November 28, 2020

As promised - courtesy banners and posts on social media, an advertisement in The Bengal Story (a prominent news portal run by friends), emails and WhatsApp messages - the maiden edition of the Subhro Mitra Memorial Foundation Open Quiz, powered by Spencer’s, was conducted online on the evening of November 28, 2020.

Thanks to our sponsors, and a bit of initiative on our part, there were handy prizes lined up for the top-three finishers. We don’t know if that (not too shabby as small quizzes go) helped, the promotion, which was launched three-odd weeks in advance, certainly did, and by the time the cut-off date for registration came around, we had well over 60 teams. A few of them, maybe two or three, didn’t end up participating for one reason or other, but our preliminary/qualifier round still had 62 teams - a very healthy number.

On to the quiz then. Running an online competition among 62 teams is tough at the best of times, and it was tricky in this case too. We split them into groups of 31, and broke the preliminary round in two, and had the teams submit their answers - to 25 questions - on a Google Form. That went smoothly enough from the point of view of the participants, but we hit our first, and then second, major hurdle: We needed much more time to do the tallying of scores than we had budgeted for, and tech shortcomings meant, well, tech cock-ups. All of us being in different locations, connected via Zoom and WhatsApp - and whatnot – didn’t help, and, to cut a long story short, we delayed the start of the finals by around 40 minutes. Not the worst thing that could have happened, but far from being how we wanted it to be.

In any case, fortunately, that was the worst of it, and the finals, for the best part, was a breeze. We had taken a lot of care to make the questions as complicated as possible, primarily to make sure they were difficult to Google (always a worry in online quizzes), and that meant good fun in terms of people working out the answers, often hitting the bullseye and, sometimes, going in a wrong direction altogether. The rounds were designed to reflect some of the interests our polymath friend Subhro had, so it was a nice, eclectic mix of topics, which, we would like to think, kept the contestants engaged. And, much to our delight, we ended with two ties at the end of the finals, which were contested by eight teams: two tied at the top, and two just below them.

 

Thankfully, our question bank didn’t need too much stretching, and we could break the tie/s in one question: Keshav Athreya & team finished top, Sayan Mazumdar & team finished first runners-up, and Bodhisattwa Basu and team came third. The winning team won Rs 9000 + copies of TM Krishna’s award-winning Sebastian & Sons, and the next two teams won Rs 6000 and Rs 3000 respectively, and all nine members won book vouchers worth Rs 1000 from Bookworm.

And that was that. A few glitches and a few hitches, which we will hope not to repeat come to SMMF Open Quiz Season II, but a lot of good, old-fashioned quizzing fun, which we will certainly hope to add to next time. Which, one hopes, will be in a better, safer, uninfected world, where we can quiz the way quizzes are meant to be: in the open, among people, with the buzz all around us, perhaps with a drink or two. Just the way Subhro would have liked it.