Yale team wins quizbowl national championship
A first-year led team won the Division II National Championship in Chicago last weekend.
Courtesy of Matthew Siff
Last Saturday, Yale sent two quizbowl teams to the Intercollegiate Championship Tournament. One of those teams, Yale B, emerged victorious, winning the Division II National Championship after 14 grueling games.
Quizbowl, as the name implies, is a quiz game where teams compete head-to-head to answer academic questions in categories ranging from physics to fine arts. Last weekend’s tournament, which took place in Chicago, was one of two national championships in which college quizbowl teams can compete — the second, run by a different organization, will take place this weekend in Minneapolis.
The team, which consisted of Arthur Delot-Vilain ’25, Michal Gerasimiuk ’23, Matthew Siff ’25, Abhinav Karthikeyan ’25 and Jordan Davidsen ’24, went into the tournament as a competition favorite, and did not disappoint. Yale Student Academic Competitions opted to put their best eligible players on their Division II team — a division entirely made up of players who have not yet played in a national championship — in order to give themselves the best chance of winning.
“It was a pretty obvious choice to stack us and try to win the title this year,” Karthikeyan said. “We had a really good collection of players that gelled together throughout the tournament.”
Yale brought a team with a wealth of experience to the tournament. Delot-Vilain had won the Individual Player National Championship as a high school senior in 2021. Siff finished his senior year ranked as the number two high school player in the country, although national tournaments were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And Karthikeyan starred on a team that finished fourth in the country at the National Scholastic Competition, another high school championship, during his senior year.
Gerasimiuk, who had never played quizbowl before coming to Yale, finished as the team’s second scorer, a development he credited to the YSAC community.
“I have no background related to this activity from high school; I was simply approached at the extracurricular bazaar as I was walking past the YSAC station,” Gerasimiuk remembered. “I wasn’t thinking that I would play on the championship DII team, or like any kind of championship A-team.”
Before the tournament started, the team ran into trouble getting to Chicago. While most of the competitors departed midday on Friday, both Delot-Vilain and Karthikeyan opted to attend the first-year formal, and then join the rest of the team with a 5:30 a.m. flight from Hartford.
“I did everything in my power to make sure I’d go to both,” Delot-Vilain explained. “I ended up at the airport after the first year formal at about one or two in the morning, having a very early in the a.m. flight. Got there and the security line was closed, which I’ve never seen before. Did not sleep before this tournament.”
Despite the lack of rest, Yale was strong out of the gate, winning their first four games by an average margin of 295 points. All games in the tournament were comprised of 24 questions.
“I didn’t feel like we were dominating,” Siff explained. “I felt like we were getting the things we could get and not getting the things we couldn’t get.”
The team first faltered in round five against McGill University, who scored an upset by beating Yale 365-290. Siff attributed the loss to good play by the other team, as well as some careless errors by his own team. Delot-Vilain, the team’s top scorer overall, struggled, scoring just five points in the loss.
The first-year star soon found a way to regroup.
“After that game I put my headphones on, walked around outside and blasted Taylor Swift,” Delot-Vilain said. “And I did it for the rest of the games. And it mostly works.”
It did indeed work, as Yale bounced back, winning its final two games of the preliminary rounds, including one in which Delot-Vilain got a remarkable seven of the first eleven questions correct. The team also got an assist from Brown University, who beat McGill, allowing Yale to go into the playoffs seeded as one of the top four teams.
After a win over the University of Chicago, who Karthikeyan described as quizbowl’s “evil empire,” Yale lost to a one-loss Minnesota team. While the defeat was not large, it was the team’s first setback in the playoff rounds, and raised the stakes for the Yalies.
“I’m nervous. I’m so nervous,” Siff recalled about the first game following their playoff loss. “I can’t sit down until they get here and then I have to sit down because we’re playing quizbowl. Because like, we are really in murderer’s row here.”
Yale rallied again and handily beat Harvard, opening the game by getting eight of the first ten questions correct.
“Then I took a sigh of relief,” Siff described. “Because we were up, we were not going to lose that game, we were playing really well.”
Yale would not lose again, rolling over three of the best teams of the tournament to reach the finals.
In the finals, Yale faced a University of Texas team who had just won two tiebreaker rounds to reach the finals. Despite taking some time off to regroup, the Yale team was exhausted. Delot-Vilain and Karthikeyan had not slept, multiple team members had headaches and the group had been playing quizbowl for almost 12 hours straight.
The game was close throughout, as the team traded answers for the first 19 questions. The score was knotted at 285-285. Karthikeyan had his best game of the tournament, scoring 50 points to keep the game close.
“I played much more aggressive those two rounds versus Texas because I knew our team needed it,” Karthikeyan explained. “And I got some really good buzzes and won some really good buzzer races.”
Ultimately, Yale turned to Delot-Vilain to carry them to victory, as they had so often over the course of the tournament. And without fail, the first-year star delivered, answering the final three questions to clinch both the game and the national championship for Yale.
“The best people are the best because they’re talented,” Siff said, reflecting on Delot-Vilain’s performance. “But also because they work harder than everyone else.”
As for the championship, the team was happy to live up to the high pre-tournament expectations.
“Winning? Awesome.” Gerasimiuk described. “Just being able to play in a final, being in a game with spectators is pretty cool.”
The season is not over for the team. Both Delot-Vilain and Gerasimiuk will play at another national championship this weekend, and hope to finish as part of the top all-undergraduate team in the tournament.
Gerasimiuk encouraged anyone curious about quizbowl to give it a try.
“If you come to a practice or two and find the activity fun, then I would encourage such a person to stick around,” he said.
Yale last won a national championship in quizbowl in 2019.