University Challenge – Semi Final 2/2 Manchester v. Emmanuel , Cambridge
My friends in the Manchester team arrived in the semis after comprehensively beating St. Andrews, drawing with finalists St. John’s Oxford then losing on a tie break, and then beating Edinburgh in an exciting and closely fought contest. Emmanuel had a smoother passage through the quarters, comfortably beating Jesus College and Imperial. So did that make them the favourites for this evening ? Well, yes, perhaps, but even then there was the lingering suspicion of their vulnerability , due to their first round defeat by Regent’s Park College.
Jenny Harris showed that she had no intention of allowing this to be the Alex Guttenplan show as she took the first starter – which provided my interesting fact of the week – for Emmanuel. Bonuses requiring knowledge of Jane Austen and the Smiths fell to them, but they missed out on 3 Men in A Boat. Shame on you ! Jenny Harris also took the second, identifying the Forest of Arden from a set of definitions. Once again, two out of three bonuses fell their way. Miss Harris tried valiantly for her hat trick, identifying the painter of The Boating Party as Seurat, but it was in fact Renoir. No points to either side. If you remember Emmanuel’s match against Imperial you’ll recall that captain Alex Guttenplan took some time to get into his stride. Not tonight, as he confidently took the next starter, to earn a bonus on diplomatic crises in the late 19th and early 20th century. True to form, 2 bonuses were taken. The next starter, requiring an identification of a quote by WC Fields, fell to Mr. Guttenplan, making it 2 – all. That’s 2 – all between himself and Jenny Harris. Nobody else of either team had yet got a look in.
I loved the next starter – which made it 3 – 2 to Mr. G. – which meant identifying the English translation of Audere est Facere. Being a Spurs supporter I knew it meant to Dare is To Do. I loved the bonuses on latin mottos of other teams in the Premiership – I just knew Everton’s would be there, and it came up as the first bonus. Enough bragging.
With a lead of 90 to –5 Emmanuel had got off to the best possible start, but my guys from Manchester are a tough lot, and captain Jakob Whitfield stopped the rot, identifying the animal in an Albrecht Durer engraving as a rhinoceros. One bonus was taken to reduce the deficit to 80 points. Two thirds of the contest still remained – plenty of time, albeit that cool heads and quick buzzer fingers were called for. Josh Scott of Emmanuel claimed the next starter, rightly thinking that Milton rhymed with Hylton, Stilton etc. He obviously enjoyed the experience so much that he repeated it, taking the next . The set of bonuses on web comics again brought them 2 bonuses. Alex Guttenplan took the next starter, one of those cryptic things he excels at , basically identifying the word spelled out by names of four people – the last of who was John KAY . You get it now.
On 13 minutes Jakob took Manchester’s second starter by identifying Archbishop Thomas Cranmer as the man who presided over Henry VIII’s divorces. The bonuses took them up to 35 points, but Emmanuel had already scored 145 as we neared the halfway mark. Neither side recognised Delibes, but Nick Daunt recognised a nova when he heard one described, and brought Manchester their third starter. Alas, they took no bonuses on waltzes.Still, at least it was the start of a mini roll as Jakob took the next starter, correctly seeing the connection between Athena and the owl. Jenny Harris impressed, unravelling the last words of The Ancient Mariner read in reverse order. Good shout !This was followed by what I like to think of as an Ask the Family question. It began – if an airplane is travelling due west at an airspeed of etc. etc. Alex Guttenplan buzzed in even as the last word of the question was still expiring on JP’s lips, but for once got it wrong. Jakob made no mistake , though, and pulled his team ever closer to the 100 point mark. Two bonuses on decades in which dictionaries were first published brought them up to 85. Tom Whyman buzzed in first to give three states of the USA on the gulf of Mexico. 2 came at once, one didn’t, and so over to Alex G. for a bonus duly snapped up .
On the twenty minute mark Emmanuel were in cruise control mode. That Man Guttenplan snapped up a chemical element bonus simpler than it looked, where the symbols were arranged in alphabetical order, and ag – for silver – was missing. The set of bonuses took Emmanuel through the 200 point barrier. Alas, poor Manchester, the match was over by this point, but at least we were given the treat of watching Emmanuel try to become the first team this series to break through the 300 point barrier. With 5 minutes to go they reached 250. Jenny Harris buzzed and then hesitated, and this time JP was firm. Nick Daunt took his second starter now, correctly identifying a definition of the derivation of the word – undermining . Our own Rach Cherryade gave captain Jakob two correct answers for legal terms for bonuses. It looked like she gave another correct one too, but it was overruled. Never mind – captaincy is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Manchester at least were now in triple points. So yes, they were going down, but they were going down fighting.
Two Guttenplan interruptions, and one from Jenny Harris brought Emmanuel three unanswered starters, which , together with bonuses, pushed them through the magic 300 point barrier, the first team to achieve it this series. Tom Whyman of Manchester took the next, identifying the word Port as being part of the names of the capitals of Mauritius, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea . No prizes for guessing who took the next starter, though. The gong followed soon after, with the final score of 315 to 120.
Our Jeremy crossed his arms, turned to Manchester and said “Well, I’m surprised that you didn’t do better. You got off to a terrible start. “ Nothing like a few ill chosen words to rub salt into the wounds. To be fair, he did say to Manchester that they were a great team, and this is only fair for they have been. Tom, Rach, Jakob and Nick, here’s thanks for the wonderful, exciting matches you’ve given us this year. Don’t feel bad about this – you played a great series, and there’s no shame at all in losing out to a team as good as this Emmanuel outfit.
As for Emmanuel – congratulations of course ! A superb performance against a Manchester team who are far too good to have been taken lightly. I await a cracking final.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
When Alex Guttenplan suggested that the motto Proud in Battle belonged to Hull City, JP replied “Hull ? HULL ? !” in exactly the same tone of voice that Peter Kay described his dad saying “Garlic Bread ??!!!”
When Manchester offered Strauss as the composer of their third waltz, JP tmoved on from Peter Kay to John McEnroe “You can’t be serious ! Its Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake “
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
The name George – my middle name – derives from the greek for farmer or earthworker.