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The following message went out to our iContact list on 2015-03-03:
The NASPA Executive Committee, at the suggestion of the Advisory Board, has reviewed the actions of the NASPA Championship Committee in establishing a different pairing format for the 2015 North American SCRABBLE Championship. After carefully reviewing the matter, the Executive Committee has determined that the bracket playoff format will remain in place for all divisions at the 2015 NASC, with specific feedback sought from attendees on the pros and cons of the format at the conclusion of the NASC, in conjunction with our customary feedback form.
We would like to thank our members for their spirited engagement in this process, and for sharing their views on the new pairing format. We are gratified that our members feel a sense of ownership over the North American SCRABBLE Championship, and that there is broad recognition of the importance of this marquee event on our tournament calendar.
The newly formed NASPA Social Media Committee has provided us with the feedback both in favor of and opposed to the new format, as well as some comments from members who are neutral on the idea. What we have learned from this feedback is that a number of our members have strong opinions on this issue. We also learned that there are some misconceptions about the decision-making process. In an attempt to clear up that confusion, we would like to provide the following information.
Who Made This Decision?
The decision to set the format was made by the NASPA Championship Committee, which is the committee charged with organizing and running our annual championship tournament. The Championship Committee makes hundreds of decisions with respect to the organization of the NASC. The Championship Committee functions much like the organizers/directors of other NASPA tournaments, choosing a venue, negotiating terms, setting entry fees, establishing division cutoffs, determining pairing format, etc.
Why Wasn’t The Membership Consulted On This?
The Championship Committee has always sought feedback from players at the conclusion of every championship. We consider the opinions of our membership very carefully when making plans for future tournaments, and believe that we have improved on the tournament year by year. Some of the changes to the NSC/NASC that have arisen from member feedback include: offering the option to play in the Collins lexicon; modifying the cutoff for TWL Division 1; modifying the cutoff for the Collins division; shortening the Qualifying Rating period; adding a staff/directors Early Bird; offering multiple Collins divisions; adding ancillary events like a Lunch Bird, Trivia Contest, and Tag Team Tourney; and offering a Youth Division.
While many players have been happy with the traditional pairing format used in the recent championships, there have been some criticisms of that format. Some have argued that it requires the division leaders to play very strong competitors over and over, while those who have a worse record early in the tournament have the opportunity to employ a “Swiss gambit” to make a late surge and secure a higher place in the tournament having faced less stringent competition.
The new pairing format came about in part because of its success at last year’s SCRABBLE Champions Tournament. But a secondary factor in choosing this format was the ability to address the concerns expressed by some of our membership. So, while we didn’t conduct a poll of the membership on the pairing format, the choice of this format was responsive to concerns raised by NASPA members. In the same way that we have committed to allowing our members to play in their preferred lexicon, we want to provide our players who favor this format an opportunity to experience a championship paired in this way.
Was This Decision Hidden From the Membership?
By no means. The format for the championship has been in the same place on the NASPA website for years. We create the page each year by copying the text from the previous year’s championship to the new page, and editing the text to provide up to date information. It simply didn’t occur to us that this change should be featured more prominently. We have heard the feedback from members that the pairing format should be listed earlier on the event webpage, and have made that change.
Isn’t This Pairing Format Fundamentally Unfair?
Every pairing format has advantages and disadvantages. And every tournament must foreclose the opportunity for some players to win or place highly at some point during the event. For those reasons, any number of pairing formats can be fair to the participants. What is of critical importance is establishing the pairing format in advance, so that the competitors have the ability to know what is required to win or place in the event.
Initiating the playoff bracket after round 21 means that the competitors will already have played the equivalent length of 1½ typical weekend tournaments. Some players may be shut out of the championship bracket based on the luck of the draw during one or more games. But, that is simply the nature of SCRABBLE. Luck is a factor in our game.
Those who are excluded from the championship bracket still have the ability to compete for 9th place and lower, and also have the ability to compete on a game by game basis to test their skills against each of their competitors in the final 10 games. At every championship, there are players who are mathematically eliminated from 8th place and above at the end of round 21. Those players have always continued to play and give their best, regardless of their place in the standings. Similarly, with the bracket format, each player will give his or her best in each game, seeking to improve rating or standing in the tournament, and most of all, drawing enjoyment from playing SCRABBLE at the biggest, most significant NASPA tournament of the year.
Is This the Championship Format From Now On?
As previously stated, we will solicit particular feedback from our attendees after the 2015 NASC. We will consider carefully what our members have to say about the advantages and disadvantages of this format, and will use that information to determine the pairing format for the 2016 NSC.
We appreciate the engagement from the playing community on this issue. We encourage everyone, regardless of opinion on the playing format, to consider attending the 2015 NASC in Reno, and add your voice to the others who provide feedback after the event.