Tuesday, 29 July 2014

It does pay to read the instructions . . .

Allow me to explain . . .

You might have noticed that Channel 4’s series “Child Genius”, about the final stages of the Mensa child genius competition returned a week ago yesterday. I was so intrigued and interested by the first series last year that not quite a year ago I sat the Mensa tests, and when my results came through I was invited to join. Having joined I think it was always a given that I was going to enter this year’s Brain of Mensa competition.

Basically, the Brain of Mensa is one of a series of competitions which all eventually feed into the Mensa Games weekend, to be played at the end of October and beginning of November in Birmingham. It is a general knowledge quiz competition. The gameplay is relatively simple. Basically, the players sit in order, and this order needs to be changed several times during the game. The first player is asked a question – if he/she gets it right then happy days, if not the second player gets a go, then the third, etc. The next question goes to the second player, and so on and so forth. Basically, he or she who answers most questions correctly wins.

I don’t actually know how many people take part in the competition every year, but the first round at least is organized on a regional basis as much as possible. You can understand this, and I’m guessing that if you live in somewhere like London where there are probably a large number of players, then it possibly means that you don’t have a lot of travelling to do. If you live in Port Talbot though, it doesn’t work so well. I was drawn against one player living in Bristol, and another living near Chard. What made it more difficult as well was the fact that although I’m new to the competition, it turned out that it was down to me to organize our heat. Well, I could have asked both of the other players to come to Port Talbot, but that wouldn’t really have been fair, and between the three of us we managed to stage our heat. I’ll be honest, the fact that one of the other two players was a former winner of the competition certainly gave me some food for thought, but then nothing ventured, nothing gained. I don’t know that any of us played especially brilliantly, but I was happy to come out on top by the end of the quiz.

I am getting to the point. If we fast forward to yesterday, I travelled to Stevenage for round 2. This was another level of competition. For one thing there were 5 of us, and all 5 players had won their way through to play in the round. In particular – and I didn’t actually google all the other 4 players, but had found this inadvertently when googling about the competition – I was playing in a round which included former winner and perennial finalist Les Hurst, an extremely fine quizzer.

If you go into any quiz actually expecting to lose, then you’re on a loser before you start. Even if you think, in your heart of hearts, that you’re very much the underdog, it can be helpful to play as if you think you’re going to win anyway, and for the first 3 rounds or so this stood me in good stead, as Les and I established a lead over the other players. Les though, was outstanding, and I couldn’t match him for the rest of the contest. That’s fine. If you’re beaten fair and square by someone who was better than you were, then you put your hands together, give them the credit that’s due, and mean it as well.

So we all sat and chatted for a while after the match, but the time was getting on, I had a 4 hour drive ahead of me, and needed to get a wiggle on if I was going to be back in time for the quiz at the “Twelve Knights”. Which revelation provoked the question from one of the other guys , “You’re not all quizzed out, then?” Well folks, obsession is not a fair weather thing, and I ruefully smiled , shook my head, and observed that I’m in it for life. Now, it was just as I was about to go when I once again congratulated Les, and told him that I honestly wished him every success in the final. To which he favoured me with a quizzical look and replied “Well, you’ll be there yourself, won’t you?” – What did he just say? – A couple of the others reinforced what he’d just said, and a perusal of the instructions sheet that had accompanied the questions confirmed it. Both first and second would make it through to the finals in the Games weekend in Birmingham at the end of October. Well, my flabber has been so gasted once or twice before, but not that often. But the great thing is that, when I entered in the first place I didn’t set myself any targets, and I didn’t have any expectations, other than meeting some nice people, and playing in at least one enjoyable quiz. But in my heart of hearts, I did think it would be wonderful to make it as far as the finals. So, Les, Andrew, Penny and Bill, if by any chance you happen to read this, thank you once again for a most enjoyable afternoon, and Les, see you in Birmingham!

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