Month: June 2015

Going to Quizbowl Tournaments: How it Works

The best way to get good at quizbowl or help jumpstart a new quizbowl team is to find some teammates and start attending tournaments. Whether you’re a teacher interested in starting a team, a coach of a current team looking to attend a new quizbowl competition, or just a student hoping to start playing quizbowl, here’s a step-by-step guide to finding tournaments, getting to a tournament, and what to expect at your first quizbowl tournament.

To register for a quizbowl tournament:

Email the Tournament Director. Quizbowl doesn’t have a centralized registration system for most tournaments outside of the national championships, so to register for a tournament you need to get in touch with the tournament director (TD) for each tournament directly. Usually, the email addresses for the tournament directors are given with the tournament announcements that may be emailed to you directly, posted on the regional schedule on GPQB, posted on the HSQB forum under the “Regular Tournament Announcements” section, or searching for tournaments registered on the HSQB database.

Sign up early! Quizbowl tournaments have field caps based on the number of staff and/or rooms available, so it’s usually a good idea to register as soon as you know you can attend. Sometimes the fields fill up 1-2 months before the tournament and the host has to start a waitlist of teams. Make sure you get confirmation from the TD that you’re in the field and registered before you make final travel plans. Good tournaments will often keep a running field of who’s already registered on the tournament announcement, so you can use that as a rough guide of how filled the field is already. It never hurts to ask and there are usually some spots that free up before tournaments.

Provide all needed information. A tournament registration email simply consists of letting the tournament director know that your school wants to attend as well as the following info:

  • How many teams you’re bringing (remember only up to 4 players can play per team at one time, though you can also bring fewer than 4 players on a team as well)
  • How many buzzer sets you’re bringing (this may be 0, but most tournaments give a discount of $5 for each buzzer set you bring, so if you have one you should bring it)
  • How many staffers you’re bringing (this may also be 0 as well; some tournaments may not need extra staffers, others may only want experienced readers and such, so check with the TD and read the tournament announcement)
  • Some tournaments may request that you provide a contact phone number so that the Tournament Director can call you if you’re running late.
  • Some tournaments may also request that you provide the names of your team members, though this is usually not absolutely necessary and doesn’t have to be exactly correct. TDs often ask for this to help facilitate scorekeeping or to verify what players are on what team, which can be useful in the seeding process.

Do not register until you are sure you can attend. While you should feel free to inquire about the details of any tournament, you shouldn’t register for the tournament until you’re sure that you’ll be able to attend. As more than one quizbowl elder has admonished, “Registering is a commitment to attend, not a note that you will probably try to show up unless you hear about something more interesting at any time between now and five minutes before the tournament starts.” Check with all the students you plan on bringing first to the tournament and get confirmation from them as early as possible before you register them and find out they have other commitments.

Keep the number of teams the same even if players drop. You can change the members of your team(s) as circumstances come up, but adding or dropping whole teams after you register is strongly discouraged outside of an emergency since tournaments have to plan for specific numbers of teams in the schedule well in advance. You should email the TD as soon as possible if you absolutely must change the number of teams–remember it’s fine to play with only 3 players on teams.

Paying for a Quizbowl Tournament

–  Calculate the cost. To figure out how much your school owes for a tournament, check the tournament announcement since those should list the costs and discounts. Most tournaments cost $60-80 per team, with discounts for bringing buzzers and/or staffers, traveling long distances, or being a new team to quizbowl. If you’re attending your school’s first-ever pyramidal quizbowl tournament, definitely ask for a discount–most tournaments should be happy to oblige. If you have major financial exigencies that may prevent your school from attending otherwise, you can also ask for some kind of arrangement with the host, though be aware that most hosts will expect at least some payment to help cover the cost of the questions.

Get payment to the host. Payment for tournaments is usually due the morning of the tournament, although occasionally some hosts will accept payment mailed beforehand.  Cash and check seem to be the major methods, though always ask who the check needs to be made out to since it may not be to the school itself. You can and often need to ask for a receipt from the host (hosts should provide receipts) if you’re using funds from a school.

Consider all your funding options. Finding sources of funding to pay for attending tournaments deserves a whole post in itself, but there are a number of options available. Some schools may have student activity funds or specifically designated funds for academic competitions. Sometimes PTAs might be a good source of funding or you could organize an academic booster club. Each school has different regulations that you should make a point to follow. It may be simplest just to ask each competing student to chip in part of the fees–for the price of a movie, you can get a full day’s worth of quizbowl education! Of course, one of the best ways to raise funds for quizbowl is to host a quizbowl tournament and we could certainly use more in Pennsylvania–feel free to ask us for advice on when might be the best time in the already filling schedule.

Getting to a Tournament:

– This can be very simple or could be very complicated, depending on your school’s policies. Sometimes you can just have the coach or an interested parent drive. Sometimes students can even drive themselves. Unfortunately, some schools like to make things complicated, so check with your school’s administration and/or other teachers to figure out the policies that apply to your situation.

– Note that most tournaments will simply require that some adult be responsible for the students from that school–you don’t always have to send the coach; it could be a parent or an alum. Again though, read the tournament announcements and check with your school to see what you need to do.

– If there is an inordinate mass of red tape that prevents you from attending tournaments, you may want to look into sending a non-affiliated team. See this post and check with the tournament director to see if that’s possible.

– If, en route to a tournament, you get lost or stuck in traffic, always let the tournament director know if possible via a phone call so that they can make the proper arrangements and know that you are still planning on coming. More communication is better than less communication here.

At the Tournament: What to Expect and Do 

Find the location of the pre-tournament meeting ASAP. Good hosts will often give you instructions, if not a map, and have signs directing you to the location, but expect to have to do a bit of walking from where you parked. Get there early, if at all possible. At the pre-tournament meeting, you’ll get the schedule for the tournament that indicates what teams you’ll be playing, at least for the first part of the tournament. This is also when you’ll pay for the tournament and drop off your buzzers if you brought them.

Take notes during games. Teams that take notes of what they missed, interesting clues they heard, things that sprang to mind, etc. are teams that are going to improve. Coaches can focus perhaps on the categories that seem to be getting missed while players can write down what they might want to study later. It’s a good idea thus to bring a notebook for each team member.

Expect to be lose some games. It is exceedingly rare for a team making its first tournament appearance to be competitive against the best teams right from the start (though it has happened a few times!). Think about it–even if you assembled a bunch of good athletes, sending them out to play a new sport for the first time against experienced teams would mean they’d probably get trounced. Quizbowl is the same way–while it’s based on factual knowledge, quickly recalling these facts and learning all of the subjects that come up in quizbowl can take work.

Stay for the whole tournament. Most good quizbowl tournaments seed teams in morning round-robin pools and then re-seed them during lunch to have competitive matches against teams with similar records in the morning. Thus, even if you lost all your games in the morning, in the afternoon you’ll play all the other teams who also lost their morning games so the matches should be competitive. The only time to even consider leaving a tournament before it ends is if the host is incompetent and the tournament is running several hours late. Otherwise, stick around the whole time since it’s a logistical nightmare for the host if teams leave early and unfair to other teams who lose out on a chance to play competitive games.

Talk to other teams and staffers. There will be downtime between games and during the pre-tournament meeting, so make use of it to talk to the other people! Ask someone (after the match ends) how they got a good buzz or just see how the other team’s doing. During matches, keep the chatting to a minimum, but afterwards feel free to be social so long as you don’t dawdle getting to the next room. Also, if it’s not clear on when you need to be back after lunch or where your next room is, always feel free to ask the other teams or a staffer.

Give feedback to the TD on how your experience went. Although during the tournament the director is probably going to be extremely busy, it’s always useful to hear from a new team how their experience was and what could be improved in the future after the tournament ends.

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: Introducing the Greater Pennsylvania Quizbowl Resouce

Hello Quizbowl Community,

Today we’re happy to announce a major overhaul and expansion of our blog. From this day forth, we will be posting as the Greater PENNSYLVANIA Quizbowl group. That’s right all yinz, we will now be devoting just as much space to tournaments, news, players, and coaches in and around Pittsburgh, up in the Poconos, and everything in between. As quality quiz bowl grows in the state, we thought it fitting to recognize the achievements of the hundreds of students participating in those parts of the state too. For those of you in Delaware and South Jersey, never fear, for we are still GREATER Pennsylvania and will be covering tournaments and such in these areas (as well as North Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland where applicable).

Right now, there have been no announced tournaments in Western PA, but typically both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University host two events a year. If you’re up for a bit of a drive, teams are always welcome to head to the Philadelphia Area and Lancaster County and play at their existing events. And most of all, if your high school is interested in hosting a tournament to raise some money and grow the game, consult our tournament guide! Please keep an eye on our regional calendar, which will now announce relevant events inside and outside of the State for those teams. Happy buzzing!

The GPQB Staff

2015-2016 Schedule

Hi folks,

Just a quick note that we have switched over the “Regional Tournament Schedule” page over to the new 2015-2016 school year. Only four tournaments have been announced so far, but do check there regularly for updates. We look forward to another great season!

The GPQB Staff

GPQB 2014-2015 Season End Team Rankings

Well folks, after personally attending 14 local or national tournaments this season, we’ve come to a close. This year saw the most teams, the most high scorers, the most events, and some of the wildest single games in Philadelphia quizbowl history. The circuit is healthier than ever and I am exited to continue to go forward. For now though, I feel it right to recognize the top ten teams in our area this season and applaud all their hard work and effort. This is an unofficial ranking and reflects my opinion only. To be ranked a team must have attended at least two regular, pyramidal tournaments (no National History Bee and Bowl events).

Honorable Mentions: Concord, PALCS B (previous rank: 8)

10) Cedar Crest

Previous Rank: u/r

This is a team that showed lots of potential and flashes of brilliance. While they never made it higher than 11th at a local invitational, they seem to have gotten extremely unlucky with their schedule draw. One can site their 3rd place finish at the Lancaster-Lebanon league tournament as a highlight, but what got them ranked is their strong effort at HSNCT. 4-6 with everyone contributing is a fine finish. Cedar Crest seems to be getting better every year, and thus earns my admiration.

9) Downingtown East

Previous Rank: 10

We’ll exclude the PAAC win and just focus on good tournaments: still a good team. Nick Wu is a great player, and when he was on the buzzer, he was able to at least partially fill in the shoes of Neil Vinjiamuri. Nick will be representing Pennsylvania at NASAT next week. When they didn’t have him in the lineup, D-East really struggled to get in early buzzes and thus lost a lot of games they probably shouldn’t have. However, Downingtown east had fantastic bonus conversion at every event, often exceeding teams ranked above them. Downingtown East showed a lot of knowledge that way.

8) Lehigh Valley Academy

Previous Rank: 4

Alex Schmidt is a great player. He’s taking a tumble in my rankings for two reasons: 1) being a solo team, he couldn’t study as much as four people can in a given time period; thus as the year went on and players learned more, Alex started to lose more often in the playoffs. 2) Other good teams emerged which we had yet to see in the spring. In spite of this, Lehigh Valley Academy was a solid team all around. He won a tournament in New Jersey and placed in the top five at multiple events in the Philadelphia circuit. Our JV player of the year has a bright future, and I’m looking forward to a lot more from LVA.

7) Souderton

Previous Rank: u/r

Souderton attended their first pyramidal tournament in February, and shut out Renaissance Academy by answering every single tossup in their 3rd game ever. What a way to enter! With ample knowledge in history and pop culture in particular, Souderton quickly became a team you didn’t want to see on your schedule, culminating in a runner-up finish at Eastern PA States. They went to NSC, where some combination of inexperience and just ridiculously awful luck (multiple losses on tiebreakers) led them to finishing 95th. Still, to hang in for so many close games is really, really good for a team on their third tournament playing national blue-bloods. I think given a full school year, they could get even better.

6) Conestoga

Previous Rank: u/r

When I did my mid-season rankings, I called West Chester East the class of Chester County. Seeing as they didn’t come to enough events to qualify for the list, they loose the title to Conestoga, who probably could have earned it on the buzzer anyway. 3rd place at Great Valley is nice, but what gets them here is placing 60th at NSC. 13 points per bonus and 6 points per bounceback on a set this tough is a great accomplishment, and a win against a B team from Thomas Jefferson (VA), a former national champion program, is a feather for their cap. I hope to see them around the circuit more often next season.

5) Manheim Township B

Previous Rank: 7

Playoffs at HSNCT? Check. 65th at NSC? Check. This deep, deep program really impressed all throughout the tournament calendar. Though the lineup frequently changed, so it’s absurd to point to which areas they would be best at on a given day, through thick and thin Manheim B always found themselves in the playoffs. Over such a sustained number of events, that’ll get you ranked high be me.

4) Wilmington Charter B

Previous Rank: 5

Ditto here. Also had a rotating lineup, and didn’t quite get to the playoffs in their national, but looking at the overall year I don’t quite think Manheim B squeaks it out over them. I challenged Charter B to see if they could use their depth of knowledge efficiently enough to make the top 4 in my mid season rankings. They did.

3) Emmaus

Previous Rank: 2

The Cinderalla campaign ends. In one year Emmaus went from a solely bad-quizbowl school to finishing with 18 points per bonus at HSNCT. That takes herculean effort. Happening to have the best player Philadelphia quizbowl has seen in 6 or 7 years helps a lot. We’ve spent a lot of time giving plaudits to Ryan Bilger this year, so for one last time: he is an awesome player with tons of real knowledge on history and fine arts, and we wish him the best of luck in his college quizbowl career, which I know he intends to pursue. His teammates helped cover some of his weaknesses all along the way, and I hope they keep Emmaus strong and active in the future.

2) Manheim Township A

Previous Rank: 3

Manheim Township A put the cherry on top of a great season by becoming the first team from Philadelphia that was not from Wilmington Charter to place in the top 35 nationally at HSNCT. This team was willing to study hard, learn to cover its weaknesses, and stay disciplined enough to keep miscues to a minimum. The final lineup of Jake Deerin, Ahan Patel, Eric Zhuang, and Shayar Battacharjee (Last week, I claimed Shayar had been on the A team for HSNCT only- this was my mistake, he had been promoted based on knowledge and practice performance. Congratulations Shayar!) saved their best for last. Well done.

1) Wilmington Charter A

Previous Rank: 1

They were my preseason pick and held onto it the whole year. They finished 21st at one national and 32nd at the other playing down a man and a second for most of the event. All four players (Varun Wadha, Mohan Mahotra, Rohan Narayan, and Shrayus Sortur) contributed a lot of great buzzes and developed deep specialist knowledge across the distribution. They pulled many fine wins against programs from across the nation and if I’m not mistaken went undefeated against their Philadelphia competition when at full strength. Again, only one player (Varun) graduates, so I have high expectations next year. Congratulations Charter!

Ben Herman 

2015 HSNCT Wrap-Up

Over the past weekend (May 29-31), 272 teams from around the nation gathered together for the single largest quizbowl event of the year: NAQT’s High School National Championship Tournament. After 26 continual rounds of action, Arcadia High School from Arcadia, California took home the title in an exiting comeback win over the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy of Austin, TX. We congratulate all teams involved for their year(s) of hard work and dedication to learning! Greater Philadelphia was represented by 7 teams at the event. Let’s review how each did through each in turn, starting with the highest finish:

Wilmington Charter A

Place: T-21st, Record: 9-5, Total Slash Line: 69/105/44*, Points Per Game: 327.4, Points Per Bonus: 18.45

*The slash line stats indicate total powers (+15)/ tens (+10) / and negs (-5s) on Tossups

Charter A pursued a high risk, high reward strategy with aggressive buzzing, and managed some success with it. Among their wins were quality defeats of Torrey Pines (CA), Dorman (SC), and Collins Hill (GA), all well respected quizbowl teams at the national level. Varun Wadha led a well-balanced attack with 41 points-per-game. When Charter A locked in, they showed they have the talent in them to make an extremely deep run (12 powers in one match!). Why did they miss the top 20? That aggressiveness against top teams required running magic risks in the neg department, which saw Charter for instance losing to an inferior Ransom Everglades (FL) B team by negging five times. They also scored no points on three bonuses in the playoff match they were knocked out in against Solon (OH). Next year, Varun graduates but the rest of the team returns. The knowledge is there for a go at the top 10 if they can stay disciplined.

Manheim Township A

Place: T-77th, Record: 6-5, Total Slash Line: 36/79/27, Points Per Game: 281.7, Points Per Bonus: 17.04

Manheim A did exactly what we expected them to do: chug along with solid but not particularly fancy numbers to a playoff berth. They had few particularly dominant wins, but buckled down and beat the teams they needed to and were only blown out by eventual T-5th place team Solon in a match where their lack of power potential came back to haunt them. This team benefited from Jake Deerin’s team-leading 42 PPG and 18 powers as well as a breakout performance from Shayar Battacharjee, who is not normally on the A team (I assume he was used as a geography or pop culture specialist, as those questions are more prevalent in NAQT). This is another team where most of the lineup will be back next year, so there is potential to work with for building up knowledge depth to compete with the top teams.

Manheim Township B

Place: T-77th, Record: 6-5, Total Slash Line: 27/76/22, Points Per Game: 221.5, Points Per Bonus: 14.27

Unlike the A team, seeing the B squad make the playoff was quite a pleasant surprise for the GPQB staff. Even better, they were just 10 points away from beating Fisher Catholic (OH) to advance a round. They got there with a solid 2.5 tossups a game from almost everyone on the team. They needed those tossups though as their bonus conversion was on the low side for playoff teams. Having not shown extensive subject specialism during the year, it was nice that they pulled in enough early buzzes to make it to Sunday. While it may have been a bit of luck, we’re proud of them and expect them to be around on future HSNCT Sundays.


Place: 106th, Record: 5-5, Total Slash Line: 34/80/16, Points Per Game: 302.2, Points Per Bonus: 18.51

Ooof. Talk about a tough luck tournament. Emmaus cleared 300 points a game, had better statistics than either Manheim team and a good third of playoff teams, and missed the playoffs due to a heartbreaking 1-3 finish in their last four rounds with TWO separate five point losses. You can’t get much less lucky than that. On the bright side GPQB’s player of the year Ryan Bilger finished 6th out of over 1000 players from across the nation in scoring, with an astounding 96.38 points a game (and averaged 3 powers per game). Basically one-man teams like Emmaus are far more subject to luck and unfortunate bad breaks like what Emmaus got here; play this event over 100 times and Emmaus makes the playoffs more often than not, but alas they only get one shot. Let’s hope that the younger Emmaus players were taking notes and use this as fuel to build up to Ryan-like levels for next year.

Wilmington Charter B

Place: 127th, Record: 5-5, Total Slash Line: 27/65/19, Points Per Game: 222.7, Points Per Bonus: 14.13

Charter B dug themselves into a hole early with two losses to lead Saturday, and were not quite able to recover and get into the playoffs. This team went on a roller coaster ride, as 9 of their 10 games were decided by a margin of 100 points or fewer. A couple of lucky breaks and they could have gone to the playoffs or finished 4-6. Charter B does not neg the same way the A team does, but they could use some more in-depth specialization of provide power potential.

Wilmington Charter C

Place: 150th, Record: 5-5, Total Slash Line: 15/40/17, Points Per Game: 203.0, Points Per Bonus: 14.12

These guys exceeded our expectations. Barring a strange spike in their 8th an 9th match, they kept negs to a minimum, and managed to squeeze out wins against some decent teams. Alan Balu cleared 30 points a game to lead them to a near-playoff finish. This shows that Charter has a lot of depth to pick from in future years. It will be interesting to see who ends up on what letter team for the school next season.

Cedar Crest

Place: 199th, Record: 4-6, Total Slash Line: 17/54/22, Points Per Game: 170.3, Points Per Bonus: 13.38

The folks from Lebanon County quietly put together a pretty respectable tournament. Teams from Florida’s Ransom Everglades gave these guys fits, as the Ransom B and C teams defeated Cedar Crest by 10 and 20 points, respectively. They put together the consummate team effort, with all 5 players providing between 16 and 21 points a game. Albert Nazeeri led the way on scoring, but a 7/12 power to neg ratio for the event suggests that the difficulty of the questions may have been a bit too much for them. Cedar Crest finished with the record we predicted for them, but looking at the results I think they may be better than expected. If they study hard and play more events next season, they should once again improve their record at the next HSNCT.

Ben Herman