Brown’s quiz bowl team won the undergraduate division of the Intercollegiate Championship Tournament on April 1. The team placed eighth overall in the tournament, which included undergraduate teams and open teams of graduate and undergraduate students.
Quiz bowl is a competition in which two teams face off against each other in “academic trivia,” including “literature, history, science (and) the arts,” said Anson Berns ’23, the team’s captain.
The event was hosted by National Academic Quiz Tournaments, the largest provider of quiz bowl competitions, according to their website. The team won the undergraduate division of the tournament in 2021, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Herald spoke with the team’s four members — Berns, Jason Hong ’24, Walter Zhang ’23 and Michael Li ’23 — about their path to the national championship.
This year’s championship started off with delays for members traveling to the competition. “There were huge storms in Chicago, so all of our flights were delayed (or) canceled,” Berns said. “I got to Chicago (only) a couple of hours … before the games started.”
Despite these issues, when the team arrived at the ICT in Rosemont, Illinois, they quickly found success. In the preliminary rounds, the team won six out of seven games to earn a place in Pool A, the competition’s highest bracket, for their playoff matches against teams which included graduate students. According to Berns, this was the first time Brown’s team made the top pool.
Brown was the only entirely undergraduate team in Pool A, according to the NAQT website. Brown’s team lost all seven of its playoff matches against open team opponents.
“Most of them were really competitive, and they went down to the last few questions,” Hong said. “We tried our best.”
Despite their losses, Brown ended the playoffs as the highest-ranked undergraduate team. Facing Columbia in the undergraduate final, Brown found a decisive victory with a final score of 380-90.
“We thought we were better than (Columbia), and we were expecting to win,” Berns said. “It’s still a really good feeling to be undergrad champions.”
“It felt better winning a real in-person tournament,” he added.
The team attributed their success to their past experience working together. Berns, Zhang and Li joined the team their freshman year when some of the upperclassmen left the organization. “It was up to us to rebuild the club,” Zhang said. After Hong joined the following year, they were able to create a stable team for competitions.
“The four of us have been playing together for quite a long time … so I think we’re all pretty comfortable with each other in high-pressure situations,” Berns explained.
The team will compete at another national-level tournament at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the coming weeks and hopes to achieve similar results.
“We’re going to try to win the undergrad championship and place highly (there) as well,” Berns said.
Ryan Doherty is a senior staff writer for The Brown Daily Herald. He covers University News and Science & Research. Ryan is a first-year from New York, intending to study chemistry.