For most Americans, trivia as a pastime does not extend beyond maybe participating in a weekly quiz night at their local bar, where a “tough question” might require knowledge about Cliff from Cheers. But for those who live to call to mind seemingly random bits of information faster than someone else, there exists an intensely competitive world of high-level trivia tournaments, such as the European Quizzing Championships (E.Q.C.), where participants vie for domination in subjects as varied as ancient Roman history and pop music. Every year, nearly 200 people from around 25 countries participate in the E.Q.C., with the tournament culminating in the prestigious Nations Cup, a weekend-long competition in which the top four quizzers of each country face off against one another.
At last year’s E.Q.C., held in Venice, spectators were all but certain that Belgium—a three-time Nations Cup winner and perennial runner-up—would face off in the finals against England, who had won the previous six years. The two countries have long dominated the E.Q.C., winning a combined 13 championships out of the competition’s 15-year history, and for good reason: the E.Q.C. developed from a yearly tournament between these two quiz-world superpowers. England and Belgium both have a lengthy tradition of quiz culture, with strong national circuits in which competitors can train for international contests.