Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Only Connect - Round One Match Two

Europhiles v. Relatives

I’m a bit of Europhile myself on the QT, so I leant a little towards Douglas Thomson, Khuram Rashid and captain Mark Seager. On the other hand, two of the Relatives, husband and wife Hamish and Davina Galloway are, I think, closer to my own vintage, and so, together with Davina’s son Nick Latham they were also deserving of my support. Or, to put it another way, I was sharing the jinx around equally for this show. Everything to play for and nothing to lose, because nobody goes home after just one show. Let’s get on with it, then.

Round One _ What’s the Connection?

The Relatives began the game choosing Twisted Flax. The Teletubbies appeared, and possible link overload precluded any chance for me of going for a 5 pointer. I had it with a tub of Vitalite – altogether (to the tune of The Israelites) – Oh – oh – Vitalite!. They all feature the sun with a face in it, I suggested. The third clue - Nuclear Power? No thanks – confirmed it. Incidentally when I was a lad I helped out on a milk round, and one of the houses in Grosvenor Road in Hanwell always had a VW camper van parked outside it, which had the same sign in its rear window, except that it was in German. Atomkraft? Nein Danke. Why I’ve never forgotten that I cannot possibly say. The last clue was the Flag of Argentina, with its Sol de Mayo. The Relatives just weren’t there, and went for circles, while the Europhiles said the sun was the connection which was enough for a bonus. Victoria asked a question which I cannot believe that I have never asked myself (although I haven’t)- why would the Vitalite sun wear sunglasses – to protect itself from what? Itself? The Euros opted for Water, and received New Year: 1 am – Chinese New Year: 1am – at this point I was barking up the wrong tree with pub closing hours – Diwali: 1 am didn’t help, but Novermber 5th: Midnight – certainly did. I guessed that this was ‘no more fireworks’ time in the UK. The Euros just didn’t have it, but the Rels were happy to take back the bonus on that one. For their second set they opted for Eye of Horus. Flattened note didn’t help any of us. However the second clue – Polyommatus Icarus I knew. It’s the scientific name of the butterfly commonly known, appropriately enough, as the common blue. I wasn’t confident enough to nail my colours to the mast just yet, but blue was certainly in my thinking. The third clue was Hugh Laurie’s Sporting Prize, and we know that Hugh Laurie won a Cambridge blue for rowing. So blue seemed right. The last clue of rare steak gave it to the Rels, who had judiciously hung on until they could get the right answer. Two Reeds gave the music question to the Euros. I think it fell right for them as well. Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that Motorhead should be written Motörhead, but the Rels did, and off just two clues they had groups whose names should be written with an umlaut. Great shöut. Oh dear, Davina of the Rels flirted with disaster by failing to voice the second vowel of Horned Viper. In the end though they understood a set of pictures all connected with the name Watson. This left the Euros with Lion. Now, this was a tricky set where the meaning of the words was unconnected, but the words themselves were – so we had Goran Ivanišević – United Arab Emirates – unimaginative – verisimilitude. Neither team had the fact that each clue is either – vowel – consonant – vowel – consonant etc. or vice versa. One of those ‘staring you in the face’ sets that you just are not going to get. This mean that at the end of the first round the Euros led with 4 to the Rels’ 3.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

The Rels kicked off with Eye of Horus, and a lovely set, if you’re an Olympic Games fan. 2000 Beijing actually gave me a big clue, because I knew that the runner up city for the location of the 2000 Olympics was Beijing. Which, working forwards, would give 2012: Paris. Now, I didn’t know that in 2004, Rome was the runner up city, but I was sticking with my answer. Toronto 2008 confirmed I had a five pointer. Neither team really quite had a handle on it. So the Euros picked two reeds and uncovered a set of pictures for their pains. The first was Laa-Laa of the tellytubbies. The second turned out to be scree. The last was Hawaii. Now, if you had the second two you had a chance – but I didn’t. Neither team had the double vowel connection, which would have been solved with the word kangaroo. Once again Davina invited bad luck by leaving the second vowel of horned viper unvoiced. I will admit that I didn’t have it from Edward Richard George, but I started to have an inkling with James Harold, and at Leonard James I shouted ‘Margaret Hilda!’ at the screen. They didn’t hear me, and in fact neither team had the answer. They are first and middle names of successive Prime Ministers – Heath, Wilson – Callaghan and then Thatcher. Round Two is often the round that sorts the men out from the goats, or the sheep from the boys, or whatever, and it was certainly giving all sorts of problems to our teams. Now, Twisted Flax gave me a second five pointer. Michael Rosen was a Children’s Laureate, so I thought that if in doubt, go for the current one, and so offered Malorie Blackman. The Euros took another, Anthony Browne, to be certain. And then gave the correct answer. Water gave the Rels Guanaco. I didn’t get a five pointer on this. However Llama for the second clue did prompt me to chance my arm with Bactrian Camel, that being the next but one largest of the camelids. That was right, and the Rels took it after being given Dromedary for the third clue. Left with no choice but Lion, the Rels took Zinedine Zidane – Kaká – and at this point began barking up the world footballer of the year tree, when they should have been looking at its neighbour, the most expensive transfer tree. This let the Rels in for a bonus, and after Cristiano Ronaldo they knew that the next highest transfer record was set by Gareth Bale. That was enough to bring the gap between the teams back to one point, as the Euros had 7 to the Rels’ 6.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Euros plumped for the Lion wall. They probably wished that they’d gone the other way. From early doors they saw a set of words which, when preceding the word – City make up the name of a fictional city, but just couldn’t isolate the right ones. To be honest they struggled to see any of the other sets, and when time ran out none of the lines had been resolved. When they were, the Euros saw that Mark – Jam – Fields and Hill can each follow the word Strawberry, Chantilly – Princess – Downton and Blonde they guessed as types of lace. A set of diamond cuts followed in the shape of cushion – emerald – pear and oval, which left the cities – in this case Sin – Gotham – Dark and Cloud. So at least 4 points had been salvaged, and whatever happened they wouldn’t be looking down the barrel of a 9 point deficit going into the vowels.

I did think that the Water wall was perhaps slightly kinder than the previous, but the Rels couldn’t untangle it. That might be the first time that neither team has untangled any of the lines on their walls in the same show. The Rels certainly could see at least two of the categories, but they just wouldn’t resolve. Once the whole wall was resolved they quickly saw that Monk – Tatum – Peterson and Waller was a set of jazz pianists. Wizard – Bard – Psion and Paladin none of us knew as Dungeons and Dragons character classes. I bet my old mate KD Johnson had that one if he was watching. They’d known there was a whisky set there which just wouldn’t quite untangle for them. This consisted of Mac – Galore – a Go Go – Priest. Off the point completely, it was interesting to see Galore and A Go Go both being part of this set. Whisky Galore is of course that perfect Ealing (yay, Ealing!)comedy based on the book by Compton Mackenzie. When it was released in France it was titled Whisky A Go Go - after the famous Paris nightclub. This left another set which again, they had nearly but not quite untangled, Powerbook – Performa – Lisa – Newton – all former Apple products. All of which meant that with 3 points, the Rels now trailed the Euros by 9 to 11.

Round Four

Alright, this wasn’t the highest scoring round we’ve ever seen, but it was close and interesting. The first set was Japanese cities, and it fell 3 – 0 to the Euros. They were suddenly very much in the driving seat, and the Rels needed a good set of their own. Euphemisms for Go To The Lavatory followed and fell 2 apiece. Scarf wearers fell 3- 1 to the Rels, and that was it. Incidentally, there was some fine black humour in the choice of Isadora Duncan as a famous scarf wearer, bearing in mind the manner of her death. The wall round had been a long one, so those three vowel categories were all we had time for. This sealed a victory for the Euros, by 17 to 14. Good game.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

University Challenge - Champion of Champions

I won’t lie to you, I’d been looking forward to this. Here’s the basic premise : - there are just two institutions that have won University Challenge 4 times since the commencement of the Paxman era in 1994. These are Magdalen College, Oxford, (97,98,04 and 11) and University of Manchester (06,09,12,13). Now, I like Magdalen, and I like Manchester – but which one is better? There’s only one way to find out. . . Both institutions fielded a team comprising of one member of each of their winning teams. So for Magdalen we had Matthew Chan from 2011, Freyja McClements from 2004, Sarah Healey from 1998, and their skipper, Jim Adams from 1997. Fittingly each of the four team members had captained their team in their winning year. Manchester’s team consisted of Henry Pertinez from 2009, Gareth Aubrey from 2006, Adam Barr from 2013 and their captain Tristan Burke from 2012. My family had already made it clear that I was to watch this show upstairs since none of them wanted to watch with me, otherwise they would have heard me say that Manchester for my money were favourites, because they had players I know to be some very good quizzers indeed. Mind you, nobody ever got rich by following up on my tips.

Both teams sat on their buzzers like good old handsm until the first starter eventually revealed the words ‘monarch’, ‘dissolution’ and ‘quasi monastic establishments’. Magdalen clearly all went for their buzzers as well, but it was Tristan from Manchester who won the race to answer Henry VIII. Bonuses on Churchill’s descriptions of his contemporaries gave us both a full set of bonuses. There was a fantastic UC special starter, where the character who marries Sebastian in Twelfth Night, and the scientist who wrote ‘Principia Mathematica’ together with the given name of Tony Blair’s predecessor gave Tristan Olivia Newton John. Art in literature provided Manchester with a second consecutive full set, and they had yet to drop a point. That happened with the next starter, though. Adam Barr was in too early with the creator of the skeleton for the Statue of Liberty, and supplied the name Bartholdi, the sculptor of the statue itself rather than the frame. Given the full question Sarah Healey was able to supply the correct answer of Gustave Eiffel. A tough set of bonuses on cosmology saw them answer just the one correctly. Never mind, they were off the mark. A very fine picture starter followed. A number of countries on a map of the world were highlighted. The country with the largest area, Russia, was labelled with the name of the country with the highest population, China. You see how it works? Canada was highlighted. Now, Canada has the second largest area. So working by the example, it needed to be labelled with the name of the second most populous country – India. I’m not sure Jim Adams quite understood how this worked, since he actually buzzed in with the answer Canada. Gareth from Manchester supplied the right one. The bonuses were more of the same, and Manchester took the lot. Very impressive. We were closer to 11 minutes than 10 after this set, and Manchester had an impressive lead of 70 to 15.

The next starter was something about a scientist I’d never heard of, and neither team managed the answer. Gareth Aubrey recognized a description of the conversational filler ’like’, and this earned a set of bonuses on Belgian cheese. ‘Limberger’! I shouted, being pretty certain that it would be the answer to one of the three bonuses, and being equally certain that I wouldn’t get any of the others. Well, as it happened I did know that the third battle of Ypres was the battle of Passchendaele, not least because my great granddad was killed on the first day of the battle, however I digress. Blindingly good on the bonuses so far, Manchester once again took a full set. For the next starter Gareth was the first to recognize a description of the Brandenburg Concertos. Bonuses on WEEE – as you well know, that stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment brought their incredible run on the bonuses to an end, although they still managed one bonus, which took their total to 110, and their lead to 95. Now, I don’t know about the tropopause, but Gareth does, and that was what it needed to answer the next starter. Poor old Magdalen were being trounced on the buzzer up to this point, and there was seemingly nothing they could do about it. Asian Maritime empires promised little, yet Manchester still delivered a full set. This was the cue for JP to unleash the kiss of death on Magdalen, by telling them “Plenty of time left.” You know that you’re on the wrong end of a hiding when he starts telling you that. Being as it was a special occasion, the boffins who set the questions had even come up with a UC special on the music starter. Two pieces of music were played in quick succession, and the teams had to identify the nationality that linked both composers. As soon as Greig’s ‘Morning Mood’ was played Henry Pertinez was first in with Norwegian. Only one bonus followed, but that was enough to push Manchester to 150. Neither team quite managed the French verb rechercher for the next starter. Neither team could answer what the letters NN in the acronym ICANN stand for. Names and Numbers apparently. It’s an internet thing. Finally a member of Magdalen threw caution to the winds and buzzed very early to correctly identify several words that rhyme with scrabble. Sarah Healey thus earned bonuses on the locomotives in the Rev. W. Awdry’s Thomas the Tank engine series. Based on clues, they had to give the names of three of the engines, and their colours or other designations. . We both had the first two, but I thought that the last one was controversial. It was obviously Gordon – we both had that. However we were both wrong with blue. Now, it’s true that Gordon’s designation is certainly Gordon the Big Engine. However, the fact is that Gordon’s colour is blue. The specific wording of the question was ‘ their colour OR designation. ‘As it happened, what was wanted for all three was the designation, and only the colour when this actually was the designation. Oh well, grumble over. After 20 minutes the score was 145 to 35 to Manchester.

I was very pleased with myself for getting libation and libration, which was the next starter to fall to Manchester, as Adam Barr answered it correctly. Bonuses on electricity did nothing for me, but provided Manchester with another correct answer. The second picture starter showed a painting of a scene from mythology, and I recognized Penelope weaving her father’s death shroud. As did Sarah Healey, thus earning three more paintings of figures from the Odyssey. A full set made their score begin to look a bit more healthy. Full marks to the setters for asking about the song with the lyric “The juice of a carrot, the smile of a parrot, a little drop of claret, anything that rocks” Tristan was the first to recognize Ian Dury’s wonderful “Reasons to be cheerful part 3”. A good UC special set on chemical symbols followed. For each one the team were given definitions of two words, the last two letters of which formed a symbol of a chemical element. They had to identify the elements. I only had molybdenum and lithium, but they had all three. Respect. Sarah Healey, fighting a valiant rearguard action for Magdalen, identified the term vexatious, as applied to litigation. Maria Dickin and the Dickin Medal brought two bonuses, and took their score to 80. With only a short time remaining, the question was whether they would be able to get the starter and two bonuses they required to take their score to triple figure respectability. It wasn’t the next starter. This fell to Adam Barr, who was in very quickly with the Monty Hall question. Fair enough. Two bonuses on linguistic typology provided them with a further ten points – kudos to the setter who slipped the Yoda question into that one.This pushed Manchester through the 200 barrier. Something about matrices followed. The answer was zero as Henry Pertinez knew. Epidemiology provided us both with two, before the gong interrupted the last. The final score, then was 230 to 80 to Manchester.

Many congratulations to Manchester, and commiserations to Magdalen, but then let’s be honest, this was a special show, a bit of fun, and not one member of either of those teams had anything to prove to anyone. A good show, highly enjoyable.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nobody was going to get off too lightly in this special show. When Tristan answered the Olivia Newton John starter, JP hailed his answer with the grunt, “I see you haven’t learned any shame in the intervening years.”. Charming. I’m sure that Miss Newton John is a big fan of yours too, Jez.

After taking a brilliant full set on Asian Maritime Empires, which meant that they had a lead of three figures, our hero was moved to observe, “They’re going to get embarrassed about looking a bit keen very shortly.” No they’re not, Jeremy! These are all University Challenge winners! Looking a bit keen goes with the territory.

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

The term vexatious is applied to litigation initiated without sufficient cause, in order to harass or subdue an adversary.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Mastermind 2014 Grand Final Preview - (take two)

I can only apologise to those of you who read my previous posting of this preview. Dan Adler very kindly pointed out to me that I had my finalists wrong, and had not done Brian Chesney his due. Brian – I can only apologise. So then, let’s have a look at the finalists: -

As you can see, we have Brian Chesney out heading the table with 24 in his semi, while only two points covers all the other 5 contenders. In this way it resembles last year, where we had a similar situation. One of the things I always look at when I’m trying to weigh up who I think are the most likely winners of a Mastermind Grand Final is the GK scores of both first round and semi. While you can have a ‘lucky’ set of questions in one of the rounds, the chances of a contender posting two good GK scores without really having a very good general knowledge are slight. On this score, I like the look of Brian Chesney and Roderick Cromar, scorers of our two highest semi GK rounds among the finalists. This isn’t, though, always the most reliable of indicators – last year being a case in point. In last year’s final we saw Aidan McQuade post a very good GK score, to move from joint third at halfway, and overcome a three point deficit. Aidan’s GK scores in his two previous shows hadn’t really given any indication that this was likely to happen. So working on that basis, all of our finalists reached double figures in their semi-final GK round, and if one of them hits an absolutely purple patch, then it could be anybody’s game.

There is also the question of previous experience to throw into the mix. I have gone on record as saying that I do believe that it gets easier to handle a round in the chair each time you do it. That’s just my opinion, and as always, feel free to disagree. Still, if there’s any validity to this point of view, then Hamish Cameron could do very well. Hamish is, I think, the most experienced Masterminder of them all, and certainly is either record holder, or joint record holder for the number of semi-final appearences. I’d be delighted for Hamish if he won, and believe me, if he gets it right in GK he can certainly do it. I refrain from tipping him for the win, though, because his scores can be a little inconsistent on GK. Michael McPartland has done his time at the broadcast quiz coalface as well, being a double semi finalist, and a competitor in Only Connect and Brain of Britain as well. Clive Dunning has also contested Brain of Britain, and Roderick Cromar, University Challenge. No shortage of experience then, among our finalists.

As much as last year, then, I think it’s pointless trying to pick a winner from this field. All of them are capable of winning this contest if they have prepared their specialist subject thoroughly, and if the question in the GK round fall the right way. That’s a big if, and if you can predict with 100% certainty who is going to win, then predict next week’s lottery numbers for me as well for an encore. SO nobody gets burdened with the Clark tip this year, because I can’t call it. Who gets burdened with the Clark support, though? It’s very hard for me, because I know for a fact that we have at least 4 LAM readers in the final, any of whom would be a very worthy winner. I don’t know whether Hamish ever reads LAM, but I can’t help wanting him to do well as well. As I think I’ve said before, Hamish was the stand in for my final, despite having posted the third highest score of the semis. I admire his perseverance and determination, to keep going in pursuit of the title despite a number of semi final set backs. As for Brian, I wish him every success as well. Gentlemen, I wish you every success, and can only hope that you all enjoy(ed) your final as much as I enjoyed mine.

In The News

In the News

Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

1. David Stone
2. Wilson Kipsang
3. Edna Kiplagat
4. Chimerica
5. ZaZZZ
6. Iain Corby
7. Robert Berry
8. Jan Tipper and Barb Burden
9. Bluefin 21
10. Stefano Domenicali
11. Robert Hannigan
12. Nick Martin
13. M & M Hair Salon, South Ealing
14. MV Sewol
15. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
16. Lee Joon-Seok
17. Kepler 186f
18. Paul Flowers

In Other News

1. Why did sending an email make news among the scout organization?
2. Which city allowed foreign competitors to take place in its marathon for the first time last week?
3. Which position did Mo Farah finish the London Marathon in?
4. Which controversial plan for the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games has been scrapped due to local opposition?
5. Who won the US Masters?
6. What was the score in the FA Cup semi final between Hull and Sheffield United?
7. What was the score in the match between Liverpool and Man City?
8. Which TV presenter was rapped for adding to a teenage guest’s distress?
9. The author of ‘Uses of Literacy’ passed away last week. Who was he?
10. Who confirmed that he was quitting mainly due to comments about his age?
11. Which very popular website was hacked last week, amid concerns that details of subscribers may have been stolen?
12. What punishment has Silvio Berlusconi received?
13. Who was charged last week with a further count of sexual assault?
14. Who was accused of, and denied, misuse of expenses last week?
15. Which 88 year old received her Damehood last week?
16. Which F1 team lost their appeal over a disqualification at the Australian GP?
17. Which infamous prison was temporarily closed last week?
18. Inhabitants of which UK city have the lowest average life expectancy?
19. Who apologized for driving off after hitting another motorist’s car and not stopping?
20. Who is selling off his rarest red wines?
21. Which musician received $10,000 privacy damages?
22. Former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg has pledged to spend up to $50 million to support which cause?
23. What was the score in the match between Man City and Sunderland
24. Who scored the winning goal in the Copa del Rey?
25. Chelsea Clinton announced what last week?
26. Which news reader and presenter announced that he is suffering from bowel cancer?
27. Which daily newspaper announced to its journalists that it will not be joining the new press regulatory body?
28. In which country was a 7.3 magnitude earthquake recorded?
29. Which company announced that it is to open its first new store in 6 years?
30. Brentford FC have won promotion to which division?
31. Who has been reappointed as England cricket head coach?

Answers to News Questions

In the News

Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

1. Chris Hughton
2. Pineau de Re
3. Leighton Aspell
4. Luke Juckett
5. Michael D. Higgins
6. Jack Sexty
7. Andrew Bush
8. Zoe Smith
9. The Kelpies
10. Michael Adebolajo
11. Asseem Allam
12. Winnie
13. Nicky Jacobs
14. Michael Fabricant
15. Sajid Javid
16. Stephen Colbert
17. Seamus Daly
18. Alex Hribal
19. Gerrie Nel
20. Asafa Powell
21. Bill Haas
22. Chloe Campbell
23. James Hellwig

In Other News

1. What was the score between Arsenal and Everton?
2. – and Spurs and Sunderland?
3. Which Hollywood film star passed away aged 93?
4. Which former cabinet minister and conservative peer called for Maria Miller’s resignation?
5. In which city was the half marathon cancelled when water bottle supplies failed to turn up? The runners did it anyway.
6. Who won the University Boat Race – and the reserve crew race – and the Women’s race?
7. In the Heineken Cup what was the score between Toulon and Leinster?
8. – and Saracens and Ulster?
9. And Clermont Auvergne and Leicester?
10. And Munster and Toulouse?
11. Who won the Bahrain GP?
12. Who won the Women’s T20 World Cup?
13. – and the Men’s?
14. What was the result of GB’s Davis Cup tie v. Italy?
15. Which show entered the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful reality TV format of all time?
16. There are no British writers on the shortlist for which literary prize?
17. Who is to present a Radio 2 show about Paris in May?
18. What was the Champions’ League score between Real Madrid and Dortmund
19. And Chelsea and PSG?
20. And Man Utd. And Bayern?
21. And Atletico Madrid and Barcelona?
22. What has Tim Sherwood been offered what at Spurs?
23. Scientific evidence last week suggested that what was considerably older than has been previously supposed?
24. Who will be driving for Nissan in the British GT championship?
25. Kevin Pietersen arrived to play for what team in the IPL?
26. What is the name of the Culture Secretary who quit last week – eventually.
27. Which company recalled 35,000 cars in the UK last week?
28. Who announced she is leaving Eastenders to apparently seek a career in Hollywood?
29. Who became only the second woman to be named among Wisden’s 5 cricketers of the year?
30. Name the other 4 cricketers on the list?
31. The government have been criticized for stockpiling which drug?
32. The UN approved a peacekeeping force for which African country last week?
33. Which politician was cleared of all charges in court last week?
34. Cardiff University delayed the announcement of whose appointment as their Chancellor?
35. Which actress is to receive a BAFTA Fellowship?
36. Sue Townsend passed away last week . Who was her most famous creation?
37. Which singer won a court case to keep documents given to him by Martin Luther King?
38. Who led the US Masters after round two?


Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

1. Sacked as manager of Norwich City
2. Horse that won the Grand National
3. Jockey who won the Grand National
4. Cambridge rower whose oar was struck during the boat race – nearly fell out of boat
5. Irish President, first to pay official state visit to UK
6. 1st person to complete a full marathon on a pogo stick
7. British millionaire murdered in a Spanish villa
8. Won European weightlifting bronze
9. Giant horse head scultpures in Falkirk
10. Appealed against full life sentence for the murder of Lee Rigby
11. Owner of Hull, refused permission to change his team name to Hull Tigers
12. Dachshund selected to be Britain’s first cloned dog
13. He was acquitted of the charge of murdering PC Keith Blakelock
14. He was sacked as Tory party vice chairman after tweeting ‘About time’ when Maria Miller resigned
15. New Culture Secretary
16. Chosen to replace David Letterman on US TV
17. Charged with Omagh bombing
18. Charged with the Pennsylvania school knife attack
19. Prosecutor in trial of Oscar Pistorius
20. Jamaican sprinter former world record holder given 18 month drug ban
21. Leader after 1st round of US Masters
22. Australia’s ‘Maddie’ – child found after 3 days
23. Former US wrestler – the Ultimate Warrior – died 54

In Other News

1. 3 – 0 Everton
2. 5 – 1 Spurs
3. Mickey Rooney
4. Lord Tebbit
5. Sheffield
6. Oxford – Oxford (Goldie) and Oxford
7. 29 – 14 Toulon
8. 17 – 15 Saracens
9. 22 – 16 Clermont
10. 47 – 13 Munster
11. Louis Hamilton
12. Australia bt. England
13. Sri Lanka bt. India
14. Italy 3 – GB 2
15. Britain’s Got Talent
16. The Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction
17. Carla Bruni
18. 2 – 0 Dortmund – Real win 3 – 2 on aggregate 19. 2 – 0 Chelsea – 3 – 3 on aggregate – Chelsea through on away goals rule
20. 3 – 1 Bayern Munich
21. 1 – 0 Atletico – 2 – 1 on aggregate
22. His old job back in the summer
23. Offa’s Dyke
24. Sir Chris Hoy
25. Delhi Daredevils
26. Maria Miller
27. Toyota
28. Patsy Palmer
29. Charlotte Edwards
30. Joe Root – Ryan Harris – Chris Rogers – Shikhar Dawan
31. Tamiflu
32. Central African Republic
33. Nigel Evans
34. Griff Rhys Jones
35. Julie Walters
36. Adrian Mole
37. Harry Belafonte
38. Bubba Watson

Friday, 18 April 2014

Mastermind - Semi Final 6

Last night’s semi brought to an end this round of the competition, and now we know who the 6 finalists are. Before we get onto that, though, let’s have a look at how our 5 contenders for the final slot fared in their first round heats.

Well, on paper two of last night’s contenders looked to be favourite. Cliff Challenger and Neil Wright were actually the top two performers in the first round. Their GK scores were significantly higher than those of the other contenders. Although having one good GK round in the heat doesn’t mean that you can do it all over again in the semi, it is at least an indication that you have the potential to do so. Worth noting too is our own Daniel Adler, comfortably placed in the outsider position, with absolutely nothing to lose.

Lawrence Cook won heat 17 back in December with one of my favourite specialist subjects, Heavyweight Boxing 1960 – 2000. I’d thought at the time that his 11 was a good score, but there had been scope for him to have achieved a couple of more points on that particular round. Last night Lawrence opted for chess champion Bobby Fishcer. I was pleased with myself for managing 2 of these. Lawrence’s round somehow looked a little better than his score of 7, and I did think in my heart of hearts that this wouldn’t be enough to give him a realistic chance of a win.

Neil Wright won that amazing Heat 23, where no less than 3 of the top 10 scores of the whole series so far were set. Back then he was answering on French Wines of the Rhone Valley. He scored 13 that night, although it wasn’t a perfect round, and he had one pass. Last night Neil opted for the Life and Times of Cesare Borgia. This time it was a perfect round of 11 and no passes. To put that into perspective, in this series we’ve seen that anything in double figures in a 2 minute round has been a good score. Suddenly the job had become a lot harder for the other 4 contenders.

LAM reader Daniel Adler offered us Puccini in Heat 10. Now, sometimes the difference between winning and losing is in managing to dredge up a wrong answer in order to prevent a pass. Daniel won his heat by virtue of having only 1 pass, as the runner up, Richard Holness, incurred 2 of them. That night Daniel scored 9 on specialist. Last night, answering on the Philip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler. Once again he scored 9 points. This 9, though, was scored off just 90 seconds. It didn’t put him in the lead, but it was a good score, and at the very least it gave him a fighting chance.

Julie Aris last took part in a semi final in 2012. In her first round heat this year she offered The Simon Serailler Novels of Susan Hil, and scored a very impressive 13. Tonight she was going to need a performance of that calibre, because past performances suggested that she wasn’t lilely to win on GK. Answering on Amelia Earhart, Julie never looked quite at ease with the subject, and like Lawrence’s, although it looked better than the score, the score was still 7 points.

I’ve always said that first round heat form can be notoriously unreliable as a guide to semi final form, but you’d still be forgiven for identifying Cliff Challenger as potential champion following his magnificent performance in Heat one. His 15 points on the Life and Career of Benjamin Britten looked very good – and as the series rolled on it came to look better and better, and his was the best performance in the whole of the first round. However, the fact is that in every series of Mastermind since I started compiling this blog, none of the players who achieved the top score in the first round have gone on to win the title. We’ve had a couple of second places, with Kathryn Johnson and Andy Tucker, but that’s about it. So Cliff had a lot to do if he was going to buck the trend. Sadly, he wasn’t going to do it this year by offering British Political History 1964 – 1990. I have a theory about what might have happened in this round. Asked what caused Jim Callaghan’s resignation in 1967, a slip of the tongue saw him give the answer ‘devolution’ rather than ‘ devaluation’. I think that this might have played on his mind for the rest of the round, because he missed what I thought were some gettable points, including the reason for Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Rejoice at that news’ comment. 6 points was not a disaster, but it was not enough to give him a realistic tilt at the win.

When he returned to the chair, Cliff had obviously made the decision to blast his way through the round, answering as quickly as he could, and passing those where he couldn’t come up with a plausible answer as quickly as possible. It is a valid tactic, and it saw him accrue 12 points to take him to 18. 12 is a good GK score in the context of this series, but while it was certainly good enough to push him higher up the leader board, it wasn’t going to be enough. In fact he was overtaken in the very next round. Lawrence Cook scored 12 in his GK round in his heat. This, you will recall, was off a two and half minute round. Last night he only scored one less, which actually made it a much better round considering that this was done off just 2 minutes. This put him level with Cliff on 18 points, but Lawrence had been more careful to avoid passes, and thus took the lead.

Last time that she passed this way, in her 2012 semi final, Julie Aris had, to use the vernacular, a bit of a ‘mare’ on GK, scoring 4. Fair play to her for having the determination to come back and have another go after what must have been a fairly daunting experience. It went better for her this time, but sadly, not by much, as she added 6 to her total to make 14. Now, sometimes you can think you’ve picked up clues to how well a contender is going to do from their body language, their posture and their facial expression, and you can get it completely wrong. At other times the camera doesn’t lie. Daniel Adler had obviously been really enjoying his semi, and his body language as he walked to the chair seemed to say – right, I’m up for this and I’ve got absolutely nothing to lose. What he produced was actually a better round than his GK round of his heat. In both he scored 12, but in the heat he incurred a pass, and of course he had an extra 30 seconds back then in which to do it. This was a terrific round, which served very well to do the necessary, that is, to put the last contender, Neil Wright, firmly within the corridor of uncertainty.

Put yourself in Neil Wright’s position. You have a brilliant specialist round, which means that you lead by 2 points. You know that you scored a magnificent 18 points on general knowledge in your first round heat. OK, so you have 30 seconds less in the round ahead of you now, but you only need 11 to do it. Well, I’ve been in a similar position myself, being the last contender to go in GK in a semi final, knowing that I would never have a better chance of getting to a Mastermind final, and that I only needed to come close to what I’d already achieved to do it. Believe me, that is a lot of pressure. Neil’s GK round wasn’t a bad round, but it needed to be a good one, and it just wasn’t quite. In the end the tape at the finish line was just approaching too quickly, and he added 9 to his total. Which meant that it is our own Daniel Adler who goes through to the Grand Final. Many , many congratulations, Daniel, and well done for proving that there are lies, damned lies, and first round statistics.

The Details

Lawrence CookBobby Fischer7 – 0 11 - 018 - 0
Neil WrightThe Life and Times of Cesare Borgia11 – 0 9 - 520 -5
Daniel AdlerPhilip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler9 – 0 12 - 021 - 0
Julie ArisAmelia Earhart7 – 0 7 - 614 - 6
Cliff ChallengerBritish Political History 1964 - 19976 - 112 - 418 - 5

Swings and Roundabouts

It’s probably wrong of me to say anything critical of last night’s quiz at the rugby club since we did actually win. But in the last two rounds there were just a couple of questions which illustrated some of the pitfalls the unwary question master can fall into. Last night’s question master (no names , no pack drill) sometimes has a habit of asking a greater number of what the ‘ells than the norm, and when giving the answer has been known to make the observation – “Nobody had this one right – I didn’t expect anyone to.” Well, last night’s quiz was, in my opinion a little uneven. There were quite a lot of what-the-‘ells, and too many –est questions for my liking. As the name suggests, an –est question asks for the biggest, longest, fastest etc. However, in amongst all of this, there were a couple of gems. I really liked this one : -
Who was the first English monarch following 1066 to reach the age of 70?
I like this sort of question, which you don’t know the answer to, but there’s enough in the question to allow you to use what you do know in order to have a decent stab at what you don’t. As it worked out, we didn’t have it right, for we put down Elizabeth I, who made it into her 70th year, but not as far as her 70th birthday. The answer given was King George II.

All well and good, but as I said, there were those two questions towards the end of the quiz which illustrted what can happen to the unwitting quiz master. The first one was this : -
Which US state is nicknamed The Pine Free State?
After a momentary pause for a flight of fancy about what a pine free state would actually be like, I suggested to the QM that he probably meant the Pine Tree state. As was his right, he insisted that Pine Free was what he actually had written down. I’m not proud of this, but I replied somewhat sarcastically, “Well, just have a think for a minute about which one would make sense, eh?” Now, we’ve all made similar errors in our time. However, the problem was that when the end of the round came, he gave the answer as “Vermont”. My immediate thought was “Isn’t Vermont the Green Mountain State?” My second thought was “Yes, it is.” I didn’t make an issue of it since some of the states do have more than one nickname. But I checked it up when I got home. As I’m sure that the majority of readers know, it is actually Maine.

The other question was more complicated than being an out and out wrong’un. The question was : -
In the Old Testament, in which modern day country would you find the site of Abraham’s birthplace?
You’ve probably already mentioned Ur of the Chaldees as quickly as I did last night. Now, we immediately plumped for Iraq, partly because this is the location of Sumerian Ur, and partly because this was the answer given last time I heard the question. So I was more than a little surprised when the answer was given as Turkey. This time I didn’t complain, but again, I did look it up when I got home. The problem is that there is no unanimous agreement as to where ‘Ur of the Chaldees’ actually was. Some identify it with Sumerian Ur, while others identify it with a place which is actually in modern Turkey. Mind you, other people identify it with sites in Syria and Armenia, so what can you do?