Rules and Regs to Raise your Team to a Competitive Level

By Ning Bao, Class of 2004


Guys, listen up: the last few tournaments have proven that Blair is capable of fielding not one, but several playoff-contending teams, especially considering that we were missing more than half of our normal top sixteen people at the last tournament, and our ďCĒ team still made it to the playoffs. I believe that any one of our teams has a very valid shot to knock off other teams, including powerhouses like TJ, Richard Montgomery, and Gonzaga. Any teamís play can be significantly improved if the team members simply follow a few of the following rules.


         Match your buzzing style to the tournament that you are at. A case in point is the Keegan tournament format at Blake High School versus the Itís Academic Show format employed at Eleanor Roosevelt. At Keeganís tournaments, clues are obviously headed towards answers, so if you have an idea, buzz aggressively. Chances are that you and someone else on your team can put the pieces of the puzzle together. Even if you get it wrong, there is no penalty connected with the questions. At the Itís Academic style of tournament, buzz more conservatively, as chances to get free points in the team-specific rounds are plentiful, the questions tend to be a bit longer and harder, and there are penalties associated with each question.

         If you donít know how a particular tournament is structured or what its questions tend to emphasize, donít b afraid to ask. Most upperclassmen members of the team, especially the members of the A- and B- teams, have been to each tournament that we will be attending at least once. Their insight is valuable, and should be sought if needed.

         Always confer with your teammates. This prevents your team from blurting out answers that are wrong in silly ways, such as saying ďFrederick RooseveltĒ instead of saying Franklin Roosevelt. Also, whenever possible, give the least amount of information to make your answer discernable, i.e. last names, abbreviations, things like that, to prevent the possibility of making stupid mistakes.

         If you take a large margin, (about 8-10 questions halfway through a 50-question round, say) donít be afraid to sit on it. At this point, you should buzz more conservatively, as the closer it gets to the end the more the other team will become desperate. Let their nerves work for you for the easy win. Conversely, if you find yourself in the reversed situation, remember that wins are not the only determiner of whether or not you make the playoffs. It is better to take a high-point total loss than to gamble everything on a small chance to win while the possibility for lowering your own point total is large.

         Know the rest of your team. Learn their strengths and their weaknesses, and try to remember clues that have tipped them off at tournaments before. This is especially true for mathematics, as at many tournaments one person should buzz after all relevant information has been provided while the person that is strong in math works it out either on paper or in his head.

         If you have no idea about a question and you know this early, jot down basic notes about the question in case your teamís strength in that subject is distracted during the question. This way, your team can buzz at any point of the question.

         For any non-calculation-oriented question, observe a ď10-second rule.Ē That is to say, if no one has a clue after ten seconds and there is a penalty enforced on the question if it is missed, do not throw an answer out there for the sake of doing so. This stands if you are behind, as well. As always, exceptions to the rule are left up to the individual captains of the teams.

         Designate an individual as a captain. This person should the most experienced player out of all the players on a team, because it is his responsibility to make the snap judgements about what answer to give to the moderators. If he makes a mistake, donít jump all over him, as this weakens team morale and distracts people from the next question.

         Listen for subtle verbal cues that give away the answer to the question, such as ďthis longest-serving first ladyĒ would obviously be Eleanor Roosevelt, as her husband was the longest serving president. Often the person responsible for picking up on the verbal cues is one of the people who is not actively engaged in trying to answer the question, but rather feeds this information to the teamís captain or specialist after hearing the subtle giveaway.

         Know your opponents. If your team is playing against a team from TJ, expect them to be very fast on the math and science questions and less so on the humanities questions. This does NOT mean that you should try to outdo the other team at what they are best at. Play within yourselves, stay close to them in their categories while scoring high in your own is the way to win the games.

         If the round are timed, as they are on the TV show or at several other tournaments, learn how to use the clock to your advantage. For example, if your team is up by 2 questions with 25 seconds left on the clock and the reader just finished reading the question, you should buzz and wait for the readerís verbal prompt before slowly and deliberately enunciating the syllables of your answer, even if you know that it is wrong. If this shaves off even 5 seconds off the other teamís time, this could mean the difference between one question and two, and once again puts the pressure back on the other team.

         In the playoffs, your team will often be underestimated, especially if you are listed as Blair B or Blair C. Donít let this get you down, but instead consider how much the other teamís morale will crash if you can take and hold an early lead on them on a couple of good buzzes.

         Captains: trust your specialists in the various areas that they are responsible for if ever two teammates give you conflicting answers. Again, final discretion is yours.

         If possible, always ask the moderator to tell you the answer to any unanswered questions in order to prepare for the next tournament.

         Finally, guys, itís a game. A competition. A sport. Have fun when you are competing, and learn from both what questions you manage to get, and what the other team gets.