EFT 2016: Thoughts on Target Difficulty

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naan/steak-holding toll
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EFT 2016: Thoughts on Target Difficulty

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

After some personal reflection on the tournament and some discussions with quizbowl luminaries, I have an admission to make: I was (definitely unintentionally) misleading about this tournament's difficulty.

I will say this much: I like this tournament's difficulty, and I intentd(if possible) to re-create next year at an identical difficulty, though ideally with some easy parts that aren't Kawabata Yasunari or other things that are certainly well-known and easy in quizbowl, but not if you don't have a ton of exposure to the game. I think this tournament is perfectly fine for strong novice teams, or (I mean nothing condescending by this) for balanced teams of people with strong educational backgrounds i.e. well-read graduate students, people who did some sort of other academic competition before, people who took a lot of APs/IBs/A-Levels and got really engaged with them in high school, etc.. It's fine for people who've played a good amount of quizbowl before as well. But it's probably too rough for people who don't meet any of the above criteria, and I hope I didn't mislead anybody too much with my tournament announcements.

When I say "introduction to competitive quizbowl" I mean an introduction to playing against the sorts of players who actively study to improve at tournaments harder than this one, and the circuit regulars in general. It doesn't mean "this tournament is going to be easy" because it's not, and I don't think it should be super-easy because collegiate quizbowl is a really hard game, and a tournament meant to "introduce" players to the competitive world shouldn't mislead them about what they're up against. As Ben Zhang put it, you should be able to take your new club members to this without having to say "oh, every other tournament is going to be way harder than this one." So, I think it's better for me to change the description to something like this:

"This tournament is appropriate for experienced quizbowl players, as well as strong novice players who are interested in playing competitively. Its difficulty sits in an area between that of ACF Fall, the premier low-difficulty quizbowl tournament, and ACF Regionals and SCT, the nationals-qualifier tournaments."

I'm curious as to whether the rest of you think my assessment here is accurate or not.
Will Alston
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Re: Thoughts on Target Difficulty

Post by Ciorwrong »

I'd say this tournament was at the difficulty I expected. As a team, we read a lot of the old EFT and Illinois Fall Tournament packets and a lot of similar answerlines appeared. I don't remember hearing anything at 2016 EFT that was really hard for this level. I only heard 10 packets due to delays at the YSU site so there may have been something goofy in the ones I didn't hear. I played on a team with 2 people who did not do a do a lot of quizbowl specific studying and they both powered numerous questions. That isn't to degrade my teammates or anything because they all did very well, but I was excited to see that their non-quizbowl learning was rewarded with powers.

Bonuses sometimes a little janky at times in some categories. I remember the Native American lit bonus specifically felt like it lacked a medium part but I am probably not educated enough to definitively claim that. Science in particular had some really hard parts that often raised "what are they talking about?" questions from us. I'm not a science player, but I felt the bonuses were harder than history and lit.

One thing I would like to bring up is the preponderance of common link answerlines--especially in RMP and Social Science. This might be contrary to the consensus, but I feel that on this difficulty, there should be fewer common link answerlines. This is for two reasons.

1. When you have answerlines like "female" or "race", I imagine this will create a lot of buzzzer races at the end of tossup for inexperienced teams. I also feel like these tossups are very easy to neg on. I'm not sure what the alternative is here, but I think a modern feminism bonus (eg. Gloria Steinem) or a critical race theory bonus would have served these disciplines better.

2. Tossups like "ethics" (where I buzzed two clues late because I felt the tossup was describing "morality" and didn't know what to say) are confusing to new players. I feel I'd rather just hear a tossup on "The Metaphysics of Morals" or "G.E. Moore" but I understand that the conversation rate would fall. In RMP and Social Science, I just don't really see the value of having tossup answerlines like "White" which I negged with "Sky" because I'm an idiot and the tossup on "demand" required knowledge learned in Econ 201. Is "Jainism" too easy for this level? I wouldn't have a problem with it because it does come up at Fall but the "demand" tossup was questionable. There weren't econometrics questions that I remember in this set which I feel is more "real" but that's an aside.

What I am trying to say is that I think the answerlines could be a little more concrete even at this difficulty. I am glad that there weren't too many tossups with really out there answerlines like "Roman Walls" or "Ships from the Aeniad". As I said in the beginning, the difficulty was perfect but I felt that there were some unnecessary common links particularly in RMP and Social Science.

EDIT: Sorry to focus too much on specific questions but I felt they were illustrative at points. The vast majority of tossups and bonuses were in-line with the announced difficulty.
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Re: Thoughts on Target Difficulty

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

So, I have some disagreements with your points on Social Science and RMP. These are better responded to in the general discussion thread, so I will post them there (quoting your post).
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Re: Thoughts on Target Difficulty

Post by Rococo A Go Go »

I think at some point you suggested this tournament was going to fall somewhere between MUT and MAGNI on the difficulty scale. Assuming you meant the more recent iterations of MUT which were closer to "regular-minus," I think EFT fit right into that target. I envision "regular-minus" sets as ideally being just below the real value of "regular" difficulty, and this set very much felt like something that was only slightly easier than something like SCT. The difficulty was controlled enough to keep less experienced players entertained, but I never felt like it was too easy for the rest of us.

I think tournaments like EFT would be less necessary if "regular difficulty" was not so frequently overshot by well-meaning sets. Considering that is fairly unlikely anytime soon, I think a continuation of EFT at this difficulty would be an ideal way to introduce players to "regular-ish" questions each year. I look forward to EFT's return to a regular spot on the calendar.
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Re: Thoughts on Target Difficulty

Post by Ciorwrong »

Ferlinghetti's Axis wrote:I think at some point you suggested this tournament was going to fall somewhere between MUT and MAGNI on the difficulty scale. Assuming you meant the more recent iterations of MUT which were closer to "regular-minus," I think EFT fit right into that target. I envision "regular-minus" sets as ideally being just below the real value of "regular" difficulty, and this set very much felt like something that was only slightly easier than something like SCT. The difficulty was controlled enough to keep less experienced players entertained, but I never felt like it was too easy for the rest of us.

I think tournaments like EFT would be less necessary if "regular difficulty" was not so frequently overshot by well-meaning sets. Considering that is fairly unlikely anytime soon, I think a continuation of EFT at this difficulty would be an ideal way to introduce players to "regular-ish" questions each year. I look forward to EFT's return to a regular spot on the calendar.
Yeah Nick is 100% correct. I look forward to taking more than one MSU team to EFT next year but a lot of these regular difficulty sets are not the same difficulty as MAGNI unfortunately. The existence of EFT is appreciated because the gap between Fall and Regionals can seem like a chasm for some new players.
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Re: Thoughts on Target Difficulty

Post by Corry »

So I was always a bit confused about the intended difficulty of this tournament, but I just assumed it would be slightly harder than MUT. In which case, I think it hit that target. On the other hand, is "slightly MUT+" an ideal "introduction to competitive quizbowl"? I dunno.
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Re: Thoughts on Target Difficulty

Post by Jason Cheng »

Without intending to speak for the other writers, I think most of what we did was to try to write the most forgiving possible questions you'd see pop up at an archetypal regular difficulty set. Personally, my goal was to "introduce" new members to what collegiate regular difficulty was like without screwing them because they didn't know that something was considered hypercanonical in quiz bowl. Being a part of the SoCal circuit for three years where we've put a lot of work bolstering a pretty small college circuit populated with pretty inexperienced players, I'm painfully aware of rounds turning into death marches of tossups where no one knows what's going on and the bonuses that do get read being 0'd or 10'd frequently.

In that regard, I'd say the unspoken difficulty target, at least in the questions I wrote and got to give input for, and what I'm pretty sure the other members of the team aimed for, was "regs with a safety blanket," where the "safety blanket" was the average ~90% tossup conversion rate and generously (but hopefully not dumb) written bonuses--and, as I stated in another thread here, we were careful to make sure easy things were easy because they were famous or well-known or important, not because they were bread and butter quiz bowl answers.
Jason Cheng
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