Not having been in town on the date, I couldn't be there for the first set of Round 1 match-ups in the SEQC Mastermind Junior competition. Watching the second set, which were held on September 18, I really regretted having missed the first day.
The competition was fierce, and the performance of the young SEQCites superlative. It felt like Mastermind at its best -- in most cases, assured quizzers easily navigating the specialised and general knowledge question sets. With Rajiv as QM, the sombre interrogation that Mastermind is supposed to be had a friendly touch to it, appropriate to the age of the participants.
The first contest was perhaps a little one-sided, with Kunal Naik powering his way to an assured victory over close friend Soham Gaunekar and the indefatigable Nitish Fatarpekar. Kunal had chosen a potentially too-vast subject, 'The Simpsons', but his range of knowledge on the subject saw him establish a decent lead in the Specialised Subject round, which he consolidated with his General Knowledge.
The second contest was the cliffhanger. It began with some drama, with Samrah Kazi, who wasn't originally slated to be one of the contestants, bravely stepping up to take the place of Akash Kulkarni, who was a no-show. Sadly, fortune didn't favour the brave, as Akash's specialised topic of 'The Indian Premier League' had her stumped. The big surprise came in the performances of the other three in the group. Shashwat Salgaonkar, certainly one of the favourites for the crown of Junior Mastermind, was first bested by Shubham Tiwari, and then by Tarun Mascarenhas. A huge upset seemed to be on the cards.
Going into the GK round with a 10-point disadvantage, Shashwat seemed to be out of it when his total after his GK set put him barely 3 points above Tarun's score from the specialised set. Shubham, on next, did cross Shashwat's score, but set Tarun a target of just 5 points. With the contest seemingly in the bag, though, came anohter twist. Tarun only managed 4 points in his GK set, and Shubham went through from this match.
In the final group, too, Maithili Majithia scored 9 in her specialised set to finish ahead of the more fancied Akshay Rege (8) and Agastya Keni (6). Agastya had perhaps bitten off more than he could chew when he chose 'The National Basketball Association from 2000-2011' as his specialised subject, but it was the GK round that was his real bete noire. Maithili failed to capitalise on her lead, and did poorly in her GK set. Akshay roared back and this contest reverted to form.
Up ahead are the semis on November 13, with Shubham, Kunal and Akshay joining Jatan, Julian and Anand, who had earlier qualified from the previous Sunday's Round One contests. The competition can only get more tense, and I'm looking forward to being at this event. I suggest you mark it on your calendars as well.