25 for 25: A Definitive List of the Greatest ACF Players

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25 for 25: A Definitive List of the Greatest ACF Players is a ranking published by Martin Faber (the author of the Definitive Greatest Players List) in 2016. The list was compiled in alphabetical order by last name.

The Text of the List

2016 marked the 25th ACF Nationals, an event that could scarcely be allowed to pass without Martin Faber's definitive comment. Thus, a coterie of estimable individuals have collaborated to produce—as ever, for your edification and enjoyment—a list of the 25 greatest players to lace 'em up at Nats. The authors considered only accomplishments at ACF Nationals, rather than skill in the abstract or accomplishments at other events or formats, when compiling this list. We've also recalled a representative "favorite moment" for each of the 25 players. We saw fit to include several honorable mentions; although we present those with less fulsome commentary, you're encouraged to share your favorite moments of those players (or additional moments for the 25) below.

25 Greatest ACF Players

Ezequiel Berdichevsky. After helping Maryland to a second-place finish in 1999, Zeke transformed Michigan into a perennial contender, leading his team to championships in 2001, 2002, and 2005 and a second-place finish in 2003. He also edited three Nationals: 2004, 2007, and 2010.

  • While later generations of players know Zeke as a superlative editor and moderator, he was also the best all-around player in the country (after Andrew Yaphe, when Andrew was playing) from 2001-05. His signature achievement remains 2005's ACF Nationals—which may still be the hardest ever produced—when his famously unflappable demeanor and relentless focus allowed his Michigan team to prevail against a formidable field, including a Subash/Seth-led Chicago team.

Matt Bollinger. After courting success at Nationals as the most dominant undergraduate scorer since Andrew, Matt finally broke through with a title in his senior year, 2014, becoming the second player ever (after Andrew) to win a title while leading the field in scoring.

  • Modern spite has never been so thoroughly rewarded as at 2014 Nationals, when Matt's furious study binge led him to crush the nearest competitor in scoring by over 20 points, and propelled his Virginia team to a grail en route to an undefeated clearing of the field.

Rob Carson. Rob was a key contributor to the Minnesota teams that won a division II and three undergraduate titles, and had two runner-up finishes, from 2008-11. He served as co-head editor of Nationals in 2015 and 2016.

  • In what was in effect a play-in game against Illinois, Rob answered three of the final five tossups, including a first-line buzz on "judging the dead" and an incredibly gutty final-tossup pull of The Question Concerning Technology, to propel Minnesota to the finals in 2011.

Susan Ferrari. Susan helped Chicago to the first two titles of its threepeat from 2007-09 before serving as a Nationals editor from 2010-12.

  • A travel snafu left the 2008 Chicago A squad shorthanded, which left very little margin for error. The team eked out a close playoff win over Brown—and secured the advantage in the final—when Susan had the courage to go in on the last tossup, on Thomas Tallis.

Auroni Gupta. Auroni was a four-time all-star and one-time scoring champion for UCSD. After moving to the University of Michigan, he led that team to the 2016 title over Chicago. He was also an editor of Nationals in 2014.

  • Auroni's hyper-efficient 6-0 line in the 2016 championship game, which included impressive buzzes in jazz, literature, and classical music, broke a decade-long title drought for Michigan and was a fitting capstone to a decorated career.

Andrew Hart. In the six years from 2008-13, Andrew's Minnesota teams made the top Nationals playoff bracket, including in 2013 when he played solo. His teams won a division II title, three undergrad championships, and came within a game of the overall title in 2010 and 2011.

  • Along with Rob Carson, Andrew was the heart of the ultra-successful Minnesota program's run at ACF Nationals from 2009-11. Perhaps his greatest single performance came during the 2010 playoffs against the defending champion Seth Teitler-led Chicago A team when he answered five tossups, including a key early buzz on Locke's Second Treatise; that victory clinched a spot in the finals for MN, where they would go on to play one of the most exciting games in Nationals history against an Andrew Yaphe-led Stanford team.

Jeff Hoppes. Jeff was a two-time all-star at Princeton before helping Berkeley to a title in 2003, a second-place finish in 2004, and a third-place finish in 2005. His team tied for fourth when he came back after a long hiatus in 2011.

  • During his time at Berkeley, Jeff Hoppes's teams routinely played meaningful top-bracket games against the other best teams of his era. Always steady, during the second finals game at 2003 ACF Nationals he made a huge difference for his team by getting three of the four history questions during the round, thereby neutralizing one of Michigan's greatest strengths and helping lead Cal to their only ACF championship.

Matt Jackson. In Matt's four years at Yale, he led his teams to two titles, two second-place finishes, and an undergraduate championship, cementing his legacy as the greatest undergraduate champion in ACF history.

  • A college freshman picked and clawed his way through one of the hardest finals packets ever written, displaying both wide-ranging knowledge and incredible savvy, leading his team to a championship over a group of seasoned veterans. If I didn't know Matt Jackson, I wouldn't believe it myself.

Jeff Johnson. In the four years from 1995-98, Jeff finished second in scoring three times and led his Harvard team to a championship over Georgia Tech in 1995.

  • In the pre-Internet era, Jeff Johnson showed up basically out of nowhere (as this writer remembers it) and obliterated the field to win the 1995 title. Three years later, he single-handedly led his team to the finals, barely losing to an Andrew Yaphe-led Virginia team.

Ike Jose. Ike won the division II championship playing solo as a high schooler, then led his Illinois teams to the undergraduate championship in 2012 and the overall title in 2013, making him the only player to have won all three titles. He also won the scoring title in 2012. He served as a Nationals editor in 2015 and co-head editor 2016.

  • After Illinois made a surprise run to hold the advantage in the 2013 final, Yale thoroughly trounced them in the first leg. Ike and his teammates responded by grabbing the second game by the throat and never letting up, completing one of the most unexpected championship performances in ACF history.

Adam Kemezis. Adam was the second scorer to Zeke on Michigan's three championships in 2001, 2002, and 2005. As Michigan's leading scorer, Adam led the team to a second-place finish in 2006, coming up short in the finals to Texas A&M.

  • In what essentially became a play-in game for a spot in the 2005 ACF Nationals final, Adam Kemezis' buzz out of nowhere on "cruel and unusual punishment" on the last question of a very close game clinched the victory for Michigan against a Berkeley team led by one of his greatest rivals: Jeff Hoppes.

Selene Koo. In the seven years from 2005-11, Selene was on Chicago teams that made the top playoff bracket, including the threepeat championship teams from 2007-09. In 2011, a Selene-led Chicago team achieved a top-bracket finish.

  • My favorite ACF Nationals-related memory of Selene isn't from a match or any incarnation of the tournament itself. It's a welter of memories of studying together, which we decided to do in serious fashion after the 2006 season. We worked together on splitting up subjects, consulted each other on what to include in our notes and what to skip, and spent time, week after week for years, studying together, quizzing each other directly from our notes, and reading many, many questions to each other.
We flew into Boston a day early for the 2008 tournament, and spent a large chunk of the day hanging out in our hotel room, gearing up for the tournament the next day. Sure enough, in the final match Selene had a crucial buzz on Fries's Rebellion, a topic in her notes that she had gone over and I had quizzed her on the previous day.

Matt Lafer. Matt backed up Zeke and Adam on Michigan's 2005 title team before playing solo in 2006 and leading the field in scoring; he would have qualified for the top bracket had his team not held exhibition status. He served as a Nationals editor from 2007-09.

  • On nearly any other team, Matt would have been a perennial all-star and #1 during his time at Michigan. In 2005, he was a key cog on a championship team that, at its best, featured 2-3 players buzzing by the end on nearly any question. During the first finals game in 2005 against a Chicago A team featuring Subash, Seth, Selene, and Susan, he answered a clutch question on The End of the Affair that helped settle his team's nerves and allowed Michigan to take control.

John Lawrence. As a strong second player, John guided Yale to championships in 2011 and 2012 before playing solo and leading the field in scoring in 2013. Since moving to the University of Chicago, he has led his teams to three top-four finishes, including consecutive runner-ups alongside Chris Ray in 2015-16.

  • At the time, Yale's run to the 2011 finals was seen as a surprise rather than the portent to a dynasty. After the first tossup went dead and Yale converted the second, John announced Yale's arrival as a true contender by running a quick and gleeful 30 on a Schubert bonus, and his team never looked back.

Subash Maddipoti. Although more renowned for his meteoric performances at ICT, Subash served as perhaps the best-ever second fiddle to Andrew for Chicago's 2004 title run, and led both Illinois and Chicago to the finals as their lead scorer. He head-edited Nationals in 2001.

  • During the 2000 ACF Nationals playoffs, Subash, then with Illinois, handed Chicago its first ACF Nationals loss in a round since Andrew Yaphe's arrival in Hyde Park. A very strong ACF humanities player, his buzz on Tiepolo's Wurzburg frescoes in the 2004 finals against Berkeley set the tone as Chicago went on to capture the title.

Eric Mukherjee. Playing in the second chair next to Jerry, Eric helped Brown to three straight second-place finishes during the Teitler-era Chicago threepeat. After moving to Penn, Eric led his team to three top-four finishes before breaking through with a title in 2015.

  • When Eric converted a sociology tossup on "everyday life" to clinch the 2015 title, everyone in attendance recognized that it marked the long-deserved culmination of his team-building and rise as a dominant player.

Will Nediger. Will is a two-time all-star who led Michigan teams to four consecutive top-bracket finishes and two third-place finishes before teaming up with Auroni to win the 2016 title.

  • Will's 5-0 line in the 2016 championship game, including a key buzz on The Wild Ass's Skin that sealed the victory, was the culmination of five exceptional years at Michigan.

Chris Ray. Chris is a five-time Nationals all-star and helped his Chicago team to consecutive second-place finishes in 2015-16 in a career that is still ongoing.

  • Chris's transformation from a devastating ICT player whose style didn't quite mesh with the distribution and longer questions at Nationals to a player capable of guiding a team to ACF success was on full display in 2016, when he kept Chicago within striking distance of Michigan in the finals with the buzzer, including converting a crazy-difficult tossup on the Theophylact family.

Aaron Rosenberg. After starting out as a contributor on two of Brown's runner-up teams, Aaron moved to Illinois, where he was a strong second to Ike on the champion 2013 team and the lead scorer (and an all-star) on the eighth-place 2014 team.

  • Aaron's combined 6-1 line over two legs of the 2013 final against Yale, three tossups in each game, is the perfect illustration of his steady-handed excellence that, teamed with Ike's all-around game, Billy Busse's domination of science, and Austin Listerud's solid play, won the championship for Illinois.

John Sheahan. John was a member of the championship Chicago teams in 1993 and 1994, and led the field in scoring en route to a second-place finish to Andrew's Virginia team in 1997.

  • While John's early-'90s championships are beyond the recall of even this list's authors, he lives on as a fierce competitor and the best player of the first era of the storied Chicago quizbowl program.

Mike Sorice. Mike won four all-star awards and one scoring title, and led his Illinois teams to consistent top-bracket finishes, in a career spanning most of the 2000s.

  • Mike served on the editing team for a number of mid-2000s Nationals and spent much of the end of that decade as the driving force behind several fourth-place Nats finishes. He and Ike Jose formed a devastating one-two punch at his last Nationals in 2011. In the final game of the playoffs, essentially a play-in game against Minnesota, Mike's conversion of a tossup on "Roman citizenship" drew Illinois to within striking distance of the final before Minnesota pulled away.

Seth Teitler. In the eight years spanning 2003-10, Seth's Berkeley and Chicago teams finished no lower than third, and won half of the available ACF titles, including a threepeat from 2007-09 that culminated in a finish over teams led by Brendan, Jerry, and Andrew.

  • Seth really arrived on the scene as a potential #1 in 2003, when—on a team with Jeff Hoppes, David Farris, and Jon Pennington—he led the Berkeley team that won the title that year in scoring. By 2009, Seth had mastered the role and coolly captained his Chicago A team to its third consecutive Nationals victory over two worthy opponents: Stanford and Brown.

Jerry Vinokurov. Quizbowl's Charles Barkley finished second to Chicago on four occasions, once with Berkeley and thrice leading the Brown team he founded. Jerry, who was an all-star scorer five times and a Nationals head editor two times, came within one tossup of an individual grail in 2006.

  • Quizbowl's Charles Barkley has also been called quizbowl's Kevin Garnett, because Jerry "plays with emotion" and so forth. And that's true, but it sells short his calmer side. The 2009 Brown team was missing Eric Mukherjee, but was still very much a formidable team, playing their way into the final ahead of Chicago and Stanford. When they faced the Chicago team earlier in the playoffs, Chicago quickly built up a large lead. Some of Jerry's teammates were clearly flustered, but Jerry calmed them down and encouraged them to keep their heads in the game. They went on to win, despite Jerry answering only two tossups. That feat of beating a top team without a great individual performance from Jerry would have been unthinkable two years earlier, when Jerry took some of those same teammates to their first-ever ACF Nationals. That playoff match showcased Jerry's success in fostering long-term player growth, and his ability to provide calm, stabilizing leadership in tense moments.

Matt Weiner. Matt was a four-time all-star, two-time scoring champion, and one of only two players known to have advanced to the top bracket of the Nationals playoff as a solo player. He served as the head editor of Nationals in 2009.

  • In 2007, Matt Weiner took his all-around game to Vanderbilt and nearly made the top three as he led the tournament in scoring. Two years earlier, he had impressively made the top bracket of ACF Nationals playing by himself on what was then considered the hardest set ever.

Andrew Yaphe. Andrew is the greatest player of both the 1990s and 2000s, the founder and most prolific editor of modern ACF, a six-time champion, six-time top overall scorer, and three-time head editor. A player has led the field in scoring and won Nationals on six occasions. Five times, that player has been Andrew Yaphe.

  • Andrew's initial Virginia/Chicago run from 1997-2000 netted him four consecutive ACF National titles; only the 2007-09 run by his protege, Seth Teitler, comes close. He returned in 2009 with no preparation, led the tournament in scoring, and nearly won ACF Nationals against a stacked field, but lost in a play-in game for the finals. Watching that run, I thought it might be the end of an era. Of course, he returned the next year against arguably even better competition and gutted out a final ACF Nationals championship by answering nine tossups in the final round.

Honorable Mentions

Evan Adams. Evan was a two-time all-star scorer for VCU before moving to Virginia and helping that team to a second-place finish in 2012 and a championship in 2014.

Jordan Brownstein. After leading Maryland to a third-place finish in 2015 and finishing as an all-star, Jordan led the field in scoring en route to a fourth-place finish in 2016.

Brendan Byrne. Brendan led Minnesota to a fourth- and a second-place finish in 2009 and 2010 during his brief but brilliant rise to become one of the best active players at the ACF format.

Tommy Casalaspi. After backing up Evan Adams as a high schooler dual-enrolled with VCU, Tommy served as a consistent second chair to Matt Bollinger at the height of Virginia's run. His transformation, seemingly by force of will, into a dominant science player was a major factor leading to Virginia's 2014 title.

Dave Hamilton. Dave won two all-star awards leading Maryland teams to consistently high finishes in the late 1990s, including a second-place finish to Andrew's Chicago in 1999 and an earlier second-place finish to Georgia Tech in 1996.

Gautam Kandlikar. Gautam was a key contributor on the 2008-11 Minnesota teams that won a division II title, three undergraduate titles, and finished second twice.

John Kenney. John led Nationals in scoring twice and finished second once, propelling Virginia to two fourth-place finishes and a runner-up, from 2000-02.

Jason King. Jason was the lead scorer on the Georgia Tech teams that won Nationals in 1996 and finished second in 1995.

Kevin Koai. After playing a small role in Stanford's third-place finish in 2009, Kevin moved to Yale, where he helped Matt Jackson and John Lawrence win two titles and achieve a second-place finish from 2010-13.

Paul Litvak. Paul won Nationals with Michigan in 2002 as a strong third to Zeke and Adam. He was an all-star in 2006 for Carnegie Mellon.

Kelly McKenzie. In the four years from 2001-04, Kelly finished second in scoring three times and fourth once, and led his Kentucky teams to two fourths, a third, and to within 110 points of Zeke's Michigan in 2002. He also created ACF Fall.

Jonathan Magin. Jonathan was an all-star on the 2008 Maryland team that finished third behind Chicago and Brown. He head-edited Nationals in 2012 and 2013.

Saajid Moyen. If Saajid is forever lost to the financial sector, he went out on top; his humanities knowledge was a major factor in Penn's championship in 2015.

Chris Romero. Texas A&M's shock title in 2006 was the crowning moment of Chris's team-building efforts.

Ryan Westbrook. Ryan was a two-time all-star and the second scorer behind Adam on the runner-up Michigan team in 2006. He edited Nationals four times, twice as head editor.

Leo Wolpert. Leo was a key contributor on the champion 2005 Michigan team. In 2006, he was an all-star playing for Virginia. His central place in the website photo makes him the closest thing ACF has to "The Logo."

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