2019-20 Minnesota High School Quiz Bowl League

[ West Division | East Division | South Division | Standings ]

The 49th season (at least; our old records are somewhat incomplete) of the Minnesota High School Quiz Bowl (MNHSQB) league will begin November 7, 2019, and continue through February 6, 2020. Playoffs will be held two weeks later, on February 20, 2020. There will be a replacement "snow date" on February 13, 2020 (between the end of the regular season and the playoffs).

Mounds View High School is the reigning champion of the league, having defeated Wayzata High School in the 2019 championship game. Complete team and individual statistics for last year's league are online.

Quiz Bowl:

Quiz bowl is a competitive activity in which two, four-person teams score points by answering questions more quickly than the other. This particular league is aimed at (but not limited to) high school teams in the greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul area, but quiz bowl is played throughout the U.S. (and, increasingly, the English-speaking world) by players of all ages (from elementary school on up to masters). The questions reflect the knowledge that educated people should have about the world and are drawn from academic curricula, current affairs, and popular culture.

Basic Structure:

Schools register one or more teams at the beginning of the year. The field is divided into three pools (sometimes called "divisions") of roughly equal size; teams may generally choose which of the three pools is most convenient for them. Over the course of the year, each team will play twelve games against other members of its pool. Each team will play four of those games on each of three Thursday nights designated in advance. Games begin in late October of each year and continue until the middle of February with breaks for the major holidays (each pool plays its games on different Thursdays).


This league will be run according to NAQT's High School Eligibility Rules. Essentially, all high schools (public, private, magnet, charter, religious, virtual, etc.) are eligible to compete in this event and no prior qualification is necessary. Teams from home school collectives are also welcome. If you have a special situation, feel free to e-mail the eligibility committee in advance for a ruling.

There is no formal geographic requirement for participation; outstate schools and even schools from different states are welcome if they can make the scheduled games. Hudson High School in Wisconsin has been competing in the league for more than a decade!


If you would like to participate in the 2019-20 season, please e-mail R. Robert Hentzel.


The 2018-19 season saw 121 teams from 42 schools participate; we hope for even higher levels of participation this year!


The three pools of play will be:

Pool Host School Competition Dates Playoff Qualifiers
Pool I (West) Eden Prairie High School 11/7, 12/12, and 1/23 Wayzata
Eden Prairie
St. Louis Park
Pool II (East) Roseville Area High School 11/14, 12/19, and 1/30 Mounds View
Mounds Park Academy
Saint Agnes
Pool III (South) Burnsville Senior High School 11/21, 1/9, and 2/6 Burnsville
Prior Lake
Providence Academy

There are no scheduled games on Thursday, February 13, 2020 (though this date will be used as a make-up "snow date" if needed).

St. Louis Park qualified for the league playoffs, but was unable to attend. Its team was replaced by Edina, the sixth-place finisher from the West Pool.


The cost of a school's first team is $300. The cost of each subsequent team is $160. (These prices are unchanged from last year.)

Checks should be made out to "MNHSQB." Teams may either bring their check to their first night of competition or mail it to:

R. Robert Hentzel
10333 Oak Grove Cir.
Bloomington, MN 55431


Each game will include 19 minutes of competition time broken into three phases:

  1. The first phase consists of tossup questions played "at the buzzer": That is, the moderator reads a question until a player "buzzes in" to answer the question. When a buzz occurs, the moderator stops reading and allows that player to give his or her answer. Answering a tossup question correctly earns a team the chance at a three-part bonus question. Players must answer tossups individually, but teams confer on bonuses. This phase will last 8 minutes.

  2. The second phase will consist of lightning round questions. The team with the lower score will choose from three topics and then have one minute to answer as many of the ten parts of the lightning round as possible. After that has been completed, the other team will have a chance to convert any parts that the first team missed (in 30 seconds). Then the second team will choose from among the remaining two topics and repeat the process.

  3. The third phase will last 8 minutes and will consist of tossup and bonus questions, just like the first phase.

A sample packet is available for perusal.


Answering a tossup correctly is generally worth 10 points, but it is possible to earn 15 by answering the tossup very early. (Each question has an asterisk in its text marking the point at which the value changes.) Unlike standard NAQT rules, there is no penalty for interrupting a question before it has been completely read.

Each part of a bonus is worth 10 points (so a maximum of 30 points can be earned on each bonus).

Each part of a lightning round is worth 10 points (for either team), but if a team answers all ten parts correctly, it receives a 20-point bonus (and thus scores a total of 120 points).

Download the official league scoresheet.


The league rules are based on the official rules of National Academic Quiz Tournaments. The only differences are in the length of the game, the absence of interrupt penalties, and the presence of lightning rounds.

There is also a brief version of the NAQT rules that covers the most important points. NAQT also publishes Correctness Guidelines that attempt to comprehensively cover the question of "what makes a response correct?".

Games that are recorded in a TV studio for later broadcast have slightly different rules.

Team Composition:

Schools may enter multiple teams; if they do, those teams are labeled by "A," "B," etc. Thus West High School's first team is "West High School A" and its second team is "West High School B."

Schools may form each night's teams from any combination of eligible players. On any given night, a player may compete for only a single team (e.g., West High School A), but that player may compete for a different team (from that school) on the next night of competition.

A team may have more than four players, but only four may compete at one time. Teams with more than four players may substitute before or after the lightning round, before overtime, or during a time out. If a school anticipates commonly having three or four extra players, it may want to consider entering an additional team (most schools field multiple teams and additional teams are cheaper than the first).

Game Night Schedule:

Games will begin at 6:00 p.m. and last until approximately 9:00 p.m. Each site will have a central location where teams can gather before matches begin to practice, eat dinner, or converse. Teams should arrive by 5:45 so that they have a chance to hear any last-minute announcements before gameplay commences. Teams that have not arrived before 6:15 p.m. will forfeit their matches until they arrive.


The pairings for each pool's first night of competition (i.e., first four games) will be seeded by the league organizers to give each team an approximately equivalent schedule. The pairings for the second and third nights will be determined on a power-matching basis so that each team will play four others of about the same strength, hopefully two with slightly better records and two with slightly worse.

As a general rule, teams will not play the same team twice during the regular season nor will they play against other teams from their own school. There are two exceptions to this: First, if a school enters more than four teams, the league organizer reserves the right to have "D" (and lower) teams play against each other to make scheduling easier. Second, if there is a forfeited game and the scheduling algorithm suggests the same pairing again, it will be allowed (since the teams didn't actually play the first time).


There is no requirement that schools own any particular equipment (namely, a quiz bowl-compatible lockout system or "buzzer") to participate in the league, but there is an informal expectation that programs that have been active for at least two years will purchase a lockout system, maintain it in working order, and bring it to the matches. MNHSQB itself owns a number of systems, but not enough to run the entire league. If not enough teams bring buzzers, one or more rooms will be forced to play "slap bowl," which is neither fair nor fun!


The top five teams from each pool by win-loss record will advance to the playoffs; one additional team will qualify from whichever pool had the most participating teams (not schools). If teams are tied for the final place, one or more tiebreaker rounds will determine which advance. If teams are tied within the range of qualifying positions, the ordering will be determined on the basis of points scored per tossup heard over the course of the entire regular season.

No more than one team from each school will qualify for the playoffs; only the top-finishing team from each school will be considered when playoff berths are allocated. If one or more tiebreakers are necessary to determine the playoff teams from a division, multiple teams from the same school may participate in those tiebreakers (if their record qualifies them to do so).

If a school has entered multiple teams, only its team(s) with the best record going into the third night of competition are eligible to make the playoffs. For instance, if a school has two teams tied at 6-2 and one team at 5-3, then it doesn't matter how the 5-3 team performs on the third night, as only the two 6-2 teams could potentially earn a spot. This rule is intended to make sure that a school plays its best players on its team that will be facing the strongest opponents (including as many of the other playoff contenders as possible).

The playoffs will take place on Thursday, February 20, 2020, at Burnsville Senior High School. Teams should arrive for the playoffs no later than 3:45 p.m. The two teams that will be taped in the first round should arrive no later than 3:30 p.m. The playoffs will end at approximately 10:00 p.m. Teams may leave after they have been eliminated.

Pizza, soda, and dessert will be provided by the league for all players and coaches after the second round (approximately 5:00 p.m.) Teams that have not been eliminated will have about 30 minutes to eat.

The playoffs will be double elimination.

The playoffs will be double elimination as per this bracket. St. Louis Park qualified for the playoffs but was unable to attend; it has been replaced with the sixth-place team from the West Pool, Edina.


Assuming the league has at least 87 participating teams, all 16 of the playoff teams will qualify to attend NAQT's 2020 High School National Championship (HSNCT) in Atlanta. In addition, MNHSQB will pay the registration fees (up to $645) for the top two teams to attend a quiz bowl national championship of their choice. (If the league has more than 113 participating teams, even more teams might qualify for nationals.)

Each pool will also be a qualifier for NAQT's 2020 Small School National Championship Tournament (SSNCT) in Chicago, so traditional public high schools (with 500 or fewer students in grades 10-12) and charter schools and private schools (with 350 or fewer students in grades 10-12) may qualify for that tournament. NAQT's website has a complete definition of which institutions it counts as small schools.

In addition to earning the chance to compete at the national level, the playoff teams will each receive a team trophy. The members of the winning team will receive individual all-star trophies, and the top eight scorers, the top "rising star" sophomore scorer, and the top "rising star" freshman scorer from each pool will receive individual trophies. The "rising-star" freshman and sophomore will be the highest-scoring such players who did not receive overall all-star trophies. Scoring awards will be determined by (tossup) points-per-tossup-heard with a minimum of 135 tossups heard. All players, even those on schools' second teams, are eligible for the individual awards.

Taping and Broadcast:

Thanks to the generosity of Burnsville Community Television, some of the games played in the South Division (at Burnsville Senior High School) will be taped for later broadcast. Coaches will also receive DVDs of the games in which their team(s) participated.

Every school competing in the Southern Division is guaranteed that its first team will be taped at least once. All students competing in the Southern Division will be asked to sign consent forms.

Some of the playoff games, including the semifinal and final, will also be taped. Participating students will be asked to sign a consent form.

Slightly different rules will be in effect for televised rounds (e.g., how protests are handled, when substitutions are allowed, etc.) These will be announced before the first game is taped.


The matches are moderated by MNHSQB staff, former players, and current college players from various schools around the Twin Cities. There is no requirement (or expectation) that coaches or other high school staff assist with the running of the event. Coaches may follow their teams the entire night; alternatively, they may spend the time grading or catching up on other work. Coaches that are particularly interested in moderating matches may, however, volunteer to do so.


Spectators are welcome to watch any of the games at any of the sites. No prior communication is necessary; just show up!

Question Security:

The long version: This tournament will use questions provided by National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC. We are using a custom set derived from two Invitational Series (#189A and #190) and NAQT's 2019-20 series of Lightning Round sets. We have purchased geographic exclusivity for Minnesota. It is the responsibility of participating teams to make sure that they have not attended (and do not plan to attend) another tournament (anywhere) that is using the same packet sets. Teams can find explanations of geographic exclusivity and their responsibility in maintaining question security on NAQT's website. Teams can also look up the sets assigned to past and future tournaments. Teams with questions about exclusivity or security should contact NAQT at naqt@naqt.com.

The short version: If you never leave the state to play quiz bowl, you have nothing to worry about. If you do, e-mail Robert Hentzel and he'll let you know if you have anything to worry about.

Preparing for the Tournament:

Teams that are completely new to quiz bowl and/or NAQT questions may be interested in purchasing NAQT's New High School Package and in reading its online article about starting a new high school team.

Teams may be interested in checking out the free You Gotta Know articles that give brief overviews of answers that come up very frequently (for example, "You gotta know these French kings."). They may also be interested in subject-specific Power Up packages, subject-specific Thumbs Up question collections, and/or Frequency List study guides.

If you would like to purchase practice material to prepare for the league, please contact Robert Hentzel for advice on which questions would be most appropriate for your team. In particular, the entire set of 21 rounds from the 2018-19 season is available for $53. You can also buy questions from the NAQT website.


The league's policies and long-term planning are directed by its board of directors, a five-person panel consisting of former players, coaches, and league organizers.

Further Questions:

If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact R. Robert Hentzel by e-mail or phone (952.888.2277). Running quiz bowl tournaments and writing questions is his full-time job and there's very little that he enjoys discussing more . . .

Created 2019 October 9 by R. Robert Hentzel