Quizzing in Belgium
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Quizzing in Belgium or Belgian-style quizzing is the Belgian variant of the British pub quiz or quiz bowls. The mind sport has a long tradition in Belgian (though, mostly Flemish) culture and is a popular pastime. It's a team competition in which the team that answers the most questions correctly wins the quiz. Questions are mainly pure knowledge questions on all topics of human knowledge, such as history, geography, arts & culture, media, literature, film, music, theatre, science, nature, and sports. Due to some high-level competitions, Belgian-style quizzing has become internationally renowned for its difficult question setting.
Although the Belgian quiz format is not fixed and quiz organizations will try to be as inventive as possible to maximize the quizzing pleasure, a typical Belgian-style quiz will go somewhat as follows:
A quiz is played by 20-50 teams of 4-6 people each. It typically starts at 8pm and finishes around 12pm. A quiz is played in rounds of 10-15 questions each and features 140-180 questions in total. Most questions are read out loud, sometimes supported by handout material and audio tracks, possibly video material shown on a projection screen. Each team writes down their best and final answers on the provided answer sheets, which are collected at the end of each round. Typically, a round ends with a music track and the last question will be 'name the artist', which provides some time to fill in the last blanks. These answer sheets are corrected by the jury, and subtotals are read out a couple of times as the evening progresses. Plain rounds feature questions that are unrelated, but vary in covered topics. A 10-question round will feature e.g. one question each on history, geography, arts and culture, literature, media, sports, cinema, science, nature, and music.
Apart from these 'plain' rounds a wide range of 'special rounds' are played. Some examples:
- ABC-rounds: 26 questions are asked, each answer starting with another letter of the alphabet. Questions are not necessarily put in the right order, i.e. the first answer is not always the one starting with A, etc.
- Link rounds: every answer is also a world capital, or part of each answer is an animal or color (inventive quiz teams will come up with more interesting, or amusing links)
- Acrostic round: The first or last letters of the correct answers in this round form an acrostic
- Theme round: every question is linked to a certain theme, e.g. a historical figure
- Super rounds: A special final round at the end of the quiz, often more difficult than the rest of the quiz: In each covered topic, 3 questions are asked: The A-question is easy (1 point), the B-question is harder (2 points) and the C-question is very hard (3 points). Teams will have to choose which question they answer, and will receive the corresponding number of points.
- Fundraising quizzes, organized by local sports teams, schools, etc. are typically held in cafeterias or a larger indoor sport arena available to them. To attract a large number of quiz teams, questions are rather easy and focus on media events, celebrities, etc. Teams competing for victory will typically have scores of +95%.
- Quizzes organized by quiz teams are usually held in community centres, which can be easily rented for a small fee. Difficulty levels vary, but focus will shift to more encyclopedic knowledge, and scores are much lower than the larger quiz events. Some of the highest level quizzes are considered to be the most difficult quizzes in the world.
It's not difficult to come up with questions that are hard, or nearly impossible to answer. The key to the success of Belgian-style quizzing is the ability of a lot of organizing teams to come up with a set of questions that are both interesting, amusing and solvable at the same time (at least by a few people in the room). Generally, the goal is to have the winning team score around 90%, while the last teams still score 50%. Teams are warned in advance on the difficulty level.
Quizzes that feature more than a few questions on controversial, sordid, or adult topics are sometimes referred to as 'Belgian-style quizzing', due to the supposed popularity of these topics in Belgian quizzes. However, although some Belgian quizzes indeed include a few of these questions, Belgian quizzers claim the image has surpassed reality.
- Ken Jennings' interview with Steven de Ceuster, president of IQA Belgium (part 1)
- Ken Jennings' interview with Steven de Ceuster, president of IQA Belgium (part 2)