2017 Small School National Championship Tournament

NAQT is pleased to announce that its 2017 Small School National Championship Tournament will be held at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare hotel in Rosemont, IL, on April 28–30, 2017. This is the same hotel that hosted the 2016 SSNCT.

The 2017 Small School National Championship Tournament is NAQT’s championship tournament for small high schools; it is split into two divisions: one for traditional public schools and one for charter schools and private schools. Note that NAQT also runs an overall High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT) for which all high schools are eligible.

Registration has closed.


April 28–30, 2017 (Friday–Sunday).

Teams will check in on Friday, April 28, and have the opportunity to meet each other and play scrimmage matches on official NAQT questions. The tournament’s preliminary games will take place on Saturday, and the playoff games will take place on Sunday. Teams may stay through Monday (or longer!) to explore Chicagoland at the discounted hotel rates negotiated by NAQT. Teams that cannot arrive on Friday night will have a chance to check in on Saturday morning (if they notify NAQT of the situation in advance).


The Hyatt Regency O'Hare hotel in Rosemont, IL. This building is the official hotel, and it contains all of the competition rooms. An online floor plan (PDF) is available.


This schedule was updated on April 26 and is final.

Friday (evening)
1:00 – 5:00 p.m.Early Buzzer Bonus intakeConference Center foyer, Lobby Level
5:00 p.m. (or upon arrival)General staff check-inMalpensa (International Level)
6:00 – 9:30 p.m.Team check-inConference Center foyer, Lobby Level
6:00 – 9:30 p.m.Optional scrimmage roundsConference Center foyer, Entry Level
7:15 – 8:15 a.m.Late-arrival team check-inInternational Ballroom (International Level)
7:45 – 8:15 a.m.Late-arrival staff check-inVienna (International Level)
8:15 – 9:00 a.m.Staff meetingVienna (International Level)
8:30 – 8:45 a.m.Opening meeting for teams in the Traditional Public Schools DivisionInternational Ballroom (International Level)
8:50 – 9:05 a.m.Opening meeting for teams in the Charter & Private Schools DivisionLondon (International Level)
9:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.Rounds 1–6Meeting rooms and parlors
12:15 – 1:45 p.m.Lunch (not provided)
1:45 – 5:15 p.m.Rounds 7–12Meeting rooms and parlors
5:30 p.m.– morningConsolation mini-tournament sign-upInformation Desk
7:00 a.m.Playoff pairings postedInformation Desk (Lobby Level atrium)
8:00 – 8:25 a.m.Staff meeting (playoff and consolation)Vienna (International Level)
8:30 – 11:30 a.m.Rounds 13–17Meeting rooms
8:45 – 11:30 a.m.Consolation roundsConference Center foyer, Lobby Level
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.Lunch (not provided)
12:30 – 2:00 p.m.Rounds 18–19Meeting rooms and Ballrooms
12:30 – 4:00 p.m.Buzzer return and packet distributionNorth Central (Entry Level)
1:15 p.m.Charter & Private Schools Finals (1 or 2 games)London (International Level)
2:00 p.m.Traditional Public Schools Finals (1 or 2 games)Rosemont Ballroom AB (Entry Level)
After finalsAwardsRosemont Ballroom AB (Entry Level)

The start time for the finals of the Charter and Public School division (1:15 or 2:00 p.m.) will depend on how many teams make the playoffs in that division.

A printable Time and Place Guide is available.

Information Desk:

NAQT will be operating an Information Desk on Saturday and Sunday in the Lobby Level atrium. The Information Desk will be in contact with all control rooms and the stat room throughout the day. The Information Desk should be the first place teams go with any questions about the tournament. NAQT will also be selling practice questions and tournament T-shirts at the Information Desk. (Teams with questions on Friday can get them answered at the check-in desk.)

Participants may also text 213‑279‑6278 (“NAQT”) with questions if it is inconvenient for them to get to the Information Desk (standard messaging rates apply). Tournament staff will answer incoming messages as quickly as they can. This number is only for text messages, not calls. Call 1‑888‑411‑6278 (“NAQT”) to speak to a member of tournament staff.


This tournament will use NAQT’s Official Gameplay Rules.


This tournament is open to teams from schools that meet NAQT’s definition of a small school. There are two divisions:

  • The Traditional Public School division is for public schools with 500 or fewer students in grades 10–12 that are the default school for a school district and which do not cap their enrollment.

  • The Charter and Private division is for private schools and non-selective charter schools with 350 or fewer students in grades 10–12.

Teams from schools that don’t fit either criteria are still eligible to attend NAQT’s overall High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT), a separate event which will take place on Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta.


Schools qualify to send teams to the SSNCT through their performance at tournaments using NAQT questions that are held throughout the year. Every event is potentially a qualifier for both divisions of the SSNCT.

Registration has closed.


The field for the Traditional Public division is limited to 96 teams.

The field for the Charter-and-Private division is limited to 30 teams.

Online registration has opened; the current field is listed here.


The two divisions will compete entirely separately. Every team (regardless of division) will have nine preliminary matches distributed over twelve preliminary rounds. Each team will thus have three bye rounds during which it is not playing. During bye rounds, teams may relax, grab a snack, or watch some of their new friends compete.

In the Traditional Public School division, teams will play nine power-matched games arranged via a card system. The cards will ensure that teams with similar records will be playing each other in every round. Every team with a winning record (5–4 or better) will advance to the playoffs. The elimination playoffs will be held on Sunday; teams that finish Saturday 6–3 or better can lose twice before being eliminated; teams that finish 5–4 on Saturday will be eliminated after a single loss. The 2017 SSNCT Traditional Public School Format Guide (PDF) provides a more in-depth discussion of the format.

The tournament will also recognize the top six teams from Very Small Schools (VSS) in the Traditional Public School division. Such teams will compete normally in the overall division until they are eliminated (or win the division). Once they have been eliminated from the overall playoffs, there may be additional VSS playoff games or placement games to determine the top six VSS teams. The 2017 SSNCT Very Small School Playoff Guide (PDF) goes into more detail on how the VSS playoff and placement games will work.

In the Charter and Private School division, teams will be divided into three pools of ten teams to play nine round-robin matches on Saturday. Every team with a winning record (5–4 or better) will advance to the playoffs. Sunday’s playoffs will be double-elimination (so every team can lose twice before being eliminated). The 2017 SSNCT Charter and Private School Format Guide (PDF) provides a more in-depth discussion of the format.

All playoff teams must pick up their playoff cards at the Information Desk between 7:00 and 8:20 a.m. on Sunday. The first-round Sunday pairings and the overall playoff brackets for both divisions will be posted at the Information Desk by 7:00 a.m.


Registration has closed.

The registration fee is $595 per team if payment is received on or before March 24. The fee is $615 per team on or after March 25. Schools whose first qualifying event occurred after March 1 have until April 10 to register at the lower rate. The deadline to accept an invitation is April 22, or when the field fills, whichever comes first.

Teams attending both the HSNCT and the SSNCT will receive a $100 discount on their HSNCT entrance fee.

Qualifying for the tournament does not guarantee a spot in the field, it merely enables your team to register for one of the spots. Once you have qualified, you should register as soon as you can to ensure your team a berth in the tournament.

Teams that cancel on or after March 6 will be liable for one-tenth of the base registration fee. Teams that cancel on or after March 27 will be liable for one-half of the base registration fee. Those cancellation-fee deadlines notwithstanding, teams will always have a one-week grace period after they register to cancel with no penalty.

The registration fee only covers entrance to the tournament. It does not cover transportation, lodging, food, or other expenses.

Teams bringing a working lockout system to the tournament will be eligible for a $20 discount on the registration fee if it meets NAQT’s national-championship standards. There may be some surprises in that policy! Please read it in advance to make sure your system qualifies. Each team may claim up to two such discounts. NAQT will only award the discount for lockout systems that it can keep from check-in until the Sunday lunch break. If a team anticipates leaving before that, we would prefer to use (and discount) a different system to avoid inconveniencing that team and ourselves. Teams can pick up their lockout systems (and tournament packets) starting at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday in the North Central room (Entry Level). Except in emergency circumstances, NAQT will not be returning lockout systems before 12:30 p.m.

NAQT will also be paying a $20 cash “Early Buzzer Bonus” for every buzzer system dropped off in the Conference Center foyer (Lobby Level) between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Friday. It is valuable for us to get buzzers early (so we can test them and have them ready for scrimmage rounds), and we are willing to pay for that. A team can thus get a total of $40 for each of its buzzers ($20 discount, $20 Early Buzzer Bonus), assuming it lists them on its registration form and drops them off between 1:00 and 5:00 on Friday. The bonus will be paid immediately, in cash, to whomever drops the buzzer off.

Teams may supply one or more qualified staffers for the tournament to earn discounts on their registration fees. Teams will receive a $50 discount for each staffer on Saturday and a $50 discount for each staffer on Sunday (for a total of $100 if the staffer works both days). Team staffers may be assigned as scorekeepers, control room staff, scoresheet checkers, or other roles at NAQT’s discretion; they will not have a chance to watch their team’s matches. The transportation, lodging, and all other expenses of team-supplied staffers will be borne by the team, not by NAQT. In addition, a team claiming this discount must still have at least one adult coach/chaperone with each team at all matches.

In addition to the above “trained” positions, NAQT needs a limited number of untrained “runners.” These positions are Saturday-only, and they will earn their team a $50 discount. Runner positions are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Teams wishing to supply a runner must make this request on their registration and receive confirmation from NAQT; otherwise, all registered staff members must complete the online training to receive the discount.

Teams cannot “split” a single staff discount across two people: Each daily staff discount must be earned by a single staffer. (But it is fine to have one person earn a discount for working (all of) Saturday and another person earn a discount for working (all of) Sunday.)

The last day for a team to declare that it is bringing a staffer to the SSNCT is March 24. Team staffers suggested after that date may be accepted or rejected at NAQT’s discretion.

Teams that cancel a staffer (of any kind) on or after March 24 will not only forfeit the discount, but will be charged a $100 penalty to offset NAQT’s cost for finding a last-minute replacement.

The registration fee includes the right for each team to pick up most of the competition set to use as practice material in future years. Teams can pick up their copies of the first 17 packets of the competition set starting at 12:30 p.m. in the North Central room (Entry Level). Teams that want the remaining 4 packets can pay $5 to have them shipped after the tournament completes. Teams that don’t pick up packets on-site can pay $10 to have the entire set shipped. At previous championships, no packets were available until after the final match had been completed; NAQT hopes that most teams will be able to pick up the bulk of their questions before leaving the tournament site.

Team rosters may be changed at any time prior to the start of the SSNCT, so it is neither necessary nor desirable to wait to register until a team’s composition has been definitively decided. Register as soon as possible and, if necessary, update the registration when the composition of a team changes.

Checking In:

NAQT will be checking teams in, disbursing information folders, answering questions, and handling outstanding administrative matters between 6:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in the Conference Center foyer (Lobby Level) on Friday, April 28. One coach or chaperone for each team (not the entire team!) should go to the check-in area at some point on Friday evening. That representative will be given the team’s information folder. Team members are encouraged to take advantage of the social and practice opportunities on Friday night.

Check-in will start at 6:00. Historically, there is a long line just after the check-in desk opens, so we encourage coaches and chaperones to glance at the line every 20–30 minutes and to come check in when it is short. There is no good reason to check in immediately! In particular, teams can play scrimmage rounds even if they have not checked in. There is no problem with a team arriving at the hotel at 6:40, playing a scrimmage game, grabbing dinner, playing another scrimmage game, and then checking in at 9:10 when there is nobody in line.

Remember that NAQT is paying an additional “Early Buzzer Bonus” of $20 for lockout systems that are dropped off between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. Regardless of when you choose to check in, please consider dropping off your systems during this window to earn yourself a little extra cash and to help us make sure we have everything ready for scrimmages to begin at 6:00.

Teams that don’t arrive at the hotel until Saturday morning can check in between 7:15 and 8:15 at the International Ballroom. Teams that checked in on Friday do not need to check in again on Saturday.


Between 6:00 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday night, game rooms will be set up for teams to scrimmage against each other on questions from previous championships. This scrimmaging is free and will be moderated by tournament staff. We encourage all teams to come by to play a practice game or two. Teams that want to scrimmage should go to the scrimmage desk in the Conference Center foyer on the Entry Level (i.e., directly below the check-in area) to be assigned a time to play.

Scrimmages will be organized by means of “scrimmage tickets”: When a team shows up to the scrimmage desk, it will be given a ticket listing a room and a time; that team should go to that room and be prepared to play at that time. The majority of tickets will be for games that start within 5–15 minutes, but it is possible that there could be a 30–45-minute wait during the busiest periods. If a team wants to play another match, it should return to the scrimmage desk to get another ticket after its game finishes.

Scrimmages are open to all players, including alternates and standby teams. Ineligible players (e.g. parents or coaches) may compete if both teams are amenable to their participation, but the purpose of the scrimmages is to let actual teams experience actual tournament conditions. A more appropriate time for parents and coaches to partake of quiz bowl is during the Sunday consolation rounds.


The top 18 teams in the Traditional Public School division (all teams still playing in round 16) will receive a team trophy and their members will receive individual awards. The top 16 individual scorers in this division will receive All-Star awards and the top 6 freshmen and sophomores (who are not overall All-Stars) will receive Rising Star awards.

In addition to crowning an overall champion, the top six teams from Very Small Schools (those with 300 or fewer students in grades 10–12) will receive team trophies and their members will receive individual awards. These trophies will be determined by placement in the overall playoffs, with additional VSS playoff or placement games among teams eliminated in the same round to differentiate the top six places. (VSS teams that have been eliminated from the overall playoffs should go to the Information Desk to ascertain whether they have additional games to play. They should not immediately start playing consolation matches after being eliminated.)

The top 8 teams in the Charter and Private School division will receive a team trophy and their members will receive individual awards. The top 8 individual scorers in this division will receive All-Star awards and the top 3 freshmen and sophomores (who are not overall All-Stars) will receive Rising Star awards.

All individual awards will be based (only) on the results of the preliminary rounds. Players must have at least 120 tossups heard (approximately six games) to be eligible for individual awards.

If a team needs to leave prior to the award ceremony, it can pick up All-Star or Rising Star awards earned by its members at the Information Desk.

Consolation Rounds:

Teams that do not qualify for the playoffs are encouraged to return on Sunday to play against any other teams they want (or to mix and match from across the country) on the playoff questions. All students — even alternates, standby teams, or observers — are welcome to take part. Teams that have been eliminated from the playoffs may also take part.

Teams that want to participate in the consolation rounds should go to the consolation organization area in the Conference Center foyer (Lobby Level) at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. Those that have signed up for mini-tournaments will be dispatched to rooms; those that are waiting for ad hoc pairings will then be matched with an opponent and assigned to a room.

Two kinds of consolation rounds will be offered:

  • Mini-tournaments. These will be three- or four-round power-matched events that run relatively efficiently, but they involve a commitment to stay for all of the rounds. Teams can sign up for these starting Saturday evening at the Information Desk. Teams can also sign up Sunday morning, but the berths will be first-come, first-served, so teams that really care about getting a spot in one of the larger events should make a point of signing up on Saturday evening.

  • Ad hoc matches. These involve no commitment, but they will take longer to organize as available teams will be manually paired against each other as rooms, packets, and readers become available. If you only want one or two additional games, you want to go for this option. Teams may also play ad hoc matches after they are eliminated from the playoffs or after their mini-tournament finishes. (Remember that VSS teams eliminated from the playoffs should go to the Information Desk after being eliminated to ascertain whether they have additional VSS playoff or placement games. If not, they may start competing in consolation matches.)

If rooms, buzzers, or staffers run short, consolation mini-tournaments will be given priority over ad hoc matches.

The consolation rounds (whether mini-tournaments or not) have no effect on a team’s overall standing in the tournament. They are played solely for fun.


Tournament T-shirts are available to players and coaches at $15 each. These may be ordered when submitting the team’s registration form. They will also be available for sale during the tournament.


Teams will want to fly into one of the two major Chicago airports, either O’Hare International (much more convenient; airport code ORD) or Midway International (much less convenient; code MDW). There is a free hotel shuttle that runs every 15 minutes to bring teams to and from O’Hare Airport (but not Midway).


The official hotel for the tournament is the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. Quadruple-occupancy rooms (with two double beds) are available for $119 per night. To receive that rate, book online or mention “NAQT” when making a reservation over the phone. The last day to reserve rooms at this special price is April 12. Please note that there are two Hyatt hotels in Rosemont; the one hosting the tournament is the Hyatt Regency O’Hare right next to the convention center.

Between the SSNCT and the other events scheduled for the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, it is expected that the hotel will run out of rooms. NAQT strongly recommends that teams book their rooms as early as possible, particularly if they want quadruple-occupancy rooms (with two double beds).

As part of the contract negotiated by NAQT, the hotel will offer complimentary guest room Internet access to tournament participants and their families. This only applies to rooms booked using the NAQT group code.

The hotel has a complimentary shuttle to O’Hare. The cost of a taxi from Midway is approximately $35. For public transportation between Midway and the hotel (via the Orange and Blue ‘L’ train lines), the cost is $2.25 per person. Teams taking the ‘L’ should get off at the Rosemont exit, from which the hotel is easily walkable.

Hyatt Regency O’Hare
9300 Bryn Mawr Avenue
Rosemont, Illinois, USA 60018
Telephone: 847.696.1234
Fax: 847.698.0139


Parking is $5/day and includes in-and-out privileges. Teams traveling to the tournament in buses should contact the hotel in advance to discuss parking options.

To receive the discounted parking rate, teams staying at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare should bring their parking ticket to the hotel's front desk for validation. Teams not staying at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare should validate their parking ticket at NAQT's check-in desk (Friday) or at the Information Desk (Saturday and Sunday).

Lunch Options:

The hotel has several restaurants offering different types of food at different prices. In particular, its O'H American Grill (Lobby Level) will be offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets for $14.95 per person. On Saturday, from 11:30 until 3:30, its Perks coffee shop (Entry Level) will be offering "cash stands" with quick and (relatively) cheap lunch items. The cash stands will not be operating on Sunday.

There is a food court at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall at 5220 Fashion Outlets Way. Its restaurant choices include Freshii (vegetarian), tacos, burgers, and Chinese. To get to the Fashion Outlets from the hotel, walk west on Bryn Mawr, turn left onto River Road, then turn right onto Balmoral Avenue until you get to Fashion Outlets Way. The food court is a 15-minute walk away.

There are also a few restaurants offering more formal dining at the MB Financial Park at Rosemont. These include Adobe Gila’s, Bogart’s, Hofbräuhaus Chicago, and Fogo de Chão. These are more suited for evening meals and are a 12-minute walk away.

Teams can also order pizza or Chinese food and have it delivered to the hotel.


The Hyatt Regency O’Hare operates a complimentary shuttle between O’Hare Airport and the hotel. Since the official hotel is also serving as the competition site, NAQT will not be providing additional shuttle or bus services.


Spectators are welcome to attend all games at the SSNCT. No registration or tickets are required; feel free to just show up and watch as many of the games as you would like. If you are interested in starting a quiz bowl team at your college or high school, NAQT personnel will be on hand to talk about the process.


Chicago has a variety of world-class attractions that should appeal to anybody (but especially to quiz bowlers!).

The easiest way to reach most of Chicago’s downtown attractions is to ride the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA’s) ‘L’ trains, for which there is a stop within easy walking distance of the hotel: Exit the hotel and walk west on Bryn Mawr; turn right on River Road and pass under I-190 and the CTA tracks. The entrance to Rosemont station on the CTA Blue Line will be on your right. Board trains bound for “Loop” or “Forest Park” (not for O’Hare!) for the 35-minute ride into downtown Chicago.

Once there, the Art Institute of Chicago (Blue Line to Monroe, walk 1 block south to Adams and 3 blocks west) features dozens of tossup-worthy works, including Nighthawks and American Gothic, and adjoins both Millennium Park and Grant Park, home to the Cloud Gate and Buckingham Fountain. Just a bit further south is the Museum Campus (Blue Line to Jackson, walk 1 block east to State Street and Jackson and catch bus 146 toward Museum Campus), which is home to three major institutions: the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the historic Adler Planetarium, which was the first planetarium in the Americas.

The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower; Blue Line to Jackson, walk 4 blocks west) offers stunning views of the Chicago skyline; so does the John Hancock Center (Blue Line to Chicago station, bus 66 toward Navy Pier), located on Michigan Avenue in the heart of famed Magnificent Mile. Further afield are the Lincoln Park Zoo (Blue Line to Western, bus 73 to Clark/North), the Chicago History Museum (5 minutes walk from the zoo), and the Museum of Science and Industry (Blue Line to Jackson, walk 1 block east to State St and Jackson and catch bus 6 toward 79th/South Shore), which is housed in a structure originally built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

Social Media

The official hashtag for the tournament is #ssnct; please use this tag for all messages about the tournament.

Remember that question content for the championship cannot be posted online (or shared through other channels)! This means that team members, coaches, spectators, and moderators should not discuss clues, answers, or even overall themes (e.g., “Lots of opera”) with people on other teams (even those from the same school).

Relationship to the HSNCT:

Small schools remain eligible and welcome to attend the HSNCT, which is NAQT’s overall championship for high schools. The SSNCT and HSNCT will use different question sets, and a school that attends both will receive a $100 discount on its HSNCT registration fee.

Practice Questions:

Teams that have been invited to compete at the 2017 Small School National Championship Tournament may be interested in purchasing questions from previous years to prepare for the event. All 156 of NAQT’s past regular-season sets are available as are the sets from previous championships.

Teams may also want to purchase frequency list or Power Up study guides from NAQT. These are also available on our practice questions page.

Finally, teams will want to look at the information contained in NAQT’s free You Gotta Know articles before the tournament. These detail the most frequently asked about question topics in a wide variety of areas.


Registration fees and discounts are listed above. Make checks payable to “NAQT” and send them to Chad Kubicek, 11521 W 69th Street, Shawnee, KS 66203. If you wish to pay by credit card, call us at 1‑888‑411‑6278 (“NAQT”).

Further Questions:

To ask specific questions about the SSNCT, please contact us…

  • by e-mail at ssnct@naqt.com
  • by phone at 1‑888‑411‑6278 (“NAQT”)
  • by fax at 1‑413‑473‑1617
  • by postal mail at:
    11521 W 69th Street
    Shawnee, KS 66203

We look forward to answering any and all questions, no matter how expansive or trivial, in the hopes of eliminating any possible confusion or mistakes in teams’ plans. If something’s not clear, let us know!