Wednesday, 28 April 2010

When is a cougar not a cougar ?

A good quiz in Cowbridge last night.The format of the quiz is 7 rounds of ten questions each. The first and last rounds are pure general knowledge. Rounds 2 – 6 are all themed rounds, and one of these has to be nominated to be each team’s joker round, for which each correct answer is worth double points. Round Two was designated “Cats and Dogs”. We did have half a mind to nominate this as the joker round, but decided that it was too unpredictable to be the safest bet, and so plumped for something else. Good job too. We failed ignominiously on these two : -
Who had a cat called Mr. Bigglesworth ?
What was the name of the ship’s cat in the film “Alien” ?

OK – the first one s well known, but its not one I recall being asked in many quizzes I’ve ever been to, but the second . . . for me it’s a real ‘hang your head in shame for not being able to remember the answer ‘ question.

There was one other question in the same round where we failed to score , which was this –
What is the other name for a mountain lion ?
We put down ‘cougar’ – as I was sure that I remembered some old Walt Disney true life adventure film which referred to a big cat as both throughout the same show. You can imagine my displeasure when the answer was announced as ‘puma’. Actually, I say displeasure, but that’s a little bit unfair. My first thought was along the lines of, hang on a minute, I’ve heard that before too, I’m sure, a puma IS a mountain lion. Which was followed immediately by the thought – but its ALSO a cougar. It wasn’t just John and I who thought so either, as several teams queried cougar, but the QM was in best ‘if its not on my answer sheet you’re not having it’ mood, and who shall really blame him too much for that.

Still, I did some digging when I got home , and found out that both puma and cougar are alternative names for the mountain lion. Just one of those things – a question which allows only one correct answer when there are in fact more than one. Funnily enough one of my ‘wrong’uns’ which I named and shamed in my “The Question Master Is Always Right” series a year or more ago also made a return last night in the final general knowledge round – namely
“Which was the first cartoon to feature Mickey Mouse ? “Yes, I know that you all know that the correct answer to the question is “Plane Crazy”, and I know that you all know that the answer you have to put down on your sheet is “Steamboat Willie” because that’s the answer the question master is going to have down on his. And he did.

I mention this only in passing, since I’m not trying to slag off what was an enjoyable quiz and a good evening. The lasting thing for me from the evening though was not the sense of satisfaction at providing some useful answers dredged up from the memory – eg , the surname of Eric The Eel, and the other European island which also has a threelegged emblem, no. It’s the frustration of not being able to remember the name of the ship’s cat in Alien. Who’d be a quizzer ?

Answers to questions given above : -
Mr. Bigglesworth belongs to Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies
The ship’s cat in Alien is called Jones
Eric the Eel’s surname is Moussambani
Sicily also has a threelegged emblem

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Quizzing For Their Supper

I think I may have mentioned my son Michael to you before. He’s not a very, very serious quizzer, although he did get to the audition stage for Sport Mastermind a couple of years ago. He’s very good company in a quiz ,though - ‘a hell of an improvement on his old man ‘ as one of my team mates unkindly but fairly put it a while ago. So let me begin to cut to the chase. Mike rang me up to ask if I wanted to go to a quiz in Cardiff with him and his girlfriend last Monday. This faced me with a heartrending decision.OK, so there's no UC or OC on the telly at the moment to keep me indoors on a Monday, but this still left the question - Should I say yes, and go to Cardiff, where the only thing I like about the quiz is Mike and Ceri’s company, and a big cash prize, or should I say no, and go to Newport, where there is a much better quiz in the Pill Harriers Rugby Club, set by the incomparable Trevor Parry ? In the end I did the honourable thing, and went to Cardiff for the cash.

To be fair Mike and Ceri do live in Cardiff, where he works and she studies, so I don’t get to see anything like as much of them as I’d like. So missing out on Newport was no great hardship. Not only that, but Mike has made it perfectly clear to me that if we go and win , then their share of the cash pays for their week’s shopping. Now what kind of dad would I be if I ignored that ?

So let me set the scene for you. It all takes place in a fairly big pub, not right in the centre of Cardiff, though, and it offers an extremely generous £100 first prize every Monday evening. No, in case you’re wondering, I’m not going to reveal the name of the place. I don’t want the other teams’ ranks being unnecessarily swollen with serious quizzers for the next time that Mike invites me down, thanks all the same. I do wonder how they can afford to give away this kind of a prize week in week out, though, when its only a pound per team member to enter. I had a quick count up, and although there were a lot of teams playing, and some quite big ones too, I didn’t make the number of players anything like 100. It was a fairly well attended night, too. The previous time we went before that , about 4 weeks ago, there can’t have been more than abut 30 people playing.

Why am I going on about this quiz, anyway ? Well, its just that I had something of an epiphany - albeit a rather bijou, small scale, low rent epiphany. You see, I don’t normally like picture quizzes. There, I’ve admitted it and come clean. I know full well that they are a legitimate part of pub quizzing, and I know that many regular players enjoy picture rounds very much, and are very good at them, and if you’re one of these people I say jolly good luck to you. I don’t like them, but as always you are very welcome to disagree. Now, at this particular pub we go to, I am afraid to say that a certain amount of phone cheating has gone in the past.Teams have been told off for it, and words have been said. Not just by nasty, suspicious old me, I hasten to add.Its an insidious thing though, and there’s no guarantee that you’re not going to be tucked up by it sooner or later. Still there we are, if the question master is happy with the way that some of the teams go about their business on a particular evening, then I might not like it, but I haven’t a lot of choice other than shutting up and getting on with it. If you don’t like the way a quiz is run, then you don’t have to play in it, I do understand. On Monday night, then, the picture round contained a number of old film stars from the 40s and 50s, and even old politicians. There might be a way of cheating on picture rounds using a mobile phone, but if so, the teams playing on Monday night haven’t found it. So, while some teams scored a rather suspicious 51/51 on the questions to our 49/51, none of them managed more than 14/20 on the handout, and our 18/20 on the pictures proved unbeatable, and, hooray ! - Mike and Ceri could afford to eat last week ! So if I ever go off on a rant about picture rounds again, you all have my permission to call me a hypocrite, and remind me about this posting.

Mastermind Semi Final - 23/4/10

After the confusion of last week, I thought that I’d better watch the show as and when it was actually broadcast, rather than catching it later on the iplayer. I have checked on the iplayer since, though, and I think we’re alright, since it’s the same one that I saw last night.

So lets have a look at the runners . They were : -
John Iball
David Buckle
Mike Court
Keith Pottage
Tom Hutchings

Not that first round scores are a totally reliable form guide, but for what its worth the top scoring first round contender was Mike Court, who scored two 14s for an excellent 28. Oustiders looked to be Tom Hutchings and John Iball, who had scored 23 and 21 respectively.

John Iball won heat 19 at the end of February answering on Charles Darwin. Tonight he offered us The Life and Career of Ayrton Senna. An interesting subject this one. I’ve loved watching formula 1 since I was a kid back in the 70s , although funnily enough I’m not in the least bit bothered about any other form of motor racing. So I was pleased to be able to get a couple of these right. Its mind boggling to think that Senna took pole position in more than a third of all the grand prix races he drove in. A wide ranging round, which saw Mr. Iball answer just as confidently on the life as well as the career questions, and he posted a good 11.

Gerry Anderson was the specialist subject with which David Buckle won heat 16 in January. Tonight he gave us something with a little more of a traditional Mastermind flavour in the shape of the Jeeves and Wooster novels. Confession time – I’ve never read any, so I can’t judge the questions. I can judge the answers, though, and David Buckle provided these at absolute top speed. So even though there were a couple of pauses , he still managed to find 12 points and no passes. Now that’s a very good performance.

A deep intake of breath from Mike Court just before he walked to the chair suggested that maybe he was not in the most confident frame of mind. In heat 9 he had won well answering on transatlantic ocean liners. In a change of pace tonight, his specialist subject was Broadway musicals from 1927. The moment he announced it to John I couldn’t help thinking that this was one of those subjects which could turn out to be so ridiculously wide that it was going to be a tall order to match the first two contenders. So it proved. Mike’s 7 was actually a lot better than you might think, since it was achieved in only 90 seconds.

Keith Pottage answered on the History of the NFL last time out, when he won heat 12 in November. Tonight he answered on the Life and Work of Alan Moore. Alan Moore is a legend in the field of comic books and graphic novels, having written the wonderful Watchmen, to name but one. No points for not knowing what brought enlightenment to Ozymandias in Watchmen, then, but as far as I could see Keith Pottage got almost everything else right. He scored 11 and no passes, and this was looking like a very close contest indeed.

Tom Hutchings , who gave us the Life and Work of Thomas Arnold in heat 5 answered on another traditional Mastermind subject tonight, in the Life and Reign of King James VI and I. Sometimes with these rounds the reign can prove more problematic than the life can, but this was not the case tonight. Tom Hutchings fairly raced through his answers to score 12, and once again gave away no passes either.

So the form book had to be thrown out of the window at half time, as the only contender out of contention by this stage was the pre game favourite, Mike Court. He started off like an express train, but although he didn’t start getting hardly any wrong he did slow down at the end when a couple of passes seemed to take the wind out of his sails.All of which points out just how good the first part of the round was considering he still managed to score 12. Good round .

John Iball had rather struggled with General Knowledge in his first round heat, and he made rather heavy weather of his GK round again here. What he did manage to do was to come up with guesses for what he didn’t know, and pick off the ones he did know without making simple errors. He took his score up to 17 – nothing to be ashamed of with the current semi – final format, albeit not a winning score.

Keith Pottage scored 11 on GK in his heat, and so there was certainly everything to play for in his case. He began confidently and quickly, picking off the first 5 points without error. He suffered a little from John giving him a point for “The Arabian Nights”, and then wasting time by correcting it to “1001 Nights “. Keith maintained his composure, and kept picking off the answers, but a couple tripped him up toward the end of the round. Nevertheless, 12 was an improvement on his heat, and 23 was not by any means any easy target for the last two contenders to aim at.

The first of the remaining two contenders to have a go was David Buckle. He managed 12 in his heat on GK, and that would be enough to give him the lead tonight. As in his specialist round he started to deliver his answers at absolute top speed. He too was held back by John deciding to amplify on one of his answers. This knocked a little bit of the wind out of his sails, but again he had the sense to make sure that he took half a second longer to answer correctly when he needed to. His 12 was duly scored, and the bar was now set at 24.

So only Tom Hutchings stood between David and a place in the final. It looked a bit of a tall order based on Tom’s first round GK performance, when he scored 8. Still, nothing ventured and nothing gained. Tom rather struggled with this round, and it was fairly clear by the halfway stage that he wasn’t going to get there. He ended with 20. So congratulations, David. A good win in a close and exciting contest, and the very best of luck in the Final ( I know its already been filmed, but you know what I mean ! )

The Details

John IballThe Life and Career of Ayrton Senna11 – 06 - 317 - 3
David BuckleThe Jeeves and Wooster novels of PG Wodehouse12 – 012 - 024 - 0
Mike CourtBroadway Musicals 1927 – Present Day7 - 012 - 419 – 4
Keith PottageThe Life and Work of Alan Moore11 – 0 12 - 123 - 1
Tom HutchingsThe Life and Reign of King James VI and I12 – 08 - 420 - 4

Sunday, 18 April 2010


I really must apologise for anyone who read my most recent Mastermind review, without getting to actually see the show itself.

I didn't watch it when it was actually being broadcast, but later on in the evening on Virgin cable's On Demand Service, which is linked in to BBC iplayer, I believe.

I can only guess that the people at the BBC didn't tell the iplayer people that they had decided to switch the order of the semi finals, and so they put on the Les Morrell et al semi final which was originally scheduled .

I would hate to spoil anyone's enjoyment of any show, and can only apologise to anyone who read my review, and has had their enjoyment of that show spoiled. Likewise I apologise to the contenders who took part in the show that was broadcast on Friday night. Unless the BBC take pity, and put that show on the iplayer at some future date I am unlikely to get to see it, and so can not review it, although a full review of the show can be found on Weaver's Week.

Once again, apologies if my review spoiled anyone's enjoyment of the show.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Mastermind - Semi Final 2/6


Tonight gave us our second chance to have a look at the ninety second specialist round format. Last week it didn’t make any material difference to the show – I think any of the viewers would have to agree that Kathryn was a very comfortable winner. So how did it pan out tonight ?

First to go was Valerie Roebuck. Valerie won heat 18 back in the middle of February, with 24, one of the more modest winning scores of the first round. Back then she answered on Tolkien, tonight it was a case of –and now for something completely different, as she answered on Sir Walter Raleigh. I’m still coming to terms with the 90 second round, so I’m not sure if 12 is just very good, or better than that. Whatever the case, this is what she managed to score to get the show off to a fine start.

Tonight’s high scoring runner up from the first round was my friend and compatriot from the 2007 SOBM, Les Morrell. Way, way back in September of last year we saw Les come runner up in Heat 3 to Ian Orris, who has yet to go in this stage of the competition. Les answered on Clement Atlee in September, while tonight he answered on the TV sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles. Its funny how some popular series stay in the memory, and some don’t. Even though it was extremely popular in its day, its somehow missed joining the ranks of classic, often repeated shows. Well, anyway, I quite often use the adjective virtuoso to describe performances on the show, but this round really deserved it. 15 points is a great total for a 2 minute round. For a 90 second round it’s a real hall of fame performance.

Michael McPartland we last saw a fortnight ago when he won the last heat of the first round. That night he answered questions on the Nuremburg trials. Continuing this commendable trend of picking completely different subjects tonight he took the Sharpe novels of Bernard Cornwell. Any fears that he might be daunted by having to follow Les Morrell’s quicksilver round were pretty quickly dispelled, and 13 put him well into contention, a highly commendable performance in its own right.

I expected Kevin Quinn, our next contender, to manage something similar in his own specialist round, going by the evidence of his first round performance. His victory in heat 21 back in the beginning of March was based on a superb specialist round on the career of Lester Piggott. Tonight his subject was british hit singles of the 1960s. My expectations turned to fear for him as he failed within the first couple of questions to identify Joe Meek as the producer of Telstar, by the Tornados. Yes, I know that you wouldn’t expect the average man in the street to know that, but the average man in the street wouldn’t take it as a specialist subject in Mastermind. I'm sorry to say it, but I thought several of the other questions he got wrong were gettable as well. I can't say why Mr. Quinn didn’t do as well as expected, whether it was nerves or something else, but I’m sure he’ll have been disappointed.

Andrew Warmington , like Les, has previous, having reached the semi finals back in 2004. When he won heat 7 , back in October, he answered on Ancient Greece, and impressed with 14 on both rounds. On paper, he was the most impressive qualifier for tonight’s semi. For his specialist subject tonight he offered us The Life and reign of Henry VIII. Like Les his answers were as brief as possible, and offered quickly. Or to put it another way, he answered like a good old hand. A couple of the questions that were more to do with the reign than the life caught him out, but once again, 13 was impressive.

Kevin Quinn returned to the chair, seeking redemption, and found it with a competent 10, to push his score up to 16. OK, so he only had a lead of 1 now, and he wasn’t going to win, but he had achieved respectability, and whatever else, he is a semi finalist, and you can never take that away from him. He was followed by Valerie Roebuck, who might well have been forgiven for thinking that her 12 on specialist would have put her higher than 4th at the halfway stage. She put on a good show in this round. Things change in the semis – it gets tougher, and 11 is not to be sniffed at. In my heart of hearts I felt sure that Les, Michael or Andrew would improve on her 23, but it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Michael was the first to have a try. He started confidently enough, but the going got tougher for him in the second minute, or that’s how it appeared, anyway. He got close, but didn’t quite manage to make it into double figures, and ended with 22. Andrew had scored 14 on GK in the heats, and something of this sort would really give him a chance of that coveted place in the grand final. He never looked convincing this time out, though. It can happen. Sometimes the questions just don’t run for you. I thought that all of the sets of GK were pretty much of the same level of difficulty tonight, but they just didn’t seem to suit. He scored 8 to finish with 21.

So the question remained – were we going to see Valerie Roebuck join Kathryn Johnson in the Grand Final ? Well, the odds looked against it as Les took his place in the chair, needing 8 and 1 pass, or better, to win the show. He never looked in any real difficulty, and put on the best GK performance of the night, scoring 12 and 1 pass to go through, with a fine score of 27.

Hard lines to all of the other contenders, but well played for making it to the semis. As for Les, I am absolutely delighted ! Les was very unfortunate in the 2007 SOBM to be in the same semi final as 2 contenders who had scored 30 or more in their heats, and another who won the semi with the second highest score of the whole series. Many, many congratulations, Les ! Good luck for the final !

The Details

Valerie Roebuck Sir Walter Raleigh12 - 011 - 323 – 3
Les MorrellThe TV series Ever Decreasing Circles15 – 112 – 1 27 – 2
Michael McPartlandThe Sharpe novels of Bernard Cornwell13 – 0 9 - 222 – 2
Kevin QuinnBritish chart hit singles of the 1960s6 - 210 - 316 – 3
Andrew WarmingtonThe Life and Reign of Henry VIII13 - 08 - 421 – 4

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Answers to March Quiz

1) This year is the 25th anniversary of on an internet address. But which word does com actually stand for ?

2) Where is your axilla ?

3) In which range of hills does the River Mersey have its source ?

4) Who created the detective Mike Hammer ?
Mickey Spillane

5) Which island in New York was the disembarkation point for immigrants throughout the 19th and early 20th century ?
Ellis Island

6) Which soft french cheese has a name which means Port of Safety ?
Port Salut

7) Chernobyl – site of the 1986 nuclear power station meltdown, was then in the Soviet Union. Which country is it in now ?

8) In which film did Robin Williams play DJ Adrian Cronauer ?
Good Morning Vietnam

9) What was unusual about the doctor in Star Trek Voyager ?
He was a hologram

10) In which sport might you perform a telemark landing ?
Skiing – especially ski jumping

11) Following two deaths last week there have been calls for which legal stimulant drug to be banned ?

12) What type of fruit is a biffin ?

13) In Greek Mythology, who escaped from the labyrinth aided by a ball of wool ?

14) BD is the first part of the postcode of which UK city ?

15) In the Netherlands, which word is used for lands which have been reclaimed from the sea ?

16) In the food industry – what does TVP stand for ?
Textured Vegetable Protein

17) What is the main difference between refracting and reflecting telescopes ?
Refracting use lenses – reflecting use mirrors

18) Reggae Reggae Sauce, available in all good supermarkets, is the most famous product which to come about through which TV show ?
Dragons Den

19) Which 3 words complete the full title of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s Je T’aime ?
Moi non plus

20) In which year was the football world cup final between Italy and Brazil decided on penalties ?

21) Whose face appeared on English banknotes before Elizabeth II ?

22) What type of fin is a fishes tail ?
Caudal fin

23) Who composed the Liverpool Oratorio ?
Paul McCartney

24) Which Radnorshire town is known as the town on the dyke ?

25) Which two nations fought the Battle of Marathon ?
Athenians and Persians

26) Which cartoon strip heroine was created for the Evening Standard newspaper in 1966 by Peter O’Donnell ?
Modesty Blaise

27) When does a meteor become a meteorite ?
When it enters Earth atmosphere

28) What started in Singapore in 1940, and ended in Hongkong in 1962 ?
The Hope and Crosby Road Films

29) The French song Comme d’Habitude was better known in the version with English lyrics by Paul Anka – how do we know it ?
My Way

30) In formula 1, what name is given to the area where the winning cars must be parked for a final inspection ?
Parc Ferme

31) He Pingping died last week. Why was this in the news ?
He was the world’s shortest man

32) Which bird is also called a laverock ?

33) All that Glisters is not gold is a quotation from which of Shakespeare’s plays ?
The Merchant of Venice

34) Which is the largest country through which the Tropic of Capricorn passes ?

35) The hexagonal columns of the Giants Causeway in Antrim are formed from which rock ?

36) What is the difference between a hitch and a splice ?
Hitch ties a rope to something else, a splice ties two pieces of rope together

37) What do the letters PH stand for, as in PH scale ?
Potential of hydrogen

38) In Pinocchio, which character sings “When you wish upon a star “ ?
Jiminy Cricket

39) Which Sci Fi Tv show began with the words “There is nothing wrong with your TV set – do not adjust the picture “
The Outer Limits

40) Who was the first person to captain a winning Britain and Europe team in the Ryder cup ?
Tony Jacklin

Mastermind News - Champion of Champions Tournament

OK, I think that the cat is safely out of the bag now. The BBC have started to advertise tickets to be in the audience for the show so I feel happy that I can share this one with you. In the summer, there will be a Mastermind Champion of Champions tournament, which BBC2 will be offering as an alternative to some of the world cup games. Yes, I have been invited, and yes I have accepted the invitation.

Please forgive me if I don’t share my specialist subject with you yet. I’m keeping a journal of my involvement with the show, and I promise that I will share all after its been broadcast, as I did with AYAE and Brain of Britain.

I don’t know who else is taking part. I believe that a mixture of champions from all 4 incarnations of Mastermind will be involved.

As an aside, to my knowledge the BBC have twice made a tournament of champions. In 1975, the first four champions – 1972’s Nancy Wilkinson, 1973’s Patricia Owen, 1974’s Elizabeth Horrocks and 1975’s John Hart took part in what was called the Supermind Challenge. This was actually filmed a scant hour after the 1975 final, and Magnus Magnusson himself described it as “a light hearted joust”. This was won by Nancy Wilkinson.

Again, to quote from Magnus Magnusson’s “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish “ –
“It had been decided to switch the schedule of transmissions from late Autumn to early spring ( from October 1981 to January 1983 ) and since 1981 had been the tenth series, it seemed a good idea to fill the empty year and celebrate the tenth anniversary with a tournament featuring the first ten Mastermind Champions in a special ludus ludorum “

This 1982 series consisted of two semi finals of five champions each, with the winner and runner up going through to the final. Each had to choose different subjects from any they had chosen in earlier appearances.
The first 10 champions, who all took part, were in order: -
Nancy Wilkinson
Patricia Owen
Elizabeth Horrocks
John Hart
Roger Pritchard
Sir David Hunt
Rosemary James
Philip Jenkins
Fred Housego
Leslie Grout

The final was contested between Patricia Owen ( 1973 ) Sir David Hunt ( 1977 ) Rosemary James ( 1978 ) and Philip Jenkins (1979 ) The final was won by Sir David Hunt, and all three of the others tied for runner up.

I have no illusions about being good enough to win, or even be a finalist. Doesn’t matter – its going to be fun, and at least I’ll get to meet some of the other champs too.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Only Connect - Grand Final

Only Connect – Grand Final – Gamblers v. Strategists

Well, if you read my preview of the final, you’ll know that I plumped firmly for the Gamblers to win. Jenny Ryan, Alan Gibbs and captain Dave Bill beat the excellent Archers Admirers in their semi, and frankly looked to me to have just too much firepower for the Strategists. Chris Cummins, Sarah Higgins and Michael Dnes beat the Hitchhikers in last week’s show, and while they have had good performances in all three of their shows so far, I felt that they could find themselves too far behind after the first couple of rounds.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

The strategists won the toss, and put the Gamblers into bat. Captain Scarlet and Reg Cox seemed a fairly gentle opener. Alan offered the team that Reg Cox died – strictly speaking was already dead – in the first episode of Eastenders , and Captain Scarlet died in the first episode of Coronation Street – sorry, Captain Scarlet. To be on the safe side captain Dave asked for the next clue, and Marty Hopkirk confirmed the connection. 2 points, and a good start off a lovely connection. The Strategists put themselves under pressure by failing to get the connection between East Timor – Lake Chad – Sahara Desert and River Avon. Living in Wales I know that avon is welsh for river – so Sahara also means desert etc. The Gamblers knew this and took the bonus. The Gamblers took the picture bonus, and in their turn failed to link a Danish Pasty, a bottle of Opium – a football and a Cod. Brilliant work from the Strategists saw them take a bonus by identifying wars. Apparently the pastry war was between France and Mexico ! They took the music questions, and undid all the good work, by throwing away the music connection.They didn't see Thelonius Monk – Aretha Franklin – Beverly Knight and Steve Miller as being related to Chaucer’s pilgrims. That, I am sorry, has to count as a gettable point dropped. Not by the Gamblers, though, who took the bonus. Victoria loved this question, she said, and with good reason. Lovely connection again. The Gamblers were offered apple crumble and carrot pudding, after which I spotted the connection. In fact I even predicted the last one would be woolton pie. Still, its easier when you’re at home. Chicory coffee on the third clue gave the Gamblers the answer, that they are all wartime recipes when something else has been substituted for a main ingredient. So the Strategists finished off the round with pieta Michelangelo – Rokeby Venus - Velasquez - Guenica – Picasso – Mild, mild west – Banksy. They tentatively offered murals, but the Gamblers’ Jenny knew that they were all works that have been vandalised. So pre – match predictions seemed to be coming true, as the Gamblers’ comfortably superior general knowledge gave them a lead of 7 – 1.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

The first clue for the Gamblers gave them the connection straightaway. 6 in 1958 they sussed out referred to members of the EEC/Common Market. However what would come fourth ? They took the next clue – 9 in 1973 which certainly confirmed their logic. They offered 15 in 1988. This was wrong, and so the next clue – 10 in 1981 was offered to the Strategists. They correctly gave 12 in 1986. So with a bonus under their belts they tried otay – ebay -orway. Chris brilliantly worked out that this was the beginning of Hamlet’s soliloquoy in pig latin, but couldn’t work out how to render ‘not’. Neither could the Gamblers, although to be fair they were given hardly any time to do it. The Gamblers were given 4th : HND – 3rd LHR. Now this is exactly the sort of thing that the Gamblers excel at. They knew it was airports codes, and that the world’s busiest airport is now Heartsfield airport in Atlanta. They still needed to get the code , and they did – 1st:ATL. The Strategists were given the mathematical looking – Five =8/1 – Four = 11/1 – Three= 17 /1. They couldn’t fathom it. Neither could I. Dave did – Two = 35/1. They are the odds of rolling a number with two dice. The Gamblers for their go picked the pictures. An avocado, Rudolf Hess, a snake with an empty speech bubble gave them to correctly predict that they had been given hass – hess – hiss, so the last one , said Alan, would be Hoss Cartwright from Bonanza. When you’re good, you’re good, and when you’re good and on form, then you’re excellent. Finally the Strategists, and when offered a british egg, the Tibetan flag, and an England football shirt, they suggested something with 4 lions, and when pushed for an example by Victoria, offered Nelson’s column. 4 lions, you see. Good connection again.Still, the lead for the Gamblers had extended to 13-4.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

At the top of the show captain Michael of the Strategists had spoken of his embarrassment at fluking the wall in the semi. Well, I’m afraid no such embarrassment faced his team in this show. They quickly unravelled a set of terms believed to be derived from Julius Caesar, but I’m afraid that was it. Once the wall was unravelled they also spotted a set of page 3 type models. The ones they missed were 5th parts of a sequence – May – Epsilon – Boron etc, and formula 1 constructors.So even if the Gamblers failed completely, they would still have a huge lead. Jenny of the Gamblers repeated her feat from the semi of spotting a set almost instantly, seeing a set of Bob the Builder’s machines. They found a set of oranges, and then Alan with what I felt was a great shout saw a set of words, the last part of which were all girl’s names – chamber – chalice etc. When the wall was resolved the last set they didn’t get was Don Juan – Beppo – Cain – Darkness. I’ve heard of Don Juan, but never the other three – they were all written by Byron. Still, as Victoria said – you guys are just too good. Going into the final round, the score was 20 – 7.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

Let me quote from my preview of the match – “the Strategists , particularly in the shape of the excellent Chris Cummins, have an advantage in the missing vowels” Working on the premise that they often have up to 4 sets of 4 in the last round, and you can lose a point for an incorrect answer , it was still theoretically possible for the Strategists to win, albeit more of a mathematical possibility than a realistic one. Step forward Chris Cummins. The first set was World War I leaders. One went begging, but Chris picked up the other three. Next came arithmetical equations. The first 3 went straight to the Strategists, with only Dave picking up the last for the Gamblers. Famous autobiographies followed and the lead was down to 8 points. Chris picked up the first three, and the last went unanswered. The next category was Early Musical Instruments. The Strategists took this 3 – 1, but the end of the round had come. The final score was 22 – 19 to the Gamblers. This all goes to show how important the last round is. The Strategists had been comfortably beaten in three rounds, but a superb performance in the last made it a close match in the end. Full credit to you for that, Strategists. It was a last round to savour.

However the laurels go to the Gamblers, who, like Emmanuel College Cambridge manage the remarkable feat of winning the series despite being tipped to do so from the Clark sofa. Very well played. Anyone would have to admit that you proved yourselves the strongest and most resilient team in the series, and are full deserving of the title of champions. Congratulations !

Thanks to the production team and everyone involved with the show for another excellent series.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Mastermind - Semi final 1/6

It was only as the show started this evening that it finally occurred to me to ask the question – how are they going to squeeze an extra contender into what is still a half hour show ? Looking at it in terms of sheer logistics, it seemed to me that they needed to find another 4 minutes from somewhere to accommodate the extra rounds. Fairly obviously for the chop were the filmed inserts. However that wouldn’t provide enough. So the answer they’ve come up with is to reduce the specialist rounds to 90 seconds rather than two minutes. So this measure had the dual effect of reducing the amount of time needed to be found by 30 seconds, and of finding 2 minutes from the specialist rounds.

I do have mixed feelings about this. On the positive side at least it means that the highest scoring runners-up have been accommodated. As a rule people tend to get more excited about watching the GK rounds, than the specialists. The show did have shades of the Magnus era tonight, as it was lean and mean, with no unnecessary chat or talk whatsoever. Less positively though this was almost shades of Discovery Mastermind too. Some people may well feel that this does make the General Knowledge rounds, which are still 2 minutes long, disproportionately important. Its early days to make hard and fast pronouncements on this from just one show, and I think we need to see all six semis. Still , it s a development which is bound to cause a fair amount of comment and debate. Will they return to the 2 minute Specialist rounds for the final ? I sincerely hope so.

If you read my review/preview a couple of days ago, you’ll have seen that I noted that you can often get semi finals where several of the top contenders from the first round have to battle it out with each other for one place in the final. Such a semi was tonight, which contained round 1 top scorer, Kathryn Johnson, round 1 second highest scorer Chas Early, and round 1 4th highest scorer, Chris Sowton. Also playing were Nathan Jones and David Sutherland.

LAM reader Kathryn Johnson led off this first new style semi final. In the first round she had scored a magnificent thirty points, where her specialist subject had been Victorian and Edwardian Poisoners. She offered us a slightly more traditional subject tonight in the shape of The Lord Peter Wimsey Novels of Dorothy L. Sayers. It certainly felt like a good round, and a little elementary arithmetic tells me that its equivalent to 14 /15 in a 2 minute round. No passes as well, which is the mark of a good, experienced Mastermind hand.

Back on the 22nd January Nathan Jones won heat 15 on Karl Gustav Mannerheim. Tonight he gave us The Anglo American War of 1812. Very much a lesser known war this one, but it was during this war that The Star Spangled Banner was written. Nathan too scored 11, despite looking and sounding extremely nervous.

Chris Sowton won heat 17 in February, where he had produced a good GK round, and a very impressive specialist round on Lord’s Cricket Ground. His subject tonight was Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Of all of tonight’s other contenders he was the most likely to be able to mount a challenge to Kathryn, if he could only get a lead on specialist. Well , he did get a lead, but getting a substantial lead in only 90 seconds is very difficult. 12 points was what I suspect will turn out to be a very , very good performance in a 90 second round.

When he won heat 22 a few weeks ago, answering on The Child Ballads, David Sutherland had marked himself out as a solid performer with 24. Tonight he was answering on the Life and Work of Cecil Sharp. In case you’re as ignorant about Cecil Sharp as I was, according to wikipedia he was the father of the folklore revival in England in the early 20th century. I cannot say whether it was nerves from the added pressure of the semis, or that Mr. Sutherland’s understanding of the parameters of his subject was at variance with that of the question setters, but he really seemed to struggle, and hit quite a nasty pass spiral, to finish the round with five.

Chas Early scored a truly massive 18 on Bill Hicks when he won heat 8. Tonight he answered questions on the TV series The Wire. I liked the way that he raced through his questions, giving surnames when names were asked for, and snapping out the answers the second that the questions had died on John’s lips. He too scored 11 points, which meant that at the end of round 1, any one of 4 contenders could win.

Not David Sutherland this time, though. He needed 7 points just to take the lead, and although he did get this , and some more, he finished on 14 points. He has nothing to be ashamed of, being now and forever more a Mastermind semi finalist. He fell foul of the fact that it is one thing to have one good subject for Mastermind, and quite another thing to find 2. He won’t be the last to do so this series, I fancy.

Kathryn came next. Kathryn you may recall had the highest general knowledge score of the first round, with 15. Not satisfied with this, she went one better tonight and scored 16. That’s a superlative performance. To put it into perspective , nobody scored 16 on GK in the whole of the 2008/9 series, and nobody scored 16 in the whole of the 2007/8 SOBM. With three contenders still to go, you couldn’t escape the conclusion that the show was as good as over – with only Kathryn’s 4 passes to give any scrap of comfort to the opposition.

Nathan Jones had struggled in his GK round in the heats, and as he nervously worked his way through his GK set tonight, you couldn’t help thinking that for him, his real achievement had been in getting to the semi final. To that extent his first round match had been his final, and he’d won that. He added 8 to his score, for a total of 19.

You may recall that I picked on poor Chas Early in my preview of the semi finals as an example of a contender who had really impressed in the heats through a massive specialist score, who might not fare that well in the semis. The wry smile he gave as John Humphrys reminded him that the score to beat was 27 indicated that he realised that it was probably beyond him. He answered quickly, but never reached the level he had managed in the first round heat, and in the end his final score was 18.

This left Chris Sowton. He’d managed 12 on GK in his heat, so in all probability the 16 he needed to win outright without a countback was always probably beyond him. However a 15 and few passes wasn’t totally beyond the bounds of possibility. To be fair to him he had a good old crack at it, managing 12 to finish on 24. When you think that you can add 3 or 4 to that score if there was a full length specialist round, then that’s a fine score. However, that would give Kathryn another 30 plus. So well played all. As for Kathryn, although I’m not going to scupper anyone at this stage by burdening them with the Clark tip, you looked formidable again. Many congratulations – and best of luck for the final.

The Details

Kathryn Johnson The Lord Peter Wimsey Novels of Dorothy L. Sayers11 – 016 – 427 – 4
Nathan JonesThe Anglo American War of 1812 11 – 1 8 – 219 – 6
Chris SowtonHindu Gods and Goddesses12 – 012 – 224 –2
David SutherlandThe Life and Work of Cecil Sharp 5 – 59 – 514 – 10
Chas EarlyThe TV Series – The Wire 11 – 27 – 318 – 5

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Only Connect - Grand Final Preview

I'm not going to sit on the fence. I have a strong gut feeling about the final. I stress here and now that I do NOT already know the outcome, but as I say , I have a strong feeling that The Gamblers will be just too strong and too good for the plucky Strategists. Still, as always, there are factors to be taken into consideration. Lets start with the bare statistics of how each team have performed taking the series as a whole.

Here are the average scores of both of the teams in each of the four different rounds, and also their average total scores.Yes I know that the totals are a little higher than if you add up all the averages of each of the 4 rounds, but that average is based on the winning scores of each round. Trust me.

TeamWhat's the Connection –R.1What comes 4th – r. 2Connecting Walls – r. 3Missing Vowels - r. 4Match Total

OK – this is not an exact science of course, but on paper it looks as if the contest is actually much closer than I think it is. Statistically the Gamblers have a clear advantage on rounds one and two, which points up the fact that I think its fair to say that they have a superior general knowledge. There is virtually nothing to choose between them on their wall performances, while the Strategists , particularly in the shape of the excellent Chris Cummins, have an advantage in the missing vowels. So the stats seem to suggest that it will be closer than I think it will.Let me pay tribute to the Strategists. They have never looked in trouble throughout the whole series, and have proven themselves to be a very good outfit. Yet it just doesn't alter my gut feeling.

Where does my gut feeling come from ? (My gut ? D'Oh !) Well, look at this way. The semis have been harder than the earlier rounds. Its not unreasonable to suggest that the final will be harder again. I think that the Gamblers’ superior general knowledge may well give them a decisive lead going into the missing vowels round. The Gamblers have shown that they will be better able to take advantage of anything the Strategists can't answer than the Hitchhikers were. I don’t think that the Strategists will be able to get much out of what the Gamblers can't answer. Even regarding the Missing Vowels round, just think for a minute whom each team have faced before. In their semi final the honours were even between the Gamblers and the Archers Admirers- the Archers having consistently been one of the very best teams we have seen on the missing vowels. Even if the Strategists were to go into the round level with the Gamblers there is no guarantee that they would match them for speed on the buzzer.

So I’m sorry Strategists, but I’m sticking with the Gamblers. Still, as you’ve seen in the Gamblers last match, my Only Connect tips are unreliable. Best of luck to both teams.

TV Watch - Only Connect

Only Connect – Semi Final 2 – Hitchhikers v. Strategists

Well, there’s only one question on everyone’s lips as we go into the second semi final – will the curse of the Clark sofa do for the Strategists as it did for the Archers in the previous semi ? Alright, maybe not everyone’s lips. However my reputation as a tipster, so well restored by correctly predicting the 4 semi finalists, 2 finalists , and winners of UC was at stake here. As I read it, the underdogs were the Hitchhikers, Chris White, Fiona Constantine, and Tom Scott, who beat the Brasenose Postgrads in the 2nd round. Their opponents, and recipients of the onerous Clark tip , were the Strategists, Chris Cummins, Sarah Higgins, and captain Michael Dnes, who comfortably beat the Neuroscientists in the 2nd round. I will quote from my preview of the semi finals on 26th March –
“As with the first semi, any huge difference between the relative performance of the teams comes down to the connecting walls”. Hmmm.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

Hitchhikers began with epsilon, and Fiona Constantine impressed me tremendously by taking London’s Burning, and sandwiches, and confidently asserting that they came in rounds – as in being sung in a round, and a round of sandwiches. 3 points, and a great start. The last in the set would have been applause, which led to Victoria’s quip of the week. She suggested that that answer should lead to a round of applause, and the Strategists duly obliged. “Now I know how it would feel to present a Saturday night show on ITV “ was her rejoinder. The set of Charles Babbage , Mrs. Lovett, The Witch in Hansel and Gretel, and 24 blackbirds begged to be answered with the word pie. Incorrectly as it turned out. All of them went into an oven while still alive. Tricky, but as we always say, it is the semi final. Hitchhikers picked alpha, for perfectio in spiritu, ut amem et foveam, VII, and the clincher – Brooklyn. The Hitchhikers really should have seen Beckham tattoos there, and the Strategists made no mistake for a bonus. They picked gamma for the music bonus. I didn’t get the first two clues, but Ray Charles singing Georgia on my mind, and Stevie Wonder singing Superstition made it easily gettable. Neither team managed it though. Hitchhikers took delta for the pictures – Bob Seeger – Henry Seagrave’s Silver Bullet car – the Lone ranger and a werewolf. What a beautiful little connection. I didn’t know Bob Seeger’s silver bullet band, and although I thought it was Seagrave’s car I didn’t know what it was called. But the last two were enough – the Lone Ranger used them, and werewolves can be killed by them. Again, it passed by both teams.The Strategists finished with zeta, and what I thought was the easiest of the sets. I might have gambled for five when I saw Richard Bachmann, and like the Strategists I would have definitely gone on Mary Westmacott, for pseudonyms of writers working in a different genre from their main one. So after round one the Strategists had a slight lead of 4 - 3

Round Two – What comes fourth ?

A first pick of epsilon gave the Hitchhikers a set of pictures. For me this was their answer of the night. Panther and Tiger gave Tom Scott MAC operating systems, and he knew that the 4th would be snow leopard. Yeah, OK, so IT is his field, but even so it would have been very easy to have been sidetracked on this one. Altogether now, its all the luck of the draw which questions you get. The Strategists too had a great answer on their first set. S=1/2 M=1000 L=50 gave them XL= 40. They are all clothes sizes and their numerical value when roman numerals. Great – no –actually, GREAT question. The third set gave the Hitchhikers Anger – Bargaining – and they realised that it was the 5 states of grief. They discounted acceptance, and went for denial. Incorrect. Even when given acceptance, the Strategists didn’t go for acceptance, which the Hitchhikers had wrongly rejected. The crafty setters had deliberately started after denial, which messed them both up. The Strategists then were offered afro Asiatic, Niger – Congo , after which they were on the right lines, which sino – Tibetan confirmed – that they were all language families, and the 4th would be indo-european. The Hitchhikers last set were George II 1989, William IV 1993, George III 2001– in fact I told a lie earlier. This was in fact their answer of the night. They correctly identified the answer as Barack I 2009. Victoria said that it was horrifically complicated to get US presidents by their regnal number. So the strategists brought the round to a close with Chinese – Turkish – Singapore. Chris Cummins was right to think Grand Prix, but neither teams got that the latest new one was Abu Dhabi. Well done to both teams in this round. These were tricky old sets, and both teams showed ample proof that they are no mugs at all. Good play, and the Hitchhikers had deservedly overhauled the Strategists to lead by 9 - 8

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Strategists led, and had untangled two sets with a minute to go. They were barking completely up the wrong tree with what they were looking for, yet it was enough to untangle the last two. So 4 points already. They identified sets of second partners of double acts, but missed orchestra leaders, and words which could be followed by ball- which they felt would be followed by man instead.Versions of solitaire or patience escaped me too.
At the top of the show the Hitchhikers had correctly identified the connecting wall as their Achilles heel. So it proved again. None of the four sets were unscrambled in the time. When they were unravelled, the Hitchhikers could see a set of butterflies, which they had known were there but couldn’t find.They could also see a set of things that go in threes – degrees – R etc. They failed to see characters from Are You Being Served, being but youngsters, and also failed to see a set of deputy leaders of the Labour Party. So as I predicted the walls made it advantage Strategists, with 13 to 11.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

The Clark prediction looked fairly safe, considering the Hitchhikers inconsistent vowel performances in earlier rounds. The first set offered us world currencies. The Strategists took the first two, then Tom of the Hitchhikers offered Vietnam Dong instead of Vietnamese Dong. No dice, and hard lines, but them’s the rules. Danish Krone gave them a full set, and the Hitchhikers a mountain to climb.Physical constants fell 3 –1 to the Strategists, but unlucky Tom lost another point by a slight mistake . Heraldic terms followed and fell to the Strategists 3 – 0. Characters who committed suicide followed, and this time it was the Strategists who made the small slip, giving us Madame Bovary instead of Emma Bovary. The Hitchhikers took the bonus, and the very last one – Juliet Capulet – for good measure. The final score was 22 – 12 to the Strategists.

Commiserations to the Hitchhikers. It really was a game of two halves for you. For the first two rounds you punched well above your weight. Even after the wall you were still in it, but the missing vowels did it.

As for the Strategists – very well done ! Reaching the final of Only Connect is a huge achievement. Good show.

University Challenge - Grand Final

University Challenge Grand Final – St. John’s Oxford v. Emmanuel , Cambridge

At last the final. A fascinating match up , and as JP pointed out its been a while since we had an Oxford v. Cambridge final. The St. John’s team were the only one to get this far undefeated, and they are
Oliver Chen
Lauren Parry
George Woudhuysen
David Townsend.

As for Emmanuel, JP memorably described their first round defeat as “that pratfall in round one “. They are
Andy Hastings
Jenny Harris
Alex Guttenplan
Josh Scott

JP was wasting no time on lengthy introductions now, and it was straight on with the first starter. Faced with a list of book titles, regular LAM reader Jenny Harris buzzed in with an impressively early interruption to identify Hamlet as the linking theme. 3 out of 3 bonuses were a signal of intent, as was Alex Guttenplan’s comfortable win in the buzzer race for the next starter to identify a trading league with a base in London as The Hanseatic League. Personally I though that came somewhere between the Doctor Martens League and the Unibond Premiership, but I digress. Bonuses on documentary films followed , and one was taken. Captain George Woudhuysen of St. John’s showed a cool head and a fast buzzer finger to identify the decade that saw the accession of Henry VIII as the 1500s. A rather interminable set of bonuses on Gilbert and Sullivan’s modern major general followed . Three out of three bonuses narrowed the gap considerably. Amazingly Alex Guttenplan got the next starter wrong, although nobody on either team managed to recognise a definition of sunspots. Jenny took the next , though, recognising houses central to the plots of Jane Austen novels. Faced with bioluminescence I thought that they did well to take two of them. The picture round followed, with a road sign in Gaelic. Alex G. correctly identified Dublin. Then followed Aberdaugleddau, which the team could see was welsh. I actually knew that this was Milford Haven – or at the mouth of the two River Cleddau’s as I think it translates, but this passed them by, as did Newquay rendered in Cornish, and the one they really should have had – Edinburgh in Scots Gaelic. Its an old chestnut to ask which New Zealand city has a name which is the old name for Edinburgh – Dunedin being the answer.

Asked to identify a series of popes sharing the same name Jenny guessed incorrectly, but David Townsend correctly supplied ‘Leo’, a good shout at a time when Emmanuel’s lead was threatening to become oppressive.A good set of bonuses on Polybius followed. St. John’s weren’t getting as many starters as Emmanuel, but when they did they were converting bonuses brilliantly. Mr. Townsend took the next starter, and three bonuses again took their score to 75, and a ten point lead on the ten minute mark. What a good final so far.

Moving into the second phase of the competition, and the momentum seemed to be with St. John’s. Not for long. Alex G. recognised an example of a syllogism, and the first bonus gave them back the lead. Andy Hastings buzzed in early on the next question, being beaten by a swerve which saw his answer actually emerge as part of a question. St. John’s had to let the opportunity pass untaken. So to make amends Andy Hastings correctly identified DH Lawrence as dying of tuberculosis in 1930. 2 bonuses took Emmanuel into treble figures. For the next starter, a music starter, we were given the rather unsettling experience of listening to a recording of the very last castrato. No, sorry, I’m not explaining that one. The clue is in the question. Neither team identified the composer.Alex G.showed that he has the knack of waiting to exactly the right moment when the question becomes clear before buzzing. Offered a definition of a philosopher, as soon as JP said ‘associated with hedonism’ he buzzed, to correctly identify Epicurus. The music bonuses followed and were duly taken.

15 minutes down, and Alex G. took his 5th starter to earn a set of bonuses on Vesalius. Josh Scott then impressed with a fast identification of a number of lines adding up to the verse form sonnet. An interesting set of bonuses on people born on September 21st. No prizes to the team for confusing Leonard Cohen with Neil Young. Still at least all four members of the Emmanuel team had answered starters correctly now. They had scored 100 points unanswered, and the time when St. John’s had held the lead seemed a long time ago. Alex G. correctly identified a quote from king Lear referring to astrology .With the next starter, asking how many squares are visible in total on a 3 by 3 square grid, Lauren Parry had a stab with 6, but inevitably the correct answer was supplied by Emmanuel’s irrepressible captain, with 14. This was followed by the unusual sight of him saying ‘I don’t know’ in response to two of the bonuses. Not to worry though. Josh Scott correctly identified a portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein. Twenty minutes gone, and St. John’s had been shut out of the contest completely for ten minutes.

Put yourself in St. John’s position. They were getting beaten to the buzzer consistently. What do you do in that position ? Do you give up, or do you buzz early and hope ? Full credit to George Woudhuysen for doing this with the next starter. Vile Bodies was the signal to go for Evelyn Waugh – alas the swerve on the question meant that they were all by different Waughs. His opposing skipper took the points. When things don’t run for you, they really don’t run for you. George W. buzzed infirst for the next , to identify which body of water European capitals identified by their initials were on. Neither team got the Adriatic.At least on 21 minutes David Townsend permitted himself a wry smile as he correctly identified a set of Prime Ministers of New Zealand. 2 bonuses were taken, and with 5 minutes to go the score stood at 230 to 85. Alex G took the next starter, knowing that the word vintage can apply to both cars and port. A set of bonuses on Mali saw Emmanuel take 2 out of 3. No matter, the match was settled, and there would be another starter from AG shortly. And another. Full credit to George Woudhuysen for getting the next starter after that, identifying the unnamed listener in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as the Wedding Guest. 2 bonuses took them into treble figures, and that’s no more than they deserved. Alex Guttenplan inevitably took the next starter to identify geographical features of Alaska. I didn’t even understand the next starter, but Alex G. did to take his 13th starter for the match. An unbelievable performance which puts him on a par with Gail Trimble.As the gong went, the final score was 315 to 100.

Congratulations, Emmanuel ! And well done for showing your obvious joy at picking up the trophy from Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. From your repechage round onwards you always looked like one of the teams to beat. Thank you for beating the curse of the Clark sofa. As an interesting point, it worked out that you actually beat all 3 of the other semi final teams during the contest.

Many commiserations to St. Johns. You have played a huge part in a memorable series, and can be proud of your achievements.

Thanks BBC, and especially thanks to all the teams who took part in the series. Roll on the next.Finally a thank you to all the members of various teams who have taken time and trouble to leave comments here at LAM. Contact with you has made this series very special for me.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

We know that JP is always on his best behaviour when the Grand Final comes round. He was in top gear tonight, racing through the sets, and what’s more, obviously enjoying it as much as the viewers at home. Full marks to our Jeremy as well for pointing out that he could see that St. John’s were racing to the buzzer all the time as well, but just getting edged out. Jeremy P says it like it is, so this wasn’t just some transparent attempt to console the gallant runners up – it was obviously true, and needed to be said. Well done, sir.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

Leonard Cohen performed on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury in 2008 . That was before Hallelujah was released by Alexandra Burke.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Mastermind Round One - End of Term Report

Review of Round One - Preview of Semi Finals

I’ll give you the statistical breakdown in a minute. First, though, lets spend a few moments looking back at what has been a remarkable series of matches this season so far.

The changes – I know that some people will disagree with me about this, and that’s fine. Debate and a free exchange of views is healthy. Still, for what its worth I think that the changes this series have been for the better. After all, how fair would it have been for John Cooper to have scored that massive 29 in the first round, and still not have made the final because he happened to be in the same heat as Chaz Early ? The old repechage semi final was very much a part of the Magnusson years. While I understand that the high scoring runners up are to be spread between the 6 semis, as happened this year in Brain of Britain, so its slightly different, I do honestly feel that this is a move back towards the show’s roots, and all round a good thing.

As regards the loss of the inter-round chats, to be replaced by the filmed inserts, again I think that this has been to the show’s benefit. You still get a chance for the contenders to put across their personalities, but its not holding the show up any more. The GK rounds are a pleasure to watch again now. As always – just my opinion, feel free to disagree.

OK the highlights : -
Kathryn Johnson’s magnificent 30 in heat 23.This was underlined by the highest score in the GK rounds, with 15. Likewise the superb match between Chaz Early and John Cooper , which saw them tie on a fantastic 29 each, with the outcome decided by passes. No sudden death play offs in the first round this year. Some great subjects chosen – I particularly enjoyed Kathryn’s Victorian and Edwardian Poisoners – although the prize for the most ‘out there’ subject probably goes to “Angels “, offered by Mr. Michael Burton, of whom a little more later. The most impressive specialist round performances were those of Chaz Early, who scored a stupendous 18 on Bill Hicks, and Susan Sworn, whose even more impressive 19 on Richard III was not enough to see her through to the semis.

The Lowlights : -
Poor Kajen Thuraaisingham set a new record total score of 5. The poor fellow froze on the night, and has earned respect for the dignity with which he faced what must have seemed like something of a personal disaster at the time. Before him we had Michael Burton. In case you’ve forgotten, Mr. Burton claimed that his score of 7 was all a prank, a tribute to his 7 children. Whatever. Hopefully it’s the last we’ll ever be seeing of this fantasist on Mastermind. Spare a thought for Susan Sworn as well. She might well have set some kind of record for the difference between Specialist round score, and general knowledge score, where she scored 19 on specialist, but imploded to score 5 on GK. Alas, a similar thing happened in her semi final in 2007.

Right – here are the details
Kathryn Johnson15 – 115 – 230 – 3
Chaz Early 18 - 0 11 - 0 29 – 0
John Cooper 16 – 1 13 - 2 29 - 3
Chris Sowton 16 - 0 12- 0 28 - 0
Mike Court14 - 1 14 - 0 28 - 1
Andrew Warmington14 - 1 14 - 3 28 - 4
Will Salt 15 - 2 13 - 2 28 - 4
Tony Esau14 - 1 13 - 1 27 - 2
Mark Grant17 - 0 10 - 2 27 - 2
Jesse Honey 14 – 2 13 - 1 27 - 3
Ian Orris16 - 111 - 327 - 4
Ian Scott Massie 14 - 0 12 - 2 26 - 2
Les Morrell16 - 0 10 - 3 26 - 3
Barbara Thompson14 - 2 12 - 1 26 - 3
Gavin McEwan 14- 0 12 - 4 26 - 4
Chloe Stone14 - 5 12 - 326 - 8
Colin Wilson16 - 09 - 025 - 0
David Buckle 13 - 0 12 - 125 - 1
Stuart Maclagan 15 - 110 - 0 25 - 1
Michael McPartland 14 - 0 11- 2 25 - 2
Peter Cowans 13 - 012 - 2 25 - 2
Keith Pottage14 - 0 11- 2 25 - 2
William de’Ath 15 - 1 10 - 3 25 - 4
Kevin Quinn 16- 0 9 - 6 25 - 6
Brian Southgate14 - 1 10 - 424 -5
Valerie Roebuck14 - 1 10 - 4 24 - 5
David Sutherland 14 - 2 10 - 4 24 - 6
Tom Hutchings 15 - 18 - 423 - 5
Nathan Jones14 –1 7 - 4 21 - 5
John Iball14 - 2 7- 4 21 – 6

On paper, picking the finalists looks pretty easy. You just perm any six out of the top dozen or so. However its not quite as simple as that . While its more likely that the majority of the finalists will come from the top third of the table, you can’t judge everything on first round scores. For one thing, a huge score in specialist can be misleading. The chances of having massive scores in two specialist subjects in a row are rather slim, and so the GK rounds have to be looked at carefully. So while I’m not saying that Chaz Early, for example, won’t make the final, I believe that Mike Court and Andrew Warmington, for example , may well have a better chance, even though they scored 28 to the 29 scored by Chaz Early.

Lets add another factor to the equation. Within our top 10 we have three well known and successful quizzers – Kathryn, Mark grant and Jesse Honey. However there are another two lurking outside of the top 10 as well, Barbara Thompson and William de’Ath. Barbara Thompson has won both Brain of Britain and the Grand Final of 15 – 1. A highly impressive pedigree. William de’Ath is a highly successful competitor in the IQAGB Grand Prix circuit. If either of these formidable players really hits their stride, then they will be a handful for any other contenders in the same semi final.

One more thing. BBC don’t seem to seed their semi finals. They look at which subjects will work well together to make an interesting show for the viewers. So for example you wouldn’t put 5 entertainment subjects all in the same semi. So every year it seems to work out that there is at least one, and sometimes more than one top-heavy semi final. So its quite possible that we may have more than one of the top contenders in the same semi, and then of course only one of them will be able to make the final.

So many thanks to all the contenders who took part in the first round , the successful , and the not quite so successful – even you , Mr. Burton, for all that I do not like what you’ve done, had a certain entertainment value. Best of luck to all the semi finalists – and well done for getting this far.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Mastermind - First round - Heat 24/24

Sorry this is a little late, but the bloody blog is playing up again.

Enough of such things. Well, here we are at the end of the first round. After last week’s bravura performance from Kathryn it always looked like we were going to come down to earth a little tonight, still, there was much to enjoy in this contest.

The first of 4 newcomers to Mastermind tonight was Peter Benison. His specialist subject was actually one quite close to my heart, the films of Billy Wilder. I think that the word genius is greatly overused, but in terms of cinema, Billy Wilder comes pretty close. He made some pretty good quips in his time too – David Niven in one of his autobiographies said that it was Billy Wilder, who, when filming in Europe, sent his wife a telegram “Am unable to find that bidet you asked for – suggest handstand in shower “. Funnily enough that didn’t feature in the questions tonight. Still , Peter Benison knew many of the ones which did, and he set the bar at 12 points.

Michael McPartland posts on the IQAGB forum, so I was particularly looking out for his performance tonight. He was answering on a notably heavyweight subject tonight, the Nuremberg Trials. Quite rightly , in his filmed intro he pointed out that this was the first ever set of war crimes trials, and has set the pattern for all of those that have sadly followed. This was a good round, and Michael looked like an old Mastermind hand, making sure that every question was answered so as not to take any passes. 14 was a fine score.

Kim Howison is a teacher, which endeared her to me, and her subject was Charles II, which endeared her even further. Certainly one of the most colourful of British monarchs, Kim Howison in her filmed insert suggested that Charles II was probably quite a nice chap to meet, and I’m sure that she’s right. The man must have had charm, albeit a somewhat deceitful side, and a wicked sense of humour as well. Once again, this was a contender who had prepared well for her subject, although I would suggest she was probably not expecting quite so many questions on his life before his accession. She scored 11.

The fictional works of C.S. Lewis, explained John Greer, held a fascination for him since they were so good, despite being the work of an academic. This was quite an undertaking as a specialist subject, since it comprised not only of all of the Narnia novels, but the Perelandra series as well. Small fact – one of Lewis’ academic colleagues and friends, JRR Tolkien, really rather disliked the Narnia series, remarking that “this sort of thing just won’t do. “ Well, it did fine for John Greer. He scored a good thirteen.

So onto the GK rounds. Kim Howison went rather tentatively at her round, and always sounded surprised when she had a right answer. To be fair she had 8 of these, and scored 19 overall, which is perfectly respectable. Peter Benison didn’t quite manage to take the lead from her with his own GK round. He scored 7 , which also gave him 19, but also had 3 passes. John Greer needed 12 and no more than 1 pass, and if he got it, then he would automatically go through to the semis , regardless of whatever Michael scored. He never really got to terms with his round, and by the minute mark he clearly wasn’t going to get there. He did score 8, which gave him 21, and the lead.
So Michael only needed 21 and few passes to go through . He did that relatively easily, and with some room to spare. A good round saw him become the only one of tonight’s contenders to reach double figures in GK. Well done Michael ! A score of 25 is a good performance, and would mark him out as one of the darker horses in the semis. Congratulations are also due to William de’Ath, who claims the last semi final place as a high scoring runner up. Speaking of the semis, they begin in the next show. Watch this space for a review of the first round.

The Details

Peter Benison The Films of Billy Wilder 12 – 2 7 – 1 19 – 3
Michael McPartland The Nuremburg Trials 14 – 0 11 – 2 25 – 2
Kim Howison Charles II 11 – 0 8 – 0 19 – 0
John Greer The Fictional works of CS Lewis 13 – 2 8 – 5 21 – 7

Highest Scoring Runners Up

John Cooper29 – 3
Ian Scott Massie26 – 2
Les Morrell26 - 3
Colin Wilson25 - 0
Peter Cowans25 - 2
William de'Ath25 - 4

University Challenge - Grand Final Preview

Well, before we get onto the serious business of previewing the Grand Final, just a word or two about some of the nonsense that’s already begun to appear in the last few days. You may recall some of the ballyhoo last year about the remarkable captain of the Corpus Christi team, Gail Trimble. Well, not to be outdone this year, during the last few days there has been an increasing amount of interest over Emmanuel’s captain, the gifted Alex Guttenplan. So much so that I found his photo sharing the front page with a large photo of Jeremy Paxman in today’s Daily Telegraph, under the heading ,
“Challenge to TV’s know-it-all “. The article itself is fairly innocuous, with Alex Guttenplan’s far-from-earth-shattering revelation that Jeremy Paxman sometimes mispronounces questions – and I quote
“sometimes if he mispronounces particularly badly they will retake the shot at the end of the match . “
Quite true, I’m sure, but hardly the stuff of front page news – it is also the subject of an editorial in the same paper - since it happens on every recorded quiz show, and not just University Challenge. Its quite possible that the paper didn’t actually speak personally to Mr. Guttenplan, and just took a fairly innocent comment he made elsewhere.

As I say, in itself the article is fairly harmless. Not so some of the other stuff that has caught my eye in the last few days. One particularly insidious piece in an online paper that should know better, while seemingly praising his ability and knowledge , called him ‘robot boy’ throughout the piece. Nasty, that. I’ve never met Mr. Guttenplan, but I know someone who has, and she describes him as quite a private person, who has already been doorstepped and hassled this week. I can only hope that , should Emmanuel win, people will have the decency to remember that he is a 19 year old student – albeit an exceptionally knowledgable one – and leave him alone to get on with his studies after a couple of days of fuss have died down. If Emmanuel win.

This is not a foregone conclusion. Lets get the statistical stuff out of the way now. St. John’s have played in one less match than Emmanuel have, so we need to remember this. Taking the scores from all of their matches into account, St. John’s have an average of 230 points per match, and Emmanuel have an average of 265 points per match. Just consider that for a minute, because in all truth that’s not a huge difference – two sets of starters and one set of bonuses . Still, if we take just their last three matches, the 2 quarter finals and the semi final, then the picture is a little different. St. John’s average is still pretty similar – at 230. However Emmanuel’s climbs to 290. So Emmanuel are a team who seem to be improving. Not only that, but they became the only team so far this series to break the 300 point barrier, in a semi final, against a team as good as Manchester. So the stats say not a lot in it, but Emmanuel more likely to win.

What will it come down to ? 2 factors – the buzzer most importantly, and the rate at which the team convert their bonuses into points. St. John’s possess one of the stars of this series in their captain George Woudhuysen. He has been ably served by his teammates Parry and Townsend. Mr.Chen has been rather quiet since the early rounds, but it must not be forgotten that it was his steely nerve which saw him take the tie break question against Manchester in the quarter finals. Emmanuel , then have the series’ most valuable player in terms of starters correctly answered, that man Guttenplan. However he has been ably served throughout the series by Harris, Scott and Hastings too.

Here’s a few factors which might have a bearing on the outcome of the match : -

· In the semis, St. John’s started like an express train. If they can out buzz Emmanuel at the start of the match, then they will take confidence and may be able to hold onto a lead.

· In a couple of the matches Jenny Harris has buzzed in early, then given a long pause, only supplying answers after Jeremy Paxman has started to say no, and he has accepted the answers. If she does it in the final, and JP is strict, then this could have an effect at a crucial moment.

· However nerve wracking the semi finals may have been, the grand final of University Challenge is a whole other order of magnitude. You may remember last year that Gail Trimble hardly got into the match for the first 20 minutes or so. Sometimes key competitors can freeze.

· You may also remember Gail Trimble’s remarkable finishing burst. One star player of that calibre can make a difference. Alex Guttenplan approached that level in the second half of last week’s show.

· In the Paxman era no Cambridge college has won since his very first series in 1995. Since then it has been won by Oxford colleges 6 times, and also Corpus Christi won last year’s final , to be disqualified a few days after it was broadcast.

What do I think ? Well, my accurate predictions for the quarters and semis have all but buried the curse of the Clark sofa, it would seem. I think it will be a fine match, and I think – and by all means feel free to disagree – I think that Emmanuel are the more likely winners. But St. John’s, take heart, because it would not surprise me either if you won. You are both fine teams, who would be worthy champions. Good luck to you both.