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What is the Deal with Cut Off Times?

What are Cut Off Times?

First, let us define what cut off times are.  We use a “combined” round approach to many first round events.  For an event with a format of Average of 5, it is essentially like having two phases to the round.

The first phase is a best of two, and those that meet the cut off requirement for that phase can move on to compete in an average of five, which acts as the second phase.  These two phases are combined into one round.  For a Mean format or Best of 3 event, the first phase acts as a Best of 1.

To put it another way, in an average of five, you get two attempts to achieve a time less than or equal to the cut off time at least once. If you do, you get to complete your average, if you do not, you only do those two attempts for that event.

Why Have Them?

The entire reason for having cut off times is to speed up the event for the purpose of scheduling.  When we hold competitions in smaller markets, we try to make the cut off times very relaxed or remove them altogether.  With less competitors to get through, we have more time to work with in the schedule.  It also can act as a bonus for competitors attending a smaller market competition, and perhaps act as motivation for others to travel to the competition.

When we get to bigger markets with over 50 competitors, this approach becomes impossible. We often don’t use a cut off time for events like 2x2x2 and 3x3x3 as they are the most popular events.  New competitors will more often than not start with the 3x3x3 and then learn the 2x2x2.

We don’t like to discourage people from competing, so we like to give everyone a chance to compete in those events.  However, the majority of the other official events can take up a lot of time per attempt if someone is not as serious about those events.

For example, if someone took 5 minutes per attempt to solve the 5x5x5, multiply that by five attempts in an average, and the result is one timer tied up for 25 minutes for one competitor.  Add in multiple competitors per event with several events facing the same situation and you can see that things spiral out of control very quickly.

As a result, the combined round is the answer.  It allows for the more serious competitors to get an average while still providing everyone a chance to compete and set personal best single solve times.

The Blindfolded Conundrum

The 3x3x3 Blindfolded event is a bit of a tricky situation.  We use the WCA recommended format for BLD with a Best of 3 approach.  Under the normal “combined” definition for best of three, one must achieve a certain cut off time in the first attempt.  However, even the best competitors in the world can DNF their first attempt in the BLD event.

In the past, we have used this approach anyway, but ultimately is not the ideal solution. We end up losing many of the top competitors right away who may have otherwise set unbelievable times in subsequent attempts in the round had they advanced. Ultimately, we felt that it required too much of a competitor in a single attempt.

Another option available to us is to use a cumulative approach as outlined in the WCA Regulation A1a2.  It allows for a competitor to be given a maximum time to do all attempts.  While most competitors would use no where near the time limit for all their attempts, another competitor may only get one attempt done in the same duration.

This approach requires added organizing and tracking to implement.  It needs all times, even DNF times, to be recorded.  Then each subsequent attempt must have the sum of all previous times subtracted from the defined time limit in order to determine the remaining duration allowed for that competitor.  Finally, this remaining limit must be provided to the judge in case the limit is exceeded and he or she must stop the competitor.

Our solution is to use the more straightforward approach of a hard cut off as outlined in the WCA Regulation A1a4.

We define a time limit per attempt and if the competitor exceeds that limit, he or she is stopped immediately and awarded a DNF.  However, the competitor is free to try again for all attempts in the round. We use a fairly lenient time, often 6 minutes, for the limit per attempt.

While it may seem like a difficult goal to achieve at first, any competitor that is serious enough about Blindfolded should be able complete at least one of the three attempts with some practice.

What are Some Other Benefits?

We do not feel this format acts as a deterrent for someone picking up an event. It may prevent someone from competing in the event at a one competition, but it usually doesn’t prevent them from starting to practice the event.  In fact, it can act as motivation by providing a tangible goal.

While we can’t always be consistent, we do try to keep the cut off times similar for our competitions so that competitors have a good idea of just how fast they need to get in order to make the cut off. This predictability helps our community get faster as they are all striving to achieve a time below the cut off instead of accepting a slower result.

None of our cut off times require you to be one of the top competitors in the world, or even the country.  They are quite often achievable through a moderate amount of dedication and practice to the event.