[eDebate] On 7 Round Tournaments

Gary Larson Gary.N.Larson
Thu Oct 15 12:44:14 CDT 2009

I must agree with Greg that the 7 round model with doubles that has 4 presets on day 1, followed by 3 power-matched rounds and doubles on day 2 represents a ?worse? or even ?worst? alternative for all but the participants in the final round.
But I?d like to focus a moment on the untested assumption, namely that the inexorable increase in the length of time that it takes to complete a round from the announcement of the pairing until the receipt of the last ballot is both inevitable and perhaps even desirable.  On the front end, we?ve gone from an expectation that we should have 30 minutes pre-round prep to a minimum of 45 minutes and a goal of an hour.  But the back end is the bigger problem.  Not only is the debate itself longer because of a variety of prep-stealing conventions, but the notion that the judge should give a timely decision has changed radically.  Evolving from an expectation that the last decision should come in no later than 2:15-2:30 after the announced start time (not the actual start time that a particular round happens to begin), tournaments now write in an expectation of 2:45.  If only it were that simple.  At Kentucky, rounds 6 and 7 both required about 3:05 to receive the last ballots.  For doubles it was 3:15, for octos it was almost 3:30.   We follow the unwritten rule that a task expands to fill the time allotted for it (and then some).  So whatever time is gained by having fewer rounds is quickly more than lost by having each debate take longer.  Even Monday didn?t see as much benefit as we might have hoped since it took between 4:15 and 4:30 to go from start to start for successive rounds. 
As a community we must decide whether having 8 debates that take 3:15 each (from start to start), 7 debates that take 3:45 each, 6 debates that take 4:15 each and so in is better.  I know that there is a quality vs quantity distinction but if the students do really benefit from a decision that takes a half hour or more longer to complete than the norm, we?d have to concede that only a small minority or students are getting that benefit while waiting for the few that do.  I think that this is our Achilles heel and there is no practical maximum where it will just take care of itself.
But what about the threat of coin flips and the like.  Perhaps.  But the community still sides in their heart with the judge that they applaud for being extra ?careful? against the tab room that would decide a critical round with a coin flip.  I think that this is the conversation that we need to be happening or we will eventually conclude that we can?t have more than 2 rounds a day (and still hope to eat meals, socialize and sleep).
Just for context, let me describe the opposite extreme.  I run tab for a moderate sized NPDA tournament that Wheaton hosts in February.  Due to campus scheduling constraints, the tournament begins on Friday afternoon at 3 and ends on Saturday evening.  The tournament has 8 rounds and octas and the last participant each evening leaves the campus by 10.  Moreover, the tournament has 2 presets and no lag-paired rounds.  Students are also served meals during breaks Friday dinner and Saturday lunch.
Now I?m NOT suggesting that we go there with policy debate, but it wasn?t that many years ago that we could with good conscience schedule elim rounds on a 3-hour clock.
Oh, and 1 last caveat.  It isn?t the tabbing and pairing function that slows things down.  The average time at Kentucky from the receipt of the last ballot to the electronic release of the next pairing was about 4 minutes.
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