quizbowl

How to Be a Good Teammate

Apart from studying and practicing, another important part of quizbowl is figuring out how to work together effectively with your team. Here are ten pieces of advice I try to follow on being a better teammate:

  1. Treat everyone with respect. It should go without saying, but simply being kind helps to create a more welcoming environment at team practices and events. Every player, regardless of experience level or any part of their identity, should feel comfortable being around you.
  2. Avoid constantly pulling rank. Especially if you hold a leadership position like team captain or club president, make sure you aren’t distancing yourself from your teammates. Being friendly and easy to talk to helps with team cohesion, which in turn results in stronger performances.
  3. Go into each match with an open mind. Even if you’re a small, inexperienced team up against a powerhouse, just try your best; upsets can happen! An overly pessimistic mindset won’t help your team’s overall attitude and performance.
  4. Pay attention while the bonus is being read. Don’t be that one person who zones out and wastes precious seconds of conferral time asking teammates to reconstruct the question. And if you’re paying attention and a teammate does happen to zone out, you can then nicely remind them what the question was asking.
  5. Listen to your teammates’ contributions on bonuses. As a first scorer, I’ve sometimes fallen into the trap of ignoring valid suggestions from my teammates. Even if you answer the most tossups on your team, there will always be some topic that your teammates know better than you.
  6. Let go of your own negs. No one wants to play on a team with someone who’s still moping about a neg from six rounds ago.
  7. Let go of your teammates’ negs, too. Berating them for an incorrect answer doesn’t change the result and, if anything, will only distract you (and them) from getting upcoming questions.
  8. Stop worrying so much about your individual stats. During a game, you should be focused on trying to beat the team you’re playing against, not on trying to one-up your teammates’ individual stats. Having that all-star points-per-game is nice, but reckless vulching to solely inflate your own PPG isn’t.
  9. Compliment others’ buzzes. Obviously, keep conversation between questions to a minimum, but quickly saying “nice buzz!” or some equivalent is a friendly way to support another player and to make your teammate (or even a player on the other team) feel good for an impressive answer.
  10. Losing a close game isn’t any one person’s fault. There are usually at least twenty tossup-bonus cycles in a game and multiple players on each team, so don’t put all the blame on the one player who unfortunately negged tossup 20 to lose a match by 10 points.

Clearly, this isn’t a complete list of every aspect that goes into being a good teammate; feel free to come up with your own and comment below or tweet at us!

-Jackie

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Quizbowl Study Plans for All Levels

One of the most common questions that we at GPQB receive from students and coaches is how to start studying for quizbowl. Since pretty much anything that you ever learn will, at some point, show up in quizbowl, getting started with the studying can appear quite daunting. There are many resources and some guides for how to improve, but most are fairly vague and designed for either complete novices or very experienced players. Telling players to “read packets” is a good idea, of course, but which packets should one read and how should one read them? Using Protobowl might be appropriate for some players, but is it good for everyone?

This is a guide for players at different stages of their academic competition career. For each level, we offer both recommended study materials from old tournaments on the quizbowl packet archive and some strategies for how to study at each level. This guide is most certainly not the definitive word on this and I would be quite interested to hear from coaches and players in the comments on their own studying procedures. But I think as far as a basic guide for players trying to get to the next level, wherever you are, these are useful outlines.

Keep in mind for each of these that the relevant tournament sets can be found on the packet archive: quizbowlpackets.com. Just use “find” or search for them that way.

Complete Novice
This is a player who has never played before, has never played any quizbowl questions at all, or has maybe played one local tournament but never anything more than that. If this describes you, then welcome to the world of quizbowl!

Study Materials:
– SCOP Tournaments
– Fall Novice Tournaments
– Collaborative MS tournaments (see under “middle school” on quizbowlpackets)
Quinterest searches for MS level subjects

Study Strategies:
– Just read questions! Start reading these novice level or Middle School (MS) level questions and get an idea of how pyramidal questions work and what topics tend to come up in quizbowl. If you look through a few tournaments (compare, say, 2014 to 2015 SCOP), you’ll see the same topics come up again and again (not the same questions verbatim, of course, but similar clues and answerlines).

At this point, focus the most on developing familiarity with how quizbowl works. If you come across an answer line that you’ve never heard of before, Google it to find out what it is. At the level of these questions, every answer line is probably something that you will see frequently in the future, so you need to know as much as possible about these topics. Practice slowly scrolling down on the packet archives or letting Quinterest “read” questions to you to start thinking like a quizbowl player.

Advanced Novice
This is a player who has played a few tournaments but is still in 9th/10th grade or is playing as an 11th/12th grader and finished the complete novice guide. These are players who know how pyramidal questions work, but still haven’t quite mastered the quizbowl canon for high school and might be more interested in improving their points-per game beyond 10 or 20.

Study Materials:
Protobowl
– NAQT Frequency Lists
– NAQT “You Gotta Know” Guides
– Textbooks
– HSAPQ District and Regionals
– History Bowl C Sets

Study Strategies:
At this point, the goal is to start to master the “canon.” Get a solid understanding of all the question topics that might come up in the quizbowl categories that you are interested in and develop the ability to buzz-in on the “stock clues” for these categories. Protobowl and reading full packets is useful for this, but so are going over things like the top 10 items on the NAQT frequency list and making sure you can guess them on bonuses or tossups. You also want to be looking over the NAQT “You Gotta Know” Guides and start to think about picking up a textbook or two (ones you have at your school and use in-class are fine) in some categories. Start keeping a notebook that you bring to practice and tournaments, writing down any answerlines that strike you as interesting and/or clues that you want to look up some more. Start to look up clues from practice every time–a good rule of thumb is to look up the clue just before the one that you buzz on to learn a little bit more each time.

Play Protobowl in a private room (just add a /yourroomname to the regular protobowl.com address) and start working on getting comfortable guessing a bit earlier in the question that you normally might. And make sure to attend practices! You’ll need to be as comfortable as possible on the buzzer at this point. It’s okay to rack up a few negs so long as you start to make sure you’re buzzing before your opponents and giving your team a chance.

Experienced Player 
This is a player who’s been to several pyramidal quizbowl tournaments and maybe played a year or two already. At this point, you know what you know and what you don’t know and want to try to get both your power rate and your TU/N rate as high as possible. You’re starting to narrow in on a few specialty areas and you want to make your team competitive for the playoff cutoffs at tournaments.

Study Materials
– Protobowl
– Flashcards (make them yourself)

– CALI
– BELLOCO
– HSAPQ ACF-Style Sets
– LIST
– WHAQ
– HSAPQ VHSL Regionals and State sets
– MSU/UD Housewrite
– History Bowl B Sets

Study Strategies
This is where you need to start picking a few categories to “lock-down.” You want to focus now on depth rather than breadth to make sure that when you learn a potential answerline, you can beat your major local rivals to that question.

Start reading further down the frequency lists and make sure that you’re never surprised by an answer line. Flashcarding can be an excellent way to make sure that you cover; applications like Anki could be useful here, but you could also use Quizlet or other apps (or even actual paper cards!).
Try to practice these as much as possible here–on the way to school, during downtime in class, etc. Enlist the help of others–get your friends, parents, grandparents, etc. to read to you.

Veteran/Role Player
This is a player who’s played pyramidal quizbowl for a year or so and ideally has begun to develop a specialty in a few categories. You may put up 20-30 PPG consistently or be more of a generalist racking up 40-50 points at a time at this point and want to put your team in contention for the top 3 trophies every tournament.

Study Material:
-BHSAT
-BISB
-GSAC
-Prison Bowl
-Flashcards, outlines, and other self-directed studying

Study Strategies:
The goal at this point should be to develop deep knowledge to nab 2nd-line powers and 3rd or 4th line (definitely before “FTP”) buzzes in your specialty categories. Continue to keep a notebook, do flashcards, and study old packets. Go talk to people specifically about quizbowl. Talk to your English teacher about their favorite novels for instance or go to local orchestral concerts or art galleries and just start to go for depth over breadth. You want to start branching out well beyond the curriculum at this point and maybe think about reading college quizbowl packets or attending a college tournament to start to branch out into new areas. Time spent in a library here reading specifically for your categories will be well spent, especially if you look at textbooks (science especially) or other solid overviews.

State Competitor/Nationals Playoffs Contender
This is a player on a top 5-6 state team who’s also attending nationals and wants to try to make the playoffs at HSNCT. You can consistently power at least one or two questions per match in your specialty area and your team is usually in contention to win local tournaments.

Study Material:
– HFT
– LIMIT
– IMSANITY
– PACE-NSC
– NASAT
– ACF Fall
– MUT
-Previous HSNCTs and/or DII ICT and DI SCT

Study Strategies:
You need to start to become the best in your state at various categories. This is where taking a bit of a break from packet reading might pay off as you instead focus on reading and writing your own questions. Start reading books on these topics–things like “Czars of Russia” or a compendium of summaries of Faulkner’s novels and literary critiques could be useful. You’ll need to also get ahead of the curve here as far as what college players are writing on and thinking about (answerlines often “filter down” from college sets to high school sets over the years as writers are exposed to new question topics and clues and then continue to write on them for different audiences), so this is where ACF Fall and any undergrad-targeted tournament like MUT is great. Your goal should be to power as much as possible in your specialty areas here and to also contribute and back-up your teammates on bonuses. You need to crank up the seriousness level here and be devoting at least some time each day to quizbowl, even if it’s just reviewing 20 flashcards or writing 1 question.

Nationally Ranked Player
This is a highly elite group of players. Most have devoted a considerable part of their lives to quizbowl, but it’s also quite possible to ascend to this group in a relatively short period of time through concentrated studying. There are a number of examples of solid players who became nationally elite over the course of a few months, but it will take lots of hard studying to happen.

Study Materials:
– PACE-NSC
– NASAT
– ACF Regionals from the previous year
– Other Regular-Season College Sets (like MAGNI or MOO)
– HSNCT and/or DII ICT and DI SCT

Study Strategies:
Read books, dip your toes into the academic literature on your topic (art criticism, recent major science studies, etc.), and WRITE QUESTIONS. At this level, you want to note only be an excellent specialist at your categories, but also a savvy player; it’s somewhat remarkable how many times matches at nationals come down to players who have seen questions on topic X before and buzz on how it feels rather than knowing the exact clue.
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Every chance you can get, play against high-level competition both at the high school level and college level. The top high school teams in the country play against college teams more often than not and several other schools have had great success just getting some experience playing at the college level. This is where you’ll learn the first-line clues and 3rd bonus parts that might prove critical deep in the playoffs at HSNCT or NSC. You must consistently be powering in your categories and get at least a few outside of your main categories through heavy exposure to playing and to help shore up your weaknesses.

Conclusion
This is just a starting point for each of these levels (and of course you can feel free to use the strategies for more advanced levels as you see fit), but I hope that it proves useful. The most awesome thing about quizbowl to me is that anyone can become a world-class player; all you need is a work ethic and the willingness to learn. The best players, of course, tend to also have a deep love for many of these subject areas, but you can become a very good player in any category with just hard work and determination. Good luck to all–and don’t forget your notebooks at tournaments!

-Chris

Quizbowl Summer Study Plans

With the end of the school year finally upon us, the summer break is an excellent opportunity for enterprising quizbowlers to get a head start on next season and learn more awesome stuff. Here are three tips for teams to think about during the break:

Read actual books/poems/plays/essays! Summer is a perfect time to compile a reading list and attempt books that you might have been introduced to during quizbowl. Actually reading a work will likely increase your chances of getting a good buzz on it during the season and will probably lead to a more lasting memory than flashcarding or just reading a summary. So go ahead and tackle those Shakespeare plays or Garcia Marquez novels.

Write up a store of practice questions, then share them with other members of your team. These could be on any subject, but the ideal would be to use the greater amount of free time to spend time going through the question-writing process and then sharing them with fellow members of your team. This might be useful for trying to close any holes that you noticed emerged over last season or if a senior with a strong subject specialty is graduating. Need to work on Religion? Assign someone religious holidays, another one religious texts, and another one various minor religions to write up questions and then share at a summer meet-up or over Skype/Google Video.

Read over the national championship sets from this year once they are available. PACE’s NSC has already been posted and is chock-full of good clues, interesting ideas, and grist for future question writers. NAQT’s HSNCT was available to teams who attended this year, but others can order copies of the set from NAQT here. And HSAPQ’s NASAT will be posted soon as well after some other mirrors of it (many open to high schoolers–check the HSquizbowl forums for details). Even if you’ve already played the sets, it can be immensely helpful to go back over them and note where you could have/should have buzzed and perhaps calculate how well your team did at various subject areas.

Do you have any other ideas for what you’ll be doing with your team? Feel free to post ’em in the comments! 

HSNCT 2017 Wrap Up – Cinderellas and Camaraderie

Last year at HSNCT, Pennsylvania set a lot of records for its performance and the teams generally exceeded expectations. This year, our students raised the bar even higher. Records were shattered, as 18 teams from 16 schools represented Pennsylvania at the event. With seven teams making the playoffs, three making the winner’s bracket, and two making the top-20 in the nation, Pennsylvania’s quantity was matched with some of its highest quality.

Full statistics for the event are here. Hunter College High A (NY) defended their national title, beating Detroit Catholic Central A (MI) in the finals.

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Winchester Thurston, PA’s biggest Cinderella run team in years, poses with their T-9th place trophy. Photo courtesy WT quizbowl’s twitter.

Winchester Thurston made waves across the tournament, becoming the first non-State College team from Pennsylvania to make the national top 10 with a T-9th place finish that almost got them to Sunday afternoon. Fresh from SSNCT’s 4th place, most pegged Thurston to do well, but not go beyond two or three Sunday rounds. WT had other ideas. Their true four-man effort from EJ, Jacob, Nathaniel, and Aiden (all of whom once again worked together and all exceeded 19 points per game) ended up resulting in a fantastic cinderella run, which included a brilliantly fought 390-335 win over Darien A (CT) to make it to T-9th. In the next round, Thurston was one question away from beating James Taylor (Katy, TX) to get into T-5th, but came up just short. To these fine young gentleman as well as (sadly retiring) Coach David Hallas, a hearty well done is in order. Winchester Thurston showed steady improvement across the course of the 2016-2017 season and I know our community will remember their efforts at HSNCT for a long, long time.

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Great Valley and Alagar Homeschool face off in round 10 of the tournament. Photo Courtesy GV Quizbowl’s twitter.

Here are some of the other storylines from PA teams at HSNCT:

  • Lehigh Valley Academy finished at T-15. They had to play Thurston in the first round of the playoffs and were upset by them, but rallied for three more wins while facing elimination each round. Alex Schmidt continues to impress, and his 130 ppg placed him 2nd among all players in America at HSNCT. With one more season left, it will be fascinating to see what he can do next to add to his growing legend. This year is the first year, ever, that PA placed two teams into the top 20 at nats. Will another team join LV up there next year?
  • Manheim Township finished at T-41. Though they lacked a signature win, they proved their continued consistency as a nationally relevant team. This senior class capped off their careers in style, as they can now claim an impressive three top-50 performances at nationals between NSC and HSNCT in separate years. All should be proud with what Manheim Township has built over the years and we hope to see their tradition continue in the future.
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Manheim Township, preparing for a Saturday morning match.

  • Four other Pennsylvania squads made the playoffs: Alagar Homeschool, State College A, Great Valley, and Delaware Valley. Due to the extraordinary number of teams, HSNCT split so that 6-4 teams with better stats got a bye and others did not. All four of these teams unfortunately lost their first playoff game and got knocked out, but Alagar Homeschool and State College did well enough to earn said bye and thus finished T-65 to GV and DV’s T-97. This was a first HSNCT playoff berth for the Alagars and Delaware Valley. Great Valley and the Alagars went head to head in round 10, and the Homeschoolers came out on top, with GV felled by too many negs, an issue that has stuck with them throughout this year and came back to haunt them at the wrong times this year.
  • Pennsylvania also put up a number of near playoff performances in 5-5 teams. Downingtown East was one of the statistically best teams to fall just short, putting up good numbers and a relatively high bonus conversion along the way but succumbing to a badly-timed lapse in the second half of their final round game. Spring Grove finished .500 in their first-ever true pyramidal tournament and hopefully they’ll stick around next year as well. Senior Adam Prusakowski made the most of his brief pyramidal high school career with 68 ppg, good for 20th in the individual standings at HSNCT out of 1472 players. We must continue to reach out to more schools in the future to find players like him at schools across PA. A young Henderson team led by freshman Vijay rolled up with a 5-5 record as well, and this young team could make a lot of noise next year. Friends Select A came up just a hair short due to one of their key players, Jake, missing the event due an emergency, but they acquitted themselves very well. Wallenpaupack, Downingtown STEM, and State College B also finished at this level, each having some solid victories and coming down to the wire in several games which could have swung either way.
  • Lower down, Lancaster Mennonite and Indiana Area finished at 4-6. Brandon Roe from Mennonite finished 27th in the country in scoring, capping off a fine career as the school’s heart and soul player. Indiana also had a nice return to form after a season in which they hadn’t done as well as the past, putting up stats in line with their past performances. Friends Select B finished 3-7, while scrappy Carver, the first public school from either of Pennsylvania’s two big cities to ever attend HSNCT, picked up a couple of wins to finish 2-8.
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PA students play a pick up trash game during a meet-up Saturday night. Great Valley, Henderson, Downingtown East, Downingtown STEM, Lancaster Mennonite, Delaware Valley, Friends Select, and Alagar Homeschool are represented in this photo.

We also continued the tradition inaugurated last year of having a meetup for all PA teams to socialize. Sam Scarfone and Vijay Anne were presented with their GPQB awards, and the students self-organized a spirited game of trash while the coaches discussed organizational plans for next year.

2017 HSNCT will be remembered for its surprises. Having moved up from regional afterthought after last season, Pennsylvania furthered its way along the path to quizbowl-wide prominence and the standard to beat is now set: get a team to Sunday afternoon (top 8). The Commonwealth’s 16 schools represented at nationals was also the 4th-highest in the country, only behind host state Georgia and more populous states California and Texas. As the circuit continues to expand, I expect 16 to look puny in the near future.*

-Ben

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Downingtown STEM, just prior to a round 2 win.

* Including SSNCT, 23 schools from Pennsylvania attended some sort of NAQT national this season.

Pennsylvania State Academic Competition Unofficial Preview and Chat 2017

pennsylvania_state_capitol_house_chamber

PSAC takes place within the chambers of the PA General Assembly (pictured here) and Senate. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Welcome to GPQB’s unofficial (we are completely unaffiliated with PSAC or any of the organizers) preview and coverage of the 2017 PSAC!

[Edit: We are updating unofficial scores in this Google Document; you can watch matches beginning again after lunch at 12:45 PM EST via the House stream here; we are continuing to update on Twitter and discuss in the chatroom here.]

Where else will you find a golden-voiced emcee read quality NAQT IS-level tossups alongside random “fanfare” bonus rounds of wildly varying difficulty within the beautifully furnished Pennsylvania House chambers? Where else will you find completely randomly generated schedules for each team’s two (usually!) prelim rounds that lead to extraordinarily unbalanced prelim schedules and playoff matchups based on points scored? Did we mention it’s 3 teams playing at once?

For randomness and ironic amusement value, PSAC is hard to top. Alas, it’s not ideal from a fairness perspective for a number of reasons that we detailed in our wrap-up from last year. But at least thanks to some recent reforms there aren’t tossups from the 1990s still being asked.

The format is…unique. 3 teams compete at once and first play a series of toss-up questions (which will be pyramidal NAQT IS-level questions), then each team gets a series of directed bonuses called “fanfares” that differ for each team. There’s a toss-up round, a fanfare round for each team, another toss-up round, and then a final fanfare round. And then that’s the match. The top 9 teams based on points scored in the prelims advance to the semifinals and the winners of those semis advance to the finals. Again, this is unique.

Thanks to the magic of PCN-TV, the whole competition should be streamable on video for anyone to watch (at least, that’s how it’s been in the past). Check here on Friday morning starting at 9 AM EST for hopefully a link to the video.

[Edit: PCN TV seems to be pay-only now, but you can watch a stream of the matches on the PA House stream here.]

We will be live-chatting over in the #paquizbowl chatroom and live-tweeting via @phillyquizbowl throughout the day on Friday as well starting at 9 AM.  Feel free to join us and send us any tips about match scores and such! We will update this post with a schedule if we can get one.

For newbies, PSAC is sponsored by the Chester County Intermediate Unit and allows each IU from around the state to send one representative to compete for the state title in addition to the defending champion returning from last year (which was Lehigh Valley Academy, who will return to defend their title this year). They decide the representatives in a number of ways, but usually with some kind of tournament–sometimes using pyramidal questions and other best practices, sometimes not.

Who’s representing whom this year? Well, we don’t exactly know yet! Please feel free to comment if you have information on teams competing. But here’s our best guess based on available information (read: searching Twitter and recent news articles):

[Note that some IUs just don’t send representatives sometimes; when not clear how a team got to state, we don’t say]

IU 1: Canon-McMillan

IU 2, Pittsburgh, does not appear to have a representative [this ought to be fixed, posthaste!]

IU 3: Gateway

IUs 4-5, MidWest and NWPA, do not appear to have a representative [this ought to be fixed, posthaste!]

IU 6 (Riverview): Rocky Grove
How They Got Here: Won the Riverview IU Academic Bowl.

IU 7 (Westmoreland): Burrell 

IU 8 (Appalachia): Hollidaysburg Area

IU 9, Seneca Highlands, does not appear to have a representative [this ought to be fixed, posthaste!]

IU 10 (Centre): West Branch
Hot They Got Here: Won a draw

IU 12 (Lincoln): Spring Grove
How They Got Here: Won the IU 12 Academic Competition

IU 13 (Lancaster-Lebanon): Manheim Township
How They Got Here: Won the Lancaster-Lebanon League

IU 14 (Berks County): Wyomissing Area
How They Got Here: Won the Berks IU Academic Challenge

IU 15 (Capital Area): Cedar Cliff 
How They Got Here: Won the Capital Area IU Academic Competition

IUs 16: Lewisburg Area

IU 17:  No Info Found

IU 18: Wyoming Area 

IU 19: Lakeland 

IU 20 (Colonial): Bethlehem Catholic
How They Got Here: Won the Colonial IU Academic Competition 

IU 21 (Carbon-Lehigh): Whitehall
How They Got Here: Won the Carbon-Lehigh Academic Competition

IU 22 (Bucks County): Council Rock North

IU 23 (Montgomery County): Upper Dublin
How They Got Here: Won the Montgomery County IU Academic Competition

IU 24 (Chester County): Great Valley
How They Got Here: Won the Chester County Intermediate IU’s Academic Competition

IU 25 (Delaware County): Haverford
How They Got Here: Won the Delaware Hi-Q Competition

IU 26 (Philadelphia): Friends Select
How They Got Here: Won the Philadelphia City Championships 

IU 27: No Info Found

IU 28: Armstrong 
How They Got Here: Won the Indiana County Academic League

IU 29 (Schuylkill League): Blue Mountain 
How They Got Here: Won the Schuylkill League Academic Bowl

How will these teams do at PSAC? Well, with the uncertainty (many of these teams rarely, if ever, play pyramidal quizbowl tournaments outside of their league) and randomness in the scheduling it’s basically anyone’s game. Here are the teams that we know of competing who are ranked in the Morlan national rankings and/or in our GPQB mid-season poll (note that 6 of the top 10 teams in the GPQB poll are not competing at PSAC):

Lehigh Valley Academy: 12th nationally, 2nd in PA
Manheim Township: 43rd nationally, 1st in PA
Great Valley: 94th nationally, 3rd in PA
Friends Select: 162nd nationally, 9th in PA
Lakeland: 11th in PA

That said, Blue Mountain always trains hard and finished a surprising 3rd last year at PSAC (wish they would come to some more tournaments!) and Haverford did quite well earlier this year in the JV division at Great Valley’s tournament. We don’t have very good data on the other teams for the most part, but anyone could surprise. We hope that all these teams from areas outside of the centers of quizbowl around the state will come to more weekend tournaments next year–we’d absolutely love to welcome y’all and answer any questions about the wider world of quizbowl!

D-East’s HFT Mirror Wrap-Up [4/8]

12 teams gathered in Exton on April 8th to play a full round-robin tournament on one of the toughest sets in quizbowl, the Harvard Fall Tournament, at the first spring tournament hosted by Downingtown East HS. After a full 11 rounds, D-STEM won the final over Wilmington Charter B, with Friends Select A finishing in 3rd.

Full stats are available here.

This tournament was quite competitive at the top, with the top 5 teams all within 20 points-per-game of each other (319-339 PPG). D-STEM adopted a decidedly aggressive buzzing strategy, finishing with 42 negs (well above any other team), but also grabbing the tournament win. Paced by Vishwa’s 81 PPG, STEM hung on to emerge with the victory despite some very close matches. Charter B, a power trio with all members averaging at least 35 PPG, had surprisingly easy victories over all the PA teams except for STEM, but did drop a game to in-state rival Concord. Not quite sure who will be back next year for Charter, but it’s never a good idea to count Charter out for too long in quizbowl–they’ll likely be back and active in the SEPA region next year.

Friends Select A notched the highest number of powers of any team at the tournament with 27, but struggled a bit on the bonuses with only a 15.6 PPB (though it looks like that stat could influenced by a stat error in their match against Wallenpaupack that led to unusually low PPB that round). They were followed by a less-than-full-strength State College A, who dropped a surprising match early on to Penn Manor before recovering for a 4th-place finish. Wallenpaupack had perhaps the most interesting statline of the tournament: their PPB was the highest of the tournament at 18.17, but they only amassed 5 powers over the course of the day. This is a particularly unusual difference between depth on the bonuses compared to the tossups.

Charter A followed the top teams with a solid effort that fell just short in several close games and then there was a bit of a drop-off as Concord and Friends Select B both adopted fairly aggressive buzzing strategies that didn’t quite pay off for either. Penn Manor, in one of the very rare appearances outside the Lancaster-Lebanon League, put together a respectable effort highlighted by their win over State College A. A smattering of B teams and a house fill-in team rounded out the field and should be applauded for playing such a challenging set in what was essentially a pre-nationals tournament; the top 8 teams here are all registered for at least one national championship tournament.

Hopefully this experience will come in handy as the local teams prepare for nationals in less than two months. Plenty of time to keep practicing on tougher questions to get in shape for nats!

2017 Philadelphia City Championships Wrap-Up

This year, 10 schools from the city of Philadelphia gathered for the city-wide championships, which also double as an IU tournament and qualifier for the PA state tournament in Harrisburg. This is twice the number of schools as last year’s city champs and was the capstone for a year’s worth of explosive growth in participation in Pennsylvania’s largest city. Friends Select School played host and their Center City building provided an accessible and convenient location for the festivities.

Here are the final standings and complete individual stats for the day.
[updated w/nationals qualifiers]

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City champions Friends Select A, at ease before the finals games. From L to R: Rudyard, Jake, Richard, and Emma.

Friends Select A took home the title for the second year and will be going to Harrisburg as Philly’s representative. They were the unquestioned statistical leaders of the tournament, as their PPB (points-per-bonus) was four points above the nearest other team and their 41 powers (extra points for correct early buzzes) were more than twice that of any other team. We knew this team would be good after Richard and Jake went an impressive 4-6 at last year’s HSNCT, but the addition of Rudyard and his immense “real knowledge” has multiplied their early-buzz force. This junior-heavy team is completing quite the season and only loses pop culture specialist Emma next year. Friends Select’s B, C, and D teams also dominated as the school ended up with four of the six playoff bracket spots available. Other schools will have their work cut out for them against this deep roster of teams in the future.

Carver HSES A took second place, undefeated except for their final two loses to Friends Select A (completing a best-of-three final without need for a third game). In an ending a bit reminiscent of a video game, they had to play Friends Select D, C, B, and A in that order and made it to the “final boss” before yielding. They put on one of the most enthusiastic shows around, vigorously buzzing and collecting for spirited pep talks from Coach Shan Hogan. Carver’s teams (I read for both A and B) also play very smart–though they’re not a top-tier team at the state level statistically just yet, they do not make bad negs, they communicate well on bonuses, and they constantly encourage each other and high-five after good buzzes. This allows them to consistently punch above their weight and makes them a blast to read for. Their B team also earned several impressive wins throughout the day (including one over Masterman A) and showed a great deal of growth over the past few tournaments.

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Carver A receives advice from Coach Hogan before a match.

Central took the last remaining playoff berth. They went 5-4 on the day but did so against a brutal schedule. Though Central lacks an all-around power player outside of Marley (who had to leave in the afternoon, somewhat lowering their final PPB), all of their team scored well and they seem to get wins in a workmanlike fashion. Bodine and Rush finished tops in the Middle bracket. They were lead by the tournament’s second and first overall scorers, respectively. Bodine’s Alexandra, just a freshman, is going to be a top-flight player very soon, as she scores in volume and just needs to push up the power rate and focus during some rounds. Meanwhile, Rush deployed something of a secret weapon in Tara, who blasted 72 points per game in her first pyramidal invitational and consistently improved throughout the day. Awesome job by both.

The back end of the tournament contained a lot of newer or first time entrants from the city: Masterman, the Academy at Palumbo, and Furness all played their first quizbowl tournaments and each came away with at least one win. Franklin Learning Center and Franklin Towne Charter also returned and saw FLC win the battle of the Franklins by a combined 25 points over both FTC teams. It was good to see all of these teams participating and learning in this local environment; I saw some good buzzes from them and with continued regular events in the city, they will all improve in no time.

Overall, this was a nice example of how state qualifier/IU tournaments can run on good questions, use a fair format that allows teams to play many games (rather than just 1 or 2), and cater to teams of all levels of ability. The tournament was wrapped up before 3 PM and some teams finished as early as 2:15 or so. High School quizbowl in Philadelphia is rising and has so much potential, and we look forward to seeing its continuing development in future years!

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Franklin Learning Center vs. Academy at Palumbo, which occurred in round 5. Palumbo won a close match, 170-145.

-Ben Herman

Wissahickon Invitational Wrap-Up

16 teams competed in the first-ever Wissahickon Invitational on March 4th at Wissahickon HS in Ambler, PA. Full stats are available here.

Varsity
1. Friends Select A
1. Downingtown STEM A
3. Downingtown East A

JV:
1. Team Sahil of Parkland
2. Downingtown East B
3. Great Valley MS

Varsity

One thing that might be readily apparent from the final standings is the unusual presence of co-champions! After the preliminary rounds, Friends Select A finished with 1 loss and Downingtown STEM finished with 2 losses. This meant that FSS A would have the “advantage” in the final, meaning that FSS only needed to win 1 match to clinch while STEM would have to win both matches. STEM won the first match, but the second match wasn’t played as STEM was prematurely awarded the 1st place trophy. It was an honest mistake on the part of the hosts and the concept of an advantaged final is a bit tricky, though considering how superb the previous STEM-FSS matches were it’s a pity that second final match wasn’t played.

It’s usually a good idea for a tournament to make clear the finals scenarios to both teams before the finals begin (and as much as possible before the tournament, deciding for instance on how to play off potential ties) just so that everyone is on the same page before the finals start.

But that shouldn’t overshadow what was otherwise a great day for both STEM and FSS A, with STEM’s Vishwa averaging over 103 PPG individually and notching 51 powers. STEM’s Anish also contributed 36 PPG, which is a considerable number for being in the shadow of such a strong player. FSS A, finally playing with their full lineup after several months, saw three players amass 17 or more powers and sported a sterling 23.98 PPB. Both teams are young and look to be jockeying for position within the hierarchy of top 5 PA teams next year.

Downingtown East A also had a good run with a win over rival STEM and did it all without their all-star captain Jackie, who generously agreed to read rather than play to help make sure the tournament ran well. Kaushik and Zach both emerged as strong players in their own right and several normal B-teamers got a shot at playing on the A team. FSS B showcased FSS’ developing talent, with Jonah’s 13-1 power-to-neg statline being particularly impressive but with all of their players contributing. And Carver HSES A had their best-ever PPB on an IS-A set with 18.8.

It was great to see Hatboro-Horsham back at quizbowl tournaments after their debut at QFO in December. The MontCo schools’s stats, especially on tossups, are a bit depressed because the top-tier competition in the varsity bracket didn’t give anyone a chance to breathe, but they continued to fight until the end.

JV Division

In the JV division, Team Sahil of Parkland put on quite a show, with a dominating individual performance, especially for being the 2nd-ever pyramidal tournament by a sophomore! Downingtown East B made it clear that D-East is going to continue this year’s strong performance in future years and also played shorthanded. Great Valley MS is a real find; they have some glaring gaps because, well, they’re 7th and 8th graders who haven’t had a high school class yet, but they have very balanced coverage of all parts of the canon and, unlike many teams, excellent pop culture/sports knowledge. I also was pleased with their excellent sportsmanship, as they made sure to shake the hands of all their opponents immediately afterwards even when they lost close games.

Friends Select C, led by an every-improving Aidan, showed more of that trademarked FSS balance and depth while Hatboro-Horsham B exposed a new generation of their players to pyramidal questions and seemed to come out liking them. SLA had a bit of an off day, but Jack did well enough to secure the #2 individual scoring prize. Franklin Towne Charter sent two rather sleepy teams, given that half their members had been up for 24 hours at a dance thon event and then bravely came along to play a mentally taxing 9 rounds of quizbowl. We salute the iron men and women of FTC for such dedication and hope that they were able to include their academic competition services in their fundraisers as well. Carver HSES B notched a couple of wins themselves and also have an improving Aidan as well. William Tennent, making a rare appearance by a non-CBEAST Bucks County team, came with a very young team most of whom were making their quizbowl debut. Rachel V. in particular did a nice job of making the top 10 in individual scoring; hope that the WT team will come to some more events in the future.

All in all, the tournament went off logistically well up until the end–even a few hiccups in the afternoon like a disappearing reader and the internet crashing (again, note the dangers of trying to do wireless tournaments) didn’t delay it too much and 10 rounds were complete by 3:45. Wissahickon was a good venue and the hosts were enthusiastic and had plenty of well-compensated volunteer hour seekers, so hope that they can use their experience in the future to get run academic competition events in Montgomery County.

Great Valley Quiz Bowl Tournament IV Wrap-Up and Comments

40 teams from across Pennsylvania and beyond gathered at Great Valley High School in Malvern, PA for the 4th edition of the always-excellent GVQBT.

Final overall results on Neg5 are available here:
Open
Novice

And final playoff results (which determined placement) are here:
Open 
Novice

Open Division

1. Lehigh Valley Academy A
2. Manheim Township A
3. Camp Hill
4. Downingtown East A
5. Downingtown STEM

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Lehigh Valley Academy A (foreground) collaborates on a bonus question in the final against Manheim Township A (background)

The tournament came down to yet another skirmish between the two teams who have battled back-and-forth throughout the year for supremacy in Pennsylvania: Lehigh Valley Academy A and Manheim Township A. Both teams were at essentially fully strength once the afternoon came around and went undefeated throughout the tournament into what was basically a best-of-3 final. MT A came away with the first match and only needed to grab one of the remaining 2 potential matches to win. But after MT A jumped out to a 120-point lead in Game 2, Alex from LVA simply went off, going on a run of 10 tossups in a row with a series of deep knowledge buzzes, buzzer-race wins, and conversions on negs from MT. This run seemed to break MT A’s confidence going into the final match and, though they kept it close for a bit, Alex put up another 130-point performance to claim the 1st-place trophy. MT A definitely has the firepower to beat LVA, but Alex’s consistency (while most dominant in history, he no major weaknesses and usually buzzes right after the power mark in almost any category) has made LVA A the team to beat now in PA.

Camp Hill finished in 3rd and seems to be on a steady rise through the ranks of the top teams in PA. Colton has always been a solid all-around generalist with deep strengths in history, but what’s triggered the latest rise has been Sydney’s emergence as a bonafide deep literature specialist. If they can find consistent 3rd and 4th chair specialists (although their teammates today definitely contributed some key buzzes), they have a good shot at winning the whole SSNCT. Downingtown East A continued its string of solid performances and got a nice win over local rival Downingtown STEM, though STEM is yet another team on the rise. STEM actually had Manheim Township A on the ropes with a lead going into the final TU in their match, but unfortunately negged to lose by 15 points. STEM has major pockets of deep knowledge, especially in science, and if they continue to develop players around Vishwa (who averaged 100 PPG today) they’re only going to improve.

Lancaster Mennonite continued their aggressive play, racking up 49 (!) negs over the course of the tournament and continuing to demonstrate strong pockets of knowledge in religion and history in the top bracket. Concord (DE) showed up without their best player and rode a favorable schedule into the playoffs while an under-strength Manheim Township B just seemed content to make the playoffs with a narrow 15 points win over Friends Select A. FSS A got a measure of revenge by running through the top consolation bracket and notching wins over Henderson A and an understrength Delaware Valley A. FSS continues to demonstrate outstandingly deep knowledge (4th-most for powers out of all teams at the tournament) but still needs to close up a few gaps and get all of their Big 3 playing at once more consistently. Both Bermudian Springs and Central Bucks East made the most of their appearances as well by finishing in the middle of that same consolation bracket.

Novice Division

1. Manheim Township C
2. Haverford
3. Central Bucks East
4. Great Valley Middle School B
5. Friends Select C

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Tournament Director and Great Valley Coach McCauley makes announcements before the JV/Novice division final of Manheim Township C (left) and Haverford (right).

Manheim Township C won the novice division trophy by defeating Haverford High School in the finals. Interestingly, though Manheim C did not have the most impressive PPB in the novice division, their on-the-buzzer skills were more than enough to make up for that. This will be a group of underclassmen to watch as they move up within the Manheim system. This finish also marked Haverford’s first appearance on the pyramidal quizbowl circuit in five years and they became one of only a small handful for DelCo Hi-Q teams ever to play in a weekend quizbowl tournament n Pennsylvania. They made the most of their time with an exciting up-and-down day that culminated in the runner-up finish to Manheim C. Paced by Jack’s 62 PPG , Haverford would be an excellent addition to the circuit–hopefully they can bring along some other Hi-Q teams too!

Everyone’s favorite CBEAST‘s B team actually finished with the highest points-per-bonus of all the novice schools, but lost to Haverford to finish in 3rd place. CB East has long been one of the most involved Bucks County schools in quizbowl (often called “Scholars Bowl” in Bucks) and it looks like they’re loaded for the next few years. In the rest of the novice division top bracket, Friends Select B (a 3-person team) was solid, but they turned out to have a weakness: middle schoolers. Great Valley’s Middle School sent a team of 7th and another team of 8th graders and both finished in the top 6 in this novice division. Even better, all of them were fairly well-balanced scoring-wise.It looks like GV will have a very solid pipeline of talent for the next few years. Rounding out the top bracket were SLA, who started strong but faded a bit after lunch, and PALCS, which is in the middle of a rebuilding phase this year.

Downingtown East C, who missed the top bracket by the smallest of margins in losing a tiebreak game to GV MS, let loose some frustration in pretty much stomping all the teams who tried to get in their way in the middle bracket. Lehigh Valley Academy B featured some of Alex Schmidt’s loyal teammates who finally got a chance to play outside the considerable “shadow” and acquitted themselves nicely.

Let us extend a big welcome to Franklin Learning Center, who joined the teams on the Cheese Bus of Knowledge from Philadelphia and made their quizbowl debut here. They got ahead of their intra-Philly competition with a win over Bodine in the morning, which boosted them into the middle bracket, where they put up a solid fight but were a bit outmatched by more experienced teams. Bodine themselves had a rough morning, but a great afternoon, winning the lower consolation bracket.

Also a big shout-out to Renaissance Academy for sending 4 teams worth of students in both brackets and all topping 10 PPB. In fact, every team at this tournament finished with at least 10 PPB except for a short-handed DV B. It was a good day of competition all-around and teams definitely got their money’s worth with at least 10 matches for each (a very cool bit of scheduling by Great Valley to avoid byes) and finishing everything but the 2nd game of the finals by 4 PM.

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Renaissance Academy poses for a picture.

A note on the question sets: while the HSAPQ Novice Set used in the novice division was quite solid and reader-friendly (if a bit challenging on the bonuses), the GSAC set used in the varsity division had a number of major issues. While this might have been excusable if this had been the first use of these questions, this was apparently something like the 8th mirror of the set and there were still major factual errors, confusing grammar (esp. a problematic use of too many pronouns in Lit. questions), and a near-complete lack of alternative answer lines, which often made this frustrating to read and led to a number of protests. This is unacceptable. I would not recommend using iterations of GSAC in the future unless the editors make it clear that they will incorporate feedback and improve their product.

-Chris 

Manheim Township Academic Challenge Wrap Up (1/28/17)

38 teams were on hand in Lancaster for the rescheduled annual Manheim Township winter event, delayed from December on account of snow. This did not faze teams, who had an interesting day playing in an unusual card system environment on an NAQT A-Set.

Stats are here.

Card system tournaments work by assigning every team a card to begin the day with a number, and after their first match, the winner takes the card with the lower number, and the loser the higher number. Teams are then sent to play games against teams with similar records due to the way the cards are set up, as opposed to traditional seeded bracket play.

This leads to some advantages and disadvantages. Because the cards match teams with similar records (for the most part; there ended up being a few uneven matchups due to the small number of teams) all day, most teams, even ones on the extremes in skill level, get more matches against teams their own level. This means fewer blowouts and the potential for more exciting games. However, when there are a small number of teams, it means the potential for many rematches, which traditional bracket play prevents. It also can mean fewer rounds, which means kids go home sooner, but get to hear fewer questions. Though 16 and 22 (which were the numbers in Manheim Township’s Varsity/JV) are usually considered too small for card system play, the number of rematches was not too egregious. It will be interesting to see if this experiment is replicated at future tournaments.

2nd Place Varsity team Camp Hill A. From L to R: Ben, Alex, Colton, Joseph, and Sydney. Photo courtesy Camp Hill quizbowl.

2nd Place Varsity team Camp Hill A. From L to R: Ben, Alex, Colton, Joseph, and Sydney. Photo courtesy Camp Hill quizbowl.

Lehigh Valley Academy, after another 160+ ppg Alex Schmidt run, went 9-0 and won their second tournament this month. I really have nothing new that I can say about LVA. They are dominant, and they look unstoppable right now.

Because of the card system leveling matches and a relatively even field, no other team went better than 6-3 in the varsity division. Camp Hill A finished 2nd, their best place at a local tournament in a long time. They finished with the exact same points per game as Henderson A in the playoff bracket, requiring a half packet tiebreaker to get to the final. Colton Sanden’s 31 powers and 78 points per game served Camp Hill well, especially coming out when it counted during the tiebreaker. A fine wingman performance from Sydney Preston and backing performances by Ben Hass, Alex Drda, and Joseph Zullo, all of whom look to be improving, sealed the deal. They are poised for a big run at this year’s SSNCT.

Henderson, despite eventually losing the 3rd place match to finish 4th, continues to rebuild faster than most local moderators predicted. In freshman Vijay Anne, they have a clear JV player of the year candidate and a piece to build around for several seasons more. Downingtown East A took 3rd, weathering a strong schedule. Their one-two punch of Jackie and Kaushik combined for some strong performances, as they never put up less than 240 points and came within 80 of LVA in round five.

Elsewhere in the Varsity tournament, a reduced strength Great Valley A struggled more than usual without Dan and Everett, Wallenpaupack continued a solid season, and Cedar Crest, Carver HSES, Berwick, and Emmaus all got in solid tournament play as they build up and learn more. We also saw season debuts for Hempfield, Bermudian SpringsCumberland Valley, and Schuylkill Haven, all of whom did well, winning multiple games and representing their regions of the state admirably. Hempfield in particular should be commended for qualifying for nationals at the tournament by finishing 5th.

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Berwick High School after a hard fought tournament. Photo courtesy Berwick Quizbowl Team.

In the JV division, first time pyramidal entrant Lancaster Catholic rode a bit of beginners luck and a good deal of skill to a 7-2 record and the first-place trophy. With four players in at over 14 points a game, everyone contributed to a good run and a 30 point finals win over Great Valley B. I hope to see more of Lancaster Catholic at area events. The rest of the JV bracket was filled by teams from Philadelphia’s Central and Bodine, as well as squads from Huntingdon and many C and D teams from other schools. Potential rising stars include Huntingdon A’s Andrew Buonaccorsi and Great Valley C’s Alan Xu, who tied for the JV scoring title with 60 points per game each.

Overall, Manheim Township provided another sterling event, and recruited some new faces while satisfying some old ones. The storylines here may not have been the biggest ones, but there was plenty of close play to go around. Next stop: Westmoreland County, for the inaugural tournament at Norwin.

-Ben Herman