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Competitive Jigsaw Puzzling



Jigsaws may appear to be a relaxing and easy-going hobby ideal for a quiet indoor activity on a rainy afternoon but is actually a sport as well with fiercely competed competitions. Competitions can be held on a local, national or international level with the local level being an entry point for beginners whilst the international tournaments are there for the elite competitors however in a lot of cases anybody no matter their level can enter the elite events if they want although it will vary from competition to competition the entry requirements. The competitors even at the elite level will be amateurs and likely have full-time jobs or even in some cases retired as there is often only prize money for the winner and maybe 2nd and 3rd place finishes and the amount received will be not that high to sustain a full time living from doing it. The tournaments can be infrequent at the elite level as it is an amateur sport that requires volunteers and raising money to run it with this lack of tournaments being another reason it is impossible to do it as a full-time job. The competitors in a jigsaw tournament will usually be set against a clock and given an unseen jigsaw puzzle with the number of pieces the puzzle has varying from competition to competition but you can expect it to have at least a few hundred pieces and the picture not to be too straightforward to assemble. There may be an age limit by which kids under a certain age are not allowed to enter but this will vary from event to event but at a local event which is meant for fun then it could be that kids are permitted to participate. The jigsaws used in competition will be flat and not 3D but this could change in the future and a 3D jigsaw would be an interesting way to test the jigsaw competitors in a different way.


A local-level jigsaw event could mean the town you are from or the region by which I mean a group of towns reasonably close together that can be an event that is held as a way to bring people together rather than a serious competitive tournament although there will be some local events that are serious events with prize money. There will be some who will treat it very seriously so you could get a wide range of competitors from absolute beginners to very experienced jigsaw puzzlers. This type of event would be the ideal place for beginners to get involved and see how they fare in a relatively competitive environment but wouldn't really matter if they did badly or failed. At this level budgets for the event will very likely not be as big as for the national and international events so there may only be one jigsaw puzzle that everybody has to take turns doing or only a few of them to go around rather than everyone having their own jigsaw and all attempting their jigsaw puzzles at the same time like you would at the elite events. It could be that there are no local events in the area you are from and that means travelling long distances to find one which could be expensive and time-consuming so setting up your own tournament could be the way to go in which you can set your own rules and organising it through something like social media should be possible and there may be jigsaw organisations in your country that will help you do this.


When we get to the national level this is where it can get very serious and the level of competitors will go up and possibly significantly so and there can even be international competitors as well who are seeking out tough competition. If there is a national level championship at all in your country will depend from country to country as even in a country like Britain it is only recently that a national championship has been introduced but finding out should be relatively easy as the event will likely be found by searching on the internet through a search engine. If there is not a national championship in your country then it may be possible to compete in a neighbouring country's championship particularly if it is close by so you can realistically get to it and if they will allow you or nationals from another country to compete. If the national championship has only been recently introduced then the competition will probably still be of a relatively low standard as it takes many years of competition and greater awareness of the event for the level to grow to a good and high standard. When we get to this level there will often be an entry fee which usually isn't that much to compete that can include the price of the jigsaw puzzle that you will often get to keep when finished with. The rules will become much stricter at this level because when there is prize money at stake there will be the temptation to cheat but you will really have to go out of your way to get disqualified and do something extreme for instance stealing someone else's pieces.


The international level includes continental championships such as the European championships and then the ultimate and most prestigious title which is the world championship. The World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship is hosted by the World Jigsaw Puzzle Federation and is for those aged 16 and over only but anyone this age can enter regardless of experience and is held annually. The jigsaw puzzles used in international tournaments are unpublished so the competitors will not have seen it before they attempt it and everybody will attempt the same jigsaw at the same time against the clock. There are three categories for this event that you can participate in which are the individual event, the pairs event and the group event. The individual event has a 2-hour time limit to complete the one jigsaw puzzle but the group events have an 8-hour time limit to complete all 4 jigsaws of differing number of pieces. In the pairs event, on the other hand, you will just have 90 minutes to complete the one jigsaw puzzle. The tournament has 500 piece jigsaw puzzles for the individual events which may not seem a lot but when up against the clock and against other serious and talented competitors makes it a stressful challenge that should test jigsaw puzzlers of all levels. This very elite event is one of the few events in which, if you win it, you can some money as the winner gets 500 euros in the individual event and 400 if you win one of the other events and with this prize money and it being a world championship the rules are strict and held to Olympic standards.


Like with any sport the competitors who are serious will practice for hours on such things as their posture, speed, their ability to grab and place pieces and their jigsaw solving skills as jigsaw puzzling is both a mental and physical sport. Jigsaw solving skills can be arranging the pieces into categories like colours or shapes to make the puzzle easier for that individual to assemble or putting together different parts of the jigsaw first to make it potentially easier and faster to solve with these parts being such things as the border or a distinctive part of the picture. The other element of competitive jigsaw puzzling that needs practising is the countdown clock which can be done at home with a device such as a modern phone although you may have to download a timer app or just by looking at a regular clock and then it is up to you how often you choose to look at the timer or just almost ignore it completely as it may be too much of a distraction from the task at hand. Practising at home though will not fully replicate the real competition because you can be often be sat right beside your opponent and be able to see in the corner of your eye the progress they are making and if you are behind them in terms of progress then this can add even more pressure which you wouldn't feel practising alone at home. These events can also get quite noisy which could be another distraction as it will be impossible to recreate the ambience of a tournament hall at home and will likely require first-hand experience to adjust and thrive in it.


Competitive jigsaw puzzling as referenced earlier isn't just an individual sport it can be done in pairs or as part of a team so it could be that someone is not quite good enough to win at the individual event but as part of a team they can be the best because they can cover teammates weaknesses and vice versa. Although competitive puzzling is competitive by nature it is a potentially good way to make friends and meet people who have a similar passion or even obsession with jigsaw puzzles and they may even be able to give you a few pointers to improve your game as well. Language is not a barrier when it comes to jigsaws as the puzzle is a picture and everybody knows how to play with a jigsaw so this broadens the field of competitors you can play against or with compared to other puzzles and activities where being able to speak the same language would be necessary.


In conclusion, competitive puzzling gives the opportunity to people who want to take their hobby to the next level and also meet other people who have a similar passion that may take you to places of the world you have never been to before and as a lot of the tournaments are in their infancy the sport has plenty of room to grow and might be a lucrative sport in the future in which you could make a living from it as lots of people do enjoy and play jigsaws. Before deciding to enter a tournament you should ensure you can afford to travel to the event and pay the entrance fee as you may have to travel quite far to get to one.


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