Past "Incidents" at NAC/Chip

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Chris Frankel
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Past "Incidents" at NAC/Chip

Post by Chris Frankel »

After reading Mr. Dillon's post in the NAC Chicago thread, I think it would be worthwhile to make a consolidating thread documenting the various unusual occurrences that have given many players reason to believe Chip Beall plays favorites or fixes his results.

Obviously since intent is incredibly hard to prove, it's difficult to treat these as unquestionable evidence, but I think that even establishing a pattern of suspicion of such practices based on player and coaches' past experience can speak for itself.

So for those of you who've been to NAC and experienced "funny business," so to speak, do share in this thread. However, this is not a thread for complaining about poor individual questions or the flaws of the rules themselves. Something like "we lost a match on an audio question about blenders because I was penalized for not being recognized" wouldn't fit here, whereas something exceptional like "we lost in the national finals and 10 audio questions about appliances came up, which is odd, because the captain of the winning team said he worked for Best Buy in his introductory bio."

That said, I'll start with my story, which has been posted here before, but seems to have disappeared with the loss of the old archives:

In the 2000 NAC, my school, St. John's, opened the tournament with a match against Chaska, a Minnesota team, which we hadn't heard of at the time. We were a pretty good team and expected another easy win against a no name team, but it turned out they had a very good player named Tim (who would go on to play D2 at Stanford for a year, do well, and disappear from the QB scene). Anyway, Tim was very fast, with a very broad knowledge of the high school canon, and he proceeded to take the lead right off the bat and trounce us singlehandedly without a single one of his teammates buzzing in. We noticed that he was particularly fast at nailing the music tossups we played on, and it wasn't surprising that he introduced himself as an opera and classical music buff in his bio.

We won out the rest of the prelims, with Tim being our only loss, and went to the playoffs. We won one or two games there, and sure enough, we found ourselves facing Chaska in a rematch. Knowing what to expect this time around, we did a better job of keeping up with Tim, and ended up taking the lead early on and holding onto it for the first two rounds. Meanwhile, Tim was visibly sweating and panicking, and it seemed like he was getting psyched out and having a lot of trouble keeping his team in the game.

Then came time for Chaska to choose their lightning round category, as they were behind. Chip read the first three choices, and as he was about to announce the fourth category, suddenly paused and looked flustered. Apparently the paper with the last 60 second category was missing, and he would need to suspend play while the staffers went out and looked for a new set of category questions to replace it. We were a little annoyed since we had been on a roll, while Chaska seemed to embrace this impromptu delay, as their coach ran up to the table and began toweling off Tim, patting him on the back, and trying to calm him down with a pep talk.

After about 10 minutes, Chip returned triumphantly with the final category in hand. He read it off... the category was Italian Opera. Tim, the music buff, beamed and took that category, went on to sweep it singlehandedly with blinding speed and gusto. We took another category and couldn't match his performance, and gave up the lead. Tim, seemingly rejuvenated by his Italian Opera success, was back in form during the final round, and Chaska won handily.

Now of course I'm not saying that we should have been entitled to that win or that Tim's victory suggests we got screwed, but look at the nature of occurrences in that match. A sudden, random misplacement of papers (which my coaches had never seen happen before in their many years of NAC participation) created a sustained break in play that allowed a visibly flustered player to be attended to by his coach and relaxed. When the category was chosen, it was coincidentally in one of the specific niche categories that the player had been on the record as calling one of his specialties. The results weren't outright doctored, but it seems clear that the pause and the favorable category created a massive shift in momentum that very well may have determined the game's outcome.

Why go to the trouble? Chip didn't have any ill will towards our team, but his post-NAC results summary made it clear that he was very excited about Tim, the "phenomenal scoring machine" (see the 2000 NAC results page on, whom he named his tournament MVP. And after beating us, Chaska advanced to play Irmo, the school of another Beall star, Jonathan Hess. Had we beat Chaska, Chip would not have gotten to gush about the clash of the titans between Tim and Jonathan, a down-to-the wire matchup that Chip called "The Tournament’s Greatest Game" on his summary.

I don't think there has to be any accusation of maliciousness or patronage on the part of Chip, but events like the one I describe tend to make myself, and others, suspect that Chip's desire for turning his tournament into a game show is so strong that he is not above compromising the results of the tournament to produce what he think will create the most excitement.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."
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Post by AKKOLADE »

While not a Chip tournament per se, I did attend Marshall SCORES as a high school senior. The tournament is organized by noted Chip flunkie Ernie Anderson. Other than the terrible questions, only one incident really comes to mind:

When listening in on a round, I heard a math question. Being good at quiz bowl math, my interest was heightened. As I listened, the question went along the lines of, "Add the number of points you get in Pac-Man for eating a pellet to (three other random things that also equal 50 that I can't remember)."

Because of the weird Pac-Man reference, I instantly recalled hearing that exact question years ago during my junior high days out of a Knowledge Master Open set. It wasn't phrased differently or anything; it was just blatant stolen from another set of questions.
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Past "Incidents" at NAC/Chip

Post by colonial »

Here are a few early examples of allegations against Mr. Beall on the Y! board from late 2000...

Nate Meyvis, 2000:

I have participated in the National Academic Championship, and heard QU
questions on other occasions, for the past three years. I
can personally attest to Chip's repeating questions
between QU packets, as well as extreme favoritism during

Perhaps someone with a good memory can help me out here:
I was at a tournament two academic years ago, which
*I believe* had questions from QU. That night, I was
looking around the Stanford Archive, and found a question
that I had heard verbatim that day. The tournament was
at Eisenhower High School in Michigan; the
question's answer was "lay", and centered around the
multiple definitions of the word (one of which had
something to do with a ghost)

Matt Lafer, 2000

To throw my hat into the ring...

I attended the Los Angeles leg of the tournament last
spring, playing on Plymouth-Canton Educational Park. This
is my only experience with Beall's tournaments. How
was it?

Possibly the worst tournament I've ever been to as far as the actual running of the tournament and questions are concerned. Everything that the previous poster mentioned is true. There are a few more
things I'd like to add, though.

About question plagiarism - Beall does not just rip off questions from Stanford Packet Archive. One of my teammates noticed that
some of the questions he asked actually came from a
"Jeopardy!" desk calendar that he had seen once. Also, some
other questions were actually taken off of the
"Jeopardy!" TV show. Most prolific question writer? Probably,
but only because he steals from every single source
he can get his hands on.

Nate Meyvis, 2000

At Nationals my freshman year we swept a bonus on
Hammurabi's Code. Imagine my surprise when EVERY question in
that bonus appeared in a Jeopardy category I saw later
that summer. The show was a rerun. (My dad, with whom
I was watching the show, was particularly impressed
that not only did I know the $500 answer, but I knew
it BEFORE the clue was selected).

Later posts featured a discussion on whether it was worth the time to contemplate a lawsuit against Mr. Beall for plagiarism, as well as contacting J! over a possible copyright violation. Did this ever occur?
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Post by quizkid »

I attended the QU tournament in Washington DC a couple of years ago and noticed that questions were repeated nearly word for word in separate matches.
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Post by MLafer »

In addition to the plagiarism that I noted 6 (!) years ago, there were other irregularities in our matches.

A similar incident to Frankel's occurred during our lightning round against a team I can't remember. We decided to go with the "mystery round" category. Chip announced the category, which I can't remember (but it was something we would have done at least moderately well on), and then proceeded to claim that he was not supposed to "give away the mystery" before the round started. He then got a different category, which turned out to be Children's Literature. We only got one of the answers correct.

There were also some interesting protest procedures during our match against Mannheim Township (a match that would eventually eliminate us from the tournament). On a "Brice Canyon" tossup a Mannheim player buzzed in with "Brice"...followed by at least a three second pause while Beall stared at him, then finally "Brice Canyon". We protested this and lost the protest, although we were given no reason why. Later, a question asked to "Sing the first line of the Battle Hymn of the Republic". My teammate buzzed in and said, in a monotone voice: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord". Beall noted that this was incorrect. Mannheim's captain buzzed in and, melodiously, sang "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!!!" Beall awarded them the points, and then, grinning as he turned toward our team, stated that my teammate did not "sing" the first line, he only spoke it.
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Random Rice-era to DC-era Chip Stuff

Post by etchdulac »

I posted the following about a year ago:

If anybody still wants to know about Chip fixes:

Someone on this board mentioned Chip's penchant for putting all the good teams in one bracket. Such an arrangement happened in the Houston area city tournament in 1994-95, then televised and sponsored by Texaco.

A brief qualifying round was used to narrow the field to 32 and seed the field. The remainder of the matches were televised. There were two very odd things about this single-elimination bracket:

1) instead of having #1 face #32 and so on down to #16 vs. #17 in the first round, #1 faced #17 and so on down to #16 vs. #32.

2) More disturbingly, the top bracket featured the #1, #3, #4, #5, #6 and #7 seeds. #1 faced #5 in the second round.

My team (Strake, seeded #26th) was a beneficiary of both oddities. We reached the semifinals having faced the #10, #14 and #8 seeds. We lost to #2 seed St. John's by 20 points, and then Memorial buried St. John's in the final (that'll be of interest later). It was pointed out throughout that Chip rigged things very nicely for us -- he had his reasons, and we were a good soap opera storyline. Then, at nationals in DC, he scheduled us to face Memorial in the room where he was moderating and scorekeeping. It was, in essence, the Houston final he wanted to have, and some argued, the Houston final he tried to set up. Stunningly, we beat Memorial at nationals, and there was at least one repeat question in the set for that round.

Let me elaborate on that... I grew up an avid little quiz-bowl geek, had years of his Texaco episodes videotaped and had gone to nationals at Rice just to watch for years. When Chip re-used questions, I had heard them before, whether or not I was conscious of it at the time. Chip knew who I was, had seen us over and over again at city shows and nationals, and once I was in high school playing, he did what he could to prod us along. We qualified for nationals out of that rigged city bracket.

Having witnessed Nationals tournaments between 1991 and 1996, I saw my share of suspicious things. But my favorites were always the things :chip: just plain screwed up. I'm sure OU/Broken Arrow's Mr. Bell will remember the classical music audio 60-second round that he set up to run longer than 60 seconds (10 6-second clips don't work when there are pauses between the clues).

Anyway, point is: Chip Beall is a businessman and marketing guy (a schemester of the Music Man variety in the eyes of many), so he saved money (or effort) by re-using questions from previous years knowing that only a few people could possibly notice. I really only know of one other person who'd qualify as such a beneficiary, and I wasn't about to complain.

I have no reason to think he's stopped this practice, though I obviously don't know, as I haven't attended any of his events in 9 years.
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Post by Jcrmoon42 »

As stated in another thread, I am no Chip apologist. I do remember there being some irregularities my first year as a moderator at NAC in 2000. I came very close to not coming back after that but thought better of it the next year. However, I have seen things get consistently better year after year in that regard. While you can certainly debate the validity of the format, teams seem to enjoy it. I'm not nuts about it, but, hey, I'm not playing.

I would be very interested to hear if anyone has any irregularities to post that have occurred more recently than 2000 as there haven't been any related here.
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Post by AKKOLADE »

FYI, my example was from '02.
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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

I remember playing in the Greater Houston Area Championship in HS (2000-2003) and hearing questions that I later saw word-for-word in a few different Jeopardy! quizbooks. I have no way of knowing whether that competition actually uses QU questions (although they're horrible and in the funn four-round format...), but hey, since the sets feature plagiarism, they're probably Chip's.
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Post by Jcrmoon42 »

I can't speak for the question writing. I have my own issues with the questions themselves. My questions would have to do with the tournaments themselves.
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Post by orangecrayon »

I made three appearances at Chip nationals in high school ('99, '01, '02). My team won it back in the early '90s, finished in the final four the year I didn't go and has been at one of his sites every year since the mid 1980s, so you might say we were one of the schools Mr. Beall was/is fond of.

While prepping for NAC, we went through tapes from the year our school's team won it all. There were several questions that came up in matches that we'd watched on tape (including a Garth Brooks tossup in 2001 that utilized the same decade-old audio snippet). My coaches recognized it, but dismissed it when a couple of us asked about it.

My brother went in '04 and '05 and mentioned something along those lines as well.
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Post by sweaver »

I have never had any experience with Mr. Beall himself, so I cannot speak to that subject. I do know that at one of my own tournaments, when I made a ruling on a dispute that was apparently not the way Mr. Beall had ruled on a similar question, the player that came out on the wrong side of the ruling questioned both my knowledge and my character and asked "Do you know more than Chip Beall?"

Other than judging the player an emerging psychopath, my best response was, "I respectfully disagree with Mr. Beall on this. And I'm here, he's not."

It was a surreal moment.