2017 Chicago Open/Transcript

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Hello, Quizbowl. This is Ike Jose. And I want to record my thoughts on Chicago Open’s difficulty in the form of an audio, podcast… Instead of typing up a post. Because I wanted to show I was sincere, and not just flippantly addressing you guys from behind the wall of text. I understand that this year’s Chicago Open Tournament was challenging and very, very, very difficult and I wanted to lay out my reasons why for this. If you’ll indulge me, I want to tell kind of a story.

Back in 2005 or 06, I made the foolish attempt to try to read James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and honestly and it was kind of foolish of me to think I was going to be able to understand it. Even though I didn’t really get much out of the experience, the introduction—and I believe it was the green-spined Penguin edition—mentions how it’s a very complex book, and something to the extent of “if you can accept that there is much of it you won’t understand, you will reap great rewards.” And, honestly, those words have stuck with me ever since. When I started studying for high school quiz bowl; When I played Gaddis 1 in 2008 for the first time and answered a total of five questions; and when I started studying the collegiate canon when I started playing for the University of Illinois in 2009. By the time, though, that I was making a title run—or trying to make a title run—a question set was probably too hard, in my eyes, if I hadn’t heard of 18 or 19 of the 20 toss-up answers, because of all the studying and all the preparation that I did. And to be honest, if I played an ACF Nationals which six tossups were going dead around the… between the top teams regularly I would be pretty incensed. But I think the steps that I took to become a national contending team required so many changes in my worldview. From just…. Learning and preparing for Quizbowl, I learned so many things about… about so many topics that to even talk of where my life would be without Quizbowl seems unimaginable.


It’s been four years since I stopped playing for the University of Illinois, and that Quizbowl has become more of a hobby than an extracurricular activity that I devoted and gave an equal footing to… but… I still feel like I am learning. And, um… the truth is I haven’t stopped learning. And, in fact… the truth is… I think there’s very little that I truly know. There are many people that know much more about computer science than me, for example. There are infinitely more many people who know more Renaissance art about me, than me, I mean. And, as I continue to research my interests that I thought I was pretty good at Quizbowl, there is just an infinite amount of things to know.

When I finally traveled overseas for the first time, this year, it was eye-opening. I had never seen ways of life that felt so foreign, even though I had personally felt that I had learned so much in the past ten years. All of this has been incredibly humbling for me, and I wanted to—no… I honestly felt lost. This made me want to incorporate how I felt and many of the new content that I had been exposed to into this year’s Chicago Open. Even though we haven’t talked in quite a while: Eric Mukherjee once told me that when he walks away from the game of Quizbowl he wants to be able to retain the ACF Fall canon with him for the rest of his life. As if it is a useful body of knowledge. And while I don’t doubt it is a useful body of knowledge to possess what I think is the most useful and important thing from Quizbowl is the way it taught me to appreciate and to dissect the world around me. I wanted to give to everyone who played Chicago Open this year the thought and the feeling and the excitement that comes with learning so much more… about the world.

I wanted to… create a question set that posed a problem that could not just be easily solved by studying for Quizbowl, or studying for packets… Truthfully… I felt humbled by how many… just how many things are out there to know. And, I think the most dangerous thing, that Quizbowl can do to you, is give the player the illusion that… if you learn it all through Quizbowl, you’ll… know… a lot of even most of it. And… it’s just not true. Even if you were new to Chicago Open, I hope that what you took away from it was more than just “I have to get better.” … I would never… make a tournament this hard for the purposes of any other tournament, but I think Chicago Open is a good place for us to question why we play our game. While I don’t recommend making the tournament arbitrarily hard for no reason but indulgence, I do recommend using the tournament to ask all of our philosophical questions. I hope this explains the difficult decisions that I made.

I know personally that the sets still wound up slightly harder than I would have liked. Somewhere in the range of 10-20% harder than what I intended. But I do hope it was.. enriching… and that whether or not you study it… you realize the limit and the infinite possibilities that is Quizbowl—the game that I played for the last twelve years of my life.

Best. And thank you for listening.