Friday, February 27, 2004

Verve 2004 Results

According to this news item (search for "Brain Sync" - yet another name for the Verve quiz), VIT topped the quiz and B.J. Medical College took home spots 2 and 3. Many congratulations to them. Not sure how good or bad the quiz was, but Verve has always has operated on the extremes of quality - so wonder which end of the graph it was this time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The General B.C.Joshi Memorial Quiz

The Army Institute Of Technology is organizing its Annual Gen. B.C. Joshi Memorial Quiz along with the Owl In The Bowl (Solitaire Quiz).


  • Date: 29th Feb
  • Time: 11 am
  • Venue: AIT, Alandi Road, Pune-15
  • Open quiz
  • On the spot registrations.
  • Two member teams.
  • Prizes: Cash prizes over Rs 15000/- and certificates for all.
  • Transportation from COEP and Sadhu Vaswani Chowk.
  • Contact Numbers :
    * Ishwadeep : 9890093120 * Suresh Punia: 9422366537

While on the subject, an old post on BCJ.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

QUIZ-O-MANIA at Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, Pune (finalised)


  • Organized every year by Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, Pune, this year's quiz will be held on the 28th Feb (Saturday).
  • Time: Registration at 12:30 am, Written Elims at 1:30 pm. Stage finals will follow immediately.
  • Venue: Auditorium, VIT
  • Entry fee: Rs. 30
  • Snacks will be provided for finalists and entry fee will also be refunded.
  • This is an Open Quiz
  • First Prize: Rs. 4000/-
    Second Prize: Rs. 2500/-
    Third Prize: Rs. 1000/-
    Audience prizes as well.

  • For more details, contact: * Siddharth: 9422501573 * Salil: 9422501433 * Varun: 9822517873
Some upcoming Pune Quizzes
  1. Verve (Express Youth Forum) : 22 Feb
  2. Gen. B.C. Joshi Memorial Quiz (Army Institute of Technology, Pune) : 29 Feb
  3. Brand Equity Quiz (The Economic Times of India) : 5 March
  4. Chakravyuuh (The Govt. College of Engg., Pune) : 7 March

  5. (as Salil is quick to point out) QUIZ-O-MANIA (Vishwakarma Institute of Technology): 28 Feb (Details in the next post)
Still awaiting official announcements and details of the BCJ & Chakravyuuh quizzes.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Upcoming posts

A new Question of the Week, a response to Salil & Arnav's comments and some experiences of strange formats at quizzes.

Formats of Rounds - II

Update (25 Dec 2006): See this post for an update on this subject. Some obsolete/incorrect portions have been struck off. In continuation to Formats of Rounds - I

Infinite Rebounds

Since Direct and Passing doesn't work in its usual form for reasons noted before, it has quickly been replaced by the Infinite Rebounds system as the de facto quizzing format in all the good quizzes. A caveat here is that of the qualifier "good quizzes", as a great many "popular" quizzes aren't aware of this system, or if they are, choose to shy away from employing it - an exploration later.

The commonly agreed conventions of Infinite Rebounds:

  1. The choice of the team to receive the next question depends on how the previous question was answered. If the previous question was answered by a team, the next one is put to the team next in order from it. Alternately, if it went unanswered, the new question is simply advanced to the team next to the one that first received the last question.

    As an example, consider six teams A to F. Say a question starts with Team B. Turns are taken in order to attempt answers and Team E eventually answers correctly. In this case Team F would receive the next question. In case the question was left unanswered, Team C would receive first crack at the next question.

  2. No question may be posed first to the same team twice in a row. (More elaboration on this later in this post.)

  3. The beginning of a new round does not require resetting of the asking order i.e. unlike in the D&P method, each round does not start with the same team or does not have a predecided beginning point. An element of randomness appears in this system as it is not evident who would have answered the last question of the preceding round. This prevents a great deal of rigging (nothing can prevent quizmasters "choosing" their questions, of course, but it hampers rigging when the sequence of questions is already embedded in a visual presentation as is usually the case these days).

  4. Each question has the same value for the correct answer.

  5. No question in the rounds with using the Infinite Rebounds system has penalties i.e. no negative scoring for wrong answers.

According to me, the whole philosophy of Infinite Rebounds can be summed up with the sentence: Be as fair as possible to the participants. That is really the crux of the structure. If another system which is even better at being fair is possible, I don't have any doubts that it will replace Infinite Rebounds as we know it today.

I'd like to spend some more time further examining the implications of the above conventions. The point about the equal value and penalties aren't really a fundamental part of the structure of Infinite Rebounds, which is after all a set of rules for passing. However, they do conform to the spirit behind encouraging the use of this collection of rules - so they've been bundled up under the same banner. If someone so desired, a system of different values for direct and for passed questions may be employed, or points subtracted for guessing wildly thus inhibiting the choice to dare an answer, but that would bring what I like to think of as Instant Recoil (it can be seen on the faces of experienced quizzers on stage and looks as if they've swallowed a raccoon, and by the immediate broadcast of this feeling to fellow quizzers around).

The first rule presents the main algorithm of the format. It gets rid of one of the fundamental problems of the D&P method where a team could get a passed question correct and then a direct one for itself, boosting its tally without other teams having had a say in proceedings. Infinite Rebounds puts the team with the last correct answer at the end of the queue, forcing the movement of the "first attempt marker" to constantly circulate (the "first attempt marker" indicates how teams got first crack at a question). Additionally, this implicitly provides an element of randomness that is very useful in preventing many of the known methods of "black magic" that happens at quizzes :-). Teams also need not be very glum about having drawn seats next to so-called "studs" that in the D&P method would've eaten up much of the food supply of questions. Instead, such a team may be rewarded for its position, as it could potentially get many more first shots at questions. This one fact is enough to serve as an endorsement of this format over the conventional system. The clinching factor is that on most occasions, the team that has given the most correct answers wins. Of course, the number of correct answers is a factor of the number of attempts a team receives. There are cases where among two equally balanced teams slug it out and one team sneaks through because it got more questions to answer than its principal rival, but both teams will agree that it wasn't because the system did them in - the winners still had to provide more correct answers than the runners-up. Contrast this with the D&P team where quite often in a tight contest, the winning team could've had lesser attempts, lesser number of correct answers and still win.

The second point in the list, the one about not giving first attempt of a question to the same team twice in a row, requires some elucidation. Such a case may not be readily apparent. This can happen when (taking an example) say, Team B gets the next question in a round. They can't answer it and it passes normally till Team A (the last team in line for that question) answers it correctly. Now, by the normal passing rule which simply states that the team next in order to the one that got the last answer gets the new one, Team B would again gets a chance at the question. Since much of Infinite Rebounds is in protest of the injustices of the D&P method where this occurence is common and hated, it makes sense to prevent this as a special case and advance the first attempt marker to Team C. This would ensure that things aren't stuck at Team B's end.

Even if some do not agree with this point, it does make sense if one considers the spirit of the Infinite Rebounds philosophy. I speak from personal experience. In 2002, Swapnil did a quiz (called "NQuirer"?) at the BC. We got into this exact situation, and my team was in the position of Team B and would've benefited as we were not doing very well and needed every question we could get. Since this was quite a new situation (for some reason, no one at the BC had ever made a special note of this scenario), it wasn't quite clear who would get the next question, us or the team next to us. Many of the "learned figures", Harish and Niranjan quickly spotted the solution (the obvious one) i.e. we shouldn't get the chance. We (or rather me, since I was the senior guy in my team, so musn't pull Anup Mankar or Amrish into this), in a fit of silly gamesmanship, insisted that there was no rule or precedence governing this, and we should get it. I don't recall what was decided (most likely, it went against us by consensus, as I usually don't get my way at the BC ;-) ), but it did throw up a case for which we had no convention to govern. I will be the first to admit I was wrong that day and to avoid this situation in future, I like to make a special mention of it. That's why all these words are spent on it, so as to avoid acrimony in the use of such a splendid system as this.

For some incomprehensible reason, Infinite Rebounds isn't yet the universal standard for the conduct of general rounds of quizzes ("general" as in normal passing rounds that don't have any special funk such as Rapid Fire or Single Specialities etc.). It is inexplicable that even veteran quizhosts hang on to the D&P method for dear life. Either they are ignorant about it, or do not have the intellect to comprehend it (which must make it a pea-sized intellect), or they must be resisting its use. I don't claim to say that I can conclusively prove it is a fairer system than any other, but experience, personal and among the fraternity is overwhelmingly positive about it, or atleast in rejecting the conventional system. I also suspect some of the ancient quizhosts perceive a sense of having to give up their dignity and adopt a newer system; perhaps it would undermine all their previous quizzes. What else would explain one quiz organizer (a veteran quizzer himself) completely rejecting Infinite Rebounds and describing it as (paraphrased) "nonsense"? Unless he knew something we didn't. Would you hang on to a fast-eroding prestige by being stubborn or be fair to the participants? I think a great deal of quizzing inconsistencies are because these reputed quizmasters don't spend enough time thinking about their conduct of their quizzes and prefer keeping the show audience-centric rather than participant-centric. I don't buy the argument that Infinite Rebounds is hard to conduct; in fact it makes life easier. The usual points of confusion for someone conducting a quiz are how much does the team that just got the correct answer get in terms of points and who gets the next question. Both these are easy to answer in this format: everyone gets the same number of points each time and one just has to remember the last correct answer and/or the last starting point. As in many other walks of life, simple is elegant.

In an effort to try comparing and evaluating the efficacy of the two popular methods, Niranjan wrote a small simulation whose source code (in C) he posted on Inquizitive - apparently he's improved it since. It would make even more sense to run it with actual data from live quizzes rather than just test data, so some of us are trying to record actual sequences - I managed to do so from the last quiz I conducted, an internal office event called Pulse. I still haven't run the data against the sim. If anyone's interested in the code, just leave a comment behind here.

To summarise, I think since Infinite Rebounds is both widely accepted and perceived to be fair, its use must be encouraged all around. If somehow it can be introduced into the school quizzing circuit, it would expose kids to that at an earlier stage. Otherwise, it remains something of an elitist choice, but one that definitely exposes a badly organized quiz from the others. Of course, the most ideally fair way to hold a quiz is to allow everyone to attempt the same questions simultaneously and then the one who gets the most correct answers wins. This is obviously not possible in a "final-on-stage" situation. We can only get algorithms that approach that optimal solution. Infinite Rebounds is definitely here to stay as one such solution that is an excellent substitute for the practical conduct of a quiz.

Comments/Criticisms/Commendations/Contributions welcome as usual

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Comments on Formats of Rounds - I

Pulling out significant comments to the earlier post into the open. Salil has this to say :

Some Thoughts on Infinite Rebounds:-

Having participated in many inter-school quizzes where the Direct & Passing system is rampant, Infinite Rebounds (IR) was a pleasant surprise when I started participating in college-level quizzes.

One of the pecularity of IR is the freedom of points reserved for each question (unlike the D&P where its 10-5) where there can be multi-answer questions of 15 points, etc.
At a certain quiz I went to, there was this question: Complete the famous Janata Party slogan of the Emergency time: Nasbandi ke teen dalal - _______, __________, __________. The quizmaster (QM) fairly declared 15 points for the whole answer : 5 for each blank. Though we knew the answer : Indira, Sanjay, Bansi Lal; we were at position 5. Unfortunately for us, 3 teams had already provided one name each winning 5 points apiece, before the question came to us.

However we could not protest because we had built our score mostly on partial points from similar questions.

So the question is: Should the QM award the teams partial points at each correct answer? This would be very unfair for the team which knows the complete answer. Or should the QM wait till all answers are obtained from the teams? This would deny points to teams that could answer atleast one of the 3 blanks. It would also decrease workability based on answers of other teams which often makes the quiz more exciting.

Thanks Salil. Will have a response after penning my thoughts on Infinite Rebounds. Would be interested in knowing what others think about this - this is a very common occurence.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Brand Equity Quiz - 2004

Information about ET's Annual Quiz here.

Pune is the last city in the Zonal eliminations schedule (5th March) at the Poona Club.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Rajiv Rai

When Young World (the Youth/Children's supplement of The Hindu was launched in the early nineties, it carried a regular quizzing column called Mindsport. The aims of the column was to introduce young minds to quizzing of a higher level, with the unspoken spirit of "workability" and interesting facts. It also explained the methods of going about cracking such kinds of questions and applying well-known points to such an effort. Impressed by it, I began a regular collection of the clippings of MS.

It wasn't until I started quizzing in real earnest (after I came to COEP in 1997; before that I had participated in exactly 2 inter-school quizzes in all of my schooling) that I got to experience the "quizzing at a higher level" that was articulated in the columns of Mindsport many years ago. One of the reasons I could make the transition without discomfort (I wasn't conditioned by the fact-based school quizzing routine since I hadn't been part of it) was the spirit engendered by these questions from the old Young World issues. Things tied up nicely when a couple of those facts appeared in my first ever low-scoring Mensa quiz in January 1998, which I could answer, enabling us to come 2nd. Sujay & I had finally made it to the top 3 of a significant quiz after coming very close earlier that year.

Rajiv Rai was the guy who contributed the questions to Mindsport and provided a glimpse into a better and more enjoyable form of quizzing that has had me hooked on for a while now. Before writing this post, I leafed through the list of Mastermind India participants to see if Rajiv Rai had been on it before. He had, but to my surprise, I also found that he was the first participant on the first edition of MMI. His entry reads:

Rajiv Rai, Marketing Executive, Chennai, The Oscar Awards, 23 points

Question of the Week - I

A new section that has one of our/my most favourite questions, accompanied by a small analysis on what makes it so good. To start off, this week has an old BC chestnut:

Q: "He lies here somewhere" is rumoured to be the epitaph on whose grave?

A: Werner Heisenberg, most famously remembered as the physicist behind one of quantum theory's most famous credos, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Like most good questions, this has an economy of words and facts, revealing just enough to make it both entertaining and deducible. "Uncertainty" is the one motif that emerges out of a statement with the qualifier "somewhere". Yes, it may be construed as unfair to those with no familiarity with physics, but the Uncertainty Principle is famous enough to be known by well-read laymen. And like most good questions, a revelation of the answer in case it goes unanswered will draw a gasp of appreciation from most.

Contributions to this section welcome
Formats of Rounds - I

Setting a good quiz, apart from just the raw content of questions, depends a great deal on the structural framework of a quiz. Or put less glibly, formatting of different rounds is extremely important to how it is received by audience and participants alike. A fine balance needs to be struck between retaining the interest of the spectators while being fair to the participants. ("Fairness" will be a constant refrain on these pages, for a majority of such formats tend to be tuned towards providing semi-gladiatorial pleasure for the audience, and letting the contestants fume and wish for fortune cookies to crumble their way.)

D & P and Forward Biasing

If you wander into a quiz and see the organisers pull out the dinosaur called the Direct and Passing method, then you can be sure that (a) they have never participated in good quizzes themselves (b) Do not believe in modern concepts such as being fair to participants or (the most likely) (c) lack the common sense to spot the inherent flaws in the system.

The D & P method has been discarded long ago by all well-meaning and informed quizzers. Those who persist in its use would do well to consider these points. The D&P method (also known as the 10/5 system or the conventional passing system) essentially consists of offering a team a direct attempt at a question for a value, say 10 points. If that team fails to answer correctly, the question passes to the next in order, but only for a lesser value, usually half, in this case 5. The explanation usually given for it is that it is easier for the teams following as possible options have been ruled out. Superficially, this may be a valid point, but veteran quizzers will easily provide a contradictory argument. This is the fact that on many occasions, the answers provided by a team create a certain trend of answering (especially if the quizmaster seems to respond to that answer in a manner that suggests it may be in the general direction of the right answer) that consciously or otherwise is followed by the rest. Being misled by the previous answers is a trap that all quizzers fall into quite frequently.

For instance, at Chakravyuh 2001, a visual connect consisted of linking images varying from that of the sun, moon, some of the planets, people such as the Curies & Einstein, a map of a Swedish district, Berkeley and so on. It was marked by a large number and wide variety of these images. The first team to take a shot, went by the more recognisable faces of Einstein, Rutherford etc to guess atomic programmes and World Wars. All the rest of the teams veered in that same direction, and ended up as a result, way off the mark - clearly the first team had infected their responses. The answer, by the way, was that these items had inspired the nomenclature of various chemical elements. I call this Forward Biasing (well, it's inspired :-) )
So clearly, providing different values to a question isn't right. Perhaps this is some latent socialist streak among enlightened quizzers, but it is fair to expect that all answers have the same value attached to them, and there is no need for a team only to get more because they got first crack at that question.

Another pain point about the D&P method concerns the other major pillar of the method: deciding the recipient of the next question. Here, since the order is static, the recipients of a question are pre-decided in a round. Other events do not influence this decision of which question goes to which team. Coupled with the 10-5 system, this can have disastrous effects on the outcome of a team, which has grounded the chances of many a good team. Consider this: Team A gets a question, can't answer, qn passes to B who gets it right and hence scores 5 points. The next question (and this is the killer) goes again to Team B who answer it direct to get 10 points. Suddenly, they are up to 15 with none of the others (except A) having touched a ball, to use a metaphor. Additionally, it is a common occurence in this method that a team answers say 5 questions, all from passes to get 25. Another team may have answered just 3 questions, all direct, and hence surpasses the former to be on 30. In the longer run, teams can suffer just because they answered after someone else, though they might have had to fight harder.

Another personal experience may highlight the above point. In Chakravyuuh 2002, Gaurav asked a question which ran something on the lines of:

Which TV programme has featured the guest voices of the following people: (I don't remember any specific names, mostly a list of actors & actresses).

Easily the most obvious answer to this was The Simpsons cartoons. Harish & I were fifth in line, so like the others, we thought it was a gimme because it had to be The Simpsons. But this was Chakravyuuh. The first team answered that, and to the general amazement of all, that wasn't right. This made everyone else scramble for alternative guesses, which weren't easy to come by as our first thoughts were on the lines of other cartoons, another classic case of Forward Bias. Soon it was to be our turn, and we had to think of something good, especially in the wake of a Guess-For-All situation. Finally it struck us - Frasier was the right answer - it featured guest voices who call into Frasier Crane's Radio show. It helped that like other BC quizzers, we followed the credits of films/serials and it did stick in. It did turn out to be correct answer. I can tell you that I'd have been extremely cross if we had got only 5 points for that toughie because some idiot decreed that was what we could get for a passed question.

So to be fair, the best and easiest method is to do away with different weights for the same question. Each right answer must have the same value attached to it - this has the simple result that the team that answers the most questions will win the quiz. Additionally, in those hostile places where order of teams are decided by underhand methods, the D&P method may make it easier to rig questions as the 2nd question in each round will always go to Team B (but of course, oil-riggers are smarter than this and will always carve their own way out :-) )

So what are the alternatives? By far the most popular and the most accepted one is called Infinite Rebounds (a.k.a Infinite Bounds). A discussion on it next time.

Comments/Criticisms/Commendations/Contributions welcome as usual