Stansted airport, Monday morning, 3:38am. I spent the night at the airport and the security just drove me away from the more or less good piece of floor where I tried to get to get my second hour of sleep. Looking at the tab of Cambridge IV, I just recognised that Madlen and I actually were one point farther away from the break than we had hoped for. Does that sound like a successful weekend? It was, I can tell.
Cambridge IV is pretty much a tournament one would attend to be competitive and collect a lot of points in the rounds. With 132 teams it is one of the largest tournaments out there. Moreover, the shiny name “Cambridge” promises some extra prestige to those who make it into the out-rounds. At the same time it is a British tournament, so nobody would go there for the variety in subsistence or the comfort of floor space crash.
This year’s edition was no different on these measures, but there were a lot of small things that made it better. The organisers had put a lot of effort into making everyone feel welcome. Our host who provided us crash was really nice, we got some food between the rounds and paper at the beginning. Moreover, the tab team and the CAs ran the tournament excellently. Most of the rounds started on time which is an outstanding achievement for a tournament of this size.
Yet, this would not have rescued my debating soul if I had gone there immune to any other joy than success in the competition. Indeed I got to know the danger of mistaking my rank on the tab as a proxy for how much I like the tournament. I have seen more than enough competitions and generic university rooms around the World. WUDC is coming up soon. So what would be the point of a tournament if not the success of beating other teams?
Cambridge should introduce me to the spiritual side of debating. I never quite realised that going to a tournament is a sort of pilgrimage. It means going to a different place to worship the same religion of arguments. Very much like believers enjoy the company of their fellows, there is a sort of spiritual enjoyment among debaters when they meet up with people that just think alike (and read the same articles in The Economist). At the Cambridge IV 2013 this became obvious. The famous chamber itself is like a church where people sit around to watch the debate as if they were watching some kind of sacred ritual in a congregation. The speakers’ table is like a shrine of logical argumentation when it holds the notes for the best debaters in the final.
So as someone who is a very strong believer in the debate-cult, Cambridge this weekend very much felt like the place where I belonged. As we left the station we would bump into people that were there for Cambridge IV. We found the charming little college town very much a place that was filled with friendly fellow debaters. The excellent rounds in the narrow old rooms of the Union Society buildings reinforced that feeling of community among the very international crowd. Teams from Alaska to Malaysia just came to take part in the ritual that climaxed in an excellent final between teams from Hart House (Toronto), Yale, Harvard and St Andrews. A traditional black tie social should wrap it up and we debaters would mingle and enjoy the times together. This is how we roll in debate-land.
From this view point the not-breaking is relative. The teams who broke at Cambridge were excellent to watch and each debate was intellectually stimulating. Madlen and I got to speak (or rather got to worship the god of arguments) in the Union Chamber in the in-rounds, which really is a great honour. Everything was nicely organised, there was really nothing we could complain about. Cambridge is charming, and I rarely remember bumping into so many nice people in one place.
Stansted airport at 4:47am? Still not comfortable, but totally worth it. There are just too many good memories in my mind not to smile at that time of the day.
Tournament Data: The Cambridge IV 2013
15th-16th November 2013
CA Team: Harish Natarajan, Danique Van Koppenhagen, Ashish Kumar, Douglas Cochran, Pam Cohn
Winners: Lund A (ESL), St Andrews A
R1: This house would give primates (e.g. monkeys) and cetaceans (e.g. dolphins) the same rights to life, freedom from physical harm, and freedom of movement as humans.
R2: This house believes that developed countries should set maximum rents for residential properties in large urban centres.
R3: This house believes that, despite the expressed wishes of the Pakistani government, the United States should continue to target the leaders of Tehrik-i-Talibani (Pakistani Taliban).
R4: This house would break up banks, like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and HSBC, that are deemed ’too big to fail’.
R5: This house would ban religious charities from engaging in proselytisation
Main Quarter: THBT Republican & Democratic parties should select House, Senate, Presidential candidates by vote of leaders rather than primaries
Main Semi: Instead of creating a Jewish state in the British Mandate of Palestine, with the benefit of hindsight THW have created a Jewish state in Germany
ESL Semi: THW prevent those who deny climate change from seeking political office
ESL Final: THBT it should be the policy of the United States to conduct all of its military interventions unilaterally
Grand Final: THBT it is in the West’s interests for Assad to decisively win the Syrian civil war.
Stefan Zweiker / apr / msi