Google's Code Jam attracts an elite group of contestants - last year's winner Jakub Pachocki, a computer science student at the University of Warsaw, was placed second in this year's Facebook Hacker Cup. But we all have to start somewhere and last year a record 20,613 people tried to solve at least one problem. So why not see how far you can get!
Since 2003, Google Code Jam has challenged professional and student programmers around the world to solve tough algorithmic puzzles using the programming language and development environment of their choice, with the proviso that the compiler or interpreter is freely available. You can't used paid-for tools such as Mathematica - you can however use Matlab since it's also available free as Octave.
Registration for this year's competition is now open to anyone over the age of 13 with a few territorial exclusions - Cuba, Quebec, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
It will start on April 12 with the Qualification Round. This is the first of the online rounds in which contestants are faced with a mix of algorithmic problems to solve but it differs in that it extends over 25 hours, so that all contestants can choose a convenient time. To progress to the First Rounds you need to earn a fixed number of points.
This year's First Rounds will be held on April 27, May 4 and May 12 with starting points at different times of day and each lasting 2 hours 30 minutes. Some contestants will enter all three of these, others only one - as soon as you place in the top 1000 you have qualified for Round 2 and cannot complete in any further first rounds.
This rule means that 3000 contestants progress to Round 2, which takes place online on June 1 at 14:00 UTC. The top 1000 contestants in this round win tee-shirts and the top 500 advance to Round 3, to be held on on June 15 at 14:00 UTC.
Code Jam tee-shirt 2010
The top 25 contestants from the online rounds go on compete in the Code Jam Finals - although if any have to drop out due to being under age 18 or unable to travel Google will invite substitutes. This year's Final is to be held in the Google Office in London on Friday August 16 and Google pays the travel costs and expenses to attend.
The top prize to be won there is $15,000 USD, the coveted title of Code Jam Champion, and automatic qualification in the Code Jam 2014 finals to defend his or her title. There is a second prize of $2,000; third prize of $1,000 and the remainder of the finalists receive $100.
For those unfamiliar with Code Jam there's a Quick-Start Guide to help you get used to the types of problem you will encounter and how the scoring works. You are advised to try problems in the Practice and Learn section of the site where you'll find problems, solutions and analysis from several past contests.