There's A Rock Paper Scissors Tournament In New Hampshire

Jan 23, 2015

Rock, paper or scissors: which will you choose?
Credit Mark Turnauckas via Flickr/CC - http://ow.ly/HR2Y2

The Super Bowl is still some time away, but there's plenty of competition taking place in New Hampshire - most notably the Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament at the Derryfield School on Sunday, January 25th.

To get a preview, All Things Considered talked with Ben Dougherty, Head of Upper School at Derryfield, and Jack Miron, a Derryfield sophomore who's organizing the tournament.

What was it that convinced you that New Hampshire needed its own Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament?

Miron: I've always been interested in strategy games, and Rock, Paper, Scissors, while looking simplistic or random, is actually not. There's a lot more strategy than it appears at first glance. To do well, you either have to be very lucky or a good strategist.

What kind of strategy do you use as you approach an opponent?

Miron: You really don't play the game when you're doing Rock, Paper, Scissors; you play the person you're up against. Many people believe there's a 33 percent chance of any particular throw turning up, but, depending on who you're playing, those probabilities aren't actually right.

You can give yourself a playing advantage if you successfully figure out what the other player will throw in advance - I think it's called Sicilian Reasoning, as seen in "The Princess Bride," where you go through as a series of if you know that I know that you know you're going to play this, and trying to think it through that way. You can practice and actually get better at playing Rock, Paper, Scissors if you pick up a little strategy.

There's clearly a teachable moment in this game. There's psychology, interpersonal dynamics...

Dougherty: It certainly seems so. I think Jack's understanding of it is well beyond mine. I got to participate as we held our final championships here at the school - I got to jump up and represent the faculty and compete against a student. I think it took four throws for me to be out.

This has really been a student-driven initiative. Jack and his group of student volunteers have led this really from the creation of the idea to facilitating the actual event. Lucky for us, there's no governing body that I know of, at least in New Hampshire, for Rock, Paper, Scissors, so Jack and that group of students get to be malleable along the way and decide how to make things work. It's been a great opportunity, certainly for our students, to take on that leadership role, but also to bring in schools and interests from around the state.

What about the logistics around the state for putting on a tournament like this? Do you have referees for each match? And what constitutes a match?

Miron: I have a team of student volunteers that are going to be refereeing the event, and helping out with other things like selling snacks and other merchandise.

Last year - and what I think we're going to do this year - at the beginning we split up the schools into four smaller groups, which each then do a round robin competition within that group. This is just so everybody has a chance to play, so it's not like you come driving down maybe from an hour away or more and then you're just out after the first round. This way everyone gets to play at least five or six rounds before we start doing the bracket competition.

All the rounds will be best two out of three, except for the final round, which will be getting bigger - up to three out of five or four out of seven.

Any tips you'd give someone who took on an opponent sight unseen? What would you do?

Miron: My go-to move for the first throw would be paper.

That would catch them off guard.

Miron: Right.

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