Saturday, 18 February 2017

University Challenge Quarter Final Qualification Match - Emmanuel Cambridge v. Corpus Christi, Oxford


Emmanuel, Cambridge v. Corpus Christi, Oxford

Doesn’t time fly? Here we are already at our first quarter final qualification match. This was an Oxbridge affair. The team from Emmanuel, as ever represented by Tom Hill, Leah Ward, Bruno Barton-Singer and skipper and perennial LAM favourite, Bobby Seagull had defeated the much-fancied Warwick team in their previous match in the quarters. Corpus Christi, collectively Tom Fleet, Emma Johnson, Adam Wright and skipper Nikhil Venkatesh, also pulled off something of a giant killing by seeing off the impressive Bristol team in their first quarter. On paper, this looked a good match. Bobby, the Emmanuel skipper, told me, “I had seen Corpus defeat one of the best Cambridge teams and the way they demolished Bristol on the buzzer, both live in the studios. I was really impressed with Corpus, being the highest cumulative scorers so far, and they are such a balanced team (and one that seems to enjoy being on the show). So to be completely honest, my team were expecting to lose but we went in relaxed as well.” And if that doesn’t whet your appetite for the competition, then nothing will, and so, without further ado –

It seemed to me that both teams slept a little on the buzzer for the first starter. It had become obvious that the answer was India a couple of seconds before Nikhil Venkatesh buzzed in. Bonuses on the Odyssey were a nice set of chestnuts, of which Corpus Christi took a couple. Bobby opened his team’s account when he knew that William Golding wrote, amongst other novels “Pincher Martin”. Films by the British director Gurinder Chadha brought the teams level on the scoreboard. Now, time was that you needed to know the order of the Plagues of Egypt in the Book of Exodus, because they would come up in quizzes on a regular basis. They seem to have dropped out of fashion of recent years. Still, they are stuck enough in my memory that I knew that 2 was frogs. Bruno Barton-Singer was first to chance his arm, and fortune favoured the brave as he gave the right answer. The number 12 did nowt for me, but it gave Emma another 5. I thought it was a bit mean having another mathsy thing for the picture starter where we were shown a roulette curve and asked for its name. I suggested Nigel, facetiously, but Bruno Barton-Singer put me in my place by giving the correct answer – cycloid. Three more of the same switched me off for a minute or so, by the end of which Emma had added 5 more points to their score. Now, I was pretty pleased with myself that I knew Alexander I the Fierce of Scotland before JP started bringing other Alexanders into it. Actually my great great great great uncle was court portrait painter to Tsar Alexander I for a while, but that’s another story. Tom Hill took that one. Queen Zenobia of Syria offered one gettable chance with Palmyra, but Emma couldn’t convert. Didn’t matter. At the ten minute mark they were well on top, even if the scoreboard only showed a lead of 60 – 20. The next ten minutes would show a lot about Corpus Christi, I felt, since they had never quite been under such a buzzer cosh as this before.

Nobody knew about the term notifiable diseases – it’s just one of those things you either know or you don’t, I’d say. You could see Nikhil Venkatesh tensing up ready to strike on the next starter about a gender equality charter in universities, and strike he did, correctly giving the answer – swan. This brought Corpus Christi a set of bonuses on psychology. Where on Earth I dredged up the term Nominative Determinism from I don’t know, but that had to be worth a lap of honour round the living room. This was a great, fun set for those of us with a schoolboy sense of humour, and brought a full house to Corpus. Nobody knew the Meselson and Stahl experiment for the next starter – even though they gave their name to apparently the most beautiful experiment in biology. Did it have much competition, one wonders. Now, I didn’t know that Caernarfon was the runner up in the 1954 Wales’s Got Capitals’ competition, but I did know that randy old Dai Lloyd George represented it in parliament. Adam Wright, normally so reliable on the starters, zigged with Pembroke, while Tom Hill zagged with the right answer – Prince Charles’ 1969 investiture as the Prince of Wales was the big clue. International Organisations gave Emmanuel a couple, and brought us to the music round. I think that Emma were doing so well on the buzzer that Bobby had already made up his mind when JP said “Austrian composer” to buzz in with Shoenberg, since we heard about half a bar before he did. To be honest, it sounded to me a little reminiscent of the Peter Ustinov skit whereby his superannuated operatic diva sings about Das Heilbutt (the halibut), but no, it was Kathleen Ferrier singing one of Mahler’s back catalogue. Nothing doing for either team with that. Emma Johnson came in just too early on the next question. When you’re told - 16 line poem – and – train journey – given half a moment’s reflection you’ll probably correctly think Adlestrop, but she concentrated on the periphery of the question about the First World War and gave In Flanders Fields. Bobby raised a finger to his colleagues urging the moment’s caution to which they were entitled. A wise tactic, for it allowed Bruno Barton-Singer in with the correct answer. This earned the music bonuses. Three more recordings of Kathleen Ferrier brought 5 more points. It was proving to be a tough show. For all of their dominance on the buzzer, Emma were only extending their lead relatively slowly. Right brace yourselves. I got a maths starter right. Along with Nikhil Venkatesh I worked out the answer to a sum as 5/7. Woohoo. Fiction bonuses showed that for Corpus there was no balm in Gilead, as they failed to add to their score. Tom Hill was in like lightning to identify the figure of Piers Gaveston from “Edward II”. This took Emma through the 100 barrier, although bonuses on political history did not help extend the lead. This stood at 105 – 50 at the 20 minute mark. Let’s note two things here. Emmanuel were still dominant on the buzzer, yet for all this, the gap had grown slowly, and if Corpus Christi took two full houses on the next two sets, then it would be reduced to 5 points.

Now, I had the answer ‘solar wind’ even before Bruno Barton-Singer buzzed in. Poor old Corpus Christi just looked a little shell shocked by this point of the competition. A UC special Geography set on largest countries whose names begin with a specific letter provided fun, and also 2 correct answers. One had the sense that the elastic connecting the two teams was about to snap, especially when Bobby identified the picture starter as the work of Vermeer in pretty short order. Three more paintings of atelier scenes brought a rare full house, and suddenly they had a lead of 100. Fair play to Nikhil Venkatesh, the Corpus Christi skipper hadn’t given up, but he sadly came in too early on the next starter. Nobody recognised works by Hazlitt. Still, at least this seemed to free up the Corpus skipper, and he came in very early to identify the Bodyline Series in cricket from the two skippers. Contemporary African American literature did not, if I’m honest, promise a great deal. The only one I knew was Toni Morrison and Corpus failed to add to their score. Bobby Seagull was happy to take a guess with the next starter, about words linked by the first 4 letters filo, and he was right to do so. The solar system brought a further ten points, and it was just starting to look possible that Emmanuel could pass the 200 barrier. However the gong would have something to say about that. Nobody recognised the names of provinces of Iran, and that was that. Emmanuel won by 170 – 55, and claim the first spot in the semis, and you have to say that they looked pretty good value for it. Well played. As for Corpus Christi – this was an uncharacteristically subdued display, but all is not lost for them. Would I put money against them winning their next match? No. However this is such an unpredictable series, I wouldn’t put money on them either. Anything can happen.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Oh dear. Asked for three members of the EU that are not members of NATO, Emma offered 2. Back in the day JP would have cut them to shreds verbally for their effrontery. Now, he just yawned – no, I asked you for three of them. Look, Jez, I know that nobody wants to see you being nasty for the sake of nastiness, but a little sarcasm, a leavening of irony, that’s not too much to ask, is it?

Maybe I just detected a little spark when he gave Emma the music bonuses – “Now, for the music starter (dramatic pause for effect) which nobody GOT. . . “

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

Caernarfon came second to Cardiff in the competition to decide the capital city of Wales.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Mastermind: Semi Final 5

Good evening, and how has your Friday been? Mine has been all the better for seeing the start of the half term holiday, thanks very much for asking. What better way of celebrating a week away from the littls shavers, than a Mastermind semi final? Here’s our trusty form book: -

Frances Slack
The Musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein
12
0
17
0
29
0
Richard Aubrey
Alan Turing
10
0
16
1
26
1
Emma McAllister
Hernan Cortes and the Conquest of Mexico
12
1
13
2
25
3
Adam Barr
Naval Battles of World War One
10
1
13
3
23
4
Lee Holmes
Emperor Hadrian
11
1
12
2
23
3

Now, look, you and I both know that there’s only so much you can judge from the first round GK scores, since they do ramp up the difficulty of the GK a notch in the semis, and that can make a hell of a difference. Even so, you have to say that Frances Slack’s 17 really caught the eye, as did Richard Aubrey’s 16, albeit that this was only enough to secure a repechage runner-up slot.

First up tonight was Emma McAllister. She was one of the good, rather than the outstanding performers of the first round heats. Last time out she offered us Hernan Cortes and the Conquest of Mexico, tonight it was Creation Records. I like it when contenders go for a complete change of topic type between rounds. Looking at the two rounds, you’d have to say that 9 off 90 seconds was pretty comparable to 12 off 120. So she at least matched her performance in specialist from the heats. Whether this would give her a realistic chance in the second round remained to be seen.

Next to the chair was Adam Barr. Adam, to remind you, was bidding to become only the second person to do the Mastermind/UC double. In my opinion he was playing with fire a little with his specialist round in the heats – a score of 10 off 120 seconds is likely to leave you some way behind at half time. His 9 tonight on Kepler was somewhat better, and judging by what we’ve seen in the other semis would give him a fair chance of clinching a final spot with a good GK round.

Lee Holmes offered us a comparable change of pace to Emma’s, but switching from previous subject the Emperor Hadrian to tonight’s The Hunger Games novels. I’ve never read any of them myself, so it’s difficult for me to comment on the fairness or otherwise of the questions, but Lee looked for much of the round as if he was ahad of the clock, and it was in someways a little bit urprising that he only surpassed the target by a single point. One point can be enough, though.

You do tend to find that the repechage runners-up do, by and large, have better first round records than some of their fellow contenders in the same semi. Richard Aubrey, as I mentioned earlier, had put in a terrific GK round of 16 in his heat, but was undone by his merely moderate specialist round of 10. 8 off 90 is probably a wee bit better proportionately than 10 off 120, but we’ve seen in this run of semis that small margins of even a point can be very significant.

So to our last contender of the specialist round, Frances Slack. Last time out it was the musicals of Rodgers and Hammersmith Hammerstein (sorry – old habits die hard) this time the films of William Goldman. I’ve mentioned his wonderful book “Adventures in the Screen Trade” before – if you are the leats bit interedted in cinema and haven’t read it – do. This was my best round of the night, and I picked up half a dozen. Frances equalled the best round of the night so far, with a rousing 10 and no passes.

Richard kicked us off with the GK rounds. Going on what we’ve already seen in this year’s semis, a round of 9 is a perfectly good performance. However, it is not likely to be a winning performance, expecially when the leaders are already 2 points ahead of you. His final score of 17 was equalled by Emma McAllister. Again, a score of 17 in the semi final is a perfectly respectable one, but as you watched I don’t think you could help thinking that the real contest was only going to be played out in the next three rounds.

The first of which came from Adam Barr. Adam’s delivery of his answers was calm, assured and effective, for the first 40 seconds of so of his round, and at the 30 second mark it looked as if he was going to set a total that would be very difficult to beat. But it’s often when everything in the graden is looking rosiest that the wind starts to blow. Adam was becalmed mid-round with a run of questions which pulled him up, and robbed him of all momentum. He showed grit in not falling into a pass spiral, and in getting his round back on track. Time was against him though, and he could only add another 10 points. 19 meant that Lee and Frances both required the same 10 to beat him. Could they? Indications were that this was going to be close.

Lee had scored 12 off 2 and a half minutes in the first round. Even my rudimentary maths is good enough to suggest to me that he would have to score more quickly to get 10 off 2 minutes, and sadly it just didn’t quite work out. 18 in a Mastermind semi final – perfectly respectable score. It was not, however, going to be a winning score in this semi.  This only left Frances Slack. Using the same rudimentary maths, I could see that anything comparable to her 17 in the first round would be enough to give her the win. You know, it’s funny, but Frances’ round reminded me of the way that Lynn Edwards went about her GK round last week. She picked off what she knew and kept her cool when she didn’t know an answer. Which is not to say that it wasn’t a close run thing, for it was. As we said earlier, though, one point is enough, and it was the last point that gave her the lead over Adam, and placed her in the Grand Final. Well played Frances – best of luck in the final.



The Details



Emma McAllister
Creation Records
9
2
8
2
17
4
Adam Barr
Johannes Kepler
9
0
10
3
19
3
Lee Holmes
The Hunger Games Novels
10
0
8
1
18
1
Richard Aubrey
Sir Isaac Newton
8
0
9
0
17
0
Frances Slack
The Films of William Goldman
10
0
10
3
20
3

Friday, 10 February 2017

Mastermind: Semi Final 4


So then, let’s begin, as we usually do, by casting an eye over the racing form for tonight’s contenders.

Lynn Edwards
The Forsyte Novels by John Galsworthy
15
0
15
0
30
0
Tony Richardson
Don Revie
12
0
15
0
27
0
Colin Daffern
Benny Hill
14
0
13
0
27
0
Ian Fennell
David Bowie
14
0
13
1
27
1
Gerald Chong
Steve Jobs
11
0
14
3
25
3

There’s a couple of things we should note about this. Firstly, three of tonight’s contenders had terrific SS scores in their first round. Which begged the question – it’s hard enough to do that well in one specialist round – could they do it again with a second? Then two of our contenders had very good GK scores. Only one, though, had both great GK and great specialist. So if first round form is any kind of reliable guide – and sometimes it is - then Lynn Edwards looked to be favourite. Well, let’s see how it worked out.

You wouldn’t necessarily have ruled out the chances of any of tonight’s contenders prior to the show, and Colin Daffern had the distinct advantage of having been this way before. If you’re waiting for me to once again say that I firmly believe that dealing with the chair becomes easier each time that you do it, then I’m not going to disappoint you, for it does. Last time out Colin scored an excellent 14, tonight, on the life and work of the great Alan Bennett he didn’t quite manage such an outstanding score. Oh, don’t get me wrong, 8 off 90 seconds is not easy to get, but it’s not the kind of score which absolutely guarantees you’ll be at least on the shoulder of the leader at the halfway point.

Teacher Tony Richardson has been on TV before his Mastermind adventures – I think specifically of University Challenge. Being a teacher, of course, he had the burden of support from the Clark sofa to contend with, as he tackled his round on Cream – that’s the iconic 60s rock band and not the less iconic dairy product. And tackle it extremely well he did. 11 points off 90 seconds is the kind of performance which will usually put you right up with the leaders at the turn around. Tony, let’s remind ourselves, scored 15 on GK in the heats, which all seemed to bode well for his chances.

Gerald Chong had scored 11 in his first round heat, and 14 on GK, which marked him out as perhaps the underdog in this semi, if you can have an underdog in a Mastermind semi final, that is. His performance on tonight’s round on the Novels of Dan Brown, in which he scored 8, was of a similar ilk, fine, but not outstanding. It left him three behind Tony, however, and off two minutes a three point gap can look like a yawning chasm sometimes. A great performance on GK would be a necessity for him.

LAM reader Ian Fennell put in a tremendous performance in his own heat, and yet had to qualify for the semis via the repechage places. Well, that is what they’re there for, to prevent very good contenders from slipping through the net. I made the point when I watched his perfect round on David Bowie last time out that I reckoned that John could have spent the whole show asking Ian questions on Bowie and he wouldn’t have had any of them wrong. Well, it’s incredibly difficult to hit that level of SS performance twice in a row, and Ian too became one of our 8 pointers in his round on Herbert Von Karajan. With one contender to go, Tony was looking more and more secure.

Lynn Edwards was the top performer of tonight’s contenders in the first round heats, with a double 15. Her round on Mary of Teck tonight, to be honest, looked nothing like as good as her previous round on John Galsworthy. In fact she seemed to be shipping gettable points alarmingly at the start. When it comes to technique, though, Lynn is a lady after my own heart. She never brooded when she got an answer wrong, just kept snapping out the answers and not agonising over anything, and gradually – if anything in a 90 second round can be gradual – her score climbed until she too had scored 8. Advantage Tony.

So for four contenders at least, the mission was simple and clear. Score enough points to at least put Tony within the corridor of doubt. Colin gave it a lash. Now, this is all in the eye of the beholder, and one man’s meat is another man’s poisson, but I found Colin’s set of questions less to my liking than the following rounds. That’s just the way it goes – some sets suit and some sets don’t. I don’t know that they were totally to Colin’s liking either. He scored 9 – a perfectly respectable semi final GK score, but we’ve seen him go better than this in the past. 17 looked unlikely to win this show.

Gerald Chong had put on a highly useful 14 in GK in his own heat. I’d say that 10 off 90 seconds is roughly equivalent to 14 off 120, so he was at least showing a level of consistency. An overall total of 18 and no passes meant that Tony was going to need at least 9 for an outright win, and so the target was at least climbing to the kind of total that would require a serious chase.

Ian shook his head ruefully after he, like Colin, posted 9 to take his total to 17. I think he knew that there were a couple of answers that just got away from him, and sadly, on a night when you need every point you can get these things will count against you in the end. Never mind. You are a Mastermind semi-finalist, Sir, and have nothing to regret in any of your performances. With only one contender to go before Tony, though, the Clark 50p was still very much placed on a Tony win.

I mentioned Lynn Edwards’ technique in her SS round. It has probably never served her better than in her GK round tonight. I am perhaps doing her a disservice when I say that it seemed that several of her correct answers may well have been guesses, judging by her tone of voice and facial expression. That’s not a criticism by any means. One of the essential skills of any good quizzer is being able to apply what you do know to help you answer what you don’t. It takes concentration and presence of mind. After all, if you’ve got a couple of minutes to think about it, even if you’ve never heard of Jacob’s Ladder it’s not unreasonable, when you’re told it ascends a landmark in Somerset to come up with Cheddar Gorge. Try doing it in a second or two. You can, but you have to concentrate and think clearly to come up with percentage answers which have a decent chance of being right, and that’s exactly what Lynn did. She posted a terrific score of 13. With no passes it meant that Tony needed 11 for an outright win. Game on.

I feel nothing but sympathy towards Tony for what happened in his round. Believe me, everyone has nights when every choice you make, every guess you take, is a close but no cigar answer. He could probably play another dozen GK rounds in the chair, and this wouldn’t happen again. It is just such bad luck for it to happen when you are in a very good position in the semi-final, and have what appears to be an excellent chance of making it through to the final. In the end he took his score to 16. Many commiserations Tony – sometimes it just ain’t your night. If you want to, you’ll be back.

Congratulations Lynn, and best of luck in the final.

The Details

Colin Daffern
Life and Works of Alan Bennett
8
1
9
0
17
1
Tony Richardson
Cream
11
1
5
3
16
4
Gerald Chong
The Novels of Dan Brown
8
0
10
0
18
0
Ian Fennell
Herbert Von Karajan
8
0
9
1
17
1
Lynn Edwards
Mary of Teck
8
0
13
0
21
0

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

University Challenge Quarter Final Match: Edinburgh v. Birmingham

Edinburgh v. Birmingham

Already we’re on to the third of these quarter final matches. Edinburgh, represented by Luke Dale, Euan Smith, Emily Goddard and their captain, Joe Boyle, had shipped the highest aggregate of points of all of our quarter finalists in their first two matches, and shown great nerve in coming through a second round tie break against the Open University. Opponents Birmingham represented by Elliot Jan-Smith, Fraser Sutherland, Chris Rouse and skipper George Greenlees had scored the lowest aggregate of any of the quarter finalists. Tricky to pick a winner here, but for both teams it represented an excellent chance of getting one foot into the semis. 

Now, as it happened I did know that Ottawa was once called Bytown, but once JP mentioned the St. Lawrence river then it was a straight buzzer race, which was won by George Geenless. This brought up a set of bonuses on British Prime Ministers, of which they answered two. English philosopher – 1789 – sounds like Bentham, thought I. Chris Rouse thought the same for the second starter, and we were both right. Bonuses on the late Johan Cruyff brought another two correct answers, and pretty much a dream start for Birmingham. It was a start which became slightly less good as Frazer Sutherland interrupted incorrectly over the cause of death of various fictional characters. I had it from Mimi and Smike, and given a free run at the question Emily Goddard correctly supplied tuberculosis. 2 correct answers on the Mohs scale of hardness followed. Luke Dale knew that the Kroll process is used in the manufacture of titanium. Countries and their relative sizes produced a good and surprisingly gettable UC special set – guessable, but not for Edinburgh. No matter. So to the picture starter, which showed us the flag of the Basque country. More flags of autonomous Spanish regions provided five more points, and that was enough to give Birmingham a lead of 45 – 30 at the ten minute mark.  

The actor who played Thorin Oakenshield and Guy of Gisborne, Richard Armitage, gave Euan Smith his first starter. Now, for some reason I really enjoy the way that Euan Smith waggles his head from side to side and leans into the microphone when he answers a starter. Languages of the People’s Republic of China didn’t provide any help in the way of bonuses. George Greenlees knew that the German city which gives its name to a typed of defence against allegations is the Nuremberg – or orders are orders – defence. Methods in statistics meant nowt to me, but Birmingham managed to get 5 points from them. Now, I’ll be honest, I was surprised that the first two words of the next starter- prairie style – weren’t enough by themselves to give the teams the answer Frank Lloyd Wright. A moment or two later though I was delighted to see Euan Lloyd buzz in with the correct answer. The following bonuses were on Ruth Ozeki (yes, alright, Ruth Who?) and proved surprisingly guessable, enough to take Edinburgh into the lead. So to the music starter, and Euan Smith won the buzzer race to identify the not exactly dulcet tones of groany old Bruce Springsteen. In the music bonuses I rather enjoyed Edinburgh’s misidentification of Tina Turner as the late Bon Scott of AC/DC. Still, for all that they weren’t exactly despatching the bonuses to the boundary, you felt that Edinburgh were definitely starting to get the upper hand on the buzzer, and at the end of the day that is often decisive. George Greenlees threw caution to the wind on the starter which followed, asking for a Scottish philosopher, and paid 5 points for the privilege. This allowed Euan Smith in with his namesake Adam. Diaresis (gesundheit) brought just the one bonus. A UC special set on chemicals led to Emily Goddard supplying the correct answer of table salt. The human muscular system mightn’t have provided a lot in terms of points, but the lead was growing. Admittedly, not growing very quickly, but there was an air of inevitability about it. It seemed like a long time since Birmingham had managed to answer a starter, so it was something of a relief when Elliot Jan-Smith correctly identified words linked by a grave accent. A full house on words derived from the Aztec Nahautl language significantly narrowed the gap, and despite Edinburgh’s superiority on the buzzer they only led by 110 – 80 at the 20 minute mark.  

For the second picture starter both Fraser Sutherland and I identified a Caravaggio painting of Bacchus, God of wine (and not Toe-Bacchus, god of nicotine. Thank Mr. Browning, my A Level English teacher for that one.) They took a great full house of bonuses on more paintings of bacchanalia, and were right back in the competition, only 5 points behind. A great UC special starter saw Euan Smith correctly answered that two artists with names which were latin words for he remains and he advises were Manet and Monet, or perhaps vice versa. Works with titles that contain a member of the corvidae, or crow family were not, frankly, the hardest set of bonuses we’ll ever hear, and at last Edinburgh managed to post a full house. Asked for a specific type of sedimentary rock, George Greenlees supplied the correct answer of sandstone. They couldn’t manage a full house on mountains, but it narrowed the gape to less than a full house. Which lengthened as Euan Smith answered the next starter about a Robert Graves novel about Milton’s wife. No bonuses were taken on electronics. Mr. Smith’s superiority on the buzzer was underlined when he came in very early to identify Henry V for the next starter. A couple of bonuses on the Adriatic stretched the lead to 35 points. Luke Dale pretty much sealed the win with the term ‘placental mammals’ . Animals whose names contained repeated letter sequences provided much hilarity for Edinburgh, but not a lot of points. Of course it was that man Smith who supplied the answer to the next starter – Beaudrillard. A full house on pastries and pastry took them through the 200 mark and there was still time for a UC special, asking for the 1913 stage work whose protagonist has a surname rhyming with that of the winner of the 2012 Tour de France. Euan Smith worked it out extremely quickly – Wiggins – Higgins – Pygmalion. There was time for them to take one bonus on History, and then that was it, a win by 220 – 125. My gut feeling is that both teams will need to do better to reach the semis – Edinburgh in their bonus conversion rate, and Birmingham in their buzzer work. Time will tell.  

Jeremy Paxman Watch


When Edinburgh found they knew the corvidae bonuses they cut JP off halfway through the questions, and he whined at the injustice – You might at least have let me finish.  

Jez, please try a little harder, mate, for I’m seriously thinking about dropping this section of the reviews for good.  

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

Strudel is actually the German for whirlpool.


Friday, 3 February 2017

University Challenge Quarter Final match: Warwick v. Emmanuel, Cambridge


The form book, prior to the start of this contest, suggested a win for Warwick over the hardened battlers of Emmanuel. The Warwick team of Sophie Hobbs, Sophie Rudd, Thomas Van and skipper, former Countdown champion Giles Hutchings had looked to be one of the most impressive while climbing the foothills of the competition, while Emmanuel’s team of Tom Hill, Leah Ward, Bruno Barton-Singer and their irrepressible captain Bobby Seagull had taken a rather more difficult route. Yet Emma had already shown that they could cope well with being underdogs against SOAS in their previous contest, and only last week we saw one much fancied team beaten by a team with a less impressive record. What price lightning striking twice?

For the first question both teams demonstrated their nerve by holding off the buzzers until it became obvious, when it asked which coin replaced the old shilling. Sophie Rudd, very much Warwick’s star player in previous performances, won the buzzer race to supply the answer – 5 pence. This brought up a set of bonuses on tall structures on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 2 were taken. Thomas Van recognised a quote describing Montesquieu, earning bonuses on trees and shrubs. On these they failed to add to their score. Thomas Van took his second starter in a row, knowing that Johannes Brahms was the composer once called the ‘soul of Vienna’. Mountains in Hinduism made up for the previous set of bonuses and returned a full house. We’d reached the first picture starter, and so far Emma had been outbuzzed by Warwick. Early days yet, of course, but their fingers must have been twitching to get into the action at this stage. A real UC special came up. We saw the word Soome. When JP said that this was the name of an EU member country, well, I worked out that it must be Finland. However, this was not written in Finnish, and I hadn’t a Scooby in which language it was written. It was Sophie Rudd who did, suggesting that it was written in Estonian. Maybe it was my imagination, but there seemed to be a touch of disbelief in JP’s voice as he confirmed her answer was correct. More of the same provided no more correct answers for the bonuses. Now, off the top of my head I couldn’t give the symbols of elements 18 and 19, but as soon as JP said that they make up the name of an object constructed in the Book of Genesis I’d have been straight in with Ark. Sometimes an answer is so overwhelmingly likely that even though you don’t know it for certain you just have to take a flyer on it. Sophie Hobbs was first in, but didn’t get it, allowing Bruno Barton-Singer to break Emma’s duck. Science in the 17th century surprised me by giving me two correct Science answers. Emmanuel managed a full house. This made some impression on Warwick’s lead, but the 10 minute mark saw the score at 65 – 25, which was some indication of Warwick’s domination of the buzzer to this point.

A great interruption from Leah Ward to identify Asquith as the Prime Minister when “Sons and Lovers” was published kept Emmanuel moving forward. The 1922 General Election provided a difficult set of bonuses. I only managed the Moseley question, to which Bobby used the good old quizzer’s tactic of answering Smith, in the grounds that it will be right a little more often than ‘I don’t know’ . On the next question Tom Hill got his buzzing tactics absolutely right, coming in the moment that the answer, India, became clear. The Solar System saw them take two, but there was a definite chance of a full house there. Never mind, they were now just a couple of answers away from taking the lead. I understood the words – which Greek letter – and hardly any of the others in the next question, but Bruno Barton-Singer knew it was eta. The greek dramatist Aeschylus provided a rather gentle set, all of which Emmanuel grabbed with both hands, as they forged ahead, establishing a lead of 15. The pendulum, it seemed, had well and truly swung. And then proceded to swing back as a rush of blood to the head saw Bobby buzz in very early on the music starter, misidentifying the work of Delibes as that of Tchaikovsky. This allowed his opposite number Giles Hutchings in. More pizzicato interludes filed to provide any more points, but the Emmanuel lead had been cut to five. Bobby came in too early on the next question, sacrificing that lead, while Sophie Rudd gave the correct answer of Halstad. No, me neither. A set of bonuses of pairs of place names of which the final letters of the first place make the first letters of the name of the second required a knowledge of the states of India which neither of us possessed. Sophie Rudd returned the favour to Emmanuel by coming in too early on the next question, which wanted part of the name of the third son of Adam and Eve. She offered – eth – Tom Hill offered just -th -, and that took the points. Emmanuel were back in the lead which they increased by answering a bonus on the French thinker Lacan. I love watching Bobby waiting for the starters. His arm and hand hover over the buzzer, waiting to slam it through the desk at the slightest provocation, and he did just this when he recognised a definition of GDP. This took Emmanuel into triple figures, but some medical thingummy bonuses provided no more points. All of which meant that Emmanuel had extended the lead to 20 points by the 20 minute mark. What a good contest.

In both their previous matches Emmanuel had pulled away in the back straight of the final lap. Would they manage to make it three from three by doing the same? It looked a distinct possibility when Bruno Barton-Singer identified the second picture starter as a still from The West Wing, and gave the name of its creator, Aaron Sorkin. Three more of the same saw Bobby change his default ‘not a scooby’ answer to Jones, then take 5 points for knowing the creator and showrunner of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In all fairness, it was a great early buzz from Bobby that identified James Clark Maxwell as the author of an 1865 work on electromagnetic theory. You had the sense that the familiar scent of victory was in Emmanuel’s collective nostrils by this point. Bobby certainly seemed very pleased with the answer himself, and even JP seemed a little amused by his extrovert joy. FA Cup venues added a further 10 points, and gave Emmanuel the cushion of a 55 point lead. Game over? No, not necessarily, but the elastic binding the teams together was showing the strain. Both teams seemed reluctant to guess the third novel of Kazuo Ishiguro, and so it was Tom Hill who came in with the percentage answer of Remains of the Day, which was correct. Oh good, thought I – more Science bonuses. Actually to be fair all the Vs did give me viscous and valency, but not vacuole. Emmanuel now had precisely twice as many points as Warwick, and the elastic had snapped. Another Greek letter used to denote something or other in Science (change the record for gawd’s sake!) gave Bruno Barton-Singer the chance to give the correct answer – tau. Artistic depictions of Saint Sebastian saw Emmanuel take two bonuses to increase the lead to 100. Poor old Warwick were out on their feet at this stage of the contest. There was an inevitability to the way that Bobby came in early to correctly answer that the architectural feature linking a number of buildings is a dome. The Holy Roman Empire and its Electors gave 2 bonuses which brought up Emmanuel’s 200. Warwick avoided a shut out for the crucial last period of the contest when Sophie Rudd came in with an interruption to say that the longest nerve in the leg is the sciatic. Sisters in 20th century literature might well have taken them into triple figures, but the gong denied them that crumb of comfort. In the end Emmanuel were the emphatic winners by 200 – 90. Hard lines Warwick, but that last lap finishing kick by Emmanuel is proving harder and harder for opposing teams to cope with. Well played Emmanuel – who proved they need fear no one in their next match.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nothing to see here. Go back to your lives, citizens.

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

Salvadra persica is otherwise known as the toothbrush tree