Scandal has rocked the Sudoku community. Eugene Varshavsky of Lawrenceville, N.J. has been stripped of his third place position in the national Sudoku after cheating allegations were raised due to his sharply uneven performance. As a Sudoku addict, I am crushed. Not since the Black Sox Scandal and Shoeless Joe Jackson has such alleged depravity brought the great so low.
Officials of The Philadelphia Inquirer National Sudoku Championship stripped Varshavsky of his third-place position (and $3000) after retesting him. Varshavsky made the final three out of 646 contestants and surprised everyone by completing three puzzles in just 14 minutes. During the competition, he was notably wearing a hood over his head.
Tammy MacLeod of Los Angeles won the first prize of $10,000. Former world champion Thomas Snyder won the $4,000 second prize, but not without some drama. Notably, Synder thought that he had won and finished early — leaving Varshavsky with the simple task of completing one puzzle in 20 minutes to take second place. He suddenly could not fill in more than three digits in eight minutes.
What was particularly notable is that Varshavsky had raised similar suspicions during the 2006 Chess championship, here. They were so suspicious of Varshavsky that they searched the bathroom stall that he used and then searched him after each round of chess.
After the competition, Soduku players raised alarms on the blogosphere and Varshavsky was called in for a re-testing. He was given the same puzzle that he blazed through earlier and completed only nine of the 81 digits in 15 minutes.
In another test, he could only fill in two digits in eight minutes.
Chris Narrikkattu of New York City of given the third place award.
As with the 2006 chess competition, the organizers could not prove cheating so Vashavsky has not faced any fraud charges. However, it is possible for such charges to be based on circumstantial evidence. Yet, it appears that Vashavsky is free to compete again. I hear the American crossword championship is coming up in February.