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ACF Nationals discussion

Posted: Sun Apr 02, 2006 7:33 am
by suds1000
Hey all, I'm bored and can't sleep, so I just thought I'd get the ball rolling on ACF Nationals discussion.

First of all, the question set was outstanding, and definitely the best one that I've edited for, moderated, or played on this year. The editors did a fantastic job scaling down answer space difficulty from previous years while still maintaining pyramidality and therefore effective knowledge differentiation in tossups. The bonuses were almost universally of very even difficulty, and very few were either way too easy or way too hard. 95% of the subjects that came up were either interesting or important (at least to me), which is more than I've been able to say for some academic tournaments in the past. Perhaps the only real complaint I have with the set was the seemingly unending stream of geologic feature questions (often at the expense of an important science subcategory, computer science/technology). This is a general recollection, as I don't have my notes in front of me right now, but I definitely feel like I noticed a lot of the former and not a whole lot of the latter. Perhaps I'll post sometime later with thoughts on specific questions, but those don't seem relevant just yet.

Second, the competition (at least in the top bracket) was excellent. Congratulations to Texas A&M, a team for which this win has been a long time coming, and to Michigan, which made a valiant run at the championship as Matt Lafer described. Nearly every game that I personally played was at least somewhat competitive, and very enjoyable...I only wish that players like Paul Litvak, Jerry Vinokurov, and Lafer had been able to play with teammates, as that would have strengthened the field further and added to the intrigue even more. Also, it is somewhat disappointing that each of the top three teams finishing at ACF Nationals (Texas A&M, Michigan, and Chicago in that order) will be significantly weakened at next weekend's ICT, given that each is losing at least one important contributor. While the bottom of the field at ICT will likely be better than the bottom of the field at ACF, the fact that several very good players are skipping the ICT might imply something about the relative quality of the two tournaments (and price, location, and other such things that Lafer discussed in a previous thread).

Third, the tournament was very well-run. Most of the moderators were at least solid if not very good, and Craig Barker and Mike Burger knew exactly what they were doing with stats and determination of the "wild-card" team entering the top playoff bracket. Additionally, I really liked the high number of playoff rounds (seven), as it gave a lot of teams a couple chances at the championship (and it allowed us to gain revenge on Princeton :cool:). My only complaint is the fact that the tournament ran very long (began at 9:20 am, ended at 9:20 pm), but this was ACF Nationals, so I guess I should have expected as such. Was this longer than most ACF Nats tourneys have run in the past?

Last, I have one quick question. Does ACF have a specific rule on determining tiebreakers for bracket qualification and/or final rankings? I believe that bonus conversion was used today to determine the wildcard team for the top bracket, but I was under the impression that head-to-head rankings were usually used in determining final rankings and the like in the case of tied records. Of course, it didn't matter today, since we lost to Chicago A head-to-head and they had a better record and higher bonus conversion than us, but I was just curious if anyone knew the specific rule for this particular issue. I looked under the "Rules for Invitational Play" on the ACF website, but didn't find anything addressing it.

All right, I guess that's all for now. Thanks again to all of the editors for a great set, and to all the staffers and participating teams for a great tournament...I will forever treasure my new copy of Keri Hulme's The Bone People.

Oh, and congratulations to R. Robert Hentzel on his winning the Carper Award.


Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Posted: Sun Apr 02, 2006 5:14 pm
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
suds1000 wrote: Craig Barker and Mike Burger knew exactly what they were doing with stats and determination of the "wild-card" team entering the top playoff bracket.

It's not that I didn't enjoy getting stomped on by the best teams in the country instead of having some competitive games with teams closer to our skill level (it was probably better for our development, and we had some close, competitive games with Princeton and A&M), but doesn't the fact that Chicago B got into the top bracket while Matt Weiner, Eric Kwartler, and several others were forced to look for consolation raise a red flag?

But perhaps this is more a matter of unoptimized bracketting at the start of the tournament rather than a problem with the way the wildcard was picked.

Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 7:59 am
by Chris Frankel
Few quick thoughts before I spend some time in the future doing question discussion.

1. Andrew et al. did a good job toning down the overall difficulty from last year's set. There were a few rounds that skewed noticeably easy or hard, but for the most part the set was even and maintained a balance between challenging and accessible.

2. Hindsight always makes things clear, but the prelim bracketing did end up being uneven. Bruce is selling his team short since they played quite well, and a lot of teams performed differently than expected, but I did get the vibe that both before and after prelim play people thought the bracketing was a little unbalanced.

3. Stats were done well for the most part, and the prompt online posting was exemplary. I do think that it would have been preferable to have at least one more packet ready for tiebreaker purposes, since I imagine it has to be very unsatisfying to have to miss out on the finals due to a statistical tiebreaker, especially considering the possibility of stats mistakes that might not be visible until after the fact (e.g. it turned out that we scored 320 and not 220 in our second round prelim game; had we been in a position where that loss of 100 points/nearly a full bonus conversion point could have affected our placing, you could imagine how irritating that would be).

4. Though I unfortunately did not provide much of it myself, I thought the competition was excellent. The better team won in every match I played, and I never felt that there was a point where the packet determined the game.

5. Congratulations to Texas A&M for their title and to Michigan for their close second place finish. I know that all eight players in the finals worked their asses off to get there and deserved their high placings in every way. Also props to Matt Lafer, who made himself the leading contender for the title "best active player in the circuit" with his strong solo performance.

That's it for now; I will be back for some actual question discussion when I get a break from being violated by the mountain of pointless busywork also known as my thesis.

Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:40 pm
by Matt Weiner
The questions were right where I think they should be for nationals, and I definitely did not feel beaten down by the stuff outside of my categories like last year. As long as there is no skewing caused by changing category tastes in future years, I am in favor of locking the ACF Nationals difficulty at this year's level so all can be clear on what to aim for.

I didn't like the tournament format, though. There really is no way to make wild cards fair outside of playing them off, and there didn't need to be two byes per team. I'd like to see a two-bracket prelim followed by crossover play if there is a similar field size in the future.

Congrats to A&M on proving themselves the best, to Michigan on proving that they can come within one question of being the best even after losing 3/4 of last year's championship team (special props to Adam for stepping up to lead that effort and to Ryan, Dave, and Will for really turning it on in the past 12 months), and to all the other teams who came out for the premier tournament of the competition year. With exceptions few and far between this tournament seems to be the one that people have the best attitude about and are generally the most collegial at, which really does help move a 16-round day along and make the travel worth it.

Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 12:02 pm
by yoda4554
One of my teammates said this was the best question set he's played on, and I don't think I can name a set that I thought was better. My fear coming into the tournament was that there would be lots of tossups on obscure stuff that people with more tournament experience than I would just get on the giveaway. And while there certainly was a good amount of literature that I'd never heard of and no one in the room had read (which is fair enough for the hardest tournament of the academic year), I was quite happy with the wide number of legitimately tough questions on stuff one could reasonably expect one or more people in a given room to have read-- Clarissa, Miss Julie, The Master Builider, The Trial, etc. I also particularly liked questions like the one on the Magna Carta, which I've known about since elementary school and had no idea what was actually in it beyond the basics.

The only general criticism I can think of is the flip-side to the above, which is that, for a handful of questions with well-known answers, information that would be considered giveaway in an easier tournament was revealed or strongly implied pretty early, on which everyone sat in the fear that there was some other uber-obscure Nationals-level thing that fit the category. I'm not sure if I'm remembering exactly what facts were dropped and where, but I remember thinking, "What if there's a medieval French peasant rebellion other than the Jacquerie?" and "What if there's a set of Hindu commentaries other than the Upanishads?", for two examples.

But that's really minor, and the only reason I can care about that is that the rest was so good. Titles came relatively late, and quotes/excerpts/summaries that were referenced were pretty useful. There were tons and tons of interdisciplinary clues that didn't destroy distributions. The clues were even fairly interesting and funny as a whole. I particularly liked the "Broadway Boogie Woogie" and Ariel tossups. I'm not sure about the evenness of bonus difficulty; I don't feel like my team is particularly expert on Algeria or the tropopause, though we count those among our few 30s. But there weren't any ridiculously easy or hopelessly rough bonuses, to my memory.

And since I was the one bitching about it last time, I'll note that the trash was very well-distributed this time. The cowbell bonus was glorious.[/i]