University Challenge Quarter Final Stage – qualification match 1 – st. John’s Oxford v. Manchester
If you’ve been a reader of LAM for any length of time, I hope that you’ll have come to view me as someone who , while I have my favourites like anyone, always tries to be impartial when reviewing a match. Well, stuff that for a game of soldiers today. With all due respect to a great St. John’s team, I was as partial as they come in my vocal support for Manchester. On paper there’s little or nothing to separate these two fine teams. In fact under the old system they would both have qualified with their emphatic victories last time out, and not have met until at least the semis. Well, the fact is that we do have a new system, so we have to all get on with it.
The first starter was highly impressive as Miss Parry of St. John’s identified the titles “The Fish of Maui” and another one which escapes me, as names being considered for Norht and South Island of New Zealand. Damn good interruption. They got two out of 3 bonuses on the number 17. Then our own Rach Cherryade – Neiman for the uninitiated – leapt in with a great interruption to identify the phrase ‘avant garde’as having the original meaning of the foremost division of an army. This time two bonuses out of three fell for Manchester. Nick Daunt then buzzed in for Manchester to identify www as the three letter abbreviation with the most syllables when read aloud. Again, very quick buzzing, great work. Manchester struggled a bit with a set of bonuses on the five good emperors of Rome, but the fact was that they were starting to nose ahead.
Regular LAM reader Jakob Whitfield took his first starter of the night. It wouldn’t be his last. He identified Shockley et. al as the inventor of the transistor. After a useful set of bonuses , St. Johns managed to identify the ingredients of a black velvet cocktail to get their next points on the board. Neither team could identify a heroic couple, so it was down to Jakob to identify the derivation of the word ‘chaplain’. Again, another terrific answer. Unusually Manchester failed to convey any of their set of bonuses, on supporting characters from Shakespeare plays.
Just coming up to the ten minute mark Mr. Townsend of St. John’s, he of the magnificent whiskers, buzzed in with a terrific answer, identifying aureads as the nymphs of mountains in ancient greek mythology. At the ten minute mark Manchester had a lead of 10 points, but St. John’s were on the way back.
Still, it was Jakob who buzzed in to correctly answer that sulphur is added to rubber in the process of vulcanisation. But if Jakob was playing a captain’s innings for Manchester, then so was Andrew Woodhuysen for St. John’s. The moment the word “Fettes” passed JP’s lips he struck like a coiled cobra to identify a list of school’s attended by British Prime Ministers. Then on another starter Rachel was unlucky to buzz in and answer “signature” when the correct term required was ‘attribute’. If it makes you feel any better , Rach, at this point I was bellowing “signature” at the telly myself.
On fifteen minutes, when another starter would have put Manchester through the psychologically important 100 point barrier, Miss Parry buzzed in to answer that alphabetically, zirconium is the last element of the periodic table. Every time Miss Parry buzzed in correctly tonight it happened at what seemed to me a crucial time in the game.
This was a tight game. Manchester, in the last third of the competition buzzed in with failed interruptions a couple of times. In such a tight match, this could be crucial. On 18 minutes all was square at 90 points apiece. St. John’s took back the lead for the first time in over half the game when captain Woodhuysen buzzed in to correctly answer that in the UK and USA K and G can stand for 1000. So despite all of their good work, Manchester had to watch St. John’s become the first of the two teams to pass the 100 barrier. Then, on 20 minutes, came what I fear will be remembered and debated for some time. Miss Parry rang to answer a bonus on a sum expressed in binary. She hesitated. Jeremy said “I’m sorry you lo-“ and then she answered correctly “14. “ Jeremy made a similar call in the first round match where Jenny Harris of Emmanuel made an equally late call, and it was allowed to stand. So at least he was being consistent with decisions made earlier in the series. You pays your money and takes your choice on this one. At the end of the day JP allowed it to stand, and his decision is the only one that matters. The bonuses were not taken.
Two starters went begging. Time was rapidly running into the bottom of the glass for Manchester. Cometh the hour, cometh the quizzer. Rach Cherryade, take a bow ! Her starter on the first letter of the letter h – a – took Manchester back into the game. Alas, no bonuses. Jakob Whitfield kept his nerve to buzz in with a correct identification of the Sermon on the Mount. No bonuses taken. Andrew Woodhuysen was keeping his nerve as well, as he buzzed in to identify the French writer Chretien de Troyes. Tom Whyman buzzed in. This put Manchester 20 points behind. Could they still do it ? Yes they could ! Jakob identified the Queen as the Lord of Man. All square. No time for another starter – any one bonus could do it ! It was just sheer bad luck that the set in question were what seemed to me to be obscure quotes from Francis Bacon. No bonuses. Cue the gong. All square at 140 apiece.
Neither team deserved this. Both had supplied some brilliant answers during the contest. Yet it all came down to this one question. Not exactly sudden death, since the team which don’t go through straight away still live to fight another battle. JP asks, the Viking settlement at L’Anse Aux Meadows is situated on which Canadian island ? “Newfoundland !” I scream, hoping against hope that my efforts can somehow effect a match which was probably recorded weeks and weeks ago . It is to no avail. Oliver Chen, who has had a quiet match starter-wise buzzes in, and the game is over.
Congratulations St. Johns. You are a fine team, and you thoroughly deserve your place in the semis. But Manchester, you too are a fine team, and you deserve a place in the semis too. I still think that there’s room for a Cherryade in the semis.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
JP introduced Manchester tonight by saying that their ability to text the word ‘pint’ was surely reassuring to taxpayers everywhere.
When giving a set of bonuses on famous Belgians, after Maurice Maeterlinck he sniffed “Hmm, not very famous these Belgians after all. “
When captain woodhuysen asked Oliver Chen one of the binary bonuses
“Oliver, come on, I need an answer” , JP, with admittedly a smile on his face, interjected with “You need an answer ! We all need an answer !” in atone of voice not a million miles removed from that of rabbi turned stand up comedian Jackie Mason.
Interesting Fact Of The Week That I Didn’t Already Know
Mark Twain was born in Missouri . Why on earth did I think he was born in Mississippi ?