Reading a KCBS Score Sheet

Score Sheet

How to improve reading scores

One of the things that I love the most about a competition of the KCBS circuit is the principle of competitiveness on which it was created. I see a lot of American philosophy in this. Every year there are 450 events in the US alone over all those in the rest of the world. At the end of each, the Reps who are called to preside must enter scores into a proprietary system that automatically updates the standings. In whatever country I’m competing, I am able in a few hours to know if I gained positions on general or on individual categories and how was my direct opponent who may at the same time be competing in another country.

If you ever tried to follow a stars and stripes sport, like basketball or football, you know well the American establishment to numbers. There is a statistic for everything, a data measuring anything, an avalanche of crossings of information that allow you to evaluate a performance under any point of view. You might want to know if the triples scored by Stephen Curry in a game are more than those who usually sticks with that particular opponent, or what is the fourth in which he’s used to be more prolific or if his rate of improvement is higher or lower than that of his opponents, or even if there is a direct correlation between his grades and the number of triples. The analysis in all, in sport as in life, is needed to do better than what we did the day before.

The most obvious implementation of this concept in the world of competitive barbecue is called Score Sheet, a collection of a dozen sheets, bearing data expressing what was your performance of that day and that is given to each team immediately after the awards. Unfortunately we do not have much in our habits this approach to the competition and what I see in most cases is to stop at what is written on the page that shows the overall position. At best it may be to to see the individual rating of the category in order to then possibly complain of received judgments. And it’s a shame because those papers are worth their weight in gold, and contain everything you need to be able to improve. More than a masterclass. Moreover for free.

Let’s take a look together at a score sheet, if you like. What I have fished from the desk is from last September at Brixia of Brescia. Let’s make a point about what we expected: we did a decent chicken, bark definitely too browned in spots but acceptable. We did experiments on ribs which we presented for the first time: Bah! All to evaluate. Other times we did a better pork but still good. Same thing on the Brisket: sometimes definitely better, but good.

The first sheet is the summary of your day performance and is the most important one.

Score Sheet

As the first parameter I look at the judgment over the table. It ‘a parameter which is often considered as insignificant, but in a relative sense it can give us useful informations. A good positioning on the table can intuitively be a good result or not depending on the average quality on it. Let’s take two categories as example: Chicken and Ribs. In the chicken we placed second on the table and third on Ribs. But if we look at the sheet of detail category, we can see that our table number (311), removing the category winner, includes lower than eleventh place teams and that those same judges gave no less than 5 points difference between our chicken and the one who came first. If we look at the Ribs, our table (650) comprised 5 teams in the top 11, including the second and third place. The ribs table was definitely higher average quality. I know you might think that one gets the score eh have to get taking and then consider the placing on the table is irrelevant but it is not. The judges like everyone else, are human beings and their judgment is always relative. As we strive to be not so, in the midst of so many good dishes, our one stand out much less than it would in the midst of mediocre dishes. So in this competition we probably had more room for improvement on the chicken than on the ribs, although it had a better table positioning.

Score Sheets Pollo
Score Sheets Ribs

The second parameter is the severity of the judges. If you notice, for each category, under the score, are compared the total score given by the judge with the average vote that that judge has maintained throughout the competition. We can consider a judge as severe, if his average drops below 30-31. In our case, we can not speak of particularly severe judges both in the case of the chicken and in that of the ribs. The Brisket table was rather a bit more “complicated”, with two 31 and 28. In any case, both for chicken and for ribs generally our score was above the average kept by the judges. This tells us that if something did not work it has been solely because of us, and certainly not because it happened on the wrong table. Some fear more there could be for the brisket.

The third parameter is the distribution of votes. As we all know, the three elements of judgment by the judges (appearence, taste, tenderness, although I think it would be more correct to speak of “consistency”) are applied to different coefficients of contribution to the final score. A good score in appearence will contribute to the score much less than what will happen with the taste. This means getting a bad grade on that latter will be much more serious. Let’s pretend that this factor does not exist and we add up the scores to the various parameters given by the judges. Score Sheets C. CardConsidering 54 as the highest score (9 x 6 = 54), we take the chicken category: the sums give appearence = 47,  taste = 51, tenderness = 50. In the Ribs category appearence = 50,  taste = 51, tenderness = 51. The level our ribs was pretty consistent, can be raised but we did not obvious mistakes. Instead, our chicken has a significant gap in appearance. But we already knew that from this point of view we had some blame. It is further confirmed by a comment card that was attached. If we look at the Brisket, scores appearence = 50, taste = 47, tenderness = 48, would appear there were problems both on taste and consistency. But it clashes a bit with what were our expectations, which we try it to be the most objective possible. In the past it happened sometimes to have a tenderness not perfect but the taste has always been our workhorse on the brisket. So let us understand. If we look, three of the five 7 received are related to two of the three judges with a low average score therefore particularly severe. On six judges, four were given a higher rating their average of the day and the two remaining, one in particular has cost us a lot with four points below. Ultimately we had a quite severe table, to which was added a judge in particular to which our Brisket just did not like at all. Happens, things have to be put in quotation when you participate in barbecue competitions but from this judgment we can not really draw conclusions that lead us to call into question something of our Q.

The fourth and final parameter is the score. This value can be interpreted in an absolute and relative sense. We take again the example of the ribs. We tend to give us an absolute score goals on which to rely, and in the case of the ribs is to reach at least 170 points out of 180. However, this parameter must always be evaluated in a relative sense. To understand, if in a competition there were many judges indulgent, the average score of the competition is high and the lowest score is 165, taking 170 is not a great result. In this case we had a quite average scores competition, ranging from 150 to about 175. We finished sixth with 169 points, slightly below our goals. We are part of a rump of teams enclosed from eleventh to fifth place in two points. There are two teams two points above and then a further two, 4-5 points above. With the two points we can rest, the four or five instead denote a difference that goes beyond the single episode.

Score Sheets Meat

In conclusion: with ribs we had a consistent work, with no obvious flaws, but if we want to get to the “top” level we must work on all aspects, starting from taste and tenderness. On the chicken we made an obvious error related to appearence aspect but even net of this we still have a gap towards the firsts. With brisket we ran into an unlucky day, it can happen, and sometimes it happened the other way around. It only remains to work on our lacks and try to improve.

You instead, what do you need to still improve? Take one Score Sheet that we can see it together.

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