Category Archives: IMO 2014

IMO 2014 (VIII)-Postlude

IMO 2014 was done, but not our overall business: just like how we traveled to Cape Town, our IMO schedule would never be done without our return to Malaysia. Inundated by my physical lassitude, I slept the whole flight of Cape Town-Johannesburg, oblivious of the food served on plane. Yet I wasn’t starving, since another 5 hours of stay gave room to celebrity breakfast at Raj Halal restaurant, which served opulent set meal to the team.

Fish+mutton+chicken. Temptation control failed 😀

That left us with souvenir buying, and meandering around the huge airport, under the enormous time available. However, we somehow learned (in a hard way) that we should have identified the gate as soon as we arrived the airport to prevent ourselves to be in extreme hurry.

The last flight, however, was slightly delayed by around one hour. Common stereotype of people would abhor this incident outright. However, nope, in this case. The original transit was just 1 hour 25 minutes (it was that packed that I remembered exactly the time), and this timely delay relieved our mind and footstep. In contrast to the westwards journey, we were ill-treated by Hong Kong custom officers this time,  bleakly demanding for second bag check after passing the scanner.

How about the real journey? Well, there was no urgent need to adjust to Malaysian time zone, so sleeping was considered secondary for us. Again, movie time, and games now! I received a warm invitation by Zi Song for on-board chess tournament. Being in perplexity between moving arbitrarily and trying adamantly to win, I chose the former as this opponent is Grandmaster of the team. Consequently, there was no crime for him to view me with haughtiness. Movie watching wasn’t that productive, either, with watching of “Thread of Lies” (a Korean movie that requires tissue paper from us) and “Rio 2” (children’s interest: cartoon!) However, Justin and Yi Kye utilized their expertise in time management by successfully clearing 8 episodes of “You Who Come From Stars” (I wished to finish that, though).

“All passengers, we will be landing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport shortly. Fasten your seat belt for your own safety.”

Excitement, loss of patience, looking forward, disinclined to accept that it was going to end… all emotions mixed in our hearts simultaneously. Following the “Loom…!” scream of the airplane while landing, with its running on the track, decelerating motion, and settling down at the gate eventually, we see our mental disposition in our home sweet home.

“Thank you for flying with Cathay Pacific, we hope to serve you again in the future!”

Our return journey was complete.

“Welcome back, heroes!”-Prof. Arsmah (IMO 2013)
No joke, that was her message to all of us upon our return. This year she wasn’t around, but the arrival hall was crowded due to the IMO-related people too! Pn. Zalina, Dr. Sakinah, families, media,…… And again, there was a gathering session, but no more briefing. Now the professional cameraman instructed us in different poses of photo-shooting (with/without the certificates, banners, and family members). That time you could enjoy the complacency of apparent “stars” or “idols”; the real idols might have been bored with this (obviously we were not). Not to forget the hug from parents after missing their sons for weeks.

14 Jul-Photo after arrival
14 Jul-team photo with all officers after arriving KLIA

After the end of “Click! Click!” session, we came to reluctant moment of bidding farewell with all other fellow teammates, loving trainers and esteemed officers. As the saying goes, however, friendship lasts forever, where the Facebook messenger group never went dormant.

Finally, Yi Kye and I were returned (by my parents) to our “second home”, Sunway Monash Residence. Thank god, that the next day was public holiday, and I had a good sleep (magical successful auto-adjust of time zone, haha!) before the next challenge come in: A-level.

Remember the media? There was coverage of IMO 2014 Malaysia all over the nation. And there was not only one.

1. The Star

2. The Heat (partial version is available online)

(Note!!!!!! That was 2nd and 3rd gold, not 4th and 5th. And there was a mistake in the UTAR ranking, it’s third for me, second for Zi Song, and first for Kin Aun).

3. Sunway College (Updated 16/10/2014)
An identical news here on New Sarawak Tribune (no idea why it’s there, though)

Post-IMO meeting
As named, three of us (from Penang!) took part in UTAR National Mathematical competition, taking another chance to be together. We travelled together (credits to Zi Song’s parents for transport), since I was in Penang for LLCM piano exam. We collectively own the problem solving-based in category A, but being speed calculation, category B was not a cup of tea for Olympians (Zi Song won a consolation prize). Category C, which was team activity, was won by university students, but there was no harm to give that a try 🙂

How about the other three? Hmm…Yi Kye is always around (same college what), and Justin came along from KYUEM (with friends) to meet us at Sunway Pyramid. It was such a long time since I felt the emotion of meeting a long-lost friend……

Finally, by hook or by crook, I will find an opportunity to meet the other one: Shazryl.

Post IMO thoughts
Well, well, well, I succumb to a hard geometry again, though I aimed to kill it. But not it was no longer important, since I won my very first gold medal in any mathematical olympiad in this prestigious international level. Furthermore, it adds interest to others that my only gold medal won is in the most prestigious olympiad: IMO.

Part of my success should be attributed to my luck: the cut off was just low enough at 29, I managed to solve the somehow difficult problem 5 without having any points deducted (yeah that script was a bit susceptible to this misfortune), and grabbed a garbage point for P3 (first time in my IMO!) In fact, “luck” was what I told others upon their congratulations.But luck wasn’t all. In fact, some named my success as well-deserved  with luck playing a role, while others even “dismissed” my statement of luck, and extolled me for my hard effort 🙂 Truly, being zealous is necessary to climb to the ultimate success of yours.

No story has better ending than “after 4 years of experience, after 4 years of effort, they finally won a gold medal!” My IMO journey, from the start to end, was full of obstacles. Take IMO 2011 as example: while I was elated for being in the team (although expecting only to top 20), I ended up with a relatively disappointing HM with 10 points. The consequent IMOs (with all other contests) went through high and low tides, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Eventually, I can bring my smile to bed now!

Meanwhile, It is also a privilege for me to be in record-breaking team for entire 4 years. All four IMO teams worked like a family, selflessly taught others on knowledge that one already possessed, and spent time in chatting with one another in various topics (mathematical or not). In the end, the teams shone brightly at the IMO stage, and this process buttressed our “family” bond better than any clique (except my own family haha 😉 ).

It is not completely correct to say that I gained tonnes of mathematical knowledge and problem solving skills these four tumultuous years. What’s beyond that was friendship, life experiences, interpersonal skills, independence, maturity, etc.

Nothing can be done personally, and often, we need help of others. With this, I hereby express my gratitude to everyone who contributed to my success, including, but not limited to, the following:

1. MoE, for patronage and support.
2. JPN (State Department of Education), who provided transport for IMO camps.
3. PERMATA Pintar, for begin providing venue in 2012, even before its taking over of organizing IMO selection camps.
4. Dr. Sakinah (representative of PERMATA Pintar), who flawlessly handled IMO camps, especially in logistics and food catering during Ramadan month.
5. PERSAMA, for holding the responsibility of managing IMO selections till March 2014 (this society has been working hard for several years).
6. Professor Arsmah, who still listened to every details of IMO after her retirement, by visit, creating whatsapp group, etc. Along with this, I have to give credits to Ms Jamilah and Ms Masita, who apparently act as wardens to IMO campers, but turned out to be, as if, our mothers due to their continuous care. (In fact, Ms Masita made delicacies for us, like cinnamon rolls and pretzels).
7. Trainers and facilitators. There is no way the team could rise to this level without their coaching. Special thanks to Mr. Suhaimi, the head coach.
8. Mr. Suhaimi, Mr. Iqbal, Mr. Ikhwan and Professor Daud, who were, jointly, leaders and deputy leaders of IMO 2011-2014. They were part of trainers, and had taken good care of the six babies (every time) during the crucial week.
9. Parents, who gave me endless support. Physically, they drove me (and some others) to IMO camps during the absence of transport by State Education Department; mentally, they got into my IMO practicing activities, although they were (apparently) laymen in this field.
10. Parents of other team members, for the support to whole team. Specially thanks to Justin’s father who taught us meditation during IMO 2012 camp.
11. Teammates (combining IMO 2011-2014 there were 10 of them). This big family, along with the team leaders and deputies were sources of completeness. Special thanks to Justin who accompanied me for four years, including Russian trip and partner in leading JOM.
12. Other IMO campers, at least for the friendship, “good luck” wishes and gaming sessions.

With the end of my IMO journey, every drop of IMO moments would be mixed to form comprehensive memories, which blends well as a bottle of mixture as collection. Last, but not least, I look forward (as a veteran olympian) to the next IMO teams to do well, and break all possible records we have renewed these years. To Zi Song, who has still a long way to go, we are waiting for you to emerge from the international crowd and make Malaysia proud!

Ps: I completed my solution for P3 mentally a week after returning to Malaysia, which any paperwork. That gave a resemblance of a scene in “The Grand Piano”: the pianist playing the four chords of “La Cinquette” after the performance, and consequently able to unlock the treasure in the piano.

IMO 2014 (VII)-Final enjoyment, final glory

As mentioned, there was still half a day for us in excursion for the final time. The viewpoint of the day was Waterfront, a harbor city that was beautifully designed to be a place of tourism. It worth noting that we finally had the chance in spending South African Rand, and show token of love to our next-of-kin with souvenirs.


Continuous change of dy/dx
Continuous change of dy/dx

We were supposed to step into Aquarium first, but there were several statues of prominent figures of South Africa, so let us take a foot break.

With Nelson Mandela
With Nelson Mandela

Marine biology was known to be diverse, and the visit of aquarium proved that. Being captivated by different species in aquarium, I couldn’t help with my hands but toexploit my camera for pictures-taking.

Organiser taking picture of cameraman
Organiser took a picture of student taking picture
Know more about the killer whale
Know more about the killer whale

Sometimes you really wish to be part of the program:


Hey! Our tour wasn’t complete without touching these creatures alive!

Where was I looking at?

The next program was rather historical: museum depicting history of Rugby development of South Africa. All participants were amused by the animation technology in the museum, ranging from visual to auditory. This exhaustive historical details were hard to be memorized one-by-one, but nonetheless gave us some clear idea on its formation and development.

Fake member of the team
Fake member of the team
The red-letter-day of achievement
The red-letter-day of achievement

Walks, shops, stops, visit… we spent few good moments before the lunch time at 12pm. There is a shopping complex in the Waterfront city, but our main purpose was to seek for token of love (souvenirs) and some personal snacks sensations (considering our late time for night).

Football craze at McDonalds
Football craze at McDonalds
The shopping complex

That was all of our program, with mixtures of activities done in the area of harbor.

Culmination of 4-year-experience in IMO
This year, our IMO closing ceremony was rather late: starting at the fine dusk of 7pm before the farewell party at night (which explained the “late dinner” mentioned previously). Due to the formality of the ceremony, the outfit of teams couldn’t be excessively frivolous:

12 Jul-team photo before departing to closing ceremony

This outfit didn’t aid movement at all, so we traveled by Jamie shuttle, feeling prepared for this final accolade in IMO 2014 journey.

Waiting to be seated at this late night
Waiting to be seated at this late hours

The seating sequence, as usual, was arranged according to award. This time the medalists were asked to gather according to groups before entering to hall in order to be seated smoothly. My being in group 17 seemed spurious: this was the last group among all medalists, and I expected myself to be the first badge of gold medallists to be receiving my medal (by sequence of increasing score). Hmm…?

It turned out that the sequence of presentation was itself an anomaly: yes the general sequence of Bronze, Silver, Gold was an orthodox, but within each category the way of sorting was by decreasing order (basically, we have B-21,10,…,16, S-28,27,…,22, G-40,39,…,29), reserving the 3 overall winners (perfect 42 LOL) to express their pride on the stage at the end of medal presenting agenda. In disdained tone, some labelled this aberration as incongruous to the norm.

1900: the start
This time, the Master of Ceremony wrapped the IMO at the right of the stage (as opposed to the left during opening ceremony), without losing his passion in welcoming us. After several speech agenda by ministers, organising chairman and sponsors, he brought the audience into the next agenda of the day: performance (before medal giving).

A moment of silence, before the whole vocal force of Shosholoza greeted it. Hey! Though we received some training session after IMO day 2, there was still a long way to go before being able to match the standard! Moreover, the interval of the medal presentation was properly utilized with other performances, from cultural dance by New World Dance Theatre:


and traditional presentation of the singer (which somehow effectively recharged our energy from dozing off).


During the ceremony, I had the privilege to chat with a China team member (finally, after 4 years in IMO). Having the advantage of speaking Chinese (yeah I was in Chinese vernacular school for 11 years), he reacted like he had seen his brother out of the country when I spoke the first Chinese sentence to him. Consequently, from the main topic of IMO problems of the year, we digressed into exchanging information like IMO selection process and IMO life here.

As for ceremonial section, the presentation of medal went uneventfully, with MC trying to pronounce everybody’s name accurately (no easy task, indeed). And…gotcha! If you could spot another novelty in the process as compared to past IMOs, you would notice that we made a mini-parade onto the stage, before turning to presenters for our medals. Hence, friends which took photograph of us paid some attention to note this in order to elicit the best facial expression of us!

Heart pounding with my alacrity to enjoy the only few seconds on the stage after paying 4 mathematical years to this success, I stepped steadily onto the stage and bestowed my most natural smile to the cameramen nonetheless.

Zi Sonh with other bronze medallists
Zi Song with other bronze medallists
Yi Kye and other silver medallists
Yi Kye and other silver medallists
Justin with other gold medallists
Justin with other gold medallists
Holding my flag with China guy and Dutch lady juxtaposed to me
Holding my flag with China guy and Dutch lady juxtaposed to me (credits to Shazryl)

It was a crime not to pay a standing ovation to the Kings of the IMO: three perfect scorers. In view of this, they were isolated from the rest of us (even for seating position) to enjoy that ultimate accolade. It was an honour for Australia, China and Taiwan to have such students performing splendidly in IMO, with Australia having the first ever perfect score in its IMO history (coincidentally, they achieved that in IOI too!)

Royal salute paid
The guys who deserve royal salute

Looking forward: although I would be abdicating from the IMO cycle, Kin Aun and Zi Song will be fighting again, for slots to next IMO in Chiangmai, Thailand. Apart from familiar scene showed in the promotional video, there were some other prominent features about the scene (e.g. details of organizing unit). Before the close of IMO curtain, South Africa hereby renounced its position (although, not quite) as IMO organizer and passed this holy responsibility to Thailand.


Last, but not least, the fall of IMO flag from the Jameson hall marked the conclusive before the end of this ceremonial ending. But before enjoying the party, let’s take another photos (gathering all contestants winning monochromatic medals to be on stage together).

Photo of gold medalists on stage
Photo of gold medalists on stage

A party wasn’t supposed to end at 11pm or 12 midnight (I remembered staying up to 4:30 am last year in Colombia), but that was the case (perhaps because of availability of places). However, this didn’t affect us much as we had to leave early for the early returning flight of 5:45 am next day. Therefore, we had no choice, but to excuse ourselves early.

For the second time, we were given buffet-style gourmet again (though food was rather limited). As for beverage, realizing that as the grand finale before my disappearance from IMO, plus the fact I was legal (18 and above, hahahaha), I sipped some of alcoholic drink (don’t look up at me yet, it was cider with mild alcoholic content).


Some performances of this party:

Violinist in a magic ball
Violinist in a magic ball

Not forgetting enhancing diplomatic relations:


Party involvement was rather scattered, since there were a few different activities such as choir (associated with African dances) and watching football match (3rd place match for FIFA!) There was no doubt, when the performance of football teams was the topic of the night.

The IMO has ended.

We returned to the hotel and packed our luggage for departure tomorrow, literally without having time to sleep (although we did steal forty winks).

Feeling sad? Reluctant? Yeah, but that was life.

IMO 2014 (VI)-Travels and lectures

The two days (in fact, two and a half) were devoted for us as leisure, after two days of torture in front of six tough mathematical problems (in addition of grueling preparations). Why not enjoy ourselves in such a condition? Let us board the bus and know more about Cape Town.

Excursion Day 1: 10/7/2014

1. Cape Peninsular Tour (a.k.a. Penguin Tour)
2. Community Entertainment
3. Cape Point

Holiday mode (and mood) on! Though we had three main places for tour, there were two extra stopping for photo taking purpose. The first one, itself, was before the penguin tour and took place around 9:30 am-an excellent start for the day! That was probably because we had to get through the winding passage of hill (by bus) before getting into the penguin tour, and a photo session halfway would be breathtaking.

The scenery in front of hills (credit to my teammate by I forgot who he was :( )
The scenery in front of hills

How about penguin tour? Well, since this was not even the formal name of the tour, we should be aware that this tour included some other attractions as well, although the penguin sanctuary was the limelight of the attraction. Moreover, as the saying goes, the best part always come last: it took us some walk before we could enjoy the close-distance contact with the adorable penguins. It should be noted that Justin and I appropriated the pot of luck by witnessing penguins for two times in 3 years (last time being in IMO 2012), a rare opportunity hardly thought by any Malaysian.


Myriads of penguins enjoying sunbathe

We soon departed for the non-tourism station, where we spent our lunch there. Another series of African music show, but instead of Shosholoza, all songs presented were pop songs in English language: something we could understand its contents and appreciate with open heart.

The presentation was eclectic, ranging from the traditional dances:

Mother-and-son as dancers

to the skillful modern dances:

Warning: do not emulate

With singing accompanied with dances:

As for lunch, we finally had the chance to enjoy the buffet style dishes after the 2-choose-1 mode for few days. IMO 2014 on Google Plus took some pictures of us, and six of us were jointly captured in two photos:


The final station was the Cape Point excursion, which awarded us the best view of Cape Town. Listening to waves tapping gently, consistently, and rhythmically to the sea, and in front of you was nothing but endless sea. Oh I found myself closer to nature as opposed to the polluted city life!

Of course, here came the second stop near a bay for photo snapping:


And it was a waste not to leave memories with our national flag along:

10 Jul-Excursion to Cape Point

That was succeeded by the final destination of the day: Cape Point. In the plainest language, “no pain, no gain”. Therefore, even though we had to hike hills with mouth gasping for oxygen and limbs coping for fatigue, we shouldn’t be complaining, since the bird’s eye view in front of us was the symbol of success!

The goal from afar
Goal from afar
Panoramic view from Cape Point. Achievement unlocked :D
Panoramic view from Cape Point. Achievement unlocked 😀

Every contestant was expected to be contented by these excursions by 4pm, and that was when the bus left for UCT (one hour journey). A colourful experience for our little booklet of life, no? Yes, it was.

Tonight we finally managed to watch the replay match of FIFA world semi-finals that we missed after the first exam. There were some extraordinary moments underlying, with a team scoring 4 goals in 6 minutes. In terms of enjoyment, it was futile, however, since we missed the selection of African Dance team to be performing in front of the public in Sport Hall the next day.

Day 2: Lectures and games
The morning was another intellectual session with talks to discerning young mathematicians around the world, and there were three, in fact. We had one hour for each lecture, with a short break.

The first one was a former IMO gold medallist discoursing a problem which was still open: is it possible to partition any convex polygon into n polygons of equal area and perimeter? Simple brain activity: meaningless statement for n=1, and for n=2 it was just the matter of using intermediate value theorem. While the topic was elementary idea for any layman to digest about, the insight was beyond what we learnt in school (or even in IMO training program). Using series of obscure mapping theory, the conclusion of validity for any prime power n was justified. How about for other numbers?

The lecturer and his topic
The lecturer and his topic

The second one, surprisingly, was about physics. Mathematics works hand-in-hand with physics, but sorry, I could understand nothing about it.


The last lecture was a collaboration between number theory and geometry: given a circle of radius 1 and three circles internally tangent to it and mutually tangent to each other, all having radius 1/n. Then all other circles constructed using the same way would have radius 1/n as well.

But for which n would the radius be valid? My brain followed the lecture clumsily and noted the idea of sum of two squares, but the detail was getting me nowhere.


Ok, enough with lectures (whether you can comprehend or not), now take a lunch break.

Beef wrap
Beef wrap: nom nom!

The afternoon program was known as “African Dance and Games”, combining two “sport-like” activities (indeed, if chess is considered as sports, why not board games?) We returned to Sports Hall, with no tables arranged for contest now.

Panoramic spam on the Sports Hall, again :P
Panoramic spam on the Sports Hall, again 😛

What was the dance about? This time the instructor threw us basic concepts of dancing, with baby steps of expanding and contracting circle, following some rhythm. Having missed the selection test the night before, we paid our debt back by watching the live performance of dance show, with Mojalefa showing is fervor to it by tapping drum.


A sports activity, if you are happy with this example:


The board game gave a sense of deja vu since the game structure was almost homogeneous to “congkak” in Malaysia (Oops! Name of game forgotten) : marble balls with holes. Though the game rule which differed from original, but who cared? After losing a congkak board during the journey to Argentina for IMO 2012, it was time for compensation to enjoy the game with lost, and learning some modifications from it at the same time.

Shazryl and Zi Song: who would win?

Problem 6: c>1
That’s the captivating title pasted at the Baxstar Hall, thanks to USA leader, Mr. Po-Shen Loh who proved that c=square root ln n is feasible for all n. A tremendous leap of the boundary, where you can fix it as large as you want. Consequently, there shouldn’t be any surprise that he was asked to present a lecture on it, and it was properly scheduled after the final jury meeting at 10 pm.

Loh is an erudite in probabilistic method, hence the team under his coaching marched victoriously to a brilliant 33/42 in Liar’s Guessing Game, the most difficult problem in IMO 2012. Before showing his big guns, he skillfully proved to us the original IMO problem in 5 minutes, which was already impressive. The improved bound, however, demanded energy both from Loh and from audience, with 90 minutes of verbal explanation and 90 minutes of concentration, respectively. Again, that felt like rocket science to me, and I could only understand basic threshold concept of graph theory employed in it.

The moment of truth
Where were our leaders and deputy leaders? Unfortunately, they couldn’t be with us since they were involved in marking of our papers: the coordination process. As usual, it went problems by problems. This year, Mr. Suhaimi “appointed” me as agent and sent our scores to us once the coordination was done.

Although coordination of some problems (e.g. P1 and P6 for Malaysia) was unanimous (with total score of 42 and 0 being the most observable difference), leaders had to contend with coordinators on some contentious script. This usually happened in intermediate combinatorial problems, like P2 (and even P5) this year.

The release of score was in mixed feelings: anxious to know what was the outcome, disappointed for having scores docked although one solved it, delighted for scoring more than expected, and eventually, feeling accomplished in the end for splendid overall performance: we scored 129 with everyone scoring at least 2 full credits in total, marking the 5th year in a row in record-breaking.

Malaysian scoreboard
Malaysian scoreboard

For me, my heart dipped when I received a 1 for P3 (slightly less than expectation), but a 7 for problems 1,2,4,5 was a blessing to me, clearing all my paranoid of having unexpected cut of score.

Finally, how could the medal boundary be? Looking at the scoreboard of teams, the hope retrieved again: Justin and I had even chance in winning gold medals that we missed for the past two years. While we hoped for the ultimate accomplishment, it made us nervous and thinking about it from time to time: this ambivalence was worse than that of hopeless.

29. Silver or gold. Except for Zi Song, we closed our eyes and found ourselves in the auditorium, listening to the rumble of drum set without knowing when would the last hit of cymbal be, until……

10:07 pm, the big fat news. The jury meeting was held at night, agenda ranging from the formality of approving all scores, coordination and process of IMO, to future consideration and improvement in organisation of IMO. The final agenda, which would extricate contestants from tension would be decision of cut-off points. Mr. Suhaimi then sent his last results-related news to us:
“Official: Gold 29, silver 22, bronze 16. Good job all.”
Oh what a beautiful night, where Justin and I hit it on the dot! I remembered turning into a complete psycho by exclaiming “Yes! Yes! Yes!” without caring how many people were looking at this monkey recently escaped from the zoo. Malaysia won its 2nd and 3rd gold medal in a try after 2 gold drought.

As for overall performance, we came 23rd among 101 countries, and broke various records in a row: the 5th record breaking in scores and ranking thus complemented each other perfectly like key and lock.Following is the Malaysian full results:

With ubiquitous WiFi coverage in UCT, Justin, a triumphant soldier, acclaimed our achievement to the rest of the world:

Extract on Justin's speech on victory occasion
Extract on Justin’s speech on victory occasion, ending it with “Malaysia Boleh!”

It may be aggrieved for two of us for missing the bronze cut off narrowly by 1 or 2 points, but everyone acknowledged that life was cruel. Zi Song, on the other hand, missed the 3 youngest bronze medalist in IMO history by just a few weeks, but anyhow this proved him as a genuine child prodigy.

Finally, for the third night, the “Law” of 10pm-to-bed restriction was abrogated.

IMO 2014 (V)-The climactic section (Second Half)

Things were essentially the same as before. This meant, no watching of FIFA semi-finals the night before to ensure good rest, and early rise and shine in the morning to catch the Jamie Shuttle. The only difference was, we were only allowed to enter the hall 15 minutes before the paper, in which my meditation plan was cut short.

On the other hand, on speculations on topics, P4 would almost certain to be a geometry problem, considering the power of country leaders with extreme favor on geometry. It was expected that P5 would be number theory if the protocol of Problem 1,2,4,5 under different topics was applied again after its first introduction last year. Problem 6 was likely to be algebra to complement P1. I hoped for GAN instead of GNA, though, since I was stronger in number theory compared to algebra.


An astonishment arose in me when it was GNC! Problem 6 looked unusual compared to others when it offered partial credits for weaker results than what you need to prove. With my deficiency in combinatorial problem solving, I virtually gave up the aim on solving all 3 for the day, leaving me lower chance for a gold medal.

P4. With hands trembling for cold, I picked up my compasses and constructed the diagram. The intersection, R, and triangle ABC seemed to have extraordinary relationship: ABRC looked like a harmonic quadrilateral. While the problem wasn’t immediate to be solved, it was natural that ABC, PAB, QAC are similar. This, suggested the idea of reflecting B, C in A to form X, Y. The light of hope was there when MAB and YCB are similar, so do NAC and XBC. And see the parallelogram? Angles XCB and YBC are supplementary, and so do angles ABR and ACR. The doubt was cleared at 9:06, and with full solution created at 9:19–a great improvement from last year.

Before jumping to any other problems, it should be noted that time for queries was still open until 9:30, so I read the problems again and found that P6 itself was questionable: can a region containing several finite regions considered as a finite regions too? Simple logical thinking negated it, since taking any three blue lines would then refute the problem. Nevertheless, there was no harm in submitting queries, and the reply was consistent to my guess.

P5. Does 100 have any relation to 0.5 in the problem? No, thus let’s replace 100 and 99.5 with n and n-0.5, and proceed by induction. Immediate assumptions made: no coins with total value exactly 1, at most k-1 coins with value k, and consequently we can assume that there were at least n+1 different numerical values of coins. The existence of coins with value at most 1/(2n+1) would be advantageous, since by induction hypothesis take any pile with at most 1-1/2(n-1) (the average) and this would settle the problem instantly. But how could it be true?

With this handicap, I experimented with the smallest non-trivial n again. For n=2 we may need to consider if any of the coins was less than 1/5, or not. I then realised a trick: how about adding 1/2+1/4+1/4? Hmm…what could 2/4=1/2 and 1/2+1/2=1 suggest? The merging of coins, of course! And here’s the miracle: coagulating the coins together to form a coin of 1/m for some m would give another simpler configuration, yet giving the true conclusion. I knew what to do now, and in the end we had at most one coin of 1/2n (as 2/2n=1/n). That was indeed a shortcut in leading to success: as (2n-2)/(2n-1)+1/2n is less than one, these could be combined into a valid pile, with 0+1/2=1/2: extra space for those smaller coins with total value of no more than 1/2 (each of less than 1/2n) to fit into it.

But what about if the total value of small coins was more than half? This beneficial condition enables the proof by induction, by creating a pile of value slightly more than one, and exclude one small coin (value 1/(2n+1) or less) to make it as valid pile. Then by induction hypothesis, there is n-1 piles with one of them having value at most (2n-1)/2n so we can easily add the “small coin” in. Simple right? Unfortunately I consumed a lot of time in it, leaving me 2 hours for the other problem.

(Ps: Anyone noticed the artificial combinatorial flavor in it? In fact, that scent was stronger than that of number theory. Some uproar happened in AoPS when it turned out to be derivative, and juries were consequently denounced in the forum.)

P6. The moment I read the problem, I felt abject: how on earth were we going to do that? Visualizing the finite regions was itself some challenge, where the first thing sipped into me was a configuration of plant cells. Well, I could have made my life easy by waiting for time to past, or being productively, checking my solutions for P4 and P5 (and I did check!). But, no. I attempted to make use of my “creative” imagination to bestow my readers with facts directly apparent in front of you, like “each finite region must be convex” (with outline of proof) and “if there is a convex n-gon then the claim is obvious” (I doubted whether I proved it). This was analogous to say “enjoy my writing of nonsense”.

Whether c square root n worth a mark was immaterial, since I didn’t touch anything about it! (Hahahahahahahaha)

It seemed like six of us just went through a stormy voyage and returned with torn clothes. P4 was solved by 5 of us, with another one reducing the problem into the condition AB/BC=AR/CR. P6, as expected, slaughtered us into fine pieces, where Zi Song unabashedly wrote “the problem was obvious for c=0”. The real tragedy was P5, ironically, since no one else held it well in his hands. I assured them that P5 wasn’t easy, where the short problem statement belied its difficulty. Two of them made some partial progress, expecting some scattered points as return. We nevertheless forgot about the predicament of the day, and joked about the constant value of c in P6. “Does proving c>1 give more than 7?” This amused us.

“The IMO had just started-How Si Yu”
Indeed, above was the “happy-go-lucky” quote from Si Yu after the Day 2 contest in Colombia, last year. There was no use to cry over split milk, so why should we spend our energy thinking about it? Most importantly, we met our father of team: Mr. Suhaimi, the leader of Malaysian IMO team. Although we had limited time for conversation (unlike last year’s verbose conversation discussing on IMO problems), that was sufficient to give us a feel of reunion. That was just before our plan of entering game room to be engaged on bicycle (tradition retrieved!) with some Moldovian team members.

Excursion #0-The Dance Floor
The official excursion program began on the next day, but owing to the meticulous plan of IMO 2014 organisers we were given “excursion” to the musical world: teaching of African Dance using a song “Shosholoza” (Move Fast). The song reflects the immense passion of South African working under the mine, despite facing tonnes of affliction.

To start with, we were taught rhythms on drum tapping and tambourine playing, and consequently we were asked to perform in front of public–the so-called “sight playing”.

Video of the song:

Drummers of the day
Drummers of the day

Lacking the ability of dancing, this was what we did when we were given choices between singing and dancing:


Fever on feet
Since we missed the last match, we wished to fulfill our craze (or, curiosity) by watching the match of Argentina to Holland as semi-finals. However, there was practically no excitement in watching it some distance away with crowds in front of you, forcing us to choose the alternative option: Bicycles (again).

This concluded Day 2/ Pre-excursion day.

IMO 2014 (IV)-The climactic section (First Half)

Date: 8,9 July
Event: Contest

Yup, these were the VVID all the teams looking for, and prepared for. The two days would be determining who would create a new record, who would achieve the lofty aim of gold medal, and who would be holding the title of absolute winner.

On top of that, mental equanimity was vital for everyone. I woke up at 6 with mind ready for challenge for both days, and nutritious breakfast provided me the maximum energy that I need for both days. Zi Song made joke of himself again by adding excessive amount of tomato sauce into his meals, which should be ascribed as his dietary habit. Nevertheless, a good laugh mollify the extreme nervous of us.

Day 1

This time, the organiser did not specify our seat number in our name tag like 3 previous years, but we were given permission to enter our contest area for searching our seat number at around 8:30. From the clue that I was in block 1, I rushed to the area and spotted 1D10 for mine.

In attempt of maintaining ebullience, the Kangaroo team members shouted their Aussie slogan like some other teams last years. In contrast, Mr. Iqbal detected apprehension on me, and advised me to work on changing my beta brain waves to delta waves. It worked after some efforts of meditation, a gift from Justin’s father to us. Now I just had to wait for time to past. In the meantime, some thermal support was necessary for my hands: these shivering specialists would mar my work if there was no proper treatment.

“You may open the folder now,” the chief invigilator ordered 1 minute before the exam. With heart accelerating on its rhythm, I unsealed the white closed folder and looked for the problem sheet. “Start your work,” she added when the clocked stroke 9.

Problems Day 1

At the instinct, Problem 1 looked rather non-traditional, Problem 2 was typical TOT-style problem, and Problem 3 was a geometry with bizarre angle condition. When the history repeated itself with a hard geometry, wasn’t that a golden opportunity to score a perfect 21 for the day? “Conquer!” shouted the General of Brain.

P1. The problem suggested an experiment of the typical sequence of a_i=i+1, and experimenting of small values gives validity to n=1 but not others, since this leads to violation of first inequality. This immediately gave a motivation of proving that: if for some n, the second inequality was true, then the first inequality was false for all m>n. Analogously, the first inequality for some n implies the infringement of second inequality for numbers less than n. This was evident enough to solve the uniqueness part of the problem, no?

This excitement led me to write when I was thinking (with hands still quivering) : a taboo for contestants because of the saying of “more haste, less speed”.  This was true especially when I had to figure out the existence part of the problem, which was not that easy. However, we must have a_0<a_0+a_1. Since it’s impossible to have smaller numbers violating second inequality, and bigger numbers violating first inequality with no gap between, the facts yielded we can assume that second inequality was invalid. Ironically, the step to contradict this wasn’t that easy, and I raised my toilet card to find some inspiration.

The toilet was itself a miracle when I figured out that f(n)=a_0+…+a_(n-1)-(n-1)a_n was decreasing function (why? consider f(n+1)-f(n).) This settled everything, and I quickly finished my solution, which turned out to be really elaborated. The clock displayed 9:45 in the end, which wasn’t satisfactory.

P1(Solution for P1)

P2. Considering the main diagonals we had approximately n/2 as our desired answer, and k=1 for n=2, 3 verifies this. However, for n=4 there was a traitor configuration of (1,1),(2,3),(3,2),(4,4), resulting me no choice but to play with n=5. This play was fruitful, however, since if k=1, the first 4*4 box to have exactly 4 rooks, leaving the bottom-right corner to have a rook. Didn’t that suggest rotation of chessboard? I was near to bull’s-eye now! For the upper boundary we ought to imitate our method of 4*4, where for 9*9 I experimented the configuration of (1,1), (2,4), (3,7), (4,2), (5,5), (6,8), (7,3), (8,6), (9,9), and to my surprise it worked magically. I had no reason not to grab my pen and write my work.

This writing, however, was full of friction: the lower boundary’s proof was settled with ease, but for the opposite direction I was posed with challenge of verifying that the configuration could not allow any better bound. Oops! Time to go to toilet, again. And……thanks to the “toilet magic” again, the notion of separating into 4 cases depending on the location of the k*k square came across my mind! That’s tedious enough, and it ended me up to 4 pages long. Fortunately the clock generously showed 11:15, implying I had half of IMO full-time to vanquish the boss of the day.

P3. Question at sight: how were we going to use the given angle condition into the solution? Well, first idea that I could squeeze of was to fix C, H, S and line BS, then construct B, A and D, accordingly. Since the problem condition could be changed to “circumcentre of CHS lies on AH”, we may as well fix the cicumcentre, and point T would be apparent by then (just for sake of construction). Good thing was, the 90 degree difference implied that circumcentre of CHS lies on AB (name K), and analogous condition holds for the other side (name L).

However, that’s all I could do with limited capability of brain twisting, scarce knowledge, and quick draining of mind battery. The proposition that bisectors of angles HKS and HLT should meet at AH was bright in the middle of the stage, but I couldn’t see the inner layer of that suggesting the method of Apolonious circle (or simply HK/KA=HL/LA). I raised my green card again, and the toilet apologized to me for being unable to create magic as what it did for P1 and P2 before. I put it aside and double-checked my solution on P1 and P2, and thankfully there was no erroneous argument.

It’s after 12:30 when I got over my devastation and try some hard approach on trigonometry (since this was my master tool in solving most sufficiently hard geometry problems). With triangle AKL in mind with points H and C this gave me rooms of brute-forcing, until the nick of time where I discovered something I missed it before (using this ugly method): reduction of the problem to CH perpendicular to ST, which could be equated as HK/KA=HL/LA. It’s 1:25, but I couldn’t go any further than this. I could only leave my last sentence “this being obvious by H as the reflection of H’ (perpendicular from C to BD) in midpoint of BD.”


“Stop your work and put your work properly into the folder,” the chief invigilator ordered sternly. I checked my folder and all written papers, just to confirm that no sheet of paper was misplaced. We were then asked to leave row by row, and I left my seat despondently, thanks to my terrible defeat to P3.

Reports from my teammates were marvelous: all of us solved P1, and 5 of us had P2 done. Moreover, Justin managed to complete P3 using 11 pages, hence victoriously submitted a perfect paper for the day. I was glad that he assuaged my broken heart by pointing that P3 was more brutal than last year.

Studying after the contest was neither productive nor useful, even when you considered spotting the topic combination based on the first paper. While there were many guesses (based on instinct or what they hope so?) on the topics for P1 to P6 a month before that (with some insensible claim of cut-off points at the same time), we derided at it. Knowing this fact, Mojalefa decided to take us out for another walk–this time slightly beyond just the campus, and it aimed to refresh our mind after the grueling mind fight for the morning, besides hoping that we could forget all moments in it.

20140708_160248 20140708_161632

(Above: some extraordinary buildings and statues that we came across)

Taking back into AoPS again, the problems were posted onto the website, and as before there were some users use ridiculed the difficulty of P3 and said “this is a relatively easy one”. Moreover, this, along the somewhat easy P2, invited claims on high boundary for medals. Well, that hurt.

On the positive side, it doesn’t seem to be a challenge for us to raise the Malaysian benchmark in IMO again, based on the exceptional performance of the day. Nevertheless, let’s hope for a brighter day tomorrow!

IMO 2014 (III)-Ice Breaker

Date: 7/7/14

Still remember the temperature troll the day before? Yup. Mr. thermometer showed its valley point at 1 C. This lead us to the hot option for breakfast, except Zi Song, whose diet was relatively unique compared to us.


Today we were free for the entire day until the Opening Ceremony scheduled at 5pm. Knowing the size of UCT campus, Mojalefa decided to bring us for a campus tour in the morning.


UCT campuses were named after their relative positions, (Upper Campus, Middle Campus, and Lower Campus). We spent a significant proportion of the time in Upper Campus, which contained the Sports Hall and Jameson Hall, since they functioned as competition and ceremony venues respectively.

The battle field (credits to Justin)
The battle field (credits to Justin)
Photos - Opening Ceremony-2
Centre of opening and closing of IMO

However, the best part was non other than the visit of a statue (I forgot about the name, but I conjectured as a man who was renowned for his contribution to UCT), after millions of effort in climbing hills with intricate muddy roads. Not only the statue served as a point of attraction, the view of bay from that altitude was also fantastic!

From the top
Standing in front of statue
Standing in front of statue
Imitating the great man
Imitating the eminent man


The meaningful half day was gone when we were on our way for return. By the time, the Sun was hanging high on top of us and the temperature stroke 12 C, which signaled that our jackets should be off.

07 Jul-In front of campus
On the way home

(Note: The following pictures were from IMO 2014’s account on Google+ )

There were few hours of idle time before our ceremony, where our team was scheduled to be the 79th team in team parade. “South Africa is #59, which comes the last among the first badge of teams going onto the stage”, Mojalefa added. Not only the order showed discrepancy from the 2 previous years’ sequence as alphabetical order, but South African’s being the final team for first round alluded some unique element in it.

Again, the South African showed their genial attitude: this time not by words, but though music.

Preparing for performance
Preparing for performance

At 5pm (scheduled time), all of us were properly seated. Since leaders had decided on the contest problems prior to the ceremony, they were separated from the rest of us. From our seats, we could see leaders waving hands to contestants, as if they had been separated for years. It took us some effort to spot Mr. Suhaimi, though.

The "quarantined" VIPs
The “quarantined” VIPs
Believe me or not, this was projected onto the ceiling.
Believe me or not, this was projected onto the ceiling.
Master of Ceremony
Master of Ceremony

The mystery of order was answered shortly after the start of the ceremony: the sorting was by the first participation in IMO. In particular, Romania, which hosted the first IMO in 1959 were the first to do their ice breaking to the rest of us. The presentations of most of the teams (including Malaysia) were generally smiling, or waving hello, except one of the teams which stood out among others by taking live selfie on the stage.

Team Malaysia. Leftmost: Mojalefa; rightmost: Mr. Iqbal
Team Malaysia. Leftmost: Mojalefa; rightmost: Mr. Iqbal

It’s the parade of the home delegation which was unprecedented–the “Coronation Parade” began just after the announcement of the team, with band accompanying the “Team of the Day”. It left us exclaimed with mouth opened, but nevertheless earned thunderous applause from us.

Photos - Opening Ceremony-170

Thus, it suffices to explain how the schedule ran: a series of performance by ZipZap Circus School after that would be at the right timing to decorate the ceremony beautifully.

Photos - Opening Ceremony-204

Not forgetting some drama show after the parade:

Photos - Opening Ceremony-220

Here came the end of the ceremony, or in other words, few steps nearer to contest. An oath session was vital for ensuring the good decorum of participants (especially contestants), and we witnessed the rise of IMO flag which symbolized the official begin of this IMO. We were then allowed to leave after the departure of juries. But first, let’s take a bigger group photo!

Photos - Opening Ceremony-275

We were rather late for dinner on that day, but sleeping time was invariant: at 10pm my pseudo-alarm clock in my head reminded me for sleep, since we would be facing the ultimate challenge over the next two days. Have a deep slumber, and good luck to the Malaysian team!

IMO 2014 (II)-The physical and mental shift

After the conclusion of the Mindsetting camp, we were “awarded” one day to spend with our families, known as “Family Outing Day”, and we were given a freedom to do what we desired to do. While others relaxed and quenched their thirst to meet their families, I, however, spent part of it with another cliques.

Sunway College was having its Orientation Day on 3-7/7. Having known that I would be missing a week of lesson, I preferred to utilize the day to attend the orientation. In either way, that’s rewarding to me too, since I could temporarily forget Maths, and the program was interesting with a lot of jocular moments. In other words, I was relaxing myself too!

I finally met my parents at 4:30 pm, after the end of the orientation. We had a marvelous dinner at Mohammad Chan after missing home-cooked food for nearly a week! I then had a lengthy chat with my parents (for maintaining mental serenity) before returning to hostel, meeting my teammates as if they were long-lost friends.

Departure Day (5/7/14)
Previously, Prof Arsmah insisted the six team members of Malaysia to be transported to the airport together, for sake of maintaining the firm bind between each other. Now Dr. Sakinah (new manager of IMO committee after Prof. Arsmah’s retirement) continued this tradition. By 12: 15pm, we, our luggage and documents (including Mr. Iqbal, our deputy leader) were all in! The bus sending us to KLIA was “full”, since apart from 7 of us, it was full of hope, full of expectation, and full of determination!

Bye to UKM, and hello KLIA!
Bye to UKM, and hello KLIA!

It was still 4 hours before our first flight, which gave us extra time with our parents in KLIA. Knowing how we treated one another as brothers, it was no surprise that our parents were close friends too.


(Selfie with parents with reduced quality, owing to my “professional” photography skills.

Before we were satisfied with parents’ pamper, it was time for gathering. There was another briefing by Pn. Zalina, an officer from the MoE. It acted as a reminder for dos and don’ts, although some coincidence with Mr. Suhaimi’s content existed. As for photo session…we always had a banner, and this year it was extraordinary, both in its size and design. This was followed the very moment of separation, and waving goodbye!

5:20 pm…

“All passengers could board into the plane now”, PA system announced. Here goes our journey to Cape Town, South Africa!

The journey
The process of international travel might be common experience to me (as this is my 4th IMO), but some annoying process was inevitable. In fact, Mr. Suhaimi gave us tips and warnings about things to be done in the airport, and some worse-case scenario precautions (e.g. asking for lengthy details in immigration counter). Fortunately we didn’t get that hostile treatment from the officers as expected, as South Africans are prominent for their warmth towards tourists.

Now let’s look at the central element of travel. The long-distance journey has its benefit behind he apparent boredom, since we could utilize it for time adjustment, and enjoy all splendid meals in Cathay Pacific aircraft (especially the mouth-watering egg fried rice with fish!) Moreover, the long traveling time (18 hours) allowed movie moments for us. We were in craze of it, and 2 movies for me (“Divergent” and “The Grand Piano”) was nothing compared to others. The title for the first one was an interesting joke, though, since in mathematics, divergence is a crucial topic in series. (Interested in this topic? Here you are: )

In general for the flight we were fairly lucky. Although the first transit in Hong Kong was only 2 hours, but it was unnecessary to rush. The second transit in Johannesburg offered our first local breakfast in South Africa, since we had 5 hours. Yay!

Go healthy, and have a plate of wrap; go energetic, and have a cup of coffee!

A photo during our second transit (thanks to the vast amount of time)

Food for thought: where was I?
Food for thought: where was I?

The ultimate destination welcomed us at 2pm local time on Sunday, 6/7/14 (Malaysian time 8pm). We collected our luggage, and proceeded to the arrival hall. That was the very moment when we couldn’t conceal our excitement upon meeting a guy holding an IMO stick with word “Malaysia”! An ice breaking followed it, and he was our guide, Mojelefa Nchupang. “Time to go to UCT,” he invited cordially. But first…… let’s take a group photo.

Arrival hall of airport in Cape Town

The University of Cape Town
During our check in, here comes a mind twist behind its less ornate environment compared to last years: we were given a single room, with two beds for Justin’s and mine. That created problems in our mind: how if any of us overslept?

The room with two beds

We had our very first dinner in UCT. Unlike the buffet for previous years, this time we were given 2 options plus one vegetarian meals. We truly hoped for warmth from the food, given the freezing weather.


Source of warmth
Source of warmth
The dining hall

The climatic challenge
It was winter in South Africa during the IMO, and shower was a challenge for us (but nevertheless necessary after the long travel), and according to a research it’s better to ignore everyone else and shout the word f*** aloud for keeping warmth. Perhaps, it may be attributed to psychological effect towards human physical state.

That was, however, an apple pie compared to weather at night as the forecast of minimum temperature being 7 C was rebutted. Yi Kye’s phone read 6 C, and the creme of the story was there was no heater in our hostel rooms. This made one of us to rant “this is the first time I’ve seen someone wearing Eskimo costumes indoors!”

Consequently, that “Eskimo fashion” followed me overnight. Thankfully I had adjusted my sleeping schedule, and drifted into dreams at 10pm.

IMO 2014 (I)-Behind the stage

The announcement of IMO 2014 team was a final victory for us, since we made the top 6 of Malaysia with no further elimination. But we had no room to slack: the big competition was 1.5 months away. Registration, information submission, letter of invitation,…these had to be done fast, and we would be proceeding to the final training program, given the schedule, and venue fixed at Permata Pintar.

The expectation was high, for both personal and overall team performance. We created record in both team ranking and team score for 4 years non-stop, which implies eyes were on us to break the record of 117 points and #31 we created last year. On the personal side, I targeted myself for a gold, simply because:
(a) I won two silver medals in past 2 IMOs, and for last year I missed a gold medal for only three points (painful, right?)
(b) Collectively in past APMO, IMO and Raffles Invitational MO I had 5S, 2B, 1HM, 0 gold.

But…given the fact that you have to be among the best 1/12 among brainy (young) mathematicians all over the world, it’s never easy to achieve the goal. According to last year’s boundary (31 points), and the fact that partial marks are scarce for hard problems, it’s necessary to solve a complete problem among Problem 3 and 6. In other words, you need a perfect score, at least for one day.

Given 40 days of preparation, what we could do were just to sharpen our weapons, and utilize our training session to learn. Thanks god we had our past Olympian: Mr. Loke Zhi Kin.

Ceremonious presentation with VVIPs
Many thanks to Exxon Mobil, which generously allocated RM110k annually for our training, and this time it continued its benevolent act. This deed was then acknowledged in the public when the Cheque Presetation Ceremony was held on 11th June 2014, in between our first and second weekend camp, at the holy venue of Permata Pintar which just took over the no-easy task of organising IMO camps from PERSAMA.

Starting from last year, the presentation was done together with National Science Challenge (NSC), and from there we managed to “make” ourselves part of NSC by looking at the videos delineating the process of eliminations by workshops, state and national challenges. Some shadows of IMO elimination pyramid were disguised in the video too, if you step back and look at the big picture. Moreover, like us, the winners (a team of 3) gain the scarce opportunity to witness the Nobel Prize Ceremony. Some video clips about their experiences followed the visual tempt, making us feel uncomfortable for being unable to dream for it.

And speech…That’s a central component in ceremonies, and in most ceremonies its formulaic content often made audience’s ears stay far away from it. Ironically I was all ears to the speeches this time because that was different from previous years! Basically, some stories about IMO, and more about the importance of science and maths in the industries.

Photo with VVIPs
Photo with V VIPs
Zi Song and Justin being interviewed (some content error, though :( )
Zi Song and Justin being interviewed. Some content error, though 😦

The ceremony adjourned soon. Zi Song and I decided to stay in Permata Pintar before the next weekend camp, and together with Kin Aun we had one weekday paper there. How did the story continue? Have a look.

Three weekend rocks
The Miraculous Penang state has three members in IMO team (no more domination of Klang Valley like last 3 years!), thus we had transportation arranged beautifully for all camps (except the first week, but a teacher was assigned to accompany us throughout the traveling journey). Friday was a day of what we were waiting for, where we kept asking “has Yi Kye/Justin/Shazryl arrived?”

With my roommates (Kin Aun and Zi Song)
Brain crunch
Enough with our joy and excitement of gathering, and it’s time for brain twist for problem solving session at night. Zhi Kin planned it well: he gave us a set of USAMO problems for collaboration purposes, and most importantly, IMO 2013 shortlist which was made public after IMO 2014. Saturday was a continuation of such problem solving session, where we continued our topic the day before.

The 4.5 hours of silence
We were to do 4 sets of papers per week (2 of which were done on Saturdays and Sundays), each with 3 problems to be done in 4.5 hours. The 6 of us then created an intense examination environment, trying to vanquish all possible problems in the set. That’s how we felt that the time passed too fast.

While the test meant to build our momentum, it unfortunately made me feel diffident about what I was aiming for…My average was about 2 out of 3, not hitting my desired target. How about considering only on those papers with at least IMO level? I was again convinced that I’m in the Silver zone, struggling in jumping over the elite gold lounge. Why not reduce my tension by aiming just for maintaining my results as a silver medalist? Nope. This couldn’t trigger my aim: who knows if I could be damn lucky in the actual IMO?

Relaxation-coping with trepidation
Though Saturday afternoon is meant to be problem solving session, Zhi Kin understood that we just had our mind upside-down by the test in the morning. We didn’t do USAMO problems as at night, but read solution of some obscure problem instead (e.g. IMO 2003 N8). Sorry, but that was not relaxing either: we could hardly follow the abstruse solution using vector and matrices.

Apart from this, Dr. Ong Shien Jin gave a talk, incorporating computer science into solving a combinatorial problem in British MO. Frank enough to say, I hadn’t touched any materials in programming since the camp in last December, but in this context, I was lucky enough to understand the materials! Who cares even when the insight required was profound? As usual, Justin and Zi Song (who turned out to qualify for IOI 2014 team but gave their way to IMO) facilitated the lecture, and it turned out as good as you can expect.

Unlike IMO selection camps, we “get rid” of bicycles and stepped into modern technologies: Cytus and Deemo, both which required dexterity in taping the correct notes and accurate positions–it worth noting how I annoyed my two roommates in attempting  perfect score for one of the songs, since the song was too irritating! “Gosh our ears are cleared!” they exclaimed when I succeeded in my mission.

This enthusiasm, however, was short-lived (just like my passion towards video games) and the guys soon diverted their attention into Japanese animation videos and related game–OSU when the IMO drew near (except me who was still in craze with Cytus). Probably this was similar to math where everyone focused on specific topic for some short period of time before learning the new ones…

Final septuplets of days (27/6-3/7)
The final week is named traditionally as Mindsetting camps, where it was meant to make us to be mentally and physically prepared for IMO. This isn’t that easy to describe: beine mentally prepared and being “mathematically” prepared aren’t same, and there was a lot of work to do to achieve both—that’s what teammates were for. Unfortunately, that last moment of my IMO journey broke my record of full attendance in IMO camps, and it was more than just a single day: in the first morning of this camp, I was checking into my college hostel, and another briefing was held at the same place, which was made mandatory for all Bursary students in Sunway College on 2/7. Well, excused absent was perfectly alright, especially in this context, but I didn’t want my golden time with the team to be sacrificed.

It was also our final moments with our team leader before his early departure to the jury meeting. Apart from the pre-departure briefing (safety, health, team spirit, etc), he handed us 4 books for reference: 2 on algebra and 2 on geometry. We acted as if we have seen Aliens landing on the Earth upon the threshold concepts: a lot of them were new to us.

The team picture in mindsetting camp, credits to Zhi Kin.
The team picture in mindsetting camp, credits to Zhi Kin.

The Mindsetting camp ended very soon, and it was time for relaxation with families, before facing the ultimate challenge!

Ps: An acknowledgement to Professor Arsmah and Mdm Masita for visiting us during the Mindsetting Camp, and showing care and love as a mother (yeah this was how she treated us during when she was the IMO Chairwoman). It took her 45 minutes of drive furthermore.