Thursday, March 25, 2004

College Bowl a.k.a Quizzing in the U.S

In continuation to College bowl explained - II


1. Mainly academic in nature with almost around a 80:20 ratio leaning toward facts from standard academic subjects such as the natural sciences, math, history, geography, social sciences etc. Pure trivia and popular culture (i.e. movies, TV, music etc.) makes up the rest. This is the view of several College Bowl veterans here in my univ who have played it since their high school.

2. All questions are set by independent quiz masters and have to be purchased for a fee from the College Bowl organization that conducts regional competitions and national finals.

Sample questions (from a set from the Univ. of Alabama, posted in the files section of the QuizBowl Yahoo group):

1. It radiates three times as much heat into space as it gets from the sun. Some of Earth's best pictures of it were obtained by Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. For 10 points--what planet's Cassini division is located between its A and B rings?
answer: Saturn

2. The 20,000 pounds he bet on his trip was less than half of what he was accused of stealing from the Bank of England. For 10 points--who returned to London in December 1872 after going Around the World in 80 Days?
answer: Phileas Fogg

3. The province of Kosovo now uses the German mark as its currency, bypassing--for 10 points- what monetary unit used not only throughout the rest of Yugoslavia, but also in Tunisia, Jordan, and Algeria?
answer: dinar

4. This 1968 invention now has unusual versions that include one for left-handers, one that uses an LED instead of a rubber ball, and one where the index finger is higher than the middle finger. For 10 points--what computer device even has a tailless version called a "hamster"?

answer: mouse

5. Some consider it a "fictional force" because it is directed outward from the axis of rotation only when the frame of reference is accelerating. For 10 points--what force disappears when the reference point is stationary but can be felt inside a car as it goes around a curve?
answer: centrifugal force (not "centripetal")

College Bowl Tournaments

The College Bowl club in my univ has just about 10 regular members in it (attendence varies between 6 and 8 people every week), every week we just form two teams comprising of who ever is present and play among ourselves for as long as the practice questions downloaded from the College Bowl website last (usually around 4 to 5 sets of questions are downloaded every week).

For the campus tournament, we (the univ paid for it and organized it) had to buy question packets from the College Bowl Organizers. The questions for the campus tournaments were/are the same for all campuses holding such tournaments. So these tournaments are usually held on the same day. This year it was on the 25th of January. The tournament attracted 12 entries and hence we just formed three teams of four members each and played round robin games. The top two teams that won the maximum games faced off in the final.

The issues that I can think about right now that anyone wanting to organize such a tournament would be facing are with regards to the number of questions, the quality and the infrastructure. Let's say that there are "n" teams wanting to play in such a tournament. There are three different ways to do the whole tournament - Single Elimination, Double Elimination and Round Robin.

* The Single Elimination system is a pure knock-out system. The teams play each other and teams get knocked off as soon as they are defeated once.

Pros: Accommodates a high number of teams; low resources (i.e questions) needed
Cons: Good teams may be eliminated after one bad match
Number of games: n-1 (where n is the number of teams in the tournament)

* The Double Elimination system knocks out teams once they have been defeated twice.

Pros: Every team plays at least twice; seems to be the most popular format
Cons: Can be time consuming and resource intense; good teams could still suffer from a bad draw.
Number of games: 2n-1 (if number of teams is 10, games = 19)

* Round Robin Tournament is self explanatory. Every team plays every other team atleast once. It is left to the organizers to hold semis and then finals or just declare the team with the best record as the winner.

Pros: Every team plays every other team once; good format for small team numbers
Cons: The most time and resource intensive; no build up to the ultimate final champion if organizers choose not to hold a final game between top two teams
Number of games: [(n)(n-1)/2] (ie: 10 teams=45 games)

Some explanations regarding the tournaments:

The single elimination system is termed a "low resource" system because games can be held simultaneously at different places with the same questions. Let's say that there are 4 teams involved. Then just three games and two question sets would be needed to find out who wins. The first two games to eliminate teams can be held simultaneously with the same question set. And the final game between the winners requires another set of questions. The same system can be used for the Double elimination and Round Robin system too, but that would depend on the number of teams invovled in the tournament and some amount of slogging from the organizers. In any case, tournaments of this kind are unsuitable for large open quizzes like the ones made popular by Landmark etc. These would probably make good TV material though, if questions are chosen properly.

:: Anti

Monday, March 22, 2004

A list of general principles for fairness in conducting quiz finals

Since we are discussing formats old & new, I thought it would be a good idea to first jot down what are the parameters of comparison for fairness. The disclaimers here are that (a) these are my personal opinions, please leave comments behind so that this list can be stabilised to a unanimous set (b) these only apply to the normal quiz final format, no buzzers or special rounds are addressed here.

I think the following three major aspects have a bearing on the fair conduct of the final:

  1. The Passing Format
  2. Distribution of Questions in the Question Set
  3. The Order in which the Teams are Seated

The Passing Format:

This determines who gets the question first, to whom it passes next, and then who gets the next question. The most popular formats are IR and D&P. Here are what I think should be the parameters of interest:

  1. Each team should ideally have had the same (with tolerance) number of attempts at the end of the quiz. Here, "attempts" include "chances on passing" as well as "direct attempts". Since we cannot have all teams attempting all questions, this is the next best thing we can do. I have stats to show that using IR definitely achieves this goal. Since I don't have enough stats on D&P quizzes, I can't claim the same about D&P.
  2. Another important goal is to try and ensure that even at the unit level, similar number of attempts at questions have been provided to all teams. This essentially means that, say if the quiz has a set of rounds, there must not be a great distortion in the number of attempts for teams. Say it is a Sports round and 2 out of the 6 are the best in that area and can potentially get all 6. If the format causes one of those two to get 4 attempts and the other only 2, then it gives them an unfair advantage.

    There is a likelihood of this goal being violated in D&P. We know of certain combinations in D&P in which even though we may get the same number of attempts at the end, at certain points, there can be a massive skew. I have computed this only for the VIT-'04 quiz in the IR scenario, and it didn't seem to have this problem.

    Perhaps, if the questions are so well distributed and have very few specialised rounds (the best example being "Seamless quizzing" of which the only instance I've seen so far has been Chakravyuuh-'01 and a close version in the Mensa quizzes), this goal may not be important since things even out at the end. But especially with specialised rounds and for the psychological parity, I think this is important.

    This is the principle of Local Parity in which things are fair even in a smaller window of attempts - the Centaurian format uses this as the central theme. IR does have this.

    People may remember the minor quibble over the variation I had mentioned here which the VIT guys wanted to use but couldn't - preventing two questions going to the same team twice in a row helps Local Parity. Perhaps we'll talk about it another day in detail.

  3. A sub-goal that has emerged out of the collected stats has been the number of Directs to a team. It is widely felt that this number should be equal for all teams, and the newer format(s) essentially want to tackle the "anomaly" in IR where the number of Directs can be variable.

    Ok now, personally speaking I still don't believe in differentiating between a Direct attempt and an attempt on a pass. Apart from a minor psychological effect on the team with first shot, it has no real bearing on the events, IMHO. The only time this makes a difference is when the number of so-called "sitters" (where it is extremely well-known to a majority, has been asked before several times, and usually never gets passed at all) is higher than usual, the Directs can make a difference, especially when interspersed with tough questions. In this case, the more directs I get, the more sitters I have a probability of gaining and hence the advantage. The VIT-04 quiz is often cited as an example of this. I think it was a freak case where it so happened that a team that was both good and experienced was between two teams that were themselves getting a lot of correct answers. I haven't posted the Shyam Bhatt stats yet, but that shows that team A (us) got the highest number of directs - we still didn't win.

    However, if this goal can be achieved to to everyone's satisfaction, it could be useful. Again, this arrives out of improper distribution, so I feel we shouldn't find too many drastic solutions in the format to cover all the flaws there.

  4. It goes without saying that ideally, each question must have the same value attached to it. Since we've seen Connects that are large in scope and sometimes are never solved completely - perhaps we need to ensure that the amount of deduction & effort required from quizzers is also roughly the same. Connects, especially Visual ones, tend to overdo it.

Distribution of Questions in the Question Set

The focus has been on the format, but this is equally important. Would someone like to venture in enlisting goals for these?

The Order in which the Teams are Seated

Niranjan has been working on this too, so I would like to leave it for him to fill in.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

A Proposal For new Centaurian system of Scoring/Passing in quizzes

Life just got more exciting: Abhishek Nagaraj from F.C. sent in this proposal for a new format. I haven't read it, but promptly posting it here for instant dissemination. Abhishek: hope to send you some comments soon. Interestingly, you've pipped me to the post here - I've been thinking about a new format myself (like you, an amalgamation of D&P and IR) that I've been informally discussing with Niranjan and others. I'll post that here too for you to take a list. From what I've seen so far, your system is very close to what I came up myself (I'm not sure which of us is Newton and which one Leibnitz ;-) ) but I think that's because the motivations and the policies used are similar.

Abhishek, A latest copy of Niranjan's code can be made available by The Great One himself - Niranjan, could you please post it on inquizitive?

Will mull over it soon and we'll have lots of comments, I am sure. This blog is becoming highly inadequate for the amount of stuff that gets discussed here. We need something like twiki or Drupal or even an MT based blog.

A Proposal For new Centaurian system of Scoring/Passing in quizzes

There has been plenty of discussion on notes and stones blog and indeed at the various quizzes and meets that i have been a part of about infinite rebounds and D&P. However the major argument in the favour of IR is that
1. The final ranking is flatly based on the number of questions each team gets right.
2. The scoring for a correct answer should be the same
3. The number of questions each team gets to answer should be the same.

It has been seen by the data compiled till now that in IR 'mostly' the number of questions answered per team is same. However for eg in the VIT quiz the number of questions attempted varied very less from 23 to 25. That is really acceptable. However there is a large deviation in the total no of questions each team answered on the direct. This number varies from 7 to 15 which is huge considering the total no of questions answered is in 20s. Therefore there is more than 30% deviation of the total questions answered direct. This is the main argument in the case of D&P. The number of questions each team gets to ans direct is same. Many would say that does not matter whether a team answers it right or wrongly. There are many a questions to which a very obvious answer is wrong. The Frasier question is an example. Another example is the "god of construction and building" question in AFMC(though that was in the elims if in the finals it would have given a very obvious advantage to the passing teams). Many such examples can be given and i would say that there is a certain charm in these questions . They might be a good form of knowledge and entertainment(and indeed clearing basic fundas). We could call them PM(popular misconception) questions. These PMQs are the major bone of contention and this is the only point where D&P is better form than IR. While discussing this point with some ppl from FC there was a suggestion that such questions should not be set by the quizmaster in the finals. I feel this is escapism and too easy a way to solve the problem. There must be some method to cope with the problem of PMQ. Thus the major faults (which i percieve) in IR can be summed up as

1. Inequality in the no of direct questions
2. Give undue advantage in the case of PMQs.

My proposal intends to solve the both the problems.

What can be done is that the total no of direct attempts by each team be noted down. Once a question is answered or attempted by each and every person and there comes a time for the next question then the team with the least no of direct questions should be posed the next question. Following is some sample data


TEAM     A     B     C     D

     .     .
(where the dots represent no of direct attempts)
Consider following case. Direct Q to A - no one gets it. Therefore every team gets an attempt.Now B,C,D all have min no of direct Q answered. Then we go by alphabetical or round order(clockwise/anticlockwise)Then B gets direct Q. C answers correctly. Therefore as C & D both have min no of direct questions the order is decided by no of attempted questions(ie D gets next question). It is worth remarking that in this case the order is exactly like IR.


TEAM      A     B     C     D
     .     .     .     .     
          .     .
(where the dots represent no of direct & indirect attempts)
Now when D gets direct question suppose A answers it. Then according to above rule as C is the team with lowest no of direct attempts it should get the next question instead of B as in the case of IR. We must notice that IR penalizes team C for answering correctly by not giving it a direct question. This can be totally avoided by this method . It ensures that total no of direct questions remains the same. What we do is that we fill up the gaps in the table so that each team gets the same no of direct questions.
Now of both the no of direct attempts and total attempts show the same no, the the next question should go to the team which would have been asked the question if IR was followed(ie next team than the team to which the last question had been asked)
Thus one major drawback in the IR method is avoided and a major plus point of the D&P is added to the IR format. (see table)Therefore this is a kind of marriage between the two methods. I would like to call it the Centaurian method of scoring.

The second problem i feel gets automatically eliminated once the no of direct questions each team gets is the same. By the law of averages the no of such questions going direct or passed to each team will remain generally equal. Thus in a limited sense this problem is solved.

This system needs to be tested both in simulation as well as in real time. I am also working out a few details whether it would be better to see the indirect attempts table or the total attempts table(as i have done here) if the no of direct attempts is the same. I am trying out a comp. simulation for the same(but it is going to be in very very outdated QBASIC) I want comments from people on improving this system, will it really work, is it feasible to use it in real time etc etc. Also comments solicited on what the second table should be and what should be done if all the table are equal. Please do tell me if there are any flaws. There are a few which i would list out here :

1. Method too cumbersome - I don't subscribe to this point as it is not cumbersome for the participants or the audience but only to the scorer(who i feel have too easy a job with IR). The only problem will be the constant need of the scorer to communicate to the QM which team to ask the question next.Also if a comp is at disposal then the question of whom to answer the next question to becomes very easy with a simple program.

2. The problem of PMQs not completely and satisfactorily solved as this method quintessentially relies upon IR.

3. I personally do not have my simulator working and prob. wont have it working by day after. Therefore i yet have to test if the total no of attempts per team remains the same. If there is huge variation that will be a major fallacy in this method and probably will render it as good or as bad as the others. I will post my results again on sunday (provided my sim works). Lets keep our fingers crossed.

( PS : another idea is instead of using the direct questions table as given above we can directly give the next question to the team with the least no of questions attempted)

(PS: Just discussed this with a friend. He feels that for a quiz to be enjoyable the audience, and also the quizzers, scorers etc. need to understand the format. I don't agree)

:: Abhishek Nagaraj (cheerfulguy{at}rediffmail{point}com

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Discussion on the VIT quiz : Small Suggestion

A small addition I wished to make to the Discussion on the VIT quiz: would it be possible to re-christen the quiz to give it a better brand and add longevity to it, especially given that it will be an important addition to the circuit? Quiz-O-Mania doesn't quite fit that bill, especially given the Shyam Bhatts, Chakravyuuhs, B.C.Joshis and Inquizzitions around. Of course, VIT doesn't need to call it the Vaastu quiz (in-joke alert: refer Shyam Bhatt elims), but perhaps something new and interesting?

Shyam Bhatt 2004 results


1st: Amit Garde & Samrat Sengupta (Persistent Systems Pvt. Ltd)
2nd: Gaurav Sabnis & J. Ramanand (BCQC)
3rd: Kunal & Ulka (FC) (what are your surnames, guys, not "From FC", right? :-) )
Also: Shankar & partner from AFMC, Vivek (BJMC) & partner from AFMC, AFMC

Set & Conducted by: Brijesh

Kunal & Ulka,being the highest ranked college team, took the Shyam Bhatt trophy home to FC. (Hope they had better luck transporting it than I had before.)

Announcement: BC InFest - II : Gaurav's quiz

Pasted from the egroups mail

BC InFest is back again this year. If you didn't know what it is, not to worry - it is a gala(?) affair where some of the BC diaspora come back to roost once in a while with their own quizzes. Last year's InFest featured quizzes as diverse as an India quiz, US-Israel-Pakistan, Sports, Comp & Lit and F&M quizzes.

"InFest - II" kicks off with "The Man(fest) from L" a.k.a "El Hombre" a.k.a "(Hel)L raiser" Gaurav Sabnis who will have a general quiz (no doubt put together during some enthralling lecture on "the Vituperative Effects of Corporate Tax in post-liberalised Third World Economies" (not to be confused with the lekh on Backward Tribes of Maharashtra by Prof. Rele)).

12:30 pm, BC, Saturday (20th March), no prizes, only questions.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

College Bowl a.k.a Quizzing in the U.S

A major digression from the intense discussions featured on this blog on quizzing in Pune and on many related things. Anti is our first guest contributer for this blog. His "blogchalk" reads "USA, Ohio, Athens, Ananthanarayanan, Anti, Male, 21-25, Quizzing, Cricket, Music, Books, Cars" which tells you enough about him. Additionally, he turned out to be a year senior to me at school in Madras, the revelation all to be blamed on a post on childhood cricket (but we digress away from the digression). Anti has been two ponds apart for a while and in the process learnt a little about the "quizzing" scene as it exists there. The following is the first of a two-part series on College Bowl Quizzing.

College bowl explained

"College Bowl is a question and answer game of general knowledge and quick recall. It spotlights the fastest minds on campus as they excel on the playing field of knowledge. Game questions cover every conceivable topic, from history, literature, science, multiculturalism, religion and geography to current events, the arts, social sciences, sports and popular culture". (quoted from the College Bowl webpage)

College Bowl is purely academic based i.e based on all the information that you possibly would get if you were a stud with school work. It is different from quizzes popular in India by the fact that questions are purely general knowledge and zero trivia. So why are we even discussing about College Bowl?

I personally think that these kind of quizzes can be used to popularize trivia quizzes among school children (and colleges too). In India, in a lot of places like Chennai and Pune, quizzing is driven by colleges and most of the junta have come in from schools that have been strong in the quizzing scene traditionally. So sometimes we find talk of the so called drop in standards because there are not enough people to continue the good work when regulars leave town in search of their ideal careers. These College Bowl type quizzes could be used to revive flagging interest.


College Bowl is a buzzer based quiz. Two teams of a maximum of four players each (at least 3 players each is mandatory) take part. Each session (called a game) of intra-institutional College Bowl is played over two 7 minute halves. A whistle starts and ends each half. The team that is ahead when the final whistle sounds at the end of the second half is the winner. And in case of inter-institutional games, each session is of eight minutes each.

Every team has one buzzer each for every team member. Name tags for each of the team members are placed so that the QM can identify each member by name. The teams also nominate captains before the start of the game. The role of the captain shall be apparent as I tell you more about the rules of the game.

The QM reads out the question. If any of the individual member think they know the answer, they should hit their individual buzzers. In doing so, they are competing not only with the members of the other team, but also the members of his/her own team. No collaboration of any kind is allowed for direct questions and only the person on the buzzer is allowed to speak.

The participant to hit the buzzer first after the QM reads the full (or part of a) direct question gets the chance to answer the question for his/her team. The member has to be identified by the QM by name before the answer is given. The QM calls out the name of the participant who has hit the buzzer and waits three seconds for the answer. If the answer is deemed correct and verified by the QM from his question card, his/her team gets the exclusive chance to answer the bonus question that follows. The correct answer to each direct question increases the team's score by 10 points. If the answer is incorrect, the team might be penalized (Read the section on Negative Points) the other team in the game gets the chance to answer the question and any bonus questions that may follow.

The bonus question may be composed of a number of part questions as well with each answer earning the team the points indicated in the question. Usually the correct answer(s) to the bonus question(s) earn teams between 20 and 30 points. Bonus questions are non-passable and do not contain any negatives. For the bonus questions, the buzzer is not involved and the team members can discuss among themselves. However a five second time limit is applied. Once the members have decided upon a likely answer, the captain is expected to give the answer out to the QM. In case the team gives more than one answer, the QM prompts the team's captain for his choice of answer and accepts that answer as the official response form the team.

Negative points

A team is penalized a 5 point penalty if they give a wrong answer to a direct question that they INTERUPPTED i.e. hit the buzzer before the QM finishes the question. The question then passes to the other team and the QM completes the question for them. There is no penalty however for the second team if they give the wrong answer for the question. However, if a team gives a wrong answer to a direct question that was completely read out by the QM, there is no penalty whatsoever. In essence, there is only ONE 5 point penalty involved per question and that is applied only if there is an interruption by one of the teams.

Acceptable answers

Since all questions and answers are prepared not by the QM, but by someone else, all acceptable answers and part points are indicated clearly in the question cards. If the answer given by a team matches the answer indicated in the card (or acceptable alternates that are indicated in the same card), the points (or part points as indicated) are awarded to the team. In case the question setter expects certain answers that will not be acceptable, these answers are indicated too.

For example: Vern Mikkelsen and John Kundla were a player coach duo named to the Basketball Hall of fame in the same year as Kareem Abdul Jabbar. For ten points name the team that Mikkelson and Kundla played for and coached respectively and the year they were inducted into the Hall of fame?

The answer is the Minnesota Lakers (which moved to LA later to become the LA Lakers) and the year was 1995. For full ten points, both 1995 and Minnesota Lakers has to be mentioned. Now while the Minnesota Lakers is the correct answer, just the Lakers could be deemed acceptable, but not Los Angeles Lakers.

Note: I hope I am conveying the general idea here. This would probably be the toughest question of the game. I framed the question myself after a random google search for "Minnesota Lakers" and found a result that talked about Hall of Fame entrants in 1995.

Tie breakers If the score is tied at the end of the game (end of the second half that is), the tie is broken by a sudden-death play-off of direct questions. The first correct answer scores 10 points and wins the game. An incorrect interruption loses 5 points and the game. Directs continue until a score change breaks the tie.

:: Anti

Part II in a separate post

Monday, March 08, 2004

Coming soon

The sudden profusion of posts will bear out my claim that there is more content to blog about on these pages than there is time. Some of the forthcoming posts will hopefully be on:

  • An examination of Connects
  • A proposal for a new format
  • The chequered history of the last 7 Verve quizzes
  • FAQ for this blog

Some guest posts expected too.
On the University Challenge Quiz

By committing the worst case of quizzing hara-kiri I have ever seen, the team from the Indian School of Business has probably ensured immortality (albeit for the wrong reasons) for itself rather than if they had merely won the quiz , as was widely expected before the finals. ISB had swept all before them in the preliminary rounds, had a stiff challenge to overcome versus MDI, Gurgaon (our own Harish was in that) where they came back from behind to win. Their opponents in the final, a group of undergrads from Sardar Patel College of Engg. Mumbai had had a more severe route to the finals, with a very engrossing and nervous semi-final round. 90% of the time, ISB were coolly swatting away the questions as usual, while SPCE struggled to make the important breakthroughs inspite of some desperate buzzing. Then all of a sudden, ISB lost 20 points by needlessly buzzing incorrectly to make a 50 point lead vanish into thin air as if they had Houdini amongst them. SPCE held on by the proverbial hair to win the 1st UCQ by the smallest margin. Capt. Shankar blames it on arrogance, while Samrat says they did a South Africa. It was a performance that would have made Greg Norman cry - a clear and present SNAFU. Sorry JK & Amalesh, commiserations from all, but you blew it though you were the better team. Many congratulations to Shrijit, Bharat, Ninad & Nishad from SPCE.

Report from The Telegraph (Thanks Anti)

Discussion on the VIT quiz

Seeing that the VIT quiz was the only one among the three collegiate quizzes so far to have passed off without major incident and thus can be considered for debate without too much heat, this post is for opening a thread on various aspects of it. Please email me (quatrainman{at}yahoo{pointcom}) for adding to this, or leave your comments behind for inclusion.

My opening observations:

  • Duration of the quiz was well handled.
  • The questions erred on the side of being too easy.
  • It was one of the tightest quizzes I have ever participated!
  • Questions were too long - need to be pruned for the sake of both the person asking & the teams.
  • Not sure why there were only very few subject rounds (Business, Entertainment) - either there should be more subject rounds or there should be none, IMHO. The quiz fell in between in that respect. Having a different round for non-text questions was fine though (such as the Visual connect rounds).


VIT was a nice quiz, IMHO. The organizers definitely deserve an applause for commanding such attention (50+ teams, right?).

  • I liked the elims. They had a decent mix of questions, though some the questions were pretty long.
  • The much-discussed point about non-uniformity in difficulty level of questions was noticable. But it remains to be a universal problem, anyway.
  • More than one person participated in the making of the quiz and it was evident. Definitely not a bad thing, but a common ground in terms of quizzing standards is very much desired.
  • Perhaps one needs to be more organized to conduct such big quizzes.

Salil (one of the organisers):

Thanks Ramanand and Niranjan for the in-depth statistics and analysis (and also for making QUIZ-O-MANIA a great success).
First of all, the timing of the quiz (Saturday afternoon) was responsible for the large no. of teams (120+ ...we almost ran out of space and elims sheets!).
The quiz was set by 5 of us - Siddharth, Kunal, Ganesh, Anand and myself. As Niranjan points out, the difficulty level varied, which was because everyone's field of interest is different; so many questions were subjected to alterations as each one of us thought a particular question is way too tough when it wasn't.
Secondly, we didn't expect such a huge turnout at all, and as a result, we did have THE BEST TEAMS IN PUNE (though it was my wish that this should occur, we weren't prepared for this!). The level of the questions being toned down, they were literally demolished by all the teams (the stats show that only 3 out of 60 questions were unanswered). But I believe we satisfied the criteria of a good question - workable and interesting.

So what I've learnt is this:-

  1. When more then 2 persons are involved in the setting of the questions, do not consider any q too tough, or reframe to make it simpler.
  2. Estimate the level of finalists you are expecting.
  3. Decide the marking/splitups for each q, especially for connects.
  4. As far as long questions in elims are concerned, unnecessary crap irrelevant to the question should not be included just to make the q's interesting.

So guys, whats your opinion? And by the way if anyone needs a copy of questions, (elims and finals) just drop me a mail.

The Renaissance

1998 to 2001 was one of the best times in Pune quizzing. People like Harish, Gaurav, Sujay & me were quite fortunate to be in COEP that time. It was a generation that enjoyed the recurring talents of Niranjan, the heydays of George, Kunal, Anand and the big boys of AFMC. The Four Musketeers from AIT, Navneet, Shrikant, Kapil & Samrat were plying their wares then. Swapnil ,Shankar and many more from nearby colleges and corporates made all contests extremely competitive - qualifying for finals was a tough and proud feat. The quizzes at Mensa, BCJ, the odd Verve & Shyam Bhat, Chakravyuh and Owl-in-the-Bowl were quite superb to watch and participate. Then came the dip in the cyclical fortunes - people left Pune for academic pursuits and employment relocations. The supply of good and more importantly, enthusiastic quizzers dried up. Quizzes became dodgy and BC quizzes were no longer taken for granted.

The last two weekends have done much to dispel the intermediate gloom. We have a new generation with us - principally from VIT and Fergusson College. We also have fresh faces from outside academics. Again, there is a sense of keen competition and no places on the starting grid can be taken for granted. A couple of interesting BC sessions have happened, and a great deal of chat on creation of questions, rounds, conduct is happening on the sidelines. Old faces & old combinations are back and firing away. Unknown names are emerging forcefully into the centre.

Thanks to everyone, things are looking up.

Statistics - 1:


  • Set by: Ramanand
  • Format: Fully IR, round reversal
  • Total Number of questions: 36
  • Number of unanswered questions: 2.5
  • Number of attempts per team: A - 15, B - 15, C - 13, D - 15, E - 14, F - 12
  • Number of correct answers per team: A - 9, B - 5, C - 3, D - 11.5, E - 1, F - 4
  • Number of "direct" questions per team (in brackets, the number of correct answers on directs): A - 6(6), B - 8(5), C - 7(2), D - 3(3), E - 7(1), F - 5(1)


  • Set by: Salil, Kunal, Siddharth, Ganesh & Anand
  • Format: Fully IR, round reversal after half
  • Total Number of questions: 60
  • Number of unanswered questions: 3
  • Number of attempts per team: A - 23, B - 24, C - 24, D - 24, E - 24, F - 25
  • Number of correct answers per team: A - 10, B - 9, C - 9.5, D - 9, E - 9.5, F - 10
  • Number of "direct" questions per team (in brackets, the number of correct answers on directs): A - 11(5), B - 11(5), C - 7(4), D - 9(4), E - 8(4), F - 14(10)

Brand Equity 2004, Pune round:

  • Set by: Derek O' Brien & Associates
  • Format: 6 mostly D&P, 1 buzzer round (buzzer round not included in this), 2 rounds reversed
  • Total Number of questions: 36 (the 1st six rounds)
  • Number of unanswered questions: 6
  • Number of attempts per team: A - 20, B - 19, C - 19, D - 16, E - 21, F - 20
  • Number of correct answers per team: A - 6, B - 3, C - 5, D - 4, E - 7, F - 5
  • Number of "direct" questions per team (in brackets, the number of correct answers on directs): A - 7(4), B - 7(0), C - 7(2), D - 7(3), E - 7(2), F - 7(3)

If there are any other stats that could be useful, please let me know.

Response to comments by Kiran on IR

Replying to Formats of Rounds - II : Infinite Rebounds, Kiran said:

the reason why infinite rebounds is not that relied upon is pretty simple, its in the name itself. only if the number of questions are infinite or to be practical significantly large, can you apply this format. if there are not many questions (atleast 20 X no. of teams), some teams might feel high and dry in terms of number of questions put to them. that element of fairness is ensure in D&P. moreover, if one of your biggest arguments against D&P is the fact that one team cld end up answeing a direct imm. after a pass, thats not a strong enuff point. having been a veteran in quizzes, i wld still subscribe to D&P inspite of some amount of unfair situations.

Niranjan adds:

a simulation of infinite rebounds vs D&P (latest code - none of you have it yet..;-)) indicates that differences in team abilities result in a more pronounced variation in points obtained using IR as compared to D&P. this considers varying levels of question difficulty, team streaks and question-to-question streaks across a number of quizzes. though it does take a number of quizzes to establish this (as kiran says), an average of limited number of quizzes (say, 10?) is enough to substantiate this.

i think, the most important aspect in every quiz is the uniformity in difficulty level of the questions. but perhaps this is the most difficult thing to accomplish. more often than not more than one person are involved in making a quiz and they have to 'settle; for a varying level of difficulty. the question of fairness arises mainly due to this aspect and therefore needs addressing.

another sub-problem is to arrange teams such that the order does not give an unfair advantage to certain teams. am working on the same and will soon come up with something worth stating (so i hope).

Here's my response to these points (thanks for the different point of view, Kiran - really helped me examine my arguments, of course I still don't agree with you :-) ):

  • Only if the number of questions are infinite or to be practical significantly large, can you apply this format.if there are not many questions (atleast 20 X no. of teams), some teams might feel high and dry in terms of number of questions put to them. that element of fairness is ensure in D&P.

    I personally don't think that given a quiz with a decent number of questions (>30), this is a valid point. I don't think the number need to be very large for IR to be fairer than D&P. The reason for this view is my measure of fairness is not the number of questions "directly" posed to a question (that is the number of first attempts for a team), but rather it is the number of questions a team gets to attempt, be it direct or passed. I don't see any difference in them, especially if the distribution of questions and consistency of level is assured. I feel that ideally speaking, one must be able to answer any question that is posed (of course this doesn't happen practically), and the framing & quality of the questions must not be a hindrance to getting the answer if I know it. In this regard, I don't see why we must distinguish between a direct attempt and a passed attempt. What fundamental difference lies between them? I am willing to concede that there is a psychological difference only, that we feel we have a better chance with Directs than with Passed question. I feel that's only a mental block. Getting a question direct does not greatly improve my chances of getting a question suited to me, nor does a passed question inhibit my chances in any way especially, if I'm the only person among all who can get it. Consequently, I feel that the number of attempts is a better indicator of fairness between formats. If I can say that all teams have received an equal number of attempts (of course, not at the same questions, as we know the ideal case that all teams attempt all questions and the winner is one that gets most right is not a practical one in our stage finals conduct), then that format is fine.

  • moreover, if one of your biggest arguments against D&P is the fact that one team cld end up answeing a direct imm. after a pass, thats not a strong enuff point.

    I don't consider that to be the biggest argument. There is no single argument against D&P, it is the combination of the "different values for different attempts", "fixed starting points of questions", "teams getting direct + pass right" etc. Teams may answer more questions than anyone else and still lose. Also the number of attempts at questions can be hampered by the fact that the origin of the next question is always fixed and potentially against the teams later in the order. A theoretical example:

    Teams A to F. Teams E & F are the best of the six and can usually answer any question put to them. Teams A to D will never correctly answer a question posed to them. In D&P, in a round, Team F will answer 5 questions, 4 passed & 1 direct. Team F (presumably furious by now :-)) get their direct right. Number of attempts per team is heavily tilted in favour of E.
    In IR, both E & F will end up getting equal number of attempts and points - a fair reflection of the strengths.

    Of course, a counter-argument to the above (thanks Samrat ) is that if rounds are reversed after half the quiz, F gets the same advantage and things balance out. But the fact remains that in a round, there is a skew. Now assume that (again thanks to Samrat ;-) ) each round was a theme based round and that F was better at Sports than E (in such a round, E would get lesser questions right than F given the same number of attempts). If that round was from A to F, then F would lose out. (Hope this makes sense :-) ).

    The point is that number of attempts should be similar for all teams. Clustering of attempts around a team is to be avoided. I think D&P will result in different numbers of attempts, perhaps not everytime, but atleast sometimes. I also suspect that IR may do better in this respect. The format should not inherently breakdown in situations where one team gets significantly more chances than others. I agree with Niranjan that distribution and consistency is the key aspect, but I feel we can concentrate on it once we have assured ourselves that the underlying framework will not distort that distribution, or cause its own problems.

    During the last few quizzes, I have tried to collect some numbers on the questions in the finals. What I did was to note for question the team it was directed to and the team that got it right. Using this data, I calculated the number of attempts per team. The quizzes were my Pulse quiz, the VIT quiz and the Brand Equity Quiz. I couldn't manage this at B.C Joshi and I left this task incomplete at the Chakravyuuh quiz for there was so much else going on to make it a valid example to use :-). I'll be putting these stats in a separate posts. I think it is too early to point out any inferences, but there are some interesting trends in them.

  • I thought of a new format that could possibly marry the ideas of D&P and IR - a separate post for that (Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet! ;-)).

Summary of comments to Salil's question

In response to Formats of Rounds - I, Salil had a question to ask on awarding split points in an answer to more than 1 team.
Principal comments:


The quizmaster should in general follow a policy of not saying if a particular answer given by a team is completely wrong or partially right, and should move on. In the eventuality that another team gets the complete answer, they should be given all the points, otherwise the q/m can come back to any team that had answered partially correctly to award partial points. Mine:

Incidentally, this point took centrestage during VIT's quiz where it was felt that the hosts were trying to please everyone by awarding half points to many teams (once overshooting the value of 10 per qn), or were hesitant in deciding whom to award points to etc.. This issue crops up principally in responses to Connects as the routine observation is that no team manages to answer the question to full satisfaction. Usually they get the relation or the central theme correct and can explain only part of the connection between the elements and the theme - they then win half points for their effort. A team ahead in the passing order then completes the relation and takes the remaining points. Sometimes, it even takes more than 2 to complete the entire jigsaw. This causes even more headaches, for it seems inelegant to award fractional points or more than the original value of the question.

In my opinion, the following can be done by the question setter. First, while creating the question, try and understand whether there will be a possibility of a fractured answer. (In the case of a connect, this is highly likely. Also, in the example quoted by Salil, there are three names required in the answer - another candidate.) If this possibility exists, perhaps the question can be modified to expect only one clear cut answer? (In Salil's e.g., is there a need for all three blanks to be filled, esp. given that IG & SG will be the obvious guesses? Can only the relatively lesser known Bansi Lal be the hidden one?) If so, the problem is averted. If (as in the case of connects) this cannot be avoided, then one needs to think what is the most important aspect of the answer. Is it requisite for all elements to be explained, or is it fine for the theme (the "funda" as we call it) to be revealed? For instance, in the "Elements" connect that I have mentioned here, I have no right to expect an explanation for each item! In Chakravyuuh IV as well, the connect for the Space Missions would be resolved with the theme, instead of the organisers insisting on each individual explanation. In the event that both the theme and each explanation is essential (connects with 3 or 4 items involved), then it must be made clear to the teams how the scoring will be done, so that there is no grumbling later. I faced this potential issue in a round I had done as part of my PULSE quiz, where I had a Visual Connects round called Split Personality in which a set of 3 to 4 images connected a person. In this case, the name of the person fetched 5 while the explanation (of a majority of the items, not all) fetched the remaining 5. The round passed off peacefully ;-)

This problem has no quick and simple solution for all cases - I think the questions can be finetuned to avoid the problem in most cases. Also, the person asking the question needs to be clear in his/her mind and consistent in implementation. The problem is compounded when more than one person is conducting the quiz. A decision prior to the question needs to be arrived at; even perhaps to the extent of a points breakup for each such question agreed upon in advance. Perhaps a radical method can be followed only for these types: get the teams to write down their own explanation for the connect, inclusive of the main connection and each item's relation to it (the writing is to prevent wholesale advantages to the teams further down the order). Then they read out in turns, and the first in the passing order to provide the best (if not complete) gets points. This can avoid cases where a team later in the order needs to fill in only one missing piece, having used the previous answer to their own advantage - even if this team would have got it otherwise is hard to prove. I don't know if this can work practically or if it is an ugly hack but a workaround like this may be important in a quiz where there is a profusion of such questions.

Question of the Week - 3

Here's a question from the maitré from Mensa 2001 (a.k.a Amnesia 2001 (Surviving Factual Harassment)) which had quite a few personal favourites.

Q: Connect: Editor and Managing Director of a daily, a storekeeper at an army depot, a domestic servant, a restaurant proprieter, a refugee, a medical practioner and a barrister.

A: They formed the accused in the M.K.Gandhi assassination case. (Nathuram Godse & Narayan Apte, Gopal Godse, Shankar Kistayya, Vishnu Karkare, Madanlal Pahwa, Digambar Badge & V.D.Savarkar).

I think the reasons for liking the question are simply personal - it is a portion of history that I (like many others) have some interest in. It is an oft made valid accusation that we sometimes don't explore newer areas in our quizzes here, so this question commendably moves away from the usual subjects. The question is taut and its p.o.v of the fact is fresh, for those men are not usually described as such.
Also Question of the Week-2.
The Shyam Bhat Memorial Quiz - 2004

  • Date: 14 March (Sunday)
  • Time: 10 a.m
  • Venue: AFMC, Pune
  • To be conducted by Brijesh
  • This is an Open quiz

Chakravyuh 2004


First: Gaurav & Neeraj (IIM-L & Jamnalal Bajaj cum BCQC)
Second: Harish & Ramanand (BCQC)
Third: Niranjan & Samrat (BCQC)
Also: Brijesh & partner (AFMC), Meghashyam & Pooja Shirodkar, ICICI Mumbai


Probably the most extraordinary circumstances I have seen a quiz conducted in. It's still all very confusing to me. I can only appeal to the other quizzers who were there to limit their comments & criticisms to the questions, for the intentions of the organisers were bonafide. A sympathetic pat on the back for the organizers Siddharth, Anup, Tejas, Shabbir, Mufeet and the rest. Chakravyuuh IV needs to be analysed thoroughly, but not in a public thread (except maybe the distribution of questions) - we can get it right again next time.

Brand Equity 2004 - Pune Regional Round


First: Ranjan Banerjee & Ajay Kolhatkar (Renaissance Consulting)
Second: Manish Manke & Kartik Jayaraman (Geometric Systems)
Third: Landscape, Goa
Also: Samrat Sengupta + Amit Garde (Persistent), Kanbay S/W, Triple Point


Perhaps it is not fair for me to write any, as I'm hopelessly biased against the way it is conducted. I don't really like Mr. O'Brien's methods and I don't like the questions from D 'O B & Associates. I wish we could get a fraction of the money splurged there that would help us conduct a quiz of our own. I'm not sure why big-spending quizzes don't have good questions - I don't get the relationship. But the thumb rule still holds true. The greed among the audience is to be seen to be believed! Atleast I had the pleasant company of friend and fellow cribber Capt. Shankar. Renaissance were always my top seeds, and here's hoping they'll do well in the All India Finals.

P.S.: Mr. O'Brien needs to be told that though he may be a dashing presenter, since he can't speak Hindi for nuts, his pseudo-Bihari accent is the worst ever I've heard. Even Cyrus Broacha is better.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Short version of the results of the VIT & AIT quizzes:

Quiz-o-Mania - the VIT quiz

First: Samrat & Harish (BC)
Second: Brijesh & Ayon (AFMC)
Third: Kunal & Ulka (FC)

Also: Niranjan + Ramanand (BC), Shivaji + Vivek (BJMC), MESCO

Owl-in-the-Bowl - the AIT Solitaire quiz

First: Kunal (FC)
Second: Shivaji (BJMC)
Third: Brijesh (AFMC)

Also: Ramanand (BC), Ganesh (VIT), Samrat (BC)

Gen. B.C.Joshi- the AIT Solitaire quiz

First: Aditya Narula and Sangram Chahel (ex-AIT)
Second: Meghashyam & Pooja Shirodkar
Third: Rajiv and Onkar (SIBM)

Also: Shivaji + Vivek (BJMC), Salil + Kunal (VIT), Kunal + Ulka (FC)

Chakravyuuh 2004

The details of the fourth edition of COEP's quiz: The Govt. College of Engineering, Pune will hold its annual quiz CHAKRAVYUH on the 7th of March, Sunday. The Quiz is open to all.

  • Date : 7th March (Sunday)
  • Time: Registrations at 9:00am, Elims : 9:30 am
  • Teams of two. No restriction in number of teams from any organization.
  • Venue: The COEP Auditorium
Question of the Week - II

Given my current rate of posting here (blame it on lack of time rather than lack of content), this should've read "Question of the Month", but then here it is anyway. This time's pick is a question by the recently de-mobbed Gaurav (of COEP 2002, IIM-L 2004, soon to be Infesting Business Markets and the one who owes me un dosa masala) from his collection of questions posted here.

Now, this is a very BC-esque question: the visual connect that upholds the Rule of Economy by saying nothing more than is necessary. It's also about movies, which is a common hunting ground. The question reads:

Q. Look at the image. Whose face should be in place of the question mark?

A. Quentin Tarantino (the reasoning derives from the film Reservoir Dogs). Each block in the upper half is a colour, associated with the face below - the colour being their codenames .

Of course, people who haven't watched the film would find it extremely difficult to get. But since Reservoir Dogs is a well-known film, that's not a problem, no accusations of obscurity here. Anyone who's seen the film will easily recognize some of the actors - Buscemi or Keitel or Madsen in particular. Reservoir Dogs would probably spring to mind. Now, who could be the last person? If you'd read the film credits, you would know QT was the missing person. If that was not the case but you knew that Tarantino has acted in films a few times, you might be tempted to guess his name. You were sure to know that QT was the director of Reservoir Dogs, and it would add weight to your guess.

Other good points about the framing of the question is that it cleverly avoids using words where pictures could be used. This way, the person asking the question wouldn't point out the significance of the colours by emphasis (for e.g. the "blond" shade isn't very obviously at first). The fact that it is QT who is missing and not any of the others is what's best about the film, otherwise it wouldn't be such a good question. Also, it's one of those questions that rewards the person who has watched the film rather than the chap who simply has read a lot of trivia about the film (which happens a great deal).

I enjoyed the question. That's why it's my question of the week.

Here's Question of the Week-I. Contributions to this section welcome.