2017 Nationals Results

Lights! Camera! Inaction!

Last weekend, UTS and the University of Toronto hosted the 49th* national championship of Reach for the Top. 16 teams from seven provinces had a full day of round-robin competition before vying for the title in the playoffs.

*Reach claimed it was the 51st, but only 49 championship seasons have occurred due to the stoppages after the CBC era.

The full results are uploaded here. Lisgar CI claimed their third national title in a close 460-410 final over the University of Toronto Schools; it was an anticipated clash of titans and a rematch of the provincial title which UTS won. My rundown of the teams, in order of rank (note: for this tournament, I broke standings ties by round-robin seed):

  • Auburn Drive (16th). Nova Scotia’s clubs were greatly hindered by job action this year; only five teams went to provincials. Let’s hope this year was only a blip and that teams can have more support next year. As for this particular team, I never saw them until their final consolation game. They kept close with SJHS in the first half and won an excruciatingly long shootout, but saw their tournament end there.
  • Rundle College (15th). Schedule quirkiness meant I saw Rundle for 9 of the 15 preliminary games and became their unintended fan club. As a surprise invite from their fourth-place finish in Alberta, expectations were not high. Their top player will return next year, so hopefully they can build from this experience for another shot at Nationals.
  • St. Paul’s (14th). I think there was a different line-up between provincials and nationals, because the Manitoba champs fell short of the other teams from their province. Hopefully this means the school has a large pool of players to choose from, and can re-assemble for another provincial title run next year.
  • Collingwood (13th). This rank will simply go down as “oops”. They temporarily disappeared after one of their consolation losses and defaulted a win to lower-seeded Saint John. They would have been in contention for the consolation bracket title otherwise.
  • Saint John (12th). They got a lucky break from Collingwood, but ended up fourth of the final four consolation teams. They will be in tough to qualify for nationals next year, because the competition for second in New Brunswick is very tight. Interestingly, I only ever saw them win: in the round-robin over Rundle and the playoffs over Auburn Drive.
  • Marianopolis (11th). This team was a bit weaker than some CEGEP teams of the past, but they pulled one of the few upsets in the playoffs with a second-round consolation win over Renert.
  • St. John’s-Ravenscourt (10th). Just getting to nationals was impressive: Horton’s drop-out meant that SJR organized a team trip from Winnipeg less than a week before the tournament. They didn’t show too much rust and even managed to beat their provincial champions in the round-robin!
  • Renert (9th). Renert & Co. did improve from last year. Their highlight was either almost defeating KV or getting the most games of any team by taking the long route to get to the consolation bracket title. A tournament MVP came from this team (I don’t mention names due to a blog-wide policy of keeping players anonymous).
  • Old Scona (8th). Unlike their provincial compatriots, Old Scona did pull off a win over KV, but fell back to eighth seed by the end of Saturday. Eighth seed unfortunately meant an early match with UTS, where even a 480-240 loss to them would be considered a good result.
  • Sir Winston Churchill (7th). They seemed, on paper at least, to be the strongest team from BC, even though Collingwood beat them in both the provincial final and the round-robin match (they won the play-in match over Collingwood, though). They led UTS going into the final snapout of their match, but couldn’t pull off what would have been the biggest upset of the tournament. Their mix of ups and downs averaged them out to the middle of the pack.
  • Templeton (6th). For a team’s first appearance at Nationals (either in a long while or ever – not sure), they did very well. They almost beat Martingrove in the round robin and finished as the highest-placing BC team. Considering that they were nowhere even on the provincial scene before this, they would certainly be the “most improved” team. A tournament MVP came from this team.
  • Kelvin (5th). R-values suggest the 5th-8th place teams have razor-thin differences in strength between them, but Kelvin got the wins. Kelvin was on my radar as the Manitoba runners-up, but I didn’t expect them to get as high as fifth. Well done, though I didn’t get to see them play. A tournament MVP came from this team.
  • Kennebecasis Valley (4th). I think that even before the tournament began, KV was destined for fourth: they weren’t quite up to the level of the Ontario teams but were definitely better than anyone else. They got within 30 points of Lisgar in the round-robin, but a loss to Old Scona almost cost them a playoff bye. The semifinal match against UTS was very impressive, though. They capitalized on UTS’ mistakes and frustrations to keep within 20 points late in the match, and nearly gave the favourites their first loss of the tournament. With good players returning, I would not be surprised to see a late-round rematch next year- perhaps even in the final for once!
  • Martingrove (3rd). Like KV, Martingrove seemed set for their final position as a step behind Lisgar and UTS. A mere 250-230 loss to UTS in the round-robin gave the Ontario champs a little scare, and they easily handled Templeton in the quarterfinal. The semifinal wasn’t pretty though: a poor run during the team scrambles sapped any momentum they had and allowed Lisgar’s MVP alone to earn more points than them. Nevertheless, they were part of the good camaraderie among the Ontario teams and hopefully they’ll show up at more tournaments next year in their quest to keep their Nationals attendance streak alive.
  • UTS (2nd). UTS was my pick as the strongest team on paper, despite what the R-value said. They swept the round-robin while rarely fielding their true A-team; it cost them a few extra points, but who needs points for seeding when you’re 15-0? Unfortunately, the team was mired in production difficulties in both of their final-day matches. They were not on top of their game and only narrowly beat KV before taking the loss in the final. I think the delays and frustrations ate away at them, but they also had to deal with Lisgar’s MVP getting a second wind on the last day. It was a very good final match, and they had a great season overall (including a 6-1 record across formats over Lisgar A). They should be just as strong next year, so best of luck for another title run!
  • Lisgar (1st). Best ever regional result. Best ever provincial (round-robin) result. 2nd best ever national (round-robin) result. Analytically, this title is not a surprise. Realistically, it was anything but. The team played sick (barely getting to the stage) and they entered the playoffs knowing they had taken nothing but losses to UTS all year. There was not a lot of optimism among them for the final morning. However, that semifinal was a much-needed boost in confidence and set them up for a stellar (minus the 25-minute delay) final. Who needs shootout wins anyway? While Lisgar’s MVP (also selected as a tournament MVP) returns, no one else does, so this was expected to be Lisgar’s last chance for a while. They got the title, and now they can go back to their regularly-scheduled programming of quizbowl.

A great tournament by all the teams. The matches I saw both in-room and on-stage were great to watch, even if I ended up rooting for the Rundle underdog half the time.

The tournament organization was pretty good. Logistics has never been a problem for Reach, and for their price tag, you expect the perks and efficiencies. Games were on time, staff were prepared, food was ready, and results were prompt. Sunday’s stage games were also well done, even if there was an audience of just me and the coaches at times.

Unfortunately, Monday was a mess. The small change from SchoolReach to Reach for the Top – filming the event – was a world of difference for the negative. Floodlights blew the breakers in the first game and wrecked a buzzer. The need to announce players on the replacement buzzers forced a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” scene where a person hid behind a banner to identify the light that went off. Pre-games became fidgety with ridiculous insert shots of buzzing, applause, and phony reactions. Games stopped twice when camera SD cards filled. Most notoriously, the delay of “reviewing the tapes” (rather than using a tried-and-tested method south of the border of leniency on vowel pronunciation) dragged the final into a 90-minute affair. UTS’ auditorium is not a television studio. Reach needs to either get back to a real TV production or start embracing less intrusive broadcast options, like Twitch or Youtube streaming. Disrupting players for the sake of pretty video (that will never come to light) shows a complete disregard for what should be the most important part of these tournaments – the academic performance of the players. UTS was definitely compromised by the production, and while I don’t dispute the title, I think we were robbed of an even better final. I know some changes will be underway at Reach, and I hope the Monday routine is part of that.

The final gala was good, though. Much more concise and meaningful than some of the provincial galas.

But I shouldn’t let my rambling detract from recognizing the most important things: the players who all showed excellent skill, teamwork, and friendliness; the coaches who coordinate not only the management of a strong team but the logistics of getting them to events; and the volunteer staff who keep the games going in a timely manner.

To those graduating, best wishes for your post-secondary pursuits (hey, try quizbowl). For those returning, good luck in your title run!

Finally, a blog note: this is, obviously, the end of the Reach season. For the off-season, my priorities are an explanation of the R-value (and follow-ups with old provincial analysis), a look at some historical games, and an updated Reach champion ranking, which I last did in 2015. Stay tuned!

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 #1

2017 Lisgar tournament, KVHS vs LCI B

The first “episode” of Reach Scores Audio is up! From the 2017 Lisgar Reach-style tournament, this round 1 match pits Kennebecasis Valley HS against Lisgar CI “B”. Moderating and audio production by me, Ben Smith.

Here is the link to the episode.


  • The game room was a high-ceiling science lab. There was significant echo, but normalizing the audio helped, especially for the buzzer tone.
  • Hector Berlioz’ symphonies are not often referred to by number. Symphonie Fantastique is his first, anyway.
  • The Himalaya and Karakoram are, indeed, separate ranges. The name “K2” came about from being the second surveyed peak in the Karakoram.

Thanks for listening! The remaining rounds will be uploaded as quickly as I can finish them (hopefully by the end of the week).

2017 Lisgar Independent Tournament results

Able to declare winners better than the Oscars

Lisgar’s annual Reach-style tournament was held last weekend, with 13 teams in attendance across two divisions. Teams from the University of Toronto Schools won both. Lisgar, Kennebecasis Valley, and Glebe rounded out the top 4 in the upper bracket. Congratulations to all the teams.

I have uploaded results here. I noticed a nice bit of elegance in that all the teams finished in order of R-value; in other words, their performance in practice (wins) lined up with their theoretical performance (answering questions).

Speaking of R-value, most teams saw a drop compared to last year. While some of the upper division teams are weaker than last year (including Lisgar “A” missing their top players due to authorship), the change looks like it can be attributed to the improved performance of the less experienced division. The record R-values of last year probably came from strong teams playing other strong teams on a set that had its average PPG deflated by poor point totals in the lower division. A stronger lower division this year meant it was more difficult for top teams to “stand out”. Overall though, it does look like year-to-year R-value comparisons need to be taken with a grain of salt. NAQT’s D-value, which the R-value is derived from, does not compare year-to-year; it is only relevant for comparing teams playing on the same set (making R-value most applicable for Reach Regionals).

The quality of the question set was up and down. Based on the final results, it was clearly able to sort teams properly and not produce weird upsets. Assigned questions were balanced. Relays were balanced and parts increased in difficulty evenly. Most “what-am-I”s became easier with each passing clue. The absence of shootouts, “wordplay” questions and solving math on paper is a great personal preference. On the negative side, there were still problems associated with old SchoolReach that even modern Reach is trying to get rid of. Some questions tricked where the answer was heading – a question should never use “but” to change the course partway through. “Who-am-I”s still frequently open with biographical information about birth and education – very few people are important to know about because of the date of their birth, unless they are Jesus or from Midnight’s Children. Finally, there were too many questions about movie directors (and I like movies!) – the set needed to be guided by an overall subject distribution. All this being said, I’m aware that writing a tournament requires a lot of work (I’ve done it) and I don’t want to come across as too tough on high school students. Their work is as good as, if not better than, current SchoolReach sets.

I was able to record the matches I read. I have transferred over the raw audio to start working on it, and will probably limit the editing to removing personal information (if any) and dead air. No intros! Stay tuned here for updates.

2017 Lisgar Independent Tournament preview

A yearly event without a name.

Lisgar CI hosts their “Reach-style” tournament on Saturday. Lisgar has hosted these events off-and-on since 2007, and annually since (I think) 2013. They are “independent” in that the questions are not written by SchoolReach and the results have no bearing toward a Reach national title… but more on that later.

Most of the teams will be from the Ottawa area, but two regular visitors are University of Toronto Schools and Kennebecasis Valley HS. They have 7 Reach titles between them and at least one of them has appeared in the final in 10 of the past 11 seasons (though interestingly, never against each other). As visitors, they are invaluable for “sizing up” the strength of different regions, and together with UTS’ events, paint the picture for the Reach season ahead.

Lisgar wrote all the questions this year. This was the case in earlier years, but 2015 and 2016 had an arrangement to modify NAQT’s television packs into questions that resembled the Reach format. A consequence of Lisgar writing this year is that the A-team, as authors, won’t be playing. It’s a disappointment to not see potential national clashes, but necessary for the running of the event. Lisgar B (and C, and D…) are no slouches, though, and will likely carry the Lisgar banner to the top 3.

There’s an interesting coincidence between Lisgar’s tournament and Reach. The second-place team at Lisgar has gone on to win the Reach national title (Lisgar in 2015, KVHS in 2016). The winning team at Lisgar in those two years failed to make provincials (Colonel By in 2015 by boycott, UTS in 2016 by regional semifinal upset). The latter is rather unlikely this year (unless Lisgar “B” wins and doesn’t represent Lisgar at provincials), but watch out for the national champion coincidence again!

I will be reading games. It will be my first attempt at recording audio at this level (I did some university games back in 2006), and a trial run before Regionals. Stay tuned to find the (edited) matches in the near future.

Good luck to the teams!