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A Century of Teammates

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 1:18 am
by ThisIsMyUsername
Today, I hit a personal milestone that I am currently celebrating: I have now played tournaments (counting only those for which official stats were kept) with 100 different teammates over the course of my career. Their names are listed at the end of this post. This was not a number I've held in mind as a career goal. It was only very recently that someone asked me how many teammates I'd had over the years, leading me to compile a list and discover that I would meet this benchmark this summer.

I'd like to mention a few joys of playing with many different teammates. These joys are presented in the form of advice:

Don't Be Scared to Ask: There are many top players who will say no if you ask to join their Chicago Open team, because they are intent upon building a superteam to win the tournament. But while I cannot speak for everyone, I know for a fact that many older and/or stronger players do not extend this policy to other open tournaments. Put simply, many of us are quite game to play with new people, and the worst that can happen is that we say that we already have a team. I've never met anyone who has said "I'm way too good to play with this rando." You may never have an opportunity to diversify your teammate pool unless you're willing to put yourself out there.

Meet the Next Generation: The reverse applies here too. Although it may not seem so (because of the perceived power dynamic), it is, in many ways, more awkward for an older player to ask a younger player to be their teammate--in part because younger players are generally more aware of who older players are, and in part because a lot of older players are more conscious of age differences. But if you're an older player that's comfortable with playing with younger players, you can really make those players feel welcomed into the community by asking them to join your team.

The first summer open I played was VCU Open 2009. Through various shenanigans, Rich Mason and I had ended up without other teammates. We posted soliciting some, and who should ask us but Jonathan Magin. The beginning of Rich's e-mail to me when I told him the news sums up both of our feelings quite well:
YES!!!!! Man I can't believe he wants to play with us. HOly shit he's like one of the top 5 best players in quizbowl!!
Integrating into the Community: If you, like me, always had some anxieties about the idea of becoming part of the "quizbowl community" (whatever that actually is), you may be laboring under the misconception that you need to be part of the community before you play with well-known players. Actually, the opposite is frequently true: people learn who you are by playing with you.

Mixing Things Up: One element of the Yale team that I missed at Chicago was how many different team combinations we tried out. There were many reasons why we did this at Yale: One was that the Yale team was quite small; sometimes we could send only four people to a tournament, and those four would be a fairly random assortment. Another was that we had a system for a while whereby you could play on a house team only if you staffed one of the other tournaments. Yet another was that we thought it was unseemly for the members of the A team to play together at an easier tournament.

I know that some people on the Yale team loved when we did this and some hated it. In particular, there is a certain type of player who could either be (e.g.) a solid second scorer on a B or C team (consistently getting buzzes) or a much less active fourth scorer on an A team (not necessarily buzzing even once per match). Different players will prefer different roles. I've known some who value being active and getting a lot of questions, and I've known others who particularly treasure that one game-winning buzz in the playoffs that hands defeat to a top team.

One of the things I didn't do a good enough job of when captaining the Yale team was really learning what each player's favorite role was. There is no way I could have balanced all of those competing interests given the circumstances, but I'm sure I could have done at least a slightly better job if I had asked more. If you're president of a club, don't make the same mistake I did; be more upfront about asking your members about what they like.

Switching Roles: The above applies to captain/presidents too! Odds are that many of you are equally capable of leading a weaker team or being a supporting player on a stronger team. I think it's healthy (and potentially exciting) to experience both roles, to learn how those two roles feel and how you should think while filling them. They can each make you better at the other.

As my post in the neg thread might indicate, I try to buzz strategically, based on the strengths of my teammates and opponents alike. (I do not always succeed at this, of course...) One of the great challenges and joys of playing with entirely new teammates is learning on the fly how to modulate my usual buzzing strategies to suit them. I encourage you to try it.

An Excuse to Improve: Following up on the previous point, one of my goals when playing an open is to be the most useful teammate possible, which means targeting what I perceive to be the gaps in my teammates' knowledge, and prepping those areas a little bit. This sometimes means revisiting material that I haven't looked at in years, which is like re-encountering someone you haven't spoken to in ages.

But this can be even more effective if you're an improving player. Sometimes, you end up on an open team where you have a category overlap that doesn't exist on your regular-season team. Say for example that you're your regular-season team's sole science player, but you're now playing an open with a bio-chem player. Well, during the regular season you may have trouble deciding what to study, but now's your chance to focus on (e.g.) physics the week before the open. Suddenly, you're incentivized to do some very targeted learning, and your learning is actually more effective than usual because of the focus.

Make Your Enemies into (Temporary) Allies: There are many people who like the idea of bitter rivalries--with the victories made sweeter by spite. I do not count myself among them. While I have personal disagreements with some figures in the community, I don't like the animus that may exist, and I always try to maintain respect for those players' good qualities. If you aspire to this attitude too, then I highly recommend joining forces with your enemies occasionally. It can feel a bit like those movies / TV episodes where the protagonist and antagonist (temporarily) join forces to battle a new antagonist. (Of course, if you and your rival are a poor fit as teammates, this might widen the rift. Choose wisely...) For example, one of many reasons I could never paint Matt Bollinger as a villain in my mind was that I had played two very enjoyable Chicago Opens with him.

Those are my scattered thoughts. Here are my teammates:

Evan Adams, Ankit Aggarwal, Andrew Alexander, Denise Alfonso, Bruce Arthur, Russell Ault
Sam Bailey, Daniel Berenson, Mike Bentley, Michael Bilow, Matt Bollinger, Alston Boyd, Jordan Brownstein, Billy Busse
Rob Carson, Tommy Casalaspi, Mike Cheyne, Michael Coates, Aaron Cohen
Alex Damisch, Trevor Davis, Arthur Delot-Vilain, Linna Duan

Adam Fine
Ben Gammage, Carsten Gehring, Joey Goldman, Jason Golfinos, Doug Graebner, Auroni Gupta, Neil Gurram
Andrew Hart, Michael Hausinger, Wen Yu Ho, Jeff Hoppes, Ben Horowitz, Stephanie Howard-Smith

Matt Jackson, Pratyush Jaishanker, Ketan Jha, Ike Jose
Danila Kabotyanski, Gautam Kandlikar, Arjun Kavi, Athena Kern, JinAh Kim, Kevin Koai, Selene Koo, Raynor Kuang
Matt Lafer, James Lasker, Matthew Lehmann, Kay Li
Jonathan Magin, Rich Mason, Brian McPeak, Aidan Mehigan, Stephen Milne, Dylan Minarik, Daniele Monahan, Tim Morrison, Eric Mukherjee, Jakob Myers
Will Nediger

Dan Passner

Tejas Raje, Ramapriya Rangaraju, Chris Ray, Jacob Reed, JR Roach, Sam Rombro, Ryan Rosenberg
Max Schindler, David Seal, Kasey Sease, Kenji Shimizu, Douglas Simons, Aaron Sin, Kai Smith, Mike Sorice, Sam Spaulding, Bernadette Spencer, Ashvin Srivatsa, Michael Stawpert, Marshall Steinbaum
Seth Teitler, Conor Thompson, Charles Tian

Tamara Vardomskaya, Morgan Venkus, Jerry Vinokurov
Andrew Wang, Matt Weiner, Spencer Weinreich, Ryan Westbrook, Chris White, Jason Wu

Richard Yu
Marianna Zhang, Jason Zhou

Thank you all for playing with me. (And my sincerest apologies if I somehow missed anyone! Feel free to contact me.)

EDIT: Alphabetical ordering issues

Re: A Century of Teammates

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 9:51 am
by Cheynem
This is a good, fun post, with some neat tips about forming teams and getting teammates.

I will say, from the perspective of someone who has been playing longer than John (but isn't as good):

-Even though I've been playing this game for 10+ years and am friends with a lot of people in the community, I still feel anxiety about asking for teammates in open teams. This is pretty natural, but as John said, most people are pretty welcoming of new teammates and new teams.

-That said, it's still pretty thrilling when people I perceive as really good ask if I want to play with them (like Matt Bollinger at CO last year, or John himself a couple years ago). I imagine Carsten must feel this way when I ask if he wants to play with me.

-Some of my favorite teams consisted of people I didn't know very well (really fun playing with Ganon and Harry at GOLBEZ, for example). And of course, my CO Trash 2016 winning team was pretty thrown together. As long as you end up with positive, fun folks, you usually end up with a good experience (this is not to say, unfortunately, that I haven't played with some lousy teammates, but those have been in the vast minority).

-I know some folks who always vary up their team. And some who play with the same teammates. I don't think there's a right way or a wrong way--I've had a lot of fun with new teams, but also forming a regular group of rotating teammates.

Re: A Century of Teammates

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 12:57 pm
by Oh No You Didn't
Strong teammates, weak teammates, that is only the selfish perception of people. Truly strong players should try to win with their favorites. I like your style. You understand what's important. Go on -- the CHAMPION is waiting.

Re: A Century of Teammates

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 4:26 pm
by UlyssesInvictus
Cheynem wrote: Sun Aug 16, 2020 9:51 am That said, it's still pretty thrilling when people I perceive as really good ask if I want to play with them
I'm pretty honored to be mentioned, since I think our team-up was like, forever ago, I was sick the day of and I don't think I was particularly good even as a fourth scorer (too much classic Raynor negging), but it was really touching to be remembered. Thanks for making this post!

Re: A Century of Teammates

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 4:30 pm
by Cheynem
Did you mean to quote John?

Re: A Century of Teammates

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 5:17 pm
by UlyssesInvictus
Cheynem wrote: Sun Aug 16, 2020 4:30 pm Did you mean to quote John?
Ah, no -- I forgot to add on, this is exactly how I felt when John asked if I wanted to be a teammate, haha. I still remember being pretty happy to be on that team! (With Richard as well, I believe, and a fourth teammate I don't quite remember anymore, I'm sorry :/)