Wednesday, 14 November 2012

DCD 2012 aka MPP8

Just over a year ago Nigel and I flew across to The Netherlands to attend the 2011 Dutch Cube Day in Eindhoven. Luckily our fellow MPP-er Louis lives in Eindhoven and he took care of us while we were over there ... afterwards I blogged about it a bit and we talked about it to all and sundry at subsequent MPPs ... and it seems that folks liked what they heard. This time Nigel and I were joined for an early Saturday morning flight from Birmingham by Chris, and Ali and Oli flew across to Amsterdam from Luton. We all met up with Louis who’d caught the train from Eindhoven to Schipol and then the six of us made our way across to The Hague, scene of this year’s DCD. 

We all managed to check-in when we got there, although there were a couple of fraught minutes until the hotel found Ali’s booking in the name of Mr Alistair instead of the more orthodox use of his surname. When the hotel restaurant opened at 11:30 we all piled in for some lunch as most of us had been at the airport from 4:30 that morning. While we were happily munching away Wil Strijbos pulled up in his red van and hopped out with Christiaan Eggermont. They joined us for a bite to eat after they’d checked in and then headed off to the venue to unpack Wil’s wares for the Sunday. 

We walked round there after lunch and notionally helped Wil unpack his crates in order to justify our presence. Bernhard Schweitzer had obviously been there for a while already as most of his stuff was already unpacked. It was great to see Bernhard again after a bit more than a year at the previous DCD. I spotted Joop doing his rounds as one of the organisers and reminding the prospective sellers that they were supposed to be saving their trading for the next day – although I did notice a couple of my mates coming out of there with little parcels or treasure in spite of Joop’s best endeavours. 

Rob's well-laid dining table
Mid-afternoon we all headed off toward Rob Hegge’s place for a bit of a puzzle party. We’d spoken about DCD in Washington and I’d mentioned there would be a bunch of us MPP-ers coming over so he’d offered to organise a bit of a get-together. We arrived with Wil and Christiaan in tow to Rob, Frans de Vreugd and Simon Nightingale all furiously puzzling away, and a little while later Rik van Grol and the rest of the gang arrived. (Only half of us could fit in the red van so the others took a cab from the hotel.) 

Rob had laid his dining room table with all of his IPP puzzles and about half of us promptly sat down (after we’d said hello to everyone, promise!) and began confusing ourselves. The rest scattered themselves around his lounge peering into the many cabinets jam-packed with puzzles. Rob was a great host keeping us plied with caffeine and fruit juice and the odd round of snacks. He happily sought out some of the less well known puzzles in his collection and hauled them out for folks to have a go on ... Nigel for one was glad to be able to give one of Brian Young’s big Telephone Boxes a bit of a once over. Not sure anyone opened the (Karakuri) Grand Piano though...

I spent a while trying my hand at Tan-Talizing and failed miserably, only to see Louis solve it in a matter of minutes, take his customary photo of the solved puzzle and then break it up while I tried not to watch... although I have to say that he did a very good job of obscuring anything useful in the process. 

At one point Rob brought out his Roger Shaker and Ali had a pretty good go at it, actually solving it! Locking it up again proved a bit tougher and we had to drag Wil in to try and salvage the position... and even though Wil was seen prancing around the room performing all manner of strange callisthenics, the puzzle remained resolutely open ... sorry Rob.

We had to drag ourselves away from Rob’s treasure trove to meet Bernhard back at the hotel for some Italian and just managed to get back in time to find him, and after dumping our gear, we all (11 of us!) set off following Bernhard to an Italian joint he remembered from previous visits ... after a couple of false starts and wrong turns we found it and they pushed a few tables together for us. I knew the food was going to be superb when Bernhard didn’t hesitate and ordered his standard Carpaccio and a main course (read last year’s story if that doesn’t make sense!). Several courses of superb food duly followed, liberally interspersed with some (apparently) very fine wine ... with several puzzles floating around the table among the courses. As always the banter was highly entertaining and when Louis noticed that the wall tiles looked a bit like the panels on a puzzle box, he proceeded to try and solve the wall! (And he was stone cold sober at the time, promise!) It was an outstanding meal with fantastic company ... and if you’re ever in Voorburg, you could do a lot worse than look up Fratelli's for a bite to eat! (You’re on your own on the company though...) 

Back at the hotel, we found ourselves drawn to the bar area for yet more puzzling and I eventually stumbled up to my bed just before midnight...
Next morning Louis and I headed back to the venue a little after the opening time and the rest of the gang followed along at a more leisurely pace having sussed out Wil and Bernhard’s tables the previous afternoon. 

Anyone seen Vinco?
This year DCD was held in Sint Maartenscollege in the school hall, with tables set up for the speed-cubers down one side and puzzle tables taking up pretty much the rest of the hall... and clearly a lot of new folks had arrived between us leaving there on Saturday and getting back on Sunday – there were stacks of new puzzle tables piled high with interesting puzzles, optical illusions and games. 

We signed in and each received a micro three-piece cube puzzle courtesy of Richard Gain (the microcubologist) and the organisers – a really nice touch!

Inside the room it was wonderful recognising puzzlers from DCD last year and from Washington earlier this year – every one of them stopped to say hi and ask how we’d been in the interim – good people... 

Wil had brought a couple of things along for me, including a Five Nails puzzle from Jan Sturm for my Shropshire puzzle mate Dale, and a couple of Cola Bottles (#5 and #7B) to add to my collection – but I’ll be writing about those in due course...

Jack Krijnen had a table selling some of his designs (you’re not likely to come across Burrly Sane available for sale like that...) and had a few placed out for folks to play around with ... including a very simple looking 2D puzzle consisting of about 5 pieces and the object is to make the classic outline of a house... WAY tougher than it looks and I’m still kicking myself for not taking a copy...

Ceremonial handover
My main reason to looking out for Jack was linked to our meeting at DCD last year. Just before that he’d published a couple of pics on a forum of a tiny burr set he’d crafted for himself, and in the interim he’d decided to make a few more copies for sale, and I’d managed to get in early enough to secure a copy and I was going to be picking it up at DCD ... it really deserves an entire post on it’s own, and that’s what it’ll get – but for now I’ll just say that it is even better in the flesh than it looks in the pics and it is an awesome piece of woodwork! [Thanks Jack!] 

We spent pretty much the whole day wandering between the tables and noticing new things each time we went past a table ... the lunch that the organisers laid on was great and the Midlands Mob spent a while munching and talking puzzles with Simon and Frans while giving our legs a bit of a break...

After lunch we had a couple of lectures – firstly from Frans de Vreugd on his puzzle-hunting trip to Sri Lanka with Peter Hajek. Frans entertained us with some great stories and interesting insights, all illustrated with a terrific set of photos from the trip and a bunch of carved objects all of which had secret compartments hidden inside them. As most of us hadn’t been exposed to any puzzle boxes from Sri Lanka, it made for a really interesting talk. He was followed by Edo Timmermans who gave an inspiring talk on modelling mathematical constructions using simple little magnetic balls – the sort we’ve all played around with at some point... except that his creations were on an EPIC scale – take a look at his YouTube channel and I guarantee that you’ll be thoroughly amazed at what can be done with these simple little ‘toys’ in the right hands.

Fidgety Rabbits (the white things they're holding!)
After that I spent a while chatting with Goetz Schwandtner who’d brought along a couple of really fascinating derivatives of the standard Chinese rings ... the first was a copy of the Fidgety Rabbits puzzle from this year’s Design Competition – it’s a binary implementation with 7 sliders, each of which can be in one of two states... then he brought out a special version by the same creator (Namick Salakhov) which had a ternary implementation, with just 6 sliders! He passed it around and everyone had a fiddle around with it and we all went a little way into the sequence and then allowed discretion to take over and reversed back to the start position... the binary one was opened a few times but nobody really tried to go all the way through the ternary example. Goetz spent a while talking us through the design which is rather ingenious as it will generalise to any higher order implementation desired – clever design that! [There’s a much better pic of the two next to each other on Goetz’ web page.] 

One of the other things Goetz had brought along was a Lego (genius!) implementation of a Bob Hearn design that had never been made before – even though it theoretically only has three rings, the number of moves involved was simply astronomical! In fact Goetz hadn’t even determined the number of moves required to fully solve it – jolly creative that Goetz bloke! :-) 

The Dutch Cube Day really is a tremendous opportunity to meet some amazing puzzlers, manufacturers, sellers and designers... 

Where else could you get one of Oskar’s designs autographed by the man himself (yip, I did!), or where could you tell Robrecht Louage how much you enjoyed 4 Steps Visible Lock, or chat to Vinco, or talk to Marcel Gillen about his old puzzles and his more recent designs, play with some really exotic twisty puzzles and rake through crate after crate after crate of wonderful goodies from Wil Strijbos. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of the above, and you get to make some excellent new friends ... all for the princely sum of ten Euros for the day! You cannot beat that for puzzling value for money! If you haven’t already joined NKC, drop Rik a line and sign up and then join us in Holland next year ... if you love puzzles you won’t regret it!

Obligatory loot shot.


  1. The Shaker has been unsolved :-)
    Not sure how I did it though...

    1. Hi Rob. Well done? Shall we send Ali around again? :-)

  2. Hi Allard. Wouldn't that 5-piece 2-D house the same as the one sold by Arteludes ( Maison en 5 pièces ) ?

    1. I think it probably is that one Guillaume! Thanks - Now I know where to find one... (It's weird, I look at Arteludes regularly and hadn't twigged that was the same puzzle - thanks!) - allard