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2 January 2011

Motions to expand the break defeated.

Just hearing that the three motions put to Council to expand the main break from 32 teams have all failed to pass. 

There was a simple majority but not the 2/3rds majority of Status A nations required to make such a significant constitutional change.


  1. Anonymous6:47 pm

    Booo! This is just like 1st World nations defending to keep hegemonic schemes like agricultural subsidies in the WTO. Steve's proposal was the most rational and best compromise.

  2. Any idea what the arguments against expansion were??

    The usual suspects are of course:

    1) Dilution of breaks
    aka I think there are only 32 good teams in the world, even if there be 1000 teams competing.

    2) Extra logistics of an extra round
    aka I'm too lazy to debate another round, which i'll win anyway coz i'm awesome, so why bother.

    Both of these seem to stretch thin given the kind of arguments and support for expansion. Thus, any idea about why the Charter A nations were against all 3 models of expansion this time? For one, the 18 point model seemed very fair and logical.

  3. The Alaskan proposal was, frankly, not very good. It's odd that a majority of nations would vote for such a manifestly flawed suggestion - it seems that the desire to break comes ahead of implementing a practical and workable solution.

    Here's why I really, really, don't think the Alaskan proposal is a good idea:

  4. Also note the comments on my note by Niall Sherry, Colm Denny and Eimear Spain.

    So, Skanda, with all due respect, please take your strawmen and remove them from this discussion.

  5. Can Okar7:18 pm

    Non-English as national language would not have been helped by this. At Koç, only Ateneo B would have broken but among the 14 extra teams that broke, one would have had nearly 100 speaker points less than the top team in the 17 bracket. Indeed, in the last seven years, only seven additional teams from non-english as national language would have broken. That's one a year, with nearly 60 additional breaking teams to contend with in that period.

    Also, run worlds and then tell me how easy it is to put in another round. Seriously, everyone who hasn't run it thinks it's really easy to run Worlds. It's not - time is really squeezed and if you're showing this kind of tiny benefit, you need to be able to prove that it doesn't damage the tournament.

    But of course, the claim is that speaker points are completely random. That is, of course, unless you want to arrange seedings. Or give some teams an extra repechage. Or allow three teams from one playoff while allowing only two from another. Then speaker points are OK.

    If non-traditional teams want to break, they need to improve. Simples. NUS A can do it - so can others.

  6. Harry,

    Thanks for the link to the note... hadn't seen this before. I share many of the same concerns about that proposal.

    However, that proposals faults are even more dire in the existing system, isnt it? More so when considering the essential subjectivity of judging, and the attempt at mapping it to an absolute scale that is bound to lead to variations. The strong point I took from the Alaska proposal (not enough to paper over its faults, maybe) was the attempt at removing the randomness and variance inherent in the present system. If we are reveling in or accepting this randomness, then i'd be concerned.

    However, even if people were uncomfortable with the 18 point plan, that still does not explain the opposition to the 48/64 expansion. The logistical argument honestly, doesn't particularly strike me as difficult to surmount. We increased the breaks at this year's UADC in a similar manner, and with less than 24 hours notice. There weren't any logistical challenges. I'm sure it'd work as well, if not better with a year to work out with the next hosts.

    I am trying to understand the concerns re expansion. I really am. Unfortunately, there hasnt really been a strong cogent response to the ideas and arguments that Colm and Andy Hume have made before, among others. When two debating stalwarts like them say that, its reason enough to seriously consider, if not follow.

    Perhaps you would be able to give us an understanding of your opposition to break expansion. After all, if most of the Charter A (the most involved countries in world debating) feel anti-expansion, there must be reason for it. Otherwise, I see no clear reason why there can only be 32 good teams at worlds when the competition pool has doubled. Of course, we could go the other way and argue that since most finals have been among the top 4 seeds anyway, why break 32 at all.

    @Colm... could you put up a detailed viewpoint from someone on why there is opposition to the breaks expansion. I think people are familiar with yours and Andy's reasoning for expansion. But the other side's views arent clear, or their response to Andy Hume's POV. That lack of clarity would only lead to dangerous assumptions of rationale for opposition.


  7. Jonathan Leader Maynard8:25 pm

    First, to 'anonymous' - no, it is not. Status A nations at Worlds are not the 'richest' nations, they are the nations that most consistently and most extensively have attendance at the competition; it's biggest users, as it were. The varying vote system at Worlds Council is to prevent there being an transparently unjustifiable dilution of the representation of institutions in countries that happen to send a lot of other institutions. Why should Wales, for example, which often doesn't send a single team to Worlds, have the same number of votes as Malaysia, Australia, South Africa or England, which send dozens between them year on year, simply of the basis of political boundaries drawn outside the debating world? It seems thoroughly reasonable that major constitutional alterations in what Worlds is should major support against the nations which are the biggest and most consistent presence at Worlds.

    I was not in Botswana, so cannot comment empirically on why the proposals failed. But to reiterate a basic point of opposition from Koc Worlds, where these proposals were first substantially put forwards, my concern has always been that the basic underlying logic put forward to justify expanding the break is flawed. Supporters claim that the break should be expanded because the tournament has expanded in size. The connecting logic between these two claims is that an increase in the size of the teams makes the break more difficult. But this is not *at all* clear - whether an increase in teams makes the break more difficult depends entirely on where on the tab, as it were, those teams have been added. And in reality (and I mean no disrespect to any of the newer representatives at Worlds, who typically come from newer societies with little coaching and experience to give them the necessary advantages) the vast majority of the new teams attending world have been added to the 'bottom half' of the competition, as it were. So the difficulty facing a team of breakable quality in 2002, is not so different from that which they face now. A large number of the new teams are also, laudably, ESL and EFL teams, and both a new break and an expansion of the old ESL break have been instituted to accomodate the impact that that expansions *has* had, conversely, on the old ESL break.

    In light of this, given that expansion would radically alter the significance and meaning of 'breaking at worlds', and that remains probably the achievement most debaters aspire to before any others, and has real currency in evaluating speakers, people naturally do not want its meaning to suddenly change without good reason.

    That is just one concern, but it is one I have yet to hear a good answer to. Similarly, irrespective of the damage that the proposal might do, I find the arguments in favour of Steve's proposal (such as a clearly illusory and arbitrary fetishisation of 18 points or 'consistently coming 2nd' as the 'correct' justification for deserving to break) poor, so similarly would not support it.

  8. Skanda: I don't think anyone is revelling in the randomness. I think there will always be a level that is impossible to account for. Speaker points actually go some way towards redressing the balance of randomness in team points (i.e. there is a compensation for losing a high-quality room relative to winning a low-quality one). Alsaka's proposal doesn't reduce the randomness of speaks (which I do not accept are as arbitrary as they claim) given the seeding, and itroduces other, newer, inequities, such as the three team break from one of the DPO rooms.

    I personally, as I say in the note, have no theoretical opposition to expansion to 48/64 using the current system so long as it is feasible (though JLM's post above does provide food for thought). 32 is currently a balance that both large and manageable. The cut-off is always arbitrary, and this arbitrary figure seems to work. Even an expanded break would still, in reality, mean more breaks for the "established" nations...

  9. Anonymous10:35 pm

    There were quite alot of arguments on this very blog on the post in which they proposed it (which Colm has now moved to the first page). It's not a shock it went down.

  10. Anonymous11:04 pm

    On the 18 teams break example, is a team who goes 4th, 1st, 1st, 4th, 1st, 1st, 4th, 1st, 1st by any stretch "undefeated", or better than a team who take a first and 7 seconds to put them on 17 and are then pulled up and take the 4th in a room of 18s.

    This may seem an improbable combination, but the difference in speaks in between the bottom team on 18 and the top team on 17 is huge

    Koc 93 speaks
    Cork 64 speaks
    Thailand 112 speaks
    UBC 100 speaks

    That's an average difference on 10 speaks per round. Now I buy that the gap between 32 & 33 may boil down to a harsh judge, but that element of luck exists in being pulled up or drawn into a tough room each round. But 10 speaks a round? That seems pretty conclusive. Why not them?

    Even between 32 and the bottom team on 18 there's a 30+ speaks gap for the last 4 years

    I agree with Jonathan with regard to expanding the break to 48 or 64 teams.

    Why is the assumption that the break is too small now rather than was too big then? For instance, the Oxford IV is about the size now that worlds was when Octos were decided on, but it only runs with Quarters

  11. Anonymous11:14 pm

    Seems it has slipped to the 2nd page now...

  12. Anonymous12:42 am

    Surely a few of the teams from 33-64 are quite good, and could plausibly even win the competition. Last year that range had some of the best teams in North America, teams who had consistently made the finals of almost every tournament they attended, who had just gotten unlucky in the 9th round at world's. But the number of teams in this range for which this is true is very small, and gets even smaller the more you expand the break. What I don't understand is why these few teams can't just try competing another three times, if they want their shot at winning worlds - rather than breaking along with all of the chaffey teams that would necessarily come with them? Making the break is supposed to be really prestigious - this might seem unusual to most debaters, but really the only reason we have a break is (a) to crown a winner in a reasonably fair way and (b) to give everyone high quality rounds to watch. The proposal doesn't apply to (a) because most 33-64 teams are either ridiculously unlikely to win, or have the ability to compete next year. Additionally, it undermines (b) because the teams might not be deserving of breaking, and might just lower the quality of the rounds. This is especially bad if they draw a first prop in a round and have a bad model, screwing over their back half team, for example.

    Basically expanding the break allows a lot of sub-par teams to claim the prestige of having broken, without making the competition any fairer, since a team from the same range is most likely to win in the end. I don't want a bunch of dumb-dumbs lowering the quality of the break for me, someone who will never compete at worlds, but still enjoys watching outrounds.

  13. Anonymous1:24 am

    Hear hear

  14. Niall Kennedy2:59 am

    It's a bit foolish to refer to teams in the range 33-64 as 'dumb-dumbs', Mr/Ms anonymous, particularly since most of them will have performed roughly as well as teams 16-32 over the first 8 rounds.

    Basically, it's not just about picking a breaking pool full of teams all of which could win - it's about picking an elite class some of which could win, and some of which are unlikely to get past the octos/quarters stage.

    To use an analogy: qualifying for the Olympics is an achievement, making an Olympic final is a bigger achievement, and winning a medal is a bigger achievement still. Breaking is probably analogous to making the Olympic final - it puts you in a distinct elite group without, necessarily, meaning that everyone in that group has a chance of winning the gold.

    There is no point trying to make subjective assessments of the quality of the break now relative to the past - because that is not related to numbers. If you ran a 200-team worlds next year, I have no doubt the general level would be superior to the worlds of the 1990s - because of better training, more dedication and a whole range of other factors.

    Rather than getting hung up on '32' '18' or similar magic numbers, isn't it better to recognise the importance of being recognised as in the top 10% (or whatever) as a percentage of the teams competing at worlds in that particular year? That seems a more sensible factor to hold consistent than attempting to hold the ability level of the weakest breaking team consistent from year to year. The logic of this is that if the tournament expands significantly, as worlds has done over the past decade, then the break should expand also, to keep the 'elite quota' in pace.

    None of the above should necessarily be construed as support for the specific Alaskan proposal though, which seemed unnecessarily complicated and constructed on dodgy premises to me....

  15. Anonymous3:23 am

    Communist Drivel :)

  16. Anonymous6:18 am

    Actually, to be honest, I'm more interested in a motion to junk silent rounds (i.e. All rounds should have open adjudication) and make judge feedback mandatory, than I am in an expansion of the break.

    But maybe that's just me.


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