It was as addictive as Coffee and often went along with it.
About a decade ago I got introduced to the world of Sudoku and it was a whirlwind romance while it lasted.
As a child I was fond of Scrabble, Jumble puzzle and Crossword, but I could have never imagined the craze Sudoku generated in 2005. It just swept all of us off our feet when you could see many people around placing numbers on the 9*9 blocker using a pencil (It was easier to correct your mistakes that way instead of using a pen).Curiosity got the better of you and before you knew it you too were hooked to the number game – Sudoku means ‘Single Number’ in Japanese language.
So what you have is 9*9 grid that obviously can accommodate 81 digits. You have 9 rows, 9 columns and 9 sub-blocks of 3*3. You are provided with some clues – about 15 -21 digits to set up the game. The puzzle is a simple one – place the digits in such a manner that each row, column and sub-block has all the 9 numbers starting from 1 and ending at 9. Its popularity rivalled that of the Rubik Cube.
All kinds of people are attracted to the game – for some it is the case of determination and patience as they don’t mind making mistakes and correcting it, for others it is an ideal platform to apply logic and eliminate options using the stated rules to quickly solve the puzzle. It is a fascinating experience as you keep completing the grid because the closer you get to completing the easier is for your earlier mistakes to pop out as the rules of the game get contradicted. Then you need to trace back your logic like a tangled skein to detect your mistake and redo the whole puzzle.
The guys motivated by logic quickly get a hang of the game and become experts at eliminating options and fixing the numbers in their right places. Then the ‘Easy’ and ‘Medium’ level puzzles lose the fizz and don’t quite give you the kick anymore. At this stage, the ‘Hard’ puzzles are a challenge and make you stew in your own juice. The trick here is that elimination does not help close the numbers – quite often you have alternate combinations readily available. The trick is to picture the placings mentally and run further iterations for the next 3-4 levels to spot the right set. And invariably the excitement runs higher when you approach closure – a mistake spotted at this stage is cruel punishment as redoing the piece again demands mental fortitude.
So indeed it is an ideal game to challenge and train your brain – from kids to old fogey, all can improve their mental concentration by taking a shine to this game. Indeed it could be a good antidote to Dementia and Alzheimer debilitating your mind.
I used to carry a set of games all the while with me and it was a popular hobby of mine to solve it while doing my daily commute to office using the local train. Fellow enthusiasts would smile and understand why it was agonizing but addictive. We would exchange tips on cracking the devious puzzles. Sometimes it reminded me of the ‘Endgame’ moves one plans in Chess to be able to crack the game and ‘checkmate’ your opponent.
Eventually its attraction off – smart phones took us into a different world of gaming and adventure. And yet the Sudoku App is available and a popular download. Am tempted to download it and set out again on an uncertain adventure exploring the numbers and their placings like the Chessmen on the Chess Board …