Matt Weiner wrote:The whole point of pyramidal/good quizbowl is that we can ask questions on easy things with leadins that are challenging enough to distinguish top teams. If you are unable or unwilling to understand this then you do not understand good quizbowl and would have a hard time articulating why we bother with it as opposed to just playing Chip.
Whereas I agree with this, like Abid, I am curious in that case why it's necessary to make Nationals tournaments more difficult if you don't need harder questions to differentiate better teams.
So there are two fallacies in this kind of reasoning. First, the idea that harder questions, by mere virtue of being harder, are going to better distinguish between top teams, is flat-out wrong. A bonus that goes Blood Knot/Master Harold and the Boys/Athol Fugard is going to be way too hard for high school, but still isn't going to challenge any of the very best teams. Merely asking about the college canon is actually the worst of both worlds: it's boring to the best teams and totally inaccessible to the weaker ones. The ideal way to reconcile both is by asking about relatively underplayed things that you'd still have a good chance of knowing if you took an independent interest in the types of things quizbowl asks about. Generally, this means tossups on easy answers with new and interesting clues, as well as bonus parts on new aspects of things that get asked about a lot. I took this philosophy with the literature for the 2011 NSC. It had varying results, including some questions that in retrospect were too hard, but here's a bonus where I think it worked out pretty well:
18. This character claims that “Jesus shown everything off balance,” and he is accompanied by Hiram and Bobby Lee. For 10 points each:
 Name this character with a “scholarly look” who says another character would have been a “good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
ANSWER: The Misfit
 The Misfit murders Bailey, the grandmother, and their family on their trip to Florida in this Southern Gothic short story.
ANSWER: “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
 “A Good Man is Hard to Find” was written by this woman, who also wrote Wise Blood and “Everything that Rises must Converge.”
ANSWER: Flannery O’Connor
The first part isn't especially hard, in that it's something I could see people answering just because they'd read a famous story. However, I would contend that it does a better job of challenging good teams than an arguably harder bonus part on The Blood Knot. It uses clues that I would expect someone to remember if they had read that story, but not necessarily know just because they've been playing tons of quizbowl. By asking these kinds of questions, we actually challenge top teams better while simultaneously keeping things accessible for newer teams.
The second fallacy is the conventional wisdom that tournaments run on regular sets are "illegitimate." By design, national sets will produce a more precise gradation between the very best teams than a regular set might. Opening up the answer space also provides a greater and more interesting challenge for those teams. Nobody has denied either of those things. However, people seem to be ignoring that the national tournaments have vastly stronger fields than any other high school tournament during the year. At any other tournament, you'll be lucky to have one, maybe two, of the top 10 teams at PACE. In that vast majority of cases, you don't need that hyperfine gradation: a regular high school set will work just fine. Take the tournaments I played my senior year. I played State College and Maggie Walker many, many times on regular high school sets, and they kept winning. Even though all three of us were very good teams, these "illegitimate" questions somehow managed to make a clear distinction. The games weren't as interesting as they might have been at NSC, but both of those teams clearly showed they were a notch above us, even on the easier questions. An accessible set may produce a couple more buzzer races, but it will produce a perfectly legitimate result.