Friday, 11 September 2009

Mastermind- First Round - Heat 3/24

You wait three weeks for a contender you know to appear - then . . .

In the first two heats of this year's series we saw 8 contenders making their first ever visit to the black chair. Tonight, for the first time this series we saw the return of two familiar faces. Well, familiar to me, anyway. For that matter, remarkably, I actually know three of tonight's contenders.

The first of these was Lisa Hermann. Lisa is new to Mastermind, but not new to quizzing. We played on the same buzzer quiz team in the Cardiff Grand Prix earlier this year in the Rhwbina Club. I later found out that Lisa was coming on the show, and one of the things which I did tell her was to try to make sure that whatever happened she enjoyed the experience, since it honestly does go by so quickly once the recording of your first show begins. Lisa was answering on The History of the George Cross for her specialist round, and by crikey she did it well ! We've seen a very high standard of scoring on Specialist in all of the heats so far shown in this series, with nobody yet failing to get into double figures, if I recall correctly. Lisa maintained the standard of excellence with 14 and 1 pass.

Our second contender was David Porch. David and I have played against each other in a number of locations across Bridgend and Cowbridge over the last few years, although curiously I don't believe that I've seen him anywhere since his last appearence on the show. David tonight joined a select band of contenders who have appeared in two consecutive series of Mastermind. Don't expect me to say anything bad about that either, since I'm one of them myself. We last saw David on the 13th March this year, in the 21st heat of the 2008 series, where he was most unfortunate to lose by a single pass to Paul Moorhouse. Then he scored 14 and 1 pass on the films of Sidney Poitier. Tonight he exchanged the silver screen for the small screen, answering on the TV series, The Ascent of Man. And man ! the questions were wide ranging considering that they related to just one, admittedly epoch making, TV series. David scored 10 points. Mindful of last year's experience, he made sure that he didn't pass.

Ian Orriss, who was the third of tonight's contenders, is not someone I know personally. In a notably highbrow group of specialist subjects tonight, his was "The first latin kingdom of Jerusalem". You have to say he really knew his stuff too, with a magnificent score of 16 and 1 pass. I have to say it, with the length of questions that are being asked in this series, to get through more than a maximum of possibly 18 questions looks like something of a really tall order.

Completing the Specialist round was Les Morrell. Les was a semi-finalist in his previous appearence in, yes, you've guessed it, the 2007 SoBM ( Series of Blessed Memory) . Although we never played in the same show, we did actually meet at the studios, on the day we both recorded our first round matches. Les arrived very early for his show, which was to be recorded after mine, and we spent a little time having a chat. Les told me about his experiences on University Challenge. While we were talking I had the same feeling that I'd had when I talked to Kath Drury, who beat me in the previous series in 2006, ie - that here was someone to take very seriously, and so I was delighted when I saw that he wasn't in my heat ! Well, in 2007 Les ended up in the same semi as Stewart Cross, who had the highest score of the semis with 32. Could Les emulate his feats of 2007, I asked myself. Well he certainly did all he possibly could have done with his specialist round, on Clement Attlee. He literally rattled the answers off, limiting himself to just surnames to save precious fractions of seconds, and it was only one slight hesitation which probably cost him another question. Never mind, 16 and 0 passes was a performance to be reckoned with.

David Porch returned to the chair, 6 points behind the leaders and probably knowing in his heart of hearts that this was going to be a tall order. Still he retained his good humour throughout, taking great delight in answering with Bobby Jones' full name when asked for the golfer who retired at the age of 28 etc. He finished with 16 points. Lisa, handily placed on 14, overtook him for the lead, pushing on to 20 points. This has been enough to win a heat on a few occasions during the Humphrys era, but it never looked like it was going to be enough tonight. However I have it on first hand authority that Lisa greatly enjoyed the experience, and her splendid performance in the specialist round alone shows that she thoroughly deserved her place.

So, who out of the 2 remaining contenders would win ? Les, I knew, had the experience, bottle and knowledge to produce a good round on GK. Ian, on the other hand, was an unknown quantity. However the unknown quantity only needed two minutes to prove his quality, adding 11 to take his score to 27 and 4 passes. I was impressed with the way he kept plugging on through the round - dropping a couple, passing a couple, but always keeping the score ticking over. As Mr. Punch once said - well more than once, actually - that's the way to do it.

11 and 3 passes would be enough to put Les through as the winner of the heat. This is a score he managed to better on both of his previous GK rounds in 2007. However, that was then, and this was now. A few questions didn't quite fall his way, and although he was answering quickly he never quite built up the head of steam he would need to push on through the target. He came mightily close though, but even answering the last question correctly only brought him 10 points for 26.

John Humphrys was quick to point out that 26 gives Les a very good chance of taking one of the 6 runners up spots in the semis, and he's quite right too. Having said that, we're only three shows into the series and already we've seen runners up score two 25s and a 26, so who knows ? What we do know is that Ian Orris produced a fine performance to earn his place in the semis by winning the show. Even more , he can take it from me that the three contenders in his heat were no mugs, either. So very well done , sir !

The Details

Lisa Hermann The History of the George Cross 14 - 1 6 - 220 - 3
David PorchThe TV series "The Ascent of Man"10 - 06 - 116 - 1
Ian OrrissThe first latin kingdom of Jerusalem16 - 111 - 327 - 4
Les MorrellClement Attlee16 - 010 - 326 - 3

Current Highest Scoring Runners Up

Les Morrell26 - 3
Colin Wilson25 - 0
William de'Ath25 - 4

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