I know what comes to your mind when you hear the word “SuDoKu”. A waste corner in the newspaper meant only for old uncles travelling to work. But did you know that Sudoku has a rich history and it actually took the world by storm when it was first introduced? They even had a popular live TV Sudoku show called Sudoku-Live.
SuDoKu actually translates to Digit-Single and even though it is a trademark in Japan and the word itself is a part of japanese lingo, the game has its predecessors in Paris. Who knew people living in a fashion capital could devise something as intellectual as SuDoKu?
The predecessors of SuDoKu were born when mathematicians in France started experimenting by removing numbers from a ‘magic square’. A magic square is a grid like square similar to that of a sudoku puzzle but one where all diagonals, rows and columns add up to the same number. Here is an example
The earliest form of sudoku was one that required the player had to fill the numbers in the grid to make it a magic square. It involved a lot more arithmetic than logic and included larger numbers. These puzzles were published in newspapers in France but mysteriously disappeared after the first World War.
Beginning of an Era
The reincarnation of Sudoku began when a man named Howard Garns designed and popularised a similar puzzle called ‘Number Place’ in ‘Dell Magazine’ in the USA. Unfortunately, Garns couldn’t live long enough to watch his creation become a worldwide phenomenon. ‘Number Place’ was introduced in Japan by ‘Nikoli’ with the name suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru, which means “the digits must remain single” and was later abbreviated to SuDoKu.
Sudoku exploded in the United Kingdom when The Times printed the first Sudoku puzzle in 2004. The very next day of publishing, they received a letter in which a man complained that the puzzle had caused him to miss his station while on the train. Not only that, in 2008, an Australian drugs related jury trial costing over a million Australian dollars was aborted when it was discovered that five of the twelve jurors were solving sudoku puzzles instead of listening to evidence. Sudoku was in so much demand that The Guardian actually advertised itself as the first newspaper to print a Sudoku puzzle on every page!
In 2005, the BBC even launched a game show called SUDO-Q that ran for four seasons. Unlike fun activities today, Sudoku also helps to improve your mental capacity and can improve working memory in older people. Sudoku also improves logical reasoning, trains your brain for quick thinking and even slows Alzheimer’s!
The World Sudoku Championship, started in 2006, is held annually to this day and rewards the first prize winner a sum of $10,000.
How is it played?
SuDoKu is played on a 9×9 grid encompassing 9 smaller regions. Each row, column and region must have 9 unique numbers going from 1 to 9.
This is what an unsolved puzzle looks like:-
And this is the solution-
Although at first glance it might look like guessing a number may pay off, but actually it makes it more difficult to backtrack the mistake.
Today several versions of SuDoKu are available.
Jigsaw Sudoku that looks something like this:
Mini Sudoku, where numbers go only from 1-6 and a sadistic sounding ‘Killer Sudoku’ which is surprisingly easier to solve than your classic sudoku.
Adolescents of this generation may think of Sudoku as a dead game, one whose history is more interesting than the game, but the puzzle is not far from being a legend. Here is a link to a free Sudoku website in case you’re enticed to play. https://sudoku.com/. Solve as many as you want because there are 6.67 x 10^21 unique possible sudoku puzzles!