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Another chance missed

At about twenty past three on Saturday afternoon, Stephen Gerrard's number was held up, and his work was done, leaving him to contemplate a hard-earned victory. However, this was not the Liverpool captain (Steven), who was not substituted during a simultaneous defeat by Southampton, but his Manchester accountant namesake, who deservedly took the Times Su Doku Championship at the weekend.

For me, this was a huge missed opportunity. I stalled on puzzle 4 in the final, and saw Stephen and Gareth Fuller complete their papers less than a minute before me. Ned Walker, who had seemed the main rival based on the two rounds of qualification, during which two-time former champion George Danker had been eliminated, came in 4th a few minutes later, having stumbled on two of the puzzles and required a fresh paper.

I regard the Times Championship as a very important competition in its being the largest Su Doku competition in the UK, and a face-to-face one. I appreciate that it lacks the variety appeal of the puzzle variants found at the WSC, and that the UKPA has moved on from classic su doku, which may partly explain the failure to appear of David McNeill (for some years) and Tom Collyer this year, both of whom I know are better solvers than I. Nina Pell was also not there this time, and Rishi Puri, last year's winner, was thankfully only in the country for twelve months. So with George dropping out through error, I certainly fancied my chances in the final.

But Stephen and Gareth are both regular finalists, and the thing is a shoot-out - so Ken Jones, David Collison, Emma Southall and Richard Jackson also certainly had a chance too. In the end, I am pleased for Stephen, and when asked by the Times before th emarking was done if I hoped he had failed, I couldn't even muster up that wish - I know how horrible a position that is to be in. On the other hand, perhaps if only one person had finished before me ...

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