Thursday, March 30, 2017

In which we philosophize about numbers

The bigger a field is, the easier it is to tab, provided you’ve got enough judges. It’s the little ones that are the hardest, especially when there’s an imbalance, that is, a lot of teams from one or two schools.

The big tournaments tab themselves. What you have to look for is that all the judges are being used correctly, that the byes are going to the people who deserve them (something tabroom has yet to do satisfactorily), and that people show up and end up within a reasonable amount of time. It probably takes about an hour to tab a big round: fifteen or twenty minutes to make sure it’s okay and the assignments are right, a half hour lead-up time, then fifteen minutes of getting each round started. Usually we’re tabbing multiple events on a staggered schedule, and as soon as one division is set, the next one pops up. (I’m not counting time for entering results because there’s less of that every year, thank God.)

In other words, the computer does all the work, and mostly does it right. It can’t do things like prefer 2-3 prefs over 1-2s, but that’s easy enough to fix. There may be little things that remain problematic, but the big work is done in the processor.

Little fields are harder. The computer might be perfectly happy with double-pull-ups, or assignment of the bye will be ceded to side constraints, or not, or any number of things like that. Clever manipulation of judges, e.g., moving a varsity LD judge into a JV PF round, no way. Good judges on the bubbles, maybe. All the teams from X HS undefeated, hitting pullups? That may be unsolvable. Simply not pairing the round? It does happen. I print up cards, in that case. Kaz uses the manual matcher. Whatever.

Looking ahead to the NY States tournament, it appears that the younger the students, the more of them there are. Only 19 people are qualified to debate LD at the varsity level across the entire state? No. But only 19 people want to. Whatever. I’m not an interested party anymore, so it is what it is. 27 in JV. 37 in Novice. The point is, the divisions will be progressively easier to tab as the students become younger, because there’s progressively more of them. But none of them are gangbuster big. This is going to be an interesting tournament to run because we will, in fact, have to run it. There is a belief that will put tab rooms out of business. Not yet. 

Each tournament has its own ethos, its own problems, its own fun and games. Each, in other words, is unhappy in its own way.


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