Month: November 2016

How to Get the Most out of Practices and Tournaments: Get a Notebook

Every moment that you have a buzzer in your hand while playing quizbowl, you should also have a notebook open next to you ready to take notes in. Here’s a page from mine:


I really should’ve gotten that Turenne TU. Also, it’s apparently “Siqueiros,” not my more Greek spelling here.

This notebook has been with me since 2006 at my very first national championship tournament. I tried to make sure to put at least one clue that was associated with each answerline down so that I could remember and, ideally, not miss it again. I also wrote down answerlines that sounded interesting or things that I wanted to look up later.

Why bring such a low-tech thing as a notebook to practices and tournaments and not some fancy flashcard program like Anki or an app like QuizBug on Quinterest? First, actually writing things down can help you remember them more effectively than typing them on a computer. Something about the process of writing by hand just seems to stick better.

Second, a notebook is much more portable and useful for a quick glance during downtime en route to tournaments and at practices and tournaments. In between rounds and waiting for the next one to start? Take a quick glance at your notebook. Stuck on a long bus ride up to the next tournament? Peruse your notebook.

Third, with a notebook you have something to do during other teams’ bonuses and tossups on things you definitely have no shot of getting. Too many players just zone out; having a notebook open and ready to write or circle things can be useful to keep your attention on the match. Open it to a blank page for each match and you can even keep score with it too or keep track of the categories for each question (very useful in tournaments with a fixed question distribution so that you can figure out which categories have yet to come up).

And fourth, when you return from a tournament or practice, you can refer to your notebook as a way to review what you learned and figure out where you could improve, especially if you start noticing patterns of what you missed. If you again mixed up Manet and Monet, get them straight by making separate powerpoints of their work. If you mispronounced a play title, this is your chance to learn it now and forever. But if you don’t keep a notebook, you won’t necessarily remember what you need to work on.

A caveat: you shouldn’t write write down everything that you hear in a match in a notebook. Just focus on clues and answerlines in your areas of knowledge or things that sounded interesting. Make sure that you go up and look at those later–you can then incorporate things that you missed into those other study technologies.

You can also write down lists of related things that you want to review during and before tournaments in the same notebook so that you can quickly flip through to study those. For instance, here were some wars I decided to write down while jumping through an old all-history tournament packets:


Remember, this was for college nationals. Don’t feel like you need to know these wars for your average HS tournament!

This is all part of a larger quest to help maximize your study time in quizbowl. Every practice you should leave having learned new things. Every tournament you should leave having learned new things. Spinning your wheels and expecting to learn by osmosis will not work out very well. Zoning out during questions in practice and repeatedly missing the same clues won’t work very well. But maximizing your time spent in a chair holding a buzzer will make your quizbowl experience more enjoyable and rewarding. Remember, if something comes up at one quizbowl tournament, there’s an excellent chance it will come up in some form at another quizbowl tournament later.

This is the beauty of a notebook–it gives you something to do and read at all times that will help you get better at quizbowl. Get one and use it well.


BrainBusters Fall (Ithaca) Wrap Up

On November 19, four Pennsylvania schools made the trek up to Ithaca High School in New York to take part in the annual BrainBusters Fall Tournament. They acquitted themselves quite nicely, taking three of the top six spots in a competitive field. Stats are here.

Delaware Valley A claimed third place, losing only to eventual champions Ithaca A. Collin Kawan-Hemler notched an impressive 81.82 PPG for the day, with his teammates all making solid contributions as well. In perhaps their best performance yet, Wallenpaupack A placed fifth, with a balanced attack keying their performance. This is a team that is clearly improving, and if they can cut back on their tournament-leading 36 negs, they may be well-poised to continue making noise at future events. Wallenpaupack also notched a 305-190 head-to-head win over Lakeland, who claimed sixth place overall. Lakeland is another one of those teams that shows some great raw knowledge and ability to improve; hopefully they can keep doing so and help the region continue to grow competitively. They will contend at SSNCT. Berwick finished in the lower half of the field, but with a full cadre of players showing some enthusiasm, we hope to see more of them in the future.

Overall, it was an excellent day for Pennsylvania teams in Ithaca. Congratulations to the participants!

Ryan Bilger

Henderson Invitational 2016 Wrap-Up


Tournament champion Lehigh Valley Academy celebrates a historic day.

In what’s become one of the Eastern PA circuit’s marquee events, Lehigh Valley Academy finished a climb to the top, going from 3rd place in 2014 to runners up last year to tournament champions this past Saturday at Henderson High school in West Chester. A total of 30 teams were on hand for some of the fiercest fought matches in recent memory.

Stats are here.

LVA was dominant all day, led by an absolutely unstoppable Alex Schmidt. GPQB’s player of the year has somehow gotten even better, putting up an astronomical 177 points per game (I don’t know if that’s a record for a PA player, but it’s the highest I recall since the GPQB blog started), and, in round 9, he broke a national record for points in a single match on IS Sets, with 255 points (15/3/0). This occurred against a strong Concord team that finished 4th at the tournament! From what I saw on the buzzer in the final, Alex is at the point where he can get powers even in categories he was once weak at. If he’s not the best player in America today, he’s certainly on the shortlist. Lehigh Valley Academy’s ceiling is astronomical right now. It’s also worth noting that Alex and his teammates put up a tournament high 23.5 points per bonus, which was usually a stat where they lagged behind others in the past.


Manheim Township B (left four) and A after their closely contested round 6 playoff match.

Manheim Township A finished in 2nd place (thus, the final was an inversion of last year). They played well all day, going into the final undefeated. Their points per bonus was a solid 22, and though their margin of defeating opponents was much smaller than LVA at Henderson, they showed resilience and the ability to put games way with powers. Manheim is still very much in the hunt for the state title.

Great Valley A finished 3rd, in what unfortunately was a much sloppier performance than we’ve seen so far from them elsewhere this year, negging 3.8 times a match. This may in part be chalked up to an unlucky day. The raw knowledge is there to compete with any other PA team, but GV’s neg rate will have to come down quite a bit to rise in the rankings. The negs reared their ugly head in a loss in the morning to 4th place Concord A, from Delaware. Concord was one of the nicest surprises of the event, as longtime power player Dhruv Mohnot got strong backing performances from Alex Russo and Connor Wagaman to pick up a number of wins, particularly the upset of Great Valley. Concord’s enthusiasm was infectious and I hope we see more of them in Pennsylvania this season.


Camp Hill A. From L to R: Alex, Joseph, Colton, Ben, and Sydney

Other stories in the playoffs included a solid 5th place finish for 8-2 Camp Hill A, led by Colton Sanden’s 90 points per game, which was second only to Alex Schmidt for the tournament. I was very impressed with his consistent ability to snap up points late in questions and make sure nothing went dead, and Sydney Preston had several great lit buzzes in the games I had Camp Hill in my room. Elsewhere, Downingtown East A continued their return-to-contention season with a fine 6th place finish. Jackie Wu led them with 78.5 points per game, making her the tournament’s 3rd scorer. Both these teams are a step behind the top tier but are absolutely getting better and could make some nationals noise by May.

Friends Select A, at full strength for the  first time this year, put up some nice numbers elsewhere in the playoffs. Rudyard Lynch seems to have been a great addition for them this year, as he led them in scoring. Henderson Invitational also gave us our first look at rebuilding Cedar Crest A, and the results look promising. The new look CC Falcons seem to have shed the cautious ways of their predecessors, negging more, but also putting up more powers. PALCS also made their season debut, and while they definitely are missing the presence of 1st Team All-Stater Gianni Manginelli, they made it to the playoffs, which should encourage them to keep going. Lancaster Mennonite also made the playoffs, with lockdown religion and mythology knowledge serving them well. Lastly, Manheim Township and Great Valley’s B squads made the playoff brackets as well. Notably, Manheim B gave their A team a scare, with the match coming down to the final two questions.


Cedar Crest A and Renaissance Academy A square off in the morning.

Elsewhere, we saw the season debut for Chester County’s own Renaissance Academy and the pyramidal quizbowl debut for Avon Grove Charter school. AGC in particular ought to be commended for going 4-6 at their first ever pyramidal event, especially considering this strong field. I got to read for their B team, and while less experienced, they were not letting bonuses get zeroed and had some clutch tossup answers. Renaissance Academy looks to be getting better slowly as well, and I hope to see more of these two for a long time.

Lastly, there was plenty of action for B, C, and D teams from the above schools, plus Huntingdon and Carver HSES. Huntingdon is taking pyramidal seriously and looking to improve on their 3-7 HSNCT run last year. Though not yet a contender, they are poised to contribute to the community for a long time. Carver managed to finish within 50 points of Downingtown East when they faced off, so they could well break through soon. Keep up the good work!

Overall, this was a solid tournament that suffered a few logistical issues in the control room, but only ran about 15 minutes over, well within the bounds of a successful event. Thanks go out to Henderson for letting us use their great building for a quizbowl tournament, and to all the alumni of the team who came back and helped make the day successful. Next stop: the University of Pennsylvania in two weeks.

-Ben Herman 


The University of Pittsburgh’s annual fall tournament occurred this past Saturday the 12th, drawing in a solid field of 18 teams from Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This is one of the state’s oldest tournaments, and the 12th edition was no disappointment. Unlike Mellon Bowl last month, this event used an NAQT A set, leading to higher scoring overall.

Once again, Alagar Homeschool ran the table, romping to another tournament win. Outside of one tight 390-335 point triumph over Winchester Thurston, they were never seriously threatened, and Rajan was again the only 100+ ppg scorer. They look truly formidable. Allderdice A, not missing a beat, strung together a phenomenal team effort (with five players between 16 and 52 ppg) to go 8-1, only losing to the Alagars. Allderdice, though a strong presence in Pittsburgh last season, was not expected to be a major player at the state level this year after the loss of captain Jordan Abbott. However, they clearly have found a new generation and may be an under the radar team to win a tournament or two come spring.

Winchester Thurston A finished 3rd. They went 7-2, with both losses close. They also absolutely trounced South Side B in a 720-20 rout, which is the highest single-game score for a PA team so far this season. In 4th and 5th, Norwin A and Shady Side followed strong performances from Andy Halza and William Lu, respectively, to win some good games. These two were the best non-Alagar teams of the event. All of the top 5 cleared 20 points per bonus, showing nice depth off.

Pittsburgh Catholic Central, Hampton, Keystone Oaks, Kane, and DuBois also sent teams. We saw all of these teams already at CMU, so it was good to see them keeping on. With DuBois in a rebuilding year, we will see who might rise to take their open spot as one of the Western PA powerhouses.

Nittany Lion Novice 2016 Wrap-up (11/12/16)


Manheim Township A poses with their 1st place trophy

15 teams, 11 of them from Pennsylvania, were on hand this Saturday for the second annual Nittany Lion Novice Tournament at Penn State University. It was a mirror of the PA Novice Set, written by GPQB writers and other quizbowlers from the state. The event offered an opportunity for many new or younger players to shine.

Stats are here.

Manheim Township A’s younger players successfully defended the school’s NLN title with an undefeated, 8-0 performance. No one player dominated their roster, and they pulled off a close final over runners up Kellenberg (NY) A, who looked equally sharp. State College A won 3rd place with a balanced attack, overcoming solo team Indiana A for 4th. This suggests the states’ perennial powers have a very deep bench and will continue to remain contenders at regular difficulty tournaments for quite some time.

The tournament also had Cornell (NY), Huntingdon, and first time pyramidal entrant Milton Hershey aboard. Though they did not make the playoffs, it was nice to see kids from these schools having a blast and making some very good buzzes. Particular kudos go out to Milton Hershey, for facing the field as a first time school with aplomb, and, after adjusting to the format, putting up a very competitive afternoon. Well done to all entrants!

-Ben Herman