The bee will no longer have a second written spelling and vocabulary test that was used to help determine the finalists. The test was unpopular partly because spellers could be eliminated without getting a word wrong onstage. Kimble said that could confuse TV viewers, left to wonder why a favorite speller was suddenly gone.And the (easier) Championship Word List is dead. Instead, per a new FAQ:
This year, there will be up to 50 spellers competing on the last day, and all will be considered finalists. The morning rounds will continue until there are about 10 left. Then, the competition will pause before returning for the prime-time finale.
Finally, the bee will scrap use of a list of words from local and regional bees in the first onstage round. Last year, only four out of 283 spellers got words wrong in that round, prompting former speller Jacob Williamson to call the round "pointless." This year, words will be drawn from a list given spellers after they've qualified for the national bee. And words in the following round won't be given to spellers in advance.
In previous Finals, Bee officials matched words to the mettle of spellers on a round-by-round basis except for the head-to-head portion of competition. During the head-to-head portion, the Bee offered only words from a special list of 25 words compiled specifically for head-to-head competition purposes — this in accordance with contest rules. For purposes of clarity, our definition of head-to head competition is any round of spelling involving three or fewer spellers.(Gotta love the confirmation, long coming - at least to me - that such round-by-round calibration was occurring on the fly before.)
In this year's Finals, Bee officials will match words to the mettle of spellers on a round-by-round basis, including the head-to-head portion — this in accordance with 2016 contest rules
And so the competition will not end until there is one winner, unless: "If one champion fails to emerge at the conclusion of 25 consecutive rounds of competition involving three or fewer spellers, the remaining spellers in the competition will be declared co-champions."