2018 Small School National Championship Tournament Logistics Information

The 2018 Small School National Championship Tournament (SSNCT) was held at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Chicago in Rosemont, Illinois (near Chicago), on April 27–29, 2018. The 2017 SSNCT was also held at this site.

The SSNCT is NAQT’s championship tournament for small high schools; it is split into two divisions: one for traditional public schools and one for all other schools. (This is a change from the 2017 event in which the second division was limited to private schools and some charter schools.) Note that NAQT also runs an overall High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT) for which all high schools are eligible.



    April 27–29, 2018 (Friday–Sunday).

    Participants will check in on Friday, April 27 and have the opportunity to meet each other and play scrimmage games.

    The tournament’s preliminary games will take place on Saturday, and the playoff games will take place on Sunday. Teams may arrive earlier or stay later 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.


    The Hyatt Regency O'Hare Chicago hotel in Rosemont, Illinois (near Chicago). This is the official hotel, and it contains all of the competition rooms. A floor plan (PDF) is available.

    There is also an overflow hotel for teams who could not be accommodated at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Chicago. All competition will take place at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Chicago.


    This schedule was last updated on April 23 and is final.

    This schedule is tentative.

    All times are listed in Central time.

    Friday Evening

    Time Event Location Area
    1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Early Buzzer Bonus intakeConference Center foyer, Lobby Level
    5:00 – 9:30 p.m. Staff check-inLondon International Level
    6:00 – 9:30 p.m. Team check-inConference Center foyer, Lobby Level
    6:00 – 9:30 p.m. Scrimmage rounds (optional)International Level foyer


    Time Event Location Area
    7:00 – 8:00 a.m. Late-arrival team check-inGrand Ballroom foyer Entry Level
    7:30 – 8:00 a.m. Late-arrival staff check-inLondon International Level
    8:00 – 8:45 a.m. Staff meetingLondon International Level
    8:15 – 8:50 a.m. Opening meetingGrand Ballroom ABCD Entry Level
    9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Preliminary rounds 1–7Throughout the hotel
    12:30 – 2:00 p.m. LunchOn your own
    2:00 – 6:30 p.m. Preliminary rounds 8–15Throughout the hotel
    6:00 p.m. – morning Consolation mini-tournament signupInformation Desk Lobby Level


    Time Event Location Area
    7:00 a.m. Playoff bracket postedInformation Desk Lobby Level atrium
    7:00 – 8:15 a.m. Playoff cards distributedInformation Desk Lobby Level atrium
    8:00 – 8:25 a.m. Staff meetings (playoff/consolation)London/Paris International Level
    8:30 a.m. – 12:00 noon Playoff rounds 16–21Throughout the hotel
    8:45 – 11:30 a.m. Consolation roundsConference Center foyer, Lobby Level
    9:00 a.m. – 1:45 p.m. Souvenir photographyUnited B Entry Level
    12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. LunchOn your own
    1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Playoff rounds 22–23Meeting rooms and ballrooms
    1:00 – 4:30 p.m. Buzzer returnNorth Central Entry Level
    1:45 p.m. Open Division finals (one or two games)Grand Ballroom BC Entry Level
    2:30 p.m. Traditional Public Schools Division finals (one or two games)Rosemont Ballroom Entry Level
    After finals AwardsRosemont Ballroom Entry Level
    After finals until 4:30 p.m. Packet set distributionNorth Central Entry Level

    A printable Time and Place Guide is available.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    NAQT has prepared answers to frequently asked questions about its national championships.

    Information Desk

    Starting Friday evening, NAQT will operate an Information Desk in the Lobby Level atrium. The Information Desk should be the first destination for any questions about or issues with the tournament (other than protests, which must be lodged within the game room). NAQT will also be selling practice material at the Information Desk. Teams who pre-ordered T-shirts may pick them up at the Information 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.

    In general, lost-and-found items will be taken to the Information Desk during the tournament. We will notify owners to the extent we can identify them. At the end of the tournament, any unclaimed items will be brought to the hotel’s general lost-and-found.

    Rules and Eligibility

    Gameplay will follow the Official NAQT Rules. Player eligibility is governed by the High School Eligibility Rules.

    Furthermore, this tournament is limited to teams from schools that meet NAQT’s definition of Small Schools and is separated into two divisions based on the two types of Small Schools.


    Schools qualify to send teams to the SSNCT through their performance at tournaments using NAQT questions throughout the year.

    Registration has closed.

    The field has historically filled. Receiving an invitation to the tournament does not guarantee a spot in the field; it merely allows your team to register for a spot if one is available. Once you have qualified, you should register as soon as you can to ensure your team a spot in the tournament. Last year, the field filled around March 1 (though some teams were promoted from the waitlist after that).


    These teams attended the tournament.


    The two divisions will compete entirely separately. Every team (regardless of division) will have 10 preliminary matches distributed over 15 preliminary rounds. Each team will thus have five byes during which it is not playing. During bye rounds, teams may relax, grab a snack, or watch some of their new friends compete.

    There will be separate playoffs for each division on Sunday, culminating in final matches to determine each division’s champion(s). The Traditional Public Schools division, in addition to naming an overall champion, will identify the top Very Small School (schools limited to 300 or fewer students in their top three grades) via additional matches. (Such schools are still eligible to win the overall Traditional Public Schools division title.)

    In the Traditional Public Schools division, teams will play ten 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 (6–4 or better) will advance to the playoffs. The double-elimination playoffs will be held on Sunday. The 2018 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 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 Very Small School playoff games or placement games to determine the top six Very Small School teams. The 2018 SSNCT Very Small School Playoff Guide (PDF) goes into more detail on how the Very Small School playoff and placement games will work.

    In the Open division, teams will play ten 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 (6–4 or better) will advance to the playoffs. The double-elimination playoffs will be held on Sunday. The 2018 SSNCT Open Division Format Guide (PDF) provides a more in-depth discussion of the format.

    All playoff teams (in both divisions) must pick up their playoff cards at the Information Desk between 7:00 and 8:15 a.m. on Sunday. The playoff brackets for both divisions will be posted online and at the Information Desk by 7:00 a.m.

    Registration and Fees

    Registration has closed.

    The registration fee is $635 per team if payment is received on or before March 23, 2018. The fee is $655 per team on or after March 24, 2018. Schools that first qualified after March 1 have until April 9 to register at the lower rate. Registration will close on April 25, but the field may fill earlier.


    One week after the field first filled (and the waitlist started)—which has not yet happened in the Traditional Public Schools Division and was January 30, 2018 in the Open Division—teams who withdraw from the tournament will be liable for 50% of the base registration fee as a cancellation penalty. In addition, regardless of the field status, teams who cancel on or after March 5 will be liable for 10% of the base registration fee; teams who cancel on or after March 26 will be liable for 50% of the base registration fee. Those deadlines notwithstanding, every team will have a one-week grace period from the date of registration, during which cancellation incurs no penalty.

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

    Buzzer Discounts

    Teams who bring a working buzzer 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.

    Unless otherwise approved by NAQT, no team may receive more than two buzzer-system discounts.


    NAQT will only award the discount for buzzer systems that it may keep until 1:00 p.m. Sunday; if you cannot commit to those times, do not register to bring a buzzer system!

    Early Buzzer Bonus

    NAQT will pay a $20 cash “Early Buzzer Bonus” for each discount-receiving buzzer system dropped off between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. Friday in the Conference Center foyer (Lobby Level). This is in addition to the discount mentioned above, is specifically for dropping it off during that time, and will only be paid in cash between those exact times.

    Buzzer Return

    NAQT will begin returning team-provided buzzer systems at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday in the North Central room (Entry Level) (and not before, except in emergencies). As mentioned above, this might make it impractical for teams planning to leave as soon as they are eliminated to receive buzzer-system discounts (as their systems will not have been returned at that point). Buzzers that are not picked up in a timely fashion will be left with the hotel bell desk.

    Other Discounts

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

    Teams may earn a $50 discount for providing a staff member on Saturday, and/or a $50 discount for providing a staff member on Sunday.

    Team-provided staff will not have a chance to watch their team’s matches. The transportation, lodging, and all other expenses of team-provided staff members will be borne by the team, not by NAQT. Teams that provide staff must still be chaperoned at all times; a chaperone cannot also be a member of tournament staff.

    Team-provided staff may be assigned as scorekeepers, control room staff, scoresheet checkers, or other roles at NAQT’s discretion. They will be required to complete an online training course. In addition to those “trained” positions, NAQT needs a limited number of untrained “runners.” 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. All team-provided staff members are subject to NAQT’s approval.

    Teams cannot “split” a single staff discount across two people; each daily staff discount must be earned by a single person. (It is fine to earn two discounts by having one person working one day and another person working the other.)

    In addition to earning discounts by providing staff for the SSNCT itself, schools may earn discounts on their SSNCT registration by providing staff for either (or both) of two of NAQT’s other national championships — the Community College Championship Tournament or the Intercollegiate Championship Tournament (both at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare) — according to our cross-tournament discount program.

    The last day for a team to declare that it is bringing a staff member is March 23. Team-provided staff members suggested after that date may be accepted or rejected at NAQT’s discretion.

    Teams that cancel a staff member (of any kind) on or after April 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.


    Payment is due by the beginning of the tournament. NAQT strongly prefers payment prior to tournament check-in but also accepts payments at check-in. Schools that will be unable to pay by this time (typically for reasons related to school bureaucracies) should discuss their situation with NAQT well in advance.

    NAQT may specify earlier payment deadlines for specific teams, especially those for which the school is not paying.

    NAQT will send invoices well in advance of the tournament. If you would like to pay or request an invoice earlier, once you have entered all the information that can affect costs (but not necessarily entered your roster), at the bottom of your registration page, click “View Cost.” Verify that the listed information is correct, and if so, follow the instructions to request an invoice so that we have the proper billing information. You will also be offered the opportunity to pay by credit card.

    Checks, payable to “NAQT,” should be sent to

    National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC
    11521 W 69th St
    Shawnee, KS 66203–3749

    Please send questions about billing to billing@naqt.com.


    Every team must have a chaperone, subject to the following rules:

    Teams who wish to request a variance from the chaperone policy should write to NAQT at ssnct@naqt.com well in advance of the tournament to discuss their situation.

    Checking In

    The primary check-in period will be from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. in the Conference Center (Lobby Level) on Friday, April 27. During this period NAQT will distribute information folders, answer questions, process payments, verify rosters, and take care of other administrative matters. There is a late check-in period on Saturday, but NAQT would prefer that as many teams as possible check-in on Friday night.

    To check in, each team should send only one coach to the check-in area. That person will be given the team’s information folder. Others should not enter the check-in area.

    In past years there has been a long line just after check-in opens, so we encourage teams to keep an eye on the line and send one person to check in when the line is short. There is no need to check in immediately. In particular, it is not necessary to check in before playing scrimmage games.

    Remember that NAQT is paying an additional Early Buzzer Bonus of $20 for buzzer systems that are dropped off between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. Friday in the Conference Center foyer (Lobby Level). Regardless of when you choose to check in, please consider dropping off your systems during this time period to earn extra money and to help us make sure we have everything ready in time.

    Teams that don’t arrive at the hotel until after 9:30 p.m. on Friday may check in between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom Foyer (Entry Level). 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 and/or the regular season. This scrimmaging is free and will be moderated by tournament staff.

    Teams that want to participate in the scrimmages should go to the Conference Center foyer on the Entry Level (i.e., directly below the check-in area). A team does not need to have checked in to be allowed to scrimmage.

    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 to 15 minutes, but it is possible that there could be a 30-to-45-minute wait during the busiest periods. If a team wants to play another game, 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.


    The top 14 teams in the Traditional Public School division (all teams still playing in round 20) 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 six 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 Very Small School playoff or placement games among teams eliminated in the same round to differentiate the top six places. (Very Small Schools 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 ten teams in the Open division 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 six 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 awards ceremony, it can go to the Information Desk to get its trophy and any individual awards earned by its members.

    Consolation Games

    Teams who do not qualify for the playoffs are encouraged to return on Sunday to play consolation games on the playoff questions. These games will be moderated by tournament staff.

    Two kinds of consolation rounds will be offered:

    If rooms, buzzers, or staff run short, mini-tournaments will be given priority over ad hoc games.

    Consolation games have no effect on a team’s final rank in the tournament. They are played solely for fun.

    Apparel and Souvenirs

    Tournament T-shirts are available for $15 each. They may be ordered via registration forms and will also be available for sale during the tournament while supplies last.

    Here is the shirt design:

    The T-shirt design


    On Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. until the finals begin, NAQT will have a professional photographer in United B (Entry Level) taking pictures of teams. Teams can pose with buzzers or just stand, and the photos will be available for purchase as a memento of the event or as a gift for coaches or parents.



    Participants are strongly encouraged to fly into Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), which is extremely close to the hotel. They may also fly into Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), but it is much less convenient.

    Ground Transportation

    The hotel runs a free shuttle every 15 or 30 minutes (depending on time of day) to transport people from O’Hare to the hotel (and vice versa). As of 2024, the shuttle pickup location has changed; it is now outside of Door 2A on the Arrivals Level (lowest level) of Terminal 2. There is also a pickup location by Door 5E in Terminal 5, but that is much less convenient for most domestic arrivals.

    There is no such shuttle for Midway. A taxi between Midway and the hotel will cost $35 or more, or you can take the CTA’s Orange and Blue Lines for $3 per person (getting on at the Midway Orange Line station, transferring to the Blue Line downtown, and getting off at the Rosemont Blue Line station, which is about one block from the hotel).

    Driving Directions

    The hotel’s address is 9300 Bryn Mawr Avenue, Rosemont, Illinois.


    Parking standard vehicles at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare costs $15/day, including in-and-out privileges. Participants traveling to the tournament in buses should contact the hotel in advance to discuss parking options.

    To receive the discounted parking rate, participants staying at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare should mention when checking into their guest rooms (not the tournament) that they have parked at the hotel and validate their ticket. Participants not staying at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare should use the manual validator box at the Information Desk to validate their parking ticket. (Do not use the manual validator box if you are staying overnight at the hotel.)


    The official hotel for the tournament is the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. Rooms with one king bed are available for $114 per night and rooms with two double beds are available for $122 per night provided they are booked using the NAQT group rate no later than April 8. You may book online or mention “NAQT” when making a reservation over the phone. Please note that there are two Hyatt hotels in Rosemont; the one hosting the tournament is the Hyatt Regency O’Hare next to the convention center.

    The official hotel is out of rooms for Thursday night. Teams that need rooms on Thursday should book their entire stay at the overflow hotel (the Crowne Plaza O’Hare). Teams that only need rooms for Friday and/or Saturday should book at the official hotel (the Hyatt Regencey O’Hare).

    As part of the contract negotiated by NAQT, the hotel will offer complimentary Internet access in guest rooms to tournament participants and their families.

    Overflow Hotel

    NAQT has arranged for the Crowne Plaza O’Hare (5440 North River Road, Rosemont, Illinois) to serve as the overflow hotel for the tournament.

    The official hotel (the Hyatt Regency O’Hare) still has rooms available on Friday and Saturday. Teams that only need rooms on one or both of those nights should book there. Teams should only book at the Crowne Plaza if they need rooms starting Thursday night.

    The Crowne Plaza has rooms with one king bed available for $114/night and rooms with two double beds available for $122/night. Parking is $15/night and comes with in-and-out privileges. Guest-room Internet access is complimentary.

    The Crowne Plaza operates a free shuttle to and from O’Hare International Airport and is within an easy walk of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.

    To make reservations at the overflow hotel, call 877-810-5190 and say that you are with National Academic Quiz Tournaments; our group code is “NCQ”. Teams can also make reservations online.


    The hotel’s O’H American Grill serves most meals, often with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

    In addition to the buffet meals, the hotel will operate food stands for Saturday lunch and Sunday lunch near the Perks coffee shop on the Entry Level. Burgers, sandwiches, salads, pizza, and similar food will be available.

    There is a food court with a variety of typical food-court-style restaurants at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall at 5220 Fashion Outlets Way. 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 from the hotel.

    There are also several restaurants offering more formal dining at the Parkway Bank Park Entertainment District. These are more suited for evening meals and are a twelve-minute walk away.

    Participants can also order carry-out or delivery from local restaurants.

    Advocate Program

    Because NAQT believes that quiz bowl is an activity for everybody, and in which all participants should feel welcome and respected, we have established the Advocate Program to make sure select tournament staff are available to hear reports about problematic behavior and comments by anyone at the tournament.

    Staff wearing blue ribbons that say “Advocate” have been specifically selected to receive reports about inappropriate behavior (as opposed to run-of-the-mill questions about the quiz bowl aspects of the tournament). At least one such staff member will generally be available at the Information Desk during tournament hours; if no such person is available (e.g., due to being on a break), the other Information Desk staff can be asked to have a senior tournament official come to the Information Desk to hear the report. Additional Advocate Program staff will be available in many places around the tournament site.

    Feedback about problematic behavior can, of course, always be sent to NAQT by email (advocate@naqt.com) or other channels such as the Misconduct Reporting Form, but the Advocate Program is intended to allow for in-person reporting of sensitive complaints on-site so they can be handled immediately.

    Reports are confidential to the extent permitted by law and NAQT’s agreements to share critical information with other quiz bowl organizations.

    Practice Material

    Participants may be interested in practicing on questions from previous years to prepare for the event. All of NAQT’s past regular-season sets are available, as are the sets from previous championships.

    Participants may also want to study frequency lists, Power Up study guides, and/or Thumbs Up! question anthologies. These are also available on our practice materials page.

    Finally, participants may 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.


    Spectators are welcome to attend any part of the tournament (though some areas may have limited capacity).

    No registration or tickets are required for spectators.


    View Sightseeing Recommendations

    Social Media

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

    Remember that question content for the championship cannot be posted online (or shared through other channels)! This means that players, 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).

    Livebloggers will cover the tournament on NAQT’s social media.

    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.

    Further Questions

    To ask specific questions about the SSNCT, write to ssnct@naqt.com.

    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 participants’ plans. If something’s not clear, let us know!

    2018 Small School National Championship Tournament

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