Derbyshire's Quiz King - how Chris Jones turned trivia into a global empire
PUBLISHED: 10:02 11 December 2014 | UPDATED: 10:02 11 December 2014
When Chris Jones decided to try out his general knowledge in his local Thwaites Pub Quiz League, little did he know that it would start him on a path that would lead him to give up his job and become a full-time quiz king
Chris is now responsible for British, European and World Championship events, writes and checks questions for TV shows such as Mastermind and occasionally finds time to test his own knowledge in Derbyshire.
For the last five years he has played for The Brunswick pub in Derby in the Derbyshire Pub Quiz League, which is a busman’s holiday from his day job of writing questions and organising events worldwide.
It’s a hobby that has grown into a career but not one that Chris could have predicted.
He says: ‘It was hard to find pub quizzes back when I started and my enthusiasm came move from growing up and watching TV programmes like Top of the Form. But by my mid-20s if there was a charity quiz or pub quiz in the area I was always looking to take part.
‘I moved to Yorkshire where there were pub quiz leagues two or three nights a week and found it was a good social activity and a means of getting to know people.
‘I began writing quizzes for the local pub, to entertain my friends and for quiz leagues. It was from there that I decided to get a national association going to tie various quiz leagues together.
‘I set it up with a couple of others and the website slowly began to interest people from all around the world and so we set up an international association to cater for that and to bring together countries doing the same as us. It wouldn’t have happened without the internet. We set up the website 12 years ago and via that and Facebook we were able to find people who were quiz mad all around the world.’
Quizzing was beginning to dominate Chris’s life so he took the plunge in 2006, giving up his job in the civil service to concentrate full-time on his growing empire. He moved to Stretton, on the Derby side of Burton, five years ago, a central location in the country for his quiz activities, and has since staged several major events in Derby.
The city has hosted the European Quizzing Championships in 2010 and the British Championships in 2006 plus some grand prix events, usually at the Derby Conference Centre.
Chris has also worked on a host of TV shows such as Mastermind and Pointless, setting and checking questions.
‘We wrote all the general knowledge questions for the Champion of Champions series of Mastermind,’ he says. ‘One of the reasons they got us involved is because we know a lot of the top players on a personal level and we know how far we can push them in terms of difficulty. We also wrote all the general questions for the Sport Mastermind, as well as working on specialist subjects for the normal Mastermind shows.’
So there is an art to creating a good set of questions?
‘You need to pitch it to your audience,’ says Chris. ‘There’s a big difference between the European Championships and a daytime TV show. You don’t want a quiz where nobody knows the answer, nor one where everybody does. When you are writing for a room of people the ideal question is the one that gets people kicking themselves when they hear the answer. It’s like putting something on a shelf but nearly out of reach.’
Chris’s organisation includes The British Quiz Association, which is the UK arm of the International Quizzing Association. His team write and run the World Quizzing Championships, the European Quizzing Championships, the British Quizzing Championships and the UK national quiz circuit.
Well-known faces like Kevin Ashman and Pat Gibson (from TV’s Eggheads) are among those who regularly compete.
Chris launched the national and international quizzing associations just over 10 years ago.
He says: ‘We developed the two in parallel using the power of the internet.’
The annual calendar includes two regular international competitions. The World Championships take place every year in June. It’s a written quiz of 240 questions taken simultaneously by people across the globe.
Chris says: ‘We put a quiz together over a number of months, the nature of which means that no-one from any part of the world should be overly advantaged or disadvantaged. There are between 40 and 50 countries taking part and in the region of 150 venues – mainly northern hemisphere but right across America, Europe and Russia and also India, the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia and a couple of countries in Africa. About the only continent we haven’t really penetrated is South America.
‘Although it’s one big quiz, it’s broken down into eight specialisms. There will be 30 questions on sport, 30 on media (films and literature) plus subjects like culture, history and science. A person’s seven best scores are taken for their total. So you have eight champions in the different disciplines and then an overall world champion.
‘Until this year, The World Championships had always been won by someone from the UK, like Kevin Ashman and Pat Gibson. The silver and bronze have regularly gone to someone outside the UK but for the first time this year the overall winner was from India.’
Every November, it’s the European Championships (the 2014 event was held in Bucharest) which, unlike the world event, all takes place in one location. Several events take place over the weekend, individual, pairs and team events.
Chris says: ‘We also run a competition featuring national teams to find the European Champions. The quiz is in English but people can answer in any language – as question setters we know that things have different names and meanings in different countries.’
The domestic events take place regularly throughout the year in the UK in varying locations.
‘The UK and Belgium have been traditionally strong internationally because of strong domestic competition where people are constantly sharpening their wits,’ says Chris. Wherever you go in this country you can generally find a good quiz.’
To find out more go to www.quizzing.co.uk
The Derbyshire Pub Quiz League
THE Derbyshire Pub Quiz League is one of the longest established and most respected in the country and features some of the best general knowledge experts in the UK.
Chairman of the league is David Edwards, a retired former teacher at Denstone College who has been competing in quizzes for more than 20 years. He’s used his considerable general knowledge to great success in a number of notable quiz formats, including TV’s Mastermind, which he won in 1990.
He also found TV fame in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? becoming only the second contestant on the Chris Tarrant-fronted game show to win the ultimate cash prize in 2001.
David also represents Wales, the country of his birth, in the European Quizzing Championships.
In the Derbyshire Pub Quiz League he plays weekly for the Son of Lakeside team, based at the JCB Lakeside Club, near Rocester. Indeed, he puts his success in quizzes down to the weekly challenges of playing against teams in the Derbyshire Pub Quiz League.
He said: ‘It’s a really good social night out as well as a chance to pit your wits against other quiz enthusiasts.’
Teams of four play home and way in the league and also enter an annual open knockout trophy.
David says: ‘The quiz league is very competitive but it’s played in a really good spirit and you don’t have to be a Mastermind to take part.’
Chris Jones is another who has honed his talents in the league, playing for the Brunswick for the last five years.
He says: ‘It’s a good standard. I have played in leagues in different parts of the country but it’s pitched right with a mix of hard and easy questions.
‘I like the format as well, with a mix of team and individual questions. There are some very good teams and players but also plenty of people who go along just for the fun and get just as much enjoyment out of it.’
Anyone wishing to enter a team, join a team or seeking more information on the Derbyshire Pub Quiz League should go to www.derbyshirepubquizleague.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org