Singaporean quizzer Max Zeng's team wins University Challenge

Singaporean Max Zeng helped the Imperial team snag a lead with three minutes left on the clock. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE - London university Imperial College, with a team including Singaporean quizzer Maximilian "Max" Zeng, has triumphed at British television quiz show University Challenge.

It bested University of Reading in the finals on April 4 in an extremely close match, with Mr Zeng helping to snag a lead with three minutes left on the clock.

The third-year biochemistry student, 22, shot to social media fame earlier this year for his vast geographical knowledge. His ability to name cities and states in the blink of an eye has earned him nicknames such as "GPS Zeng" or the "human atlas".

In the final moments of the match, the Imperial team was nipping at Reading's heels with 105 to 120 points when host Jeremy Paxman asked a question about the name of the upland area with Pen Y Fan, a Welsh mountain, as its highest point.

The moment he finished the question, Mr Zeng's buzzer sounded. He gave the correct answer of "Brecon Beacons", securing the chance for his team to earn more points in the bonus questions.

Imperial also correctly answered the following questions, which pertained to planetary exploration, thus snatching another 20 points to take a narrow lead.

In the final minute, Reading lost five points because of an incorrect interruption, while Imperial tried to secure another 10 points by answering a question on a composer born in 1928 in Helsinki, Finland.

Though the team answered incorrectly, the gong sounded to signal the end of the tournament, so no points were lost.

It is Imperial's fourth University Challenge win, ranking it alongside Magdalen College, Oxford and the University of Manchester as the most successful teams on the show.

The team, which also includes captain Michael Mays, Fatima Sheriff and Gilbert Jackson, were presented their trophy by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Andre Geim.

Imperial's provost, Professor Ian Walmsley, 62, said in a statement: "We are incredibly proud of our Imperial team and congratulate them on this historic victory."

He added that the team displayed great "collaboration, creative thinking and deep knowledge" throughout the season.

The YouTube video of the finals match has garnered more than 20,000 views in five hours. One commenter remarked: "Wow, what a close match. Props to both teams, ridiculous amounts of knowledge. Zeng's map knowledge was clutch once again."

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Mr Zeng, whose parents both work in the healthcare sector, has said in previous interviews that he grew up reading atlases.

He estimated that he knows the position of about 10,000 cities or towns on the world map, including human and natural features such as national parks, as well as ancient and historical sites.

The team's triumph marks Imperial College's fourth University Challenge win. PHOTO: IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON

Though many have praised his memory, he has vocally decried rote memorisation tactics, attributing his prowess instead to a deep fascination with the relationships between people and places.

His interest is not in pure geography, he said, but rather in history, anthropology and comparative linguistics, all of which "depend on geography and the interactions of people with the world".

"Geography alone is boring."

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