When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

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When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

Post by joshxu »

In timed formats, when is it a good time to call timeout, and when is it not a good time?

Poring through my scoresheets for UCLA's games at D1 ICT this year, timeouts were called in the following scenarios:
- Opponent (Chicago B) up 45 with less than a minute left; one more cycle ended up being read
- Opponent (Cornell A) up 25 with less than a minute left; one more cycle ended up being read
- Opponent (Texas) up 75 with a decent amount of time left; two more cycles ended up being read
- Opponent (Indiana) up 35 with about 30 seconds left
- Same game, us trailing Indiana by 25 with 4 seconds left
- Opponent (Penn State) up 85 with a decent amount of time left; four more cycles ended up being read (although three went dead)

In the Cornell A game, we likely would've called timeout in that situation anyway while trailing by 25; I think Cornell just happened to beat me to it.

Here were some notable scenarios where timeouts were not called:
- Us leading MIT by 15 with less than a minute left
- Us leading Illinois B by 35 with less than a minute left

It strikes me that in all of our down-to-the-wire games, the leading team called timeout, except in the two games that we were the leading team. It has generally not been my playing style to call timeout while leading. My reasoning has generally been something along the lines of "timeouts stop the clock and give the trailing team time to strategize, so we shouldn't help them".

I would illustrate this with the two games I've bolded above: Indiana and Illinois B.

The UCLA v. Indiana game was special in that we utilized the rushing strategy of skipping a bonus. When utilizing such a strategy, it would be greatly beneficial if your whole team is on the same page. You'd probably need to use a timeout to lay out the strategy, especially if not everyone on your team can see the score or the clock. So after we found ourselves trailing by 55 after cycle 18 with about a minute left, I calculated that we'd have to use this strategy if we scored 10–20 points on cycle 19 (because there is basically zero chance that we score more than 30 points on a cycle of D1 ICT). As it became clear that we were going to get exactly 20 points on cycle 19, I was fully intending to call timeout to lay out this strategy to my teammates. But I never got a chance to, as Indiana beat me to it and called their timeout, while up by 35. I was pretty confused by Indiana's timeout call then, because not only did stopping the clock give us time to strategize, but it also meant we still had our timeout. This was pretty important, because it meant we didn't have to worry about the clock running out on us in the time between our declaration that we forfeit the bonus and the beginning of the next cycle. At best, it meant we potentially get to hear another bonus part because we could afford to run the clock down very close to 0; at minimum, it removed any pressure on us knowing we didn't have to worry about the mod taking a long time between cycles (a very reasonable fear—as I'm sure few mods have ever seen this strategy). Ultimately, we used Indiana's timeout to lay out our strategy. We didn't attain the maximum benefit as we still decided to skip the entire bonus while part 1 was being read, but it was sure comforting to be able to yell out confidently "Forfeit the bonus and we call timeout!" in one motion without having to worry about the clock running out.

The best justification I can think of for the leading team to call timeout in such a situation (up by 35, 30 seconds left) is if you want to establish a strategy of your own. This leads me to our Illinois B game, where we found ourselves in a strikingly similar situation as Indiana was in against us: up 35 with very little time left. Once I realized we would be up by 35, I decided that our strategy for the next cycle should be "DON'T BUZZ", because the chances of us buzzing and negging is way higher than the chances of Illinois B scoring 35 points on a cycle of D1 ICT. [*] But by the time I thought of this strategy, the mod had already begun reading the tossup, so I couldn't call timeout. I thought that in retrospect, it would've been nice to have called timeout there to get all my teammates on the same page. But since I couldn't call timeout, I resorted to using hand gestures to motion my teammates to get their hands off the buzzer. My teammates on the end who were not keeping score and did not have a good view of the clock were very confused, but they complied, and we won the game. I apologized to them afterward for failing to call timeout and giving them context. But now that I look back, there was no need for me to call a timeout there while leading by 35 since I could communicate our strategy nonverbally through hand gestures. In that situation, a timeout probably would've helped Illinois B more than us, if only just because it would've given them time to catch their breath before a make-or-break final cycle.

[*] Of course, the "DON'T BUZZ" strategy is not a good one if the opponent will employ the skip-a-bonus strategy to force another cycle to be read. I don't remember exactly how much time was left on the clock before the last cycle started; either there was so little left that not even the skip-a-bonus strategy would work, or if there was enough time left I simply failed to consider that they might employ this strategy.

All this is to say that I feel UCLA's games at ICT this year support my assertion that calling timeout while leading in the final minute generally helps the trailing team more than it helps you, so you generally shouldn't do it. I am open to being convinced otherwise though, and am interested in hearing people's thoughts on the matter in general. When is it a good time to call timeout, and when is it not a good time?
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Re: When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

Post by joshxu »

After these chokes at HSNCT where the leading team called timeout and then proceeded to lose, I am even more solidly in the camp of: DO NOT CALL A TIMEOUT IF YOU'RE LEADING. Stopping the clock benefits the trailing team, so don't help them if you're leading!
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Re: When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

Post by Cheynem »

The most obvious instance of when to call timeout is if doing so, as a trailing team very late in the clock, will ensure you will get to hear a last question and not have the question be lost due to a fumbling moderator.
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Re: When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

Post by iaquiz »

joshxu wrote: Mon May 27, 2024 6:23 pm After these chokes at HSNCT where the leading team called timeout and then proceeded to lose, I am even more solidly in the camp of: DO NOT CALL A TIMEOUT IF YOU'RE LEADING. Stopping the clock benefits the trailing team, so don't help them if you're leading!
Your examples include:

A 20 pt lead with 4 questions left.
A 40 pt lead with 1 question left.
A 20 pt lead with 3 questions left
A 20 pt lead with 4 questions left
A 40 pt lead with 2 questions left

Setting aside the unnecessarily aggressive word choice, none of these remotely qualify as a choke. They were close matches that could've ended either way. It also didn't take long to find counterexamples....

https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/g ... id=1329772
https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/g ... id=1333064
https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/g ... id=1328907
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Re: When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

Post by joshxu »

iaquiz wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 12:35 am
joshxu wrote: Mon May 27, 2024 6:23 pm After these chokes at HSNCT where the leading team called timeout and then proceeded to lose, I am even more solidly in the camp of: DO NOT CALL A TIMEOUT IF YOU'RE LEADING. Stopping the clock benefits the trailing team, so don't help them if you're leading!
Your examples include:

A 20 pt lead with 4 questions left.
A 40 pt lead with 1 question left.
A 20 pt lead with 3 questions left
A 20 pt lead with 4 questions left
A 40 pt lead with 2 questions left

Setting aside the unnecessarily aggressive word choice, none of these remotely qualify as a choke. They were close matches that could've ended either way. It also didn't take long to find counterexamples....

https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/g ... id=1329772
https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/g ... id=1333064
https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/g ... id=1328907
I don't claim that calling a timeout while leading causes your team to lose, just as I don't believe that calling a timeout while trailing causes successful comebacks. I created this thread presenting my position on, and hoping to initiate a discussion about, how teams should strategically use their timeouts. I can perhaps rephrase my most recent post less facetiously as: "What benefit do the leading teams in these examples expect to achieve by calling timeout?" I explained my theoretical argument for believing that timeouts are generally more advantageous for the trailing team than for the leading team in the original post, but I'd love to hear opposing theoretical arguments!

For example, Mira Loma's two timeouts presented as counterexamples seem to have been called while Mira Loma had a multiple-cycle lead with substantial time left on the clock, with each timeout being called after the opposing team converted consecutive tossups. Is it a good strategy to call timeout while leading in an attempt to stop your opponent's momentum if they're catching up? Can this be a good strategy, even if it's a bad strategy to call timeout while leading in the final minute?
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Re: When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

Post by Stinkweed Imp »

I think "momentum" is far too ephemeral a concept to be measured by a scoresheet. While keeping in mind the fact that you might need a timeout to stop the clock in a close game, if you feel yourself getting tilted or wanting to confirm the score or needing a drink of water or whatever else you could do in 30 seconds to help your chances, you should just take the timeout instead of worrying how it might affect the other team.
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Re: When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

Post by quizbowlchamp1 »

iaquiz wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 12:35 am
joshxu wrote: Mon May 27, 2024 6:23 pm After these chokes at HSNCT where the leading team called timeout and then proceeded to lose, I am even more solidly in the camp of: DO NOT CALL A TIMEOUT IF YOU'RE LEADING. Stopping the clock benefits the trailing team, so don't help them if you're leading!
Your examples include:

A 20 pt lead with 4 questions left.
A 40 pt lead with 1 question left.
A 20 pt lead with 3 questions left
A 20 pt lead with 4 questions left
A 40 pt lead with 2 questions left

Setting aside the unnecessarily aggressive word choice, none of these remotely qualify as a choke. They were close matches that could've ended either way. It also didn't take long to find counterexamples....

https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/g ... id=1329772
https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/g ... id=1333064
https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/g ... id=1328907
So the real question is: How do we gauge momentum so that teams can call timeouts with more accuracy?? As with the examples above, the timeout itself was the make-or-break decision. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. So, looking forward, we need to find a system to monitor momentum so teams can break it with a timeout.
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Re: When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

Post by Stinkweed Imp »

quizbowlchamp1 wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 2:29 pm As with the examples above, the timeout itself was the make-or-break decision.
The timeout wasn't the make-or-break moment (assuming no team would make the mistake of calling a timeout when they could have run out the clock), the other team getting the last tossup was. You should do whatever you think maximizes your chances of getting that last tossup, which may mean calling a timeout. You should only think about how you play the game, and what would make you most comfortable in that situation.
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Re: When to Call Timeout (Timed Formats)

Post by joshxu »

joshxu wrote: Mon May 27, 2024 6:23 pm After these chokes at HSNCT where the leading team called timeout and then proceeded to lose, I am even more solidly in the camp of: DO NOT CALL A TIMEOUT IF YOU'RE LEADING. Stopping the clock benefits the trailing team, so don't help them if you're leading!
I apologize if this post came off as aggressive or mocking, especially to the teams cited as examples. This was a poorly executed attempt to inject some humor into this thread. I certainly prefer that quiz bowl gameplay be discussed and evaluated based on the merits alone without denigrating the teams in question, but I failed to do so in this post.
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