British Novice 2023: report

British Novice 2023: report

The flagship novice event of the quizbowl year—British Novice—took place on the 25th of November, with a record 24 teams playing across two sites. Over 500 questions were painstakingly written and edited by members of the UK quizbowl community for this tournament, which we hope has served as a fun introduction to quizbowl for students across the country.

Imperial College London once again hosted the southern site of British Novice, with 14 teams in attendance, including Southampton and Bristol who came back fighting after last year’s absences. The field was initially split into two brackets of seven, who played a round-robin and a friendly unranked match against a team from the other bracket. Title-holders Imperial College started off strong, but seemed to run into a brick wall against Cambridge A, trailing 250 points to negative 5 by the start of the ninth tossup. In one of the most dramatic moments of the day, the hosts mounted a furious comeback and closed the gap to a mere 25 points, although this was not enough to stop Cambridge A from clearing their bracket. Birmingham were also particularly impressive, fielding one of the top scorers of the tournament, but came short of avenging their runner-up position from 2022. In the other prelim bracket, Southampton won every single one of their matches, despite having donated a player to Oxford to fill a short-handed team. Warwick A had perhaps the most experienced team of novices, which was reflected in their scores—twice they exceeded 500 points, and rarely dipped below 20 points on the bonuses.

In the playoffs, Bristol shone in the middle and lower brackets, claiming the top position in each. In the top bracket, Southampton went undefeated against Imperial A, Cambridge A and Birmingham to take the advantage going into a final against Cambridge A. There was little to separate the teams in the first quarter of the match, but Cambridge soon pulled away after scoring several impressive early buzzes, with Southampton not quite managing to close the gap with the final scores at 205–405. With the teams now on level pegging with ten wins and one defeat each, a second final was played. In stark contrast to the first match, Southampton dominated from the start, reaching 300 points before their opponents had achieved triple digits. Thus, with the final score at 400–170 to Southampton, the southernmost team won the southern mirror of 2023 British Novice. This was all the more impressive given that only one of their players had appeared in a tournament prior to this term.


Up north, Durham University’s quiz society were hosting their first in-person tournament, with ten teams in attendance, including from Manchester, Edinburgh (who dispensed of the usual A and B team suffixes in favour of a Jimi Hendrix theme), Sheffield and York. A straight round-robin was played between the teams, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Edinburgh Haze, their prospective University Challenge team, began by scoring a staggering 600 points in their first round, beating every other team in the prelims—including a narrow 315–310 win against Edinburgh Purple, who fielded current University Challenge star Matt Stafford. York A, having had a rougher start to their day, clinched a tiebreaker win against Manchester in the sixth round that set off a winning streak lasting the rest of the tournament. Meanwhile Edinburgh Purple only narrowly avoided defeat from Sheffield B and Durham C, in two consecutive nail-biting matches that went down to the very last tossup.

Going into the ninth and last prelim round, it was guaranteed that an Edinburgh team would appear in the final, but Durham could work their way in if they beat Edinburgh Haze in the last round. Both teams started out strongly, with the scores tied at halfway, but then Edinburgh pulled away and barely gave the home team a look-in after that. And so, both Edinburgh teams met in the final, with Haze having the advantage. The Haze team led for much of the way, but Edinburgh Purple, by now no strangers to last-minute comebacks, took four of the final five tossups to force a second final. Bolstered by this win, the three-person Edinburgh Purple powered six tossups in the second final to seal victory with the scores reading 335–265. This, combined with wins at CREEK+ and ACF Winter, caps off a very successful month for Edinburgh.

This year’s British Novice was the first to be entirely house-written since the 2021 tournament, and made some notable changes from previous editions, with increased pop culture content, longer questions and the inclusion of power-marks. We would welcome feedback from the players and organisers, which you can do so in our student quiz Discord server. Our sincere thanks go to all those who worked hard to write and edit the many questions that went into making this a successful tournament. We are particularly grateful to Rhys Lewis for his tireless work as head editor, having written and edited over 150 questions for the tournament. Finally, UK Quizbowl would of course like to thank the organisers and moderators of the northern and southern sites, and to the players who signed up to take part. We look forward to seeing you all again in future tournaments.

The tournament statistics for the southern site can be seen here, and the northern site statistics can be viewed here.

UK Quizbowl

Student buzzer quiz tournaments in the UK.