International Collegiate Programming Contest has been held annually since 1977. It operates under the auspices of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), is sponsored by IBM, and is headquartered at Baylor University.

Those who make it to the competition world finals have already outrivaled their opponents at several contests at various levels. The rules for the competition are simple. Teams of three university students around a single computer have five hours to solve as many programming problems as they can. The winners are those students who solve the greatest number of problems in the fastest time.

Russia, along with other countries from the former Soviet Union, as per the competition regulations, is included in the North-Eastern European region. Teams from Russia have been participating in the championship since 1993, and they have repeatedly had excellent results, winning the Championship Cup at least ten times. Six of these times, the title was won by ITMO University students, which is a whopping record for this competition.

This year Russia was represented by 11 teams, including four from St. Petersburg, four from Moscow and one from Nizhny Novgorod, Saratov and Arkhangelsk. From ITMO University, 18 teams vied for a place in the ACM ICPC finals, but in the end the award went to Anton Kovsharov,  Vladimir Smykalov and Adam Bardashevich, the most experienced member, having taken the Bronze prize in the 2014 contest.

“All team members this year are quite well-rounded – they all write and can solve programming problems equally well. All teams, particularly those who make it to the final, go through regular and frequent training leading up to the finals. Using the same format as ACM ICPC, students started training last October, when the qualifying rounds began,” explained Lidia Perovskaya, one of the tutors at ITMO University’s Computer Technology Chair.

Associate Professor at the Computer Technology Chair, Andrey Stankevich was ITMO University’s team coach, who has produced more than one "star" programming team. This year he will receive the prestigious ACM ICPC Senior Coach Award since for the last 15 years his team has always made it to the competition finals. Together with him, this award will also be given to Dieter van Melkebeek, the representative of the University of Wisconsin in Madison (USA).

"We are well supported by our classmates and friends. In addition, Professor of the Information Technologies and Programming Department, Anatoly Abramovich Shalyto has motivated the team to win! Past champions are always ready to help with particularly difficult tasks and to give advice. Training mainly consists in solving problems, personally or in a team, in the online format or face-to-face with different ways of distributing the tasks amongst the three team members. On average, we spent about fifteen hours a way training. We have been working hard the last two years, so now we can give ourselves a chance to relax a little and enjoy the event", – said Anton Kovsharov, on of ITMO University's team members.

All participants and guests of ACM ICPC stay in hotels along the Andaman sea. The contest includes a day on the beach with rest and relaxation. The competition finals opened with a national show at the FantaSea Entertainment Center.

"The atmosphere is very friendly, we know many teams from previous years and from trainings. We mostly chat with our fellow St. Petersburg and Moscow colleagues. During our free time, we relax by the beach. We are using our Instagram to update about what is happening at the final,” shared Adam Bardashevich, one of ITMO’s team members.

On 18 May, the eve of the final contest, the team held a kind of "rehearsal" of the finals, in which the coaches also participated. And already on 19 May, the team will prepare for the key event of ACM ICPC, which will begin at 5:30am Moscow time. You can watch the live stream of the event through this link. A significant number of the ICPCLive team, which provides the live stream, work at ITMO University.

Every year ACM ICPC problems become more and more difficult – the 2016 finalists train using last years tasks and come even more prepared than the previous years contestants. 

“Each task is written like a story, where the characters or some fictional situation are described . Solving the problem starts with the selection of a mathematical formula: then you have only ten seconds to explain the situation to the others in your team. Depending on the type of problem I will discuss it with either Adam or Vova, then we review it together, come up with an algorithm, then the task can be given to the third participant to implement. Competitive programming trains you really well in the field of algorithms and data structures, so, for example, it was easy for me to get through an interview for a Google internship. During the internship, however, these skills were not so necessary", – said Anton Kovsharov.

The winners of the international contest will receive a cash prize (about 10 thousand dollars for first place), as well as the ACM ICPC Championship Cup. Furthermore, the medalists are invited to participate in internships in IBM research offices and other famous IT companies.