For competitive teams, national tournaments are opportunities to see how good your team is in comparison to other teams from across the country. Questions are typically much harder than regional tournaments, rules are much more strict, and competition is extremely strong. Due to a rise in quiz bowl's popularity over the years, many national tournaments are open for teams to qualify for and attend, making May and June stressful months. Choosing the right tournament to attend may be problematic due to limited budgets, and anticipating which tournaments will be the most exciting is near impossible. With this guide, inspired by that of the Connecticut Quiz Bowl Alliance, you will see what each tournament offers and decide based on certain distinguishing characteristics.
A few notes regarding national tournaments. National tournaments are expensive and take up at least three days of traveling and competing. With that said, national tournaments are perfect opportunities to bond with teammates, make lasting friendships with players from other teams, and compete on high-quality question sets. Just being around incredibly smart and intellectual curious players leads to such a fulfilling experience. In order to decide which tournament is best, speak with other team members, read the below guide, and see which tournaments do not coincide with any major events like graduations or finals. When preparing for a national tournament, make sure that you have qualified and have sent in any necessary paperwork and registration fees early, as well as hotel information since rooms are sold out at least a month before the tournament. Work out transportation (flights, buses, etc.) and parental supervision (since an adult needs to sign teams into their rooms). If money is a major issue, you could attempt to reach out to the tournament directors of these national tournaments, or try to fundraise enough money through school trivia nights, bake sales, or an online GoFundMe page. Speak with local newspapers and set up interviews for an article publicizing your team's achievements in hopes that people will spread the word and potentially donate. With regards to studying for these tournaments, read through previous packets (PACE and NASAT are available here) and attend pre-Nationals tournaments that may be hosting SCT or ICT sets.
NAQT High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT)
Date: Memorial Day weekend, May 24-26, 2019.
Sponsor: National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT)
Registration fees: As of 2018 HSNCT, registration is $675 if paid for before the beginning of May, and $695 if paid for after that date. Teams that have dropped off a buzzer system from 1:00 to 5:00 PM on that Friday receive a $20 discount. Teams bringing a moderator receive a $25 discount per session that the moderator is reading at. Teams attending both HSNCT and SSNCT receive a $100 discount on their HSNCT entrance fee.
Location: Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, GA. Rooms are available for a major discount if purchased through NAQT.
Qualification for HSNCT: Teams that place in the top 15% of all competing teams at a tournament using NAQT questions automatically qualify (if there are 24 teams, then 4 teams qualify, not 3, since NAQT rounds up). If trying to qualify multiple teams, all teams hoping to qualify must be playing at the same tournament. If, for example, 4 players from the A team qualify at one tournament, but then those 4 players put themselves on the B team at another tournament and qualify, that school should not be sending two teams to HSNCT. If a team wants to attend HSNCT but has not finished in the top 15% of teams at any tournament, that team can apply for a Wild Card slot starting February 1st, 2019. The application process involves sending in a potential roster and a major reason why that team deserves to compete (i.e. lack of tournaments available in the area).
Field size: In 2018, there were 352 teams competing at HSNCT. To put this into perspective, 2017 HSNCT only had 304 teams in attendance, proving that HSNCT is continually growing and changing to accommodate more teams.
Tournament and Round Format: HSNCT is divided into two days, 7 preliminary rounds on Saturday and the remaining 3 rounds and playoffs on Sunday. Saturday is divided into two sessions, a morning and an afternoon session, to accommodate the large field. HSNCT functions on a card system in which teams are randomly assigned a card on Saturday morning and play teams listed out on the card. Every time a team wins a match, they receive the lower number card. By the end of the first day, the teams with 7-0 and 6-1 records should have cards 1-20 or so. Teams that finish 6-4 or better are guaranteed at least one playoff match on Sunday afternoon; teams that are 6-4 are eliminated after losing only one game, while teams that are 7-3 and better play double elimination. Teams that do not make playoffs play in consolation rounds. Rounds consist of two 9-minute halves and packets contain 24 questions. Most rounds will not get to all 24 questions depending on how fast the moderator is at reading and how fast teams are at buzzing in. Questions are harder than IS sets and include a slightly different subject distribution as seen here. Past results can be found here.
Why attend HSNCT: HSNCT is much more fast-paced than other tournaments due to the short nature of the questions, the competitive field, and 18-minute matches. During later tournament rounds, teams of similar strength will play each other, leading to extremely close matches. HSNCT is accessible to more teams than other national tournaments since there is more emphasis on pop culture, current events, and history, topics that many players know without too much studying. Making playoffs make take a little bit of luck due to the randomness of the card system, but the double-elimination format leads to close games and surprising results. Scrimmage matches are also an option for teams on Friday night.
Small School National Championship Tournament (SSNCT)
Date: May 3rd-May 5th of 2019
Sponsor: National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT)
Registration Fees: $635 per team with discounts for buzzer systems and moderators.
Location: Hyatt Regency O'Hare, Rosemont, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago).
Qualification: Teams must finish in the top 30% of all small schools competing at a high school varsity tournament using NAQT questions. Any small school team that qualifies for HSNCT also qualifies for SSNCT. NAQT also permits the highest-placing team in any class or division of an official state championship to compete, provided that the tournament's rules and questions are similar to those of NAQT. The wildcard system for SSNCT works almost identically that the wild care system for HSNCT.
Eligibility: There are two divisions at SSNCT: Traditional public schools and Open divisions. Traditional public schools must have at most 500 students across the top three grades, students are required to attend that school due to living in a specific school district area, schools must not limit its enrollment through admissions tests or other means, and schools must not have selective magnet programs. Last year, 96 teams from traditional public schools attended SSNCT. The Open division includes schools that are non-traditional public schools or homeschools, offers at least one grade between grades 9 to 12, and has 350 students or less across the top three grades. Last year, 64 teams competed in the Open division at SSNCT.
Tournament and round format: Like HSNCT, rounds are divided into two 9-minute halves and feature at most 24 questions. The distribution for HSNCT and SSNCT is identical. However, SSNCT questions are easier than HSNCT questions and are a similar difficulty to most IS sets. Both divisions operate separately, each team playing 10 preliminary matches with 4 bye rounds in between. The tournament operates in a double-elimination fashion until one champion is decided for both divisions. In addition, one Very Small School champion (less than 300 students in the top three grades) is determined through additional matches. Past results are here.
Why attend SSNCT: SSNCT and HSNCT use different question sets, so teams that want to attend both can with no issue. SSNCT allows teams that may not have the opportunity to attend HSNCT (either did not qualify or were not up for the competition) to play high-quality and fast-paced matches against other similar schools. SSNCT has less strict guidelines for qualification and is not very difficult, allowing for less experienced teams to get good buzzes and have an exciting time.
Individual Player National Championship Tournament (IPNCT)
Date: Sunday, April 7, 2019
Sponsor: National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT)
Location: Hyatt Regency O'Hare, Rosemont, Illinois
Registration fee: $160 per player
Qualification: All players are eligible to compete at IPNCT without any prior qualification.
Tournament and round format: Last year, 96 players competed at IPNCT. The players are randomly divided into playing rooms of 8-10 competitors. There are three non-elimination rounds in which players must score 90 points to "get out," or score the maximum amount of points possible and then sit out for the rest of the round. If a player scores 90 points or above, he/she receives a bonus based on the question that he/she buzzed out on. All preliminary rounds consist of 72 tossups, and multiple people can buzz out in a round. The question distribution is similar to that of HSNCT and SSNCT, but questions are slightly more difficult than HSNCT since the packet is ICT DII played by college undergraduates. After three rounds, total points are added up and two more matches are played in a similar format, but for round 4, the bottom two players are eliminated, and for round 5, the bottom six (in a 10 player room) players are eliminated. 32 players remain for the single-elimination head-to-head playoff matches consisting of 24 questions, the player with the highest score moving on. Bracketing is determined by preliminary performance. After 5 head-to-head matches, a winner is decided. Players who have lost their head-to-head game(s) then play additional matches to determine final placement.
Why attend IPNCT: IPNCT is a fantastic way to test individual strengths across all subjects without any help from teammates. IPNCT questions are fast-paced and IPNCT rooms are extremely competitive, a majority of questions powered by any of the ten players. Making it far in this tournament proves that you are a strong generalist who can buzz in on tossups in pretty much any category. This tournament is only one day, though, so taking two flights within a short period of time may not be ideal for everyone.
Pace National Scholastic Championships (NSC)
Date: June 8-9, 2019
Sponsor: Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence (PACE)
Location: Hyatt Regency Reston, Reston, VA
Registration fees: The base fee is $695 per team. Supplying a working buzzer system is -$10 per school, bringing a staffer is -$50 per school, hosting a gold-certified tournament is -$10, hosting a platinum-certified tournament (see below) is -$20, and submitting the full payment before March 1 is -$15.
Qualification: Teams that finish in the top 10% (with rounding) of a regular-certified tournament will qualify for PACE. Gold qualifier events (all teams guaranteed 7 rounds, questions are deemed "acceptable" by PACE standards, statistics are accurately recording showing team and individual performances) allow the top 20% of teams to qualify for PACE. Platinum qualifier events (all teams guaranteed nine games, questions are at least regular difficulty, no single-elimination playoffs, and detailed statistics quickly uploaded to the database) allow the top 25% of teams to qualify for PACE. PACE also allows teams that have not met these standards to submit a wildcard application which opens up on January 1st.
Field size: In 2018, 96 teams attended PACE NSC.
Tournament and round format: PACE NSC uses a round robin structure with more games than a typical local tournament. Teams are seeded into preliminary brackets with seven teams each. After the six matches, teams are then seeded into playoff brackets with teams of similar skill. After playoffs have concluded (typically 5 or so matches), teams are then sorted into superplayoff brackets of 8 teams, the top 8 teams being the final teams in contention to win PACE NSC. After these matches, any tiebreakers are played out and finals are played to determine a winner. Each team should play 18 rounds in total. Rounds are divided into two untimed halves of 10 tossups and bonuses each. PACE NSC uses 20-point powers instead of 15-point powers, and there are no point subtractions for negs. Bonuses are similar to HSNCT bonuses, but any bonus that a team answers incorrectly "bounces over" to the other team which then has an opportunity to answer it correctly for 10 points. PACE NSC packets are somewhat harder than HSNCT with a much more rigid subject distribution. Tossups are much longer than HSNCT tossups making for slower play and fewer buzzer races. See this distribution for PACE NSC.
Why attend PACE NSC: PACE NSC features a much more elite field than HSNCT since questions are more "academic" with greater emphasis on fine arts and literature than HSNCT and less emphasis on pop culture. All teams are guaranteed 15-18 or so rounds with no or minimal byes. PACE NSC allows for extremely competitive gameplay that is slower paced, bouncebacks adding to the competitive atmosphere. This tournament is not ideal for newer teams who have holes in certain subjects like science or literature, but is ideal for a decently well-balanced team seeking high-quality gameplay.
IQBT National All-Star Academic Tournament (NASAT)
Date: Undecided, most likely June 15th-16th
Sponsor: International Quiz Bowl Tournaments (IQBT)
Location: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Registration Fee: $600 per team, -$20 for bringing a working buzzer system, -$20 if payments are received at least three weeks before the tournament. Each additional teams is $425.
Qualification: NASAT is a national tournament in which teams are made up of the best players from each state regardless of school. To qualify for a team, states usually hold tryouts to determine teams on collegiate-level questions. Some states have very strict guidelines about who can even attend tryouts. For New York specifically, there have not been extremely formal tryouts, but teams have been determined through a holistic analysis of a player's statistics, performance on harder sets, and overall improvement throughout the year.
Field size: In 2018, there were 29 teams representing 15 states and China.
Tournament and round format: Rounds consist of 20 tossups and bonuses with no power markings and negs for incorrect answers. NASAT packets are intended to be around ACF Regionals difficulty, or regular collegiate level. For 2018, teams were divided into four brackets with 7 or 8 teams in each. Each team played either 7 preliminary matches or 6 preliminary matches with one bye round. The top three teams in each bracket were then placed into either of two championship brackets, while the remaining teams were placed into Consolation 1 and 2. The top three teams from each championship bracket were then placed into the Championship superplayoff bracket, while the bottom three teams from each championship bracket were placed into the 7-12 bracket. Past results can be found on the database by searching up "NASAT Main Site" statistics.
Why attend NASAT: NASAT is the most competitive and hardest all high-school tournament, giving all players the opportunity to bond with teammates from other schools and meet the most elite players from across the country. New York's A team finished in 9th last year while its B team finished in 26th. The tournament questions are high-quality and creative, introducing topics unfamiliar to most high-school players. Making the NY team requires a lot of studying and rather impressive stats, but by attending tournaments and devoting time to study material, making the NY state team should not be an impossible task.