Month: February 2018

Great Valley Quiz Bowl Tournament V Wrap-Up

This year’s annual slate of quizbowl action in Malvern, PA produced some of the most interesting results of the season. Stats for the AM and PM of both rounds are here, and final combined stats (with some corrections) are available as well.

Open Division

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Wilmington Charter A captured the win in the Open Division.

Wilmington Charter A defeated a Manheim Township A that was down by one regular A-teamer in the finals, claiming the school’s first GVQBT title in an exciting 270-255 win. Charter may as well be honorary Pennsylvanians by this point, and the Delaware team put up a string of big wins before the close final. Waley’s 80 PPG led the Open Division in the morning to cut a path to the title for Charter. As for Manheim Township, the “rebuilding” team has once again flouted pre-season expectations and may have solidified their status as favorite for bronze in our end of season poll.

Third place went to similarly storied State College A, another team which continues to gainsay preseason pessimism and remains one of the state’s more solid all-around teams. Lily’s 76 points per game was second for the event. In one of the biggest surprise runs in PA quizbowl history, Downingtown STEM B took 4th, while their A team competed at a different tournament in New Jersey. No one expected such a strong, clutch performance out of relatively new players, and their memorable performance here may be a sign of great things to come in the future.

The rest of the playoff saw some regular Southeast PA high finishers from Henderson, Penn Manor, Friends Select, and Downingtown East. Friends Select in particular put up nice bonus conversion numbers, but unfortunately their final placement was hampered by setting a state record with nine negs in their match against STEM and several other cases of overly aggressive buzzing. Manheim Township B, Hempfield A and Hatboro-Horsham A also made the playoff brackets. It’s very nice to see the Hatters make the higher bracket, and though wins didn’t come yet in the afternoon, I think this squad from Montgomery County has shown steady improvement and nice potential for big success soon.

The consolation rounds featured their share of B teams from the above, plus a range of others. Lancaster Catholic ventured outside their home county and on to higher difficulty questions for the first time, and nice balance of contributing players netted them 4 wins for their efforts. Cedar Crest remained a dependable presence on the circuit, with many contributing scorers as always. Central Bucks East, similarly, continued their string of solid performances, able to hang with most teams and just a few points out of making the playoff brackets while putting up a particularly solid PPB of 16.12. We additionally saw good work from Moravian and Renaissance, who are preparing for SSNCT, and Science Leadership Academy, preparing for the Philadelphia City championships next month. Lakeland made the long drive down from NEPA, but without lead scorer Michael, wins were hard to come by; however, this experience should help fortify the rest of the team for the stretch run of the season and seek a top-10 ranking.

The return of two Chester County schools, Conestoga and West Chester East, to action on pyramidal questions was quite welcome. Though neither had the instant successes of their 2014-15 season that featured some top 5 tournament finishes, they both showed that they could handle the material. With more appearances, both could join the troop of national-caliber Chester County quizbowl teams at HSNCT in the near future.

Novice Division

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Radnor High School took home the top prize in Novice at their very first pyramidal quizbowl event.

Radnor, playing in their first non-DelCo Hi-Q tournament, warmed up quickly to quizbowl and after dropping an early prelim match stormed back to win the tournament with an undefeated playoff run that featured a clutch 260-250 win over one of the mighty Manheim teams. Radnor faced a game State College B in the finals but ended SC B’s winning streak with a 305-245 win. Just as Haverford HS did well at GVQBT last year, so did Radnor this year and we hope to see more Delaware County schools at quizbowl events in the future.

Manheim Township D won third place over another new-to-quizbowl team, Conrad Weiser from Berks County. Township D, containing the core of MT’s team for probably the next 4 years, was dominant all day and took 3rd in very convincing fashion. Conrad Weiser though was extremely impressive in their debut, with excellent buzzer speed that made up for a few gaps in their bonus knowledge. We would again love to see more Berks Academic Challenge teams at our tournaments.

Both Hempfield B and new to-weekend-quizbowl Pine Grove A were competitive in their playoff matches and featured balanced scoring across the board. West Chester East B, led by Matt’s impressive 80 PPG, and Archbishop Ryan (who beat Radnor in the prelims but couldn’t get going in the playoffs) rounded out the playoff teams.

In the consolation matches, Carver B continued their trend of finishing higher than Carver A, albeit losing in their direct matchup. Rishith (81 PPG) seems like the new star for Wilmington Charter on a short-handed Charter B and Cedar Crest B continued the Cedar Crest tradition of solid, balanced scoring. Church Farm continued their successful debut season on the circuit though their A-team dropped a final close match to Phoenixville A 140-145. Phoenixville appears to have arisen like a certain bird and returned to the circuit after several years of absence; we would also love to see them back at more tournaments in the future.

Additional shout-outs here to Pine Grove’s B and C teams for all picking up a few wins in their first tournament, Hatboro-Horsham B for recovering from the morning with a strong 3-match winning streak to close, and PALCS for pulling a similar three-win close feat as well.

Commentary

The tournament was slowed at the start by 3 teams simply not showing up without warning. This is unacceptable; if you are going to drop a team, you absolutely must tell the tournament director well before the morning of the tournament. Or better yet, honor your commitment and play with teams of 2 or 3 players instead since missing teams mess up the schedule for all other teams.

Also, there seems to be a crisis among housewritten question sets (that is, those written by other schools rather than a central question-writing company like NAQT) in high school quizbowl. These sets are either trending closer to college sets (as BHSAT, used in the open division here, did), with 7 lines of 10 pt font for all the tossups and 8 lines (2 for the lead-in, 2 for each part) for the bonuses, or towards sloppiness and poor editing. The former sets are well-written, but can really bog a tournament down as the average time per match in the open division hovered around 40 minutes even with a corps of experienced moderators.

The latter sets, often cobbled together by groups of ambitious high school teams seeking to learn more clues for nationals, can be difficult to read and confusing to teams hearing them. The SOLON Novice set definitely suffered from this, with many grammatical errors, confusing wordings, lists rather than descriptions, some outright missing text, a lack of clear giveaways, and questionable difficulty choices (simply because the answerline is easy for instance doesn’t mean all the clues for it should be college+ level clues!). It was overall accessible to new teams, but could have used some additional editing, especially since it had been first used a long time ago.

-Ben and Chris

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How to Prepare for Quizbowl National Tournaments: 8 Tips

This year, Pennsylvania has an incredible 23 teams attending the NAQT HSNCT, 8 teams attending the NAQT SSNCT, and several attending the PACE NSC (you can see our full guide to the different national championships here).

So what should Pennsylvanian scholars be doing to prepare for the challenge of nationals? Here are eight tips for prepping to do your best at the national champs:

1. Study more challenging questions
This is, without a doubt, the most important thing for a team to do. Nationals-level questions are always a step above what you’ve played during the year, sometimes substantially so. The jump in difficulty can be particularly tough for teams that relied mostly on studying old regular-season packets during the year since nationals will introduce a whole new set of tougher clues and answerlines. If you have what quizbowl likes to call “real knowledge” about a subject from your own outside interests or reading, then that’s more likely to scale than the knowledge you got from playing lots of Protobowl online.

If you can, read old packets from the SSNCT, HSNCT, and/or NSC exclusively in practice for the last few months and invest some time in studying certain areas in depth. The NSC packets from previous years are free online; NAQT charges for old HSNCT packets, though attendees can take home the set for free at the end of the tournament to use as future practice material. You may be playing against literally the best high school players in the country on various topics, so depth can be quite handy here, but you also want to make sure you’re exposed to a wide variety of possible answers so that you can also nab the (many) TUs that come down to after the “For Ten Points.”

2. Study the current year’s college questions
Reading a few college sets as well, especially those from earlier in this competition season like ACF Fall or EFT, can be a good way to not only read more challenging questions but to get an idea of what topics are hot in the world of college quizbowl. Many of the writers of the high school nationals question sets are college players themselves, so you want to be aware of what kinds of authors and ideas they’ve been exposed to this year and maybe last year. There’s often a “funnel” effect in quizbowl as new question ideas get introduced first at the college level and then get written about at progressively easier tournaments, so you want to stay on top of what might be funneling down to high school nationals from the college level this year.

3. Prepare for an endurance challenge 
You may have been at long tournaments before, but nationals in particular have a tendency to be mentally exhausting. By the time you get to some of the most crucial games at the end of the day, your team may be rather tired. Bring snacks and be aware of sleep schedules here. It may also help to try to do a long day of practice on a Saturday before the tournament, with periodic breaks for studying, to help simulate what it’ll be like. Keeping calm and not letting any one neg or missed opportunity get to you is crucial; there’s no margin of error for getting in a funk here.

4. Assign roles for who will give answers and when
Make sure it’s clear who is going to be the captain and how you will run answers through that captain. Take special note of rules governing the ability of non-captains to give a response if directed at the reader. The captain should be able to give responses before the moderator calls time and be willing to defer to other players on hard-to-pronounce bonus answers. Be absolutely clear on whether or not you’re going to try to power-vulch on certain questions and how you might try to signal (nonverbally, of course) who will buzz at the end of a question after your opponent has negged. This is where teamwork and knowing/trusting your teammates is crucial, so do spend some time working on this.

5. Know the rules 
This seems obvious, but you can expect the rules at nationals to be enforced to the letter. Any leeway that you might be used to during the regular season will likely not be present. Know the timing rules, know the protest rules, and know the rules relating to answer correctness. For instance, did you know that at NSC if you try to quickly give an answer to cut off a bounceback that the moderator will finish reading the bonus part anyways? (Rule EX. 3a.) And at HSNCT, did you know that if you change your answer before you have finished one complete word, the second answer will be evaluated for correctness (so “Greaaaa…Crime and Punishment” will be evaluated for “Crime and Punishment” but “Great Eh…Crime and Punishment” will be evaluated as “Great Eh” since one word was completed)? Look through the rulebooks well before the tournament and make sure that you’re familiar with all these things since you can be sure that your opponents have.

6. Think about potential close-game scenarios
This is particularly relevant for the NAQT tournaments since those are on the clock, but the use of bounce-backs at NSC can also result in some interesting end-game scenario math. Essentially, you want to try to figure out when you want to try to speed the game up or slow the game down to maximize your chance of winning. If you have a lead, you may want to slow the game down a bit, but only if the lead is fairly substantial. If you’re behind, you want to speed the game up (particularly by responding to bonus parts quickly), but you also don’t want to miss out on points unless you simply need one more cycle. For instance, if you are down by 50 points and there is 30 seconds left, the most you could score on one cycle is 45 so you need to get to another TU-bonus cycle no matter what and may want to go quickly through the question/bonus simply to have a shot to win the game. In contrast, if down by 40, you could win on that question with a power on the tossup and a 30 on the bonus. This is where having worked through a few scenarios in advance could pay off in spades, so do think through what you might do in various situations.

7. Study Current Events and Pop Culture (HSNCT and SSNCT in particular)
For reasons that still remain unclear, one of the most study-able things in quizbowl is often one of the areas that teams leave as a gaping hole in their knowledge base. Yes, you can’t read old current events questions to prepare for this year’s current events, but you can study for this by reading the news and treating CE and pop culture (often called “trash”) like a serious subject. Take a look at the NAQT distribution for current events and trash (and you might look at all the other sub-distributions as well if you’re ambitious) and start to think like a question writer–what topics would you write on within the last year to fill out the World Social CE? What might be the Science and Business CE TUs? Who on our team will answer the baseball question? What minor sports might come up? You may not like CE or Trash, but those are worth just as many points as regular academic subject questions and you don’t want to concede those to your opponents.

8. Get familiar with the location
The physical location of the tournament is also something to think about. Most of the nationals are at hotels, so take a look at the floorplan in advance (usually available on the hotel’s website or in your folder at check-in) so you have some idea of where to go. The last thing you want during a tournament is to get lost in a hotel or go up into the wrong tower of the hotel between matches, forcing you to rush to the next room. If you’ll have breaks in between matches, you might also want to know good locations to go to for a snack or just to hang out somewhere other than sprawling on the ground.

Chris

Big Lake Brawl II Wrap-Up (2/3/18)

This past Saturday, 24 teams from 10 schools gathered at Wallenpaupack Area High School to face off on IS-173A. An exciting day saw GPQB’s #8 team in the midseason poll emerge victorious, while teams throughout the brackets put in solid performances.

Stats are here.

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Tournament Champions Delaware Valley A

The tournament was won by Delaware Valley A, who came out on top through the strength of another well-rounded team performance. Three players, Colin Kawan-Hemler, Frani King, and Abhay Byadgi, all finished above 40 points per game for Pennsylvania’s top contenders from the northeast. They were never seriously threatened after a close morning loss, 310-300, to Wallenpaupack A, who showed evidence of their improvement through the course of the year by making the championship bracket and finishing 6-3 on the day. Great Valley A, made up of players more often seen on the school’s B team, showed off their program’s depth by going 8-1, with their only loss coming in the finals to DV A. Anshu Nunemunthala and John Li each finished with around 43 PPG, and their teammates Rishi Raman and Dan Milani also added strong contributions.

Also in the top bracket was Ithaca A, who took third place, and Lakeland, who finished fourth. Michael Goerlitz was quite impressive on the day for Lakeland, claiming top scorer honors far and away with 125.56 PPG. This is a team that seems poised for a nice run in the traditional public school division at SSNCT, coming up in April. B teams from Delaware Valley, Great Valley, and Ithaca rounded out the championship brackets, providing further examples of the depth important to sustaining top programs.

The consolation brackets included several more teams from the schools previously mentioned. Some strong efforts of note include Tom Lane’s 47.06 PPG for Wallenpaupack C, Tyler Yang tallying 46.11 PPG for Great Valley C, and Anthony Ioppolo scoring 45.00 PPG for Wallenpaupack C. Moravian A also had a nice outing, finishing 6-3 in the second tier of brackets behind 41.67 PPG from lead scorer Alex Adams, while Berwick (who are hosting a tournament on April 14) notched some wins as well. It was also nice to see new schools Riverside and Montgomery joining in on the fun, and we hope to see them again at future tournaments! Overall, kudos to Coach Neenan and Wallenpaupack for running an excellent event and continuing to aid in the development of quizbowl in northeastern Pennsylvania!

-Ryan

Allderdice Invitational IV Wrap-Up

On January 27th, several teams from Western PA and West Virginia gathered for the only non-college hosted event in Western Pennsylvania on the schedule so far. The day produced some highly entertaining results.

Full Stats are here.

The tournament ended in an event Pennsylvania quizbowl has not seen: a four way tie. House team Allderdice A, State College A, Winchester Thurston A, and George Washington, a team from West Virginia, shared the honors. Normally this would have been played off with a semifinal/final structure, but the tournament had to be out of the building so the tie stood unbroken. All these schools performed very well on the day to show fantastic parity in Western PA, as seems to perennially be the case. Thurston negged just six times on the day, an impressively efficient rate. State College finished with 21.95 ppb, the highest of the bunch, while Allderdice, a bit undermanned as a few players moderated, did the home school proud. I was also highly impressed by GW, who put up 55 powers, most in the tournament.

Behind them, Shady Side A and Camp Hill tied for 5th. Shady Side’s Will Davis led the event in points per game with an impressive 104 prelim average, about 50% more than any other individual. Camp Hill looked their sharpest yet this year, and could look for some strong finishes down the stretch. State College and Allderdice’s B teams rounded out the playoffs. Indiana tied Winchester Thurston B at the top of the middle bracket. Allderdice Invitational also featured a first time pyramidal entrant in Burrell, plus the return of Eden Christian Academy and Penn Hills from last year. Keystone Oaks also rounded out the troop. All were welcome as the tournament produced a number of fierce games.

Allderdice should be commended for putting together an efficient event, which Pennsylvania always needs more of. The use of timed rounds caused many games to be very short on account of fairly inexperienced staff however, so fewer house teams may be a consideration for future events. Overall, this was a solid tournament and helped set up the key late game for the Western PA teams, which will kick off with Carnegie Quiz next month.

-Ben