A round-up of recent trivia (February 2017)

[There are 1100 words in this post.]

In recent weeks I have attended a couple of Charity Quiz Nights, invited both times by people who rarely go to pub quizzes, and who watch fewer quiz shows on TV than I do. On both occasions I was invited to add something more to the teams, to try and help them finish higher up the table than they had at previous events.

The first of these nights out was for London-based travelling supporters of the Republic of Ireland football team. It took place in the kind of venue that is often used for wedding receptions, a hotel next to a large pub in Cricklewood. There were 42 teams and we finished third, some way higher than my team-mates had managed before. We were a point away from second place and 7 points away from the winners. The first prize was a lot more substantial than a bottle of champagne or £50 in vouchers: an all-expenses-paid trip to see an Irish qualifying game overseas.

The following day, nursing another brute of a hangover (I blame the 10 pints of Guinness, but thankfully I didn’t sample any of the vodka that we won in the raffle), I contemplated what we could have done differently to win first prize. The simplest thing would have been to have a team member who is good at picture rounds. The first round consisted of 40 photos, 20 of people who died in 2016 and 20 of people who have been in the news recently. As usual with this kind of thing there were 20 images on each photocopied sheet, and each image was only a little bigger than a postage stamp. Someone with better visual recognition would have identified Emma Stone and Scarlett Moffatt (both, thankfully, still alive) and might have recognized the late Terry Wogan from a photo of him as a baby. We knew the now-deceased father and son golfing pair Christy O’Connor Junior and Senior, but might have put their names the wrong way round. We definitely put the Olympic rowing brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan the wrong way round, and couldn’t remember the surname of Radzi from “Blue Peter” (it’s Chinyanganya). If we had got those 8 answers we’d be planning a journey somewhere in Europe for a World Cup qualifying game.

In the other rounds we could have picked up a few points here and there by remembering that Death Valley is mostly in California, or that the spin-off show from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (and also the name of Buffy’s boyfriend) is “Angel”. We might have guessed that the Glomma river is in Norway or that the Yellow River is yellow because of mud, and in answering the question “What flowers are mentioned in the opening line of “My Favourite Things”, from “The Sound of Music”?” I might have written roses, and not roses and snowdrops. Still, we had each had about 6 pints of Guinness by the time the quiz started so we were happy to finish third. The correct answer that pleased me most was to the question, “What is the third book of the Old Testament?” It’s Leviticus, and I’m still disproportionately pleased at getting that one right. (Right now I am unlikely to forget the order of the first five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.)

One Monday night in early February we attended another Charity Quiz Night hosted by “The Sinnerman”, Paul Sinha from “The Chase”. I had never seen the show and didn’t know who he was, so for the last two weeks have had it on Series Record, and watch it with my children, fast-forwarding through the adverts. Until mid-February I had no idea of the format and won’t trouble you with the details here. There have been over a thousand episodes of “The Chase”, and its presenter Bradley Walsh recently announced that it’s the most-watched quiz show on TV, bar none. (My main reason for not watching the show previously is, simply, time. I watch most episodes of “Pointless”, on catch-up, “Who Dares Wins”, “Mastermind”, “Only Connect” and “University Challenge” and feel that I am already at saturation point. That’s why “Eggheads”, “Two Tribes” and “Hive Minds” rarely feature in my viewing habits, and now that I have added “The Chase” to the mix I wonder if something else will have to give.)

The questions that Paul Sinha set that Monday night at the start of the month were excellent, mostly in two parts to double your chances of getting them right. We came second, by a point, and there were plenty of answers we could have guessed differently which might have given us the win. There were only three rounds of questions: general knowledge, the EU and animals. Our EU round let us down, 11 points where we could probably have got 15. Here are four questions we got wrong:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart International Airport serves which city?
Which is the nearest EU capital city to London, only 199 miles away?
In which country was the original Louvre Museum? (It’s also the largest country in the EU.)
In which German city was the TV programme “Auf Wiedersehen Pet” set?

We answered as follows [with the correct answers in square brackets]:

Vienna [Salzburg]
Amsterdam [Brussels]
Germany [France, and I knew it was France: France is the biggest country in the EU, simple as that.]
Munich [Dusseldorf]

It was, primarily, just a bit of fun, but it would have been nice to get that extra point and at least share first place.

Those two quizzes, in very different locations and with very different team-mates prompted me to think about my approach to trivia and why some of us are able to remember the 50 states of the USA and others aren’t. In my case it often comes down to lists. I have spent decades going through lists of information, from the weekly singles charts that occupied so much time in my childhood to lists of Oscar winners in my late teens to God knows how many internet-based lists in the last 20 years. I still do it when prompted by a question on a show like “Pointless” or “Who Dares Wins”. Over the last month I have looked up, among other things, lists of Commonwealth Countries, National Parks in England and Wales and Nobel Prize-winners for Economics. It’s conceivable that you could pick up all this information as you go about your day-to-day life, reading the papers, watching the news, devouring shelves full of fiction and non-fiction, but without lists and mnemonics how are most of us to know the names of all the countries in the EU, or who won the Booker Prize in the 1980s?


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