A Masters circuit

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Birdofredum Sawin
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A Masters circuit

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

This is, I suppose, a follow-up to my announcement of the John Stuart Mill "masters" tournament. In that post, I noted that "part of the point of our having this May tournament is to try to set up some sort of masters circuit." I'd like to expand on that somewhat.

I think it's safe to say that one of the biggest problems with the game right now is that players of every skill level are compelled to play against each other. In recent years, granted, developments like "Div II" and "junior bird" tournaments have created a separate space for younger players. But beyond that, everyone gets lumped together. It's as if basketball were to have one set of tournaments for freshmen and sophomores in college, while everyone else (from average Div III undergrads to NBA superstars) was forced to compete in the same league. The usual remedy, which gets proposed and shot down with some regularity, is to ban grad students from the game. Without rehearsing the standard explanations of why such a ban would be a bad idea, the motive for the complaint -- that it's silly for highly-experienced, highly-skilled players to compete against players who are much less experienced and skilled -- is not unsound.

What's needed, I think, is a more productive solution. Instead of banning people from the game because they are too good, we need to create more opportunities for the better players to compete. Speaking for myself as a highly experienced and somewhat skilled veteran of the game, I derive little pleasure from beating up on freshmen teams at college tournaments. But I still enjoy playing, and college tournaments are the only venues in which one can compete.

One obvious solution, then, is to establish a group of new tournaments in which anyone can compete: a "masters" circuit, for lack of a better word. I think the benefits of such a circuit are obvious: It would give people like me more opportunities to play, so we aren't tempted to pulverize an ACF Fall field just for the sake of having a chance to get some playing time in; people who would otherwise drift away from the game after leaving school would have a reason to stay involved; it might even bring an end to those annoying "grad students ruin the fun for everybody" posts.

To make this a call for "discussion" rather than just a manifesto, here are a few questions to ponder. Is this, in fact, a viable idea? If so, how can it be made to work? How many tournaments does it take before you have an actual "circuit"? (I think that you need more than the Chicago Open and maybe the Illinois Open; but how many more?)

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Post by First Chairman »

My question first: who will run these events? Who will write these questions? I don't oppose the principle, but I just wonder about implementation.
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Re: A Masters circuit

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:The usual remedy, which gets proposed and shot down with some regularity, is to ban grad students from the game. Without rehearsing the standard explanations of why such a ban would be a bad idea, the motive for the complaint -- that it's silly for highly-experienced, highly-skilled players to compete against players who are much less experienced and skilled -- is not unsound.
A quick note here. I know this is not what Andrew meant to imply, but I think it should be made clear that those who will participate in this masters circuit will be those who have the determination and desire to do so, not just the skill. Speaking as a two-time 10 PPG-or-less attendee of chicago open, I know that it would be crucial to this circuit to have undergraduates (ranging the entire gamut of skill) participate. Otherwise there just won't be enough players. As a sidenote to that, I also think that undergraduates could and should be part of the administration. Having undergraduates (and younger graduate students) edit higher-level tournaments also helps mainstream quizbowl, as it gives such players the experience they need to improve ACF tournaments and normal invitationals. I'm not saying said editorship should be exclusive to this group of people, but they could certainly take the burden off the players whom this circuit is supposed to benefit primarily.

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Post by grapesmoker »

I'm for anything that results in more tournaments for me to play in. However, I have one major concern regarding this proposal (which I do support).

The simple fact is that the density of good players is quite low. It's higher in the Midwest because that region has three top-5 programs in Illinois, Chicago, and Michigan, but everywhere else there just isn't much call for it. And this is a problem for people like me who don't live in this region and who will almost certainly have to travel to the Midwest to play in a masters' circuit. During the 2005-2006 season, I will travel to the Midwest 4 times. I already went once for Illinois Open, and will go again for ACF Nationals, Andrew's masters' tournament, and Chicago Open. That's quite a financial burden for me just in terms of airfare, even with my fat grad-student-in-the-sciences paycheck. I'm not complaining about it since I obviously make the choice to go, but I wonder how many people will make this trip as often as I do. Combine that with the fact that even at better programs, the number of people interested in participating in a masters' circuit will probably be a small fraction of those who play, and the fact that for most programs funding is very limited and will be unlikely to be spent to indulge the choices of a small contingent, and you get most good players paying their own way to play in these events.

If I don't travel all around the country to play in masters' events but instead play in the Northeast region, I'm going to end up playing the same 5 people over and over again. It'll be a singles event played between myself, Mike Wehrman, Frank and Paco from Harvard, Dan Passner, and maybe that one guy Dave from Williams. I'm not saying this to knock anyone; I just think this is a realistic assesment of who would show up for such an event. It would be even worse if I was still living in the Bay Area; I can imagine 15 rounds of ACF Regionals-level questions between me and Eric Smith.

So, in summary, in theory I would support such an arrangement and would make the financial sacrifice to come out and play in these events. But I don't know if other players who would be interested in this circuit would do the same. I hope this is something that's taken into account in planning the resulting tournaments. I also hope that the organizers of these events will lower the entrance fees relative to what they are now for most tournaments (something about which I will post a separate thread in a minute).
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Post by STPickrell »

In previous incarnations as a QB player, I had given this some thought.

Here are some questions to consider:

Team formation:
Would we have fixed teams, or just have everyone get together on an ad hoc basis?

Overall setup:
(1) Hold a number of Master's tournaments at churches, high schools, colleges, wherever team members could get space on the cheap. Alternately, you could have the Master's tournaments held as a separate division of regular collegiate tournaments. Tournaments would then apply to be part of this circuit, and then there'd be a mailing list. A national championship of some sort at the end would then be optional.
(2) Have a number of regional leagues situated around the country, with the top finishers from the leagues going to a national Champion's League sometime in May or June.

Question difficulty and length:
I'm not sure how many people would come out for a circuit where all the questions were ACF Nationals length and difficulty. Nor am I sure, really, if attendance among "smart casuals" would increase if we played on questions that were roughly at the IS level. (I use "smart casuals" to refer to people who watch Jeopardy!, do fairly well, but are not "hard-core" in the same way that many posters here are, and who would need to form the bulk of regional leagues.)

Question sources:
We could use NAQT IS series, we could borrow sets from around the country and we could have each team write a number of matches as part of its entry fee. I see this as less of a problem than finding qualified editors.

Question editors (if needed):
Finding a board of qualified editors would be crucial. Editing could be subcontracted to NAQT, the ACF editing team or a separate board for this competition.

Overseer of competitions:
This position can either be an all-powerful editor/TD/commissioner or it can be a glorified stat collector. There are weaknesses to both.
Shawn Pickrell, HSAPQ CFO

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Post by grapesmoker »

StPickrell wrote: Question sources:
We could use NAQT IS series, we could borrow sets from around the country and we could have each team write a number of matches as part of its entry fee. I see this as less of a problem than finding qualified editors.

Question editors (if needed):
Finding a board of qualified editors would be crucial. Editing could be subcontracted to NAQT, the ACF editing team or a separate board for this competition.
We're talking about a master's circuit here. There's no way I would travel as far as I do and spend the kind of money that I do to play on NAQT IS questions. In fact, if I'm going to be making the trip, I explicitly want to see questions at the ACF Regionals or Nationals level. NAQT packets are out of the question (pun intended) for me.

Also, as has been said before, there is no "ACF editing team." There's just a bunch of guys who volunteer their time to do this, and it's a different set of people every time. Andrew is probably the only person who has been a permanent fixture in the ACF editing process within the last 3 years, and that's not going to be the case for much longer. You'd have to assemble a separate editing team for every masters' event.
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Post by Chris Frankel »

To draw on what Jerry said, the logistics of money and location are the substantial hurdle to the creation of any sort of independent circuit.

Why are college teams the heart of the circuit? Because universities have the money to help subsidize travel and entry fees and provide free/cheap venues for fundraising in the form of tournaments. In addition, the flexibility of student schedules allows for time to be spent on quiz bowl and quiz bowl trips that a normal "real world" work schedule isn't going to allow. For me, making the weekend available to allow a trip to Chicago Open was a massive ordeal, and this was on a relatively flexible menial summer job schedule. I certainly couldn't see a full-time worker able to make these trips any sort of regular occurrence, notwithstanding the massive travel costs.

Likewise, a similar issue exists in finding people to put together and run the tournaments in questions. All of us who have written/edited/run tournaments know what a massive time sink it is for little to no incentive other than satisfying a philanthropic urge (that sounds harsh, but by that I mean there's no tangible reward; fulfilling a personal hobby and trying to act on a desire to help the circuit are the only reasons people put such time into tournament running). In the case of my putting together the Pontormo arts singles, I spent months researching and writing it, and made well less than I do in an average week at my aforementioned summer job, and barely enough to cover travel fees for CO. I had great fun doing it, but I couldn't see being able to regularly invest that substantial amount of time on something which economically amounts to a enormous loss of money (in the form of time that could be otherwise spent at work). Of course none of us are in this game for the money, but with bills to pay and only so much time to expend, the kind of commitment necessary for a heavily involved game like quiz bowl at a high level costs far more than the utility derived from it seems to be worth.

I know that came out more as a personal rant, but my point is that, aside from people who are entrenched in nigh-permanent university settings and who thus would be able to play in the regular college circuit anyway, I don't see many people being attracted to or capable of devoting the energy to a full time master's circuit. You'd just be doing what Jerry talked about, creating a further subdivision in the circuit where the same 4-5 teams play each other over and over, without being able to draw in a lot of players who would otherwise be left out.

Perhaps some discussion can follow on how to address the above issues I pointed out, but at least as far as I can see, I don't see how former qb players, once removed from the insulation of day to day economic concerns that university life frequently offers, can be convinced to put the same effort and time that they did as college students, given the newfound costs that abound.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

I think Jerry makes some good points. A few thoughts:

First, as Eric says a "masters" circuit doesn't _preclude_ current students from playing. In fact, I imagine that many of the more ambitious collegiate players (e.g. anyone who shows up to Chicago Open) would want to play these events as well.

Second, part of the reason that there seems to be a paucity of "masters"-type players out there is precisely because there isn't any established set of tournaments for them to play. If a group of regular tournaments was established, I think a base of people who wanted to play at them would start to build up (people leaving school who still want to be involved in the game, or people who have wandered away from the game after graduating but who haven't lost their desire to play).

Third, there's a number of people who are seriously involved with the game but aren't active players: coaches, a number of NAQT writers/editors, etc. I wonder if some of these people might not be interested in participating if there were a group of tournaments they would feel comfortable playing at. (Perhaps they don't want to play at college tournaments, having lost interest in competing against people half their age; but the daunting reputation of Chicago Open puts them off, or Chicago in the summer just doesn't work for them, and so they have nowhere else to go.)

Just to make it clear, I was envisioning something similar to the current invitational circuit, such as it is. That is: a number of tournaments, some packet-submission and some editor-written, run by whoever feels like running them. (Current college students, current ACF editors, former students, whoever feels competent to do it.) I'd also be interested in seeing NAQT or (since NAQT has a lot on its plate already) NAQT-style events in the mix, if people wanted to run them.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Well, in response to Jerry and Chris, I think there needs to be a discussion of geographic diversity. We can't keep having all our masters tournaments in Chicago, even if there are a lot of good players in that area. How about the midatlantic, say, Baltimore/DC? Both BWI and Reagan have regular discount fares on SWA and ATA, and it's an area that's accessible by train or inexpensive flight from the NE as well. Naturally, I would also push for a site in Dallas, as players like Romero, Frankel, Vik Vaz, and myself would be benefitted by such an arrangement, and Dallas is a hub for AA. These are just a few suggestions; I hope others will be forthcoming.

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Post by Rothlover »

Speaking, like Eric as someone who has played CO every chance I've had, despite being below middling, at best, for a "masters" level, I think some of the more crucial attributes of such events are that they should:

1. be largely from may-august, as well times when the vast majority of schools are still on break, as it seems that almost all the "masters" players are still involved in school in some way (be it UG, Grad or some sort of job in academia), this would make it more convenient and minimize no-shows.

2. Several events in one weekend. If people are dropping Benjamins to fly to something, they are going to want to get the most for their money, and ancillary tournaments of various sorts edited by other masters are a key draw. CO is the ideal model for this, as the various singles and trash events of years past have really made it about the best deal in all of qb, even with travel costs. Such a circuit allows for the possibilty of all sorts of singles events in various subjects, as well as interesting experiment's like Kwartler's tournament at Mill weekend.

3. Within the "masters" level, there should still be room for tournaments of varying degrees of difficulty both in terms of TU and bonus. An IO type tournament being on the lower end of the difficulty spectrum in both regards, CO being in the middle and Manu/Artaud/AI being on the high end (and there is always room for more difficult stuff.)

Either way, I think it would be great if it got off the ground. Also, if someone is planning on mirroring the Mill stuff later, please step up, there are some of us who are graduating :( during the Mill weekend itself.
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Post by Chris Frankel »

As Eric beat me to saying, there is a sort of chicken/egg issue going on in terms of attracting new masters players and creating new tournaments. Perhaps it's just the cynic in me speaking, but the "let's start a set of masters tournaments" suggestion, as partially exemplified by Mill, seems to translate to "let's host three more masters tournaments in Chicago and maybe an odd one in Ann Arbor, College Park, or Urbana-Champaign."

Obviously that arrangement has worked fine for the past few years because the market is shaped that way, and a CO analogue at College Station would devolve into a 10 round Kwartler v. Romero ironman match. Yet, I don't think a regular circuit of Chicago-based masters tournaments would meet the same success because the travel process is a costly pain in the ass that would fast lose its novelty after the annual CO occurs. But it is worth considering that some compromise on geography be worked out to ensure that the costs of attendence aren't prohibitive to the wide range of players that the new circuit would like to attract.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

In response to Chris's point about money: Obviously cost is a big factor, but people in the "real world" manage to find time and money to do all sorts of things which they enjoy, or so I'm told. People who love to play Scrabble go to weekly Scrabble clubs, and make excursions to weekend tournaments. People who love to play poker go to regular games, make trips to casinos, enter the World Series of Poker. Why should quizbowl be any different, at least from the point of view of players? Of course, it takes considerable effort to write/edit a tournament, as Chris also points out; but a number of NAQT editors manage to do substantial work of that nature while holding down steady jobs. (At least, I think one or two of them are gainfully employed.) Or the editors could largely be drawn from current students -- as long as there are more quality tournaments to play at, I don't much care who's running them.

Also, I am in no way envisioning six Chicago Opens a year. I would hope that if and when masters tournaments get established, they would be at a variety of sites and widely mirrored. (The JS Mill, for one, will be mirrored in Florida and perhaps elsewhere. If you're interested, get in touch with me.)

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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Also, I am in no way envisioning six Chicago Opens a year. I would hope that if and when masters tournaments get established, they would be at a variety of sites and widely mirrored.
As chris said before, a 2 or 3 team CO mirror in college station would be a joke. Even if we held a mirror in Dallas and we had 6 "teams," it would be a joke. We don't need mirrors in Dallas and the midatlantic, we need the primary tournaments (no matter who edits them) to be there. I would go so far as to say that mirrors at all would be counterproductive. Having the tournaments stay in chicago with mirrors in other places completely defeats the purpose. I'm not sure if this is exactly what is being proposed, but if so I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way.

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Post by grapesmoker »

In response to Chris's point about money: Obviously cost is a big factor, but people in the "real world" manage to find time and money to do all sorts of things which they enjoy, or so I'm told. People who love to play Scrabble go to weekly Scrabble clubs, and make excursions to weekend tournaments. People who love to play poker go to regular games, make trips to casinos, enter the World Series of Poker. Why should quizbowl be any different, at least from the point of view of players? Of course, it takes considerable effort to write/edit a tournament, as Chris also points out; but a number of NAQT editors manage to do substantial work of that nature while holding down steady jobs. (At least, I think one or two of them are gainfully employed.) Or the editors could largely be drawn from current students -- as long as there are more quality tournaments to play at, I don't much care who's running them.
Seconding this sentiment. I think there are some misconceptions about the amount of time one has to oneself as a student, especially in graduate school. At many jobs, once you finish your day, you go home. That time is yours. As a grad student, on the other hand, I have a lot of reading to do for my classes, three problem sets a week, and three lab sections to teach and grade for. None of that is unmanageable, but it takes a lot of time. Also, once I find a group to work for, I'll have what is essentially a full-time job; even more, if my friends at other universities are anything to judge by. I don't want to generalize wildly because I realize that a lot of non-academic jobs may have substantial take-home components too, but at least you get paid more than I do. A $200 ticket for me to go to a tournament is a much greater fraction of my income than it is of what someone with a college education is likely to make at even an entry-level job. If people are interested, they will come. We should try to figure out what will make it more interesting for them.
Birdofredum Sawin wrote: Second, part of the reason that there seems to be a paucity of "masters"-type players out there is precisely because there isn't any established set of tournaments for them to play. If a group of regular tournaments was established, I think a base of people who wanted to play at them would start to build up (people leaving school who still want to be involved in the game, or people who have wandered away from the game after graduating but who haven't lost their desire to play).
Looking at the CO stats for 2005, I found a lot of people there that don't show up to regular tournaments, some because they are not students. But CO is a one-time deal. Would a year-round circuit of such events attract enough people?
Third, there's a number of people who are seriously involved with the game but aren't active players: coaches, a number of NAQT writers/editors, etc. I wonder if some of these people might not be interested in participating if there were a group of tournaments they would feel comfortable playing at. (Perhaps they don't want to play at college tournaments, having lost interest in competing against people half their age; but the daunting reputation of Chicago Open puts them off, or Chicago in the summer just doesn't work for them, and so they have nowhere else to go.)
One point I'd like to make here is that older is not necessarily better. People half your own age may be as good or better than you. I think it's a shame that tournaments restrict entry on the basis of enrollment status; as I mentioned in Ryan Westbrook's qb utopia thread, I totally support making all tournaments open to everyone who wants to play. After all, casual qb is totally accessible to the weekend warrior; if you've got a team of four, it's very easy to put together a packet relatively quickly (2/2 per day per person for three days). I think this would entice more "open" players into the circuit, and then if the field is big enough, we can subdivide into masters' and restricted divisions.

One of the things about this discussion (with regards to non-collegiate players) that I think limits it is that all of us who are participating are collegiate players ourselves. So we're essentially trying to get into the head of non-collegiate players and figure out what would make them come out for masters' events. Is there any way of inviting these people to this board to share their views with us?
Last edited by grapesmoker on Wed Jan 11, 2006 8:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by grapesmoker »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote: Also, I am in no way envisioning six Chicago Opens a year. I would hope that if and when masters tournaments get established, they would be at a variety of sites and widely mirrored. (The JS Mill, for one, will be mirrored in Florida and perhaps elsewhere. If you're interested, get in touch with me.)
That doesn't really solve the concentration problem. Consider any masters' tournament whatsoever. Surely a large number of the people who will want to play in this event will be located in the Midwest. If so, what incentive do they have to come to, say, the Mid-Atlantic or the West Coast when they can have a mirror in their own backyard with considerably less effort and still play most of the superior competition? And if some of the best teams are absent (and localized in one region), why wouldn't a good player travel to that region to play them? The example of Illinois Open springs to my mind. It was much more fun for me to go to Illinois and play against a bunch of really good teams with some great players than it would have been for me to go to Boston and play a smaller number of games that were truly competitive.
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Post by Chris Frankel »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:In response to Chris's point about money: Obviously cost is a big factor, but people in the "real world" manage to find time and money to do all sorts of things which they enjoy, or so I'm told. People who love to play Scrabble go to weekly Scrabble clubs, and make excursions to weekend tournaments. People who love to play poker go to regular games, make trips to casinos, enter the World Series of Poker. Why should quizbowl be any different, at least from the point of view of players? Of course, it takes considerable effort to write/edit a tournament, as Chris also points out; but a number of NAQT editors manage to do substantial work of that nature while holding down steady jobs. (At least, I think one or two of them are gainfully employed.) Or the editors could largely be drawn from current students -- as long as there are more quality tournaments to play at, I don't much care who's running them.

Also, I am in no way envisioning six Chicago Opens a year. I would hope that if and when masters tournaments get established, they would be at a variety of sites and widely mirrored. (The JS Mill, for one, will be mirrored in Florida and perhaps elsewhere. If you're interested, get in touch with me.)

Andrew
I'm not trying to be dismissive, but I think it's not unreasonable to say that quiz bowl has an unusually high inverse relationship between effort/costs expended and tangible rewards. Certainly anyone who's edited a high quality academic tournament (and not to be snide, but I think the standards to uphold, depth of research, and writing effort necessary for such questions are quite a bit higher than those for churning out a round of 3 line NAcuties) is familiar with pouring a few weeks' to a month's worth of nonstop editing and sleepless nights to come out with maybe a few hundred dollars after expenses (and that's if all the teams pay you the money they owe, which never is close to being the case).

In the case of a lot of hobbies, there are also ways to compensate for the opportunity costs by getting supplementary income; an athlete can coach for a local high school/college team, an musician can play gigs on the side, a poker player can win money at his tournaments; the day something remotely analogous exists for QB beyond writing PACE questions for a yearly $100 check, do let me know. Unfortunately, not all of us have endless Chicago QB club budgets or Dan Passner's ability to save $50 in travel costs by having a two day layover in Indianapolis and Priceline-ing a condemned house outside the airport.

And I actually think Jerry's description of his student duties strengthen my point, in that there's a lot of time flexibility in what he has to do, so long as it gets done. When you work a standard job, you have to physically be there and doing nothing else for 9-10 hours straight a day (including weekends for me), and when you add the time costs of sleep, takehome work, commuting, etc, that leaves you with minimal time to set up a leisure schedule. Asking for days off to finish up some QB work or to travel across the country just because a lot of veteran circuit players don't feel like ever having to travel entails the additional cost of not earning the income you'd normally get. I had to make my (embarassingly last minute, and I apologize for that) decision to quit ACF Fall duties, because setting the time aside for research, writing, and editing would have effectively meant that I was paying money to do all the work.

I loved playing the game and would be interested in have some sort of participation in a master's circuit, but the costs just don't make it realistic.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Post by Rothlover »

Chris Frankel wrote:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:In response to Chris's point about money: Obviously cost is a big factor, but people in the "real world" manage to find time and money to do all sorts of things which they enjoy, or so I'm told. People who love to play Scrabble go to weekly Scrabble clubs, and make excursions to weekend tournaments. People who love to play poker go to regular games, make trips to casinos, enter the World Series of Poker. Why should quizbowl be any different, at least from the point of view of players? Of course, it takes considerable effort to write/edit a tournament, as Chris also points out; but a number of NAQT editors manage to do substantial work of that nature while holding down steady jobs. (At least, I think one or two of them are gainfully employed.) Or the editors could largely be drawn from current students -- as long as there are more quality tournaments to play at, I don't much care who's running them.

or Dan Passner's ability to save $50 in travel costs by having a two day layover in Indianapolis and Priceline-ing a condemned house outside the airport.
While I know this was in jest, I do want to point out that all my flights to DTW and ORD have been non-stop, and I only priceline 3 or 4 star hotels. Also, if people want tips on how to cut travel costs, just e-mail me, I have a bunch of info at my disposal, and am always willing to help out, especially if it helps gets more people going to things.
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Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

Chris Frankel wrote: I'm not trying to be dismissive, but I think it's not unreasonable to say that quiz bowl has an unusually high inverse relationship between effort/costs expended and tangible rewards...

In the case of a lot of hobbies, there are also ways to compensate for the opportunity costs by getting supplementary income; an athlete can coach for a local high school/college team, an musician can play gigs on the side, a poker player can win money at his tournaments; the day something remotely analogous exists for QB beyond writing PACE questions for a yearly $100 check, do let me know...

I loved playing the game and would be interested in have some sort of participation in a master's circuit, but the costs just don't make it realistic.
Again, I have to disagree with this. Obviously, everyone has to decide for himself whether he can afford to invest time and energy in the game. If you would like to but can't, I'm sorry for you. But as a general statement, this just doesn't hold. People in America spend much more money and time than are exacted by participation in our game on activities which provide no more "tangible reward" or "opportunity for supplementary income" than quizbowl. How much money does a devoted sports fan spend so he can support his favorite team (buying tickets, giving up weekends to follow the team to road games) for no "tangible" reward whatsoever? There's not really any money to be made from Scrabble, but I've known people who have joined clubs, driven significant distances to attend meetings, and given up weekends to play at tournaments -- again, just from love of that particular game. (I'm sure you can easily supply other examples; there's no shortage of them in our relatively affluent and leisured society.) People enjoy these experiences enough to make room for them in their lives, without expecting to be recompensed as a fortuitous byproduct of their devotion. I fail to see that quizbowl is any different from, say, Scrabble in this respect.

Andrew

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Post by Yggnoramus »

Andrew is right that Scrabble attracts a lot of competitive players---more than 2000 each year---even though there isn't much money to be made. The tournaments do have cash prizes, usually taken from entry fees. But the prizes in the expert divisions are usually less than $1000. Even the US Championship is only $25,000.

What attracts people to competitive Scrabble is the rating system. Competitive Scrabble and chess would be much less popular today without ratings; I play competitive Scrabble, and most players will not go to an unrated tournament. Ratings might give a master's quiz bowl circuit a boost.

But then I agree with Chris Frankel---quiz bowl is not quite like chess or Scrabble. You play Scrabble alone, but you probably won't be able to play master's-level quiz bowl alone---I wouldn't, and I was probably in the top third or quarter of college players when I played from 1994 to 1997. Scrabble tournaments don't require writing or editing questions. (Scrabble tournament directors do a lot of work, but they don't do anything like editing a set of questions. Only the few who edit the Scrabble dictionary put in that amount of time).

Scrabble tournaments are divided by ratings, so that the weak never play the strong. You don't have to be very skilled or dedicated to pay your entry fee and have a good time against other novices. And you might be surprised how old Scrabble players are, especially in the novice divisions. They're almost always over 40 and often over 60. I doubt that master's quiz bowl would attract ages 40-80 in the way Scrabble does, but I'd love to be proven wrong. I would be interested in master's tournaments, and maybe my fellow lurking dinosaurs would be too.

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Post by grapesmoker »

Yggnoramus wrote:ratings
Here's a proposed rating system, meant to approximate the system that chess has.

Initially, every team starts out with the rating of 1000. I picked it because it's a nice round number. Let R1 and be the rating of team 1 and R2 be the rating of team 2. Let NR1 and NR2 be the ratings of both teams after the match has been played. Then, if team 1 is the winner, let

NR1 = R1*(1 + R2/R1) and NR2 = R2*(1 - R2/R1)

I just came up with this off the top of my head, but this formula has a couple of things going for it. First, it's obvious that no team can get a lower rating by winning. Good. Also, if Chicago lays the smackdown on Podunk State, Chicago's rating will improve only by a tiny amount, since the multiplier would be the ratio of Podunk's rating to Chicago's. Consequently, Podunk's rating will only drop a couple of points. If, on the other hand, Podunk were to upset Chicago, they would pick up a ton of points. However, if this were a one-time deal, their points would be whittled away through losses to other teams. And so on.

What do you guys think? I know we had one statistics thread already that didn't really go anywhere (I think the time required to keep track of the data was too long since we're all kind of lazy). However, if people think this would be worthwhile, I'd be happy to keep track of ratings and post them after tournaments.
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Post by Stained Diviner »

Ratings systems should be a new thread in my humble opinion.

grapesmoker's is definitely out. For one thing, if a team lost its first match, after its second match both that team and its opponent would have infinite ratings. For another thing, if a team won every match it played all year except its last, it would have a negative rating. For another thing, even with some fixes to deal with the first two problems, it is probable that a team that was mediocre at a few tournaments would be rated higher than a team that could only attend a few tournaments but won every match it played. (The easiest fix would be multiplying R2/R1 by 0.1 or some number like that.)

The complication with a rating system, even if one was well put together, comes from the team aspect. It is reminiscent of the zen problem of a ship being replaced one piece of wood at a time. If the best team in the country shows up with a replacement for one of their players, is it the same team? What if it's the best player? What if it's two players?
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Post by Nathan »

I, for one, would be quite interested.

Even here in the northeast I believe that T. Wang and S. Watchorn could be dredged up for such tourneys...I'm sure there are others around as well. (Where is Colvin these days?)

The real logistical problem that I see is location -- I'm more than willing to edit such a tournament here in the Northeast (at any time of year) but moderators and rooms would have to be provided by a local collegiate team.

I guess the only real way to determine the viability of this is to announce some tournaments and see if people vote with their feet.

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Post by vandyhawk »

I'd be interested to see how a mirror in the southeast would work. Charlie's summer open tournaments tend to get a good sized field, though I'm not sure all that many at those would be interested in a more hard-core event. We could prob get Seth and maybe Kelly from Kentucky, some Floridians like Chris and Raj, retired UTK and Ga Tech people, some of us from Vandy, Wesley, and I'm sure others. At the same time, though, most of the people I mentioned are willing to head to Chicago for CO, so maybe it wouldn't be worth it. Also, "the southeast" is a big enough area that it might actually be easier for some people to fly to Chicago than to drive to Chattanooga or Atlanta or wherever. My wife doesn't like me to travel too much for qb anymore than I already do, but fortunately her family is in Chicago and she has a ton of friends in DC, so I don't have a terribly tough time getting to those areas if she can go with. Anyone think it would work holding one down here?

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Post by grapesmoker »

ReinsteinD wrote:Ratings systems should be a new thread in my humble opinion.

grapesmoker's is definitely out.
Yeah, I realized the defects you mentioned after I posted; that's what I get for trying to think at 3 in the morning. I'm still interested in devising a system, and will start a new thread once I have a better idea.
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Open vs. Masters

Post by pblessman »

For me, the problem comes down to what this is all about: An "Open" or a "Masters" Circuit. Trying to run a "Masters" circuit, which exclusively caters to the relatively small number of players who are not challenged by anything short of ACF Nationals questions, i.e. "Masters," will by definition attract exactly those few non-university-affiliated players/dinosaurs who are already very involved in the game now. I see the net impact as relatively low in terms of attracting new players.

If, on the other hand, you were to really start this as an "Open" circuit, then by definition, you'd have to make the tournaments more accessible for people like high school quiz bowl coaches, Jeopardy! fans, and trivia nuts who are well-educated. I, for my part, have been coaching high school quiz bowl for six years, would love to play in tournaments, but feel I would be simply blown away by the level of questions proposed for a "Masters" circuit.

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Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

I for one could be dredged out of my current quizbowl-ignorant status for a masters or open tournament anywhere along the Northeast Corridor (basically, College Park to Boston). Despite the pleasant layer of rust that's been accumulating on my brain for almost a year now, I'd welcome the opportunity to play occasionally if the venue was close enough. I just can't justify going to Chicago for the sole purpose of playing quizbowl.

I suspect I'm not the only one in this situation.
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Bloomfield HS (New Jersey) '01, Swarthmore College '05, University of Pennsylvania '10. Still writes questions occasionally.

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Post by grapesmoker »

benjaminthedonkey wrote:I for one could be dredged out of my current quizbowl-ignorant status for a masters or open tournament anywhere along the Northeast Corridor (basically, College Park to Boston). Despite the pleasant layer of rust that's been accumulating on my brain for almost a year now, I'd welcome the opportunity to play occasionally if the venue was close enough. I just can't justify going to Chicago for the sole purpose of playing quizbowl.
Then you should come to Brown's tournament this spring.
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Post by ValenciaQBowl »

In general response to Matt's and pblessman's comments about masters stuff in the Southeast and difficulty questions, I just wanted to mention that at the Orlando mirror of the JS Mill in May, I expect the majority of entrants to be community college players from around Florida. There will be some bloodbaths when people like Raj (if he plays) or perhaps less so, myself, play some CC players on what will be some tough questions, but my players are all looking forward to it. It's an extra chance to play, and as Steinhice likes his crowds to chant before tournaments, getting blown out beats not playing. So aggressively courting current players will be necessary, as others have noted.

However, pblessman's point is a good one--keeping the questions closer to ACF Regionals level will be better for growing a circuit.

And while we're describing this possible circuit, I think it would be wise to limit it to 3-4 tournaments in the summer, perhaps culminating in the Chicago Open. Having three tournaments (one each in May, June and July, say) with regional mirrors in the SE, NE, MW and maybe two in the West might allow many current and "retired" players a chance to play in at least one and also make each tournament more viable. And connecting to another current thread, keeping the entry fees as low as possible to allow a financial break-even for the host will encourage more people to play.

One last thought: such tournaments could really be good social events (um, if the involved QB people actually like each other, I reckon). I know that when we mirror the Mill down here, I'll ask folks to make it a potluck, perhaps with me providing cases of Mountain Dew while others bring snacks, cold cuts, whatever. These tournaments could be a little more casual and fun, and after our Mill mirror we can all go to dinner or maybe to my place for trampoline and hot tub (ooh--QBers on trampoline and hot tub: shudder). In any case, making the events fun/different from the usual invitational will make them more attractive, I think.
--cborg

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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

I think this thread has precipitated two camps in regard to what the nature of this parallel circuit should be. Some think it should be more insular in the sense that it should be on more difficult questions (regs-nationals+) with the players that are willing to play on those questions (inevitably, tougher players). Others think it should be a league open to and designed for J! enthusiasts, high school coaches, and Andrew Yaphe. Geographical, financial, etc concerns aside, I think what needs to be settled first is this dispute about structure.

I'd like to remind y'all that this thread began as a place to discuss a circuit for players that for one reason or another can or should no longer be involved in mainstream college quizbowl. Nobody proposed that that circuit be restricted to those players, but their displacement was the impetus for the discussion.

Then it was suggested that a place (seemingly) primarily for people unassociated with mainstream college quizbowl be created, and questions on the level of NAQT IS sets be used. While this is an idea that is worth discussing (perhaps in another thread), to me it is irreconcilable with the former. This circuit will be insular, not by law but certainly in practice. Anyone is welcome to play, but they should know what they're getting into. If someone wants to try to set up a league of open tournaments on IS sets, that sounds great, but it isn't what's being discussed here.

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Post by Stained Diviner »

I don't think the difference is as big as ekwartler says. Nobody has suggested NAQT IS level--the discussion above is whether it will be ACF Regional or National level. ACF Regionals are a lot harder than NAQT IS--lots of high school teams rack up big points on IS.

Also, I don't know if the difficulty level has to be identical at all tournaments. PGA golfers don't play every tournament on courses of identical difficulty, and ATP tennis players play on different surfaces. If it is going to be called a Masters circuit, then the questions must be difficult, but the ACF Regional questions I have seen are fairly difficult.
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Post by STPickrell »

I think I'm the primary guilty party regarding the Master's/Open circuit confusion. I wasn't 100% sure what Andrew was talking about, but he has cleared things up a great deal in subsequent posts.

Dave, to be fair I did suggest using NAQT IS sets, although only for what is being defined below as the "open" circuit. No way would I have IS sets for a Master's circuit.

I think what we need to do is just set up tournaments. Captains of existing teams need to try and contact former players alerting them to the existence of this Master's circuit, as well. While tournaments may start out small (4-8 teams), as former college players graduate, there will be a source of new players. Initially, the tournaments would need to be packet-submission, but writing 3-4 packets a year hardly seems onerous to me.

(1) A Master's Circuit:
* Questions ranging from ACF Regions to ACF Nationals+.
* 3-6 tournaments around the country per year, with the potential for college tournaments having a parallel Master's division.
* Players would be mostly former college players, with extensive training in the Art of Quiz Bowl.

(2) An Open Circuit:
* Questions around NAQT IS, VHSL or IS-A difficulty. (I'm actually toying with the idea of using the VHSL series matches to play a few open competitions in the Northern Virginia area. If I can make an extra $150 a Saturday in doing this, hey I'm all for it.)
* A series of Regional leagues, culminating in a Champion's League tournament in May or June. (At least that is how I see it.)
* Players would be area HS coaches, Jeopardy! fans, and other Random Smart People (some of whom may have played back in high school, 15-20 years ago, or would've played had there been a team.) Their training in the Art of Quiz Bowl would not be as extensive as the training a Master's Circuit player would have. I could see some of the better teams organizing themselves to the point of holding regular practice, and some of the best players even crossing over to the Master's circuit (and maybe being a good 3 or 4 chair on a team.)
Shawn Pickrell, HSAPQ CFO

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Post by creed_of_hubris »

Perhaps you would want to build some of these Masters events off of one of the existing national HS tourneys. You'll already have the infrastructure (rooms, buzzers) and potential Masters players who have already paid their airfare to moderate. You might even nab a coach or two to play.

The downside is that people who have been moderating a bunch of HS matches might be burned out, of course.

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Post by theaug37 »

I also wanted to add that I'd be very open to any sort of "masters" circuit. Even with a pretty busy life working for a law firm, I would definitely like to participate if it's somewhat reasonable to do so.

I have never attended a Chicago Open in Chicago, but I have attended four mirrors (two at Berkeley, two at GW) in a five year period, all of which were well-attended. I don't think that there's a limited market for masters, with so many notable players having retired in the last 10 years. Two biggest hurdles I see are 1) getting the word out to former players would be fairly difficult, and 2) most of the former players would not do well on anything near the difficulty level of CO. Even in my best year playing somewhere near my peak, I think I only averaged 30ppg at a mirror. Even something like ACF sectionals would be fairly difficult for someone who was not a top player, and hasn't actively played in 3-4 years. In order to have an active circuit, I think the difficulty level has to appeal to a broader scope than what CO usually represents, which is the upper echelon of masters level.

Ideally, what i would like to see is many of the current college circuit tournaments be made "open," and not necessarily accept masters teams on a case by case basis as exhibition teams. Even if it was more limited, I think a masters circuit is doable, and I would certainly participate. I think it would work best starting with a few summer events, and perhaps adding one or two events in the calendar throughout the year.

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