Imperial College London swept to victory in the University Challenge final on Monday night with 275 points, defeating rivals Corpus Christi, Cambridge, who finished with 105 points.
The hotly anticipated final was thought by many to be one of the biggest showdowns in the competition’s history, as the two teams – each featuring a colourful character who has garnered legions of fans over the course of the series – went head-to-head for the trophy.
Heading up the Corpus Christi contingent was Ian Wang, nicknamed Grandmaster Wang by fans for his extensive knowledge of 1980s music – he correctly identified a song by hip-hop group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five after hearing only a second of the intro.
The 21-year-old English student from Sale, Manchester, tried out for the University Challenge team every year during his studies, finally succeeding in his final year before graduation.
On the rival team was quiz veteran Brandon Blackwell, a New Yorker who has won more than £375,000 in quiz prize money since he started competing aged 14.
The 26-year-old, who studied a masters in computer science at Imperial College London, broke show tradition by being identified by his first name, rather than surname, throughout the show.
The two striking characters have taken social media by storm in recent weeks, bringing some animation to the often stolid competition and offering a welcome distraction to viewers in lockdown gloom.
Both all-male teams had made their way to the final without conceding any defeats, with Corpus Christi accumulating 1,075 points throughout the competition to Imperial’s 1,170.
Led by Blackwell with his characteristic unruffled demeanour, Imperial took an easy early lead, and 10 minutes in they were up 100 points to Corpus Christi’s -5.
Music once again proved to be a strong subject for Wang’s team, and they claimed a few points by naming songs written in septuple meter and identifying classical symphonies, but ultimately failed to catch up to Imperial before the final gong.
The winners, praised by host Jeremy Paxman for their “impressive” performance, were presented their trophy by Prof Andrew Wiles, a mathematician at Oxford University best known for proving Fermat’s Last Theorem.
My teammates are the GOATs. CPC-C are the most cohesive team in the modern era & would’ve for sure won other recent series. It was wildly humbling & a great honor to meet Prof Wiles. Receiving support like my team & I have has been truly incredible. Thx all#universitychallenge
“CPC-C are the most cohesive team in the modern era & would’ve for sure won other recent series,” tweeted Blackwell after the show aired.
“It was wildly humbling & a great honor to meet Prof Wiles. Receiving support like my team & I have has been truly incredible. Thx all.”
Wang said: “Massive congratulations to the Imperial team who gave a dazzling performance and who fully earned their win.
“I’m incredibly proud of our team for making it this far and a huge thankyou to everyone who’s been rooting for us.”
In all seriousness, massive congratulations to the Imperial team who gave a dazzling performance and who fully earned their win. I’m incredibly proud of our team for making it this far and a huge thank you to everyone who’s been rooting for us #UniversityChallenge
Fans of the show, now in its 49th series, have fallen into two camps in the Grandmaster Wang v Brandon Blackwell rivalry, sparking lots of speculation and commentary on Twitter – although both have been keen to stress it is a team sport.
The pair have also promoted the need for the quizzing field to be more inclusive after the all-male final.
The Times reported that Blackwell originally declined to take part in University Challenge when first selected, as he was unhappy when two women who had scored highly during the trials were not chosen.
Meanwhile, Wang tweeted: “If you’re in charge of picking your uni/college’s University Challenge team, try to find ways of being more inclusive to women.”