On Being a Fourth Scorer

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On Being a Fourth Scorer

Postby Cheynem » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:58 am

The recent revelations of title switches caused me to think about the 2011 season a bit more, the only season I've spent being a fourth scorer (although I've certainly filled this role on occasional open teams). Being a fourth (or third or however supporting your team is) scorer is an interesting task, one that can get kind of glossed over in a game that justifiably focuses on the top scorers in a tournament. However, as I'm sure most teams would attest, being a fourth scorer is something that can be the difference between a tournament victory or defeat. In this thread, I'd like to share some suggestions and thoughts I have on how to be a strong fourth scorer.

1. Figure out your niche. There probably at least is one thing that you know better than your top teammates, and it could get pretty specific. Maybe it's computer science. Or perhaps opera. Or Bible. Or even just trash. Whatever it is, know that this is the topic that you can can feel like you have a green light on. That doesn't mean you should buzz like a maniac on the first clue of these questions, but know that if you have a strong idea/hunch, you can feel free to go in on these questions because your teammates are unlikely to have good buzzes.

2. Learn the art of being a productive team member on bonuses. First of all, obviously, if it's a topic you know well, feel free to take the lead. But some other ideas: Always back up the top scorers on easy parts. it may seem dumb that they're confirming with you that Pirandello wrote Six Characters in Search of an Author, but do it. During the stress of a game, top scorers can flake out on parts and just say the wrong things sometimes. They need to know they're on the right page (and obviously if they say something obviously wrong, point it out). Next, if nobody on the team seems to be able to pull things, feel free to throw something out or at least offer up an idea. Never leave ideas in your mind. Third, know when to offer ideas and when it's best to take a back seat. If you're a top scorer or a specialist trying to pull something or working through some answers, it's not good to have a fourth scorer just yelling random ideas. All in all, keep a strong balance on bonuses between supporting and offering ideas and staying out of the way. This is not always easy to learn, but I think it will come with more experience.

Some dramatizations of how I think being an effective fourth scorer in these situations works:

MODERATOR: First, name this battle that effectively ended the Franco-Prussian War.
CAPTAIN: It's Sedan, right?
FOURTH SCORER: Yes.
[or]
CAPTAIN: It's Koniggratz, right?
FOURTH SCORER: Uh...isn't it Sedan?
CAPTAIN: Oh yeah, definitely, whoops.
[Note that in these situations the second or third scorer should be saying these things too, but the fourth scorer provides yet another protective sheath]

MODERATOR: Name this Union general who was relieved after a disastrous performance at Fredericksburg.
CAPTAIN: So, who could this be? [pause, silence]
FOURTH SCORER: Couldn't it be Burnside?
CAPTAIN: Yeah, sure.
[Fourth scorer offers an idea when nobody else is offering one]
[or]
CAPTAIN: So, who could this be? [pause, silence]
FOURTH SCORER: Couldn't this be Hooker?
CAPTAIN: No, that was Chancellorsvile...it's the guy before him, then.
SECOND SCORER: Oh that's Burnside.
[Fourth scorer offers a reasonable suggestion when nobody else is offering one, it's not right, but it may help spark something]

Fourth scorers should avoid the following scenarios:
MODERATOR: Name this third party that nominated George Wallace in 1968 for the presidency.
CAPTAIN: Hmm, what was the name of this party? The American party?
SECOND SCORER: I think maybe American Conservative...or Independent...
FOURTH SCORER: WHAT YEAR DID THEY SAY?
CAPTAIN: 1968, huh, so American Conservative...
FOURTH SCORER: ISN'T THIS JUST REPUBLICAN?! HE WAS CONSERVATIVE, RIGHT!
CAPTAIN: They said third party, what do you think--
FOURTH SCORER: The Dixiecrats were a third party!
[In this situation, the fourth scorer clearly did not pay attention to the prompt and does not have a lot of knowledge. His suggestions are actually intruding in the attempt of the captain and second scorer from coming up with the correct answer.]

3. Don't get discouraged if you neg. It can get pretty disheartening if you neg if you already aren't scoring much. And obviously it's not good if you're negging too much. But you probably will neg at least once and that's okay. Your teammates might get upset at you in the heat of the moment, but they'll most likely note that they'd rather you have get a good buzz on a niche topic in a close game than play too passively and not get anything.

4. Go for the "hustle plays." I'm not sure how to explain this without offering an example. At 2011 ICT, against Brown, there was one of those fershlugginer questions on geologic time periods. Basically in my experience everyone has an idea of what the question is looking for, narrows it down to a few specific periods, and either waits for a buzzword or the end of the question to make a guess. It went to the end of the question, everyone in the room buzzed, and I won the race and said the correct answer (for whatever reason) of Silurian (which was half a guess). My point here is that there will be questions like this in which you getting the question is entirely predicated on winning a buzzer race or making an intelligent guess. If you decide to check out mentally on a question because "well, I'm pretty sure [whoever on your team] will get it," that's one less possibility on your team to get that question at the very end. Obviously you can ease up on buzzing if it's outside of your area, but at the end you better be at least prepared to go in for a buzz if a clue appears that you know.

5. Don't be afraid to take the lead. As a fourth scorer, it's very easy to defer to your top scorer. But if he or she knew everything, they'd just play alone. For instance, if the other team has negged, it sure seems likely that your top scorer will get the question at the end, i mean it's so easy EVEN YOU KNOW IT. But then, lo and behold, they say Garibaldi for Cavour or some such mistake. I'm not saying you should be super aggressive in these situations, but just keep an eye on what's going on. If it seems like no one on your team is sure, and you're 100% sure, feel free to buzz and pick up the vulch (if you're 100% sure). Never defer just because you're the fourth scorer.

6. Do not be discouraged if you go through droughts where you do not score, especially if your team is winning. If your team is winning, your team is doing well. Know that if you are not scoring in games where you win by a lot, you will probably get a scoring chance in a tight, important game. If you feel like you are contributing and you are playing your best, you are helping your team win even if your PPG is not high. Do not worry about your PPG or what other people think; your teammates know your value.
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Re: On Being a Fourth Scorer

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:18 am

If people at practice or during tournaments are complaining about a certain subject area being annoying or uninteresting, that's a great opportunity for you to make yourself useful. Learn that stuff, and perhaps you won't be the fourth scorer anymore.
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Re: On Being a Fourth Scorer

Postby Frater Taciturnus » Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:19 am

Mike and Bruce are very, very right here. I've played that "fourth scorer" role enough to know that a few good buzzes and bonus parts coming from a fourth player can make a huge difference. At ACF Nationals 2010, if either Andrew or I had not been on that team, we probably don't sneak our way into the top bracket. A good fourth is what takes a good team to an elite team. That fourth player even if they only get a few tossups per tournament, can easily make a 1-2 win difference in their team's final placement. And as mentioned, complementary specialization, is a very quick way for a fourth scorer to carve a real niche for themselves.
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Re: On Being a Fourth Scorer

Postby bradleykirksey » Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:23 pm

This is a good read. I got awfully frustrated at a few tournaments last year (3 powers, 3 tossups, 2 negs) before lunch. But at SCT, I had two first line powers that kept us competitive against Alabama and we beat South Carolina last year at ACF regionals when I got the last tossup.

I know no one wants advice from someone who got 8 PPG, but it really helps to get good at things teammates aren't. I'm by far the best player at UCF on the Bible, presidents, and usually current events.

Of course, there goes games where you don't get a tossup if you're awful like me, but it's still an important role in close games.
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Re: On Being a Fourth Scorer

Postby Birdofredum Sawin » Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:26 pm

I rarely if ever post just to say "the original post in this thread is outstanding, and everyone should take it to heart." But I want to make an exception for this one--the original post in this thread is outstanding, and everyone should take it to heart.

From the opposite perspective to Mike, let me offer my particular endorsement of his points (1), (2), and (4). Speaking as someone who was mostly a top scorer on teams, I can say from experience that there was nothing I loved more than playing with supporting players who really know a niche or two; who contribute intelligently on bonuses; and who don't tune out tossups and are thus capable of getting in on buzzer races.
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Re: On Being a Fourth Scorer

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:39 pm

I agree with everything Mike and Bruce have said. I want to emphasize a couple things:

Cheynem wrote:1. Figure out your niche.


The corollary to this is that you should defend your niche very hard. That means you should spend a modicum of time studying it, reading up on new clues that come up at tournaments, and - this one is especially important - continue to quizbowlify your knowledge. This means understand how the things you learn outside of quizbowl are described in quizbowl and how they are asked in quizbowl. For a CS specialist, for example, the name of a particular algorithm may be much more important in quizbowl than it is in an actual CS class. Furthermore, algorithms will not be read to you in bytecode; try to think of how they will be described in English.

Cheynem wrote:Always back up the top scorers on easy parts.


Not only is this very, very helpful, it also keeps you participating and helps share the burden. Thinking over long periods of time, even about easy parts, is tiring; the more that a supporting player can take over, the better it is for everyone. Furthermore, the more easy parts you learn just through osmosis, the more you're contributing to the team and thus engaged in the game.

5 and 6 can be grouped together in this corollary: always pay attention. Even if its not your subject, or you're not scoring well, always stay in the game. You never know when a clue you know will come up or a buzzer race will go your way.
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Re: On Being a Fourth Scorer

Postby Frater Taciturnus » Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:00 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote: Furthermore, algorithms will not be read to you in bytecode; try to think of how they will be described in English.


One way to learn to think in terms like this for subjects like this is to look at an algorithm and figure out how you would explain the algorithm as if you were talking to someone over the telephone.
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Re: On Being a Fourth Scorer

Postby Windows ME » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:54 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:5 and 6 can be grouped together in this corollary: always pay attention. Even if its not your subject, or you're not scoring well, always stay in the game. You never know when a clue you know will come up or a buzzer race will go your way.


This brings up another point. I don't care how good you think your teammates are - at some point over the course of the tournament, you're going to win an important buzzer race that you thought you had no business winning. It will probably not even be in your area of expertise - absorbing things through osmosis is going to help you immensely at that moment! Don't zone out in practice!
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