On Timed Rounds

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etotheipi
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On Timed Rounds

Post by etotheipi »

(I'm putting this here since it is directly motivated by something that happened at HSNCT this year, or at least by how this incident was described to me, though it applies equally well to college tournaments.)

Consider the following scenario:
In a game between team X and team Y, tossup 23 is about to be read. Team X is down by 50. There is, say, a bit less than a minute on the clock; enough for team X to force a twenty-fourth tossup to be heard if they get tu23 early and move quickly through the bonus, but also not enough for there to have to be a twenty-fourth tossup if team Y gets tu23 and stalls effectively on the bonus.
Team X buzzes early on the tossup, negs, protests. Let's say their answer would have been accepted on protest. The protest is lodged, gameplay goes on, team Y picks up the tossup at the end and stalls effectively. Tossup 24 does not happen, the protest is "moot," team Y wins.

Something clearly has gone very wrong here; the fact that there is an error in the question should not swing game outcomes. (This is the logic behind the protest system.) It's a reasonable assumption to make that both team X and team Y would be equally likely to get tu24, and therefore that, in 50% of the cases where team X gets tu23 - as should have happened here - team X would end up winning. So team X has just lost the substantial chance they had at winning this game because of an answerline inaccuracy or incorrect clue.

Is there any way to adequately account for cases of this sort (I'm sure one could think up a number of variations) in protest resolution? I don't think there is, not practically, anyway - and if I'm right here, and cases of this sort cannot be avoided in timed rounds (and clearly do not arise in an untimed setting), I think there's an argument to be made that, no matter one's opinion on how fun timed rounds are (I do enjoy them!), they are objectively and nontrivially more unfair than untimed rounds and therefore are not the right choice for a national championship.
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by bennyfeldmn »

Hi! The situation you're referring to was our game against Santa Monica. I must admit, my team (particularly myself and Hazel, who made the neg and the subsequent protest) were quite upset in the moment that this situation would be the end of our senior HSNCT. Chad Kubicek was our reader, and he was pretty shaken up by it because he knew this was inherently unfair. The protest was almost certainly going to get accepted based on further research (protest material attached below), and it didn't help that the next TU looked... favorable to us. It was extremely unlucky and a tough way to end it, especially because we, like most-all other top teams, had put a lot into the lead-up to this tournament, so it's bad for it to end on such a quirk like this for sure.

I want to make clear, though, Santa Monica had one hell of a game against us and completely deserved the win and the t-13 finish. They genuinely were having fun and not taking themselves too seriously while also playing on demon time in that round. I am so so happy for them on their finish, I want nothing to change and wanted nothing to change in the moment with regards to this outcome, big congrats to them!

But now, this situation admittedly does bring up some concerns. After the match I went to see Jonah and tell him about this (just to bring it up in the same way as Arya, as a concern for the future), and he, like Chad, did express some real concern over the impact of tossup protests on timing. As Arya said, had the tossup been ruled in our favor in the first place (which the circumstances post-protest acceptance should mimic), we would have rushed through bonus 23, gotten to TU 24, and hopefully had a chance to win had we gotten that tossup. In this case, the protest was not actually moot if the pre-protest conditions were replicated post-acceptance. This, of course, is objectively unfair.

I have been thinking of ways this can be combated, and the looser I try to go in terms of logistic constraints the more problems I run into in my head. This problem was only magnified in the first place because this happened at TU 23, while this could have easily gone unnoticed at TU 6, as presumably it would have gone unnoticed and the protest would've been mooted even if it were hypothetically relevant time-wise.

The only way I can think to combat this problem is to handle it IPNCT-style. All tossups protested would be resolved right then and right there (unless perhaps the game is mathematically locked). An added benefit to this would be that having an outstanding protest resolution in a game can completely throw teams off balance, especially when there is ambiguity in the protest itself. The downside is that, having played IPNCT, this style is super super super annoying. I don't know how feasible this would be given how common protests on TUs are and how giant HSNCT is. I don't know how many people NAQT has working protests or how frequently they get blasted in control, but I would assume with this strategy the committee(s) would have to either work more intensely or get bigger, I'm just not sure how big. And again, this is all to save a hypothetical situation that this extreme edge case uncovers.

I doubt they shaft timers entirely like Arya suggests, as they provide a lot of value in making sure things run smoothly. This is more a logistics game in my head now than an actual complaint about our performance. Legitimately i cannot emphasize enough that regardless Santa Monica did play at or above us that game and the win is completely deserved. Ultimately, there were a million things that impacted that game and this is just a weird drop in the bucket that sticks out.

PROTEST INFO (Since HSNCT is maybe clear? maybe not? i decided to encrypt this with rot13, so please do not look if you are playing a mirror. Please just copypaste the following into the website to see the message:

Sebz Unmry: "gur gbffhc pyhrq na npgvivgl qbar ol fxnyqf, jvgu gur nafjre orvat "cbrgel" be zber fcrpvsvpnyyl "pbzcbfvat/jevgvat cbrgel". v nafjrerq jvgu "erpvgvat cbrgel", juvpu jnf bar bs gur znva gnfxf bs n fxnyq. juvyr bar pbhyq nethr gung "jevgvat cbrgel" jbhyq unir orra n orggre nafjre, "erpvgvat cbrgel" vf abg va nal jnl jebat, naq fubhyq unir orra npprcgrq be ng gur irel yrnfg cebzcgrq."
Last edited by bennyfeldmn on Tue May 28, 2024 2:18 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by a Joe »

I feel for Hastings. That was quite the unfortunate end to their run. I very much applaud Benny's graciousness, but this really shouldn't have ever happened. Yes, this rule can use improvement. Luckily, the fix is simple.

Should a protest be upheld, simply put the time the cycle took back onto the clock and then play the replacement on the clock, and if more time is still there, then continue. If there's no replacement needed, then add the time between the buzz and the beginning of the next cycle back onto the clock.

As for:
they are objectively and nontrivially more unfair than untimed rounds and therefore are not the right choice for a national championship
Do keep in mind that, in everything we do in terms of running tournaments, we make tradeoffs between fairness and practicality. Our ideal Quizbowl format, for instance, would be a full triple round robin at every event, but that's impractical. So we come up with other formats that strike that balance.

In the case of timed rounds, while they were originally used to make things fit on television, they now are mainly used to make huge events logistically possible. If there were no timers, running a 320-team event would certainly result in massive delays, regardless of how good the staff is. Since having a timer does not result in massive unfairness (edge cases like this excluded), and results in massive benefits for everyone involved (a timely tournament, the ability to have huge fields and therefore have more teams competing, and so on), there is absolutely no reason to remove the timer.
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by Stinkweed Imp »

a Joe wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 6:41 pm Should a protest be upheld, simply put the time the cycle took back onto the clock and then play the replacement on the clock, and if more time is still there, then continue. If there's no replacement needed, then add the time between the buzz and the beginning of the next cycle back onto the clock.
This requires every protest to be adjudicated before gameplay can continue, which is the exact problem that restrictions on filing protests are in place to solve.
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by a Joe »

Stinkweed Imp wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 7:03 pm
a Joe wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 6:41 pm Should a protest be upheld, simply put the time the cycle took back onto the clock and then play the replacement on the clock, and if more time is still there, then continue. If there's no replacement needed, then add the time between the buzz and the beginning of the next cycle back onto the clock.
This requires every protest to be adjudicated before gameplay can continue, which is the exact problem that restrictions on filing protests are in place to solve.
No, you can add the time back after the game if every tossup was not read.
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by Stinkweed Imp »

How do you decide which protests to resolve?
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by a Joe »

Stinkweed Imp wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 7:40 pm How do you decide which protests to resolve?
You'd have to come up with a rule, based on how much time we're talking about.

Let's say:

We're on question 9, and there are 3 minutes left on the clock. At 2:50, a team buzzes in, answers incorrectly, and protests. The other team answers correctly for 10 at 2:45, 30s the bonus, and by the time the bonus is done, there's 2:00 on the clock. The game continues and only goes to cycle 20 of 24, and the non-protesting team is leading by 100.

In such a case, there would be a 85 point swing (+5 for the protesting team, -40 for the other team, potential +40 more for the protesting team if they 30 the replacement bonus). But, since you could reasonably get asked another question in the 50-second difference, even after the replacement bonus is read, you could add another 45 points-- making it within protest range. So you'd decide the protest and, should it be upheld, put the 50 seconds on the clock and continue the game, starting with the replacement bonus and then continuing to more cycles if there's time left.

Now, I realize that "could reasonably get asked another question in the 50-second difference" is intentionally vague. I don't know what the exact rule should be, and I don't claim to know what time intervals would be proper. I leave that to wiser people than me to decide.
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by etotheipi »

bennyfeldmn wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 1:39 am I doubt they shaft timers entirely like Arya suggests, as they provide a lot of value in making sure things run smoothly.
Having never participated in the running of a tournament of this magnitude, I can't speak with any degree of authority about logistical matters, but: would a possibility be eliminating timers from playoff games only? I would think this would strike some sort of compromise between addressing fairness concerns and making sure the tournament could run on time (especially since I would think prelim games more likely to drag on than playoff ones, especially past the first couple of rounds) - at the cost, of course, of making prelim games feel very different than playoff games, which might be unacceptable to some.
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by Cody »

a Joe wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 8:05 pm
Stinkweed Imp wrote: Tue May 28, 2024 7:40 pm How do you decide which protests to resolve?
You'd have to come up with a rule, based on how much time we're talking about.

Let's say:

We're on question 9, and there are 3 minutes left on the clock. At 2:50, a team buzzes in, answers incorrectly, and protests. The other team answers correctly for 10 at 2:45, 30s the bonus, and by the time the bonus is done, there's 2:00 on the clock. The game continues and only goes to cycle 20 of 24, and the non-protesting team is leading by 100.

In such a case, there would be a 85 point swing (+5 for the protesting team, -40 for the other team, potential +40 more for the protesting team if they 30 the replacement bonus). But, since you could reasonably get asked another question in the 50-second difference, even after the replacement bonus is read, you could add another 45 points-- making it within protest range. So you'd decide the protest and, should it be upheld, put the 50 seconds on the clock and continue the game, starting with the replacement bonus and then continuing to more cycles if there's time left.

Now, I realize that "could reasonably get asked another question in the 50-second difference" is intentionally vague. I don't know what the exact rule should be, and I don't claim to know what time intervals would be proper. I leave that to wiser people than me to decide.
You are missing a critical component: none of these times can be recorded in the first time, much less with the necessary accuracy. This is far from a simple rule change as a result because it is impossible to adjudicate except in very narrow scenarios where the clock is about to expire. Let's set aside that this would require protesting immediately, sensitive determinations of where the clock should stop, replacement bonuses of different length, etc. that would essentially require sweeping changes, video review in every room, etc.

There are two deeper issues.

(1) The situation governs the strategy, so you are allowing teams to retroactively change their strategy (hurry/slow/pass bonuses) on protest that would not have happened, therefore creating another unfair result. In the straightforward example where a team passes bonus parts or the whole bonus to hear another cycle, they would not have done this earlier in the game, say on cycle 9 with 2:50 left. Therefore, allowing them to do this on protest is completely and totally unfair to the other team.

(2) Think about any game that did not read all 24 tossups with a positive protest resolution. By definition, one team is arbitrarily close to winning. Therefore, ALL such situations that don't result from a single bonus part accept/reject may necessitate further gameplay depending on the exact time the clock expired in the tossup-bonus cycle. For example, let's say Team A negs and the moderator spends an arbitrary amount of time, X, finishing the tosusp for the other team. The protest is resolved and Team A wins. But wait - how much time did the clock run over on the tossup-bonus cycle where time expired (which is not even recorded because the necessity of stopping the timer from beeping)? If it's less than X, then another tossup-bonus cycle must always be read, which could further change the winner of the game.

In fact, this is wickedly difficult and almost certainly there is no good solution outside of the most narrow formulations (the last tossup-bonus cycle of the game).
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh »

xCTs don't even run hypothetical gameplay during protest resolutions; hypothetical clock manipulation is a step way beyond that. Cody explained it well while I was typing up the below, so everything before the first ----- is a bit redundant. Keeping it for posterity. :D

A: You won't know what time a team buzzed in with the protesting buzz, because no one pays attention to that; if the player says "protest" before you finish the question, you can estimate it, but that's the best you can do, and you have no hope of doing that if the protest is lodged later.

B: Even if you find a way to determine how many seconds were spent, you'll never find a satisfactory interval. If you say X can finish a cycle in 50 seconds, I say X can finish a cycle in 47 seconds and get out the first word of the next tossup in the next 3, so I think the buffer margin should be two cycles: up to 90 extra points beyond the original protest swing. (100, really; the opposing team has the right to neg twice, too.)

C: More realistically, if you have this rule in place, the controlling team won't stall the bonus; indeed, they'll be incentivized to speed it up, to prevent extra time from being added. You're probably looking at 15-20 seconds of clocked bonus instead of 50. At that point, if you're talking about "if only we had 15 more seconds on the clock!", there were 20 other cycles in the packet where either team could have played faster (or slower) to make it moot (in either direction), and I'm much less sympathetic to the victim in that hypothetical than I am to Hastings in our specific example.

It's a heartrending way to end a game, let alone a deep HSNCT playoff run. But one of the reasons it's heartrending instead of frustrating is because there just isn't a solution.

-----

While thinking about the "add time back" rule, I thought of another option that seems OK at first, but isn't reasonable in full: just play the protested bonus off the clock.

This fails for a reason that rightfully isn't getting considered in this conversation -- Hastings' protest is deemed likely to succeed, so we've been talking about "if the protest is upheld, then fix the clock." Many protests aren't upheld, and it's the controlling team's right to earn a bonus and take as much or as little time on it as they like. Any rule that manipulates the clock in advance of a successful protest incentivizes not-quite-frivolous protests to block that right; this necessitates a counter rule to prevent such protests, which gets out of hand very quickly.

-----

Beyond everything, while I'm here -- Benny, your post is something like 4 standard deviations more mature than the average HS player would be able to write in this situation. Congratulations to you & the rest of the Hastings team on the successes that your HS quizbowl career is ending with, but more importantly, on becoming the type of community members who can build each other up during adversity. Best of luck at NSC!
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by DragonSM »

So I have a potential solution to this issue, which is very much logistically imperfect but I think at least an improvement over anything else previously mentioned in this thread.

The first part of the idea is basically that unplayed cycles should be added to the swing of calculating a protest, however this doesn't fully resolve the issue as timing strategy is still part of the game. (ie. If a protest has a 65 point swing it has 65 + 50 per unread cycle). The core of the idea that makes this work in a way that doesn't involve adding time back to the clock or anything is that before the mod would start some very late cycle (probably 21 or 22), if the potential swing from unplayed cycles plus the protest is greater than the margin the game would pause for protest adjudication (this would also mean protests filed after this cycle would have to be adjudicated immediately). This is still imperfect as it does have the potential to slow down games the way immediate resolution would, however by pushing it off until the end of the game it both gives extra time for adjudication if the protest is earlier in the game, and avoids slowing down games that end up being blowouts due to needing to resolve protests.

The three main issues with the system however are:
1) It requires extra work on the end of moderators and scorekeepers to ensure that the pause for protests actually happens and only happens when it's needed.
2) It may be possible for teams to attempt to stall before even getting to tossup 21/22 to prevent resolutions from happening (there's a tradeoff here of each cycle further back you put it decreases the odds of pausing games unnecessarily to resolve protests that end up easily being mooted, but also making it less likely for the game to get to that point).
3) It will inevitably slow down some amount of games that would otherwise not need to be slowed. It may be worth only having this rule apply to playoff games to avoid this sort of issue being too significant, but it's there nonetheless.

A provision causing the pause to happen at some amount of time left on the clock may solve the second issue but it's very difficulty to check what the time is while modding/scorekeeping without pausing it to check, so at best something along the lines of "stop whenever you're about to start a cycle with 1:30 left on the clock or less" could be implemented, however even this would require the mod/scorekeeper to check the amount of time left on the clock at the start of every cycle near the end of the game.

Also I have realized upon going back to check the thread that this issue would actually not quite solve the Hastings case, as the protest happened on the last cycle of the game. However I also think it's relatively simple (if possibly problematic for creating extra delays) to pause the clock between the tossup and the bonus if the protest is not moot given both the potential swing from this cycle and the potential swing from the remaining cycles, and that the cycle is late enough that the pause for protests would've already happened. (The ultimate goal of this is to allow for this sort of protest issue to be avoided while also preventing the extreme delays that full IPNCT-style protest resolution would result in).

Regardless I think this solution, while obviously having some issues, is at least both logistically possible and somewhat functional.
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by eygotem »

Would it be possible to resolve protests on the spot for the (late) playoff rounds only? Since there would be fewer teams for the protest committee to handle. Or would that be too confusing of a rule
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Re: On Timed Rounds

Post by a_noob_bot »

The biggest problem with that is that every game matters because of the card system. For example, my team went 3-4 on Saturday and so our morning games on Sunday were essentially playoff games. If we say protests are resolved on the spot for playoffs only and there was a situation similar to the Hastings vs Santa Monica one in one of our games and it wasn't resolved on the spot, this discussion would still exist.
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