2013 NAQT Cheating Scandal

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The 2013 NAQT Cheating Scandal, dubbed Watkins-gate after its chief instigator Andy Watkins, was a scandal in which several members of the quizbowl community were discovered to have accessed questions for NAQT tournaments before they happened. In all cases, the accusees worked in some capacity for NAQT.

Though this revelation was only made in 2013, the affected tournaments spanned from 2009 to 2012.

Andy Watkins


After the 2010 ICT, in which Watkins' power numbers matched the far superior players Seth Teitler and Eric Mukherjee, some suspicion was cast on whether he had used illegitimate means to gain an advantage. These suspicions were further stoked by the fact that Watkins' individual performance at 2010 ACF Nationals was quite lackluster in comparison, both quantitatively and qualitatively (e.g. with much fewer "good" buzzes).

These suspicions were relayed by several quizbowlers to the relevant authorities. In the intervening years, Watkins would become more and more of a negatively-viewed figure (see for example the 2011 PACE Coup), and eventually left quizbowl entirely after beginning graduate studies at NYU.

The Event

Subsequent to all of this, it was revealed in March 2013 that Watkins had cheated at the 2009, 2010, and 2011 ICTs. Specifically, it had been discovered that Watkins had used his access to NAQT's internal writing/editing software to view the first forty characters in several questions in those tournaments. The cheating was discovered during an NAQT inspection of computer logs in the wake of similar cheating by Joshua Alman, and the earlier cheating incident with Shantanu Jha.

Title Changes

Media Coverage

Unfortunately (for the rest of the Harvard team), the cheating incident was uncovered just a month after 125 Harvard students had been caught cheating on a take home test in an introductory government class, and happened to coincide with Harvard's upset victory over New Mexico in the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. The first report came from Insider Higher Education, followed closely by the Manhattan-based blog Gawker, and then approximately twenty other newspapers and media outlets.


  • Matt Weiner's hyperbolic pronouncement about Watkins that "Everything you [Andy] touch you destroy" (based on Watkins' work on 2011 PACE and this cheating scandal) largely sums up the community's view of Andy, who probably tops most lists for "Worst Person in Quizbowl" at this point.
  • The combination of Watkins' and Alman's behavior led Evan Adams to proclaim that the phrase "better at science than Eric" should be a code word for "cheating"
  • Several memes spawned by the incident ("Good faith", "tiny transgressive thrill") continue to circulate.

External links

Joshua Alman

In 2011, a freshman Joshua Alman attended the 2011 ICT DII on a short-handed MIT team and put up a 2/5/0 statline as his sole teammate Neil Gurram went 67/108/24. The next year, Alman attended the 2012 ICT and went 35/12/0 alongside Neil (who had a 10/75/11 statline) and third teammate Stephen Face (who had 1/11/2). This gave Alman the third most powers at the tournament, behind just Matt Bollinger and Eric Mukherjee, and made him the only player in the top 70 with zero negs. This meteoric improvement immediately raised eyebrows but the only tournament played by Alman in between 2011 and 2012 ICT was the 2012 SCT, where his solid 22/8/0 statline seemingly justified his superlative ICT performance.

With two strong performances in his favor, people assumed that Alman had simply become very good in a short amount of time and people began to rate him highly: he was mentioned on three ballots in the 2012 player poll, Ashvin Srivatsa recommended that everyone remove him from their ballots and add Alman instead, and John Lawrence considered asking Alman to join his team for 2013 CO (though he was dissuaded by Jeff Hoppes, who knew the other shoe was about to drop). At Alman's first tournament the next season, 2012 Penn-ance, he again put up a ridiculous statline of 31/5/2. At this point, people were in disbelief. Over his last three tournaments (including an ICT!), Alman had gotten 8.5 times more powers than 10s.[1]


In March 2013, NAQT announced that they had discovered that Alman had "frequently accessed pages on NAQT's administrative website that contained clearly marked, substantive information about questions on which Joshua was intending to—and subsequently did—compete" - in a word, he cheated. MIT was immediately vacated of all wins at the 2012 SCT and the 2012 ICT, and Alman was banned from participating in any further NAQT tournaments. Unlike in the case of Watkins, Alman was not limited to the first forty characters of questions - due to an oversight, collegiate writers were able to view collegiate-level questions that they were eligible to play.

With the next week, Mirza Ahmed asked the question of whether Alman's performance at Penn-ance was also fraudulent.[2] It was determined that Alman had likely obtained the questions before the tournament by impersonating a friend and as a result MIT forfeited their victory, which was then split between Harvard and Yale.[3]

Title Changes

  • 2012 Undergraduate: OSU


While not viewed positively in any sense of the word, Alman is significantly less reviled than Andy Watkins because Alman did not win ICT and because the discovery of Alman's cheating allowed the discovery of Watkins and the other cheaters.[4]</ref>[6]</ref>

Eric Mukherjee ranked "Josh Alman (while cheating)" as the number one science player on their science rankings.[5]

External links

Other Cheaters

In addition to Alman and Watkins, Joe Brosch and Scot Putzig were also discovered to have cheated at 2010 HSNCT and 2010 ICT respectively. Their wins were vacated and they were subsequently banned from future NAQT events.


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