Cheating at the 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship

This story was originally broken — and I mean broken, not just copied from elsewhere — by Thomas Snyder, 2-time winner of the World Sudoku Championship. The story is ongoing; perhaps you can help catch a cheat?


The 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship occurred last week. It was done in three common rounds (with everyone solving puzzles in the same room), where the top 3 scores went on to a final round (depicted above).

The winners:

1. Tammy McLeod [in center of photo], Los Angeles ($10,000 and a seat on the U.S. team at the World Sudoku Championship in April in Philadelphia). She came in third last year. She finished the final round in 7 minutes, 41 seconds.

2. Thomas Snyder [in left of photo], Palo Alto, Calif. ($4,000). He finished in second place last year, and is a two-time world champion.

3. Eugene Varshavsky [in right of photo], Lawrenceville, N.J. ($3,000). He joined the competition during walk-up registration yesterday morning.

Thomas Snyder finished the final puzzle in 4:14, but made a transposition error allowing Tammy McLeod the win. The Inquirer has many more details.

The person on the right, Eugene Varshavsky, entered the competition in highly irregular circumstances. He skipped the first and second rounds altogether, arriving late. He then proceeded to finish the 3rd round in blazing time, qualifying him for the final. This is his grid at the end of the competition:


As Thomas Snyder writes:

It has 2 observable placements in it, both in row 5, and a suggestion that the 9 in R1C3 may be there too (eta: confirmed from other images now). It is however not the most focused image and does not tell how this grid got to this state, if erasing happened, etc. Still, having this for 8 minutes of work on the puzzle after demolishing 3 hard ones in 12-13 minutes to qualify is simply not possible.

Eugene wore the hood you see in the first picture the entire competition. There is only one picture of him with the hood down:


Also, according to the Philly Inquirer:

He gave his residence as Lawrenceville, N.J., but no one by that name is listed in the town, and efforts to discover his actual residence have turned up a trail of dead ends.

A LexisNexis search revealed that a Eugene Varshavsky in 2007 had given his residence as an address in Ewing, not far from Lawrenceville. But that address leads only to HB Machines, where proprietors said they knew of no such person.

This may be the second time this particular cheat may have shown up at a competition. Thomas Snyder again, regarding a “Varshavsky” at the World Open Chess Tournament:

In 2006, for example, a suspected incident of cheating occurred in the World Open Chess Tournament. Against Grandmaster Smirin, a relatively unknown player wearing a hat the whole time performed well beyond expectations and ranking to beat the Grandmaster. After some suspicion was raised, this unknown disappeared to a bathroom where after ten minutes he was searched and nothing was found. Under closer watch, without the possibility of using unallowed assistance, the performance of this player returned to more expected levels and he lost the following matches, coming nowhere near to the mastery he had demonstrated earlier.

Because of the mystery surrounding Varshavsky, this story is still developing. Was anyone who is reading this at the 2006 World Open? Does anyone recognize the man in the picture?


2 Responses

  1. […] Cheating at the 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship […]

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