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Tips: Tabbing your tournament

If you are running a tournament then the one piece of technology you need and which can completely destroy your event is the tab system. I'm not going to go into the technical mathematical aspects of running a tab. Ten years ago a discussion on tabbing required this because tournaments were tabbed manually (or at best by excel). Now there are systems that handle all that and you just plug in the data.

There are many systems out there and it does vary according to style of debate. Coming from a Worlds Style (BP) format the two I use most often are Tabbie and Cragie tab. Tabbie is a stand alone system which was first developed for Worlds in Singapore and has been used at a number of Worlds and major championships since then. I think it is the best option. However it needs firefox and other programmes installed on your PC. Sometimes that isn't possible. In that case I would always have Cragie tab as a fall back. It is an excel based system so you need excel installed on your pc to run it.

Tabbie Tab System
Cragie Tab

I have had experience running tabs at a number of competitions and if it is your first time using a system then the best advice is to sit down days before the tournament and just play with it using sample data. This is the fastest way to learn.

On the day when running your tournament some tips I have learned (often the hard way)

- If possible have someone sitting at the registration desk to enter the details into the tab system as people arrive.
- All the systems rely on ranking judges. There will be judges you don't know. Make sure they all fill out forms detailing their experience at registration. Also make sure they hand them in. If they take them away from registration you will get about 50% of them back and will be left with several judges you don't know how to rank.
- The system will pair teams based on power pairing (and sometimes brakets) and previous positions. Let it do its thing. Generally it works out over the full length of the tournament and most teams are happy. If someone gets two first props in round one and round two then the best way to drive the system mad and cause a third later on is to move them.
- The system will pair judges based on balanced panels and on avoiding conflicts (i.e. teams meeting their own judges). The two best ways to get conflicts are to start manually moving judges around after the system had done it's thing and hormones. Murphy's law 1 dictates that if a judge and a debater end up together at one of the social events the tab system somehow detects this and puts them into the same room the following day. Make sure to announce every morning if there are any updates to conflicts. It might get a few giggles but it's far less embarrassing than the inevitable walk of shame up to the front of the room after the draw has been posted.
- Running the tab. The key thing is to make sure the tab sheets get back as quickly as possible to the tab room. Also make sure your tab sheets only contain the information you need to enter the results. Extra boxes and form filling only confuses adjudicators and delays returning the ballot.
- At a tournament spanning several days there is a temptation to run and finalise the tab the night before to "speed things up" the following morning and prove how efficient you are. Murphy's Law 2 states that when you do this at least one team and several judges will fall ill and won't be able to make the first debate of the day resulting in manual intervention in the draw.
- Tab systems run quickly but the Murphy's Law 3 states that they always take twice as long to run as you allow on the schedule. Make sure the debaters have something to do to keep them entertained. Show DVDs. Family Guy seems to be a popular favourite.

I'm sure there are other tips and suggestions out there but this article was mainly intended to give an overview (and allow me update the Tabbing link on the right hand side). If anyone wants to post their experience please feel free to comment.

Finally there are other tab system versions out there and I'll list some of these below. However if you are running a Worlds style event then Tabbie is my main recommendation.

Other links
Singapore 04 Tab System
Toronto 02 Tab System
Glasgow 01 Tab System
Sydney 00 Tab System
Manila 99 Tab System
Mark Summers Tab System
Smart Tournament Admin (US)

Sample Tab Sheets (Excel)

EDC Tabbing Forum
Wu Meng Tan's Site
Rich Edwards (US)
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