At the beginning of the match a matrix is revealed displaying 20 topic titles. Behind each category will be three questions that are somehow linked to the topic title. In preparing these questions, the IQA setters aim to include one straightforward question, one medium question, and one that is tough – for a national team!
At the start of the match, a coin toss will decide which team’s captain gets to choose to go first or second. The team going first will have the first pick. The second and third pick will go to the other team, fourth and fifth to the team who started, and so on until the end of the game.
Teams take it in turns to select topics to answer. Their opponents will only be able to score a bonus if the playing team fails to give a correct answer. The opponents must answer within 10 seconds of the question being passed. They may discuss their answer before giving it.
Some topic titles are explicit and unambiguous: e.g. “French Literature” will give you three questions on French literature. Others can be cryptic: e.g. “Linked by a First Name” could see you get three questions on people called Mary, but these three could be as diverse as R&B music question on Mary J. Blige, a theology question about Mary Magdalene, and a TV question about the career of Mary Tyler Moore.
In the first half of a match (picks 1-10) correct answers are worth two points. This applies for the team who picked the topic and answers given for a ‘bonus’ by their opponents. In the second half of the match all correct answers are worth three points.