How to Run a Good Tournament

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Ondes Martenot
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How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Ondes Martenot »

So I'm starting this thread after reading about/playing in some very poorly run tournaments. I don't want this to turn into giant bash thread; what happened happened and we can only make sure such errors don't occur in the future. I have staffed some tournaments but have never actually run one before. That being said, some common sense things I can think to improve tournaments would be:

-Running two regular tournaments in a weekend may not be the best idea (two regular tournaments, as opposed to say ACF regionals on Saturday and then some side event at night). If you have enough members that your staff each day is composed of different people then I suppose it can work, however most clubs don't have that luxury. Running/staffing just one tournament in a weekend is tiring enough as it is. Having those same people committed to run another tournament the next day is likely to cause some issues.

-House teams are good because they even out schedules and give team members a chance to play on good questions. But if you are short on staff, they need to be the first ones to be turned into staffers.

I apologize that these points specifically target the Harvard team and TIT yesterday but this is obviously the tournament freshest in my mind. I'm sure other people will have plenty of good things to contribute to this thread.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat »

When running a large tournament with a 6-8 game round robin followed by playoffs, finish prelims before lunch if at all possible. This gives the stats person an hour to figure out who is in what playoff bracket/has made playoffs before without getting bugged by impatient teams.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Papa's in the House »

I'd actually like to add a couple of things that I've noticed in my time:

1 - Don't play all the teams from a school in one bracket (with one exception). If all of the teams from a particular school are on equal grounds, then this can be ignored, but otherwise try to make brackets that mirror one another in terms of difficulty.

2 - If you are the TD and you are having someone else doing stats, tell them what the policies are for the day. Inform them of how protests are being determined, give them all of the packets for the tournament, make sure only the packet emailed out by the statskeeper is used for a round, let them know what to do if missing a moderator (most likely, the statskeeper will need to read), etc.

3 - If your moderators cannot keep stats and read at the same time, find them a scorekeeper. Don't slow down the entire tournament (and mess up individual stats) because a staffer can't do multiple things at one time. And yes, those individual stats matter, especially if it is someone's first tournament.

4 - If you have to play slap bowl (and try to avoid it, but sometimes the shit hits the fan and you can't), but your best moderator in the room that must play slap bowl. Qualities seen in a good moderator are: enunciation, pronunciation, knowledge of subject material, hearing, etc. If someone is good in one of these areas, that does not mean they are your best moderator if they blow in every other area. Find the person that wins the comparative advantage test in most categories. Also, if a buzzer comes late, do NOT stop the game to set up the buzzer. Keep playing slap bowl until lunch and then set up the buzzer.

5 - If you are missing a moderator in a room, inform the TD (or statskeeper if the TD is reading) IMMEDIATELY (this goes for players as well as staffers). You don't want to slow down a tournament too much because someone failed to show up on time.

I also echo that these statements are not intended to bash any team/tournament in particular. These are just some of the problems I've seen.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by cchiego »

A few specific pointers:

Keep track of how long each room is taking, preferably on a chalk/whiteboard so that each moderator knows where they stand. If one room is consistently coming in slow, this gives them the option to speed up and if they don't you can replace them with someone else. You should not worry about bruising egos in the middle of a tournament.

If you do have a house team, don't sacrifice your best readers for it. If you have three freshmen stumbling over the packets while reading and your three-man/woman house team is romping through the field, you probably should replace them. Mid-tournament if you have to.

The TD should never be a reader unless there's no other way for the tournament to run. Cut the number of teams if you have to. Too many things happen during tournaments for the TD to not be always available. You can fill in your downtime by keeping stats as well and save an extra person (stats aren't that hard to input).

Keep a copy of all your files. I once found out at the pre-tournament meeting, to my horror, that I had printed out the wrong schedule. Fortunately, I had a copy of the schedules on a flashdrive and was able to get new schedules ready by the end of the first round.

Having a printer on-site is extremely useful. This is recommended if at all possible to print out extras of anything or in case a laptop breaks down. Also useful for posting stats between rounds.

And a more general but I think most important bit of advice: plan out everything beforehand in case of all contingencies.

For instance:
-If the door to the building is locked, what's the number to call to get it opened?
-Can teams easily find their way from the parking area to the place where the tournament is being held? If not, add signs of your own.
-What happens if X number of teams don't show up (have versions of the schedules for everything from -3 to +1 teams... sometimes teams will randomly show up, esp. at high school tournaments!)?
-Do teams have a way of getting in touch with you if they'll be late? All it takes it sending out a cell phone number beforehand.
-What happens if readers don't show up on time (Do you have contact info for all them and a few people you could grudgingly call in some favors from)?
-Do you have a plan for how to enter/host stats? When will you update them in time for rebracketing? Waiting more than 15 minutes for rebracketing is too long. You should at least have wins/losses readily available. And you need to have a means of delivering the new brackets to the assembled masses... it may help to give each team a blank sheet with the brackets on it and let them fill it in.
-What's the format of the tournament going to look like? What happens if some team leaves? Try to make sure the playoff format is flexible enough to account for teams that leave.
- Etc. Etc.

If your whole day as a TD is spent doing nothing more than sitting in a room and waiting for emergencies that never happen to happen, then that means you ran a successful tournament. A little bit of planning beforehand will make running the actual tournament much, much easier.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by at your pleasure »

One other thing that helps if you're running tournaments on printed copies of the questions is to have some kind of sign-out system for packets. This lets you keep track of where each room is and prevents the dreaded "moderator reads wrong packet" problem.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Matt Weiner »

Doink the Clown wrote:One other thing that helps if you're running tournaments on printed copies of the questions is to have some kind of sign-out system for packets. This lets you keep track of where each room is and prevents the dreaded "moderator reads wrong packet" problem.
If you're using printed copies, you have someone in the stats room whose primary job is to hide all the copies of the wrong round and hand out copies of the correct round. Do this rather than just having everything on a table and your problems will be solved. This also applies to the scoresheets with passwords if you are using that method.

There's lots of good advice in this thread; I will add something that has saved my tournaments on multiple occasions and thwarted tournaments I've been to that didn't do it, which is that you print out the form confirming your room reservations and give copies to multiple people on staff. If there is a dispute about who is supposed to be in the rooms, you wave the form in the other party's face and tell them to scram. People don't argue with paper, but they will argue with you if you forget to bring it.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by DakarKra »

Matt Weiner wrote:There's lots of good advice in this thread; I will add something that has saved my tournaments on multiple occasions and thwarted tournaments I've been to that didn't do it, which is that you print out the form confirming your room reservations and give copies to multiple people on staff. If there is a dispute about who is supposed to be in the rooms, you wave the form in the other party's face and tell them to scram. People don't argue with paper, but they will argue with you if you forget to bring it.
This doesn't necessarily work if the people who assign rooms have double-booked them. Moreover, professors running events often do not care what students running events have in their hands, especially if the double-booking has occurred.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

Assuming double booking isn't the problem, don't you have recourse to campus police to get people to leave rooms you have reserved?
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

We still love printed copies down here at Valencia, and echoing Matt, it's very simple to never have trouble with the wrong round being read by having your stats person be in charge of the packets. We're lucky to have a specifically dedicated SQBS and organization expert who efficiently gets everyone's names before the first round (at registration), guards the packets (and the scoresheets--also a good idea, as some readers weirdly hoard them without using them, and other coaches/players will sniff around and take them if you don't keep them out of sight), makes sure that every reader puts the just-read packet in the right pile, and ensures that only the correct next round is even available for readers to grab.

One FUBAR situation we encountered this weekend at Delta Burke was having a couple teams mis-read the schedule and go to the wrong rooms. We had three brackets of 11 each, and I figured if someone made a mistake, we'd end up with either three teams or one team in a room, which would be a bit of a clue to the reader, but instead the perfect error of two teams making a mistake and basically switching rooms occurred, so we had two out-of-bracket matches. What this has taught me is to make sure that moderators have a schedule in their rooms and check before starting that the right teams are in the room; I know I usually don't do this, assuming that the two teams in front of me must know where they're supposed to be, so I just start reading. But I've learned. I'd even go so far as to suggest that a reader (or scorer) could write the schedule for the day on a whiteboard or something, especially if you're hosting over 30 teams in some complicated fashion.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Matt Weiner wrote:There's lots of good advice in this thread; I will add something that has saved my tournaments on multiple occasions and thwarted tournaments I've been to that didn't do it, which is that you print out the form confirming your room reservations and give copies to multiple people on staff. If there is a dispute about who is supposed to be in the rooms, you wave the form in the other party's face and tell them to scram. People don't argue with paper, but they will argue with you if you forget to bring it.
I generally read straight from the confirmation email from hcdroom just in case people tell me that anyone could have typed up something that looks like a room confirmation email; Harvard's repeated attempts to have multiple events in one set of rooms have been thwarted by me doing this.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Kyle »

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I generally read straight from the confirmation email from hcdroom just in case people tell me that anyone could have typed up something that looks like a room confirmation email; Harvard's repeated attempts to have multiple events in one set of rooms have been thwarted by me doing this.
Sarah didn't inform the security guards of our room reservation for the 2007 SCT, so the doors were not unlocked when we arrived. It took an hour of begging and pleading to get the police to open the door while everyone huddled outside. Having started an hour late, the tournament ran, not surprisingly, an hour late — meaning that, while we were trying to play the final, the nighttime security guard was yelling at us to get out of the room. Try explaining to the nighttime security guard that you're only making her stay late because the morning security guard delayed us! Moral of the story: always, always, always confirm your room reservations with the person whose responsibility it is to have the building unlocked.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by nobthehobbit »

aarcoh wrote:Running two regular tournaments in a weekend may not be the best idea (two regular tournaments, as opposed to say ACF regionals on Saturday and then some side event at night). If you have enough members that your staff each day is composed of different people then I suppose it can work, however most clubs don't have that luxury. Running/staffing just one tournament in a weekend is tiring enough as it is. Having those same people committed to run another tournament the next day is likely to cause some issues.
This is reminiscent of the situation UBC had from Fall 2005 onward--to my knowledge, every tournament at UBC from there on out was staffed by some combination of Mike Whitaker, his uncle, and myself. This included the ACF Fall 2005/TRASH Regionals 2005 experiment (Mike as TD reading in one room, me reading in the other, both days). For SCT 2007 we had exactly two teams, and after Mike only read 19 tossups in the first game while trying to keep score at the same time, I took over keeping score while also playing. For SCT 2008, I could've played, except that Mike's uncle is a bad reader and so instead of having five teams with Mike and his uncle reading, we had four with Mike and I reading, Mike's uncle keeping score for me, and I had to moderate slapbowl on account of SFU forgetting their buzzer system. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the club more-or-less folded after Mike graduated and SCT 2009 was in Boise.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Susan »

-Make up schedules for n teams (where n is the number you're expecting) plus n-2, n-1, n+1, n+2. No need to print out more than just the schedule for n, but if you end up with, say, n-2 teams, you can write the schedule for the first round on the board and print up new schedules while the first round is underway.

-If it's feasible for you to have lunch brought in (and charge teams a few extra dollars for it) this can save you a lot of time waiting for slow people to come back from lunch. (Also, you only really need to give people half an hour or so to eat a catered lunch; there are very few tournament sites where half an hour will permit you to go offsite, get lunch, and come back.)

-Don't consider your tournament fully staffed until you have more people than you could conceivably need to run the tournament. People get sick, people flake--you don't want to collect exactly as many staffers as you need, then have to run the tournament shorthanded because little Timmy was too hung over to come help out (or forgot his parents were visiting, or whatever). If your teammates balk at staffing, you should feel free to refuse to let them enjoy the benefits that running tournaments brings you, like money to cover travel and entry fees.

-This seems to be less of a problem these days, but--just because a team brings a staffer does not mean that you are obligated to have that person moderate if he or she is slow or otherwise problematic; it's perfectly acceptable to have them scorekeep. You are also not obligated to allow people to read their packets on their byes unless they are competent moderators.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Maxwell Sniffingwell »

starwarsguy6 wrote:4 - If you have to play slap bowl (and try to avoid it, but sometimes the shit hits the fan and you can't), but your best moderator in the room that must play slap bowl.
I can't stress this enough - this ruined a tournament for me earlier this year.
starwarsguy6 wrote:Also, if a buzzer comes late, do NOT stop the game to set up the buzzer. Keep playing slap bowl until lunch and then set up the buzzer.
Nah, set it up after the round where it comes in.
Last edited by Maxwell Sniffingwell on Tue Nov 17, 2009 9:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by dtaylor4 »

cornfused wrote:
starwarsguy6 wrote:Also, if a buzzer comes late, do NOT stop the game to set up the buzzer. Keep playing slap bowl until lunch and then set up the buzzer.
Nah, set it up after the rounnd where it comes in.
No. Depending on the reader and the amount of time it takes to set up the system, this could put that room behind a good amount, which throws everything off.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by AKKOLADE »

dtaylor4 wrote:
cornfused wrote:
starwarsguy6 wrote:Also, if a buzzer comes late, do NOT stop the game to set up the buzzer. Keep playing slap bowl until lunch and then set up the buzzer.
Nah, set it up after the rounnd where it comes in.
No. Depending on the reader and the amount of time it takes to set up the system, this could put that room behind a good amount, which throws everything off.
Wouldn't setting up a buzzer system throw off the entire tournament, regardless of when you do it?
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Cheynem »

Not during a lunch break, I suppose?

I guess if it arrives after lunch, though, who knows.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by AKKOLADE »

Cheynem wrote:Not during a lunch break, I suppose?

I guess if it arrives after lunch, though, who knows.
Yeah, lunch is the best answer for no delay, but I can't imagine a buzzer system taking up too much time to set up. What, 10 minutes?
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Cheynem »

With someone helping me, I can generally set up a buzzer system pretty quickly. The exceptions are ones where people have just jammed the components into the case and the cords get all tangled and whatnot.

However, I would generally prefer to take a few minutes to set up the buzzer then continue playing slapbowl.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

Cheynem wrote:However, I would generally prefer to take a few minutes to set up the buzzer then continue playing slapbowl.
Yes, this. Always this. I will help you set up the buzzer if it means I don't have to play slapbowl. I will build you a new buzzer from scratch if it means I don't have to play slapbowl. Delaying one room by ten minutes is worth it 100% of the time.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by cvdwightw »

Setting up a buzzer system is not hard to do and takes minimal time if both teams are in the room helping you. Now, if your staffer breaks a buzzer, that's a different story.

Here are some other tips to consider:

-Know exactly who, of your staffers, is (1) virtually guaranteed to show up and (2) able to read and scorekeep without unnecessarily delaying the tournament. Put these people in their own room, with scorekeepers if you have that luxury. Pair everyone else up if at all possible.

-Take drastic measures if needed, even if you're not the TD. If you're the TD, find a second reasonably competent staffer that can help with "TD" duties in the event that you get overwhelmed with ridiculous problems. There was one Irvine tournament where I was done with the last round before lunch before another room had even started. I pretty much insisted to Ray that I take over for the slowest moderator that round. When I'm TD, I rely heavily on Ray to help with stuff.

-Make sure every team knows exactly what's going on. This is a heck of a lot more important in high school tournaments. There is nothing that will delay a tournament more than a team that gets lost on the way from Room A to Room B or doesn't know what round it is or who they're playing.

-Make sure a contact on every team (usually the coach for HS tournaments) has the TD's cell phone number in case (1) they get lost, (2) they get stuck in traffic or miss the bus or otherwise have transportation issues, or (3) there are circumstances causing one or more of their teams to not show up. At least one Irvine tournament was unnecessarily delayed when a high school coach waited for two teams of players to show up, only for all of them to somehow be under the impression that the tournament was some other date. Had we given out the TD's cell phone number, that coach could have called with "It's 9:00 and none of my players have shown up at the pickup spot yet;" instead, the tournament was delayed while we waited for a team that never showed.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Mike Bentley »

In situations where there is no other option but to have a slow reader read a packet, have your fastest moderator go in and finish up reading for the slow reader as soon as he or she finishes reading his or her normal round.

Also, make teams keep score in slow rooms if you don't have a spare scorekeeper.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Papa's in the House »

Ukonvasara wrote:
Cheynem wrote:However, I would generally prefer to take a few minutes to set up the buzzer then continue playing slapbowl.
Yes, this. Always this. I will help you set up the buzzer if it means I don't have to play slapbowl. I will build you a new buzzer from scratch if it means I don't have to play slapbowl. Delaying one room by ten minutes is worth it 100% of the time.
Except in the case where one room is already delayed, thus delaying another room delays the entire bracket which leads to delaying the entire tournament. Granted, this room was the slowest room of the tournament, but setting up a buzzer did not help.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Cheynem »

I would argue that the benefits of playing with buzzers outweights delays, provided the delays are not extreme (as in, the buzzer is in another state). Sure, setting up a buzzer might not improve speed, but it will improve game quality immeasurably.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Wall of Ham »

Our tournaments sells food/snacks at lunch, partially because there are no good fast food places within walking distance. It's a good fundraiser, and basically covers the free lunch we give to our moderators, though it takes extra organization. Make sure to get soda/bottled water/candy/whatever the week before, and place an large order of pizza the night before. Don't forget napkins and plates.

It's a small thing, but having free bottled water for your readers is a good idea when they have to read many rounds in a row.
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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by Captain Sinico »

Yeah, except, Charles, that not having a buzzer system delays a room, so... maybe we should leave the "how to run a good tournament" advice giving to people who have run tournaments. Actually, the generalization of that would be good medicine for just about the whole forums.
As for the whole "when to set up a system" thing, I'd say probably set it up between rounds, unless it's going to take longer than most systems take.

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Re: How to Run a Good Tournament

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

If you have both teams in the room help you, setting up a new buzzer system takes like 2 minutes. You should do it immediately.
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