Saturday, 27 September 2008


Winning Streak

Enjoy the wins - because a winning streak doesn't last forever

The winning streak has continued throughout the week. On Sunday night John and I won every General Knowledge round at The Pheasant in Penyfai. The way it works in the Pheasant is that there are three prizes for each of 4 rounds. We sat out the Music Round, and then won the others.

Monday night meant Pill Harriers in Newport. The talented Mr. Sheldrick was not available, so Barry , Alan and I teamed up with Gordon and Liz ( who both took part in TVs Battle of the Brains ). Even though Richie Parnell, possibly the finest quizzer in South Wales, was playing for one of the other teams, everyone else was given a head start, apart from us. We ended up beating Richie by a couple of points. Probably the most satisfying win of the week, as well as being the only financially rewarding one.

Thursday night meant the Aberavon Rugby club, after an argument with my wife. You see the thing is that just down the road from us a local pub does a Thursday night quiz with a jackpot. I have never been to it, but they do say that its not much to write home about. The thing is the jackpot, which rolls over if its not won, is now up to about £300. Mary thinks that I should be using my skills and knowledge to have a pop at it.

I know where he is coming from, but I am not going to go on my own to a quiz I have never been before and probably won't enjoy. If my son Michael is available next Thursday, and if the jackpot is still there, then maybe I'll give it a shot.

Still, on Thursday night the opposition in the rugby club was thin on the ground. It was a shame since Brian produced a corker of a quiz. Sometimes he puts in some stuff which makes you scratch your head, and ask - 1) Who would ever know the answer to that ? and 2) Why the hell would anyone ever want to know the answer to that ? But he was back on form on Thursday, with a quiz like he used to do all the time.

Unfortunately the only teams there on Thursday were Anne, Dennis and me, the Boyks, and the three teams who nearly always come last, second to last, and third from last. As a result we either won every round outright or jointly with one other team. We won by 18 points. When you think there are 8 rounds usually worth 10 points each, you realise thats a thrashing. Answer of the night ? Well - we were asked this question : -

Question: In which welsh town can you find a statue of Lewis Carroll's White Rabbit ?

We didn't have a clue, so we plucked Llandudno out of thin air. Correct ! Sometimes it just works like that.

Anyway, I'm making the most of it. What you have to remember when you're on a good run is that each quiz you win takes you one step closer to the next quiz that you lose.

TV Quiz Watch

TV Watch - week of 26th September

The idiot schedulers at BBC Wales again decree that the viewers of Wales shall watch their Mastermind days after the rest of the UK. Thankfully, by the magic of the iplayer I get to see it only a couple of hours after everyone else.

This weeks contestants were, respectively , a retired accountant, a warehouse operative, a dentist and a teaching asistant, so another mixed bag. Once again an exclusively male contest. A quick check on my list of contenders reveal that three of them are defintitely Mastermind-virgins, but a John Webley took part in the epoch making 1980 series, which was won by the most lauded of all Mastermind champions, Fred Housego.

Roger Canwell coped well with one of those traditional Mastermind History subjects - the Late Stuart Age. 14 is highly respectable, and will always give you a chance if you can cut it at General Knowledge.

It began to look an even better score as the three others scored respectively 10, 12 and 11. Amazingly, I managed at home to answer at least one of the specialist questions or each contender, which is all the more remarkable since I have never heard of Robert Parker, let alone his Spencer novels, but a question about who wrote the poem "The Second Coming " - apparently used as the title of one of the novels - saw me home.

It was a pleasure to see heavyweight boxing feature again as Pete Wolstonecroft took on Joe Frazier, and at least managed to go the distance, scoring 11 with some quite obscure questions I thought.

Its all relative, and can only ever be a subjective concept, but I thought that the general knowledge rounds were a little easier than the norm this week, and scores were all fair, but none overly impressive. Roger Canwell scored a decent 13 to cement a comfortable win, and for the second week running I have to say that we have a winner who just might be able to win a semi final as well. time will tell.

For the record here are the details of this week's heat.

NameOccupationSpecialist SubjectSpecialist scoreGeneral Knowledge scoreTotal score
Roger CanwellRetired AccountantThe late Stuart Age 1660 - 171414 and 1 pass13 and 1 pass27 and 2 passes
Jack Pearce Warehouse OperativeSteely Dan10 and 2 passes 11 and 3 passes 21 and 5 passes
John WebleyDentist The Spencer Novels of Robert Parker 12 and 3 passes 11 and 1 pass 23 and 4 passes
Pete Wolstonecraft Teaching Assistant Joe Frazier 11 and 2 passes9 and 4 passes 20 and 6 passes

Only Connect - BBC Four 22nd September

If you haven't seen this, and since is on BBC Four you probably haven't, let me give you an idea what you're missing. This is a quite highbrow, difficult team quiz, and all the better for it.

The idea behind the show is all in the title. Two teams take turns to try to guess a connection between anything up to four clues. Five points are available if you can guess the connection from one clue, three from two clues, two from three clues, and one from all four.

Its all rather reminiscent of Radio 4's evergreen "Round Britain Quiz". Older viewers might also recall a short lived show from the early 80s called Connections. Presented by John Julius Norwich, teams led by Irene Thomas ( Round Britain Quiz - Brain of Britain ) and Christopher Hughes ( Mastermind - and later on Eggheads ) were given a series of clues to connections. It was rather good, too, although all for fun.

This is rather more serious, and the teams are seriously stacked with mental ability. I recognised my quiz acquaintance David Stainer on Monday night's show, and believe me, he knows his way around a quiz.

Gorgeous Victoria Coren presents the show, and she's a little bit stern, but obviously has the intellectual credentials to front a serious quiz show like this.

I really like this show. The connections range from quite difficult to fiendish, but then that's only right given the calibre of the teams who've already featured in the show. Its a highly engaging half hour, but I don't know how accessible it would be to non quizzers. So therefore its at home on BBC Four . We can only hope that it eventually transfers to terrestrial television and gets a chance to find an audience.

University Challenge - BBC Two - Monday 8pm

Kings College Cambridge played the University of Edinburgh. Paxman made a point of saying how long it has been since Kings College Cambridge even entered - at least 20 years. Then he reminded us all that Margaret Mountfield - sir Alan Sugar's female henchperson in "The Apprentice" - observed in the latest series that Edinburgh University isn't what it was.

They're obviously doing something right . though, as Edinburgh streaked off to a good lead. However King's came beck to make it the very best match of this series so far. With no more than a couple of minutes to go, the scores were tied at 180 each. Quite literally it came down to who answered the last starter, and it was Edinburgh's captain who managed it. The match ended 190 to Edinburgh, and 180 to King's.

Paxman sounded absolutely sincere when he said "Well that was a great match - thank you both very much indeed. " Amen to that.

Brain of Brains

OK , so its not television, but last week but one saw the triennial contest between the last three winners of the Brain of Britain. And what a line up. Chris Hughes, Pat Gibson and Mark Bytheway. Funnily enough I have met Chris Hughes during my ill fated Eggheads appearence, I've met Pat Gibson a couple of times - an he's just a smashing bloke, and Mark Bytheway I have played against in a number of quizzes. Mark, the current Brain of Britain, and the current World Champion, won from Chris and then Pat.

I did email the BBC for an application form for the next series of Brain and Britain. They never replied.

I'm sorry that there's no daftest answer of the week - I haven't watched the Weakest Link at all this week. If I can I'll do a bumper double listing next week.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Thank you BBC - you took your flipping time !

At long last the BBC has updated their Mastermind website. This week, in the second half of 2008, they have finally got around to crediting me as the 2007 champion. I will admit to sending them 4 emails in the last three weeks complaining about the website, although I'm not saying that this is the reason why they have at last got round to changing it. My three predecessors, Geoff Thomas 2006, Patrick Gibson 2005, and Shaun Wallace 2004 all get pages to themselves. Not me. I don't know what I've done to upset the BBC. Perhaps its because I couldn't go and present the prizes in the final this year.

Despite being back at school its been a busy quiz week.Last Sunday John and I admitted defeat, and returned to the Pheasant. The Sunday before we had visited the Pant Mawr Inn near Rhwbina. The question master announced the final positions thus,
"Now, in second place, we have ( can't remember the name of the team) You've got a choice, boys. Do you want a bottle of red wine, or a bottle of white ? Red ? Ok. Now, your winners, with 43 points, are the Boyks. You two have got a choice. Do you want to take the £15 or put it in the charity box ?"

30 pairs of eyes bored into my back. I admit it, I was a coward. the money went in the charity box, and we slunk away with our tails beneath our legs. At least the 2nd place team had a bottle of wine to go away with. We got nothing.

The previous 2 quizzes we'd been to in the Pheasant in August had been awful, but it was a good quiz last Sunday. We won the three general knowledge rounds, all of which were varied and interesting.

Then Monday, and a big money quiz at the Pill Harriers Rugby Club in Newport. All of the best quizzers in South Wales were there, and CJ de Mooi from Eggheads. We drew with his team to share the first and second prizes between us. We had 5 members on our team, and they had 9. You do the maths. Of course there were no handicaps. You wait until tomorrow night.

Wednesday Night saw me put in a 'personal appearence'. John, my best quiz friend, puts on a quiz in the Caswell Clinic in the Glanrhyd Hospital in Bridgend for the Friends of Glanrhyd Hospital and patients. He asked if I'd come along as a 'celebrity' guest, along with former Wales Rugby Union and Rugby League international player John Devereaux. I tell you what - some of those old dears on the other teams don't half take their quiz seriously ! They were a little put out that we won the cup at our first attempt. Not that it makes a lot of difference. the cup will stay in the clinic anyway, and be awarded again to the next winners in a couple of months' time

Finally, it was my turn to be question master on Thursday night in Aberavon Rugby Club. The four best quizzers, not including myself, who normally take part in the quiz were all absent, so a close, and fairly low scoring quiz followed. The quiz was a mixture of good oldies from the TV Top of the Form books, and newer stuff from a variety of sources. Joy of joys, a team who have won about five times in the last ten years won ! As long as it happens when I'm asking the questions, and not when I'm playing in the quiz, then I love it when that happens.

TV Watch - week of 20th September

TV Quiz Watch 21st September 2008

Mastermind - Episode Three

BBC Wales excels itself. Everyone else gets to watch it on Friday evening - we have to wait until the Monday. Still, why am I surprised ? They didn't even realise that the champion of the last series was living in Wales - until I told them !

For the first time this series we have a full complement of mastermind virgins, or to put it another way, none of the four contenders have taken part before. They were, respectively, an IT consultant, a GP cum Stand-up comedian ( John Humphrys seemed tickled by this ) , a solicitor and a mortgage consultant, so for the first time this series there was no teacher taking part.

As ever the specialists were an interesting bunch. I will admit to never having heard of Noor Anayat Khan, the spy. So its difficult for me to make observations about the relative merits of the specialist rounds. Good scores were achieved anyway, with the lowest being a praiseworthy 12.

Special praise should be reserved for Chris Atkins. He scored the rarely achieved 100% of no passes, and all questions correctly answered.

It didn't do him any good in the long run, though. I thought that all of the General Knowledge rounds were very fair, and felt that there was the potential for one of the contenders to have achieved 15 or more, though none of them did. Winner was James Corcoran. 29 was a good score, and there's no reason why he couldn't get through to the final if he can match this in the final. However there were some weaknesses on GK there which makes me think that we haven't yet seen the series winner so far.

For the record, here's the results: -

Chris Atkins Noor Anayat KhanIT Consultant
Specialist 17 right - none wrong
General 10 right - 5 passes 27 points and 5 passes
Paul SinhaFerdinand Magellan GP and stand up comedian
Specialist 13 right 1 pass
General12 right 1 pass 25 points and 2 passes
Christine Adam The Life and Major works of Edith Wharton Solicitor

12 right 1 pass
General 14 right 5 passes 26 points and 6 passes
James CorcoranThe Mod movement in Britain mortgage consultant
Specialist16 right and no passes
General13 right and 3 passes29 points and 3 passes

University Challenge

I haven't that much to say about UC this week. Paxman seemed to be in remarkably mellow mood, his best moments being his evident surprise that Adam Ricketts, Coronation street actor, had a hit in the charts once upon a time. He pointed out, correctly, that Southampton University had answered a lot of starter questions correctly, but failed through failing to convert enough of the bonus questions into points. Sometimes being quick on the buzzer isn't quite enough.

Final Score

Southampton 135 Brighton 190

I am told that the BBCs "Only Connect " began on BBC 4 last week. As with "Battle of the Brains" I was invited to audition, but we couldn't make it . I didn't get to see it, so I will review it when I do get to see it on the iplayer this week.

Daftest Answer of the Week

I'm sorry, but the answer of the week is the best of a very bad lot - nothing that stupid at all. I am forced to resort to Monday's The Weakest Link.

Question - What are 35 and 27 ?

Answer - 63 ?

Nothing to write home about there, I'm afraid.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

TV Watch - 12th September

Mastermind BBC2 Friday 12th September 8pm

The second show of the series pitted a chartered accountant, Andrew Thomson, against two teachers, Colin Capell and Stephen Porter, and a journalist, Sally Jones.

Andrew Thompson, answering on The Life of Billy the Kid, put up a good show in the first round, scoring 14 and no passes. Its not easy getting anything in the mid teens, and this was a good performance.

Colin Capell has appeared on Mastermind before, in 1994 I believe. His subject was The History of the Great Western Railway - which is very reminiscent of the subject that 1983 champion , and future Egghead Chris Hughes took. He scored 12 and 1 pass, which is respectable, but is always likely to be beaten if one of your opposition has a good general knowledge.

Sally Jones I remembered from doing sports reports on breakfast Television - although I must admit I couldn't place her until John Humphrys mentioned that she had been a real tennis champion. She picked a really traditional Mastermind subject - the short stories of Saki, and with 15 points and 2 passes she was really the pick of the first round.

As a coincidence the second teacher, Stephen Porter, has also appeared before. He chanced his arm in the 2004 series. Neither teacher won their heats in their previous series. Answering on "The Films of John Carpenter I thought that his round seemed a little better than it actually was, as he scored 12 and 3 passes.

In the General Knowledge round none of the contenders was hugely impressive. Colin Capell scored a modest 6 for 18, Stephen Porter a battling 10 for 22, and Andrew Thomson an unconvincing 9 for 23. So Sally Jones needed 9 to win. She made fairly heavy weather of it, but eventually crossed the line with a point to spare, scoring 10 for 25.

So, 2 shows down, and both women contenders through. Its actually long overdue that we have another woman champion. Even including radio 4 Mastermind, and Discovery Mastermind, there has been no woman champion since Anne Ashurst in 1997. If I'm honest, I don't see at this stage either last week's champion Janet Dunn , or Sally Jones from this week being a real contender, as neither have shown a great general knowledge. However first round form is not much of a guide to what can happen in the semis and the final - it certainly wasn't last year.So I'm not saying that they can't win the whole thing, but I am saying that so far neither has shown the form to win the whole thing. But until you're beaten anything can happen, so I continue to watch with interest.

I was disappointed to see that the BBC are shifting Mastermind back to Monday night - we'll have to wait over a week for the next show. I'm also a bit fed up that the BBC still haven't got round to crediting my win on the Mastermind website. The last champion they acknowledge is Geoff Thomas in 2006 !

Show 2 Details

Name and SubjectSpecialistGeneralTotal
Andrew Thomson - Life of Billy the Kid 14 (1)9 (4)23 (5)
Colin Capell - The History of the Great Western Railway12 (1) 6(4) 18(6)
Sally Jones - The Short Stories of Saki15 (2)10(1) 25(3)
Stephen Porter - The films of John Carpenter12 (3) 10(3) 22(6)

University Challenge

This week , Sheffield university , last year's runners up, against Murray Edwards college Cambridge. Murray-Edwards used to be New Hall - who once upon a time set a record lowest score on the show. Jeremy Paxman at his most abrasive at the start of the show - he paid tribute to New Hall's chequered history on the show, then berated the captain of Sheffield for apparently not turning up last year. Having said that there was just a hint of a lighter side as well, as he laughed at a question about The British Potato Board, and said that he couldn't take it seriously. I've been trying to figure out exactly what Jeremy Paxman is, and I think I've got it now. He's the strict teacher you had , who everyone was scared of, who always got brilliant results out of his kids. You'd be dead scared of getting anything wrong in his class, and you'd walk over hot coals to get one of his rare words of praise.

There wasn't a lot of this commodity coming Murray-Edwards way, I'm afraid. The show was almost 13 minutes old, and Sheffield had scored 125 when Murray-Edwards got their first point, and there was more than a touch of sarcasm about Paxman's "Yeeeessss ! Let's see you power away with these now." They did put on more of a show after this, but there was no disguising the fact that it was a rout, with Sheffield scoring 260 by the end of the show to Murray-Edwards 65. Paxman couldn't resist a final dig - "I don't know, you just didn't seem very awake today. "

The Weakest Link

Again, this provides us with our daftest answer of the week

Question : The Wright Brothers made their first powered flight near a town called Kitty what ?

Answer : Wake ?

Saturday, 6 September 2008

TV Watch - Return of Mastermind

Mastermind Friday 5th September 8pm ( BBC Wales 9pm )

And so Mastermind returns, and a new champion will be crowned, bringing to an end my reign. Lord alone knows when they will get around to showing the final, since my series began in July, and went all the way through to March. At this rate I can see the final being aired some time around May 2009.

Funnily enough, I do know that the Final was filmed ( or at least due to be filmed ) last Tuesday, 2nd September. This is because I was asked to go and present the trophy, and I would absolutely have loved to do so. Unfortunately the school couldn't spare me for the day. I do accept that their reasons were perfectly justified, but I was still very disappointed. At least looking on the bright side I have now no idea who made the final, and who won, so at least the series will be a lot more exciting for me to watch.

It was a close contest last night. The contenders were in some ways quite a traditional Mastermind spread, - a manager of barristers' chambers, a civil servant, and 2 teachers. For the record Ian Payn was answering on The Novels of Simon Raven, Harry Bell,on Newcastle United Football Club, Jenny Dunn on Edward IV and Raymond Rumkee on Laurence Olivier. Scores were decent without being outstanding - the Laurence Olivier round scored 9, the Simon Raven round scored 12, and both the Newcastle United and Edward IV rounds shared the lead with 13 points.

Raymond Rumkee scored another 9 points for 18, Ian Payne added 9 also for 21, Harry Bell managed 10 for 23, and Jenny Dunn just made it with 11 for 24. All of the contenders made quite heavy weather of their general knowledge rounds , taking time over answers. Jenny Dunn deservedly won, having just about the pick of the General Knowledge rounds, passing on 3 to get through enough questions.

Funny things can happen in the semi finals. They certainly did last year, when only one of the 8 people who had scored 29 or more in the first round won their semi final, so I am not going to make any extravagant predictions, but you'd imagine that she would have to improve on this performance to make it to the final. Anything over 10 for General Knowledge really isn't bad at all, and I think she could have even had another 1 or 2, but you need more than 13 on your specialist to give yourself a chance of winning the semi final.

It was a bit funny watching the show, since I personally took part in the last 2 series, but it waas enjoyable too, and certainly gave me a warm glow.

University Challenge

As good as ever, even though this was an Oxbridge match up, with St. John's Cambridge v. Lincoln College Oxford. Can't remember who won, but the show is worth watching for Jeremy Paxman's outbursts every time one of the teams confers during a starter question
No, this is a STARTER question - YOU CANNOT CONFER !

The Others>

Total Recall continues on Channel 4 weekday afternoons at 5pm. I cannot for the life of me see what is so bad about this show, but every review of it that I've seen on the net doesn't have one good word to say about it. I think Terry Wogan does a great job and strikes just the right tone, and OK, its hard to win the money, but then not as hard as The People's Quiz was.

EggheadsOn Monday evening I was surprised to see some of my regular Monday night opponents take on the Eggies. I was surprised because they were actually on about 3 years ago, and this was a repeat of then. To be honest you could continually use repeats of the show, and never have to make any new ones, because if you've seen one of them you've seen them all.

The Weakest LinkAnne Robinson continues to do her level best to make this show unwatchable. Still, at least it is always a decent source of terrible answers, and it was yesterday's show that provides us with the daftest answer of the week.

Daftest Answer of the Week

Friday's show gave us this little gem

Question : History :Which British queen rode on a chariot with blades attached to the wheels ?

Answer : Queen Victoria

Name A Hairy Dog

Here we are. almost a full week into September, and its only now I can get around to posting. This is mostly because I am back at work. School opened for the staff on Monday, and the kids on Tuesday. I may be deluding myself, but I don't remember ever being back on the first day of September before.

So the quizzing has suffered a bit . I've only been to two quizzes this week. Monday night in Newport was one of those rare occasions when the whole team seems to gel perfectly. We didn't drop any points at all in the first 2 rounds, and only dropped 6 the whole evening, overturning some pretty hefty head starts to win. The only argument we had resulted in us changing a wrong answer for a right one.

Thursday, on the other hand was a different kettle of fish. Amateur night, in fact. The question master does a quiz a few times a year, and he is, not to put too fine a point on it, rather poor. This is not to say that he people don't like it when he does the quiz. They do, but its more for the entertainment value he has, than for any inherent value int he quiz. He's a bit of a Malaprop, and once set the whole club off laughing when he claimed that the stretch of water between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight is called the SOLVENT.

I don't mind questions that I don't know the answer to, in fact I quite like to hear something that I don't know, which I might be asked in another quiz. I don't mind questions that require a fair amount of deduction to enable you to use what you do know to figure out what you don't know. What I don't like is a question which requires you to guess what the question master is thinking of. On Thursday night we had this one : -

"Which old english word meant a clumsy or ill mannered youth ?"

There are a couple of serious flaws in this question. Firstly, as I pointed out to him, he didn't mean old english at all- since that was pretty much a different language. Secondly, as I also pointed out to him , there are several old words in english that mean this - eg - hooligan, yahoo, lout and oaf to name but two. He himself had 'hobbledyhoy'. When I pointed this out to him, his answer was one of the stock answers of the incompetent, and dare I say it, morally bankrupt quizmasters you find

"Ah, well, I want the one I've got written down here."

Guesses play an important part in any quiz, I admit. But questions that have nothing to do with actually knowing things, that can only be guessed, don't.

We did win, as it happens, so this rant is not sour grapes. The fact that he got a much bigger round of applause at the end of the quiz than we regular questionmasters ever get there - now THAT is sour grapes.