The Sunday Indian

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The Sunday Indian

Postby Jane » Sat Jun 16, 2012 8:15 am

Tareque Laskar of The Sunday Indian has written this lovely feature on the World Quizzing Championships:


Tareque Laskar subjects himself to the trial by trivia that is the World Quizzing Championships, and lives to tell the tale!

In a provocative little passage from the recently departed Ray Bradbury’s classic work Fahrenheit 451 the fireman Guy Montag (who burns books for a living) is told by his superior, Captain Beatty, the philosophy of this new dystopian society – “Give people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals…Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of facts they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking.”

The dumbing down of modern society remains a concern, just as much if not more today as when Bradbury wrote this. But, somewhat paradoxically, the very act of recalling facts or variations thereof – the ‘sport’ of quizzing – remains the last curious thinker’s sanctuary. And preserving these precious last patches of intellectual real estate is what the International Quizzing Association (IQA) which hosts a unique event, the World Quizzing Championships (WQC), wants to do. Curiosity may have proverbially been fatal to the feline but it is the spark that keeps humanity going. Says Giri ‘Pickbrain’ Balasubramanium, one of India’s most recognisable and loved quiz master to TSI, “Quizzing is the most enjoyable way for anyone to transcend from being ignorant to informed. Given the pace at which the world is changing, continuous learning is a must and quizzing can be a great catalyst to trigger that.” Sadly, it is an arena still seen as the preserve of socially awkward nerdy stereotypes.

Dr. Anurakshat Gupta, the Asia Director and founding member of the IQA is clearly not pleased by how quizzing’s narrative arc has progressed in India, “We are very far away from the days of QuizTime of late 80s – instead of progressing, we seem to be content with inane questions like ‘Who is the mother of Kareena Kapoor – Anil Kapoor or Babita Kapoor?’ For a nation that prides itself on being a knowledge hub, that is just downright insulting.” He hopes that an initiative like the World Quizzing Championships, an almost exclusively volunteer driven endeavour, where since 2004 (the first edition in 2003 was held in Britain only), quizzers around the world sit down and attempt the same set of questions at the same time and just play for pride could help address the slide. Perhaps, television could provide the critical push. He says, “Our mission is to bring the World Quizzing Championships to television and to have quiz recognised as a mind sport.” He has quite a point considering the response the upcoming season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) is getting already. He cites KBC and the success of unheralded participants (such as homemakers) as evidence that “the fear of not doing well in (quizzes) keeps away some who would actually do very well in them.”

At its heart, the WQC is about building community. Recalls Jane Allen, another founder member and the Managing Director of the IQA, “The moment that I knew the World Quizzing Championships was going to become something very exciting was in 2004, at the end of our second WQC event. I was on the phone with my colleague, Steven De Ceuster, in Belgium and I could hear the scores being given out. I heard them clapping and cheering when their highest scoring competitor’s name was read out. But then I heard the scraping of chairs on the floor as they all got to their feet and cheered when they were told the winning score – despite the winner being English and not Belgian. I thought at that moment that we were creating a very special community of people who all respect one another’s knowledge. I’m very proud of what we’re building.” Your writer took the quiz and while he was placed a dismal 960th in the world rankings, that didn’t at all dampen the excitement of the feeling of competing against some of the best in the world. Allen explains, “Like any sport, there are people at the top who are very good. But not everyone can ‘bend it like Beckham’, and that doesn’t stop thousands of people playing at a friendly level, enjoying themselves and trying to get in the worldwide top – 1000. One thing we’re particularly proud of is that people of manifestly different abilities participate in the IQA World Quizzing Championships (just as they do when playing in pub quizzes). We have players scoring less than half the winner’s total but they still love the experience of rubbing shoulders with the world’s best.” She believes that quizzing, and in particular the WQC, is not elitist because “how many other World Championships welcome all comers, with no requirement to pre-qualify?”

The championships involve a worldwide simultaneous written quiz which has 240 questions spread over 8 sections (like Entertainment, History, Science, Sports etc.) with the highest seven being taken into account to calculate your score. In the 2012 event, Jesse Honey, a 34-year-old Londoner, who sets questions for an ITV show called The Chase for a living, walked out the winner managing 186 points out of a maximum possible of 210 (your writer scored a measly 56) dethroning the reigning champ, Pat Gibson. With about 2000 quizzers giving the WQC a go in 36 countries this year, Allen points out that the social aspect of quizzing is what makes the sport unique. “Quiz has to be one of the most sociable of any competitions you can think of. Where else do you compete with opponents in a bar over a drink, and then enjoy conversations sparked off by how you played?” she says. She believes quizzers the world over are alike because “the unifying factor about quiz is the hunger for knowledge, and happily, that exists all over the world. Styles of quizzing differ from region to region, but there are a lot of people out there who are competitive and who love learning. I’d love to see knowledge being celebrated.”

Dr. Gupta believes that “quizzing is all about a smarter way to process information. It is cool to be clever and it is something that we must celebrate.” And as a hobby, quizzing has a potential for real impact too. Says Giri, “I was with a HR head of a leading corporation and he said ‘I had to choose between two very similar candidates recently and I took my decision in favour of the girl who had a quizzing interest and background, for I thought she would be more open to new information and learning’.” As long as initiatives like the WQC and employers like these are around, looks like we’ll not be getting around to burning books anytime soon. ... /23/36387/

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