Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

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Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby roey » Sun Sep 18, 2016 3:24 pm

Hey everyone,

I'm at a sports reporting gig right now & might want to pitch a story on quiz bowl. Not one of those "what is quizbowl" kind of pieces, but something a bit different. Ideally I'd like to tell the story of a great upset. So I welcome you to share here some stories from the unlikeliest victories in the history of the game. Have there been any times where a small college without any really great players beat a powerhouse, or just a particularly notable game where the "underdog" ended up winning? I've tried looking through records, but I figure I'd come here since there are bound to be people much more knowledgeable about quiz bowl history who can elaborate on this.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:05 pm

Single game upsets are not unusual in quizbowl: an obscure team can often beat a very good team if the questions line up with their pet interests/areas of strength, or if the good team plays a mistake-ridden game. At any given tournament, odds are at least one of the top teams will take a random loss to a team that, on paper, they should have beat.

More salient are upsets where an unheralded team actually wins a major tournament, or there's some story behind it that makes it interesting.

One of the big upsets in college quizbowl history, to me, will always be Chris Borglum's defeat of Matt Weiner at 2006 Chicago Open. In the weeks running up to that Chicago Open, Chris Borglum (a well-liked community college quizbowl coach from Florida, who is a competent but not elite player) got into an argument about the Israeli-Lebanese war (which was going on at the time) on the politics section of this website with Matt Weiner (an elite quizbowl player). Matt Weiner is a very large man, and at one point during this argument Chris Borglum accused Matt Weiner of not being able to see things because he was holding a giant turkey leg in front of his face. Matt Weiner replied with, essentially, a statement saying he would beat the crap out of Borglum's team at Chicago Open.

On paper, it should have happened. Matt Weiner's star-studded team should have beaten Chris Borglum's team of pretty good, but not elite, southern quizbowl players, most of whom were past their prime. But it didn't happen. Chris Borglum's team won. Turkey leg jokes continued for weeks.

Anyway, in college quizbowl, I would say that major recent upsets include:

* Harvard winning NAQT ICT in 2010 and 2011: it was later revealed that the upset was because a player on Harvard had obtained parts of the questions beforehand and was cheating.

* Yale winning ACF Nationals in 2011. That Yale team later became a dynasty that won multiple national championships and produced numerous elite players, so in retrospect few view this as an upset, but at the time this was very surprising.

* the University of Illinois winning ACF Nationals in 2013. They were a great team, but at the time college quizbowl was dominated by Yale and UVA, and the idea of somebody other than those two winning Nats was considered absurd.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby gyre and gimble » Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:40 pm

A couple that come to mind are:

ACF Nationals 2012, Yale B over Virginia A (albeit missing Evan Adams). Virginia finished the tournament in 2nd place, Yale B tied for 18th.
Chicago Open 2012, Dharma and Greg Bums over In Soviet Russia, Tournament Edits You. A team of myself, Mik Larsen, Alex Gerten, and Tirth Patel, which went 7-9 over the course of the tournament, beat Jonathan Magin, Bruce Arthur, Will Butler, and Jerry Vinokurov, who went 13-3 and, had they won, would have been in a final against a team they had already beaten.

I think these are more upsets in the traditional sense--a team with no business hanging with the front of the pack delivering a completely unexpected loss to a top team. I wouldn't really call any national championship victories major upsets, since those tournaments tend to get pretty muddy and whoever wins is always at least in the thick of it.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Geriatric trauma » Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:10 pm

Hunter winning HSNCT this year is probably up there. Also, Liberty defeats Penn.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) » Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:58 pm

Illinois beating everyone besides UVA and Minnesota to make the 2012 ICT finals should be up there.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Cheynem » Sun Sep 18, 2016 10:03 pm

In their wisdom, ACF then responded by placing all three of those teams in the same prelim bracket for Nats.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Sep 18, 2016 10:51 pm

Though Penn didn't win the 2010 ICT (though they should have had a chance to), Penn's run at that tournament can in some ways be considered a pretty big upset considering the caliber of teams they had to climb past. It was also Eric's first performance as a team leader on the national stage, to my understanding.

Similar things can be said about Illinois' 2012 ICT run, especially given that they were seeded 18th (!) before the tournament.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) » Mon Sep 19, 2016 1:05 am

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:Similar things can be said about Illinois' 2012 ICT run, especially given that they were seeded 18th (!) before the tournament.


They have already been, in fact, said.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Evan Lynch » Mon Sep 19, 2016 5:23 am

Since I've been waiting far too long to have a worthwhile story to put in here, the upsets thread seems as good a place as any. I can't offer stories of underdogs coming from behind to clinch national championships (though for another five points there might have been a different story), but if I may, I'd like to regale you with a fairly-convoluted tale partially centred on EL Doctorow. Here goes:

The first stage of our merry escapade comes at the UK mirror of MUT, hosted by us at Cambridge. I forget to go buy book prizes the night before, so pilfer my bookshelf on the morning of the tournament so we actually do have prizes, and I can get rid of the books I don't want any more. This includes a copy of Doctorow's Ragtime, which I'd bought as a prize for Cambridge Open six months previously and had been languishing unread on my bookshelf ever since as nobody selected it that day. I turn up to the tournament, and plonk the book prizes down in the main room before going off to play. For a variety of reasons, the inimitable Joey Goldman decides to play MUT solo, and our first upset comes when a Cambridge D team of reasonably novice players takes a game against him by ten points.

I later discover that they'd had a bonus set on EL Doctorow during that round, and I'd accidentally left the spines of the books pointing towards the teams, which one of them spotted and hence converted the 10 points. (All this was completely unintentional - not being aware of the set myself, and the notion of the book prizes potentially being used to answer a question hadn't occurred to me).


Anyhow, Ragtime once again is not selected as a prize at the end of the tournament, so it comes back to my bookshelf, where at some point over the next fortnight I decide to finally read it. Let's now jump to Deep Bench, played two weeks after MUT, where the morning is a singles/doubles format on Harvard Fall Tournament and the afternoon quads on MYSTERIUM (all made from squads of 8). To boost our B quads, myself and Joey play for Cambridge and Oxford B respectively.

Second game of the quads it's Cambridge B (myself, Daniel Chiverton, Joshua Pugh Ginn and Oscar Powell) up against a Joey-less-but-still-rather-fearsome Oxford A team of Spence Weinreich, Daoud Jackson, George Corfield and Freddy Potts. I especially want to beat them, as it's only been a week since our 385-380 nationals heartbreak.
After we start strongly, taking the first four to open out a 110-0 lead, I neg thrice and Oxford take 10 of the next 11 to lead 305-115 with five tossups remaining. Feeling somewhat downhearted, we set about trying to claw back the deficit even if it requires us to be almost perfect. Our resident semi-Swedish student Oscar takes 'Sweden' on the last word in power, but we can only 20 the bonuses. Next tossup, I get a clutch buzz on 'fonts' when everyone is confused before a buzzer race on 'Garamond', but again only 20 on the bonuses. This leaves us 125 down, with of course only 135 remaining and an inability from our team to convert hard parts.

TU18: Spence (after an impressive 2/2/0 stat line so far) zones out on the tossup, before interrupting and negging with 'Is it love?' when the answer is just 'William Shakespeare'. Pick up the question, but we don't know what a troparion is so just 20 again, alas. 300-210.

TU19: It's biology. Darn. George is a medic, he'll get this. Proceeds to overcomplicate the question and neg with an answer I don't remember (if this was actually protestable, I apologise). We pick up HDL. Bonuses: I don't know the leader of the Achaean League. Nuts. Fortunately Josh is finishing a classics PhD, and proceeds to magnificently 30 the bonuses. 295-250...

TU20: It's music. Okay, George is a far better classical music player than I am, and this time he definitely won't neg, so I'll have to power this. Hmm. 'This instrument'. Okay - I should probably at least know the answer. 'Cadenza...orchestral Tzigane' - nope, nothing. Kay, we have methods for playing this instrument I've never heard of - but we know it's orchestral so these facts should hopefully narrow it down. Special techniques? Never heard of them, so it's not brass or woodwind. Strings? Percussion? 'It's not the piano, but Pleyel's chromatic version' - wait: if it's not the piano, what's like a piano and chromatic? You're probably running out of time in power, just *buzz* - "Is it a harp?" / 15 points. Good. This is ridiculous.

Bonuses: Poetry. Darn. I'm bad at poetry, but maybe someone else has a 30 up their sleeve. Wait - Gypsy Ballads, is this just Garcia Lorca? 10. Good. Now pick up the easy part for 20. Now, I like Garcia Lorca, and I've read a few of his plays, but if this is a hard part from his poetry I'm sunk. Yep, it's poetry. Oh well, this was fun. Hang on - "This thing converses with a beggar woman representing Death in Lorca’s Blood Wedding." Is this that weird scene where the moon turns up? Let's have a go - you don't have anything else. 30 points - yessssss! 295-295, we're on the up, there's going to be a tiebreaker (for the second time against Oxford A that year)...


Thanks for sticking with me through my long-winded, self-serving buildup - I promise I'll hit with a punchline now. It starts when the tiebreaker packet repeatedly refuses to open on the moderator's laptop. We're all on edge. Daoud suggests that because we're not using all the packets, the mod should open the first unused packet, which happens to be Packet 8, and take the first tossup as the TB. First line: it's a novel, but I don't recognise the clue. We don't have the edge on literature, but Joey's not playing, so who knows? Second clue: 'a character in this novel shows an industrialist a mummy' waaaaaaaaaait didn't I just read this? It can't be. 'Pyramid Club' *buzz* 'This is Ragtime!' Fifteen glorious points, and EL Doctorow has given Cambridge two wonderful wins over The Other Place. Scenes.

As it happens, I looked through the tiebreaker packet later, and I don't think our team would have beaten Oxford to any of them, and definitely not the first one, which happened to be biology. I'm sure that George would have picked it off at his leisure, and without the assistance of computer gremlins I'd now be telling this story in the 'Near Misses' thread. Thanks for reading - hope you felt like you were in the room. Ragtime has since remained on my bookshelf, and won't be given away as a prize any time soon.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Unicolored Jay » Mon Sep 19, 2016 2:44 pm

The biggest single-game upset I've witnessed was us beating Chicago A in the prelims of ACF Nationals 2011. That was the one win that got us into the upper half of the field in the first playoff stage, and we didn't win a single match past afterwards while Chicago A contended for the title. We had even lost to Charles Hang and his last-place in prelim bracket WUSTL team in a previous round! So it was hardly significant in terms of the grand scheme of the tournament, but we had no idea we were going to have a close game given the way things were going that day, much less beat the top-seeded team in our bracket.

I think Chicago A finished like 5th and OSU finished somewhere around 16-18.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby AKKOLADE » Mon Sep 19, 2016 3:58 pm

Granny Soberer wrote:Hunter winning HSNCT this year is probably up there. Also, Liberty defeats Penn.

I'm not really sure the #9 team winning a tournament is a great upset. Stevenson getting to the NSC final may count. Lakeside getting to the HSNCT final a decade ago would be up there. Possibly Coronado's HSNCT run this year, but I'm not sure if an individual game would qualify.

But definitely Liberty defeating Eric Mukherjee's Penn team. One of the greatest wins ever in any activity.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby etchdulac » Mon Sep 19, 2016 7:39 pm

Token mention for the old folks of A&M winning 2006 ACF Nats over a Seth/Selene Chicago team, a Kemezis/Westbrook Michigan team, a Sorice-led Illinois team, and several other solid groups.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Geriatric trauma » Mon Sep 19, 2016 7:52 pm

AKKOLADE wrote:
Granny Soberer wrote:Hunter winning HSNCT this year is probably up there. Also, Liberty defeats Penn.

I'm not really sure the #9 team winning a tournament is a great upset.

Others who are more up on the history of high school quizbowl can correct me, but I can't remember a team outside of the top 5 contenders winning a title at least since 2008.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby roey » Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:50 pm

AKKOLADE wrote:
Granny Soberer wrote:Hunter winning HSNCT this year is probably up there. Also, Liberty defeats Penn.

I'm not really sure the #9 team winning a tournament is a great upset. Stevenson getting to the NSC final may count. Lakeside getting to the HSNCT final a decade ago would be up there. Possibly Coronado's HSNCT run this year, but I'm not sure if an individual game would qualify.

But definitely Liberty defeating Eric Mukherjee's Penn team. One of the greatest wins ever in any activity.

I feel like I should remember Liberty beating Penn. Is it the one where they decided to write a whole article about it in the school paper? I could've sworn that one came against a B-team.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:56 pm

merv1618 wrote:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:Similar things can be said about Illinois' 2012 ICT run, especially given that they were seeded 18th (!) before the tournament.


They have already been, in fact, said.


I'm sure you're treasuring your remarkable observation, but my good friend Ike Jose likes having his ego stoked multiple times.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby AKKOLADE » Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:57 pm

roey wrote:
AKKOLADE wrote:
Granny Soberer wrote:Hunter winning HSNCT this year is probably up there. Also, Liberty defeats Penn.

I'm not really sure the #9 team winning a tournament is a great upset. Stevenson getting to the NSC final may count. Lakeside getting to the HSNCT final a decade ago would be up there. Possibly Coronado's HSNCT run this year, but I'm not sure if an individual game would qualify.

But definitely Liberty defeating Eric Mukherjee's Penn team. One of the greatest wins ever in any activity.

I feel like I should remember Liberty beating Penn. Is it the one where they decided to write a whole article about it in the school paper? I could've sworn that one came against a B-team.

Liberty 100% beat a Penn team that also claimed Eric Mukherjee as a member.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Tue Sep 20, 2016 12:15 pm

There's a pretty good story to be woven around Penn's run at 2010 ICT. I'd previously been part of a team that lost to Chicago repeatedly, there's the whole harvard cheating thing, Jerry threw stuff when we beat them in the playoffs and it was fun seeing that from tge other side, etc.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Cheynem » Tue Sep 20, 2016 12:25 pm

This is probably more general than what you're thinking of, but I thought about how upsets are made possible. I guess I'll say there's a few things that typically happen:

1. The other team makes mistakes. Typically, they will do things like "neg in their own categories," or be very aggressive, perhaps unnecessarily so.

2. The other team panics somewhat. This usually comes after #1--what tends to happen is that the other team will continue to play aggressively, thinking they need tossups stat, and then neg, or they go the other way and become too passive and lose buzzer races. Finally, they tend to get rattled on bonuses and miss a couple easy parts because they're too busy freaking out.

3. You hit a niche topic. This is pure luck--there's a tossup on something you can beat anyone in quizbowl on or a bonus on something you like. Sometimes it's not super dramatic and it's just "this is something I know a lot better than this very good team."

4. You take a chance that pays off. This is a key point for underdogs, I think--at some point, you're buzzing with an educated guess or an answer you're not 100% sure of.

5. You don't get rattled. At some point, the better team is going to make a run or get a good buzz. I remember when our team upset Penn at Nats 2012, Eric had a good early buzz on the American history tossup. I could have been very discouraged, but we survived and I ended up getting buzzes on the lit and film that round.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Tue Sep 20, 2016 12:28 pm

Cheynem wrote:This is probably more general than what you're thinking of, but I thought about how upsets are made possible. I guess I'll say there's a few things that typically happen:

1. The other team makes mistakes. Typically, they will do things like "neg in their own categories," or be very aggressive, perhaps unnecessarily so.

2. The other team panics somewhat. This usually comes after #1--what tends to happen is that the other team will continue to play aggressively, thinking they need tossups stat, and then neg, or they go the other way and become too passive and lose buzzer races. Finally, they tend to get rattled on bonuses and miss a couple easy parts because they're too busy freaking out.

3. You hit a niche topic. This is pure luck--there's a tossup on something you can beat anyone in quizbowl on or a bonus on something you like. Sometimes it's not super dramatic and it's just "this is something I know a lot better than this very good team."

4. You take a chance that pays off. This is a key point for underdogs, I think--at some point, you're buzzing with an educated guess or an answer you're not 100% sure of.

5. You don't get rattled. At some point, the better team is going to make a run or get a good buzz. I remember when our team upset Penn at Nats 2012, Eric had a good early buzz on the American history tossup. I could have been very discouraged, but we survived and I ended up getting buzzes on the lit and film that round.


In the upsets I've been a part of, #3 tends to follow after #1 - you make mistakes early on, expecting to have time to recover, and then the other team strikes a seam of pure gold in the second half so that you don't get that chance.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby touchpack » Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:35 pm

Cheynem wrote:This is probably more general than what you're thinking of, but I thought about how upsets are made possible. I guess I'll say there's a few things that typically happen:

1. The other team makes mistakes. Typically, they will do things like "neg in their own categories," or be very aggressive, perhaps unnecessarily so.

2. The other team panics somewhat. This usually comes after #1--what tends to happen is that the other team will continue to play aggressively, thinking they need tossups stat, and then neg, or they go the other way and become too passive and lose buzzer races. Finally, they tend to get rattled on bonuses and miss a couple easy parts because they're too busy freaking out.

3. You hit a niche topic. This is pure luck--there's a tossup on something you can beat anyone in quizbowl on or a bonus on something you like. Sometimes it's not super dramatic and it's just "this is something I know a lot better than this very good team."

4. You take a chance that pays off. This is a key point for underdogs, I think--at some point, you're buzzing with an educated guess or an answer you're not 100% sure of.

5. You don't get rattled. At some point, the better team is going to make a run or get a good buzz. I remember when our team upset Penn at Nats 2012, Eric had a good early buzz on the American history tossup. I could have been very discouraged, but we survived and I ended up getting buzzes on the lit and film that round.


There's a 6th possibility here: Your team is better than the stats (PPB) indicate, so what is viewed as an upset is not necessarily an upset.

So, the standard stat used to compare teams, especially from different reasons is PPB, because 1) the correlation between PPB and quizbowl performance is pretty good and 2) there just isn't a better stat out there. However, games are not won by converting bonuses, games are won by getting tossups. To illustrate, consider a game where two teams both get 10 tossups, but team A has 21 PPB and team B has 19 PPB. Team A has a 20 point advantage due to their advantage on bonuses. But, suppose team B is better at getting tossups, and gets 11 tossups to team A's 9. That leads to a 60 point swing (-31 points from A, +29 points to B), which swings the game in favor of team B. This is exactly what Illinois did at all 4 national tournaments we played in 2012-2013; we outperformed our PPB by getting more tossups in games that mattered.

2012 NAQT ICT
Placement: 2nd, Rank by PPB: 7th, Difference: +5

2012 ACF Nationals
Placement: 6th, Rank by PPB: 11th, Difference: +5

2013 NAQT ICT
Placement: 4th, Rank by PPB: 5th, Difference: +1

2013 ACF Nationals
Placement: 1st, Rank by PPB: 3rd, Difference: +2

How is it that Illinois was consistently better at getting tossups than bonuses? Well, tossups have a "game" element to them, while bonuses are more of a pure knowledge test. And Ike Jose is/was a master at that game. To get a feeling what I mean by this, just read this post. Ike's ability to get a feel of the tossup and read his opponent to know exactly where he needed to buzz won us many games in the top bracket. In addition, I would argue that the reason we went from +5 to +1.5 average from 2012 to 2013 is because of Aaron, who was willing to learn _anything_ needed to cover our knowledge holes, and who gave Ike another good generalist to bounce ideas off of during bonuses, improving our team's overall capability at bonuses significantly. However, I will acknowledge that the sample sizes are too small to adequately support that conjecture.

I don't know enough about other teams to identify if there are/have been other players who are good enough at the "game" aspect of quizbowl to consistently pull wins that appear to be upsets, but I will point out that Andrew Wang continued the Illinois tradition of winning by just getting more tossups when he out-performed his PPB rank in both Nationals 2015 and 2016.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Maury Island incident » Tue Sep 20, 2016 8:12 pm

AKKOLADE wrote:
Granny Soberer wrote:Hunter winning HSNCT this year is probably up there. Also, Liberty defeats Penn.

I'm not really sure the #9 team winning a tournament is a great upset.


Hunter won so many small upset victories en route to winning that tournament that added up to a huge upset, though I wouldn't call any individual game a huge upset on its own. Still, 8 negs and a botched power vulch or two from us, a great packet for them against DCC, an uncharacteristic 6 negs from LASA, the DCC near-comeback against TJ and then the protest and tiebreaker that ended up giving Hunter the tournament had to be one of wildest quizbowl nationals in recent years, at least at the high school level.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Sep 20, 2016 9:01 pm

Echoing what a lot of people are saying in this thread, upsets happen when you play in a way that makes them more likely to happen. You need to be calm and approach the game with a "glass half full" mindset, with your eyes on the prize and your head well above water. I'm frankly not that great at this, largely due a lack of self-confidence, but I think these principles show in what I'd consider my most (probably only) important quizbowl accomplishments at 2016 - a pair of key upsets over MIT A at Regionals and SCT.

To give a bit of background, Neil is not only a better overall player and far better generalist than I (especially on regular difficulty) but he had a full team of fairly experienced players capable of supporting him, whereas my teammates were fairly inexperienced. Aside from Matt Jackson, Neil is probably also the fastest and quickest-thinking player I've seen in all of quizbowl (the former's been mentioned, but the latter is somewhat under-appreciated - he's always seemed pretty good at figuring out tossups) so I knew I wasn't going to be able to rely on trying to win buzzer races. I needed to nail the categories I can consistently get early, early-middle, and middle buzzes on, and we needed to poach some literature or science somehow as well because there was no way I was going to get every single one of the ten or so categories I'm competent on at regular difficulty.

At Regionals, we managed to do all of the above. Between four MIT negs on lit and science, getting a lit tossup live, and nailing 9 of the ten aforementioned categories, we managed to get 13 (!) tossups against MIT. Somehow, we only won by 10 points because we failed at the bonuses and MIT 30d all but one of the bonuses that they heard, but it goes to show that it's tossups that really matter! Still, if MIT had gotten 8 tossups, they would have won. The upset meant they had to play an advantaged final against Columbia, and Columbia won both games.

At SCT, a similar scenario played out. This time, though MIT made only one science neg, but my teammate Victor first-lined a biology tossup. I paid careful attention to questions, didn't neg, and managed to snag two lit tossups and an Other Arts question live; this gave us enough questions to pull off a 5-point victory, I think with us getting 12 tossups to their eleven. When we played them the second time that day, Neil gave his teammates a sort of pep talk saying "there are four science and four literature questions this round, guys" - they nailed almost all of them, got some history, and sealed the chances on our victory pretty quickly.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby 100% Clean Comedian Dan Nainan » Tue Sep 20, 2016 9:15 pm

Although it's just SSNCT, Good Hope managed to place 11th this year while having the 34th ranked bonus conversion. I thought our ability to play tossups correctly definitely played into that.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby theMoMA » Tue Sep 20, 2016 9:24 pm

touchpack wrote:However, games are not won by converting bonuses, games are won by getting tossups. To illustrate, consider a game where two teams both get 10 tossups, but team A has 21 PPB and team B has 19 PPB. Team A has a 20 point advantage due to their advantage on bonuses. But, suppose team B is better at getting tossups, and gets 11 tossups to team A's 9. That leads to a 60 point swing (-31 points from A, +29 points to B), which swings the game in favor of team B.


Your point is well taken. Tossups are a zero-sum proposition; every tossup you get is one that your opponent necessarily doesn't get. PPB, on the other hand, falls within a relatively consistent range over a tournament, and as your illustration shows, it takes a really dramatic PPB advantage (nearly 7.0 PPB in your example above) for a team to overcome the loss of one marginal tossup (if all tossups are converted). I think your point is that, in a comparison of teams that fall within 3 or 4 PPB of each other, the only real value that PPB has is as a predictor of success on tossups, where the game between those teams will actually be decided. That seems right to me. (It also generally feels true that PPB does predict tossup success very well, even between teams that are very close in PPB, though not universally.)

I just want to look at the numbers a bit. I get that you probably picked them because they add up nicely, but I don't think they reflect a consistent advantage on tossups that it'd be plausible for Team B to have. If Team B gets 11 tossups to Team A's 9, Team B was 122% better at getting tossups. If Team A gets 21 PPB to Team B's 19, Team A is 110% better at converting bonuses. This probably isn't what you're saying, but for Team B to consistently have such a dramatic advantage in tossup conversion against a team that's quite a bit better on bonuses strikes me as extremely unlikely.

Rather, I'd imagine (and perhaps you'd agree) that there are sometimes Illinois-like teams whose lower PPB masks a tossup conversion potential that's roughly in line with a contending team's conversion rates. These teams would usually be favored to beat higher-PPB teams that have lower tossup conversion rates (although perhaps others wouldn't recognize it at the time), and would start at a slight disadvantage against higher-PPB teams with roughly the same expected tossup conversion (about 10 points for every PPB). They'd need to play their best to get that 11th tossup in those two or three games against the other elite-tossup-conversion teams, but that's all they'd need to win, and because they're just as likely to get an 11th tossup as their opponents, they'd win a good chunk of the time.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Sep 20, 2016 10:51 pm

This is a great thread. I enjoyed Mike's list of reasons why upsets happen, and the various stories people have told.

I'm very glad that Billy made the post that he did, because I almost wandered into this thread to make a similar post. (And also to summarize my favorite upset that I've been involved in: beating Weiner, Ted, Eric, and Cody at KABO. But I decided against that, since it would just have been an account of which tossups we got, and how angry Ted and Weiner got.)

I think that there are two phenomena that are labeled as an "upset": (1) when a team defeats an objectively statistically favored opponent, thus producing an unlikely outcome; (2) when a team defeats an opponent who is favored by community consensus (whether or not this favor is fully rational), thus producing the psychological effect of surprise. I think both of these definitions are legitimate, although I would wish to distinguish between them. It's just that the latter treats "upset" as a sort of category of reception history, rather than empirical evaluation of the odds at the time.

I don't consider Illinois' 2nd place finish at ICT 2012 or their victory at Nats 2013 or Yale's victory at Nats 2011 to be true upsets in the first of these senses. True, in none of these cases did the single most statistically favored team win. But in all of these cases, I think the outsized degree of psychological surprise was the result of the community drastically underrating the winning teams.

I have much less knowledge of the strength of various teams back in 2006, but I have been told for years that Texas A&M's victory at ACF Nationals that year is widely regarded as the biggest upset title win at an ACF Nationals. Maybe someone from that era will have more to say about that finish.

To the getting tossups vs. bonus conversion point, I remember having a conversation with Matt Jackson a while back in response to a rant that Matt Weiner delivered on the IRC. The gist of it was that Weiner claimed (purportedly echoing Zeke) that PPB is not only massively overrated as an analytic stat, but is also overrated even as an in-game factor for winning matches. He claimed that the match will just go to whomever wins the most tossups. I think this view has a grain of truth. We certainly overrate PPB (and I have been very guilty of this). But this omits two important circumstances:

(1) High PPB allows you to occasionally play like morons on the tossups against not-so-good teams, and win by virtue of bonus conversion alone. I have done this so many times! High PPB can act like insurance against tossup-conversion upsets. (In fact, it may be the main reason this thread's list of famous upsets isn't longer!)
(2) If your PPB is higher than your opponent's, you only need to split the tossups with your opponent to win the match; you don't actually need to get more tossups. You might think that this is relatively rare, but a rarely commented-upon fact is that even-tossup splits are quite common in the upper bracket at Nats. I think I looked at this once and determined that a surprisingly high proportion of national tournaments had an even-tossup-split match between two of the top three or four teams.

So, even if we shouldn't fetishize it so much, bonus conversion does win games sometimes.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:44 pm

As a wise robot once told me, it's important to convert both tossups and bonuses.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby salamanca » Wed Sep 21, 2016 10:12 am

Let me start by echoing the general praise for the entertainment value of this thread.

As for the following statement:

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:To the getting tossups vs. bonus conversion point, I remember having a conversation with Matt Jackson a while back in response to a rant that Matt Weiner delivered on the IRC. The gist of it was that Weiner claimed (purportedly echoing Zeke) that PPB is not only massively overrated as an analytic stat, but is also overrated even as an in-game factor for winning matches. He claimed that the match will just go to whomever wins the most tossups.


What John says here is essentially accurate, Matt W. and I had many informal discussions about in game strategy and I did take such a position, though I would argue that is more nuanced than "whomever wins the most tossups" wins the game. I think a lot of that depends on what sort of tournament we are talking about, e.g, SCT v. ACF Nationals, but in general I did, and still, believe that the ability to consistently get 10 to 11 TUs early (in a standard ACF round) is the single most important measure that predicts a team's ability to win meaningful games and therefore tournaments.

Much of my view on this comes from witnessing the mid 90s MD teams out bonus-convert competing teams, most notably the VA teams led by some upstart named Andrew Yaphe, and lose anyway because they could not get to hear enough bonuses to make it matter. This was also the case, as I recall, during my first year at MI where I felt like we always knew enough if not more than our closest competitors at National Championships, i.e., Illinois, Chicago, Berkeley, but were beaten enough on TUs in "our" areas that our strength on bonuses was effectively neutered. The antidote, of course, was to work harder at learning more early clues by writing more questions, taking more notes, etc. and so that is what we attempted to do.

With regard to the notion that A&M winning the 2006 ACF Nationals was an upset. I am not sure that I'd say that was the case. I think it was more that the rest of the then traditional powers had dramatic roster shakeups from 05 to 06, e.g., MI had lost Leo, Lafer and I, Chicago had lost Subash/Andrew and Seth had yet to make the leap, and Berkeley didn't show, which meant that A&M, a team that had essentially been together since (I think) 2000 and had been hanging around at the middle to the lower part of the top bracket at the last 3 ACF Nationals, was able to break through. Additionally, as I understand it, MI had a poor game in the finals where they missed some not so difficult bonus parts that gave A&M the opportunity to salt it away. From a pure knowledge perspective, however, I'd say that A&M was certainly one of the top 4 teams there and while I was somewhat surprised that they pulled it out, it didn't seem unthinkable to me. Andrew Y. may have more to say about this as he moderated the final.

Finally, I wanted to resurrect a construct that Andrew H. introduced in the top players thread, namely the notion of young v. old player skill sets, and ask folks how they believe this may or may not impact the TU efficiency v. PPB efficiency debate. I have some thoughts, but am eager to hear what others think.

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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Ike » Wed Sep 21, 2016 11:50 am

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:(And also to summarize my favorite upset that I've been involved in: beating Weiner, Ted, Eric, and Cody at KABO. But I decided against that, since it would just have been an account of which tossups we got, and how angry Ted and Weiner got.)


Don't let that stop you!
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Important Bird Area » Wed Sep 21, 2016 12:55 pm

salamanca wrote:the rest of the then traditional powers had dramatic roster shakeups from 05 to 06, e.g., MI had lost Leo, Lafer and I, Chicago had lost Subash/Andrew and Seth had yet to make the leap, and Berkeley didn't show


Berkeley didn't play ACF Nationals in 2006 because we also had a dramatic roster shakeup (graduated Jerry, who was by far our best player at 2005 Nationals).
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby The Atom Strikes! » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:25 pm

Chris Romero deliberately cultivated upsets by playing cautiously and avoiding negs, especially at high difficulty levels where answerlines are hard to predict and fraud is difficult. An opponent who played incautiously and negged a lot while you did not might hand you the margin you need to win.

When I lived in Texas, he taught me and my teammates about this strategy, and it served me well over my college years, helping me to score a few good upsets over the Libo/Kurtis era Michigan team and various teams involving Chris Ray (a guy who plays in the same categories that I do, only much better) over the course of my college career. I think that it also might explain some of the dissonance between my ACF Nationals numbers and my ranking as a player in the community; my scoring always tended to be a bit higher because I negged relatively little.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby vinteuil » Tue Sep 27, 2016 11:34 pm

salamanca wrote:Finally, I wanted to resurrect a construct that Andrew H. introduced in the top players thread, namely the notion of young v. old player skill sets, and ask folks how they believe this may or may not impact the TU efficiency v. PPB efficiency debate. I have some thoughts, but am eager to hear what others think.


I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this, Zeke—partly because I suspect that "young player" studying strategies have changed drastically in the past couple years, due to the ascendance of tossup-reading programs/tossup-clue-flashcarding programs.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby theMoMA » Sun Oct 09, 2016 12:04 pm

There seemed to be some good discussions percolating in this thread, but unfortunately, I think my barrage of stats post interrupted them. I've moved those stats posts to a separate thread (along with Jonah's interesting posts about conversion data in the NAQT database). Hopefully that will allow the discussions here to rekindle.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby That DCC guy » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:24 am

The best ones I was a part of was when my team Detroit Catholic Central from 2013-2014 defeated the Deguzman led St. John's team at PACE. Like the number 14 team beat the number 3 team. What makes this upset so special was that my DCC team was made up of Two Juniors and Two Sophomores going against the St. John's powerhouse.

Also another good upset was when my DCC team from 2014-2015 lost at NAQT to Lexington. We finished 3rd at HSNCT while Lexington finished 53rd. I remember wholly that it was all my fault that our team lost. But yeah our tournament play only went up from their as a team. No more upsets!
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Ike » Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:57 am

Chris Ray at Terrapin 2016 is a pretty legendary upset notwithstanding its recency. Great moments involve Chris literally licking his lips as the science tossup in finals 2 was being read before he completely shafted Max on that question, Chris beating John Lawrence to a music question using his "this question is being bullshit for a reason. Why?" skills, and Chris using the pigeonhole principle to great effect to fraud the final bonus part of the tournament to move the game from a tie to a win.

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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:00 pm

Ike wrote:Chris Ray at Terrapin 2016 is a pretty legendary upset notwithstanding its recency. Great moments involve Chris literally licking his lips as the science tossup in finals 2 was being read before he completely shafted Max on that question, Chris beating John Lawrence to a music question using his "this question is being bullshit for a reason. Why?" skills, and Chris using the pigeonhole principle to great effect to fraud the final bonus part of the tournament to move the game from a tie to a win.

Ike


This sounds amazing. Where can I learn more?
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Ike » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:03 pm

I'll PM you with specifics. I would post the specific instances of this story here, but the set is not clear -- so I'll definitely do that once Terrapin is clear.

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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby gyre and gimble » Fri Dec 16, 2016 2:57 pm

Ike wrote:Chris Ray at Terrapin 2016 is a pretty legendary upset notwithstanding its recency. Great moments involve Chris literally licking his lips as the science tossup in finals 2 was being read before he completely shafted Max on that question, Chris beating John Lawrence to a music question using his "this question is being bullshit for a reason. Why?" skills, and Chris using the pigeonhole principle to great effect to fraud the final bonus part of the tournament to move the game from a tie to a win.

Ike


Another great upset on this year's Terrapin set was Michael Coates playing solo and beating me and Benji. His teammates abandoned him after lunch (presumably to go watch the Stanford-Cal football game), but Michael played that round perfectly and got himself an excellent win.

I wasn't even mad, though at the time I analogized it to watching Trump win state after state after state on Election Day. When Michael took the painting tossup (I think it was around tossup 13-14), it was like seeing Ohio go red by a wide margin, in the sense that I finally thought, "Damn, this is really happening."
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby CPiGuy » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:32 pm

Ike wrote:I'll PM you with specifics. I would post the specific instances of this story here, but the set is not clear -- so I'll definitely do that once Terrapin is clear.

Ike


I *think* Terrapin is clear now?
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Mnemosyne » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:35 pm

CPiGuy wrote:
Ike wrote:I'll PM you with specifics. I would post the specific instances of this story here, but the set is not clear -- so I'll definitely do that once Terrapin is clear.

Ike


I *think* Terrapin is clear now?


Nope. LA/TX mirror is a work in progress
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby marnold » Mon Feb 06, 2017 10:59 pm

In the 2009 Chicago Open a team of me, Andrew Ullsperger, Paul Gauthier and Evan Nagler (lol, what a team) beat a team of Seth, Selene and Sorice. We thought we were world-beaters.... until we lost the next round to the Rom/Tim Hartman juggernaut when Rom obliterated a toss-up on ROME, OPEN CITY (1945).

If there's some category for two unbelievable upsets by one team, at 2009 ACF Nats, Chicago B (David Seal, Nolan Esser, Nick Polk and Paul Gauthier) beat both Brown and Andrew's Stanford teams in the prelims. However, they managed to lose enough other games (e.g., to high school senior Ike Jose playing solo) that they didn't make the top bracket so Brown and Stanford's losses didn't carry over.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Cheynem » Mon Feb 06, 2017 11:02 pm

And you wonder why I ranked Paul Gauthier above you!
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Mnemosyne » Mon Feb 06, 2017 11:15 pm

At SCT this weekend, Oklahoma lost to Rice in Round 1.

Oklahoma won out to finish 8-1. Rice lost out to finish 1-8.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby dtaylor4 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:19 am

marnold wrote:If there's some category for two unbelievable upsets by one team, at 2009 ACF Nats, Chicago B (David Seal, Nolan Esser, Nick Polk and Paul Gauthier) beat both Brown and Andrew's Stanford teams in the prelims. However, they managed to lose enough other games (e.g., to high school senior Ike Jose playing solo) that they didn't make the top bracket so Brown and Stanford's losses didn't carry over.


If memory serves, they were forced into a play-in game (against MIT) that knocked them out of the top bracket.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Kasper Kaijanen » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:41 am

Mnemosyne wrote:At SCT this weekend, Oklahoma lost to Rice in Round 1.

Oklahoma won out to finish 8-1. Rice lost out to finish 1-8.


Delet this
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Fat Lip » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:57 am

Mnemosyne wrote:At SCT this weekend, Oklahoma lost to Rice in Round 1.

Oklahoma won out to finish 8-1. Rice lost out to finish 1-8.


A sure sign that things went bad is when the distant fourth scorer is the lead scorer in a round.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Ike » Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:34 am

marnold wrote:In the 2009 Chicago Open a team of me, Andrew Ullsperger, Paul Gauthier and Evan Nagler (lol, what a team) beat a team of Seth, Selene and Sorice. We thought we were world-beaters.... until we lost the next round to the Rom/Tim Hartman juggernaut when Rom obliterated a toss-up on ROME, OPEN CITY (1945).

If there's some category for two unbelievable upsets by one team, at 2009 ACF Nats, Chicago B (David Seal, Nolan Esser, Nick Polk and Paul Gauthier) beat both Brown and Andrew's Stanford teams in the prelims. However, they managed to lose enough other games (e.g., to high school senior Ike Jose playing solo) that they didn't make the top bracket so Brown and Stanford's losses didn't carry over.


I really wish I could take credit for giving Brown and Stanford a chance at not having that loss carry over, but I played Chicago B in the playoffs.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Wed Feb 08, 2017 1:25 pm

At Illinois novice 2008, a team of Linna Duan and I lost to a team of Adam Hallowell and Sarah, whose last name I've forgotten and who accompanied Linna to the tournament. We went 9-1, they went 1-9.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Habitat_Against_Humanity » Wed Feb 08, 2017 1:39 pm

Ike wrote:
marnold wrote:In the 2009 Chicago Open a team of me, Andrew Ullsperger, Paul Gauthier and Evan Nagler (lol, what a team) beat a team of Seth, Selene and Sorice. We thought we were world-beaters.... until we lost the next round to the Rom/Tim Hartman juggernaut when Rom obliterated a toss-up on ROME, OPEN CITY (1945).

If there's some category for two unbelievable upsets by one team, at 2009 ACF Nats, Chicago B (David Seal, Nolan Esser, Nick Polk and Paul Gauthier) beat both Brown and Andrew's Stanford teams in the prelims. However, they managed to lose enough other games (e.g., to high school senior Ike Jose playing solo) that they didn't make the top bracket so Brown and Stanford's losses didn't carry over.


I really wish I could take credit for giving Brown and Stanford a chance at not having that loss carry over, but I played Chicago B in the playoffs.


Yeah, as I remember oh-so-painfully, we lost to MIT in a play-in match in which I got tossups on noted-things-I-like The Fire Next Time and The Man Who Sold the World only to lose on a Hydrazine tossup.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby Sigurd » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:19 am

Surprised to see Northwestern's performance in the ICT Playoffs hasn't been mentioned here. Scoring four upsets in a row (Yale, Maryland, Chicago, Stanford) to make the final must be considered among the greatest upsets listed here. Possibly the greatest considering the strength of the top teams (and question writing) in our modern era.

On a smaller note, McGill upsetting Columbia to make the top bracket also deserves a mention.
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Re: Greatest Upsets in Quizbowl History

Postby An Economic Ignoramus » Tue Apr 18, 2017 5:58 pm

Does it count as an upset if it's on substandard questions? If so, Dunlap v. Stevenson at IHSA State this year.
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