With the Pennsylvania season about to kick off for the year, many students will be attending their first Saturday invitational tournament. These tournaments have a similar format, similar rules, and a series of customs, which may not be familiar to new schools or freshmen. While some of the regular procedures at events have been internalized by quizbowl regulars, they bear repeating for the benefit of all. Most of the day will be straightforward, there are always a few questions that get asked by new teams. Hopefully, this post will answer a few of them.
What do we do when we get there?
Simply put, you should report to the control room, check in, and then get ready to play. The tournament director should have let you know where to go at the school or university the tournament is taking place. The check-in process is usually swift. If you haven’t paid already, you’ll give the check to the director or another member of the host school, and the host will ask you for your rosters. Hosts need to know this to keep stats properly, since the top players might win prizes and they’ll be tracking individual as well as team stats for that purpose.
After you check in, you’ll be on your own until the tournament starts. This can be a chance for students to meet like-minded kids from other schools, to read practice questions, or anything else you see fit.
How do tournaments work?
The standard for most Saturday invitationals in quizbowl is a bracket play system. You will be assigned to play a selection of teams based on the number of schools that have registered, and makes sense for a schedule (so, for instance, if 18 teams are playing, you’ll be divided among three brackets of 6; if 24 teams are playing, four of 6; if 32 are playing, 4 of 8; and so on). You will then play all teams in your bracket during the morning. Based on your performance, you will be re-seeded after lunch into playoffs or into consolation rounds with teams that finished with a similar record. This format maximizes the number of competitive games between teams. If you do well, you will likely play in a finals game or in a third place game.
Generally, a high school tournament runs between 8 and 11 rounds, depending on the number of teams, and if the set has shorter or longer questions. Unless you have registered more teams for a tournament then there are brackets (for example, if school X brings 4 teams to an event with three brackets), the tournament organizers will make sure your school doesn’t play itself in the morning rounds, though afternoon matches between teams from the same school are more common.
My tournament doesn’t have these brackets. Why?
If fewer than 12 teams have registered, usually the event will run as a round-robin. In cases when more than 36 teams have registered, some tournaments use a card system, which you can find an explanation of here.
Do I need to stay if we miss the playoffs?
Yes. The consolation rounds are fun, low stakes games, where a lot of the best learning and team-building occurs. Both teams need to be there for the benefit of the students. There’s no benefit to them just sitting there taking a forfeit, which another school will do if someone leaves early.
How do the games work?
Two schools will duke it out for 20 tossup questions. Each tossup, if your team converts it, will net your team a three part bonus. Students confer on bonuses, but they are on their own on tossup questions. Each question moves from harder clues to easier ones. Students may buzz in at any time while the question is being read. If students buzz early in the question, most high school sets will award them a “power” buzz, which is worth more than an ordinary buzz (usually 15 instead of 10). If they interrupt the question with an incorrect answer before it is finished, they will be penalized with a “neg” of -5 points. There’s no penalty for an incorrect guess after the moderator has finished reading the question.
Most moderators will be lenient with new schools or new students learning these rules, especially ones that try to buzz in when a bonus question is being read. As you find your sea legs and move up, however, moderators will enforce these rules.
My student was penalized for “conferring.” What does this mean?
This means that either 1) the student spoke with teammates on one of the tossup questions, or 2) the student answered the question, but another student buzzed in before they did. The buzzers will light up to indicate which student answered first. Conferring is a “neg.” Most students will make this mistake a few times early on. Even the most experienced players have probably done it. So, don’t be hard on yourself if you make this mistake.
What does a coach do during the matches?
Coaches in quizbowl are mostly involved in organization and running practices, but there are a few roles they play on tournament day itself. Firstly, they are in charge of substitutions if teams have more than four players. You can substitute at halftime, before overtime, and in most cases, after a timeout. This can put in players with given specialties if the coach believes a certain kind of question is coming up, based on the distribution. Secondly, coaches can call time outs to rally the troops, give strategic advice, or substitute.
How long is each match?
About 25 to 30 minutes.
How long is each tournament?
Almost all tournaments in Pennsylvania are done by 4-4:30pm. If you make the finals, add a half hour for the extra round.
Where can I find stats and results for the event?
Stats are posted at https://hsquizbowl.org/db/. In Pennsylvania, we do our best to enforce the standard of making sure stats are available by the Monday after the event at the latest. Your tournament director will likely e-mail you a link to them as well.