I just touched down in Trivandrum after my ACM ICPC, Regionals in Bangalore. It’s been quite an experience. To all those non-CS guys out there, ACM ICPC or the Association For Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Competition is the Olympics for programmers. One of the toughest programming competitions in the world, we managed to qualify for the regionals for this year at Bangalore and Kanpur. On the 18th morning, I reached the Amrita University campus in Bangalore early in the morning. Chilled to the bone in the Bangalore weather, we checked into the rooms provided. Soon, the other competitors filled in, from all over the country, I saw the largest collection of serious coders from India. Some of these teams have been participating in the event for the last 2 or 3 years and we were certain that we would never crack the challenges.
Food was free and after quite a heavy breakfast, we proceeded to the practice sessions. The practice sessions turned out to be a disaster with server issues delaying it almost 3 hours. But we could feel the excitement in the room as impatient coders waited for the portal to open. The portal was up at almost 12 in the afternoon and we managed to crack one of the two questions during the practice challenge. All systems were go, for the event. After the practice session we had yet another heavy meal and retired to our rooms. I spent the afternoon watching a movie, while other teams were busy battling it out on CodeForces and revising algorithms.
Early in the morning of the contest day, we got dressed in the contest t-shirts and proceeded to the contest arena. The atmosphere was quite different now, with some teams mumbling algorithms and tricks in their mind as they filed into their respective nodes. We could see a couple of teams were quite nervous. We were relaxed as this was our first attempt and we hadn’t done much of practice. Anyways at 9:05 am, we received our question sets and we got lost trying to crack at least one question. We are quite proud to say that we managed to crack one of the 11 questions with relative ease, and started working on another question, which we almost solved after considerable effort. Our question worked well for the given test cases but went wrong with large test cases. The solution wasn’t accepted by the system, we believe we cracked the problem. A couple of teams were cracking away with easy, like a team from Dhaka, managing to crack almost 8 or 9 questions. These guys had done their homework for at least an year before they turned up.
The contest ended at 2 and as I had prior commitments, I left the contest site. Let me tell you this though, a serious coder needs to get into ACM ICPC. Programming is not just learning to write code, it is about learning to write good code, solving tough questions that needs solving. Anyone can learn to write code, but being a coder, is an altogether different thing. Live to code.