Friday September 16, 2005At 7:30am I arrived at the airport, two hours before our flight would depart. My fellow traveler Ton Dennenbroek was already there.
When checking in I found out that I had forgotten our tickets!!! I had electronic tickets, but a few weeks earlier I had received a letter that the electronic tickets had to be changed for paper tickets. So I immediately called my wife Monique, and through busy morning traffic she brought the paper tickets to the airport. Just in time for us to arrive while the plane was already boarding. This will NEVER happen to me anymore. :-)
After two flights (Amsterdam-Zürich and Zürich-Kraków) we arrived in Poland. Our host and organizer of Polish Open 2005, Zbigniew Zborowski was picking us up, and he drove us to his lovely home just outside Wadowice.
After freshening up we drove to the school (Zespól Szkól Publicznych nr 2) where the Polish Open 2005 would be held on Sunday. On our way to the school we saw two large yellow banners announcing the championship. We also saw a car driving around with someone announcing the championship through a megaphone.
In the hall of the school were three beautiful big wooden Rubik's Cubes, the stands for the timers. Zbigniew's friend Piotr created the cubes.
We were amazed how many people were involved in the organization of the championship. Everyone was running around, making preparations.
From left to right: Piotr, Maria, Tadeusz (school director), Anna, the prime director of the school, Pavel, Agnieszka. But several more people were helping.
We had brought 4 timers and 3 displays, which we tested in the hall. We scrambled each other's cubes several times, to see who was the fastest. Zbigniew, Ton (now averaging under 20 seconds!) and I had all improved since the last time we met during Euro 2004 in Amsterdam. Zbigniew set a very nice 13.08 seconds for one of the first cubes, Ton set 15.54 seconds and two more sub 17.5's, and I had one lucky solve of 11.37 seconds.
When the volleyball was over, we placed the wooden cubes, tested the equipment (sound, beamers, lights) and began to decorate the school. There were large banners, Polish flags, large purple curtains with cubes and several decoration cubes made by the pupils at school.
Ton and I were also very surprised that there were so many young cubers, including some very talented ones. There was one cuber who was extremely fast with his hands, but he was rushing so much that he still set poor times (over 40 seconds). I immediately started to "teach" the old guy's lesson of going slow. :-)
Unfortunately it was very hard to communicate because none of them spoke any of the languages I know. Then suddenly someone said "Parlez-vous français?", but my hope was in vain, it happened to be her only French. :-) I felt sorry that I hadn't worked harder on learning Polish.
We spent the rest of the evening at Zbigniew's home. The dinner (made by his wife Grazyna) was great. We went to bed early (11pm) because we were very tired of our journey.
Saturday September 17, 2005We had breakfast at 6:45am and left at 7:15am. We drove to Auschwitz (now Oswiecim) to see the Auschwitz museum, which includes the well conserved former concentration camp.
At Auschwitz train station we met: Josef Jelinek, his friend Petra Uhlirova and Tadeas Miler, all three from Czech Republic, who had just arrived with the night train from Prague. We also met the Polish cubers Kacper Pawlaczyk, Jaroslaw Nowicki (European Champion One-handed) and Dariusz Peta (nickname Cat), who had driven all night from the other end of Poland. They were also guests of Zbigniew and Grazyna for the weekend.
The entrance of the Auschwitz camp has the well-known but terrible sign "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Brings Freedom). This is where 60 years ago the prisoners had to march to the factories and quarries for the extreme labor they were forced to.
I expected to see the worst, but it was even worse. I just cannot imagine how people can be so evil. The deepest impression on me made a huge pile of suitcases with names of adults and children. Standing in front of that pile you begin to see the images of innocent people on the train to Auschwitz, to never come back. We also saw the "Death Wall" where many people were killed by gun fire.
On our way back to Wadowice we didn't talk much...
We did see some election signs, one of the contenders was called Pavel Cuber. Of course we advised Zbigniew to vote for him. :-)
When we got back home, there was a very nice lunch waiting for us. After lunch we went back to the school, to help with the preparations.
In fact we didn't have to do much, because the other organizers had already done everything. The only things I had to do were finishing the Excel workbook and instruct the main judge (Adam, Zbigniew's brother, see below) and the other judges.
Although the judges were completely new to cubing, they learned fast and asked very good questions. We did some demonstration solves, correct ones, but also some with POP's, twisted last layers after the solve, and a cuber picking up the cube before the judge had inspected the cube. I found out that "Problem!" is the same in Polish. :-)
During the registration we saw many other cubers from Poland and from abroad. Including Antonio Gallego, who came all the way from Spain! In total we had 47 competitors from 7 countries: Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Netherlands, Spain and Slovakia. Many competitors were under 20 years old, so Poland is definitely an upcoming country in speedcubing.
Back at Zbigniew's home we practiced and talked for a while. Cat showed us his two home-built timers and a lot of funny faces (he is a talent!). Again we went to bed early.
Sunday September 18, 2005Finally the day of Polish Open 2005 had come!
We had breakfast at 7am and arrived at the school around 8am. Then suddenly I realized that we still had to do a lot of preparations. While Ton was setting up the timers and displays, I was writing the competition sheets for the first round, explaining the main judge Adam how to generate the scrambles, instructing the scramblers how to scramble (especially Square-1 and Clock are hard!) and doing some final exercises with the judges.
In the meantime I was also trying to find AC/DC for the adapters of the timer displays. 40 minutes after I had talked to the school director about getting some extra AC/DC extenders, he came back telling me in panic that he hadn't found additional adapters. With some language assistance from Zbigniew, he finally brought the extenders. :-)
Then finally around 8:59am everything was set for the championship.
After the Polish national anthem, some speeches of the prime director, the school director, other officials and Zbigniew, I gave a short speech and did the demonstration (together with Ton) of the procedures.
The Polish Open 2005 started with the first round of 3x3x3. We had a slow start because the scramblers did not have much experience yet. So Zbigniew and I went first, to be able to help scrambling when we had competed. We were already 35 minutes underway for only 8 competitors, with the timers hardly occupied, when I had solved my 3rd cube and Zbigniew and I could start helping with the scrambling. After that it all went pretty smoothly.
I must say that the judges were great! There were several incidents (twisted last layers, competitors touching or even taking their cubes, incorrect solves), but they followed the rules very well, even though some opposition was pretty hard to deal with. There were competitors who had a twisted last layer, then after stopping the timer hit the cube very quickly to make the cube square again. They even proposed to watch a recorded video to see that the final layer was not twisted too far. No way! Or they wanted an extra attempt because the judge had written a DNF. We had one timer failure, and the competitor had an extra attempt, but instead he wanted us to do a video analysis of his solve, because it was such a good time. At some point I gave my compliments to the judges because they felt unsure with such a strong opposition. "No see is no finish!".
I had to give up several events (2x2x2, one-handed, Clock, Pyraminx), because I was constantly helping with the organization.
After each round there were some cheerleaders performing. Very nice!
Personally I performed very poorly in the competition, especially in 3x3x3. I don't know what's wrong with me. :-(
When it doesn't count, I set my normal times from 11-18 seconds, with a mistake in around 1 in 20 cubes. When it counts I am not nervous, feel fully in control, but set very baaaad times. I tried everything: going slowly, going very fast, fully concentrating, relaxed solving, but I just cannot do my normal thing. I cannot find or follow the pieces, lock up during algorithms, mess up the cross, mess up F2L pairs, use wrong LL algorithms. The only excuse is that I was always very busy organizing. For 4x4x4 and 5x5x5 the speed is lower, so I make fewer mistakes, but still I was not happy with my performances at all.
My highlight of the day was the blindfolded competition. The crowd obviously had never seen such a thing. At the end of my second solve, I already heard the crowd cheering before I had stopped the timer. They gave a standing ovation for more than a minute! :-)
There were several interesting moments during the day. We had Lukasz Cialon with a very interesting system for 2x2x2: he first solves one face without permuting the pieces, then he solves the rest of the cube in one step. That requires 3 (all corners correct, connecting corners swapped, opposite corners swapped) times 42 CLL algorithms! He was a bit nervous so he did not break the world record yet, but his next chance at a competition he will go for it.
We also had a 3x3x3 surprise winner: Piotr Kózka. We heard about Piotr only a week before the championship. His best time ever was 15 seconds. But in the competition he did very well and won the Polish Champion Rubik's Cube 2005 title. Piotr also won the Pyraminx event, with a new average world record of 11.22 seconds.
Josef Jelinek broke the Magic world record with an average of 1.52 seconds. The Magic event is so fast that, especially with a crowd that has never seen that puzzle, they have no idea what is happening. :-)
The winner's ceremony was very official. There were beautiful trophies and medals, there were printed certificates and there was a very nice bag with articles from one of the sponsors. I won 4 bags, and gave away 3 to talented cubers who didn't win themselves (yet!).
After the championship there was free food in the school restaurant. Ton and I were so happy with the hard work of the school and the teachers that we gave two timers to the prime director. Hopefully they will organize more competitions, and of course Polish Open 2006.
ConclusionPolish Open 2005 was a huge success!
We had a very good quality competition, with many young cubers, from several countries.
There were many newspaper articles and we had big items on Polish national tv. Check out one of the videos (rightclick and save).
We had enthusiastic, hard working organizers, who did everything completely as volunteers. It must have cost them money and a lot of time, but I hope they feel it was all worth it. Thank you Maria, Piotr, Pavel, Tadeusz, Agnieszka, Anna, Zbigniew, prime director and all the others!
And of course we enjoyed the perfect Polish hospitality, where you feel almost uncomfortable with the service and care. Thank you so much Zbigniew and Grazyna!
I hope to see you all next year!