Attack of the Killer Bs

May 3, 2013 in Quizzes

As always, I welcome guest posts here on the site, especially if covering things I missed.  Today, question writer, Presidential advisor, future TV star and, most importantly, member of the Irish quiz team, Paddy Duffy takes us through his experiences at last weekend’s Celtic Nations Quizzing event in Edinburgh.

bee_movie_109In one form or other, I’ve been quizzing for about 18 years. I’ve done GAA table quizzes in pubs with a disconcerting amount of other 10 year olds, I’ve done gameshow-style events for youth work residentials, I’ve done inter-faculty competitions and I’ve written the odd question for television.

So when my old friends and collective quiz Obi-Wans (John Nolan, Mike and Michelle Coyne) started talking about going international, I was all over it like acetylsalicylic acid in H20.

So several months after essentially being a lone ranger at Hot 100 events, I thought the Celtic Nations in Edinburgh would be a good way to test myself against the great minds of the islands and flex the old world ranking in a team for the glory of the country.  You know, take that No. 32-in-the-world ranking out for a spin to see what it could do. It turns out though that this keen mind was less Sherlock Holmes and more Maxwell Smart. Hubris will always get you in the end. Hubris, and Barry off Eggheads.

It all started off so well in the pub the night before, where spirits were high, in both atmospheric terms and in our bloodstreams. That night I managed back to the hotel successfully despite the three sheets and the wind in my way. It was to be the last thing I would get right for quite some time.

Our first game was against the Scotland team, where Mike, Dave McB, John G. and I held our own up until round the halfway mark when I had a catastrophic lack of judgement and chose country music questions for the team. With Garth Brooks’ grinning face flashing before my eyes as I tried to think of Hank Williams backing group, I flamed out on all of them, and despite the best efforts of the team it went downhill from there.

There was something a bit merciless about the format. You’d choose two topics of three questions, and it was all but impossible to tell just how difficult they’d be before you did. If you got it wrong, the other team had a chance to steal, meaning a few unfortunate choices could make for very asymmetrical scores. And inevitably, after you got three stinkers that the other team stole, they would then choose three questions you could answer strung up by your ankles.

Scotland and sod’s law giving us an almighty hammering in the first round, we ran the Welsh much closer in the second match, Dave Murphy rotating in for Mike this time, with a perfect score in the final round (topic – Euro snacks) to win. We first identified some kind of pickled shark meat or other was Icelandic, and after a bit of back and forth decided caponata was Sicilian. All we had to do was identify the provenance of manchego cheese. Despite saying “La Mancha” and “Castile” at separate points, I couldn’t string the two together, and that was the end of that. But hey, 100% record, right?

B-team-v-Wales

Close run thing: Ireland B v Wales B

The chastening experiences weren’t to end there. Even though I missed many howlers my score in the individual quiz was enough to get me joint-9th place among the Irish. The top 8 gained points for the team. Oops. But, in my defence, I did get a question about sex toys right. Things went better in the social quiz, where we finished in the top five and there were a few questions about politics and music (Duran Duran and Khachaturian in the same round, that’s more like it!) which kept the kettle of my confidence with enough water in it so that it wouldn’t explode and set bits flying everywhere.

It would soon take a knock again though when John Nolan got his buzzers out (not a euphemism) and I would fundamentally forget the rules to University Challenge. I thought we were doing a four teams of two blitz format, not the other way round, meaning I ended up buzzing in for questions our side could have heard to its completion. Oops.

The following morning, with the top 4 scorers outside the A team forming the B team, I was rotated out and watching the return leg against Scotland from the sidelines. Inevitably, the first round out of the draw was US Presidents, one of the few things I could have actually helped with. This happened quite a bit, as I knew that the Isabella Stewart gallery was in Boston, and that Hoxha was Albania’s communist standard bearer. Sod’s law is a prick.

Not that it would have made much material difference, as with The Chase’s Anne Heggerty rotated onto the B team they were basically impregnable. Some degree of honour was restored however in the final match of the day, as instead of a C match for Wales v Scotland we convened in three table quiz teams to take on Lorcan Duff’s devilish questions in a different format. An inter-alphabetic Irish team of David Lea, John O’Sullivan, Ger Slattery and a nice woman from Leeds called Margaret was formed. We won by two, with some terrific team answers, with David’s knowledge of the NBA (I’d never heard of Metta World Peace before then, in fact I’m not sure I still have), John’s knowledge of James Joyce’s cinema business, Margaret’s physics expertise, and my extensive mental database of German green campaigners. Ger too pulled out a terrific answer by correctively identifying The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. Except, I didn’t realise that was the title, and thought Ger was having a stream of consciousness attempt to eek the answer out. Proving my worth to the end there.

After a chastening experience like that, you can go one of two ways really: you can either be completely demoralised and never take part again, or redouble your efforts and try and improve on it for next time, perhaps where there are more countries involved.

The Euros are in Liverpool later on this year… and I’d quite like to take on the Belgians in an international fixture.

Thanks again to Padowan Paddy for the article. If you’d like to try Lorcan Duff’s devilish questions yourself, you can! Just click here: Celtic-Nations_LD_questions.xlsx.

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