I’m finally going to get caught up so I can go to the NJCL Convention and get behind again. Isn’t blogging wonderful?
I will admit that my memory at this point is rather poor, and I never entirely figured out what was going on in the first place.
So, I arrived in Chicago on Thursday night. The team had already gone out for dinner, I wouldn’t have been able to get to them before it was time to go, I was tired and afraid of jet-lag, and I needed to do laundry, so I went to our hotel. After checking in, I got $4 in change and headed up to the top floor where the laundry machines were. It was uncomfortably hot, and I had no reason to go anywhere else, so I waited there and read a Feynman book that I had picked up at Heathrow.
Eventually I ended up with clean clothes and the team was reunited, so we played a few practice rounds, where I pretty much sucked royally, being very out of practice.
On Friday morning we had a quick overview of the rules, where they
explained preached the gospel of their Swiss pairings system. It works like this…
Every team got a card with a number on it.
At the bottom of the card was a chart with which number this number was to play for any of the first 12 rounds (10 playing rounds + 2 byes).
At the end of each round, the winner left with the lower number, the loser with the higher.
Throughout the 12 rounds, almost everybody (the exception was like 10 teams near the end of the preliminaries) played teams with the same record.
It was magical. I really don’t get how it worked.
As for the actual rounds, we lost our first one. We got matched up against a very strong team that ended up 4th. Final score was 265-225.
So anyway, we played our way through the magic card system, eventually ending up with card #28, I believe. By the time the preliminaries were over, the card represented an approximate rank. If you wish to see all the stats, check out the NAQT’s special page for our team. This includes the rather embarrassing personal stats, where you can see how much our team depended on Dallas’s knowledge.
The one round of particular interest was the second one against Edison High, not because of the round, but because of our moderator. Ken Jennings has written questions for NAQT for some time, and is always a moderator, and he happened to be moderating our room. We of course did the 20 pictures and autographs after the match, which he didn’t really seem to enjoy, but fortunately, Dad forgot to get the camera from me, so I still had it.
The format of NAQT rounds is unusual, at least for us Tennesseans, who really just play by our own rules. NAQT format is two timed halves, where you play as many questions as you can. As much as I dislike timed matches, it makes the rankings even murkier. Because the number of questions varies in every room for every round, using some statistic like total points scored or points per game can be misleading, so the people in charge instead used PP20H, or Points Per 20 Tossups Heard.
At the end of the preliminary rounds, we were ranked 36th. Then, the people in charge started doing some really strange voodoo. The finals were double elimination, but they didn’t use a standard double elimination bracket. What they did instead, I think, is took everyone still in the winners bracket and matched the best with the worst, a 1 plays 16, 2 plays 15, etc. Then they did the same for the losers bracket. I’m not sure if this is exactly what they did, but here is the effect:
In a normal playoff bracket, an upset works to the advantage of the upsetter. For example, if 16 beats 1, the 16th place team then gets rewarded by having easy matches for the rest of the tournament. In this tournament, though, assuming no other upsets, 16 ends up playing the best team in the next round, ensuring that their road to success is paved with lots and lots of challenging rounds.
I will agree that it has its merits, but since we were just over halfway down the bracket, I wasn’t a big fan of it.
Particularly since we ended up having to play Maggie Walker in our third round, the team that ended up placing 3rd. Again, we held our own for about half of the game, and I got 4 power marks (where you buzz in insanely early and get an extra 5 points for being so damn clever), which like doubled my count for the whole tournament. The very last question was about cryptographic hashes, so I felt like I went out with a pretty decent bang.
Maggie Walker still almost doubled our score, though, putting us in a 12-way tie for 25th. There was no attempt to distinguish teams who went out at the same time.
After we were eliminated, I only had a few hours before my flight, so I sat around the hotel and waited. Then I came home.
The other thing I want to talk about that’s happened since then is that I’m officially a Mac user now. I mentioned that one of my graduation presents was a shiny new MacBook Pro, which I ordered about a week before the non-pro MacBooks came out. I have no regrets, though, because this thing is awesome. It does run rather warm, but it doesn’t bother me too much.