The World Jigsaw Puzzle Championships happened!
I watched 22 hours of competitive puzzling so that you don’t have to hit everyone. So this past weekend, the world jigsaw puzzle championships happened in Valladolid, Spain, i unfortunately was not there, but they live streamed the entire event.
So I’m going to take you through it and show you exactly how a puzzle competition works and show you all of the extremely extremely fast puzzling that happened over the weekend. This is like the Olympics of puzzling, okay. So here’s how it works.
There are three different categories: individual pairs and teams. Here is what the schedule looked like for the weekend, so you can see that there were qualifying events for each category and I’m going to talk more about what that means and how you make it into the finals. In just a minute, so, okay, let’s start with the individual competition, so as i said they started with the preliminary rounds, there were 336 people signed up to compete, but only 170 spots in the final, so they randomly divided everyone up into three preliminary rounds.
The way that it works is that the top two people from each country make it through to the final and then from there you’re just ranked by the time that you finish the puzzle and then they fill up the spots just going down the list. So I hope that makes sense, let’s just jump into the first qualifying round and watch some puzzling.
Three, two, one go: buena! Good luck to everybody! Good luck! So, as you can see, the puzzles start out in opaque bags so that the competitors don’t know what the puzzle that they’re solving is until the time starts as soon as they say start, they have to take it out of the bag. Take off the shrink, wrap plastic, open the box, open the bag of pieces, dump them out, and then they can start puzzling and all of that counts towards their time.
It also means they really can’t form any kind of strategy until they’re already in the competition. Oh and for the individual rounds, they have 90 minutes to do a 500 piece puzzle. So here is the picture that they’re doing for the first round. I actually think this is one of the easier puzzles that we’ll see through this entire competition. You have a lot of very distinct, bright colors and very distinct objects with clear lines separating them.
So who should we keep an eye on? Well, we’ve got Katarina from the czech Republic who got third in the 2019 individual competition. My friend Tammy, who you just saw in my previous video, is also competing in this round, and I just love seeing everyone’s different puzzling strategies. Most people, as you would expect, start with the edge, but a lot of the strongest competitors, actually don’t finish the entire edge right away. They’ll start working in the middle like right off the bat as well.
You can see that they have plenty of room to spread out, so most people just dump out all of the pieces and then flip them all over and have them all laid out. So, okay, jumping ahead about 20 minutes, there’s definitely a range in puzzling skills that we’re seeing here. Some people are literally still sorting, while katarina already has the entire outside of her puzzle finished. Another katarina this time from sweden is also doing really well checking back in with our czech katarina um at 29 minutes she’s, probably about two-thirds of the way done. But then we get this shot of Soraya from Spain, who is also neck and neck with them, and then they didn’t show him at all in the live stream.
But this guy angel was the winner. Look at him. He finished in 32 minutes and 46 seconds, which is so incredibly impressive. Okay, so if we jump ahead, another four minutes – Soraya finishes at 36, 10 and then literally at 12 seconds later, Katarina from Sweden also finishes. Katarina from the czech Republic gets fourth at 38.24 and Tammy ends up getting ninth at 46.
1, but that’s good enough to send her to the finals all right. Moving on to our second preliminary round. Let’S take a look at the picture. I’Ve actually done this puzzle before so it turns out. They use regular, like already released, puzzles for the qualifying rounds, and then they use unreleased puzzles for the finals.
So this is actually a really easy puzzle because you can really easily sort out the colors. So, instead of doing one 500 piece puzzle, you’re basically doing six 83 piece puzzles, you can start good luck to you all. So, okay, an early front runner is Alejandro from Spain who at six and a half minutes already, has the entire red section done literally just watch him puzzle. It is incredible. He just gets piece after piece after piece after piece.
So again, you can see some different strategies. Some people do the entire edge. First, some people do it color by color. Some people do all of the sorting up front before they even start putting anything together and now jumping ahead to 13 minutes. Just look at how much Alejandro has gotten truly incredible.
So in this round we also have marius, who got second place in 2019, so he’s good, but I’m just not seeing him catching up to alejandro, and i just think it is so funny when they cut between someone who has almost their entire puzzle finished. And then someone who isn’t even done with the edge like it just goes to show you how incredibly fast our top competitors really are. So now at 31 minutes Alejandro is almost done. You can see the huge crowd gathered around his table, which must be so nerve-wracking for him and then at 32-40. He is the winner, obviously like no one else was even close, but, like i just feel bad for the people around him, because how would you feel if you had only just finished your edge and then the guy?
Next to you had already finished his entire puzzle? Okay, so the next three to keep an eye on are marius, who is doing really well. We’ve also got anna from spain and teresa from the czech republic, so the next person to finish is marius a full eight minutes after alejandro, like that really was like watching. The Michael Phelps of puzzling next is Olay from Norway, then Teresa from the czech Republic and then Anna from Spain all right so we’re up to the third and final qualifying individual round. So are you ready, good luck to all of you right off the bat?
There is Yana from the czech Republic who won the 2019 individual final. She’s back. I’m so excited to see how she does so. Here is the picture, and I love this one. This is definitely a puzzle that I would just choose to do on my own. I think it’s a little more difficult than the other two, because the dog is pretty dark and there aren’t as many different colors throughout the image, but you can separate out the phone, the flowers and the frames. So I think it is relatively simple.
So we can see that Magdalena from Sweden is doing really well, but we are about to meet my new favorite puzzler from the 2022 jigsaw puzzle championships, my puzzle, Queen Kristen from norway. She looks so bored but at the same time she is so fast. She puzzles one-handed, but somehow she’s still making so much progress, so at 28 minutes yana is doing pretty well. It definitely looks like most people are starting with the bottom edge and with the phone and there’s our girl kristen. She never does the edge first, which I find so interesting, like looking at where other people are and then looking at where she is.
She must just get every single piece correct on the first: try because she’s really not moving her hands all that fast. So at 35 minutes she finally finished the edge and then at 37 16. She is our winner. Oh my gosh, that was the least enthusiastic win at a puzzle competition I have ever seen. I love her so much so this time it’s not an eight minute jump, but it is four and a half minutes until Kiara from Italy takes second place.
Brigitta from hungary gets third and magdalena from sweden gets fourth again with like a three minute jump in between each of them, and iana ends up getting eighth place with a time of 53 11
All right, it is time for the individual finals. This is so exciting. Once again, they have 90 minutes to complete a 500 piece puzzle. So here are the top times from the qualifying rounds. So these are our front runners going into it and they actually gave the top 30 contestants their own table, while everyone else is two to a table.
So here is the picture, and this is an unreleased puzzle from the 2023 catalog. So no one will have seen this before. I think. Obviously everyone is going to start with the red door and then you do have quite a bit of color separation and you can easily distinguish between the houses and the road. So I really don’t think this is gon na be too hard for them all right, so we’ve got Kristen doing her one-handed sort.
It’S interesting that she didn’t dump out all of the pieces. Like the other contestants. She keeps everything in a box and just pulls them out one at a time. Compare that to Alejandro who is already leaning over his puzzle, his hands moving so quickly, so all of our faves from the qualifying rounds are here doing their thing. This is like watching an episode of drag race all-stars, where you get to see all your favorites from different seasons all finally compete against each other.
So katarina from sweden already did the red door interesting that at seven minutes, kristen is still sorting. That’S a lot of different piles that she’s making and that’s something that you really have to decide in speed puzzling like there’s, there’s a lot of strategy to it. Is it worth it to take the time to do a really specific sort, or does that take too much time and you should just start putting pieces together? As you see them, as you can see, a lot of people have very, very different tactics. So at 11 minutes it looks like alejandro already has the road, the pink house and the red door finished at 13 minutes we can compare kristen to alejandro.
He has a lot more put together, but she has everything sorted, much better and looks at their different strategies. While alejandro is constantly moving pieces around, she will just stop and stare and only place a piece when she knows that it’s right here in this close-up, you can see that alejandro is filling in the separation between the colors, which is a strategy that i would have Done too, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like marius will get second place again because he’s falling pretty far behind and again same with yana. Everyone must have just practiced puzzling like non-stop over the pandemic, because the competition is so fierce this year. So here’s a shot of how tammy’s doing you can see that she likes to spread everything out and she has a lot of different sections going, but not the completed edge, and i just have to show this again look at how calm kristen is compared to how Manic alejandro is her sorting must have paid off because she is definitely catching up, but just look at how crazy it is that this is how much alejandro has done. While this is how much another one of the front runners has done, he is literally on another level, also looking at his mom.
Is there cheering him on? Is so sweet. So at this point in the live stream, it is basically just the Alejandro show. He is just putting in piece after piece and making so much progress. Kristin is really close, but in the end, Alejandro is the winner.
He finished at 34.25, which again is so fast for a 500 piece puzzle. So back to kristen. Take a look at this. This is wild.
She has not put in a single edge piece. She did the entire center of the puzzle first and then is gon na fill in all the edges right at the end, which is such an interesting strategy. Teresa is also doing really well and a bunch of other people are getting really close. So at 38 minutes kristen is finally starting to put in the edge pieces and at 41
27, she gets second place, which is so impressive, especially for doing most of it with just one hand. So third place is teresa from the czech republic at 42, 18
Fourth place is Kiara from italy.
Fifth is Gisella from Spain and sixth is katarina from sweden, and that is everyone who is getting a prize. I’m gon na talk more about what the prizes are at the end of the video, so seventh is Brigitta from Hungary and then, with only five seconds between them. Katarina from the czech republic and nicholas from greece finished at basically the exact same time, and he doesn’t even take a photo or admire the puzzle. He just immediately starts taking it apart. Jana gets 12th place with a still very impressive time of 48.
1. Soraya gets 14th place. Tammy ends up getting 20th place at 50 minutes and 37 seconds. Marius is right after her in 21st place, but I think he actually ended up missing a piece in the end. I’m going to talk about what happens if you’re missing a piece in just a minute and angel who won the first qualifying round, drops all the way down to 24th place, and then here are the final times of the top 20
You can see that Alejandro is in his own league.
The difference between him and second place is about seven minutes, while the difference between the next 19 competitors is only about nine minutes. Tammy might have the Guinness world record, but at least based on this competition. Alejandro is definitely the actual fastest puzzler in the world. So then I wanted to track how each person moved in the rankings between the qualifying and final rounds. You can see that all top 20 competitors placed within the top 10 of their qualifying rounds, and, finally, I also wanted to track how quickly all of the competitors finished each puzzle to try to get a data-driven sense, of which one was the most difficult. Surprisingly, the one that I thought would have been the easiest, the flower columns that one had the biggest percentage of people not finished based on this data.
The first puzzle is definitely the easiest, because it had the biggest percentage of people finish in under an hour. I’Ve actually been in touch with the organizers of this event and I think they’re sending me the puzzles so who wants to see me try them out and see how I would stack up against all of these puzzles? I’m nervous. I don’t think i can do them in half an hour all right so before we move on to pairs. I wanted to answer a few questions that I’m sure some of you are probably wondering about, so the first question: how do you qualify? Do you have to approve of your puzzling skills?
Do you have to win other puzzles, competitions and uh? The answer is, no. All you have to do is sign up and pay the small entry fee into each category that you want to participate in and, of course, you have to get yourself to Spain, which is probably the biggest hurdle. That’S why, if you scroll through all of the competitors, probably half of them are from spain, especially the ones who don’t do so well and are really just there to have fun, because for them it’s a lot easier to just like drive over rather than someone like Me or tammy, who has to fly halfway around the world, and so i also want to make the distinction that, even though we might call the winners in this championship, like the best puzzlers in the world, there’s a caveat there that they’re only competing against people who Are privileged enough to be able to travel to spain and take time off work and take time to practice puzzling not to diminish the achievements of any of the puzzlers. But I just think that’s a perspective.
You need to keep in mind so obviously for the individual rounds, all of the top puzzlers finished within the set time. But what happens if you don’t finish your puzzle? Well, what they do is they count up, how many pieces you’ve put together and then that’s how they rank everybody who doesn’t finish any sections with three or more pieces attached counts towards your total, and i just love their reactions of anyone who finishes just under the Time limit, they all look so happy like if you’re having a bad day, just jump to the end of each of the competitions and watch as everyone finishes just in the nick of time. It’S so heartwarming, okay, so you might also see some people with trays and puzzle trays are allowed, but with some limits according to the website for individuals and pairs, you can use up to two trays and they can be up to size a3, which is about 11×17 And then for teams you can use up to four trays, but they can only be up to a4, which is about eight and a half by eleven. However, I don’t think they were too strict on this, because in the team’s competition you can definitely see.
Some teams are using trays that are bigger than eight and a half by eleven. But just a note on trays, you’ll notice that all of the pro teams have trays that are extremely neutral. I only saw one person with these puzzle piece shaped trays which just would not work here, since you can’t spread out all of your pieces and the bright colors interfere with your color perception on the pieces. I also saw this one team with a bowl of pieces which again just doesn’t work as well, because you can’t spread them all out. What i would have done is, i probably would have brought foam board that is white on one side and then black on the other side.
That way, you can use either side depending on whether it’s a light or dark puzzle, because you just want to have as much contrast as possible between the tray and the pieces. Also reading the official rules, I didn’t see anything about bringing a box stand, although I only saw one person actually using one. Most people either used the bottom of the box or they used water bottles to prop it up a few more things: you’re not allowed to bring. You can’t bring your own lighting and you can’t bring printouts of the ravensburger cutting patterns but like. Why is that?
Even on the rules did someone try to do that and then finally, what happens? If you are missing a piece? Well, first, you have to check the bag and check the floor and it usually turns up, although it becomes a very dramatic way to end your puzzling, but if a piece is truly lost and you cannot find it, you just get 10 seconds added to your final Time per piece: okay and then here’s one more shot of someone else who left a piece in the puzzle bag. Why is this so funny to me every single time, all right, so originally I was going to cover the entire competition all in one video, but even just this much of the video already took so long to edit that I just want to get it out there. So I’m going to end it here, but make sure that you are subscribed so that you don’t miss part two where I’m going to cover the pairs and the teams’ competitions will Alejandro hold on to those first place spots.
Will the czech girls make a comeback? Will literally anyone finish the marathon of a team’s final? I mean you can just go watch the live streams yourself, but if you want to hear me tell it to you, then stay tuned for that video in the next couple of weeks. So let me know if there’s any additional data you want to see me analyze or if you have any other questions about how this event works. Your code word for the comments will be spain all right, that’s it from me for today i will see you all in the next one.