MikeMirzayanov's blog

By MikeMirzayanov, 9 years ago, translation, In English,

The team captain Natalia Bondarenko
The team captain Natalia Bondarenko
January 30, 2010 the delegation of the Saratov State University is leaving for the World Finals of the International Collegiate Programming Contest. This year it's held in Harbin (hi, China), and that means that apart from an interesting contest, we have cold weather, ice statues, fried rice with prawns, and as I hope, Beijing Duck.

Our University will take part in the Contest for the 7th time, and for the team Saratov SU#1 this will be the 2nd Finals. It seems to be high time to introduce myself. I'm Mike Mirzayanov, and I'm this team's coach (and also all other teams from my university). In reality I'm the director of Programming Competitions Training Center, but in this case it doesn't matter. I became a part of this so-called olympic movement quite long ago, but since that time I've managed to take part in the finals of the ICPC, and in the finals of Google Code Jam, and onsite competitions by TopCoder (TCO and TCCC both). In brief, I do know what computer programming competitions are, but we won't speak about me.

We will speak about our team Saratov SU#1 and their participation in the coming World Finals. I plan to write a series of articles about our trip to China. No one knows, on whom Lady Luck will smile, and whether we'll return triumphant or defeated, but I hope my account will seem interesting to someone. Any questions? Ask them in your commentaries, and I'll answer them with pleasure.

Where does Saratov SU#1 come from?

Of course, the main characters of my narration are the team. Some Universities' teams have high-sounding and complicated names (SPb SU Drink Less, or vice versa Ural SU Wine, or one more example: Izhevsk STU Imba КТО НАСОС (WHO IS THE PUMP)), we have simpler names. Each team is given a number, and it is the same while the team consists of almost the same members.

Stan Pak
Stan Pak

Saratov SU#1 was born the distant year of 2005, and consisted of Natalia Bondarenko, Stanislav Pak, and Alexander Zabrodin. None of them, apart from Natasha, had had any considerable experience of winning programming competitions in school years. Natasha, being in the 11th form, took the11th prize at the All-Russia Olympiad in Informatics (in Novosibirsk), and took part in zone tours of all-Russia Olympiad in Mathematics. Stas showed good results at regional Math contests, but nothing more. By 2005 he was already the second-year student, but had not demonstrated any extraordinary achievements. I hadn't known the surname Zabrodin until 2005.

In 2005 they were the 46th in the NEERC. That year Saratov SU#2 advanced to the World Finals, that was the team that became World Champions at the 30th ICPC in Texas. But it's a different story.

By that time Dima Matov had improved his programming skills and started to train assiduously. The results came quickly, and by summer 2006 he was one of our best students. At that time Sasha Zabrodin left the Programming Centrer, as well as trace in our memories thanks to the song on the tune of "Hunter" by Korol i Shut (famous Russian punk band):

Но вдруг из темноты раздался рев,
Затем с петель слетела в доме дверь.
За шумною толпой
Бежал огромный страшный зверь.
Zabrodin Alexander!

In season 2006-2007 the team got a new member, Dima Matov was taken to the team instead of Sasha Zabrodin. The results were immediate, at summer 2006 training session in Petrozavodsk regularly they showed better results than Saratov SU#3, the strongest team at that moment: Goldstein, Klimov, Nazarov. Instructors of other teams say:"At first from Saratov the strongest was Saratov SU#3 (Elterman, Lazarev, Mirzayanov), then Saratov SU#2 (Alekseenkov, Kulkin, Romanov) became the champions, and now it's Saratov SU#1". I intend to name our next team Saratov SU#0.

The coach and Dmitry Matov
The coach and Dmitry Matov

But not everything went smoothly. I'll list the positions Saratov SU#1 took at semi-finals: 2006 - 26th, 2007 - 22nd. Of course, in 2007 everyone expected the team to advance to the finals. That year they were competing with Saratov SU#4 (Klenov, Denisov, Mescheryakov). Sergei Nazarov at those semi-finals told to the team's head Antonina Gavrilovna Fedorova: "Don't worry. One of the teams will advance to the World Finals for sure". But none of them went to the finals.

In summer 2008 the team changed its work strategies, and benefited from this. Before that all the team members had had the same roles, looking for the solution together, and according to the new strategies Dima Matov became the main coder , Natasha focused on the algorithms, and Stas validated her ideas, focused on complicated statements, tricky things, and helped Dima with implementation (a typical pair programming, but without the role changes). The team sticks to this scheme nowadays.

Autumn 2008 was a very tense period. Dmitry Klenov didn't want to miss the chance to go to the World Finals, so, Saratov SU#2: Klenov, Ivanov, Rakhov trained hard, improving their results. We all went to the semi-finals and knew that it was impossible to say for sure which of Saratov teams would show the best results. The competition was really interesting and tough, the outcome pleased everyone. Saratov SU#1 won the semi-finals and became the champions of Russia and the North-East European region. Saratov SU#2 took the 4th prize. Here are the top five teams of the 2008 semi-finals:

1 Saratov SU #1: Bondarenko, Matov, Pak 9 problems
2 Moscow SU ST: Angelyuk, Astakhov, Maksimenko 9 problems
3 Moscow SU Unpredictable: Gusakov, Kornakov, Razenshteyn 9 problems
4 Saratov SU #2: Ivanov, Klenov, Rakhov 9 problems
5 SPb SU Burunduchki: Davydov, Kopeliovich, Petrov 8 problems

The team prepared assiduously for the long-expected finals, demonstrating various results. I've already written how the World Finals in Stockholm went. Well done! The results of 2008 were marvelous.

Vladimir Yakunin
Vladimir Yakunin

Meanwhile the season 2009-2010 was coming, the last in the team's history. The contest has strict age limitations, limitations on the number of participations, etc. for each member of a team, according to them our team was heading for its last season.

At summer training session in Petrozavodsk the team showed the 4th result in Russia, the results of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th positions being very close. They won the experimental Finals of Open Cup, and the whole Open Cup in season 2008-2009 (right you are, Oleg, they're still waiting for their prizes). On the whole, nothing boded ill.

Troubles came unexpected, several days before the 2009 Quarter-Finals. After careful calculations it occurred that Stas Pak had already participated in the quarter-finals 5 times, and he couldn't compete any more. Finita la comedia. Changes in the team membership.

Team advisor and CS&IT department dean
Antonina Fedorova

It should be mentioned that all the three faced the news heroically. The team's head Antonina Fedorova and me feared that such a turn would break the competitive spirit, but this didn't happen. There were several days left before the quarter-finals, thus the decision about a new member had to be taken immediately. We thought over different variants. The problem was that admittedly it was no good splitting the team Saratov SU#2:Ivanov, Kreis, Rakhov, because they formed a powerful team together. Moreover at that time Natasha came down with the flu, and couldn't take part in the trainings for some time.

Finally, we agreed on my candidate. The fact was that Saratov SU#3: Goldshtein, Nazarov, Yakunin (participants of the 2005 World Finals) had stopped participating in the contests by that time, but one of its members, Vova Yakunin, had left the team earlier, in 2005. In 2005 he stepped away from the olympic movement, participating in TopCoder contests from time to time. But as you know, talent can't be lost or sold, and Vova accepted our offer to return to the limelight with great enthusiasm, and other team members spoke highly of their only training with him. Meet he new members of Saratov SU#1: Bondarenko, Matov, Yakunin. One of the trainers from the Ural State University expressed his opinion: "Saratov works wonders. They can take a dusty stool from the shelf, blow off the dust, put nearby, and it will solve programming problems!"

I won't tell you that everything worked perfect at the quarter-finals, it was hard for them, but they didn't lose heart. And then there were persistent trainings for the semi-finals, which they lost to Saratov SU#2 with frightening regularity. Though: at the last training before the semi-finals they won the whole world by one problem solved, including the last champions.

I am not going to exhaust you with the story about the semi-finals, the only thing I will say: the team took the 5th prize and advanced to the 2010 World Finals. And now I have to switch from past to present tense and tell you that at this very moment the guys are having one of their last trainings. Let's wish them good luck. Especially for February 5.


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