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Interview with Pat Gibson - World Champion 2007

We continue our series of Champion Intervies, and this time bring you an interview with the 2007 World Champion in single, the Man Who Knows - Pat Gibson!

You became World Champion last year, was this a goal you had been working to achieve for a long time?

Most definitely. I had probably been quizzing keenly for five years previously. I had had several WQC second places so it was a matter of great satisfaction to finally get past Kevin (which is invariably a prerequisite of winning anything).

Was there any media interest in your win at the time?

With regard to quizzes, the press have a definite pecking order. TV (WWTBAM first - by a long way, Mastermind second and then the rest), then Radio and finally "non-broadcast" quizzing. Although very prestigious and extremely hard to win the WQC has, relatively speaking, a low profile in the UK media.

It's been over a year, but could you tell us about how your competition went?

I had a good day - I managed to score most of the points I should have scored. I built a lead with a particularly good first half (two 27s I think) and then managed to hold on to it to the end. It seemed very hot in the room and I felt I was going to spontanaeously combust - happily I did not - had I detonated I might have eliminated the cream of UK quizzing at one go. Quelle Horreur!

What is your favourite WQC category, and are there special subjects that interest you more than anyone else?

Scoring wise, I am pretty even. I suppose I might have a slight preference for things like Science and Physical World. All I really want are very well written questions whatever the topic.

An what is your least favourite, if any? Do you have any particular weak spots, subjects you don't particularly care about?

Occasionally I falter a little on Entertainment but, saying that, my scores are usually pretty level across all the genres. Were they not I would have to tailor my preparation to make them so.

You've obviously worked a lot to reach the level of competition you're at, do you still work hard as ever to improve?

Harder. The reward for any effort invested can be indirect and subtle and frequently only enjoyed a long time later. I have written my own software over the past six+ years and now I find that side of things so interesting that I suspect I would continue to develop it and to capture interesting facts even were I no longer competing. Thorough quizzing preparation is (almost by definition) time-consuming, but many people who take their sports/hobbies seriously put a lot of time into them. In the UK quizzing has, as Mark has said, a peculiar status. A low handicap golfer who spends hours in the practice bunker and on the practice green will probably be applauded for his commitment to improving his game, yet, occasionally, there can be a "Gentlemen vs Players" attitude to quizzing - trying hard to become better may be considered ever so slightly puzzling, vulgar or even "sad". However..."Hier stehe ich..." etc.

What are your experience and thoughts about the different quizes and quzzing styles in different countries? We know that you've attended Leuven for instance, and perhaps more than once?

Leuven is great fun. Not only is Leuven a charming city, but the Clockwork boys put a huge effort into their quizzes. I relish tackling the very testing questions that they prepare with such effort and imagination. A commendable aspect of top level Belgian quizzing is that a tough question, which is answered by only one team in the room, is deemed a "Solo" and will generally garner a ripple of applause (as opposed to a chorus of groans). This is ambitious, passionate, high-quality question-setting. One of the primary attractions of quizzing is to get to answer superlative questions that reflect the astonishing variety of our world. Quiz answerers are very, very dependent on question setters who take the trouble to both spread their net wide and dig deep (if that's not too bizarre a mixed metaphor - if a metaphor at all). I would not be interested in answering on tedious material - e.g. EU Milk Quota/Subsidy Stats. Of the various formats, I love buzzing whether individual or team, I enjoy pairs, individual written ...let's face it, I like them all.

Could you tell us a litte about your background? What kind of education do you have, what business are you i?

I was educated in Ireland and trained as a Civil Engineer. In the midst of a deep economic slump I retrained as a computer programmer and I've been writing software now in the UK for approximately 20 years. I develop assorted computer systems for my betting company employer.

When did you attend your first serious quiz? How long did it take before you established yourself among the top quizzers? Or to rephrase, when did you realise you were better than most people?

It's not easy to decide on a first serious quiz, but I attended a BQA event at St George's Hall in Liverpool about 5/6 years ago. I came 17th but acquired a taste for it. Since then I've attended innumerable quizzes of every sort. The climb up through the placings takes time.

What do you think about the format in the WQC compared with the EQC? Is your style better suited for one or the other?

I suspect that the WQC format suits me while the EQC material suits me. I need a hybrid! But the best of both worlds, not the worst, of course.

This year's single tournament will be a little different from before. The questions will be written, and there will be more questions in each round, and the ten best players after the initial 100 questions will be in a Final Table round, consisting of 20 additional questions. What do reckon your chances are of reaching the Final Table, and of winning the whole thing?

The changes sound promising. As regards my chances, it's hard to say. I think the fact that the questions are printed for the competitors will be good. Like Mark, I reckon that there can be so much activity and noise in these EQC individual formats that details in "read out" questions can easily be misheard. It's good to have a sheet to refer to. Quizzing has two completely distinct parts - Finding/Storing interesting material and then Recalling it accurately in competitive situations. It is disappointing when you fail to make the most of what you know - losing points (in part at least) because of a general hullabaloo is regrettable.

Are you a reader, or more of the type that learns from watching television, or perhaps both?

I try and pick things up from everywhere. I regularly hear things on the car radio - I repeat the key words like a kabbadi player until I can find a red traffic light when I can scribble the key words down on a paper pad for future storage. The other night I heard two good details about Country music with no traffic lights in sight - I feared I would forget them by the time I got home so I had to park my car there and then and sort it out. I like to mark interesting items in newspapers as I watch TV (for putting into a database later). I've done so much of this over the past several years that I now feel almost uneasy watching TV without a newspaper under my pen. If it gets much more ingrained I'll have to take magazines and a miner's helmet whenever I go to the cinema so I can toil productively through the main feature.

Any reading material recommendations for the quizzers out there?

I have a weakness for the Dorling Kindersley reference books "Earth", "Space, "Animal" etc - they are absolute masters of printing and layout - I have a shelf of them each of which I'm dying to read from cover to cover. We live in an age of wonderful publications and of course internet resources.

So a little more traditional Q&A question: What are your favourite movies, artists, and books?

This is a very serious business - I am saving the compilation of my definitive lists for my retirement years - or for late nights when I can't fall asleep.
Here are a few hastily cobbled together, unofficial and unauthorised favourites (in no particular order)....

Movies :
The Last Waltz - Fantastic music and an elegaic atmosphere captured for ever by the alert Martin Scorsese. True Romance - Written by Tarantino and filmed by Tony Scott. Slightly OTT, it's a violent fairytale with some marvellous moments. Topsy Turvy - Charming, rich film about Gilbert and Sullivan. Explores the business and conflicts in creative partnerships. The Incredibles - Just one of Pixar's magnificent run of excellent animated features. Witty and visually stunning. Pulp Fiction - I must include this as I studied it so intensely for my Mastermind campaign and I can vouch it can be watched twice in a row without going stale. In contrast, I can also vouch (sadly) that "Nashville" cannot be watched two nights in a row without serious, health-threatening ennui ensuing. Jackie Brown - If only for the Ordell Robbie/Beaumont Livingstone sequence. Point Break - Quality hokum - I too take the skin off chicken. Withnail and I - Some of the finest profanity known to man. Aliens - The most plausible S/F gagetry ever. Préparez vos mouchoirs - Depardieu stars. I saw it 30 years ago - I can't remember much of what it was about but I remember laughing loudly - and I'm a serious man. That's enough for now, I'd better stop....

Artists : I presume this means fine art not musicians.... Were I furnishing my Bond villain lair with great works of art then Velazquez, Ingres, Caravaggio, Stanley Spencer, Joseph Wright of Derby and Rembrandt might all have to cough up canvasses.

Books :
To my great shame, I don't read enough fiction - I'm much too busy researching marsupials and copper mines.
"Excession" - Iain M Banks - for similar reasons to Pulp Fiction - this is my favourite of his "Culture" novels. "Inversions" is good too. In this vale of tears, any P G Wodehouse is good for the soul. Any day now I'm going to start reading my way right through Shakespeare. Any day now...

Do you sometimes make up rules or mnemonics to help memorizing names and lists?

Occasionally - for things like geological periods or birth stones. Some people are real mnemonic demons - I usually prefer, if possible, to simply "remember" something directly.

Are you a participant in any of the quiz leagues in England, and if so, how does your team do, on average?

I play in the summer with "Simms Road" in the Orrell and District League. We are the current League and Cup champions. In the winter I play with the "Old Dog" in the Ormskirk league (within the Merseyside Quiz Leagues) - We are the current champions and hold the Challenge Cup (the main Merseyside knockout competition) I also represent Ormskirk in the President's Trophy - that's very enjoyable - generally a higher standard than the regular leagues.

Do you think you'll ever get fed up with quizzes, or will we still see you at the European championships in the year 2030?

I think I'm comprehensively hooked. There's little likelihood of exhausting all the interesting material out there - it's an endless pursuit. Competing is always good fun and, of course, there is also the important social side to quizzing - I have made many friends over the years.

It is well known that you've won the top prize in "Who wants to be a millionaire"-gameshow in the UK, was it a million pounds? Could you tell us a little about that, were you ever in trouble, or was it plain sailing all the way?

It was a million pounds. It was an extraordinary experience. Having qualified for the studio phase of program, before you get to the black chair you have to do the "fastest finger" competition. I found this incredibly stressful. When, after the fourth such contest on the night, and definitely my "last-chance saloon", I got through, I was in a daze. I regained my composure somewhat as I answered the initial questions but still felt severe pressure and when I asked the audience at 64k - I was unsure about the question - it was also, I suspect, a measure to buy some time. Once that was answered successfully I knocked off the £125,000 and £250,000 easily enough and then the hooter went! I went home for a day and then returned to answer the last two questions. Luckily they were both fine for me and that was that.

Have you ever been in any other gameshows, like for instance Master Mind? If so, how did those go?

I won Mastermind in 2005 and Brain of Britain in 2006. In general, I do not apply for many TV/Radio programmes.

You've been picked to represent England in Oslo in the competition for national teams, how do you reckon your chances to defend your title?

With players as strong as Kevin, Mark and Olav for teammates we should have a decent chance - beyond that it's hard to say. We know that when the Belgian squad is in good form they are formidable. Other countries are improving fast as well...there is no guarantee at all of a UK/Belgian duopoly. I think our quartet looks strong and we should be able to cover most areas. I'm looking forward to it.

Who will you be playing with in the pairs competition in the EQC?

I will be partnering Dr Ian Bayley. We started our partnership with two excellent wins - EQC Pairs in Tallin and then the BQC Pairs. We've been quieter since then but I hope we can recapture some of our old form in Oslo.

We asked Mark about what he thought about the possibility of more international quiz events, what do you think, would you be interested in participating in more events, if available? Like some sort of Quiz Olympics, and yearly Grand Prix events done in the same manner as the WQC? That is to say, done at several locations at once, without the need for extensive travelling.

That sounds great. While I enjoy my EQC and Leuven forays, the expense in time, energy and cash would preclude (I suspect) the running of many more "Travelling" European events. With domestic venues (as with the WQC) I'd be delighted to attend more such events. I capture lots of great material which is probably most likely to be asked at a Euro-standard quiz - I need a return on my investment!

I hope I havn't waffled on too much.

Looking forward to seeing you at Oslo.

-Not at all, thank you for excellent answers, Pat! Welcome to Oslo, and best of luck!