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30 December 2009

Proposal to expand WUDC break to 64 teams

Here is a guest post from Andy Hume on expanding the break at Worlds from 32 to 64 teams.  This is an issue that is likely to come up at council in the near future and we welcome your comments and opinions:

A few months ago I was writing an article for the Monash Debating Review. In the course of showing it to others for their thoughts, the lead author of the 1996 WUDC rules, Ray D'Cruz, suggested to me that the time had come to expand the break at Worlds from 32 to [at least] 64. His reasoning was as follows:

Adjudicators at Worlds are scared to break orthodoxy because they know that one poor result for a highly fancied team could see that team miss the break. Expand the break [in fact, Ray suggests 128, not 64!] and let everyone breathe. I remember when the break was fought out between 120 / 150 teams. Even then it was very competitive. I also think this is why debaters are very orthodox in their approach (method-driven). They don't want to put a foot out of place - debaters and adjudicators. Everything is terribly risk-averse.

Whether Ray's analysis of the change in the behaviour of debaters and adjudicators is correct or not, I am entirely persuaded of the merits of an expanded Worlds break of 64 (though 128 may be pushing it for the time being). Some of the arguments in favour of such a proposal:

Maths: the break of 32 was designed for an era when there were 150-250 teams at Worlds. As such the chances of breaking were somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 8. With over 400 teams now routinely attending WUDC (and those numbers limited only by hosts' capacity), fewer than 1 in 12 teams now break.

As a former CA at Worlds and indeed a former winner of the competition, I need no reminding that the "elite status" of making the Worlds break is valuable in itself. However, it has now, in my view, become far too difficult to get there. Is there any other major competition in the world that has such a low proportion of teams in its main break? If you had 48 teams at your intervarsity, would you break directly to the final? Expanding the Worlds break to 64 would merely be restoring the status quo ante.

Creativity: expanding the break makes room for those teams of talented but perhaps less orthodox debaters. It allows the possibility of a couple of wildcards in the break. Anyone well versed in sporting analogy will see the similarity with the World Cup - the more open the break is, the better the chance of a Cameroon, a Korea or even an Ireland finding themselves in the quarter-finals and enlivening a dull, predictable draw. The break should be a test of the best teams in the world, sure, but we have knock-out rounds as well, precisely to keep alive the possibility of upsets.

Judges: far more independent adjudicators travel to Worlds than was the case 10 years ago. The judging pool in Asia and Europe is exponentially stronger than 20 years ago. In many cases CAs are now spoilt for choice and find themselves excluding many qualified judges due to sheer pressure of numbers. There may also be a tendency, regrettable but understandable, to "play safe" by picking a well-known name for the break rather than a younger and lesser-known judge. Expanding the break would be more inclusive for the adjudication pool, too - but not necessarily require many more judges if strength in depth proved to be shallower in any given year.

Inclusiveness: it is now about 20 years since Worlds stopped being an Anglosphere-only club and the era of mass participation of non English-speaking nations really began. Yet despite a massive improvement in the infrastructure and mean standard of debating in "ESL countries", it is not uncommon for a main break to feature no ESL teams whatever. Expanding the break would bring this target back within the range of more of the best ESL teams, as it was 10 years ago.

Logistics: the time pressure in Worlds schedules revolves overwhelmingly around the three days of main competition. Adding a double octo-final would not be a problem. Indeed, when WUDC was held in Princeton in 1995, it was held in North American parliamentary style, and double octos were held. If there were concerns about the dilution of the break, a provision could be included giving the organisers the option to drop the double-octos for that year if the number of registered teams proved to be below a certain level, say, 300.

There are other potential reasons, but these are the ones that spring to mind. In any case, this proposal to bring in a 64-team break may make it to the agenda at Worlds Council on 1st January. Any thoughts, comments or other arguments I have not thought of - or criticisms - might prove valuable in the discussion which is, I believe, well overdue.

Andy Hume
CA, WUDC 2001
DCA, WUDC 2000

Edit: I have changed the posting date to keep this discussion higher up the front page of the blog.


  1. Irene9:57 pm

    That's very well put, Andy. Will follow subsequent discussion and outcome with interest.

  2. I must say, I can't see any reason to be against.

  3. There are two basic issues in play in Andy's post above. One is the relationship between break size and tournament size. I concur that 32 teams is not necessarily the best place to draw the line when you have a 200 team tournament one year and a 400+ team tournament the next, but would hesitate to move the break line all the way to 64 teams in one shot. Instead (per Andy's football example above) playoff rounds could be held.

    Essentially, while 32 would remain the minimum the cutoff would rise at 256 teams, with 34 teams breaking in tournaments between 257-272, 36 between 273 and 288 and so on. The point of breaking two at a time? So that the playoff round would remain BP - a 260 team tournament would have teams 31, 32, 33 and 34 competing for two QF spots. I also have an aversion to devaluing the achievement of leading the tab which can still in theory land you in the 17-32 overall grouping with a QF loss, by possibly landing them in the 33-64 group. In a 400 team tab, the 1st-14th teams would receive byes, the Break would be 56 teams.

    It is also difficult to contemplate the fairness of a 32 team break in a 400 team tournament without also reflecting on whether 9 rounds is sufficient to sieve out the deserving few, and if not how this can be organisationally accomplished - perhaps with a separate "break" after round 6/7 where the bottom quartile are excused further participation.

    The other concern Andy had in respect of the diversity of the break is well founded but I think in some tournaments this fate is decided by registration time when hard team caps are not imposed. Koc, at least, seems to have held firm if their registration list is any guide. More of that please.

    Not everyone gets to break at Worlds, just like everyone doesn't get to run in the 100m Olympic final - only 8 people get to do that, and then only every fourth year. There is a virtue in flexibility but there is an equal virtue in preserving the Break as an achievement of itself. The door should be widened, not taken off its hinges.

    Mark Dowling
    Limerick B, 16th WUDC 1996

  4. I am a little bit surprised by the lack of attention given to the role of ESL/EFL teams in this issue. I may very well be mistaken in this, but isn't the majority of growth in the tournament's size coming from an increase in non-English speaking participants, rather than from more Anglosphere debaters coming out? If so, certainly the separate breaking opportunities afforded to those debaters have to be taken into account. Moreover, it seems to be generally conceded that ESL/EFL debaters generally provide a lower quality of competition due to their linguistic disadvantage; if this is the case, the increase in the number of debaters competing would have a minimal effect on the overall difficulty of achieving a spot in the break.

    Also, with regards to the effect this has on considerations of orthodoxy and reputable debaters, I disagree with the supposed effects this would have. The social pressure to award the 1 to a reputable team, it seems to me, is not so much a function of wishing to avoid keeping them out of the break, but out of adhering to the idea of who "should" win. Moreover, in the elimination rounds, why would judges not just immediately revert back to judging on "orthodoxy," thus immediately eliminating the few creative teams who were let in by the expanded field.

    I have very little personal stake in this matter, nor do I feel strongly in either direction, but it seems to me that this proposal seeks to address are not really dealt with (excluding questions of inclusiveness, which I personally find irrelevant) insofar as people who adhere to orthodoxy, whether it be of believing certain schools to automatically be better, or have a rigid conception of what debate ought be, will continue to do so. It just might not manifest itself as overtly until a bit later in the tournament.

  5. Niall4:36 am

    The problem - the inherent unfairness of break rounds, where a team that has set the tab on fire all tournament can crash out with just one somewhat below-par performance.

    Any increase in the number of break rounds worsens that problem and tilts the balance further away from 'finding the best team in the world' and further towards providing more of a spectacle for audiences. Which is not, in itself, a bad thing, but I think while succeeding in increasing participation in the break it makes things very rough for the top 8 or so breaking teams.

    A possible alternative solution - expand the break to 64 as you suggest, but replace the two 'double-octo' rounds and the quarter with a mini-tournament, a bit like a 'group stage'. The draw for the first round of the mini-tournament to be seeded according to the worlds break, then power paired from then on (or some combination of the two). After 3 rounds, the top 8 teams break to a semi as usual.

    This would combine the advantages of expanding the break with a reduction in the randomness of break rounds, while still providing opportunity for audience influence, larger judging pool etc, as you discuss.

  6. Andy Hume4:51 am


    Let's look at the top 32 from Cork Worlds:

    Hart House
    Hart House
    Victoria Wellington
    Loyola Marymount

    No ESL teams there, as far as I am aware (I believe Helsinki were not ESL). Now, let's look at teams 33-64 in the tab:

    St Andrews
    Hart House
    St Andrew's
    GW University
    Tel Aviv
    De La Salle

    The first thing you notice about this list is how wider the net has been cast. Now, I'll concede that only two or three of these extra breaking teams are ESL (Leiden and Tel Aviv, at least) but there are another half a dozen from the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia. And there are another 3 ESL teams - Babes Bolyai (Romania?), Bonaparte (Holland) and Tallinn (Estonia) who would have missed out on the 64 break on speaker points only, 5 more who would have missed out by a single point, etc. etc.

    You're certainly right that expanding the break would be no kind of panacea - but how much more refreshing that second team list looks, to me at least! (Not least because there's a GUU team on it...) But now you've got Dutch people cheering on Leela and Simone, Israelis going along to support Tel Aviv... now, *that's* Worlds debating.

  7. Andy Hume5:02 am

    And, Niall, as to your comment "The problem - the inherent unfairness of break rounds, where a team that has set the tab on fire all tournament can crash out with just one somewhat below-par performance":

    For me, this is not a bug but a feature. I managed (largely through having an excellent partner) to win 8 out of 9 debates at Princeton Worlds in 95 (US style) and break 2nd. We promptly got knocked out in the double-octos. That's not "unfair"; it's debating.

    Topping the tab is an achievement, no doubt, but what you're proposing is a Champions League-style system which protects against the possibility of the marquee names being knocked out too early. Even UEFA eventually dropped the "second group stage" in the Champions League because it was simply protecting the biggest clubs and making it impossible for smaller teams to upset the odds at all. Who wants that?

    The buzz that goes round Worlds when one of the favourites get knocked out is part of the process. This proposal doesn't do a huge amount to increase that prospect - indeed, depending on how you set up the draw, it might give them an easier double-octo - but it opens up the tournament.

    And remember - this insanely tight, 1-in-12 break is not how the system was designed - it's an accidental feature of the expansion of the tournament.

  8. Anonymous5:58 am

    For the sake of accuracy, half of Helsinki was in fact ESL.

    Ina Subulica

  9. Andy Hume6:06 am

    Noted, Ina. (I knew that the team was not registered as ESL, but didn't know that.)

  10. Anonymous6:13 am

    It's a terrible idea, it devalues the whole achievement. 64 is way too many. They have an ESL comp for ESL teams. I don't see ESL as a factor at all.

    Maybe they could slightly expand it... give the top teams a bye for the Octo, and give them an assured place in the Qrt... but 64 is way too many.

  11. Irene6:33 am

    One does rather feel that in an important discussion of this nature, to which well-kent names are offering carefully-argued contributions, someone popping up anonymously merely to say that 'it's terrible' without any justification, does in fact, to use the poster's own word, 'devalue' the whole conversation. This is an interesting and worthwhile exchange of views - why reduce it to this level?

  12. Andy Hume6:58 am

    Anon, you haven't addressed the first point I made above, which is that the break of 32 was introduced when Worlds was contested by 150-200 teams. There are now 300-400 teams. Certainly that's not a knock-down argument in favour of change, but the break was not valueless then and it wouldn't be valueless if it was expanded now.

    As for ESL, the original post is phrased a little lazily. My point is that a wider break would open up the tournament to teams not from the traditional group of founder nations - US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, NZ.

    As it stands, half the break will be taken up by half a dozen universities, and the other 16 places swept up by other institutions from the same six countries. Whatever else this is, it's not exactly diverse. It's a bit like the aforementioned Champions' League. Will it be Man U or will it Barcelona? All very interesting, but wouldn't it be nice - once in a blue moon - for it to be Ajax or Dinamo Kiev?

    In recent years, a break of 64 would have seen teams from Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Israel, Holland and others in the main break. Not all of them would have been ESL, but to be honest that's not the point; I don't really care what their ESL status was.

  13. This is not an issue of ESL. The expansion to 64 will not (based on performance of the past decade) promise any significant inclusion of ESL teams in the break. One year it meant up to 6 teams, and then I included a team which I believe was not considered by the tournament as ESL.
    The expansion is more inclusive to INSTITUTIONS, more than nations, but it also gives more nations a shot.
    That said, it does not address the issue of ESL and of its importance.
    Cheers and Happy New Year!

  14. Elizabeth Smith9:51 am

    I have three thoughts on the matter.

    First off, the past few Worlds have limited the number of teams schools can bring- including schools like Oxford and Cambridge, which have regularly broken more than 3 teams at Worlds. By doing so, you are already decreasing the quality of the break and making the tournament less competitive. By then opening the break up to 64 teams, you are then just letting in more teams that just aren't the best, and further decreasing the quality of the break.

    Secondly, I don't see a problem with knocking a team out of the break if they perform poorly in a round. The world champions should be good in all rounds, they should be consistent, and if they take a 4th and are thus out of the octos, then perhaps they actually shouldn't be there in the first place. It's the nature of debate, as someone pointed out.

    Lastly, Worlds as it currently stands is not truly Worlds. The top teams from some universities aren't allowed to compete, as mentioned before, and artificially then breaking less good teams from other universities from some of the same countries doesn't actually make it a Worlds tournament. If people truly wanted to host a Worlds, they would invite something like the top 3 teams from each country that wishes to attend, and host an entirely separate tournament. Let's not pretend that Worlds as it stands now is a competition between countries- it is only a competition between schools. Trying to somehow alter that by changing the number of teams you break will not address that problem.

  15. Victor Chernov9:57 am

    I think that the break should be such that straight second place (i.e. 18 points in the case of 9 round WUCD) takes you to the main break. It seems like a fair criterion. I'm not sure what was the situtaion in last competitions (and too lazy to check), but if today's main break leaves some of the 18 points teams out, it should be expanded.

    Those who worry that good teams will be kicked out by the weak, "undeserving" teams, do remember that it rarely happens, and as was said about - it's debating, it's OK.

  16. I think the point about the randomness of out-rounds can't be overstated. Take, for example, last year's break rounds. In the Octos the teams who broke 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 11th all got knocked out. In the quarters, the teams who broke 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th and 14th all got knocked out too.

    Now I recognise that out-rounds require a different set of skills to in-rounds, and that we should absolutely test those skills. But a balance has to be struck when every out-round knocks out teams that, on consistency of performance, clearly deserve to be in the next round. There are a few reasons why this happens. One is that with large panels of big-ego judges, you get a) adversarial judging scenarios where people pick sides and then the incentive is to reconstruct the debate so that it ceases to resemble reality; and b) horse-trading, compromises etc which produce odd results. The other is just that everyone has a bad or unlucky round sometimes. If that comes in Round 6, you can bounce back. If it comes in the Octo, see you later.

    I think the balance is being struck in the right place at present. If we had a round of 64, I have no doubt that the 32 resulting teams in the Octos would be of lesser quality that they are when we require those 32 to prove themselves over 9 rounds. Finally, and I realise I risk political incorrectness here, the expansion of numbers at Worlds in recent years has primarily reflected the inclusion of teams who stand no realistic chance of making the main break. So the fact that numbers are now higher does not mean the break has become harder. In fact, if anything, in the last couple of years, the expansion has forced a much stricter institutional team cap (3/4) on institutions like Sydney and Oxford who used to send 6-8 teams that would all compete for the break; so if anything it may have *reduced* competitiveness at the top end of the tournament. I do not think there is any inherent virtue to having a certain proportion of the tournament represented in the break; the point is that the *absolute* bar for breaking should be set at a reasonable level, not too high, not too low. But I see no evidence that this bar has gone up in recent years; so I see no reason to devalue making the break at Worlds at an achievement in itself. It's one of the only competitions in the Worlds where just making the break is a serious achievement on an experienced debater's CV, and I don't see any reason to change that.

    Alex Worsnip

  17. Anonymous10:33 am

    Teams on 18 mostly break... a small # don't, but I don't think that ever (or often) hits 64 in total.

  18. Andy Hume10:41 am

    Couple of points:

    1. The absolute standard for breaking *has* crept upwards - ten years ago, it used to be that 18 points guaranteed you a place in the break, and a large proportion of those on 17 would break also; that's no longer the case. The increase in the absolute height of the bar has not been very large, though, I'll grant that.

    2. The team cap is not a new phenomenon. Through the 90s and certainly as late as 2001, there was typically a cap of two or three teams per institution, though it was relaxed from time to time depending on numbers. The idea of Oxford or Sydney habitually sending 6-8 teams is a relatively recent one, and the recent reimposition of stricter team caps is, again, simply a return to the status quo ante.

    3. I take your point about the large increase in numbers of teams who are not, realistically, going to be contesting the later rounds of the tournament. But I would also add that the general standard of teams from non-Anglosphere countries is exponentially higher than 15 years ago.

    This does not give them any "right" to break, of course, but I would maintain that a break which excludes 92% of the competitors is just a ridiculously harsh cut-off. I can't imagine, for example, that if you were designing the competition from scratch, you would set the bar quite so high.

  19. Anonymous10:41 am

    Tell it how it is Alex.

  20. I think expanding the break to 64 is way too much. Though at the same time I do recognize that 32 is too little. What I would suggest as a better alternative is to expand the break to 48 teams and have a Wild Card round where the top 16 teams get a bye and 17-48 debate and the remaining 16 from that round advance to the octo finals against the top seeded 16. I think that achieves the goal of making the break a bit more inclusive while at the same time not diluting the prestige of the break too much.

  21. Anonymous10:51 am

    Yeh, that was pretty much what I was getting at.

  22. Just to weigh in very briefly. I am broadly in favour of expanding the number of teams in the break. I think there needs to be some discussion around the number and mechanism (i.e. 48 with 16 getting a bye, 64, 128 etc) and the impact on the EFL/ESL tournaments (i.e. can you have someone claiming to be the best EFL team in the world because they came through the EFL break while a large number of EFL teams were in the main break ahead of them).

    I intend to post more later but right now I'm struggling to keep a 13 month old occupied and he has already broken off and chewed the key for nine on my laptop. Hopefully I'll get to post more after his bedtime.

    Also please use some name to identify yourself. Anonymous is an option and I'm not going to censor it but it is nice to know who is making each valuable contribution to the discussion.

    Now off to try and find key nine in the toy box.

  23. Madeline Schultz11:21 am

    To throw the elephant in the room on the table: the judges in the rounds are, on average, worse than the judges in the break. That's the assumption on which we found the adjudicator break - that we select the best adjudicators to judge the break. The flipside of that is that there are also some astoundingly bad adjudicators. I don't think I've ever met a Worlds team that hasn't been able to remember at least one round at every Worlds they've attended where they felt the adjudicator got it wrong. Most can recall more. Adjudicator feedback does something to mitigate that, but in a tournament where only 8-11% of teams will break, getting one or two bad adjudications early (or, for that matter, late) in the tournament can knock a team out of the break.

    Sadly, that's an issue that affects ESL teams far more than other institutions.

    Firstly, ESL teams are less likely to have the prestige that can help a team like Sydney, Oxford or Yale squeak through a tough decision. Particularly in consensus-based adjudication, an adjudicator backing a team that they see as "having done better than expected" is more likely to be worn down - or simply outvoted by more "conservative" (or, simply, bad) adjudicators.

    Secondly, as manner becomes more and more the "unspoken" criteria in adjudication, teams facing a language barrier are more likely to find themselves penalised for a "different" manner, without the real reasons ever being articulated. (There's a rather nice discussion of that in the same MDR as the suggestion to increase the break.)

    But most importantly, there's long been a fairly recognisable bias against ESL and particularly Asian teams at Worlds. Institutions like Ateneo, who are seen as a substantial threat at Australs, simply don't break at Worlds. Ateneo A, for instance, made the Grand Final of WUPID just a week before Cork Worlds, beating out teams like Harvard A, and then didn't make the break at Worlds. One possible explanation is that Asian teams are more likely to fall apart in a more competitive environment like Worlds. But that ignores the fact that they face competition from Worlds powerhouses like Monash and Sydney at Australs and consistently do well.

    This isn't to suggest that all Worlds adjudicators are biased - or even that those that are are deliberately sabotaging ESL teams. But when we have some fairly strong qualitative evidence that some bias (however unintentional) exists, expanding the break would go some way towards addressing these problems. The (theoretically) better adjudicators in the break are far less likely to make the kind of mistakes outlined above.

    Increasing the break doesn't "lower the bar" (if it did, no-one would be arguing about it, since presumably those extra teams would be immediately put in their place by the "better” teams further up the rankings, with the aid of the infallible adjudicators who made the rankings perfect in the first place). It gives teams that are likely to be just as good as the teams breaking in the lower half of the current break one final chance to prove themselves. If there remains a desire to "protect" the "better" teams at the tournament, Armchair Pundit's suggestion meets both criteria. (Although it would, on last year’s break, have added only one ESL team (Leiden), along with Ateneo; in other years it could well include teams from universities like MMU, Tel Aviv, NTU or NUS.)

    Either way, it's foolish to try to dodge around the ESL perspective to this issue; and equally foolish to consider this as a reduction of the quality of the break. If we were utterly focused on protecting the top ranked teams of the tournament, we’d have twelve rounds and break straight to the Grand Final. We don't, because we recognise that inconsistent adjudication quality in the rounds makes the rankings unreliable. In a larger tournament, a larger buffer is necessary to protect against those failings, for all teams.

  24. There are some commenters who would like to have a bigger break but don't want to expand to 64, and in stead propose all types of plat-offs. Whilst I value their creativity, I don't think that's a good idea, for the simple reason of feasibility.

    Organizing one extra final round within a knock-out system requires almost no extra logistical effort. You just wake people up about two hours earlier on the second of january (granted, that can be an issue) and then have the round. A 'group stage' thing is more complicated to organize, and that's something you don't want to put upon hard-working people who organize this already quite complicated event.

    And to be honest, I don't see how questions about ESL or team-cap are actually relevant.

    Let's start with team-cap: suppose there would be no team cap whatsoever, and Oxford, Sydney, and all the other greats get to send who they want. Would you still think a bigger break is unfair, then? Ofcourse not: if you believe that the teamcap is currently holding back teams that could be in the break, then allowing in more of those world class teams by ditching the team-cap also implies that you would favour a fair chance for them to actually make it to the break.

    Be sure, I'm not saying expanding the break should be conditional on getting rid of the team cap. That's a seperate discussion. I/m just saying that the fact that there is a team cap is irrelevant for the discussion of the break-size.

    As to ESL: if an ESL team makes it to the top 64, then they're in the top 64. If they're not, then not. Andy didn't propose to extend the break so far a to make sure there's always one ESL team there. He proposed to break the top 64, for the simple reason that's it' fairer and makes for a better tournament, period. How and where does the language-issue come into play?

  25. I think I'm leaning towards Niell and Alex on this, largely on the grounds of fairness. I just don’t think it is reasonable to expect the four best teams to be consistent over more out rounds. In the league stage this is well accommodated. Every new out-round you bring an increases the randomness of the final four. As someone who hopes to be in the audience for the next worlds I don’t see this as an advantage; I want to see the top four teams in the world. In addition to the comments on judging and consistency there are two further problems which reduce the fairness of the competition the greater the number of out rounds that you have:

    1) Everyone goes mental in out-rounds. The pressure on January 2nd causes many teams to massively under-perform. This benefits teams who have experience of worlds/euros out-rounds at the expense of younger, perhaps better, teams. Also speaking from personal experience, the emotional rollercoaster of out-rounds is bloody draining (especially with hour+ waits for judging decisions). I’d rather the out rounds did not become an endurance contest.
    2) There are some pretty bad teams on 18 and low speaks. Added to the ‘going mental’ problem, increasing the break size to 64 will increase the propensity of self destructive, truly bad speeches in out rounds. In a 4 team game this poses a massive problem for good second half teams trying to follow nonsense propositions. (the American styles, for all their flaws, avoid this by having a two team game)

    One of the key things that, it is suggested, that the 64 team break will help alleviate is conservative speaking. While it may do this in the in-rounds, more out rounds with a lower standard will surely encourage conservative speaking in front of audiences. Given the out-rounds are one of the main ways in which can raise standards by showcasing talent, I feel that good teams should need to bring their A-game to win worlds out rounds.

    I’m certainly not saying that I would definitely oppose such a change, on a balance of harms and benefits. I feel, however, that it would result in many more teams that I would like to see in the final being knocked out, through no fault of their own and thus damage the meritocracy of the tournament.

  26. After reading Madeleine's assessment I feel I must make clear: yes, I do believe there are ome inherent biases at work against ESL, and I do believe expanding the break would remedy them partly - but that should not be the primary reason to want to expand the break.

    My statement that it was irrelevant focusses mainly on the premisse (which some people imply) that expanding the break means letting in teams who don't deserve to be there, for "inclusivity's" sake. It doesn't. If you're top 64, you're top 64. The record shows that there have been ESL teams that have been top 64. Sometimes it's a little a 3, sometimes it's as much a 8 - who knows, maybe in future years we will have even 64 ESL teams in the top 64, or completely no ESL team. That's not relevant for the initial thought that 32 is too small a break.

  27. Anonymous11:50 am

    "But most importantly, there's long been a fairly recognisable bias against ESL and particularly Asian teams at Worlds. Institutions like Ateneo, who are seen as a substantial threat at Australs, simply don't break at Worlds. Ateneo A, for instance, made the Grand Final of WUPID just a week before Cork Worlds, beating out teams like Harvard A, and then didn't make the break at Worlds"
    And you want people to identify who they are... after bait like this... wow, enjoy the bloodletting.

    Yes, WUPID, the measuring stick of breaking... it must be bias.

  28. Anonymous12:28 pm

    Why not introduce a "B" break for teams ranked 33-64 so that the English speaking teams have a second competition to aim for like the EFL and ESL teams. It is only fair that everyone gets two attempts.

  29. Just to pick up on a couple of things:

    1. In response to Andy: you say the absolute standard has gone up because more points are required to break. But of course in a tournament with a finite number of total points that adjusts to the size of the tournament, one would mathematically expect that more teams means more teams getting high points. All that reflects is that there are more teams; it can't be evidence for an increase in absolute standard (the more bad teams, the easier it is to get points...)

    2. Madeline: I don't see any reason to believe that the many judging problems you mention are remedied by a bigger break. The relevant comparison here is the fairness of the final in-round vs the fairness of the 'double-octo' (in each case, that roughly narrows the 64 to 32). But I do not empirically think that panel strength in live rooms in the final break round is weaker than that in the Octos. There are a few reasons for this:

    a) Note the phenomenon of the big-ego-but-quite-dodgy judge. In Round 9, he gets buried either chairing a (just?) dead room or being outnumbered by other excellent people in a live room. But you have to break such people, and come the Octos, you suddenly have a preponderence of them on panels, because they're being 'used' so that they dont have to be used in later rouinds.

    b) Even holding quality of panelists constant, I'm not convinced you get a better decision with a 5 or 7 person panel than with a 3 person panel, due to all the horsetrading, reconstruction, extended debate, etc. In fact it may be worse.

    c) In my experience, the 'two teams advance' metric leads to people being screwed more than the 'rank them 1-4' one.

    I'm not sure about your claims that debating is biased against Asian teams (Ateneo, who you cited, broke in the main break at Oxford this year, which is culturally much more similar to Worlds than Australs) or that manner is getting more important (is this true, and even if it is, is this bad?) But if everything you say about dodgy judging is right, surely you want to make decisions, to a greater extent, by means of a round robin where things tend to balance out over time, and less by knockout, where one dodgy call knocks you out? Now that doesn't mean breaking straight to final - there are other things to be balanced, such as audience entertainment, keeping debating attuned to having to win in big, public environments, etc. But note that each time you double the size of the break you add in exponentially more teams. My guess is that at an average Worlds there may not be much difference in average quality between the teams ranked 1-4 and those ranked 5-8, but there'll be a big one between the teams ranked 1-32 and those ranked 33-64.

  30. Anonymous12:37 pm

    No tournament, anywhere, much less a major championship limits the break to less than 10% of the attendees.

    As World's has expanded the break has not changed to accomodate increased participation. All the other arguments are irrelevant here.

    The folks whining about fairness to the elim round participants are comical at best. Fairness to the ENTIRE TOURNAMENT who attends is at question and it trumps everything else.

    The argument against expanding the break is weaker than giving the Nobel Peace Prize to someone expanding a war....

  31. Anonymous @ 12:37,

    I don't think I understand your 'fairness to the entire tournament' claim. Why is it fairer to the whole tournament for more of it to break? If my team finishes 200th on tab (dead middle), is my situation somehow 'more fair' because some of my 'compatriots' in mediocrity made it into break of 64, though wouldn't have made the break of 32?

    Obviously teams don't have an inherent right to break; otherwise we'd break the whole tournament. So unless this is some kind of 'group right' for less talented debaters, where some of them getting into the break instantiates that right for all of them, I don't see where the fairness claim is going. In both a break of 32 and a break of 64, some teams breaks, some don't, and the decider is who got the most points. What's so much more 'fair' about the latter?

  32. PS: there is another tournament where a very small number break: Oxford Schools! 700 teams entering, 80 through to Finals Day (11.4%), and on Finals Day, four teams breaking straight to final (5%). Overall, 0.05% of teams breaking! :P

  33. Madeline Schultz12:58 pm

    Firstly, re: Anonymous. WUPID tends to be a shallow tournament. But at a tournament with Sydney, Monash, Harvard and so on (not to mention judges like Ivan Ah Sam, Erin O'Brien and Neill Harvey-Smith, who are quite capable of ensuring that entirely random results do not occur in Semi-Finals), the top end isn't exactly uncompetitive, and it does a disservice to Harvard A to dismiss a team that went further than they did simply because the tournament's a fairly shallow one. Moreover (since I'm willing to admit that WUPID can also be a fairly unpredictable tournament), the conclusion was also based on a consideration of performances at tournaments like Australs that are rather harder to dismiss (and I'd note you didn't try). (To add another comparison, one of the same speakers is part of the team that just broke at the Oxford IV.) I'd wonder exactly how one is supposed to assess the presence or absence of adjudicator bias at Worlds without comparing it to any "lesser" tournaments.

    I'm quite willing to put my name to these statements, because I don't believe they do anyone a disservice, contentious or not. Moreover, these aren't statements that have come out of nowhere, from my understanding, the problems of adjudicator bias at Worlds have been the subject of a fair amount of discussion over the past decade; in regard to all sorts of criteria, from ESL teams to female speakers to the order of substantive and rebuttal in Canadian speeches. If you don't have the same courage, I'd question the strength of your statements.

    More usefully, in response to Dan Bradley:

    Firstly, the difference between a dreadful team on 18 and low speaks and a dreadful team on 19 and low speaks is nothing more than slightly more luck, or slightly worse adjudication. Again, if we were protecting the "strongest" teams at all cost (and trusted the rankings absolutely), we'd break straight to the Grand Final.

    Secondly, in regard to teams that do well and then burn out under pressure. I'm quite willing to put my hand up and say that I believe that a team that does well in the rounds and then falls apart in the break is not as good as a team that does slightly less well (though still well) and then maintains that standard into the break. Debating is not simply about your best, but also about how consistently you can deliver that, including under pressure.

    More importantly, a team that falls apart due to stress in the Octos is fairly likely (or, really, even more likely) to still fall apart in a narrower break, or to fall apart in the Grand Final if they pull through. If anything, a wider break that sees the "stronger" teams facing more low-ranked teams early on in the break is likely to help stressed teams ease into the Finals series and help the younger/less experienced/more stressed teams to pull themselves together in time to deliver their best for later and harder Finals rounds. Again, if increasing the break would lower the bar, the most that would happen is that teams would have more time to work out any post-break nerves.

    In regard to those younger/less experienced teams, that increase in the break is equally likely to give teams that would otherwise not break a chance to experience the stress of a Finals debate earlier in their debating career, which would presumably help them get over those post-break nerves earlier in their career and give them a better shot at doing well at future tournaments.

  34. Madeline Schultz1:00 pm

    Andy: certainly, there's a problem of those "big-ego" judges (though I wouldn't say that anyone "has" to break them, only that they are under pressure to do so). But usually when they're in an Octo, they're spread out on panels with more competent/experienced judges. When they're in rounds, often they're the judges who are likely to be given panels of less experienced judges (the middle-band of adjudicators who may or may not break tend, of course, to be on panels with those the Adjudication Core trusts to give reliable feedback), and are more likely to be able to sway their panel. I know which I'd prefer.

    In regard to bias against Asian teams, it's certainly the opinion of the Asian teams I've spoken to on the matter, as well as the anecdotal experience of teams and adjudicators who've dealt with adjudicators who'll dismiss Asian teams out of hand. I certainly wouldn't say it's overt, but it's certainly noticeable when institutions that perform strongly at Australs perform far less strongly at Worlds. (my point, by the way, is not that manner is over-considered, but that when it is considered it tends to be under-discussed, leading to all kinds of possible bias.) Perhaps a worthwhile exercise would be to compare the performance of Ateneo A at Oxford and at Worlds this year, for all that it's a small sample.

    Finally, the question is not so much a comparison between the team ranked 1 and the team ranked 64 as it is a comparison between those teams in that middle band, where through most of the tournament it would have been unclear as to which ones would break. When everyone acknowledges that there's some very poor adjudications at Worlds, it's not exactly hard to imagine that a team ranked in the forties might be just as strong as a team ranked in the twenties or thirties (particularly when you compare a team on low speaker points on 18 or even 19 points with a team on high speaker points on 17).

    The point is not that an expansion of the break will fix all of these problems. The point is firstly, as has rightly been pointed out, that Worlds was never intended to have so narrow a break; and secondly that there are some notable benefits to increasing the size of the break, above and beyond the purely historical.

  35. Alex wrote:

    ''a) Note the phenomenon of the big-ego-but-quite-dodgy judge. In Round 9, he gets buried either chairing a (just?) dead room or being outnumbered by other excellent people in a live room. But you have to break such people, and come the Octos, you suddenly have a preponderence of them on panels, because they're being 'used' so that they dont have to be used in later rounds''

    Why do you have to break such people? I don't mean that facetiously but, quite honestly, any Org Comm worth their salt should select the best judges to break. I was astonished as a first time WUDC judge and with little IV experience to break as a judge - almost certainly someone didn't break with much more speaking and judging experience. The S'Bosch Org Comm and CA team took the decision to break me and other 'newbies'. One of which, if I remember correctly, performed so well they judged the final.

  36. Andy Hume2:05 pm

    To the comments about judging bias and general variability in judging quality, I don't really think that this proposal would alter the fundamental truth that some judges are just shite. I don't think you can structure a tournament with the aim of reducing the effect of bad judging, else you really would be better just running fifteen rounds and then giving the trophy to the team at the top of the tab.

    And I wouldn't use the word "fairness" either; clearly there's nothing "unfair" about getting knocked out of a debating competition because you didn't win enough debates to break, whether there are 64 teams in the break, 32 or 8.

    Finally, to be clear, I don't regard this as being solely about ESL or even for that matter diversity. But yes, I think there are good reasons to think that an expanded break would tend to be at least a bit more diverse and I think that would be a welcome shift, in the same way that hosting Worlds in South Africa or Thailand or Turkey has been hugely to the betterment of the competition.

    I think we can all agree that the status quo, where the break is almost always the exclusive preserve of six English-majority nations, is not optimal, even if that doesn't necessarily mean it's a problem that requires a change in the format of the competition. We can probably also agree that at some point, if Worlds continues to grow (if it can possibly grow much more), an expansion of the break would become inevitable.

    I come back to the original observation about maths; the break of 32 predates the memory of even the oldest debates hacks I know. It was put in place when Worlds was contested by no more than 150-odd teams and possibly even fewer. It was not designed to be as restrictive as it is.

    In itself that does not mean that it must be changed, of course, and if people feel that in its modern narrow incarnation it reflects the way they want Worlds to be set up then fair enough. And it's worth noting that Euros is similarly restrictive at the moment (16 from 160 teams, last year), though I would imagine there is now pressure to increase the size of that break, too.

    But I just can't see that expanding the break would somehow "devalue" it. Ropey teams have always been with us and some manage to sneak into the knock-out rounds. I never felt devalued by that, and I'm not convinced by that argument.

  37. Andy Hume2:08 pm

    Rob: Yes, at Stellenbosch 03 there was a first year from Limerick judging in the final - much to the displeasure of the other Irish judge who'd been picked as far the semis...

  38. Who was the first year from Limerick at Stellenbosch?!

  39. Andy Hume3:03 pm

    Eamonn O'Flaherty, if I recall correctly. Or maybe that's just a generic Irish name that's floating around in my head.

  40. If the FA and the premier league expanded to 128 teams by combning all four divisions would it be fair to argue that more than 4 teams should make the champions league?

    After the all, you've massively expansded the competition.

    The people who are loking to expand the break are the Aston Villas and Evertons, teams that have not gotten objectively, just relativley better through the expansion.

    It's not harder to break; the metirc that more temas now reach 18 can be explained by the folowing observation:

    There was a time when a randomly drawn first round was hard. Now it's easy.

    Baring a very tough draw your first round is your three points in the bag and then you stay on 2nds or above to break, probably.

    17 may not break anymore, but largely becasue of a first round gimmee for teams.

  41. Andy misremembers his Munster institutions. Eamonn O'Flaherty was a first year at University College, Cork when he judged the Stellenbosch 2003 final.

    @Elizabeth Smith - limiting the quality of the competition does not stop the Olympics from imposing team caps. FIFA even imposes "continent caps" on the World Cup. The fact that other tournaments in each sport might feature a higher quality of participant due to lack of caps doesn't seem to stop the Olympics and the World Cup from being the most desirable sporting tournaments to win for those sports.

    The discussion above re: judges does point up another advantage of Andy's proposal - a greater refresh of the judging pool because more judges will be needed for the larger break rounds.

  42. Andy Hume4:00 pm

    Mea culpa on Eamonn.

    In my defence, you all look the same.

  43. Re: Madeline. I totally take your point on bad teams breaking 30th (I was half of one such team at UBC) but the point is the RISK of team 64 being very bad is much higher. Again in a 4 team format this isn’t just (re: andy) a problem of devaluing the break. A bad team in first prop can destroy a room, and is far more likely to the further down the tab they finished. This would be most dangerous to the team that broke top of tab as the room would be (1 32 33 64).

    Taking biases out of the equation (surely we should aim to fix the biases, not compensate for them) the reason that you rarely get an ESL team in the break is that is that most of them aren’t yet good enough, despite the massive progress that’s been made in recent years. We also have the ESL/EFL breaks to compensate for language problems.

    To my mind the main point of the break is to gather the teams who have a good shot at winning the tournament and use an entertaining knock out to find the winner. I don’t know all the teams on the UCC 32-64 list but most of them would not have had a chance. I think the premiership/whole league/champions league analogy is a fine one and probably the best counter-argument to Andy’s totally valid maths point.

    Re: Andy. On the subject of fairness, what I mean is that the best team should win. Obviously, a big component of ‘best’ will be performance on the day, but I’d like to keep to a minimum the number of ways in which the best teams can be knocked out through no fault of their own. Only in an out-round does a bad call/mental 1st prop/stupid mistake knock you out of the tournament. I quite like the proposal of a second group stage with break to quarters, the way to seed it would be just to keep your points and carry on.

    Let’s face it though, the problem is that worlds is now too big, but regional qualifiers….

  44. Greg Murray6:02 pm

    How is it possible that the team that finishes 64th on tab out of 300 is going to be bad? Where is the logic in this? I mean is the judging that bad at Worlds that a team manages to sneak seconds minus one to finish with decent speaks in 64th place?! Surely if they are a bad team they will finish on somewhere around about 10points?

    Or is the definition of bad someone who is not likely to break to the final? In which case can we not then suggest we should actually restrict the break to the top 8 or the top 16? That way there will be less chance of a "screw-up" in the wrong team making the semi/final..

    This is obviously me speaking as a bitter Worlds speaker who finished in the top 100 (just...)

  45. Derek Doyle7:31 pm


    I have an opinion. A real serious one.

    At Dublin Worlds my team finished 34th, at Vancouver 13th. By no metric other than the two facts stated above were my partner and I better at Vancouver than my previous partner and I had been at Dublin but one team broke and one didn't. Both years involved drawing 2nd Opp in a 17 point room and the debate in Vancouver was just much much easier to win due to the motion and the teams in the room.

    I do think that trying to whittle down to 32 over 9 rounds creates a break which gives luck and talent an uncomfortable relationship. motion/side/judge/opposition are all variables outside the control of competitors. Now, over a football season refereeing decisions even out, 9 debates isn't much of a season and for teams who are hoping to make up the second 16 (13th was an over-achievement) the difference between breaking and not breaking will often come down to one of the variables above.

    If you want to stay at 32, give teams more of a chance to sort realistically. The break (at least the second 16) would look very different after 7, 9 and 11 rounds. Some of the posters above are being very silly when they dismiss a team on 18 and mediocre speaks or a team on 17 and high speaks. When there are so few rounds to sort out the order and the process of picking up team and speaker points is only ever partially reliable we do owe it to teams to widen out the net a little for the break.

    Personally I'm a fan of 48 with 16 protected going straight to Octo and the 32 beneath having a straight knockout round to decide the second set of 16 in the Octo.

    OR we could learn to tab more than 3 rounds in a day. Imagine an 11 round worlds and how much more fair an appraisal the top 32 would be.

  46. Derek, I think we already "know" how to tab 4 or more rounds a day - competence in tabs is now an integral requirement for Worlds, unlike some Worlds I remember. What that would mean however would be dumping a lot of the ancilliary stuff like Masters and Public Speaking. Some folks wouldn't miss that obviously but those are the sort of things that make Worlds what it is, not least for the judges who participate in those. It also does not account for force majeure as in 2001, nor the need for the need for the OrgComm to have master keys for competitor rooms to ensure they will get out of their stinking pits.

    Personally the reform I'd most likely to see is the first two or even three rounds random. Not only would the caste structure of the rounds be delayed and increase the chance of new teams seeing a Sydney or a Hart House or an Oxford team face to face, but scheduled right it would permit a fourth round on day 1 since there would be no necessity to wait for the results of the prior round before pairing the next. But this is getting away from Andy's topic.

  47. Since posting that it occurs to me that Cork 1996 may have had a 4 round day 2 to catch up from late arrivals on day 1. Colm F can you recall this?

  48. I think Alex Worsnip's point about outround judging being kind of sucky is a good one. I have hated judging outrounds because too often they end up as dick-measuring contests between people who have been around the circuit so long that they're worried they'll lose face if they change their mind. I think throwing more random factors into the break doesn't help matters.

    To those who have talked about "conservative" or "formulaic" speeches - I actually think that it's a good thing that debating has a criteria or a formula for what constitutes a winning performance. It means that the activity is striving for objectivity, and means fewer stupid "I just didn't buy it" adjudications. The original essay talked about "wildcard teams", comparing them to the Cameroon football team. What is a wildcard team? I can only assume, given the context, that it is a team that does not debate as well as others under the recognised criteria for British parliamentary debating. Why, then, is it a good thing if they break?

    This does not solve the problem of racist judges. A racist judge is still a racist judge no matter how many teams break, and they can still ruin someone's Worlds. Allowing Asian teams more of a chance to reach the main break does not mean that Asian teams are going to be treated more fairly throughout the competition. It's like putting on a bandaid for your appendicitis. Plus, really, I think any tournament would struggle to have enough adjudicators for however many more break rounds there are under the proposed solution.

    Also, man, stamina plays a big enough part in these tournaments anyway. I think Dan Bradley mentioned this earlier. After six debates in one day at Cambridge last year (open motions, so no prep-time drama) I was completely drained. I was emotionally and mentally exhausted after the eleven debates and countless hours of second-guessing judges I participated in at Worlds. More in-rounds, more out-rounds, more any-sort-of rounds only results in endurance becoming even more important. It really doesn't need to be!

    Finally, to Dec: your talk about a "first round gimme" making it easier to reach 18 because teams pick up 3 points there then cruise their way through the following (presumably more difficult) 8 rounds is kind of odd. The random factor remains - this is close to my heart because we drew Oxford A in the first round at Worlds last year, which sucked (but then we later ended up in a room for the Northern Ireland round with three Australian teams whose knowledge of Northern Ireland seemed limited to the fact that it was in the north of Ireland, so I guess it's swings and roundabouts). I certainly don't think that the fact that you may pull Moscow Techs D through F in your first round makes the break that much easier. It just means you have a higher chance of pulling Oxfords A through C in round two.

  49. Anonymous11:17 pm

    Kiera's post is amazing and hilarious.

  50. I have only skimmed through the previous 50 odd posts so apologies if I have missed anything or am covering something that has already been discussed to death.

    I am personally in favour of increasing the size of the break. I think Worlds is big enough now to handle it. Having judged a number of break rooms in round 9 I can tell you that the quality of the teams in the fight for the last few spots is not that bad. In many rooms Round 9 is effectively a knock out round. Finish first (or possibly second) and you are through. Below that and you're out. That's why having a CA or DCA who was chairing the top room in round 8 and is now chairing your room in round 9 is not actually a good thing. It most likely means 3 of you are going home and will therefore "strongly disagree" with the decision at 1am after the break announcement and 7 pints cloud your recall of arguments in the room.

    Expanding the break from 32 to 48 or 64 will not significantly decrease the quality in the break. Yes some teams might crawl their way in there with a couple of firsts in poor rounds on day 3 but that happens already. If you aren't good enough then you are going out in the next round. But what it also means is that the 4 good teams who were unlucky in high rooms in round 8 and find themselves in the 1 out of 4 room from hell in round 9 may now find themselves with 2 or 3 of them going through instead of just 1.

    I also agree with Andy that mathematically Worlds has expanded to the stage that it really justifies an expanded break. When we started at worlds (back in the dark ages before mobile phones that could twitter and update blogs) 200 teams was a good size for the event. Now 400 slots fill up in 90 seconds. Someone argued earlier that this means the best teams may not actually be at worlds. That's a separate issue to do with registration but the reality is we now have a 400 team event that 800 teams would like to go to. Keeping the same number of break teams as 20 years ago is not reflecting the changed realities of Worlds.

    Anyway we already recognise that the break may have to be expanded. There is a provision in the constitution that if the ESL or EFL teams number above a certain level then we increase the break for these competitions. I think it is time to reflect that in the main break.

    An argument has been made about judges being biased against EFL/ESL. That's an annual argument and really I don't know where to go with it. All adjudication teams can do is try to emphasise with judges not to be biased and take action when there are reports of bias (we did in Stellenbosch).

    As to judges being bad well that happens. Some judges are naturally not that gifted. Others are good judges and have bad rounds (I know I had one of those in Cork last year where 6 weeks of little or no sleep finally caught up with me). There are some big name judges who are not up to the job. Maybe some people also put me in that category. I would like to think when I was most active in this sport I was up to the required level. Right now I'm passed the stage of worrying about it. I think the best thing the "big names" can do is to stay to one side and let new blood come through but when called on to help do whatever is asked of them. Sometimes it is giving feedback on wing judges who might break. Sometimes it is adding a recognised name to a final panel. Sometimes it's giving up your spot in the break to let a promising first year break.

    However leaving those aside who have been at the game for years I think expanding the break is an excellent chance to bring forward new judging talent. If you think the judging pool is bad or is biased than it's time to expand the judging pool so that the bad and the biased get diluted. "Break at Worlds" (as either a debater or as a judge) is a nice thing to have on the judging CV going to other tournaments. It opens doors to better rooms and hopefully encourages judges to stay active longer after they stop debating.

  51. Anonymous11:51 pm

    Still on the WUPID thing? Let's look at poor, poor Ateneo. Firstly, Australs is a different style to BP, so their success there is not particularly comprable. I can think of several speakers who have been in the top 10 at Australs, and who have yet to break at World... probably because Worlds is a tougher IV to break at.

    In WUPID last year Ateneo made the final, and Harvard lucked out before then. That's the nature of BP debating and finals. Sometimes good seeds (like Monash A, Sydney A, Sydney B, etc), will be unlucky and go down in a close debate. It doesn't provide the evidence of bias you are so keen to attribute.

    But further than this, let's consider WUPID last year. It was an IV which as you admit, was not deep, and was dominated by 2 teams from start to finish. Having seen the video of the GF, and other rounds too, it's fairly clear the separation between those teams and others (like the GF'ists). I dont think making the final means as much as you do (i.e. that team should therefore be a lock for Worlds).

    If there is proof of bias from it, it doesn't seem to cut Ateneo's way, as a # of Australian teams which broke at WUPID didn't break at Worlds either, including a team from Qld, and teams from Monash. Was Worlds biased against them too? Or was the IV simply less difficult than Worlds? I am sure some people from Asian institutions feel there is bias against them. I'd advise them, and you, to stop wallowing in self pity.

  52. To answer some of the questions posed:
    - The First year who judged the final in Stellenbosch was indeed Eamon O'Flaherthy from Cork. It didn't only come as a surprise to other Irish judges but also to the Irish DCA. The words "I can't go back to Ireland haven broken a first year to the final" were used in the office at one point after the semi final. However having judged with him in the final it was spot on and he did a good job in there so the other members of the adjudication team were right to dig their heels in on that one.

    - I don't recall 4 rounds in Cork. But Day one was so so long there could have been 14 rounds for all I recall. There were 4 rounds in one day at Stellenbosch.

    Anyway that's about all I have to say for now. Time to get some sleep.

  53. That of course refers to the Day one of the first Cork worlds back when many of the debaters now in Koc were toddlers and Andy, Mark and I were technically old enough to be their fathers.

  54. Anonymous11:58 pm

    And I don't mean to suggest other teams at WUPID were of a poor quality... they obviously weren't. But at that particular IV those 2 teams were on fire. Teams have good/less good IVs. It happens.

  55. Anonymous1:11 am

    also, from the sounds of it Ateneo will make the break this year with only 32...

  56. With regards to the point about Ateneo, I completely agree with Anonymous (11:51) Worlds & Australs are two very different competitions and success in one doesn't guarantee success in the other. Furthermore if you analyze their results so far at this worlds (after 6 rounds, Ateneo A-15, B-14, C-10) they are clearly doing better than they did last year the roughly the same teams if I'm not mistaken. And there isn't any significant difference between this and last years Worlds. So I don't think that point about bias against Asian teams makes sense. Maybe the reason for this difference is that previously they just weren't good enough to make the break and now they have a good shot lest they screw it up.

  57. Anonymous4:27 am

    At the north american championships we break roughly 1/6 of the teams at the tournament. The reason we do so is because we're aware that the championship is slightly less meritocratic than other tournaments, since judges from both regions evaluate debaters by different criteria, and so the risk of a wonky decision knocking an amazing team out of the break is much higher than normal. I believe this applies to World's even more, where we see the clash of different styles occasionally factoring in who gets to break. I for one remember World's in 1989 where we broke to double hidden icosa-deca-finals, and I didn't break because I put my constructive before my rebuttal in the bubble when the judge was british. Or maybe he was american, I dunno. Either way it was an outrageous decision.

  58. Anonymous4:49 am

    I think debating may have moved on a bit since 1989, and this sort of poor adjudicating is very uncommon...

  59. Tommy Tonner6:45 am

    I attended 8 worlds between 92 & 01. Just taking a quick look at the notes I have these torunaments featured between 130 - 220 teams - I dont have the figures for Glasqow 01 which may have been a bit higher. All of those broke to 32, worlds in the 1980's commonly broke to 16 (eg Glasgow 81, DUblin 87, SYdney 88) I dont have the numbers for those tournaments but I strongly suspect they hovered around the 100 team mark. It was as recently as Melbourne 94 that more than 2 team per institution were allowed, the lifting of that cap is as responsible for the increase in team numbers as the global proliferation of debating.

    If worlds is really running at 300 teams + i cannot see an argument against increasing the break - its pretty simple logisitcally to slip in an extra round.

    I wonder however if increasing to 48 might be a runner ?... See More

    SO you give the top 16 teams a bye and 17-48 go into the first round. That meets the main criteria of keeping things interesting and ensuring that the number of meaningful debates is maximised and also rewards success in the first nine rounds.

  60. Madeline Schultz9:33 am

    I'm not going to take the time to continue to quibble about the nature of WUPID as an example – I'd rather prefer to return to the argument, since I rather think it holds regardless of the strength of one example. The problem of bias against ESL/Asian teams, I selected because of the speed with which commentators like yourself dismissed it. I provided some quick examples to illustrate the issue, because arguing from theory to create policy is a fairly stupid way of doing things. If you're rude enough in the process of disagreeing with me, you'll easily draw me into an argument on the specifics, but that ignores the core point of my argument, which I'm going to break down into neat (and boring) little tabs because I'm tired.

    A) Some adjudicators are pretty damn bad. No-one seems likely to argue this.
    AB) Some of them aren't just bad, for one reason or another, they're biased. Be that misogyny, racism, a bias towards more established teams or adjudicators or simply an innocent dislike for a particular speaking style; some adjudicators will dismiss some debaters out of hand.
    AC) Assuming the competence of the Adjudication Core, these adjudicators tend not to break, or are at least more likely to be outweighed by better ones.

    B) At a tournament the size of Worlds, getting one bad adjudication can set you back pretty substantially. That's just pure maths.
    BB) At a tournament with a break as narrow as Worlds, getting one bad adjudication, particularly late in a tournament when you don't have time to recover, can put a good team out of the break. Again, maths.

    A+B) Some debaters suffer more from poor adjudication than others. ESL speakers, women, teams with different ways of ordering substantive and rebuttal, younger teams, unknown institutions, teams with different conceptions of manner – there's been a wealth of debate on why and how much this impacts on the break at Worlds and none of us have the time to rehash it all here.

    C) If this is the case, a slightly expanded break gives more room for good teams who suffered from a bad adjudication to move beyond that. Considering that there are often teams with rather high speaker points on 17 points, this seems unlikely to have a massively negative impact on the "quality" of the break. If it did, of course, no one would be arguing about whether or not "better" teams might be pushed out in the earlier rounds.

    I'd imagine that this is part of the reason that we don't break straight to the Grand Final in the first place. The top four ranked teams are not necessarily the best four teams in the tournament, and the same is true (perhaps more so) of the top 32. As the tournament expands, so too should the buffer against inaccuracy in adjudication that the Finals rounds serve as.

    If you want to continue to quibble about the details of bias in adjudication, go for it. But it's frankly disingenuous to suggest that there isn't any - the question is rather how much and of what type. With a break as narrow as we currently have, at a tournament far larger than the people who set the break at the current point ever envisaged, the impact of that bias, when it occurs, is substantially more devastating. This won't get rid of bias (though I'd point to the cultural impact of seeing "unusual" teams succeed, both on adjudicators and on the strength of their home institutions), but it will compensate for the effect that bias plausibly has on teams on the borderline of breaking. If you want to discredit me, argue about that, don't quibble about my examples.

  61. Madeline Schultz10:02 am

    By the by, I don't actually think that adjudicator bias is the main turning point for this change - I simply think it's the one that's most likely to be ignored. Personally, I'd support the expansion even with perfect adjudicators - the general unpredictability of rounds can, in and of themselves, knock out good teams when the break is this narrow.

  62. Anonymous10:40 am

    I don't think anyone disputes bad adjudicators exist, though perhaps not in the quantity you imagine. It's just unclear why these bad adjudicators will result for bad results for ESL teams, as opposed to say every team they adjudicate period. As was also pointed out to you "many teams who do well at WUPID/Australs don't break at worlds, many of whom aren't ESL students". Nor are poor adjudicators some kind of Western monopoly as you imply. I certainly remember a famously bad adjudicator from an ESL country, whose sexism and racial bias seemed to cut all ways.

    As others have said, there are many good reasons to oppose doubling the current break, but ESL is a complete non-issue.

  63. I quite like the idea of giving the top 16 a bye and putting 17-48 into the first break round.

  64. Whatever about the other merits of top 48, one would imagine that the effort involved in participation in the quasi-octo-final would be a handicap on the half of teams 17-48 that progress to further rounds. This could be a kind of protection for the top 16 teams. I don't see how the net calculation favours the team with an extra debate. I would suggest that the extra protection is bad, but I might be wrong.

  65. Madeline - here's the thing. At the moment, a lot of people are willing to accept the theory that systematic bias exists in much of Worlds adjudication, and they are willing to accept this theory based on the fact that certain good teams like Ateneo do not break.

    Let's say you expand the break. Great, Ateneo is 47th and they make it into the hexadecagofinals. I would posit that the presence of breaking Asian teams would make people less likely to consider anti-Asian bias in the inrounds as a problem, because a) nobody likes to accuse their mates of racism and b) now it's easy to say, "But Ateneo broke! Problem solved!" In actual fact, if bias exists at present, bias will still exist no matter how many additional rounds you throw in, no matter how many teams you break, and by diverting attention from the real issue, you potentially put these teams in a worse position because fewer people are willing to champion their cause.

    I don't know how much racism there is in judging, but I do know plenty of adjudicators who are horribly biased in other ways, so I'm willing to assume that it's there to some degree. But this will not solve the basic problem of racism in adjudication. A couple more Asian teams break - and the guys who got screwed over in Round Seven because of their accents or their skin colour or their breasts STILL get screwed over in Round Seven. Expanding the break does not get rid of bad adjudication, and it is a somewhat offensive fallacy to pretend that this is the solution that teams unfortunate enough to experience bias have been hoping for.

  66. Anonymous12:42 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how you can say all manner of defamatory smears, with no evidence whatever, as long as you claim to be defending a minority while you do it. This sort of PC nonsense needs to be beaten out of the IV circuit unmercifully... I can only wonder the reaction I would have gotten if I had made similar remarks downplaying Ateneo's success at WUPID or Australs on the basis of racial bias in their favour.

  67. @Tommy, Glasgow (01) was 283, Cork (96) 247

    @Edward Gaffney, I would say that the bye teams would actually be slightly hobbled if the 17-48 round or similar was held on the same day as the QFs, since the bye teams would essentially be "going in cold"

  68. There is a proposal for council tomorrow to expand the break to 48. If you have strong opinions, as many in discussion seem to have, I suggest you contact your national delegate and discuss this with them.

    Personally, I am in strong agreement with Andy. I would prefer an expansion to 64, but I think people are more comfortable with 48 now. There is a strong group who are arguing to keep Worlds the way it is and keep the break at 32 - I think overall people are split.

  69. Logan,

    Is there idea to give the top 16 a bye through the first break round? Or is there some other mechanism for narrowing the 48 to 32?


  70. Andy Hume4:33 pm

    Well, from the tone of the discussion here, I'd say that opinion seems to be split. Of course, from my point of view, 48 would be preferable to 32, but if I'm honest it smacks a little bit of a EU summit-style fudge - the decision that will upset fewest people.

    I really can't see the major downside to 64; at absolute worst, a few ropey teams might make it into the break in a given year. I have to tell you that this would not be a new phenomenon - out of respect to the possibility that they might read this, I will not name the speaker that opened his semifinal speech with a joke about rape that instantly lost half the judging panel...

    Interestingly, all of the old people I have spoken to are, I think without exception, in favour of this change. I think that's because we were active in the 1990s days of 200-250 teams and so, with the benefit (or hindrance) of the long view, we see this as a logical and overdue next step in the era of 350-400.

    But of course it's not, ultimately, our business, and geriatric groupthink is no basis on which to make decisions. I think it's probably appropriate for me to sign off at this point - this is a student competition and I don't have a vote.

    I look forward to hearing the results of Worlds Council's deliberations. Now, there's a sentence I never thought I would type...

    Happy New Year, all.

  71. Anonymous9:14 pm

    Would the proposal expand the break for THIS year's worlds, or would it, if passed, only affect those of later years?

  72. It's probably a bit late to bring this idea up, but a lot of people seem to want to expand the break on account of the ability of a single random in-round to effectively eliminate one from break contention. Wouldn't a better solution be to add more in-rounds, rather than to add a single extra elimination round?

    At the APDA championships, we have 6 preliminary rounds (in a 2-team format) so that each team has an equal number of rounds on each side of the house (I believe NorthAms is the same). As Worlds is currently structured, each side side (mathematically speaking) should debate twice in each position, and then randomly draw one position to debate in a third time; clearly, the team with a 3rd 2Opp is advantaged over the team who is stuck with a 3rd 1Prop. If preliminaries were extended to, say, 12 rounds, each team would (theoretically) debate in each position 3 times, eliminating the lucky advantage of drawing strong sides, and the additional rounds would also better allow good teams to recover from a single poor outing.

    I will admit to having absolutely no idea whether such a plan is logistically feasible (time constraints, diluting the quality of resolutions, and debater fatigue all spring readily to mind as potential problems), but it seems to me that if we are concerned with the effects of drawing a bad judge or a bad side on a particular resolution, the solution is to increase peoples' ability to recover from such poor luck, rather than to increase fate's ability to ruin their chances during elimination rounds.

  73. Anonymous12:18 am

    Wasn't all this supposed to be sorted out by Abdila and her "Future of Worlds" team that never met? She is now running around here frantically holding meetings to come up with a recommendation because she wants to be elected chair.

  74. I understand that Abdila is indeed working on this as part of her "Future of Worlds" sub-committee. I have no info on her "Frantically holding meetings". I understand that there is a bit of an election campaign going on for Chair so people should bear that in mind when reading the tone of the Anonymous post above

  75. Anonymous4:07 pm

    Council decided to not do anything this year. The discussion didn't get into any real depth - compared even to arguments made in this website.

    55-45 on actually having the discussion. Oh well, better things to spend time on at Worlds I suppose.

  76. Mark Russell4:14 pm

    I don't have time to do the maths on this just now, but Andy is undoubtedly correct - the probability of losing a potential final team from the break altogether is far higher with break to 32 than with break to 64.

    Really just a quick point though; does someone on Worlds council realise that 48 is not a power of 2? There is no way to get from a pool of 48 to a final of 4 with equal odds of progression in each room. I find it impossible to see what the advantage of 48 over 64 is.

  77. Andy Hume4:17 pm

    That's a bit of a disappointment.

    Look, this "problem" - if such it is - will wait. And Botswana next year may be a smaller competition, for simple reasons of geography, which will render this a tad academic.

    But if the competition continues to expand, even if at a modest and uneven pace, at some point I'd say the discussion will have to be had. I don't know what sort of team cap De La Salle will have, but there are going to be hundreds of Asian teams interested in showing up.

    Some day this war's gonna end...

  78. Mark Russell8:16 pm

    ...yeah, and hopefully with a less half-baked solution than expansion to 48. Given that the only way for that would work would be to create two castes - a top 16, who would go straight to octos, and a bottom 32, who would have to go through hexadecofinals (bit a mouthful, that) - I think as Andy says, the status quo is best for now.

    If I can get some relevant data from Colm & others, I will do some simulation around this issue. I'm sure my employers won't mind the computer time :)

  79. Anonymous10:16 pm

    One thing you can always rely on... the lethargy of a debating body to bring results, and protect the status quo. In this case it's the friend of standards and common sense.

  80. Tommy Tonner2:02 am

    Hang on Russel - 48 isn't a half baked idea. It works on the principle of rewarding success, if you find yourslef in the top 5% of the tab you have to negotiate one round fewere to win the comp than if you finish in percentiles 6 to 15.

    That said I am not wedded to that number but taking a long view in the 80's when worlds was roughly a 100 team tournament they broke to 16 in the 90's when on average it got about 200 teams it broke to 32 now there are roughly 400 teams so doesnt make sense to increase again purely on that basis alone ? Do the math as the yanks say.

    All of this tosh about the 64th team being crap and likely to scupper the number 1 seed is supercillious nonsense. First the 64th team out of 400 is way above average, second a poor performance by any team in any debate can adversely impact things - that goes for no 1 seeds too, third you ask the no 1 seeds if they fancy taking on two teams ranked in the thirties and one in the sixites and see what they say.

    Tommy Tonner

  81. Anonymous4:08 am

    I don't even think Ateneo are a good example to justify expanding the break at worlds on account of systematic bias against certain (predominantly Asian) teams. Check past results, they broke one team at Toronto (2002), one team at Stellenbosch (2003), one team at Singapore (2004), one team at Malaysia (2005), and two teams at Dublin (2006). They missed the break for 2 years after that, but just broke again this year at Turkey.

    Incidentally, when Ateneo broke at Singapore and Malaysia, they made the Quarters and the Semis of the main break, respectively. And if the anecdotal evidence I've gathered is correct, Malaysia was also the Worlds that the same Ateneo team that made the Semis beat Oxford A out of the break in Round 9, judged by an Australian, a Canadian and a Brit, including one of the DCA's.

    So assuming that some sort of bias against Asian teams exists in Worlds, this would be nothing more than an unsubstantiated assertion, considering that the only example to back it up, doesn't appear to have been discriminated against at all at Worlds.

  82. Andy Hume10:35 am


    I think you're right, but the broader problem is that adjudicators have certain expectations of teams when they go into a round and that tends to colour their view. They expect Oxford B to be better than Borneo Art College C. 90% of the time, of course, Oxford B are better, and considerably so. But this means that Borneo C start with an inbuilt disadvantage that goes beyond manner, experience or knowledge.

    This isn't simple racism, though, because the same applies when Oxford B go up against Dundee B, or for that matter when Borneo C go up against Ateneo A. Expectations get calibrated according to your "knowledge" of a team's reputation.

    The problem is persuading judges to leave these preconceptions at the door. Stereotyping may be one element of that but it's a wider question of good judging. But, once again, I don't see this proposal - now defunct, at least for the time being - as being related to the quality of judging in any way.

  83. Anonymous11:32 am

    Well, we'll try not to let Kiera and Madeleine smear all advocates of change with the same brush, but that's clearly what was being suggested.

  84. It's disappointing but should not be the end. The logic behind the expansion is sound we just have to convince people. I am happy for this site to be used to keep the issue on the table.

  85. Anonymous12:39 pm

    Quoting Anon @ 4:08 AM:

    "So assuming that some sort of bias against Asian teams exists in Worlds, this would be nothing more than an unsubstantiated assertion, considering that the only example to back it up, doesn't appear to have been discriminated against at all at Worlds."

    Just because you can name a few instances of where they weren't discriminated against doesn't mean there are also instances, that ultimately impact their performance, where they also WERE.

    In fact, I'm sure if you ask Ateneo, they can and will name a number of instances wherein they DO feel they were discriminated against.

    And as per Andy's point, it's not like this is all overt discrimination. I think adjudicators in general are smart enough to avoid going the way of "this team is Asian/ESL/whatever, therefore they're just not as convincing." It's a subconscious, insidious kind of discrimination that's difficult to avoid. It's discrimination that we can reasonably expect breaking judges to be able to avoid better than other judges, though, so we can limit the effect of this discrimination by expanding the break to teams that just miss out on the top 32.

  86. Anonymous6:15 pm

    For all this talk about bias against ESL teams and poor quality English speaking judges you should remember that the highest profile ban on a judge for bias and sexism and incorrect decisions was against an infamous Malaysian judge. Being a poor judge is not determined by race sex or language ability.

    The sweeping anti-English-speaking comments made by some on this discussion would be an equity violation if an English participant made them about the ESL/EFL community.

  87. Mark Russell6:43 pm


    I should have been more clear why I referred to expansion to 48 as half baked. Firstly, I should clarify that what I said above was an assumption about how a break to 48 would work - based on the fact that I can't think of another way it could work.

    The pre & post break rounds do test different things, and even if some of the things that people perceive as problems (eg debating under much greater stress), are in fact features, the conditions are definitely different. Given that competing under stress has been set up as a prerequisite of winning the tournament, it must be thought worthwhile, otherwise the team top of the tab after x rounds would be the winner, and there would be no knockout phase..

    However, for the competition to be fair, all competitors must be exposed to the same conditions, unless a difference has already been shown between them. I don't think that can be done on the basis suggested. I understand your point about it being a 'bonus' for getting in the top 16, but the problem is that from a statistical point of view, positions 16 & 17 are interchangeable. In fact, there is still so much bounce after 9 rounds at worlds, that positions 10 and 22 are probably interchangeable. Take 2004; the 16th placed team had been 24th after the previous round, but the 17th placed team had been 7th after the 8th round.

    In summary, what I was trying to get at was that Andy was suggesting that by increasing the size of the break, arbitrariness would be decreased, but since a break at 48 would entail a sub-break at 16, the arbitrariness overall would paradoxically be increased.

    Anyway. It turns out there is enough data on this website to do a Monte Carlo Simulation to establish the what the truth here actually is. Hopefully by the end of the holidays.


  88. Mark Russell6:46 pm

    By the way, apologies if the above is longwinded & clear as mud - it may have helped if I had cracked open the beer after writing, rather than before...

  89. Tommy Tonner8:11 pm


    As I said I am not wedded to 48 but I dont accept that its any more arbitrary than 32 or 64. If we want to start talking bell curves you might actually find that the closer the break is to the top of the bell the more "interchangable" things become - the delta between teams 200 & 201 in a 400 team tab is likely to be MUCH less than that between 16 & 17, 32 & 33 & 63 & 64.

    Also I dont think that giving the top 16 a "bonus" by missing out on an extra round is in anyway unsound, they already get a "bonus" by having two lower ranked team in their octo room. It also increases the amount of meaningful round 8 and round 9 debates. Being in the top round 9 room is both obvious and an excuse to treat the debate as a training exercise, that wont be the case if picking up a third or last threatens an extra round. The only argument I can think of against 64 is that some teams will know they are breaking after day 2 - they might as well go sightseeing on day 3.

    Some of the best debates I have seen have been bubble rounds at worlds - so the more of them the better I say. 48 keeps everyone in the top half of the tab after day 2 interested.

    BAck to my central point though the competition is 4 times the size of when it started. When it started the break was at 16. 4 times 16 is ... err 64.

  90. Fair enough. I just don't understand why you wouldn't just increase to 64. If you don't have enough decent adjudicators for that, you don't have enough for the break rooms...

    I'm sure you're right re the "top of the bell curve" point. Certainly my analysis so far shows that there are only ever a few (maybe 3-5) teams in any tournament who are positionally stable within the break at all times. Maybe Worlds should just break straight to final & be done with it!

  91. Anonymous8:35 pm

    You can't prove a negative, and show there wasn't discrimination. That doesn't therefore mean there was. Debaters feel always feel hard done by sometimes, but personally I doubt Ateneo themselves are so self pitying.

    And I think Praba was from DSLU or somewhere originally, so probably not fair to brand him Malaysian.

  92. Skanda Prasad10:24 pm

    Without firsthand experience of WUDC, I can't really be a fair judge of this issue, but from the comments above, setting aside ESL arguments, I see a few common strains of reasoning against an increase:


    i) Wouldnt the same have been true when the break was 32 of 200 teams? I find it hard to believe that in spite of the number of teams ballooning there are only 32 good teams across the world. Thats like saying Princeton or Harvard should cut their acceptance rate down to 5%, because the other 15% they would want to select will bring down quality.

    ii) The argument has been made vaguely that the large number of new teams are less experienced, & don't deserve to break.

    If so, given that some of them have participated at WUDC for a decade now, there should definitely be enough improvement to see them at break level. Even if not, mathematically, we'd expect to see at least more 20 teams of break-level caliber, out of the 200 more teams now. That itself would call for an increase from 32 to 50+.

    iii) Also, after watching the adj briefing from Koc, if speaker scoring is with respect to the average of that tournament, in a larger tournament with less experienced teams, wouldn't that push down the average level, thus artificially inflating the perceived score of the more conventional teams?

    I'm guessing that, in concert with the slightly conservative judging (my perception), would give the traditional teams a bigger speaker score than they'd have gotten, say 10 years ago and thus give them an advantage in breaking.

    iv) The difference between the 32nd & 64th team based on Cork tabs is 2 pts (16 vs 18) & 33 speaks (thats an avg of less than 2 pts difference in speaker scores). To my mind, that doesn't sound like too much of a reduction in quality. Indeed, the top ranked 16 pt team, based on speaks, would stand 24th.

  93. Skanda Prasad10:24 pm


    i) I'm not sure how this would work, given that one bad debate in round 8 or 9 would have pretty much the same effect of kicking a team out of the break. To add to their woes, being a prelim round, the judging would also be of lower calibre. Thus one freak low performance in a prelims debate with 32 break would probably affect teams far more than the same rounds with 64 break. The rounds 8 & 9 effectively become break rounds.

    ii) The pressure would be immense, & given that its closed rounds, judges too would not be accountable to teams for a decision that they may not be able to justify strongly, & this might reduce their incentive to think it through carefully. Just my opinion, & I hope I'm wrong.

    iii) In case of double-octos, we would definitely be able to find 50 good judges (since we anyway break 100). Their calibre being higher, we can definitely expect better judging. The pressure being lower, a slip up becomes less costly on teams.

    iv) The same can be said of the wing judges in, who'd probably be under less pressure to conform with a break of 64. With the break of 32, they'd be wary of a slip-up or disagreement in rounds 8 or 9, lest they lose a chance to break because they disagreed with the chair. While this may not be the case, that caution might itself lead to unconscious problems with the fairness of judging. Again hypothetical from my side.

    v) If there is indeed such a huge gap in quality, then the top 32 teams should have no problems beating bottom 32 teams. We cant simultaneously argue that the bottom 32 teams suck, while worrying that they'll also be able to beat the teams in the top 32.

    In fact, if there are cribbings about break rounds being tough & stressful, etc, the double octos would provide top teams with a perfect opportunity to get rid of some of that tension by chewing on something soft before getting down to "serious business" in the octos.

    Just my two cents. I'm pretty sure i'm wrong on many counts & would be grateful for any correction of my perception.

  94. I don't think we can simply assume Worlds will be 360+ for ever amen, if for no other reason that it will reduce the pool of institutions that will ever host - especially since the US will probably be waiting a looong time before their security level drops to the point where they could win a Council vote from countries who, let's just say, aren't part of the Visa Waiver Program.

    Even if it isn't as fine grained as my proposal above, I think the Council should at minimum retain the options of 32, 48 and 64 depending on tab size. The only upside I can think of for a permanent 64 team break would be that for Worlds that are more difficult/expensive to get to, a large break might tip the balance for institutions hesitating over the larger than usual $$$ required.

  95. Anonymous1:47 am

    On ESL/EFL bias:

    It seems to me that claims of ESL/EFL bias should be obvious in the sense that, not being native or highly experienced english speakers, they, on average, have more of an issue producing the same quantity of matter, whilst retaining fluency, in technical language under pressure. The inbuilt disadvantage is that Worlds is in English, combine that with the fact that in Asia, the predominant style is Australs, and this would suggest an even harder job.

    What would be the purpose of ESL/EFL breaks if we did not believe there was an inbuilt disadvantage?

    Are there judges who are racist/biased? Yes, and they are largely found out as bad judges. Is the main reason that ESL teams do, on average, worse than their ENL counterparts (say Sydney A vs Tel Aviv A from this years world) that they are discriminated against by judges? No

    On the break:
    Why consistency is not a valid arguement. It has been mentioned above that much of the top 32 looks different after rounds 8-11, but after about 5 rounds that is true regardless, you don't get any more consistency after 11 rounds. For example, on the Koc tab, take the team who came 32nd, Auckland A, If they were to lose round 10 (and at least 4 teams on 18 are guarenteed to lose round 10), and the lowest team on 16, ANU D in 108th, were to win round 10 then ANU would finish higher than Auckland. This is as true if you take the break to be 16, 32, 48, 64 teams and if you hold 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 rounds, it's just the nature of BP. Teams at the top might not move much, but lots of teams on tab bounce up and down wildly.

    As to why I don't think we should expand the break to 64, I refer you to the rest of Alex Worsnip's comments somewhere far above

  96. Anonymous9:45 am

    Anon@1:47, quite true. From your comment, you basically admit that Auckland A and ANU D are potentially as good. If so, wouldn't it be better then to give ANU D a good chance of proving themselves by expanding the break?

    Lets set aside racism as a motivating factor in judging. The fact is, bubble matches require excellent judging, more so than top matches. Given that break judges are necessarily better than prelims judges, wouldn't that be enough of a motivating factor to not simply accept the swings that you talked about and instead worry about ensuring that those swings do not affect potentially good teams in the prelims?

  97. Anonymous2:51 pm

    As to your first statement no, a room on -2 is far more likely to be easier than a room on straights. Even if I did buy they were equally as good, no, the logical consequence of this would be to break about 100-200 teams, since if you held 10/11 rounds there would be even more teams who could potentially leapfrog Auckland A.

    The point is this is a competition, and in all competitions, some people have bad luck and some people have good luck. It sucks when you get pulled up, but that's a fact of debating. If in the World Cup, an unseeded team has a good run into 2nd in the group and then gets slaughtered by Brazil in the knock outs, then they had bad luck being drawn into the group that put them there.

    We already put vast effort into trying to "control" for bad judging (though all judging is somewhat subjective), sensible limits exist and expanding the break in no way changes a bad call in round 9, it now means the team in 65th rather than 35th feels aggrieved by it.


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