[CQ-Contest] Categorically Speaking...

Jimk8mr at aol.com Jimk8mr at aol.com
Mon Feb 3 11:58:23 EST 2003

In the Janary 29 issue of "The Rate Sheet", Ward, N0AX, poses the question of 
whether there may be interesting but yet unrevealed alternatives to today's 
usual contest structures: 

(note: parts of Ward's article deleted)



Categorically Speaking...

One of the topics that seem to pop up with great regularity lately are
(a) the many definitions of Single-Op and (b) whether using a second
radio (SO2R) warrants a separate category. . . .  Such questions may be an
indication that we are pushing up against an unacknowledged boundary.

Consider that the structures of contests are remarkably consistent. 
Editing QST's "Contest Corral" every month, I have observed that most
are essentially the same.  Each contact, using a fixed exchange,
counts for a certain number of points and may have attributes that
count separately (i.e. -- multipliers).  Total score is points time
mults - throw in the occasional bonus and there you have 99% of

Some contests are thinking "outside the box".  The NA/EU/AP Sprint
format eliminates running on a single frequency in favor of continual
QSY requirements.  The Stew Perry and Gridloc contests use distance
as a scoring tool.  The Internet Sprint passes names between QSOs as
a token.  Worked All Europe has long featured the QTC option.

The intense focus on very fine-grained aspects of definitions and
rules indicates that we are reaching a point of diminishing returns
in contest categories and rules.  I'm not saying that contests are
lacking in challenges, but it seems to me that the existing format is
becoming a little stagnant.

Contesting is absolutely ripe for some new ideas.  Can you think of some?

New rules for scoring a ton
Opens new paths to contesting fun.
Band swaps by the score
Makes your thinker get sore.
It sure beats just pushing F1.


I got an idea.

In the good old days of BC (Before Computers), people submitted "scores".  At 

great effort they added up qso points, counted their multipliers, and 
submitted that information on a summary sheet.  The attached logs were pretty 
much just backup documentation should questions arise.

Today a contester submits an electronic log, most likely in Cabrillo format.  
in that log shows qso points, multipliers, etc.  The log is now just the raw 
material from which the contest sponsors' computers calculate a score.

Since the individual only provides log data, and because the sponsors process 
and score this electronic log data by computer, two significant things have 

1.  There is no longer a need for QSO points to be integer values.  While it 
was hard enough to score by hand, say, an IARU paper log with its 0, 1, 3, or 
5 points QSOs, it would be no problem for a computer to score a log with QSO 
point values of 1.24, 1.77, 2.25,  3.43, etc.

2.  It is not much more work for the sponsor's computer to calculate two (or 
more) scores using different scoring rules.

The most obvious application for this is in CQWW.  People have been 
complaining for years that it's stupid to give 3 points to a PJ2 for working 
North America, but only give 2 points to a station in 8P6 for working same 
guys.  Or that it's stupid to give an EA9 3 points for a 300 mile qso to EA 
while an A61 gets 1 point for a 5000 mile qso to JA. And they are right to 

Traditionally it has been assumed that CQ (or anyone else) would have to 
throw out the old system to take up a new one.  But no longer. Now the 
present system could be continued - "CQWW Classic", if you like - while 
adding alternative ranking systems on the side.   

In particular, for CQWW I would propose a zone & distance based scoring 
system, where qso points are awarded by the formula

             QSO Points = 1+ (distance/3000) 

for distance in miles, from zone center to zone center.

Everything else stays the same - same multipliers, zero points for same 
country qsos, etc.

So from zone 4, for working a VE5 I get one point.  I work a G, it's 2.1, an 
OK 2.3, a JA 3.6, a VK6 5.1 points. (These are rough estimates.) 

So suddenly, there may be a lot more places from which to win the world 
(under this system) than northern South America or northwest Africa.  I don't 
know just where those places are, but it would be quite interesting to find 

Although I picked CQWW due to the managable number of zones and the 
inequities of its present continent based scoring system, the principle could 
be applied to other contests as well.

The multiple scoring system concept need not be limited to solely distance 
based scoring.  Perhaps points could be given also considering "polarity" -  
the extent to which a qso  path passes through the auroral zones, with the 
exact point value depending on the actual A or K indices for the contest 
weekend?  We could finally have VHF contest scoring based on distance, 
including recognition of the fact that a 800 mile sporadic E qso on six 
meters is far easier than a 400 mile tropo qso.  Lots of contests could give 
extra points for working QRP stations that send in logs.  And with all of 
these, there would be no need to throw out the traditional systems. 

If present contest sponsors aren't interested in adopting such alternative 
scoring system, it need not be the end of the idea.  Other groups could pick 
up the ball... the only extra effort on the participant's end would be typing 
a second address in the "Send To:" field when they e-mail their logs.  There 
would be a lot of work to be duplicated at the sponsor end, but that may be 
the price of progress.

There are lots of ways to score contests that would be more interesting than 
the present schemes, which were designed in the paper log era.  And again, it 
is not necessary do eliminate what we have to experiment with something new.

I hope contest sponsors, or others, will consider alternatives.

Jim  K8MR

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