Indulge me a moment...

A place to discuss topics affecting quizbowlers as a community rather than quizbowl as a game.
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Indulge me a moment...

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:10 am

Please indulge my terrible poetic instincts for a moment as well as the mildly melancholic post to follow:


To a QBer Growing Old

The time you won the round at PACE
You beat them on a buzzer race
Coach and teammate sat cheering by
At your Physics buzz on Debye

Today, the match all players come
To a worn-out buzzer thumb
And set your Judge paddle down
To a place of less renown

Smart kid, to stop negging betimes away
From qb fields with high BPA
And early though the power goes
You still run the risk of getting hosed

Packets you don’t write for things like MUT
cannot see your tossups cut
And 0-0 looks no worse than a field you’ve cleared
After you’re done with all the mirrors.

Now you should not swell the crowd
Of old posters who complain too loud
On threads that tax the attention span
And result in Charlie Dees’s tempban

So recount to the friends you’ve made
The memories of the games you played
And remember on your bedside “to-read” stack
The few times you won a paperback

And that buzz-retired head
May cease to worry about tossups dead
And may it the find peace of mind
In a life that with quiz bowl’s been entwined



For the past number of months I’ve been composing this post in my head (not the Houseman part, though that did take a little bit of time). In short, I’ve been nagging myself in my head by trying to figure out my long-term relationship to this game. I started playing quiz bowl in late 1998/early 1999 in 6th grade, so at this point, I’ve been involved in this longer than much of the current crop of players has been alive.

Quiz bowl has been one of the true great joys of my life. I’ve benefited immensely from my time in the game. I played for Chicago from 05-09 and intermittently since. Most of the people I consider to be “lifelong friends” are former qb teammates. I’ve found the social acceptance in quiz bowl that’s been incredibly hard for me establish in other areas of my life. A clutch buzz on Ford Madox Ford at BARGE based on a book my wife gave me made it into my wedding vows.

So, here I am, 31 years old and living in an area with very little quiz bowl activity. All my instincts tell me that I want to stay involved with this for as long as I can; I can’t see a future in which I either say “I’m done” and ride off quietly into the sunset or go out with a Palmerian forums manifesto. Most of the people I played with are gone; I increasingly feel like I don’t know anyone anymore.

So I’m asking the community: What am I to do? What is my role in this community going forward? Is there even a place here for people like me?

I’m sure that the initial response of some of you is to say, “Sure there’s a place for you. There’s question writing, staffing, coaching, and playing opens.” Let me clarify a bit: I’m totally average as a question writer, and staffer, and player. I can write questions reasonably well, but producing consistently high-quality questions is something that I just can’t do. I’m happy to read the occasional tournament, but there’s not a ton around here in Upstate/Central New York and traveling stresses me out. Coaching nearby would require an amount of outreach I don’t have enough energy to do myself.

As for playing, there’s really nothing out there for people like me. Aside from the exceedingly rare non-crazily-difficult open tournament, there aren’t any open events that I think are geared toward 20-45 ppg on regular difficulty people like myself. As for online Discord/Skype tournaments, I already spend most of my time at my computer; I’m not looking to spend 6+ hours more on it. I’m certain I can’t be the only one who has had these feelings. The difference is that most people have realized that their time in the game has passed and sort of move on to other things.

In most other competitive activities, there comes a time when one’s ability to perform the activity atrophies and they are forced to step aside. This doesn’t apply in quiz bowl. I feel like I’m as good as ever, maybe even better than I was in college. I read packets regularly and once in a while my wife is kind enough to read me questions and score them (for those of you who are really old, she’s the same SOMEONE from 2010). There’s certainly some similar outlets; I write bar trivia for two different grad student bars, but it’s really not the same.

Of course, the age gap between me and active players is getting larger and larger, and aside from my general worry about seeming like an old hanger-on, the cultural gap is widening as well. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that I’m not “with it” and what’s “it” seems weird and scary to me (that reference will be 23 years old come May). Despite my desire to stay active playing, I totally get why 18-22 year olds wouldn’t be itching to play with a guy who’s almost 32 of little renown. At some point, it does become a young person’s game. So what happens to us old folks who didn’t get qb famous and want to stick around?
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Cheynem » Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:43 am

There have been occasional attempts over the years to produce open tournaments that aren't on very hard questions. Some of these have been good, while some haven't. I'm certain that if done well, such a product would generate a lot of interest, especially in the summer. I also wonder if something like a quasi-guerrilla tournament might be a painless way of doing this--if you can really persuade people to not to turn in unbuzzable super difficult crap, this might be a fun way for folks just looking to play quizbowl and not necessarily play ACF Nats-level questions to get together and play some packets (if you could get hosts who wouldn't have to spend a lot of money doing so).

I do think, even if it is difficult, that if you want to play these in-person tournaments and you don't live in major quizbowl hubs like Chicago or Minneapolis, you're probably going to have to travel. I get that's a pain in the ass--it's a drain on money, family, and work, and it's why I increasingly find it hard to travel outside of the summer. But if you don't like online tournaments, I suppose the solutions are to simply try and cultivate a circle of friends who might like quizbowl in your area or do some traveling. This is not to be flippant at all, I'm in the same spot in western Michigan.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:28 pm

Let me clarify a few points that I've seen in response to this post in the Discord. First of all, I didn't intend to give off any perception that I'm "not willing" to do things like staffing, outreach, question writing, etc:

1. Staffing: Before moving to Syracuse, I was quasi-regular staffer at Yale events and even a UConn event or two. Since moving, I've gone to staff at Ithaca, which is an hour drive away. There's not a lot to staff around here; the two high school events I'm aware of this school year presented some pretty big conflicts that prevented me from staffing. Anything beyond say a two hour drive is simply not going to be worth it to me to staff from a logistics/time perspective.

2. Traveling: On that note, it's not like I'm some sort of shut in. I'd be happy to travel to Toronto, Kingston, Cornell, or maybe as far as New Haven if I could plan ahead. I've played stuff in Ann Arbor during the summer (those are always a blast) if I'm in Michigan. The issue is that there are very, very events that I'm eligible for. I would've loved to drive a paltry 2 hours to Kingston for Penn Bowl, but the field wasn't opened until four days before the tournament, by which time I couldn't make plans to go. Just to be extremely clear: Queen's did absolutely nothing wrong and it's entirely the prerogative of the team writing the tournament to set their eligibility requirements, so it's not like I'm incensed about not playing that event, though it would have been fun. I really truly enjoyed the summer open tournament from a few years back that had a variety of question difficulties per packet. This was a great idea and I would totally love to play more like that.

3. Question Writing: I don't have anything against writing questions. I'd be more than happy to contribute some here and there. If any writers want anything, hmu. I just can't do them at the volume necessary to produce or edit a tournament. We can't all be great question writers in terms of quality and quantity.

4. Outreach: I never said I wasn't willing to do outreach. I'd be happy to. I just don't want to be the only person doing it in this area, which is what I would be doing. I don't think it's crazy or selfish to not want to take on the large task of introducing quiz bowl in a place where it's mostly non existent alone. Furthermore, it's not like I haven't been doing anything; I haven't told anyone in the community about this, but over the next month or so, I'm going to doing a GIS project using NAQT's data (with their blessing, of course) to examine areas that have thriving circuits and those that don't in an attempt to find similar areas that could sustain a circuit. I don't know if anything substantial will be found, but it's something.


I do understand some of less charitable reactions to the original post. I get that "my time" has passed and that, like I said, it's a young person's game. It's not like I want to play ACF competitively for the rest of my days. At some point I have to step away. Again, as I said, most of my peers have. For better or worse, I haven't found a great replacement hobby for quiz bowl. Some of this general malaise is because my career hasn't exactly taken off enabling me to focus my energies on work. To some degree, I'm a casualty of the two-body problem. It's worked out that the last 7 or so years have involved me following my wife's lead and putting my own, less potentially rewarding prospects on hold as we move around for her education and career. I'm not looking for sympathy or therapy or anything, I get enough of the second already. I just want to point out that had things taken a different trajectory, I might very well have stepped away a long time ago. As it is now, the quiz bowl community fulfills a niche in my life that I don't have a replacement for and it's increasingly looking like I'm going have to find that replacement somewhere else. Finally, I want to say that I can't be the only person who feels this way; there's no way I'm the only person this has happened/is happening to. Some of you will be in a similar position in a few years; I hope it's better for you than it is for me.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Cheynem » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:40 pm

That GIS project sounds terrific and super interesting. That's certainly outreach and could be very valuable outreach at that.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by theMoMA » Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:02 pm

I have a hard time understanding how someone could read Nolan's original post and think that he was somehow being selfish or obstinate about his participation in quizbowl. It's to anyone's credit that they would want to continue participating and giving back after their time in school ends, and it's unfortunate that we don't, for a variety of reasons, provide a ton of great opportunities for doing so.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by RexSueciae » Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:11 pm

Cheynem wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:43 am
There have been occasional attempts over the years to produce open tournaments that aren't on very hard questions. Some of these have been good, while some haven't. I'm certain that if done well, such a product would generate a lot of interest, especially in the summer.
If someone wants to do a difficulty-controlled open event, I would be more than willing to help write or edit said event. Assuming it doesn't conflict with time commitments that I have, which are starting to ramp up a little bit.

Back on track, though, I'm not sure how to address a shortage of people to produce a genuinely not hard open event. Is the limiting factor the number of available writers, or do people just consistently underestimate their lead-ins and answerlines? And I'm glad that the concept of a side event weekend has become more or less a thing recently, since the customizability allows each region to choose subjects that their players find fun, which maybe increases its reach beyond the usual quizbowl mega-hotspots. The problem is that year to year, there's uncertainty over which events are going to actually run and even whether there will be enough packets to make it happen. Although I suppose that with a more decentralized method of production, the failures of a single writer or team of writers has a lesser effect.

I don't have many big-picture ideas about the community, or really many coherent thoughts, but that's the first thing that came to mind.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:49 pm

Shill time: NASAT is notably available for mirroring as a summer open and is not terribly difficult!
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Sat Mar 16, 2019 12:16 am

An Economic Ignoramus wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:49 pm
Shill time: NASAT is notably available for mirroring as a summer open and is not terribly difficult!

I honestly didn't know that. Where 'bouts?
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Sat Mar 16, 2019 3:14 am

I'm certainly one of the older folks in the community. Heck I remember people complaining about me playing when I was a 24 year old law student, so I've been feeling old in quizbowl for a while. It's about the only community I know of in which being over 22 or so is considered "old" and being in your 30s is basically being considered being a senior citizen. I mean, even if you play basketball, yeah you're past your prime at a certain point but you can always find dudes in their 50s and 60s playing pick up at the Y or something like that.

Anyway, quizbowl is definitely my favorite recreational activity. It's a hard thing to have as a recreational activity in many ways because it's not easy to engage in it all of the time. If I had picked up golf or fishing or basketball as my favorite pastime, I could pretty much find an outlet for engaging in those activities on a daily basis indefinitely. So yeah, as us olds know, once you're out of school, you're basically looking at 3-4 events a year you can actually play in. It doesn't bother me much (and I don't read Nolan's posts as being bothered by that either, per se). It is a game for school kids and college/grad students. That's where the vast majority of the market for tournaments is. For the good of the game, the vast majority of the focus on question writing should be for high schoolers and college students. But yeah, I still get the feeling of, "Man, I wish I could play quizbowl." That said, a little more effort to keep alums engaged might help the circuit a lot. This is something I felt even when I was in college. I'm sure lots of olds like me feel that quizbowl is something to give up as soon as you get a diploma, and others might see olds staying involved as being awkward. But to heck with that.

I'm glad that I have stuck around the game and am glad I have and I don't plan to quit my involvement completely any time soon. Of course, my case is atypical in that my wife also loves quizbowl and we have a schedule that allows us to accommodate quizbowl. We don't live in Chicago (the closest place I can think of to a QB utopia), but between (volunteer) coaching the academic team at South Carolina, directing tournaments, traveling 3-4 hours to Georgia Tech and UGA regularly, staffing summer tournaments, and playing in opens, we find plenty to do. But yeah, our situation is atypical. If you don't directly work for NAQT or coach a high school quizbowl team, it's hard to find a place in quizbowl after graduation. And even with my involvement, I often get a weird feeling that I don't belong or am not wanted. Not sure why. Might just be an old person thing, haha.

Regarding question writing, I too don't really have the time or energy to focus much time on writing questions of the quality that modern quizbowl requires. But I don't see the harm in people just writing questions that aren't meticulously edited and reading them in Discord or a side event or something. Like, I sometimes just write off the wall questions that I wouldn't use in a "real" tournament and will probably just incorporate them into a vanity tournament sometime that I'll let people play in for free. Mike Cheyne (who is probably my favorite all-time question writer because Chomping Down at Shoney's is the best tournament ever written) used to write a lot of interesting packets that he would read in the chatroom. I'm not as prolific or good as Mike, but his question writing kind of inspires my writing as an old.

Anyway, it would be great if everyone could find a welcoming place in quizbowl who wants to be a part of it. I'm lucky in that I have gotten a lot more out of quizbowl since graduating college/law school than I did when I actually played it. Hope all y'all do too!
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:31 pm

Honestly, the most rewarding thing I've done with quizbowl the last ~5 or so years is hanging out on the "Theory" section of this very forum and giving the kids advice on things like what books to read or how to learn myth. Hopefully, the advice is not horrifically off-base, though I can imagine a future where quizbowl is so different that I can no longer provide useful advice.

I do some moderating for NHBB. They fly me to Atlanta and Chicago to read questions. I stopped reading NAQT nationals because neither myself nor the kids I was reading to considered my reading to be up to standards, especially with regards to speed. The player reviews of my moderation at the last HSNCT I read for were dreadful and depressing. The NHBB kids aren't as mean. Sometimes I see other old-timers also moderating at tournaments and we hang out and act like old friends, even if we weren't all that close back where we were playing. As time passes you remember the good things about people and forget everything else.

I've found that the idea of playing quizbowl again is often much better than the reality. On the rare occasions when I pick up a buzzer again, I am aghast at how slow my buzzing is and how many clues I have forgotten. Remembering this helps fight the temptation to go to a tournament at Maryland with a fake mustache claiming to be Arthur de Broys, Belgian exchange student at Marymount University.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by cchiego » Sat Mar 16, 2019 5:17 pm

"Doing outreach" doesn't have to be that difficult/time consuming. In Nolan's case, I'd recommend simply asking the coaches of the local Masterminds schools (there appear to be at least 16 or so in the direct Syracuse area based on the NAQT website) if they'd be interested in having an experienced quizbowl player stop by to help run a practice. It might take an hour or so to gather the emails and send them. You can then visit the schools that respond (and follow-up if you need to) and see if you can just stop by briefly to go through packets with them once or twice a month or so. Maybe you can then gently encourage them to play more events and eventually host an event. That's all anyone really needs to do! And if there's a nearby school without a team, you can simply reach out as a member of the (local) community.

Eric D. and Bryn's work with the South Carolina team is also a great example of what long-term involvement with a team can do. I really wish more former (and current!) players would think about this kind of deep involvement with a local team. Working with a group of students at one school for several years can be really rewarding and you can learn a lot about the local community. At the high school level, you can help ease the burden on a teacher and perhaps inspire both the teachers and students to achieve more than they may have thought possible. And at the college level you can help keep a team alive (just keep in mind that you're not running the team yourself).
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by jonah » Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:25 pm

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:
Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:31 pm
I stopped reading NAQT nationals because neither myself nor the kids I was reading to considered my reading to be up to standards, especially with regards to speed. The player reviews of my moderation at the last HSNCT I read for were dreadful and depressing.
For what it's worth, NAQT would be glad to have you at our national championships, and if you don't feel that moderating is the best plan, we can find other useful things for you to do.

(This isn't just for Bruce, but a general comment: There are lots of roles at NAQT national championships besides moderating; if you're interested, please let us know at volunteer@naqt.com.)
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:32 pm

Habitat_Against_Humanity wrote:
Sat Mar 16, 2019 12:16 am
An Economic Ignoramus wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:49 pm
Shill time: NASAT is notably available for mirroring as a summer open and is not terribly difficult!

I honestly didn't know that. Where 'bouts?
Keep your eyes peeled in the coming months for a mirror site near you!
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Scipio » Mon Mar 18, 2019 1:52 pm

Since I have class in about twenty minutes, this post will not be long or particularly well-organized or written (as opposed to my usual flawless prose, ha-ha), but maybe if it reignites conversation, I can add more later.

I was talking to Borglum about much the same thing as Nolan last summer. I mean, I could obviously be much more involved with local teams than I am, and I will take steps towards that goal later. I also briefly had my own team here, and look to revive it in the future. I could probably also write more; I edited two tournaments for UTC in 2009 and 2011, but then other stuff curtailed that activity

That said: what resonated most with me was Nolan's observation that Open tournaments are few, often in the summer only, and either use easy questions or insanely hard ones. I wonder if there is room for something different and more?

In 2002 or so, I was talking to Kelly about our eventual retirement, and at that time we were both reasonably sure we'd still want to play after we collected our degrees and were no longer eligible. Kelly brought up the possible construction of a "master's league" with set teams (you can play with whomever year to year, but you play with them the year round) and set tournaments. The logistics of this are too frightening even to contemplate, but I wonder if there would be some way where a series of tournaments could be developed (in both Fall and Spring as well as summer, but obviously not at times competing with collegiate events) with modern-Regionals level of difficulty? I can also see how the collegiate circuit and the open circuit could cross-pollinate; an open event could lend its questions and perhaps its readers to the college circuit, or ACF could make some extra money holding an additional tournament after/before regionals and nationals (obviously, if you played/wrote for/read it for one, you couldn't play on it).

I'm sure there are many difficulties in this that I haven't considered, and I'd not be offended if people were to point out why this is a bad idea. Either way, what do you all think?
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Cheynem » Mon Mar 18, 2019 1:58 pm

I think the idea is interesting; from my perspective, the only dilemma is logistics and time. We've seen in "regular" quizbowl this year the challenges in getting schools to host (or I should say, the schools battling their administrations and fee guidelines to host). An open tournament, even when held on the same weekend, tacks on another round of costs and takes up another day. I think trying to make this a regular thing would be hard.

However, I also don't see any harm in (especially) a summer thing but also certainly perhaps one or two attempts to make this a thing during the regular season. I do agree that providing a way for people to play quizbowl that isn't super easy or super hard would be cool, and if you can somehow make that good for everyone, that would be appreciated.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Mar 18, 2019 4:06 pm

I guess I'll say for those who want to play more regular difficulty tournaments as an open player and haven't given a Discord playtest tournament a shot before, you should really try it. This is a great trend that I hope continues.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Dominator » Mon Mar 18, 2019 10:14 pm

I'm in this thread for two reasons.

The first is that I feel what you're saying. I never competed in collegiate quizbowl, but I did pour a lot of myself into quizbowl in high school and then as a coach. When those phases ended, I wasn't ready for quizbowl to not be a part of my life anymore. I've found ways to stay involved with the community, but I'd rather there were other ways, preferably ones in which I could play more events.

The second is that I feel that my Qblitz platform could be part of a solution. On the surface, Qblitz is a platform for online quizbowl, but I think it offers a unique way to keep the community connected through competition. It can be played from anywhere and asynchronously, so it tears down the normal constraints of place and time. Events can be run over an extended period of time with only a small time commitment each session. (I have played Skype/Discord mirrors, and I stopped because they just took too long. The rounds run slower than live quizbowl, which already takes a full day for a tournament. I just can't justify that use of family time. But they're worth a shot for those with fewer constraints.)

Consider the Masters League example. Qblitz could host a fall and spring league, and then maybe the veterans who have been playing against each other all year could come together for a big live summer event. Players would still get year-round competition, but would only have one big annual trip to make (or not). If there were enough interest, I'm sure Qblitz could figure out a way to get the questions.

If people think this may be a viable option, the first step would probably be to go to Qblitz and sign up for the free, open, not-too-difficult QANTA League 1 event being held next month. That would give a good sense of what the format could look like, in addition to just being one of those rare accessible opens people want more of.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:42 am

It doesn’t fully answer your question because these tournaments are not held during the regular season, but the Canadian HSNCT mirror has been quite successful over the last several years as an easier option for alumni. In the past, we’ve also used Delta Burke as a tournament geared for open teams (simply because there isn’t time in the schedule).

If you’re still in upstate New York this summer, keep your eyes peeled as there’s probably gonna be 3-4 tournament weekends in Ontario (Toronto or Ottawa), including the two-day HSNCT mirror that is usually in early July.
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Re: Indulge me a moment...

Post by ErikC » Tue Mar 19, 2019 2:22 pm

This has been the first year out of school after five years of playing collegiate QB, and I was feeling pretty down about missing out on all the tournaments. But semi-open tournaments have been plentiful here to boost the field - it's not ideal, but I've had the opportunity to play 3 tournaments of the difficulty I like that I never was planning on (to be blunt, I'm also not good enough to ruin the balance of the field). Tournament directors in smaller circuits should consider making more tournaments semi-open ahead of time.
Benin Rebirth Party wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:42 am
It doesn’t fully answer your question because these tournaments are not held during the regular season, but the Canadian HSNCT mirror has been quite successful over the last several years as an easier option for alumni. In the past, we’ve also used Delta Burke as a tournament geared for open teams (simply because there isn’t time in the schedule).

If you’re still in upstate New York this summer, keep your eyes peeled as there’s probably gonna be 3-4 tournament weekends in Ontario (Toronto or Ottawa), including the two-day HSNCT mirror that is usually in early July.
To add to Joe's post, these weekends are all open and usually packed with side events. We're likely to play NASAT and the British Opens on top of HSCNT. We also have started a tradition of holding drafts for one of these tournaments, which pairs people who might not have played together before, improves the competition, and was well followed on the Friday night before the tournament last year.

Open tournaments at Toronto have the added benefit of being right downtown (no food problems here) during our really nice summers. Anyone interested in playing some opens: consider making the trip!
Erik Christensen
University of Waterloo - School of Planning Class of '18
I write trash
Defending VETO top scorer

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