Competitive programming is about solving highly complicated algorithmic problems in a team under time pressure. A group of computer science students from Saarland University has now won a gold medal in a major European competition, the best result achieved by a German university in almost 10 years. The top ranking qualifies the students for both the European Championships and the World Finals. The competitive programming has been a joint project of Saarland University and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics for many years.
Saarland University sent a total of three teams to the 2023 edition of the North West European Regional Contest, NWERC for short, which was held on the campus of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands from November 24 to 26. The NWERC is a sub-contest of the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), which began in the 1970s and, according to its own website, is the largest and oldest programming competition in the world with more than 50,000 students from over 3,000 universities from 111 countries taking part each year.
143 teams from 65 universities took part in the competition in Delft. The task of the teams, each consisting of three members, was to solve as many of a total of 12 highly complex programming tasks as possible within five hours. The top team from Saarland University was "<(OvO)>", consisting of computer science students Asadullo Ganiev (22), Egor Gorbachev (22) and Janine Lohse (23). They cracked eleven of the twelve programming problems, securing 2nd place and a gold medal (places 1-4 gold, 5-8 silver, 9-12 bronze).
With this top ranking, Saarland University has achieved its best result since competing in the ICPC competitions and the best result for a German university since 2014. It is also the second time in a row that the best German team at NWERC comes from Saarland University. By finishing second, the top team automatically qualifies for the European Championships in Prague in March 2024 and for the World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, in September 2024. The other teams from Saarland University also achieved excellent results, finishing in 54th and 92nd place.
Competitive programming has been a joint project of Saarland University and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics for many years. Together, they support the student teams in preparing for the competitions. All participants attend the lecture "Competitive Programming" in advance, which is held jointly by Professor Markus Bläser (UdS), Professor Karl Bringmann (UdS), Dr. Martin Bromberger (MPI-INF) and Professor Christoph Weidenbach (MPI-INF) with the assistance of many former competition participants. The trips to the competitions are funded by the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and supervised jointly with the university. This year, Julian Baldus (UdS) and Simon Schwarz (MPI-INF) acted as coaches for the teams.
The team members of <(OvO)>:
Asadullo Ganiev completed his bachelor's degree at Tashkent University of Information Technology in Uzbekistan and since the winter semester 2023/24 has been studying for his master's degree in computer science at Saarland University. He started programming competitively at school and also took part in the International Olympiad in Informatics. In competitive programming he particularly likes the complexity of the problems to be solved, as they require an in-depth understanding of advanced algorithms and techniques of computer science and mathematics. "The fact that its competitive makes it extra fun, as you have to focus your full potential on the problems," says the student. He also encourages others to look into competitive programming as you can learn a lot, improve your problem-solving skills and have great fun competing with like-minded people.
Egor Gorbachev completed his Bachelor's degree at Saint Petersburg State University and has been preparing for his doctorate in theoretical computer science at Saarland University’s Graduate School of Computer Science for three semesters. This was the second time he has taken part in the NWERC for Saarland University and he was already in the university's top team last year. He finds the immediate feedback at the competitions particularly exciting, as the results are checked directly with the computer and there is no need to wait for feedback from a jury. Moreover, one gets to see the countries one is visiting: "This year, we visited The Hague on a rest day and saw amazing large waves on the sea," says the student.
Janine Lohse is studying for a master's degree in computer science at Saarland University and is preparing for her doctorate at the Graduate School of Computer Science, which she would like to do in the field of programming languages. She got into competitive programming back in her school days through the German National Computer Science Competition (BwInf) and qualified for the International Olympiad in Informatics in Japan in 2018 via the BwInf. What she particularly likes about competitive programming is that one has to be creative and develop new, unconventional approaches to solve the problems. 2023 was her fourth time taking part in the NWERC: "Unfortunately, I'll be too old to take part again next year. So of course I'm all the more pleased that we've now won a gold medal and have two more competitions ahead of us this season with the European Championship and the World Finals," says the student.
Background Saarland Informatics Campus:
900 scientists (including 400 PhD students) and approx. 2500 students from more than 80 nations make the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) one of the leading locations for computer science in Germany and Europe. Four world-renowned research institutes, namely the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, and the Center for Bioinformatics along with Saarland University and its three departments and 24 degree programs, together cover the entire spectrum of computer science.
Saarland Informatics Campus
Phone: +49 681 302-70741