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Brain Bowl 2017: A Reflection

Brain Bowl 2017: A Reflection

Apprehensions were almost as unusually high as the 29-degree temperatures of the sparkling October day on the Saint Maur team, as the day of the annual Brain Bowl competition dawned.

It was quite an unusual Brain Bowl overall, in many other aspects: It was at CAJ, this year, not Yokota (as had been last year), and last year’s 300-point whirlwind captain (Yuki Kawamura) had graduated last June, leaving us with considerable uncertainty in this year’s competition. Of course there was Eugene, the famous TV-quiz show star, but the rest of the team was left to quell upon what they could do to contribute to what we hoped would lead to a third consecutive win.

After long train rides of varying lengths, we all managed to meet up at Higashi-Kurume Station at 8:30 and take a short stroll through the small city over to the CAJ campus. In some ways, the new location might have given us an advantage; a mellow 6:30 AM start and one-change train trip was quite preferable to the... thrills of the 5:00 AM bus ride. As we walked into the CAJ auditorium, our battlefield for the day, we immediately scoped out the other schools there. There was Seisen as always - the only ones in uniform, CAJ with their own formidable captain, Emily, St. Mary’s in their token shirts and ties, Base schools Kinnick and Zama, and ASIJ, the unexpected 2nd place in last year’s competition. Similar to last year, there was also a bucket of snacks with Kirkland cereal bars and sembei awaiting us (which disappeared so quickly I can’t recall what else there was). Seven teams in all, “one of the smallest competitions in the history of brain bowl,” as the CAJ coach commented in his welcome speech.

And thus started the 2017 Brain Bowl. We played first against Kinnick, not a very difficult match, but a good introduction and warm up for our newer members. Our second match was quite challenging against St. Mary’s - they showed their strength as old rivals. They seemed to have put all their strength into the first round against Eugene, fully anticipating his strength, which led to a close but 45-40 loss for us. However, this actually made it easier for the second team, giving St. Maur’s second team a whopping 75-10 revenge. The rest of the matches were highly successful, St. Maur gaining the lead by lunchtime. Mos Burger was the prime choice of lunch for almost everyone on the St. Maur team; members who had left at different times unexpectedly reunited in the now-crowded burger chain. Perhaps the biggest puzzle of the day was found here - the (questionable) necessity of neatly wrapping soft drinks in a sandwich bag, but also putting it in a separate takeout bag as the rest of the food (our eventual consensus was shrugs and “It’s Japan”).

We only had two matches during the afternoon, and it gave the players a well-deserved break. As always, it was fun, if not extremely agonizing, listening to the other questions given to other teams during our breaks. Shared head-shaking and perplexion with other team members (who also knew the answer) at the loss of what we perceived as easy points helped pass the time. After an easy 90-30 overall win over Seisen right after lunch, all we had left to do was pray the other teams held out against ASIJ, CAJ, and St. Mary’s so that we could go into our last match with ASIJ with a solid lead. It looked quite hopeful as each of those teams faced one another, taking pretty equal amount of points in, making their playing-field more level but harder to reach our lead. The base schools also did quite well against those teams, which was another advantage for us as we entered the final match against ASIJ.

ASIJ’s performance hadn’t been as daunting as last year’s, for some odd reason. Even though we had lost Yuki and were quite worried about this year, we went in quite confidently to the last round. The first round had Eugene, Jasang, PK, and Miriam against ASIJ’s all-star of the day, Everett. However, we came out of that quite well, Eugene scoring 40 points solo versus 25 by ASIJ. The second round went equally as well, the St. Maur team of myself, Maverick, Jin, and John finishing off with a 50-35 win. Although we did not know the totals by then, we felt wholly confident as the judges went in to calculate the final results for announcement.

The All-Stars were called up first: Eugene rose up to take Yuki’s spot at first place, with an amazing 280 individual points. Maverick, our new History and Geography wiz, took a formidable 120 points in his first competition to become an All-Star. Another one of our new members, PK, resident Math, Science, and Computer Science specialist, also made an impressive 70 points to also make an All-Star. I myself made it in as well, with 100 points. The rest of the members also made vital contributions to our win, promising looking ahead to next year.

The St. Maur team was grinning from ear to ear as the team totals were announced. CAJ took third place with 400 points. We found ASIJ hadn’t even made it into the top three as second place, St. Mary’s with 435 points, was announced. And lastly, with an amazing 230-point lead, St. Maur was called as the winner of the 45th KPASSP Brain Bowl competition. Our already-wide grins turned into delighted laughter as the team took the stage to accept the trophy (sans-pumpkin this year,) for the third time in a row. Once again, the prowess of St. Maur’s sheer brainpower was proven, leaving not only high spirits within the members, but high hopes for the years to come.

Brain Bowl Team Members

  • Eugene O. (12)
  • Lynn S. (12)
  • John C. (12)
  • Jin M. (12)
  • Stephanie O. (12)
  • Pieter K. (12)
  • Pyokyeong (PK) S. (11)
  • Ellen U. (11)
  • Maverick C. (10)
  • Miriam C. (10)
  • Yuki K. (10)
  • Jasang Y. (10)


  • Shizuku S. (12)
  • Haruhito S. (11)


  • Ms. Suzanne Seddon
  • Mrs. Saeko Shinohara