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Oxford University Quiz Society

ICQ 2004 Finals Evening

If anyone could have correctly predicted the events of the evening of Sunday 29th February as the first match began at 4pm, you would have said that they were mad. And rightly so - even the eventual victors didn't think they would get past the quarter finals. This is what makes the Oxford ICQ such an enthralling competition.

The first match of the "finals" was, as last year, the last match of the second round and saw defending champions Worcester A take on Group H winners Merton A. Many thought this would be a close match which could eventually see the downfall of the two-time winners, but how wrong they were. Worcester quickly gained a 155-60 lead after 10 starters, and although Merton managed to close the gap slightly to 235-170, a series of incorrect interruptions in the final five starters saw them lose any chance of the victory. Worcester eased to a 320-155 victory, with individual scores over 50 for Owen, Evans and Isaksson.

The first of the quarter-finals saw a Corpus Christi side, considered outsiders for the title, take on Merton B, who, as Merton C last year, managed to get through to the quarter-finals where the A team had failed. An early Merton lead soon vanished as Corpus took 5 starters on the trot and a 160-55 advantage. Merton closed the gap to 30 points at one stage, but the final 7 starters all went the way of Corpus for an easy 370-185 victory, and not 270-185 as was reported on the night, with a particular ex-Etonian mathematician failing to notice that 330 + 25 does not give 255. Gail Trimble topped the individual stats with a +80 score, and Corpus had an exceptional 83.7% Bonus conversion, the highest of the competition.

The second quarter-final was billed as "The Clash of the Titans" - Somerville A, who with Dorjana Sirola and Luke Pitcher on their team for the 4th consecutive year, were still going for their first victory, came up against a strong St John's A side who had eased through. A very close match which could provide the eventual champions was billed, but the opening exchanges saw nothing of the sort. After 7 starters, St John's held a 95-0 lead, helped by some exceedingly... slow... answers... to their bonuses. Finally Dorjana got Somerville off the mark, and 9 of the next ten starters went their way for a 200-110 lead. John's never really threatened a comeback, and Somerville went through with a 310-165 victory.

So it came as no surprise when the third of the quarter-finals followed a similar unpredictable path. Univ, bereft of 2 of their team members, one hijacked by an entz trip to Amsterdam (Mulligan...), faced a Balliol side who had just scraped through their second round match against a two-man (actually only one person ever answered anything) Somerville B team. Balliol decided that they would take their starters in blocks for each person - the first 3 went to Jamie Lee, and then Peter Baker added 4 in a row as Balliol built a lead of 120-20, massive by their previous standards. The sports starter perhaps inevitably went to a Mr Webb, and with some excellent buzzes by Dave Shallcross, who ended up with +85 to his name, Univ were back in it at 185-165 down and less than 5 minutes left on the clock. Question-master Rob Linham decided it was time to pick up the pace, and Marshall thought it was his turn to take 3 starters in a row, and Balliol built a 90-point lead with less than a minute left, and duly kept up their colleges fine ICQ traditions by going through to the semis. Final score: Balliol 245 - 200 Univ.

A much fancied Brasenose team, who had racked up 350+ in all of their first round matches, took on Worcester in the last of the quarter-finals. A close-fought battle to start saw Brasenose with a 10 point lead early on, before they pulled away, taking a 220-115 lead a little over half-way through. Worcester, not wanting to go down without a fight, clawed their way back, taking 6 of the next 7 starters to tie things up at 235 all. However, a last-ditch Brasenose effort saw them home, and after 31 starters in 25 minutes, the defending champions were on the wrong end of a 330-265 scoreline. Brasenose's Stanford import, Yogesh "the machine" Raut did most of the damage with a +95, and the aggregate score of 595 beat the record 570 set the previous year.

So everything was set up for a Somerville-Brasenose final, as Rob had predicted in his Livejournal, all they had to do now was win their respective semi-final matches. By this point the rumbling in my stomach had got too much for me, and I had disappeared off in the quest for food, returning at the end of the first semi to find the surprises had just kept coming. What I will recall here is from the scoresheet alone.

It was yet another battle that went back and forth, with Somerville opening up an early 75 point lead, only to see Corpus level at 85 all. Firstly Somerville, then Corpus opened out small leads, which soon disappeared, so that the two teams were within 5 points of each other with 27 starters gone. With a minute left on the clock, Somerville held a slender 10 point lead but Charlie Oakley, the Corpus captain, grabbed his first starters of the match and Corpus had a 295-270 win. What it would have been like in the audience, I will never know, what it was like for Rob - well I'm sure he'll tell us! Somehow, Somerville still haven't won this competition...

So onto semi-final 2 - Balliol vs Brasenose. Surely the underdogs couldn't win this one as well? A quarter of the way in, the scores were level at 60 points apiece. Balliol steadily gained a lead, 55 points ahead at just past halfway, and as much as Brasenose captain Lewis tried to rally his team, they never got on level terms again. The 250-165 lead that Balliol had after 30 starters was too much for Brasenose to overcome, and although they closed the gap, Balliol ran out the victors by a 290-240 scoreline. Mr Linham had rattled through 37 starters in the 25 minutes of the game, and Peter Baker's +100 score for Balliol was to be the highest of the evening.

So the stage was set for the 13th ICQ final - it had certainly been an unlucky year for some, and was to be for one of the teams who had reached the final. Balliol, on home ground, were to play Corpus for the title. If you thought the semi-finals had prepared you for the final, think again... I will say now (and most probably live to regret next year) that the match those few witnessed in LR23 that evening will be the most exhilarating match that they will ever see - and if it was like that for the audience, what on earth was it like for those playing? Rob started reading as he meant to go on - fast. Balliol decided to do likewise, pulling out a 170-10 lead and then stretching it to 215-45 after 15 starters, 8 of these going to one Mr Baker, who was obviously on form that evening. Surely it was all over - but we were less than halfway into this contest. Slowly the Corpus train started to rumble, picking up 10 of the next 14 starters - it would have been 11 but one of the Corpus players answered while his name was being announced, then changed his answer - if only he'd waited that little bit longer... Anyway, Corpus had closed the gap to a mere 30 points with about 5 minutes left - it could still go either way. The pressure was clearly getting to some of the players, Stefano Mariani of Corpus visibly showed his frustration when he gave an incorrect answer. Corpus had the better of the next few exchanges - the scores must have been close now, but only Rob and Ben, who was scoring, knew the full situation. There were 5 seconds left on the clock, time for one more starter, number 36 for the record. 2 seconds left, a buzzer goes. "Balliol, Steinbaum" was the call. "Ragtime" came the reply. As Rob confirmed this was the correct answer the timer went. Ben read out the scores - Balliol 315, Corpus 310. The final starter was all that separated the teams. "I'll just check I've added it up right", or words to that effect, came from the president, just to add to the suspense. The scores were right, and Balliol had their 5th ICQ victory, just...

Later that evening, at around 10pm, a text came through from Rob, which summed up the whole of that evening:

"******* hell, I'm exhausted. Did that all really happen?"

He should have known the response he was going to get:

"What's happened, Rob? We're expecting you tomorrow!"

A week later, at Squad Practice, a question on music came up. Marshall was once again on the opposing team to Stefano, and he buzzed in: "Ragtime" he answered. Laughter throughout the room, especially when Mr Mariani said "I'm going to leave the room now...". That final will last in the memories of those there for a very long time.