We’ve made a list of the most successful UK quizzers of all time, in terms of performance on the big five “serious” broadcast quizzes: Brain of Britain, Mastermind, Fifteen-to-One, University Challenge, Only Connect. To qualify for the list, a quizzer needs to have won more than one of these shows.
Top quizzers have occasionally struggled on some of these shows – sometimes it’s down to the nature of the format, sometimes it is down to not performing on the day, on what can be a one-off opportunity.
These shows all have a certain longevity and almost all top quizzers will have had the opportunity to compete in most of them at some point if they had wanted to. Only Connect is a bit of an outlier, being much more recent (only 11 years old…) with relatively few series (14 so far) vs the others, but we’ve included it because of a) its reputation as one of the toughest quiz shows overall; b) a number of very fine quizzers and champions in other formats have not won on Only Connect including several University Challenge champions (including e.g. Gail Trimble [or if we want to accept her disqualification then we can include Henry Pertinez], Jenny Harris, Oscar Powell). Also, we’re biased, as we are the question editors for Only Connect, but we think, objectively, it is ok to include it. And including it doesn’t stop Kevin Ashman from being top.
There are obviously many ways to measure quiz success, and we’re not going to pretend this is any way authoritative at the expense of other measures. But it’s fun to look at. We consider individual performances to outrank team performances. And we also consider “conversions” – i.e. winning a Champion of Champions type show – gives extra credit.
Please let us know of any omissions, factual errors etc. [thanks to those that have already provided updates]
- Kevin Ashman. 15-to-1 (1989), Mastermind (1995), Brain of Britain (1996). Plus 15-to-1 Millennium Quiz, Brain of Brains, Top Brain, Brain of Britain record score, Mastermind record score. Kevin hasn’t participated in University Challenge, but if he had, we don’t think there are many people (especially those of us who have seen him on top form in non-televised buzzer quiz contests of all varieties) who would doubt his ability to win it. It’s slightly harder to assess Kevin’s likely results on Only Connect, but you wouldn’t bet against him making a mockery of some of the 5 point clues.
- Ian Bayley. Only Connect (2008), Mastermind (2011), Brain of Britain (2010). Plus Only Connect Champion of Champions (and of Champions), Brain of Brains. It was a surprise to many that Ian didn’t win University Challenge: The second time he participated, in particular, he was without much argument the best student buzzer quizzer in the UK.
- Barbara Thompson. University Challenge (1984), 15-to-1 (1992), Brain of Britain (1989). Barbara pips Mark to 3rd place by virtue of her triumphs in three different shows. Note that Barbara was unavailable (according to wiki) for Brain of Brains, and the person who came second in her series went on to win that cycle’s Brain of Brains.
- Mark Grant. Only Connect (2008), Brain of Britain (2014). Plus Only Connect Champion of Champions (and of Champions), Brain of Brains, Top Brain. [Surely only a matter of time before he adds Mastermind (he is a three times finalist) and/or 15-to-1]
- David Stainer. Only Connect (2008), Brain of Britain (2019). Plus Only Connect Champion of Champions (and of Champions), Brain of Brains. David pips Roger by virtue of “converting” his wins (helped by having had the opportunity to do so) in two different shows, and also having been a runner-up on University Challenge and 15-to-1.
- Roger Pritchard. Mastermind (1976), Brain of Britain (1974). Plus Brain of Brains, Top Brain.
[Note: all three members of the 2008 Only Connect Crossworders – David Stainer, Ian Bayley, Mark Grant – have won Brain of Britain and subsequently Brain of Brains since being on Only Connect, which makes for somewhat sobering reflection in hindsight for me, the author of this blog post: I was team captain of the Lapsed Psychologists who lost to the Crossworders in that Only Connect series 1 final!]
Nobody else has more than 3 wins (counting “conversions” as additional wins). Those with 3 wins are:
- Pat Gibson. Mastermind (2005), Brain of Britain (2006). Plus Mastermind Champion of Champions
- Chris Hughes. Mastermind (1983), Brain of Britain (2005). Plus International Mastermind.
- Daphne Fowler. 15-to-1 (twice in 2001), Brain of Britain (1997).
Then we have the people with two wins:
- Dave McBryan. 15-to-1 (2014), Mastermind (2020).
- Clive Dunning. Mastermind (2014), Brain of Britain (2018)
- Thomas Dyer. 15-to-1 (1991), Brain of Britain (1976)
- Geoff Thomas. Mastermind (2006), Brain of Britain (2009)
- David Stedman. 15-to-1 (2003), Brain of Britain (2003)
- David Good. University Challenge (1999), 15-to-1 (1999)
- Stephen Follows. University Challenge (1987), Mastermind (2000)
- Aubrey Lawrence. Brain of Britain (1972), University Challenge (1968)
- Joey Goldman. Only Connect (2019), University Challenge (2017)
- Sean Blanchflower. Only Connect (2015), University Challenge (1995) [of note for longest time span between major wins]
- Glen Binnie. 15-to-1 (1993), Brain of Brains (1989) [Glen had come second to Barbara Thompson in Brain of Britain in 1989, but Barbara was unavailable to take her place in Brain of Brains – Glen stood in and won]
Sources: Wikipedia and Sean Blanchflower’s University Challenge site