Mettle Meet – The Purple Cow of Quizzing in India

What’s a Purple Cow? When you drive on a road in UP and you find a cow that’s not lounging about on the road, that’s a Purple Cow – A remarkable cow, a cow so different from the rest that you speak about it. To know more, avid readers of the blog would know of my bhakti for Seth Godin, can buy his bestseller Purple Cow.

Now, Mettle Meet  – a quiz that aims to revive quizzing in Odisha, as its tagline says, in its 4 years of existence has not just revived quizzing but set a benchmark so high that patrons of quizzing across India will find it difficult to match. And as a quizmaster who made his debut in Mettle Meet 2019, you, the reader may assume that the previous sentence stinks of personal bias. But stick around, this is not Radio Rwanda.

First, a brief for the uninitiated, Orissa Post – Odisha’s first English daily, is the brain and the brawn behind Mettle Meet. Mettle Meet was conceptualized in 2016 to coincide with the founding of Odisha State and Orissa Post. And in this day and age where singing and dancing competitions have mushroomed across India in the name of talent competitions, a mind sport was the need of the hour. Enter Mettle Meet, a quiz for the schools and colleges of Odisha. In the year of its inception, in 2016, there were 27 teams that participated and in 2019, 89 teams. To me, that speaks of successful property that has found its own voice.

The 2019 edition, like previous editions was spread over 2 days. Day 1 was the prelims and Day 2 was the finals. And so, we filled our boots once more. Another weekend bounty, a gift that keeps on giving. In all its crazy lavish nerve-shredding magnificence began Mettle Meet 2019. Lately, I have become a bit experimental with the prelims. Instead of keeping it a done-to-death, most-correct-answers-qualifies format, I have been twisting them around to introduce an element of strategy. Since it is something that’s still new, like a rookie sent to chase 12 RPO in a knockout game, teams get a little uncomfortable as they don’t get any time to ease into the process. The juniors and the seniors both had different formats for their prelims, with the seniors facing a more uncomfortable format. If you were one of the participants and are reading this, sorry about it, but I just happen to derive pleasure from seeing how people respond to discomfort 😛 (maybe that’s also why I do triathlons)

And so after 35 questions, we had our 8 teams with results and the rest with reasons. In the junior category, the qualifiers were – DAVs (Unit-8, CDA Cuttack, Pokhariput), Mother’s Public School, ODM Public School, BJEM Public School, St Paul’s (Rourkela) and Sai International School. And, in the senior category, the qualifiers were – XIMB, CET, AIIMS, IIT, NIT (Rourkela), SCB Medical College, IGIT (Sarang) and NISER (Khurda). That’s stumps, end of day’s play.

A fabulous performance by all the teams
The teams couldn’t have been bunched any closer

Day 2 started with the continuation of the lavish hospitality of Orissa Post as the Junior Finalists settled down on stage. The teams consisted of 2 former champions, with one of them being the defending champion. The quiz had 5 rounds of unequal length but stacked one after the other, became too long. More on that later. After the end of Round 1, which had direct and pass questions – Mother’s made early inroads as they were on 70, DAV Unit-8 started their chase at 53 and DAV Pokhariput with a strong start at 42, while a couple of teams still struggling at 0. Round 2, which needed teams to pick 4 correct answers from a given set of 6 options saw the scoreboard with a much lower standard deviation – DAV Unit-8 was now in the lead at 73, Mother’s stayed put at 70, and St Paul’s having a field day climbing to 3rd spot at 55. Round 3 was about celebrating the state of Odisha, which was also one of the co-sponsors. Teams had a fairly smooth sail as the gap now narrowed but the lead went back to Mother’s who was now on 85, DAV Unit-8 at 73 and St Paul’s at 55 but it was heating up amongst the other teams at 42, 38, 25, 25 and 0. In Round 4, the hangover of friendship day continued as teams had the option to make friends on stage by helping each other. Mother’s benefitted the most as they marched ahead to three figures at 100, Unit-8 still chasing at 78, St Paul’s made a horrible error to go back to 52 with others closing in at 47 (Pokhariput), 38 (Cuttack), 30, 17 and -8 (Sai International, champions of 2017, their struggle was evident from their long faces and droopy shoulders).

And now for the final round of 12 questions – Q1 to Mother’s, they reach 110. Q3 and the 5-pointer follow up to Unit-8, they’re on 93 and keeping the pressure on Mother’s. Q6 to DAV Cuttack and they move from 48 to 38, just 1 point clear of St Paul’s and Pokhariput. Two questions remain. Q7 was a video of a Disney film while the question was about a company with attractive assets and strong growth potential, Mother’s hits the buzzer and with crossed fingers answers Sleeping Beauty. Was a very risky move considering they were 17 points clear of Unit-8, but they were defending their crown. And when you defend your crown, you don’t wait for the opponent to make an error, you take the initiative. That’s the lesson Mother’s wanted to show and tell. As I announced Sleeping Beauty as the right answer, Mother’s knew the trophy was coming back for another year of a much-welcome stay. And for the record, the fight for the last podium spot couldn’t have been any tighter. Final scores – Champions of Mettle Meet 2019: Mother’s Public School – 120. 1st Runner Up: DAV Unit-8 – 93. 2nd Runner Up: DAV Cuttack – 48. DAV Pokhariput – 47. St Paul’s – 47. ODM Public – 40. BJEM – 37 and Sai International – -18.

Some moments worth talking about –

  1. Mother’s getting confused between Presidential Pardon and its opposite, Capital Punishment under the watch of various presidents.
  2. Some really funny answers for why the Mongolian wrestling form Bokh has the dress that it does. The funniest being, that “Genghis Khan liked to see his soldiers naked.”
  3. Unit – 8 celebrating their Sheldon Cottrell answer with Cottrell-esque celebration

Time for the senior final. The senior final was about giving teams the option to choose the questions for themselves. 2 reasons for that – firstly, as adults, they can make responsible choices and secondly, most important, I am immune from any criticism if they don’t win because “hey, you made that choice. Don’t blame me.” J

Round 1 had little to separate the teams, AIIMS and IIT both at 27 each, NIT-R at 24, and IGIT at 21. Round 2 is when the quiz started to be indicative of the direction it was heading, with 3 answers IGIT now ahead at 46, NIT-R at 39, IIT at 37, CET showing some signs of comfort at 24 and IIT committing a hara-kiri of sorts falling behind to 19. The fast-paced and short Odisha special round bunched the teams very close to each other as after round 3 it was NIT-R that was now leading at 59, CET at 44, IGIT at 41, IIT still at 37, and AIIMS, multiple times on the podium before, coming back into the hunt with 34. Round 4 finally confirmed our suspicion that there was little to separate between the teams and the winner wasn’t going to be decided by who answers better but by who keeps the composure and strategizes well. AIIMS back in the lead at 54, NIT-R at falling behind to 49, CET still at 44, IIT holding on to 37 like sea otters and IGIT dropping further to 36.

And now for the final round of 11 questions with 5 teams being eliminated after 8 questions. I could use the following adjectives to define the 8 questions where the teams exhibited Darwin’s survival of the fittest – see-saw, desperation, silly mistakes and moments of brilliance. So, with 3 questions remaining we had to say goodbye to XIMB – 12, NISER and SCB – 25 each, IIT and their nemesis 37, and CET with their internal conflicts bowing out at 59. We were now left with 3 teams: IGIT – 66, AIIMS – 69 and NIT-R – 79. The first question to IGIT, nobody answered. The second to AIIMS, AIIMS didn’t know but IGIT did and they moved to the top spot with 81. IGIT, as was evident from their reaction, decided they had done enough and would now let luck decide their fate. Not the best strategy to win a quiz of this magnitude, but hey no Englishman ever complained after the Superover against New Zealand. In the final question, AIIMS did half of what any sane individual would in their position, that is, hit the buzzer. NIT-R couldn’t answer so that meant IGIT was the winner but AIIMS couldn’t do the other half, that is, give the right answer so that meant they remained where they were. An Angry Bird-like slingshot crowned IGIT as the first-time champions of Mettle Meet, former champions NIT-R settled for a place on the podium and AIIMS had to reconcile with a repeat of last year’s performance.

Some points worth talking about-

  1. In a quiz of 5 rounds, 4 different teams were leading at different times.
  2. In Round 1, 3 questions were passed across everyone before AIIMS answered them. That meant NISER, who was seated after them, got quite a few direct questions.
  3. I was really off with estimating the time the quiz would take. That’s due to the fact that I rarely do 8 team quizzes. 8 teams on stage are at least 2 teams too many. Questions passing takes 25% more time and keeping track of each team is too difficult. My apologies to everyone who had to endure me for longer than ideal. We’re a learning organization, I promise we’ll learn from this (after this long post :P).

Overall, with two high-quality back-to-back quizzes, with little to separate the teams one who handled the nerves better came out on top. It was Mother’s in the junior quiz and IGIT in the senior quiz, both won not because they gave the most answers. They may have, but that’s incidental. They won because their heads were in the right space and they were always mindful of what needed to be done. Others who missed out, did because on certain occasions they struggled to concentrate and thus stopped thinking too much about the question or lost track of where they were in the quiz and what they needed to do. For example; If you’re only 10 points behind the team ahead of you, you don’t need to torture yourself with a tough 15-pointer because you want to win the quiz in one go, how about you take an easy 10-pointer and ensure that you’re at least level with your opponent. That’s the Dhoni School of Probabilities, because when you’re level you’re both under equal pressure with your pressure curve on a downward inflexion point while the opponent’s pressure curve is on an upward inflexion point. Think about it.

And finally, the standard of the 2 quizzes was so high that I will most definitely struggle to match it in 2020. So well done everyone for giving me a hard time for next year and please forgive me in advance.

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