Friday, 27 August 2010

Mastermind - Round 1 - Heat 2/24

Another week, and another 4 contenders. As John began his introduction I found myself wondering whether I would know of any of tonight’s contenders, and blow me, yes I did. Fourth in the introduction was Paul Steeples. As far as I know I’ve never met Mr. Steeples, but I know for a fact that he was second to the great Geoff Thomas in the 2009 final of Brain of Britain, and so very much a force to be reckoned with.AFIK this is Paul's second tilt at Mastermind, havng lost out in the first round of Pat's series in 2005 to Amanda Hill, former finalist, and twice a semi finalist.

Not that this is intended to take anything away from tonight’s other three contenders, the first of whom, Ann Skillen, was answering questions on the TV series To The Manor Born. Isn’t it funny how some sitcoms retain their popularity through the years, and even decades in some cases, while others seem to fade gently from the public’s collective memory. To the Manor Born was hugely popular when it was shown in the early 80s and earned massive audiences, but somehow it doesn’t seem to have held its place in the public’s affection in the same way as, say, The Good Life. Personally I thought that it had its moments, but frankly the show took the Margot Leadbetter character from The Good Life, and made her posher, bitchier and less funny, but then that’s just my opinion and as always . . . Whatever the merits of the show, there’s no doubting the merits of Ann Skillen’s performance, with a perfect round of 17 from 17. Superb quizzing.

It can be very daunting having to follow a round like that , but that’s exactly what Rob Cruise had to do. Rob was answering on a subject very much to my liking, the Life and Career of Lance Armstrong. For Champ of champs, my original choice for final subject would have been the Tour de France, but Laura put me off it since someone was doing something similar in the regular series, and I guess that Rob was the one. He didn’t manage a perfect round, but to be fair he was 10 questions in before he dropped any answers. By the end of the round he’d scored 14, and what do we always say ? Anything in the mid teens is a good score on specialist.

Paul Norwood looked confident and purposeful as he began his round on Napoleon’s Marshals. As well he might. Its not a subject that I can say that I’m particularly familiar with, but Paul’s confidence seemed to carry him through the round very well. He was so enthusiastic that at one point he tried to answer the question before John had finished asking it. Its always a temptation, but not to be advised. Still a great round brought him 16 points and no passes, and left him very much in the hunt going into the GK round.

Paul Steeples followed, answering on the Life and Works of Charles Ives. For some reason this made me think of a minor character from Porridge, but this was not ‘orrible Ives, but rather Charles Ives the American composer. Now, going on his exploits in Brain of Britain it seemed a fair bet that Paul would be the strongest performer on GK, but he couldn’t afford to give anyone more than a couple of points head start to be on the safe side. Paul’s posture on the chair betrayed some nerves, but there was nothing nervous about the cool and confident way that he dealt with the questions, notching up a very good 15. He did pass on the last question which was asked after the buzzer. Time would tell whether this would work against him or not.

Before that, however, Rob Cruise returned to the chair. This was a GK round which started extremely well, with Mr. Cruise shaping up very much like a quiz regular, bearing in mind the breadth and range of questions that he was answering. It tended to level out a little bit towards the second half of the round – its only an extra 30 seconds, but it does take that much extra mental stamina to maintain the rhythm throughout the round, or so it seems to me. An extra 14 points took him to 28.

My pre-match favourite, Paul Steeples, returned to the chair next. He was rather hard on himself on the few occasions he got answers wrong, grimacing and even so it seemed telling himself off under his breath. He really needn’t have done this, since this was a very good performance, a measured and steady performance which saw him score consistently throughout the whole round. His 17 , for a total of 32, set a new record for a 4 and a half minute regular series performance, albeit not as good as the performances in the final of champion of champions. Time would tell whether either of tonight’s remaining contenders could improve upon it.

It became apparent fairly early in Paul Norwood’s round that he was going to fall short of the total. Unlike the previous two contenders Paul Norwood’s quiz knowledge wasn’t enough to enable him to build his score consistently through the round. Of all the sets of GK tonight, I found that his were possibly the hardest, although I wouldn’t have said that there was a great deal in it. By the end of the round he had taken his score to 26.

So it was down to Ann Skillen. Could she become our first lady winner of this series. She could, but it would need a round of 15 and no more than 2 passes to do it. That’s equivalent to about 11 in old money, and its no picnic, either. Ann showed that she has a good general knowledge, but she was answering slowly, and not building up the head of steam she needed. A run of passes in the last 30 seconds, when she had seemingly run out of momentum put her behind the clock, and in the end she levelled out at 13 points for a total of 30. Nonetheless a good performance, which gives her a chance of the semis.

So well done, Mr. Steeples. A strong contender who I suspect will be someone to watch by the time the semis come round.

The Details

Ann Skillen To The Manor Born 17 – 0 13 – 7 30 – 7
Rob Cruise Life and Career of Lance Armstrong 14 – 1 14 – 2 28 – 3
Paul Norwood Napoleon’s Marshals 16 – 0 10 – 3 26 – 3
Paul Steeples The Life and Work of Charles Ives 15 – 1 17 – 2 32 – 3

Highest Scoring Runners Up

Ann Skillen – 30 – 7
James Collenette – 29 - 2


Paul Steeples said...

David - as far as I know, we haven't met. I'm a regular in the Quiz League of London, but wasn't playing the evening you sat in on the Summer League. I hope to see you in a future game.

You're right about my previous appearences on Mastermind and Brain of Britain. I also won Counterpoint one year, which is probably why I was swearing under my breath at getting a question on Tchaikovsky symphonies wrong.

It's interesting the way people have picked up on my moments of self-chastisement. I do them so often in the QLL that I must have forgotten that it would look odd on the TV. In any event, it's always interesting to read others' views, and thank you for your kind remarks.

I'm recording my semi next Monday - my specialist subject is Victorian churches of London. It's interesting that mine was the first heat to be recorded, whereas last week's was apparently 23rd out of 24. I assume they're trying to pick some exciting ones to start with.

You've got a good site, which I'll make sure I revisit.

All the best,

Paul Steeples

Londinius said...

Hello Paul. Its lovely to make your virtual acquaintance, and thank you for taking the time and trouble to leave a comment here.

Its really interesting to see them recording the series later and later in the year. My final in 2007 was recorded in June, and Nancy's in 2008 in the beginning of September - not sure about Jesse's this year. They gave us about 5 or 6 weeks after the semis to learn for the final, as I recall.

May I wish you the very best of luck , and hopefully we'll meet in the flesh some time in the near future. Thanks again for your kind words about the blog.

Best regards