The quest for knowledge, the quest for the unknown that is known – this is what drives quiz enthusiasts and quizzing, especially when they mix it with intrigue, suspense, surprise, wonder and entertainment. And, of course, the joy of hitting the right answer.
All these elements were in abundance at the Neil O’Brien DI Open Quiz for the Errol Cowper Trophy held on May 12 at Indoors@DI. The golden edition of one of the most popular quiz events in the region had as many as 57 teams participating, comprising school and college students, regular and not so regular groups, and even a couple that formed a team on the spot! There were 19 schools, seven of which had two teams, including La Martiniere for Boys, MB Girls’ School, Our Lady Queen of the Missions, The Heritage, among others.
The names of the non-school teams were amusing: Blind Date, Daylight Robbery and even a Rinku Singh Fan Club (Rinku is the firebrand KKR batsman who hit five sixes in an over during the ongoing IPL). And then there were the quizzing regulars like Inmaniacs, the Shaukeens and The Nexus. Hosts DI too had two teams, ready for the battle of wits and GK.
A distinctly audible buzz of expectation filled the indoor auditorium as the teams registered themselves one by one. Able quiz masters Shouvik Guha and Andrew Scolt were at the helm, ready with their cards and questions. The prelims started exactly at the stroke of 5pm, with Andrew shooting the first set of 15 questions. The opener: Which word meaning ‘a long, open, level area, typically beside the sea, along which people may walk for pleasure’ comes from the Latin word for ‘flattened’ or ‘levelled’? (Answer: Esplanade). Shouvik too had an easy question: Pisa airport is named after which scientist? (Answer: Galileo).
Then followed the seemingly easy ones: The Taj Mahal was the most visited ticketed ASI site for domestic tourists in 2021-22. What was second? (Answer: Red Fort. This answer perhaps drew the most oohs and aahs for missing out on the correct response). Among the hard nuts to crack was: Last month Twitter replaced its blue bird logo with this for a few days. It is the logo for which crypto-currency? (Dogecoin – this was one answer where the quiz master pointed out that the spelling needed to be correct). In 1874, what was created by London bakery, Peek Freans, to celebrate the marriage of the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia to Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria? (Marie biscuits).
The answer sheets were collected at the end of 30 questions in the prelims. The back-up team, comprising members of DOB&A, did a good job of handling the registration desk, displaying the questions, collecting the answer sheets, correcting them, keeping score and seeing overall that order and rules prevailed over chaos and mismanagement. While the prelim points were being tallied, the quiz masters asked the questions for the audience to answer. Several among them enjoyed slabs of chocolate with the right responses, even as members of the teams did fist pumps each time they knew they had scored.
Before the last two answers were given out, well-known quizmaster and household name for his association with the Bournvita contest Derek O’Brien recalled the history of quizzing in Kolkata, for that matter in the country, going back to 1967. That was when the first open quiz was held by his father Neil O’Brien at the Church of Christ the King premises at Park Circus, forming a tradition that spread and a legacy that followed. “The DI Open was first held in 1970, organized by my father. Two years later, Francis Groser assembled the first Calcutta Summer Invitation Quiz at the Grail Club. Errol Cowper was a member of one of the leading teams and a keen enthusiast, leaving a mark on the quizzing circuit.”
A welcome development coincided with the 50th edition of the DI Open quiz. Enthused by the significant response from schools, Derek announced: “The school team scoring the highest points will get a scholarship of Rs 10,000, that is, Rs 2,500 for each of the four members in the team.” The prize seemed to fill a void in the school-level contesting arena, where sports and cultural events usually get preference.
Though no school team could enter the next level, two topped the preliminary stage with 13 points each. The QMs held a tiebreaker by eliminating the team that made a mistake first in the order of questions. Modern High School A pipped La Martiniere for Boys A on that count. “We were thrilled, though we should have scored better,” said Radhika Mitra, captain of her 4-member team. “Taking part in an open quiz was an amazing experience. We were fortunate to win the scholarship,” she said.
A total of 60 questions were asked to the six teams over 10 rounds in the final stage. One of them was: The number from which another number is being subtracted is known as the what? (Answer: minuend). Then, who was the first to translate the Bhagavat Gita into English and publish it in 1785? (Answer: Sir Charles Wilkins). On November 12, 2017, the CM of West Bengal unveiled a blue plaque at 21, High Street, Wimbledon. Whose London residence was this, during 1891? (Answer: Sister Nivedita). What is Onychophagia? (Answer: commonly referred to as nail biting, it is a chronic condition that is repetitive and compulsive in nature.) Another interesting query was: Why did US distributor Midway change the game’s original name to Pac-Man? (Answer: The original name was Puck Man. They were worried that the word Puck could easily be modified by mischievous vandals into something “ruder”).
Till a little after halfway, the competition was neck and neck between The Nexus, Inmaniacs and Blind Date. But The Nexus surged and finally won the trophy with 125 points, ahead of Inmaniacs by 15. “It’s good to be back with the winning side,” said a happy Samanway Banerjee, leader of the Nexus, who has been quizzing since he was in Class 3. “I was a member of the team that won the DI Open in 2019,” he said. Covid intervened and the quiz was not held for three years. “It was an interesting and well-organised quiz. I especially laud the schoolchildren for coming forward and taking part in an open quiz.” Abhijit Banerjee, a member of the runner-up Inmaniacs team, also agreed that it had been a “nice, balanced quiz, though some of the questions in the prelims were a bit tough”.
It truly was a pleasant evening, competitive as it was enjoyable, both for the participants as well as the audience. The knowledge gained would hold in good stead in future quizzing, felt several students.