There are some questions the world may never solve. We may never decipher the true meaning of life, or the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop—but for every other question, there’s no one better to ask than the Harvard Quiz Bowl team.
Following a 385-330 victory over Minnesota in the finals of the Intercollegiate Champion Tournament (ICT) in Chicago on Saturday night, Harvard’s quiz bowl team became not only the national champion for the second consecutive year, but also the first purely undergraduate team to ever win the Division I title in the Intercollegiate Championship Tournament.
“It’s a pretty amazing feat,” said Chad Kubicek, Chief Financial Officer of the National Academic Quiz Tournaments company (NAQT). “The game really does reward experience ... so a very large number of the best players in the game are grad students. And to be able to beat every team without a grad student is very impressive.”
The ICT is one of two annual quiz bowl championship tournaments in the nation and features 32 Division I teams and 14 rounds of play that occur throughout a single day.
The Harvard team is comprised of four core players, each of whom specializes in a subject area, according to team president Andrew M. Watkins ’11. A chemistry concentrator, Watkins is the team’s science expert. Most history questions are handled by Dallas R. Simons ’12—who is actually a physics and mathematics double concentrator—while English concentrator Theodore J. Gioia ’12 covers literature. As for the remaining questions, newcomer Jung Hoon “Stephen” Liu ’14 often has the answer.
“Having that really deep knowledge of the subjects really helps you against other teams,” Liu said. “In covering the major distribution of questions, I don’t think we had any major holes.”
The Harvard team, which was heavily favored as the returning champion, was able to breeze through the preliminary rounds and most of the playoffs, defeating some opponents by over 500 points, according to the NAQT.
“We ended up going undefeated. We went 14-0,” Simons said of the one-day tournament. “We felt like we were in control the whole time.”
The Crimson quiz bowlers’ closest match came in the finals against Minnesota, which was closing in on their early lead.
The squad was baffled when Watkins—showing ability beyond his science expertise—answered the deciding question, an inquiry concerning the history of Thailand.
“Andy buzzed in, and he hadn’t gotten a history question all tournament,”
Simons said. “It was funny that he took that one.”
“It was not in a category that I’m comfortable with or generally speaking, good at,” Watkins said. “But with only a few seconds [to react], you can’t really induce your teammates to answer the question.”