Month: October 2016

Mellon Bowl XIV Wrap-Up

Simultaneously with the Lehigh Valley Tournament, 22 teams from Western PA and Ohio competed at the 14th iteration of Carnegie Mellon University’s Mellon Bowl. Unfortunately, we have no pictures of the event (anyone out there- feel free to share!), but we do have full stats, which can be found here.

Alagar Homeschool cleared the field undefeated, blowing out the competition with 8 of 10 wins by over 300 points and all wins by 95 points or more. The one-two punch of Rajan and Jaya Alagar continued to roll. Rajan’s 36 powers were almost double that of any other player, and he has clearly replaced Jack Chaillet as the west’s top player. Jaya contributed 20 powers of her own, while siblings Indra, Krishnan, and Swata also appear to have improved some since last year. The Alagars currently have a commanding lead over western PA, and I would be fascinated to see how they might fare against the stronger fields in the east of the state.

A three way tie for 2nd occurred between Allderdice B, Winchester Thurston A, and State College “A” at this event. Allderdice, as one of the state’s largest clubs, came up with an extraordinarily balanced attack in their B team, which outdid the A squad and had every player contributing at least 22 points per game. Thurston, lead by key performances by Jacob Dubner and Aiden Place, scored well and became the only non-Alagar team to clear 20 points per bonus on the set. State College A here was really their B team, as the A team was at Lehigh Valley. State College thus achieved a very fine two 2nd place finishes in one day, showing off depth.

The remainder of the field consisted of Pittsburgh area tournament regulars Hampton, Indiana, Shady Side, South Side, Keystone Oaks, Pittsburgh Central CatholicKane, and Westinghouse trading blows. There were also other Allderdice, Thurston, and State College teams, plus second time pyramidal entrant Yough. Stats show that there were many tight bouts, which led to lots of tightly clustered 4-6, 5-5, or 6-4 records. This suggests an even field among these schools. A story line for the rest of this season will be seeing who studies and improves to become top dog in this pack.

All in all, it is good to see many old friends back in action. The Pittsburgh circuit continues in two weeks at the University of Pittsburgh’s SAGACITY.

-Ben Herman

Lehigh Valley Academy Inaugural Wrap-Up


Great Valley A celebrates their tournament win. From L to R: Thomas, Sam, and Daniel

This weekend in the eastern half of the state, 24 teams converged on Lehigh Valley Academy in Bethlehem for the first pyramidal tournament held in the Lehigh Valley area. Some of the old stalwarts were joined by several newcomers for a fun and competitive day of buzzing.

Full statistics and standings can be found here.

In the top bracket, a shorthanded Great Valley A squad finally closed the deal with a big tournament win, notching a thrilling 330-320 victory over State College A in what was effectively a one-game final (both teams entered the match at 7-0). This team just continues to get stronger, and as they return more players from fall sports commitments and continue working to cut down on negs, they should become even more exciting to watch.

Henderson A took third place by defeating New Jersey’s Pingry A by a 350-215 score in the teams’ final playoff match. Henderson has a largely new set of players this year, but their high-risk, high-reward buzzing strategy seems to have remained with them. I was particularly impressed by the broad knowledge of their leading scorers, Vijay Anne and Aravind Sivaram. This is another young, raw team that can hopefully continue to improve as they gain more experience in quizbowl.

As for other circuit mainstays, Downingtown East A and Delaware Valley finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Downingtown East, who only missed out on the top bracket by a 40 point loss to State College A, remains led by Jackie Wu, who put up an impressive 95 points per game in the prelims, while Delaware Valley kept up its balanced attack behind top scorer Collin Kawan-Hemler. These are two teams that also show some talent and promise for the future.


Allentown Central Catholic and D-East A face off.

In addition, several brand-new or relatively inexperienced local teams made a name for themselves. Emmaus A, composed entirely of players new to pyramidal quizbowl, went 4-1 in the morning rounds to clinch a spot in the second bracket. Though they couldn’t quite get past Downingtown East A or Delaware Valley, they did score a win over D-East B. Their top scorer, Mike Gallagher, has particularly deep knowledge in music, and his teammates all added solid buzzes along the way. With a little improvement, this could be a team that regularly contends for playoff spots at future tournaments.

The same could be said for Allentown Central Catholic, who followed up their appearance at the PA State Championship last year by acquitting themselves nicely in their first Saturday tournament in several years. The misfortune of being placed in the same prelim bracket as State College and Downingtown East relegated them to the third bracket in the afternoon, but Central showed solid breadth on bonuses, as well as the ability to compete for tossups. Keep an eye out for them at future tournaments this year.

Other Lehigh Valley schools participating included ParklandPleasant Valley, and Saucon Valley, each making their first pyramidal appearance, as well as Southern Lehigh, returning after several years’ absence, and Moravian Academy, who has already played this year. It was nice to see these schools coming out to buzz, and hopefully we’ll have a chance to meet them again in the future.

In all, as a Lehigh Valley native I was very pleased to see so many new teams from the region. The competition finished at about 4:00 PM, and all the teams seemed to have a good time playing quizbowl. Congratulations go out to all the teams and to Lehigh Valley Academy for putting on the event!

Ryan Bilger


Southern Lehigh B, enjoying themselves during a break in preliminary rounds.

GPQB Podcast Episode #18: Quizbowl Question-Writing Tips

In the 18th episode of the GPQB podcast, Ben and Chris are joined by Eric to discuss how to write practice quizbowl questions. They discuss the best sources to use when writing questions as well as some common pitfalls among new question writers.

Click here to listen.

The always-excellent Vinokurov guide to writing questions, referenced in the podcast, is available in full here.

Tri-State Tournament @ Friends Select Wrap-Up

15 quizbowl teams gathered at Center City campus of Friends Select School in Philadelphia for the first Tri-State Tournament. Although all the teams ended up being from PA, the competition was fierce and both divisions ended with hard-fought finals.

Full stats and standings are available here.


Lancaster Mennonite with their first-place Varsity-division trophy.

In the Varsity division, Lancaster Mennonite faced off against Friends Select A over the course of the tournament in a hard-fought (but very peaceful) series of 4 matches for Mennonite vs. Quaker supremacy. After Mennonite took the first match by 40 points, FSS battled back and won the second match in overtime. Mennonite then dropped their final regular match to Great Valley C, which gave FSS the advantage over Mennonite in the first game of an advantaged final (meaning that FSS only needed to win one game to win, Mennonite needed to win two). But Mennonite’s Brandon Roe then pulled out a 130-point, 6-5-2 performance to force a final deciding game that Mennonite won (thanks in part to 3 timely powers by Jacob C.). Both teams amassed a considerable number of powers (61 and 62) respectively over the course of the tournament, but FSS A’s Achilles heel was likely its 41 neg-5s over the course of the tournament (including 8 in the finals games).


Science Leadership Academy with their first-place Novice-division trophy.

In the Novice division, a full-strength Science Leadership Academy (SLA) notched its first-ever quizbowl tournament win, first winning a statistical tiebreak over Friends Select D and Great Valley D after all finishing the opening round-robin with two losses and then defeating Friends Select C in a disadvantaged final over the course of two straight games to walk away with the first-place trophy. Interestingly, FSS C’s only loss earlier in the day had been to SLA, meaning that SLA won 3 times (the first two by a difference of only 1 TU) over FSS C to win. Both teams were paced by a balanced group of scorers, and SLA ended up with a solid 15.19 PPB and 24 powers over 10 games.

In the rest of the varsity division, Great Valley B and C showcased the ever-increasing depth of the Great Valley team (their A team was competing against college teams at a nearby tournament at the same time) while Carver A and FSS B navigated moving up from novice competitions to the varsity level.

With the novices, Friends Select D actually had better stats than their C team, but were a bit less experienced and lost head-to-head. Bodine, though lacking their top scorer from 2 weeks ago, was paced by a strong all-around performance from Alexandra T. (who finished 3rd in individual scoring and first in the novice division) and capped their day with an upset over SLA. Wissahickon took the train in from MontCo with a group of novices, Carver B played a large group of freshmen, and Franklin Towne A and B both continued to bring new members to compete.

Overall, it sounded like an outstanding day of competition with the round-robins finishing around 3 PM and the final tiebreaks and finals finishing by 4:30 PM. Excellent work by all teams and major thanks to FSS for hosting (and providing pictures).

-Chris Chiego

Tri-State Tussle 2016 Wrap-Up

18 teams were on hand last Saturday (10/15) for the second annual Tri-State Tussle at Delaware Valley High School in Matamoras, PA. As the first regular difficulty event in-state this year, we got a chance to see some of the top teams in action for the first time and see how things have improved and changed with a summer’s worth of study.

Full stats for the tournament can be found at this link.


Paul Nelson moderates the final between Manheim Township A (left) and a 2-man Great Valley A team. Photo courtesy Manheim Township Quizbowl.

Pre-season #1 team Manheim Township A defeated #4 Great Valley A to win the tournament, winning two matches in what functionally came out to a best-of-three final. The two teams both entered their final matches undefeated. Both teams also played undermanned, though they had their respective two-man cores in tow (Ahan and Shayar for Manheim Township; Sam and Daniel for Great Valley) with MT’s C team rounding out the A team this time. Both teams justified their ranking with some serious power buzzing, each averaging over 6 powers per game. The Blue Streaks looked to have benefited from having two additional players on hand this week, as their points-per-bonus average was significantly higher than GV’s. Keep an eye on these two teams as they duke it out for trophies across the season.

Small Schools also thrived at this event, with Camp Hill and Lakeland A making the top bracket. Camp Hill’s Colton Sanden finished with a tournament leading 78 correct answers and 80 points per game. Meanwhile, Lakeland took Manheim Township A to the brink, losing a close match 315-265. With Camp Hill long established as a powerhouse at SSNCT, and Lakeland looking motivated and feisty, it will be worth continuing to monitor them as they look to follow up on playoff berths at small school nationals last year with even better results.

The rest of the playoff bracket was rounded off by a Delaware Valley house team and neighboring district Wallenpaupack A. With both teams putting up solid numbers, it is awesome to see this Delaware Water Gap rivalry grow. Of note, Collin Kawan-Hemler, the lone returnee from Delaware Valley’s A team last year which finished #2 in Pennsylvania, emerged from the shadow of all-stars Saimun and Drake to score 57 points per game. Will his leadership bear similar fruit? Wallenpaupack, meanwhile, continued their balanced attack, aided in part by keeping all their major scoring from last year.

The consolation brackets mostly consisted of B, C, and D teams, as well as teams from Moravian Academy and Berwick. Though none of these are a major threat for titles any time soon, it was great to see that these teams continue to come out, and hopefully they all had fun and learned a few new things from this set.

Who will build on Tri-State Tussle and snag the next victory? Tune in and see in the next few weeks!

-Ben Herman

Tournament Space Updates

The fall quizbowl season is now in full swing and we have an exciting slate of upcoming tournaments. Here’s an update on the fields for each of these tournaments. For purposes of planning, note that IS-A sets from NAQT are distinctly easier than IS sets.

There are still a couple of spots available at Friends Select’s tournament (on an IS-A set) on Oct. 22nd. Contact them ASAP here.

All three of the Mid-Atlantic tournaments on Oct. 29th appear to have completely filled (Lehigh Valley, Rutgers, and Johns Hopkins). Impressive! CMU’s tournament (on an IS set) on the 29th still has a bit of room, potentially. Email them here.

UPitt’s tournament on Nov. 12th (an IS-A set) may have a few more spots. Email them here if you’re interested. Penn State’s novice tournament on Nov. 12th still has plenty of room. Please email the PSU team here.

Henderson’s tournament on Nov. 19th (on an IS set) still has a good bit of room. Details here.

UPenn’s tournament on Dec. 3rd is rapidly filling and will close the field any moment now to cap at 36 teams. If more moderators can be found, it is possible that it will expand to 42. Email ASAP here.

Manheim Township’s Dec. 17th tournament (on an IS-A set) still has room and will feature both a varsity and novice division. Register here.

Downingtown East’s Jan. 7th tournament (on an IS set) has recently been confirmed and still has plenty of room. Register here.

Great Valley’s Feb. 11th tournament (on an IS-A set) still is completely open and has plenty of room. Register here.

Carver Novice Tournament Wrap-Up (10/8/2016)

Twelve novice teams gathered at the Carver HS of Engineering and Science in North Philadelphia today for the kick-off to high school quizbowl in Pennsylvania this season.

Full stats are available here.

Great Valley A put on an impressively disciplined performance to top Friends Select A for the championship. Great Valley C defeated a team from Downingtown East for 3rd place.

The championship match was a treat to read and watch. You wouldn’t know it by the way they played, but GV A consisted of two freshmen and a sophomore. They handled bonuses like experienced pros, with one player always reminding the others what was being asked for, and took calculated risks on the tossups. In contrast, FSS A played a much more go-for-broke, fast-paced style that reminded me of intense NAQT games played on the clock. This led to FSS A leading the field in both powers (42) and negs (28). It was an interesting clash of styles where GV A ultimately prevailed this time, but it seems likely that we’ll see both teams back in championship games in the future.

The Rest of the Playoff Bracket

After graduating practically every member of their team, a new set of Central HS players (sadly lacking their signature crimson cardigans this early in the year) made the upper bracket and displayed pockets of deep knowledge in literature especially. The upper bracket was rounded out by Great Valley B, whose day was highlighted by a 200-pt romp over Downingtown East. D-East also put in a solid performance throughout the day with balanced scoring and consistency on the bonuses. And Great Valley C added to the complement of GV freshmen who will soon be romping around the circuit for four more years.

The Consolation Bracket

Science Leadership Academy‘s team, although shorthanded, saw all of its members contribute and won the consolation bracket with a 5-3 record. Bodine HS made their quizbowl debut with a solid 4-4 performance. Powered by the impressive U.S. History knowledge of Jalen (30 PPG, 8 powers) as well as solid contributions from all of its rotating members, Bodine’s newness to quizbowl was mostly eclipsed by their overwhelming enthusiasm. Friends Select B fielded an all-freshman team that also signifies their increasing depth and development as a program. Once their middle school team gets started up this year, Center City will have its first official quizbowl pipeline. Franklin Towne Charter‘s A and B teams also displayed enthusiasm and were notably lacking some of their better returning players from last year. And Carver‘s own house team was a great example of how a few older, experienced players can be a great asset in showing freshmen the ropes of the game.

General Thoughts

Carver hosted the best-run tournament that I’ve ever seen from a first-time host. 9 rounds (plus a rebracketing meeting + lunch) were completed by 2:50 PM. That is outstanding. It was also a great tournament from a moderator’s perspective as well. The little things and attention to detail helped–emailing detailed information + maps well before the tournament, sending bottled water to the mods after the 2nd round, getting lunch orders set and assembled on time, and running a calm and orderly control room. It all summed up to an efficient and enjoyable experience for everyone. It’s too bad that many teams from around the region couldn’t make it; I hope they’ll make sure to pencil in the next Carver tournament (and more upcoming tournaments in Philly like Friends Select’s on Oct. 22nd).

All of the infectious enthusiasm today bodes really well for the health of the Philly-centered circuit as well. So many new players will hopefully now go back and look up all the answers that they missed in Quinterest and get to work learning those tricky fine arts questions (perhaps with the help of NAQT’s You Gotta Know Lists). But most importantly, I saw a lot of support from coaches who seem willing to take advantage of the flowering of competitions in the area. Most teams seem to be doing the right thing in focusing on building up a quizbowl program at their school first and foremost. Once you have a strong core of a program in place with lots of enthusiastic participants and sufficient logistical support, you can focus on preparing teams to top the competition.

Finally, the question set itself was the first tournament of the year to use our very own Pennsylvania Novice question set, written by various college players from around PA and edited by the GPQB staff. If you have any specific comments about the set itself or any questions in it, please email us at We’re looking to use what we learned today to revise and continue to edit the set to make it the best possible novice quizbowl experience for new teams and players!


PHSAT XXIV @ Princeton Brief Wrap-Up and Thoughts

Princeton University’s PHSAT XXIV took place last weekend on Sept. 24th with 36 teams (mostly from NJ) in attendance. Full stats are here.

The PA teams had a hard time generally, with Lehigh Valley A the only PA team to end with a winning record. As usual, Alex Schmidt put up a stellar individual performance with 120 PPG, but the combined power of High Tech A and defending national champions Hunter A kept LVA from making the top 4. It was good to see Alex with more teammates though including an LVA B team that played in the JV division. But despite the gaudy 24.48 PPB, it’s clear that LVA A will need some more people to step up to help Alex steal some TUs from the top teams.

The mysterious “Exton” HS finished in the middle of the bottom part of the varsity division with a solid 18.68 PPG (this is on an IS set). Henderson A finished at the bottom of a loaded varsity bracket and Henderson B finished in the middle of the pack in the JV bracket.

Wilmington Charter is back too, but considerably depleted after last year. Their A team put up a fight in all their games except for a nearly 500 point loss to Hunter A (it’s pretty devastating when the defending national champs retain most of their scoring) and their B team finished strong as well. It’s good to see them back on the circuit though after a lot of changes in their offseason.

One interesting development was the emergence of Princeton High School playing their first-ever all-subject quizbowl tournament. Princeton A made the top brackets with a balanced scoring attack and the rest of their teams were competitive in the JV division. Given that Princeton is just an hour and fifteen minutes by train from Philadelphia, I’d hope to see them at more Philly-area tournaments.

The tournament ran considerably slower and with more bumps that you might think for the 24th edition of a tournament. Most of the issues could have been addressed with a bit more planning in advance, so here are just a few pieces of advice for potential future tournament hosts:

  • If you have a complicated building space, make it easier to navigate for teams. Provide maps of the building with the game rooms marked. Get moderators to help lead teams to rooms. Put up little posters with directions to rooms. These may seem small, but they’re really helpful for teams and reduce the time it takes for teams to change rooms. They also help avoid situations where a team is standing outside the wrong room for 20 minutes.
  • If competent moderators from other schools come to help you, make use of them! Quizbowl depends on others volunteering their time to come help you (reimbursing for travel is the minimum that you need to do), so make outside moderators feel appreciated and thank them for coming out. This also means making it a good moderating experience by being clear about where to go and when instead of having people frantically rushing in and out of rooms trying to figure out where to go. Furthermore, if you do want to keep some people “in reserve,” you need to make sure to monitor other moderators and see if any are falling behind so that you can replace them with your reserve. Having a bunch of competent moderators do menial work or just sit around while less-than-competent moderators read is not a good situation.
  • Limit rebracketings and make sure they take place over natural breaks (like lunch) as much as possible. If you do have to rebracket, you need to be crystal-clear on your criteria for rebracketing and have that ready to go as soon as the stats are up.
  • If you’re planning on printing out new schedules for rebracketing, have a printer lined up and ready to go on-site with you. For years I’ve lugged my Brother printer to tournaments and it makes everything so much easier when you have it there rather than trying to rely on a far-away printer or possibly wonky wifi.
  • Google Sheets are a terrible idea for keeping score. They are slow to load on wifi connections, do not signal when a round is “done” for the scorekeepers, and in general are a pain to navigate and use. Use neg5 if you want to do scorekeeping electronically. I personally prefer paper scoresheets still.