Students in global battle of wits
Regulars to Melbourne’s pub trivia scene over recent months may have noticed a somewhat fierce group of competitors; four young, clean-cut men intent on success.
Those who view hotel trivia nights as a casual affair – more about frivolity than intellectual pursuit – might have been amazed by the quartet’s dogged determination to win.
The mysterious group is made up of four University of Melbourne students who are in training for the Brain World Cup, a quiz competition televised to over four million people on Japan’s Fuji TV.
“I guess you could call it the world’s biggest trivia competition,” laughs team member Andy Lynch.
“We compete in a series of different quizzes, puzzles and challenges for two hours.”
2011 was the inaugural year of this general knowledge competition that comprised teams from eight universities, including Harvard University, Tokyo University, Seoul National University and the University of Oxford.
The competition has now expanded to include 16 institutions, and it’s the first time an Australian team has been invited to compete.
The subject matter couldn’t be more diverse, covering no less than “the full spectrum of human history, literature and culture.”
In very Japanese fashion there is even a ‘Cartoon’ category.
“The questions range from ‘Name every African country and their capitals?’ to ‘Who won the first American Major League baseball tournament?” Mr Lynch said.
Last year, the event drew more than four million television viewers. This year’s competition is expected to attract a much larger audience because it will be broadcast immediately after the London Olympics Men’s 100 metres sprint final.
The Australian team is made up of students from various disciplines across the University of Melbourne.
Austin van Gronigen studies Arts, William Mosley is completing an Engineering degree, Andy Lynch is completing his Honours in Media and Communications while Gavrillo Gravovak’s focus is philosophy and classical studies.
“The test is general knowledge, so we have a pretty good complement of skills,” Mr Lynch says.
The four earned their spots after each blitzing a qualification exam organised by the production company behind the Brain World Cup but held at the University of Melbourne.
Austin van Gronigen achieved the top score, earning himself the position of Team Captain.
But despite being selected on merit and coming from various fields of study, the competitors share a common link: they’re all current or past members of the University’s Ormond College.
“I think our familiarity will definitely be the key,” Mr Lynch said.
“We have all got to know each other in a similar college environment and have a good handle on each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We are hoping to be a wonderfully cohesive team.”
Some British and North American universities take a very different approach to selection. Students form their own teams, which compete in hotly contested domestic quizzes.
Members of America’s two most dominant quiz competitions, the Academic Competition Federation and National Academic Quiz Tournaments, can even receive credit towards their formal academic studies by competing in ‘quizbowl’ (as the Americans call it).
The Australian team’s selection and preparation has been more of a back-to-basics nature, possibly making them the ultimate competition underdogs.
“We have had Trivial Pursuit out, decks of cards and atlases open all the time,” Mr Lynch said.
And of course a lot of time has been spent at the pub.