26 January 1997
Release 97005
Contacts: Douglas Bone, (NAQT), Mike Zarren, (Chicago)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA--A team from the University of Chicago defeated Harvard in a thrilling overtime match to top 63 other squads from North America and Europe in an international academic competition sponsored by National Academic Quiz Tournaments. The NAQT Championship Tournament, held this weekend in Philadelphia, featured contests between schools with questions covering fields from history to science to literature to current events to sports and popular culture.

Chicago earned a berth in the finals by going 12-2 in initial play and undefeated in the championship round. That set up an epic confrontation with Harvard for the title. Chicago took a 1-0 lead into the best-of-three final on the basis of play up to that point, but Harvard stormed back, avenging an earlier defeat to capture the first final match by a comfortable margin.

The two teams played to a 135-135 tie in the first half of the deciding match only to have Harvard pull away in the second half. Chicago captain Steve Wang called a timeout with 1:10 to go and his team down by 85 and regrouped for the final push. The respite helped, as Chicago stormed back to tie the match 265-265 at the end of regulation with a pair of "power tossups"-- uncannily prescient early buzz-ins that merit a fifteen point award rather than the usual ten--by Mike Zarren. Chicago took the lead in the three-question overtime period with an early buzz-in by John Sheahan on the first question and held on to win. Harvard had a chance of the final toss-up, but Chicago secured their victory by nailing that question after a Harvard miss for a final 290-260 triumph.

The Chicago team, led by John Sheahan, a second-year law student from Washington, DC, also included Steve Wang, a statistics graduate student from Rochester, New York; Mike Zarren, a sophmore from Swampscott, Massachusetts; and Christian Edstrom, a junior majoring in economics from Newhall, California. The Chicago team went 16-0 at NAQT sectional tournaments in November and now boasts a cumulative 31-3 record on the season in NAQT play.

One of the pre-tournament favorites along with the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard, Chicago nevertheless had to contend with a number of top-quality teams vying for the title in the event, the largest tournament of its type ever held. Other top contenders included Cornell, MIT, Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Duke, Iowa State, Princeton, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, the University of Texas-Dallas, Virginia, and Imeprial College from London, England. Chicago, however, emerged on top of the strong field with its exciting comeback against Harvard.

This marks the first year of operation for National Academic Quiz Tournaments, which provides questions and tournaments for intramural, sectional, and championship-level play for colleges throughout North America. Chciago, however, has a long tradition of excellence in intercollegiate academic competition, having been a consistent national power in recent years.

Matches are played between two teams of four players in two nine-minute halfs. Players "ring in" on an electronic buzzer system as questions are being read. If successful, the team earns points and a more detailed bonus question on which the team can confer before answering. Questions cover a variety of disciplines, and the Chicago team utilized good balance across subject areas en route to their victory.

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