Kiwi boys take gold in tense eight-nation Kids Literature Quiz

Stuff.co.nz

The Kids Lit Quiz gets underway at Auckland's Aotea Centre attracting teams from around the world.

Forget the Olympics, on Friday night in Auckland the hot international competition was one featuring a chatty man in a top hat, and 32 staggeringly well-read children sitting anxiously at tables on the stage of the Aotea Centre.

And the result was a nailbiter.

This was the international final of the Kids Lit Quiz - an eight-nation clash that pits teams against each other in a first-to-the-buzzer contest.

The Kiwi team ready for some action.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

The Kiwi team ready for some action.

Rather than sprinting, jumping, paddling canoes or dancing in unison underwater, these competitors were vying to demonstrate their near-encyclopaedic knowledge of nursery rhymes, dystopian fiction, graphic novels, classic children's literature and other stuff you've never heard of but they've almost certainly read.

The eight teams of four school-uniformed children - all aged 11 to 14 - each clustered around their table, four hands hovering over the giant red buzzer in the centre.

They listened intently, with furrowed brow and jiggling knee, as quizmaster and Kids Lit Quiz founder Wayne Mills stood at the podium, reading progressive questions that started impossibly obscurely then added increasingly easy clues until one of the teams felt confident enough to buzz in.

The final rounds of the quiz were tense.
LAWRENCE SMITH / FAIRFAX NZ

The final rounds of the quiz were tense.

Wrong answers were punished with negative points so the stakes were high.

Since 1991 Mills has taken the quiz from a local Waikato event to an international extravaganza with regional and national heats involving thousands of teams from United States, the United Kingdom, Australia,, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, as well as New Zealand.

In recent years the grand final has been in UK, the US and South Africa, but this year the show was back in its homeland.

The South African team muse over a brain teaser.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

The South African team muse over a brain teaser.

Mills was clearly having a hell of a time.

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If a buzzer-presser answered correctly he'd roar it back like an auctioneer taking an impressive bid.

All the same, he couldn't always contain his disappointment if an excessively brainy team guessed the answer just a few words into the clue.

The UK team who almost pipped New Zealand at the post.
LAWRENCE SMITH / FAIRFAX NZ

The UK team who almost pipped New Zealand at the post.

"First flippin sentence!" he said, as the South African team correctly identified "Squirrel Girl" in the female superhero round.

"That's months of work there, and they get it in one sentence!"

In the first of the 10 rounds it looked like South Africa were going to waltz away, with two wins in the first three questions, but as the rounds passed they handed the lead to the UK, New Zealand and Canadian teams.

By half-time UK were in the lead.

But then, inexorably, the local boys from Wellington private school Wellesley College pulled away.

The boys - Tom Adams, Archie Chandler, William Chandler and Harry Hampton - finished the ninth round with an apparently unassailable lead only to watch anxiously as the all-girl UK team slashed a five-point lead to a solitary point in a punishing poetry round.

But one point was just enough.Gold - New Zealand. Silver - UK. Bronze - Australia.

 - Stuff.co.nz

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