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Optimization is the activity of trying to achieve the highest time (or sometimes score in CC2) in a Chip's Challenge level. One who is interested in optimization is known as an optimizer. The highest publicly reported time is known as a bold time, and the ultimate goal of optimization is to meet or exceed this time.
In many aspects, optimization is the Chip's Challenge equivalent of speedrunning, but in most cases it is more or less about improving one's overall score. Some players, however, value other metrics such as how many bold times they have achieved rather than their overall score, and as such simply do not report scores at all on levels for which they do not have the bold on.
There are two facets to optimization: finding the optimal route and executing it. Finding the optimal route can be purely theoretical and helped by tools like SuperCC. However, many bold routes, especially for older level sets like CC1 and CCLP2, are publicly available as a solution in the public TWS or as an AVI, making the act of independently finding a bold route unnecessary. Executing a route is both skill and luck-based and frequently requires techniques like boosting or the exploitation of glitches like the Mouse Panel Glitch. The difficulty in finding and route and executing it are often independent: routing Doublemaze is simple but it is one of the hardest to execute, but routing Lemmings is chaotic but simple to execute once the route has been found.