Wild_Hamster's blog

By Wild_Hamster, history, 12 months ago, In English,

"Everything is possible in ICPC as long as the community decides it should happen" — Bill Poucher.

Hello, community. I want to share my story about how our team got accepted to SEERC(Southeastern Europe Regional Contest) a couple of months ago and suddenly got declined a week ago(our registration was cancelled). I also want to ask some questions.

A little bit about regionals in Ukraine:

There are 2 stages before advancing to SEERC:

  1. First stage is held in April(almost in the end of academic year) and all the teams from Ukraine have to attend to this stage in order to go to SEERC(there are also some exceptions)

  2. Second stage is held in September(in the start of academic year)

There are also many "rules" for that stages, that are not mentioned anywhere in the official icpc.baylor.edu site.

That already doesn't make any sense because some students entering the university at the start of academic year will not be able to compete in current season, because they weren't participating in April. For example most countries can attend to SEERC without any stages before it.

Organization of first and second stage:

  1. First stage is going simultaneously in 20+ different places in Ukraine for the same problemset. There is no any organization at all. Contest can be scheduled to start at 10AM and can start in 11AM. Teams from some places in Ukraine can get statements/login/passwords at 10AM, some of them can get statements/login/passwords at 11AM, although there is only one leaderboard for all the teams from Ukraine. There are always issues with judging system during 1st stage. Almost every year there are some issues like check failed, incorrect constraints, invalid test cases and so on. Most of the problems in the problemset for 1st stage are used from internet. Almost none of them are original.

  2. Same issues are applied for second stage, but second stage is going in 5 different places and there is a bit lower percentage of problems from the internet and a bit lower percentage of issues like check failed, incorrect constraints, invalid test cases. Problemset of second stage usually contains 10-15 problems and 75% of them has difficulty  ≤  div2D. And it's always enough to solve this 75% to advance to SEERC.

The part of my story:

This year in July I was invited to enter Lviv National University and enter team to participate in ACM. One of the members of the team was competing in Finals(April 15 — April 20) this year and our first stage before SEERC for season 2019 was held in April 21(amazing, isn't it?). So he was not able to attend this stage because the ticket to Ukraine was booked for April 20 long ago and there was no way he could be in time. That's why he was allowed to create a new team that can attend to second stage or to SEERC. So I was invited to this team and one more person was taken. Here is our team: https://codeforces.com/team/46799. That's when all this started.

Ukrainian regional director didn't want to accept third member of our team, because he was marked as reserve for another team, that participated in the first stage(it wouldn't happen, if we hadn't that nonsense with stages). He didn't allow our team to participate in second stage with third member, but we had no another options. Regional director even supposed(or joked, I don't know) for us "to take pretty girl as third member, if we have no options".

So our coach decided to get in touch with regional director of SEERC and ask him if it's possible for our team to attend to SEERC. Regional director accepted our team then(it was in July). He said that there will be no problems with it. I relocated to Lviv from my home city and started team trainings. Also I entered Lviv National University in September. We trained for almost 3 months and here we got an information, that our team registration is suddenly rejected.

It appeared, that our ukrainian director wrote to SEERC regional director and him to reject our team registration, because our team was not accepted to stage 2 of ukrainian contest(because of stupid restriction for the third member that would not happen at all if there would be no that nonsense stages). SEERC regional director could still accept our team but he decided to avoid conflict with our ukrainian director and just rejected our team registration. And the point that we wasted 3 months of our time and a lot of resources to train as a team and that we wouldn't do that if he rejected our team registration at July was not an argument for him.

After that I wrote to Bill Poucher with describing this story and asking "Why did it happen?" and just got redirected to some kind of executive manager. And after some talking with him he just finally said to me(it's a quote from the letter): this tough decision is well founded by the regional leadership. I fully understand this is not what you hoped for, but the error is at the level of Lviv teams management. I understood then that it's pointless to talk with them.

I am posting it only after SEERC, because probably they can find a reason to disqualify another teams from our university and I don't really want this to happen.

So the questions are:

  1. Why did it happen? It really doesn't make sense that we got approved for SEERC and rejected 2-3 months later.

  2. Did somebody have similar problems in ACM? I already saw posts about ACPC multiple times and posts about IOI with similar nonsense situations. It's really sad that something like that happens.

  3. Is it possible to deal with this problem? Can our team somehow be transferred to another region?

  • Vote: I like it
  • +304
  • Vote: I do not like it

12 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +118 Vote: I do not like it

Politics. Nobody wants to conflict with subregionals directors because they do the job. Often do it poorly, but
1) it is better than find other people with no experience at all
2) I suppose that in many cases higher directors even do not know that something is bad because its subregionals directors who tell them about situation.
Regional directors are on their positions for tens of years while participants are here only for 6-7 years, usually less. So participants are somewhat disposable if you want to save relationships with regional director.

Also I think that many higher directors themself don't really know what is important to participants.

12 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +30 Vote: I do not like it

Very sad story. Looks like Ukrainian regional director is rather slippery type. Why Ukrainian are still trying to participate in SEERC? This region has small quote and it is rather easy relocate to Russia or Europe from Ukraine. I believe there are a lot of universities and regions which are much more icpc friendly.

12 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +25 Vote: I do not like it

There sure is a lot of complaints about ACM from different regions. I remember some about India and the East Asian mix, too...

12 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +12 Vote: I do not like it

I think we should stop this kind of problems. Codeforces is big community. We should find solution for this problem.

12 months ago, # |
Rev. 2   Vote: I like it +35 Vote: I do not like it

It sucks how ACM ICPC (and IOI for that matter) doesn't have some type of efficient system to deal with these problems, and just attribute it to "regional issues" or whatever BS reason to say "not our problem" when clearly regional issues are issues with the structure of the ACM ICPC as a whole.

Same thing happen in IOI where better contestant (happened to people I know personally) are shuffled out for politics, nationalism, or because some asshat with barely an idea what CP even is holds some position of power and impose some stupid regulation or rule without really knowing the situation.

Codeforce members with clout in ACM ICPC management please do something bout this, or atleast bring up the issue because right now ACM ICPC regularly screws some of its competitors over.

12 months ago, # |
Rev. 2   Vote: I like it +26 Vote: I do not like it

It really bothers me that these things happen in both ACM ICPC and IOI, people report it to the people in charge of the contests, and nothing happens. For every case that is reported on CodeForces, there probably are many more cases that we won't find out about.

Here is my proposed solution: there should be a procedure to vote out contest officials, regional directors, etc. The contestants can vote on the next year's officials. If officials can be voted out, they will care more about listening to the participants wishes than dealing politics, because officials who deal with politics will be kicked out. Also, if there is a really bad regional director, someone else will try to get that position such as a contestant who lost an opportunity because of that director. This will improve the quality of directors if not the next year, then in 5 years.

12 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +79 Vote: I do not like it

That part about having quals for next season before the end of the previous one is amazing. I remember that several years ago when I asked organizers about why it is so and if it can be changed (because it indeed makes life harder in multiple ways), I got a bunch of wonderful insightful reasons for such schedule. The list included things like:

  • Having contests spread around the year provides additional motivation for teams to train on regular basis, instead of only starting training before the first stage in autumn and then stopping it after SEERC.
  • Having official competitions in spring helps universities to figure out which strong teams they have, so they can decide on funding and support for summer events like various camps or KPI Open.

I'm not sure if there is a way for a single team to go for a different region — though there was a case of KPI team qualifying to WF from NEERC, but that was long time ago and I don't know details behind it. Maybe Vasyl knows more — he was their coach, right?

It should be possible, however, for whole university to ask for switching regions. Some universities from Estonia asked for switching from NEERC to NWERC recently (you can read a bit about it in this post in Russian). It is probably going to be tricky — the way I understand it, you'd need to get approval from both your current and your new region. After competing in Ukraine for several years I got an impression that regions like CERC have much better idea about how ICPC should be done compared to our local organizers, so...

Also, you may look into trying to participate in next season instead of this one. Even if you don't fit there by age or some other criteria — there is a chance to get permission after showing that you were basically kicked out of competition this year and it is not your fault.