Month: February 2016

GPQB Podcast Episode #10: Making Sense of Packet Sets and Difficulty

In the 10th Episode of the GPQB podcast, Ben and Chris discuss different types of quizbowl questions that teams can practice on, from novice to nationals-level packets, and how the difficulty levels differ between different packet sets. Ever wondered what the differences were between “IS” and “IS-A” NAQT questions or where to look for novice questions? This is your guide.

Click here to listen.

Some of the websites mentioned in this podcast include:
The Quizbowl Packet Archive


Editor’s Note: We thank CMU’s club resident, Steven Silverman, for this guest post and insight into Western PA clubs.

A shorthanded Taylor Allderdice High School took home first-place honors at the 2016 edition of the Tartan Invitational tournament at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on Saturday (February 20, 2016).

Full stats are available here.

Allderdice, down several players due to illness, did an admirable job of playing with fewer than four at a time. Alexander Novara played solo for three-plus rounds, losing only to eventual second-place finisher Pittsburgh Central Catholic, before Jordan Abbott showed up midway through round four and proceeded to pace the tournament with 101.6 PPG.

Central Catholic improved on their fifth-place finish from the Allderdice Invitational last month to reach their first-ever pyramidal final and earn a qualifying bid for HSNCT in the process. Dan Crawford led the way with just over 40 PPG, supported nicely by Colin Toreskin at 33.9. They scraped their way into the finals with a 215-210 win over South Side by getting a power and 20 after South Side negged the final tossup of the round, but were remarkably consistent throughout the day, scoring over 200 points in every preliminary match except one.


DuBois (left) and Central Catholic before their preliminary round match. DuBois won, 310-105.

DuBois (left) and Central Catholic before their preliminary round match. DuBois won, 310-105. Western PA stalwarts DuBois finished in third, paced by captain Eli Kirks’s 91.67 PPG, and led the tournament with 16.10 PPB. They were followed by relative newcomers Eden Christian Academy A, who were also playing with only two members. The fourth-place finish was the best result for an Eden team at a pyramidal tournament to date, improving on the A team’s seventh place at the Allderdice Invitational. Their best win was a 195-160 victory over DuBois which included four powers.

Saegertown made the trip down from Erie with two teams, and their top scorer Sydney Knightlinger showed a good knowledge base with over 40 PPG and 10 powers, fifth-most at the tournament. Shady Side, again down some players due to Southwestern PA Science Bowl being held at the same time (which affected many of the teams, including some who were unable to even enter the tournament), was led by a breakout performance from Fuad Youssef, who nearly doubled his previous career high scoring average by placing fourth with 57 PPG.

With only ten teams on hand, Tartan Invitational was missing several Western PA regulars we’re used to seeing dominate the circuit, chief among them Alagar and Winchester Thurston, but there were still lots of great performances and close matches. Many of these teams will be back for more at the University of Pittsburgh’s “Battle of the Burgh” in March.

Steven Silverman

Great Valley Quiz Bowl Tournament III Wrap-Up


Manheim Township’s A team poses with their 1st-place plaque just after winning the open division at the 3rd-annual Great Valley Quiz Bowl Tournament.

Congratulations to Manheim Township A for winning the 24-team open division at the 3rd annual Great Valley Quizbowl Tournament in Malvern, PA yesterday (Feb. 20th, 2016).

Full open division statistics (arranged from the championship bracket on downwards) are available here.

MT’s teams as a whole adopted an interesting approach of dividing their normal A-team and splitting the A-teamers among their B and C teams. Even with that divided approach (and with their C team playing surprisingly well, knocking off their A team in the playoffs), the MT juggernaut rolled on. The MT A-team featured a balanced attack led by the 55 PPG of Jake, whose encyclopedic knowledge of the lit canon–especially poetry–made lit a near-guaranteed power for MT A every time.


PALCS  A (minus Ethan, who had to leave early) with their second-place plaque in the open division at GVQBT III.

The runner-ups in the final, PALCS A, acquitted themselves admirably in their highest-ever pyramidal quizbowl finish by playing quite aggressively in the playoffs and only losing to MT A. PALCS, paced by the 43 powers of lead-scorer Gianni, has very deep pockets of knowledge across a wide range of areas. Always an exciting team to watch knowing their could buzz early on pretty much any question.

Manheim C overperformed, taking advantage of the shorter IS-A questions to demonstrate superior buzzer speed, especially by normal A-teamer Shayar. It’s impressive just how well the specialists from the normal MT B and C teams performed in providing solid coverage of all areas of the distribution and ensuring all 3 MT teams had +23 PPB averages.

Lehigh Valley Academy emerged from a tough prelim bracket and notched the highest Points-Per-Bonus average of any team at the tournament with a sterling 24.48 PPB average, but wasn’t able to get over the hump against the top teams in the playoffs and seemed particularly bedeviled by Manheim C’s speed on the buzzer in both of their matches. It was another impressive 128-PPG outing for Alex Schmidt from LVA, but LVA still has some ground to make up to catch the top teams in the state.

Cedar Crest A played solidly throughout the tournament, but lost several heartbreakingly close games on the last few TUs to drop down to 5th. Cedar Crest A is an impressively strong team on several areas of the quizbowl canon like Philosophy that aren’t normally covered much in high school classes. But they’re surprisingly cautious on the buzzers; their 46 powers were much lower than the other teams that finished both above and below them, and they accumulated a mere 6 negs in 10 matches. It will be interesting to see how they fare on more difficult questions at nationals.

Other notable performances in the Open division included: Unionville making its pyramidal quizbowl debut this year with a solid 10th-place showing (and gradually increasing their PPB throughout the day, perhaps as they adjusted to pyramidal quizbowl).  Friends Select A finishing above a shorthanded Henderson A team to win the first consolation bracket with a dramatic 360-355 victory in the final round over the steadily improving Camp Hill (note that Camp Hill’s PPB is too low due to a scorekeeping error in its match against Unionville). Phillipsburg (NJ) also made its “buzzer” debut for this year with a creditable 19.8 PPB showing and it was good to see Downingtown East (who overcame a tough morning to ease into a 7-game winning streak to finish), Central Bucks East, Moravian Academy, and Lancaster Mennonite at another pyramidal quizbowl tournament too.

JV/Novice Division

Full stats from the 18-team JV/novice division are available here.

In the JV/novice division, Concord (DE) ran the table to win with an undefeated record. This occurred on the back of a fairly interesting final over Wissahickon A. With the lower power rates of Novice division, bonus conversion played a bigger part, and Concord’s more consistent abilities there served them well.

Unfortunately none of GPQB’s correspondents read much for the JV/novice division, but a few comments from the statistics: Both Wissahickon teams finished strong to finish in 2nd and 3rd; they should be the favorite to win the Montgomery County Academic Competition in March. In what’s become an amusing tradition at every tournament that they have entered so far, Central (Philadelphia)’s B team outperformed its A team to finish 4th.

Perhaps the most notable result from the JV division was the 14.7 PPB and the 14 powers from the Great Valley Middle School team. Looks like a pipeline’s being set up to power Great Valley HS’s team in the long run.

Overall Comments

The logistics of the tournament were excellent–Great Valley put on yet another well-run tournament with 42 teams getting 10 rounds of competition finished by 3:45 PM. We’re spoiled a bit here in Southeastern PA in just how professionally-run most of our pyramidal quizbowl tournaments have been so far. Let’s keep it up!

As you may have seen from the statistics pages, this tournament used Neg5, a new cloud-based statistics system that replaces the venerable SQBS. Though there were a few hiccups (perhaps due to the reliance on the school’s wireless network), the potential for Neg5 to revolutionize quizbowl tournament hosting is clearly there as it updates automatically after every game is remotely entered from a laptop or phone and requires no paper scoresheets at all. The interface is fairly intuitive and the graphics are slick, though the reversal of the typical 15/10/-5  ordering for powers-tossups-and negs is a bit annoying.

It was good to see a number of schools who don’t normally play much pyramidal quizbowl such as Central Bucks East, Unionville, Phillipsburg, and Moravian Academy attending and doing well. Would love to see even more Scholastic Scrimmage teams from the Lehigh Valley come down to more quizbowl tournaments.

Correcting for Camp Hill’s stats, 14 of the 24 teams had PPB averages of over 20. That’s an impressive number, but it might also speak to the need for these teams to challenge themselves on tougher questions than IS-A sets in the future. Overall though, Southeastern PA continues its steady improvement in quizbowl and is setting up for a great end-of-year finish at the various local, state, and national championships.

ANNOUNCEMENT: 2016 PA NASAT Team Selections

On behalf of the Pennsylvania NASAT committee, we are happy to announce our selections for this year’s National All-Star Scholastic Tournament, to be held this June 18th-19th at the University of Kentucky. NASAT pits teams consisting of the best players from each state against each other in a head to head setting. The event uses difficult collegiate questions and many of its players have gone on to outstanding careers in collegiate and higher level quizbowl. This is the only all star tournament to highlight teams on a state-by-state basis.

After a rigorous application and tryout process, the NASAT committee debated and selected the following 5 players for PA’s NASAT team. Without further ado, our selections for Pennsylvania’s NASAT team are as follows:

Jack Chaillet, Winchester Thurston School

Jake Deerin, Manheim Township High School

Gianni Manginelli, Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School

Brandon Roe, Lancaster Mennonite School

Alex Schmidt, Lehigh Valley Academy

Our First Alternate is:

Jaya Alagar, Alagar Homeschool

We congratulate all these excellent quizbowlers for their fantastic specialist knowledge at extremely tough college level questions during tryouts and commend the hard work put in both by the students and their coaches, teachers and mentors. We look forward to cheering on team PA in Lexington, KY this June!

How to Invite Teams to Quizbowl Tournaments

Summer is here, but it’s time to start planning next year’s tournaments! Here’s a guide to getting in touch with teams when you’re hosting a tournament: 

One of the most basic questions that teams face when they host a quizbowl tournament is how to get in touch with other schools to invite them to said tournament. While posting a tournament announcement on the HSQB forums and getting your tournament on the GPQB regional schedule are good starting points, you need to invite teams directly as well.

In a few areas of the country, paper invitations mailed to schools are still the standard method of communicating about tournaments. Based on the results of randomly-assigned contact methods that I tried last year, however, in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey email seems to be by far more effective than snail mail in getting a response. So how do you write a good email invitation to a quizbowl tournament?

Personalize Your Invitations. Ideally, the invitation email should be personalized. This helps get past spam filters and immediate deletions; people are just more likely to read an email actually addressed to them than a generic “Dear Coaches” or “To all quizbowl coaches” mass BCC email. Yes, this takes a bit more work, but not that much and the higher response rate that it generates is well worth the effort.

Keep It Short! You want your email to be short and to the point rather than a mass of text. Avoid as much quizbowl jargon and acronyms as possible (remember Strunk and White) and use links judiciously to provide an opportunity for interested recipients to look up more information on their own. Your initial goal is to get a response if people are interested in the general idea of the tournament, at which point you can then provide more information. Educators get dozens of pieces of email every day; you want your invitation to be easily read and understood by your recipient.

Consider Your Audience. A principal at a school that has never played quizbowl before is a very different audience from a quizbowl coach of a team that regularly plays many pyramidal tournaments. There are also some coaches at schools who play local non-pyramidal tournaments and may never have had direct contact with the broader quizbowl circuit before. Figure out which type of school you’re emailing for each and generate a general template for each type that you can then personalize. For instance, if the school calls their team a “Knowledge Bowl” or “Academic Challenge” team, be sure to use that language in the email.

How to Find Contact Information. To get email addresses, I always recommend using school websites. While some websites are more functional than others, you can usually find a list of activities/extracurriculars with sponsors as well as a faculty directory to match up the name of the sponsor with an email. If you can’t find a current team or sponsor, you can try emailing the director of student activities (if the school has one), the vice-principal or dean in charge of student activities (if they have one listed), or just the principal or head of school. NAQT also has a listing of some coaches and contacts for teams that you can search within, although they might not be current since sponsors often vary from year to year. You might also ask other tournament hosts in your area very, very nicely for their contact lists from previous years.

Quizbowl Tournament Invitation Email Templates

Below, I’ve provided some examples of tournament invitation emails that got solid results in the past. “Solid results” doesn’t mean that all of them got responses; I’d say my overall response rate has been about 20%, but that’s still fairly high, so don’t be discouraged if you only get a few replies to your invites initially.  You should feel free to modify these templates as you see fit with local traditions, such as different local terms for quizbowl like “Academic Challenge,” “Knowledge Bowl,” “Brain Bowl,” etc.

Invitation to a school without a quizbowl team:

Dear ___[Contact Person; use “Dr.” or “Principal” as needed]____,

The __[Your Team’s Name]______ Quizbowl Team would like to invite ___[Invitee]__  to compete at our ___[Tournament Name]_____, a quizbowl tournament to be held at __[location]__ on _[date]__.

Quizbowl is a team-based academic knowledge competition that’s a bit like a team version of Jeopardy! with more academically rigorous questions. The topics asked about encompass the whole of the high school curriculum from literature, history, and science to fine arts, the social sciences, and mythology. To get an idea of what quizbowl questions are like, see a brief explanation here and some sample packets of questions here.

The tournament should last from approximately ______ to _______ with a break for lunch; more logistical details will be sent closer to the tournament for teams who register. A list of teams registered and other logistical details will be updated ______[link to your tournament on the HSQB forums]______.

Let us know if you think ____[Invited School’s]____ students might be interested in competing. We enjoy seeing new schools experience quizbowl for the first time and we’d be happy to work with a faculty sponsor and/or interested students to help get a quizbowl team started.

-_____[Your Name]______
Tournament Director, ___[Your Tournament]____

One thing that I particularly like about this template is that it can be targeted to a principal or a head of school, but it subtly suggests at the end that the principal should delegate responsibility to a teacher or student. Principals are a good point of contact, but they rarely actually sponsor teams, so you want the principal to forward the email out to the faculty members to increase your pool of potential sponsors. This works even better if the principal directly asks for a volunteer to start a team.

You might even want to make this “help start a team” part of the email more direct, especially at the start of a school year when schools are deciding on extracurriculars for the year. Note that these emails to schools without a quizbowl team are probably the most effective just before or right at the start of a school year; most schools will not start a new club late in the school year, although you can still try to get an existing team to come.

Here’s a sample invitation for a team that has a quizbowl-like team, but only plays in a local league or on a local TV tournament. To get an idea of what they call their team (common variations on quizbowl in PA include Scholastic Scrimmage, Academic Competition, Academic Challenge, Academic Bowl), check out the school’s website first.

Invitation to a school with a team, but not a regular quizbowl attendee:

Dear ___[Contact Name]___,

The ____[Your School’s Club]____ Quizbowl Team would like to invite ___[Invited School]____’s ____[Name of the Format or TV Show]____ team to compete at our ____[Tournament Name]_____, a quizbowl tournament to be held at __[location]___ on ___[date]___.

Quizbowl is similar to _____[Name of the Format or TV Show]___ in testing academic knowledge and using a buzzer-based format, so our tournament would likely be useful preparation for _____[Name of the Format or TV Show]____. You can read more about the style of questions that we will be using at our tournament here. Our tournament will also be a qualifier for ___[insert national championship(s) as needed here; usually every tournament can be a PACE qualifier, but only tournaments on NAQT questions can be direct NAQT qualifiers]______.

The tournament will begin at approximately __[start time]_ and last until about ___[expected end time]___ with a lunch break. All teams will be guaranteed at least __[total number of]___ games, including ___[games in the rebracketed playoffs]___ against opponents of similar ability. For additional logistical details, please see our post ____[link to HSQB forum post]_____.

Let us know if we can answer any questions about our tournament or the world of quizbowl in general. We’d love to see ___[Invited School]____ at our tournament in ____[month]____!

-_____[Your Name]______
Tournament Director, ___[Your Tournament]____

This letter does several things: it makes it clear that you know a bit about their school already by correctly calling their team by the name that they use and are familiar with. It provides more specific logistical details compared to a new-to-quizbowl school (whom you don’t want to overwhelm with too much info in the initial email) to give contacts an idea of what to expect at a weekend pyramidal tournament. It ties into the local format by portraying your tournament as a practice opportunity to improve on that, which is what those coaches tend to initially value the most. And it mentions the wider world of quizbowl by mentioning the national championships (although if your tournament is a novice-only tournament or has a novice-only division, those are usually not national qualifiers, so don’t say that!).

You can also congratulate the school if you found that they won their local tournament or won their last TV match or something similar; it’s a nice gesture that shows you paid attention and again might catch the eye of an otherwise skeptical sponsor.

Invitations to regular quizbowl attendees are a bit easier to write so I won’t provide a template here, but be sure to provide the standard Who/What/When/Where and especially what question set you’re using. Regular attendees are also likely more interested in the format that you’ll be using, the rules for determining final placement, and who will get awards. You can usually save those specifics for a later email closer to the tournament date, but you should remember to send ’em out before the tournament at some point.

Again, these are just templates; feel free to modify them as you might need them for your area. But they seem to have worked in the past for us and hopefully they’ll do the same for you. You can also adapt this to a snail-mail invitation fairly easily. Just include say, a regional tournament schedule or more information about quizbowl on the back of the paper letter as well as your email address. Good luck hosting!

Announcement: The First-Ever Philadelphia City Quizbowl Championship

The First-Ever Philadelphia City Championships will be held at Friends Select School on Saturday, March 12, 2016. The winner of this event will represent Philadelphia at the state championships in late April in Harrisburg. Here are the full logistical details:

Friends Select School
1651 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19103

FSS is almost directly across the street from SEPTA’s Suburban Station and easily accessible by various trolley, subway, and rail lines.

Field Update (as of 3/7/16):
Franklin Towne Charter (2)
Science Leadership Academy (1)
Friends Select School (2)
Carver E&S (2)
Central (3)

Field: 10 teams (full round-robin)

March 12th, 2016

Teams should arrive between 8:15 and 8:30 AM for a pre-tournament meeting, with rounds beginning by 9 AM. There will be a short lunch break and the tournament will conclude in the afternoon. The exact location of the pre-tournament meeting will be emailed out to teams that register.

Eligible Teams:
All high schools within the City of Philadelphia are eligible to send teams to compete. Each team consist of up to 6 students, with 4 students playing at any time. Teams may consist of fewer than 4 students as well.

$65 for each initial team from a school
$50 for each additional team from a school
-$10 per working lockout buzzer set brought

Questions Used:
NAQT IS-155A (see a sample packet of this difficulty level)


The exact format will depend on the number of teams, but will likely consist of a series of pooled round robins, with about 5 rounds in the morning and 3-4 in the afternoon.

Each team will be placed in round-robin pools in the morning, with the top finishers in each pool advancing to a championship bracket and all other teams advancing to a consolation bracket against teams of similar records in the afternoon. Win-Loss records within a bracket, points-per-game within a bracket, and points-per-bonus will be used, in that order, to break ties.

To win the championship, a team must win by at least 2 games. If two teams are tied with the same record within the championship bracket, a one-game championship match will be held. If one team is one game ahead of the other team, an advantaged final will be played between the top two teams. If two teams are tied for 2nd, a half-match of 10 tossups will be held to determine the team that advances. If there is a 3-way tie, then the tie will be broken with half-matches of 10 tossups each.

To Register:

Click here to fill out this form.

Need some help in setting up a quizbowl team at your school? Check out the “Quizbowl Essentials” link on the right-hand side of this site or leave a comment on this post.