[CQ-Contest] Don't Try This At Home

Richard Norton ae327 at lafn.org
Mon Jul 20 12:19:55 EDT 1998

Periodically this reflector is subjected to well-intentioned
advice about CQ-ing stations signing their callsigns after
every QSO. 

Managing a pile-up by judicious callsign rationing is an
advanced operating technique that, if executed properly, can
squeeze a few extra contacts out of an operating period. Since
small differences in operating skill rarely affect contest
outcomes, many contests can be won without ever mastering such
skills. In fact, most entrants are rarely in situations where
such action even matters.

However, there are advantages to not signing after every QSO.

1) If you can make another contact without signing your call,
the time you would have used to sign the call can simply be
used to make additional contacts.

2) By keeping some potential callers off balance until they
know who you are, you may be able to reduce the size of an
excessively large pile-up to a size where you can copy

3) There are a number of highly-skilled operators with small
signals. If these individuals sense that you will allow their
skill to get them through, ahead of competitors with bigger
signals, they will stick around, trying to work you. If they
sense that you are a plain-vanilla operator, signing your call
every time and then working the loudest station, they will go
away since they know how weak they are.

4) If you are a common CQ-ing station, many S&P'ers will call
you only once. When two stations reply, and you finish the
first contact extremely rapidly, and give the second station
the impression that you know he was there, he may call again,
even if you completely missed his callsign.

There is a downside, in that you may cause other operators to
take actions that may lower your rate. Certain operators may
feel that their superior stations and/or favorable locations
entitle them to know your callsign where their identification
skills and experience are not advanced enough to determine it,
or enough about you to know whether to call, without hearing
you actually sign it. They may QRM your weak, target stations
by sending, "Call?" They may work you without knowing your
call, which of course, is usually only bad if they are

There is considerable skill involved in maximizing the
benefits while minimizing the liabilities incurred.

The callsign-signing decision may change after every contact.
Factors that may impact the individual decisions include:

1) Do you already know the callsign of another station in your

2) How many people are tuning the band listening, and what
percentage of them have already worked you? Have you made 10
or 5000 QSO's on the band?

3) What is your signal like in your target area?

4) Is your call EE5E or KH5K/JQ9YXJ/M?

5) Do you have an overall picture of what is going on in your

     5a) Can you say something like, "There are now 5 or
     6 calling, and 3 or so have been there for some
     time. There have been no new additions to the pile-
     up during the last few contacts?" 

     5b) Or, can you say, "One weak guy, with a long
     call, has been here for a while. He sends fast and
     always zero beats the last station. Maybe I can
     sneak him through." 

     5c) Or, are you simply struggling to copy callsigns, and            
     therefore unaware of your pile-up structure?


If you feel that the callsign should be signed after every
contact, this strongly indicates that your operating skills
have developed to the stage where you should indeed sign your
call after every contact. 

However, when you give unconditioned advice to others
suggesting that they absolutely always do the same, note that
you are primarily broadcasting your skill level rather than
giving good counsel. 


Dick Norton, N6AA   N6AA at CQWW.COM

CQ-Contest on WWW:        http://www.contesting.com/_cq-contest/
Administrative requests:  cq-contest-REQUEST at contesting.com

More information about the CQ-Contest mailing list