Thermopylae is probably best known to the modern world as the venue where 300 rock-hard elite soldiers defended the pass from thousands upon thousands of Persian warriors, the name literally meaning “The Hot Gates”. January 19th may not have matched the warm climates, but as a mirror of the SPARTAN event being held in Florida, the Winter Open at Warwick was not going to be any easier a task, with the array of quizzers gearing up to fight off the hordes of questions intent on breaching their defenses and sacking their cities.
Oxford’s community came armed for bear, fielding no fewer than three teams and a veritable smorgasbord of buzzer quiz talent, not least last year’s University Challenge runner-up (and UKQB’s own) Alex Peplow and a pair of players from the current series in Dani Cugini and Laura Cooper. Still, going up against a field including world champions, Mastermind legends and rising stars of the quiz world, it’s hard to say the Oxonians would have an easy time of it.
Their fortunes would turn out to be mixed. Oxford C, despite fighting their A team counterparts tooth and nail, finished winless; Oxford B tied the Old London Town squad on a 6-4 record; but while they took losses to the Five Percenters and Four People You Meet At Quiz Tournaments — oxymoronically only fielding three players — Oxford A won through the rest of the day that included a nail-biting win over Fraud Masters, with the 300–290 result being decided by a single toss-up.
Of course, it takes two teams to make the finals and Oxford A were to be met by one of the two who’d taken them down already. With Joey Goldman on exceptional buzzing form — scoring 26 15-point toss-ups to demonstrate an enviable combination of knowledge, memory and guts to buzz that early in a question — the Five Percenters had torn through nine of their ten foes, only stumbling in their final game against Ellie Warner’s Fraud Masters.
In many ways, the first match showed the truth of Napoleon’s old adage — never interrupt your opponent when he is making a mistake. The Five Percenters had some impressive buzzes, but perhaps the nerves were to blame as seven of the game’s toss-ups were interrupted incorrectly and Oxford A were happy to capitalise, running out winners by 340 points to the 5%’s 180.
However, it wasn’t a one-and-done affair and the teams lined up for a second crack at one another and, despite the Percenters losing two out of their four members, Joey Goldman and Ewan Macaulay cracked their knuckles and delivered an incredible never-say-die performance. Would their three power toss-ups be enough?
Sadly, no. Isaac Brown, on the Oxford side, had no intention of letting the Percenters be the only one to claim early toss-ups and snatched three of his own that turned out to be critical, the extra fifteen points he picked up from the swift buzzes being the fifteen points that separated the two sides, as Oxford A claimed the title and “silver”ware by a score of 285 points to the Five Percenters’ 270.
It illustrates how strong a team performance Oxford A’s victory was that none of their squad finished in the top five for individual performances. Claiming those spots were Emma Laslett, one of the three Four People; Joey Goldman; Old London Town’s Evan Lynch; the titanic Joseph Krol; and at the top, Daoud Jackson of the Fraud Masters, finishing the day with a monstrous 655 points over 10 games. Tremendous congratulations to everybody who took part and the Oxford A squad for their hard-fought victory. The full statistics for the day are available here.