5th of March Incident

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The 5th of March Incident (also known as the Thermaddorean Reaction), taking place in early March 2015, was a feat of near-superhuman quizbowl heroism accomplished by several prominent writers and players in the first days of the post-Weiner era, in which a full question set was written from scratch and completed in under 36 hours to be used on the upcoming weekend. It was one of the many repercussions after the sudden self-removal of Matt Weiner from quizbowl left a gigantic void of questions and tasks needed to be done.

Background

During the 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14 competition years, the questions for David Madden's National History Bee and Bowl were written by contract by HSAPQ. Due to various factors, NHBB and HSAPQ decided to end this arrangement for the 2014-2015 competition year; in its stead, Weiner was hired as Head Writer for the NHBB and IHBB tournament series (with an option to subcontract out assignments as he saw fit) as a full-time job separate from his duties in HSAPQ. On Thursday, March 5, 2015, Weiner resigned from NHBB with an entire NHBB A-set (the highest-difficulty high school regional set) to write by that following Saturday. The set had to consist of 13 packets of questions in the four-quarter bowl format and all-tossup Bee format (i.e. not the 20/20 style most writers are most used to), with no already-outlined distribution or database in which to store the questions.

Setup

Enter Eric Mukherjee; upon the public announcement of this predicament by Dave Madden around 3PM EST [1], Mukherjee took it upon himself to coordinate the writing of the set, rapidly assembling as many writers as possible and slapping together a writing spreadsheet. Upon realizing that no easy-to-use distribution was available, Rob Carson and Max Schindler began to reverse-engineer the distribution from Madden's documents of question percentages, which one imagines involved a lot of multiplication and moving the decimal point over two places.

Blitz

The stage was set; with over 30 writers assembled in the password-protected IRC room #NHBBblitz, and several others (quizbowl hero Ezequiel Berdichevsky most notable among them) emailing questions from afar, writing began in earnest, coordinated by Mukherjee and Rob Carson, who served as editor for the cultural categories. As more and more writers joined the effort and the spreadsheet became awash with completed answerlines, it appeared that the tournament was going to finish in record time...

Endgame

..and it did. 11 hours after Eric's coup, the set was deemed "written". By 8PM EST on Friday, thanks to the editing team of Rob Carson, Dan Puma, Tejas Raje, Evan Adams, Chris Manners, Chris Ray, Bernadette Spencer, Jeff Hoppes, Patrick Liao, Andrew Ibendahl, and Matt Bollinger, the tournament was in the hands of the relevant authorities, in more or less usable shape.

Reception of the set seems to have been largely positive; prominently, coach Steve Frappier of Ransom Everglades praised the set's "overall playability and smoothness" as of its first use on March 7th, 2015. [2]

It is unclear if any prior tournament has ever gone from 0% to 100% completion in as little time, and it is unlikely that another tournament ever will.

Trivia

  • The original password to the IRC channel was "liafell", a misspelling of "Lia Fail", the name of the magical stone in Irish mythology that would cry out when the rightful High King of Ireland would place his feet on it. However, Ike Jose accidentally revealed the password in the main IRC room, forcing it to be changed to something else.
  • The incident was not the only bailout incident in quizbowl history (far from it); however, it is believed to have been the fastest time an entire set has been written from near-scratch.