Tuesday 20 February 2024

University Challenge 2024 Quarter Final Elimination Match : Sheffield v. Birkbeck, London

The Teams

Birkbeck, London

Danny McMillan

Olivia Mariner

Samir Chadha (Capt.)

Margherita Huntley

Sheffield

Safiyyah Rujack

Joseph McGough

Cameron Colclough (Capt.)

Matthew Nail

Only last week we saw Imperial beat Manchester to take the first rightful place in the semis. This week the two teams they had both defeated in their first quarter final match duelled it out to see which would remain in the competition for at least one more match.

Poor Matthew Nail fell into the trap on the first question, knowing Michael Jackson’s Bad, but not waiting for the whole of the question. It was worth waiting for too since it combined il buono, il brutto e it cattivo – or the Good, the Bad and Eli Wallach in old money. Danny McMillan opened the Birkbeck account with that one. They took a full house with the names of Japanese dishes. Samir Chadha ed the charge on the next starter identifying that the things alluded to in the question all begin with Neo. I’d like to think that ‘fromthematrix’ was one of them. They took two out of a set on domes. The next was that articular type of UC starter where you have to hold your nerve, wait for it, wait for it, then as soon as it becomes blindingly obvious reach for your shooting irons. Matthew Nail was first in to identify the Island of Zanzibar after Tanganyika was mentioned. A full house on medicine saw me grab a sneaky lap of honour for knowing Endocrine glands.Shelagh Delaney and John Osbourne saw me shouting “Kitchen Sink Drama!” at the telly. Margherita Huntley didn’t shout, but gave the same answer. UNESCO world heritage sites in southeast asia brought just one answer. So to the picture round, and the titles of a writer’s work in the language in which they were originally published. La Peste said Camus to me, which was just as well since that was the answer, as Danny McMillan could confirm. Tow bonuses on more titles of works in the language in which they were published were taken. Eros and Eris, the celestial objects required for the next starter, were provided by Joseph McGough. The Parliament Act of 1911 only provided Sheffield with 1 bonus, which meant that Birkbeck led by 80 – 30 atfer the ten-minute mark.

Matthew Nail pulled ten points back through knowing the Copernican thingummybob. Composers of video game music provided a welcome full house and took a sizeable chunk from the lead. Safiyyah Rujak took another 10 points back, knowing William B. Hays, the first president of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. Bonuses on African countries brought two correct answers and Sheffield now had their collective nose in front. Nobody recognised a Shostakovitch string quartet for the music starter. A somewhat long-winded starter gave Joseph McGough another starter with Samoa. This earned Sheffield the music bonuses. It didn’t do them much good as none of us knew the composers of three post 1960 string quartets. My default answer for a Japanese film is The Seven Samurai and this paid off for me and for Danny McMillan with the next starter. Writers of the Harlem Renaissance brought the two bonuses that Birkbeck needed to take a five point lead. Margherita Huntley knew the Somerset Levels for the next starter. Terms in cell biology promised some baby elephant walk business, but none of them were quite long or convoluted enough. For the next starter, if you’re asked for a French Monarch you’ll be right often enough if you hit and hope and say Louis XIV. It was right this time. It added to Danny McMillan’s personal tally and brought up bonuses on Eastern towns and cities of the UK with teams in the Speedway Great Britain Premiership. Two correct answers meant that Birkbeck were pulling away just approaching the 20-minute mark.

Danny McMillan kept up his form on the buzzer knowing various definitions that all pointed the way towards norm. Fela Kuti provided two correct answers, and the Birkbeck lead of 65 points was starting to look decisive. For the second picture starter we were shown a rather startling photo of a keta salmon. Nobody knew it. The next starter was rather obviously looking for Maryland, but the buzzer race didn’t start for surprisingly long, when it was won by Cameron Colclough. The bonuses involved a game of name that fish.Good answers brought two bonuses. Various definitions of the word ‘sink’ fell to Safiyyah Rujak. Works from 1905 yielded little, and the clock was running down all the time. Especially considering that Samid Chadha came in early and took the next starter on Aaron Swartz. Two correct answers on  the mythological figures upon whom characters in American Gods were based. Again, the next starter saw nifty buzzer work from Danny McMillan who knew a reference to Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit when he heard one. Joost Van Den Vondel provided the kind of bonuses where you didn’t have to know about him, because a little general knowledge could bring you a full house as it did for Birkbeck. Joseph McGough knew that any book with Mycologia in the title is probably about fungi. They managed to correctly answer 2 bonuses, but it was looking as if this was going to be too little at this stage of the game. None of us knew Watch Night. Safiyyah Rujak knew polyester for the next to earn bonuses on  the periodic table. We both only managed the one on magnesium. And essentially, that was that. The gong sounded halfway through the next starter which was surely asking for cherries.

So farewell, then, Sheffield. No shame in going out in the quarter finals. They had a useful BCR of 56%. As for Birkbeck, well they’ll have another chance to qualify next time out, although I do think that if they have to face Manchester they may have their work cut out for them. If they can repeat this week’s BCR of 79% it really won’t do their chances any harm.

Amol Watch

“Your say somebody German is no tactic at all!” joshed Amol as Birkbeck considered possibilities for the first picture bonuses. Well, actually, it kind of is. If you know the works were first published in German, then saying someone German is clearly a better tactic than saying someone who isn’t German, I would have thought.

Interesting Fact that I Didn’t Already Know of the Week

The word endorphin is partly derived from Morpheus, the Greek God of Dreams.

Baby Elephant Walk Moment

Which family of polymers are formed by the reaction of a dicarboxylic acid with a diol producing water as a by-product? They are widely used in synthetic rubbers, plastic bottles and clothing.

By no means the worst we’ve heard all series, but this was a dum dum -lite contest. Dum de dumdum dum dum dum dum dumdum.

Mastermind 2024 Semi Final 1

The Tale Of The Tape

Jane Hill

11

0

14

0

25

0

-

Sarah Thornton

12

0

11

1

23

1

-

Rashid Mumtaz

11

0

11

0

22

0

-

Richard Brooks

7

0

13

0

20

0

3

 

Yes, it’s semi-final time again, peeps. If we look at the table above we can see that Jane Hill put on the best performance in her first round heat with an excellent 14 on GK being especially worthy of note. All of last night’s contenders had scored at least 11 on GK first time out, so no duffers there. Worth noting was Richard Brooks’ 13 on GK – he’d come back after scoring 7 on Specialist. If he could improve on this, then he’d be in the reckoning.

First up was Rashid Mumtaz. A few weeks ago we saw him looking very dapper while giving us an excellent round on the Godfather trilogy of films. Last night he was answering on my banker subject, Charlie Chaplin. He didn’t do badly, either, with 6 points to my five. Not badly, but one sensed not well enough to give him a realistic shot at the win. For the record I had 4, but just couldn’t dredge up any more.

Richard Brooks had been marked down as one of the drak horses to watch after I saw him come back from 4th to win last week’s last heat in a dramatic tie-break. Then he was answering on Winnie the Pooh and AA Milne, and he scored 7. This time he was answering on Sydney Harbour Bridge and did so really well. 11 points and no passes! I added two to my aggregate and I couldn’t realistically have scored any higher because I didn’t know any of the other answers.

Sarah Thornton scored an excellent 12 in her heat on Specialist. Then she was answering on the Chcolat Novels of Joanne Harris. Now she was answering on the TV Drama Series Happy Valley – and she scored 12 again. It’s a huge skill being able to maintain your performance in a second (and sometimes a third) specialist subject. No, I’ve never watched it and so I added nothing to my aggregate.

Billie Jean King has always struck me as an admirable human being and so she was a worthy choice for Jane Hill’s semi final subject. Jane was 5th on our unofficial first round table with an especially noteworthy 14 on GK. Well, that round was a little way off yet. Instead Jane powered through to 11 on BJK. This put her just one point behind Sarah alongside Richard on 11.

With the best will in the world, It looked unlikely that Rachid could put in a good enough GK round to set the kind of high score needed to force the other three to traverse the corridor of doubt. In the heats he scored a good 11 and he came close to this again, finishing with 10 to set the target at 16.

Next into the chair was Richard Brooks. I hope I have made clear how good I felt his GK round was last time out. Well, he almost matched his score of 13 this time too, finishing just short on 12 for 23. As he walked back from the chair he must have had the satisfaction of knowing that an okay round would not be enough to beat him. The bank would only be paying out for 12s and over.

And 12, to be fair, is exactly what Jane Hill gave us. But oh, there was a pass in there. It looked from her face as Clive gave the score that she realised what this meant. On pass countback, Richard was the leader on the road, with only Sarah Thornton to go.

If she was feeling the pressure, Sarah didn’t show it. She had scored 11 in her heat on GK. If she could repeat this with no passes then we’d have a tiebreak. Well, she didn’t repeat it. She exceeded it, and exceeded it well with an excellent 14. This gave her a winning total of 26, through the highest score of the specialist round, and the highest score on the GK.Very well done, and I wish you the best of luck in the grand final.

The Details

Rashid Mumtaz

Charlie Chaplin

6

1

10

2

16

3

Richard Brooks

Sydney Harbour Bridge

11

0

12

0

23

0

Sarah Thornton

Happy Valley

12

0

14

1

26

1

Jane Hill

Billie Jean King

11

0

12

1

23

1

 

Sunday 18 February 2024

Mastermind 2024 Semi Final 1 Preview

Right, tomorrow’s semi final subjects are

Charlie Chaplin

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The TV drama series Happy Valley

Billie Jean King

I’m not sure who the four contenders will be, but we’ll deal with the racing form when I get to my review. So looking at the subjects:-

My banker subject is probably Charlie Chaplin. I’ve read his autobiography and several biographies of a man that I find fascinating. I’b be sad if I couldn’t get three or four points here.

Mind you, I do also have a thing about bridges. Love ‘em. No for nothing was my grand final subject the History of London Bridge. I don’t know anything like so much about Sydney Harbour Bridge but I hope I do know enough to get a couple.

Happy Valley? Sorry – same old story. Ever watched it and so expect nothing. Any poins would be a bonus.

Billie Jea King. Again, It’s the kind of iconic sportsperson (and person) round that leads me to hope that I know enough to get one or maybe 2.

Mastermind 2024 Heat winners stats

Shall we have a look at the semi finalists for Mastermind 2024, then? Why on Earth not?

Name

Specialist 

Score

Specialist 

Passes

GK Score

GK Passes

Total Score

Total Passes

Tie break

Stephen Dodding

12

0

17

0

29

0

-

Peter Wilson

12

0

15

1

27

1

-

Ruth Hart

12

0

14

0

26

0

 

Juie Ashcroft

12

1

14

0

26

1

-

Jane Hill

11

0

14

0

25

0

-

Rob Jones

12

0

12

0

24

0

-

Sharon Chambers

8

0

16

0

24

0

-

George Twigg

13

0

10

0

23

0

-

Sadie de Souza

13

0

10

0

23

0

3

Sarah Thornton

12

0

11

1

23

1

-

Rashid Mumtaz

11

0

11

0

22

0

-

Paul Judge

10

1

12

0

22

1

-

Tom Adlam

11

0

11

4

22

6

-

Lisa Cowan

10

0

11

0

21

0

-

Helen Lippell

12

0

9

0

21

0

4

Oli Hanson

9

0

12

0

21

0

4

Caryn Ellis

10

0

11

4

21

4

-

Ben Jones

8

0

12

0

20

0

-

Richard Brooks

7

0

13

0

20

0

3

Tom Moody

13

0

7

2

20

2

-

Scott Torrance

6

0

13

0

19

0

-

Sharon Reading

7

0

12

0

19

0

-

Elliot Hooson

9

0

10

1

19

1

-

Tom Flowerdew

9

0

9

1

18

1

-

Okay, so let’s get the usual observation out of the way. Thomas Nelson in heat 3 and Dan Hudson scored 26 in their first round heats. They had the misfortune to feature in the heats won respectively by the second highest scorer of the first rund, and the highest scorer of the first round. It’s hard. Yeah, I know that this is the reality of knockout play, the luck of the draw, but it’s not a lot of consolation.

Have a good look at the table, but please accept that this is only going to give indicators about who might do well in the semis. If you scored fourteen or higher on GK it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll be capable of getting another good score on it in the semis. But was that GK round the best you were going to do in the heat? In which case, if you get a set that doesn’t suit you as well, and someone else gets a much better set for themselves than they had in the heat, that could be your seeming advantage gone. Likewise, we always see some people do quite a bit worse on their specialist subject than they did in the heat, and some people do quite a bit better.

Let’s not ignore the fact that the production team does not seem to practise seeding, paying much more attention to the combinations of subjects in each show tha the combinations of contenders, so it’s not uncommon to see 1 or 2 top heavy semis containing more than one of the highest performers from the first round.

The only prediction I feel comfortable making is that it’s unlikely that the top 6 contenders on this table will be the 6 finalists. Who these will be, well, you pays your money and takes your pick.