Tossup Length at Hard Tournaments

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The King's Flight to the Scots
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Tossup Length at Hard Tournaments

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:14 pm

For ACF Nationals 2017, we originally agreed on a seven-line cap for tossups. As players of that tournament might guess, we abandoned that cap rapidly. Now, though, I wonder if we underestimated the value of length caps, and should have enforced ours more stringently. Whenever I played an NAQT tournament, I was struck by how much milder 5-line tossups felt compared to 8-line tossups, even if they were on the same difficult answerline. At least for me, removing extraneous lead-in material makes tossups far less onerous. And although you do cut away some muscle with the fat when you reduce a tossup from eight lines to five, I wonder how much you sacrifice when you reduce one that's ten lines to seven or eight. More often, it seems like we could condense the first three lines into one that's really essential. I suspect that if we made eight-line caps the standard at hard tournaments below Chicago Open, the subjective experience of playing quizbowl would noticeably improve, particularly for teams below the top playoff bracket.

I'm curious to hear other perspectives on this. I have known the pain of denuding a tossup of meticulously-researched clues; I'm always eager to load on cool shit at the cost of brevity. But we should think about how much of that habit is self-indulgence.
Matt Bollinger
UVA '14, UVA '15

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Cheynem
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Re: Tossup Length at Hard Tournaments

Post by Cheynem » Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:26 pm

In most cases, tossups above 8 lines, certainly above 9 lines, are just too long and can easily be shortened. Probably most tossups can be made to 7 lines. I find the following trends tend to make questions long:

1. You know a lot about this topic and you've got a KILLER WICKED CLUE THAT MUST BE USED EVEN IF SUCH CLUE TAKES UP TWO LINES!!!!

2. You actually don't know a lot about this topic, so your middle clues and giveaway are rather verbose. This happens to me in some philo or social science tossups, where you don't know if you're clear or specific enough, so you err on being lengthy.

For instance, if you asked a good, experienced writer to write a HS level tossup on something they knew well (let's say The Great Gatsby), I don't think they would have any trouble constructing a solid, 5 or 6 line tossup on the subject (some people would, but that's more sloppy writing habits than anything). The temptation arises when we try to do a hard tossup on Gatsby for college with hard clues or a tossup on some lesser Fitzgerald work that we don't know well, I think.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

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Victor Prieto
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Re: Tossup Length at Hard Tournaments

Post by Victor Prieto » Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:05 pm

It's not fair, I've been planning to make a mega-post about this topic for a month, but decided to put it off mid-July, because of graduate school stuff. I’ll do it now instead.

It's this sentiment which I am banking on:
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:Whenever I played an NAQT tournament, I was struck by how much milder 5-line tossups felt compared to 8-line tossups, even if they were on the same difficult answerline… And although you do cut away some muscle with the fat when you reduce a tossup from eight lines to five, I wonder how much you sacrifice when you reduce one that's ten lines to seven or eight.
I do thing enforcing a length cap for ACF Nationals is important, for the reasons you detailed. I think it's also worth mentioning that longer tossups not only have an impact on perceived difficulty, but also have a very real impact on tournament length. Editors making the choice to input 9-line caps instead of 8-line caps are making it harder to finish a tournament at a reasonable hour. If we stick with your analogy, it’s probably worth it to cut some muscle away with the fat, as long as you’re careful about where you’re cutting (more in my other post).

However, I think that enforcing shorter tossups is 100 times more important at the regular difficulty level. At the very least, people playing very hard tournaments know what they’re signing up for, and will probably still enjoy tournaments with long tossups.
Victor Prieto
Tower Hill School, Class of 2011
Rice University, Class of 2015
Penn State University, Class of 2020

Member, Writer, Editor, PACE (2015-present)
Writer, Editor, HSAPQ (2013-2016)

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