With Andrew Axtell and David Brownman, I’ve put together some analyses of data provided by the International Quidditch Associationto explore differences in team performance, assess different gameplay strategies, and predict outcomes of regional and national tournaments.

For those familiar with the game of Quidditch found in the Harry Potter series, “Muggle Quidditch” is an interpretation of the same game played on many college campuses worldwide. While it’s participants aren’t able to fly on magic brooms, collegiate players have attempted to retain as much resemblance to the fictional game as possible:

  • There are 4 positions on the field (Keepers, Chasers, Beaters, and Seekers), each responsible for managing one of three balls (Quaffle, Bludger, and Snitch).

  • Goals are scored by throwing the Quaffle into one of three upright hoops.

  • When hit with a bludger a player is “knocked off” their broom and must recover.

  • A successful catch of the Snitch by a Seeker ends the game and provides his or her team with a large boost in points.

This attempt at a faithful recreation of the fictional game of quidditch produces an event that is not just whimsical, but also features a number of quirks that make it distinct from many standard games. Namely, by virtue of the snitch catch:

  • Matches must end with a swing in the point total for one team.

  • The total time to complete a match varies widely.

When combined with the chaos of two balls being thrown around the pitch continuously (the Quaffle and Bludgers), Muggle Quidditch lends itself to some fascinating questions on how the game operates and whether established approaches to sports statistics remain informative.


On the “randomness” of snitch catches:

On employing an Elo rating system for Muggle Quidditch:

Elo-based team rankings:

World Cup tournament performance probabilities:

World Cup 10 preview: