Sunday, June 29, 2008

Landmark Pune Quiz 2008 - Report

Date: 28 Jun, 2008
Venue: Nehru Memorial Hall
Conducted by: Derek O'Brien
Turnout: ~250 teams

Open Quiz Final Results
1st: Rajiv Rai, Sumant Srivathsan, Vibhendu Tiwari ('Travelling Pillsburies')
2nd: Anand Sivashankar, Meghashyam Shirodkar, Amit Garde ('Aam Junta')
3rd: J. Ramanand, B.V.Harish Kumar, Niranjan Pedanekar (full name for the effing record!: 'Encyclopiidith: The Factually Harassed')
4th: Suvajit Chakraborty, Sayak, Abhishek ('Symbiosis Law School - Questionable Characters')
Other finalists: 'W.G.Disgrace' (Govind Grewal, Mukund Sridhar, Pradeep Ramaratnam), 'Softwariyaan' (Ramanathan, Abha, Jai), 'Infosys-SHA' (Harshal, Siddharth, Abhik), 'Demon Barbers of Fleet Street' (Venkat, Raj K, Maitreyi)

Best Corporate Team: Infosys-SHA (Pune)
Best College Team: Symbiosis Law School
Best School Teams: 1st: Army Public School, 2nd: Muktangan
Quizzer of the Year: Ramanand (Other finalists: Anand S, Suvajit, Rajiv, Mukund, Ramanathan)

Quizzes like these make you wonder why we quiz. At last year's edition, a mix of curiosity, high stakes, and competitiveness accompanied most of us (it was the first Landmark quiz in these parts, after all). Since then and especially after yesterday, the answer is quite clear: we go to these quizzes for the big denomination vouchers.

For it's hard to derive any pride at doing well at a sub-zero-content quiz where performance can be a function of pure luck. Last year's experience did leave us wise enough to lower our expectations close to -273 degrees K. What we didn't expect was an elimination round of pristine silliness. Several multiple choice questions ("what prevents bad breath better: mint or chewing gum?") left people tossing coins to decide answers. I know I am a jaundiced 'intellectual-quizzer' type who doesn't get the fact that these are populist questions, the answers to which probably everyone in the hall has heard of. But even the least bilious quizzer there would probably agree with me on the almost complete un-interesting-ness of the elims. Whatever good there was, was buried under insipid framing and very little time to ponder.

I am generally in favour of 'pole position' points (i.e. the elims toppers begin with some points relative to their performance so far), but I hate the Landmark system of multiplying the difference by 5. Derek tried to justify this saying this gives the top teams some buffer in case they have a couple of bad rounds. But the magnitude of this buffer almost always completely shuts out the bottom teams, because three rounds later, the bottom two leave. There is no prevention of skew.

Anyway, that was the least of the problems. In several cases, two consecutive questions were either too easy or too tough. Since, a direct-pass system was followed, some teams either made points in quick succession or had little opportunity to do so. I'll admit that my team was lucky in the first half of the team, pushing us into the lead.

We led until the penultimate round. There were four teams left as the round (all connects, and in what would be crucial, 15 points per answer) commenced. We led Aam Junta by 5 points, and Travelling... by about 25 points (IIRC). "Aam Junta" got a question showing a visual of Deepika Padukone. Asked to give a "three word" answer, naturally, they said "Om Shanti Om". They got half for that (taking the lead), while "Travelling Pilsburys" completed the answer to get another 7. We then get the (routine) toughie for that round (Carla Bruni singing, and the arch to Champs Elysees). No one scores. Then "Questionable Characters" get a question with a (very obvious) "BuDDhaa" connect (clip from Navin Nischol's "BuDDha Mil Gaya", muted song from "Sangam", Rakhi Sawant in "BuDDhaa Mar Gayaa" - yikes). They got most of it right, but no halves. TP completed it to get all 15. They then got one of those chestnut-of-chestnuts (the kind that sits on Ravi Shastri's Audi reading "Midnight's Children"): connect the cover of 'Catcher in the Rye' and 'Mark David Chapman'. With that 15, TP made 37 in the round, catapulting them to the lead. We couldn't be blamed for being more than slightly nonplussed as we left the stage :-)

The last (buzzer) round was tight, but TP held on, despite some good answering by Anand for Aam Junta.

There are many words to describe the "brain of pune" round (I had already called it "silly" last time), so perhaps we should just pick 'lousy' and 'atrocious'. 12 questions, each with just two options, such as choosing between "fact or fiction" or "who was born first, Indira Nooyi or Kiran Shaw" or "which is taller, the Qutub Minar or the statue of Christ the Redeemer", +5/-10 (no value for risk). Like last year, I answered just one question right to win, while Anand (and Suvajit) came 2nd by doing nothing, while the rest were fobbed off by the negatives. Simply awful. I'm going to have to lobotomize myself next time if I win.

I suppose we ought not to complain, given the luck we'd had in the elims (some of the elims' 'coin tosses' spun for us) and in the first 2/3rds of the finals (we got some sleepers like the questions on Hollywood, Barack Obama, the by-now cliched 22 yards chain). It's just that different teams got different returns for roughly the same amount of luck. I think most of us finalists were slightly embarassed by what we had just participated in.

On the positive side, there was a good turnout (it was roughly the same as last year, though it seemed greater), and vocal too. We saw some good answers by Aam Junta, and many from the audience (including the Katarias, who were terrific). Derek was more bearable than I have ever encountered, and dare I say, even entertaining with his wisecracks. Last year, we had complained about how none of the teams that finished 4-8 got any prizes, so it was good to see that was not the case this year. Also, credit is due to Landmark for continuing to put together a quiz of this scale in these parts.

But as a quizzer, there was hardly anything to be happy about, bar the mercenary prizes. From what I have heard and read about the Chennai Landmark quiz, they seemed to have struck a balance between populism and asking interesting things. I really don't think it shouldn't be that hard to achieve. The large adoring masses may not have seen better, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be able to "get" better quizzes. I know that some of the smaller quizzes we do on the circuit tend to be insular and tough, but "even" we can see that there's a path in the middle. Perhaps the worst indictment of last year's Pune Landmark quiz was that try as we might, some of us couldn't remember too many of the questions or events of last time (Niranjan even insisted that it was just a two-member event last time :-)). Apart from some of the painful moments, I suspect a similar fate awaits the 2008 Landmark quiz.

Update: 3 July
Anubhav and Vijay have patiently recorded the elims here.


Harish Kumar said...

The one thing I remember from last year is that Derek said the deity at the Tirupati temple was repaying the debt that he took from Kubera as dowry! - I don't know what that means - it was not meher and Kubera was actually a third party!
From the 2008 edition I'll remember that R D Burman was supposed to have composed the music for Karz!
Of course these are minor quibbles compared to the avoidance of the pure-play IR for scoring. The middle path is possible and can be done quite easily. I don't think the objective of Derek's quizzes is to cull out the brainiest/most intelligent quizzers. I'd be perfectly happy with the quiz if they don't use 'Pune's brain' and 'tough ones' (as in a quiz question). Treat it like a game show and it is fantabulous for the audience. The problem is with calling it a quiz in the general sense. But then, all new formats were always questioned by the practising 'experts' of the existing form. So even if I don't consider myself an expert, I'll say that it was a bad quiz but it was GOOD show!

Siddharth said...

This is Siddharth from the Infosys team (Landmark Pune Quiz 2008). Just for the records the other members of our team were Harshal and Abhik.
I’ve been to many quizzes in Pune in the last 2 years but never managed to clear the prelims anywhere!!!! This was the first time the I’d reached the finals..but alas ended up being 7th.I’ve been to many quizzes in Pune in the last 2 years but never managed to clear the prelims anywhere!!!! This was the first time the I’d reached the finals..but alas ended up being 7th.
Just pitched in to say that the members of the Encyclopidith team are the ones that I find winning (top 3) in almost every quiz being held in Pune, so it was an honour to have shared the stage with them. Well done Ramanand for winning the “Brain of Pune” yet once again!!!

Anannya said...

What can you expect from Derek O'Brien?

Anonymous said...

>> Chennai Landmark quiz, they seemed to have struck a balance between populism and asking interesting things.

Hmmm.... more populist than interesting lately even though the QM is still Naveen Jayakumar (as an extreme example, the 40 question prelims last year had three HP questions - Fenrir; a pic of the Deathly Hallows; Daniel Radcliffe & Imelda Staunton in David Copperfield and what did role did they play in HP 5).

I think you would like Odyssey better. Odyssey is a quizzer's quiz, Landmark is an aam janta quiz.

Vcat said...

Derek can't ever be a fav. He's made that way. Agree on everything that you posted.

'Identify this mineral'. Cut to an image of three pieces of could-be-anything.

Did anyone have a missile to throw at the QM then? I wish.

Aditya said...

This was without a doubt ,the worst quiz I have ever been to.

Surely you're DJOKING Mr O' Brian!!

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to hear a list of the really bad ones. DoB' Bangalore Landmark last year had an infamous connect question - a Rand note and a picture of Ayn Rand.

Ramanand said...

Harish: if ever there was a case study of IR vs D&P, this was it. In that 4 qn round, Team 1 had 2 attempts for 7 pts, Team 2 had 1.5 attempts for 0 pts (0.5 because only 1/2 the points were effectively at stake), Team 3 had 2.5 attempts for 0 pts, while Team 4 had 3.5 attempts for 37 pts.

Since Derek has done IR before, I'm not sure why he's lapsed back into the Middle Ages here.

Siddharth: thanks for the corrections - have updated the post. I had noted down all names but in all those forced displacements on stage, lost most of my notes. Congrats on making the finals here and hope to see you on-stage for more. As for my teammates and me being in many finals, well, hopefully you don't read anything too sinister in that!

Anannya: true. It's just that I hardly attend any of his quizzes, so I lose my immunity the next time!

Anon_1: I hope you guys are receiving better fare there. Perhaps should drop by the Odyssey quiz sometime. That's Jan 26 too, isn't it?

Vcat: could paraphrase it as: "Did anyone have a mineral to throw..." :-)

Aditya: It's "O' Brien". "Brian" almost makes him "Brian of Pune" and so you might be infringing my copyright ;-)

Anon_2: I've heard that question and immediately thought it could have been worse, if you know what that word is in Hindi!
As for bad questions, you've heard the chewing gum and mineral question, so here's one more: Who became Miss India first, Sangeeta Bijlani or Meenakshi Sheshadri?

Yash Marathe said...

I though the veggie questions was the worst. 50% of probably most vegetables are eaten in Asia.

Most of the elims questions were vague (didn't stick around for the main quiz, had better things to do), or uninteresting (usually both).

This being my first Landmark quiz, I was totally unprepared and the shock has probably left me without the ability to use the left shift button or something.

Anonymous said...

"Anon_1" here : Anything is better than Derek O' Brien :-)

Yes, Odyssey is on Jan 26.

Samrat said...

ohmigod!! couldn't stop alternating between guffawing and smirking , reading the post and the comments.

maybe quizzes like these are necessary evils to popularize quizzing. 250 teams not a Djoke :)

but i cringe at the fact that the fair name of landmark is being besmirched in some of these posts.
the fusillade should be directed solely at O'Brien and his frigging company/content team.

Niranjan said...

"It would be interesting to hear a list of the really bad ones. DoB' Bangalore Landmark last year had an infamous connect question - a Rand note and a picture of Ayn Rand."

This one is up Samrat sir's alley. He knows the modus-ope-randi for such questions.

Niranjan said...

BTW, a nice thing to know is that Ramanand's "Pune Brain" crown was upgraded this time. It was covered with golden paper.

Next time, it would be dipped in petrol.

Vikrant said...

Ive been to a lot of the BC quizzes and have the watched BQC as a kid, but this was by far the WORST quiz that i attended .. Maybe the closest was the wadias quiz last feb i think which was extremely esoteric trivia lit-sports oriented .. (Who is known as the Napoleon of Crime other than Prof. Moriarty - Ans. Macavity the mystery cat ..)

The elims as Ramanand mentioned had too many inane multiple choice questions .. They tried to cover every topic (unsuccessfully) and were maybe trying to make it easier for kids .. ? The time issue was there as well .. there was no need as such to hurry, we got about 40 mins 40 ques, and maybe missed a few workable ques ..

As for the finals, the teams did a great job answering the questions .. Especially since the difficulty level varied A LOT !

Those fact or fiction or what is taller nonsense was like a hangover from brand equity for Sony ..

They did put on a good show .. But a IR format and an absolute new quiz setter could be the only saving grace for 2k9 .. Maybe hiring the BC would help ?

Ramanand said...

Niranjan: if you have Signs, then you'll realise that when the aliens attack, I'll be the one that the aliens can't mind-control! (take that, mocking public :-))

Vikrant: not sure we're the best people to hire for a mass audience - we still haven't done that well there.

the_harpooner said...

damn, i wish id known that chewing gum was better than mint for eliminating bad breath. There was some learning at least that i took home - Always prefer chewing gum to halls after a smoke. Thank you Derek :-)