In this article:
- While jigsaw puzzling is typically thought of as a relaxing activity that’s meant to relieve stress, you may be surprised to know that there’s an entire community of people who do it competitively.
- The World Jigsaw Puzzling Championship is held annually in a small city in Spain and hundreds of people from all around the world travel there to compete. The competition is governed by the World Jigsaw Puzzling Federation and has some pretty strict rules.
- Aside from the World Jigsaw Puzzling Competition, there are other (more casual) competitive puzzling events that are held all around the world. There may even be one in your community!
Personally, I love a good jigsaw puzzle. When my family and I get together around the holidays, we typically find an empty table, get out a 1,000-piece puzzle, and go to town. It’s a great way to keep your mind engaged, forget about the stresses of life, and give yourself something to do with your hands while you’re chatting.
In fact, certain studies have shown that jigsaw puzzling may be more than just mindless fun. It can actually have a profound positive effect on your brain.
Puzzling has been shown to exercise both the left and right hemispheres of your brain at the same time, meaning that you’re improving your creative skills and logical skills simultaneously. It’s also been proven to positively affect short-term memory and visual-spatial reasoning.
While most of us tend to enjoy puzzles in a casual way, there’s also an entire community of people that take it much, much more seriously.
The idea of competitive puzzling may be hard to wrap your mind around. It’s like competitive knitting or competitive Zen gardening. It’s taking an activity that’s meant for relaxation and bringing it into the competitive realm, making it inherently stressful.
Still, competitive puzzling is more popular than you might imagine. All across the United States, breweries and coffee shops host competitive jigsaw puzzling events. And things go even further than that. There’s actually a World Jigsaw Puzzling Championship that awards cash prizes.
The World Jigsaw Puzzling Championship
If you’re thinking to yourself right now, Hey, all of my friends and family tell me that I’m pretty fast at jigsaw puzzling, you might want to consider registering for the World Jigsaw Puzzling Championship. But, first, you may need to buy a plane ticket.
The competition is held annually by the World Jigsaw Puzzling Federation (yes, that actually exists) in Valladolid, Spain. Every year, hundreds of people from around the world gather in this small Spanish city to stack their puzzling skills up against the very best in the world.
The event is sponsored by Ravensburger. No one makes a puzzle like a Ravensburger puzzle.
There are three categories in the event: individual, pairs, and teams. There are very specifically defined rules for the several rounds in each division. And many times the rules reference some sort of regulatory entity known as the Organization (capital “O”). Is this the Illuminati of the jigsaw puzzling world?
If you decide to enter the individual competition, you may just find yourself facing off against Croatian-born Jana Hanzelková, also known as the GOAT of competitive jigsaw puzzling.
She can complete a 2,000-piece puzzle before you’ve had your morning coffee. She’s got hands quicker than a featherweight boxer. There have been rumors going around the international jigsaw puzzling circuit that she’s a cyborg. I made all of that up. She does do puzzles really fast, though.
It’s also interesting to note that these events are typically dominated by women, suggesting that the female brain may be naturally more adept at completing jigsaw puzzles. Way to go, ladies.
Other Competitive Jigsaw Puzzling Competitions
The World Jigsaw Puzzling Competition is far from the only competitive jigsaw puzzling across the globe. As I mentioned before, tons of local breweries, coffee shops, and other similar establishments hold puzzling competitions all the time.
But, if you want to get into something more official, you can check out the USA Jigsaw Puzzling Association’s website and see when they’re hosting their next event. The USAJPA is pretty much the cream of the crop when it comes to jigsaw puzzling.
So, if you really want to see how your skills stack up against the best, that’s your best bet. These guys do not take puzzling lightly.
On top of that, there are some notable competitive puzzling events that take place worldwide:
- The 24 Hours of Puzzle competition in Belgium involves teams competing to see how many 1,000-piece puzzles they can complete in a 24-hour period.
- If you want to puzzle while supporting a good cause, check out the Hope for Three annual jigsaw puzzling competition in Sugarland, Texas, which benefits the autism advocacy group.
- The Isle of Wight Jigsaw Puzzle Festival is also a longstanding tradition that’s open to people of all ages and skill levels.
No matter which of these competitions you plan to get involved in, you’d better get ready for some smack talk, sabotage, and other cutthroat antics. I even saw a fistfight break out at one of these events. I’m kidding.
In all seriousness, the world of competitive puzzling is extremely warm and inviting. People of all skill levels are always welcome (even by titans like Jana Hanzelková). And it’s not uncommon to see rivals picking up each others’ pieces when they fall on the floor.
So, find a local competitive puzzling event near you and get involved!
How to Get Started in Competitive Puzzling
If you want to get started in competitive puzzling, first of all, you’re going to need some puzzles to practice with. Sure, you can go into a competition without ever having completed a puzzle, but you’re going to look like a total chump.
Most puzzling competitions use either 500-piece or 1,000-piece puzzles, so those are the sizes you’re going to want to practice with. Here are some of the best puzzles (in my opinion) to get you started on your puzzling journey:
- Ravensburger Dog Days of Summer 1,000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle. This puzzle depicts dogs doing human activities such as lifeguarding, barbecuing, and mixing cocktails. What’s not to love?
- Ravensburger Ocean 500-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle. This is a circular puzzle, which is more difficult than your standard rectangular puzzle, meaning you can train your mind to think outside the box (literally). Plus, it’s covered in fish, octopuses, turtles, and jellyfish.
- BUSCBEAR Salvador Dali 1,000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle. If you’re a fan of modern art, you’ll be delighted to see Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory when you finish this puzzle. You could even frame it and hang it up!
- Spyglass Near-Impossible 1,000-Piece Monochrome Puzzle. If you’re a complete masochist and you want a puzzle that’s going to cause excruciating pain to your brain, this is the one for you. It’s 1,000 pieces, it’s circular, and every piece is almost the exact same color. Good luck.
- Ravensburger Cozy Retreat 500-Piece Puzzle. This puzzle is fairly easy and it’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside while you’re doing it. It might not help you become a competitive puzzling dynamo, but it’ll probably put a smile on your face.
Once you’ve practiced a few of the puzzles I just listed, you’ll be ready to take your skills out into the world of competitive puzzling. Do a Google search for competitive puzzling events in your area.
If you can’t find a puzzling competition anywhere near you, consider starting your own. It’ll be a great way to bring people together and make some new friends. Plus, if you charge an entry fee, you may even be able to make some money off it.