Saturday, 4 August 2018

University Challenge 2019 - Round One Heat Three - Pembroke College, Oxford v. Downing College, Cambridge

Pembroke College, Oxford v. Downing College, Cambridge

Ding dang dong, dingee dingee dang dong, dingee dang DINgee dong. Great lyrics to the theme, don’t you think? Yes, already we’ve reached the third heat of the first round, and the first Oxford v. Cambridge match up. Representing Pembroke College we had Connor McGurk, Tom Lambert, Louis Morris and their captain Catherine Perry. In the light blue corner, representing Downing College, were Fergus O’Dowd, Jane O’Connor, Felix Prutton and their own skipper, Yanbo Yin.

So far we’d had two great matches, in which both teams looked good for another outing in the series. Were we about to see this continue? Well, it was Jane O’Connor who struck first, knowing that a musical performer born in Minneapolis, a political treatise of 1513, and a Canadian maritime province were all good matches for the word Prince. Cities which have hosted the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in recent years provided a full house, and it was fairly clear that Downing meant business. ‘Transverse and longitudinal’ is the prelude to one of those UC chestnuts which pops up to say hello every couple of years, but Felix Prutton lost five for an early buzz with waves, allowing in Connor McGurk, who gave the correct answer of dunes after the helpful word barchans was mentioned. A tricky set on agriculture followed, of which Pembroke managed the one. Nonetheless, two starters and both teams were off the mark. That’s how I like to see it. On a disease of the oral cavities Tom Prutton came in too early for the second question running. On the one hand this may have been frustrating to his team, but on the other, at least he wasn’t going to allow one early buzz to put him off slinging buzzer for the rest of the competition, and this is an attitude I can appreciate. The Oxford skipper, Catherine Perry, had a shy at it with plaque, but it was caries, or tooth decay. Nathan Zuckerman is the narrator of several novels by Philip Roth, and I was a little surprised at the way both teams sat on the buzzer before Louis Morris offered the correct answer in tones which seemed to suggest that he thought that he couldn’t possibly be right. He was, though. Architectural styles and movements again saw Pembroke pick up one point. We moved to the picture starter, which showed us just a European country’s road major road network, without the outline of the country. I’ll be honest, looking at it, it shouted Portugal to me, and obviously to Fergus O’Dowd as well, for he buzzed in very quickly. More of the same followed, and Downing took their second full house of the evening. I did nothing like as well, only seeing the Netherlands for the last one. None of us knew that treacle is derived from Greek words meaning antidote to venom. This meant that just about on the 10 minute mark the game was nicely poised, with Downing leading by 40 – 30.

Now, as soon as you hear “The Father of the Symphony” you should slam the buzzer through the desk and answer Haydn. To be fair to Yanbo Yin he did the slamming, but did wait for the epithet ‘Father of the string quartet’ before doing so. The album “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden, who I believe were a popular musical combo of years gone by, provided Downing with nothing. This was a little surprising considering that two were gettable without any knowledge of the band or album itself. I’ll be honest, I know nowt about Captcha – but Connor McGurk was in early for it. The set of bonuses on biology gave us both two correct answers, and knowing enough to get while the going is good, I set off puffing my way around the living room for the traditional lap of honour. Both the teams were tied at this stage, and it looked as if it was developing into another good contest. I understand why Tom Lambert came in early with the philosopher Epicurus for the next starter, but he lost five and allowed Yanbo Yin in with the correct answer of Democritus. The (main) River Avon provided a timely full house. I felt sorry for Louis Morris on the next starter. When you hear dates in the 19th century, then the words ‘a notable nurse’ and you’re 30 points behind, of course you’re going to sling buzzer and answer Florence Nightingale. She died considerably later than 1881, though. This allowed Downing to hear the rest of the question, with the Downing skipper nodding as ‘the battlefields of the Crimea’ were mentioned. Realistically this narrowed down the possible answers to one, Mary Seacole, which was the answer he gave.Unpaired words, those which are negative in form but whose positive forms are non existent or rare, for example unkempt, provided a full house. In the space of a couple of minutes Downing had taken a 60 point lead, and Pembroke really needed a starter to keep themselves within touching distance. The music starter saw both teams reluctant to chance their arm, even though it was a relatively well known bit of Ludwig Van. The impressive Downing skipper finally took that piece of low lying fruit. They failed to get any of the bonuses. Yanbo Yin was again in very quickly to tell us that the Self Strengthening Movement in China occurred during the Qing dynasty. Now, Robert Grosseteste ( yes, Robert Who?) promised very little, but amazingly delivered me a lapworthy full house. It would have given Downing the same, had they not given Francis rather than Roger Bacon as Doctor Mirabilis. Didn’t matter – they now had a 90 point lead, and the invisible elastic joining the two teams must have been at breaking point. I would imagine that however determined you are, once the opposition have carved out a significant lead like this it must be very hard to find the mental toughness to tell yourself that you can still beat them on the buzzer for the next starter, and the next, and the next . . . Especially when Yanbo Yin was knocking them in from all angles. He recognised a description of bilharzia for the next starter. Rock types provided us both with a single bonus. At the 20 minute mark Downing looked to be in cruise control with 145, while Pembroke really needed to start slinging some serious buzzer if they were to have any chance of reaching a repechage score. 

Neither team could recognise the city of Kiev from a description for the next starter. Tom Lambert struggled to get out the fact that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican party president of the USA, but get it out he did, and Pembroke were moving again. When JP announced a set of bonuses on literary oxymorons, I felt sure that Milton/Golding’s ‘Darkness Visible’ would be one. It wasn’t, but that didn’t stop Pembroke from taking a full set. So to the second picture starter. Holman Hunt’s The Scapegoat did nothing for either of the teams. A UC special question which was, in my opinion, too bloody hard, and involved symbols for amino acids and major currencies, hardly surprisingly proved a bit of a waste of time for everyone. Right – if you hear ‘given name’ and ‘hominid’ then you have to buzz. The answer almost invariably will be Lucy. Jane O’Connor took that one. Finally we got a shy at the picture bonuses, which were more of the works of the Pre Raphaelites. One bonus ensued. Yanbo Yin, piling Pelion upon Ossa, knew the chemistry starter which followed. Oh good – more flipping Science bonuses – I thought as JP announced them – and them promptly took back the criticism as I took a full house on Huygens. So did Downing for that matter. With only just over 3 minutes to go everything looked fairly cut and dried. The irrepressible Downing skipper recognised a series of words ending with zzle. Two bonuses on latin – modus – phrases took them through the 200 point barrier. The excellent Yanbo Yin took yet another starter, recognising stages of the Thirty Years War. Downing helped themselves to another full house on glaciers. I’ll be interested to see what their bonus conversion rate was for this show – Jack? – but it looked like a pretty good evening’s work to me. Surprisingly, the Downing skipper got a starter wrong for once, allowing his Oxford counterpart in with the femur. Right, slightly controversial moment. JP announced a set of bonuses on films whose titles all contained the same short adjective. Now, when asked for a 1970 Francois Truffault film, skipper Catherine Perry offered ‘The Savage Child’. Now when released in the UK it was given the title “The Wild Child”, and wild was the connecting adjective. However, the original French title was “L’Enfant Sauvage”, so you can maybe see why I thought that they were a little hard done by. It didn’t affect the result, or Pembroke’s chances of progression. That was it, anyway. We were gonged before the end of the set, which meant that Downing had won by 230 – 75.

Yes, if you look at the scores it looks as if this game was a mismatch of the kind that we had last year. Yet it really never quite felt like that. Pembroke were giving as good as they got for the first half of the contest, and the real difference after that was the magnificent buzzing of Yanbo Yin, Downing’s brilliant skipper. Very hard lines, but when you come up against that there’s little that you can do other than take it on the chin. As for Downing, this was impressive. It’s early days yet, but it may well be worth keeping an eye on their progress throughout the series. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

When Downing were unable to dredge up Iron Maiden, JP scoffed “Ever heard of them?” Had the words of their answer ‘We don’t know’ not already given you a clue on that one, Jez?

To be fair, our man was thoroughly enjoying this contest. On a couple of occasions he laughed with the teams, whereas ten years ago he’d have growled or uttered a put down. He’s mellowed, you know. There’s no doubt about it, but he’s mellowed.

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

The word treacle ultimately derives from the Greek for Antidote to Venom.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

University Challenge 2019 - Round One Heat 2 - Emmanuel, Cambridge v. Glasgow University

Emmanuel, Cambridge v. Glasgow

Hello again, Dearly Beloved, and how was your week? Mine? Well, to be honest, pretty good, thanks for asking. Start of the school summer holidays is always a time for celebration. So, who would be celebrating after this second heat? First off we had Connor Macdonald, Vedanth Nair, Ben Harris and skipper Daniella Cugini, representing Emmanuel, Cambridge. Their opponents were Glasgow University, in the shape of Lewis Barn, Freya Whiteford, Cameron Herbert, and captain James Hampson. If these two teams could provide as good a match as we’d been served up in the first heat, then I wouldn’t be complaining.

5  letter word – symphonic poem by Mussorgsky. That was enough to give me night for the first starter, and a poem by Auden and painting by Rembrandt saw James Hampson win the buzzer race. This earned Glasgow a set of bonuses on Heligoland, of which we both took a brace. Ben Harris opened Emma’s account, recognising a definition of the word metabolism. Renaissance court painters provided a relatively tricky set of which they took 1. Both Lewis Barn and I took a flier on the next, offering Alfred Hitchcock for a film maker born in London in 1899. Nobel laureates in Chemistry saw me set off around the living room for being able to dredge up the name of Dorothy Hodgkin. A couple of correct answers saw Glasgow extend their lead. So to the picture round. We saw the island of New Guinea, and the first to identify it was Connor Macdonald. More international islands whose territory is divided between two or more nations saw Emma take an impressive full house. I felt that identifying St. Martin’s – which I couldn’t – was particularly good. Connor Macdonald took a second consecutive starter, coming in early to identify the playwright and actor Sam Shepard. The Hindu goddess Durga didn’t necessarily promise a great deal, but gave me a full house to Emma’s one. Now, when the words – in a mathematical magic square – passed JP’s lips for the next starter, I thought that there was no chance of me getting it. In desperation, after JP had read out 8 numbers, I said 5 which was the only one he hadn’t mentioned. Lewis Barn buzzed in with the same number. It was right. Flabbergasted enough to break my ‘too old for more than one lap of honour per show’ rule, when I sat back down Glasgow had taken 1 bonus on animal names which comprise of two other animal names, for example raccoon dog. This had the effect of levelling the scores at 55 apiece on the ten minute mark.

Daniella Cugini recognised that Myron was the sculptor of the Discobolus, and buzzed in early to earn bonuses on photographic self portraits. We both ook two bonuses, missing out on Cindy Sherman (altogether now – also known as Cindy Who in Lam Towers). Lewis Barn buzzed in early to supply us with the term bionic, in a question which alluded to the 10 year old me’s favourite TV show, the Six Million Dollar Man. 6 million dollars. Today that’d maybe get you half a bionic fingertip. The solar system bonuses saw captain James Hampson at one point say one of my favourite quiz observations – ‘I don’t even understand the question’. They still took a bonus. A really lovely UC special question alluded to the word byte in the middle of Presbyterian. Freya Whiteford zigged with bit, allowing Vedanth Nair to zag with byte. A set on German political parties gave Emmanuel a full house, putting them into triple figures as we headed to the music starter. The unique tones of Debbie Harry singing about a chap called Dennis allowed James Hampson to buzz in with Blondie. Three more songs by anglophone acts including refrains or interludes from other languages saw Glasgow take a timely full house, and thus earn the much prized Paxman well done. The next starter, about the insect order dermaptera, was one of those which suddenly becomes obvious, and this time it was Connor Macdonald who won the buzzer race to identify earwigs. An impressive full house on optimism followed. Asked for the political office held by John Aislabie who was found guilty of corruption in promoting the South Sea company- Chancellor of the Exchequer was always going to be worth a punt, and the first to take the opportunity was Cameron Herbert. Bonuses on physics gave Glasgow a full house – and I answered Joule for a Lancashire born physicist, but declined the third lap of honour this offered me. Vedanth Nair came in too early for the Appalachians – the American Mountain range including various named series of hills, losing five, but James Hampson couldn’t capitalise, zigging with the Rockies. The big clue was the mention of the Shenandoah. Neither team could quite dredge up the Royal Academy of Arts for the next starter. Now – how about this. The next starter asked “A letter of the Swedish alphabet is the official symbol used to measure wavelengths – and at this point I came up with Angstrom, literally as Freya Whiteford was buzzing in to offer the same answer. Yes, dearly beloved – for me an unprecedented fourth lap of honour worthy answer in the same show. National trails in England and Wales failed to provide them with any further points. This mean that right on the cusp of the 20 minute mark Glasgow held a slender lead of 130 – 120. What a good match.

The second starter showed us a still of the character Alan Partridge. The time it took for either team to buzz suggested that we at home got to see the photo several seconds before they did. James Hampson won that buzzer race. Stills from three more TV series created or co created by the great Armando Ianucci saw Glasgow take a full house – I should think so too. The Glasgow skipper took another flier for the next starter, knowing that the piers and Brighton and Aberystwyth are particularly known for their populations of starlings. English words of Arabic origin saw Glasgow take two. Even if they didn’t get another answer all night, their score of 175 would surely see them into the repechage round at the very least. Both teams thought for a moment before Vedanth Nair gave us Egypt and Saudi Arabia as the two countries either side of the Red Sea through which the Tropic of Cancer passes. Good shout, that. Bonuses on British royalty brought 2 bonuses, and for the second week running it looked as if both teams on show would have a good chance of playing a second match. Freya Whiteford took a flier with plankton for the next starter and lost five. She was unlucky since within a second or two it became obvious that the creatures being described were jellyfish. Ben Harris took that one. Hans Sloane (was he a bit of a square? I’m here all week, ladies and gents.) gave Emmanuel two bonuses and reduced the gap between the teams to just ten points. Cameron Herbert identified David Hockney as the subject of a 2017 retrospective exhibition for the next starter. Winter and poets only yielded five points, which meant that the teams would be all square if Emma could take a full house on the next set. Instead Ben Harris lost five, but can’t be blamed for slinging buzzer at this stage of the game. James Hampson couldn’t capitalise, neither team giving the sought after term of glycine. The musical term alla tedesca means after the style of the people of Germany. How did I manage to guess that? Well, in my youth I was known to read the odd war comic, and distinctly remember times when the German soldiers were called ‘Tedeschi’. Sad. Neither team guessed that one. Now, the fact that Hardy’s novel “Far From the Madding Crowd” takes its title from a line in Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” is a bit of an old chestnut, meant I was a little surprised that both teams rather sat on their buzzers before Daniela Cugini buzzed in with the right answer. Wars fought by the Brits in Asia saw them take two very quick bonuses, though it was interesting to see Ben Harris seemingly advising his excitable skipper to exercise a little caution at this stage. With a ten point gap and at most a couple of minutes to go, it really was squeaky bum time. The unflappable Glasgow skipper was first to buzz in with the term distal for the next starter. Bonuses on Michael Vaughan pushed them to 200. Emmanuel could still tie the scores with a full house, but was there enough time? No. We were gonged halfway through a Jane Austen starter. 

Well played both teams, that was a great match. Emmanuel must have an excellent chance of a repechage play off with 175 points. As for Glasgow, congratulations on a fine performance. Best of luck in the second round. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Right then Jez, since you insist on correcting perfectly good answers, here’s a correction for you. You asked for a 6 LETTER TERM. Lewis Barn correctly answered Bionic. “BIONICS, yes” you replied. Jez, for heaven’s sake, count the number of letters in bionics. That’s just embarrassing. 

When weighing up options for one of the optimism bonuses Emmanuel decided that Schopenhauer was ‘a bit miserable’ and when offered this as an answer, JP replied , “Correct – a very miserable man indeed.” Altogether now – takes one to know one, Jezza. 

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

Brit Frederick Sanger is the only person so far to have won two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

University Challenge 2019 - Round One - Heat One - Warwick v. Exeter

Yippee! It’s mid-July, and University Challenge is back. The 2018 series after a dodgy start proved to be an absolute cracker. Here’s hoping the latest edition will prove to be so too, and if it can do so with fewer first round mismatches, so much the better. Now, I may be wrong, but I fancy that this might well be JP’s 25th year of presenting the show, in which case it sees him equal the great Bamber Gascoigne’s run in the show’s original incarnation. Many congratulations if that is the case.

And so to business. First up we had the universities of Warwick and Exeter. I’ve never been fortunate enough to visit the University of Warwick but had a wonderful day a couple of months ago where a party of my pupils were hosted by Exeter University for the day, and a most beautiful place it is. Warwick were represented by Emily Wolfenden, Jacopo Sartori, Robert Gowers and captain Ben Beardsley. Exeter’s team were Simon Waitland, Will Klintworth, Jessica Brown and their skipper Danny Lay. 

The first starter gave us several clues to the word fever. The last being the 1977 film whose soundtrack features ‘Stayin’ Alive’, Jacopo Sartori got the right film, but the wrong word with night. This allowed the Exeter skipper in. He earned bonuses on  words marked ‘origin unascertained’ in the OED. Exeter took the first two, but for the last they zigged with Tory when they should have zagged with Whig. The next starter asked for the name of a ship. As soon as it mentioned setting out in 1831 I took a flier with HMS Beagle. Moments later Will Klintworth did the same just before JP was about to give us the name of Robert Fitzroy. Right – here we go. The next question gave us the first (very mildly) controversial moment of the series. Asked for the French artist who depicted the oath of the tennis court amongst other things, Exeter answered Jean-Jacques David. JP awarded them the point, although he took care to correct them that the painter’s name was actually Jacques Louis David. “Yes, David is correct – it was Jacques Louis in fact.” OK, now, to the best of my knowledge there’s no internationally accepted hard and fast written set of rules for quizzing. But what I’ve observed I many if not most of the quizzes that I’ve played in is that UNLESS the forename is specifically asked for in the question, then the surname alone is acceptable for an answer. However, EVEN IF the question does not ask for the forename, if the player chooses to give the forename and gives it incorrectly, then even if the surname is correct the answer is adjudged wrong. – AS I say, there’s no hard and fast set of written rules which applies to all quizzes, and not every quiz that I’ve played in follows this convention. I mention it though because it sets a precedent, and if it’s allowed in this question, then in the interests of fairness it should be allowed throughout the series.  – OK, 1 – 2 -3 we’re back in the room and out of pedantry corner. Exeter took the full house on David. Did you know that mebi denotes 2 to the power of 20 – I think? Me neither, and nor did either team, with Warwick losing five for an early buzz. For the next starter I took a flier on tall tree like grasses of Asia being bamboo, meaning that the only two consonants in the word were b and m. Other clues bore this out. Emily Wolfenden was first in to wipe out the Warwick deficit. Physics and astronomy gave me nowt but Warwick took 10 points. So to the picture starter and , wonder of wonders, something I actually know a little about in Science, the periodic table. We were shown a small section and asked to work out the missing element. “Gallium!” I shouted, and set out on my lap of honour, before hurriedly sitting down again as Danny Lay gave the correct answer of Germanium. I was one out. Still, I took a full house of bonuses of more of the same. You can bet your life I completed my lap of honour then. Ben Beardsley atoned for losing five on the previous starter by coming in very early to identify a Fresnel lens for the next starter. Economics and economists did nothing for me, nor for Warwick for that matter. This left the score at 65 to 20 in Exeter’s favour at just after the ten minute mark.

I knew that it was Gore Vidal who coined the term The United States of Amnesia. Neither team twitched until JP mentioned Myra Breckinridge, which saw Will Klintworth buzz in for the points. This gave Exeter bonuses on Chien-Shiung Wu (yes, quite right, also known as CHien-Siung Who? in LAM Towers) . Doesn’t matter – I still got Uranium 235 and 238. I’m too old for two laps of honour, but for me it was worth one. Exeter took two bonuses to my one. I knew that the Glomma is a river in Norway though, which neither team did. Fair play to Ben Beardsley of Warwick, though. He had answered Angels in America for the next question while I was just starting to process the question. Albums of Bob Dylan should have given me more, but I only managed the first and last. Warwick took one bonus. The Warwick skipper clearly had the bit between his teeth when he took the starter knowing something about calculus to which the answer was lambada – sorry - lamda. Fair enough. Biology answers beginning with the letters co – gave Warwick a couple of correct answers, and me an unexpected full house. Cotyledon? Really? Where the hell did I dredge that answer from? No idea. So to the music starter. Now, played part of a symphony I thought – sounds like 20th century, which for me narrows it down to two composers – Stravinsky and Shostakovitch. I zigged with Stravinsky, while Danny Lay knew it was Shostakovitch. More classical works with a title or nickname taken from the name of a city. I recognised the first two, but missed Haydn’s London symphony, as did Exeter. Now, for the next starter, after the date of birth, and the fact he started as a Conservative MP, then an Independent, then became a Labour MP I confidently asserted it was Oswald Moseley. As JP was halfway through mentioning the British Union of Fascists, Robert Gowers came in with the correct answer. Place names beginning with Ak gave Warwick two correct answers and me one.  Danny Lay pounced on the next starter knowing the founders of the video game company Valve. Performers who are also Companions of Honour saw the funniest moment of the show, as Exeter offered Mick Jagger when the answer was Dame Vera Lynn. Which reminds me of a nice story. When jazz legend George Melly once remarked on Jagger’s growing number of crow’s feet, he replied that they were laughter lines. Quick as a flash Melly retorted “Nothing’s that funny!” No? Well, please yourselves. They failed to take either of the other bonuses on offer. Right then, ladies and gents. Believe it or not I had a third lap of honour-worthy answer when I supplied the word organelle just before Ben Beardsley did for the next starter. I only knew it through past editions of UC. Aquatic ecology provided both of us with just the one correct answer. Neither team knew that the 1946 Peace Constitution was that of Japan – I thought that one was guessable if you didn’t know it. Still, on the cusp of the 20 minute mark the scores stood at 115 to 85 to Exeter. They’d looked well in control in the first 10 minutes, but now we certainly had a game on our hands. Good show.

A rush of blood to the head saw Will Klintworth lose five for suggesting the Brownlee Brothers won medals in the decathlon. This allowed Ben Beardsley in for triathlon. Medical radio isotopes promised me but little, still I managed the second. Warwick took the last. The second picture round saw the impressive Warwick skipper provide the title of a painting – The Last Judgement – all the time shaking his head as he did so. More paintings on the same subject brought just 5 more points. Emily Wolfenden buzzed early to identify Tchaikovsky’s words about Rome and Juliet. Bonuses on British History and specifically Princes of Wales were all gettable, and they managed two. That set had put Warwick into the lead for the first time in the match with just 5 minutes remaining. I was impressed with the way Simon Waitland identified the Oystercatcher from its description and the fact it is the national bird of the Faroe Islands. The musician and performer Wendy Carlos (yes, alright, Wendy Who? in LAM Towers), gave Exeter a timely full house. Both teams were tied, and this was turning into an excellent match. Warwick looked in trouble when Jacopo Sartori took a flyer that Warsaw was the city being described for the next starter. It lost them five, and let in Will Klintworth with Krakow. (“KRAKOFF is correct” sniffed Jex). Microbiology offered a chance to stretch the elastic between themselves and Warwick, but they failed to add to their score. None of us had a clue about a Leclanche cell for the next starter. The next one was a buzzer race, though, with Emily Wolfenden the first to work out that the capital of the US State named after Elizabeth I is Richmond. One bonus to tie the scores – any more and Warwick would lead. The Islamic Calendar gave them 10 points, and a sender lead. With only a minute to go, it looked like it would all come down to the next starter. Quite rightly Will Klintworth gambled on speed – but his answer was wide of the mark. Robert Gowers gave the correct name, the Italian mathematician Peano, and bonuses on Romantic poets and birds took their score to 165. Even a full house for Exeter would only tie the teams again now. On a flag starter I was pleased I could identify Rwanda, as did Danny Lay. I reckon that could be an important answer. We were gonged before they could answer a bonus, so it didn’t mean that Exeter won. However, 150 makes them more likely to take a repechage slot than 140 would have. Warwick’s 165 though put them through as of right.

Well played both teams. This is the kind of match we want to see and was a great start to the new series. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Hardly anything to report. He still corrects punctuation does Jez, though. When Warwick offered AYKron he replied somewhat pointedly, “ACKron, yes.”

On the second picture bonuses, where Warwick came up with the sensible suggestion of Dore, he poopoohed this, “No it’s William Blake - Very distinctive.” Yeah, well, it’s easy to say that when you’ve got the answer written down in front of you, Jez. Try it from the other side of the desk. Not so easy now, matey boy. 

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

The OED lists the origin of the word tantrum as possibly deriving from a Welshman’s mispronunciation of the word ‘anthem’. (Personally, I think that’s probably a load of cachu. If you don’t speak Welsh, guess or look it up.)

Friday, 27 April 2018

University Challenge 2018 - The Grand Final. Merton, Oxford v. St. John's, Cambridge

Here we are, then, dearly beloved, the Grand Final. With the benefit of hindsight it seems that both of these teams have been on a collision course ever since at least the end of the second round. Now, I’ve never quite come out and said who I thought would win, but I must admit that I’d had a partiality for the Merton team. St. John’s, though, were so impressive in their semi, that I found last week that I just could not tip them to lose, and so ended up cravenly refusing to call it. Well, that was how I genuinely felt, I couldn’t predict how this one was most likely to go. Hoping to tip the balance in St. John’s favour were John-Clark Levin, Rosie McKeown, Matt Hazell and captain James Devine-Stoneman. Determined to take the trophy back to Oxford for Merton were Edward Thomas, Alexander Peplow, Akira Wiberg, and captain Leonie Woodland.

First blood to Merton, and Alex Peplow, who was the first to recognise a quote from Lord Reith about sponsored broadcasting.  3 bonuses on the ineffable followed – I was pleased to get The Great Gatsby – and Merton, who missed that one took the other two. Leonie Woodland recognised that the dill is the aromatic herb contained within the names of several items to which we were given clues for the next starter. The shipping forecast proved fairly fruitful as well, providing another 10 points. Skipper Woodland also took a great early buzz for the next starter, which was winding its weary way through definitions of statics and statistics. Bonuses on multiple choices and probability did nowt for me, but brought 5 points to Merton. For the picture starter we saw a word cloud based on frequency of use of terms from a major work on critical theory translated from French. “Foucault” said Rosie McKeown, and I must admit that a word not a million miles removed from that was passing through my mind at the same time. I realised, though, that unlike me she was answering, rather than expressing frustration. Answering correctly too, to get St. John’s moving. Three more word clouds did nothing for any of us. Thus, at the 10 minute mark Merton had outscored the Cambridge team by 3 starters to 1, and led 55 – 10.

A terrific early buzz from John-Clark Levin identified the US political movement Black Lives Matter. Sociology bonuses again proved to be a step too far for any of us. At last, with the mention of a concept from Hans Holbein’s woodcuts, did I manage to get a starter before either of the teams. Leonie Woodland came in too early and lost 5, allowing Rosie McKeown to supply the correct answer of Danse Macabre. Anna Komnene, also known in LAM towers as Anna Who? promised but little, but provided us both with 2 bonuses. The gap was now down to a single starter. For the music starter, Alex Peplow immediately recognised Wagner, and buzzed. He hesitated, though, and then supplied the wrong Wagner, opting for Lohengrin. St. John’s couldn’t capitalise, and the Mastersingers of Nuremburg went begging. Akira Wiberg, obviously wanting to get his team on the front foot again, came in too early on the next starter, about particles and JJ Thompson, and zigged with electron, thus losing 5. This allowed St. John’s the whole question, allowing Rosie McKeown to zag with corpuscles. I wouldn’t say that I thought that this was a turning point while I was watching, although watching it again, with hindsight it may well appear so. However I did feel that Merton seemed a little rattled in a way that I had never seen them in any previous contest. The music bonuses were pieces conducted by – I didn’t quite catch the name, but it sounded like Madge Allsopp, who was also Dame Edna’s bridesmaid, I believe – and they provided but the one bonus. I considered having a lap of honour for knowing that Rule Britannia comes from Alfred, but lethargy won out and I stayed put. Now, based on what has happened throughout the series so far, as soon as JP said “In Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress. . . “ I thought – this one’s for Rosie McKeown again - and I wasn’t wrong. Spectroscopy was never going to provide me with any bonuses, but St. John’s took one, and they led now with 70 to 45. Alex Peplow, usually so reliable, missed out on the next starter which I am sure he did know the answer to. Basically, the question asked which king Hubert Walter served after having served his predecessor on the Third Crusade. He gave us the predecessor, Richard I, not the king required. Rosie McKeown, with a free shot at goal went for the one who came after the correct answer, with Henry III rather than John. Seemingly kicking himself, Alex Peplow came in too early for the next starter. “God is something than which nothing greater can be conceived” began JP. Alex Peplow buzzed in immediately with the person who said it, “St. Anselm”. As JP began to say “No, I’m afraid” he amplified his answer with “the ontological argument”, which was actually the answer required. JP ignored this, as well he should and docked Merton 5. However, Alex Peplow had also given the correct answer after the No – and I’ve seen occasions where the question would be struck out at this point and another starter begun, but I’ve also seen times it hasn’t been. This time it wasn’t, allowing a smiling Rosie McKeown to answer – the ontological argument. This earned a set on organic chemistry, and I’m very sorry, but dredging up the word ketones from previous editions of UC more than entitled me to my lap of honour around the living room. A full house meant that this set of questions took St. John’s score to more than double that of Merton’s. A superb answer from Akira Wiberg saw him give Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as the three contiguous EU countries with a high point less than 400m. The 4 great classical novels of Chinese Literature provided Merton with 2 bonuses, and at the 20 minute mark the score stood at 95 to 60. Either team could still win, but Merton were going to have to find their form on the starters to have a chance.

Asked for an American artist for the picture starter I don’t blame Akira Wiberg for having a punt with Singer Sargent, but it was one of those nights when a lot of Merton’s punts were not on target. James Devine-Stoneman recognised the work of Mary Cassatt. Three 20th century artists’ work provided two bonuses, which was two more than I managed. The shoe was on the other foot as John-Clark Levin came in way too early on a Nobel Prize question, allowing Akira Wiberg to slot the ball into the open goal with Lisa Meitner. Willa Cather provided two bonuses, and narrowed the gap to 30. Still time enough for Merton. Now, any question which has the words ‘poet’ and ‘asylum’ is meat and drink to Rosie McKeown, and she and I both said John Clare at the same time. Linguistic terms beginning with the same two letters allowed me to dredge up the term ablaut from my days of studying old English – ironically I remember the same example – sing – sang – sung being used. Memories of the latin ablative absolute gave me my only full house of the night, while St. John’s marched serenely on with two. Another literature starter beckoned with “In Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man . . . “ and another correct early buzz for the magnificent Rosie McKeown, very much the star of this contest. Maths bonuses usually do nothing for me, but I did get Fermat’s Last Theorem. Two bonuses gave St. John’s a 65 point lead, and effectively, the win. Matt Hazell, asked for one of the two SI units whose names come from latin words for light, zigged with Lux, which is also a soap (or was) allowing Leonie Woodland to zag with Lumen. Boutros Boutros Ghali (so good they named him twice) gave Merton the points they needed to take them to triple figures. Very surprisingly nobody on either team could dredge up the name of Desmond Morris for the next starter. And that was it. The gong ended a surprisingly low scoring, yet very intense final. St. John’s emerged clear and worthy winners with 145 to 100.

Very bad luck Merton. They and St. John’s had certainly looked the most likely finalists throughout the series. Sometimes you have one of those nights when it just doesn’t quite go your way, and there’s little you can do other than take it on the chin. Many, many congratulations though to St. John’s, very worthy winners of the series. And I must admit, it was nice to see a fellow London Borough of Ealing man collect the trophy from Judith Weir – the St. John’s skipper is from Southall, which is right next door to Hanwell, my own particular corner of the borough.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nothing really to say here. Jez is usually on his very best behaviour for a final, and this was no different, and I’m glad that he paid tribute to Merton’s achievements during the series at the end, as well as St. John’s.

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

It was the USA that successfully blocked Boutros Boutros Ghali’s bid for a second term of office.

Friday, 20 April 2018

University Challenge: Semi Final Two: Merton, Oxford v. Newcastle

Merton, Oxford v. Newcastle

We’re almost there, dearly beloved. St. John’s, Cambridge have already claimed one spot in the semi final after a majestic performance against Edinburgh. In my preview a couple of weeks ago I said, “Although I think Merton are the stronger of the two teams, and although I believe Merton should win, a Newcastle win would not be, to my mind, such an upset as an Edinburgh win against St. John’s.” Actually, following the St. John’s performance last week, that just made Newcastle look even stronger. However Merton have really been the form horses all season. Looking to extend this run were Edward Thomas, Alexander Peplow, Akira Wiberg and captain Leonie Woodland. Looking to set up the chance of a return against St. John’s for Newcastle were Jack Reynard , Molly Nielsen, Adam Lowery and skipper Jonathan Noble.

Great buzzer work from Alex Peplow took the first starter, as he came in very early to identify Figaro as the character in “The Guilty Mother”. Also Gepetto’s cat in the original Disney Pinocchio. Archaeology and poetry – I’ve heard of stranger pairings – provided us both with 2 correct bonuses. Now, I had actually heard of the Great Dinosaur Rush for the next starter, but neither team could get it, although Jack Reynard won a prized Paxman chuckle for his suggestion of the Big Bone Bash. Now, I loved Alan Moore’s graphic novel “Watchmen” when it first came out, so I had Ozymandias from Adrian Veidt, and the addition of Rameses II to the question allowed another sharp buzz from Alex Peplow. Nobel prizes for Physics were just too easy for Merton, who dispatched a full house to the boundary without even needing to confer. Being 45 points behind didn’t seem to faze Newcastle though, as their inspirational skipper Jonathan Noble came in very quickly with the correct answer, dihedral,  to the Maths starter which followed. Right, their bonuses were on Harriet Martineau. Totally off the point, I stayed in Harriet Martineau’s former house in Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear a couple of times in the 80s, since it was then the home of my best friend from University, who sadly passed away a few years ago. Newcastle, in turn managed two bonuses. This brought us the picture starter. It showed us emblems of universities attended by a US president along with the subjects they studied. Akira Wiberg opened his starter account, recognising that these were once graced with the presence of Donald T. Rump. Three more sets of presidents to identify from University and subject studied brought two bonuses. I thought Alex Peplow rather unlucky not to be allowed his Church Visiting for Church Going by Philip Larkin. The question only asked for the activity, not the title. Well, neither team had that, and so at the ten minute mark Merton had a useful lead of 65 – 20.

Nobody knew an analogy comparing software developments to the cathedral and the bazaar. How bazaar, how bazaar. Skipper Noble took another flyer with the next starter, but sadly lost five. Given the whole question Akira Wiberg gratefully supplied the French astronomer Laplace.  Mountains and Monarchs provided a nice UC special set, even if the connection between mountains and monarchs was tenuous at best. The questions required a lot of legwork from Merton, and they didn’t manage any points from the set. Both teams rather sat on their buzzers for the History starter which followed. Even when Alex Peplow answered that it was Owen Tudor that Catherine of Valois married, who would be the grandfather of Henry VII, he sounded very uncertain. He was right, though. Moons of Jupiter provided much more fertile ground for Merton, and another full house meant that the gap between the teams was beginning to look ominous for Newcastle. Now, I’ve no idea what Grignard reagents are (although I have a suspicion that they may have had a minor hit in the 80s with ‘Baby I Want Your Love Thing), but Akira Wiberg came in early and lost 5 with them for the next starter, a very rare occurrence in his case. It was a chemistry question, the answer was hydrogen, Jack Reynard had it, and that’s all I can say about that starter. Bonuses on the Guano Islands Act did not seem particularly fertile ground (you see what I did there?) but Newcastle took a very useful full house. So to the music starter. Now, back in the late 70s and early 80s, when I started watching UC, if you were ever asked for a British Composer, about 30% of the time the answer was Vaughan Williams, and about 60% of the time it was Benjamin Britten, so I would always answer Benjamin Britten, and be right more often than I was wrong. I didn’t answer Britten this time, but Molly Nielsen did, and she was right to do so. A great full house followed. Incidentally, the last piece was from Katchaturian’s “Spartacus”. If, like me, that particular piece conjures up an image of a sailing ship in full sail, then I’m sorry, but you know you’re old. If it doesn’t, then ask your parents. Or failing that, your grandparents. On a roll for the first time during the contest, Newcastle, in the shape of skipper Noble, took another early starter, recognising former kingdoms of Madagascar. Words with the same spelling, although different meanings, in English and Spanish provided a good set, and Newcastle’s correct answer put them just 10 points behind Merton. Molly Nielsen had a rush of blood to the head and came in just too early for the next starter. This allowed Akira Wiberg to supply the correct answer of Arvo Part. Figures mentioned in the REM song “The End Of The World As We Know It” provided a full house. This meant that the gap stood at 110 to 75. Newcastle had come back strongly, as they had against St. John’s, and at the moment, while you sensed that Merton had the whip hand, it really was either team’s game to win.

Now, I knew that bacteria get their name from the Greek for rod, and the dinoasaur – Camptosaurus (the first so called ‘duck billed dinosaur’) had a name which means ‘bent lizard’. So asked what gets its name from the Greek for curved rod I tried campylobacter. Correct, neither team had it, and I was off on my lap of honour. Again, Molly Nielsen recognised that she knew the answer when asked who was “furnished and burnished by Aldershot –“ and buzzed very early, to find, to her chagrin, that the answer refused to leap from the tip of her tongue. Hard lines. Merton didn’t have a Scooby about Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, and so we moved on. Akira Wiberg knew that the former Indian capital, Agra, appears in a variety of different words, the definitions of which we were given. Apia, the capital of Samoa, and 2 correct answers stretched the gap to 60. I was pleased with myself for recognising the work of Courbet (Ronnie or Harry?) for the picture starter, and Molly Nielsen, so good on the music set, was first in for this one a swell. 3 later exponents of the Realist tradition brought a full house and kept Newcastle in the match. Akira Wiberg, very much on song in this later part of the contest, knew a bunch of academics and writers called Bloom. A full set on body cells took the gap back out to 60. Leonie Woodland came in with the term ‘crepuscular’ referring to periods of twilight for the next starter. It was at this point that I feel the game really slipped away from Newcastle. They needed to get to the buzzer first for that starter. Arthur Waley – no jokes about ‘Minder’ here please – provided two more bonuses which stretched the lead to 80. Even three full houses would not be enough for Newcastle, and now surely there wasn’t enough time left. Not that Molly Nielsen was conceding defeat. She had a great early buzz to identify Perth as the state capital whose first 4 letters occur in a series of given words. Corazon Aquino of the Philippines saw Newcastle take two bonuses, but miss out on the name of my favourite Cardinal of all time, Cardinal Sin of the Philippines. Making absolutely certain of victory, Leonie Woodland came in very early to identify Gold as the only element other than Europium whose symbol comprises of two vowels. The Merton skipper never seems to miss out on Physics questions, and she didn’t need to confer while taking a full house in double quick time. Incidentally, my remembering Avogadro’s Constant demanded the rarely performed Clark second lap of honour. Throwing caution to the wind, as soon as he heard the word ‘equus’ in the next starter, Jonathan Noble answered horses, which allowed Akira Wiberg to supply the correct answer of zebras to the full question. Colonial battles in which European powers were defeated gave Merton a triple figure lead. That was it, and we were gonged before either team could answer that the Japanese word kara means open. Merton won by 215 – 110.

In the end, Merton had just too much buzzing for Newcastle, who can take heart from the fact that, for more than 20 minutes they were slugging it out with them. As for the final – ho boy. How do you call this one? I have liked Merton as a team ever since their first match. However, St. John’s were SO good in their semi final that I am loath to predict their defeat. When you get right down to it, I just can’t call it. What I will say is that the Grand Final has every good chance of being one of the best contests we’ve seen for years.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Why does he have to do this? In the Spiegel in Spiegel question Akira Wiberg gave is the correct answer Arvo Part. Yes- replied Jez – Arvo PEHRT. Oh get over yourself, for heaven’s sake.

When Molly Nielsen made her second early buzz without answering, he seemed most downhearted at having to penalise her , and actually said “I apologise”. You don’t need to apologise for just applying the rules, Jez – just don’t rub it in either.

It was interesting to note that while the Cambridge man congratulated Merton of Oxford, he didn’t launch into similar paeans of praise to those he gave to St. John’s last week.

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

Figaro featured in the trilogy of three plays, the least well known of which is “The Guilty Mother”

Monday, 9 April 2018

University Challenge: Semi Final One - St. John's Cambridge v. Edinburgh

St. John’s, Cambridge v. Edinburgh

Right, allow me to begin by quoting my own preview of this match which I posted last weekend: -

let’s be blunt, and say that it would be a major upset if Edinburgh were to defeat St. John’s. Edinburgh are doughty fighters, and they have a fine quizzer in the shape of their captain Innes Carson. But I just don’t see that they have fast enough buzzing to do well enough on the starters to beat St. John’s.

Doubtless John-Clark Levin, Rosie McKeown,  Matt Hazell and their captain James Devine-Stoneman of St. John’s were determined on making this prophecy come true, while John Heaton-Armstrong, Stanley Wang, Philippa Stone and skipper Innes Carson of Edinburgh were going to do their utmost to put it to the lie.

I don’t know if it was nerves but both teams rather slept on their buzzers for the first starter. – Who sailed on the Antelope – is just one of those chestnuts which would see a regular, serious quizzer slinging some buzzer. However it wasn’t until JP announced that one of the places he visited was Glubbdubbdrib that Rosie McKeown buzzed in to take the points. It was the start of another excellent evening for her. Literary works that S.T.Coleridge thought contained the three most perfect plots – let’s face it, he was maybe whacked off his moobs on laudanum when he made that observation – provided St. John’s with a full house. If you knew that Ferdinand Foch was the supreme French general by the latter stages of World War One, then you knew that his quote for the next starter had to be referring to the Treaty of Versailles. John-Clark Levin won the buzzer race on that one. Swiss Mathematicians held out scant opportunity for an early lap of honour, and indeed yielded none for me. Somewhat more surprisingly they only yielded one correct answer to St. John’s. The next starter was one of those which repaid patience, as it became obvious when we were told that the astronomical term required was also the word for what links clauses in grammar. John-Clark Levin took his second consecutive starter on that one. A wonderfully incongruous set of bonuses asked for countries which rank high amongst the world’s pineapple producing countries, based on their national football team’s performance in the 2014 World Cup. St. John’s produced their second full house of the night, even though the sneaky second of the set asked for a country that didn’t even qualify for the finals. Put yourself in Edinburgh’s position, folks. You know it ain’t your night when the opposition are scoring full houses on sets like that. An impression which must have been reinforced when Rosie McKeown took the picture starter. This involved identifying both the Korean language, and the script in which it was written, Hangul. I won’t say that I stood up and clapped the telly for that one, but I did think that this was impressive knowledge. I knew it was Korean, but somehow Hangul has managed to elude me for the last 53 years and 10 months. Other languages and scripts brought an impressive two more correct answers. Right, be honest, how many of you missed out on old Church Slavonic? For the next starter, Matt Hazell was first to join the dots, and work out that a quote from former slave Frederick Douglass about a national celebration was going to be about July 4th. Moral philosophers escaped both of us. Even so, St. John’s led by 95 – 0 just after the 10 minute mark, and you feared that JP was about to send that kiss of death, a “plenty of time to get going, Edinburgh” flying in their direction.

None of us were conversant enough with the Stefan-Boltzman Law to answer the next starter. Innes Carson broke his team’s duck, knowing that don Alfonso is a character in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte. English words whose 2nd, 3rd and 4th letters are URM caused some amusement when the skipper, clutching at straws, cheekily suggested that an avaricious, ill tempered, churlish person was Burmese, rather than the correct answer of curmudgeon. Still, the one bonus they did manage was much needed. This seemed to galvanise his team a little, as John Heaton-Armstrong had a great early buzz to identify a text written in reconstructed proto Indo European.This earned a UC special set on astronomy. Basically each question gave an answer, which would be a clue to the name of a constellation – gem for Gemini, for example. Two bonuses kept their score ticking over. So to the music starter. At first I thought it was Peter Ustinov’s creation Liselotte Beethoven-Fink singing about das heilbutt, but no. It was James Devine-Stoneman who identified the work of Schoenberg. Pupils of Schoenberg saw St. John’s add another full house, which must have dampened Edinburgh’s spirits at this point. None of us knew that in the medical term NGF, the N stands for Nerve. Fair enough. Stevie Smith’s quote, “She has written an enormous book about women and it is soon clear that she doesn’t like them “ suggested a few authors, and as soon as JP mentioned the name Simone de Beauvoir it was obvious that we were dealing with The Second Sex. Innes Carson won that buzzer race. Poets name checked in “Northanger Abbey” brought a single bonus. For the next starter Rosie McKeown knew that if you’re asked a question which mentions a series of paintings by Whistler, you buzz and answer Nocturne and you’ll be right more often than you’re wrong. Lord William Bentinck brought just the one correct answer. Stanley Wang fell foul of the next starter which was one of those where you needed to wait for the moment it became obvious, and lost five of his team’s hard earned points. He’d been asked for a King of Spain married 4 times, and as soon as Mary I of England was given among the list of his wives, that allowed Rosie McKeown to give us Philip II. A UC special set on pairs of words in which the last three of the first were the first three of the second – eg. ginger and geriatric – certainly made it look like she had all three of the bonuses as well. At the 20 minute mark, despite Edinburgh’s fight back, St. John’s led by 160 – 45, and frankly, it seemed that the only question remaining to be answered was how many points the Cambridge side were going to win by.

So to the second picture starter. I recognised Gertrude Stein at the same time as the excellent Rosie McKeown buzzed in with the answer. Regular visitors to Gertrude Stein’s salon (did she do hairdressing as well, then?) gave us both a full house. I’m not familiar with the work of Daniel Dennett, but John-Clark Levin dredged him up for the next starter. Geometry and the work of Gaudi provided the subject of the bonuses. Another full house took St. John’s through the 200 mark. A fine quick buzz from Philippa Stone identified Cumbria/Cumberland as the ceremonial county taking its name from the Welsh word for Wales – Cymru. At long last I got to take a lap of honour, knowing that Auguste Picard was first to reach the stratosphere in a balloon.  Edinburgh managed one of the set on him. James Devine-Stoneman came in very early to identify various flavours of arsenic, and his team took one of a gettable set of bonuses on Kings of Scotland. With the bit now between his team the St. John’s skipper took a second consecutive early starter, knowing that ceci n’est pas une pipe is what’s written at the bottom of a famous Magritte painting. Artistic works connected with the word light gave me a full house, and St. John’s 2. The John Bates Clark (no relation) medal was a new one on me, but John-Clark Levin came in early to say it is awarded for economics. By this stage Edinburgh must have felt like they were being continually beaten over the head with a blunt instrument. Bonuses on chemical compounds brought just one bonus, which incidentally gave the Cambridge team a lead of 200 points. The St. John’s skipper added to that when he came in early to say that two of the elements which were 7,8 and 9 on the Mohs scale were quartz and corundum. That was it, since the gong was bonged halfway through the first bonus.

Hard lines Edinburgh, but you were beaten by a better team. Indeed, I dare say that to me, this was St. John’s best performance, and if they reproduce this in the final, then they are going to be extremely hard to beat. In all honesty I thought that was a fantastic performance.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

On the Gaudi bonuses, JP did that annoying thing he does , correcting the contestants’ pronunciation. When James Deinve-Stoneman correctly answered with the term catenARY, JP replied “Yes. The catEnary. . . “ Get over yourself, Jez.

In his final words to both teams, he told Edinburgh “all the viewers know that you’re capable of doing much better than that.” Yes, we've seen them do better, but that’s a bit of backhanded compliment, serving as it does to say – but you didn’t do very well tonight, did you? Bit harsh that.

On the other hand he said to St. John’s “You were well balanced, your were fast, you were great.” Well, that’s all true. However, when have we ever seen Jez gush like this? Heaven alone knows how this Cambridge man will react if they won the final – which would come as no surprise after this performance. A lap of honour around the studio, perhaps? Watch this space.

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

Jazz great Dave Brubeck was a pupil of Schoenberg

Friday, 6 April 2018

University Challenge: Semi Final Previews

Right, just for the fun of it, let’s have a look at the form book for the semis: -  

R1 for
R1 against
R2 for
R2 A
QFs For
QFs Against
Average F
Average Against
St. John’s, Cambridge
Merton, Oxford

.First of all, congratulations to all of the teams who made it this far. I felt, and still feel, that there were too many mismatches in round one, but by the time we got to the quarters, on paper there were no easy matches left.  

In the table above, I put the teams in rank order of my gut feeling of how well the teams have done before I put the figures in, highest weakest, lowest strongest. The figures dseem to bear out my feelings. Quite rightly in my opinion, the two unbeaten teams, Merton and St. John’s, have been kept apart in the semis. St. John’s will play Edinburgh, and Merton will play Newcastle. Let’s have a look at these matches: -  

St. John’s v. Edinburgh 

In a two horse race, either team can win. Let’s acknowledge that before we start. Then let’s be blunt, and say that it would be a major upset if Edinburgh were to defeat St. John’s. Edinburgh are doughty fighters, and they have a fine quizzer in the shape of their captain Innes Carson. But I just don’t see that they have fast enough buzzing to do well enough on the starters to beat St. John’s. As for St. John’s, well, they carried all before them in their first three matches. Their quarter final match against Newcastle was interesting though. Things were very even to the 10 minute mark, then they had by far the better of things for the next ten minutes. It looked like it was going to be another easy win until Newcastle came back strongly. There are two things to note about that. It is possible to beat St. John’s to the buzzer, however they have nerve and resilience in a tight game too. So even though Edinburgh had their best match against Bristol to qualify for the semis, I think St. John’s will be too strong for them.  

Merton v. Newcastle 

This one is rather more intriguing. Merton are many people’s favourites to win the series, and there are good reasons for this. They have two of the top buzzers of the series in Alex Peplow and Akira Wiberg, and captain Leonie Woodland is certainly no slouch either. They haven’t had a close match yet. However, it does beg the question, have they ever played opposition like Newcastle yet? Newcastle went toe to toe with the excellent St. John’s team, and took it right to the wire. Newcastle also have some fine buzzers. Although I think Merton are the stronger of the two teams, and although I believe Merton should win, a Newcastle win would not be, to my mind, such an upset as an Edinburgh win against St. John’s.