In the land of the blind

November 30, 2015 in Quizzes

SixLast Friday-week, I had the very unusual experience of being on a table quiz team of six. Normally, six people at a table will result in both open and covert complaints being sent to the quizmaster about the cheaters in the back corner. However, the NCBI are currently running a national* table quiz where that team size is the norm.

I managed to round up five team-mates for the Galway heat of this event, which took place in (handy for those of us who want to avoid city traffic) Claregalway. For a group thrown together in about 24 hours, we did very well. In fact, we almost won!

But we didn’t. :-(

Going in to the eighth and final round, we led by one point. As it was a sports round, several of us felt we should be able to hold on. However, not knowing which golfing legend had recently been appointed US Ryder Cup vice-captain, saw us lose that lead. Our closest opponents had put in a tremendous run, scoring 10/10 in rounds 6 and 7. They then repeated that feat in the final round, and so we were set for a playoff.

The quizmaster announced five extra questions. Good news: we scored 5/5. Bad news: so did our opponents. The final question-to-end-all-questions was “How many rooms are there in Buckingham Palace?” This was meant as a ‘closest to the flag’ question. However, this rule wasn’t even needed as our opponents knew the exact answer!

So that was that. Best of luck to them in the national final, which will take place in the Mansion House, Dublin, on Saturday.
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On top of the Hill: answers

November 24, 2015 in Quizzes

redhills-attendanceHere are the answers to the questions we missed in Cavan on the Sunday-before-last.

First, let’s talk about the question I described as the “greatest fluke ever”. It was “Who wrote ‘The Boy at the Top of the Mountain’?”

None of us had ever heard of it. It wasn’t even ringing the tiniest of bells. No bells in fact. There was silence on the bell front.

Not surprisingly, we all hated the thought of handing in a blank answer so, from what I recall was a piece of desperation, Kevin suggested “Maybe it’s by the guy who wrote ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’…”

Still no recognition from anyone. One of us joked, “Yeah, it does start with ‘The Boy…’. Maybe that’s his thing?”

Anyway, since I did know who that author was, I wrote down his name: John Boyne. Correct-a-mundo!
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On top of the Hill

November 20, 2015 in Quizzes

Redhills-quiz-adI had the good fortune to be asked to join a team featuring three other IQO quizzers last week, for an attempt at the Redhills GAA Club quiz in Cavan. We’d have to have been regarded as favourites, given that the four of us (me, Dan, Kevin and Mark) are all currently ranked in the top 10 of the IQO rankings. So it played out, albeit it was a close-run thing.

The quiz itself took place in the Hotel Kilmore and featured 24 tables facing 10 rounds of general knowledge questions. Well, nine rounds of GK, with a picture round just before the interval.

The quizmaster welcomed us all and spent about five minutes doing something very novel. He explained “the rules”. Most of these were common sense (“No mobile phones”) but some went above and beyond the norm. Firstly, regarding the phones. I’ve been at quizzes before (indeed, I’ve hosted some) where phones had to be put out on the table/in a basket. Here, they provided each team with a large, brown envelope in which our phones had to be deposited and sealed. Yes, sealed. Good job no-one needed to get in contact with me urgently…

Furthermore, he also told us that they answers had to be spelled correctly. Now, that was an annoyance. I’ve always agreed with IQA in their opinion that spelling doesn’t matter so long as it’s clear you know the answer. Spelling can matter, for instance the difference between Burton and Bruton, but in most cases the order of the letters isn’t essential to get across that, yes, you do know the answer. However, once that rule was expressed it tends to put one on edge.

When the questioning began, it did so with brutal force. Clearly the organisers decided we’d all have to really perform here to win the main prize. The opening question was “The use of which device is prohibited in Switzerland on a Sunday?” Whilst we didn’t actually get this one*, unbelievably we did mention the correct answer in our discussions! The first round was one of the tougher ones in the quiz. In fact, at 7/10, it was our joint-lowest scoring round during the quiz.
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EQC: Epilogue

November 15, 2015 in EQC

The European Quizzing Championships are over for another year. Rotterdam was nice, if a bit uninspiring. The hotel venue was excellent all round and was located in an area called Brain Park – surely the most apropriate place for an EQC to take place!

Looking back on the weekend, here are my own personal highs and lows – or at least the ones I can remember at this point.


The venue. The room in which the majority of the quizzes took place took a bit of getting used to. It was built like a capital L (albeit one with equal sides). So, whilst it was a bit odd that quizzers situated away from the top table couldn’t see each other, everyone did have a great view of the quizmasters. Apart from that, if your eyesight was struggling from the back of either wing, there were several screens on each side showing you everything you needed to see. The hotel part was nice too. The food at breaks was bountious and tasty. No quicker way to impress me than that!

A record-breaking Cuban. Possibly the best right answer I’ve ever been involved in. It happened during the Aspirational Cup. I’m afraid I can’t remember the exact wording but the question went something like this: “Ubre Blanca (1972 – 85) became a hero of Cuba when she broke two world records in 1982, acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records. Both of these records were claimed to symbolize the Castro regime’s efforts to modernize Cuba’s economy. When she died she was stuffed and put on display in a climate-controlled glass case. To what did these world records relate?

Well now. Safe to say no-one had a clue, albeit we quickly decided she had to be an animal, given that she only lived for 13 years and, oh yeah, got stuffed and put on display. After that, we were stumped. Dog, horse, pigeon? How would any record set by those animals reflect positively on the country’s progress? Just as the end of the round approached, I obviously reverted to my youth and hit upon the idea that she might have been a cow. Everyone else quickly agreed (how could they not? we had nothing else) as milk production made sense. Sure enough, that’s what it was. You can read more about her record-breaking udders on wikipedia.

uldisUldis. The fates obviously decided that I needed to get to know Uldis Apsalons of Latvia. A charming man, who looks like he’s old enough to be my dad, he was very good company – which is a good job as I ended up sharing a table with him at least once on each day of the weekend! For the Aspirational Cup on Friday, I was already set up on a team with two Scottish quizzers, Neil and Mark. As is the case with quizzes throughout the world, one doesn’t depsair in this case – you figure there’ll always be someone in need of a team. This is exactly how Uldis arrived in to our world. As Latvia’s only quizzer at the EQC, he obviously didn’t have any team mates. Mind you, we mustn’t have looked like we had much potential. After introducing himself and telling us he was from Latvia, he followed with “It’s a small country, near Estonia.” Erm, we know…

Anyway, following that unusual opening to our friendship, we got on very well, undoubtedly benefitting from his Eastern-European knowledge: Moscow University’s incredibly tall tower, several questions on Polish sports stars, anything to do with Olympic Handball, these were just some of the topics on which the other three of us hadn’t a clue.

By random draw, Uldis was also sitting at my table on Saturday morning for the individual, along with two Dutch quizzers, Mike Bax and Michael-Dennis Biemans. The four of us got on well and the event flew by for me. I felt like I was averaging about 7 per round (out of 12). My best was a 9 whilst my worst was a depressing 4. I finished on 58, which had me just inside the top 50 (literally: joint 49th!). Our top man Lorcan came agonisingly close to making the final 10. His 68 points saw him finish in joint 12th (alongside former European champion Holger Waldenberger, amongst others). It was just two points off the top 10. One of the three players who scored that 70 points, Paul Sinha from The Chase, has written a very nice piece on his own site about what it was like to reach the final 10.
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EQC: 2015 photos

November 10, 2015 in EQC

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EQC: Best fifth place ever

November 8, 2015 in EQC

Not for the first time on this site, I will proceed to pen a blog about that most often ignored of finishing positions: fifth place.

After the morning’s exertions in the individual quiz (FYI England’s Olav Bjortomt comfortably retained the title) and an afternoon stroll around downtown Rotterdam (thanks to the world’s speediest tour guide, Lorcan Duff) we reconvened in the venue for the awaited fifth/sixth place playoff between Ireland and the Netherlands.

It was a joy to watch, from an Irish point of view, as initial nerves were steadied by the team getting out in to an early lead and remaining there. It wasn’t the most comfortable game to watch (and indeed live tweet) as the room wasn’t much bigger than the miniumum needed to house the two teams and the officials. Indeed, yours truly had to stand for the duration!


We’ve had close run things before. Here, the boys faced in to the final question set with a 54-48 lead, knowing they only needed one correct answer to secure the win. Personally, I’ve been involved in three matches which were lost on the final set of three. Thus, there was a joy, more beautiful for its rarity, when it turned out that they knew all three of the answers! Suddenly it was over, and fifth place was secured on a comfortable looking final scoreline of 63 to 48.

Congratulations to Lorcan Duff, Mark Henry, Kevin Jones and David Lea for achieving Ireland’s best-ever finish at the European Quizzing Championships! Next year: the semi-finals? No pressure.


After dinner, I joined with Kevin, Mark and Scottish quizzer Galen Chung for the club quiz. This is another table quiz (just like the Nations Cup qualifier) but with no proscription on the makeup of teams. Thus there can be some incredibly powerful groupings in action. Our team, the Celtic Warriors, were in the middle of the pack throughout the night, and that’s pretty much where we finished, in 15th place. Still, we had a lot of fun. It’s nice to have a quiz like the Nations Cup but without the pressure.

Finally, those of us who wanted to, sat the Hot 100 world ranking quiz. That’s EQC for you – a group of quizzers sitting down to do a quite hard paper quiz at 11.30pm. :-)

The pairs event takes place this morning and I intend doing that. Albeit, I don’t yet have a partner. So, excuse me now whilst I head off to the ‘lonely hearts’ club at the front of the main hall, where I will hopefully meet someone else in the same boat…

EQC: Individual quiz morning

November 7, 2015 in EQC

Lunchtime on day 2 of the 2015 European Quizzing Championships and I’m sitting in the main hall, waiting for the finalists in the individual quiz to take to the stage.

Our own Lorcan Duff was almost one of them. The top 10 finishers in the morning’s paper quiz (think: Leaving Certificate) qualify for the final. As you can see here on the official results page, Lorcan’s 68 points was good enough for 12th place – just two points away from the final. So close!

Our results were: J-12th Lorcan Duff (68), J-20th Kevin Jones (64), J-29th David Lea (63), J-45th Mark Henry (59), J-49th John Nolan (58). Just a 10 point gap there between the five of us and I almost caught Mark Henry!

I take solace where I can find it…

Anyway, more to come later, including some questions for you to try.

EQC: A good day 1 for Ireland

November 7, 2015 in EQC

Day one at the 2015 European Quizzing Championships was an undeniable success for Ireland.  At its end, the Irish team stand guaranteed of their highest finish yet in the weekend’s main event, the Nations Cup.

Their 58 points in the opening event, the Nations Cup table quiz, saw Team Ireland finish in sixth place. This qualified them for a playoff against the auld enemy (that’d be Scotland) for the right to take part in tomorrow’s 5th/6th place final.  In a tight match, they emerged victorious by 40 points to 38!

Ireland now faces the host nation tomorrow, knowing that they are guaranteed a record finish for an Irish team – the previous best was 8th.  The Netherlands themselves finished 8th in the table quiz but then went on to surprise 5th place France in their semi-final.

Team Ireland: Kevin Jones, Lorcan Duff, David Lea and Mark Henry.

Team Ireland: Kevin Jones, Lorcan Duff, David Lea and Mark Henry.

Yours truly also took part in the opening table quiz, on a hastily-formed Aspirational Cup team alongside two Scots and a Latvian (the only one here this weekend, alas). Our team, Erasmusbrugh, was in a different league altogether – we scored a pretty disapointing 38, for a 20th place finish. However, under a new system introduced last year in Bucharest, the top 24 teams now get to face the knockout question set. Rather than finding separate rooms (and indeed hosts) for all these quizzes, this new system sees all teams back in the main hall, facing the questions in a table quiz fashion.

Once again, we were way back on what Team Ireland achieved. However, our 24 points was enough to defeat our head-to-head competitors, Levon and the Stokers, in the much-coveted 19th/20th playoff. :-)

Erasmusbrugh: Mark Rae, Uldis Adsalons, Neil McCaskill and myself.

Erasmusbrugh: Mark Rae, Uldis Adsalons, Neil McCaskill and myself.

The night then concluded with a fun quiz hosted by a very funny Dutch lady, from the hosting committee. I’m sorry to say I have forgotten her name but, if I find it out today sometime, I will amend the article.

She presented the quiz in the ‘Dutch’ style, which reminded me nothing so much as school excercise books! One round featured answers where we were already provided with the initial letter and also told how many letters the word included. For another, she provided a list of colours in advance of the questions, telling us that each answer would involve at least one of these. I subbed in for David Lea on the Irish table for this one. We had a good bit of craic but finished down the running, somewhere around 8th place.

This morning sees the day kick off with the Individual quiz qualifier at 9.30am. I’ll report back on how we all got on if I get a free moment around lunchtime. If you’re impatient, keep an eye on the IQO Facebook page, as it will also be getting updates throughout the day. Finally, stats fans can check out the official EQC results page.