NAQT has a specific policy on what tiebreakers may be used to differentiate teams with identical records, either for the purpose of rebracketing during a tournament or determining the championship or the final order of finish. These rules apply only to Sectional Championship Tournaments, Community College Sectional Championship Tournaments, and NAQT national championships, though other events are encouraged to adopt them as well.
Unless a tournament is using some variant of power-matching, rebracketing and final results should be decided on the basis of won-lost records. Tiebreakers are applied to distinguish between teams with identical won-lost records, but neither statistical nor head-to-head-based tiebreakers may be used. Common examples of statistical tiebreakers (none of which may be used) are total points scored, total point differential, points per tossup heard, and so forth.
If a tournament is broken into playoff pools, pool rank takes precedence over win-loss record—it is impossible for a team from a lower pool to finish higher than one from a higher pool based solely on performance through the end of that pool play. Additional games between the teams could be used to justify such a result.
If a tie must be broken (as is the case in determining the championship, awarding trophies, or rebracketing that affects who might be able to reach the championship; but not necessarily for reporting overall results for lower-finishing teams), it must be played off, at the buzzer. It is permissible to use statistical tiebreakers to determine the order in which teams play. Tiebreaker games must be played according to normal rules; in particular, they must include bonuses and involve only two teams at a time.
For example, if a twelve-team tournament is rebracketed into an upper six teams and a bottom six teams and the sixth-place and seventh-place teams are tied at 6–5 after a full round robin, they should play a whole or half game (at the tournament director’s discretion) to determine who advances to the upper pool. If teams five, six, and seven are tied at 5–6, however, statistics may be used to determine which two play each other for the “privilege” of playing the third team for the remaining spot in the upper pool. If the fifth and sixth place teams were tied, however, no tiebreaker would be necessary since both were destined for the same pool. After the rebracketing, regardless of overall record, the lower-pool teams must receive lower placement than the higher-pool teams (unless further games between them are scheduled).
Tournament hosts must be aware of the possible ways in which their chosen format might require tiebreaker games and plan their schedule accordingly.
There are two exceptions to this policy:
- If the schedule (either by design or as a result of earlier tiebreakers or mistakes) already requires all of the questions provided by NAQT for the tournament, then ties may be broken by points per tossup heard (but not by head-to-head results or any other statistic). In this situation, tournament directors are encouraged to leave ties standing if possible. NAQT acknowledges that ties cannot generally be left standing when rebracketing or in (rare) situations in which there is a significant, indivisible prize being awarded and more such prizes cannot be procured.
- If following this policy would require a game to be started after the game that determines the championship, then final placements below the championship may be based on points per tossup heard. For example, if a three-way tie for first place is resolved in a way that would otherwise lead to the need for an additional game to determine second place, that additional game need not be played (though, at the tournament director’s discretion, it may be played).
NAQT has prepared brackets for conducting many common tiebreaker situations. Teams should be seeded into the tiebreakers in descending order of points per tossup heard. Half- or third-games may be necessary in some cases; these are untimed games consisting of half or one-third as many tossup-bonus cycles as there are in a complete packet, rounded down if necessary. Some portions of these brackets may be abrogated in certain cases based on the second bullet point above.
If a tournament uses a format that is strongly dependent on strength-of-schedule factors (such as most power-matching formulas) so that rankings are not primarily determined by won-lost records, this policy does not apply; it is assumed that the strength-of-schedule factors will sufficiently differentiate between teams with identical records.
Throughout this page and when conducting tiebreakers, “points per tossup heard” is generally expected to refer to the traditional, literal calculation of that statistic, but it is permitted to use calculations that correct for the fact that bonuses are not played in overtime, such as “points per tossup heard in regulation” and a synthetic statistic in which teams are awarded their average bonus conversion for overtime tossups.