BSQC–2020: preview

On Saturday, March 7th, the best and brightest UK student quizzers will once again descend upon Imperial College, London, to battle it out for the trophy of the British Student Quiz Championships. This year’s competition, sixteenth altogether and tenth since its 2011 reboot, will welcome 28 teams comprised of students from 15 different institutions, all of them seeking to prove their buzzer quiz ability over the course of about 10 games of 24 tossups and bonuses.

The trio of likely championship contenders this year consists of the usual suspects, Oxford A and Cambridge A, as well as the very strong Southampton A. Oxford A will seek to defend the crown they took back from Cambridge in a nail-biting final in 2019; the Oxonians (Oli Clarke, Jacob Robertson and Alex Hardwick captained by George Charlson) have looked good this season, without perhaps matching the overwhelming dominance they held four or five years ago; for instance, they lost the season’s premier longer-form student quizbowl event in a two-game advantaged final to Cambridge in ACF Regionals at Oxford Brookes. Still, Oli Clarke looks likely to lead their charge once again and will count on the more unpredictable side of the BSQC questions.

2019 BSQC finals: Oxford A vs Cambridge A.

Joseph Krol’s Cambridge A side will keep their fingers crossed for the opposite: few teams are better able to grind down opponents with their core canon knowledge. Ably assisted by Sam Cook, Boyang Hou and yet unrevealed fourth player, Krol’s team will certainly be buoyed by a recent strong performance at the Oxford Open Tournament; nevertheless, they will have to overcome the lack of their science specialist Yanbo Yin and to exercise their knowledge of the ‘B’ in BSQC more than they are perhaps used to.

Looking to disrupt the Oxbridge dominance will be the Southampton A team, whose captain Evan Lynch might have the biggest chip on the shoulder ever seen in UK student quiz, having never won BSQC in his six previous tries. Still, after the ex-Cantab’s impressive solo performance at the 2019 Penn Bowl and with likely better support than ever from the Southampton teams, especially Niall Jones, it would be no great surprise if Southampton were to reach the final. However, coming through tough top-bracket games will certainly be a formidable test of nerve.

The teams likely to give a lot of headache to the trio above this year will be the formidable Warwick A, led by Ben Beardsley, and nascent quizbowl star Seoan Webb’s Oxford B side, who have persistently been a thorn in the side of title contenders. Evan will be hoping to avoid his historical run of bad luck with the estimable Cambridge C team, featuring stalwarts like Dan Lawson.

Of course, this isn’t to say that the tournament will be composed entirely of Oxbridge, Southampton and Warwick. Along with Oxford and Cambridge, Manchester is the only university to attend every iteration of BSQC, a tournament they won in 2002 – a feat Mancunians, spearheaded by the University Challenge champion Adam Barr, will seek to repeat. Imperial College are taking part in their 14th BSQC, the seventh time they’ve run the event and the third year in a row. Following their training from Brandon Blackwell and under the organisational aegis of Michael Kohn and Susan Rutter, they’re well placed to pull an upset or three, especially following a good showing at the Novice tournament in Warwick.

Scotland is also well represented this year, with the renewed presence of two teams each from Edinburgh and Glasgow. The former has been a regular presence in British quizbowl for the past half-decade, and the society now led by Emily Luk is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of University Challenge-winning captain Max Fitz-James. The latter is a more recent addition to the circuit, with Glasgow University Quiz Society being set up just a couple of years ago by Vitalijs Brejevs and Freya Whiteford. Now an established presence at national tournaments and local Scottish circuit, the Glaswegians will seek to once again find themselves in the BSQC top 10.

They’ll have to face stern opposition from their closest English neighbours, Durham. Following a 19-year absence from the tournament they co-founded back in 1998, the Northern outfit made a brilliant return in 2019, where the Matthew Toynbee-led quarter reached the top bracket. They may have been reduced to a trio for 2020, but their increasing interest in quizbowl may keep them near the top.

Down South, the regulars most faithful to the tournament have become Oxford Brookes, with the recent rise of some more consistent society members. The recent departure of Connor Warden and absence of several key players has left them unable to field more than one team, but Joseph Middleton-Welling will be backed by a solid set of players nonetheless.

Further West, Bristol’s established University Challenge pipeline and Quiz Society has done a great job at creating quizbowl teams too, with only unfortunate late dropouts reducing them to one team. Dan Hawkins, winner of the 20-and-under prize at last year’s World Quizzing Championship, has a year or two of quizzing under his belt by now. Depending on his teammates, Bristol can challenge the upper-midfield if they have a good day.

There will also be the potential for a London derby this weekend with the presence of University College London, who recently made an impressive showing at Warwick’s Winter Novice in February with a well-balanced team and an upset win against Oxford. Then-team captain Hugo Fleming is unable to come to BSQC, but he’ll be ably replaced by UC and quizbowl veteran Sam Hosegood, formerly of Bristol.

The final unknown is Sheffield, who will be making their first BSQC appearance since 2015 and the Jonathan Elliott era. They will be captained by another UC alumnus, Jack Lewis. In addition, individual players Sam Jackson of King’s College London and Oliver Lawden of Leicester (formerly of Warwick) will be strong additions to shorthanded teams on the day.

While we couldn’t shout out every one of more than a hundred quizzers set to play in the tournament, each one of them will have a chance to make a name for themselves over what promises to be an incredibly competitive and exciting day of quiz. We hope you’re looking forward to that as much as we do!

UK Quizbowl

Student buzzer quiz tournaments in the UK.