2017 Ottawa Regionals, Day 1

Fastest results in Canada!


15 senior teams gathered for the first day of the 2017 Ottawa SchoolReach League. Two pools, seeded by last year’s rankings, played a round-robin among themselves. The top four teams of each pool will proceed to the upper bracket on the second day for another round-robin to determine the final league standings.

The league coordinators, with a refreshing air of transparency, kept live results and scores. I have converted those results to a database table with my enigmatic R-value.

The upper bracket will have Lisgar, Earl of March, St. Pius X, and St. Paul from Group A and Glebe, Merivale, Osgoode, and Nepean from Group B. Group A was fairly easy for Lisgar, who handily put up another >190% R-value, while St. Pius X was a surprise good result. Group B was very tight between the top four, as shown by some game results:

  • Osgoode 270, Nepean 250
  • Nepean 270, Glebe 260 (after tiebreakers)
  • Glebe 280, Merivale 270 (with a blank shootout- 80 “missing” points that could have been used to shape the game)

Those four teams and Earl of March all have R-values over 100% and should have a chance at a provincials qualification. Of them, only Osgoode has never qualified before.

All will be known next week. Expect more razor-edge games!

2017 Ottawa Regionals Preview

Where do the Gatineau teams go?

Ottawa SchoolReach league competition starts tomorrow. It is probably due for a preview.

The Ottawa league has been around since the early 1990s, and has historically fielded strong competition. Six national titles have come out of the league, more than any other (though Toronto is split into multiple leagues). Ottawa schools also took two titles in the CBC era. The league’s heyday was probably the turn of the millennium, when veteran Bell and Gloucester teams would take on the new challengers in Merivale and Lisgar.

Competition has dwindled somewhat today. Past champions Bell, Gloucester, Hillcrest, and Rideau no longer compete. Former league winners Ridgemont and Colonel By are also gone. Attendance has also dropped since the mid-2000s peak, which threatens the number of qualification spots.

One of those provincial qualification spots will likely go to Lisgar. It has since 2001, an active qualification streak longer than any other Ontario team. Don’t count chickens before they hatch, however – 2016 title favourite UTS failed to get out of their region last year.

The remaining spot (or spots, the number changes each year) will probably see the most competition. Glebe, Merivale, and Nepean have all qualified in recent years. Mother Teresa has almost always been in the city playoffs since the school was built. St. Paul and Sir Wilfrid Laurier have also just been within reach recently.

I will be at the competition. Unfortunately, arrangements will not be made for recording audio, but I will still have written updates. A lot of other Ontario regions are underway or will start soon; any results I can get will also be published.

Shootout theory

Boy, that title can be taken out of context.

In the 15 or so years of “shootouts” in Schoolreach, they have been the most captivating part of a match. Over the course of a blitz of questions, teams must demonstrate that they have depth of knowledge among all four players, as correct answers slowly whittle down the field until all the pressure rests on the final teammate to earn the 40 points. It’s nail-biting, it’s a big swing of points, it’s…

…the least important stretch of a game.

Yes, I will argue that the shootout is insignificant to the point of irrelevancy for a good team. In fact, it can be a statistical annoyance in the context of a whole tournament. It just requires a different mindset.

The shootout offers 0 or 40 points over 12 questions. Let us assume that a match featuring at least one good team will see the 40 points attained, and not let all that buzzing go to waste. The shootout thus offers 3.3 potential points per question (PPPQ). Compared to other types of questions:

  • List question: 50 PPPQ
  • “What-am-I?”: 40 PPPQ
  • 20-point special: 20 PPPQ
  • Team scramble: 10 PPPQ, but an effective 40 if all the “potential” is dependent on the first part
  • Snappers/open questions: 10 PPPQ
  • Assigned questions: 10 PPPQ, but depends on opponent being incorrect every time
  • Relay: 6.25 PPPQ (other half of relay is unavailable to one side)
  • Shootout: 3.33 PPPQ

But why is this relevant? Shouldn’t 40 points from a scramble/bonus group or a “what-am-I?” be the same as 40 points from a shootout? Yes, it’s still 40 points, but it is an extremely inefficient source of points on which to focus. A subsequent span of 12 open questions can easily net you enough points to recover from any shootout loss, and a correct team scramble opener gives you all the shootout potential with one buzz.

Point efficiency arises from the fact that there is a limit of 80-90 questions in a game. Earning points is not only critical for winning (obviously), but also for improving your position in tournament standings, through seedings and tiebreaks. In fact, the mere existence of a shootout can have more impact on your standing than the outcome of it! See below:

You are a reasonably good team that can get an average of >300 points per game (>1/3 of available points) in a tournament that has a bye round. Your reasonably good rival in the standings had a bye when a shootout appeared. Your bye did not have a shootout, and the 12 questions were filled with a mixture of 10 PPPQ formats (assigned, open, etc). With the 12 filler questions, your opponent would earn more than 1/3 of the points on average, which is more than the 40 points you would gain from winning your shootout.

When I ran regional tournaments, I reviewed the sets in advance to determine the potential games in a match, and normalized scores to even the field that could be affected by byes. As far as I can tell, no one else in the history of SchoolReach has done this, and standings are just based on actual points. If every game consistently had exactly one shootout per game, this would be less concerning, but it is not the case.

I hope I have demonstrated that, in theory, shootouts are not worth their perceived importance. Unfortunately, the issue of morale remains. Shootouts are inherently set up to be a momentum swing that can start an underdog comeback or solidify a lead. It’s also a gimmick to give a greater chance of upsets, since upsets are usually more likely to occur when fewer total points are available. The best thing a good team can do is find a “mental zone” to ignore any effects of a shootout, good or bad. A good team should know that both a win and a loss are insignificant compared to a good buzz on a “what-am-I?” or team scramble, and that a stretch of 12 open questions has more impact than all the time spent on a shootout. Of course you should still attempt a shootout, but don’t fret over it…

…Worry about the “what-am-I”. But that’s another story.

Lisgar tournament audio wrap-up

An experiment in recording

Lisgar’s annual Reach-style tournament was held two weeks ago. First of all, my results table is found here. More significantly to me, it was the trial run of recording audio of games.

Recording and production was, thankfully, pretty straightforward. I used a recording app on my iPad and placed it in front of me. In an effort to muffle/anonymize the players, I put a folder between the iPad and the players to dampen their voices. It turned out that players could be understood most of the time, but I don’t think they could be individually identified unless you actually knew the person. What I should have done was find a way to put the iPad between myself and the question papers; I was slightly muffled, and the page turning was the clearest sound in the recordings. The buzzer sound was not overpowering, but I placed a sweater over the speaker to make it quieter. Production was done in Audacity; I didn’t need to edit out identifying names, so I just normalized the audio and faded in and out. In the future, I may add more recording time before and after the reading so that there is more room to fade. Finally, I made the mp3s and uploaded to a free host.

I was satisfied with how these first recordings came out. I had done similar work back in 2005/06 for a VETO tournament, but this was taken a little more seriously. To respect the fact that most players are minors, I guaranteed anonymity, no video or images, and no monetization of the recordings. Most students in the Ottawa school board signed a year-long media waiver to allow things like appearing on the news if a camera crew comes by, but I thought it best not to take any chances with privacy issues. In terms of audio quality, it is okay for a free effort. I am reluctant to invest money for better sound at this stage, lest I end up in a tailspin where I need to start finding ways to get money to sustain the project.

Anyway, here’s what you came for – all 10 rounds of the tournament I recorded:

  1. Kennebecasis Valley vs Lisgar “B” (post) (audio)
  2. Glebe vs Lisgar “A” (post) (audio)
  3. Almonte vs UTS (post) (audio)
  4. Colonel By vs Merivale (post) (audio)
  5. UTS vs Merivale (post) (audio)
  6. Lisgar “B” vs Glebe (post) (audio)
  7. Almonte vs Glebe (post) (audio)
  8. UTS vs Glebe (post) (audio)
  9. Merivale vs Colonel By (post) (audio)
  10. Almonte vs Merivale (post) (audio)

My next effort will be Ottawa’s regional tournament. I’m not sure what will happen after that. If you have audio of games (and permission from associated parties to air it), I’d be glad to either link to it or run it on Reach Scores Audio.

If you have any questions or comments related to these Reach Scores efforts, feel free to contact me at reac5hscores@gmail.com (remove the number). Enjoy!

Reach Scores Audio #10

2017 Lisgar tournament, Almonte vs Merivale

The last round of the day! From the 2017 Lisgar Reach-style tournament, this round 10 match has Almonte DHS against Merivale HS. Moderating and production by Ben Smith.

Here is the link to the episode.


  • Since audio does a poor job of portraying what happened with the Titanic/Avatar answer: An Almonte player buzzed in, then two players on the team gave answers. “Avatar” was said by the buzzing player and “Titanic” was said by the other teammate. I was hemming and hawing not about what I’m supposed to do, but whether I should apply rules strictly in the context of the importance of the game (lower bracket playoffs). I decided to follow rules and deem that the “Titanic” answer was consultation after the buzzer.
  • A wrap-up post with links to all games and some overall recording notes will be written in the near future – probably the weekend.

Thanks for listening!

Reach Scores Audio #9

2017 Lisgar tournament, Merivale vs Colonel By

We have a rematch! From the 2017 Lisgar Reach-style tournament, this round 9 match has Merivale HS against Colonel By SS. Moderating and production by Ben Smith.

Here is the link to the episode.


Thanks for listening!

Reach Scores Audio #8

2017 Lisgar tournament, UTS vs Glebe

Sorry about the hosting issue, but it’s back up with new links and still free. From the 2017 Lisgar Reach-style tournament, this round 8 match has UTS against Glebe CI. Moderating and production by Ben Smith.

Here is the link to the episode.


  • We’ve got Glebe for three games in a row and their fourth overall. Nothing against Glebe, but the scheduling didn’t give as much team variety as it could.
  • Questions on the “Trudeau cabinet shuffle”: “Which one?” Because all high school students know the portfolio maneuvers of Pierre Trudeau…
  • “Which one?” reappears as a joke on the plots of Taken films. And now if you ask about the audio host, I can say, “which one?”
  • Liam Neeson was not in Les Miserables. Didn’t affect the player getting the right answer, though.

Thanks for listening!