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Quiz Bowl 101

Quizbowl seems like the perfect activity for CPS. It’s basically competitive nerdery. This is not actually true, of course, but a fair number of students do, in fact enjoy trivia, but seem not to want to participate in Quizbowl or think they don’t know enough about it. However, it isn’t as frightening as it seems.

Currently, Dr. Wilson heads the Quizbowl club at CPS, inheriting this position from another (unnamed) history teacher that left the school in 2003. It is purely trivia. Two teams face against each other and race to be the first to answer questions, with topics ranging anywhere from history and geography to the STEM fields to art and culture. Sometimes there’s even a sports question. The beginning of questions are usually impossibly hard, referencing very specific details about the subject, but as the question progresses, the hints become easier and easier until the answer is clear. To answer a question, a player must hit the buzzer and state their guess on their own, without teammate support. If they answer correctly, they’ll be given a three part bonus question, but this time they can talk to their team before answering. In contrast to the “toss-up” questions, these bonus questions start easy and end hard, but they don’t follow this pattern strictly. If you answer the question early enough, you’ll get what is called a “power answer,” which is worth a few extra points.

Quizbowl is a pretty simple game. There aren’t many rules, and those that do exist are easy to follow. Everything else is just a combination of what you know and how much you are willing to stake to try to answer correctly. This being said, people still hesitate to play, even if they enjoy trivia. Sometimes people doubt their abilities, especially when comparing themselves to to some of the CPS Quizbowl legends, like Ross Parish or Jake Lyons. Regardless of how counterproductive these comparisons are, even if one does come to a Quizbowl Common Classroom, they don’t always answer many questions, even if they knew the answer. Often times, people simply lack the courage to put their knowledge out there, probably for fear of failure. What I want to show here is that despite such fear, Quizbowl cannot only be fun but also be a great way to build confidence in yourself and your knowledge. What’s a better way to do that than talk to the current Quizbowl team?

Firstly, we have the senior, Simon Herz, who is the current team captain.

NM: How did you get interested in Quizbowl?

SH: I just like trivia. At Clubs Fair, during my Freshman year, Dr. Wilson was reading out trivia questions for the Quizbowl team, but then he never held practices. So I patiently waited until Sophomore year to start going to tournaments.

NM: What is your specialty in Quizbowl?

SH: Probably literature, but I know some science stuff too. And just random things, of course. 

NM: What makes a good Quizbowler? Any advice?

SH: I think anyone can be good at trivia, because everyone’s had their entire life of experience added to their brain. Just try it out: a few days ago we had someone who had never played before and they power answered a Taylor Swift question. Then we got a three part bonus about marvel movies. You never know. There’s stuff for everyone.

We also have Harry Yeung, one of the mainstays of the current team.

NM: Why do you like doing Quizbowl, and when did you start?

HY: First of all, I like trivia. I watch Jeopardy every night with my family, I love to do Sporcle quizzes online on my own time, and I just love looking up random tidbits of info on Wikipedia, just to learn new things new things about the world.

NM: When did you start doing QB?

HY: I technically started QB in freshman year, but it wasn’t very organized at that point, so it was just Nikhil reading questions in a room, and the only other guy in there was Ross, and he knew everything, so I just got destroyed.

NM: What is your specialty?

HY: I have a couple specialities. First is classical music, second is history, and third is geography. Those are my three. I have a particular interest in history, and it might be something I pursue. Geography I’ve been interested in since I was a kid; I used to know all the countries and capitals when I was a kindergartener, and I also knew all the flags and could identify them and stuff like that. I wanted to gain a more global understanding of the world because my dad had been traveling for work, so I thought it’d be important to learn about different cultures. For classical music – I’ve just listened to it, and I play piano and drums. Most songs I listen to actually have backstories, and so do the composers, so I want to go onto wikipedia and look up what those stories were.

NM: Do you have any advice for people who like trivia?

HY: Have no fear at all. Quizbowl is a place to show off your knowledge, and it doesn’t matter how much you know, there will be a question that you will know. And once in a blue moon, there’s a football question. Even if you think that you don’t know the bulk of what happens, there will be some question that no one else knows and you’re gonna be the only one who does. You might know answers to questions you didn’t even know you would know the answer to.

Of course, we’ll also have to talk to Dr. Wilson, the leader of our club, who is the trivia master.

NM: Why did you choose to lead this club?

SW: I do like trivia and history. I’ve watched Jeopardy my whole life and that sort of thing, and I was involved in a QB like activity in High school myself, so I figured “why not?” It’s been a lot of fun. In the old days, the guy running it was not very organized, so we’d often hear about tournaments 4 days before they happen; even today, sometimes we don’t know until the last minute where a tournament will be held. The people running it are mostly run by the QB team from CAL. Even at these big tournaments, the prizes are someone’s old textbooks. If you to the big state and national level tournaments, it is much more organized. Like a debate tournament.

NM: Do you have any advice for people interested in trivia?

SW: It can be intimidating at first, because you hear questions and say “I could never know the answer to that,” but as people study more, the questions just become easier and easier. Quizbowl appeals to the kind of person that finds trivia and interesting pieces of information inherently interesting. I would encourage as many people as possible to check it out. We’re gonna have the all school Quizbowl in November, so that’s coming up pretty soon.

Straight from the team’s mouth come these words of encouragement. I also can’t say I’m writing this from an unbiased perspective, as I’m on the team as well. If you like trivia, or want to learn more interesting facts, please come by and give it a shot!

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