SHAFT–2018: report

Who is the man that would risk his neck for his brother man? Who’s the cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about? Can we dig it? It seems unlikely any of those were in the question sets on the menu at the Southampton Hard Autumn Finale Tournament but, with the cavalcade of comprehension credentials on show, somebody would know we’re just talking ‘bout SHAFT.

Mirroring the Sun God Invitational, a tournament put together by members of the UC San Diego quiz society, November 24th saw the University of Southampton invite nine teams from around the country to lock horns, beat their chests and engage in an intellectual turf war like gangsters during the Prohibition era without the illegal behaviour. We would hope.

The round-robin preliminary stages were dominated by the team from Old London Town. Balancing learned experience — Andrew Frazer and Paul Steeples with fresh-faced youth – Daoud Jackson and Ewan MacAulay — the Londoners swept the field, tallying a perfect 8–0 record, averaging more than 370 points a game and being the only side to average more than 20 points for every bonus set thrown at them.

Although the Londoners looked like an unstoppable force, that three teams tied for second with identical 5–3 records and another three tied for fifth with 4–4 records speaks to just how competitive the tournament was: for instance, Southampton A, in second, fell to both Oxford A in third and the Christmas Smoothie team who were unlucky to be knocked into fourth on the strength of having the lowest points per game of the three.

However, no prizes were going to be won just yet and the nine teams were broken off into three more three-team brackets to crown the ultimate winners. Old London Town, Oxford A and the hosts’ A team squared off in the top bracket; Cambridge’s side took on the Christmas Smoothie and Pericardium and Friends in the middle; and Oxford and Southampton’s B teams faced the three-man Broken Hearts squad, this one including Connor Warden, recent winner of the British Novice Tournament with Oxford Brookes’ team.

In the middle bracket, both Cambridge and Christmas Smoothie were victorious over Pericardium and Friends — the former seeing Joseph Krol taking 8 out of their 11 tossups himself — to set up a match for all the marbles. The festive side had beaten Cambridge in the final round robin game to hold the momentum, but another strong game from Joseph Krol proved that the psychological advantage meant nothing, Cambridge running out victors 320–230.

The bottom bracket likewise came down to the third game, Southampton B falling to both Oxford B and Broken Hearts, and mention should be made of Ian Bayley’s excellent game, the former Brain of Britain tallying 120 points on the buzzers alone. The Oxford/Hearts showdown was a much closer affair, both sides taking 10 of the 20 tossups apiece, but the eventual winners had the edge on the bonuses - Broken Hearts finishing ahead 310–260.

But all eyes were on the top bracket, with Old London Town needing to repeat their earlier victory over Southampton A to claim total victory. Evan Lynch, among the day’s best performers, did his utmost to foil his QLL teammates and took 5 of Southampton’s tossups solo for the top score in the game, but the Londoners were simply stronger across the board — every one of the four players took at least one 15-point tossup and Old London Town ran out winners 345–250. Surprisingly, they weren’t able to finish the day undefeated: Oxford A, on the back of Oli Clarke’s solo 60, upset them 355–290. Can you say… rematch?

Applause is due to some of the finest individual performances. Southampton A’s Evan Lynch was rampant in the prelim stages, coming painfully close to averaging 100 points per game and finishing with 775 solo points; in the playoffs, Ian Bayley was an unsurprising winner with an 85 point/game scoreline; and Joseph Krol managed to finish second in both stages, a total average of 70.3 points across the entire day. The full statistics from the day are available here.