Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Defence against the Dark Arts

Stay with me with this one. Brian from the rugby club isn’t very well at the moment, and I wish him a speedy recovery. As it is Brian wasn’t planning to be in the quiz on Thursday night anyway, so it’s my turn for the second week running. Now if you’re a regular you know that when I compile a quiz for the club during term time I roadtest it in the staff room at lunchtime. Such a thing I was doing today. It happened that a couple of members of my department asked me to tell them the answers beforehand so that they could amaze the rest of the staffroom with the accuracy of their answers. Well, I was shocked. My flabber had never been so gasted. I told them that I would not be party to any such brazen chicanery. But, I am afraid to say, they wore me down, and so it was that I compromised and gave them the answer to the first round only.

Now, surprised by the strength of my vehemence against such sharp practice, and my regular rants against phone cheating, they did ask whether I had actually ever resorted to any trickery in a quiz. As regards cheating, well that was an easy answer. No. But as regards some of the other dark arts of quizzing, well, I did confess this one incident. It would have been back in about 1998 or 1999. Allan, John, Rob, Barry and I were using the Aberavon Quins Rugby Club as our flag of convenience in the South Wales Echo Sunday League, and we were playing at home against one of the other strongest teams in the whole league, which comprised some of the very best teams in the whole Cardiff – Bridgend area. The quiz was all written, and consisted of two halves, after both of which you’d swap over and mark each other’s papers. Now, the thing about the quiz in the Quins was that the two teams were sat relatively close together. When we took in their paper to mark, we found out that they had exactly the same amount of points as we had. They had got exactly the same answers wrong that we had. They had written exactly the same wrong answers that we had. Well, I think you know where I’m going with this one. If it looks like a fish, moves like a fish and it lives in the water . . . as you might say.

Rob was our scribe for the evening. He and I were both in the gents for a quick comfort break, and nobody else was there, so thinking quickly I said “Don’t write down the answers I say – write down the ones I write on a piece of scrap paper. I think they’re earwigging, and I’m going to put a spanner in the works if they are. “ Yes, a campaign of disinformation, gentle reader. Mind you, it’s not an easy thing to do. There’s no point in trying to lay a smoke screen on a question where they’re going to know the answer anyway. In the end I think I did it with three questions, two of which I can remember. The first was “Who sang , “I did it My Way “ “ in his press conference after winning the Open golf championship. I said , just quiet enough so they could hear it without me making it obvious that this was a deliberate giveaway I said “Well, he must have sung it in Spanish then .” while writing down Nick Faldo on my piece of paper. Then when we were asked “Where in Europe would you find Thunder Mountain ?” I hissed “Poland !” while writing down EuroDisney. When we took in their answers all of them were the same as ours – with the exception of the three answers I ‘fed’ them. For the golfer they wrote down Seve Ballesteros, and for Thunder Mountain – Poland. As Holly the computer once said in Red Dwarf – hook, line, sinker AND copy of The Angling Times. They knew they’d been had, and they knew that we knew that they knew that they’d been had. Yet nothing was said – well, how could it be without admitting they were earwigging ?

I told the guys at work that I’m not proud at resorting to such questionable methods, but who am I kidding ? After all, why would I still remember the incident after all these years if I wasn’t. Of course, the other team were a very good team anyway, and it all may have been perfectly innocent. But you have to say to pluck Poland from nowhere, especially when it was the precise answer I was ‘feeding’ them. Does that make my deployment of such tactics any more forgiveable ? Didn’t think so.


DanielFullard said...

This got me thinking about the post I did on TQA a while back....If you accidentally hear an answers, should you use it?

Its bound to happen for time to time especially in more casual quizzes and I hate when it happens to me. If I have no idea hearing an answer is gaining me a point I don;t deserve, if I use it whereas if I think I know an answer and hear another one it makes me doubt!

Deliberate ear wigging though.....hate it!

Londinius said...

Hi Dan,
Yes, I remember. My feelings, as you know, are that if you have done nothing to try to gain an answer, and you overhear one by accident, then there is no reason for you to ignore it if you think it's correct. which, as you acknowledge, is a very different kettle of fish from going out of your way to listen out for them.

Gruff said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with what you did. We've all overheard answers that we know are wrong and ignored them. If they don't have the knowledge to be able to decide that the answer they overhear is wrong well that's tough.

But I would say that it is perhaps best advised not to say answers out loud. As a matter of good team technique everything should be on paper, unless you have to resolve a disagreement. And even that should be done without disclosing clues. Why risk giving opponents even a sniff of your answers?

Londinius said...

Hi Gareth,

YEs, of course what you say makes perfect sense, and my head acknowledges the truth of what you say. But then in the heat of the moment . . .