Super Saturday

Three events to wrap up 2017

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Yesterday saw a small flurry of tournaments to end the 2017 calendar year. Teams got one more chance to test their skill before most circuits start their SchoolReach regionals in late January and February.

In actual SchoolReach, Kennebecasis Valley HS hosted their leg of the New Brunswick tour. Younger divisions were well-populated, but the senior level drew just 5 teams. Oromocto HS and Bernice McNaughton HS made their first senior appearances of the year. KV’s “A” team once again swept the field, and they finished with a 260-220 final over Bernice McNaughton. The New Brunswick circuit reconvenes in February.

U of T’s “novice” NAQT event was the big draw of the day. Despite the title, all levels of teams participated. Chaminade, UTS, Westmount, White Oaks, and several anonymized clubs made up the 12-team field. UTS A handily won the tournament, with their closest match coming against their own B team, who finished tied for second. An anonymous school from Richmond Hill (they have a lengthy tenure in GTA tournaments), Westmount, and a solo player from upstate New York rounded out the top five. Stats from the Toronto event are here.

Carleton also hosted an event using the question set from Toronto. Seven teams from Almonte, Ashbury, Colonel By, Lisgar, and Nepean participated. This was Ashbury’s first appearance in true quizbowl, though in the past they had played SchoolReach and History Bowl. I had to leave early, but Lisgar’s MVP made his first appearance this year and helped the A team to convincing wins. Stats from Carleton are now available here.

Hamilton is also starting up their SchoolReach regional league, but the championship won’t be decided until spring.

Now that there is a competition down-time for holidays and/or exams, I will again go on a short hiatus. I will probably get one post each in December and January before the season restarts.

Local introductions

Getting to know you…

The big UTS tournament introduced the contenders, but now the local events have started up.

New Brunswick had its first SchoolReach tournament on Saturday, held at Sugarloaf Senior HS. There were four teams at the senior level and ten in the intermediate level. Kennebecasis Valley HS “A” went undefeated in their double round-robin and won the tournament. Fredericton HS was the only other representation at the senior level, but hopefully there will be more variety of schools as the regional tournaments move on to other parts of the province.

On the quizbowl front, McMaster hosted “MacIntro III” last week. UTS, Westmount, and a team that needs anonymity were in attendance. UTS was still not at full strength, but convincingly swept the field and answered roughly 80% of the questions they heard. Westmount and the “A” team from the other school also put up strong numbers that could have won in a different field. Stats for the tournament are here.

The following weekend, Lisgar hosted with that set of questions. This brought out local teams, including some that don’t play in the Ottawa SchoolReach league. Ten teams from seven schools participated, with Colonel By SS going undefeated. Stats for the tournament are here. Colonel By and Lisgar did not run their true “A” teams out of respect for the “novice” spirit of the tournament. I think Glebe was missing one of their “A” players, but they and Nepean are close to what to expect for regional competition later this year. With Colonel By not in the SchoolReach league, those two will be in a tight fight for the provincial qualifications (assuming Lisgar is already in the mix for one of the spots).

U of Toronto and Carleton U will run quizbowl tournaments on December 2 that will bring out more “A” teams. New Brunswick also continues their SchoolReach regionals that day.

If tournaments are starting up in your part of Canada, I’d be happy to share it. Local tournaments are a great way to warm up before the official events in the spring.

2017 UTS fall tournament results

Let the season begin!

The University of Toronto Schools held a fall Reach-style tournament on October 28. UTS has held several independent tournaments in the past, but this is their first under new management (and the first where I have full results).

Traditionally, the UTS tournament attracts many southern Ontario teams, and occasionally has visitors from other parts of the province and the well-traveled KVHS team. Because of the wide variety of Ontario teams (and its original April date), the UTS tournament had been a good measuring stick for Ontario SchoolReach provincials.

This year’s tournament attracted 32 teams from 20 schools. The top four teams from 2017 Nationals and top six teams from 2017 Ontario provincials were in attendance. Teams were split into four pools of 8, but only completed five of the round-robin games for the morning preliminaries. This left an uneven schedule for some teams, as will be seen later. For the afternoon, the top 8, next 8, next 8, and bottom 8 teams were separated into “elimination” brackets, though all teams continued playing to resolve every rank from 1 to 32. Martingrove CI won the tournament, with a 410-280 victory over London Central SS “A” in the final.

The stats, including the R-value, are found at this link. The initial pools were divided as follows:

Pool A (313 PPG) Pool B (282 PPG) Pool C (253 PPG) Pool D (293 PPG)
  • Agincourt
  • Assumption A
  • Chaminade B
  • Central B
  • Richview
  • UCC A
  • UTS A
  • Westmount
  • Assumption B
  • Centennial CVI
  • Bethune A
  • Lisgar
  • Central A
  • Michael Power
  • TMS B
  • UFA A
  • Assumption C
  • Chaminade A
  • Bethune B
  • Martingrove
  • Oakville Trafalgar B
  • TMS A
  • UFA B
  • “Hat team”
  • KVHS
  • Oakville Trafalgar A
  • Oakwood
  • St. Michael’s
  • UCC B
  • UFA A
  • UTS B
  • White Oaks

I’ll look at the champions, Martingrove, first. Despite having the second-highest points haul, they only ended up with a raw R-value of 123% (7th overall for that stat). Their R-value was hurt by their extremely easy schedule, in which they faced the lowest-recorded strength of schedule for a complete tournament. Not only did the strength of schedule lower their R-value, but I suspect their points haul was lower than expected for at least one of these reasons:

  • With easy opponents, games were settled fairly early, allowing Martingrove to ease off.
  • Martingrove could play more loose and risk mistakes and wrong answers

Once the playoffs rolled around, they reverted back to their usual strong persona. If their playoff games were incorporated into their total R-value (which I don’t do, because of the significant play difference between prelims and playoffs), their R-value becomes 172%, which is closer to expected.

Central and UTS’ secondary players put up their usual strong performances. UTS A was part of a lions’ den in Pool A, which gave a large boost to those teams’ strength of schedule and R-value. Considering UTS’ result, this bodes well for when they bring in their true “A” team.

Hands up if you said Westmount would have the highest R-value. I knew they would be a decent team this year, but the curse of Hamilton’s strength of schedule struck again: Westmount’s SOS was at least 10% higher than any other top-flight team, including almost 60% tougher than Martingrove’s. They had to play full-throttle to keep up with all their opponents, and the combination of lots of points and a tough schedule created a perfect storm for a high R-value. Westmount deserves notice this year, but I don’t think they are yet at the echelon of UTS or Martingrove.

KVHS is probably disappointed with their final placement. They went undefeated in the morning, and as a reward, had to face UTS A in the first playoff game. They only lost to the UTS teams that day.

Lisgar had a completely new lineup from their previous national championship squad. The deep Lisgar program still produced a team that can put up the points, but three consecutive losses to Central, Martingrove, and KVHS settled their fate and gave them a good gauge for how they stack up in the national picture this year.

Chaminade is a school I know little about. They went to a few UTS events, but my only record of them is 15th at the 1999 Ontario provincials. They ended up in the top flight thanks to being the “best of the rest” in the Martingrove-dominated Pool C. I suspect the “Hat team” in that pool was an exhibition group to replace a strong team that had to drop out suddenly, but it ended up leaving the pool weak overall. Chaminade, like many other GTA teams, will have a tough go to get out of regionals with all the strong established Toronto teams.

The biggest outlier is Upper Canada College. They had an R-value of 144% and crushed the third flight, but statistically, they should have been vying for a top 8 finish. Being stuck in Pool A didn’t help, and even if they hypothetically beat Agincourt, they still would have only ended up in the second flight. I know it can be hard to judge team strength at the beginning of the year, but placing four 2017 ON playoff teams (and the B team of a fifth) together gave the unsurprising outcome of a stacked pool. Hopefully, UCC will get another tournament before provincials to see if they can do better.

I noticed an interesting comparison with the two Oakville rivals White Oaks and Oakville-Trafalgar. They were placed in the same pool with almost the same SOS and identical point tallies. Their round-robin match was decided by 10 points. They met again in the playoffs, with a 350-300 victory for White Oaks to determine 13th place. For several years, these two have faced each other regionally and provincially; it looks like it will be a paper-thin margin between them again this year.

Overall, I got the impression that this was a good tournament by UTS. The schedule issues are mostly nitpicking at this stage; for an early-year tournament, the most important thing is to see how the other teams are doing, rather than worry about final rank. There will be other Reach-style opportunities at Lisgar and possibly Westmount.

Finally, McMaster held a tournament yesterday, but I will recap that after Lisgar runs their event with those questions next week.

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.

Notes:

  • 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.