Well, here we are, just a mere seven days before the airing of the Grand Final of Mastermind 2008. What a final it promises to be. With so little to choose between all of the finalists, based on their first round and semi final performances, in all likelihood we could see a classic tussle. Yes, I will be making my prediction shortly, and no , in case any nasty suspicious thoughts are entering anyone's heads, I don't know who won, despite having had contact with four of the finalists over the last few weeks and months.
So, what are the factors that are going to have a decisive effect on the final ? Well, all of our finalists have demonstrated that they can cope very well with the demands of learning two specialists subjects. Yet can they learn a third ? Its more of a question than you might think. Choosing three good subjects isn't easy, and I know people in the past who have got to the final , and found that their specialist just hasn't worked out as well for them as the other two. Not only that, though. You might have as much as 10 weeks to learn for your first round. If you're lucky and have an early heat to be filmed you might have even longer to learn for your semi. All of you, though, have a mere 5 weeks to learn for the final. That's not a lot, especially if you're planning to spend some time brushing up on your weakest areas of GK.
This brings me to GK. By the time you get to the final, you can't expect that you are likely to win it on your Specialist Subject. The main thing is not to lose it on Specialist - not to be too far behind at half time. You need to be able to reproduce or even improve upon your best GK form. All of the contenders in the final have scored in the twelve or more in at least one of their two GK rounds. So all are capable of scoring well on GK, and if they outperform their best score so far, winning it on GK.
Lets not ignore the question of pressure. Everything changes for the final. Suddenly you have five fellow contenders, not three. Even if you don't worry about the opposition, and can put them out of your mind, it does mean that the programme takes much longer to make. For example, I was drawn to go fifth in the first round in my final. That's a lot of time to wait, especially if you're seeing all of the others racking up good scores. You probably try not to think about how important and serious it is, but you can't help thinking that this is the final. For all you know you may never be back again. That's the kind of thought that can stop you delivering of your best. Is experience an advantage ? I would say so.
So, what's my prediction ? Well. let's look at each of the contenders one by one.
1) Richard Smyth
Richard Smyth is not, for me, the most likely winner, but there is so little to choose between them that it would certainly not be a shock if he did win. He has advantages in as much as he always does well in Specialist - with 17 and 15. The disadvantage is that he has scored two 12s in GK, which is good, but I don't know that I can see him scoring much more than this, bearing in mind the questions he missed in the first round and semi. Prediction - possible podium, but not the top step.
2) Nancy Dickmann
Nancy for me is one of the three most likely winners. Her semi-final specialist round was highly impressive, and if she repeats this she'll be hard to beat. Advantages - Nancy went through the pain barrier in her first round, when she beat the very experienced Miriam Collard - she knows how to win a tight contest. she has good general knowledge - lets say for example she gets out to a lead of more than a couple of points on Specialist. Then she could certainly hold that lead. In another year Nancy might well be the outright favourite. I feel pretty confident that Nancy will overtake my friends Kath Drury and Sandra Piddock, who have both finished 4th in a Humphrys' era final, but I foresee a third, or possibly second place finish as most likely.
3) Richard Heller
Richard Heller has been consistently impressive in both of his appearences this year. He scored a perfect 16 on specialist in the semi. His GK has been consistent too. As an advantage, Mr. Heller has been this way before, being runner up to Richard Sturch in 1996. I don't see him falling below his first round or semi final performances, and this means we can expect him to score in the very high twenties. However, will he be able to find an extra couple of points to take it through the 30 point barrier ? I wouldn't be surprised if he won at all, but as it stands, I foresee a second silver.
4) Roger Canwell
Roger sent me a delightful email this week, thanking me for my review of his semi final. Believe me, Roger, the pleasure is mine. I do hope that he doesn't mind me saying that of all of the contenders in the Final, he probably has least to lose. He has performed admirably to keep his head and reach the grand Final, which is an achievement he can be very proud of. His advantage is probably that he will know in his heart of hearts that his score in the semi was a lowish one, and being realistic, this makes him look like an outsider. Paradoxically, though, this may actually free him from pressure, and allow him to produce his very best performance. He scored 26 in the first round. A couple of more points than this and he would genuinely be in contention. I see him , as I said, as an outsider, though, but Mastermind can be more like the Grand National than the Derby. Sometimes the outsiders come in.
5) Ian Bayley
Our other potential medallists have already produced very close to optimum performance. Ian, I have to say, still seems to have room to push the envelope a little more. His semi final performance was better, in terms of total score and specialist subject, than his first round performance. Potentially though, he could improve quite a bit more in the final. Of all the finalists, and I mean no disrespect to anyone else by this, he is in all probability the best 'pure' quizzer. In a written quiz of lets say 40 questions, I imagine he would win. As we know its not a simple as this. Yet all things considered, I tend to think that the contender most likely to find that little bit extra to get clear of the pack is Ian, and I pick him as my most likely winner.
6) Stuart Macdonald.
Last, but not least. Stuart didn't think he'd even get picked for the series, let alone win heat and semi-final. Yet he scored 28 in the semi final, and that is seriously good form for anyone else to contend with. He has the weight of the expectation of all Northern Ireland upon him, but if his semi final showed nothing else it showed that he can cope with pressure. A scan of the results of the whole of the Humphrys' era reveals that if he repeats his score of the semi-final, 28, then he should finish in the top three.
All of which gives me a problem. Reading this back, I think that I've just predicted that 5 people will end in the top 3 ! That's my problem, you see, based on performances in the series so far it really is that tight. So if I have to nail my colours to the mast, I take Ian Bayley to probably win, most likely with Richard Heller and Nancy Dickmann to contest silver and bronze, with Roger, Richard and Stuart not more than a gnat's whisker behind them.
So there you are. None of my predictions are made with any confidence, and it won't surprise me in the least if I turn out to be 100% wrong. Roll on next Friday.
The Raw Figures
|Name||Round 1 S/S||R.1 - GK||R.1 - Total||Semi S/S||Semi GK||Semi Total|
|Richard Smyth||17 - 0||12 - 0||29 -0||15 - 0||12 - 0||27- 0|
|Nancy Dickmann||13 - 0||14 - 1||27 - 1||16 - 0||12 - 0||28 - 0|
|Richard Heller||14 - 0||14-2||28 - 2||16 - 0||13 - 1||29 - 1|
|Roger Canwell||14 - 1||13 - 1||27 - 2||12 - 2||9 - 3||21 - 5|
|Ian Bayley||13 - 0||13 - 0||26 - 0||16 - 0||12 - 0||28 - 0|
|Stuart Macdonald||14 - 0||12 - 2||26 - 2||17 - 1||11 - 3||28 - 3|