2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Ndg » Mon May 04, 2015 7:49 pm

There was a "schedule by room" page on the website for readers to use to make sure the right players were in their rooms. At least, I used it. Oddly enough, I remember being told several times at the staff meeting not to bother checking, for reasons that weren't clear to me.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by tabstop » Mon May 04, 2015 8:14 pm

Ndg wrote:There was a "schedule by room" page on the website for readers to use to make sure the right players were in their rooms. At least, I used it. Oddly enough, I remember being told several times at the staff meeting not to bother checking, for reasons that weren't clear to me.
I think (well, I hope) that the point was to not penalize a student who somehow wandered into the wrong room for whatever reason (by, e.g., barring him/her from playing).

I will say that, although I don't keep rigorous track, the number of students playing in a non-scheduled room seemed to go down by an order of magnitude this year, so whatever people were doing to keep track of their playing schedules, keep it up.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by tabstop » Mon May 04, 2015 8:28 pm

Mucho Macho Man wrote: At the very least, the latter situation was very avoidable.
Much of that was, I think, some miscommunication between me and the help desk, especially at T-10 minutes before the start; I think they were asking me to find a student in the list and I thought they were trying to add the student. Either way, the new policy is "check the current roster before adding a student".
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill » Mon May 04, 2015 11:39 pm

Ndg wrote:There was a "schedule by room" page on the website for readers to use to make sure the right players were in their rooms. At least, I used it. Oddly enough, I remember being told several times at the staff meeting not to bother checking, for reasons that weren't clear to me.
I was indeed told this by my flight leader, although I also checked the website. I had one kid show up to round 1 who was supposed to be five floors further up and a couple of no-shows, but that was it.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Halved Xenon Stinging » Tue May 05, 2015 8:17 pm

On a side note, when are the NHBB TV videos being released?
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Angry Babies in Love » Tue May 05, 2015 9:54 pm

Halved Xenon Stinging wrote:On a side note, when are the NHBB TV videos being released?
A few of them are already up -- I had a big project come up but the rest should be up by the end of the week.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Great Bustard » Tue May 12, 2015 3:53 pm

Sorry for the delay in continuing my thoughts on Nationals here; I've been busy coordinating our Canadian National Championships, planning for our Elementary and Middle School Nationals, Olympiad planning, and the general wind down from High School Nationals. It's a busy month. Anyway, I'll try and condense my most important takeaways from Friday-Sunday here, and then I'll make a follow up post on some adjustments we're considering for next year.

Friday
For the 3rd year in a row, Friday was the most stressful day of the weekend for me, though much of this had to do with the hotel issues (no further need to go into that here). I thought the US History Bee prelims ran largely fine; one flight seemed to have some issues with one room starting a round too early (this was rectified for the 2-3 affected students; an issue that the USGO also faced) so we will be sure to hammer home the all important point of flight captains waiting until all rooms are back to start the next round. This was not an issue this year in the (much larger) National History Bee, so there's no reason it should be an issue in USHB / USGO. The most notable thing for USHB was the turnout - last year we had 71 students, and this year, the actual number of competing students was about 190. Part of that may be that it was $20 or so cheaper this year (even if there was no $5000 prize for Bruce this year for winning), but there is a clear demand for this, and students enjoyed competing. The USHB will certainly be a permanent part of Nationals weekend going forward; it remains an open question for now if we will continue with the USHB / USGO National Qualifying Quiz Tournaments at the regional level though, since attendance at those was relatively weak this year.

On USGO, obviously switching the Quiz Bowl prelims to the afternoon made things much better (everything was done by 10pm this year compared to midnight last year), though with USHB, lunch, the 2 USGO exams, 4 rounds of USGO prelims, and 2 rounds of USHB playoffs, things were packed even before we got to the opening ceremonies, and the evening activities. Next year, we will almost certainly do 3 rounds of USGO prelims instead of 4. Possibly, these rounds could have 40 questions as opposed to 35 (with a switch in the bonus point set up if needed), but the 4th round added an extra 30 minutes to the day which made things stressful, and difficult for players in both USHB and USGO to get dinner and attend the Opening Ceremonies.

Raynell will take the lead in reworking the USGO exam format next year - this year there was some slight confusion over how each exam would look. I think having two clearly defined and separate exams would be good for next year, though just having a 2 part exam and having the exam go back to just counting as one event overall is an option too. I think the questions were well-received though. For the quiz bowl portion, a number of people commented that at times, the questions appeared to be going perhaps a bit too far in the direction of general culture as opposed to geography. Certainly, we don't want to go back to the notion of geography as list-memorization / tossups as nothing more than locations & random facts about a place, but I think it's also important to make sure that there's a limit to how far geography can go down the general culture path. USGO remains a work in progress, albeit a rapidly growing one, and one where I think we can continue to build for the future. A number of USGO-only people commented that USGO seemed at times a side show to the NHBB competitions, so we'll try and think of some ways to make USGO seem more like a bona fide National Championship (which it is) going forward. As an aside, no fewer than 160 students are currently signed up for the Elementary/Middle School USGO Nationals on Friday, May 22, so USGO should continue to grow very quickly in the coming years. One last note: both USGO and USHB needed more info about Nationals (including a full description of the rules) on their websites for next year. This is an easy fix, and we'll be sure to get on it.

The USHB and USGO playoffs could have run more smoothly; I'm not entirely sure what held them up a bit, but we will look to streamline that for subsequent years. Some comments have been made regarding the structure of the playoffs for USHB. We'll continue to review that for next year, but in terms of the JV not having a head to head final, the primary reason for that is that there isn't time in the Opening Ceremonies to do both the Varsity and JV USHB finals. I think that the USHB playoff rounds (which were just 30 questions this year) will go to 35 next year; perhaps that will help some. One thing in general that we need to do a better job of is having scoreboards available (computer monitors for students in the playoff rounds, and a powerful projector and large screen in the auditorium for both players and the audience).

The Opening Ceremony (once the microphone was delivered) went very well - the speaker, General Price, was a huge hit, and Bruce and Sam's final was exciting to moderate and watch. We should have dressed the stage up a bit more, but I'm happy with how things went. The remaining Friday event, the Sports and Entertainment Bee, needs a few comments addressed. First, like the US History Bee, the Sports and Entertainment History Bee is here to stay, as over 100 people signed up for it (more than double any previous year) For many of these students, this is their only realistic chance to win individual awards, and the SE Bee has a committed following among a lot of players, even if many of them are not active on the forums. That said, the logistics need to be improved here (there was confusion on how many students made the final and the readers needed somewhat clearer instructions in their opening meeting), and as long as we are going to run this and over 100 people want to compete, we need to play it up more for what it's worth.

One last note on the matter of staff meetings. I think Joe Nutter said there was a rumor that the early staff meeting didn't happen - this is untrue. It did, and I ran it. Having 2 staff meetings on Friday evening makes sense, since many staff are either busy (or haven't arrived) at 8pm, but for those who are there, they'd rather take care of it at that point as opposed to waiting 2 more hours if they are already tired and need to be up early the next day anyway.

Saturday
Saturday featured 123 rooms of History Bowl playing simultaneously. As I've mentioned, this was a record by a healthy margin, and I'm happy to hear that on the whole, this many readers did a great job. Logistically, there were some issues at various points (the hotel problems and the poster mix up have already been discussed, and I don't need to go into much more detail there), but there was enough time built into the schedule to accommodate these things without the tournament as a whole getting off schedule. We know that for some teams there was a good amount of waiting involved as stuff got straightened out; for that we apologize, but the schedule needs to have this down time built in. Yes, we could have longer games / more games / a shorter lunch break / whatever but the weekend is already a marathon, and having some time to account for Murphy's Law is common sense. The scoring poster system once again worked well to get teams to where they needed to be for the afternoon matches; the only real exception to this was a few teams who needed to head off site and for whatever reason hadn't gotten the message (even though their posters and the online stat reports told them clearly when and where to go). This only affected the Executive Supergroup in the Varsity (6 morning pools), so next year, we will hammer home the need for those 6 site captains to really get the point across to teams that need to go off site and meet their afternoon groups earlier.

I will save a discussion of playoff fixes for a subsequent post, but on the matter of delays in the playoffs, 2 things to note here. First, in the Bowl, typically games can start as soon as both teams have arrived, regardless of whether other rooms in the group (let alone the rest of the tournament) are done. In the Bowl playoffs at Nationals, though, question security should be paramount. The slowest rooms are going to take longer (this effect is magnified by having longer games with 12 questions per quarter, though I like having that - it ensures a fairer outcome and more competition) than the quickest rooms; potentially by up to 15 minutes even with no other issues. Secondly, because the JV this year (this will likely change for next year) was playing single elim, that meant that protests had to be adjudicated after each game no matter what. The hold up here was due to one out of control parent who didn't understand the protest rules, wouldn't take no for an answer from the protest room, and made such a fuss that people in the control room were reluctant to start the next round until I had gone and straightened things out. This shouldn't have happened, of course, but we'll both know to be more vigilant about the potential for problems of this sort next year, and by switching the JV over to pool play, it should mean that protests are less likely to hold up the playoff rounds, as they can be adjudicated during the start of the next round if absolutely necessary.

Sunday

The Bee Prelims on Sunday went very well - things ran well ahead of schedule and I didn't hear of any major issues. A few rooms got off to a bit of a later start; for next year, we'll probably just say that 8:15 is the official start time and students should be outside their rooms at 8:05 to cut down on waiting at the start. Two things that did come up that we will fix. First, the online draws, when they initially went up, had not cleared out the previous year's assignments for the Bee (since the Bee draw went up later than the Bowl. We'll be sure to clear this out for next year in advance. In the event, this only affected 2 students out of nearly 400 - these two students were given the average score of their final 5 rounds for the first round which they missed (neither of these students was in the running for qualifying for the playoffs - if they had been, we would have give them the benefit of the doubt, but this was a moot point). In a separate matter, one top student went to the wrong room which then had a negative impact on the students who were in that room and weren't expecting another top player to walk in. I double checked in the stats room to see if this would have kept anyone out of the playoffs, and the answer was no, so it wasn't a problem for this year. For next year, we will likely institute a penalty if a student plays in the wrong room (to ensure they double check, and especially to discourage students running off and playing somewhere else for the fun/strategic benefit of it) and at the same time clarify the policy for what happens to affected students if this does happen

The Sunday Bowl playoffs went quite well - the Saratoga / LASA rematch from last year was epic. The NHBB TV video of this and other playoff matches are now up, and it's been instructive for me to watch them (with good audio this year!). I am capable of reading faster if needed and will do so for subsequent years. There were some microphone issues, though, and I wanted this year to ensure that everyone could hear me clearly. Last year, I was told by AV staff to keep the mic as close to my face as possible; this year, I got the opposite feedback. We'll hit the Goldilocks spot on that for next year. As for delays here, first off, we weren't really behind schedule. If it seemed that delays occurred between matches, again, part of this is that a lot of people need to move from one room to the next in between matches, and we want rounds to go off at the same time for security's sake. We ran almost entirely on the official schedule throughout the afternoon, and the 10-15 minutes that the Bee finals ended later than the posted schedule is entirely accounted for by the wackiness of having an 8 person playoff in the Varsity Bee for 7 spots on top of a 8 person playoff for 4 spots in the JV. We've been doing this 5 years now, and haven't ever had anything remotely like this before in either division - and got it in both this year, plus one student who wandered off, necessitating putting the Varsity Bee playoff after the Varsity Bowl final. And for those who say, couldn't you have just run it without him, the answer of course is yes, but when the easy solution of doing the Varsity Bowl finals first presented itself, there was no need to disqualify a student on a technicality, even if we had clearly communicated the need to be in the main room for the tiebreak (the other 15 students all had gotten the message). Note again, that any team / student who has the potential to be alive in the afternoon rounds on Sunday should clearly follow our advice regarding travel back on Sunday that we had posted online. Anyone who did would not have missed their connections; asking the tournament to run much quicker than it did eats into the time that we need to deal with issues if they arise. That said, we can tighten up the speed of the Sunday rounds (and hopefully won't have quite so much tiebreak fun to sort through) next year a bit, and things can run a bit quicker if needed.

I've mentioned some fixes here; there's still the matter of some suggestions that people have had up thread, plus my take on how to fix the playoff structure. Those posts will go up by 9pm Eastern this evening, and as soon as they are up, the final wrap up email to attendees will go out as well.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by ahuff » Tue May 12, 2015 5:59 pm

That was me who accidentally went to the wrong room, and I think it actually caused Daniel Jilek to go from being in the playoffs to having to play in the tiebreaker, which he lost. Sorry about that Daniel, it was an honest mistake.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Great Bustard » Tue May 12, 2015 9:36 pm

Playoff Fixes: Bowl
A significant amount of the upthread chatter was along the lines of how to revamp the playoff system for the Bowl. Until this year, both the Varsity and Junior Varsity had been single elimination; this year, the Varsity departed from that with the 8 groups of 4 teams for the Saturday evening rounds. Especially given the fact that these rounds (and the Sunday bowl rounds) had 12 questions in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quarters, this resulted in a significantly greater amount of time for the top teams to play each other and get more competition rounds in. Whatever else, I think most everyone agrees that that's beneficial.
This year, of the top 4 teams in the Saturday evening seeds, only one (Saratoga) made it through, and I can see how effectively this differed then little from single elimination. So here's a plan to try and fix the biggest issues with the playoff structure as it ran this year. I will add that while upthread I said I didn't have a strong view of the subject, I've given it a lot of thought over the past few weeks, and this plan is as justifiable as I can currently see it, particularly given our constraints (e.g. double elimination at any level is out of the question given the number of rounds it requires for the field size we have and the amount of time we have to run things).

1. Only the top 2 teams out of the morning groups advance to the upper bracket. First place teams always advance, no matter the record. Second place team advances unless tied on record with third team, in which case a 10 question tiebreak quarter is played to determine advancement only. The fourth place team never would advance to the tiebreak even if tied with the 2nd and 3rd teams on record (since mathematically this would mean they already have 2 losses, and I don't feel a particular need to assuage them - the tiebreak is there to prevent a 4-1 team from bowing out without a second chance).

2. Assume we have 180 teams next year in Varsity (note: the Varsity field will be capped, at least initially at this number for 2016). Then we have 60 play upper bracket with point 1 in place. Of these 60 teams, the top 24 advance to 6 playoff pools of 4 teams. So all the #1 and #2 teams advance, and 4 of the top 10. No tiebreaks are played here, since it's incredibly unlikely that a team would go 4-1 and not somehow be one of the top 4 third place teams in the 10 pools. By comparison, in 2015, in all 41 afternoon pools in the entire tournament, only 1 had a 3rd place team go 4-1 [Centennial A in JV Upper].

3. The top 24 teams again play 3 rounds in pools seeded on the basis of afternoon results (place in the group, then record, the points). The winner of each group AND the top 2 second place teams (first on evening record, then on evening points) advance to the finals. If there is a tie for the final spot only, then play a tiebreak quarter of 10 powerable questions). If there is a 2 way tie on record at 2-1 within a group, play that off on a tiebreak quarter. If there is a 3 way tie at 2-1 (as there was this year with Centennial, Northmont, and Georgetown Day) play a 3 way simultaneous tiebreak on an Anderson system that can accommodate 12 players with 15 questions. Is this totally unconventional? Yes. Can this be physically done? Yes. Is there a fairer way of breaking a 3 way tie? No.
Note that having the top 2 second place teams on points make it probably ensures a stronger Sunday field than just taking the group winners, especially if one looks at Saturday evening point totals. DCC, the 3 seed, racked up 1320 points. IMSA, the 2 seed had 1220, as did Ransom Everglades, the 9 seed. All went 2-1, finishing second. Lexington, the 15 seed, scored an upset win over IMSA, but only had 1000 points. Farragut, the 11 seed, went 3-0 with 1090. Overall, it's fairer to have fewer overall groups than the number of slots in the Sunday rounds, to ensure that the top 2nd place teams can survive an upset and live another day.
As an aside, interestingly, both Whitney's and Lexington's seeds were probably higher than they should have been, and Georgetown Day's lower, since GDS didn't have its top players in the a.m. (they were playing It's Academic) and went second in their morning group. If they were there, then GDS most likely takes Team Western/Free World's spot in Aqua pool in the afternoon, which would have negatively impacted Whitney and Lexington. This also meant that IMSA (who still finished as the 2 seed, and probably would have even if GDS had been in Aqua), Bergen Academies, and Fisher Catholic, all were at a disadvantage because they had to face both IMSA and a full-strength GDS in the afternoon. Not sure if we should put in a rule to prevent this in future years, but it's an open question for discussion. I should stress that in doing this, GDS played in accordance with our rules this year - they did nothing wrong here.

4. Now's where it really gets fun. The top 8 teams still advance to Sunday, but now, the #1 seed would likely need to square off against a top team that had a bad game in the evening rounds, but might be better than the bottom 3-0 team. Not to knock Farragut / Whitney / Lexington again, but Saratoga could make a case that they would have rather faced one of those teams than Centennial (the lone 2-1 Saturday evening team that made it through, but who was in a tough group with GDS and Northmont). Centennial had the 3rd highest afternoon point total, after all, even though they dropped a game to Team Zhou. So, let's have a draft. The #1 seed gets to pick their first round opponent for Sunday among the 5-8 seeds based off of placement, then record, then points in the Saturday evening rounds. Then the #2 seed picks, then the #3 seed, with the #4 seed getting the remaining team. Call this unconventional, but again, this to me seems to overwhelmingly be the fairest way to seed the Sunday rounds and adds an element of strategy and drama to the tournament. The #1 seed then selects a pairing who would be their potential semifinal opponent as well. Both playoff draft stages are done on Sunday at the conclusion of the Bee, unless people think having the semifinal draft after the quarters would be better. I'm open to either approach, but the draft would definitely be on Sunday, allowing teams to strategize and poor over statistics on Saturday. Note that this set up would avoid the silliness of this year when High Tech tracked me down on Sunday and was delighted to find out that they were in fact the 6 seed, rather than the 5 seed (and hence not in Saratoga's half of the draw). In the event, they lost to LASA anyway, but teams shouldn't be rooting for a lower seed like this.

5. The JV would also move over to a similar model, but with a cap of 108 teams, 36 advancing to Upper Bracket, and 12 advancing to 3 Saturday evening pools. Tiebreaks would be played here among teams tied for the 2nd spot in an afternoon bracket on record; here it would be done just like the morning tiebreak procedure was articulated. Among the 3 playoff pools, the winner of each advances; the best 2nd place does as well. Ties are broken as in the Varsity pools. The #1 seed drafts their semifinal opponent on Sunday as well. The JV should remain at one round fewer than Varsity as it is both significantly smaller (there were 156 Varsity and 90 JV this year) and I wish, for now, at least, to be able to be present at the JV finals and have this be in the big ballroom as befits a national title match.

Bee playoffs
My thinking on Bee playoffs is significantly less firm at this point than for the Bowl, but I think that for the first time this year, students really figured out the strategy regarding nuking questions and rampant aggression in the first two Bee playoff rounds. I had been aware of the potential for that for years (it is the strategic way to play) but students seem not to have really picked up on that to this year. Congrats to them on doing so, but now we need some fixes. Awkward as it may sound, I'm toying with the idea of introducing 3 stage power questions for all Bee playoff questions. Superpowers net 4 points, powers net 3, end of question gets 2 points. A neg during the question is a minus two (for anyone - not just the third student); a neg after the question is still a minus 1. There would be a monitor scoreboard in each room so that students don't have to keep track of this on their own. There would be no auto-advancing; the top students would simply advance.
I'm open to the idea of the top Bee prelim student advancing to the finals, and the two or three next highest Bee students advancing to the semis, but what do players think about that? I still like the idea of having three playoff stages, but maybe now (for Varsity) have 5 rooms of 6, the top 2 advancing, being joined by the 2nd and 3rd place in Bee prelims, and then the top 2 advancing into a 5 way final, being joined by the prelims winner? For JV, do the same, except only the top player out of each semifinal pool advances, so that the final is 3 way? I like the idea of the JV final being smaller; it helps it go a bit quicker (even with 2 students this year, it took more questions than the Varsity final to get through, though part of that of course was Bruce blitzing his way through to the Varsity Bee title.

Anyway, there you have it - comments welcome; I'll reply as time permits over the coming days. Thanks again to all who came, and I look forward to continuously improving Nationals wherever it makes sense to do so for years to come to make it an even more enjoyable tournament.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Halved Xenon Stinging » Tue May 12, 2015 10:02 pm

Losing two points for a questions seems a bit harsh, in my opinion to make it more reasonable you could

a) Make penalties in the bee (anywhere in the question) one point instead of two
or
b) Make superpowers 3, powers 2, end of questions 1, and negs (anywhere in the question) -1.

My reasoning behind this is that in quiz bowl, negs are -5 points, which is half of the amount you get if you answer the question correctly outside power. Making penalties the same amount of points as correct answers is like subtracting 10 points for each neg. Even though negs are worth the same as correct answers in scenario B, powers are worth three or two times as much as negs so negs are less detrimental.

Also, would this system be in place for the USHB as well?
Last edited by Halved Xenon Stinging on Tue May 12, 2015 10:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by luke1865 » Tue May 12, 2015 10:03 pm

I think the power idea is awesome. I had actually thought about that for a sec once and dismissed myself as crazy. I think this would help reward knowledge.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Great Bustard » Tue May 12, 2015 11:29 pm

jonpin wrote: I'll also repeat my suggestion from last year that--for the purpose of better recognition of winners in front of an audience--the champions for the USGO and USHB could be announced during the playoff bracket announcement on Saturday
I'm all for this, except (especially for USGO) many of the top players have left by then, including James Mullen, defending iGeo champion, and Karan Menon, who won the JV.
jonpin wrote: My feeling is that David has gotten better as a moderator, but he loves to stand on ceremony, and that outside of games he has a tendency to just keep talking at times.
This happened a bit for the JV final since one of the teams was first a bit slow to show up, then we had to get everyone set, and then I probably read the game a bit too slowly. I had figured it was the JV final, and with the uncertainty regarding the mic, wanted to ensure people could hear me clearly. About midway through the first quarter, I realized I could speed it quite a bit, but by then it would have been odd to significantly adjust my tempo mid-match. Also, some of the talking I did, especially in between matches, is effectively to play for time until the next match gets set, and was not just me rambling on because I love to hear myself talk or whatever.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Great Bustard » Tue May 12, 2015 11:44 pm

Ndg wrote: I remember staff being told to read the entirety of the tossups in the JV playoffs. Did that not actually happen?
I certainly read the entirety of the tossups, including the first line, in the JV Bowl final (I believe other readers followed this rule for the playoffs as far as I know). On the matter of the JV final taking longer than the Varsity semi, later buzzes in the question certainly has a lot to do with it too. As did the fact that the last few packets were a bit harder than they should have been. We'll tone it down slightly in the Sunday bowl matches for next year.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by jonpin » Wed May 13, 2015 12:39 am

If the plan is to radically rework the rules for the Bee playoffs, I suggest a different alteration, which is how I believe the US History Bee or possibly the MS-level bees have worked previously. That is, when you reach a certain number of negs, you're done for the round. In a packet of 35 questions, I think 4 or 5 is a reasonable quota. Only in-question negs count against you; this isn't Jeopardy and there should be no penalty for throwing out a guess at the end of the tossup, but likewise a player shouldn't benefit by depriving the rest of the field a chance at the question (so that questions don't get killed for a third wrong answer in the playoffs).

I'm not certain of my idea of skipping players into the Bee semifinals; skipping someone directly into the Bee final seems too much of a benefit, given the noisiness of the prelim standings. The suggestion on the Bowl playoffs does seem... interesting. I do think that the idea of only taking the top 2 from morning brackets will make those rounds more meaningful.
Jon Pinyan
Coach, Bergen County Academies (NJ); former player for BCA (2000-03) and WUSTL (2003-07)
HSQB forum mod, PACE member
Stat director for: NSC '13-'15, '17; ACF '14, '17, '19; NHBB '13-'15; NASAT '11

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Antrobus63
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Antrobus63 » Wed May 13, 2015 3:49 pm

My son, Alex, competed in the JV Bees and in the Geography Olympiad the past two years, so I have been able to watch a lot of prelim and playoff matches. Here are some thoughts about points that have been raised on this thread:

* Whether the prelim groups are well-seeded or not—and it appears that they were —piling up wins/points against weaker opponents is never the best criterion for deciding which player/team is truly the strongest. In most sports competitions, a regular season is followed by playoffs. Superior performance in the regular season is rewarded with a high playoff seeding, but outstanding competitors must then demonstrate their ability to defeat other high-quality opponents. This should be just as true for the Bee as for the Bowl.

Also, the variation among prelim groups means that it is not possible to pick the best player (or even the best two or four players) from the prelims alone. As several people have pointed out, there are many variables in the prelim rounds—some rooms have six kids, some have nine, some players are in the wrong rooms., etc.—which makes it impossible to draw anything more than general conclusions about player strength from the prelims alone.

* Awarding Bee players extra points in the playoff round based on their preliminary results would going too far. To use the sports analogy again, that would be like giving one team a win to start out a best-of-seven series, which is surely too much. Again, the benefit of doing very well (finishing in the top eight) in the prelims is to obtain a higher seed and to keep from having to face more than one other outstanding player in the opening playoff round(s). That's reason enough to work hard in the prelims.

* Whether or not the final should consist of eight players, four players, or two is worth debating—my guess is that HBB is still playing around with this—but there must be at least one seeded (but otherwise, equal) playoff round before the final.Under any system, though, playoffs—not prelims—are the true test of player excellence. Elevating the top one or two prelim (“regular season” players) directly into the finals just isn’t right—again, no sport does this. And I’m not just saying this because my kid won the JV Bee; Alex was second after the US History prelims, but finished tied for third in the finals because John Peter Connor was clearly the best US History player when the top players were all pitted against each other.

* Players should check the results of all of the Bee playoff rooms before making a judgment about the unfairness of the current buzzing system in the playoffs. David M. may decide to change the system next year—which is fine—but the current system really isn’t that hard to figure out. Last year, Alex and I were both surprised when we saw kids purposely killing questions. But after some reflection, we figured out that the best way to play this set up was to buzz early and often in the prelims and playoffs, where there are seven other players, but then to settle back in the final, where the penalty for missing—giving away the question to the other, single player—is substantial. That’s not rocket science.

Also, who said you can’t buzz in between the second, harmless buzz and the third, neggy buzz? In the current set up, that ‘no-man’s land’ is where the best players can distinguish themselves. If you REALLY know the answer before the end of the question, then you should not fear the third buzz. If you don’t really know, then you take your chances on the buzzer war at the end of the question.

* Introducing powers into the Bee might be cool, but that would promote even more aggressive, early buzzing—unless you also introduce an early-neg penalty. I like the idea of cumulative negs (say, five) eliminating a player; that might just do the trick. Whatever system HBB uses next year, as long as the players get the chance to practice it in the regional bees, they should be able to adjust.

* I like that the Geography Olympiad is different and includes a very difficult written exam to help determine the winner. However, I think that having the two 45-minute exams count for two-thirds of the winning formula is a bit much. I suggest that the exams, together, should add up to HALF of the winning formula.

The eventual JV winner, Karan Menon, was in the final group and performed so extraordinarily well on the exams (beating even the Varsity high-scorer) that he would have been the clear winner of the event even if exams counted for only half of the total. However, under the current system, a player could win the Olympiad without even reaching the final eight, which would be, well, weird. The kids spend way too much time on the quiz bowl part of the competition (almost as much time as in the History Bee) to have it count for only one-third of the total.
Peter Schmidt
Coach, Lehigh Valley Academy
Columbia '84, Yale '88
Owner and Teacher, Prepare Test Preparation

johntait1
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by johntait1 » Thu May 14, 2015 4:49 pm

Hi Mr. Madden,
Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts on the subject.
For the 3rd year in a row, Friday was the most stressful day of the weekend for me, though much of this had to do with the hotel issues (no further need to go into that here). I thought the US History Bee prelims ran largely fine; one flight seemed to have some issues with one room starting a round too early (this was rectified for the 2-3 affected students; an issue that the USGO also faced) so we will be sure to hammer home the all important point of flight captains waiting until all rooms are back to start the next round. This was not an issue this year in the (much larger) National History Bee, so there's no reason it should be an issue in USHB / USGO. The most notable thing for USHB was the turnout - last year we had 71 students, and this year, the actual number of competing students was about 190. Part of that may be that it was $20 or so cheaper this year (even if there was no $5000 prize for Bruce this year for winning), but there is a clear demand for this, and students enjoyed competing. The USHB will certainly be a permanent part of Nationals weekend going forward; it remains an open question for now if we will continue with the USHB / USGO National Qualifying Quiz Tournaments at the regional level though, since attendance at those was relatively weak this year.
I didn't play USHB because I didn't know we could qualify through the regionals test thing, but I really enjoyed it last year. On a related note, would it be possible to have some other wildcard qualifying for US History Bee? Maybe like making the History Bee or USHB playoffs at Nationals the previous year? I didn't ask about it this year because I didn't want them to make an exception for me or anything, but I'm personally not a big fan of taking tests or writing essays to qualify for a quizbowl event when a quizbowl portion isn't available. I'll try to take the test by all means next year, but it'd be nice to qualify through regular History Bee or some other quizbowl thing instead since there wasn't a USHB quizbowl part for me to attend.
Playoff Fixes: Bowl
A significant amount of the upthread chatter was along the lines of how to revamp the playoff system for the Bowl. Until this year, both the Varsity and Junior Varsity had been single elimination; this year, the Varsity departed from that with the 8 groups of 4 teams for the Saturday evening rounds. Especially given the fact that these rounds (and the Sunday bowl rounds) had 12 questions in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quarters, this resulted in a significantly greater amount of time for the top teams to play each other and get more competition rounds in. Whatever else, I think most everyone agrees that that's beneficial.
This year, of the top 4 teams in the Saturday evening seeds, only one (Saratoga) made it through, and I can see how effectively this differed then little from single elimination. So here's a plan to try and fix the biggest issues with the playoff structure as it ran this year. I will add that while upthread I said I didn't have a strong view of the subject, I've given it a lot of thought over the past few weeks, and this plan is as justifiable as I can currently see it, particularly given our constraints (e.g. double elimination at any level is out of the question given the number of rounds it requires for the field size we have and the amount of time we have to run things).

1. Only the top 2 teams out of the morning groups advance to the upper bracket. First place teams always advance, no matter the record. Second place team advances unless tied on record with third team, in which case a 10 question tiebreak quarter is played to determine advancement only. The fourth place team never would advance to the tiebreak even if tied with the 2nd and 3rd teams on record (since mathematically this would mean they already have 2 losses, and I don't feel a particular need to assuage them - the tiebreak is there to prevent a 4-1 team from bowing out without a second chance).

2. Assume we have 180 teams next year in Varsity (note: the Varsity field will be capped, at least initially at this number for 2016). Then we have 60 play upper bracket with point 1 in place. Of these 60 teams, the top 24 advance to 6 playoff pools of 4 teams. So all the #1 and #2 teams advance, and 4 of the top 10. No tiebreaks are played here, since it's incredibly unlikely that a team would go 4-1 and not somehow be one of the top 4 third place teams in the 10 pools. By comparison, in 2015, in all 41 afternoon pools in the entire tournament, only 1 had a 3rd place team go 4-1 [Centennial A in JV Upper].

3. The top 24 teams again play 3 rounds in pools seeded on the basis of afternoon results (place in the group, then record, the points). The winner of each group AND the top 2 second place teams (first on evening record, then on evening points) advance to the finals. If there is a tie for the final spot only, then play a tiebreak quarter of 10 powerable questions). If there is a 2 way tie on record at 2-1 within a group, play that off on a tiebreak quarter. If there is a 3 way tie at 2-1 (as there was this year with Centennial, Northmont, and Georgetown Day) play a 3 way simultaneous tiebreak on an Anderson system that can accommodate 12 players with 15 questions. Is this totally unconventional? Yes. Can this be physically done? Yes. Is there a fairer way of breaking a 3 way tie? No.
Note that having the top 2 second place teams on points make it probably ensures a stronger Sunday field than just taking the group winners, especially if one looks at Saturday evening point totals. DCC, the 3 seed, racked up 1320 points. IMSA, the 2 seed had 1220, as did Ransom Everglades, the 9 seed. All went 2-1, finishing second. Lexington, the 15 seed, scored an upset win over IMSA, but only had 1000 points. Farragut, the 11 seed, went 3-0 with 1090. Overall, it's fairer to have fewer overall groups than the number of slots in the Sunday rounds, to ensure that the top 2nd place teams can survive an upset and live another day.
As an aside, interestingly, both Whitney's and Lexington's seeds were probably higher than they should have been, and Georgetown Day's lower, since GDS didn't have its top players in the a.m. (they were playing It's Academic) and went second in their morning group. If they were there, then GDS most likely takes Team Western/Free World's spot in Aqua pool in the afternoon, which would have negatively impacted Whitney and Lexington. This also meant that IMSA (who still finished as the 2 seed, and probably would have even if GDS had been in Aqua), Bergen Academies, and Fisher Catholic, all were at a disadvantage because they had to face both IMSA and a full-strength GDS in the afternoon. Not sure if we should put in a rule to prevent this in future years, but it's an open question for discussion. I should stress that in doing this, GDS played in accordance with our rules this year - they did nothing wrong here.

4. Now's where it really gets fun. The top 8 teams still advance to Sunday, but now, the #1 seed would likely need to square off against a top team that had a bad game in the evening rounds, but might be better than the bottom 3-0 team. Not to knock Farragut / Whitney / Lexington again, but Saratoga could make a case that they would have rather faced one of those teams than Centennial (the lone 2-1 Saturday evening team that made it through, but who was in a tough group with GDS and Northmont). Centennial had the 3rd highest afternoon point total, after all, even though they dropped a game to Team Zhou. So, let's have a draft. The #1 seed gets to pick their first round opponent for Sunday among the 5-8 seeds based off of placement, then record, then points in the Saturday evening rounds. Then the #2 seed picks, then the #3 seed, with the #4 seed getting the remaining team. Call this unconventional, but again, this to me seems to overwhelmingly be the fairest way to seed the Sunday rounds and adds an element of strategy and drama to the tournament. The #1 seed then selects a pairing who would be their potential semifinal opponent as well. Both playoff draft stages are done on Sunday at the conclusion of the Bee, unless people think having the semifinal draft after the quarters would be better. I'm open to either approach, but the draft would definitely be on Sunday, allowing teams to strategize and poor over statistics on Saturday. Note that this set up would avoid the silliness of this year when High Tech tracked me down on Sunday and was delighted to find out that they were in fact the 6 seed, rather than the 5 seed (and hence not in Saratoga's half of the draw). In the event, they lost to LASA anyway, but teams shouldn't be rooting for a lower seed like this.

5. The JV would also move over to a similar model, but with a cap of 108 teams, 36 advancing to Upper Bracket, and 12 advancing to 3 Saturday evening pools. Tiebreaks would be played here among teams tied for the 2nd spot in an afternoon bracket on record; here it would be done just like the morning tiebreak procedure was articulated. Among the 3 playoff pools, the winner of each advances; the best 2nd place does as well. Ties are broken as in the Varsity pools. The #1 seed drafts their semifinal opponent on Sunday as well. The JV should remain at one round fewer than Varsity as it is both significantly smaller (there were 156 Varsity and 90 JV this year) and I wish, for now, at least, to be able to be present at the JV finals and have this be in the big ballroom as befits a national title match.
I'll give my honest thoughts about the new Bowl playoff format: I don't think it's perfect, but I do think it is a significant improvement.
Point 1 helps with my issue of the top teams not playing each other enough. With only the top two teams advancing, there will be a lot more of the best teams facing each other in the afternoon rounds. Top 2 teams is a good idea because it gives the top team an opportunity to be upset once and still advance, so there shouldn't be any one loss and your out problems. The top teams usually won't get upset twice, so I think two teams really strikes a good balance. PACE had top two teams from each morning pool advance when I attended last year, so I really think this is a good solution. I also really like that tiebreaks will be broken on actual questions, not on PPG or anything.
Point two I like a lot as well, because it lowers the number of playoff teams a bit, which I think is a good idea, while at the same time, you can still lose a round and still advance, so no one loss and your out either.
Point three is pretty good: I like that the top two second place teams will still advance. I'm not sure if that is enough depending on the number of upsets and stuff, but 8 teams out of 24 seems pretty fair. Obviously we can't tell what will happen next year, but I definitely think this is an improvement over this year's format.
Point 4 is the thing I really like. The draft really makes sense because the seeds don't necessarily show who the best teams are, and many times the top teams will prefer to face certain teams. This is my favorite part probably, and takes out the randomness of the seeding.
Also, I totally understand where you're coming from about Farragut. I've told my teammates and I think I've posted it before, but I'll say it again: I honestly feel like we got a really fortunate draw and that we would have lost to several of the teams that did not make the top 8-such as DCC, IMSA-by a wide margin if we had played them one on one. I don't know how good Lexington is, but if I were Saratoga, I would definitely have chosen to play Farragut in the first round of the playoffs, because we were definitely one of the weakest, if not the weakest team that made the top 8, as shown by RM A totally destroying us in the quarterfinals. I know it may seem extremely bizarre that I'm arguing for a playoff change when we were the team at Nationals that benefited from the current format the most, but from talking to many other players I really got the impression that they wanted a change, so I wanted to give some constructive criticism to benefit the entire History Bowl community, not our team personally.
Bee playoffs
My thinking on Bee playoffs is significantly less firm at this point than for the Bowl, but I think that for the first time this year, students really figured out the strategy regarding nuking questions and rampant aggression in the first two Bee playoff rounds. I had been aware of the potential for that for years (it is the strategic way to play) but students seem not to have really picked up on that to this year. Congrats to them on doing so, but now we need some fixes. Awkward as it may sound, I'm toying with the idea of introducing 3 stage power questions for all Bee playoff questions. Superpowers net 4 points, powers net 3, end of question gets 2 points. A neg during the question is a minus two (for anyone - not just the third student); a neg after the question is still a minus 1. There would be a monitor scoreboard in each room so that students don't have to keep track of this on their own. There would be no auto-advancing; the top students would simply advance.
I'm open to the idea of the top Bee prelim student advancing to the finals, and the two or three next highest Bee students advancing to the semis, but what do players think about that? I still like the idea of having three playoff stages, but maybe now (for Varsity) have 5 rooms of 6, the top 2 advancing, being joined by the 2nd and 3rd place in Bee prelims, and then the top 2 advancing into a 5 way final, being joined by the prelims winner? For JV, do the same, except only the top player out of each semifinal pool advances, so that the final is 3 way? I like the idea of the JV final being smaller; it helps it go a bit quicker (even with 2 students this year, it took more questions than the Varsity final to get through, though part of that of course was Bruce blitzing his way through to the Varsity Bee title.
I like the idea of powers in the Bee and negs to really reward solid knowledge while simultaneously penalizing for over-aggression. I also like that the prelim top players get some advantage in the playoffs, but I think maybe advancing all the way to the finals is a bit too much. Maybe a few extra points or a percentage of the prelim score carrying over into the playoffs? I'm not sure about this, but one other idea I had was maybe having a few more questions in each Bee round like the Bowl this year, since our team really seemed to enjoy having a few extra tossups each round. I also realized the problem of nuking last year, and I honestly probably should have vocalized it a bit more; the main thing is that I personally pretty much never use it since there's a good chance I'll actually know the answer. My bad for not pointing it out last year and for making the JV players suffer this annoyance this year.
Losing two points for a questions seems a bit harsh, in my opinion to make it more reasonable you could

a) Make penalties in the bee (anywhere in the question) one point instead of two
or
b) Make superpowers 3, powers 2, end of questions 1, and negs (anywhere in the question) -1.

My reasoning behind this is that in quiz bowl, negs are -5 points, which is half of the amount you get if you answer the question correctly outside power. Making penalties the same amount of points as correct answers is like subtracting 10 points for each neg. Even though negs are worth the same as correct answers in scenario B, powers are worth three or two times as much as negs so negs are less detrimental.

Also, would this system be in place for the USHB as well?
Hmmm, the problem I have with that is that superpowers are worth three times as much as a neg, so guessing would probably continue. In quizbowl there's a lot harsher penalty for guessing because you pretty much forfeit the tossups and bonuses to the other team since most good teams can get the tossup at the end. I personally prefer Mr. Madden's idea because there's a lot less incentive to guess that way.
My son, Alex, competed in the JV Bees and in the Geography Olympiad the past two years, so I have been able to watch a lot of prelim and playoff matches. Here are some thoughts about points that have been raised on this thread:

* Whether the prelim groups are well-seeded or not—and it appears that they were —piling up wins/points against weaker opponents is never the best criterion for deciding which player/team is truly the strongest. In most sports competitions, a regular season is followed by playoffs. Superior performance in the regular season is rewarded with a high playoff seeding, but outstanding competitors must then demonstrate their ability to defeat other high-quality opponents. This should be just as true for the Bee as for the Bowl.

Also, the variation among prelim groups means that it is not possible to pick the best player (or even the best two or four players) from the prelims alone. As several people have pointed out, there are many variables in the prelim rounds—some rooms have six kids, some have nine, some players are in the wrong rooms., etc.—which makes it impossible to draw anything more than general conclusions about player strength from the prelims alone.

* Awarding Bee players extra points in the playoff round based on their preliminary results would going too far. To use the sports analogy again, that would be like giving one team a win to start out a best-of-seven series, which is surely too much. Again, the benefit of doing very well (finishing in the top eight) in the prelims is to obtain a higher seed and to keep from having to face more than one other outstanding player in the opening playoff round(s). That's reason enough to work hard in the prelims.

* Whether or not the final should consist of eight players, four players, or two is worth debating—my guess is that HBB is still playing around with this—but there must be at least one seeded (but otherwise, equal) playoff round before the final.Under any system, though, playoffs—not prelims—are the true test of player excellence. Elevating the top one or two prelim (“regular season” players) directly into the finals just isn’t right—again, no sport does this. And I’m not just saying this because my kid won the JV Bee; Alex was second after the US History prelims, but finished tied for third in the finals because John Peter Connor was clearly the best US History player when the top players were all pitted against each other.

* Players should check the results of all of the Bee playoff rooms before making a judgment about the unfairness of the current buzzing system in the playoffs. David M. may decide to change the system next year—which is fine—but the current system really isn’t that hard to figure out. Last year, Alex and I were both surprised when we saw kids purposely killing questions. But after some reflection, we figured out that the best way to play this set up was to buzz early and often in the prelims and playoffs, where there are seven other players, but then to settle back in the final, where the penalty for missing—giving away the question to the other, single player—is substantial. That’s not rocket science.

Also, who said you can’t buzz in between the second, harmless buzz and the third, neggy buzz? In the current set up, that ‘no-man’s land’ is where the best players can distinguish themselves. If you REALLY know the answer before the end of the question, then you should not fear the third buzz. If you don’t really know, then you take your chances on the buzzer war at the end of the question.

* Introducing powers into the Bee might be cool, but that would promote even more aggressive, early buzzing—unless you also introduce an early-neg penalty. I like the idea of cumulative negs (say, five) eliminating a player; that might just do the trick. Whatever system HBB uses next year, as long as the players get the chance to practice it in the regional bees, they should be able to adjust.

* I like that the Geography Olympiad is different and includes a very difficult written exam to help determine the winner. However, I think that having the two 45-minute exams count for two-thirds of the winning formula is a bit much. I suggest that the exams, together, should add up to HALF of the winning formula.

The eventual JV winner, Karan Menon, was in the final group and performed so extraordinarily well on the exams (beating even the Varsity high-scorer) that he would have been the clear winner of the event even if exams counted for only half of the total. However, under the current system, a player could win the Olympiad without even reaching the final eight, which would be, well, weird. The kids spend way too much time on the quiz bowl part of the competition (almost as much time as in the History Bee) to have it count for only one-third of the total.
Hi Mr. Schmidt,
I'm glad that you're adding to this topic. I personally did not have an opportunity to talk to your son at Nationals this year-I believe I did play him in the JV History Bee semifinals last year- but he truly is an excellent history player, accomplishing several incredible feats over the past two years. I think that you have raised several excellent points, but I would also like to politely disagree with you on a few points. Feel free to reply, I certainly respect you and your son's opinion on these matters considering both of your experiences and the fact that I did not personally play in JV this year-the information I got was what I heard from my own JV team and the JV players I had an opportunity to talk to at Nationals.
I totally agree that the piling up a ton of points against weaker competition does not prove who the best team or player is, and that performance against other top players is necessary. I will add though that in certain sports regular season plays a huge role in playoffs: in the NFL, the top two teams in each conference get a first round bye while the bottom four playoff teams play a first rounds before advancing to the second round against the top two teams. In the MLB, the top three teams get to watch while the 2 wild card teams play one game to advance. While I can't recall the top teams advancing directly into the finals like you mentioned, in sports there are certainly instances where teams get byes for good regular season performances. Whether that should be changed or not is another point, but from reading your post it seemed to indicate that seedings are the only advantages in sports playoffs. I would argue that it is true in NHL and NBA, with the additional caveat that home court advantage is huge and the fact that the home team gets it is almost like a few points bonus from what I see when odds are posted and there is a huge difference between home and road games. Sorry if I misinterpreted anything, and I want to emphasize that I'm not trying to disagree on purpose; hopefully we can carry on a constructive discussion.
I do also agree that the prelim groups can vary a lot:I had to play Tajin Rogers one round and Eric Xu another round,which was pretty surprising due to our high finishes last year. I thought with over 180 players and about 6 players per room, they would place the top 30 players separately, but it was nice to get some competition against the top players before the finals. It is a fair point thought that the players who didn't have to play top players in the prelims definitely had an easier time scoring.
I totally agree that the best strategy is to play aggressive in the prelims and the playoffs and then play conservative in the finals. I think the main discussion here is that most of the top players feel that aggression should be penalized a bit more in the prelims and playoffs, since the current system rewards guessing a bit too much. I think the philosophy of most of the posters has been that true knowledge should be rewarded more than it currently has been. Of course, you may have a different philosophy on what History Bee should test and maybe you feel that guessing is very important.
You also mentioned that you can still buzz before the end of the question if you really know the answer, but I'd also argue that sometimes someone else buzzes in and negs the question, and I can't answer the question at all even if I knew it when the player who negged it negged the question. In that instance, I am losing a point I should have gotten for knowing the question over the rest of the competition, but I remain at the same level as the competition who did not know the answer, with the exception of being one point ahead of the person who negged(as it should be). Furthermore, the buzzer war at the end of the question means that someone who knows it at the end may not be able to answer because others who did not know it buzzed in. In that instance, there is no advantage for the person who knows more about the subject(since they knew it at the end while others did not), and I would argue that the person who knew it at the end should be rewarded considering how obscure many of the playoff questions were. Personally, I feel that even shallow knowledge about a relatively obscure historical topic should be rewarded.
Daniel Yan-2014 JV History Bee Champion
Captain of 2014 History Bowl JV Runner Up Farragut
"Sinner in the hands of an angry God"

Nighthawk
Kimahri
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Nighthawk » Fri May 15, 2015 12:38 am

Instead of cluttering with quotes, I'll organize by idea.

Bee Playoff Format:
Firstly, I like the idea of giving some sort of advantage to the best in the prelliminaries for the finals. But auto-advancement is a bit too much in my opinion. This isn't like Ken Jennings and Jeopardy where Ken put in a statistically near-impossible run together during his streak. The difference in the varsity bee between 1st-5th place was one point between each. Those are easily close enough that forcing two of those players to advance through three round whilst giving two a pass through the first round and one a finals spot is just ruthlessly unfair, especially considering the varibility of who gets whom as opponents during which round. Mix up the question set order, and those top five would certainly not be the exact same in order. And my worst round in the consolation bee (4 points compared with the others all in the 7-9 range) came both with nerves and especially the two other consolation bee finalists in the room. If two top players meet in the prelims, both suffer and thus an incentive

However, I do like the idea of bonus points for the first two rounds of the playoffs. For example, give the top player in each room two points to start and the second best one point. The winner of each playoff round 1 room would get a single bonus point to begin the semi. If there are ties for the bonus points, break them sudden death. This would give a slight advantage to all-around excellent play during the prelims without trying to split hairs too much.

Bee Interrupts:
I agree with Jon with the interrupts. I think the middle school bee rules reward actual deep knowledge more than the current high school bee rules. Why? Purely game theory. With the current hs rules, if I know that a question is about a Chinese dynasty, and I know that I don't actually know anything about Chinese dynasties save some of their names, I will go ahead and buzz (assuming two others haven't already done the same) and guess one "Han" or something. But with the middle school scoring, I wouldn't dare try to guess on that because such a blind guess isn't worth one of my 4 negs. Thus, more early buzzes will be legitament attempts to go for the answer line, and not wild guessing.

Mr. Madden's new idea for the playoffs is interesting and does help with the guessing, but having someone play 3 prelim rounds and 1-3 playoff rounds to qualify for nationals plus 5 rounds of prelim at nationals and then change how the whole competition works (and scoring is a big enough piece of the pie that such a radical change to scores as per Madden's idea would change the game entirely) doesn't sound like a good idea to me, especially as a possibly future staffer of NHBB nationals. But from a participant's side, it takes quick learning to know the new system and the change might affect play. I think consistency is better for all involved, and the best method to be consistent with in my book is the middle school method.

Bee Tiebreak
I really didn't like it how players were able to kill questions during the tiebreak by interrupting third and not giving a legitament try for the answer line without penalty. If this were in regular bee play, they would have lost a point and thus been a point behind everyone else still on the buzzers at the table. This is just unfair to those who actually had a good shot at the question. I think that a system similar to the middle school bee would be useful here, where you have a limited number of interrupts or third guesses (1-2 for the tiebreak), since then questions would be more strategically and limitedly killed. Or perhaps allow all players a guess during tiebreaks. I don't think that a legitament wrong go for the answer should end one's shot at the national championship, but killing of questions needs to stop somehow.

Bowl Playoff Proposal
I really like this proposal, just since it will give more teams more equal matches in the afternoon. It may, however, have a limit on some teams coming to nationals, since they would be less likely to still be alive in the afternoon. And it does pose the problem of an exact field size with little to no leeway either way, which may force some schools to not come/bring fewer teams or may result in begging for more signups, which lowers the playing field.

Consolation Bee Results
I know I am probably the only person on the whole earth who actually cares about this, but if there's any way I can see the results of the consolation bee (at least the round-by-round scores kept by one of the moderators to determine the finals participants and the final round's scoresheet) that would be great. :smile:
Kevin R.
St. Xavier H.S. (KY) '15
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Great Bustard » Fri May 15, 2015 4:12 pm

So, on the matter of tiebreaks after pool play. At our middle school nationals on 5/24 in Louisville, it's going to work exactly how I've outlined it for the high school division next year with 6 pools of 4 (except in the middle school, effectively, the afternoon stage is cut out, since we have 72 teams [hence taking top 24 out of morning pools]).
Then, we have 6 pools - the winners advance to take 6 of the 8 quarterfinal playoff slots. 3-0 teams obviously win; 2-1 teams play a tiebreak to determine 1st. If there are 3 teams at 2-1, the tiebreak is a 3-way.
After intrapool tiebreaks (if necessary), we go to interpool tiebreaks. All second place teams who went 2-1 are eligible. With 6 pools, if there are:
A. 6 second place teams at 2-1, play 2 3 way tiebreaks. The 1st, 4th, and 6th teams go into one; the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th teams on points go into the other.
B. 5 second place teams at 2-1, play 1 3 way tiebreak with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place teams, and 1 2 way tiebreak with 1st and 5th place on points in the other.
C. 4 second place teams at 2-1, play 2 2 way tiebreaks with 1st playing 4th, and 2nd playing 3rd. Winners advance.
D. 3 second place teams at 2-1, play 1 3 way tiebreak. Top 2 teams advance.
E. 2 second place teams at 2-1, no tiebreak, these two advance.
F. 1 second place team at 2-1, play 1 5 way tiebreak among 2nd-6th best 2-1 teams. The sole 2-1 team advances with no tiebreak.
G. 0 second place teams at 2-1, play 2 tiebreaks. The 1st, 4th, and 6th teams go into one; the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th teams on points go into the other.

Better mathematical minds than mine can calculate the probabilities here, but suffice to say that D-G is highly unlikely. We're going to test drive the playoff draft idea too, with the first place team able to select their semifinal opponent AFTER the quarterfinals are done.
Two buzzer systems are being ordered from Anderson as I type to accommodate this. Both can play up to 20 players at once. Now watch us get two pools that go 3-0, 2-1, 1-2, 0-3 and 4 pools that break 3-0, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 next weekend and spoil the 3-way fun...
David Madden
Ridgewood (NJ) '99, Princeton '03
Founder and Director: International History Bee and Bowl, National History Bee and Bowl (High School Division), International History Olympiad, United States Geography Olympiad, US History Bee, US Academic Bee and Bowl, National Humanities Bee, National Science Bee, International Academic Bowl.
Adviser and former head coach for Team USA at the International Geography Olympiad

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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Antrobus63 » Sat May 16, 2015 8:07 am

I totally agree that the piling up a ton of points against weaker competition does not prove who the best team or player is, and that performance against other top players is necessary. I will add though that in certain sports regular season plays a huge role in playoffs: in the NFL, the top two teams in each conference get a first round bye while the bottom four playoff teams play a first rounds before advancing to the second round against the top two teams. In the MLB, the top three teams get to watch while the 2 wild card teams play one game to advance. While I can't recall the top teams advancing directly into the finals like you mentioned, in sports there are certainly instances where teams get byes for good regular season performances. Whether that should be changed or not is another point, but from reading your post it seemed to indicate that seedings are the only advantages in sports playoffs. I would argue that it is true in NHL and NBA, with the additional caveat that home court advantage is huge and the fact that the home team gets it is almost like a few points bonus from what I see when odds are posted and there is a huge difference between home and road games. Sorry if I misinterpreted anything, and I want to emphasize that I'm not trying to disagree on purpose; hopefully we can carry on a constructive discussion.
I do also agree that the prelim groups can vary a lot:I had to play Tajin Rogers one round and Eric Xu another round,which was pretty surprising due to our high finishes last year. I thought with over 180 players and about 6 players per room, they would place the top 30 players separately, but it was nice to get some competition against the top players before the finals. It is a fair point thought that the players who didn't have to play top players in the prelims definitely had an easier time scoring.
Hey Daniel,

Always feel free to disagree--politely or not--though your comments are both polite and constructive. Congratulations on your own success, as well as your school's.

Analogies are always tricky, since they seldom correlate precisely. Still, to pursue the sports analogy a bit further: Many major sports do not have byes--just seeding and home-field advantage--while the sports that do have byes can justify this because they play almost exactly the same competition during the regular season. True, there is some variation in their schedules but not as much as in NHBB prelims. Actually, in the NFL, the crappier teams get an EASIER schedule from the very start of the season to balance out the competition year-in and year-out. So, the best teams actually have to work harder to retain their top-dog status.

I am not suggesting that NHBB do something like this (?!), but I do think that awarding extra playoff points based on prelim play would be the equivalent of awarding actual wins (or touchdowns) in a sports playoff scenario. One extra point is a huge advantage in the playoffs; two would be ridiculous. As several commentators in the thread have pointed out, there is no way to accurately and fairly distinguish among the top players based solely on the prelims. So, why should Player A get a leg up (beyond seeding) over Player B just because he finished with a few more points over SIX prelim rounds against competition that may have been inferior? Since many of the playoff rooms were decided by a single point, do we really want that point to be a freebie? Why should the top players need extra help, anyway?

The complaints about the current three-buzz system have more validity... though I still I think the best players will find a way to answer the most questions, as long as there are enough of them.
You also mentioned that you can still buzz before the end of the question if you really know the answer, but I'd also argue that sometimes someone else buzzes in and negs the question, and I can't answer the question at all even if I knew it when the player who negged it negged the question. In that instance, I am losing a point I should have gotten for knowing the question over the rest of the competition, but I remain at the same level as the competition who did not know the answer, with the exception of being one point ahead of the person who negged(as it should be). Furthermore, the buzzer war at the end of the question means that someone who knows it at the end may not be able to answer because others who did not know it buzzed in. In that instance, there is no advantage for the person who knows more about the subject(since they knew it at the end while others did not), and I would argue that the person who knew it at the end should be rewarded considering how obscure many of the playoff questions were. Personally, I feel that even shallow knowledge about a relatively obscure historical topic should be rewarded.
I agree--and feel that the way to discourage that third B.S. buzz is to threaten disqualification after a specified number of ‘buzzkills,’ a fix that has been proposed by other folks. However, there is a big difference between the strategy of purposely killing questions you don’t know--which is completely defensive--and the overall strategy of being aggressive and buzzing in early if you really think you know the answer, which IS in-line with the NHBB’s overall philosophy. So, personally, I would have the first and second buzzes remain unpenalized but then put a heavy penalty on wrong third buzzes-- disqualification at, say, three buzzkills.

Allowing more free buzzes is not the answer, since EVERYONE would buzz in with a guess and the games would take forever. I saw this happen in the elementary semis in Atlanta last year.
Peter Schmidt
Coach, Lehigh Valley Academy
Columbia '84, Yale '88
Owner and Teacher, Prepare Test Preparation

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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by acrosby1861 » Sat May 16, 2015 2:30 pm

johntait1 wrote: I didn't play USHB because I didn't know we could qualify through the regionals test thing, but I really enjoyed it last year. On a related note, would it be possible to have some other wildcard qualifying for US History Bee? Maybe like making the History Bee or USHB playoffs at Nationals the previous year? I didn't ask about it this year because I didn't want them to make an exception for me or anything, but I'm personally not a big fan of taking tests or writing essays to qualify for a quizbowl event when a quizbowl portion isn't available. I'll try to take the test by all means next year, but it'd be nice to qualify through regular History Bee or some other quizbowl thing instead since there wasn't a USHB quizbowl part for me to attend.
I liked the essay qualification for USHB last year because it would allow for the people who didn't have a regional QB site in their area a chance to qualify to Nationals. Why wasn't this in place this year? I understand the part about giving qualifying tests at regional sites for NHBB, but what if you take the qualifying tests multiple times and still don't make it, what will your other options be?
Antrobus63 wrote: Analogies are always tricky, since they seldom correlate precisely. Still, to pursue the sports analogy a bit further: Many major sports do not have byes--just seeding and home-field advantage--while the sports that do have byes can justify this because they play almost exactly the same competition during the regular season. True, there is some variation in their schedules but not as much as in NHBB prelims. Actually, in the NFL, the crappier teams get an EASIER schedule from the very start of the season to balance out the competition year-in and year-out. So, the best teams actually have to work harder to retain their top-dog status.

I am not suggesting that NHBB do something like this (?!), but I do think that awarding extra playoff points based on prelim play would be the equivalent of awarding actual wins (or touchdowns) in a sports playoff scenario. One extra point is a huge advantage in the playoffs; two would be ridiculous. As several commentators in the thread have pointed out, there is no way to accurately and fairly distinguish among the top players based solely on the prelims. So, why should Player A get a leg up (beyond seeding) over Player B just because he finished with a few more points over SIX prelim rounds against competition that may have been inferior? Since many of the playoff rooms were decided by a single point, do we really want that point to be a freebie? Why should the top players need extra help, anyway?
In my opinion, if you give someone additional points in the playoffs, and they advance a round, I don't think you can tell if that person really knows their stuff or if they got in through their extra points. And also, scores over the prelims can fluctuate. If Player A and Player B are equally skilled, but Player B got put with better players (thus giving him a lower score) and Player A didn't, then Player A would finish ahead of Player B in the prelims.

I think the level and skill of the people you're playing should be a factor in the prelim standings, not just your points. Going back to the scenario mentioned twice already in this post, Player B's ranking, which would be affected by the tougher competition, should be reconsidered.

And on an unrelated note, I don't really understand why the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quarters of the Bowl have 8 questions in the morning, 10 in the afternoon, and 12 in the playoffs. I've never quite understood this, really.
Arianne Crosby
Los Alamitos High School | 2013 — 2017
UC San Diego | 2017 — 2021

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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Great Bustard » Sat May 16, 2015 3:20 pm

acrosby1861 wrote: I liked the essay qualification for USHB last year because it would allow for the people who didn't have a regional QB site in their area a chance to qualify to Nationals. Why wasn't this in place this year? I understand the part about giving qualifying tests at regional sites for NHBB, but what if you take the qualifying tests multiple times and still don't make it, what will your other options be?
At Nationals, USHB is a bee-style competition, and this is not going to change. So it's somewhat of a non-sequitur to have a competition that tests a totally different skill set be a qualifier for it. The Olympiad is our chance to branch out into other sorts of competitions, but there's no need for a subjective essay to qualify students for an objective bee at Nationals. Note that one justification for the essay last year was to give students in regions that didn't have regional bees a chance to qualify. This year, over 90 sites offered the Qualifying Exam (obviously this is different from a Bee too, but it's closer to it than an essay), about 10 sites had qualifying quiz tournaments, and anyone could do the Qualifying Exam at their school if they wanted. With 3 versions of the Exam and a rather lenient qualifying threshold, there were plenty of ways for any student to have a good shot at qualifying.
Antrobus63 wrote: I am not suggesting that NHBB do something like this (?!), but I do think that awarding extra playoff points based on prelim play would be the equivalent of awarding actual wins (or touchdowns) in a sports playoff scenario. One extra point is a huge advantage in the playoffs; two would be ridiculous. As several commentators in the thread have pointed out, there is no way to accurately and fairly distinguish among the top players based solely on the prelims. So, why should Player A get a leg up (beyond seeding) over Player B just because he finished with a few more points over SIX prelim rounds against competition that may have been inferior? Since many of the playoff rooms were decided by a single point, do we really want that point to be a freebie? Why should the top players need extra help, anyway?
The more I think of this, the more I agree that the prelims count right now probably about as much as they should. Because of how the Bee playoff rooms are seeded, there certainly is a benefit to racking up more prelim points. I think the hardest gauntlet for a top player to run is to make it into the final four out of the semifinals. We could go over to a six player Varsity final, but at some point, some of the top players are going to get bounced - that's just the way it works. For what it's worth, over the 5 years of the Bee, I think that in 2012, 2013, and 2015 the best history player in the country clearly won the Bee. In 2011 and 2014, it wasn't that the best player didn't necessarily win, but rather that the fields were overall closer. The players who I would consider possible equals of the Bee winners in 2011 and 2014 (JR Roach in 2011, Sameer Rai in 2014) were certainly in the finals though, and had run the semifinal gauntlet well enough. Note that in 2011, only 6 correct answers were needed to win the Bee- that explains some of the variation there. And Leidenheimer won by a healthy margin in 2014, so he was certainly a legit champion in 2014 too.
Honestly, I think the current playoff format in the Varsity works just fine; for the JV, I might consider going over to the Varsity model, since I think it's a tall order to break into the top 2 out of a field of 8 in the semis. But we'll see. As for the power-incorrect interrupts-nuking the question debate, I'm not going to make any changes to the Bee rules for next year except for the playoffs at Nationals. One thing we're thinking of doing is using a bunch of different systems at the Olympiad this summer to see which work well in practice there. I suspect there will be a lot of healthy debate on the matter there.
Antrobus63 wrote: I think the level and skill of the people you're playing should be a factor in the prelim standings, not just your points. Going back to the scenario mentioned twice already in this post, Player B's ranking, which would be affected by the tougher competition, should be reconsidered.
I agree in principle, but in practice, there's no way we're going to normalize scores or whatever against some mean and adjust them according to that. In any case, the draw is in fact seeded (about 75 Varsity players were seeded). Daniel, while it's not necessarily the case that top players are all going to avoid each other in the prelims, we try and minimize this. It does seem your draw was harder than it should have been; I'll have a look at our seeding grid for next year (if you were affected by this, then comparably seeded players in other Bee flights might also have been).
acrosby1861 wrote: And on an unrelated note, I don't really understand why the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quarters of the Bowl have 8 questions in the morning, 10 in the afternoon, and 12 in the playoffs. I've never quite understood this, really.
The games that have the most impact on who ends up winning the tournament (the playoff games, and to a lesser extent, the afternoon games) should count more since ceteris paribus, the more questions a game has, the more likely it is that the "true" better team will win the game. Compared to the morning games, the playoff games almost make the tournament, if not double elimination, sort of "single and a half" elimination, albeit the single and the half are played against the same team of course. Also, the afternoon (both in Upper bracket and consolation games) and playoff games tend to be closer matches than the morning matches for obvious reasons, and I think most everyone would agree that it's better to have shorter matches if they're more likely to be blowouts, and longer matches if they're going to be competitive and close (not that all such matches are of course).
David Madden
Ridgewood (NJ) '99, Princeton '03
Founder and Director: International History Bee and Bowl, National History Bee and Bowl (High School Division), International History Olympiad, United States Geography Olympiad, US History Bee, US Academic Bee and Bowl, National Humanities Bee, National Science Bee, International Academic Bowl.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Mon May 25, 2015 10:30 pm

Great Bustard wrote:the hold up here was due to one out of control parent who didn't understand the protest rules, wouldn't take no for an answer from the protest room, and made such a fuss that people in the control room were reluctant to start the next round until I had gone and straightened things out.
It's been a while since this thread was active, but I want to make a brief post expressing just how dismayed I am by reports of this sort of parent behavior. In every fair tournament, protest resolutions are and must be final, without prospect of appeal, review, or reversal. It's extremely disrespectful to the people running a massive national tournament, who have a million things on their mind beyond any individual team's outcome, to make any sort of fuss whatsoever outside official tournament procedure, especially if one is a spectator (as there is no recourse in the rules for spectators to have any role in tournament proceedings). We simply can't live in a world where any protest could the risk of a parent derailing an entire division for two minutes, much less half an hour. It might be wise for NHBB to enact some policies or guidelines for spectators next year, including the prospect of ejection from the premises for extremely unsportsmanlike or obstructionist behavior.
Matt J.
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Re: 2015 NHBB/USGO Discussion Thread

Post by Antrobus63 » Sat Jun 06, 2015 12:48 pm

I agree, Matthew, and plead guilty to being an interfering parent at times, though I have never held up the progress of rounds for a protest. I suggest that all high school Bee parents (middle school might be different) be advised that they are not participants in the Bee and have no standing in protests. Furthermore, should they insert themselves into the process, either to protest or to audibly suggest that their child protest (or even to back up their child's protest), they should warned to be silent and then, if they don't cooperate, be dismissed from the room. This behavior should be logged in the protest room; if the parent violates the rule again, he/she should not be allowed into game rooms for the remainder of the competition. I would like to avoid the kids' being thrown out because of their parents' behavior, but suggest that this nuclear option be applied if the parents refuse to comply with dismissal requests.
Again, I myself have been guilty of speaking out of turn during Bees and think that this rule would keep me, and other overzealous parents, from making asses of themselves and embarrassing their kids.
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