Chicago Open thanks and discussions

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Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:16 pm

Chicago Open 2010 is over. Congratulations to the winners, The Gorilla Wrestles with the Superman (Matt Weiner, Kevin Koai, Dallas Simons, and Rich Mason), and thanks to everyone who came and toughed it out over the course of a rather exhausting day.

Next order of business, gratitude. Thanks to all the staff members who came out on Saturday to help make this happen. Margo Emont, Greg Peterson, Matt Laird, Mike Laudermith, Kevin Malis, David Garb, Frank Firke, Bernadette Spencer, Jonah Greenthal, Nolan Winkler, Marshall Steinbaum, and probably others whom I'm forgetting, all showed up and helped make this tournament happen. You guys are awesome. Special thanks to Bryce Durgin for being an efficient stats machine, Jimmy Ready for doing mundane things like buying prizes, running errands, ordering food, and generally helping to keep the tournament going, and Greg Gauthier, whose heroic scorekeeping kept me able to focus on reading questions. Also thanks to Matthew Hoffer-Hawlik for trading off with me during the day so I could rest.

I would also like to thank my co-editors: Hannah Kirsch, Andy Watkins, and Shantanu Jha. These folks put in an inordinate amount of time working on this set. I would say that their efforts in many ways went above and beyond the call of duty, as they helped me make the final push to prepare the last packet for play. Shantanu especially helped out at some critical moments to make that last finals packet available. As the say on the internet, A+++ would collaborate with again.

Finally, thanks to all of you who came out to play this tournament. I'm well aware that for a few teams it was a sort of baptism of fire, but everyone stuck it out until the end of what I think of as the quizbowl equivalent of the Boston marathon.

I'd like to open discussion of the set at this point. As I do so, some preliminary remarks are in order. First of all, there were a few instances where the correct question did not get placed into the packet. This happened with the Jerry Fodor tossup, the tossup on Relativism (which should have been Franz Rosenzweig) and at least one other question (which I can't recall at the moment). I apologize for that mistake; I should have looked at the packets to double-check this, but I just ran out of time. Second, there were more than a few typos in the questions, so I apologize to the readers for that. I think we avoided most of the "this is not a sentence" type problems, but there were plenty of spelling mistakes and a few missing words here and there. Third, I feel that I should offer a public apology to the two finalists; we should have had tiebreaker questions on reserve and we didn't. That's an oversight on my part; I meant to collect such questions before the tournament started but I simply ran out of time. In addition, I somehow ended up completely losing one question from the second finals packet, which I had to replace with a question that I had in reserve. When the score ended up tied, that meant that I only had one more tossup in reserve and I went with that; that was the tossup that won the game for TGWwtS. In principle, the same outcome might have taken place even had everything been planned in advance, but I'm sure it looked rather poor on my part to be caught in that situation (which, granted, I did not think would actually arise, but which I should have budgeted for anyway). I realize that I might have gone to tossups from another packet (or even, as I think befits a finals, have had 3 tossups on reserve with corresponding bonuses), but in the circumstances I decided to go with a tossup that I knew for certain to be blind to everyone, something I couldn't say for questions that had already been entered into packets. All I can say in my defense is that, having had less than 2 hours of sleep in the last 36 in the run-up to the tournament, fatigue caused me to drop the ball on that.

I realize that this tournament was really hard. It was intended to be that way, and I gave my co-editors free reign to do more or less whatever they wanted to do. In some cases that resulted in a lot of unanswered tossups; that's to be expected as this tournament threw a lot of new material out there. That was also by design; this is the one tournament of the year where you can do things like that, so I chose to take advantage of it. I hope that this was a learning experience for even the best players.

We welcome your comments. For the record, Shantanu edited the fine arts and social science, Hannah and Andy edited biology, chemistry, some social science, and some of the "other" category, and I edited everything else.

edit: it occurs to me that I have been grossly negligent in failing to acknowledge Rob Carson for randomizing the last finals packet.
Last edited by grapesmoker on Mon Jul 26, 2010 1:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Auroni » Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:30 am

I would first off like to say that I really enjoyed this tournament, and that my experience playing it was nothing like any tournament I have ever played before. However, the set suffered from a few, key serious problems.

First of all, the tossup and bonus difficulty seemed to be wildly variable among packets, and in some cases, within packets. The tossup difficulty varied because quite a few tossups in the set had misplaced clues, such as the "save the children" clue near the beginning of the Diary of a Madman tossup and the mention of Holgrave in the second line for the House of the Seven Gables tossup. In the same rounds that had these questions, at least two tossups in our games went dead. However, overall, the tossup difficulty seemed pretty consistent to the baseline of "really goddamn hard," which is what it should have been.

Bonus difficulty was much more of an issue. At points, it felt like a lottery -- which team would get a very 20able bonus, such as The Battle of Algiers/FLN/Ben Bella or, in the finals packet, Scoop/Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold/Waugh, and which team would get stuck with having to know an obscure Latin American author just to avoid a bagel. This is not to say that there weren't lots of great, difficulty appropriate bonuses that were 20-able for the best teams just because they knew things, with a hard part that challenged every player on the field. Some more consistency to that ideal would have further strengthened this tournament.

The third major issue with the tournament was that of the randomization and distribution of questions in individual packets. I recall 3 packets, maybe more, in which at least 5 science tossups and bonuses combined were in the first 5/5. This is clearly not acceptable. Having spoken with Jerry, I have learned that he truly randomized the packets, with this sort of clumping just being an unfortunate consequence of that. However, this problem would have been ameliorated if after performing the randomization, questions were switched and moved by hand to break up clumps of questions of the same category.

There were also a few tossups with just ill-advised or bad clues, such as the Southern Song tossup that mentioned a year during which "this period" happened. These tossups were few and far between.

This tournament also had a bunch of strengths. There were smatterings of especially exciting, interesting answer lines in the set, some of which include untouchables, Santiago de Compostela, Atta Troll, agriculture, and BEAR SACRIFICE. The moderation was fairly superb; everything kept moving despite the late start due to bad weather. Overall, it showed that a lot of work was put into this set; it was probably the hardest full tournament I've played in my life and it was great.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jul 26, 2010 1:37 am

every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:I would first off like to say that I really enjoyed this tournament, and that my experience playing it was nothing like any tournament I have ever played before. However, the set suffered from a few, key serious problems.
I'd like to respond to this:
First of all, the tossup and bonus difficulty seemed to be wildly variable among packets, and in some cases, within packets. The tossup difficulty varied because quite a few tossups in the set had misplaced clues, such as the "save the children" clue near the beginning of the Diary of a Madman tossup and the mention of Holgrave in the second line for the House of the Seven Gables tossup. In the same rounds that had these questions, at least two tossups in our games went dead. However, overall, the tossup difficulty seemed pretty consistent to the baseline of "really goddamn hard," which is what it should have been.
This seems like a misplaced criticism to me. Before I read Diary of a Madman I would never have buzzed on "Save the children." If you have read that story, you know that there really isn't all that much you can say about it other than talk about cannibalism. As such, I had to write the question in such a way that would reward someone who had read it, which I think it did, over someone who knew incidental anecdotes about the story (such as the book whose words all read "EAT PEOPLE"). As for Holgrave from The House of the Seven Gables, I admit to not having read it so it was hard for me to judge it; I went by the rule of "where would I, as someone who knows the basic plot and the names of the major characters, buzz?" The answer, for me, was somewhere about the fourth-to-last line of the question, so I judged that this was fine. Again, this seems like you were rewarded for reading the book, rather than necessarily a misplaced clue. In the immortal words of Mike Sorice, "Everything is easy if you know it."[1]
Bonus difficulty was much more of an issue. At points, it felt like a lottery -- which team would get a very 20able bonus, such as The Battle of Algiers/FLN/Ben Bella or, in the finals packet, Scoop/Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold/Waugh, and which team would get stuck with having to know an obscure Latin American author just to avoid a bagel. This is not to say that there weren't lots of great, difficulty appropriate bonuses that were 20-able for the best teams just because they knew things, with a hard part that challenged every player on the field. Some more consistency to that ideal would have further strengthened this tournament.
I think your examples are not very good here. I am inclined to agree with you that bonuses were more variable than one might have liked, but there was a clear effort to delineate easy, medium, and hard parts. It was very tough to earn 30, and any good team would easily get 10, so the question was, where did that middle part lie on that continuum? That's a somewhat difficult thing to judge, and as far as I know, all of the editors did their damndest to try and make those parts middle parts appropriate for a tournament like Chicago Open. I don't think that that Battle of Algiers question was a gimme; the way it was written, it gave you some names and left you to figure out what was being about (that was the middle part), the FLN was obviously the easy part, and ben Bella was the hard part for people who knew stuff. I'm not saying that's the only way to write that bonus, but I think it did its job in the sense that it separated different levels of knowledge. I'm sure others could write different bonuses to do the same thing. Likewise, it's not particularly clear to me that the Waugh bonus is easily 20able; it requires knowledge of two minor Waugh works. If you have it, great, if not, well, you'll still get 10.

By the way, the reference to "obscure Latin American authors," touches on a point I've wanted to make about quizbowl for a while, which is: quizbowl has some weird blind spots, and if something comes up that's located in a blind spot, it gets flagged as "obscure." This, of course, is the converse of [1]: if you don't know it, everything is hard.
The third major issue with the tournament was that of the randomization and distribution of questions in individual packets. I recall 3 packets, maybe more, in which at least 5 science tossups and bonuses combined were in the first 5/5. This is clearly not acceptable. Having spoken with Jerry, I have learned that he truly randomized the packets, with this sort of clumping just being an unfortunate consequence of that. However, this problem would have been ameliorated if after performing the randomization, questions were switched and moved by hand to break up clumps of questions of the same category.
I don't accept your formulation of this as a "problem," nor is it clear to me that this situation is not acceptable. The questions were truly random; you could never know what you were going to get. I don't see why this should be a particular issue; we don't ensure that every science tossup is followed by a science bonus, and I don't think we should ensure that no science bonus ever follows a science tossup. The questions were randomized and that was that. If I'd had time, perhaps I might have arranged them in a way slightly more pleasing from the perspective of quizbowl aesthetics, but I didn't have that time, and honestly, this seems like a pretty petty quibble to me.

This tournament also had a bunch of strengths. There were smatterings of especially exciting, interesting answer lines in the set, some of which include untouchables, Santiago de Compostela, Atta Troll, agriculture, and BEAR SACRIFICE. The moderation was fairly superb; everything kept moving despite the late start due to bad weather. Overall, it showed that a lot of work was put into this set; it was probably the hardest full tournament I've played in my life and it was great.
I appreciate the complements and I'm sure the other editors do too.

[1] personal communication
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:10 am

I had a solid, enjoyable experience with many interesting questions that were certainly a different feel to this tournament. While my brain exploded into mush near the end of the day (thankfully after CO proper was over), everyone worked their asses off to make a great day of quizbowl. There were a lot of interesting ideas.

-What was the breakdown of the Your Choice? It felt somewhat weighted towards thought and criticism.

-I will go on the record as saying I felt this tournament was too hard. This isn't a complaint about me--I freely admit I'm not very good. I'm just not sure what it means when superb teams play against each other and 2-3 tossups go dead. You can talk about "this is important and using quizbowlers as base knowledge level is fruitless," sure. I'm sympathetic to that...but I also don't see a lot of satisfaction of writing packets where, say, many Top 25 players (of all time!) are stumped on like 2-3 tossups. I don't know, I'd be interested to see what people think about CO difficulty in general.

[Note, this isn't a criticism of Jerry's hitting of a difficulty level. He was very upfront about it and it matched what he said.]

-I agree with Auroni's points on the bonuses, but I feel his examples were not the best. There were a few bonuses in which Fall or Regs level knowledge could get you 10 points at least pretty easily, while other bonuses found 10 points far harder to pick up. Now this happens at every tournament, but there were instances where it felt pretty glaring--I'll have to look at the packets, but there were a few in which "here is 10 points" was really, really stressed and others where it was not. Maybe the former were ways of making up for harder hard parts, but I'm not sure.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:43 am

One more response before I get some sleep:
Cheynem wrote:I will go on the record as saying I felt this tournament was too hard. This isn't a complaint about me--I freely admit I'm not very good. I'm just not sure what it means when superb teams play against each other and 2-3 tossups go dead. You can talk about "this is important and using quizbowlers as base knowledge level is fruitless," sure. I'm sympathetic to that...but I also don't see a lot of satisfaction of writing packets where, say, many Top 25 players (of all time!) are stumped on like 2-3 tossups. I don't know, I'd be interested to see what people think about CO difficulty in general.
There's a position that I hold, which I'm not sure if all that many people subscribe to, but it goes like this: nothing is really that important. Or rather: there are lots of important things, and quizbowl, to the extent that it knows about them, only samples a small subset of them. Once you get beyond some very core things, most of the stuff we ask about isn't in any intrinsic sense any more important than a lot of stuff we don't ask about. When we're talking about something like ACF Regionals (and even ACF Nationals), of course we limit the answer space to some extent because it would be bad for people to not be able to play Regionals and feel like stuff they learned before was useless. For Chicago Open, I have no such compunctions: this is the one tournament of the year where you can show up and hear a tossup on the Workingmen's Party or Mahmoud Darwish and not have it seem out of place. I freely admit that I wrote a handful of questions for this tournament that I only expected one or two people, if any, to answer. In some cases that prediction came true and in some cases, it didn't. I'm not particularly broken up about that; there are going to be some hard-ass things, including things that had never come up before. I'm sure by next year everyone will have learned every Juan Carlos Onetti title there is and someone will be posting about how the clues in the tossup on The Hour of the Star are in the wrong order. That sound you heard? It was the sound of the canon expanding.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:22 am

grapesmoker wrote:One more response before I get some sleep:
Cheynem wrote:I will go on the record as saying I felt this tournament was too hard. This isn't a complaint about me--I freely admit I'm not very good. I'm just not sure what it means when superb teams play against each other and 2-3 tossups go dead. You can talk about "this is important and using quizbowlers as base knowledge level is fruitless," sure. I'm sympathetic to that...but I also don't see a lot of satisfaction of writing packets where, say, many Top 25 players (of all time!) are stumped on like 2-3 tossups. I don't know, I'd be interested to see what people think about CO difficulty in general.
There's a position that I hold, which I'm not sure if all that many people subscribe to, but it goes like this: nothing is really that important. Or rather: there are lots of important things, and quizbowl, to the extent that it knows about them, only samples a small subset of them. Once you get beyond some very core things, most of the stuff we ask about isn't in any intrinsic sense any more important than a lot of stuff we don't ask about.
Obviously Jerry had massively more influence in directing the set than I did, but I sort of tried to keep this in mind as well. I tossed up/bonused a few things that I knew were extremely hard but that had also been emphasized to me in some intellectual context as being critical to some field of learning; quizbowl just passed them by, for some reason. Rather than picking, like, the next minor Guatemalan author listed on Wikipedia (or whatever), I tried to pick things like important clinical symptoms, to be more expansive with the molecular bio, and, when I was writing outside my editorship, to toss up people like Varese and works like Ways of Seeing that are key to their discipline. Then again, I'm sure there are some modern transmembrane proteins discovered by Guatemalan musique concrete enthusiasts that haven't come up yet...
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:21 pm

Where questions could be retained as submitted, which was more common than I expected, I let their answer lines and so forth stay. Where they couldn't, I took this tournament as an opportunity to refocus what's being asked about--something that, unfortunately, I can't really do except at a high-level tournament.

Everyone who takes organic chemistry seriously is interested in reaction mechanism. One of the most common, easiest to explain and understand, and earliest encountered ways to investigate a reaction's mechanism is to replace one atom with an isotope and see how the rate changes--because of H's low mass, H to D has the biggest effect. I just searched quizbowlpackets.com and found the only instances of KIE in quizbowl to date have been a leadin referring to the tunneling contribution to unusually large KIEs, an original tossup from Harvard's 2006 Regionals packet that didn't get played, and a leadin to an NSC category quiz bonus that, honestly, isn't very helpful. Basically, quizbowl doesn't know about one of the most important concepts you learn about in chemistry (and pretty early on, too), but if I started describing a total synthesis, even people without knowledge would be able to just buzz early and guess either Taxol or Tamiflu. That's sort of stupid. So I did this to move in what I think is a good direction.

I agree with Jerry that fundamentally, once you get away from a canon that's just a dozen tossups about the most important concepts of (say) chemistry, you lose any essential claim to "importance" and all that's left is more-or-less uniformly "not very." But there's a different mechanism through which one attempts to write a set's chemistry questions, I think, than some subjects in the humanities. When I write a question on the Sonogashira reaction, it's not because I think the Sonogashira reaction is one of the eighteen most important things in chemistry today; I'll tell you right now that it isn't. But palladium-mediated coupling chemistry is, or at worst it's indistinguishable among, say, the top forty "fields" of chemistry, and it's certainly one of the easier ones to understand and write questions about. If I had my druthers, I probably wouldn't have had an olefin metathesis tossup in the set (seeing as it already had a question on beta hydride elimination, though there is no beta hydride elimination step in olefin metathesis). Similarly, if I were to write a question on the aldol reaction--a very important reaction, certainly, but not important in the way of, say, the Iliad or something (when I sit down to do chemistry, I'm hardly bombarded by the influence of the aldol reaction; granted, I've got one refluxing RIGHT NOW)--it's really either a question on the use of silyl enol ethers (and generally, bottleable enol equivalents) or on enantioselective synthesis (Felkin-Anh, Zimmerman-Traxler, etc.--all important models).
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:57 pm

Brief digression from the difficulty discussion to point out that logistics and acts of God aside, this was a very very well run tournament on all ends. Moderators were great. Staff was positive. For a tournament of this difficulty and length, the attitude and good nature of every team was refreshing and pleasant. From our first game to our last, teams, staff, and readers were in a positive, friendly mood, making it one of my favorite run tournaments in a while.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by cornfused » Mon Jul 26, 2010 1:30 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:When I [sic] write a question on the Sonogashira reaction, it's not because I think the Sonogashira reaction is one of the eighteen most important things in chemistry today; I'll tell you right now that it isn't. But palladium-mediated coupling chemistry is, or at worst it's indistinguishable among, say, the top forty "fields" of chemistry, and it's certainly one of the easier ones to understand and write questions about.
That tossup went dead to a room including Seth and Selene, which says something about its quizbowl notability. But your reasoning matches up exactly with mine for submitting it - even as a non-scientist, I could at least follow what was going on in the reaction enough to write about it without using ambiguous or useless clues.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Ringil » Mon Jul 26, 2010 5:36 pm

I liked the question on the Kinetic Isotope effect, though I thought it was just named the Isotope effect and didn't get it after the prompt.

I have to say that this tournament was pretty fun in general, though there seemed to be a lot of computer science as compared to other "other sciences"
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:10 pm

Ringil wrote:I liked the question on the Kinetic Isotope effect, though I thought it was just named the Isotope effect and didn't get it after the prompt.

I have to say that this tournament was pretty fun in general, though there seemed to be a lot of computer science as compared to other "other sciences"
That's my bad--while there are a lot of other isotope effects (for example, one in superconductors)--there's only one in the sort of context I was talking about. So I could certainly understand an argument that the KIE is the only IE in chemistry proper.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by gyre and gimble » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:03 pm

So this was my first college tournament experience and I just wanted to thank everybody who helped walk me through it, especially my teammates Carsten, Charlie, and David. I couldn't have asked for better people to welcome me into the college quizbowl community.

EDIT: And thanks to Jerry for not cutting all of my questions in my first writing effort.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Jul 27, 2010 5:31 pm

I have sent George the set. Presumably it will be posted soon.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Strongside » Tue Jul 27, 2010 6:29 pm

I want to say a few comments about this tournament.

I personally enjoyed the tournament, and thought it was a great set. I really liked the difficulty level, and some of the harder, crazier, and interesting things that came up.

I liked how the editors included tossups on things that as far as I know hadn't been asked about before such as Ways of Seeing, and Alfred Crosby. While it is unreasonable for a tournament to have an inordinate number of questions on stuff like this, questions like these do a good job of rewarding real knowledge.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Frater Taciturnus » Tue Jul 27, 2010 8:24 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I have sent George the set. Presumably it will be posted soon.
this set is at
http://collegiate.quizbowlpackets.com/archive/2010CO/
and
http://collegiate.quizbowlpackets.com/a ... 2010CO.zip
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:39 pm

I really enjoyed this tournament, and our travel/hotel difficulties didn't prevent it from making this an awesome weekend. I really liked some of the more unusual answer lines in science like the "two-dimensional" one, since they test knowledge much better than common things people know to say on buzz points. Whoever got it in my room certainly had much better knowledge of the quantum Hall effect than me, and it makes me feel good to be sure the person with the most knowledge answered the question.
I'm curious to know how my tossups on tetragonal lattices and Fischer-Tropsch played, since I missed the first few tossups of our round. I admit that I got the idea for the former from the tossup on hexagonal lattices in the ACF Nats final. Neither team seemed to know much about lattice structures then, and I would assume they are important since I have had multiple lectures on them in three different classes.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Romero » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:10 am

I just returned from the road trip and wanted to share a few comments.

First I enjoyed the events. It was nice to see a lot of folks again and it was nice to meet some of the new folks.

I believe I recall hearing at one point that Jerry was planning to include 1 "experimental" question per packet. I think such an experiment is fine at tournaments such as Chicago Open and I applaud Jerry et. al. for their work on this event. However, I calculated that 29% of all questions at this tournament went dead. That is an average of almost 6 questions per match. I am in favor of progress and canon development, but how far is too far. This tournament was too hard.

The notion of real knowledge in quiz bowl, which is a game, is silly. We cannot possibly encapsulate a concept developed over centuries or a 500-page book into 10 lines or less of times new roman 10 point. Every tossup is answered with "fake" knowledge to some extent.

I think the notion of tossing up what is "important" is deflecting the focus away from the central issue of tournament difficulty. Just because an answer is important, doesn't mean it is a "playable" as a tossup. Quiz Bowl is a game. If our criteria for tossups is importance than we need some new categories. Engineering, Business, and Law are just as important to our society as Biology or Chemistry and certainly more important than Juan Carlos Onetti.But we don't have many questions on Engineering, Business, or Law because they are not as "playable" as other topics.

I am for canon expansion but there are better ways to do it. All these wacky and interesting answers could have been clues or third bonus parts and not taken away from the game. We can make tossups fresh and interesting without making them unanswerable to all but 1 or 2 players. During this event, I heard comments from younger players like if quiz bowl is going to be like this, they were not interested in playing in the future. Certainly this was not what Jerry intended. These experimental questions went a bit too far. This could have been an great tournament without a tossup on Juan Carlos Onetti.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Ike » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:39 am

Hey I really don't have too much to say about the tournament but I enjoyed this as much, and probably more than ACF Nationals, but that it strikes me as odd that people came to this tournament expecting something easy from this set.

Being deliberately misled by Jerry is one thing, but I do recall him posting that this tournament was going to approach insane levels at some point. But still being in high school or even an undergraduate who isn't that strong of a player, and expecting to get more than one or two tossups a game just seems ridiculous to me.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:44 am

Chris, not to dis anyone that came to this event, but don't you think that maybe instead of the questions being way too hard (it is CO, after all), that some of the people that came to play were just not good enough? I think Jerry was very clear about what the tournament would be, from what i've read and who i've talked to. It's not like last year's Cato/Taco event in Richmond where we really didn't have much of an idea what it would be like, a bunch of high school players (and one crappy high school coach) came to play, and we were treated to 6-7 so-hard-they-made-my-mother-cry literature tossups per game and Senegalese authors bonus questions.

CO is supposed to be the most difficult thing anybody plays all year, and since there really isn't any qualification status (other than "can you write a hard enough packet that Jerry can edit without killing you?"), the types of people that come are varied. You have to expect that with every superteam that can actually 30 some bonuses, you're going to have a couple that, well, can't get more than a few tossups per game.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by marnold » Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:42 am

Just because someone went into the tournament knowing it would be hard doesn't automatically preclude the criticism that the tournament was too hard. I agree with Chris Romero: I think the tournament was too hard. That isn't to say that this was an irredeemably horrible tournament or that Jerry was slacking off as an editor, just that I wish the tournament was letting only 3 or 4 tossups per game go dead rather than 6.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:02 am

Romero wrote:I believe I recall hearing at one point that Jerry was planning to include 1 "experimental" question per packet. I think such an experiment is fine at tournaments such as Chicago Open and I applaud Jerry et. al. for their work on this event.
I have something to say about this. First of all, you shouldn't even have known about the "experimental" question idea; I believe I asked people to whom I explained this plan to not mention it, but whatever. Basically, the "experimental" questions were intended to be slight gimmicks implemented if I had time, which would have no effect on game outcome. I won't get into how this was supposed to work. It doesn't really matter since it didn't happen. All that's important to mention is that no question in this tournament would have been different if that had come to pass.
However, I calculated that 29% of all questions at this tournament went dead. That is an average of almost 6 questions per match. I am in favor of progress and canon development, but how far is too far. This tournament was too hard.
This tournament was pretty rough, I'll grant you that. However, it's worth asking how many of those questions went dead because teams didn't have a good science player and which teams whiffed on which questions. There were definitely things that were just plain difficult in this tournament for even the best players. Again, that is by design. This is a tournament that gathered in one place virtually all the best active players in the game (sans the ones that were editing and Andrew Yaphe, who was preparing for the bar). So obviously this was an event designed to push the boundaries of what those players know.
The notion of real knowledge in quiz bowl, which is a game, is silly. We cannot possibly encapsulate a concept developed over centuries or a 500-page book into 10 lines or less of times new roman 10 point. Every tossup is answered with "fake" knowledge to some extent.
I think this is quite clearly false. Vide a post upthread from Michael Haussinger about how pleased he was with the tossup on "two dimensional systems" even though he didn't get it. Those are examples of the kinds of questions that really do reward real knowledge, and an example of what I was trying to do with the science. Likewise, if you've read Postmodernism (paging Ahmad), you're likely to get that tossup before someone who hasn't. And that's the way it was supposed to be, in the sense that this tournament focused on things that have not, by and large, come up in quizbowl very often. This is definitely a situation where reading old packets isn't going to help you all that much. In light of that, I'm actually quite pleased with a 70% conversion rate; it means people are going out there and learning stuff on their own by reading about what interests them.
I think the notion of tossing up what is "important" is deflecting the focus away from the central issue of tournament difficulty. Just because an answer is important, doesn't mean it is a "playable" as a tossup. Quiz Bowl is a game. If our criteria for tossups is importance than we need some new categories. Engineering, Business, and Law are just as important to our society as Biology or Chemistry and certainly more important than Juan Carlos Onetti.But we don't have many questions on Engineering, Business, or Law because they are not as "playable" as other topics.
I would agree with this for ACF Regionals; anyone is welcome to go look at that set and tell me if we made it so difficult as to be unplayable. On the flip-side, I'm rather unconcerned about how a tossup on The Shipyard will play out; some of these questions were basically cases where I went, hey, this is a thing that's interesting and I think people ought to know about it, even if they don't already. By the way, as I've mentioned earlier, I believe that once you get past a certain core set of academically relevant things, the reason why people know one thing (say, The Ark Sakura) and not another thing (The Shipyard) isn't really a function of the "intrinsic importance" of those things (whatever that might be). It's just a function of certain cultural dynamics within quizbowl that make some people love Japan a whole lot but not Uruguay. I don't see any obligation on my part as an editor to reinforce those dynamics (at least not at the CO level); in fact, I prefer to throw a wrench into them.

By the way, this tournament featured lots and lots of engineering-type questions, perhaps even too many of them. So it's not like we're ignoring some crucial academic subjects here. Even law got a bit of play (via the rather unfortunate "agency law" tossup and a tossup on Hart's The Concept of Law), although by and large much of law isn't really an academic topic per se. Finally, conflating either of those things with questions about Onetti is a category mistake, literally; questions on Onetti live in a different part of the distribution than questions on law or engineering, so they don't interfere with each other at all.
I am for canon expansion but there are better ways to do it. All these wacky and interesting answers could have been clues or third bonus parts and not taken away from the game. We can make tossups fresh and interesting without making them unanswerable to all but 1 or 2 players. During this event, I heard comments from younger players like if quiz bowl is going to be like this, they were not interested in playing in the future. Certainly this was not what Jerry intended. These experimental questions went a bit too far. This could have been an great tournament without a tossup on Juan Carlos Onetti.
I should hope that quizbowl players, especially those coming to Chicago Open, would have enough of an understanding of the circuit to understand that there is "regular season" quizbowl, and then there's Chicago Open. This isn't a tournament written for young players in their second year, and while it's commendable how much youth turned out for this event, I suspect that almost none of them showed up with the expectation that they were going to saunter into CO and put up 50 PPG. If anyone did expect that, I guess they had some kind of really misguided idea of what this tournament was going to be about.

No one should take this tournament as a model for a regular difficulty event. Questions on Frederic Jameson are never going to be appropriate at Regionals except as third bonus parts. This is the one event of the season (aside from possibly ACF Nationals) where such questions are not out of place, so I made use of that opportunity.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:03 am

marnold wrote:That isn't to say that this was an irredeemably horrible tournament or that Jerry was slacking off as an editor
I believe what I was doing was the opposite of slacking. I literally wrote almost 1/3 of this tournament.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by marnold » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:11 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
marnold wrote:That isn't to say that this was an irredeemably horrible tournament or that Jerry was slacking off as an editor
I believe what I was doing was the opposite of slacking. I literally wrote almost 1/3 of this tournament.
Yeah, sorry, I should have made it clear that the extraordinary effort you and the other editors made was evident, even if in service to extremely, perhaps excessively, hard questions.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:29 pm

I'm unsurprisingly on Jerry's side here. 71% tossup conversion at Chicago Open really doesn't faze me: it's a tournament where introducing new, exciting topics while keeping games competitive (which they obviously were) is the order of the day. But the "you hated CO because it had property x? Well, perfect, property x is precisely what we intended" argument can't help but aggravate people.

Looking at the stats, CO 2010 seems to be about 1% harder on tossups than CO 2008. CO 2008 had an average bonus conversion of 13.37 (median 9.46) while CO 2010 had an average bonus conversion of 13.94 (median 12.87). CO 2010 seems to be about 1.9% easier on bonuses than CO 2008, and moreover the average bonus conversion is less skewed by a few excellent top teams than it was in 2008. I'll say that, on net, 2010 was a slightly easier tournament than 2008, and moreover that it would have been a more satisfying experience for the median team in the field.

Chris, you're sort of right when you say that quizbowl can't test real knowledge, and you're sort of misled. I think this might be a better way to phrase things, and forevermore we'll use "testing real knowledge" as a shorthand for this. There are certain clues, and ways of phrasing extant clues, that track pretty well with a real academic experience of subject x. Historians use primary sources a lot, right? Well, a clue that tracks real knowledge about Charlemagne might refer to Einhard's biography of him; I'm sure there are passages of that text that real history students read in real history classes. Now, real history classes are not about "memorize these passages from Vita Karoli Magni over the weekend and recite them to me on Monday" (at least, not the two that I have taken), and so knowledge of passages from VKM isn't itself a way of judging whether you are a history student: a non-historian could read VKM, a person actively trying to imitate a historian could memorize passages from VKM without in the process becoming a historian, et cetera. But passages from VKM track much better with history students than non-history students, while the ability to pound the buzzer on the first syllables of Capitulary for the Jews is just about even.

We're never going to be able to verify that knowledge is genuine. Any "real knowledge" question can be answered by enough fake knowledge, and the only way to prevent this is simply to change question styles completely into an essay contest plus lab exam plus social science fieldwork. But what we can do is write questions in ways that give people with the "realest" knowledge the biggest advantages over people with fake knowledge. That advantage is never one hundred percent--I doubt Brendan will take offense when I note that he's a difficult player to beat even in one's own subject, even though his knowledge, in most cases, is not from very "real" modes of acquisition--but it can be very high.

Jerry tried a different mode of favoring real knowledge, one that's been tried before. Fake knowledge learners have little reason to learn things disfavored by quizbowl--it's just not wise to make notecards about Antarctic Parnassus or something. But people who have a real interest in Peruvian literature have a good chance of knowing about it. Only at hard, hard tournaments is this strategy at all okay, because the number of people with a real interest in Peruvian literature who might have dug deep enough to learn about that work is very small. But it certainly gives the advantage to real knowledge learners. Sometimes, the question comes up in the wrong team's bye round, or in the finals and the third place team knows it: it's certainly not a strategy you ever employ if you're committed to getting 85% of tossups answered. But this strategy does swing the game in favor of real knowledge more than most, so if you can sacrifice the tossup conversion--and we did, and I think not fatally--you can go this route.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:41 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:71% tossup conversion at Chicago Open really doesn't faze me.
What was last year's conversion?
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:46 pm

Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:71% tossup conversion at Chicago Open really doesn't faze me.
What was last year's conversion?
2007 and 2009 were about 81% by room; 2008 was 72.5%. I think this is the lowest ever; I could also run 2006 but I can't imagine it was somehow harder. But it's partly a function of the field that played the tournament; I think it was weaker this time..
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:54 pm

I strongly disagree that asking about crazy experimental things is more likely to reward real knowledge. Let's just look at the result:
stats wrote:Brendan Byrne This Civilising Love of Death 14.0 63 14 280 2.00 0.00 560 40.00
Mike Sorice This Civilising Love of Death 14.0 39 19 280 1.05 0.00 295 21.07
Honestly, reducing the game to "Have you heard of this?" bowl is much more likely to reward superficial knowledge acquired from packets than it is to reward real, deep study. Sure, it's unlikely that someone would make a flashcard of Juan Carlos Onetti, but it's vanishingly improbable that somebody other than Jerry has read Shipyard. Asking about him actually punished Magin's real knowledge by effectively reducing the number of literature tossups to 3.

Although I very much enjoyed this tournament and sincerely thank Jerry for his hard work, I'll agree with the rest of the field that this tournament was too hard. A team with Seth Teitler, Jonathan Magin, Selene Koo, and Bruce Arthur should not be regularly bageling bonuses, and for three tossups to go dead between some of the best players in the game (including the bio and chem going dead with Selene in the room) seems crazy to me.

EDIT: Since this seems a bit inflammatory in retrospect, I'd like to spend a little more time on what I enjoyed about the tournament. It seemed to do a very good job of including lots of regular-difficulty answers (the All My Sons tossup was very good), and of including exciting bonus parts that did reward real knowledge. My first Chicago Open was, on the whole, a fantastic experience.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Mike Bentley » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:18 pm

Cernel Joson wrote:I strongly disagree that asking about crazy experimental things is more likely to reward real knowledge. Let's just look at the result:
stats wrote:Brendan Byrne This Civilising Love of Death 14.0 63 14 280 2.00 0.00 560 40.00
Mike Sorice This Civilising Love of Death 14.0 39 19 280 1.05 0.00 295 21.07
Honestly, reducing the game to "Have you heard of this?" bowl is much more likely to reward superficial knowledge acquired from packets than it is to reward real, deep study. Sure, it's unlikely that someone would make a flashcard of Juan Carlos Onetti, but it's vanishingly improbable that somebody other than Jerry has read Shipyard. Asking about him actually punished Magin's real knowledge by effectively reducing the number of literature tossups to 3.

Although I very much enjoyed this tournament and sincerely thank Jerry for his hard work, I'll agree with the rest of the field that this tournament was too hard. A team with Seth Teitler, Jonathan Magin, Selene Koo, and Bruce Arthur should not be regularly bageling bonuses, and for three tossups to go dead between some of the best players in the game (including the bio and chem going dead with Selene in the room) seems crazy to me.

EDIT: Since this seems a bit inflammatory in retrospect, I'd like to spend a little more time on what I enjoyed about the tournament. It seemed to do a very good job of including lots of regular-difficulty answers (the All My Sons tossup was very good), and of including exciting bonus parts that did reward real knowledge. My first Chicago Open was, on the whole, a fantastic experience.
Yeah, I had a kind of similar feeling. It seemed like the difficulty of this tournament added a lot of variation to the results. For instance, I think our "Tier 3" team certainly benefited from "have you heard of this bowl" and "lots of tossups going dead bowl" in our victories over better teams at the tournament. This isn't to say I went into this tournament expecting the difficulty to be easier than it actually was, it's more that I question how valuable the competition is on questions of this difficulty between almost all the teams in the field.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by wd4gdz » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:22 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:
Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:71% tossup conversion at Chicago Open really doesn't faze me.
What was last year's conversion?
2007 and 2009 were about 81% by room; 2008 was 72.5%. I think this is the lowest ever; I could also run 2006 but I can't imagine it was somehow harder. But it's partly a function of the field that played the tournament; I think it was weaker this time..
This is pretty surprising since it seems most people thought 2009 was harder than 2008.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:42 pm

Cernel Joson wrote:I strongly disagree that asking about crazy experimental things is more likely to reward real knowledge. Let's just look at the result:
stats wrote:Brendan Byrne This Civilising Love of Death 14.0 63 14 280 2.00 0.00 560 40.00
Mike Sorice This Civilising Love of Death 14.0 39 19 280 1.05 0.00 295 21.07
This is based on a faulty assumption; namely, that whatever Brendan knows isn't "real," knowledge. I've been critical of Brendan's writing style in the past, but I have to say, if he's putting up 40 PPG on this set, he knows shit. I'm much more likely to take this as an indication that this tournament didn't particularly play to Mike's strengths than I am to conclude from this that somehow someone's "fake" knowledge was rewarded.
Honestly, reducing the game to "Have you heard of this?" bowl is much more likely to reward superficial knowledge acquired from packets than it is to reward real, deep study. Sure, it's unlikely that someone would make a flashcard of Juan Carlos Onetti, but it's vanishingly improbable that somebody other than Jerry has read Shipyard. Asking about him actually punished Magin's real knowledge by effectively reducing the number of literature tossups to 3.
You could conceivably say that about any tossup that goes dead. You're not likely to have heard of The Shipyard if all you do is read packets, because to the best of my knowledge it's never actually come up in a packet. So even if you've just heard of it, that's a result of you taking the initiative to go out and learn something about it. I mean, that's how I came across this book and came to read it.
Although I very much enjoyed this tournament and sincerely thank Jerry for his hard work, I'll agree with the rest of the field that this tournament was too hard. A team with Seth Teitler, Jonathan Magin, Selene Koo, and Bruce Arthur should not be regularly bageling bonuses, and for three tossups to go dead between some of the best players in the game (including the bio and chem going dead with Selene in the room) seems crazy to me.
I can't speak about the bio and chem at all, but for the rest, the finals featured some fairly impressive buzzes off of what was clearly real knowledge. Outside of the bio and chem, I think that tossups going dead did not particularly play to the advantage of either team.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:59 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Cernel Joson wrote:I strongly disagree that asking about crazy experimental things is more likely to reward real knowledge. Let's just look at the result:
stats wrote:Brendan Byrne This Civilising Love of Death 14.0 63 14 280 2.00 0.00 560 40.00
Mike Sorice This Civilising Love of Death 14.0 39 19 280 1.05 0.00 295 21.07
This is based on a faulty assumption; namely, that whatever Brendan knows isn't "real," knowledge. I've been critical of Brendan's writing style in the past, but I have to say, if he's putting up 40 PPG on this set, he knows shit. I'm much more likely to take this as an indication that this tournament didn't particularly play to Mike's strengths than I am to conclude from this that somehow someone's "fake" knowledge was rewarded.
Honestly, reducing the game to "Have you heard of this?" bowl is much more likely to reward superficial knowledge acquired from packets than it is to reward real, deep study. Sure, it's unlikely that someone would make a flashcard of Juan Carlos Onetti, but it's vanishingly improbable that somebody other than Jerry has read Shipyard. Asking about him actually punished Magin's real knowledge by effectively reducing the number of literature tossups to 3.
You could conceivably say that about any tossup that goes dead. You're not likely to have heard of The Shipyard if all you do is read packets, because to the best of my knowledge it's never actually come up in a packet. So even if you've just heard of it, that's a result of you taking the initiative to go out and learn something about it. I mean, that's how I came across this book and came to read it.
Although I very much enjoyed this tournament and sincerely thank Jerry for his hard work, I'll agree with the rest of the field that this tournament was too hard. A team with Seth Teitler, Jonathan Magin, Selene Koo, and Bruce Arthur should not be regularly bageling bonuses, and for three tossups to go dead between some of the best players in the game (including the bio and chem going dead with Selene in the room) seems crazy to me.
I can't speak about the bio and chem at all, but for the rest, the finals featured some fairly impressive buzzes off of what was clearly real knowledge. Outside of the bio and chem, I think that tossups going dead did not particularly play to the advantage of either team.
Fair enough.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:04 pm

setht wrote:yes, if only we could shut the hell up about real knowledge and get back to quizbowl
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Cheynem » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:14 pm

I don't really like the real knowledge argument--as Ryan Westbrook told me once, it's certainly real knowledge to look something up and read about it even if you didn't actually watch Judd for the Defense.

It's possible to really like a tournament, really like the questions, and think it was too hard, and that's my reaction. Critiquing Jerry and editors is futile because they did what they promised and it was good. I would suggest and hope that perhaps next year's editors might have a different foundational goal for CO, but I'm not sure what others think.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:35 pm

Cheynem wrote:I don't really like the real knowledge argument--as Ryan Westbrook told me once, it's certainly real knowledge to look something up and read about it even if you didn't actually watch Judd for the Defense.
I don't think anyone has ever argued differently. Reading about things is a great way to learn.
It's possible to really like a tournament, really like the questions, and think it was too hard, and that's my reaction. Critiquing Jerry and editors is futile because they did what they promised and it was good. I would suggest and hope that perhaps next year's editors might have a different foundational goal for CO, but I'm not sure what others think.
Another thing I want to say:

I think when you've been around the game for long enough, you tend to develop certain idiosyncratic views on how things ought to be. Some of those views eventually become accepted dogma (we should ask about science that actual scientists might care about, instead of biographical trivia) and some of them remain the exclusive property of their authors. I had certain ideas that I wanted to put into practice, and a tournament like Chicago Open is a good vehicle for that. In other words, I wrote/edited a tournament that I would have loved to play myself; I've long come to terms with the fact that no one is going to do that for me so I view this as the next best thing. Next year's editors, whoever they are (they won't be me), will likely have different ideas for what they want to see come up and why, and then we'll get to see their vision, and respond to that. I think CO is a good tournament at which to do things like this.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:37 pm

Cheynem wrote:It's possible to really like a tournament, really like the questions, and think it was too hard, and that's my reaction. Critiquing Jerry and editors is futile because they did what they promised and it was good. I would suggest and hope that perhaps next year's editors might have a different foundational goal for CO, but I'm not sure what others think.
This question about what the foundational goal of CO is seems to come up every year. Currently, CO's foundational goal seems to be "present a well-written tournament that pushes or leaves in the dust the canon to the degree that the head editor chooses." Head editors should not be made to compensate for a larger number of single-ppg players coming to CO, if statements about the declining expertise of CO players in general are true; rather, those players should be prepared not to know what's going on most of the time. I would, however, be very interested to hear more from players like Marnold and multiple-CO, top ppg players about what constitutes too difficult and what conversion levels they would prefer to see, specifically as to whether they thought this tournament's low conversion wasn't attributable enough to inexperts playing it. I'm with Jerry about CO being a good forum for promulgating one's own intellectual vision: Not having to consider conversion to the same degree as, say, when writing ACF Nationals is liberating and allows editors to attempt to introduce the community to intriguing, intellectually exciting material that wouldn't come up otherwise. On the other hand, if even [insert top-10 player here] has his or her experience made more negative than positive because of it, the foundational goal should be reconsidered.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Papa's in the House » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:51 pm

Romero wrote:Engineering, Business, and Law are just as important to our society as Biology or Chemistry and certainly more important than Juan Carlos Onetti. But we don't have many questions on Engineering, Business, or Law because they are not as "playable" as other topics.
Then, as Jonathan Magin recommended to me at this past ACF Nats, "start writing questions on them." I wrote a tossup on agency law out of the textbook of a course I had taken because I felt that it was an important part of law as it relates to the business community; granted, it appears that the question didn't go over well. I'd like to see more questions on things like financial statements or the discounted cash flow model, but realistically I don't expect to see many questions that pertain to a field that almost no quizbowler is seeking a degree in. Maybe more of the business-related questions I write will get in to packets in the future, but I'm not going to be terribly upset if my bonus on different types of bonds gets cut from a packet I submit. It's just not worth complaining about the under-representation of a field that only one* person is pursuing a degree in.

*To the extent of my knowledge
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by theMoMA » Wed Jul 28, 2010 3:30 pm

This was an enjoyable tournament, so many thanks to Jerry and his co-editors for their hard work.

My general feeling is that the tossups in this set were too hard in a particular way. More than any tournament I can remember recently, this one felt like it had a hollow core. What I mean is, it tended to avoid testing mastery of quizbowl's central knowledge. These events are just as much about testing (and finding new ways to test) knowledge of the core topics as they are about introducing new topics altogether. There were plenty of exciting new things coming up everywhere in this tournament, but there wasn't nearly enough rigorous examination of the core. Too often, it seemed like a fourth of the tossups were going dead and another quarter to half were essentially extended bonus parts. That really muddies the playing field.

Though perhaps not as often as in the past, there were plenty of tossups that tested knowledge whose trendiness outweighs its importance. Would it surprise anyone if, in the last half-dozen very difficult tournaments, Lu Xun outstrips Tolstoy in mentions? From editing MO, I know how much people love to submit questions on him. But at some point, we've got to stop using them. And writing them too. It's really not fun to see the same questions get written for every tournament. These are events for creativity and inspired writing, not regurgitating the latest trends in hard packets. It really runs counter to the whole mission of CO to perpetuate a cool-topic echo chamber at this level. Congratulations to the editors for toning this down somewhat, but I'd like to see packet submitters as a whole do a much better job self-policing in the future.

I've noticed that sometimes questions seem to be written without regard for whether the answer line is a actually a barrier to answering the tossup. For example, the tossup on Benjamin's "Concept of History." It's not particularly noteworthy or memorable that the essay is called that in particular, and I suspect that other players who read the essay were, like me, stymied in trying to remember its title. If I were writing that tossup, I'd write it on the Angel of History (an exceedingly memorable thing), "History," or just Benjamin. You can do all three by just moving a few of the pronouns around; you don't even have to add any clues. A tossup on Benjamin with clues only from "The Concept of History" that ends "Name this dude who created the Angel of History in that essay" is perfectly appropriate for this field. When I'm writing at this level, I try to be mindful of answer lines that may be barriers to points for those with knowledge.

End of ramblings on difficulty inspired by this tournament.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Jul 28, 2010 3:38 pm

I agree with the editors that they have a right to make this tournament as difficult as they want. I also agree with those who say that the editors made this set egregiously difficult.

Overall, the field was able to deal with it and there were still a lot of impressive buzzes. But I think the field would have had a bit more fun with a lower difficulty level.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Cheynem » Wed Jul 28, 2010 3:42 pm

I wrote the Benjamin tossup and I am certainly sympathetic to your argument. Using only Benjamin as an answer line works for me and I guess "history" (much more so than the Angel in History, in my opinion, as the essay has much more interesting points than just that). When I wrote the tossup, I included various answer lines because since it is a translation, even something as simple as "Theses on History," in my opinion is acceptable. However, when I wrote the tossup, I wasn't really thinking about how the title wasn't "noteworthy or memorable." For me, a lot of essays, titles, and concepts quizbowl asks for are not noteworthy or memorable. I remembered the Benjamin one because it is an essay I like and I had just studied in class. As someone with little experience in writing philosophy tossups, though, I was unaware that this title was a particularly tough one to remember and wrote it in the most straightforward way possible. I'd be curious to know if editors would prefer submissions in which the answer line is "pre-tweaked" to make it a touch easier or if it's something they would prefer to make the judgment call on.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:05 pm

Regarding real knowledge as it applies to music: one of quizbowl's main problems with music questions generally is not so much that the canon tends to expand into non-real areas, but rather that there are several really important areas of classical music in the real world that quizbowl tends to push to the sidelines (chamber music, concertos, works without names, culturally significant performers, etc.). Let me say, then: this tournament did the best job I've ever seen in fighting back against this problem. There were questions on things I see performed in concerts often, that I talk about often with other musicians, that are studied and recorded widely, and that I've never seen in quizbowl before. No music answer choice came across as fringe arcana chosen just to be hard. And the pyramidality and clue choices were generally excellent. This was the single "realest" experience I've had playing music questions. I hope this trend continues, and that some of this approach can slowly seep down to lower levels of difficulty too.

There were two tossups, though, that had bad factual errors. One of them, I thought, was the Piano Quintet one (contained clues about quintets that are not piano quintetes), but in the version of the set sent out, it looks fine, so I either misheard or it's been corrected. The other one is the Russian Festival Overture and that still has multiple errors. Not "John-Lawrence's-wacky-ideas-about-what-kind-of-knowledge-should-be-rewarded" errors, but factual mistakes I will mention so they do not appear in future tossups on this piece:
At one point in this piece, the tubas twice play a theme of F-F-F-E-D, which the French horns respond to with a B-F tri-tone.


There is only one tuba in the Russian Festival Overture, as in most standard sized orchestras. So, when I heard the word "tubas" in the plural, I mentally prepped myself to start thinking about pieces with unusually large brass sections (Bruckner, Mahler, etc.). Also, while there are horns playing at the moment being described, they are not playing a B-F tritone.
A cello soloist plays a theme of G-F-G-A-Bflat-A-G-F-E-F while the rest of the orchestra trills during this piece’s first movement, andante lugubre.
Literally, six solo instruments back this cello solo at that moment. This does not constitute "the rest of the orchestra", and none of those six instruments are trilling. Also this happens during the lento mistico section, not the andante lugubre. And the andante lugubre is not the first section. And the words "section" and "movement" are not interchangeable. Overtures generally do not have movements; this one is no exception. So, this clue is utterly wrong on many levels.

Also, at this point, I was racking my brains furiously to think of a multi-movement piece with a brass section large enough to have multiple tubas that had an andante lugubre first movement.
This piece’s second movement is strangely written in 2/1 time.
Even, if we replace the word "section" for "movement", this clue is wrong. The last thirty or so bars of the piece are mainly in 2/1. This does not constitute the second section, unless you are somehow claiming that the first fourteen minutes of a fifteen minute-long piece constitute the first section.

These inaccurate clues comprise three lines of an eight-line tossup.

This is not to rail on the editors, which couldn't be expected to know that these clues are wrong (unless they were fact-checking all the tossups, which I don't expect), and who did a really good job on the rest of the music. I just want to make sure these clues don't come up again. And I am curious to hear from Matt Bollinger where these clues came from.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:14 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: There were two tossups, though, that had bad factual errors. One of them, I thought, was the Piano Quintet one (contained clues about quintets that are not piano quintetes), but in the version of the set sent out, it looks fine, so I either misheard or it's been corrected.
It was corrected by Shantanu before the final set went out.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:54 pm

I was responsible, with help from the redoubtable Hannah Kirsch, for editing all the fine arts in this set, and much as the overall set reflected what Jerry might like to play, I made the fine arts, and the music in particular, reflect what I might like to see. Also much like Jerry essentially wrote a third of the set, I rewrote at least two thirds of the fine arts submitted to me. This does not mean I merely indulged my predilections, but rather that I tried to make the music distribution reflect what gets performed, discussed, and recorded.

My apologies for the apparent multitude of errors in the Russian Easter Festival Overture tossup. I actually did some fairly superficial fact checking on that tossup, but I suppose I was deceived by the fact it had all the outward trappings of an excellent tossup written by a knowledgeable writer.

I also apologize for the Piano Quintets error; the tossup originally submitted to me was on "Quintets," which I switched to Piano Quintets. For whatever reason I didn't place the fully edited version of the tossup in the document, and that error, like the one I made with respect to the Russian Easter Festival Overture, should reflect on me solely and not on any of my fellow editors.

I think I ended up making the painting rather too difficult. Whereas I made sure the music distribution had some easier tossups on Preludes and Violin Concerti, I noticed slightly too late in the game that I hadn't made sure to keep some lower difficulty painting answers in the set.

With regards to the "other" arts, I tried to hit on some otherwise neglected things: Krenek's Jonny Spielt Auf, some Weill works besides The Threepenny Opera, a part on Elsa Schiaparelli, and so on. I would appreciate some feedback on how these questions (and really any other fine arts questions) went over.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by SnookerUSF » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:42 pm

After some time to reflect on the weekend's proceedings, and reading the other comments - I figured I would chime in:

We allow (if that is the right word) Jerry to head the editing of a tournament such as CO (with its non-trivial time and cost expenditures) because we feel he, and others of his caliber, have the ability, commitment and discipline to edit a tournament that while potentially experimentally difficult (if that is what we agree this tournament was) is not purely a result of his whimsical personal interest. That is, we can trust Jerry to write a hard tournament that is not also a vanity tournament.

I guess when we complain about a tournament being too hard, one that is not designed to elicit a champion, it is important to understand what set of justifications we ought to employ in determining that evaluation. If it was too difficult because it too narrowly focused on a specific set of interests (like say...too much lit crit and philosophy) then such criticisms are legitimate. If we think the set was too hard, because too many of the best players in the country didn't know enough of the answers, and thus it failed to accurately distinguish knowledge bases between teams, I think this is also legitimate. I don't think this happened, but I could see an argument here for this incarnation of the Chicago Open.

If you think the set was too hard because you didn't answer enough tossups and thus didn't have "fun" or "funn" or whatever, then maybe CO isn't the tournament for you. I know the last kind of argument has detractors, but really CO is primarily a kind of reward or cap on the year and has a kind of congeniality to it, which is in part brought about by the difficulty of the set. In a way, we can all commiserate about some of the answers we managed to pull, and some we can't believe were asked. Perhaps, as a non-top-25 player, I am totally comfortable not answering questions, and doing some learning; thus I don't feel your pain nor can I accurately evaluate how truly difficult such a tournament was.

To distill this rather lengthy exegesis, I trusted Jerry and fellow editors to choose answers and clues that were difficult and challenging, without being vindictively or mercurially so, and I do not feel that such trust was betrayed in the least.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:52 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:Regarding real knowledge as it applies to music: one of quizbowl's main problems with music questions generally is not so much that the canon tends to expand into non-real areas, but rather that there are several really important areas of classical music in the real world that quizbowl tends to push to the sidelines (chamber music, concertos, works without names, culturally significant performers, etc.). Let me say, then: this tournament did the best job I've ever seen in fighting back against this problem. There were questions on things I see performed in concerts often, that I talk about often with other musicians, that are studied and recorded widely, and that I've never seen in quizbowl before. No music answer choice came across as fringe arcana chosen just to be hard. And the pyramidality and clue choices were generally excellent. This was the single "realest" experience I've had playing music questions. I hope this trend continues, and that some of this approach can slowly seep down to lower levels of difficulty too.

There were two tossups, though, that had bad factual errors. One of them, I thought, was the Piano Quintet one (contained clues about quintets that are not piano quintetes), but in the version of the set sent out, it looks fine, so I either misheard or it's been corrected. The other one is the Russian Festival Overture and that still has multiple errors. Not "John-Lawrence's-wacky-ideas-about-what-kind-of-knowledge-should-be-rewarded" errors, but factual mistakes I will mention so they do not appear in future tossups on this piece:
At one point in this piece, the tubas twice play a theme of F-F-F-E-D, which the French horns respond to with a B-F tri-tone.


There is only one tuba in the Russian Festival Overture, as in most standard sized orchestras. So, when I heard the word "tubas" in the plural, I mentally prepped myself to start thinking about pieces with unusually large brass sections (Bruckner, Mahler, etc.). Also, while there are horns playing at the moment being described, they are not playing a B-F tritone.
A cello soloist plays a theme of G-F-G-A-Bflat-A-G-F-E-F while the rest of the orchestra trills during this piece’s first movement, andante lugubre.
Literally, six solo instruments back this cello solo at that moment. This does not constitute "the rest of the orchestra", and none of those six instruments are trilling. Also this happens during the lento mistico section, not the andante lugubre. And the andante lugubre is not the first section. And the words "section" and "movement" are not interchangeable. Overtures generally do not have movements; this one is no exception. So, this clue is utterly wrong on many levels.

Also, at this point, I was racking my brains furiously to think of a multi-movement piece with a brass section large enough to have multiple tubas that had an andante lugubre first movement.
This piece’s second movement is strangely written in 2/1 time.
Even, if we replace the word "section" for "movement", this clue is wrong. The last thirty or so bars of the piece are mainly in 2/1. This does not constitute the second section, unless you are somehow claiming that the first fourteen minutes of a fifteen minute-long piece constitute the first section.

These inaccurate clues comprise three lines of an eight-line tossup.

This is not to rail on the editors, which couldn't be expected to know that these clues are wrong (unless they were fact-checking all the tossups, which I don't expect), and who did a really good job on the rest of the music. I just want to make sure these clues don't come up again. And I am curious to hear from Matt Bollinger where these clues came
from.
Ok, so this was definitely my bad. In my defense, the FFFED clue was referring to a later portion of the piece, but that doesn't change the fact that I apparently didn't spend enough time making sure my tossup was accurate. What it amounts to is that I tried to describe what I was hearing in a recording of the piece, and apparently failed pretty badly, mostly because certain terms seem to have more technical meanings than I thought they did. I was worried about that while I was writing this tossup, but I expected an editor to fix it up if my facts weren't right; however, since that didn't happen, I'll bear the responsibility for this. I'm impressed and humbled that you can make so much out of these technical clues, and when/if I write music in the future, I'll be more meticulous about not confusing knowledgeable music players.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot » Wed Jul 28, 2010 7:51 pm

I thought this tournament was incredibly well written, if too hard. It was very clear that Jerry et al. put a huge amount of work into it and it showed. The bonuses definitely seemed much easier than the tossups, which was pretty nice, especially in contrast with ACF Nationals, where a Carleton team that was half the same as my CO team didn't 30 a single bonus all tournament, whereas, at CO, we were able to 30 several. The problem, as I saw it, with the difficulty was that it really, really muddied the battlefield. For example, we beat Passner's team 70-30 in a game where five tossups were answered. That's just a disgustingly ugly game that literally only rewarded being able to buzz fast enough on the giveaway of the tossup on water or pay enough attention at the end of the tossup on Beethoven's 8th Symphony to not say 6th. In sum, the tournament should have been easier, not because I'm pissed off I only scored six points a game or whatever, but because have-you-heard-of-this bowl is inherently stupid. If Juan Carlos Onetti or whoever where really so important, wouldn't more people than Jerry have heard of him?
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Cheynem » Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:03 pm

I'm not sure if I truly agree with Charlie's point here (aside from the base point about being too hard). Using the example of his game against Dan Passner's team is not overly illuminating. With all due respect to the eight people playing that game, these were some of the weaker teams at the tournament with a bunch of solid but probably no great players (and I like these guys, I think they'd be the first to say they're not great). At a tournament like CO or even ACF Nats, that's going to generate some muddy games because the tournament cannot be written with these sorts of games in mind. It is more illuminating to look at the games between far better teams and see if the same sort of thing is happening (and then, of course, decide if it is a problem).
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:07 pm

Terrible Shorts Depot wrote:If Juan Carlos Onetti or whoever where really so important, wouldn't more people than Jerry have heard of him?
This isn't a significant point, at least insofar as Onetti has the disadvantage of being new to the canon.

Take all the authors whose works are tossupable at CO level. (That is, the set where you didn't immediately think, at CO 2010, "Give me a break, Jerry!") How many of them did you know about before you started playing quizbowl? Do you think that significantly more people heard about Abe from non-quizbowl sources than Onetti? I don't know if the difference is so significant.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:08 pm

This deserves a response:
theMoMA wrote:My general feeling is that the tossups in this set were too hard in a particular way. More than any tournament I can remember recently, this one felt like it had a hollow core. What I mean is, it tended to avoid testing mastery of quizbowl's central knowledge.
First of all, I'm not sure that I agree with you that such a concept as "quizbowl's central knowledge" is a sufficiently well-defined category to talk about whether this or that tournament tests its mastery.
These events are just as much about testing (and finding new ways to test) knowledge of the core topics as they are about introducing new topics altogether.
That's a pretty categorical statement. It so happens that this event was not about "core topics," or at least not about what you regard as core topics. I think you're stating a personal preference (an entirely legitimate one, but yours nonetheless) as a global norm for what quizbowl tournaments ought to be.
There were plenty of exciting new things coming up everywhere in this tournament, but there wasn't nearly enough rigorous examination of the core. Too often, it seemed like a fourth of the tossups were going dead and another quarter to half were essentially extended bonus parts. That really muddies the playing field.
I dispute the notion that we were under some obligation to "examine the core," and I also disagree with you about what that core is. I happen to think that there were lots of things in this tournament that are rather significant but aren't perhaps particularly well known to the quizbowl circuit at large. Well, that's ok with me. As for muddying the playing field: the order of finish looks very close to what I would have predicted, so I don't think it got muddied that much.
Though perhaps not as often as in the past, there were plenty of tossups that tested knowledge whose trendiness outweighs its importance. Would it surprise anyone if, in the last half-dozen very difficult tournaments, Lu Xun outstrips Tolstoy in mentions? From editing MO, I know how much people love to submit questions on him. But at some point, we've got to stop using them. And writing them too. It's really not fun to see the same questions get written for every tournament. These are events for creativity and inspired writing, not regurgitating the latest trends in hard packets.
Confession: I wrote the Lu Xun tossup because a) I needed to fill a world lit question in a packet that didn't have an acceptable one, and b) I had a copy of his short stories on hand. I recognize the unfortunate trendiness of such a question, which I probably wouldn't have written under other circumstances, just as I was initially tempted to cut the tossup on The Ark Sakura on the same grounds. What ultimately decided the issue was the fact that I had a limited amount of time and limited resources to work with, so I wrote that Diary of a Madman question and kept the Ark Sakura tossup. Had I more time, I'm sure I would have done things somewhat differently. However, barring a few questions, I don't think this tournament suffered from this problem. I made a concerted effort to get rid of things that I thought were just perpetuating lame trends and consciously tried to write on new and innovative answer choices.
It really runs counter to the whole mission of CO to perpetuate a cool-topic echo chamber at this level. Congratulations to the editors for toning this down somewhat, but I'd like to see packet submitters as a whole do a much better job self-policing in the future
There we go again with talk about the "mission of CO." Did Andrew Yaphe carve that mission into a pillar somewhere when he wrote the first CO and I just missed it? So far as I know, the only person who gets to decide what the "mission" of CO is is the head editor of CO. If you ever edit CO, I'm sure you will have a vision different from mine, and I certainly would support your efforts towards instantiating that vision. But please, let's not pretend that your view represents a universal requirement.
I've noticed that sometimes questions seem to be written without regard for whether the answer line is a actually a barrier to answering the tossup. For example, the tossup on Benjamin's "Concept of History." It's not particularly noteworthy or memorable that the essay is called that in particular, and I suspect that other players who read the essay were, like me, stymied in trying to remember its title.
It's not particularly noteworthy that Anna Karenina is called that either. That's just how things work in quizbowl: they have names and you answer by giving those names. I think ultimately questions of "why did you write about X instead of Y?" are the de gustibus of quizbowl and aren't to be resolved by appeal to any universal principles. I had this debate before about other answer choices, and it always pretty much comes down to personal preference. I personally thought that tossup was fine, so I kept it.
If I were writing that tossup, I'd write it on the Angel of History (an exceedingly memorable thing), "History," or just Benjamin. You can do all three by just moving a few of the pronouns around; you don't even have to add any clues. A tossup on Benjamin with clues only from "The Concept of History" that ends "Name this dude who created the Angel of History in that essay" is perfectly appropriate for this field. When I'm writing at this level, I try to be mindful of answer lines that may be barriers to points for those with knowledge.
Again, you are welcome to write your Walter Benjamin tossup however you like (although I would argue that a tossup on the Angel of History would see even lower conversion than a tossup on the essay, but whatever). This does not mean that there's anything in particular wrong with the question that was actually written.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:20 pm

Terrible Shorts Depot wrote:If Juan Carlos Onetti or whoever where really so important, wouldn't more people than Jerry have heard of him?
Hey, let me invite you into my magic time machine where we go back to about 2004 where people get up in arms about tossups on things that today would pass without mention (I recall having to defend a tossup on the Treaty of Ryswick back in the day).

This is an incredibly bizarre view. Why do people know things like The Ark Sakura? It's surely not because there's a wealth of such knowledge in the populace at large. What happens is a kind of snowballing effect where the probability of something being written about increases if it's been written about recently (this was actually the topic of a lecture today at work; expect cognitive models of quizbowl writing soon). So people start looking for more and more titles by the same authors, and eventually you get to a point where good high school students know the tenth-best-known story of [insert trendy author]. By the way, I seriously hope no one tries to do something ridiculous like propagate some of these hard answers down the chain of tournament difficulty.

As for importance, I invite you again into my time machine where you will go upthread and read what I wrote. Again: nothing is really that important. Beyond a rather small set of things, there are a lot of things whose importance can't really be gauged relative to other things in any meaningful way. There is no metric that will give you a "correct" answer for the importance of one author from Latin America versus another author from Europe. So the choice of what one writes about is somewhat (but not totally arbitrary), and the answer of a tossup can be something that not a lot of people have heard before. At ACF Regionals, this is bad; at Chicago Open, oh well, them's the breaks.
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Re: Chicago Open thanks and discussions

Post by Sargon » Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:23 pm

First I would like to thank Jerry and everyone involved with tournament. The running of the tournament and the quality of moderation were exemplary barring the usual quizbowl delays.

I have to agree with Marnold and some of the other posters that these questions seemed excessively difficult. I think the big thing was the choice of unnecessarily hard answer lines. For instance, there was a tossup on a particular king of Himyar. Quite a few people, including myself, were aware that there was such a king and knew things that he did but couldn't remember the name (he is the only important ruler of Himyar as I recall), and so the tossup went dead. The same information could have been converted into a tossup about Himyar or perhaps Yemen, which would have rewarded virtually the same deep knowledge but gone dead in far fewer rooms.

The same would seem to hold for some of the excessive focus on works as answer lines in literature questions, although I totally accept that non Greco-Roman literature at CO will probably not be answered by me ever. It would seem to me that if you are writing on a non-canonical author it would be better to perhaps focus on one or two works in the clues but make it so someone who has at least heard of the fellow can get points at the give away. After all, since the author's works are not ranked in quizbowl notoriety players who have a read a few of his works will very likely have read different ones.

Also, I found it curious that despite having plowed through a 500 page history of Siberia in the weeks immediately preceding the tournament I was unable to get points on the Siberian bear sacrifice tossup; perhaps that should not be among the dozen or so potential things about Siberia that come up at tournaments, although I do appreciate the general thrust into ethnography outside the canonical anthropological examples. There were also a number of music tossups whose answers I had in fact never heard before, which might have been a tad excessive, although my knowledge is weak in the 17-mid 19th centuries. I do have to say, the religion tossups were on the whole excellent and free from the glaring factual errors and unhelpful clues that usually infest quizbowl religion.

EDIT: I should add that if one sets aside the difficulty of answer choices, the questions were extremely well written with hardly any misplaced clues or difficulty cliffs.
Paul Gauthier, Quizbowl crackpot
Vanderbilt 2004-8
U Chicago 2008-

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