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Google's Code Jam World Finals 2014 - 4-Hour Menace in Venice, A Boy Hero & 25 Killer Coders

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by Screenmancer Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA: When 19-year-old Gennady Korotkevich, the Boy Wonder from Belarus, aced the 25 other best coders on the planet yesterday at Google's LAX Office in Venice, Calif., for the 2014 Code Jam World Onsite Finals, it was... Jazz.

Even if you know nothing about the world of competitive coding, programming competitions, or what the heck 'top coders' are - this is a kid who showed up on the radar at the most difficult software programming challenges in the world at age 14.

Pronounced with a hard "G", Gennady is a jeans-wearing, tennis playing, prodigy who "early" in his career as a boy genius made up his own motto. "Nothing is impossible; impossible itself says / I m possible/..." The slashes are an homage to coding symbols, and the world of problem-solving using C++, Python, PHP, Ruby, Java, actually any language of choice.

Last night, Friday Aug. 15th, the reality that Korotkevich has basically won the Triple Crown of Coding began to sink in. He won Top Coder, The Facebook Hacker's Cup, and now the jewel in the crown, Google's Code Jam World Finals.

Young 'Gen-noddy' is, undisputed, the best coder in the world - from any country, of any age, at this moment in the history of technology... and 'he can't even buy his own beer yet in the US,' as one astute spectator pointed out yesterday.

Beer pales in comparison to the global peer cred Gennady racked up yesterday at Code Jam 2014. Our Code Hero was made all the more mythic by the roster of fellow geniuses that he bested in the A-F problem challenge with solutions for "Small" and "Large" inputs.

What the heck are small and large inputs? Imagine juggling three oranges, figuring the pattern; now imagine juggling 12 oranges, figuring the pattern - that's the small input. Now imagine juggling a trillion oranges and judging the pattern - that's the big input.

More interesting things happen at "a trillion," of course. Obviously, you get beaucoup points for the large inputs.

Think of Google's proprietary algorithm for Search, hundreds of millions of results must be returned in fractions of a second... that would be the big input, the Big Kahuna of efficiency and artistry in code writing.

Inputs aside, during the four-hour grueling code-a-thon known as Code Jam, Gennady knocked down last year's King Coder "mystic," Ivan Metelsky, smacked three Facebook-affiliated entrants down, dropped a couple Yandex (the Google of Russia) employees, whacked a great coder named Ivan Popelyshev (who does games, even came up with his own 'bombermine' for his Matroid Games) and one thin guy named "eatmore." ('eatmore' is his fellow schoolmate in Russia.)

In the heat of brain-crunch coding, Gennady also took down "hos.lyric" who interned at Google last year before returning to school in Japan; trounced Romka (another ringer from Yandex), and even hip-checked a genius Chinese National/MIT Student into third place. And then there was 21 year old Fernando Fonseca from Brazil. "ffao" got a lot of heat from his home country, made the national news as the first-ever Brazilian to make the Google Code Jam finals.

Win. lose, or draw, you have to admire the efforts of all 26, some glazed and confused afterward, one guy in full "hoodie" gear, another with a huge multi-color pen sticking out of his mouth like a cigar. Another with two stuffed bunnies on his desk... don't ask.

In truth, even our Boy Hero Korotkevich looked a little dead-eyed as he stood up from his chair at the end. "I'm still very excited," he said, meaning 'stressed,' in a light Russian accent. "I don't know," he said, "how I did, it depends." At this point "mystic" and "eatmore" still had a chance, with a handful of others, based on whether their high-scoring large inputs would prove correct and result in enough points to top Gennady.

By hour 5:35, after all the challenges had been expertly explained by the Googler Team of Igor and Bartholomew, themselves pro coders, the standings were that The Boy Wonder had even displaced his fellow student at ITMO into second.

1st Place: Gennady Korotkevich, Belarus, Student at ITMO $15,000
2nd Place: Evgenii Kapun, Russia, Student at ITMO $2,000
3rd Place: Yuzhou Gu, China, Student at MIT $1,000

What is ITMO you may ask? St Petersburg National Research University of IT, Mechanics and Optics, of course.

Think of it as the Olympic Training brain trust for Russian/Eastern EU Coders.

They actually have coaches and practice on challenges twice as long as the Code Jam 6-small, 6-larger inputer.

In 2013, ITMO killed it at ACM-ICPC World Finals (Collegiate level). If you look close, there's Gennady Korotkevich hoisting the trophy, with an undisputed claim to bragging rights. (The only US University represented in the top 12 for ACM-ICPC was Carnegie Mellon at #11.)

The best part is how gracious everybody was, applauding Gennady Korotkevich, now King Coder. Ivan Metelsky, "mystic," was especially cordial, almost as if he had just lost his concentration for a second, but given a second chance, he might prevail.

"My large input won't work," Ivan conceded before the final scores were announced. "I tested it. I know it won't work, oh well." In his real life, Ivan lives in New York where he does research for a hedge fund. Leave it to the Americans to harness such a fine mind for fun and games in Capitalism!

All in all, to a person in the Google LAX office in Venice, Calif., everyone put on a great show for the 26 foreign nationals flown in to compete. The Code Jam Team run by Emily Miller, the Live Stream Team with Christina, Matt, and friends, with commentators John Dethridge and Christian Howard, the support Googlers, with PR liaison Meghan Casserly in from Google HQ in Mountain View, plus Michael Moriarty, a Google Sourcer (read: HR) from Austin, Texas - they all rocked the Code Jam along with the famous 26 who will remember that day for the rest of their careers in software engineering.

Google's Code Jam World Onsite Finals 2014 was a high-octane day of pure math meets dynamic programming meets "Gaussian reduction," a couple "NP-hard" facets, with a few tree/node underlying structures throw in, topped off by a couple quadratic left turns - all cooked up by the very brilliant (possibly slightly sadistic) engineers at Google who write these mental zingers.

Don't look confused - Carl Friedrich Gauss (of 'Gaussian Elimination,' the complex numbers concept) was a 19th century math prodigy who figured out some tricky stuff, "NP-hard" is a fancy computation complexity defining term for 'non-deterministic polynominal-time hard' meaning "at least as hard as any NP-problem."* (Princeton's website can help on math topics, also Stephan Wolfram's excellent math blog.)

Or, look at it this way, we are all just a blur of vibrating atoms walking around in finite space, right? So don't be intimidated by a little high-dollar mathematics, algorithmic doodling, or dynamic programming.

You have a year to study up for Google Code Jam 2015 - get cracking!

(Refer to Google and their tutorials, plus the coding site for women, for fun and practice.)

**Link for Brazilian announcement of their first ever coder entrant.
Code Jam I/O for Women
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Thanks to the Google Team (Meghan, Emily, Christina, Matt, Christian, John, Igor, Bartholomew, Michael, Larry, Sergey (!), et al) for making time for this Exclusive Series on Code Jam 2014 here on Screenmancer..




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