A few weeks ago I wrote about the 4 Stages of Sudoku. If you didn’t read that article, or if you missed any of the articles, don’t worry, in a bit I’ll share the links back to them…
In case you don’t remember the 4 Stages, here they are again:
Stage #1: Sudoku Ecstasy
Stage #2: Sudoku Is The Most Annoying Game Ever!!
Stage #3: Here I Am
Stage #4: Mastery
So today we’ll go over:
Stage #4: Mastery
Not too many Sudoku players reach this stage.
You may remember from the last newsletter that Stage #3 is where you are very good in what you’re doing. Well at Stage #4, not only are you good, you don’t even have to think about it.
It’s at this stage that you begin to practice what I like to call “Thoughtless Sudoku“… It’s solving Sudoku without really having to think about it… in other words, the techniques, the strategies, the solving logic just comes naturally.
This is the stage where the moves simply come… no thinking, no wondering, no memorizing… it just happens.
If you mess up… BAM, you quickly figure out how to fix it and you move on.
At this stage you can pretty much play any Sudoku, any puzzle book, anytime, anywhere. All you need is a puzzle, a pencil, and whatever your favorite beverage is…
This is also the stage where you discover just how important the fundamentals are… it’s so funny because most beginner Sudoku players can’t wait to stop practicing the basics yet, if you want to get to Stage #4 you gotta LOVE and NEED to practice the basics.
“Wasn’t The Superbowl Exciting??”
In case you don’t know, the Superbowl is the championship game in the sport of American football.
There’s this legendary football coach by the name of Vince Lombardi… maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe not, but…
That’s not important right now.
What is important is how he became the greatest football coach in history and what that has to do with your Sudoku solving.
Coach Lombardi would always start every singe practice the same way. He would take a football in his hands, raise it up above his head and say (not an exact quote): “This is a football, I am a coach, you are football players, what you are standing on is a football field…”
“What in the world does that have to do Sudoku?”
The way you get to Stage #4 is to ALWAYS practice and drill into your brain the basics. You’ve got to get back to basics.
While everyone else is worrying about the next solving technique you’ve got to keep your eyes on the basics, the fundamentals. That’s what makes a great player. Remember, 99% of the Sudoku players out there are somewhere between Stages 1-3.
And the reason is simple… 99% of the players are too concerned with adding more and more moves instead of focusing on the basics.
That is how you achieve “Thoughtless Sudoku”.
By drilling the basics into your head so much, you solve without thinking about it… kinda like walking.
At first when you’re a baby, it takes you a while to learn to walk… in fact there comes a point where you have to really concentrate and think about walking.
But what about now?
Do you have to remind yourself which leg to put in front of the other? Of course not.
The same way you don’t think about walking, Stage 4 is Sudoku solving without thinking about it…
“This Is Also The Stage Where You Get The Most Respect…”
Not because you demand it, but because everyone around you will automatically respect you.
Another way to get to this point (aside from always practicing the basics and drilling the fundamentals into your head) is to play different forms of Sudoku.
Now, I’ve spoken about this before but it never hurts to repeat it. I’m biased towards the standard Sudoku games, but there’s nothing wrong with expanding your mind a bit.
You’ve got to get a little bit uncomfortable. How? By learning something completely brand new.
That way you can learn to see different angles and different ways of looking at your puzzles. You see, there comes a point where you may hit a plateau and if that happens, you can usually break free by going to other formats of Sudoku.
Remember, if you do the same exact thing over and over again, there may be a point where you just can’t move further.
My recommendation is that you learn as many formats as you can early on because the longer you wait the harder it will be. And by doing it earlier rather than later, you actually get a head start on everyone else.
Is getting to Stage #4 easy?
No, it’s not. But… it’s not hard either… it’s just a matter of patience, time and sticking to your basics.
It doesn’t matter what stage of Sudoku you’re in right now, as long as you practice the basics from this day on, you’ll be ahead of all the other players.
Of course, you will continue to learn new moves, and techniques, and logic, but having the basics to the point where you don’t even think about it will make learning new things a lot easier.
What’s more… if you practice and do everything I’ve explained to you here, you’ll be able to hit Stage #4 in no time at all.
Chad Barker, Your Sudoku Professor
P.S. Missed any of the articles in this series? Here they are: