (and one that was more appropriate for 8 hours of coding) than doudouille and I didn't have serious bugs like grotmol. However, I still believe that the most important thing was to accelerate in a direction which is perpendicular to the gravitation in order to avoid planets.

Q: What was the hardest part of the competition?

A: To calm down and make the first reasonable submission. Moreover, it is really difficult to work on such projects without a debugger and the environment you are accustomed to.

Q: If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?

A: I would read the problem statement more carefully and make sure that I hadn't missed anything important as far as the problem and the visualizer were concerned.

Q: How did it feel to win?

A: NICE! The one thing I was astonished by was that only champions counted and the rest were just finalists. There were no runner-ups or third places.

For more on the final Marathon Match problem, read Mojito1's editorial.

Component Design Competition
Winner: kyky

Q: When did you realize you were going to win?

A: On the second day of the competitions, when one of the reviewers (Luca) accepted my appeals.

Q: What one thing most helped you win?

A: I am undecided on this one - maybe it was the schedule that let me work more on my submissions because one of the projects was during a week with a long weekend, or maybe it was the Digital Run that burned out argolite and kept AleaActaEst busy, or even more likely it was that unfortunate circumstances did not let Pops compete this year.

Q: What was the hardest part of the competition?

A: The first project was very hard - it was too large to fit in one week.

Q: If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?

A: I would introduce fewer features into projects in an attempt to chase the enhancement points.

Q: What was it like to win?

A: It was a big relief -- this was my fifth design competition, and I was going into it as the highest-rated competitor. There was a lot of pressure to win this one, and I was very glad that everything worked out so well for me.

Check out the final Component Design summary, with an overview of the components and complete scores and wagers.

Component Development Competition
Winner: hefeng

Q: When did you realize you were going to win?

A: I knew all the finalists were so outstanding that each had the opportunity to win. I felt confident from the very beginning, though, which encouraged me to do my best and not give up pursuing the championship. I felt that I could win before leaving for Las Vegas, but it was not until the last minute when my last appeal succeed, and I jumped from 3rd place to 1st, that I realized my dream had come true.

Q: What one thing most helped you win?

A: The level of experience and technique among all the competitors was so close, I think the most important thing was my strong desire to win. To avoid being defeated, I had to make everything perfect.

Q: What was the hardest part of the competition?

A: The development itself was not hard at all -- what I needed to do was try not to make any careless mistakes. Besides this, it’s better to have some improvements to distinguish your work from the other competitors. Luckily I succeeded on both counts.

Q: If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?

A: I didn’t warm up quickly in my first two components, for each of which I spent only 4 days coding and the other 3 days doing nothing. This fault brought me some anxiety and almost made me lose but fortunately I managed to calm down and do well in my last component.

Q: What was it like to win?

A: Everybody should find that out for themselves. Keep learning, from books and other competitors, and never stop improving yourself.

Check out the final Component Development summary, with an overview of the components and complete scores and wagers.

Studio Design Competition
Winner: yiming

Q: When did you realize you were going to win?

A: The rank list of studio design challenge was announced in reverse order. When I saw that the 2nd through 7th place submissions were not mine, I knew I was winning.

Q: What one thing made the difference for you?

A. I think it is experience. Thanks to TopCoder Studio, I did more designs within one year than I did in the previous ten years!

Q: What was the hardest part of the competition?

A: Jet lag is a big problem for me. I couldn't go to sleep at all during the night. When the final challenge started – at about the time I usually go to bed at home -- I became too tired. Luckily, I persisted successfully, though I fell asleep for about 10 minutes at my desk.

Q: If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?

A: I would reduce the radius of the rounded rectangles to 5px, and optimize the color style. The white area in the page seems to have a bit of glare, so I would like to make it darker.

Q: What was it like to win?

A: Dreams come true, absolutely. :)

Check out the TCO07 Studio Design Challenge final vote results.