University Challenge – First round match 9 – Newcastle University v. Sheffield University
Here’s a curious fact about tonight’s match. Once upon a time I was interviewed and offered conditional places at both of these excellent institutions. The fault for me ending up attending neither of them is entirely my own. Lets draw a kindly veil over that and instead begin with Newcastle. Distinguished alumni include Ron Atkinson – sorry, Rowan Atkinson - and Bryan Ferry and also the late Mo Mowlam once taught there. Tonight’s team were David Craig, Patrick Foan, Oliver Sutherland, and captain Laura Bailey. Now, judging from the way I began this post you may well be expecting me to be totally impartial tonight. You would be very wrong to do so. Sheffield, whose former alumni include David Blunkett, Amy Johnson and Eddie Izzard, were carrying the full weight of support from the Clark sofa into tonight’s show. Why ? Why else – they are all LAM readers- indeed two of them, Tristram Cole and Hugh Bennett have already been kind enough to leave comments after reviews of earlier shows in this series. The Sheffield team was completed by Andy Bolton and Captain Tom Thirkell. Well, as LAM readers they are obviously people of wit and intelligence . But would this be enough to beat the curse ?
Early indications were that it would. Tristram – our very own viking o’neil – took the first of a very impressive haul of starters tonight when he quickly figured out that the Queen’s bedroom and Lincoln’s bedroom would be far more likely to belong in the White House rather than elsewhere. Still, Newcastle struck back early with David Craig recognising a quotation by Casanova before anyone else could. Game on. With a rush of blood to the buzzer finger Patrick Foan took a gamble on a definition belonging to the word frontier. It didn’t, and given the benefit of the full question Andy Bolton was easily able to supply terminus. This was followed by a very nice set of bonuses on South American football teams who take their name from English ones. Did you know that Liverpool play in Uruguay, and Everton in Chile ? I didn’t, although I did know that Corinthians play in Brazil. Onto the picture starter. Again, Patrick Foan got to the buzzer first, and correctly supplied the name of Charlie Chaplin. However JP had also asked for the name of the film from which the still shown was taken, and Mr. Foan hesitated just too long. With the question passed across Sheffield were quite happy to accept another windfall, knowing that the famous boot – eating scene shown comes from The Gold Rush. Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd were identified as bonuses in fairly short order, although unaccountably they passed on Edna Purviance. Ah, how soon they forget !
The two miscues seemed to knock a lot of the fight out of Newcastle, even at this early stage, and for over 10 minutes – which is a lifetime in a University Challenge match – it was all one way traffic from Sheffield. Hugh Bennett – our own Hugh Tube – buzzed in for the next starter to correctly identify a blogging doctor of whom I have to admit I have never heard. With the score standing at 90 – 10 to Sheffield on the 10 minute mark it was going to be a long time before it got any better for Newcastle. A mark of the quality of the Sheffield performance so far was that it was after the ten minute mark that the first starter that neither team could answer came up. Neither side identified Clovis as the leader of the Franks. Another mark of a quality performance is that every member of the team answers a starter correctly, and at this point skipper Tom Thirkell took the next two as he answered one which required picking out table tennis from a description of the size of the playing surface, and one which gave several definitions, all referring to the acronym ILP.
Buzzing for fun by this stage, Sheffield then took a good music round , firstly identifying the Dr. Who TV theme, and then identifying which actors had played the doctor during three different versions of the theme. JP looked half horrified and half impressed with the ease with which the team took a full house on this set. You know a team are struggling when our Jeremy tries to encourage them, and even this was rather half hearted – “You can still do it Newcastle – you’ll have to get a move on , though. “ It didn’t work. Tristram took the next starter, identifying Matilda as the name of King Henry I’s only legitimate daughter.
At last, on about the 17 minute mark Patrick Foan threw caution to the winds, and buzzed in to correctly identify tofu. This led to that old UC staple, a set of bonuses on Shakespeare, in this case opening lines. 1 bonus was taken. It didn’t do a lot to take the wind out of Sheffield’s sails, though. To be honest whatever JP had said the match was already won by now, and it looked extremely unlikely that Newcastle would have any chance of getting close to a repechage score. Tristram buzzed in for a couple more good starters as we moved towards the 20 minute mark, which gave Sheffield a lead of 225 to 25.
With all due respect to Newcastle the most exciting thing about the last few minutes was seeing whether Sheffield could burst through the 300 point barrier. However there was one question which particularly struck me. On one set of bonuses about kings of England and their emblems, Sheffield were asked something along the lines of – which king – also a SON of Edward IV – etc. etc. Now, the answer given was Richard III ! Who was Edward IV’s BROTHER. The only son of Edward IV who became king was Edward V. I’ve watched this question 3 or 4 times to see if I’ve misheard – which is still a possibility – but I am pretty sure that this is that rarest of rara aves – a wrong’un on University Challenge.
Back to the show. Sheffield continued to impress not just with the volume of starters that they were answering correctly, but with the range as well. Very few starters were unanswered by either team, and it was Sheffield who were getting most of them. Every member of the team answered at least 2 starters correctly, with Andy Bolton and especially Tristram Cole impressing very much. A good example of this was the speed with which he buzzed in on his last starter to correctly answer that the antonyms in the titles of a TV series by Jacob Bronowski, and a work of Charles Darwin would be Ascent and Descent. I myself was only 9 years old when that TV series was on ! I shudder to think how many years after that Tristram was actually born. Super shout, and one which , when combined with bonuses, took Sheffield through the 300 point barrier.
Captain Laura Bailey of Newcastle did manage to take the last starter , knowing that if it’s a French king, and its Bald , Fat or Stupid, then its Charles. But that was it, no time was even allowed them for bonuses. The final score was 315 to 70. Hard lines to Newcastle. Its very difficult when you’ve had a couple of incorrect buzzes early on, and when you’re against a team as buzzer confident and starter accurate as Sheffield, then its going to be an uphill struggle all the way. Well done indeed to Sheffield, on the most convincing performance in a first round match we’ve seen for quite a long time. Last year nobody managed to beat 300 until the final. Considering they were at the same time battling against the curse of the Clark sofa, its even more impressive. Alright, so the second round is often a whole different ball game to the first, but on this form Sheffield have it within them to go a very, very long way this year. Superb performance – a pleasure to watch.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
JP made it quite clear what he thought about having to ask Dr. Who questions in his show, saying
“See, nothing is ever wasted . “ after Sheffield took a full house on that set. Just before Sheffield passed over the event horizon he did, to be fair, try to encourage Newcastle, but he had clearly lost patience with them by the time that Laura Bailey recognised the second picture starter as an example of pointillism. Like, I suspect, most of us, the Newcastle team were only really familiar with the name of one pointillist painter, Seurat. When she offered “We know its wrong, but we’re going to answer Seurat to each of them “ – a sensible tactic since it was sure to be the answer to one of them, JP retorted ,” Its not very clever when you know its wrong. “ Maybe it was meant as a joke, but under the circumstances this just came across as needlessly kicking a team when they were down .
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
The White Dot Organisation organises events where people are encouraged to turn off their TV and talk to their neighbours instead. If they do it while Big Brother is on I’ll certainly sign on the dotted line.
I must also make a nod to the quote of the week Oscar Wilde said ,
“Every great man has his disciples, and its usually Judas who writes his biography. “ Its worth tuning into UC just to hear stuff like this.