Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The making of "Balls, Ballots, Bollywood" - 1

It may be a tad conceited to write about the making of a quiz, but since this was the hardest quiz that I have ever set, I thought it would be interesting to write about the lessons learnt and decisions taken along the way.

The genesis of this quiz was in a bad cricket quiz that I participated in with Harish and others earlier this year. I hadn't been to a good cricket quiz in a long time and felt it was a pity this was such a bad quiz that taught me nothing new or interesting. I had the idea of a "Religions of India" quiz, about cricket, films, and politics. I had never participated in a formal quiz about Indian politics. The closest was a lovely BC quiz by Ganesh Hegde (always the quizzer, never the dancer). I pitched the idea to Harish, but soon, I had begun to form some strange ideas about the format. I requested him to let me go ahead with this alone.

I was wary of doing it alone because I did not (still don't) know a lot about Indian cricket. I had a reasonable interest in politics, but only of the last two decades. Hindi films was much easier (or so I thought). In the end, I estimate it took me about 100 days worth of reading, thinking, and setting to come up with the quiz. I have always been over-enthusiastic about setting quizzes, perhaps to the point of obsession. I spent a great deal of time coming up with my last BC open quiz last November. I guess I like the creative elements of the setting: the anxieties of not having quiz-worthy content, poring over formats and presentations, composing the written parts of the question to be both devious and subtle, and so on.

This time, I had decided not to simply dip my toes into subjects (as sometimes happens in general quiz-settings). Rather, I would try and dive deep by reading as many original sources as possible in the three topics. Setting general quizzes is easier because I collect little nuggets of possibilities each day, from just keeping my eyes and ears open. Come general quiz time, I always have something to begin from. In this case, I was starting with the tank on empty.

My last BC open quiz was hugely complicated - each of the 42 questions seemed to be made up of 2-3 sub-questions. In addition, my experiments with the elims format, a semi-final for the draft picks, elims scoring etc. seemed to make matters worse. I labeled it the "No Smoking" quiz, in reference to the then released Anurag Kashyap film of seemingly equal complexity! I had not intended it to be so much of an indulgent trip, and it provoked some soul-searching. Using the feedback from that quiz and other experiences, I decided the following:

1. Content: keep it as simple as possible, especially since the themes are off-beat. Will stick to post-Independence India.
2. Format: continue to experiment

As a quizzer, each year, I'm astonished at how much we don't know. As a quiz-setter, I'm astonished to discover newer quiz-worthy things to ask. If we ever feel that we've run out of questions, then we're just not looking hard enough. I hoped to convey this very feeling to anyone who came to this quiz wondering what could be asked in these three topics.

I did not want to refer to any specialist quiz books for inspiration. The only option was to read and to do so in copious amounts. I had about three-four months left for my quiz, so I began with the topic I was most ignorant of: Politics.

Long before I planned my quiz, I had bought Ramchandra Guha's India after Gandhi. It is a bit of a tome, but it told me a lot about post-Independence India. Definitely recommended for everyone, especially since we have very few books about 1947 and later. I also read a book about Kashmir Frontline Kashmir by a former BBC correspondent and Cutouts, Caste, and Cine-Stars (by Vasanthi), which is about TN politics. I re-read parts of Vaibhav Purandare's book about the Shiv Sena. Using some hooks from these books, I read a lot of articles online. I had a little bit of a 'quota system' in order to represent both different eras as well as regions, so based on what I already knew, I looked up articles about specific people and groups.

I've come to realise that even the good cricket quizzers don't seem to know a great deal about Indian cricket. Admittedly, it is a very niche topic and potentially, a dry one. Hence, I chose to primarily go for interesting anecdotes rather than stats. A failing of sports quizzes is that they become too personality or stat-oriented. I tried to avoid these. Despite that, 7 of the 8 elims questions on cricket were answered by cricketer's names! I let that be because most of these questions were largely about anecdotes.

BTW, I also did some reading about cricket. Some sources for these: Spin and Other Turns (R. Guha once again), Sandeep Bamzai's book on Bombay cricket, books by Sunil Gavaskar, Tendulkar's biography (Purandare again), Indian cricket controversies - a bitchy book that I found via Google Books, and of course, the dependable Cricinfo archives.

Thankfully, teams on stage could grapple with questions on both politics and cricket.

Hindi films, something that I'm interested in, turned out to be very slippery at the end. I had left it for late, since I thought I had enough resources and jottings to see me through. I was mistaken. I wanted to ask mainstream Bollywood, so few or no questions on parallel cinema (which has been an easier quizzing fount). I looked at some of the books I owned on this topic, looked at my notes from the Encylopaedia of Indian Cinema, foraged around online, and in the end, just thought of films I owned or had seen. I wanted to have a fairly high percentage of A/V (a first for me, since I am never confident that the supporting audio/visual technology at the quizzing venue will hold up). In the end, I just about made the minimum cut.

This is already a big post, so jottings on the format in a following article.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

October General Open Quiz - Report

Set and conducted by: Apoorva Dubey and Akhil
Flavour: General
Participation: ~40 teams

1st: (B) Vibhendu Tiwari + Nikhil Motlag + J. Ramanand (draft): 140
2nd: (E) Salil Bijur + Yash Tamaskar + Yash Marathe (draft): 105
Jt. 3rd: (C) Suraj Menon + Arnold D'Souza + Kaustubh Bhat (draft): 55
Jt. 3rd: (F) Tushar Kaul + Shiv Anant Tayal + Anand Sivashankar (draft): 55
5th: (D) Suvajit Chakraborty + Aditya Gadre + Roshith Mohan (draft): 50

6th: (A) Gautam + Ramprakash + Sudarshan Shidore (draft): 30

~50 questions in IR; some "free hit" questions; Elims cutoff: top 6: 9, draft: 8; I couldn't record the elims scores

This quiz had the toughest elimination round I can ever recall having attempted. We were lucky to squeeze in as draft picks, with those who didn't losing out on the proverbial hair's breadth. This resulted in a very new (and some would say, fresh) lineup on stage.

Many of the questions in both the finals and elims were good. In fact, some were excellent. However, these were somewhat obscured because several of the remaining questions could have been better framed, or had too many elements to provide. I am not sure if it happened only to us, but we were a little disoriented in the elims! In addition, the coverage of topics was fairly western-centric; however, that is preferable to artificially including topics that don't interest the quiz masters. That said, there were more questions on literature and art than other routine BCQC quizzes. I also liked the science questions.

There was a lot of new things to be learnt in this quiz and that made it worthwhile for me. What did you think? Use the comments to let us know.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oct 2008 Open morning quiz - "Balls, Ballots, Bollywood" - Report

Set and conducted by: J. Ramanand
Flavour: Indian Cricket, Indian Politics, Hindi Films
Participation: 29 teams

Results: (with final-within-final scores)
1st: "C-Madan ke Chinese Chakkars" B.V.Harish Kumar + Salil Bijur + Shiv Anant Tayal (draft): 70 pts
2nd: "D-Ranjeet ke Pujaaris" Anand Sivashankar + Vibhendu Tiwari + Nikhil Motlag (draft): 60 pts
3rd: "E-Lotus-eyed Eaters" Amit Varma + Pradeep Ramarathnam + Tushar Kaul (draft) :55 pts
4th: "B-Bob ke Bajrangbaliis" - Suraj Menon + Yash Marathe + Brijesh Nair (draft)
5th: "A-Shetty's Hairraisers" - Saransh Verma + Anubhav Chatterjee + Suvajit Chakraborty (draft)
6th: "F-Hercules ke Muscules" - Subhodeep Jash + Ritoban Sengupta + Abhishek Nagaraj (draft)

A 24-questions elims (split equally amongst the three topics) saw 9 teams being selected for the finals. I apologise for the problems with the videos; it tooks us three laptops before we could somehow get that going. Despite starting right on time, this snafu set us back by about 30 minutes - I hope it wasn't too inconvenient in the end.

The elims cutoff was 10.5 for the top 6 outright qualifiers, and 9 for the next 3 teams, who were split up in a "draft pick" format. This meant the top 6 teams could pick one of these 6 qualifiers, starting with the 6th-placed team to qualify. Since all three members would have to take part individually in a solo round in the finals, there was a tactical element to this.

The elims scores: A+V(19), H+S (16), S+Y (15), A+P (11.5), S+A & S+R (10.5); Abhishek+Nikhil & Brijesh+Suvajit (10) , Shiv + Tushar (9).

This consisted of three identically formatted rounds, one on each topic. Each round began with a set of four common questions for 5 pts each, followed by 10 questions on Infinite Rebounds (10 pts each), ending with 2 qns of 10 each. The last two had to be simultaneously attempted by one representative from each time. Teams were then allotted scores relative to the top score in the round (from 0 to 5).

True to billing, Team E pipped C to the top spot in the cricket set, and picked up all 5 relative points. Scores were evenly spread out in this section. However, the battle picked up in politics, with C & D sharing honours, and staying ahead of the rest. The final section was surprisingly one-sided, even though the Vibhendu-led attack of Team D swept the standings as expected. Teams A, B, and C were expected to do better, but couldn't. Unfancied F, who had been struggling till then, were a surprise 2nd place.

The top two teams after the regular finals were D & C (final scores in the image above). However, Team E was also admitted to the last round because they were fairly close to the top two. This last round consisted of 6 qns, 2 from each topic. Open to all three in simultanous-mode, the default scoring was 10 for a correct answer. However, if confident, teams could choose to double it but with a penalty of -5.

The first cricket qn was found to be too cryptic (perhaps even bad!). E took control of the 2nd by correctly doubling. The other two did not score, leaving the underdogs on top. E further drove in the advantage by doubling their first politics qn. C too answered correctly, but did not dare double. D got this wrong. Scores were daringly placed at C=10, D=0, E=40.

The 2nd politics question was too easy for all teams: they each cracked 20. C=30, D=20, E=60. It looked like it would be E's quiz to lose from now on.

Alas, the first films question was correctly taken on the double by both C & D, but E, playing it safe, could not answer. One question to go, and we had C=50, D=40, E=60. It was anyone's game from here. In case of ties, the team with the higher score after the main finals would win. All teams had to double this one irrespective of their answer in order to win.

The last question caused a lot of hair-scratching. Eventually C & D submitted their answers. E agonised over whether to double (they had to, otherwise D would win if they got the question right on tie-breakers), and then on the answer.

They picked the wrong one. C & D both got it right. Scores: C: 70, D: 60, E: 55.

C won the quiz as a result.

Final comments
I leave it to the participants (both finalists and others) to comment about whether they liked the questions and the format. I will put up a separate post on some of the "design" decisions behind the quiz. I must add that the format was always likely to be a little unfair to a team or two. D lost narrowly despite their leading performance in both the elims (a 3 pt margin) and the main finals (a 1.5 pt margin). But they were fairly nice about it :-). Thanks also to a patient audience, some of whom gave some terrific answers that had nonplussed even the finalists.

Thanks to everyone who came to the quiz, to Amit, Suraj & Yash for helping out with the scoring, and to Suvajit for timely help with the laptop.

I will try to make the questions available after suitable post-production.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

BCQC Open Quizzes - October

We’re back with the next set of BCQC Open quizzes. Here are the details:

When: Sunday, 12th October, 2008 Where: Dewang Mehta Auditorium, Persistent Systems Ltd., Senapati Bapat Road (need directions? See http://bcqc.org/?q=participate)

What Quiz 1: “Balls, Ballots, Bollywood” – a three-in-one quiz on Indian cricket, Indian politics and Hindi films Reporting Time: 9:15 am Quiz Time: 9:30 am to 1 pm By: J. Ramanand

Quiz 2: October General Quiz  Reporting Time: 2:15 pm Quiz Time: 2:30 pm to 6 pm By: Akhil and Apurva

How: (same for both quizzes) Teams of 2 members (don't have a teammate? don't worry, you might find one at the venue) Top 9 teams for the finals No prior registration needed, no entry fees, open for all

Prizes Sponsored by Landmark, Pune Prizes for all finalists Prizes for Best School and Best College teams

Contact Email: contact - at - bcqc_dot_org Phone: Ramanand (97642 58560), Salil (98231 12258)

Monday, October 06, 2008

BarQing Mad! - Entertainment quiz at MindSpark '08

Set by : Yasho Tamaskar , Aditya Gadre , Aniket Khasgiwale .

Conducted BY : Yasho Tamaskar

1st : J Ramanand and BV HArish Kumar : 145
2nd : Salil Bijur and Suraj Menon : 115
3rd : Suvajit Chakraborty and Sayak Dasgupta : 100
4th : Akhil and Apoorva : 95
5th : Meghashyam Shirodkar and Venkat Srinivasan : 55
6th : Mihir Muley and Chinmay Nivargi : 15

Format: 42 seamless IR , Two long connects

The quiz was quite entertaining with 4 teams doing well fighting it out for the top three spots . JR and BVHK gave some great answers and cracked both themes before everyone else . Suraj and Salil gave some brilliant answers but lost out due to the theme rounds. Ahkil and Apoorva and Salil and Suraj were tied upto the last round but were beaten as they didn't get the theme. Last years winners ,Suvajit and Sayak didn't seem to be on top form and missed a few easy ones. They did make a big comeback in the last round to just pip Akhil and Apoorva to third place.

Torquest 2008

Set by : Kaustubh Bhat , aniket Khasgiwale , Mohit Karve , Aditya Bhedasgaonkar , Avnish Dhongde and Aditya Gadre

Conducted By : Kaustubh Bhat
1st : Abhishek Nagaraj and Raghav Chakravarthy - 145 pts
2nd : Saransh Verma and Karan Chawla - 60 pts (won on higher elims score)
3rd : Suvajit Chakraborty and Amit Dandekar - 60 pts
4th : PS Sriram and Omkar Nene - 50 pts
5th : Rohan Pandit and Varad Deshmukh - 40 pts
6th : Rohan Jain and Dhruv Chadha - 10 pts

Leave opinions and suggestions in Comments section.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Chakravyuh 2008

Set by : Aditya Gadre and Aniket Khasgiwale with Kaustubh Bhat and Yasho Tamaskar in supporting roles. Gaurav Sabnis made a sweeping cameo with several questions for the finals and the elims.

Conducted by : Aditya and Aniket

Standings (elim score in brackets):
1st : J Ramanand and BV Harish Kumar : 110 pts (28)
2nd : Amit Varma and Sumant Srivathsan : 90 pts (25)
3rd : Sarat Rao and S Balakrishnan : 70 pts (24)
4th : Meghashyam Shirodkar and Amit Garde : 60 pts (25)
4th : Salil Bijur and Yash Marathe : 60 pts (24)
6th : Prasann Potdar and Mukund Krishnan : 50 pts (24)

QM's notes : (JR will be putting up unbiased detailed report later)
- Simple elims just like last year . The cut off was 24 . The top six teams were very close on elims score.
- Finals : We tried as much as possible to make good questions on all topics. Some topics were slightly neglected (Current affairs , Literature, Art to name a few)
-Though there seamed to be some simpler ones , as far as I remember , there was no god-awful sitter as such.
- An altercation-free finals would have been desirable , but unfortunately that was not to be. Maybe a more clear policy on part marks is needed.
-Also a final without questions falling prey to the finger of god would be awesome but Kaustubh Bhat goes into the record books by managing to fit in the finger of god even with a flash presentation.
-We apologise for the lighting and state of the auditorium. The college really let us down in that department.
- As for the result , Ramanand and Harish gave some really good answers and finally broke their string of four consecutive bridesmaid trophies with an excellent and deserved win. Sumant and Amit also gave some great answers to give Ramanand and Harish some stiff competition for most of the quiz.

Participant's views Report by Ramanand:

Chakravyuuh 2008 - Report and Results An excellent Chakravyuuh once again. The elims were felt to be on the easier side, but that was a sentiment pronounced mainly by the 'experienced' lot. The setters had designed it so that most people could do reasonably well at the preliminary stage. The result was a high range of 24-28 for the finalists.

Several questions in the finals were brilliant. Despite some of these being unanswered by anyone, the answers were of the "should have thought of that" variety. A nice variety of themes, especially some good Indian questions.

There were a few odd easy ones, but I don't think that affected the standings too much. All teams had their share of excellent answering, and the final result clusters do not completely reflect the closeness of the contest.

Both quizmasters took us through the quiz with a very competent air; in addition, the partly refurbished COEP auditorium made it an easier place to quiz compared to the exhaustion of the past. The quiz was simple in format too, with the setters resisting the temptation to add unnecessary frills.

On a personal note, our team won its first Chakravyuuh in its 6th attempt, with 4 of those attempts ending in a runner-up's bridesmaid gown. (Old-timers will recall that Harish and I were among the organisers for the first ever Chakravyuuh quiz and so have treated this is a performance at 'home', hence the desire to win it at least once!)

Participants are invited to post your views on the quiz in the comments section. Any comments , opinions or suggestions will be useful to the quiz organisers. The quiz was organised under the aegis of "Mindspark", COEP's flagship technical event, and there are two more quizzes coming up on Friday (Technical) and Saturday (Entertainment).

Do leave opinions/suggestions in the Comments section.

Quiz for the Poona School and Home for the Blind

On the 21st of October, the BCQC conducted a quiz for the the Poona School and Home for the Blind as part of their 75th anniversary celebrations. There were two challenges and 'firsts' for us: one, the quiz was to be held in Marathi, and second, some of the participants had little or no ability to see.

Thirty teams (of 3 members each, mostly teachers) took the preliminaries. The quiz was conducted by Niranjan Pedanekar, with the questions set by members of the BCQC. Despite many being first-time quizzers, the participants did very well, making it very hard to separate the six top teams.

The finals were conducted with great elan and enthusiasm by Niranjan. The finals lasted for about an hour, consisting of simple but largely 'workable' questions passed using IR (yes, we didn't desist from using all that!), including an audio round. Here, at times, Niranjan even sang some of the questions, eliciting spontaneous 'once more'-s from the appreciative audience.

Finally, the team of Sanjay, Shamrao, and Damodar won easily (they were the best team on stage, with Mr. Damodar - who is visually handicapped - giving some very good answers). The participants and organisers told us they had immensely enjoyed the programme, which was very novel and interesting to them.

In turn, we would also like to thank the School, particularly Mrs. Nagaraj, for having invited us to do the quiz. It was a very good experience for us as well.

BCQC - September 2008 newsletter

BCQC - September 2008 newsletter

Oblig Question: In 1868, geologist Louis Lartet discovered 5 skeletons in a rock shelter in the Dordogne region of Central France. What was the name of these rock shelters?

It was such a busy September for the BCQC, so we decided it was time we had our own newsletter! This quizzing month was unusually busy because many of us were not only participating in quizzes, but also organising them. But largely, we had fun, and hopefully, our hapless victims will agree as well :-). This newsletter is designed to share some of the recent happenings involving the BCQC, and to give some of the BC expats a chance to catch up, and to provide everyone advance notice on what is coming next.

~~~~Quizzes we organised in September~~~~

1. Sept 18: ACES school quiz: Once again, we were part of the ACES school quiz, now in its 4th edition. Set by the BCQC and admirably conducted by Salil, the quiz was won by St. Mary's School (Boys) in a terrific contest. All the details can be read here.

2. Sept 21: Poona School and Home for the Blind: The most unusual quiz we have done so far, this short quiz was held completely in Marathi for teams consisting of both sighted and visually afflicted members. Conducted by Niranjan Pedanekar. Read this report for details and a few photos.

3. Sept 20: NIT, Surat - Entru Meet Biz Quiz: A business quiz conducted by Suvajit for NIT Surat

4. Sept 26: AIT, Pune - Akriti Internal Quiz: A internal ranking quiz for quizzers of the Army Institute of Technology. Set by Suvajit and Yash along with others, and conducted by Suvajit.

5. Sept 21: School quiz for Rotaract Club event, Srujan: This quiz for schoolkids was set by Meghashyam Shirodkar, who unfortunately could not conduct it due to illness. Yash Marathe, along with Aditya Gadre and Yash Tamaskar, conducted this quiz.

~~~~BC Quizzes~~~~

Despite the heavy organisational loads, we had the usual quota of BC quiz sessions on weekends. We also had an India quiz as part of our Theme League, conducted by Harish. The latest updates on the league can be seen here.

BTW, our sessions are informal and open to all, so if you haven't tasted pleasant outdoor informal quizzing by a river, come by one session.

~~~~Other Quizzes~~~~

Karan and Jaipal of MIT organised a General Quiz "Abhivyakti", a small report of which you can see here on our quiz blog.

~~~~October Quizzes~~~~

The first week of October is choc-a-bloc with quizzes: beginning with PICT, then three quizzes at COEP (including the annual highlight 'Chakravyuuh'). That same weekend sees the finals of the Durga Puja quiz organised by the local Bengali society.

Also, the next BCQC Open Quizzing Day (delayed from its original schedule in September) will be held on October 12, Sunday. As usual, we have two quizzes:

Morning: A theme quiz on Indian politics, Indian cricket and Hindi Films (by Ramanand) Evening: A general quiz (by Apoorva and Aditya) These quizzes will have prizes co-sponsored by Landmark, Pune. The details will be updated on this page.

~~~~I've started so I'll finish~~~~

* We're trying to put up some of our quizzes in a publicly share-able repository. You'll hear more about it in the coming months. * Our site has an events pane on the right side - please use it to monitor news of quizzes around the corner * We love to hear comments about quizzes, especially those that we do. Use the comments sections on our blog posts to do so * If you want to submit events or ask us something, mail us at "contact"-at-"bcqc.org"

We'll see you at the next quiz!

Answer to Oblig Question: Cro-Magnon