Tuesday, 16 January 2018

University Challenge - Round Two - Fitzwilliam, Cambridge v. Magdalen, Oxford


Fitzwilliam, Cambridge v. Magdalen, Oxford

Yes, dearly beloved, it’s an Oxbridge match up this week. In the light blue corner we had Fitzwilliam, represented by Theo Tindall, Theo Howe, Jack Maloney and one of my favourite captains of this series, Hugh Oxlade. In the dark blue corner were Magdalen, who consisted of Winston Wright, Christopher Stern, Sarah Parkin, and captain Johnny Gibson. 

Hugh Oxlade was in as quickly as I was to know that the Army subdued by King Alfred was known as the Great Army. Bonuses on ducal residences saw 5 points bounce off the rim into the middle distance as they rejected Belvoir Castle, but they took the other two. White Surrey was the horse of Richard III, according to Shakespeare, as Johnny Gibson answered to open Magdalen’s account. Environmental agreements certainly didn’t promise a great deal, but we both had the same one right – the fact that the city in question is no longer the capital was pretty much a good indicator for that one. Many year ago, part of the next starter provided one of my favourite moments in the sadly defunct Neath Quiz League. Asked what the mythical Welsh ‘Cwn Annyn” was, I guessed cwn – from latin canis (a significant number of Welsh words are derived from latin)- might well be dog, and so answered the Hound of Hell. Which was close enough to get the points. If I told you that I never again reminded my 3 Welsh team mates that it was an Englishman who’d got the right answer, then you’d know I was lying. It was Johnny Gibson who correctly answered that this and other examples were all manifestations of dogs. This gave them a set of bonuses on Richardson’s “Pamela”, and Henry Fielding’s glorious parody thereof, “Shamela”, and they took a full house. Christopher Stern came in too early for the next starter on elements, losing 5. As soon as JP said it took its name from the Greek for violet I shouted ‘Iodine’ and took off on my lap of honour. Jack Maloney answered that one. Biology refused to yield them any bonuses. This brought us the picture bonus, and a map showing the location of a British port. Jack Maloney was first in with Felixstowe, and more ports which can cater for super containers on the map brought a full house, and catapulted Fitzwilliam back into the lead. Sarah Parkin was in very quickly for the next starter, recognising a quote from Nye Bevan. Novels about dictators yielded a further 10 points, which meant that we were all square on 55s at the 10 minute mark.

Christopher Stern was in too early for the next starter, allowing Jack Maloney to take another starter, recognising that the ancient area to which the question referred was Bactria. They took one bonus on Goethe and works inspired by his own. They missed a trick here, obviously not knowing that the moment you hear the name Paul Dukas, you give the answer The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It was that man Maloney who won a real UC Special buzzer race to explain that you need to add IA to change one moon – Titan – into another – Titania. Data compression bonuses did none of us any favours. Johnny Gibson had a rush of blood to the head and came in too early for the next starter. A set of steps up Cheddar Gorge is Jacob’s Ladder, and that name was the answer, as supplied by, well, who else, Jack Maloney. Bonuses on the original members of the Football League added a further ten points to what was becoming a significant lead. At this stage Magdalen were certainly not out of the contest, but they really needed a clean buzz to find some momentum again. The music starter saw Theo quickly in to identify the artist as Drake. More pieces of music that have made use of the Jamaican dembow rhythm provided 10 more points. Fitzwilliam at this stage were making it look easy, winning the starters, and taking points at every visit to the table. Johnny Gibson struck back for his team, being the first to recognise a description of the artist Paul Klee. Bonuses on George Sand seemed to be sure to provide Magdalen with a full house, but they zigged with Minorca when they ought to have zagged with Majorca for the last. Theo Howe was first in to identify Reindeer moss as a species of lichen.This earned a lovely UC special where the team were given two African cities for each question, and asked to name the countries which a straight line between the two would pass through. We both managed a full house on this one. Daring was rewarded as Johnny Gibson hit and hoped that Gordon Lamb House is the HQ of the Scottish National Party. It is. This earned bonuses on hormones, which to be honest did nothing for any of us. Johnny Gibson had the bit between his teeth though, and knew about vectors in physics for the next starter. 17th and 18th century philosophers were another bonus set offering me but slim pickings, but provided Magdalen with 10. Thus at the 20 minute mark the gap had at least been pulled back to manageable proportions, as Fitzwilliam led by 145 – 95.

Jack Maloney showed the first chink in his armour, losing five when asked for either of the French rivers whose name can preceded maritime. Magdalen’s inspirational skipper capitalised with the answer Seine. Only one bonus on crickets was taken, but nonetheless the gap was reduced to 30 points. For the second picture starter it was that man Gibson who recognised the work of Vermeer. Other paintings from Isabella Stewart Gardner’s collection yielded just one bonus, but now the gape was down to 15 points. What a good game this was turning out to be. Who else but Johnny Gibson would be first in to link Uhuru – Urdu and Uluru ( well, the clues to them) with the letter U. The gap was now down to 5. Bonuses on towns or cities beginning with Ul saw them draw level, but Ulverston, birthplace of the great Stan Laurel, just elude them. Both teams rather sat on their buzzers when asked for a five letter name for the largest species of the deer family. That’s a quizzer’s question which needs to be despatched to the boundary without a second thought. Finally Theo Howe gave the right answer, and put his team back in front. Still, they only managed one bonus on Charlotte Bronte, so the game was not over. Jack Maloney, back on form, identified JPL as the Jet Propulsion Lab,and two bonuses on Magna Graecia pushed them further ahead. With the scent of victory in Magdalen’s collective nostrils, Theo Tindall took his first starter by recognising the first lines of Virgil’s Aeneid. Birthplaces of British monarchs stretched the lead to 50 points – still only two full houses. There was time, if only just enough. Sarah Parkin did the first thing in taking the starter. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really get it, but the answer was milligram. Asteroids only yielded 1 bonus though, and so Magdalen still required two consecutive starters. That hope was dashed as Theo Tindall identified a bird’s syrinx as the source of its call. There wasn’t time for a full set of bonuses on Scotland, and the final score was 200 – 155 for Fitzwilliam.

That was a very enjoyable match between two good teams. There was more buzzing throughout the whole of the Fitzwilliam team, which is what won it for them in the end, but no shame for Magdalen, who were by no means outclassed. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

He was up and at ‘em early on the Belvoir Castle question, rubbing it in that the correct answer was ‘on the table’ for Fitzwilliam.

Later on he clearly approved of the tone of voice Hugh Oxlade used to say the name ‘Justin Bieber’, to which he chuckled and saluted the ‘wonderfully disdainful’ way that he said it. 

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

George VI is the only future British Monarch to be born at Sandringham

Friday, 12 January 2018

University Challenge - Round Two - Newcastle v. Southampton


University Challenge – Round 2 – Newcastle v. Southampton

Yes, my friends, I can only apologise to those teams whose matches I’ve missed. If you’re a regular you know that I have my problems from time to time, and sometimes you have to bend a little so that you don’t break. 

Onto the show then. Newcastle’s first opponents, Sheffield Hallam, weren’t great to be honest, so this show at least would maybe give us a clearer idea of how good Newcastle were. The team consisted of Jack Reynard, Molly Nielsen, Adam Lowery, and their skipper Jonathan Noble. Cardiff, Southampton’s first round opponents, had a similarly lowly score to Sheffield, however Southampton’s 280 points against them was an impressive performance however you look on it. They were Juan-Pablo Ledesma, Andrew Knighton, Niall Jones and their captain Lorna Frankel. 

There is a reason why I immediately answered “Bayeux Tapestry” after the words ‘depicting 49 trees’ has passed JP's lips. It was the specialist subject on which I had my highest ever MM specialist score (17 in 2 minutes, thanks for asking.) Jack Reynard took a little longer than me to give the correct answer – but not a lot. This brought up a set of bonuses on the importance of tea. 2 bonuses on a tricky set saw the on their way. Jack Reynard doubled up his total of early buzzed in starters knowing Dalton’s Law. Bonuses on cinnabar provided us both with a full house. Niall Jones opened his team’s account, knowing that the Volga rises near Moscow and discharges into the Caspian Sea. The set of Physics bonuses delivered the same to me as my Physics O Level exams delivered in 1980 – that is, nowt. However Southampton managed 2. Game on. You had to wait with the next starter, but once the words “In the bleak midwinter” passed JP’s lips it was a mad scramble for the buzzer, won by Niall Jones, who knew it was Christina Rossetti. The Palace of Versailles was one of those sets where you know you can get at least one right if you just keep answering the Hall of Mirrors – and indeed this was the only one that either of us got. So to the picture starter. We saw part of the details of the contents page of a notable work of non-fiction. Phrases like “Causes of Improvement” and “political economy” led me to take a punt with The Wealth of Nations, and both teams had to think about it. Juan-Pablo zigged with Das Kapital, allowing Molly Nielsen to zag with my answer. This earned Newcastle 3 more notable 18th century works. They took one, should have had 2, and there was enough help on the first for them to have had all 3, but you don’t always think clearly in the heat of battle in the studio. As we approached the ten minute mark Newcastle seemed to have had the better of the opening exchanges as they led by 60 – 35.

A UC special starter followed asking for the sum of the atomic numbers of the elements whose symbols spell the word pwn (that’s what it said on the subtitles). Niall Jones was only one out, but you get nowt for a good try in this game. Jack Reynard came in early to identify Albert the Bear as the first Margrave of Brandenburg. Were the second and third called Winnie and Paddington, I wonder? It looked as if they weren’t going to get any of their bonuses on Scotland, but a good shout saw them correctly answer that Sutherland has a comparable population density to Wyoming. Andrew Knighton took his first starter, knowing that the Sabin oral vaccine is used against polio. The Mahabharata provided another five points, and a giggle at JP's discomfort in trying to pronounce the word. Johnathan Noble was in extremely quickly to identify the Critique of Pure Reason – I suspect he may even have had it just from the date of 1781. Terms used in astronomy gave Newcastle one correct answer, which is one more correct answer than I managed. This brought us to the music starter. Even though it was obviously from Swan Lake, Lorna Frankel was in exceptionally quickly, after about a note and a half. Three other classical works mentioned in Susan Sontag’s work on Camp. Both of us could only name Il Trovatore. Now, for the UC special which was the next starter, I didn’t know that Stokely Carmichael was born on Trinidad, but I knew that Brian Lara was. So the answer – the last two letters, was - ad. A little more of the question was given before the impressive Jack Reynard buzzed in for another correct interruption. Compromises in US History only gave me a correct answer with the Missouri Compromise, but Newcastle had this and the 1850 compromise. Now, if I’m ever asked for the name of a female French Impressionist painter, I always offer Berthe Morisot for the very good reason that she’s the only one I know. It worked for the next starter. Neither team had it, but Newcastle lost five for an incorrect interruption. For the next UC special we were given clues to the words frieze and sneeze, and asked which river of northern England they rhymed with. Jonathan Noble worked out early that it was the Tees. Things were starting to look ominous for Southampton, as Newcastle were having by far the best of this part of the contest. Islands and peninsulae based on their descriptions by Strabo brought a couple of more correct answers. Pelion was veritably piled upon Ossa as Jonathan Noble buzzed extremely early to identify the brightest star in the constellation as Antares. A rather gentle set on elements and words which they – sort of – resemble – provided a full house. Which meant that just part the 20 minute mark Newcastle had a commanding lead of 150 to Southampton’s 70.

A lead which only increased when Jonathan Noble, leading from the front, buzzed in to identify France as the European power left with the Indian province of Chanda Nagar. South East Asian history only provided five more points, but the lead was by now just a smidgeon away from triple figures. It was Juan-Pablo Ledesma who began the Southampton fightback, identifying a still from Curse of the Were Rabbit. Three more stop motion films nominated for best animated picture Oscars were not ones I knew, but Southampton took two. The next starter was one of those Maths ones where I always either answer 0 or 1. Actually it was minus 1 as the Newcastle skipper correctly answered. Bonuses on George Eliot saw them miss out on a gimme with Adam Bede, and a gettable one with Romola, but nonetheless the gap was back up to 90, and I just didn’t think there was enough time left for Southampton. They had a go though, with Niall Jones recognising various species of zebra. Electronics bonuses gave them sadly nothing. Lorna Frankel knew that in a calendar year hebdomidal events occur 52 times. Works to be found in the Prado brought in just 5 points. Again, Niall Jones won a buzzer race to identify Phileas Fogg as a member of the Reform Club. Bonuses on English cities saw them zig when they should have zagged on the first 2, to add just another 5. As it was the Newcastle skipper took the next starter on various connections with the word sage. 19th century novels gave them the 2 bonuses they needed to hit 200. This increased as Adam Lowery knew that you use Coomassie Blue to stain proteins. Fair enough. We only had time for one bonus on islands of the River Thames before the gong ended the contest with Newcastle winning by a score of 215 – 130.

Well played Newcastle. Hard lines Southampton. One felt that they were not undone by any great lack of knowledge, but by the precision buzzing of the firm of Reynard and Noble, Early Buzz Purveyors to the Gentry. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Apparently Boris Johnson once called Jez a swot. He didn’t say that he himself had called Boris something that rhymed with swot, but I’d like to think that’s what happened.
I was amused by JP’s struggles to pronounce the Mahabharata. He mentioned the word three times, and used a different way of saying it for each one.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week 

George Eliot’s translation of the works of Spinoza were not published until 1981

Mastermind 2018 - Heat 22


Heat 22

Just a couple of weeks to go, dearly beloved, and then we’ll definitely have seen this year’s winner, because we’ll have seen all of the contenders. 

The first to attempt to book a place in the semis by right of winning was Claire Slater. Claire offered us a good, old traditional MM specialist in the shape of the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci. I didn’t think that this would be a great subject for me, but I’d scraped together enough knowledge of the great man from here and there to get 5. In a show which wouldn’t see me get anywhere near my aggregate achievements of last week. Claire’s 12 and 1 pass was a good performance, and experience suggested that she would be in contention by half time.

Now, if the word ‘Jaws’ comes into your mind when you hear the words ‘Dreyfus’ and ‘Affair’, then you’re probably of a similar vintage to myself. However, Jim Mason was not answering on the career of the youngest winner of a Best Actor Oscar prior to Adrien Brody, but on the shocking and scandalous framing and punishment of the Jewish captain Alfred Dreyfus in France in the late 19th century. I bagged only the 1 on this round, but Jim did I though very well on one of those subjects which I would imagine needs copious amounts of revision if you’re not going to let the round get away from you.

Burdened with support from the Clark sofa was schoolteacher Craig Thomson, who offered us another traditional MM specialist subject in the life and works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Again, that’s another subject where I know just enough about the subject to know how complex a round it could provide, without knowing enough to actually score many points on it myself. I did think Craig answered just a little slowly, and it seemed to me that this was the main reason why he didn’t quite make it across the line into double figures. A perfectly respectable score, but with 9 he was three points behind and facing a bit of a mountain to climb in the GK.

It was a mountain which became somewhat steeper after John Stitcher’s round on the TV series The Inbetweeners. I can’t swear to it, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if John is the first professional poker player to be a contender on Mastermind. That may be significant too, since I would imagine a good memory must be pretty useful if you are. John made mincemeat of his round, hardly breaking metaphorical sweat as he provided, dare I say it, a full house ( see what I did there?) of 15 correct answers to 15 questions. Leading by three, he seemed to be holding all the aces going into the GK. 

Craig was the first to return to the chair, and he took his overall total to 16, so at leat it meant that he did hold the lead for a couple of minutes. Now, with regards to Jim’s round, this is all in the eye of the beholder and the ear of the behearer, but I found Jim’s round a little tougher than most of the GK rounds this series. Playing along at home I usually score between 16 – 18, depending on how quickly the contender answers and how many questions are actually asked. On Jim’s round I limped home with 13. That’s just an observation, and I’m not trying to make any particular point. Jim himself scored 10, and raised the bar to 21.

As you know, I can’t help making an assessment of whether I think contenders are quizzers or not based on their responses to their GK rounds. Well, for much of Claire Slater’s round I was impressed, and pretty sure that she must be a quizzer. She had taken her aggregate to 24 with about 7 questions still to be asked. However, she only managed one of these, and so what had all the makings of a great round had to be satisfied with being a good round. 25 didn’t necessarily look like a winning total, but it was certainly enough to put John into the corridor of doubt. 

John started his GK round confidently. He was picking off what he did know, and guessing what he didn’t. However, he’d maybe get a couple right, but then be pulled up by a wrong answer, and when you get a couple wrong in a row it makes it extremely difficult to get any momentum going. John never panicked, and he never passed. However, with about thirty seconds to go it looked in doubt as to whether he might even get the ten he needed to win on pass countback. Agonisingly, he didn’t, falling just one short. As John announced his score he looked absolutely gutted, and I don’t blame him for that. I think it was Vince Lombardi who once said – if winning isn’t important, why do they bother keeping the score? – but he rallied quickly and offered Claire fulsome congratulations on her win. 

So well played Claire, a good all round performance, and best of luck in the semis. 

The Details

Claire Slater
The Life and Works of Leonardo da Vinci
12
1
13
3
25
4
Jim Mason
The Dreyfus Affair
11
0
10
3
21
3
Craig Thomson
The Life and Works of J.S.Bach
9
1
7
3
16
4
John Stitcher
The Inbetweeners
15
0
9
0
24
0

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Mastermind 2018 - Recap - Heat 20

Mastermind 2018 – Heat 20

I can only apologise to the 4 contenders in heat 20. Here is my belated review.

Ben Holmes’ specialist subject promised to be my best of this season, bearing in mind how unlikely it is that any contenders in one of the remaining heats would take the Life and Times of Dave Clark as a specialist. (Believe me, it would be a very ordinaryist subject). I’ve been a huge Dr. Who fan since about 1966, when I was 2, and I’ve even written books on the subject. Alright, I’d rather have had a round on the classic series rather than the revived, but beggars can’t be choosers. I was delighted with my 13 – however this paled into insignificance against Ben’s perfect 15 from 15. Game on.

I’d only quite recently watched a decent documentary on the Concorde, so Kevin Howell’s round on the same promised a few points. Actually I did better than I thought, scoring 7, and putting myself on an aggregate of 20 with 2 rounds still to come. A record aggregate looked likely. Mind you, Kevin knew his stuff a lot better than I did. In normal circumstances a score of 12 on specialist will put you well up with the leaders at half time, however in this show it meant that he lagged 3 points behind Ben.

My first chance to break my aggregate record for the series came from Tony McConnell’s round on The Clash. Frankly, it wasn’t much of a chance at all. When you get right down to it, I just don’t know very much about The Clash, and only managed to get a single point. Tony obviously knew most of his stuff, but the fact is that when you’re up against perfection, knowing most of your stuff can still let you down. A double figure score on specialist is a good performance, and speaks of proper preparation, but sadly 10 points still meant that Tony was 5 points off the lead, and in all likelihood out of contention. 

Finally Diane Hardman offered us the Life of Sir Francis Walsingham. Now for me the issues were simple – 6 points would give me a new highest specialist aggregate for a show in this series of 27. So I went and scored 5. Ah, a show which had promised so much after the Doctor Who round. Well, returning to the real contest, Diane wasn’t quite perfect, but she kept on picking off the answers, and indeed seemed to even speed up as the round progressed. Scoring 13 gave her a chance. It’s a funny thing, but being a couple behind sounds so much better than being three behind. 

Tony McConnell returned to the chair, and added 10 general knowledge points to the 10 specialist points he had scored earlier. It’s probably not much consolation, but two double figure rounds, and a total of 20 is a perfectly respectable performance. It doesn’t help that it meant that the target after his round was only 5 points more than Ben had scored in his first round, but that’s just the way that this particular heat worked out.

Kevin Howell looked somewhat more nervous in his GK round than he had in his specialist. He was caught in a mid round pass spiral, and did well to eventually free himself from its clutches. Nonetheless, this limited his round to 8, which meant that he too finished with 20. 

The question, then, was whether Diane, starting on 13, could score enough points to at least make Ben have to cross the corridor of doubt. The answer was, well, almost. I really think that you need at least a double figure lead to really make the other contenders think that they have a sizeable task ahead of them, and Diane, who gave it a fair old lash, scored 11 to finish with 24. 9 and no passes would do it – 10 would provide and outright win.

Ben had provided the pick of the specialist rounds, and he provided the pick of the GK rounds as well. I often say this, but I do dare say that Ben is a quizzer, based on the breadth, speed and confidence of his answers. 14 is a good score, maybe not quite top drawer, but it’s the mark of a serious contender. In the end he won by a margin of 5 points. Well done Ben, and the best of luck in the semi finals.

The Details

Ben Holmes
Dr. Who 2005 - date
15
0
14
1
29
1
Kevin Howell
Concorde
12
1
8
4
20
5
Tony McConnell
The Clash
10
1
10
2
20
3
Diane Hardman
The Life of Sir Francis Walsingham
13
0
11
1
24
1


Mastermind 2018 - Heat 21


Mastermind 2018 – Heat 21

Hi everyone, and a Happy New Year to all. I’m sorry it’s been getting on for a month since my last post. I just found that things were starting to get on top of me again, and so I needed a bit of time to face down my demons, at least for the time being. Enough of me, though.

The first contender we would get to see in 2018, then, was Steve Rhodes. Steve was offering us the TV series The Royle Family. I have to say that Steve did appear to be extremely nervous – hence giving the answer Henry Norman when I’ve no doubt that he knew it was Henry Normal. To paraphrase John H., that’s what the chair can do to you. Other than that, though, he put on a fine performance to score 13. I’m a bit of a fan of the series myself, and it seemed to me that there was quite a bias in favour of the Christmas specials, as opposed to the regular series. For all that, though, I was pleased to kick off my own attempt at a plus 20 score with 8. 

I recognised Magda Biran as the captain of the very useful SOAS team in a recent series of University Challenge. Thinking back to that, I was fairly certain that she was going to go well in GK. So it was all a question of how well could she do on her specialist subject, Lord Melbourne. For all that this was a very traditional specialist subject, I’ve always said that biographicals make good MM subjects, since they’re finite and learnable within a restricted time frame. Magda had certainly learned her stuff, and managed a 12, which put her only one point behind the leader. She also showed the skill of a TV quiz veteran in avoiding any passes in her round.

Pop groups and artists have become one of the staple SS genres of each series of MM since the 2003 revival, and our third contender, Tim Footman, offered us one of the biggies in The Beach Boys. With my half dozen points on Lord Melbourne, another half dozen here put me on 20. Tom, needless to say, did considerably better than that – twice as well, in fact. He passed on one, and finished with 12. Only a point behind the leader, and level with Magda, I couldn’t help wondering whether that pass was going to be significant. 

This was all speculation, though, especially considering that we still had our fourth contender, Matt Leighton, to go. Matt was answering on British General Elections 1945 – 2017, which may on the surface sound like a bit of a dry, old subject. Far from it actually. Even foregone conclusions like Tony Blair’s second and third election victories are interesting in their own way. I was happy to take five to give me one of my best aggregates of the whole season. Matt as well showed real depth of knowledge to take 11, putting himself just 2 points off the lead, and in contention.

So at the turn all 4 of the contenders were still in it. Matt was first to return to the chair. He’d passed a couple of times in his specialist round, and so it seemed his tactic was to answer at once if an answer came to him, and to pass quickly if it didn’t. That’s a perfectly valid tactic, and it did have the effect of ensuring that he never lost momentum as the round progressed. I dare say that Matt may well have done a bit of quizzing in his time, judging by the speed and breadth of his answers. 11 points was a more than decent return on the round – unlikely to win – I thought – but enough to put others into the corridor of doubt.

Not that it looked as if Magda was in any doubt whatsoever. In contrast to Matt, Magda was not going to pass any questions. She scarcely missed anything for the first minute, and even when she didn’t know the answer to questions she made sensible suggestions, and kept off picking off the majority. There was just a slight hiatus in the middle of the round, but even so she accumulated a good 13 to raise the target significantly.

Tim Footman I did not know before the start of this show. However he is obviously a quizzer, judging by the range of answers he provided while posting a magnificent 17. If he was the least bit daunted by the size of the task he faced in the round he didn’t show it. In fact, Tim actually did something that many people told me I was prone to doing in the 2007 SOBM – he smiled several times while John was asking the question, obviously knowing the answer before the question was finished. As he walked back to the chair, I felt certain that his score of 29 was a winning one.

Nonetheless, Steve Rhodes had been in the lead as the half time oranges were distributed, and although it was going to take a remarkably good round for him to win, it was still possible. I mentioned that he’d looked nervous in the first round, and sadly, this seemed to be the case in the GK. In the end he finished with a total of 20 points. 

So, well played Tim. A great performance which is one of the most impressive of this season so far. On this kind of form he looks a good bet in the semis, and you never know. . . Best of luck. 

The Details

Steve Rhodes
The Royle Family
13
1
7
3
20
4
Magda Biran
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne
12
0
13
0
25
0
Tim Footman
The Beach Boys
12
1
17
0
29
1
Matt Leighton
British General Elections 1945 - 2017
11
2
11
4
22
6

Friday, 15 December 2017

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 19


There are, dearly beloved, certain specialist subjects which I’m sure go down on more application forms than others. Such a subject was offered by our first contender last night, Madeline Grant, in the shape of the Harry Potter novels. Last time out was in 2015, when Barbara Flaherty scored a perfect 15 from 15, and before that in the 2012 Sleb series, and the 2011 series proper. Madeline produced a perfect round, and you cannot do better than that. I’ve read and enjoyed all of the novels, and I have to say that these were as testing a set of questions as you’d get on any subject – put it another way, you really had to know your stuff to have a chance of a good score on this.

Burdened with support from the Clark sofa last night was teacher Peter Stiles. He offered us The Battle of the Bulge as a subject. Now, twice during the specialist rounds last night I was struck by the way the effect of the black chair can sometimes make contenders miss out on one of the simpler questions. In Peter’s case it was Robert Shaw Von Runstedt, which I bet he would normally answer without a second thought. 9 was a perfectly respectable score, but with a 6 point lead to overhaul I couldn’t see him progressing to the semis.

Now, Allan Cook produced another excellent round, his subject being Juliet Stevenson Rosalind Franklin. For the uninitiated, Rosalind Franklin was the X Ray crystallographer who played a vital role in the discovery and final confirmation of the structure of DNA. Allan answered very accurately, but his technique was an interesting contrast to Madeline’s. Madeline gave her answers as quickly as possible, while Allan’s answers were built for comfort rather than speed. I don’t blame him for this – an accurate 12 is far better than a lightning fast 10. Still, at least he had given himself a shot.

Finally Nick Gunatilleke, who gave us the Waterloo Campaign, and the second example of missing out on the relative sitter. I bet you that Nick has never failed to answer the name of Christopher Plummer The Duke of Wellington’s horse before, and never will again. He did rally after this nervous start though, and produced a respectable round of 9. Sadly, though, this meant that that at the turn around we were really left with a two horse race, and one of those horses was a long shot. 

Peter, then, returned to the chair for his GK round. I’m always glad to see a contender reach double figures on GK. If you can manage that, then you’ve got nothing to beat yourself up over, and Peter did manage 10. With the best will in the world though this was never going to win this show. Nick gave it a lash, but he finished with 16 overall. 

Allan Cook actually produced the best GK round of the night. In my heart of hearts I felt that he needed at least 13 to really give himself a chance and to put Madeline into the corridor of doubt. His 11 was perfectly respectable, but it did leave Madeline needing just 9 for an outright win. I do think that there’s quite a big psychological difference between the prospect of needing 9, and the prospect of needing 10 – it’s only 1 point, but double figures are a lot more daunting than single figures. 

Madeline left little doubt that she was going to win after her first minute. She looked a little nervous as she sat back down in the chair, but her performance belied that, as she ripped through the first 90 seconds or so of the questions. In the last minute she did run out of steam a little, as the incorrect answers started to accrue, but in the context of this heat this was immaterial to the outcome of the show. 10 correct answers gave her a winning total of 25 and no passes. A good performance, and best of luck in the semis.

The Details

Madeline Grant
The Harry Potter Novels
15
0
10
0
25
0
Peter Stiles
The Battle of the Bulge
9
0
10
2
19
2
Allan Cook
Rosalind Franklin
12
0
11
2
23
2
Nick Gunatilleke
The Waterloo Campaign
9
1
7
5
16
6

Saturday, 9 December 2017

University Challenge Catch Up 1: St. John's, Cambridge v. Corpus Christi, Cambridge

Round 2 Heat 2 – St. John’s Cambridge v. Corpus Christi Cambridge

One of the more impressive teams of the first round, St. John’s were represented by John-Clark Levin, Rosie McKeown, Matt Hazell, and their captain James Devine-Stoneman. Their opponents were Corpus Christi Cambridge, and they were Tristram Roberts, Kripa Panchagnula, Benedict McDougall and skipper Joseph Krol.

Off we went, then. Matt Hazell took first blood for St. John’s , recognising early that a type of deer and a type of star could both be red. Good shout. A full set on Zavodovski island, part of the South Sandwich islands gave them the best possible start. Tristram Roberts struck back equally quickly for Corpus Christi, knowing that Fermat didn’t have enough room in the margin to write the solution to his last theorem. I’ll be honest, the only one of their bonuses that I knew on choreographers was the one that they got on Bob Fosse – whom I also though was the subject of the film Gorillas in the Mist. Rosie McKeown knew that Prayers and Meditations was written by Catherine Parr – good shout again. Thermodynamics bonuses followed. In the words of Ultravox, thie means nothing to me, but provided another full house for St. John’s. John-Clark Levin had a speculative punt that the European capital described in the next starter would be Stockholm, being 7 degrees further North than London, and he was right to do so. Once again, St. John’s took a full house on bonuses, this time on Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Never read that myself, but I read the Oryx and Crake trilogy over the summer and rather enjoyed them. Again Tristram Roberts hauled Corpus back into the game, knowing that the result of the meeting of particle and anti particle is annihilation. One bonus on mutinies followed to take us up to the picture starter. An abridged set of first lines from a famous poet appeared. In the middle, “Let us go then, you and I” was the big clue that this was TS Eliot. Rosie McKeown snapped that one up. For the bonuses St. John’s had to supply both poet and title of collection, and yes, they did have another full house. This meant that every question that St. John’s had answered up to the 10 minute mark they had answered correctly. Corpus Christi, with 30, were not playing at all badly. But to this point St. John’s, with 100, were playing brilliantly.

It really paid to wait with the next starter, as all of a sudden it became clear that the answer required the word longhorn, supplied by Rosie McKeown. The Geography bonuses saw them wavering on a couple of questions, but still they supplied the answers to a full house of bonuses. The impressive Rosie McKeown showed no mercy towards poor, shell shocked Corpus, knowing the Cuban dance, the Habanera for the next starter. Finally they showed just a little vulnerability on a set of Geology bonuses, not knowing the term orogeny. Is that where orogenous zones come from? Mind you, they still took the other two bonuses. Again, Tristram Roberts interrupted the run of St. John’s starters, knowing the definition of the metre squared. Sadly they only managed one of a gettable set on Edouard Manet. It was Rosie McKeown again who knew that the Iolani Palace is in Honolulu. Again they missed out on a full house, but staphylococci bacteria still provided two correct answers. So to the music starter, and for once St. John’s supplied an incorrect starter answer.Neither Corpus nor I recognised the work of Weber. The St. John’s skipper was very quickly in to win the dubious honour of the music bonuses, knowing all about particles and spin. The bonuses did nothing for any of us. Matt Hazell correctly identified sparrows as being one of the four pests, the eradication of which was one goal of China’s 1958 Great Leap Forward. Bonuses on works of European Romanticism brought a further two correct answers, and I did wonder if JP was about to administer the coup de grace to Corpus by telling them that there was plenty of time left to come back. Rosie McKeown edged her team through the 200 barrier, recognising various writers with the Christian name Elizabeth. A single bonus on capitalism followed. Joseph-Clark Levin knew that Stalin was criticised in the work The Cult of Personality and its Consequences, which brought up an excellent UC special set on nationalities whose name appears when a certain combination of words are entered in Google – eg – cheese and army knife for Swiss. 2 correct answers meant that on the cusp of the 20 minute mark St. John’s led by 230 to 45.

Nobody recognised the work of Delacroix for the 2nd picture starter. Tristram Roberts knew the acronym DDS in computing terms, and received the picture bonuses for his pains. The team could only recognise the work of JMW Turner. Rosie McKeown knew or guessed that the 1930s was described poetically as a low, dishonest decade, and bonuses on Shakespeare provided 2 more correct answers. Matt Hazell knew that in biological terms NK stands for Natural Killer. 5 letter cricketing terms only provided one guessed answer, but so what? St. John’s were through, and poor old Corpus were over 200 points behind. One had to feel for Tristram Roberts. HE took another starter knowing Confucianism, and his personal total was a good one, but sadly none of the rest of his team had been able to find their range with the buzzer. I’ll be honest, when JP announced that they had won a set of bonuses on Norwegian writers, I would have blamed them for saying ‘you’re having a laugh, aint yer? ‘ – my answer to each was Ibsen, and was wrong. This left Corpus becalmed on 70. James Devine-Stoneman guessed that cetane rating applies to diesel fuel, to stretch the gap to over 200 points again. 10 points on chess terminology put St. John’s within striking distance of the 300 barrier – one visit to the table could be enough. Yet it was the Corpus Christi skipper who recognised the 2 St. Bernards (humans, not dogs) in the next starter. Sadly there was no time for them to find a correct answer to the set on Archbishops of Canterbury, and at the gong the score was 285 – 80 in St. John’s favour.

I’m glad that JP said nothing to rub it in to Corpus Christi. Yes, maybe they might have thrown caution to the wind a little more with the buzzer, but let’s give credit where it’s due. The margin was heavy because St. John’s played so well, and displayed good and at times great knowledge across a very wide range of disciplines. Nobody will fancy playing against them in the quarters, and they need to be taken extremely seriously. A very fine performance.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nothing to see here. Get on with your lives, citizens.

Interesting fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week


Both Temple Archbishops of Canterbury, father and son, died in office.