The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranking

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The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranking

Postby Cheynem » Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:32 pm

So I looked at all the player polls of the years I played or was involved in the game (2009-2016). The number of distinct players who were ranked in the poll at least once were 70 (if you do not count Andy Watkins or Shantanu Jha, which I didn't). That's a nice round number, so I decided to rank them (although it's really a top 65, for reasons I'll explain below).

I'm going to try to post this in one day, but it will be in a series of 10 player blocks, so think of them as your commercial break as you're watching some FOX Sports countdown or whatever. Obviously, this is just my opinion, but maybe this will start a series of arguments. Those are always fun.

I am counting anyone who received a ranking during this stint. There are some players who were eligible during this stint who had careers that I didn't see a lot of; I try to take a balanced approach to their rankings (in most cases, they basically receive the ranking they would get if they were ranked for their whole careers).

66-70: These are guys that I really couldn't figure out how to rank, for whatever reason. Either I never really saw them play, they had careers that really ended as I was starting to play, or they are just getting started now. In any case, my apologies to Aaron Kashtan (mostly of Florida), Caleb Kendrick (Oklahoma), Aseem Keyal (Berkeley), and the Dartmouth punch of Randal Maas and Dominic Machado.

65. BILLY BEYER (Florida State): I don't really remember his playing career that much, but it seemed like at his peak he was doing all right for Florida State. He seems perpetually the same sort of player that I remember him from in 2008-2009, which is both good and bad.

64. NICK JENSEN (Dartmouth): A brief but really good peak in which he harnessed his talents as a player on the combustible Dartmouth squads of the last few years. Unfortunately, he loses some points for no-showing that ACF Nationals--not even Carmelo would do that.

63. JARRET GREENE (Ohio State): My nemesis, if you can call someone a nemesis who has like a 1-1,000 record against me in regular season play. In seriousness, I kind of thought Jasper Lee was the better OSU player in terms of deep knowledge, but Jarret was the more valuable player to the team in terms of generalism (as you'll see by this list, generalists typically win out). Still, they were a great crimefighting duo.

62. DAN PUMA (Maryland): Besides being the master of Fantasy Saturday Night Live, Dan had a nice peak in which he was a key cog of solid Maryland teams (I feel like if Chris Manners played like he did at open tournaments all the time, he'd get up there). Not sure what he's doing right now.

61. JOEY GOLDMAN (Oxford): I obviously have rarely seen Oxford play, so I didn't really see Joey play until Chicago Open. He reminded me a lot of Will Nediger's style of play, a cool, conservative style that results in various impressive buzzes. Could probably go up a few slots if I was more familiar with his work.

60. DYLAN MINARIK (Northwestern): At this point in his career, Dylan is basically like a late clue mega-generalist, in that a typical Dylan line seems to be a lot of buzzes but not many powers and usually not strength to get over the hump against better teams (ACF Nationals 2015 aside). That's not meant to be an insult--if that were easy to do, lots of people would do it. And hopefully the power of spite gets to him at some point and he just starts learning more stuff. He does impress me as someone who really be a force in many categories (again, not easy to do), if not overwhelming. He also has one of the most distinctive buzzing motions I've seen.

59. LIBO ZENG (Michigan): One of the original dufuses. A player with a lot of knowledge, but not always the smartest style of play, making him one of those classic guys who is terrifying to play both against and as a teammate with. Libo would usually, in the same game even, one clue some hard crap but then make various dumb negs (the Libo Special!). Think of him as one of those guys who can throw down awesome tomahawk dunks but then also throw the ball away a lot too.

58. CHARLES HANG (WUSTL): Charles' career in five bullet points. 1. Wears a tuxedo a lot. 2. Has become a devastating history player and a solid generalist. 3. Still not at the level of top flight generalist. 4. That silly CC kerfluffle. 5. Very long QBWiki article. I think quizbowl tends to think of 1, 4, and 5 more than 2; he's probably WUSTL's best player now, although I think Richard had the better career.

57. MICHAEL ARNOLD (Chicago/Columbia): 2010 was Marnold at his mustache-twirling peak, as he was making top-flight buzzes for good Chicago teams as well as winning the first and only trash national championship. He also was once ranked on the player poll, something you can't say about David Seal.

56. RICHARD MASON (Yale): Perhaps the most forgotten player to win Chicago Open in recent years, Rich and John Lawrence formed the 1-2 punch of the Yale Renaissance, and for a brief period, I thought Rich was the better player. However, his peak was kind of short and he didn't improve as dramatically as his contemporaries, and then he disappeared from the game as well (a common theme among the greats).

55. BENJI NGUYEN (Stanford): Hard to rank Benji, as he was Stanford's best player for a while and then their influx of talent caused him to get somewhat lost in the shuffle at times. He could probably go higher I guess.

54. BRIAN MCPEAK (Maryland/Michigan): The lonely life of a science specialist (although Brian has some underrated knowledge, especially in philosophy). Got a lot better his last few years, helping to close the science gap for Maryland and be a valuable gunner for Michigan. Jordan Brownstein reportedly trying to clone him.

53. GAUTAM KANDLIKAR (Minnesota): An invaluable contributor to the Minnesota contending teams. Not as cute as Gaurav (but who is?). At his peak, pretty fearsome and able to snipe a lot of other categories.

52. PAUL GAUTHIER (Chicago): There are various good Paul stories out there. I think Jimmy Ready once noted that while Marshall Steinbaum wants to return the world to the 1850's, Paul also does...but 1850 BC. Paul was a super nice dude who always had a habit of just going off and powering all kinds of shit (even in stuff like film!) against my teams and then I'd look at the stats, and that round was like half his powers or some such nonsense. He was a high upside specialist and certainly valuable, but not as lockdown in his categories as some of the players above him.

51. CHARLES TIAN (Chicago): Kind of like a slightly smarter version of Libo, although just as excitable. It took Charles a while to really establish himself on Chicago (speaking of which, why did Doug Graebner never get ranked?) and he was basically just a specialist, but a really good one. At his peak, one of the best "history" specialists I've seen.

50. AUSTIN BROWNLOW (Louisville/Stanford): I honestly don't remember Austin's Louisville career that much, so I was really surprised when he turned into a merciless beast and quasi-specialist in Stanford, like when Tom Brady got drafted and went from a so-so quarterback to a monster. The peak was short and he benefited from the Stanford talent influx, but it was a very devastating peak. Yet another "never played in high school" great.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:55 pm

49. MIKE CHEYNE (Minnesota): Perhaps it seems presumptuous to rank myself so high and even over one of my teammates (Gautam) who always outscored me, but this is where I would place myself. I tend to think of myself as one of the better secondary players in modern quizbowl history, someone who can do well on a number of categories, gets some powers, and few negs. You also have to give me points for inventing the online packet.

48. SAM BAILEY (Chicago/Minnesota): I think Sam and I are fairly similar players, although Sam is funnier. Sam is perhaps the king of "where the hell did that come from?" buzzes--if the entire distro was 20/20 "No One Would Know This Stuff," then Sam and Will Nediger would reign supreme.

47. ANDREW WANG (Illinois): An explosive player--literally! Covers a wide range of the distribution and is pretty good at it. If this were the NBA, Wang would be the Rasheed Wallace of quizbowl, as he would get a technical every time he jumps out of his seat screaming about how he should have buzzed.

46. RICHARD YU (WUSTL): Pass (that's a joke--no offense, Richard).

45. HENRY GORMAN (Rice): Gorman evolved from being one of the incredibly unlikeable Charter wunderkinds to a pretty nice, laidback guy at Rice. I might actually be underrating the guy--his numbers at stuff like ACF Nationals were really good. My lasting Gorman memory is him asking me to write something for his online journal--did that ever get off the ground?

44. MARSHALL STEINBAUM (Chicago): Marshall is one of those players who probably deserves his own 30 for 30 show, like that one about Reggie Miller and the Knicks, you could do Marshall and Most of Quizbowl. I kid (somewhat). Marshall, who, like myself, emerged from quizbowl limbo on a contending team in 2008, became a top history player and excellent generalist. I would place him in the category of guys like Libo, Paul, Charles Tian, and Will Alston in great history players who would rack up high power numbers but also make some fatal buzzes at times. Final story: For a long while if you typed Marshall's name into Google, Google would suggest "fiend" as part of the auto-complete. He blamed me for this.

43. WILL ALSTON (Dartmouth): Will could really shoot up this list if he improves and does some postgraduate work; his last season was magnificent and hopefully eliminated some of the Dysfunctional Dartmouth/Modern World stuff that plagued him at first (much like how Gary Sheffield's reputation improved after a while). He's learning and maturing as both a player and writer (sorry if this sounds condescending).

42. TREVOR DAVIS (Carnegie Mellon/Alberta): Who knows how good Trevor would be if he didn't literally play on like one or two man teams for most of his career? He's like a bizarro Robert Horry. Trevor had a fun knowledge base--I honestly didn't realize how good a film player he was until this Chicago Open.

41. BRUCE ARTHUR (Chicago/Harvard): Bruce is one of those players that I always thought was more fearsome at harder questions than easy questions--like someone you could probably take far easier on an ACF Fall packet than a Chicago Open packet. I have to be honest, I'm giving Bruce a lot of points because of his Facebook feed which is really the greatest thing since sliced bread. Memories of Bruce: him awakening from a dogmatic slumber to get really angry that I beat him to a tossup on Ice Ice Baby, writing the awesome Wild Kingdom, playing on his phone during an entire CO round he didn't care about, writing a tossup on the Reptile Fund.

40. PAUL DRUBE (Iowa): A forgotten player by kids today, mainly because at one point he just vanished. At his peak, a devastating generalist force with not a ton of teammates. May have struggled in the shift to "getting real" post-2008 or so, but hard to say. Some of the fastest buzzing speed I can remember too.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:16 pm

39. SHAN KOTHARI (Michigan State/Minnesota): Sometimes I weep that I missed out on playing with a potential Shan/Sam/Jason Asher nucleus by a year. That said, I feel like Shan got a lot better upon joining Minnesota; he was obviously good at MSU but he seems to have turned into a force at Minnesota (although he was always a player who excelled at harder stuff, I think). On the other hand, wouldn't you be thrilled to leave East Lansing?

38. WILL BUTLER (Virginia): It is hard to evaluate Will's career. For various reasons, he missed out on being part of the very good/great UVA championship teams, and for the first part of his career, UVA was not a very active program. I think Jerry once noted that if you drop Will onto the 2011 UVA team, they run wild on the crazy Nats science, and that could be true. You've heard of bad ball hitters? Will was like the preeminent crazy tossup buzzer.

37. DALLAS SIMONS (Harvard/Penn): The tragedy of the Watkinsgate stuff is that it makes it harder to evaluate some of the Harvard players of the time, and I think Dallas was one of the biggest casualties of that--he was arguably Harvard's best player during some of those runs and the revelation of the cheating also seemed to destroy his spirit somewhat. An obvious geography/classics beast, he expanded his game to become a fine generalist.

36. SINAN ULUSOY (Toronto/Alberta): Probably the greatest Canadian player who never defected to the U.S. A spotty but brilliant peak that saw him as the spark on some high placing Canadian teams. Embarrassingly despite playing a whole tournament with him, I don't know if you pronounce his name "See-nan" or "Sigh-nan."

35. ADAM SILVERMAN (Georgia Tech): There's a range of players that I would describe as "primarily science generalists who are the top scorers on low top bracket/high second bracket type teams." Adam is better than some of those, but not quite as good as, say, Neil Gurram or at his prime Dwight Wynne. Could conceivably still go higher on this list if he plays as a grad student, but that seems unlikely.

34. DWIGHT WYNNE (UCLA/Irvine): Dwight was a good player--he didn't play for a lot of powerhouses, but he usually guided his teams to strong finishes. In my experiences playing his teams, he would usually have some oddball buzz that frequently could be a difference in a win. Gets some points for doing outreach work and for inventing quiz baseball, the game that swept the IRC by storm in 2010.

33. RAFAEL KRICHEVSKY (Columbia): Rafael is one of those players that if quizbowl were a national sport, I bet he would the subject of an article titled "THE BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF" every few years. He has tremendous range and knowledge of his categories, guiding a short-handed team to an impressive CO finish this year. I presume he's underrated because he doesn't post and the Columbia team hasn't had a signature finish at ACF Nats yet. That could change.

32. MAX SCHINDLER (Chicago): Could obviously go up and I would honestly be surprised if he doesn't jump 10 or so spots by the time he's finished. The key is if he embraces the spite and goes on a rampage to, say, knock off Michigan this year. He also I guess could drop dead of Coca-Cola poisoning.

31. NEIL GURRAM (MIT): Nothing is certain but death, taxes, and a solid Neil Gurram performance for MIT at ICT. I honestly expect that in like 2030, Neil and MIT will still be chugging along to a top bracket ICT finish.

30. GUY TABACHNICK (Brown): A brief, spectacular career. Remember that MO year where Brown laid the smack on everyone? Guy was a key cog as a freshman on a team with Jerry and Eric. Unfortunately, like Generation K for the Mets, Guy (I guess more accurately his teammates) became kind of the symbol of the destruction of the Brown program, and that could be a good argument to knock him down a few slots. However, he was an all-around excellent player when he did play, so let's not forget that.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:43 pm

29. JACOB REED (Yale): Obviously can and presumably will go high up--just look at his numbers at hard tournaments this year. However, I held off from placing him in the top 20 just yet. If John Lawrence was the Godfather to the Music Mafia, then Jacob Reed is the Goodfellas.

28. CHARLIE DEES (Missouri/Columbia): A combustible career to be sure, ranging from the high of being one of the top young players on the block his first few years to the low of personal problems/literally missing tournaments/the tragedy that was DEES to (hopefully) a late career renaissance at Columbia. I think I'm probably giving Charlie too many "what could have been" points here, but he was really quite the force, especially in his early days at a not that great Missouri team. Also, I'm sure most everyone has a story about Charlie Dees, even though a lot of them are presumably "that time when he was really high..."

27. KEVIN KOAI (Stanford/Yale): It's kind of amusing that by the time his career ended, Kevin was the 2nd best music player on his team (although I always thought that at least at the time, he was possibly the more consistent of the two). You also may have forgotten, like I did, that Kevin won the Triple Crown. He was an ideal secondary player, the kind of player that would just things, score points, and not make a scene.

26. SAAJID MOYEN (Penn): #27 to #25 on this list are similar--they're fine arts (and other things) players who were usually the #2 or #3 scoring options on their teams who had the firepower to be top scorers and who won an ACF Nationals. Saajid also represents another arc in that he's one of the players who got an injection of Vitamin Spite (or whatever) and took a Crash Course in Awesomeness late in his career. Like I was outscoring the dude as a teammate at Chicago Open at one point (perhaps, like my ICT defeat of John Lawrence, that was the catalyst). He was clicking on all cylinders during Penn's Nats' run. I think it was those cool glasses he wore in his last year.

25. AARON ROSENBERG (Brown/Illinois): An ultra valuable player with all around excellence--a huge pickup for Illinois during its Nats run. I think late career Saajid was better than Aaron, but Aaron was more consistently excellent. Aaron also talked about Venmo less, which is a point in his favor.

24. KURTIS DROGE (Michigan/Louisville): Kurtis' recent return at Louisville has shot him up a few places. He also deserves some points for serving as the San Diego Chargers to Jordan Brownstein's Peyton Manning. Let's not forget that Kurtis held his own as a scorer with Will Nediger and took a rag-tag Michigan team to a very high 2011 Nats finish. The Kurtis/Libo combo was one of the more entertaining quizbowl backcourts in history (maybe like the Penny Hardaway/Nick Anderson equivalent--I don't know, I'm stretching here).

23. EVAN ADAMS (VCU/UVA): Evan was the generalist force behind the peaking VCU team in 2011 and then took his talents to Charlottesville where he served as the Joe Dumars to the UVA Bad Boys. Being a generalist playing behind one of the greatest players of all time and a quasi specialist who had a monster run is somewhat thankless work, but Evan was always consistently good/great. He also, as far as I know, still holds the one-day record for writing the most quzbowl questions in a day--I'm sure Dave Madden's company will break this at some point.

22. TOMMY CASALASPI (VCU/UVA): It was hard ranking Evan and Tommy. I think Evan had the better career for the most part, but it was hard to overlook that monster run by Tommy where he decided to learn science (Jordan Brownstein may eventually get to that point and then we'll all die). I had some Tommy jokes here, but I probably shouldn't mock my HSAPQ Vice President.

21. STEPHEN LIU (Harvard/Stanford): Stephen has become quite the generalist force--he has to be one of the top fine arts players in the country at this point, and he's done good work in leading Harvard and Stanford Redux teams to high finishes. Both he and the next person on the list are also responsible for the comedy highlight of the year--the HFT discussion thread.

20. TED GIOIA (Harvard): Again, the tragedy of Watkinsgate obscures the fact that Ted was on fire at the 2011 ICT, the best I've ever seen him play. Memories of Ted: The 2012 ICT where I beat Ted to at least one power because he was too busy complaining about the previous question, the podcast where Ted does his impression of (I think Jerry?) yelling at a high schooler, Ted dressing up like Rob Carson at the 2009 Nats.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:12 pm

19. SELENE KOO (Chicago): In many ways, one of the ideal secondary players of all time, the perfect mesh for those top flight Chicago teams and Seth Teitler. But as her entry in the top players ranking argued, she had a great career trajectory, moving from backbencher to secondary scoring option to team leader (it's often forgotten but that 2011 Chicago team she led was very close, actually, to making the finals of both nationals).

18. JOHN LAWRENCE (Yale/Chicago): I was honestly surprised to see John so "low" (this is the top 20, nothing is that low), but this is going to be a bloodbath in the top 20 and i have a Minnesota bias to work through as well. I'm sure John would heartily object, but I guess I view the players above him as having more slightly more firepower. That said, John is a fearsome literature/arts player, is consistently dapper, and shares my belief that powers should rare. He also proved his mettle by playing solo for Oxford in 2013 and having a fine finish.

17. ANDREW HART (Minnesota): Andrew said "as long as you don't rank me below Chris Ray, I'm happy." Well, I'm sorry about that (more in Chris' entry). That said, I did rank you over John Lawrence, so maybe that means something. I've played with Andrew probably the most of anyone on this list--he's the crafty lefty of quizbowl, someone who has the "will to buzz" on a lot of shit across categories, and is perfectly content with his stats. He's never been one to put eye-popping numbers but he's very consistent and hasn't really lost much of his knowledge base. I'm sure he can find some statistic as well that would rank him first among his peers, so don't feel too bad.

16. ROB CARSON (Minnesota/MCTC): Andrew and Rob are kind of permanently linked at the hip, like Edge and Christian, Trammell and Whitaker, O.J. Mayo and drugs. It's hard to really say who was better--I always thought Andrew was better during their playing days, while Rob is better now as an open player. Rob has a very impressive knowledge base--obviously a lot of it is real, but I guess I've never met someone who likes to "read about things" more than Rob (that's a compliment by the way, although please read something other than Jacobin). Rob and Andrew's most lasting accomplishment is presumably writing CO Trash 2016 and 2018.

15. JEFF HOPPES (Berkeley): Possibly the best "secondary" type player of all time, although obviously has the chops to win as a #1, since he did it. Put up solid performances leading Berkeley to high Nats finishes. Killer contributor to Chicago Open teams since he like knows a lot of stuff very deep and doesn't neg. The Cerebral Assassin's best accomplishment in recent years is just going Andre the Giant on various hapless fields at CO History, smashing them into oblivion (a.k.a. "pulling a Tejas").

14. CHRIS RAY (Maryland/Chicago): I'll be the first to say that Chris doesn't always play the cleanest game--there's a few goofy negs or unfortunate vulch attempts in most Chris Ray tournaments. However, his ability and record of accomplishments shouldn't be discounted either. Chris took various Maryland teams to high, usually overachieving finishes. He moved to Chicago and as a relatively mature, complementary player, was a key cog in a championship team. If he somehow pulls a rabbit out of his hat and makes Ohio State a top bracket team, I'm all for moving him to top 10. He's also a player with a lot of stories about him, which I like to have among the players near the top of the list--if you don't have a Chris Ray story and you played in the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic, you're lying.

13. WILL NEDIGER (Michigan): The Canadian Cruciverbalist (spellcheck says I meant to say "Structuralist") is probably the best quizbowl player in the game today at Hard-Ass Shit: The Tournament (see Arrabal). He reminds me of John Lawrence--a hyper-elite player and nearly unbeatable on some categories, who is not as good at other categories, such as history, science, and trash (although he did just win a trash tournament). I don't really know how to describe Will--if there was some packet where most of the answerlines were like obscure Puerto Rican poets or films from South Sudan, I think he'd beat anyone in the world on it. However, he might lose on an ICT packet to, say, my team (he's also nice enough to take this blatant insult in good Canadian cheer). That's the only thing keeping him out of the top 10.

12. BRENDAN BYRNE (Minnesota): Time for a controversial ranking. You know how every ranking usually has someone's childhood hero ranked way too high (like why Cousy is so high on Bill Simmon's list)? This is mine. I was coming into the league at the time, so I probably had rose-tinted glasses, but Brendan was a monster. A beast. It was a short but devastating peak. YES, I know it was mostly pre-realification (although just for fun on his way out he smashed Jerry's hard-ass CO 2010). YES, I know you can say he was a flashcard making robot (well, then, why didn't everyone just do that?). I don't care. The Brendan peak was awe-inspiring. Yes, it was short, and the MattBo peak and Jordan peak and what have you are just as if not more impressive. That's why he's not in my top 10. The one thing I will defend him on, though, is the idea that his post-graduate decline proves his knowledge was fake--well, it just proves his skill came from lots and lots of practicing. If LeBron walked away from the game and stopped taking care of his body, he wouldn't be good either.

11. AURONI GUPTA (UCSD/Michigan): Auroni at one point I feel like almost got consumed by being a good player on a mediocre team. But then he more or less embraced it and seemed more at peace with it; he stuck with the game and was vindicated by a sensational campaign this year with a well-deserved Nats win. He, along with a number of people below him, are fighting to crack the top 10, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few of them did in a few seasons.

(top 10 to come)
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Red Panda Cub » Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:34 pm

Cheynem wrote:[John Lawrence] also proved his mettle by playing solo for Oxford in 2013 and having a fine finish.


Alas John played for London. Had he been at Oxford I suspect my former teammate Ewan would be on this list (and probably ahead of me!). Heck, I reckon he deserves to be on this list somewhere anyway!
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:37 pm

10. MIKE SORICE (Illinois): When Mike was feeling it, he could really beat anybody. Unfortunately, as he'd be the first to tell you, he wasn't always feeling it and his style of play tended to lead to self-destruction at times. That said, Mike did remarkable work--taking a 2009 ICT team where his 2nd best player was probably Jeff Crean to the finals is a signature accomplishment. He was super close from winning ACF Nationals 2011 as well (and these are just the finishes I saw). "Mercurial" is probably the best way I'd describe Mike--it was a style of play that had major, major upside over this period but wasn't quite as consistent as the folks above him.

9. IKE JOSE (Illinois): Ike was really feeling it for the brief period when he was Illinois' main scoring option, a period resulting in an ICT runner-up and ACF Nationals victory. He also worked very well alongside Mike Sorice. Ike's fantastic Nats run, which captured the imagination of viewers at home pleading for someone to slay the Yale juggernaut, is one of the most thrilling things I've seen.

8. JORDAN BROWNSTEIN (Maryland): Could go much, much higher as his career continues. Could conceivably be #1 if he decides to learn science. Remember when he was so desperate for CO teammates he played with me? If I were Bill Simmons, I'd compare that to when a hot chick switches high schools, doesn't realize how hot she is, and ends up going to prom with like the captain of the quizbowl team because she just takes the first offer she gets. SCORE!

7. MATT WEINER (JSRCC): Obviously I'm giving him credit for the rest of his career and for those opens. Matt is an unbelievably crafty player, one of the few players who didn't miss a beat when he stopped playing. His collegiate career was typically marked by lack of teammates/shorthanded teams. Always got the most out of his open teams.

6. JERRY VINOKUROV (Brown): Fun fact--I remember a CO History game where I was playing with Matt Bollinger and we lost to Jerry after blowing a reasonable lead, and both Matt and I concluded that the fear that Jerry might murder us was one factor why we lost. Jerry and Mike are similar players, although I think Jerry's base upside was slightly better (like Mike, Jerry occasionally went to war too much with the questions). Jerry came very close to winning a lot of national championships, but his lasting legacy might be creating a great program at Brown and inspiring two other Top 70 players. He's also now a top bracket trash player, so look out for that career renaissance.

5. ERIC MUKHERJEE (Brown/Penn): Eric was pretty much a complete player, aside from his weird habit of wearing bathrobes to tournaments. The best science player of all time, he was quite good at history and pretty solid at other topics as well. Eric was one of those players that there were certain clues that he would always buzz on. You mention a named operation in the 20th century? Eric would know it (that's what made him a fun history teammate). I'm glad he won a national championship; it seems like whenever players do that, a burden is lifted off their shoulders.

4. MATT JACKSON (Yale): The best winner of his era (won a national championship almost every year of his career!). I'll say more in the Matt Bollinger entry, but they were obviously joined at the hip in terms of top rivals, the Rock/Stone Cold pairing of their day. I will say that while I think Matt Bollinger was (slightly) the better player, Matt Jackson has an argument for being the 'greater" player, if that makes sense. It's like Wilt and Russell, if Wilt also won a lot but not quite as much as Russell. Okay, these analogies are stupid. Let's just say that Matt Jackson was an unbelievably good player and that his psycho Jeopardy grin is very scary.

3. SETH TEITLER (Chicago): An unflappable competitor. It was tough deciding between him and Matt Jackson, but I decided Seth's consistency and longevity got him the nod. I have little to add to the analysis of Seth Teitler--I'll say two points though: he was a great teammate. I only played with him at silly things like Ryan Westbrook's Experiment II and Wild Kingdom, and especially in the latter, he was super encouraging to his teammates and kept us on an even keel. Secondly, his hyper competitiveness is sometimes forgotten because he's a nice, laidback guy. I remember some game where my team (I think this was an open team, but I can't recall) got an early lead on his team and I could tell very subtly he was taking it up a notch, that he had decided that was enough of that (I can't confirm, but I think his eyes flashed red in demonic fashion).

2. MATT BOLLINGER (UVA). So Matt Bollinger in many ways is the best modern example of spite paying off. 2014 UVA was a juggernaut but it was a juggernaut built on spite, on anger at being foiled in previous years. That's not the only thing about Matt's career--his beatdown on the field in 2012 at ICT, his hyper-excellence throughout, obviously are key factors, but I think that epic year is what moved him to #2 and above Matt Jackson. There are a lot of Matt Bollinger stories, most of which relate to jokes I found funny. I direct people to his qbwiki page. You don't see those things on Matt Jackson's page, so that's another point in MattBo's favor.

1. ANDREW YAPHE (Stanford). Kind of a cop-out. But he's the player believed to be the best of all time, and during this stretch, he came out of retirement to finish third and first at ACF Nationals. So I can't really NOT rank him #1 I guess (and both his blitz and Minnesota's comeback and his response in the 2010 finals is a thing of beauty). I mean, it's like if Jordan popped in during the 2006 Finals or something and schooled everyone. I did recently read the "Secret History of Shantanu thread" again and he was super funny in it, so that also is a point in his favor.

All right, that's my list. What do you think?
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:45 pm

billy busse should have tried to get more internet points during his UG and maybe he could have been a top 65 quizbowl poll player
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Aug 11, 2016 6:31 pm

Cheynem wrote:56. RICHARD MASON (Yale): Perhaps the most forgotten player to win Chicago Open in recent years, Rich and John Lawrence formed the 1-2 punch of the Yale Renaissance, and for a brief period, I thought Rich was the better player. However, his peak was kind of short and he didn't improve as dramatically as his contemporaries, and then he disappeared from the game as well (a common theme among the greats).


I view Rich Mason as one of the great "what-ifs" of late 2000's quizbowl. You kids who grew up watching Matt Jackson and John Lawrence might not believe this, but as late as 2008 Yale was still what I called a quizbowl hermit kingdom. The team was dominated by people who didn't believe in the tenets of good quizbowl, and didn't really show up to most circuit events. Rich Mason basically lost the first half of his collegiate career to this. If Rich had been two years younger, or if Yale had modernized earlier, I truly believe Rich would have been huge and left much more of a mark on the quizbowl world.

Rich is also one of my favorite players to watch ever. He spoke in this thick Kentucky drawl, and he would routinely buzz early on tossups, and take the full 5 seconds to hem and haw. You'd be thinking "well that country bumpkin done negged himself", and then at the last second Rich would blurt out the name of some impossible philosophy thing and be awarded 15 points. You'd see his teammates ride the roller coaster, where first they thought he had negged the team out, then they were like "DUDE GREAT BUZZ".
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:02 pm

That's a trench coat, not a bathrobe. I'll cop to that operations thing, though.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Thu Aug 11, 2016 10:38 pm

Cheynem wrote:please read something other than Jacobin


Image

Image

(these were really fun to read, Mike, your commentary adds a ton)
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cody » Thu Aug 11, 2016 11:11 pm

Rob needs to be bumped higher because his selfie game is on point.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby armitage » Sat Aug 13, 2016 12:41 am

Cheynem wrote:47. ANDREW WANG (Illinois)...
46. RICHARD YU (WUSTL)

Perfect.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:57 am

Thanks to Mike for taking the effort to patiently comb through these players, and give each his or her due. I greatly enjoyed reading it, even if (as one might expect) I disagree with very many of the rankings that resulted.

Some of my disagreement is shrouded in bafflement more than anything else. I don't understand how Mike ranked many of the people the way that he did. To pick one example, ranking Jacob Reed lower than Charlie Dees is very odd to me. We can compare them speciality-to-specialty (in Music), and Jacob is much better. Then we can look at the rest of the categories, and realize that Jacob is better than Charlie at nearly every single other remaining category in the distribution, often times by large margins. If this were about Charlie as a figure in the game--as an advocate, circuit-builder, etc., rather than just a player in the past eight quizbowl seasons--then this might be slightly easier to swallow.

I don't have the will (or even the requisite knowledge) to provide an entire Top 70, counter to Mike's. So, instead I will provide a Top 25. Like Mike, who wisely calls his "a ranking", I too happily employ the indefinite article. I have my own prejudices, to be sure. Contra Mike, I do not wish to consider each player's entire career during this period. To me, how long a player took to get good is of little interest. I do not count it against any player that there may be a slice of this time period in which he or she had not yet hit his or her prime. I care only about how good a player was in his or her prime, and how long that prime lasted once it was attained. And I measure that prime only at the difficulty level of Triple Crown events.

So, let us begin:

1. Andrew Yaphe

I will surprise no one by also putting Yaphe at the top. Mike's description of Yaphe's ACF Nationals 2010 run is apt. To appreciate it fully, I recommend looking not merely at his general stats, but also his stats in each game of that tournament. The finals against Minnesota was not the only crucial top-bracket game in which he put up all of his team's tossup points. Yaphe's victory came even though he was arguably already a little bit past his prime, and while he had the weakest supporting cast of any Nationals-winning team.

2. Matt Bollinger
3. Jordan Brownstein
4. Matt Jackson
5. Seth Teitler

To me, these four players comprise the next tier. That claim may not attract controversy, but I'm sure that my ordering will.

Let us start with Jordan Brownstein. Mike ranked him 8th. He does not provide a reason for why he ranked him so low. The only two reasons I could imagine giving for not placing him in the Top 5 are that has career is shorter than the others' (so we have less data), and that he has won no national championships yet. The first of these is arguable, but the second of these reasons is not a particularly good one, as national championships are very dependent on one's teammates. If Jordan got to switch teammates with any of the above three players, I feel fairly confident that Jordan would have multiple titles, and the other victim of the switcheroo would have no titles.

At 2015 CO, Jordan was the top scorer at all three events (main event, history, and RILKE), winning two of them. I feel pretty strongly that Jordan is the both the best literature player and best history player among active collegiate players. I don't think any of the other players under consideration was ever the best player at a solid 8/8 of the distribution. And Jordan is certainly no slouch at the remaining portions of the distribution too. I considered ranking Jordan even above MattBo (his out-powering of the remainder of the 2016 CO field being a reason), but I relented. I don't believe MattBo's core was ever quite as strong as Jordan's but is periphery was stronger, I think. But even more to the point, I think MattBo at his prime was a superior strategic player: he knew when to take gutsy buzz, he knew when to prime himself for a late buzzer-race, etc.

The other way in which I'm bucking conventional wisdom is by placing Matt Jackson above Seth. Yaphe's playing style may be slightly shrouded in mystery by his general refusal to be recorded (hence the degree to which his performances are analyzed by legends and stats alone), but there is ample recorded evidence of Seth's playing style. In a prediction podcast, Matt Weiner once described the Chicago team under Seth by saying something along the lines of: "They don't do anything to impress you, but you just lose to them." Of course, this statement is a bit harsh: in myth, classics, and his best areas of science, Seth was and is still capable of many genuinely impressive buzzes. But I think there is a kernel of truth to Weiner's statement: outside of his core, Seth was not a consistent early buzzer. But when playing him, you let a question go late at your peril, as he could easily pull off enough generalist buzzes to grant his team victory. By way of contrast, Matt Jackson was no less masterful a late clue buzzer than Seth over as wide a variety of categories (people often forget that in addition to all the humanities stuff, Matt got science buzzes in nearly all of his crucial victory matches), but also had a much wider variety of things that he knew deeply and "for real." Matt's ability to get to where the canon was going to expand, before the canon itself got there, was an invaluable ability that should be under-appreciated.

6. Eric Mukherjee
7. Jerry Vinokurov
8. Mike Sorice

Arranging the players in this next tier was quite difficult for me. I have scrambled up the order of these three several times, and am still not sure that I have gotten this right. Eric has the deepest and strongest "core" of the three under consideration. By general consensus, he is the finest all-around science player, and I think that in his best areas of history, myth, and religion, he is more consistent than Jerry and Sorice at their best. But there are many categories where I have basically never seen Eric buzz against good teams. I cannot say the same for Jerry and Sorice: I have definitely seen them make an assortment of middle and early buzzes in a very wide assortment of categories. Eric may have won the championship that Jerry and Sorice could never attain, but Saajid had to get very strong before Eric could even make it to the finals, whereas Jerry and Mike were able to make finals without any Top 10 teammates. In the end, after much hemming and hawing, I ranked Eric above the other two by virtue of his CO performances. It is here, more than anywhere else, that Eric's strong core has served him well, and has made him perhaps the single most sought-after CO teammate. Although I think Sorice has been more consistent in his post-collegiate career than Jerry, I still think Jerry was the stronger player in their prime.

9. Matt Weiner
10. Brendan Byrne
11. Ike Jose

The players that I listed as the Top 8 are all "super-generalists," a term that I understand to mean that they are generalists who are as good as the best specialists in their strongest areas of the distribution. In this next tier, we find three players who are the strongest generalists not to be super-generalists. We also find three players who've gotten a lot of shit over the years.

I need not say too much about Matt Weiner. People used to snarkily dismiss his CO performances as evidence more of his eye for spotting up and coming quizbowl talent than of actual playing skill. Anyone who believes that should take a look at his actual stats from those CO's, and note that he was still the first or second scorer on those winning teams.

I don't in the least buy Mike Cheyne's defense of Brendan Byrne's post-graduate slump. Plenty of people come back to play CO lacking practice, clearly worse from their absence; but I've never seen anyone who declined as precipitously as Brendan did. Robots apparently require more maintenance than we organic folk. But I entirely agree with Mike that Brendan was one of the more fearsome generalists of the recent age, and should be ranked very highly. I also think the "realification" of quizbowl in the past 5 or so years would have hurt him less than people think. Quizbowl is still quizbowl: rote memorization will get you points. Were he trying to win tournaments today, I predict that the homunculus in Brendan's Chinese Room-like cranium would still have plenty of opportunities to pull the lever that operates the buzzer arm and output the correct characters.

It was conventional wisdom for a while that Ike wasn't as good as his tournament finishes suggested; he just caught lucky breaks against "better" teams. I admit that I once believed such wisdom, and continued to watch his performances in full expectation of the inevitable regression to the mean. But as he kept beating those "betters," I eventually reached the obvious conclusion: maybe these opponents weren't actually "better" than him! As is the case with many generalists without an ultra-strong core, Ike was much underestimated. Few people could have been rooting as heartily for Yale as I was in their matches against Illinois at 2013 Nats, but that did not diminish in the least my appreciation for Ike's splendid performance.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Sat Aug 13, 2016 10:00 am

12. Jeff Hoppes
13. John Lawrence
14. Will Nediger

In this tier, we move from the best non-super generalists to the best "hybrid" players, a term that I've seen used to refer to specialists who can function as low-level generalists when needed. I think that Jeff, Will, and I are three of the four best such players in the modern era: the missing fourth is Jonathan Magin, whom I would rank above all three of us (and probably above Ike or Brendan) if this ranking could include him. I think it's fairly self-evident why Jeff is above Will and me: while we may buzz on a generally more diverse range of categories than Jeff did, Jeff's iron-clad consistency. I will resist the urge to pore through Will and my stats over the year, to explain why I've ranked myself higher. Suffice to say: if CO were Arrabal, Will would be easily above me (and various others); but alas, the three Triple Crown events are just too "easy" for me to rank Will any higher...

15. Chris Ray
16. Auroni Gupta
17. Rob Carson

We are back among the generalists here. And I think that Chris is not only the best generalist among these three, but also the best specialist. In my opinion, Chris was at his best at the beginning and end of the time period that we are discussing. His fourth place finish at ACF Nats 2010 (where his three teammates combined for a paltry 25.91) deserves to be better remembered, including as it does victories against both Minnesota at Brown. His gradual transformation into the player he is today is also truly something. One should recall that as late as 2011, Ted was still trying to use "Chris Ray beat me to Tossup X" as proof that a question rewarded fake knowledge over real knowledge. Now that was not a fair claim back then either, but I think that no one would be tempted to make it now. Chris has lost none of his talent for bluffing his way into his point, but his vast store of real knowledge makes

If we were doing these rankings last year rather than this year, I'm not sure that I would have placed Auroni in the Top 25. I think I would have put him just below that, along with (e.g.) Evan Adams. But Auroni's performance this year knocks him up here without a doubt. It's rare that someone who has been operating fairly consistently at a high but not super high level for multiple years in a row suddenly shoots up the player poll. But I guess that the title-winning possibilities that playing on Michigan offered Auroni were just the kick that he needed! If Auroni keeps this up, and if we were to redo this ranking in two years, I foresee the possibility that he'd need to be ranked even higher.

I don't really have anything to add to what Mike Cheyne said about Rob: he's an excellent blend of real knowledge and the "having heard of things" coverage that one needs to succeed as a generalist.

18. Selene Koo
19. Dallas Simons
20. Ted Gioia

I was glad to see Mike Cheyne place the routinely underranked Selene Koo in the Top 20. The lanky, dark shadow that Seth Teitler casts means that she is mostly thought of as Chicago's #2. But for those that may have forgotten it, I would like to remind people of her performance at ACF Nationals 2011. The missing stats from much of that tournament have clouded the collective memory, but under Selene's leadership, Chicago was one tiebreaker tossup way from being in the final against Minnesota, instead of Yale. This feat is all the more impressive when you consider that Bio & Chem had among the worst difficulty spikes of any categories at that year's Nats. As a supporting player, Selene's standout may be Chicago Open 2011, at which she went 7-33-0 over 14 rounds. I once heard someone (complimentarily) bestow upon Selene the "golden chicken award" of quizbowl, for being one of the most high-scoring of the practically-never-guessing, ultra-conservative players. As a fellow chicken for most of my career, I think that this is truly the vollaile de bresse of chicken performances.

Of all the things I find puzzling about Mike's ranking, the low place he granted to Dallas is perhaps the most puzzling. Am I the only one who recalls Dallas justly being voted 8th best player in the 2010 Player Poll? As a sign of how low a ranking this is, consider where Mike ranked Saajid (11 slots above Dallas); then recall that while they were both at Penn, Dallas was equal or greater to Saajid at Nationals-level performance; and that at the height of his Harvard career, Dallas was better and better for longer than Saajid was in his one glory year (2014-2015). Andy was cheating at the 2010 ICT, but Dallas going 3-3-1 in both the semi-finals match against Penn and the finals match against Chicago was entirely legit. Andy wasn't cheating at that year's Nationals, but he and Dallas playing as a duo managed to make top bracket, largely due to Dallas' performance. And to Ted's perpetual chagrin: although Ted would outscore Dallas at regular difficulty throughout the year, Dallas tended to outscore Ted at both nationals, leading him to often be (correctly) ranked ahead of Ted.

If quizbowl were really just a test of knowledge, I suspect that Ted would be higher up than 20. But Ted just did not play very smart. Mike Cheyne mentioned him missing a power because he was too busy complaining about a bonus. Well, I've seen him do the exact opposite too: miss a bonus because he was too busy celebrating a power he just made! Sometimes, while playing a particularly inventive common-link, I felt like I could almost see him drafting his angry forum post about losing the question, thus diverting mental energy from actually trying to win it instead. It's a testament then to just how much knowledge he had that he was as good a player as he was, in spite of these mental roadblocks.

21. Stephen Liu
22. Andrew Hart

I don't have too much to say about Stephen Liu, except to register my respect for his rapid evolution from a high school generalist / 3rd or 4th scorer on Harvard, to a leading generalist and team captain who held the team together after their reputation was rocked by scandal, and one of the finest art and myth specialists in the game.

Andrew Hart has always been a difficult player to rank, as attested to by the 2010 Player Poll in which voters ranked him as high as 5th as low as 19th, and nearly everything between. For basically ever player listed above, one knows with confidence what their "ideal role" is on a team (i.e. first scorer, second scorer, etc.), and one has a sense of their category strengths and weaknesses. Andrew Hart is perhaps the most protean player in the Top 25 in this regard: he has played all four positions, and played all of them well; and he is capable of a good buzz in nearly any category, although not dependably so. In a quizbowl tournament in which teammates were chosen by draft (a format that I hope comes to pass sometimes soon!), I would be only too pleased to land him as a teammate. His fourth scorer performance at CO 2011 was demonstrated to be the best performance by a player relative to their seat, by no less an authority than stats manipulator extraordinaire Andrew Hart! Though (I think) unjustly misread by his critics as an act of unmitigated self-aggrandizement, I think this statistical flourish was in fact a fair assessment of his strengths and weaknesses. Seat him next to any teammates and he'll find a way to score valuable points. But the dubious honor of being the best fourth scorer in the field is easily improved upon by simply scoring enough points not to be a fourth scorer in the first place (a fate most of the people I've ranked above him have successfully avoided). Ultimately, I chose my ranking for Andrew by more-or-less his own methods: I ranked him according to his "replacement value," below those whom I would choose before him in a draft to construct a super-team.

23. Aaron Rosenberg
24. Kevin Koai
25. Tommy Casalaspi

To round out my list, we have the top three #2/#3 scorers of the past few years. Ranking these three was difficult, and I can admit to lingering discomfort at the final order that I settled upon. Aaron Rosenberg is the strongest generalist of the three I have listed, but also I think the weakest specialist. Ultimately I decided to credit that generalism with a higher ranking, both in acknowledgement of the difficulty inherent in being a player capable of playing many roles, but also because that generalism served his team very well in what are perhaps his two most impressive runs: his support of Jerry on their Eric-less 2nd-place finish at Nats 2009, and his invaluable support of Ike in their Nats 2013 victory.

About Kevin Koai I will say what I have said too many times: he is possibly the worst subject-specific victim of shadow effect in the modern history of the game. Kevin was one of the best players at music, literature, and philosophy, who had the misfortune to play on two teams (Stanford and Yale) where he was paired with the some of the other best specialists in those subjects. The next time you glance at Kevin's stats from his golden age, recall that you could replace his teammates with nearly anyone else on this list--including much better teammates--and Kevin would score more. Should you need any further convincing of his value, take a look at his 2nd-scorer performance on the winning team at 2010 CO.

I have made the mistake before of under-ranking Tommy, and I hope that I am not doing it yet again. Like Kevin, Tommy suffers a brutal shadow effect from his teammates, a shadow effect whose full extent I only truly came to terms with after watching him play Gorilla Literature. After Kevin Koai retired (hopefully only temporarily...), I think Tommy ably filled his shoes as the best poetry player in the game. If I could award points on the basis of the sheer difficulty of reinventing oneself as a science player mid-career, Tommy would shoot a good three or four places up this ranking. But even without that boost, his vital contributions to the UVA victory machine are enough to make him round out my Top 25.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Sat Aug 13, 2016 10:18 am

I greatly appreciate John's rebuttal and he raises some great points that I somewhat agree on (to wit, Charlie got way overranked (or "too high," if you prefer the pun; Dallas is underranked because he was the kind of player that stayed out of the spotlight--now that John has described him more evocatively, I do remember those accomplishments). If i had to rehash out my Top 25 (and you will notice we completely agree on the players in this list aside from him putting Dallas and Kevin over Kurtis and Evan), I would take into account his analysis.

I should also note that, unlike John, I was taking into account a bit of "big picture" approach to my rankings, albeit somewhat haphazardly. If I had a strong mental image of you as a player, if you stood out for non playing reasons in a good way, you got ranked higher, in the same way that I might rank a baseball player higher if they were considered a good clubhouse guy or a successful coach. I also do think that stuff other than peak matters--if you have a great peak season and 3 so-so seasons, how does that compare to 4 very good seasons?

I intentionally underranked active players who are likely to shoot up the standings soon just to give a sense that their careers are in flux and that they still have more accomplishments. There is no doubt in my mind that Jacob Reed will be top 20 and Jordan will be top 5 or so by the time they finish, but they aren't finished, and it's a little awkward in my mind to fully rank somebody with that in mind. Your mileage may vary. I also regarded at least a few of the players above him as the better strategic players at this point in time.

I don't really think John and I disagree on the assessment of Brendan Byrne as much as he suggests. As Brendan's teammate for two years, I am aware of how he studied and prepared for quizbowl--he flashcarded and read old packets. He was the anti-Rob in that he didn't particularly enjoy reading stuff for the pleasure of it (although he did like reading about sports, and is possibly one of the sports players of all time). He didn't have a lot of real knowledge, especially in literature and arts (he had some underrated history and social science "real" knowledge though). What this means is that if he stopped flashcarding or packet binging, he would decrease as an effective player, way more so than say Rob, Seth, Jerry, etc. who are more intellectually curious and involved with the game. None of this is an insult to Brendan--I agree with John that had he kept playing, he would have adjusted his strategies and matched the efforts of other players and did just as well. But this explains why he suffered a post-graduate slump--when you're not involved in quizbowl nor are you presumably doing the practice stuff that was the key to your fire, you just won't be as good.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Sat Aug 13, 2016 11:36 am

I wrote: We are back among the generalists here. And I think that Chris is not only the best generalist among these three, but also the best specialist. In my opinion, Chris was at his best at the beginning and end of the time period that we are discussing. His fourth place finish at ACF Nats 2010 (where his three teammates combined for a paltry 25.91) deserves to be better remembered, including as it does victories against both Minnesota at Brown. His gradual transformation into the player he is today is also truly something. One should recall that as late as 2011, Ted was still trying to use "Chris Ray beat me to Tossup X" as proof that a question rewarded fake knowledge over real knowledge. Now that was not a fair claim back then either, but I think that no one would be tempted to make it now. Chris has lost none of his talent for bluffing his way into his point, but his vast store of real knowledge makes


I realize that I didn't finish this Chris Ray entry properly, it should finish: "Chris Ray has lost none of his talent for bluffing his way into points, but his vast store of real knowledge makes him into a formidable player even in a game that has changed much since he first made his mark."

Cheynem wrote:I should also note that, unlike John, I was taking into account a bit of "big picture" approach to my rankings, albeit somewhat haphazardly. If I had a strong mental image of you as a player, if you stood out for non playing reasons in a good way, you got ranked higher, in the same way that I might rank a baseball player higher if they were considered a good clubhouse guy or a successful coach. I also do think that stuff other than peak matters--if you have a great peak season and 3 so-so seasons, how does that compare to 4 very good seasons?


I tried to account for post-peak decline (if it occurred while the player was still fully active), but not for the lead-up to the peak. To be clear, I also think non-playing achievements are extremely important to the history of quizbowl, I just don't think they're relevant for a ranking of "quizbowl players" as opposed to "quizbowl figures." I also feel kind of ill-equipped to account for many of these without massive regional prejudice. For example, Jerry's nurturing of the Northeast circuit looms large in my memory of the early part of the era under discussion, as does my own work to transform Yale from what Bruce aptly describes as a "hermit kingdom" into an institution that contributed positively to the quizbowl circuit through responsible hosting, writing good packets in a timely fashion, etc. But I have no idea how we really fit into the grand scheme of the various regional circuits developing at the time.

I don't really think John and I disagree on the assessment of Brendan Byrne as much as he suggests. As Brendan's teammate for two years, I am aware of how he studied and prepared for quizbowl--he flashcarded and read old packets. He was the anti-Rob in that he didn't particularly enjoy reading stuff for the pleasure of it (although he did like reading about sports, and is possibly one of the sports players of all time). He didn't have a lot of real knowledge, especially in literature and arts (he had some underrated history and social science "real" knowledge though). What this means is that if he stopped flashcarding or packet binging, he would decrease as an effective player, way more so than say Rob, Seth, Jerry, etc. who are more intellectually curious and involved with the game. None of this is an insult to Brendan--I agree with John that had he kept playing, he would have adjusted his strategies and matched the efforts of other players and did just as well. But this explains why he suffered a post-graduate slump--when you're not involved in quizbowl nor are you presumably doing the practice stuff that was the key to your fire, you just won't be as good.


Given your characterization here (which I agree with), I guess that I just don't understand what you mean by "fake" knowledge. You say that Brendan's knowledge was born entirely of "flashcarding or packet binging," in a way that was prone to alarmingly rapid and near total evaporation when these activities were not kept up. But then you conclude that this is somehow not "fake." Then what, to you, does "fake" look like? To me, knowing something "for real" is definitionally knowing something independently of just memorizing clues that have come up before. Are you perhaps saying that though Brendan's knowledge base was entirely derived from packets, he nonetheless understood the conceptual meaning of more of those memorized clues than he is given credit for?
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Sat Aug 13, 2016 12:03 pm

I don't think I said Brendan did not have "fake" knowledge; he clearly did (my mention of the word "real" was to highlight that there were things he was genuinely interested in and that he had actual knowledge of, although mostly things quizbowl didn't ask about). I don't think this is an insult or something that should get him penalized on a ranking scale--quizbowl doesn't care how you know it, just that you know it. My point was that this was his knowledge base and that if he stopped learning in this way, he'd get a lot worse because he didn't have a lot of "real" knowledge relevant to quizbowl.

To use a sports analogy, there are the players with natural born gifts and the players with hyper competitive, intense work ethics. We are aware of plenty of players who combine the two skills (Jordan, most famously, but a lot of the greats), and the disappointing "man, this guy is talented but he's lazy or he coasts" athletes. There aren't a ton of great athletes who become all time greats on the basis of the work ethic--usually, we think of those guys are scrappy bench players. Brendan would be the exception--he wanted to win, had an excellent memory, and a good "feel" for the game (a typical Brendan game at his peak would have some dumb buzzes combined with a flurry of "correctly processed where question was going" buzzes). He didn't have the Magin drive to read a lot of books or even the Rob drive to read a lot of stuff about books. He wanted to win and he did what it took to win.

One of the reasons why I am so verbose on this topic is that I think Brendan's reputation suffers among people who are only aware of the weakened post-graduate career and conclude that he was like post-shot clock Mikan. I agree with John that Brendan, being the hyper-competitive, hard-working bastard he was, would have done what it took to excel at the game. Would he have been as successful? Maybe not. But he would still have been great.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Sat Aug 13, 2016 12:22 pm

I'll add more later, but I think Tommy had a much better career than Ted or Dallas and should be ranked accordingly.

In particular, I think there are a couple biases working against him in this poll. One is the shadow effect that John mentioned. The second is prominence; Ted and others above Tommy posted a whole lot more than he does. I think that because Ted posted in such a way as to show how much he knew, it leads us to inflate our opinion of his play in hindsight. Tommy has his film manifesto, but I think overall that bias works against him.

The third bias is that we favor volume over efficiency. Tommy never had insane power storms, but he also very, very rarely negged. The questions he did buzz on were often out-of-the-way answers that Evan or I never would have gotten. Tommy was also, for what it's worth, a great teammate who put in the hours to learn whatever stupid topic we needed to cover. Contrast that with Ted, who tended to put up gaudy power numbers, but also negged a ton and could be limited outside of the "canon." I think both those skills matter, but we implicitly value the latter more than the former.

In the last analysis, Tommy was the consistent second best player on a team that won four titles, and was at various points a top 3 player in literature and science. It seems like that merits better than 25th to me.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Sat Aug 13, 2016 12:33 pm

The shadow effect hurt Tommy a lot at the beginning part of his career--while I certainly regarded him as a dangerous player, I didn't quite sit up and take notice of him until his 2014 explosion. I'm not saying that justifies any sort of ranking, but I think many in quizbowl shared this view as well (if I recall, he didn't place on a poll until that year).
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby gyre and gimble » Sat Aug 13, 2016 2:40 pm

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:I'll add more later, but I think Tommy had a much better career than Ted or Dallas and should be ranked accordingly.

In the last analysis, Tommy was the consistent second best player on a team that won four titles, and was at various points a top 3 player in literature and science. It seems like that merits better than 25th to me.


Hate to say this about my excellent former teammates, but Matt's right. Ted and Dallas are both definitely Top 25 players but neither achieved as much as Tommy did, career-wise or peak-wise.

And at the risk of taking these rankings too seriously, I think I'd place myself over Ted and Dallas too. Vacating all those ICT wins sucks because we don't know where those Harvard teams would have finished if Andy hadn't cheated. But as it stands, Ted and Dallas never led teams to 3rd or 4th place at either national (Dallas had high finishes with Penn but was far from being the leading scorer), and their best finish at Nationals for Harvard was 5th in 2012, which I achieved again in 2014 without the benefit of having other Official Top 25 players on my team (though they're all Top 25 in my heart!). I'd also say that right now (which I think is my peak), I'm both better in my specialties and a more complete generalist than Ted or Dallas were, but I can't really back that up. That said, I didn't see those guys play in 2008-2010, during which time I understand they were quite good despite being freshmen and sophomores, something I can't claim for myself. So, career-wise I'm pretty sure I've achieved more, though I'm not so sure peak-wise.

I'll also add that, as long as we're talking about extra-competition contributions, I owe a ton to Dallas and Ted for motivating me and helping me to get to where I am as a player today. I'm not sure if I would even have stuck with this game past my sophomore year if I hadn't had them as teammates.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat Aug 13, 2016 3:13 pm

I will not accept second place to anyone in my Ted Gioia apologism, but yeah one of my reactions to this poll was that Tommy was by far the most underrated player on the list. It's not just Ted and Dallas he's better than.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby theMoMA » Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:33 pm

As much as I'd love to launch a full-throated defense of my or marnold's career, or an all-out attack on people I think have been criminally over/underranked by John or Mike or both, I'll say that I find the commentary on these much more interesting than the rankings, which do seem rather arbitrary and, in cases, ill-conceived. Perhaps the criteria is more based on subjective "dominance" than on accomplishment, in which case, I guess it makes more sense. In any event, I enjoyed both Mike's and John's comments about me and the players I've played with throughout the years; they seemed accurate and came from interesting insider and outsider perspectives. I'd be happy to hear more commentary, if not more rankings, and might add some myself once my editing schedule dies down a bit.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Aug 14, 2016 10:43 am

Andrew, if/when you have time to add the commentary you speak of, I look forward to reading it. To the extent that the rankings Mike and I made are "arbitrary" (meaning "resulting from individual judgment"), it is because all we can do is arbitrate based on our limited knowledge, and we can correct for our own prejudices just so much. Further perspectives (such as those that these rankings provoked) are only to the good, I think, as they provide more information and more balance. And I agree that the commentary is bound to be more valuable than the actual numerical rankings.

Against both you and Stephen, though, I would say that I don't see much value in ranking people according to their "accomplishments" or "achievements" (the words that you two chose), if this is going to be a ranking of individual players. If we were doing this ranking a year ago, would you have ranked Will Nediger much lower, because he'd never won a Triple Crown title, or even a top two finish? Surely, we didn't need to wait for him to achieve those things to see his greatness as a player? It was obvious what he could accomplish, with the right teammates. (The same goes for all of you Minnesotans who were belatedly awarded ICT 2011 post-Watkins fuckery: it's not as if I [or anyone else] didn't know that you were title-winning material before then.) I think that could or could have is more essential than who actually won the title in a given year, lest this be too much about who went to which school.

An approach that is based primarily on "accomplishments" or "achievements" but nonetheless only works off the Top 25 from each year would verge dangerously close to a "great man" account of quizbowl history, by over-crediting the leading scorers for those achievements. There are a lot of third and fourth scorers not in this ranking, because they never made a Top 25 poll. A paltry few of them may have been coattail-riders, who basically sat there as their teammates won a championship. But they are in a quite small minority, I think. Most third and fourth scorers make a world of difference in determining where in the top bracket their team finishes.

This is also why I find Stephen's main method of diminishing Ted and Dallas rather odd. Sure, Andy's cheating means that we'll never know absolutely how Harvard would have placed at those tournaments. But I don't think the correct reaction is to outright ignore the entire team's personal stats for the tournament. Rather than erasing Ted and Dallas' stats from the historical record, one should be able to look at them to see how well they played. In fact, they were probably better than those stats reflect, unless (for some reason) none of the questions Andy cheated his way into answering are things that Ted or Dallas would have beaten their opponents to without Andy.

I'll also add that I don't think "Top 3 finish at a national tournament" is as good a trans-chronological metric as you are making it out to be, Stephen. In any given year, there is a particularly messy portion of the top bracket where anyone can lose to anyone else. But that messy bit is not always in the same place. In some years, given the composition of the upper bracket, there are three or four teams in genuine contention for that third-place spot. In other years, there are realistically only two such teams. Take a look at the stats across the top bracket from year to year, and you'll see what I mean. Besides the teams actually vying for the spots, the presence of "spoiler teams" also greatly affect who finish in the Top 3. Here, I define a "spoiler team" as one that lacks the consistency needed to be in contention for a title, but is nonetheless strong enough at their best to beat any team in the field. One of the best examples of this was 2011 Michigan: they had no realistic chance of winning Nats that year, and only a slim chance of being in the Top 3. But gosh, that would have been a very different tournament had they not been there!

With all of this said, let me note that I am fully willing to believe that both Mike and I underranked both Stephen and Tommy as players, due to lack of consideration of certain factors or what have you. And being able to re-consider them like this is one of the great positives of having a thread like this.

I'll say though that my underranking of Tommy is probably a result of sample bias more than the reasons that MattBo gives. Before Gorilla Literature, I had actually seen/heard him get very few literature questions, in spite of having played UVA several times throughout the years and having listened to many of UVA's recorded matches. I think across the various matches I'd played against him in the 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 seasons he may have averaged less than half a literature tossup per game (a fact that makes more sense when you realize that he buzzed zero times in three out of these seven matches). Now, due to Tommy's reputation, I knew that this was at least partly due to shadow effect. But how much of this was shadow effect as opposed to lesser literature prowess? And by how much should I consequently adjust upwards when voting him a spot in a poll or making a ranking? There is no easy way to calculate this. Unfortunately, it is probable that I have just never adjusted enough in his favor, for which I owe him an apology. (Although, I'm afraid, I still don't buy that he was one of the Top 3 lit players of this era. Matt: of you, me, and Will Nediger, who are you ranking him above?)

Nonetheless, I'd resist some of the rationales that MattBo is proffering. For example, I don't think we should try to account for something like Tommy vs. Ted's willingness to learn about off-the-beaten-track things independently of how this actually manifested in in-game performances. I'd buy what might be a more games-results-oriented corollary of that statement: that by virtue of this, many of Tommy's buzzes would have beaten the entire field, whereas quite a few of Ted's powers were buzzes that any decent lit player could make when playing lesser opponents. But I think that by making the argument the way he did, MattBo may (ironically) be buying into exactly the sort of image Ted's forum posts sought to establish that he warns us not to believe: namely, the idea that Ted's buzzes were (primarily) the result of real knowledge rather than studying like the rest of us do!
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Sun Aug 14, 2016 10:54 am

I'll just say that of course any listing is going to be arbitrary--the point of any list is to generate discussion. I was glad John posted his list because while I still disagree with him on some things, he offered some vital insight on some players that I had forgotten or didn't know a lot about. There's no way a truly definitive list will be provided. I was also attempting to talk a little bit about what made the great players great, some personal stories if I had any, and provide some insight to the youth of today about my generation (obviously, I can't speak anything pre-2008).
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:49 am

My argument on "out of the way" buzzes was that Tommy is more likely to add tossups that standard generalist teammates would not answer otherwise. I don't think that's independent of game results at all. I meant that if you're drafting a team to win a hard tournament, Tommy is probably the better pick because he'll complement the standard generalist better.

I don't really know/care how well he performed in 7 games against Yale and Chicago; I think you can correct for that by looking at the hundreds of other games from those tournaments.

I respect the evaluation re: lit players but my impression was that Tommy was better than Nediger in the 2014 season, though not now.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Aug 14, 2016 12:34 pm

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: I don't really know/care how well he performed in 7 games against Yale and Chicago; I think you can correct for that by looking at the hundreds of other games from those tournaments.


I understand and respect that you are trying to defend a teammate whom you feel has been long underappreciated, including by people such as myself; and I have already copped to underrating him and apologized for doing so. But this is an utterly pointless and nonsensical piece of snark. You know full well that which categories a player has buzzed in on and whether or not those buzzes would have been good against the field (the two aspects we're both discussing) are not visible from looking at stats (especially since you have acknowledged that many of these are not even powers).
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Aug 14, 2016 1:47 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: I don't really know/care how well he performed in 7 games against Yale and Chicago; I think you can correct for that by looking at the hundreds of other games from those tournaments.


I understand and respect that you are trying to defend a teammate whom you feel has been long underappreciated, including by people such as myself; and I have already copped to underrating him and apologized for doing so. But this is an utterly pointless and nonsensical piece of snark. You know full well that which categories a player has buzzed in on and whether or not those buzzes would have been good against the field (the two aspects we're both discussing) are not visible from looking at stats (especially since you have acknowledged that many of these are not even powers).


What I mean is that I'm skeptical about the enterprise of determining whether a buzz would have been good "against the field" from a handful of examples. I think it makes much more sense to look at something like playoff stats, or maybe even testimonies from people who have seen a lot from him, and could say that he frequently does get buzzes that would beat the field. That is the point and sense of that piece of snark.

I do apologize for misreading your post. I think I read you as explaining a rationale for under ranking him, rather than why your instincts were to rank him lower. But I also think you're understating the incredibly noisy effect of variance in sample size, and putting too much weight on a handful of games.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Tees-Exe Line » Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:49 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:22. Andrew Hart


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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:24 pm

I sense a mighty post forming from Hyde Park, but just to cool this down:

I respect both John and Mike's rankings and enjoyed reading their commentaries. I did think that my friend and teammate was under ranked for how good he was, and spoke up because he doesn't often read these forums. The audience is free to square my reasons given with their subjective impressions and decide whether they agree or not. I understand that John is using a necessary heuristic in basing his evaluation on the games he saw; I just also think that sample is unrepresentative in this case.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Auroni » Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:27 pm

I've been thinking a lot about this, but I feel like ranking threads all run into the same pitfall: nobody can agree upon a set of basic axioms about what makes one player better than another. Below are some examples of these axioms:

-- Is a generalist on a lower level (second, or third bracket team) better than a specialist on a top bracket team?
-- Is player A, who answers fewer questions (in a category) than player B, but has a better average point of buzz/power rate on them, better (in that category) than player B?
-- Do subjective impressions of a player trump how that player actually performed in a given season?
-- (corollary to the above) Is it a worthy thought exercise to pit players on a hypothetical battlefield of questions, when those subjective impressions are not borne out by the actual data?
-- How does one factor in intangible but still important elements? Grit, even-tempered-ness, the ability to just buzz in any category against any player?
-- What order of importance should be assigned to accomplishments such as titles won, finals made, opens won, teams upset, individual performance, etc?
-- Can we mathematically resolve any of the above?

I've been skeptical about the poll and people's fondness for ranking discussions mostly because we can't seem to agree on any of the above. But I am curious if it's viable to get everyone to vote along the same lines, or to cohere to a more uniform methodology. If we split future player polls into divisions even as simple as "top 25 best generalists" and "top 25 best specialists", I think people will have a better grounding, and a more diverse array of players can be recognized for their accomplishments.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:56 pm

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: I don't really know/care how well he performed in 7 games against Yale and Chicago; I think you can correct for that by looking at the hundreds of other games from those tournaments.


I understand and respect that you are trying to defend a teammate whom you feel has been long underappreciated, including by people such as myself; and I have already copped to underrating him and apologized for doing so. But this is an utterly pointless and nonsensical piece of snark. You know full well that which categories a player has buzzed in on and whether or not those buzzes would have been good against the field (the two aspects we're both discussing) are not visible from looking at stats (especially since you have acknowledged that many of these are not even powers).


What I mean is that I'm skeptical about the enterprise of determining whether a buzz would have been good "against the field" from a handful of examples. I think it makes much more sense to look at something like playoff stats, or maybe even testimonies from people who have seen a lot from him, and could say that he frequently does get buzzes that would beat the field. That is the point and sense of that piece of snark.

I do apologize for misreading your post. I think I read you as explaining a rationale for under ranking him, rather than why your instincts were to rank him lower. But I also think you're understating the incredibly noisy effect of variance in sample size, and putting too much weight on a handful of games.


No, this reply still doesn't make sense to me, because you're stating some of my own points back to me as if they are disagreements, while also negating some basic premises of the points we seem to agree on. This is perhaps my fault for being unclear. I will try to restate my point clearly in the hope that we can move past this and/or fruitfully apply these ideas to other cases than Tommy, whom I will acknowledge again as a strong player whom I have been apt to underrank.

Threads like this happen because there is information that is not conveyed by playoffs stats. The task of ranking players primarily consists of mining data that can be used to supplement or correct the raw numbers of PPG.

There are two large alternate sources of information. The first of these are the performances that one can observe, whether by participating in or viewing the match as it happens or by availing oneself of recordings or other sources that reliably convey where people buzzed on each question. The second of these are secondary sources: accounts from other players who have more chances to perform such observations. Such accounts are usually predigested opinions of the buzzes that were made, rather than actual reports of the substance of these buzzes.

One dilemma then is how much to weight these two things against the stats. The other dilemma is what to do when the two sources of information diverge. In this particular case, I noted that I was fully aware that my first source (in-game experiences) was producing skewed data. I knew that I had to rank Tommy higher than his raw PPG and my in-game experiences indicated. The question was: by how much? Among the many problems with the second source (reports from other players) are that basically everyone insists that their teammate is underrated, and that we generally have nothing other than the "authority" of the player delivering the opinion and the rhetorical force with which they make their claim.

To put this another way: if the combination of the stats and the matches I've heard suggest that Player X should be in Slot Y, but everyone insists that Player X has a series of skills that are not reflected in stats or my observations, I now need to bump them up to Slot Y - Z, but I have no way to measure Z. I have always allowed for a small numerical adjustment. But I have primarily hoped that my skewed experiential sample would be balanced out by the experiential sample of the player on the other side of the mean, and that the two votes would cancel out.

This is why I continue to find your reply puzzling. You respond to a problem of how to supplement stats by saying that I should have looked at stats. You seem to suggest that I'm not accounting for the fact that my experience is a biased sample, when I literally introduced them into the conversation as an example of sampling bias, in order to mull over how to correct them. And when I say that obviously I need to correct this bias by taking into account others' opinions, but don't have a good way of accounting for how much of a correction factor to introduce, you respond by reiterating this very problem that I posed as if it were somehow the solution.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Sun Aug 14, 2016 5:00 pm

Auroni wrote:I've been skeptical about the poll and people's fondness for ranking discussions mostly because we can't seem to agree on any of the above.


Polls are unsatisfying for the litany of reasons you describe, but more to the point, they're boring! Threads like this are great because, even if the rankings are arbitrary, they're interesting to read. The subjectivity is a feature--you get anecdotes and personal impressions that make vastly more compelling reading (and a much more diverse historical record) than an anodyne poll-based ranking.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Auroni » Sun Aug 14, 2016 5:02 pm

Auks Ran Ova wrote:
Auroni wrote:I've been skeptical about the poll and people's fondness for ranking discussions mostly because we can't seem to agree on any of the above.


Polls are unsatisfying for the litany of reasons you describe, but more to the point, they're boring! Threads like this are great because, even if the rankings are arbitrary, they're interesting to read. The subjectivity is a feature--you get anecdotes and personal impressions that make vastly more compelling reading (and a much more diverse historical record) than an anodyne poll-based ranking.


Right, I completely agree. I wasn't trying to delegitimize this particular thread, which as you said is interesting, but to identify problems inherent to polls and to suggest a remedy to make them less terrible and pointless.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Aug 14, 2016 5:08 pm

Auroni wrote: If we split future player polls into divisions even as simple as "top 25 best generalists" and "top 25 best specialists", I think people will have a better grounding, and a more diverse array of players can be recognized for their accomplishments.


I could not agree with this more and indeed have advocated something along these lines before. To me, player polls are not merely trying to sort apples and oranges, but rather trying to sort an entire marketplace full of produce varieties into a single line. Even if our ultimate goal were always to produce a massive all-encompassing list such as this (and I don't think it should be), the rankings within such categories would be an invaluable starting place. The major risk, of course, is that we won't agree on who should be placed in which category to begin with...

I also find the list of questions that Auroni generated to be quite valuable, an excellent summary of the underlying disagreements. I think the problem is not merely that these disagreements exist, but also that we rarely get to discuss them in the abstract. We tend to address them only in the midst of trying to rank a particular individual, at which point the personal stakes cloud attempts to consider the theoretical background that generates the disagreement.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Sun Aug 14, 2016 5:16 pm

I think the generalist and specialist thing is tough to split up--would not, for example, Jordan Brownstein be the game's top generalist and also specialist in some categories (obviously history)? Would we disqualify anyone from getting votes in both categories? Maybe Jordan's an obvious example, but someone like...Will Nediger, who is a pretty good generalist (you have to be to get his level of buzzes) but might also be considered a specialist in literature/film/weird shit. What would make more sense would be something like a general top 25 poll and then some individual categories.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby theMoMA » Sun Aug 14, 2016 6:02 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:To me, player polls are not merely trying to sort apples and oranges, but rather trying to sort an entire marketplace full of produce varieties into a single line. Even if our ultimate goal were always to produce a massive all-encompassing list such as this (and I don't think it should be), the rankings within such categories would be an invaluable starting place.


I mean, isn't quizbowl as a game an attempt to "sort an entire marketplace full of produce varieties into a single line," that "line" being the "score of the game," also known as the the only information of any actual significance that is produced when two teams play each other? The initial move of arguing that a ranking of players should be split up into categories, when the score of the very game isn't, makes very little sense to me.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Aug 14, 2016 6:30 pm

theMoMA wrote: I mean, isn't quizbowl as a game an attempt to "sort an entire marketplace full of produce varieties into a single line," that "line" being the "score of the game," also known as the the only information of any actual significance that is produced when two teams play each other? The initial move of arguing that a ranking of players should be split up into categories, when the score of the very game isn't, makes very little sense to me.


...what? The data you refer to is an individual's PPG. In as much as we don't just sum players' PPG's across tournaments to determine player rankings, we obviously do not regard PPG as "the only information of any actual significance." As I already stated in this thread, the task of ranking players first and foremost reduces to figuring how much to adjust various PPG's to produce a different ordering of players, and what information to use to do that. In as much as we do not adjust every single player's stats by the same metric (and it seems like literally no one is advocating doing this, unless you're about to), we must be using different metrics for different categories of player.

What sort of categories are most useful is entirely up for debate, but surely it is a matter of common sense to note that such categories must be being applied already, implicitly and explicitly.

I find this objection particularly baffling from someone who once literally invented a stat for measuring how well people played a particular scoring role (http://hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewtopic. ... 40#p223753)!

EDIT: And to be clear, I don't mean that last sentence as a blast-from-the-past cheap shot. If you don't any longer believe in what you were trying to do in that thread, I wouldn't hold you to that. But I'd want to know why your position has seemingly shifted so radically.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby theMoMA » Sun Aug 14, 2016 6:44 pm

Scoring role and overlap is different from trying to rank people based on "category dominance" or some other subject-matter-dependent measure. I'm not arguing that it's all about individual PPG; I'm simply reiterating something that I've advocated for in recent ranking threads, which is that it doesn't matter much whether a player's points come in a particular category or at a particular point in the question. What matters is whether a player scores meaningful points in meaningful games, thus contributing to meaningful wins. I even came up with a measure (which seems to accord very well with various subjective rankings of player skill) that tries to account for that. If I didn't express that particularly cogently in my above post, I apologize.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Aug 14, 2016 6:48 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:a lot of discussion based on a miscommunication on my (Matt's) part


OK, what confused me about your argument is that there's no need to introduce a positive correction factor in Tommy's case. His ppg on its own at hard events in the playoffs was really damn good; higher than Ted's at his best events, who's ranked above him, even though Tommy had teammates doing far more scoring. Given that context, I thought that you were deliberating on whether to correct Tommy downward based on your impressions, which doesn't seem to be what you're doing. But just for the record, Tommy's raw ppg is already better even before correction for strength of teammates. I think my discussion of biases in that first post may have confused the discussion more than it clarified. Sorry, and I hope that makes more sense.

To move on to players other than Tommy: in making the mental adjustments you discuss, I prefer to add strong corrections for teammate strength and efficiency, and a weak correction for the ability to get super-early buzzes. It's critical to adjust for the scoring somebody's teammates are doing for obvious reasons. I also personally think that negs detract more from your team than the loss of 5 points detracts from your ppg, so I favor players who keep that under control. On the subject of early buzzes, I mostly agree with Andrew Hart that the ability to get lots of tossups after power, or in the middle-late area, is more important than you'd expect even at the highest levels. As I mentioned before, there's value in getting questions your teammates don't get, or buzzes nobody in the field can match. But aside from the 5 extra points for the power, every tossup is equally valuable, and always getting the 10 is a skill that wins championships. I'm interested to hear other perspectives on those correction factors.

On Auroni's list: for player polls, I would usually imagine I was drafting a team to place highly at an ACF Nationals-level event, then arrange my votes in the order I would arrange my draft board. I think that approach clarifies the essential background ("What level event are we playing?" and "What type of context are these players competing in?") while settling other questions ("Are generalists more or less valuable than specialists?") on a flexible, case-by-case basis. Ideally, by defining the premises better, we can improve the crowd wisdom of the polls.

This framework doesn't provide much of a satisfactory answer for Auroni's broader questions, because I don't really think it's possible to answer those definitively. You certainly can't prove the superiority of elite specialists or quantify the importance of the "clutch" factor. I think all of those make for great discussion topics, but I don't think we can find axiomatic answers.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Mon Aug 15, 2016 10:51 am

theMoMA wrote: What matters is whether a player scores meaningful points in meaningful games, thus contributing to meaningful wins.


Actually, Matt and Andrew, you may be surprised to learn that I entirely agree with Andrew's statement above. The effective strength of a player is his or her ability to maximize his or her team's chances of winning. And therefore, the functional value of a late buzz is equally valuable to an early buzz--since both grant 10 points and access to a bonus cycle--up until the point where one team has mathematically assured victory against the other.

What I would like to claim, though, is that these statements are not only fully consistent with a consideration of category strength and player type (i.e. generalist/specialist/etc.), but also implicitly suggest the ways in which such category-specific considerations are necessary in order to assess players correctly. However, doing this requires transforming abstract notions, such as "category strength" or "player type," into functional terms: that is, understanding them as expressions of particular significant potential and actual buzz patterns.

First, I would distinguish between "functional value" and "predictive value." (I have discussed this notion before, in different terms: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=18594&p=316299#p316299) This distinction does not matter very much to Andrew, as he ranks according to how well a player performed (past tense) over the season(s), as manifested in actual results. However, this makes a great deal of difference to Matt and me, who both think of player strength in some future-oriented manner (e.g. who would I recruit for my open team, who could repeat this performance if we played ACF Nats every day for a month, etc.). I think of this as the distinction between "player performance" and "player strength," although I recognize that Andrew might not like those terms. If a player plays much better at a more recent tournament than they did at the tournament before, it should matter to Matt and me whether this is due to the player actually improving or due to the player performing better at that tournament due to some non-consistently-repeatable circumstance (the sub-distribution was skewed by a wheelhouse-y editor; the player was just operating at the highest end of their performance spectrum, which happens only once every ten tournaments; etc.)

Here is one way of thinking of this, let us say (just hypothetically) that there is exactly one Great American Songbook-themed tossup per national tournament, that it is completely random in which round it appears, and that I can beat all other players to any such tossup. If by chance, one of them occurs in the final of each national tournament (and each of these is in genuine contention), my Great American Songbook knowledge has had far greater functional value than was statistically likely. To my mind, an assessment of player strength would acknowledge the rarity of this occurrence, and adjust downwards from the actual results. This to me is one way in which talking about player's specialities can be valuable. For example, I would find the following to be an entirely rational argument: "Past performances suggest that Player X can beat all of the top teams to any architecture tossup with high likelihood. By pure chance, there were no architecture tossups in the important matches and statistically one would expect Y# of such tossups. Therefore, Player X is better than the stats reflect."

Moving on from "predictive value," we might note that I said that winning additional tossups in a match only continues to have functional value until mathematically assured victory has been reached. This perhaps explains why even people who claim that all buzzes are equal, characterize themselves as entirely past-oriented, and express discomfort with the notion of a buzz being "good against the field" nonetheless advocate looking at playoff stats rather than prelim stats: the additional buzzes against weak teams added no functional value, because victory was already assured. But once we accept this as a premise, it becomes clear that there are many ways in which maximizing your team's chances of winning matches are not the same as maximizing the number of tossups you get over the course of the playoffs.

Let us take a pretty clear example with which to illustrate this. Let us say that Team X has reached a position of relative strength, such that it is extremely statistically unlikely that they could lose a match to any team except for the top third of the top bracket. Let us assume that each of the other teams in that top third of the top bracket has a mythology player who buzzes on average on the second clue of each mythology tossup, but that the teams in the remaining two thirds of the top bracket buzz on average on the fourth clue of each mythology tossup. In such a case, becoming a third-clue-buzzing mythology player would increase one's playoffs PPG a great deal, while also doing nothing to increase the number of matches that one won. If a player could learn to buzz one clue before the crucial opponents on any slice of the distribution, that would be more effective, even if that slice is smaller than mythology. This does create an interesting oddity, though: it is also possible that those top third could be worse at a particular category than all the other worse teams are (e.g. they suck at geography tossups, only buzzing on the sixth clue, but the lower two thirds buzz on the fourth clue). In such a case, it would actually be advantageous for someone on Team X to become a mediocre geography player, even if that would result in no additional buzzes against anyone but that top third of the top bracket.

If aspects of the above hypothetical seem far-fetched (because I have simplified the situation for clarity's sake), I would nonetheless maintain that the basic premise expressed by it is both true and intuitive: functionally speaking, it always possible to pad one's stats by increasing the margin by which one beats teams one was already going to beat, without actually improving one's chances of winning a crucial match. One way to define a good specialist (in functional terms), then, is as someone who caps the number of tossups he or she can get in a game--decreasing the number of "extraneous" tossups (i.e. tossups above the victory line) he or she will get--to concentrate on attaining greater consistency with regards to the most crucial tossups. Such players are, I think, often underrated. When a leading generalist on a lower-ranked team is overrated, it is not because "late buzzes are worth less than early buzzes," but rather because some of these late buzzes would have zero functional value against stronger opponents, as they come later than where any top team would buzz.

A third (and most important) way in which "category strength" and "player type" matter is in assessing shadow effect and the damage done by negs. Now, I actually think Andrew Hart's statistical metrics don't get enough credit. Their ways of assessing shadow effect and the drawbacks of negs are quite flawed, but they are nonetheless (as far as I know) the best attempts yet made to correct for these things using statistics. At the very least, they are a great deal better than just looking at raw PPG, and I would be only too pleased if we applied them to the results of national tournaments every year, so that we start the process of ranking by adjusting from those numbers. (I would also be very interested in seeing them applied them to past tournaments to produce another ranking to sit along Mike's and mine.) But the flaw to which I refer is obviously their subject-neutrality, and although we're all aware of this, I think we routinely underestimate how enormous a difference this makes.

If (entirely hypothetically) Eric scores 80 PPG but only on average 5 of those points are in categories where I could possibly buzz, I then suffer less shadow effect from him than I do from a 10 PPG player who buzzes only in my categories. Likewise, someone who gets 2 science tossups a game and negs the other 2 casts less of a neg shadow on me than does a player who gets 2 science tossups a game but buzzes on every music tossup on the first clue and incorrectly guesses "Annie Edson Taylor." The second of these is a comic exaggeration, of course, but the first of these is an entirely realistic scenario: one I have faced numerous times. And now imagine just how wrong any subject-neutral adjustment for shadow effect or negs would be!

The last of these points is, I think, the strongest argument for considering category strength before attempting to interpret any statistical data. Without that filter, teammates with overlapping knowledge suffer severe underestimation relative to other players.

For future, I hope it is possible to one day run an open tournament at which the location of every buzz was recorded (preferably by Ophir!), and we had all kinds of data as to who correctly answers what percentage of questions in which subjects at which points in the question. If we did that, it would then be possible to make some of these necessary adjustments in a more objective fashion. Until then, though, I continue to believe that we are better off attempting to make some sorts of adjustments (even rather subjective ones), rather than just pretending that the differences between player types do not significantly affect buzzing patterns.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby AKKOLADE » Mon Aug 15, 2016 12:15 pm

This was an interesting and funny set of rankings, Mike.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Nine-Tenths Ideas » Mon Aug 15, 2016 8:33 pm

Though I'm by no means an authoritative or even particularly respected source, I thought I'd throw my own rankings in, which differ a little from the ones proposed so far. In the interest of time, I'm only providing a top 25 here.

1. Andrew Yaphe (Stanford)
Everyone says he's the best and I have no reason not to believe them.

2. Matt Bollinger (UVA)
Was, for almost 4 years, probably the most feared active quizbowl player to play against. Great coverage in most categories and a game fueled by spite. Got over the title hump eventually but put up great numbers/results well before that.

3. Jordan Brownstein (UMD)
You could conceivably call this Maryland bias, but he is now just as scary as Bollinger was. The numbers he's putting up at Nats+ level tournaments are absurd, especially considering who he's playing those tournaments with. May win Nats this year with historically poor support.

4. Matt Jackson (Yale)
The man just wins. A hyper-competent generalist whose abilities scaled up well to Nats-level play. Count the rings.

5. Seth Teitler (Chicago)
From what I understand, very good at quizbowl.

6. Eric Mukherjee (Penn)
His strange difficulty with beating Chris Ray aside, an extremely complete player who also happens to be the best science player in the game. Not quite as good as the 5 above him but always competitive.

7. Jerry Vinokurov (Brown)
I've only gotten to see Wizards-era MJ Jerry play, but he was dominant in his time. Look at the damn stats, y'all.

8. Ike Jose (Illinois)
Ike had extremely deep pockets of knowledge in addition to being a fantastic generalist who could put the fear of God into theoretically better players. Shorter peak than some of these guys though.

9. Chris Ray (Maryland/Chicago)
Again, perhaps this is Maryland bias, but Chris Ray was the kind of generalist who could beat or lose to anybody, and then settled into a team player scoring role at Chicago. Can play any "position" in quizbowl, as long as you're willing to accept a healthy dose of negs.

10. Matt Weiner (JSRCC)
A real quizbowl player, if that makes sense. Great feel for the game allowed him to play as a high scoring generalist even at the highest difficulty levels.

11. Mike Sorice (Illinois)
Inconsistent but when he was rolling he was rolling. Look at the 2009 ICT stats for an example of "rolling."

12. Auroni Gupta (UCSD/Michigan)
Rightfully rocketed up the ranks this year. Finally got over the hump and could continue being great for a while.

13. Will Nediger (Michigan)
Maybe the best there is at the highest difficulty level stuff. You could've called ARRABAL "NEDIGER" instead.

14. Brian McPeak (Maryland)
Again, I might be accused of "Maryland bias" here, but Brian has turned into a dominant science/philosophy/other stuff player and if you're drafting a team beyond your generalist, one of the better available specialists for you.

15. Dan Puma (Maryland)
Before you start talking about overrating a former teammate of mine, consider how people have been recently discussing the "shadow effect." His stats were always hugely harmed by playing with another, better generalist who specialized in essentially the same areas as him, but he was a very dominant NAQT player and could carry a team on his own to respectable finishes.

16. SteveJon Guth (Maryland)
Was never very active on the forums and seems to have dropped out of people's memories pretty fast, but was a quality science player and Maryland's number 2 scorer for a couple of years.

17. Chris Manners (Maryland)
I realize this is another Maryland guy, but his open-level results show a competent specialist who would be valuable no matter what team he was on. Underrated literature player.

18. Brendan Byrne (Minnesota)
Quality player but there were always concerns over his "real knowledge" and how well he'd adapt to the modern game. He's no Chris Manners.

19. Ophir Lifshitz (Maryland)
High-level specialist who would get a couple questions per game no matter who he was playing with, no matter what difficulty level he was playing at. That's the sort of consistency you want from a top 25 player.

20. Naveed Chowdhury (Maryland)
Bizarre deep pockets of knowledge, and despite being overshadowed at times by Jordan, still put up respectable numbers playing alongside him.

21. Sohan Vartak (Maryland)
Perhaps I'm engaging in a bit of "Maryland bias" again here, but you can't deny that he was probably a top 10 mythology player at his peak.

22. Alex Gran (Maryland)
One of the top scoring players in terms of PPG in Maryland history, according to NAQT's database. Specialized in history. Stopped playing due to his commitment to marching band, but had a brief, exciting peak of dominance.

23. Gary Weiser (Maryland)
Excellent at planning tournaments and organizing UMD's financials, there's no denying that he too played for Maryland.

24. Isaac Hirsch (Maryland)
I hesitated at ranking myself here, but I think I fairly snuck in at just under 25. A top 3 jazz player at my peak, and very, very underrated at Trash.

25. Frank Hackenburg (Maryland)
Apparently played two tournaments for Maryland in the 2012 season.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby theMoMA » Fri Sep 16, 2016 7:29 am

I've thought for a bit about how best to arrange a post in this thread. It seems to me that an individual ranking by any one person is rather arbitrary (self-evidently so, as John points out).

In the end, I have bent somewhat in the direction of John's posts in various rankings threads and grouped players into very broad categories. Rather than sort things out by subject-matter category, however, I decided to do it by broad playing style. I'm not going to rank anyone within these categories; with one exception, they're in alphabetical order within category.

(Note that these categories are not meant to nest neatly below the ones that precede them, although generally speaking, they do stack; I'd probably take some of these players on an overall ranking above players listed "below" them on this list; for instance, John is "below" me, but he would rank above me if I made a purely subjective list of the best players.)

Andrew Yaphe. A class of player unto himself.

Andrew is on a different plane from the rest of humanity when it comes to quizbowl. He was an effortlessly excellent player who, by all accounts, didn't need the rigorous study methods that others rode to their peaks. No one else has been able to just show up and not just win, but win while leading the field in scoring, regardless of era or format, and that's what makes Andrew the best.

The elite generalists. These are the best all-around players in the game, who, by dint of great breadth and depth of knowledge, can buzz both early and often. They have a specialist's knowledge base and early-buzz ability across large swaths of the distribution.

Matt Bollinger. Matt was by far the best scorer in the game during his four-year peak (sophomore to grad school), and he's (I believe, although I don't know this for sure vis a vis ICT) the only player since Andrew who won championships while also leading the field in scoring. Earlier in his career, Matt's strength was sniping lots and lots of questions with early-clue buzzes, but as he developed, he got more comfortable with those gutty mid-clue buzzes that often win championships (Helga Testorf, anyone?), and that development propelled his teams to titles even as the field was catching up to him in raw knowledge base toward the end of his career.

I think this is a good illustration of a phenomenon I'd call "young player" vs. "old player" skills, terminology I import from baseball. In baseball, young players often derive most of their value from being fast and having raw power; as they develop, they lose a few steps and their raw athleticism fades a bit, but they gain the mental abilities that come from experience: working the count, taking walks, getting on base, waiting on the best pitch to hit, etc., and that becomes the main source of their value. In quizbowl, with experience come the learned skills of patience, calmness, steadiness, and the like. The very best players (in both baseball and quizbowl) hold onto their raw gifts and marry them to their learned skills, and that's what Matt did. His meteoric rise led to impressive results and a championship, but more importantly, set the stage for him to become an excellent mature player, as the results from his senior/grad school year show.

Jordan Brownstein. Because our career didn't overlap much, and because we spent the overlap playing in different circuits, I haven't seen Jordan play as much as some of the other high-level generalists here. Regardless, he's obviously the ascendant player in the post-Bollinger/Jackson era, and has reached a point where his teams are contenders regardless of his support. I think he's still working on those "old player" skills, but once he finds them, I don't doubt that he'll put together a run of dominance and titles of his own. On a pure ranking unsorted by category, he'd fall quite a bit lower, but he's broken into a category of player that few have or will, and deserves recognition for that, given that this is the methodology I'm using.

Steady, consistently high-level generalists. These are players with high-level generalist knowledge bases: early-buzz capacity in several categories and the ability to grind out points in most of the others. Their stat lines are high-power and low-neg, and their teams benefited immensely from their steady, assured playing style.

Matt Jackson. Matt's ability to dominate certain categories (mostly toward the "bottom" of the distribution: religion, myth, philosophy, social science, and geography) was a huge part of his success, but I think he's more notable for his gutty mid-clue buzzes. No one was more focused on those middle clues, or quicker on the buzzer when he knew one of them, than Matt. This ability to dominate the part of the game (the majority of questions, regardless of quizbowl's endless fascination with early buzzes) propelled Matt's teams to a consistency of finishes unparalleled in his era.

Seth Teitler. Seth was no less impressive than Matt J. in his home categories: science, mythology, and (often forgotten) certain English-language poetry. But just like Matt, Seth's even-keeled dominance of the middle of the game is what made his teams contenders every single year. He has some insane number of top-brackets in a row--something like 15 or 16--a record I think is unlikely to be broken.

Matt Weiner. Matt's game melds three broad skillsets: a deep knowledge of history, humanities, and various cultural odds and ends; a steady playing style that evinces extremely sharp in-game instincts and smarts; and one of the strongest competitive drives I've seen. His support at his peak wasn't enough to make his teams true contenders, but I think he had the skills to approach Matt J. or Seth's accomplishments in different circumstances.

(I realize that my career overlapped with Jonathan Magin's to a decent extent, although perhaps Mike's didn't, which is why Jonathan wasn't on his list initially. Regardless, Jonathan was also this sort of steady, high-power, low-neg player. Though he was a bit more specialized than some of the others in this realm, I think his high scoring output warrants his placement here as opposed to in the super-specialist-generalist category below. His run of appearing in the top five or so scorers at CO for seven or eight years in a row is a demonstration of just how good he was (and presumably continues to be) at turning his knowledge base into consistent points.)

Mercurial, consistently high-level generalists. These are yet more players with high-level generalist knowledge bases: early-buzz capacity in several categories and the ability to grind out points in most of the others. But their playing styles were more explosive (in both positive and negative ways) than the even-keeled elites, and their stat lines sometimes had as many negs as powers.

Eric Mukherjee. Eric was a high-level generalist for a very long time (and continues to be, as long as he's eligible). He made the tough transition from a pure sniper with insufficient support to a sniper-plus-mid-clue player with elite teammates, and that culminated in a championship. He's also got perhaps the best pure speciality area of any generalist-oriented player, as he's generally acknowledged as the best science specialist we've seen.

Mike Sorice. Mike's teams occasionally drifted out of the zone of contenders, even in years when teams didn't go much more than two deep, but his peak performances were truly explosive, particularly at ICT. Rosters that might mire down other players he dragged into title finals with a reckless style that wouldn't surprise anyone who's ever been in a car he's driving. Quizbowl may never see a player more mercurial than Mike. He was a force to be reckoned with for a decade on the regular circuit, and remains a player that CO competitors overlook at their peril.

Jerry Vinokurov. It's convenient to compare Jerry and Mike's careers, because there are many stylistic and knowledge-base similarities. Both also mentored an ascendant star (Eric at Brown, Ike at Illinois). But I think it's important to talk about Jerry on his own merits, which are substantial. He was one of the best for a very long time, and achieved remarkable finishes at Nationals against historically great competition, sometimes with support that would cripple a lesser player. When he was in the groove, he was unstoppable.

Brendan Byrne. Brendan is another class of player unto himself.

Most of the other players on this list have a distinct constellation of skills that make them easily groupable with similar players. Brendan didn't. He was the ultimate mid-clue player, which puts him in good company with the steady high-level players above, but he didn't have the same power ability or restraint not to neg. He wasn't particularly volatile or power-happy, which makes him an ill fit for the "mercurial" categories above and below. Regardless, although his peak was short, he reached heights that few ever have, at a time when five other teams were led by players arguably in the all-time top ten (Andrew, Seth, Eric, Mike, and Jerry).

Unlike other top generalists, Brendan never really had time to hit the second phase of his career, when the "old-player skills" would've kicked in, but it's unclear if that would've made much difference. Brendan's game was more about accretion of mass than evolution in style, which is why he was so steadily brilliant at his peak, and so unlike any other player. The main thing his early exit from the game deprived us of was seeing just how big his katamari of facts could get.

Mercurial, occasionally higher-level generalists. These players are, like the three above, wildcard players who could go off or underwhelm. At their peaks, they played the same nearly reckless style characterized by many powers and the more-than-occasional neg. But unlike the players above, these guys didn't sustain their highest-level peaks for as long.

Ike Jose. Ike is a true "old-player skill" success story; early in his career, he was extremely adept at sniping early-clue buzzes off of any team, but couldn't put together the consistent performances needed to be a number-one player on a championship team. That changed after Illinois developed a fearsome supporting cast, who gave Ike the support he needed to continue making his mercurial buzzes and develop into a steady mid-clue player in his own right, culminating in UIUC's shock Nationals title. Ike was not an elite generalist for most of his career, but that's where he peaked.

Auroni Gupta. I break alphabetical order because the narrative arc of Auroni's career traces Ike's very well, and I wrote Ike's blurb first as I move from first on down on Mike's rankings. Auroni also started out as an early-clue sniper, and like Ike, was able to find his mid-clue comfort zone when he found elite-level support. Like Ike, Auroni spent most of his career somewhere below the truly elite-level generalists, but ascended to a new plane because of teammates and the development of "old-player skills."

Chris Ray. Chris's historically long period of relevance now continues at Ohio State. His career at Maryland was an oscillating wave of results: brilliant runs to unexpectedly high finishes at the high points, finishes in relative obscurity at the low ones, and a solid chunk of mid-top-bracket finishes in between. His teaming up with elite specialists--first a nascent Jordan at Maryland, then a fully formed John Lawrence at Chicago--brought out the steadier side of him, which culminated in an ICT victory. It remains to be seen how his style will continue to evolve at OSU.

Steady, occasionally higher-level generalists. These players are the mid-clue grinders who didn't have the same early-clue ability as the players above, but didn't take as many risks as those players, either; as a result, they were relatively low-power, low-neg players. As team leads, they're perhaps not as capable of brilliant or unexpectedly high finishes as the players above them, but in close games or as secondary players at events like CO, their skillset may have been better-suited to winning than those of the less even-keeled players in the mercurial categories above. They have the ultimate combination of "old-player skills": the guile to sleuth out the right answer from clues they don't necessarily know, coupled with the restraint to know when to buzz on feel without getting too reckless.

Rob Carson. Rob is the platonic ideal of this playing style; even today at opens, he comes at you with a continuous assault of smart mid-clue buzzes that, while occasionally are remarkably early, are more overwhelming in quantity than quality. There are few packets, even at subject-specific tournaments, that can crowd him out.

This is where I'd put myself as well. I think Rob and I have very similar styles with slightly different knowledge bases. He's better at the quick-trigger buzz, has an overall larger knowledge base at this point (during our playing careers, I think it was roughly even, with Rob's knowledge working better at ICT and mine working better at circuit formats), and tends to power and neg at rates slightly lower than mine.

(I considered ranking Matt Lafer, but I don't think I ever played against him with both of us representing schools, although I believe we overlapped in my freshman year; regardless, this is where he'd go.)

Specialists who can score like higher-level generalists. They're the ideal number-two players, the ones who stake a claim to a smaller chunk of the distribution and defend it with early buzzes all tournament long. At the end of the day, you see them up there on the scoring list with the generalists, around 40 ppg and sometimes higher. These players are, in my mind, characterized by their low negs, high powers, and matter-of-fact playing styles, dominated by the strategy of buzzing on knowledge rather than feel.

Tommy Casalaspi. Tommy's unholy union of deep literature and science knowledge allowed him to knock several questions per game out of the park playing next to one of the all-time great early buzzers. I place him in this category despite never breaking the 40 ppg plateau at a nationals because his scoring was so dramatically affected by Matt's long shadow.

Jeff Hoppes. I've had the privilege to play two Chicago Opens and one history tournament with Jeff, and there is no one better at making extraterrestrial buzzes in the history and geography distributions. Even at the tail end of his career, he was simply the best specialist I've ever seen.

Selene Koo. Selene's peak as a support player didn't quite reach the scoring heights of the others in this category, but her team-leading turn in 2011 produced such high finishes that I don't think she can be ignored. Her ability to team with Seth to control the science distribution, even when the other elite teams were led by science players, fueled Chicago's dominant run.

John Lawrence. You won't find a better combination of lit and music knowledge in quizbowl history than John's. Like some of the others in this category, John is a capable team leader with a substantial generalist knowledge base, but he's at his best when paired with teammates who can bruise and bully their way around the middle clues.

Will Nediger. Will dominates the substantial "things Will has read or read about" distribution; he was the only player at Arrabal, for instance, whose PPG didn't look like the result of grading a test with the wrong answer key. Leading a team, his generalist powers are substantial, but he's at his best when he can sit in the second chair and pull the strings in his categories while leaving some of the mid-clue responsibilities to a more generalist-minded player like Auroni.

I'd say that those are, in some order, the best 20 players who played regular college events during my career.

For fun, I'll try to slot all the rest from Mike's list into broad categories (again with the note that, while these categories do stack under each other somewhat, they don't do so perfectly). The order within the categories is mostly my subjective ranking now. There's some category blur here; I classified Evan as a generalist, for instance, even though he played a support role during his law school years.

Very good generalists: Stephen Liu, Aaron Rosenberg, Jacob Reed, Evan Adams, Rafael Krichevsky, Kurtis Droge, Guy Tabachnick, Neil Gurram, Dwight Wynne, Adam Silverman

Elite specialists who occasionally score like very good generalists: Saajid Moyen, Kevin Koai, Max Schindler, Austin Brownlow, Gautam Kandlikar, Ted Gioia (I'll note that he's much more of a high-risk player than any other specialist I can think of)

Good generalists: Shan Kothari, Charlie Dees, Sinan Ulusoy, Dallas Simons, Will Butler, Trevor Davis, Paul Drube, Henry Gorman, Will Alston, Richard Yu, Michael Arnold

Good specialists: Mike Cheyne, Bruce Arthur, Marshall Steinbaum, Sam Bailey

Solid generalists: Benji Nguyen, Richard Mason, Dylan Minarik, Charles Hang, Joey Goldman, Jarret Greene, Nick Jensen, Billy Beyer, Dan Puma, Aaron Kashtan, Randall Maas, Dominic Machado

Solid specialists: Charles Tian, Brian McPeak, Paul Gauthier, Libo Zeng, Aseem Keyal
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby theMoMA » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:30 am

I'll follow up on my long post with a much shorter and more theoretical one. It seems to me that being very good at quizbowl comes down to having some combination of the following skills:

Breadth of knowledge: how much of the distribution do you have a shot at getting questions in? The answer puts you on a spectrum from "specialist" to "generalist."

Depth of knowledge: how much of the distribution do you know enough about to be properly termed a "specialist" in? The answer puts you on a spectrum from "elite-level" to "low-level" knowledge. (Obviously, players can and often do have elite-level knowledge of some areas and low-level knowledge in others.)

Savvy: how good are you at piecing things together, then using that information to arrive at the right answer? The answer puts you on a spectrum from "savvy" to "matter-of-fact."

Restraint: how good are you at buzzing only with the right answer? The answer puts you on a spectrum from "mercurial" to "restrained."

Depending on the blend of these attributes, players can be classified roughly into the categories I set forth in my longer post. There are some other interesting categories as well: speed, willpower, etc., but those seem to be ones that don't necessarily correspond to the categories that I laid out.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby theMoMA » Fri Sep 16, 2016 7:57 pm

Having thought about this a bit more, I decided to try to come up with some criteria to make an overall ranking. I think there are a few ways to go about it.

One way would be to players at their peak (college career) ability to contribute to an ACF Nationals championship. The best players here would be the ones who could contend regardless of teammates or playing style. For the players more dependent on support, you'd have to factor in how well they were able to stay out of their teammates' way with negative buzzing. The players I'd probably rank lower on this measure than others are the ones who, by virtue of their more mercurial playing styles, are almost required to be #1 scorers, but don't have the raw knowledge of a Yaphe or Bollinger to be a consistent contender in that role. The players I'd probably rank higher than others on this measure are ones who steadily produce in any role. Roughly speaking, and avoiding my own placement to head off charges of self-aggrandizement, here's what I'd say:

1. Yaphe; 2. Bollinger; 3. Brownstein; 4. Teitler; 5. Jackson; 6. Weiner; 7. Magin; 8. Mukherjee; 9. Vinokurov; 10. Byrne; 11. Hoppes; 12. Jose; 13. Gupta; 14. Sorice; 15. Lawrence; 16. Nediger; 17. Carson; 18. Ray; 19. Casalaspi; 20. Koo

If you included ICT in the consideration, I think Jeff, Sorice, Rob, and Chris go up considerably, while others might go down a bit. I didn't include ICT because I didn't want to be averaging skills, and ACF is the dominant circuit format, so it seemed like the natural one to pick.

Another way would be simply to measure the accretion of accomplishments and honors across a career. For me, this isn't just titles and podium finishes; it's also how crucial a player was to earning team honors, sustained excellence over an extended period of time, and little odds and ends like undergrad championships and whatnot. This is my rough version, and I chose not to include CO in my consideration (but did consider ICT, Nats, and regular-season ability):

1. Yaphe; 2. Teitler; 3. Bollinger; 4. Jackson; 5. Mukherjee; 6. Vinokurov; 7. Hoppes; 8. Lawrence; 9. Sorice; 10. Weiner; 11. Koo; 12. Ray; 13. Carson; 14. Jose; 15. Gupta; 16. Nediger; 17. Casalaspi; 18. Magin; 19. Brownstein; 20. Byrne

You might call the distinction between these two measures one of (peak) "best" vs. (career) "greatest." The "best" players at their peak were the ones who were the best, on their best days, at turning their talent into points and wins. The "greatest" players over their careers were the ones who sustained their excellence and amassed wins, titles, and honors along the way. (For what it's worth, I think I would fare better using the second measure. My teammates and I did a lot of cool stuff--won a title, made two other finals, made a ton of top brackets in a row, won a bunch of undergrad titles, etc.--but although I've been a very good player in many roles, I don't think I was considered one of the truly dominant forces at any given time, which seems correct to me.)
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:34 pm

the MoMA wrote:Good generalists: Shan Kothari, Charlie Dees, Sinan Ulusoy, Dallas Simons, Will Butler, Trevor Davis, Paul Drube, Henry Gorman, Will Alston, Richard Yu, Michael Arnold


There's a litany of problems with this post, but the fact that Andrew Wang isn't listed is probably the most prominent.
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:41 pm

Loud generalists: Andrew Wang
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:46 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:There's a litany of problems with this post


Enlighten us!
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Re: The 70 Greatest Players of the Last Eight Years: A Ranki

Postby Cheynem » Sat May 20, 2017 12:29 pm

Well, it's been almost a year, and I thought I'd take a peep at these rankings. I'm not going to update the list fully, but do a Bill James-esque review of who moved up, who got added, and where I was wrong.

New Players to the List: Itamar Naveh-Benjamin, Jason Golfinos, Derek So, Stephen Eltinge, Nathan Weiser, Kenji Shimizu, and George Corfield. Of these, I've rarely or never seen Itamar, Nathan, and George play. Jason I've only seen fleetingly; he seems a guy who has a great deal of knowledge, especially in myth and history, and if he does grad work or opens could move up more (sadly Princeton's program seemed somewhat unstable during his time). Derek is one of the best Canadian players I've seen and was underrated until this season; I don't know if he has enough firepower to really move up the rankings. I like Stephen a lot; I actually haven't seen him play too much. Kenji at this point in his career seems an excellent #3 type player--he's carved out some categories in which he is fearsome at (geography, CE, visual arts, some history), does well at those, and then smartly plays everything else. I was very impressed with him as a CO Trash teammate too, as he locked down music for the most part.

ACTIVE PLAYER UPDATE

I still haven't really seen Caleb Kendrick or Aseem Keyal play. Both seem impressive--Oklahoma remains a team off the radar for most quizbowlers, and Aseem led a very good Berkeley team to good finishes at both nationals.

Most of what I wrote last year still applies to Joey Goldman (61), Dylan Minarik (60), Charles Hang (58), Benji Nguyen (55), Brian McPeak (54), Sam Bailey (48), and Shan Kothari (39). All had good seasons more or less and could move up a few spots, but my basic analysis of them hasn't changed. Dylan had the most high profile year, although I think most of my comments in his section still apply. He moves up, obviously, but he's still a mega generalist who needs a really good specialist to pull off the big wins.

Other players who were active but didn't really change their rankings dramatically: Max Schindler (32), Charlie Dees (28), Kurtis Droge (24), Stephen Liu (21), John Lawrence (18), Will Nediger (13), and Eric Mukherjee (5). To be clear, I'm not saying they shouldn't go up; for the most part, they had good, even great, seasons, but my overall analysis of their skills has not changed. Max was sensational at ICT, Stephen I think is clearly top 20 by now, John and Will are both fantastic, and Eric remains one of the game's greatest players (just ask him!).

Players Who Moved Up

Adam Silverman (35) should really move up. He had good finishes at Georgia Tech, but could never really get over the hump and be a contender leading a team. At Northwestern, paired with a really good generalist in Dylan and a decent player in Greg, he showed off MVP type stuff.

The same goes for Rafael Krichevsky (33), who led a short-handed Columbia team to an excellent finish at Nats. My prescient comment last year was that Columbia needed a "signature finish at Nats" to change his ranking; well, they got that.

As pointed out by John last year, I sadly underrated Jacob Reed (29) last year. There is a good argument that Jacob could have been as high as the 3rd best player in the game this season, and he led Yale to strong finishes at both nationals. I was impressed with him at Chicago Open last year, and since he's staying at Yale, I would say they have a hell of a chance to win gold next season.

Chris Ray (14)--I mentioned last year that if he got Ohio State into the top bracket, I'd put him in the top ten. The quirk of airline cancellations prevented that argument from manifesting itself...I was probably being facetious there, as I was unaware that OSU had some very talented young players. Chris is definitely a quizbowl gamer and I'll move him up a few slots, although I think he's still somewhat off from top ten consideration.

Auroni Gupta (11) is now probably in the top ten (see below).

Jordan Brownstein (8) finally proved to me he was good.

I don't really want to spend time going into players' faults. I overranked some folks last year and underranked some, but it seems needlessly picayune and nitpicky to have to explain why I would move people "down."

Well, here's my revised top ten.

10 Auroni Gupta. I decided to bump Ike Jose, whose career was shorter. It was a tough call. I think Auroni had better teammates at Michigan, but you really can't deny his fantastic play at both of the nationals this season. There's no denying at least in my opinion that Auroni just blossomed at Michigan--he seemed happier, the team environment was great, he played smarter...I know not every player ends up in a situation like that, but he did, and it worked out great. Ike's brief stretch as a MVP at Illinois is really very amazing, and I go back and forth in deciding who gets the 10th slot.

9 Mike Sorice. I had Mike #10 last year and decided I was underrating him. If he was on, he was really unstoppable, and he still gives his all in every game in any tournament today. He reminds me of Jerry a lot as a player--I think Jerry's peak was better, both had some of the same flaws, and Mike is the better player "now" (which counts somewhat).

8 Matt Weiner
7 Jerry Vinokurov
6 Eric Mukherjee
5 Matt Jackson
4 Seth Teitler

3 Jordan Brownstein. The five players between Sorice and Jordan haven't really changed. As for Jordan, I was deliberately underrating him last year, trying to see where his career would go. It turns out it went to near-uncharted levels, as he continued his onslaught against quizbowl, capping things off with winning gold at ACF Nationals. I don't know if Jordan will do grad work or continue as an open level juggernaut, but he put together an amazing stretch of quizbowl dominance. His numbers and track record speak for themselves at some point--even if he doesn't play another game, his peak is just so much better than most of the other folks on this list, that I don't think this ranking is too absurd (you could argue he is #2, in fact). Jordan had a weaker supporting cast than almost any of the top ten (exceptions: Auroni at UCSD, Matt Weiner a lot of his career, perhaps this season Eric, maybe Yaphe's final year)...but he achieved much more than any of those folks, except Yaphe.

2 Matt Bollinger. I could see the arguments between Jordan and Matt. Since neither man was at a peak at the same time, it's hard to say who was truly the best...I think Jordan's peak was better, but Matt had a pretty damn good peak too and also dominated quizbowl for a stretch. I could go back and forth here. Matt's supporting cast was much better (and the final dominant year for UVA didn't happen until I think Tommy really learned science), but he may ("may") have faced more challenging opponents (more players in the upper tier of the rankings, although there's a recency anti-bias there and a lot of Jordan's opponents were more balanced teams). Both Matt and Jordan had quasi-psychopathic levels of competitiveness, so I wish we had a time machine to see who was truly better.

1 Andrew Yaphe. I still have Yaphe here, just because the range of era accomplishments is so striking. After an amazingly decorated career, he wandered back into modern quizbowl and won the 2010 Nats with not the greatest supporting cast in the world. If Jordan and MattBo are still able to do something like that in five or six years, they may have arguments to bump off Yaphe. I will say that Yaphe's greatness thrives, especially for folks like me who have rarely seen him play, partially because of the mystique factor--it's harder to get a sense of if he's declined at all. It would be like if Michael Jordan retired for good the first time, came back and won a championship with the Wiz, and then stopped again, so we never get any of an embarrassing decline period messing up our good memories.
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