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1 January 2012

Proposal to reform the Worlds Break

Update 1st January 2011.  Given that council voted to expand the break to all teams on 18 points this morning it is fitting that I move this post back up the blog.  I haven't figured out the impact of the decision on how to tab future worlds and won't try until I hear exact details of what was passed at council.

You will also find more information on Andy Hume's Facebook post or in the current edition of the Monash Debating review

Here is an extract from a mail from Mai Mokhsein (UT MARA) National Delegate for Malaysia at Council which he sent to the malaysian_debaters mail list:
This message is purely informational in nature. The Worlds Council 2012 has just passed the constitutional amendment to expand the main break. ALL teams on 18 points will now make the main break, applicable to Worlds 2013 henceforth.

Proposal passed with a slim two-thirds majority with strong opposition from the European, Oceania & IONA region. All Asian nations were unanimously stout in holding their ground for expanding the break after a disproportionately long discussion that carried on from last year. Great turnaround as the initial straw voting indicated that we didn't have the necessary two-thirds majority to make the amendment.

Implementation of the new break policy:
1. The bottom 32 teams will compete in Pre-Octos, while high-ranking teams will get a bye.
2. If an odd number of teams make the main break, the room with the lowest-ranking team will have three teams advancing to the Octos.

Update Jan 2011: this is a post that was first published on 24th November. It concerns the proposal to expand the break which is currently being discussed at council. I have changed the date on it to move it back up to the front page of this blog so people can be more fully informed about the proposal. The first 17 comments date from November.

Shawn Briscoe and Steve Johnson have written a proposal to allow all teams with 18 or more points to break at the WUDC. They plan to submit it to Council in Botswana and have asked that it be posted here to promote some discussion.  If you want to contribute to the discussion you can post here or e-mail Shawn and Steve directly at or


  1. Anonymous10:24 pm

    Better than previous proposals (48 teams was flawed, 64 teams ridiculous), but still doesn't seem necessary. Who is to say that more teams has increased, rather than diluted, the median strength of a team? The top 32 teams doesn't need to represent an arbitrary % of the total participants to be merit based, no more than an Olympic swimming final needs to have a larger number of participants, in order to better reflect the total entrants.

  2. Anonymous3:11 pm

    I am inclined to agree with the sentiment of anon (that more teams isnt necissairly good), but would point out that the percentage really isnt the thrust of what Steve and Shawn are getting at here. Its that speaks are such an arbitrary measure of success that its impossible to distinguish between teams on the basis of one or two points over the course of the tournament. Seriously, how many of us have sat in an adjuducation and one person says 78, another says 80, and we just split the difference at 79 to get lunch faster. It is ludicrous to suggest that a distinction based literally on that should deny a team a shot in outrounds. Until now we've done it out of necessity, I think this proposal fixes that.

    The one thing I would suggest would be to use the top 17 point team instead of having one round where 3 advance. There is ususally a substantial enough difference between the top 17 and the 2nd 17 that it is meaningful, even if speaks are arbitrary on the margin.

  3. Anonymous8:16 pm

    By that logic we ought to abolish speaker prizes too. Everything is arbitrary in a sense, that's really an argument to revamp scoring procedure, not to increase the break.

  4. Anonymous8:34 pm

    Anon above has completely missed the point of all discussion on break reform and is arguing only for the sake of it. Thank you for the needless distraction.

    The proposal is right, speaks are just too arbitrary to base a break. Speaker prizes are not exact and reflect a trend. Additionally, any position in the top 5, apart from Best Speaker all hold the same prestige, and some might argue the same applies for the entire top 10. But when for example DCA applications ask you to have broken at a tournament, missing a break on speaks can really matter.

    And as Anon 3:11 PM has rightly pointed out, the major contention on a panel is delineating rank. After heated debate on the 1 to 4, the speaks are often a formality or afterthought.

    Additionally, speaks are much more skewed by rules, such as that speaks must be aligned to reflect rank. Ranks don't suffer these problems.

  5. Anonymous9:21 pm

    I don't think the speaker prizes argument is a distraction at all, not because of the difference between 5-10, but because of the person from 11-15 who doesn't get a prize, when they're off by a margin that can be smaller than a team misses a break by. They have to deal with it, why can't the teams from 32-40 who were unlucky? I'm sure one could use mathematics to argue various people deserved speaker prizes (that they were in the top %, and such a % is above what used to be required, etc). The top 32 teams are a reflection of a trend over 9 rounds too, I don't see the distinction to be honest.

    The person who ranks 11th as a speaker won't have any problem listing it on their DCA application, why can't the team who finishes 33rd?

    There are bundled arguments here, fairness and arbitrariness, but I don't think either is decisive.

  6. Anonymous9:46 pm

    I think the point being made here is that if there is a system whereby this arbitrariness can be mitigated then we should probably opt for that system especially since arbitrariness here harms people a lot more. It's true that a person can say they finished 33rd, but they can't ever say they made a quarter, semi, final or became champions, an opportunity given every 32nd place team.

    If everyone agrees that speaker points are arbitrary we should opt for a solution where they are not the basis for a team being eliminated.

  7. Anonymous10:10 pm

    Obviously there's more prestige to getting a chance to get to the Quarter/Semi, etc, but there's also a cost, namely that you make the higher ranked teams have one extra chance to be eliminated, which with the vicissitudes of chance one finds in BP style debating, is reasonably high. Draw the wrong position on the wrong topic, sometimes there's not much you can do, it happens alot. The question is whether that trade off is worth it. Obviously it sucks to be eliminated on the basis of speaker points, but it's not much more arbitrary than other aspects of the tournament.

  8. Anonymous10:37 pm

    "The person who ranks 11th as a speaker won't have any problem listing it on their DCA application, why can't the team who finishes 33rd?"

    Can anyone show us an Adj Core Member with that credential? :p

  9. Anonymous10:39 pm

    Anonymous @ 9:46 PM: Excellent points.

  10. Anonymous10:50 pm

    @ Anon of 9:21 and 10:10 PM

    Your argument is coming perilously close to suggesting that the entire tournament is arbitrary! I actually sympathize with the sort of argument about unbalanced topics, bad positions etc, but I am not sure why that's a reason to tolerate arbitrariness where it can be controlled.

    Even if we assumed that all these things are arbitrary, it still is best to limit arbitrariness as far as possible. This proposal does it, unless you are claiming that the result of any given match between these teams tied on speaks is just as arbitrary as the difference between their speaks. Also, this proposal doesn't entail higher ranked teams facing an extra round. No team on 19 points would have to go through partial-octos under this proposal.

  11. Anonymous12:27 am

    I'd call it luck rather than arbitrariness, since the teams are of a similar standard... the same reason alot of the other "arbitrariness" happens. The teams who finished perhaps many points clear on 18 still have to debate again. That's a con to weigh against the pro.

    To 10:37, I can show you DCA's with less credentials than 11th best speaker and with most of their finishes being well below 33rd. sure you want to play that game?

  12. My personal opinion is that if you include the ESL and EFL competitions we already break far more teams than we did 10 years ago and there is no harm in adding to that to make the main competition more competitive for more teams. It would move some of the emphasis back to the core World Championships which is, afterall, our key product when it comes to selling the event to sponsors and the media. We have increased the size of the break in the EFL/ESL competitions to reflect the larger entry in these events. I know the core championships should remain more prestigious and more of an achievement but increasing the break in this by around 10 teams is not going to significantly dilute the brand.

    Remember that the break of 32 was set back at a time when Worlds was lucky to get 150 teams. Now we often struggle to cap it at 400. While I was not at that council meeting, believe it or not I’m not that old, my understanding is that there was no great philosophical discussion about the merits of 32 versus 16 versus 64 at the time. It was purely a matter of logistics and a fair number given the overall size of the tournament.

    I think speaker points are a tough way to determine the break. You have to decide it some way at the moment but speaker points have tightened up so much in recent years that the no low point win rule or a small variation in the standard of adjudication from room to room can have a significant impact on the break. I'm not suggesting we change the no low point rule. If you won the debate you must have spoken better both as a team and as the individuals working together to make up that team. Nor can I suggest a way to ensure a 100% unified adjudication marking standard across all room Even the ridiculously highly detailed/fragmented speaker point sheet forms you get handed at some tournaments can’t guarantee that.

    I feel the beauty of Worlds style is it puts far more emphasis on the ability to persuade than just the ability to academically recite facts and quotes. However that means you have to factor the personality of the adjudicators into account. One judge may be more persuaded by a speech than another judge sitting beside them. That’s life. That’s why we have panels of judges rather than just one judge. A certain amount of the randomness has been eliminated by moving from individual judge ballots to consensus adjudication where you expect an experienced chair judge to guide (but not dominate) the discussion and the points.

    In relation to the discussion on DCAs not finishing in the top 10 or even breaking. Well I’ll freely admit that would include me. I think there are more qualities to being a judge than just breaking at Worlds. You are likely to find that the top 10 (or more) speakers make good judges but they don’t make the only good judges. There may be an argument for an internationally accepted judge ranking system to make sure the best judges get to be Chairs, DCAs, CAs, breaking judges etc. It certainly would help close the gap on standards of marking. However that’s probably a discussion for another thread....

    So if we can’t eliminate some of the causes of variation in speaker points then perhaps we can reduce the effect. By basing the break purely on team points rather than speaker points it means your team gets rewarded for every point you win as a team and a poor performance by one speaker/judge first thing on the second morning isn’t going to push you out of the break.

  13. I have already communicated to Steve some suggestions on the presentation. It’s a small thing but I feel that the term “undefeated” might cause some confusion. Remember you can top the tab by finishing first in 8 rounds but last in the final debate thus no longer being “undefeated”. For example Oxford A Topped the tab on 24 points in Koc but finished 3rd (thus “defeated”) in round 8. The Win-Loss ratio is a very popular one in certain sports but I think most people better understand a points based league table. It’s not what Steve and Shawn are suggesting but I just pointed out potential confusion (I have seen intelligent people get confused by far less at council meetings or large briefings). Secondly I think some allowance needs to be made for extreme events. It has happened that the competition has had to be shortened to 8 rounds (e.g. illness in Glasgow). It is always possible that unexpected events would significantly decrease the number of teams in attendance (e.g. if worlds had been held in the UK, Ireland or most of Europe during the eruption of the Icelandic Volcano earlier this year). In these circumstances 17 points comes into play for a break. When drafting the rules we should not lock the break in at 18 points in case we end up with less than 32 teams on 18.

  14. Also finally I welcome the discussion and all contributions. But it would be nice if people signed their posts. Just a signature. No need to register or log in or anything if you don't want to. I won't stop Anonymous comments and feel free to continue posting that way if you wish but it would be good to have names rather than time stamps to identify contributers :-)

  15. Though faced with this problem in the international tourneys, but since never been to worlds yet, wont be making any constructive comments.

    But the fact that is getting the spotlight..."speaker points being not the best way for determining the break" is something crucial and needs to be paid attention to!

    And undefeated is definitely not the right word, which has been pointed out and clarified in the right spirit...

    Hope the Break gets reformed for the best possible outcomes!!!


    Loved the detailed work of Shawn and Steve, though

  16. Anonymous9:15 am

    In defense of Speaker Points

    Arbitrary, overpowered and inhumane, there are many reasons to hate those speaker points. Anyone who missed a brake by less than five of those horrible numbers knows the frustrating feeling of watching the elimination rounds from the crowd. This is normally done with extreme dislike to the team that made it. “That team” that is so obviously not 4 points better then you and your partner. Following soon, is the traditional blaming of the adjudication, which was cheap on speaks in your room, but gave 80s to buckets in the other rooms. While this is understandable, it is hardly enough to justify throwing speaks out of the window.

    For one thing, the arbitrariness of speaker points, especially at Worlds, in greatly exaggerated. Worlds is one the longest tournaments out there. The more rounds you have, the more kinds of adjudicators you see. This makes it less likely for speaker points to be held in the whim of one panel. If over 9 rounds, you were not able to accumulate enough speaks to secure your brake, it is your slip, and responsibility cannot be placed on any one panel of adjudicators. It is also fair, because this fact is true for all speakers, not just you.

    Which brings me to my next point, what do these points signify? Since most of the aggravation is focused on the “brake/not brake” question, we are basically talking about those speakers on the 78+ bracket. This bracket is normally, or should be, open to those who are technically flawless, engaging and all in all give some of the best speeches in the tournament. All things the same, the truth of the matter is that, the difference between an 80 and an 83 is often nothing more than a very subjective “Wow affect”.

    This is not as bad as it sounds. Debating in all its forms is a game of being able to persuade different people. If none of the adjudicators in the panel felt strongly enough about your speech to merit a hearty promotion of speaks, it is not their fault, and it is yours. Part of your job as a speaker is to make it clear to your listeners that you’re especially good, amazingly convincing etc. That “other team “ mentioned above did a better job at that then you did, 4 points worth of a better job.

    A tendency had been mentioned, of deciding on speaker points as an afterthought barraging processes. Meaning, one person sees an 80 speech, the other sees a 78, and they settle quickly on 79. An impulse reaction would call for accusing this panel of not giving the decision enough consideration. However, seeing the bigger picture would bring to attention that the speaker in question obviously didn’t give any of the adjudicators a reason to feel too strongly over the final score- Exactly what he or she was suppose to be doing.
    During 9 rounds a speaker will stand in front of about 27 different judges, often more. Those are 27 opportunities to deliver the coveted “Wow” speech. If in the end what separated you from braking was 4 points, you just didn’t give enough of those.

    Before I finish, one last thing I wish to address: Every one of us can tell a story about someone who got abnormally undeserved high or low speaker points. Often game changing ones. This is a problem, yet is no different from those abnormally undeserved and game changing 4th and 1st places. These things happen, and we have various mechanisms to balance them (Adj. tests, briefings etc.). But considering both of these are existing phenomena, I cannot understand why missing the brake on 1 team point is significantly fairer than missing it on 4 speaks. They are both part of the game, like all those other arbitrary bits mentioned in the other comments.


  17. Anonymous11:03 am

    Well said.


  18. Putting aside discussions of the arbitrariness or otherwise of speaker points for the moment.

    I find it difficult to see any potential harm that could come from instituting this system.

    If the teams who would previously broken into the top 32 are, as opponents of the proposal believe, the 'best' teams in the competition then they will be able to demonstrate it once again by winning these additional rounds. And fi not then the better debaters will go through and we will have a fairer, and hopefully more interesting, set of octos and semis.

    The main objection I can see is to the logistics involved in conducting an extra round, which I have some sympathy for. But given the length of worlds as it is, and the possibility of running it parallel with ESL/EFL suggested in the slides I can't see this making a major difference.

    That said, I would be interested in hearing from anyone with a principled opposition to expanding the break.

  19. Anonymous1:35 am

    I don't agree there is no harm.

    BP is a dynamic format, and the combination of luck, position, topic, etc, can undo even the team who is regarded as the "best" in the tournament. Plenty of #1 seeds are knocked out in Octos. That doesn't mean they were unworthy of being #1 seeds, or that the teams who beat them were "better" (though they were likely better and/or luckier on the day).

    The question is how to value what you achieve in the prelims. Teams on 19 points, well clear on speaks, might feel a little hard done by when those circumstances undo them in a double-octo. If we broke 128 teams, you're creating more chances for those BP dynamics to throw a team a curve ball. That's not necessarily desirable. By your logic, we could just make the competition a continuous process of elimination from round 1, and the best team would invariably win. Things are more nuanced than that. I'm unconvinced the new mechanism is less arbitrary than the old, except the new system plays better for teams 32-37(ish), and worse for teams 23-32(ish).

  20. Johnwbh1:52 am

    Mr Anonymous,

    I agree there will always be an element of luck, thats what makes it fun after all. But surely by allowing more of the higher teams to compete against one another you reduce that.

    At worst this would be equally arbitrary, but at least consistently so.

    As for the higher ranked teams feeling hard done by. An equal number of people will feel that way under each scenario by the maths of the arrangement. However it seems probable that people will be more accepting of elimination by rounds then by points.

  21. Anonymous2:09 am

    You wanted the principled argument. There it is.

    A placing can be as arbitrary as a score, and based on factors that were just as close/arbitrary, especially when you're talking a singular point over 9 rounds.

    It's easy to find examples of teams who will prefer the expansion plan, just as it's easy to find an example of teams who'd hate it. If I'm Sydney B on 18 points this year, probably a mile ahead on speaker points, and I'm forced to debate an additional Octo, pull a topic where the other team/s have an advantage, pull the wrong side, pull the wrong adjudicator (which this may make easier, depending on how it changes the Adj break), and go down in a double Octo, I'm pretty sure I'd feel hard done by. And that's without considering Sydney C on 19 points, probably a mile ahead on speaks too... it's a question of how much the prelims should mean, and some people (myself included) feel they ought to matter more than that.

  22. Anonymous2:14 am

    Heck, some people prefer a format where there are no finals, and you give it to the team on top of the tab after 9 rounds. Alot of people still regard the team who trumps the tab as the "top team". I'm not one of them mind you, but I think an extra Octo goes too far.

  23. Andy Hume4:37 am

    I still think a break of 64 is best. This proposal would be an acceptable alternative, but to me it seems needlessly messy. Speaker points may vary but they are not really arbitrary, and I would say that they command general acceptance as the fairest way of splitting teams on the same team points. Perfect? No; but over 9 rounds you would, broadly, expect judging variations to balance out.

    To go back to the very first anon, though, it is really not clear to me why 64 is a "ridiculous" number of teams for the break. The 32-team break was introduced when Worlds attracted around 150-200 teams. The tournament is now twice the size. Breaking 32 teams out of 400 is like having an IV with 50 teams and breaking straight to a final. You wouldn't do it. People would think it was a bad format if you did.

    It is true that a lot of the "extra" teams that have been added in the last 15-20 years are not necessarily of main break standard but, balanced against that, there was normally a two or three team cap from each university, so (for example) Oxford, Cambridge, Monash or Sydney were only allowed two representatives each. With such institutions now typically sending 5 teams each, there are 20 teams from those 4 universities alone with a very strong chance of breaking every year. So arguments about "diluting" the break are, with all due respect, misplaced.

    It was not "ridiculous" to break the top 32 (20% of the tournament) then, and it's not ridiculous to break 64 out of 350-400 now. If those extra teams don't belong in the company of the big boys, most of them will fall at the first hurdle. If they do, then some of them will prosper and make it to the quarters and beyond. I think that would be very refreshing.

  24. Anonymous5:00 am

    I don't think I need to reiterate my earlier argument, it's very clear. You think Worlds breaks are about a kind of "sharing" that enables a certain % of the teams to make it to a somewhat arbitrary finals stage. I don't know what the many and varied motives of the initial 32 break really were, and I don't think it's terribly pertinent either. They have the ESL break and EFL break so newer institutions can get some recognition anyway.

    I wholly reject a break based on a % of the total tournament, and there are certainly IV's out there with similar break %'s. Frankly the whole "break" is itself a compromise, since the most accurate way to assess the best team in tournament would just be to tack on an extra 4 rounds instead of a finals series, and the team on top of the tab at the end is the winner.

    I like the current format personally, since I think it provides the right balance between luck and merit, while adding an exciting element. But a break of 64 is just a misguided attempt at inclusiveness, which I feel isn't what the world championships are supposed to be about. The most important issue should be ensuring the winning team/s are the best team/s, and because of the dynamic nature of BP debating an extra round creates an extra chance for those factors to knock out an otherwise better team due to a one off debate where circumstances ran against them. I mean, if Worlds were larger still, would you support a 128 team break, or a 256 team break? At what point does it get silly? More participants doesn't necessarily indicate a higher standard after all.

  25. Andy Hume5:24 am

    With respect to that last point, if there were 1000 teams at Worlds then I would support a break of 128, yes! Let's flip that question on its head: would you still support a 32 team break in those circumstances?

    I accept what you are saying about breaks not necessarily being based on a percentage of the total number of registered teams. And I can assure you that I'm not one of these "all must have prizes", inclusivity-for-the-sake-of-it types. More participants does indeed not guarantee a higher standard overall.

    But I do think that 32 out of 350-400 is a pretty tough standard to meet. I think that most of the teams in the 33-64 bracket - which after all are only separated from the top 32 on speaker points or, at most, 1 team point - are pretty useful teams and deserve a shot at winning the competition.

    And, perhaps as importantly, opening up the break would give more teams something to aim at on the final day. As it stands, if you are on less than 10 points after 6 rounds you can more or less forget about breaking. The last 3 debates become the equivalent of those mid-table games at the end of a football season when sides put out teams of youngsters because they're dead rubbers. I'm not in favour of inclusivity for the hell of it, but I think it would be a good thing if there were more bubble rounds on the last day and more to play for than just pride.

    Just my tuppence worth. This one is going to run and run and I sound like a broken record already.

  26. Anonymous5:49 am

    Well hang on. If we're using the logic that the original parameters mean something, then using the same % back when Worlds had 173 teams, then a 1000 team worlds would need a break of 185 to be "fair". I see you don't support that, so the "128" number (much like the 64 break) seems to be purely a personal preference, not based on some sort of math.

    I'd be interested in seeing the circumstances of a 1000 team worlds, and if the standard had changed significantly upwards to what it is now (which I regard as appropriate) then maybe it'd be worth revising it (which is why the 18 points model is at least based on logic, as opposed to the ridiculous 64 team one, which is totally arbitrary). If there had been 600 extra ESL teams this year, then I definitely would have kept the main break at 32.

    I see the argument you're making, but I just prefer the way things are now, and I don't see a compelling case for change (and many uncompelling ones). People want the principled argument for keeping it as it is, people on this website have given it. Given how decisively the last vote was defeated, I don't think I'm in the minority either, but we'll see how things go this time around.

  27. Andy Hume6:39 am

    Clearly we're going to agree to disagree - and you do, certainly, seem to be in the majority.

    Just a final thought (from me, anyway) - I'm not trying to pose as some sort of constitutional originalist, and state that because the 32 team-break was instituted when there were x teams that the break should therefore be set at the ratio (x/32) in perpetuity.

    I don't think the break should be in some kind of strict ratio to the number of participants, but I do think that when you introduce a format and the number of participants subsequently more than doubles, it is at least sensible to explore the possibility of changing the format and discussing the reasons why that might be a good thing for all concerned. I understand that you think the current format is pretty appropriate - but back in the 1990s we thought the set-up then was appropriate, too.

    But as you say, it seems I'm in a minority, so I'll leave it there.

  28. Me with Andy...simply because we can.

    No, really.

    The Alaska team presented the logistics of it, to show it was possible. In Euros, the growth of the tournament had to be taken into consideration, and it was looked into, and seeing how it was possible, to allow for MORE debating to go on, to allow for MORE competition, without causing HARM - and it was achieved.

    Worlds grew, from 150 teams to 400. Why not ask the question of HOW to allow this to happen as well. If it demands one more round of debating, in what is more than ample time - why not?
    What is the real harm?
    It is not a percentage-based issue, but rather a debate-based issue.

    on an aside - I do think this means that the issue of inclusion of EFL and ESL needs to be watched. For if enough of them make it into the main break, the question becomes what size they need to be. But that's an issue for another debate, no?

    Joe (aka Mxyzptlk)

  29. Anonymous12:19 am

    So... you guys think that the team which finishes on the lowest speaker points of the 18 point teams, that probably won a room of 15s in round 9 is better or even as good as the team with the highest speaker points on 17 that was probably in high rooms for the whole tournament and 4thed a room of 17s... just clearly not true, in every tournament ever. What this does is it takes a flawed system where some teams who deserved to break didnt, and makes it into a system where some teams still deserve to break and don't, and lots more break whilst being clearly not better than them. A ridiculous proposal.

  30. Anonymous12:31 am

    Just a quick comment. Speaker points aren't arbitrary, for a few reasons:

    1)If they were we wouldn't use them at all.
    2)Someone who averages 80 is clearly better than someone averaging 60
    3)It is more likely that when two judges go '82,80' and settle on 81 that speech was better than when two judges go '80,78' and settle on 79, the 81 was a better speech
    4)It is furthermore more likely especially in a 9 round competition that any 'objective unfairness' evens out over 9 rounds.
    5)Losing by a speak or two doesn't mean you deserve to break - it's like an olympic sprinter losing by a 1 hundredth of a second. They still lose.
    6)Incorporating teams who 'just lose' to the bottom team extrapolates the break ad infinitum. There is an equivalently good case to be made as above that a team on 17 with high speaks is better than an 18 team with low speaks.
    7)Even if speaker points were arbitrary this means we're selecting teams arbitrarily awarded lower speaks to compete in the partial octo over ones arbitrarily awarded high speaks so the problem still remains.
    8)The reason given for this proves my point. The ones given the bye are 'supposedly better'.

    By what criteria? Speaks. God bless them.

  31. Anonymous7:50 pm


    Thus spake Anon@5:49:
    “If there had been 600 extra ESL teams this year, then I definitely would have kept the main break at 32.”


    1) ESL = useless.
    2) ESL automatically means they arent capable of breaking. Or as one very famous debater said at council, "Whats the point, its not like they're going to get anywhere".

    This is precisely the kind of attitude that ESL teams and teams from the non-high-table countries face when up against teams and judges who come from the same stock as anon above.

    It is this lack of understanding by the "old boys" of the specific problems of ESL/EFL speakers that creates the bitterness (if any). All is NOT hunky dory when the sort of elitist attitudes shown by debaters here and around permeate to judging as well. Might I remind people of 2010 Masters?

    And lets not try and say here that judges are all fine and dandy. Just because an IONA team doesn't feel marginalized by a certain judges behaviour doesnt mean that all is fine. This isnt something thats rare - most ESL/EFL teams face this attitude.

    However, that isnt the reason to ask for an expansion. Most pro-expansion people are way more objective then that. The reason is that the above, along with an entrenched culture of "the right way to do BP" which leads to resistance to accept new styles acts as an automatic handicap to teams from other debating regions.

    What this means is that a judge from one area feels closer to a style of debating that he is familiar with, which means that the arguments presented in another style get less weightage with manner and persuasiveness than those packaged as the judge expects it. Which leads to close calls going against the non-conforming team, and less speaker points in general. Does that rankle? Yes it does.

    The biggest block really is the lack of acceptance that judging at Worlds isnt always perfect, and that certain groups bear the brunt of these imperfections more than others do.

    Its far harder to change the whole pool quickly, since thats a process that would take time. However, what can help is to give more teams the chance to be judged by good judges who would are more accepting and experienced, in the expanded breaks, and thus, get a fairer hearing.

    - Samuel

  32. Anonymous8:59 pm


    Thus spake Anon@5:49:
    “If there had been 600 extra ESL teams this year, then I definitely would have kept the main break at 32.”


    1) ESL = useless.
    2) ESL automatically means they arent capable of breaking. Or as one very famous debater said at council, "Whats the point, its not like they're going to get anywhere".

    This is precisely the kind of attitude that ESL teams and teams from the non-high-table countries face when up against teams and judges who come from the same stock as anon above.

    It is this lack of understanding by the "old boys" of the specific problems of ESL/EFL speakers that creates the bitterness (if any). All is NOT hunky dory when the sort of elitist attitudes shown by debaters here and around permeate to judging as well. Might I remind people of 2010 Masters?

    And lets not try and say here that judges are all fine and dandy. Just because an IONA team doesn't feel marginalized by a certain judges behaviour doesnt mean that all is fine. This isnt something thats rare - most ESL/EFL teams face this attitude.

    However, that isn't the reason to ask for an expansion. Most pro-expansion people are way more objective then that. The reason is that the above, along with an entrenched culture of "the right way to do BP" which leads to resistance to accept new styles acts as an automatic handicap to teams from other debating regions.

    What this means is that a judge from one area feels closer to a style of debating that he is familiar with, and automatically assigns such conforming arguments more weightage and persuasiveness than arguments that are not packaged the way he would like them. Which leads to the team getting less points and speaker scores, and not breaking. Does it rankle? Sure it does.

    Would the right thing be for that team to then "conform" and learn "the right style", or to make the judge more accepting?

    The biggest stumbling block is the refusal to accept that the judge pool isn't all fine and dandy, that such issues do exist. And that these imperfections affect some teams more than others. That is why the call for expanded breaks - to ensure that these teams get a chance to be judged by more accepting and experienced adjs than go through their whole prelims facing this problem.

    - Samuel

  33. Anonymous7:19 am

    It may not be polite to say so, but the reality is ESL teams don't make the main break, so yeah, if you were adding 600 extra ESL teams, it would not actually increase the difficulty or quality of the teams who are in the top 32.

    I don't think the reference to "different styles" is helpful either. Worlds has a uniform style, so it should be standardised. Of course there are many different types of manner, but having a different type of manner has never really held teams back, unless that style of manner impedes their ability to debate in English. Bias exists, but I don't think it's a serious problem, and it's one that affects teams from every region, not just ESL ones.

    I assume the reference to Masters is about Woon? Strange, because I remember a huge backlash against his critics, as being without substance.

  34. Comments prior to this one were made before council passed the motion on 1st Jan 2012.


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