Photonics West was the site of a World Khet Tournament sponsored by SPIE Student Services and Innovention Toys. Sixteen participants squared off in a single elimination bracket to determine who would win a free conference registration and plane ticket to return to Photonics West in 2011. Students and professionals from the surrounding exhibit hall came to observe the games and there was quite an air of excitement as the first hourglass timers turned over at the start.
I saw a large group from Harvard taking part in the tournament - apparently they all have Khet in the lab and play on lunch breaks. Professors and exhibitors also joined the student participants. The first person was eliminated from the bracket in less than 4 minutes, indicating to me that there were some skilled players in attendance.
Michael Larson, co-inventor of the game, donated Khet games to all the round of eight winners.
The last representative from Harvard went home in the semi-finals after a hard fought match. The finals pitted Prof. Peter Van Daele from Ghent University in the Netherlands against Benjamin Campbell from the Penn State Electro-optics center. I had a fairly personal stake in the outcome of the match since the travel costs between Pennsylvania and San Francisco are much less than those between the Netherlands and San Francisco. I was sweating for my budget and quietly cheering Ben.
The final game lasted about 30 minutes and was very tense. Campbell wound up winning, exclaiming, "Who knew all those hours spent playing Khet would pay off?"
As the exhibit hall activity closed, I finally had a chance to play a game. Khet is fun! Two moves from certain victory, I was sneakily beaten by SPIE Course Coordinator John Cain, a former English major. This disgrace will have to be avenged in 2011.
SPIE Student Chapters can purchase Khet at wholesale prices through Michael Larson at Innovention toys for use as prizes, teaching tools, or just a fun addition to their lab or office. Details are available on the Khet information poster.