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.
|Kathryn Johnson||The Lord Peter Wimsey Novels of Dorothy L. Sayers||11 – 0||16 – 4||27 – 4|
|Nathan Jones||The Anglo American War of 1812||11 – 1||8 – 2||19 – 6|
|Chris Sowton||Hindu Gods and Goddesses||12 – 0||12 – 2||24 –2|
|David Sutherland||The Life and Work of Cecil Sharp||5 – 5||9 – 5||14 – 10|
|Chas Early||The TV Series – The Wire||11 – 2||7 – 3||18 – 5|