Strategic Wallis Simpsoning

While University Challenge lasted all of two seasons in India, it gave rise to some memorable memes. For example, our episode against Hindu College (2003-4) gave birth to the term “chimpanzee question”, which has since been shortened to “chimp”. Enjoy the etymology here:

Two rounds later, we got thulped by KREC (featuring Mukka, Ganja, Peeleraja and Rajat). I’m unable to find the video of that, but I clearly remember this question from later on in the quiz, at a time when we were well behind.

Shamanth (pictured above in the featured image of the YouTube video) buzzed and gave a long answer about the woman whom Edward VIII married. It didn’t matter – Quizmaster Basu wanted the name. The question passed to the opposition, and Mukka immediately buzzed and said “Wallis Simpson”.

Unlike Chimp, this didn’t catch on, but briefly at IIT, we used “wallis simpson” as a generic term in a quiz where you give most of the answer, but not the full answer, which means the team next in line can then “cash” on your descriptions and take the points.

I guess the term was too long (“chimp” became a thing because “chimpanzee question” got shortened to “chimp”). Also, unless you are interested in British monarchs, Wallis Simpson is “floyd” (a fairly vague funda). That said, it’s appeared enough times in quizzes to be called a “peter” (from “repeater”).

Anyway, here is a picture taken of the IIMB team after we had won Nihilanth in 2005. Shot by Pota, we later decided that in this photo we look like a band. And that the band would be called “Peter Floyd and the Chimpanzees”.

Bottom left in this picture is Mukka, who answered “Wallis Simpson” in UC in 2003.

Speaking of Wallis Simpson, the nomenclature just didn’t catch on, but the concept has always existed in quizzing. I got reminded of it last week, and thought it can be rather “strategic”.

Since the pandemic, the world has been flush with online quizzing league. I had steadfastly refused to take part in them, forever maintaining that for me “quizzing was a social activity”. Recently, though, I happened to go for a few quizzes with Kodhi (top right in this pic, with his fist to his chin), and he convinced me that I should give it a shot. FOMO having been lit, I signed up for a league called “B612” (that the league is seemingly named after my birthday further encouraged me to sign up).

The league is two weeks in. I won my first round fairly easily (and it left me so stimulated that I couldn’t sleep half that night), and then had a really bad day in the second round last week.

Maybe it was because the quiz happened at 6pm, just after I had returned from work. Maybe because the Swiss League pitted me against stronger opposition, given I had won the first one. Maybe I hadn’t relaxed enough before the quiz started. I was in really poor form, missing some absolute sitters.

Halfway through the quiz, it was clear I wouldn’t win. However, second place was still gettable (I was then third). That’s when I got a direct question where I “knew the funda but not the answer”. If I got it wrong, the question would pass to the person then in fourth place, and then to the person then in second (the quiz follows a format called “Mimir“, which is like the US sports draft system – people who’ve attempted less on the pass get precedence).

While I was in bad form, I realised that I could “strategically Wallis Simpson”. It was my turn to answer, so I could give out all I knew about the answer, even though I didn’t know the answer itself. That would maximise the chances of the person then in fourth place to answer, which would mean the question wouldn’t pass to the person then in second (thus denying him an opportunity to pull further ahead of me).

If the question were to, after me, pass to the person then in second place, I would have simply passed – there was no way I would have done him favours. However, in this particular question, the person in fourth stood a chance of preventing the person in second from answering – and so I had to give him (#4) all the help he needed.

And so I said something like “I know it’s the Toronto basketball team that won NBA recently but I’ve forgotten its name. So I’ll say Toronto Maple Leafs“. As it happened, neither the person in fourth nor the person in second could build upon my clue. The leader, who ultimately won the quiz easily, answered Raptors – though I don’t know if my clue helped him.

As it also happened, by the time the quiz ended, the person in second pulled away from me, and the person in fourth caught up with me – we ended up joint third. That wasn’t a possibility I had been playing for when I decided to “strategically Wallis Simpson” him! There is no reward without risk.

Quizzing for Aunties

Dear Random Relatives,

There was a reason that I earlier never told you about the quizzes that I was going for. It was because you would pepper me with utterly stupid and irrelevant and nonsensical questions which I’d usually never had the patience to answer. However, now that I have a wife who is significantly more social than me, and who tells you everything, I’m once again forced to handle those questions. So I’m putting the answers all here in the form of a post, which could serve as a sort of FAQ for the questions you ask, but the FAQ format will significantly constrain my writing so writing this in free form.

Ok, every quiz need not have a topic. That is some stupid thing that is drilled into you be these nonsensical TV quizzes. And when I tell you that, let me tell you that you’re insulting me by saying “oh, general knowledge, ah?”. Quizzing is not about “general knowledge”. It’s much more than that. It’s about thinking, about reasoning, about working out stuff and getting a kick out of it. The “general knowledge” that contributes to this process is not much. And by considering that it’s only because of “general knowledge” that one gets to participate in quizzes, you’re wrong.

Then, I know that your view of quizzes is formed by those shows you see on TV, like Kaun Banega Crorepati, or (in an earlier era) the random quizzes that would come on Doordarshan. It’s unlikely that too many of you would’ve watched the BBC quizzes (such as Mastermind or University Challenge) which came closer to “real quizzing” (in terms of quality of questions, though not in format) so I should perhaps excuse you for this thought. And while on that, let me tell you that not every quiz gets telecast on TV. And the likelihood of a quiz getting telecast on TV is NOT proportional to its quality. An inverse relation here may not be too far off the mark, though.

Next, I don’t mug “quiz books” or “general knowledge books”. Yes, I did at one point of time in life, when I was a little kid and my parents would force me to “prepare” for quizzes by reading such books. However, over the years I realized I wasn’t gaining much by reading those books, most of which had been written by people who could hardly be termed as quizzers (I, however, still “read” questions from actual quizzes. I faithfully buy the KQA yearbook each year, and have similarly purchased books containing questions that have actually been asked in quizzes that I think are of good quality).

Next, I guess you want your son to become a quizzer, right? I want to inform you that the Karnataka Quiz Association (or similar organizations in other cities such as BQC, QFI, BCQC, etc.) organize quizzes for school kids on a regular basis. Send your kids for those. For the quizzes in your school, try get quizmasters who also organize good quality senior-level quizzes rather than getting some teachers to put together some questions. And I don’t think your child gains anything by mugging up those “manorama year books” that you unfailingly purchase each year.

Now, having supplied these answers to you, may I request to check this link before you ask me nonsensical questions about quizzing?

Yours sincerely,