Michigan MLK discussion / difficulty of playoff packets

Old college threads.
Posts: 142
Joined: Sun Nov 23, 2003 2:17 am
Location: Chicago

Michigan MLK discussion / difficulty of playoff packets

Post by suds1000 »

Great job to those who staffed and edited this year's MLK tournament...I had a great time. The questions were all well-written and I really enjoyed not playing on the clock, although I am somewhat partisan in this matter.

I think there's some kind of mirror going on at some point in the future, so I won't discuss any of the questions specifically yet...however, there is one thing I would like to discuss and/or ask about to anyone who might have an opinion.

The majority of the questions in the initial round-robin at MLK were very pyramidal yet accessible...the good teams buzzed on the early clues but the newer teams were still able to get questions by the end, for the most part. However, when going to the playoffs, I noticed an exponential rise in difficulty (largely in terms of answer space), as our points per game average dropped from around 360 in the RR to about 150 or so in the playoffs...the questions were that much harder. Now, of course, my team's decreased PPG average was due in part to the fact that we played significantly better teams in the playoffs, but I was still very surprised to see how much a difference there was in the numbers when I looked at them.

I have always thought that bonus conversion is a great way to separate out the best teams from the merely good ones. But what happened at MLK was that the bonuses in the playoffs were too difficult even for many of the top teams to average more than 12-14 PPB on, and so all of the tossup points were more significant than usual...I don't doubt for a minute that this led to games that were far closer than they should have been.

So, I guess what I'm asking is this: when you write playoff packets for a tournament, is your goal to force teams to succeed on harder questions in order to win, or to have them play on the same difficulty level as before to do so?

The reason I ask this is that there appears to be a major difference between most packet-sub tournaments and NAQT in this regard: ACF and mACF tournaments almost universally have tangibly higher difficulty in playoff/later packets, while NAQT tournaments do not. I'm wondering if this is simply a matter of preference or if people have more specific reasons for doing one as opposed to the other.

Thanks in advance for any response,


P.S. This post is in no way an attempt to take a shot at any of the people who edited MLK: to reiterate, I really enjoyed the tournament in its entirety...the competition was fierce and the questions were virtually all top-notch.
Posts: 816
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 8:41 pm

Post by Rothlover »

The mirror is to be at BU next Sunday I believe. Would you happen to have brief results offhand?
Dan Passner Brandeis '06 JTS/Columbia '11-'12 Ben Gurion University of the Negev/Columbia '12?
User avatar
Posts: 523
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2003 7:00 pm

Post by MLafer »

Top bracket:

1. Andrew's team
2. Chicago (Seth, Selene, Susan)
?. UIUC (Sudheer, Andrew Ullsperger, Scott Francis)
?. Jerry (Jerry)

2nd bracket:
5. Lafer/Wolpert
?. Chicago B (Ray, Laura, Seth S., Kannan)
?. Rochester A
?. House team (Adam Kemezis & Yevgeny Shrago)
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Posts: 8425
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

I support constant difficulty across the tournament. It makes the connection between the prelims and playoffs more logical and makes it easier to use the playoff packets in the non-championship-contending brackets without having 60-50 scores.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org
User avatar
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 3086
Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2004 6:21 pm
Location: Columbus, OH

Post by DumbJaques »

This issue recently came up (as it did last year, though to a much more severe degree) at the Thomas Jefferson house-written HS tournament. Essentially, the best teams were scoring anywhere from 300 to 500 points in the prelims. In the finals, nobody reached 200. Last year in the finals, the winning team had 105.

I agree with Matt, but for a few other reasons as well. It seems to me that if you write say five prelims that you deem good packets (assuming it's a well-written tournament, etc.), what's wrong with using that level to distinguish the good teams? Granted, if scores are constantly 310-305, that's a questions issue. But if the questions are sufficiently difficult to make for good games between good teams, why should the game change?

I do think playoffs should be a little harder, merely because you don't have to worry that "only 4 teams will get this" because that's now a significant portion of the remaining field. That doesn't mean that you should exponentially increase the difficulty to a point where random trivial knowledge of esoteric subjects replaces the far superior random trivial knowledge of better-known subjects. But seriously, if a tournament's prelims are sufficient for seperating the good teams, I don't see a need or reason to drastically increase the difficulty in the playoffs or finals.
Chris Ray
University of Chicago, 2016
University of Maryland, 2014
your mom
Posts: 43
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2003 9:06 pm

Post by your mom »

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the teams that attended MLK this year. We are very happy to be able to run such a successful tournament year after year. So a sincere thanks goes out to everyone who played this year and everybody else who staffed and made the whole thing possible, especially Ryan Westbrook for editing the set. For the record, the results (though previously announced by Lafer):

1) Chicago E (Yaphe, Abbassi, Arthur, Newtson)
2) Chicago A (Koo, Teitler, Ferrari)
3) Jerry Vinokurov aka Jew w/o Money
4) Illinois (by the end of the day I think it was just Sudheer and Andrew)

Congrats to all the above teams and everyone else who participated.

Feel free to keep posting any general discussion/commentary/criticism on the tournament, but obviously avoid discussion of specific questions.

Once again, thanks for playing and we will see you next year!

User avatar
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC

Post by grapesmoker »

Will complete stats be posted sometime soon?
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
User avatar
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2003 1:17 pm
Location: Milan, MI

Post by cdbarker »

grapesmoker wrote:Will complete stats be posted sometime soon?
"Awesome the Grouch",

2006 Michigan MLK Full Stats may be found here

Last edited by cdbarker on Tue Jan 17, 2006 12:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Posts: 375
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:30 pm
Location: Parts Unknown

Post by NotBhan »

This may have been mentioned previously, but when (and if) the tournament set is available for purchase, what will be the price?
"Keep it civil, please." -- Matt Weiner, 6/7/05
User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Posts: 3209
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

If some of you were wondering why that one guy on Andrew's team was walking around indoors in a winter jacket and groaning throughout matches, well, that was me, and I was very sick on Saturday. I saw the doctor today and I'm going to be fine by the end of the week, but I'd just like to call out (in a good way) all the people at the tournament that were kind to me when I was in my worst condition, including David Rappaport, Adam Kemezis (who actually let me into the Classics graduate student lounge, where I got a much-needed nap), and Selene Koo (who let me have some of her Advil).

You all could have easily told me to go away, shut up, die, or somesuch, but instead you helped me out and for that I'm grateful. A class act all of you.
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
ACF Member emeritus
My guide to using Wikipedia as a question source
Posts: 68
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2004 10:29 pm
Location: Chicago, IL

Post by Ray »

I'd like to publicly congratulate Dave for one of the smoothest-run tournaments I've ever attended and especially Ryan for what was without question the best set of packets I've ever played.

MLK 2006 was a paragon of tournament excellence toward which all quiz bowl events should aspire.
User avatar
No Rules Westbrook
Posts: 1232
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:04 pm

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Eh, I've been sort of removed for the past week. I hope the mirror is going well as I speak. I will get the packet sets from MLK out to all of the email addresses I have associated with the tournament soon. If you don't get a set within the next few days and you attended the tournament, drop me a line at [email protected] and I'll get it to you. If you didn't attend either tournament and you're interested in buying the set for 20 bucks, email me.

A brief comment on the playoffs while I'm posting. I don't really think they approached nats or manu, but in retrospect, I would make them easier. I worry not so much about how difficult the tossups may have been, but whether some lopsided bonuses and speed checks on the last sentences led to games that didn't do a great job of reflecting the skill of the teams playing. This is particularly true given the field at the tournament...nearly all of the top teams were playing short-handed or at less than optimal strength (jerry alone, illinois without sorice, etc). Which, of course, is not to suggest that many who were playing were not very good and accomplished players...just that it's difficult to play such packets without a complete team. In response to Weiner's policy, I don't think there's anything wrong with keeping constant difficulty or upping the difficulty for playoffs, it's just a judgment call and a matter of style...really a question of what kind of team you'd like to win. But, undoubtedly, there are bounds beyond which the questions do a less than adequate job of choosing winners and losers.