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Quiz Bowl team proves they have all the answers

Which town was successfully defended for 217 days by Robert Baden Powell and his British forces? If you answered Mafeking — or have any idea where Mafeking is — the Quiz Bowl team could use your help. Last weekend this group of intrepid competitors traveled to the 2010 National Academic Quiz Tournaments' Intercollegiate Championship Tournament, answering trivia questions about everything from physics to philosophy to pop culture.

Ian Eppler '13, Ben Cohen '13 and Guy Tabachnick '13 placed first out of 32 teams in Division II. Jerry Vinokurov GS, Daniel Klein GS and Aaron Rosenberg '11 placed seventh in Division I.

"We were pretty dominant throughout the tournament," Tabachnick said. After going down to the other main contender, a team from Clemson University, in the first round, Tabachnick and his teammates came back to beat Clemson twice and gain the championship.

At the tournament, each team of up to four members participates in seven preliminary round robins, and their results determine playoff brackets. In each round, a moderator reads "toss up" questions, which have multiple clues read in order of decreasing difficulty.

There is no talking among teammates, and the team to answer correctly first wins. The winner of this "toss up" then receives three bonus questions, and the entire team is allowed to collaborate on them.

Vinokurov, who said he acts as the unofficial Quiz Bowl president, said the freshman team is very talented.

"I don't want to oversell it too much," he said, "but I think that's a possible national champ in two or three years."

Vinokurov said his own performance in Division I was not everything he had hoped. "It was kind of a rough time for us," he said. "We usually do better than that."

But this was in part because of the types of questions, he said. There are two separate Quiz Bowl national championships, and last weekend's included a large portion of pop culture and sports questions.

"That kind of damaged us," Vinokurov said. But the team expects to fare better in the upcoming tournament, which Vinokurov called "more academic." Brown has placed second at this tournament for the past three years, each time losing only to the University of Chicago.

Vinokurov said this makes for some history. "I would say we're pretty big rivals. It's a friendly rivalry but we view them, and I think they probably view us, as their biggest competitors," he said.

As with any competitive activity, the key to Quiz Bowl success is practice. The team members practice Mondays and Wednesdays where they face each other in practice rounds.

The topics of sample questions include Martin van Buren, the Khyber Pass, Jane Eyre and bananas. According to Vinokurov, competitors try to be knowledgeable in a number of fields. "My background is physics and math, but those are not my only areas," he said.

Vinokurov also said many of the best teams have specialists. "It's a team game. It's not about being a successful player," he said. "It's about being a successful team."

Eppler said there are many "one-man teams" that rely on a single star player, but that they often do not place as well.

Vinokurov, who serves as the team's leader, will graduate in May with a doctorate in physics.

"He's been like a mentor to us, I suppose," Eppler said. "He's one of the all-time greats. He helped us develop as teammates and players."

According to Tabachnick, Vinokurov's graduation "will definitely have an impact."

"He's sort of run the team as a benevolent dictatorship so we'll sort of be missing that," Tabachnick said.

"He's a very, very good player," he said. "We probably won't be as good as we are this year."

Vinokurov has high hopes for his teammates after he leaves. "I want to see this team prosper," he said. "I'm glad that people who care about it are going to take it over."

"Assuming I'm not playing against them, I want this team to succeed and do well and bring home many national titles," he said.


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