Each level and each bracket within a given level will play three preliminary rounds. Both brackets in a given level will hear the same questions. After these preliminary rounds, teams will be ranked according to total points scored in the three rounds. There will be separate rankings for each bracket within each level, and nine teams will advance to the semifinals in each level, the top eight from the A bracket and the top team from the B bracket as the ninth seed. In the semis, the bracket will be played in the format 1-6-7, 2-5-8, and 3-4-9. The winners of each of the three semifinals will advance to the finals, where they will compete for the championship.
The system’s purpose is to provide a good tournament experience for more and less experienced players alike. The idea for this format was first conceived by Howard Chang of Virginia, who subsequently developed its entire system through much careful thought and discussion.
For less experienced players, the two-bracket system allows them to play their preliminary rounds against similarly experienced teams, rather than being hopelessly outmatched. On the other side, more experienced teams also experience a good tournament, as they are playing competitive teams in every preliminary round. Many experienced teams are traveling long distances to play at the tournament and this format gives them the chance to experience the nation’s highest level of play in every round. This year, we are returning to the two-bracket system in all levels, rather than in just novice and intermediate.
Skeptics might question the “opt-in” nature of the brackets. There is a chance that experienced teams choose to play in the B bracket in order to make their run through the preliminary rounds easier. However, the format is structured in a way that incentivizes teams to play in the bracket most appropriate to their experience and abilities. Since only one team moves on from the B bracket into the semifinals, there is a much greater risk for a team to play in the B bracket if it would otherwise likely qualify for the semifinals through the A bracket. There is also, of course, an element of good faith in this system. If a team has advanced to the semifinals at a previous Yale Certamen, if it features players who compete actively at NJCL, or if it regularly travels for Certamen events, it is likely that the A bracket is appropriate. To reiterate, the purpose of this format is not to afford an easier experience for any teams, but rather to create an environment that is more fun, more edifying, and ultimately more likely to keep students interested in the game.
Given that this format is relatively new to Certamen, we completely understand if you have outstanding questions about it. Please do not hesitate to contact us at any point—we can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.