Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (IBADU) are the Asian BP 2017 Champions! The team comprised of Rawnak Zaheen Wasi and Sajid Asbat Khandaker blazed their way through the tournament, breaking 7th on 13 points and crushed the break rounds, including the finals, winning from Opening Government. This is a monumental win for Bangladesh and the South Asian region as a whole. And it probably makes up some for the early knock out at UADC. It’s really entertaining as a spectator to see the underdog win, and judging from the reactions of the entire Bangladeshi contingent, pretty damn inspiring for the next generation of debaters from the country (everyone is still talking about it online at the time of writing). The next question for IBADU is how dominant can they become? Can they, along with the rest of Bangladesh, become a perennial threat in Asia? How well will they do at Worlds? Can they create a catchy hashtag for when they win? The last question is probably the most important. Singapore has #majulahmother******* and Malaysia has #youllneversomethingsomething...can’t remember what exactly it is because I haven’t heard it in a long time. Maybe they’ll remind me next year.
Other notable results
Admittedly I didn’t watch most of the break rounds as I had...err...other things to do. So I can’t really provide analysis of what went on but here are a few interesting observations anyway.
1. Rise of South Asia
It was an excellent showing from South Asia as a whole with 5 teams making it past the preliminary rounds into a 24 team break. 4 of those 5 teams made it to the semi finals with 2 from India and 2 from Bangladesh. Tabs from previous tournaments aren’t easily available, but I’m fairly sure that this is the first time we’ve had this many South Asian teams in the semis. Rawnak, Rifayat Raisa from BRAC University (BRAC) and Souradip Sen from Indira Ghandi National Open University (IGNOU) all ranked in the top 10. Also coincidentally, I gave a 1st to almost every Bangladeshi team I judged in the prelim rounds (there were maybe 4 out of 6 rounds), so I definitely was impressed with the entire contingent. If they continue improving, the region is going to become really scary really quick.
2. Lackluster performances from Singapore
2 teams from the National University of Singapore (NUS), 2 teams from Singapore Management University (SMU), 1 team Yale-NUS College and 1 team from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) broke, but almost every Singaporean team died in the quarters on a motion about Kashmir. Clarification 1: No Singaporean team was expected to do really well (by ‘really well’ I mean contend for the title) with the exception of NTU 1. Clarification 2: There were other notable eliminations (ok I really mean shock results) in the quarters like Taylors 1 and IIUM 1 who broke 2nd and 3rd respectively. So...if they got eliminated, maybe it isn’t that bad that other teams failed too, right? Side note/rant: People better start reading up about South Asian issues especially since there will be more South Asian representation on adjudication cores (which means more South Asian motions) and there isn’t a skill gap between South Asia and Southeast Asia anymore. Teams are gonna get whacked if there’s a difference in knowledge. I suspect that had a huge part to play in teams getting knocked out in the quarter finals.
So anyway only NTU could fly the flag in the finals (yes Singaporean flag Virat and Sharique because you both are a product of the Singaporean circuit and we consider you part of us k.) but even the newest debate behemoth Mohammad Sharique Zaman couldn’t carry Virat Krishan Chopra to win a final. Not sure what is with this Virat and being completely incapable of winning any final. He probably has to read this site more. Although there is something to be said about NTU and the results they’ve had. The factory line consistently producing top debaters in the same mould has long broken down and even without the sort of structured training like in the old days, Sharique and Virat have grown to become incredible debaters within a span of just a couple of years. Just a year ago I thought Sharique was terrible and literally laughed at his speech when debating against him. Well, nobody is laughing now.
3. Strong performance from indonesia
University of Indonesia 1 (UI) and Universitas Gadjah Mada 1 (UGM) both made it to the main break and unfortunately both of them were in the same pre-quarters. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea where they ranked in the break relative to the other teams because there was no perceptible difference at all when I judged the round. I expect this trend to continue and for Indonesia to become a serious threat in the main break sooner rather than later. In the EFL category it was more of the same dominance - half of the teams in the semis were Indonesian, with 3 teams making the finals but somehow all of them losing to Japan’s Keio 1. Ok I guess I can’t say dominance then. Let’s go with really consistent performance.
4. The return of IIUM (kinda)
International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) is back, with IIUM 3 of all teams making the finals with relatively new (Khalis Khalid is in his first? year) speakers, a pretty monumental achievement to say the least. Everyone expected IIUM 1 with Shitab Daiyan Akash and Syarif Fakri to be the team in the finals but a shock defeat in the quarters prevented that. At least the youngins did well so the future is bright. It's unclear if they will be as dominant as they were in the near future, but IIUM is definitely not fading into irrelevance. It’s interesting to see a number of breakout performances from really young debaters in their first couple of majors. From Lim Jun Ping making ABP finals in 2016, to Ateneo 2 in the UADC 2017 to now IIUM 3 in this ABP. Even Sajid from IBADU has been tearing up the circuit in his first year. I guess it’s all part of increased parity in the circuit - not only have different regions gotten a lot better, but training across the board probably has improved, with everyone having access to that training as well as other resources at a younger age.
5. Smashing the glass ceiling
Ateneo 1 (Mika Filoteo and Katrina Chan) had a monstrous performance with both female speakers ranking first and second individually, along with making the finals. Incredible that it has taken this long to have a female best speaker at ABP but it’s great to see that it’s finally happened. Kay that’s all my comments on Ateneo/Filipino performance at ABP. Better stop while the going is good. Pls no flame.
Full tabs and results available here
This ABP had a ridiculous number of subsidised judges, including a number from Australia and New Zealand. There were so many judges that a number of them had to panel quite a few rounds. It’s rare to see someone of Vihasini Gopakumar’s caliber (who has adj cored ABP herself) become a panelist. So it was legitimately difficult to break and a handful of subsidised judges didn’t make the cut. Only 3 non-subsidised judges broke, one of whom was Joshua Park who was an advisor and presumably subsidised or would have been subsidised as a judge if he wasn’t an advisor so he doesn’t really count. Something to note, almost all (don’t know about Lucian Tan) of the top 10 judges have been or will be Chief Adjudicators or Deputy Chief Adjudicators of WUDC, UADC, ABP and Australs. So lol it was pretty stacked. Basically, I seriously doubt anyone can really complain about the quality of judging no matter which room they were in, bin or otherwise. Although, there is a trade off with such a massive pool of subsidised judges. The circuit does lose the ability to give newer judges the opportunity to judge and to learn in favour of old farts (like me) wanting a free holiday. But I guess having a guarantee of good judging might be preferable for most people.
This is pure speculation, but I don’t think all the judges were using the full scoring range. This is just off a cursory evaluation of the speaker tab. Given the attempt to make the range more liberal in the Asian circuit over the past few years, and using the WUDC range at ABP, it seems to me that speakers should be scoring a bit higher on average. Even if I had no idea how to score, using the model result/scores given by the adjudication core after the adjudication test, there should be a few speakers scoring higher on average than the highest scoring speeches in the test. So I’m not sure people really used the adj test as a benchmark and just reverted back to old habits when it comes to scoring. Then again, I didn’t judge the top rooms and might have been a ridiculous point fairy so maybe I’m just completely wrong. The discrepancy in scoring between judges needs to be rectified anyway, because it seems like a single 85 would result in a massive difference in rankings.
On the topic of the adjudicator test, there was a small issue at council about allowing judges to debate in the test and get a guaranteed 9 as their score. I think it’s unfair because I couldn’t skip the test myself, but that’s just me being lazy and hating these tests. But ok seriously, the whole point behind the adj test and why it’s a big deal in the Asian circuit is because there has been a history (a long long time ago) of bias, protection from adjudication cores etc. Obviously I know that it definitely wasn’t the case here and the adjudication core did have difficulty finding a diverse group of people to debate. But there’s an important reason the test even exists and there is a strict system of blind marking. So who you are or who you have been as a debater and adjudicator shouldn’t matter. Anyway, test scores were disregarded for top 10 rankings (although it obviously didn’t matter because of the caliber of the individuals) and future adjudication cores will have to open up applications to debate at the adj test to all debaters at the tournament.
Philip Belesky is a beast. He tabbed for the tournament and is one of the developers of Tabbycat so nothing could go wrong. Tabbing is quite underappreciated but it can make or break your tournament and it’s so difficult to get it done right. With only 8 runners for a 100 team tournament and just Philip doing the tabs, there were no delays. It still blows my mind. He is a god amongst men. I want to put George Chen, Edwin ‘Clansman’ Law, Thevesh Theva and Philip Belesky in a room and see who could tab quicker. I’m glad that Andre decided to get him down as the tabmaster and hopefully we’ll see him around at more Asian tournaments. For anyone hosting large tournaments - If you seriously care about your tournament and the experience that everyone will have you will spare no expense to get him down or someone of a similar level to run tabs. Stop getting mediocre tab teams and putting debaters through hell waiting for everything to get done. Oh and also, make sure to donate to Tabbycat, especially when you use it for your tournaments.
There was the usual drama at council, perhaps slightly more this year, but it didn’t really amount to much so here are the motions that actually got passed. Special thanks to Mahirah for providing the minutes
1. Exco should create a special officer to create scholarship to teams that have never participated in ABP taking framework taking into account relevant guidelines set by council on this policy. It's a brilliant idea, and I really hope that it will result in something meaningful for teams that lack access, but I'm kinda skeptical about whether anything will materialize.
2. No teams in bracket is to be pulled up again if they’ve been pulled up before unless every other teams in that point bracket have been pulled up subject to technical constraints and existing priorities (e.g random pull up and position consideration) No problems here.
3. 24 break eligible teams, 8 teams will make it to the break. Not too sure how to feel about this really. 33% of a tournament breaking seems a bit high, and with EFL breaks it’s like 40% of a tournament will make it to the elimination rounds. I personally prefer tournaments to be competitive and tough to do well in, but there is value in getting more teams to the elimination rounds, particularly for smaller institutions.
I don’t think the tournament was like Koc Worlds (which we’ve heard so much about and wonder whether it is all made up by ancient debaters) but I’m sure it came close to the legend. Hotel was really nice, it was new and clean and well furnished. Almost all the debate rooms were facing the pool so judges might have been a bit distracted. Probably explains the lower speaker scores I talked about earlier. Debaters were chilling out by the pool with their feet in the water while waiting for results. Meals were all served in the restaurant which also doubled up convening area. The dream of getting up from bed and being ready at the venue for roll call within 2 minutes (or longer depending on your hygiene standards) was amazing. We really should try to host more tournaments completely in one hotel. Oh and with a centralised WhatsApp group where all announcements were made, the tournament just became ultra convenient. You could chill in your room between the rounds, use your own toilet, freshen up, take a nap (some teams did that during the break rounds. Some judges too, and then didn’t wake up to judge).
The food served was meh. Edible, but not very interesting and it’s a far cry from the pictures Andre posted on Facebook a few weeks before the tournament. It was fairly obvious that quality was reduced as a cost cutting measure. At this point I don’t know who to point the finger (or fork) to - either Andre decided to get cheaper meals or the hotel just provided really good looking stuff for Andre to try and then skimped out later. The finals lunch was probably the most disappointing of all. If we’re going to cram the schedule to save on a day staying in the hotel and make it a championship lunch instead of a dinner, at the very least the food should be good. I thought this was probably the biggest thing preventing it from being a perfect tournament.
At the very least the hotel was smack in the middle of Ao Nang with a ton of food places around. But they were charging ridiculous prices, probably because of the number of tourists (read white people) around. Even McDonald’s was crazy expensive. Haven’t been to one that was more expensive than Singapore. Until Krabi. There was also 7-11 like 30 seconds away so everyone could get ‘essential supplies’ and cheap meals in the middle of the night. Council should consider ensuring 7-11 should be within a minute’s distance from the hotel for each bid. It’s a life changer. You know, important human right and stuff.
Break night was crazy with a massive yakka party by the pool. All the small details were taken care of. They had a DJ, all the pool furniture was moved to maximise space, there even were massive floats that people could climb on in the pool. It was quite distracting for judges when org comm was setting them up in the pool during day 2 while the debate rounds were going on because we could see everything that was going on. The massive floats I mean. Not the org comm in their swimsuits. Ok I guess both.
As for the yakka, my memory is hazy (always a good sign) but I think there was more than enough to go around. Org comm was going around topping up everyone’s drinks so you didn’t even have to leave your lounge chair by the pool. The yakka quality was not the best though but it definitely did its job. Some people thought the yakka was good enough to prioritise saving the yakka over their phone when they fell into the pool. I think Council should look into subsidising cost of yakka training. I wonder whether it is under the ambit of new ABP Council Head of Training Nar Sher May. Or maybe Andre could fly down a yakka expert as part of his org comm next year. Or make him one of the advisors or something. Back to the break night party. I think it was top 3 break night parties I’ve had period. Of course it had to rain in the middle of it which wasn’t great. The fact that the party had to officially end by 9.30? wasn’t great either. But obviously we are a resilient bunch and pushed on into the wee hours of the morning anyway. Oh there was even a surprise muay thai exhibition match between Singapore and Indonesia. Opinions were divided but apparently most people though Indonesia won.
Speaking of pool parties, break night wasn’t the only one. Because we had the run of the hotel, and we are such an unruly bunch, there were pool parties almost every night which was amazing. Good job Andre negotiating with the hotel to extend the hours by convincing them we were not going to care about the rules if the hotel had tried to close the pool early.
In short, I’m not sure I’ve been to a tournament I’ve enjoyed more. Maybe Malaysia Worlds comes close. If I had to nitpick, there were a couple of small issues.
Registration was a bit of a mess as people couldn’t check in quickly. Check in time was at 3pm, and some people could only get their rooms an hour later. Although, when most of the Singaporeans landed a day earlier, Andre handled everything on his own extremely well. There was a problem because almost everyone who arrived earlier had to check out of their hotels by 12 and then check back into new rooms so it was inconvenient to say the least as people were milling around and wanted to get to
partying experiencing Krabi as quickly as possible. Thankfully I wasn’t affected and kept the same room throughout the tournament. I get why this was an issue as a number of rooms had to be rearranged, guests were checking out on the day of the tournament so people had to shifted around to the newly available rooms, furniture like small stools were being taken from all the rooms and repurposed as seats in debate rooms etc. So I’m not sure there was a workaround, but it was annoying anyway.
Schedule was super packed and not really optimised. Or maybe it was to ensure that costs were low by reducing the number of days we had to pay for the hotel. Day 1 (Or Day 0?) had people arriving, checking in after 3pm, then adjudicator test at 8pm and briefing for everyone at 10pm. I get that we’re all in the hotel anyway, and probably were going to be up at that hour, but it’s still not enjoyable to be doing tests/sitting through briefings that late at night. Also why were the briefings originally scheduled to be after the test? Thankfully that changed later so the adjudicator briefing was done first. Still, I’m sure the adjudication core had a terrible time because by the time everything was done, it was 11pm, then they had to decide on their own result for the adj test, and then mark everyone’s scripts. Hmm I’m starting to wonder why people even run for adjudication cores in the first place.
The hotel wasn’t the most secure. There were a number of cases of money being stolen from rooms, and these were rooms without any room parties or outside guests. Yes it’s dumb for debaters to leave money lying around their room and we probably take it for granted given how often we travel without incident. But this is an important reminder to take care of ourselves and belongings every time we travel, no matter where we go. Except Singapore. In Singapore, nothing gets stolen. Come to Singapore guys. We safe country. Andre probably handled it as best he could, there were police reports made, but I’m not sure what came out of it, and it’s highly unlikely that anything will come out of it.
So yes, the experience was as good as it gets. Andre Kua has won the bid to host ABP again in 2018, this time in Hanoi, and if he can top this experience, he will go down in history as a legend. I guess this is the part where I make a retraction and admit that I have been wrong. For a long time, I’ve been publicly opposed to Andre trying to make a quick buck off hosting tournaments like the Indonesia Debate Open and now ABP. I’ve always believed that debate tournaments should be student run events and focused on the community, maximising accessibility by keeping costs as low as possible. But with fewer institutions bidding to host tournaments, and overall quality of events declining, maybe it is time that a few entrepreneurial individuals start hosting tournaments. My only concern is that in the long run, registration fees may go up because there is a lack of alternatives and no competition whatsoever. And as someone who has debated a significant chunk of my career independently, out of my own pocket, without institutional support, I understand that high registration fees are a huge barrier to entry for a sport that’s already ridiculously difficult to get into. Also, hosting a tournament provides not only organisational experience for institutions, but are an important avenue for growing the circuit in regions without as much access to debate.
Well, those are things that the circuit has to think about. For now, best of luck to Andre and I can’t wait for Andre BP 2018 in Hanoi next year.