quizbowl

Swarthmore Novice Wrap-Up (1/27/18)

bethlehem_catholic

Bethlehem Catholic poses with their 1st place trophy after finishing 8-0

Final standings are shown in the playoff results here, with full statistics available here.

Bethlehem Catholic emerged from the Lehigh Valley with determination, clearing the field with an undefeated record. Led by Brendan, this well-rounded team was confident on the buzzer, putting up 46 powers and 450 points per game overall. Their impressive bonus conversion (23.56 PPB) indicates substantial depth as well; look for them to do well if they come back to more Saturday tournaments.

archbishop_ryan

Archbishop Ryan with their 2nd place trophy

Second place went to Archbishop Ryan and Downingtown East. Archbishop Ryan’s top player was the appropriately named Ryan (a sophomore), who scored a tournament-leading 107 Points-Per-Game in the prelims. Following a 415-80 victory in their first match, they proceeded to score a very solid 19.18 PPB over the course of eight rounds. This enthusiastic new team should not be underestimated at future tournaments. D-East’s three-person team was powered by Maggie (75 PPG in the prelims) and Nikhil (42 PPG), with solid contributions from Simran. Both Ryan and D-East exercised impressive neg control, with both teams accumulating only 4 negs each during the entire event.

The rest of the playoff bracket included Friends Select C and two teams from Carver. FSS C put forth a team effort, with three players exceeding 23 PPG. Carver A notched a thrilling 270-265 win over Archbishop Ryan in the final match of the prelims, while Carver B upset their own A team in the last round of the day. Carver B also had 19.31 PPB, the third highest of the tournament. These talented young teams should be exciting to watch at the Philadelphia City Championship in March.

fss-d

FSS D after the tournament

In the consolation bracket, Church Farm School, Archbishop Wood, and Bodine all finished with 4-4 records. After their debut at the Philly Fall Tournament in November, CFS made a welcome return with each player powering at least twice during the tournament. Saiif’s 52.50 PPG was fueled by several deep pockets of knowledge, especially on literature. Archbishop Wood had a balanced scoring attack with four players from the six-person team of ever-rotating substitutions putting up 20 PPG or above, and Bodine’s one-two punch of Alex and Raquel combined for a win against Carver B and 16.94 PPB overall. The rest of the consolation bracket was rounded out by FSS Middle, FSS D, and Carver C, all of whom showed solid potential. FSS Middle in particular came within 75 points of beating D-East in the prelims, and their 17.17 PPB suggests a strong pipeline for the FSS quizbowl program.

d-east_fss

A match between D-East and FSS C

This tournament ran smoothly, finishing around 3:00 PM for most teams and providing a fun opportunity for less experienced players to compete on the SCOP Novice set. Out of the four schools in their first year of playing quizbowl, the two brand-new schools ended up taking the top two places. We hope to see all these schools back at more tournaments in the future!

-Jackie

Advertisements

Pennsylvania Novice Question Set Now Posted on quizbowlpackets.com

The 2016 Pennsylvania Novice set, written and edited by the members of GPQB and Pennsylvania’s broader quizbowl community, is now posted online on quizbowlpackets.com. This set was our attempt to pioneer a novice question set that was a bit more challenging than SCOP but more accessible than a NAQT A-set. There are also a few PA-specific Easter eggs in there.

With the rather amusing exception of a Georgia tournament that used the set for an extremely competitive varsity-level competition, I think the data showed that we did a pretty good job hitting our target, though the bonuses skewed a little harder than expected on the third parts. While we did not produce a PA Novice set this year, the Philly Cheesesteak set has ably stepped into the void (and is still available for mirrors if you want a novice set to mirror in your part of the state! follow the link for details).

Check out the PA Novice packets here. These would be great practice material for freshmen and sophomores at more experienced programs and for all players at programs relatively new to quizbowl.

 

Downingtown East 2018 Invitational (1/6/18) Wrap-Up

DS5CxJLW4AAAdMc

Downingtown STEM A poses after winning the varsity division 

42 teams gathered at Downingtown East HS on Jan. 6th for a chilly day of quizbowl to kick off the new year. Full statistics and results are available here.

Varsity/Experienced Division

In the varsity division, Downingtown STEM A took the crown against a resurgent Manheim Township A in the final, winning 320-260 in a winner-take-all single game. STEM, playing at full strength for the first time in a while, put up an incredible amount of powers over the course of the day (90 in total, averaging over 8 per match) that managed to make up for some occasional spurts of negs. The final match was in doubt up until the final few TUs as STEM connected on enough tossups to put MT away at the end. But Manheim Township definitely deserved to be in the final and has exceeded expectations coming out of winter break. Though not yet a national contender, they’ve certainly entered the PA conversation this year. Township A should no longer be doubted; they should be feared. The impressive performances by the other Township teams this tournament as well as their Middle School teams at previous competitions are a testament to how well-oiled this venerable PA quizbowl machine is.

Friends Select A finished in 3rd. This time, it seems Jake upped the studying ante and led the team in scoring for the first time this year. A three-headed attack that covers pretty much all of the canon (Richard may well be the 2nd-best science player in PA at this point) and gets solid 4th chair support is dangerous, but FSS A also led the tournament in negs as a team, which led to a few close shaves. FSS beat Henderson A in the 3rd-place match to take a trophy. Henderson, led by the always-solid Aravind and Vijay, played themselves into 4th place by knocking off Great Valley A in a match that’s going to haunt GV for awhile. Great Valley A remains fully capable of winning any game against any team in PA, but also seems unable to get over the hump when it comes to winning consistently. Henderson, meanwhile, continues their overachieving streak, and did so with only 3 players this time.

Delaware Valley A continues to put up solid numbers, also topping 21 PPB for the tournament. Their losses weren’t too bad–a FSS power-fest and STEM’s 2nd-closest game of the tournament–but this team seems to expect more than that. They’ll have to up their game to make the best-in-state convos, but they’re firmly within the upper tier of teams in the state. In a welcome repeat re-appearance on the circuit, Unionville had a nice tournament, knocking off FSS A and keeping it close in a couple of championship bracket games. Their PPB made a remarkable jump over the course of the tournament too, suggesting their quizbowl IQ may have increased over the course of the tournament and perhaps pointing to opportunities for future improvement if they keep playing (h/t to Silverman for pointing this out). Paced by Connor’s 70 PPG, Penn Manor A continued their steady play throughout the season to finish as the final HSNCT qualifier and round out the top 8 teams. Camp Hill A and Emmaus A both made the top brackets, but couldn’t make much noise once there. Manheim Township B kept it close against several top teams and put up a very solid 18.19 PPB while Great Valley C was able to spring an upset over Emmaus in the morning but faded the rest of the day against tough competition in the top bracket.

Nice to see Downingtown West back at a weekend tournament with a particularly strong performance by Miriam (62.5 PPG). Lancaster Mennonite continues to get stronger this season, centered around Jacob (54.38) and an improving group of other supporting staff. Moravian was also nice to see again on the circuit and Lawrenceville (NJ) crossed the Delaware and boldly ventured into the experienced bracket, where they collected a handful of wins for their A and B teams. Renaissance Academy also came out in force with three teams that again bravely challenged the experienced varsity teams.

One note to teams: it’s totally fine to have juniors and seniors compete in the novice division if they’re new to pyramidal quizbowl or don’t play often. Most TDs are likely open to discussing potential exceptions to any eligibility restrictions in the right cases.

DS5DOVVWsAAZxG5

Wallenpaupack B after winning the Novice division.

 Novice

The novice division was small but competitive. In the end, Wallepaupack B defeated Manheim Township D in the final, with FSS C claiming third. Wallenpaupack was led by Angela (45 PPG), with able assistance from the rest of her teammates. MT D got the prelim round win over Wallenpaupack, but lost two close games at the end to finish as the runner-up. It was good to see PALCS at a weekend tournament here, though they struggled a bit in the upper bracket finishing behind both Carver A and Bodine, who scored a nice win over the eventual champions. Penn Manor B finished atop the consolation bracket above a very young Lehigh Valley novice team and several other Carver squads.

Manheim Township Academic Challenge (12/16/17)

The largest pyramidal event in Pennsylvania history occurred last Saturday as 64 teams from all across the state–from Hawley to Philadelphia to Waynesboro to Bethlehem–arrived at Manheim Township High School to test their mettle. 34 teams competed in the Varsity division, while 30 teams contested the novice title. The atmosphere at the event was unlike anything ever seen in Pennsylvania before, with some 250 players on site and a superstar team of dozens of Pennsylvania’s best moderators. Due to its large size, both divisions ran using a card system (wherein teams are power-matched against each other based on similar records) in the preliminary rounds.

Full Stats are here.

IMG_0777.jpg

A packed Manheim Township auditorium during the after-lunch meeting.

Varsity Division

Varsity’s top spot went to Lehigh Valley Academy A, where a solo Alex Schmidt fairly smashed most opposition en route to another trophy. It’s hard to say whether the A-set stats mean much for such an accomplished team, but LVA did average 26.35 points per bonus and north of 8 powers per match. Alex was easily the Varsity division’s leading scorer and his personal PPG of 178.9 was good enough for 3rd all-time on NAQT A-sets. There is nothing left at the non-nationals level for Alex to prove at this point. Second place went to Downingtown STEM A. Vishwa and Anish complement one another perfectly, and this broad, deep team got 8 powers a game en route to their runners-up finish. One very significant weakness with STEM that really showed up on A-sets was weak pop culture knowledge, which can be an issue on NAQT packets. Both LVA and STEM, however, took losses to a red-hot Friends Select A, who ended the morning rounds with the #1 Card in Varsity. Though they dropped two afternoon games to finish 5th, FSS proved they are a major threat to beat anyone by defeating the top two teams in close, hard fought matches. Richard’s rise from star (GPQB honorable mention last year) to superstar has been especially thrilling, and his 71 points per game led the way for a short-handed FSS A (missing Rudyard).

The fruitful cross border relationship between Ithaca High in New York and PA teams and events continued, as they drove all the way down and were rewarded for their commitment with a 3rd place finish. Great Valley A, undermanned this time by the absence of their science player Dan, took 4th behind one of incumbent GPQB Player of the Year Sam Scarfone’s best performances. Sam seemed particularly in his element on history and geography at the event. 6th place went to Hempfield A, one of the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s longtime powers who seems to have caught the pyramidal bug. After playing at Henderson last month, they followed up with a workmanlike tournament with some good wins, and received a berth to HSNCT. Downingtown East A finished 7th after another strong performance from Jackie, and Lancaster Mennonite A, perhaps the biggest surprise of the Varsity teams, came out with the last playoff berth, and a breakout performance by Jacob Cairns which included many fiery first line buzzes.

IMG_0773

Hempfield B (left 4) and Lancaster Mennonite A pose for a photo after Mennonite’s 325-200 victory in round 1.

The consolation rounds were headed by two teams from Henderson. Unfortunately, they split their best players to hog HSNCT berths, which is considered against social decorum in Pennsylvania quizbowl and should be discouraged by TDs at future events. Aravind and Vijay continued to have strong seasons for the Henderson Warriors. Unionville finished 11th, and showed they have quite a bit of knowledge to display. Eric and Sophia cleared 40 points per game, and they worked a cool 21 points per bonus, which is very solid for a team still getting familiar with Saturday invitationals. Lakeland finished 13th, and looks to be PA’s best chance for a public school at SSNCT to do deep damage this year. Michael Goerlitz had another excellent run, getting 94 points per game, which was 4th at the event.

Perhaps most notable of all was the plethora of new teams Manheim Township’s coach, Missy Doll, got to the event through outreach. Many Lancaster and Lebanon area teams we don’t see much came out, and did quite well. The Varsity bracket featured three such teams: Red Lion, Lampeter-Strasburg, and Lancaster Catholic. Each came away with some nice wins, and could well turn into contenders soon. A special commendation goes to Red Lion’s Rick Schimek, who notched 68 points per game and was one of its top 10 scorers. I hope we see more from these talented teams very soon.

The field for Varsity also featured A teams from Huntingdon, Penn Manor, Cedar Crest, Moravian Academy, Emmaus, and Wallenpaupack continue their seasons to various levels of success. Bermudian Springs made their season debut as well, finishing near the middle of the pack. B and C teams from Friends Select, Great Valley, Hempfield and Emmaus also competed against this dense, tough field, with Friends Select B taking as high as tied for 11th.

IMG_0775

Downingtown East A on their way to lunch. From L to R: Malaika, Zach, and Jackie.

Novice Division

In the Novice/JV division, Lebanon HS captured the championship in the course of gaining revenge on their only loss of the day to Manheim Township Middle B. Lebanon played an extremely clean tournament, with only 5 negs the entire day, and displayed deep knowledge on many bonuses en route to a solid 17+ PPB. Chase (57 PPG) and Courtney (39 PPG) led the way for Lebanon and I hope they’ll continue to play more weekend tournaments after making such a solid debut.

lebanon

Novice division champions Lebanon High School with their trophy.

MT Middle B meanwhile played quite impressively to get to the finals in the first place, paced by Aizaaz’s 68 PPG and solid supporting performances from the rest of the team members. When combined with MT Middle A’s best players (particularly Deeya’s 61 PPG), MT Middle looks to be quite a formidable force at the Middle School level this year. The next few slots were taken up by some promising C teams, with both Emmaus C and Downingtown STEM C showcasing some of the future for Emmaus and STEM. Emmaus C finished with the #1 card after the prelims, but lost to MT Middle B in the playoffs to just finish outside the final. This tournament as a whole was a great example of the value of splitting divisions as it allowed newer players on these teams the opportunity to compete against players of similar experience levels and the card system kept the matches close–in the prelims, 3 teams had 1 point average margins of victory, suggesting that the system did a fairly good job matching teams up.

With so many other schools competing, a few scattered thoughts on various teams from the rest of the bracket:

  • Eastern Lebanon County and Waynesboro made some rare but welcome appearances on the weekend tournament circuit here. In fact, judging by the high number of players on each school’s team (8 and 7, respectively), it seems as if they have plenty of interest for more teams at future tournaments. I would hope in the future that schools just enter two teams instead of one in these cases since it’s much more fun for players to be continually “in” a match and substitutions often seem to take up a lot of time.
  • Lancaster Mennonite’s B team fared well and it’s neat to see a school that has expanded from a single-player powerhouse last year to a more complete program, at least in terms of competing with multiple solid teams at invitationals. Judging by this tournament, it’s pretty clear that most of the teams in PA are taking the program-establishment aspect to heart. This bodes well for creating lasting programs and for the health of the state of quizbowl as a whole.
  • The #4 individual performance in this division came from Sebastian on Carver E & S B, who improved by 20 PPG in the prelims from the LVA tournament a month and a half ago. Lest anyone doubt that studying can pay off, it’s pretty cool to see such quick results. I’d be curious to know of other big increases from tournament to tournament for various players around the state in the future or even over the course of a year.
  • Nathaniel Schmidt–the brother of Alex–finished with over 50 PPG for the tournament for Lehigh Valley Academy B.

-Ben And Chris

Quaker Fall Open III Wrap-Up

[Note: GPQB is trying something new with this wrap-up by conducting post-tournament interviews with some players and coaches to add to the story. All interviewees were selected by whomever was in the Quizbowl Discord from various teams at the time of writing, with an emphasis on Pennsylvania teams.]

20171202_085603 (1).jpg

Teams head out from the pre-tournament meeting to begin the first round of the Third Annual Quaker Fall Open.

Thirty-six teams from around the region gathered at the University of Pennsylvania for the 3rd Annual Quaker Fall Open. In the end, Downingtown STEM A came out on top over Great Valley A in the nationals division while Lakeland defeated Great Valley C to win the open division.

Full stats for both divisions are available here.

Nationals Division

Six of the top teams in the region competed in a double round-robin followed by a thrilling 2-game final series. In an incredibly close final four matches that all came down to the final tossup, Downingtown STEM beat Great Valley A, then lost to district rivals Downingtown East, then won two final games against Great Valley A in a disadvantaged final. STEM was missing their history/geography specialist Anish, but Vishwa’s deep science knowledge (he had some very impressive 30s on college-level topics) and solid all-around knowledge helped keep them competitive in every game. Rohan also helped out on the arts, employing a studying strategy of presenting to younger students on the team on various art topics (as inspired by Lily Zhang’s discussion of State College’s strategy).

Despite a tournament-leading 45 negs, the aggressive buzzing strategy paid off for STEM, who also led the tournament with 27 powers. According to Vishwa, this wasn’t a deliberate buzzing strategy; they just buzzed when they thought they knew it and Vishwa felt liberated to be aggressive on history to make up for Anish’ absence. In the final two matches, Vishwa shifted his strategy to avoid negs: “I was a lot less cavalier on science buzzes…I waited a bit more after I thought I knew it.”

Great Valley A (missing their normal #3 Mark) seemingly had the tournament in hand multiple times, but lost to a firing-on-all-cylinders Friends Select team in the final regular round to finish at 8-2 that forced a final with 7-3 D-STEM. GV A knew they’d had neg problems in the past and worked to correct that this time, particularly on a tough question set. Great Valley Coach McCauley said that his A team, “played much more patient–knowing lead-ins would be tougher–and bought in to cutting negs and not beating ourselves.”

Unfortunately, a few poorly-timed negs did cost them in the final few matches and they weren’t able to make up for that. It does seem like GV is working to improve on every question with a data-driven study strategy; Coach McCauley noted that, “We can take the data from this event and say ‘what caused this neg?’ or ‘we zeroed this bonus’ and then discuss who is going to own this topic for next time.” We’ll see if GV’s moneybuzz strategy can pay off at tournaments next semester.

Friends Select A finished in 3rd with a 6-4 record highlighted by a final-round win over Great Valley A. Like the other teams, FSS had practiced on tougher questions in the weeks leading up to this tournament to account for the tougher questions and different distribution. As Jake from FSS A explained, “the biggest difference for us was having to be a lot more conservative on our buzzes on EFT. We spent all of last week practicing waiting longer before buzzing than we would on [NAQT].” Friends Select rotated a fourth into their lineup, with Saras providing handshakes after good buzzes and some help on the bonuses, though the whole team missed some of the geography and current events questions that would be in a NAQT packet.

Making the drive up from Wilmington, Wilmington Charter A (DE) was competitive in all their matches and notched a win over STEM. The core trio of Waley, Sohum, and Sohan continued their solid performances from previous tournaments, though they were somewhat up-and-down depending on the match throughout the day. They’re certainly capable of knocking off any team in the area, but can play somewhat sloppily as well as brilliantly from match to match.

Downingtown East had a memorable match against STEM, beating their district rivals for the first time this academic year after an impressive 30 on the bonus after TU 19 by Malaika. According to D-East’s Jackie, “we were just more cautious and tried to keep it close the entire time, and we also got lucky that some of the topics that came up were ones that we knew decently well.” The rest of their matches put points on the board, but didn’t quite come as close. Their core trio also seems to be in the market for a solid 4th player and will likely make use of their rising B and C teams to provide one for future tournaments.

Middlesex County Academy (NJ), a very young team this year, ventured into the nationals division and adopted an aggressive strategy of buzzing which earned them the runner-up neg title award but probably made sense against the squads they were facing. We of course welcome NJ schools and would love to have more cross the river into PA.

EFT seemed like a solid set in terms of difficulty for most of these teams, who could consistently get TUs and 10 bonuses but also rewarded deep knowledge. Apart from a few instances of bonus inconsistency (which happen in every set) and a couple questionable answerlines, it was a fun set to see played and multiple players and coaches thought it a good learning experience for all.

Open Division

Though they lost several of their starters after last year’s top-20 finish at SSNCT, Lakeland appears to have reloaded largely in the form of Michael’s dominant all-around performance, putting up 127 PPG for the day and going undefeated, with their closest match a 55-point win. Lakeland will likely continue to contest for the best in the Northeast this year and could have a nice run at SSNCT if the rest of the team can develop around Michael’s strengths and weaknesses. Great Valley C made a nice run to the finals, grabbing a win over Manheim Township A and only losing to Wissahickon A and Lakeland. Manheim Township, missing much of their regular A and B teams, got some of their younger players more experience and finished just out of the Open championship match. Impressively, Manheim’s middle school team ended up with a higher PPB than Manheim B here and acquitted themselves well on a tough set of questions (more on this below). D-STEM B and Wilmington Charter B teams ended up in the hunt as well, with Noriyuki and Vedant (respectively) leading them. Science Leadership Academy A, after playing the morning as a duo, added Gavin in the afternoon to boost their PPB but had a rougher time on the TUs. Wissahickon A, after a strong morning, had a tougher afternoon with a couple of close losses and FSS B rode Matt and Silas’s scoring into the champ playoffs, but had a harder time once there.

In the consolation matches, Central Bucks East, sporting T-shirts with the image of an actual “SEABEAST,” warmed up nicely after the prelims and won the top consolation bracket. They seemed to get better as the day went on, moderating their negs and boosting their PPB from 9.1 in the morning to 16 in the afternoon. Great Valley D, after ending up in a tough prelim bracket, had a nice run in that bracket as well, followed by D-East B, FSS C, and Charter C. Keep an eye on Prasanna from Charter C and Jeremy from FSS C in the future. Carver A, rebuilding after losing 3/4 of their team last year, did relatively well on the TUs but struggled on the bonuses. Carver’s B team, featuring several new-to-quizbowl players, definitely caught on more in the playoffs and finished just behind D-East C in their consolation bracket. D-East C was cruising until a final round loss to Bodine, while Manheim’s C team, Wissahickon B, and Franklin Towne Charter A rounded out that bracket.

Although QFO has historically attracted a number of new-to-quizbowl schools, this year the only new team was Archbishop Wood, who quickly caught on after the prelims and doubled their PPB in the playoffs, ending with a hard-fought close game against Rush Fine Arts from Philly. Quizbowl in PA is for some reason lacking in diocesan schools, so it was good to see Wood in attendance and improving throughout the day. Wissahickon C emerged atop that final consolation bracket with some good TU prowess. SLA B and Carver C, both loaded with new-to-quizbowl-this-semester players, rounded out the field as all teams finished with a win.

Unfortunately, the Open division was played on the WHAQ II set which, after being easier-than-average last year (it had a negative Morlan stat correction, suggesting it was easier than the regular HS set) ended up being much harder this year, especially for less-experienced schools. Hopefully this and some other issues will be fixed before future mirrors. I commend all the teams for powering through the set and sticking it out.

Up next in two weeks: 64+ teams gather at Manheim Township. We’ll cover all the action from Lancaster then!

-Chris

Philly Fall Tournament Wrap-Up (11/11/17)

36 teams from across the Greater Philadelphia area converged on Center City, Philadelphia Saturday for the Philly Fall Invitational, jointly hosted by Friends Select School and Carver HSES at Friends Select’s campus.

Full stats are available here.

doyg_6dxcaih1si

The winning duo from D-STEM A. Image via Twitter.

Open Division

Downingtown STEM A swept the field and finished with an unblemished 10-0 record, triumphing in an unusual 2 vs. 2 final against Wilmington Charter A. Propelled by Vishwa’s impressive 118 PPG (note that he actually averaged more points in the playoffs than in the prelims!) and Anish’s solid backing, STEM took on a tough (and somewhat uneven) Harvard Fall question set and was the only team in the field to finish above 20 PPB. Charter, playing somewhat shorthandedly as well, saw the continued emergence of Waley as a star player and excellent complement to A-team anchor Sohum. Great Valley A finished in 3rd, with a sterling performance from last year’s GPQB player-of-the-year Sam (26 powers to only 6 negs) counterbalanced by a consistent neg trend. GV averaged nearly 4 negs a match and barely broke even on the Power to Neg ratio. Downingtown East A finished in 4th, led as usual by Jackie’s strong generalist knowledge, and also picked up some solid assistance from Zach (28.9 PPG). Though they came close to knocking off Charter A, they had a harder time with their in-district rivals at STEM. Friends Select’s house team played with only half of their usual A-team (since FSS quite smartly chose to focus on prioritizing making sure the tournament ran efficiently by having their best readers read instead of play), allowing a rotating cast of A-team hopefuls to get some good experience. Henderson A made the top bracket as well, but isn’t quite ready yet to take back their place atop the Chester County hierarchy at this time.

Great Valley showcased tremendous depth throughout this tournament with their B, C, D, and E teams all finishing in the middle consolation bracket. With good coaching and a stable program in place for several years now, reinforcements from a burgeoning middle school program are helping to replenish and expand the ranks of GV teams this year and likely in future years. A young Penn Manor team continued its long-term expedition forth from the Lancaster-Lebanon League, highlighted with a 345-155 win over a balanced Downingtown STEM B team that came close to making the top bracket.

Wissahickon A, making their season debut, won the 2nd consolation bracket by a fairly large margin. Moorestown Friends, after a year’s hiatus from the circuit, returned and was led by a solid 40 PPG performance from Kayla. Science Leadership Academy A, playing up in the open division for the first time, had several close losses to GV B and Henderson A before finishing alongside Moorestown Friends (whom they beat in a close 200-195 match). Henderson’s enterprising B team, Carver’s house team, and Lancaster Mennonite (unusual but interesting to see several LL teams but not Manheim Township–who was down in Baltimore dogfighting with the DC circuit this weekend–at a tournament).

23498126_190139224893184_9002252092366127104_n

Clockwise from the top: Haverford, D-East, and Middlesex County A. Image via Instagram.

Novice Division

Though they lacked their signature red-and-gold bowties, Haverford High school made a big impression in only their 2nd-ever pyramidal tournament of the past few years by winning the novice division and displaying some outstandingly deep knowledge in doing so. Though they have some knowledge gaps due to their relative quizbowl inexperience, they can go on impressive runs of powers and 30s that show just what  some of the other Delaware County Hi-Q schools might be capable of if they chose to play quizbowl. Downingtown East B, paced by a balanced attack with all of its players averaging 29 PPG or higher, showed that the future of D-East should be bright. D-East B’s only losses were to Haverford and they had an impressive 200-point win over Wilmington Charter B in the prelims. Middlesex County A (NJ), another young team recovering from several major graduations last year, was able to knock off Haverford in the first round but then got upset by their B team in the playoffs and finished just out of the finals. Downingtown STEM C and Middlesex B were also both freshman-dominated teams who seemed happy to make the top playoff bracket but then had a harder time. Prathik (MCA B) and Abhsenk (MCA A) both topped 50 PPG, so with their powers combined MCA should be set for the future and we welcome more NJ teams to come over to our tournaments in PA.

The middle consolation bracket was won by Bodine, where star sophomore Alex (60 PPG) is now complemented by an impressive newcomer in Raquel (42 PPG). Though they could stand to work on adding some more depth (only 6 powers), Bodine was only a tossup cycle away in 2 games from breaking into the championship bracket. Church Farm School made their quizbowl debut in solid fashion, getting a tough introduction from the B teams of Charter and D-East before settling down to finish high in their consolation bracket. Wissahickon B capped off their day with a nice 255-250 victory over a balanced Charter C team. FSS B, also rotating through a cast of newer players, romped through the lower consolation bracket thanks to the 65+ PPG of Hannah, while the rest of the bracket was filled out by new players from the many of the other Philadelphia schools including Franklin Towne, Rush Fine Arts, and even more of Science Leadership Academy, many of whose players were making their quizbowl debuts.

Fortunately for the novice players, the Philadelphia Cheesesteak set (written by veteran quizbowl coach and writer Bill Tressler) was very accessible, particularly on the tossups. The tossups were designed around being covertable but still had challenging lead-ins, and there were a number of clues that tried to tie in current events and recent pop culture. There were some list-like clues and a few pronoun/plural issues, but most of those have been marked to get corrected and didn’t detract from the overall accessibility of the set at all. I would highly encourage other schools interested in a set that I felt was slightly harder than SCOP Novice on the bonuses but easier than NAQT IS-A sets on the tossups to use it (and its future sequels!) in your area.

-Chris

Player Interview: Lily Zhang

This month’s interview is with Lily Zhang (LZ), a senior at State College Area High School. She has been the president of their quizbowl club for two years and is currently the captain of their A team.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

JW: What was State College quizbowl like when you first joined?

LZ: I think State College was in somewhat of an awkward place when I joined because we had a really great coach and a really great team a few years past, which was Julie Gittings and Graham Moyer and them. Then after they left, we still had a bunch of really great players that kept the club going, but practices eventually became reading questions for the most experienced players. I remember coming to my first practice and being overwhelmed because it was basically just reading questions, and we had some really outstanding players. My first year of quizbowl, I didn’t really answer any questions at all. Some other freshmen and I would just sit in the back and watch as the really accomplished people got questions.

JW: How do you make your club more inclusive to newcomers?

LZ: In tenth grade I started doing this thing where I would take the newcomers to a separate practice room. At first, we just read questions, but then eventually, I got to know them better, and I would think of different activities that we could do to help them, to help raise them to this standard where reading questions was a productive form of practice. Just recognizing the struggles of newcomers, recognizing that they’re there and paying attention to them, I think, is really important.

JW: What are some of those activities that you do in practice?

LZ: One thing that I started doing this year was, after each practice, the next practice we’ll do a Kahoot on the different topics covered in a packet we read last time. I think the most important thing with newcomers is making them feel like they’re making progress, so they can feel, like, a sense of accomplishment. That’s the most frustrating thing if you don’t feel like you’re making progress. When we play games like Kahoot, it’s really fun for them because they’re really competitive about it, but they can actually see results from paying attention during practice or studying things on their own time. Another thing I started doing this year is, each week we have a category competition thing. I let the newcomers make their own teams, so each team sends one person to compete in a category. For example, last week we had ballets—no, bodies of water. I think that’s also a really great way to get them to make noticeable steady progress, because we pick narrow topics that are really easy to study, so then they can feel good when they get questions. Before the Penn State Novice tournament, we had two of those [category competitions] on like Russian literature and organs, and whenever those things came up it would be a really proud moment for everyone because they’d be like “wow, I studied this!”

JW: How do you recruit new players?

LZ: A lot of it still has to do with knowing people, because generally, at least in State College, people in quizbowl will know younger kids. Certain clubs at the middle school level also serve as good places to recruit. For example, we usually get the Mathcounts kids in the beginning. And if we make the club fun, then the freshmen will recommend that the incoming freshmen join, which is nice. We also have an activities fair in the beginning of the year, so that usually gets a few signups. Recently, just last year, the middle schools here made teams, so that makes recruiting a lot easier for us because there’s already that middle school participation.

JW: What’s the most important part of being the leader of a team?

LZ: I think the most important part of leading quizbowl is just being in touch with everyone. At least, I think that being the leader doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the best person at quizbowl, but it means that you’re really invested in quizbowl outside of just how you perform and how your team performs. Something I feel has helped me is just letting loose and having fun with the younger members and not putting yourself above them. Also, just being able to laugh with them and relate with them really helps, because a lot more mutual respect comes that way.

JW: What do you see in the future for your club?

LZ: That’s something I’m pretty nervous about actually, because this is my last year at State High. Our club is very player-focused. Our coaches are more like advisors, and they support us, but it’s really up to the captains or presidents to determine the course of where the club goes. Hopefully our club only continues to grow, and I think that will happen. Over the past few years we have grown a lot—we’ve like doubled in size. And If I do end up going to college nearby, I’ll probably continue coaching at the club. I definitely see State College rising again in the PA scene, because I think we have a lot more potential and a strong membership.

Thank you to Lily for participating in this interview!

-Jackie

Rutgers Scarlet Knight Fall (9/23/17), Maryland Fall, and Princeton PHSAT Wrap-Ups (9/30/2017)

On two Saturdays in September, 9/23 and 9/30, seven Pennsylvania schools ventured outside of the borders of our fair state to open their quizbowl seasons. With some impressive showings all around, this year stands poised to be an extremely exciting one in Pennsylvania!

At Rutgers’ Scarlet Knight Fall tournament on 9/23, three teams from Friends Select and two from Delaware Valley began their 2017-18 campaigns. DV A finished the highest of the lot, ending up in the superplayoffs for 3rd place and claiming 5th overall. Colin Kawan-Hemler continued to lead the way with 45.65 points per game, but his teammates all added solid contributions, particlarly Frani King’s 35.22 PPG. They also won a game by the slightest of margins, 335-330, over Friends Select A. FSS A also demonstrated a balanced attack on the day, with 51.36 PPG from Richard Chen, 34.55 from Jake Shapiro, and 29.09 from Rudyard Lynch. Both teams notched key wins against top teams from the New Jersey region, as DV defeated Kellenberg A and Saint Joseph’s A, while FSS downed Princeton A. Both squads justified their preseason rankings nicely, and they look set for strong seasons ahead.

Friends Select B and C and Delaware Valley B also had good days as well, each finishing 4-7. FSS B demonstrated some balance of their own, as each of their players averaged at least a tossup per game. Jonah Taranta put in some impressive work as top scorer with 35.91 PPG. On DV B, Emma Dove led the way with 46.82 PPG, with strong support from Chris Secular. It’s certainly exciting to see programs continue to develop strong players for the future! Full stats for the Scarlet Knight Fall tournament can be found at this link.

Downingtown STEM and Lehigh Valley Academy each went 7-4 and finished 4th and 5th, respectively, against a challenging field on a housewritten set at Maryland Fall at the University of Maryland. STEM’s Vishwa Shanmugam compiled an especially impressive statline, scoring 103.18 points per game on the day, with 59 powers to 33 10s. The team as a whole added a major feather to its cap with a 430-290 win over Maryland power Montgomery Blair A, and they also scored a 435-275 victory over preseason #1 Lehigh Valley Academy. Alex Schmidt played solo on the day and put up nothing less than the spectacular numbers we’ve come to expect from him, going 60/67/8 for 139.09 PPG. Aside from one ten point victory against Thomas Jefferson C, though, his matches had high variance, as he either won big (including getting all 20 tossups against TJ D) or lost by a decent margin. Nonetheless, both teams should be proud of their excellent work at a difficult tournament! Stats for the day can be found here. You can also see an extremely cool breakdown of points by category for teams and players here.

Three more Pennsylvania schools, Downingtown EastHenderson, and “Western Lehigh”, played at Princeton on NAQT IS-168. Downingtown East and Henderson A played in the “competitive” division, while Henderson B and Western Lehigh were in the “standard” division. D-East had a relatively tough go of it, going 2-4 in the morning rounds and 4-6 on the day, but well-deserved plaudits must be given to GPQB contributor Jackie Wu for leading the competitive division in the prelim rounds with 69.17 PPG. Henderson A had a strong day, going 4-2 in the preliminaries and earning a place in the second afternoon bracket. They were led by last year’s GPQB JV Player of the Year, Vijay Anne, with 58.33 PPG in their impressive morning performance, with good support from teammates Aravind and Aidan. Henderson is a team clearly on the up-and-up, making for further excitement in southeastern PA tournaments to come.

In the standard division, Western Lehigh rode a strong performance from Sahil Inaganti (you can find our recent interview with him here) all the way to a third place finish. In many ways, Sahil and his team remind me of myself and my former Emmaus squad. He is clearly a strong generalist already, with further room to grow especially on points per bonus, and if his teammates can hone in on a couple of key categories, they can be a team nobody will want to face. Finally, Henderson B also acquitted themselves well on the day, going 3-3 in the morning rounds and topping their afternoon bracket. Three of their players, Will, Dhanush, and Abheya, all averaged over 20 PPG on the day, showing off their strong potential. Stats for both divisions at Princeton can be found at this link.

A brief note about posting tournament stats: Full stats from Princeton were not released until this afternoon (10/7), thus explaining the timing of this post. Posting stats a full week after the tournament is, quite frankly, not acceptable. When hosting a tournament, you should have a person whose dedicated job is to get stats completed and posted by Sunday evening at the latest. Taking some time to familiarize yourself with SQBS (here is a link to a good guide) can pay great dividends in getting stats published and available for interested teams, parents, and readers!

– Ryan

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

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.
|
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