Saturday, 18 May 2019

Mastermind 2019 Semi Final 3


Morning. 3 semi finals down, then, and 3 to go. Let’s have a look at the runners and riders again, shall we?

Judith Lewis
The Life of C.S.Lewis
14
0
15
2
29
2
Pat Lucas
Isaac Newton
13
1
10
0
23
1
Bruce Horton
The Royal Navy In The First World War
9
0
12
1
21
1
Karim Lalani
Vivien Leigh
12
0
10
5
20
5
Pat Williamson
The History of Manchester and Salford
11
1
15
0
26
1

Casting a glance over the scores then you’d be forgiven for saying that this looked very much like a two horse race, and one of those horses looked rather better than the other. Judith Lewis was one of the more impressive performers in the first round, who won her heat comfortably, having a 4 point lead by half time, and increasing it with a fine general knowledge round. Pat Williamson had also scored 15 on GK, but left a bit of wiggle room with her specialist. Of the others, well, question marks over Pat Lucas’ and Karim Lalani’s GK made them outsiders, as did Bruce Horton’s specialist.

Judith went first then. Answering on the 11 Lord Peter Wimsey novels of Dorothy L. Sayers, what she provided was a virtuoso demonstration of how to tackle a semi final specialist round. She paused for a moment on just the one question, but still answered all of her questions correctly. Many people can produce a very fine specialist round in a heat. It takes something extra to be able to produce a second one in a semi final.

As it happened, the scale of Judith’s achievement was thrown into sharp relief by Pat Lucas’ round on Benjamin Franklin. Now in her heat, Pat’s win was built on a fine specialist round on Sir Isaac Newton. She started her round last night on Benjamin Franklin in similar fashion – 3 questions, and 3 correct answers. Then it all went Pete Tong. She couldn’t find another correct answer until the penultimate question of the round, to take her total to 4. Whether that was due to faulty preparation, a sudden attack of nerves, or some other factor, only Pat could say, I’m sure. But it meant that her chance had gone.

Without wishing to be mean to Bruce Horton, he was a little bit fortunate to find himself in the semi finals, having been 4 points behind the leader at half time in his heat. He produced a good general knowledge round, while others couldn’t which saw him through. Now, they do say that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. Well, as with Pat, Bruce answered the first three questions correctly, and then it all went to pot, and he only found one more correct answer before the blue line of death had finished the round. This time, at 8 points behind, there was no chance of rescuing things on GK.

Karim Lalani had won a low scoring heat with a pair of decent rounds. Last night he was answering on The Grand National from 1978 to date. They didn’t explain this, but I’m sure they picked 1978 because it precluded Red Rum who had his last run and last win in the National in 1977. Guess what? Like Pat and Bruce, Karim answered his first three questions correctly, then missed the 4th. Unlike them, however he did accrue a decent total of points. By the end of the round he’d managed 8. However his general knowledge from the heat held little hope that he’d be able to outscore Judith at all, let alone by enough to bridge the gap.

Which left Pat Williamson to finish the specialist rounds. As with Karim, she did manage a respectable performance, scoring 8 points as well. Unlike Karim, Pat had produced one of the better GK rounds, so there was just a little glimmer of hope for her, but you have to say, with a lead of 4 points over all of her fellow contenders, I couldn’t see any way that Judith Lewis was going to be beaten.

Pat Lucas was the first to return to the chair for GK. It wasn’t a great round, but at least it was a respectable round. It must be a daunting prospect returning to the chair being so far behind the leader, so you have to respect contenders who can keep their heads and come back. Putting Pat’s performance on GK into perspective, she only managed 1 point more in the heat when she had an extra 30 seconds, so this was an improvement in real terms.

I mentioned earlier Bruce playing his get out of jail free card on GK in the heats. I also mentioned that he was too far behind for this to happen last night. That was true. Still, at least he managed the best GK round of the night, adding a further 11 points to his total. Ironically this was also just one point less than his performance in the heat, so again, an improvement in real terms.

For Karim Lalani I’m afraid that the GK round turned out to be a bit of a grim old slog. It just didn’t work out for him, the questions didn’t fall his way, and in the end he finished with a total of 13.

Let’s put Pat Williamson’s task, as she sat back down in the chair, into perspective. Put simply, she had to score as many points as she possibly could in order to put Judith into the corridor of doubt. In real terms, I reckoned that she would need to score about 12 to have any chance of winning. She tried, and produced a perfectly respectable 9. But this meant that Judith was only going to need to score 5 and 1 pass or better, and this was always going to happen.

Judith’s round in fact was a little bit of an anti-climax. Again, it was another perfectly respectable affair, but it wasn’t the dazzling display of a potential champion in the way that her specialist round was. She had achieved the target with more than a minute left, but only went on to add a few more points, taking her final total to 21. Well done, and best of luck in the final.

There’s a perennial debate over the way that Mastermind semi final line ups are put together. Certainly in the past, and for all I know still, the policy has been to look at putting subjects rather than contenders together for a semi final line up. There’s not been any seeding involved. The principle behind this being that a line up of a wider variety of specialist subjects is more interesting for the viewer than, lets say, 4 out of 5 subjects in one show being historical, or popular culture, or whatever. The drawbacks are that it can result in some semi finals – like semi final one this season – being top heavy, and fine contenders like Brian Davis and Sue Duffy being eliminated – and other semi finals – like this one – being a bit of a yawn because one contender has as good as won by half time. As I’ve said before, that’s what can happen in knockout competition. As a rule I’m opposed to tinkering with the format of the show, but I think that this is a debate which will continue.

The Details

Judith Lewis
The Lord Peter Wimsey Novels of Dorothy L. Sayers
12
0
9
2
21
2
Pat Lucas
Benjamin Franklin
4
3
9
1
13
4
Bruce Horton
The Ottoman Empire  1822 - 1922
4
0
11
2
15
2
Karim Lalani
Grand National 1978 - date
8
1
5
3
13
4
Pat Williamson
Margaret Beaufort
8
0
9
2
17
2


Saturday, 11 May 2019

Mastermind 2019 Semi Final 2


Well, we’ve been made to wait a fortnight for this, dearly beloved, but last night saw the second semi final. Let’s have a look at the runners and riders and the form book:-

Amit De
Albert Einstein
13
0
13
2
26
2
Andrew Brewer
The Emperor Vespasian
11
2
17
1
28
3
Linda King
The Derby 1955 - 1990
12
2
16
1
28
3
Dave Cowan
Glamorgan CCC
12
0
15
0
27
0
Oliver Forrest
The Films of Wes Anderson
14
0
12
0
26
0

The first thing to note is that there were some pretty hefty GK scores there. On the other side of the coin, though, the trio with the fine GK scores, Andrew, Linda and Dave, all had good but not outstanding specialist scores, compared to those of Amit and Oliver. I do tend to feel that a semi is more likely to be won on GK than on specialist, and so I very much thought that the winner would be one of the middle three.

Amit De, then, kicked us off on Edinburgh. Now, I myself have never visited Edinburgh – rest assured, it’s on the list – but general knowledge brought me 5 of these. Amit did a lot better, scoring 9. That’s a good score. However it just failed to bring him to the double figure score which can be psychologically demoralising for the opposition in a semi final. Andrew Brewer, answering on the Emperor Vespasian in the first round, had the lowest specialist of all of our contenders in this semi. He really needed to get his challenge off to a good start now. Well, I have to say that although I thought his round’s questions were fair, they were generally quite tough. I’ve read biographies of Grant, and works on the American Civil War, and I didn’t pick up points in this round at all. Andrew’s score of 8 meant that at this stage he was only 1 point behind the leader, Amit. However you had to reckon that somebody would get into double figures.

It wouldn’t be Linda King, though. I don’t know if something had upset Linda’s composure, but she seemed a little unsettled even before the round began, hesitating before answering with the name of her subject. This uncertainty continued when she hesitated for a little while before giving the correct answer of the Shadows’ Apache for the first, which surely cost her the chance for an extra question at the end of the round. Linda was a little unconvincing, and a score of 7 meant that she was already two points off the lead, with 2 contenders still to go.

The next was Dave/David Cowan. I say Dave/David because he was David last time out, and called himself David this time out, while the TV captions said Dave. Now, as a Dave/David myself I don’t mind which you call me. My birth certificate and my mother always call me David. Pretty much everyone and everything else, me included, call me Dave, but I won’t take offence at either. David’s subject was the Life of Aneurin Bevan. Good choice, a fascinating subject, and one to which David did justice, posting an impressive 10 and no passes.

All of which left Oliver Forrest to complete the round. I suspect that Oliver might have been a little nervous himself, as he missed an absolute sitter on “Of Mice and Men”, answering Carlson for what was obviously Slim. Mind you, it’s easy for me to sit here and say that having taught the book for what I would estimate to be a good quarter of a century or more. He recovered well and powered on to 8 points.

So, as the half time oranges were passed around, nobody was completely out of the competition, although a three point gap, which separated Linda and David, is a hard one to bridge in a semi final. Linda gave it a goo old lash, mind you. She showed that her 16 from the heats was no fluke, and I would say that the 12 she produced last night was as good in real terms. Although she wasn’t rushing at the questions she missed very little, and kept her head throughout the round. 12 points for a total of 19 at least gave the others something to think abut, and gave herself a chance.

Next up was Andrew. His 17 on GK in the heats was one of the best rounds of the whole series so far. Sadly, he couldn’t manage anything comparable last night. It’s not that often that I think that one GK round in a show is notably harder or easier than the others, but I personally struggled more with Andrew’s questions than I did with anybody else’s last night. By the end of the round he’d added 8 to take his total to 16. A rueful smile, but the look on his face when he returned to his chair showed disappointment, and my heart went out to him.

Oliver, then, took his own shot at the GK. To be fair, I’d say that off the shorter round the 8 that he too scored was probably about equivalent to the 12 he scored in his heat. Pretty decent performance, but he never really looked like getting much closer to Linda’s total.

It’s really important to get a run of questions you can answer for your first few GK questions. Amit, sadly, was several questions into his round before he could add to his total, and from then on he was always playing catch up, and always behind the clock. Ladies and gentlemen, last night’s number was 8, and Amit was the 3rd contender in a row to score this number in his GK round. This Kept him ahead of Andrew and Oliver, but Linda was still out in the lead with one contender remaining.

I don’t know if David was feeling very calm inside as he progressed through his round, but he certainly appeared to be so on the surface. He wasn’t exactly snapping out the answers, no, but calmly giving them and adding to his score, so much so that he achieved the total with a little to spare, and finished with a good 11, and a winning score of 21. Well done sir.

I wouldn’t blame Sue Duffy and Brian Davis if they watched this semi with a certain amount of chagrin, having both scored 25 in their own semi, and yet missed out on a place in the final, but that’s the nature of knockout competition.

The Details

Amit De
Edinburgh
9
0
8
0
17
0
Andrew Brewer
The Life and Career of Ulysses S. Grant
8
1
8
2
16
3
Linda King
Pop music of the 1960s
7
1
12
0
19
1
Dave Cowan
The Life of Aneurin Bevan
10
0
11
2
21
2
Oliver Forrest
The Fiction of John Steinbeck
8
0
8
1
16
1

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Mastermind 2019 - Semi Final 1


So at last we’ve reached the semi finals, dearly beloved. While acknowledging that first round form is not an infallible guide, it’s still quite fun to look over the form book before we get into the show. Here’s the first round performances of our first semi finalists:-

Nicholas Young
John Buchan
14
0
12
4
26
4
Sue Duffy
The Life and Works of Elizabeth Taylor
14
0
13
2
27
2
Roy Smith
Bob Marley
12
1
14
2
26
3
Mark Grant
Keith Douglas
14
0
15
0
29
0
Brian Davis
The Life of Henry VII
12
0
17
0
29
0

 No duffers in there. You’d think that the form guide suggested Mark and Brian were the ones to beat, but there really wasn’t a lot to choose between all five, bearing in mind that Nicholas’s GK was the lowest.

Nicholas it was who kicked us off. You may recall that Nicholas took part in heat 15, and when he returned to the black chair he only needed 5 points to win. Then he was answering on John Buchan, while last night he gave us the Life and Times of Samuel Johnson. 11 in a semi final specialist is a good, competitive total, and that’s what he produced. My score of 6 off a rather basic knowledge of Doctor Johnson suggested that this wasn’t necessarily a rock hard set of questions.

Next to go was Sue Duffy. Answering on Elizabeth Taylor, Sue had won heat 4, with a sterling performance on specialist giving her a lead which she maintained in the GK round. Last night she was answering on Anthony Powell’s 12 novel A Dance to the Music of Time series. Never having read any of them I can’t vouch for their difficulty, but I can vouch for the fact that 11 points and no passes is a very competitive score.

Roy Smith was actually 3rd in Heat One back in October. That was a contest in which the two contenders who beat him both scored 16 on GK. Roy’s 14 wasn’t bad either. Back then he was answering on perennial favourite Bob Marley. Last night he was answering on Two Tone records. Yes, I was around in the late 70s and early 80s and remember them well. Not well enough to score more than 3 points, mind you. Roy did better than that. However at the end of the round he’d scored 7, and in a semi final, I’m sorry, 4 points behind is almost like half a lap in a 10,000m race. It was quite touching, really, as disappointment came over Roy’s face, and he was still sitting in the chair a little forlornly as the lights dimmed.

Many people have made Mark Grant, our next contender, a favourite for the series. This is totally understandable. It’s not that there aren’t many quizzers of the stature of Mark Grant in the series, although there aren’t, so much as there aren’t many quizzers of the stature of Mark Grant full stop. It would be a brave person who’d bet against Mark completing the Only Connect – Brain of Britain – Mastermind triple crown, like his Crossworders team mate Ian Bayley. He looked even more of a favourite when he put on a flawless 13 points on his specialist subject of The Festival of Britain.

This left Brian Davis. I recently saw Brian doing extremely well on Pointless. Brian took part in that remarkable heat 3, in which he was one of three contenders who posted scores of at least 29. That heat was won by Helen O’Connell, but Brian was runner up having scored a remarkable 17 on GK. Last night Brian was answering on William Wilberforce, and managed an excellent 12 to leave himself a point behind Mark.

Roy returned to the chair for the GK. Incidentally, for the semi finals we seem to have dumped the pointless gimmick of not telling the contenders how much each other has scored in the first round. Well and good. Roy had decided on the tactic of answering quickly and passing quickly. It worked for the first 4 questions, but a pass spiral soon developed and he only found another 4 right answers for the rest of the round. Well, look, Roy, you’re a Mastermind semi finalist and I know quite a few people who’d love to be able to add that to their own CV.

Nicholas Young struggled somewhat on his own GK round, and added 8 to his total. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, but I didn’t feel that any of the GK rounds were particularly strenuous in last night’s show. I had full houses in Nicholas, Mark’s and Brian’s rounds, which is undoubtedly easier to achieve on my sofa than in the black chair. Still, it did suggest that high scores were there for the taking, and sadly Nicholas’ wasn’t high enough.

Sue’s round, on the other hand, well Sue’s round was a very fine round indeed. She missed out on the same question I missed out on, but otherwise produced a perfect score of 14. The only other thing that did strike me about the round, though, was the time she took over several of the answers. This I felt opened the door for both Mark and Brian, who were definitely going to answer more quickly, I felt.

Brian did exactly that, and it’s well that he did, for he missed out on a couple which were gettable. Nonetheless his round had momentum right from the get go, and a fine string of correct answers brought him 13 points, which meant he was level with Sue on 25 and no passes. I still felt that Mark was going to win, but it did raise the mouthwatering prospect of a tie break.

Mark reeled off the first few answers. However his job was made harder after he hesitated over a question about aspic before giving it a guess, and then dropped another of the next couple of questions. After those couple though he powered onwards, and reached 13 for 26 and the win. Congratulations, sir, and best of luck in the final. As for Brian and Sue, well my heart goes out to the pair of you considering you both put in performances which were worthy of a place in the final. But that is the nature of a knockout competition I’m afraid. I hope that you can take consolation from a pair of very fine performances. Good show. I think we’ll be very lucky if all – or indeed any – of the other semi finals are as good as this one.

The Details

Nicholas Young
The Life and Times of Samuel Johnson
11
0
8
1
19
1
Sue Duffy
A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
11
0
14
0
25
0
Roy Smith
2 Tone Records
7
2
8
5
15
7
Mark Grant
1951 Festival of Britain
13
0
13
0
26
0
Brian Davis
The Life of William Wilberforce
12
0
13
0
25
0