Allderdice Quiz Bowl Team Competes at Nationals This Past Memorial Day Weekend

Allderdice Quiz Bowl team at Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia.

(Grace Walsh)

Allderdice Quiz Bowl team at Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Allderdice Quiz Bowl team successfully concluded their 2021-2022 season this past Memorial Day weekend by taking a trip to the High School Quiz Bowl National Championship Tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. After a standstill in 2020 tournaments due to the pandemic, and later, a switch to online platforms, Dice Quiz Bowl members were eager to get back into the game and compete at in-person competitions this school year. The Dice Quiz Bowl team is fairly small—especially compared to prior years—with only seven members in total. Many students that started at Allderdice during the pandemic were not motivated to join extracurricular due to the difficulties of online school. However, upon return to school this year, the Quiz Bowl club was able to get up and running once again with new members and fresh perspectives. An interview from this week with club members Raffa Rothstein (freshman), Grace Walsh (junior), and Teadora Gildengers (senior) provides information about Quiz Bowl, highlights the team’s accomplishments this year, and discusses their plans for the club in the future.


Sophia: “So what exactly is Quiz Bowl?”

Grace: “It’s essentially an academic trivia competition where questions or ‘toss ups’ are read out loud, and the first person to buzz in gets to answer the question. If they get it wrong, or if they answer before the question is done, they lose some points. There’s this whole point system that goes into it. Then, if you do get the questions in the toss-up right you get three bonus questions. The toss-ups might not be in the same category because there are a lot of different categories. Literature is a big one, history is a huge one, music, science, art, and even computational math. There’s a lot of different subjects that are covered by Quiz Bowl, and so the people on the team need to either have a specialty with one of those subjects, or they need to be able to learn about a bunch of different ones [subjects] and act as a ‘wild card’ for whatever questions they ask.”

Evie: “What are toss-ups?”

Grace: “A toss-up is the main question that is read out, and then whatever team gets the question, they then receive three bonus questions. So, the original toss-up is worth ten points, it’s worth 15 points if you get it in the very beginning of the questions, and that’s when you get power. After power ends, you can only get 10 points. And then, the bonuses are 10 points each. And it’s either you get it or you don’t. Usually about 40 to 45 points will be the maximum.”

Raffa: “Yeah, the bonus questions are the ones you get if you got the toss-up right. But if you get power, usually the hints are incredibly obscure.”

Teadora: “Getting the toss-ups kind of ‘unlocks’ the bonuses.”

Evie: “And you can buzz at any time?”

Raffa: “You can buzz at any time.”

Evie: “Even on the first word?”

Teadora: “Yes, but you probably won’t get it right.”

Grace: “I buzzed five words into a toss-up.”

Sophia: “What are packets?”

Teadora: “A packet is a set of questions for an entire game. Like an entire round of the game. Packets are for both competition and practice, because what we do at practice is we read packets just like we do at competitions.”

Grace: “A lot of our preparation is studying the packets. It’s not necessarily memorizing facts and details, it’s more of getting used to certain types of questions so that you are able to recognize them and make associations in competition.”

Evie: “How are meetings and practices structured?”

Grace: “As a club we’re not too strict on attendance or anything like that. At practice we read out packets which really is the best way to prepare because there are certain subjects and certain topics (especially literature and music) that come up a lot on different packets. So just reading them, getting used to them, and answering them really helps with our competition skills. It also helps us learn new subjects.”

Teadora: “Some people take it a little more intensely with studying and prepping. They make flashcards and such. But there’s some stuff that you can’t really study. For example, there’s a lot of questions on pop culture or sports. So if you really have any particular hobby or niche that you’re interested in, there’s a good chance quizbowl will ask questions about that.”

Grace: “Sometimes it’s even like ‘every man for himself.’ Sometimes we have our buzzer system hooked up, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we are reading out a packet and you’ll clap or you’ll say buzz if you know the answer to the question. Sometimes I will make a list of my notes about topics that were mentioned in the packet that I’ve seen come up a lot, things like that.”

Teadora: “Usually we set up our buzzer system, which is a bunch of push button buzzers, and then read off a packet. There are different practices that you can do, there’s a couple of online apps like trivia game apps. But it’s mostly just reading the packets.”

Evie: “What are the competitions and how do they function?”

Competitions are held throughout the year on weekends and last the whole day. Allderdice attended three in person competitions in this 2021-2022 season against teams from throughout the state. Two of the tournaments were at CMU and the other was an invitational at Allderdice that the team hosted themselves, with players coming all the way from West Virginia. The Dice Quiz Bowl team attended Nationals for the first time in 2 years this Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. The team competed in-person against schools all across the nation. In 2020, Nationals were canceled. In 2021, nationals were online. Each of the regular tournaments consist of 20 questions. The best teams can answer 30 questions in a round. At Nationals, the round is set on a timer of 18 minutes.

Teadora: “There’s usually some kind of tournament occurring every Saturday. But that doesn’t always mean it will be near us. In Pittsburgh, a tournament near us will be every one to two months, but we usually only make it out to a tournament every three to four months.”

Grace: “A lot of our club is self-run when it comes to tournaments, so it’s up to us to look out for each other. We rely on Ms. Mazzocco for help with structuring the club and especially setting up our invitational which is a big event we do every year. We’re proud that we have a lot of teams that like to come and play in our events. In some schools, Quiz Bowl is even treated like a varsity sport, and they receive a lot more support and funding from the school and the administration.”

Sophia: “During a round, how are the questions answered?”

Grace: “There are different questions each time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a question that’s been exactly the same, but there are some that are very similar or have very similar hints attached with them. So when you can recognize the hints, that’s when you start to establish yourself. We’ve had questions on pretty much everything. There was one on Wreck-It Ralph when I was reading a packet.”

Raffa: “You can be familiar with them but not know them exactly, cause they’re not going to be the exact same. But they usually have a very similar hint. There is sometimes a giveaway hint at the end of the question, and everyone knows it immediately.”

Grace: “Yeah, some of them are common knowledge, and those common knowledge hints, like Raffa said, are usually towards the end of the question, so then it’s a buzzer race. The key is to kind of figure it out before everyone else figures it out. In Quiz Bowl, you kind of have to be one step ahead.”

“… one that happened to me at Nationals, was a question about Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I do not know anything about music. I do not know anything about notes, chords, anything like that. However, they mention a very specific note progression, and I thought, the only note progression that is going to be especially relevant, is, either, Beethoven’s 5th or one that I am not familiar with. So I guessed Beethoven’s Fifth, and I was right. Just based on that guess because I knew that that clue was familiar.”

Raffa: “And sometimes they can want very, very, specific answers, for example, Teadora buzzed in, for ‘Who wrote Utilitarianism?’ John Stuart Mills, but John Stuart Mill was the correct answer. So that one ‘S’ actually meant that we did not get that question.”

Evie: “What are a moderator’s responsibilities in a round?

Grace: “So, a team that we’re very familiar with, Morgantown, we saw them at nationals, very nice people. We competed against them at CMU. One of the defining toss-ups that we had against them was a question where one of their team members could not pronounce the answer correctly. So, he made an offer to try and spell it, the moderator allowed him to try and spell it, however, he spelled it just slightly enough wrong that they couldn’t accept it, and then one of our team members buzzed in, said it, and we got the toss-up instead.”

Grace: “For Quiz Bowl, there are usually one or two moderators, one person is there reading the packet, and one person is there keeping score, and sometimes there will be issues with the packet, if the moderator who is there reading makes a mistake and says, you  know, ‘Australia’ instead of ‘Austria.’ Which can cause issues with the teams because it is technically the wrong hint being read, and so sometimes another question will be put up in its place or something will be done to resolve the situation. So there are disputes that happen during these games, but they are usually handled  pretty quickly. And a lot of times it is up to that moderator or the person who is running the tournament. It’s just up to their judgement.”

Evie: “Are there penalties for buzzing in early?”

Grace: “Yeah, for example, that happened to Raffa; one moderator said, ‘that’s just how it is, they said the answer, you know, that’s on you for saying the answer when you hadn’t actually buzzed.’ And the other moderator was like, ‘well, since they technically said the answer, we can’t accept it.’ So they went back and forth for a little while and ultimately they came to a decision.”

Raffa: “There’s a lot of strategy in it for when to buzz because, for a decent amount of time, you won’t know for sure what the answer is, but you’ll have such a general idea that it’s worth it to buzz in sooner. But there’s a whole balancing act with it. You could get the bonus points or you could end up losing your team points. If you don’t answer the question correctly, it’s a negative point, and you also don’t get the bonus question.”

Grace: “And specifically, if you buzz after the question has finished being read — which you have to wait out and you have to hope the other team doesn’t buzz — and you get it wrong, you get a penalty. However, if you buzz while the reader is still reading the question, it is negative five points.”

Raffa: “Often the really good players will ‘neg’ a lot because they buzz in a lot.”

Grace: “The goal is to kind of stay in the positives. Sometimes it’s good to take a chance and it pays off, other times you need to cut your losses, and that’s where the strategy comes in.”

Sophia: “Can you describe the recent tournament the team went to?”

Teadora: “This past weekend, Memorial Day weekend, we were in Atlanta for the national tournament. We were there with about 288 other teams from around the country and maybe an international team or two. We were there for the long weekend and we played a lot of matches. It was structured like a regular tournament where you play matches and read packets, but with more teams and spread out over a longer time.”

Grace: “We had some very highly qualified moderators, which was nice. A lot of our moderators are actually Quiz Bowl players or were Quiz Bowl players from various teams from high school or college. It’s nice to meet them and see where they are now. There were a lot of alums from very notable schools like Yale and Princeton.”

Teadora: “Our team in the past few years did well in local tournaments before moving on to nationals where I believe they made it to the play off rounds.

Grace: “Our team is very used to qualifying for nationals because we are very competitive for Western Pennsylvania. We are a lot more relaxed in comparison to some of the other teams throughout the nation. Especially those in New York or Washington D.C., but in our specific region we are a very competitive school and we do very well. We plan on qualifying for nationals next year again.”

Sophia: “What skills and strategies are acquired through Quiz Bowl?”

Grace: “Another thing with Quiz Bowl is that it aligns pretty closely with a lot of our academic curriculum. We have a lot of those come into play. This happens with math, with AP History. We’ve had quite a few questions this year in packets and competitions where it’s like, ‘Oh! We’ve gone over this piece!’ It’s really cool to see how closely what we are learning in school aligns with Quiz Bowl.”

Raffa: “I remember looking up ‘who wrote The Tiger’ for class, and only an hour later there was a question asking who wrote The Tiger.” 

Grace: “There is a bit of ‘Quiz Bowl intuition’ that you’ll find that you start to develop over time with questions that are very familiar to you. They will never be the same, but they will get familiar.”

“…you will find out that as you go through high school, you are going to get better and better at Quiz Bowl. Not only because you’ll have experience from the team, but also because you will be learning more information in your classes, and, therefore, will be able to make those connections within Quiz Bowl. Once you make those connections, it will be easier to recall that information in class, especially on tests. That is why I believe this is so helpful in the academic setting. Also, in tandem with that, you’re getting better at Quiz Bowl because you’re remembering all that information from class. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve heard a question that I have recognized from my classes.”

Evie: “How did Quiz Bowl originate?”

Teadora: “The club has been around for about 10-15 years. But I don’t know the full history of it. I started when I was a freshman and the senior class was leading their third or fourth year against their rival. They looked up tournaments on their own, they practiced on their own without really much support. They went to nationals a couple of times, passed on to here and then COVID-19 hit.” 

Sophia: “How did the club adapt to the pandemic?”

Teadora: “I was a sophomore when Covid hit, so I had never gone to nationals or anything. Myself and one or two of the others who kind of drifted away since the pandemic ran practices online.”

Grace: “It was a lot harder to showcase what we as a club can do when we were online….. I did a couple tournaments on zoom and it wasn’t the greatest.” 

Evie: “Why did you decide to join this club?”

Teadora: “In freshman year, I was looking for a club and I found Quiz Bowl. Back when I joined, there was a much more competitive atmosphere, and I was looking for something where I could use the information I was learning in school and be able to apply it outside of school, even if just for trivia. As the years went on I enjoyed being there as a community because of the chance to learn new things.”

Grace: “It was during 2021 and I was a little bit bored. Mock trial season had just ended, I didn’t have any sports or anything going on. I had heard from a couple of friends of mine that Quiz Bowl was going on and they told me ‘you should join the Zoom, it’ll be fun!’ It was a lot of fun just getting on zoom, reading out a bunch of questions, going down Wikipedia rabbit holes. Despite being stuck in my house with nothing to do, it was a very fun experience.”

Sophia: “Are there current leadership positions within the club?”

Teadora: “Yeah, so currently, I’m the club president, as a senior, as the only real senior left on the team, but, there’s usually club elections every year. Since there’s only 2-3 main juniors left and there’s only 2-3 main positions, (club president, treasurer, secretary), it’s just been passed on directly to the existing juniors. And as club president, I’m responsible for organizing practices, organizing the tournament, cooperating with our coach Ms. Mazzocco.”

Grace: “The different roles and responsibilities have kind of been assumed by the club president. So next year Mike Ulis (junior) and I will be splitting the presidency and be co-presidents.”

Evie: “Does Quiz Bowl continue practice over the summer?”

Grace: “It’s largely up to the individual. There are servers you can get on to do packets with other people. And even if you’re doing summer work it will tie into that. It’s easy to, you know, read through a couple packets or two.”

Teadora: “Another things teams do over the summer, especially if they’re larger, more established teams, is sometimes they practice writing packets of their own so they can dig in and go, ‘oh, I saw this one thing online that I think is funny, I’d like to write a question about it.”

Sophia: “Do you [Raffa] recommend this club to incoming freshmen?”

Raffa: “Yes, it’s really fun, the people are great and it’s very educational.”

Sophia: “What do you all hope for the future of the Quiz Bowl club?”

Raffa: “Someone who knows classical music!” 

Grace: “We would very much like to have a music person. Next year we’re going to really focus on recruitment because we do want this club to continue. After Teadora and a bunch of our other seniors leave, we want to be able to keep this going. We also hope to be able to train people in various subjects. I know I will (very unfortunately) be looking into literature, which I believe to be the worst category. I love reading but I do not like the literature questions because they are the trickiest ones.”

“…..we’re looking to really rebuild the team. We do have plans, and they will likely include some pizza. We’re looking forward to back to school night because that’s always a good way for some of us more niche clubs to get new members. We’re hoping to hold a little challenge where people can come up and play against each other. That way they can understand how it is run and what it entails. I think they’d have a lot of fun with it.” 


Allderdice’s Quiz Bowl team has much to offer. Containing some of the school’s most bright-minded students, the club focuses on the concept of ‘learning outside of school’ and applying knowledge from class to the real world. Current members display hard work ethic and dedication to their club and school as a whole. They hope that in future years they will be able to introduce students at Allderdice to the world of Quiz Bowl. Members are looking for additions to their team and anyone can join the club.  As a part of the club, you will be able to excel at tournaments, make new friends, and simultaneously study for your next exam in school!