Saturday, 30 January 2016

Mastermind - First Round Heat 23

Show 23

What a nice surprise to see LAM reader and correspondent Roger Canwell back again last night! Roger was a finalist in Nancy’s series in 2009, and a semifinalist in Aidan McQuade’s series in 2013. So a highly experienced and successful contender, and I have to be honest, I felt for the three Mastermind virgins who faced him, in the same way I felt for Graham Barker’s three opponents in last week’s show.

The first of these was Martin Wightman. He picked the first of two subjects about which I thought I knew something. I’m sure I’ve mentioned on this very blog before that I was 5 years old when I was got up in the middle of the night to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon for the first time, and like many other boys of my vintage I was space crazy for a while. Some of these questions were straightforward, but by no means all of them and I thought that I’d done pretty well to score 9. Not as well as Martin, though. A score in the teens on specialist at this stage of the game is a great score, and although he had some stiff opposition in the shape of Roger, he at least had given himself a great chance of making a game of it.

Roger offered us the second specialist round I liked the look of. I’ve had an interest in the Great Train Robbery ever since I read Piers Paul Read’s book about it some 20 odd years ago. Again, though, while my 8 looked good, it paled into insignificant against Roger’s perfect round of 14. Speaking as someone who came close, but never actually had a perfect round, I can assure you just how hard it is to do. You have to give 100% in your preparation for the show – and if you do, then you can always at least get close. With GK yet to come, Roger was a short price favourite as far as I was concerned.

Fair play to Austin McHale, he gave us the third double figure round of the night with QPR – the ‘Super Hoops’ – 1966 to present day. Look, I have to come back to the point I made a couple of weeks ago. Back then we saw a round on Aston Villa 1947 – present. Now it’s 1966. What is it with these dates? This is not a grouse aimed at the contenders. They have a right to ask for whatever subject they like, it is up to the production team to decide whether they can do it or not. But I would have thought it was not unreasonable to expect a contender to answer on the whole history of a football club. Whatever the case, Austin’s 12 kept him in the game.

Lorraine Kitchingham had the unenviable task of having to follow those three performances. She was answering on the Alex Delaware Novels of Jonathan Kellerman. To be honest she did not look comfortable at all throughout the round, and I wouldn’t be that surprised if nerves robbed her of a few points. As it was, though, a score of 6 meant the worst of all possible worlds. She was out of any realistic chance of winning AND she was going to have to make a quick return to the chair for the GK round.

At least Lorraine did manage to gather herself a bit and add 8 to her score. Just before her round started, John made the observation that there are over 30 Alex Delaware novels. Now, I know that he was only trying to be nice, but it’s an indirect way of drawing attention to the fact that Lorraine had not done well on her specialist subject, and as such, I’m not entirely sure that it was the best thing to say as she was starting her GK round. If you feel that you haven’t done well enough on a round, there’s nothing really that anyone can say right at that moment to make you feel a lot better. Austin’s job as he returned to the chair was simple – post a high score , put the other two into the corridor of doubt, and hope to hang on. Simple to say that is, not quite so simple to execute. Was it a bad round? No, certainly not, but, and this is crucial, it was an unconvincing one. 9 points put the target at 21, and this particular show was never going to be won with a total of 21.

Now, Martin, when he returned to the chair, began extremely well, and was answering like a serious, regular quizzer. Ultimately the round didn’t quite live up to its early promise. The last minute or so was tough going as Martin ran out of steam, and in the end he just managed to make double figures. So did this mean that Roger was home and dry?

Well, no, not necessarily. Roger needed his own 10 to win outright, and yes, that’s well within his capabilities. But funny things can sometimes happen when you’re in that chair. Roger, though, is an experienced hand at this game now, and he knows that a 2 and a half minute round is a marathon, not a sprint. So although he picked up some wrong answers along the way he just kept on picking off the answers, and there was still a little time left on the clock as he hit the target, going on to put a little daylight between himself and Martin.

So well done Roger! Good luck in the semis – lovely to see you back again.

Martin Wightman
Apollo Space Missions
13
0
10
0
23
0
Roger Canwell
The Great Train Robbery
14
0
11
2
25
2
Austin McHale
Queens Park Rangers 1966 - present
12
0
9
0
21
0
Lorraine Kitchingham
Alex Delaware novels of Jonathan Kellerman
6
4
8
1
14
5


Mastermind - First Round Heat 22 (22nd January)

Show 22

Sorry about last week. To try tomake amends we’ll have a bumper double review of Mastermind. Last week, then, saw a very serious returning contender in the shape of Graham Barker. Last time out in 2013 Graham was unlucky to lose in the first round when he was narrowly defeated by a circumstance over which none of us have any control – one of the other contenders played out of his skin and had a blinding GK round. Still, we’ll come back to Graham shortly.

In the meantime let’s cast an eye over Peter Spicer’s round. Peter, I believe, took part in Brain of Britain a couple of years ago. Peter was answering on the TV series Gavin and Stacey. Now, there’s all kind of theories doing the rounds about how specialist rounds are put together. I do know some people who firmly believe that if you take a popular TV series, for example, then you will get harder questions than if you take, let’s say, Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Personally, I think such speculation is pointless. If you opt to take a subject, then ANYTHING within the subject is fair game, and you must prepare accordingly. I know Gavin and Stacey well enough to say, without wishing to be horrible, that there were questions Peter didn’t answer which he probably should have been able to. That’s quizzing, it happens. Still, it did look like he’d fall foul of my old adage that you can lose it on specialist, and win it on GK.

Remember how I just said that you have to prepare for anything about your subject in specialist? Well, Graham Barker’s round provided us with a textbook example of just that. This was that relative rarity, a perfect round of 14 questions and 14 correct answers. For the last few years a score of 14 on Specialist is an exceptional performance. Bearing in mind Graham’s GK pedigree as well, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the others were playing for a repechage slot. Unless someone managed an exceptional GK performance, that is . . .

Virgin number 2, Ian Protheroe, offered us an excellent specialist round of his own, on baseball player Jackie Robinson. We’re not great baseball fans here in the UK, as a rule, and so Jackie Robinson is not the revered figure here that he rightly is in the US. Jackie Robinson was the man who broke the colour bar in baseball, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s and 50s. A hugely talented player, and just as importantly, a man of tremendous presence and dignity. Ian managed to do the man justice with a fine round of 12 points.

Finally, then Theresa McWhirter gave us William Morris. You should always be cautious if you’re trying to suggest why a contender achieves only a relatively modest score on Specialist – in Theresa’s case, 7. I don’t know enough about William Morris to be able to say whether her set was harder than average, but as we’ve said, you have to prepare for anything which might be asked on your subject. As a rule of thumb, if you’re not sure whether it might possibly be asked or not, then learn it. Whether it was nerves, well, who knows?

Even wearing the rosiest tinted of spectacles it was fairly clear that this wasnow, at best, a two horse race. Peter came back, though, and his GK round at least gave us a tantalising glimpse of what might have been. 13 in a GK round, well, maybe not worlkd beating, but it ain’t bad at all, and put that together with a double figure specialist round and you’re at the kind of score which will give you a chance of winning an average heat. Theresa herself didn’t quite manage double figures on GK. Her score of 9 pushed her up to 16 – let’s be honest, it’s a modest total – but she looked as if she’d enjoyed the experience, and that’s important.

Ian then had three targets, being realistic. The first was to score the 9 points he needed to go into the outright lead. Well, he did achieve that, but it took him the whole round to do so. The second target had been to achieve a score which would be high enough to give him a chance of a repechage slot. Well, that didn’t happen, sadly. The third target was to set the kind of challenging total which would put Graham into the corridor of doubt. I think we can safely say that a target of 8 was not enough to do this.

Not that Graham would be content with merely the 8 he needed to progress to the semis. His round was a good demonstration of just how to handle a GK round. He didn’t answer every question correctly, no, but he didn’t pass, and he didn’t dwell on wrong answers, knowing that a correct answer would be along in a moment or two. The overall score of 29 gave him one of the most emphatic victories of the first round, and if we’re honest he has to be counted amongst the most serious contenders for the overall title this year. Well played, Graham!


Peter Spicer
Gavin and Stacey
7
4
13
3
20
7
Graham Barker
John Gielgud
14
0
15
0
29
0
Ian Protheroe
Jackie Robinson
12
0
9
3
21
3
Theresa McWhirter
William Morris
7
1
9
1
16
2

Friday, 15 January 2016

Mastermind - 1st round heat 15/1/16

I’m asking myself whether Stephen Wilson, the first of tonight’s contenders, is the same Steve Wilson who took part in the first round last year. Maybe so, maybe not. Ruth Green certainly appeared before, in the 2012 series. We’ll say more about Ruth later.

So, then, Stephen Wilson gave us Scottish pop music 1980 – 1999. Now, I don’t criticise any member of the public (as opposed to celebrity) who has the guts to sit in the chair, and I don’t criticise the production team , because I know just how hard they work to make the show. Stephen produced a superb 14 from 14, a terrific performance. He can only answer the questions he’s asked, and he did, every single one. Only. . . well, look. It’s very rare that I think a specialist round seems noticeably easier than average, but I did think a significant number of the questions on what seemed a rather short space of time – 19 years – were the sort of thing I’ve been asked in general quizzes before. Not all of them, but put it this way – I was around in the 80s, but had lost all interest in pop music long before 1999, and I had 8 of them. Which is no reflection on Stephen at all, since all you can do is get a perfect round on the questions you’re asked, and that’s exactly what he did.

On a similar note, Mastermind virgin Rob Coley offered us Aston Villa from 1947 to the present date. OK – 69 years is a very significant portion of time, and maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t help thinking that in the past, you might have ended up doing the whole history of a football club, not just the post war history. Again, this is no reflection on Rob, he can only answer what he’s asked, and that he did well with 10. You couldn’t help thinking though that h was going to need a great GK round to bridge the 4 point gap.

A more traditional SS round, the History of the GDR, was offered by Dennis Tomlinson. Dennis kind of gave the impression that he was starting to realise that there were aspects of his subject he hadn’t covered in his preparation, or that’s the message I got from the expression on his face at times during the round. Now, in the context of this series, the 9 that Dennis managed was perfectly respectable. However, a five point gap is extremely difficult to bridge, especially if there’s more than one person you have to overtake.

Last time out Ruth scored 24, coming second in her heat. Back then she answered on the coast to coast walk. Tonight she was offering the life and work of Clarice Cliff, beloved of a whole slew of popular antiques programmes. I congratulate her for having such different subjects. I took 5 SS rounds in total and one of the things I’m proud of is that they were such diverse subjects. Back in 2012 Ruth scored an excellent 15 on SS. Tonight, she scored a 13, which I would argue in the context of the rounds we see in more recent years is every bit as good as her previous round.

Put yourself in my position at half time. I’m trying to assess who the most likely winner is. Do I think that the winner’s total will be 5 points higher than the second place? Do I hell. But Dennis Tomlinson returned to the chair, and produced the kind of GK round we haven’t seen for a while. Dennis might not have put in an absolutely top class performance n SS, but he more than made up for it with his specialist round. I’m going to stick my neck out here, and venture the opinion that Dennis has probably done some quizzing in his time. I say this not just because of the correct answers he gave, but also because of the wrong answer he avoided. I hope that makes sense. 14 is a serious GK score to reckon with. It took him to 23, and suddenly all bets were off. To beat him, all three of the others would need double figure scores.

Rob Coley had been one point ahead of Dennis after SS. All of which meant that he had to match him in order to take the outright lead. It was obvious by halfway that this wasn’t going to happen. A perfectly respectable if rather unspectacular round saw him score 8 to finish with 18.

I really don’t intend to dwell on the rounds that Stephen and Ruth underwent. Suffice it to say that the questions did not fall their way. Stephen finished with 18, and Ruth with 17.  Well, that’s Mastermind, folks. Thinking back to the old adage I mentioned last week, Dennis didn’t lose it on Specialist, and he won it on GK. And. . .maybe, just maybe, if he can find a blinder on specialist in the semi, and reproduce that form in GK, just maybe he might even find himself contesting the final. Well played, sir, and best of luck.


Stephen Wilson
Scottish pop music 1980 - 1999
14
0
4
4
18
4
Rob Coley
History of Aston Villa 1947 - Date
10
0
8
1
18
1
Dennis Tomlinson
History of the GDR 1949 - 89
9
1
14
4
23
5
Ruth Green
Life and Designs of Clarice Cliff
13
0
4
3
17
4

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Mastermind - 1st round heat - 8/1/16

I’d like to start by apologizing again to all of those first rounders whose shows I haven’t reviewed. As for this week’s show, well we had three newcomers to MM, and one recidivist in Sarah Greenan. We’ll say more about Sarah’s previous appearance shortly. Meanwhile, kicking us off was Robin Armstrong. Robin was answering questions on Pearl Jam. I can’t say that I am either a fan, or a person who knows much – or indeed, as it turned out, anything- about them. So I didn’t trouble the scorer. Now, we all know that for the last few series, anything double figures in specialist is a good score, and anything in the teens, a very good score. Well, Richard didn’t quite manage that, but his 12 meant that unless we saw something totally extraordinary, then he was going to be in contention for a place in the semi final.

I did know a little bit about the Watergate Scandal – certainly more than I knew about Pearl Jam – and this was Des Gallagher’s special subject. Now, Des used the sensible tactic of not passing on any of his specialist subjects. I’ve lost a show on passes myself before now, and so it can make a real difference. Mind you, even when you set out not to pass, a momentary lapse in concentration can do for you. Des didn’t quite manage to take his own tally into double figures, and while 8 is perfectly respectable, 4 points is a hell of a gap to have to bridge in the GK round, and the fact was that there were still 2 contenders to go.

The first of these was Matthew Smith. He actually gave us the other specialist round in which I managed a few point, on Middlesbrough FC. Like Des before him, Matthew managed to provide an answer to every question, incurring no passes. Like Robin before him, Matthew managed a fine total of 12. It was only last Wednesday evening in the Afan Nedd Artists’ group that the conversation turned to Celebrity Mastermind, and in particular some of the less than stellar performances in the specialist rounds, so I trotted out my old observation that you win the show in GK, but you try not to lose it in SS. That’s not actually always true, but it’s not totally inaccurate, and certainly Matthew had given himself the chance to win the show on general knowledge.

Sarah Greenan made her previous appearance in 2014, in a terrific heat in which the lowest score was 24. She lost out on the chance of a tie break by one point, after managing a fine 13 on the Ghost Stories of MR James. I think I should point out that MR James did not go on write Fifty Shades of Wotsername. Still, it certainly suggested that she should be able to at least match Robin and Matthew. In fact, answering questions on the life and poetry of AE Housman (who did not write Fly Fishing – for younger readers, ask your parents about that one) she went one better, once again scoring 13, giving her pole position for the GK round burn up.

Now, it seems to me that Sarah Greenan makes a point of appearing in close heats, although there was little or no indication of what we were about to see as Des came back to the chair. I don’t like to dwell on rounds where the contender achieves a modest score, partly because whatever I say could come across as criticism. And it is absolutely not meant to be. I respectfully suggest that only if you’ve ever sat in the Mastermind chair and taken part in a show can you understand the way that the pressure can effect you. And once you’ve done this, you know that it is wrong to draw conclusions about people based on 2 minutes of GK.

So, Des set the target total at 13. With all due respect to himself, there was no way that the other three contenders were not going to beat this total. The first to do so was Robin. Now, it’s fair to say that Des had found himself in a horrible pass spiral during his round. Unfortunately, for at least part of his round, so did Robin. I’m sure this is what happened to him, since he clearly knew some of the things he had passed when John was reading out the answers. The seven points which he did score did at least push the score to beat to 19. In the normal run of events you wouldn’t have expected this to be enough to put the final two contenders into the corridor of uncertainty. However there was a strange atmosphere building on this show. . .

Put yourself in Matthew’s position. You’ve just watched the two previous contenders wrestle with very uncomfortable GK rounds. How do you react? Do you say to yourself – well, I feel very sorry for the two of them, but hey, I’m just going to really go for it now? Or do you start worrying that exactly the same thing is going to happen to you? Of course, I don’t know what went through Matthew’s head. Sadly, though, the same thing did happen to him. For a long time it looked touch and go as to whether he could equal or beat Robin’s total, but by the last 30 seconds the odds were against it. Matthew finished with a total of 16.

Last time out, Sarah scored a good 12 on GK. She has also made a decent fist of a first round appearance in Brain of Britain in her time. Yesterday evening she needed 7 for an outright win, or 6 and less than 8 passes. Not a target which would put you into the corridor of uncertainty, I’m sure. But there seemed to be something in the air during this GK round. Last time out I noted that Sarah answered calmly and never looked nervous, and I would say the same about last night. The difference being that she was picking up passes, and not picking up so many correct answers. It felt close, it looked close, and by golly it was close. In the end she scored 6, and 5 passes. . . and this was enough to go through.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think that the GK rounds were any harder than they have been for this series. I don’t know for certain that successive contenders were made nervous by seeing what happened in the previous GK rounds, but it’s a possibility. What we do know is that a show in which no contender manages to score 20 or over is a rarity. And to be honest, that’s about all we can say.

Well played Sarah – congratulations on making the semis.


Robin Armstrong
Pearl Jam
12
1
7
8
19
9
Des Gallagher
The Watergate Scandal
8
0
5
4
13
4
Matthew Smith
Middlesbrough FC
12
0
4
6
16
6
Sarah Greenan
Life and Poetry of A E Housman
13
1
6
5
19
6

Friday, 8 January 2016

So - What Have I been doing with myself, anyway?

Well, alright, I won’t lie. It’s not like I’ve been sat twiddling my thumbs, doing nothing. It’s just I’ve been allowing non-quizzing things to distract from my quizzing.

For example, if you’re a Facebook friend, you’ll know that during the summer I took up painting. Look, I know I’m not professional standard, but it gives me pleasure and it’s very therapeutic.

In addition to that, this time last year I conceived a plan to watch every episode of the original Doctor Who TV series (1963 – 1989) and to write reviews of each of them. Been done before – in fact I got the idea from a couple of books about similar viewing marathons – but that lasted through until November. Having written the reviews and started posting them on a blog, it occurred to me that this might work if I self-published them on Kindle. I stress here and now that I’m not touting for sales here. I’m just trying to explain what I’ve been doing which has made me less serious about my quizzing.

Not that I haven’t been quizzing. In fact, one of the real highlights of the year 2015 has been the way that my team in the rugby club managed to go toe to toe with the Lemurs throughout the year. Lemurs have been the most successful team in the club for several years now. Alright, I didn’t keep score of how many quizzes each team won in 2015, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my team won at least as many as Lemurs did. Likewise, we’ve continued to have a good season in the Bridgend League after losing our first match. I know full well that after writing this we’ll most likely go on and lose on Monday evening now, but the fact is that our fate in the league this year is very much in our own hands.

Mind you, I have stopped going out on a Sunday evening. It’s a bit sad the way that it happened. We were down to one last Sunday quiz – in the Fox and Hounds in Bridgend. I really like all bar one of the teams there, and I really like all bar a couple of the people there. But there’s the rub. There is one team who started coming maybe 7 or 8 months ago. They are extremely loud and frankly I found that they, well, not exactly spoiled the quiz, no, thinking about it, they did spoil the quiz. On a number of occasions I was asked to set the questions. Right, look, there’s no way of putting this which doesn’t make me sound arrogant and smug. So be it. On the first time I set the questions, I wrote a set which I thought should be pretty easy without being an insult to the intelligence. It was far too hard for them. The second time, I made it (in my opinion) so easy it was a bit of an insult to the intelligence. It was still too hard for them. The third time I made it easier still, and used connected answers to help them. That seemed okay.

Which should give you an idea of the general level of most of the teams there. By the way, I didn’t say, but the loud team won my quizzes. Now, let’s get to the last but one quiz I attended there. We lost. Not only did we lose, every team scored more than we did. Teams who normally scored 15 -20 out of 35 were scoring 32. Look, I’m not saying
a)      That any out and out cheating had gone on
b)      That any gamesmanship ( of the questionmaster slipping the other teams a few answers beforehand sort) had gone on
c)      That anything in any way wrong had happened.
I do lose quizzes, on a regular basis. Not to the whole pub, mind you, but there we are. The thing was, though, I happened to be in the gents at the same time as a couple of guys from the loud team, and they were like dogs with two . . . tails. They laid it on somewhat thick, and being the idiot that I am I rose to the bait and I dropped a couple of comments along the lines of – we came last with 31 out of 35 tonight – when I do the quiz next week, let’s see if you can score 31 then.  –

Stupid thing to say really. In such a situation you should do nothing other than congratulate them, and take it on the chin. Which all comes back to me taking quizzes too seriously, I suppose.

Come the next Sunday, I had prepared the questions, and made another easy connections quiz. One of the loud team wasn’t there – the one I’d issued the challenge to. The others though started making observations, along the lines of “Connections? This isn’t a proper quiz, mun. This is a load of crap.”
Now, okay, I certainly hadn’t been burning the midnight oil over the quiz, but the fact was that I’d done it, and even if they didn’t like it very much the least they could have done was just moan among themselves. I won’t lie – I’ve moaned like hell about certain quizzes to my poor teammates, and not just the once either, but I would never dream of shouting out a comment like that directly at a question master. This was said in a way which was a direct – what are you gonna do about it? - challenge. So I said words to the effect of,
“Well, if you all don’t want the quiz, that’s fine, I’ll get my coat and go now, no problem.” The loud team said nothing, but the other teams asked me to stay and finish the quiz.

So I did, which frankly was pretty uncomfortable, and as soon as it was over (and I think the loud team may even have won) I got my coat and left. To be fair several people did make a point of stopping me as I went and saying – oh, please just ignore them, they’re just ignorant – and so on, and I replied that if they really wanted me to come again, or do another quiz again, then I would. But I gave the lie to that because I haven’t been back since.


You see, it seems to me that battle lines have been drawn. Once you’re facing that level of bad feeling from at least one of the other teams, in my experience you might as well not bother coming back, whether its deserved or not. For all that people stopped me on the way out, I didn’t notice any of them telling the one who made the comment that he was out of order – and in my opinion he was. When you get right down to it, I don’t need that on a Sunday evening – well, not any night of the week, to be honest, but especially not on a Sunday. 

Happy New Year

You know, I’ve always been secretly rather proud when other people have observed that I take quizzes too seriously. Yes! – I would say to myself – that’s the point!- And for many years, including the 7 or so years since I started LAM this is something which has made my life richer in many ways.

I don’t wish to burden anyone by rehashing things which happened over the last 12 months, but hey, you’re all highly intelligent people, and it won’t have escaped your notice that the last LAM post was back in October. This was the second hiatus in the same year. When I first stopped posting in 2015, I won’t lie, I was in a bad place. Counselling, help and understanding from friends, family and colleagues got me through that, and I will always love every one of you who’s helped me over the last 12 months or so.  Throughout the summer, and the early Autumn, I was determined not to slip back into that place, and in October, when the feeling of stress started building up again, I stopped doing a lot of things which were contributing towards making me feel stressed out. Obviously, cutting out work, while desirable, was a bit of a non-starter. So I cut down to two quizzes a week, and also, I’m afraid, I stopped worrying about getting posts up on LAM.

I’ve never before looked on LAM as a chore. But, the thing is I did find I was stressing myself out on a Saturday trying to get all of the reviews and the posts done. You might remember that I used to post throughout the week, but for the last few years I’ve only really been posting at the weekends – usually on Saturday. And I found that I was starting to begrudge the amount of time that it was taking to write the reviews, post the reviews, type out the news questions, post the news questions and so on and so forth. And I don’t want to feel like that. I don’t want to begrudge the time I spend on LAM. I don’t like myself for saying this, but I’d rather not post than begrudge doing it.

So, anyway, I stopped posting in October. I never made a conscious decision – right, that’s it, no more posts on LAM for the next x number of months. I just didn’t make the decision to post anything the next weekend. And when the ground didn’t cave in beneath my feet, and the sky didn’t crumble and fall, then I didn’t make the decision to post anything the next week. Nor the week after that. Come Christmas, when I actually had some time, I had a terrible attack of the can’t-be-arseds, and this despite the fact that quite a number of you wonderful people had taken the time and trouble to enquire whether all was well, and say how much you were missing LAM.

So, anyway, here we are again. I’m not going to make any promises – not to myself anyway – but I want to give it a go again. For all I know this might be the first and last post of 2016. For all I know it might be the first of a couple of hundred. But we’ll give it a go. I’m not promising to faithfully review every edition of the quizzes I love, as I have done over the years – and I do feel bad about those of you who have appeared on Mastermind , UC or OC in the interim, and were disappointed (or relieved) that you didn’t get to read my take on your appearances, but I’m afraid that an apology is all that I can give you.


Enough said, my man. Happy New Year. 

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Mastermind : Round One: Heat 12

You know, I once met a contender in the first round of Mastermind who confided to me that the extent of his preparation for his specialist round was reading one book – and only getting through about the first half of it. His score, when he appeared, was predictably low. At the time I made a lot of sympathetic noises, but the older I get the more it frustrates me when I see people who, for whatever reason, just don’t seem to have put in the required time and effort into learning their subjects. Nobody gets forced to take part, and if you do get invited after audition, and you do decide to accept the invitation, then I think you have an obligation to respect the competition and take it seriously. Just my opinion, and as always, feel free to disagree. So it was a pleasure this week to see that all four contenders – Mastermind virgins all – had at least prepared well, and two of them had prepared extremely well.

The first of these was Gary Wright. Gary’s specialist subject was The History of Las Vegas. Now, I have to be honest, I didn’t think that I knew a lot about Las Vegas. Yet two minutes later I had accrued 8 points – the nature of these 8 questions being of the kind that you would know or could guess with a good general knowledge. For example, I didn’t know the name of the senator, but I know that Las Vegas’ airport is McCarran airport. I take nothing away from Gary, because he had a perfect round – which meant that he knew all the other questions as well, and these did require specialist knowledge. 13 questions and 13 correct answers. A fine performance.

The ‘Anne’ books of Lucy Maud Montgomery are remarkable in as much as they take the heroine, Anne, from being a young girl all the way through to her late 50s, I think. By crikey, but Sarah Elder, who offered us the series for her specialist round, knows these inside out. As with Gary’s round on Las Vegas, you got the distinct feeling that John could have carried on asking her questions on this subject for the full half hour, and she wouldn’t have had any wrong. Answering at pretty much top speed she managed to get one extra question in, and finished with a perfect 14 to take the lead. Game on.

Put yourself in the position of Alan Martin. He had just seen the two previous contenders come out and smash it out of the park, and now it was his turn. No pressure. I don’t have to put myself in that position, since I’ve been there. In 2006 both Kath and Neil who went before me in my heat scored 17s. I felt like I was staring down the barrel of a gun! Back then I produced a good, solid round, and so did Alan here. He couldn’t manage perfection, but he could manage the psychologically important double figures, and finished with 10.

As did Bob Mayho. I’m not a great fan of Westerns, and so “The Western Films of John Ford” was my lowest scoring round of the evening with 2. Going back to westerns, I think it was a generational thing. Westerns were my Dad’s thing – he was born in the 40s and grew up in the 40s and 50s and he loved them. Going into the round we had yet to see a pass from any of the contenders, and I did wonder whether we were going to make it a clean sweep. We came close, but Bob passed on one, although he too did manage to achieve a double figure score with 10.

Going into the GK round, then, essentially both Alan and Bob looked like outsiders, while there was hardly anything to choose between Gary and Sarah. Alan returned to the chair first, and shame though it is to say it, he made rather heavy weather of his round. We’ve noted the importance of building momentum during a Mastermind round, and this never quite happened with Alan. He seemed to have decided on using the tactic of passing, which is fine, but if you are going to pass, then it’s vital you make the decision and do it quickly, otherwise every pass just robs you of any momentum you might have built up through a couple of consecutive correct answers. Alan finished with 18 – perfectly respectable, but not enough to worry the leaders.Bob did a bit better with his round. He can be pleased with having achieved double figures in both rounds – the mark of a decent contender, that. Being realistic you need to have a lead of at least 10 to put the contenders coming after you on GK in the corridor of doubt, and Bob was a little way short of this. It had looked a two horse race at the halfway stage – now it definitely was.

Gary went first, and of all the contenders, his performance was the performance of a quizzer. He missed a couple where the answer steadfastly refused to take the plunge off the tip of his tongue, but even so a round of 14 was well up to scratch, and gave him a total of 27. Putting it into perspective, even if Sarah could improve upon this, he would certainly have an excellent chance of returning for the semis via a highest loser slot. It was unfortunate for Sarah that she had what I felt to be slightly the hardest of the GK rounds – yes, I do know that it’s all in the eye of the beholder, and they’re all easy if you know the answer, and hard if you don’t. To be fair, her GK wasn’t of the same level as Gary’s, but she can be pleased with her final total of 23, even though I doubt it will bring her back for the semis.

Well played Gary Wright – best of luck in the semis.

The Details

Gary Wright
The History of Las Vegas
13
0
14
2
27
2
Sarah Elder
The Anne Books of LM Montgomery
14
0
9
0
23
0
Alan Martin
Paul Simon
10
0
8
5
18
5
Bob Mayho
The Western Films of John Ford
10
1
11
1
21
2