The contenders were Emma McCarthy, Ian Packham, Chris Hill and Rachael Neiman. Now, if you're a regular reader, you'll know that Rachael is in fact our very own Rach Cherryade, long time regular reader and contributor. Rach was last seen on screen with the fine Manchester University team who reached the semi finals in last year's University Challenge. Manchester beat the curse of the Clark sofa on more than one occasion last year in their run to the semis. Could Rach beat it again to reach the Mastermind semis ? Well, if vocal support from this corner of South Wales meant anything, she was certainly in with a chance.
Before Rach got her first turn in the chair, though, the other three contenders were to lay down the gauntlet. First to go was Emma McCarthy. Emma was answering on the Tudor Monarchy. I have to say that I really enjoyed this specialist subject, and found that what I remembered from A Level history was enough to enable me to build up a halfway decent score on this set of questions. She was a little unlucky to get herself tied up about the man Mary I appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. The correct answer was Reginald Pole, while Emma answered - de la Pole - perhaps thinking of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. Its the sort of thing that can happen when you're under pressure. 10 was a decent score, nothing to be ashamed of, but even at this early point looked unlikely to be a winning one.
Ian Packham came next, with another specialist subject to my liking, in the shape of the Travelogues of Michael Palin. Ian really knew his stuff. Even for someone who's watched each of these series several times - apart from the Hemingway Adventure - many of these were pretty tough. I noticed that the question setters got in a little plug for the beeb as well, by having Ian say that the Dalai Lama recognised Michael Palin because he watched the BBC ! 15 was a fine score.
Chris Hill, like Emma McCarthy, was answering on a more traditional type of Mastermind specialist subject. In Chris' case, it was Postage Stamps of the 19th Century. And if you're thinking that it sounds like a wide subject, then you're right, since this was about all of them - any stamp, anywhere in the world. If it was a stamp from the 19th century, then it was fair game. A very good start saw Chris well up with Ian up until the 6th question, when he broke the cardinal rule by having a lllooonnnggg pause followed by a pass. Fair play , he kept his head, kept answering, and scored 13, which is a good score by anyone's reckoning.
Now for Rach. I knew that Rach had decided on scottish group Belle and Sebastian for the first round when she made up her mind to apply for Mastermind. I also have an idea just how knowledgable she is about music, so I expected her to do well. I hope, though, that she won't be annoyed with me when I say that I didn't quite expect the fireworks that we were going to see in the next 2 minutes. The first 15 questions were absolutely devoured, questions 17 to 19 ditto, with only question 16 slipping through the net. I loved the way that you could see Rach giving a little smile when she knew the answers before John had finished answering the question - something people have also accused me of doing in the past. John quite rightly called Rachael's score a 'whopping' 18 points, a remarkable performance.
Not that the game was by any means over now. With the extra 30 seconds on General, certainly both Chris and Ian were still very much in it, and if Emma could produce a barnstorming performance, then she could spring a surprise. Well, it wasn't that, although to be fair she started the round extremely well, picking off 10 points in fairly short order. Last week I hypothesised that the extra 30 seconds calls for more mental stamina, and it certainly seemed the case in Emma's round, as she just seemed to run out of steam. Still, 12 points is nothing to be sniffed at.
Chris too seemed to suffer something of the same fate. He started very confidently , and very well, but lost momentum through the round. He too, though, scored 12, which put him ahead of Emma, and set the bar at 25 points. Ian Packham had answered pretty quickly and concisely during his specialist round, and I did wonder if we were going to see more of the same during the GK round. Well, to an extent yes we did, but he too levelled off at 12, for a total of 27.
My excitement , along with my volume level, had been rising throughout the GK rounds. To be honest, I never liked going last in the GK round, which has happened to me twice. However as Rach took her place in the chair this was the situation. Ian had 27 and a lot of passes. So if Rach could score 9 and less than 7 passes, then she would win. 9 and 7 passes would mean a tie break, and anything less would not be enough.
Come on Rach ! - I yelled at the set - you can SO do this ! Just keep answering, and you'll get there.
You can dismiss this as me being biased if you like, but I did think that Rachael's questions were a little bit tougher than the other three GK rounds - yes, its all subjective, I know. What Rach managed to do so well throughout the round was to keep the answers coming, and above all else, to keep her head, and keep picking off the points which were there to be scored. Progress was steady, but the clock was inexorably ticking towards the buzzer - 26 . . 27 . . Come on Rach, don't pass now . . . 28 - YES !!!!!!!!!!
Many , many congratulations to Rachael. I should point out that she is now at the very least a double semi finalist - with UC and Mastermind - and maybe, just maybe, she can go all the way with Mastermind now. Commiserations to the other contenders, all of whom justified their place in the series. If I was put on the spot I would say that Ian Packham's 27 is unlikely to get a place in the repechage, but you never know.
I feel drained ! Rach, I was so proud to be able to point you out to my kids last night and say - "I know her !" Best of luck in the semis.
|Emma McCarthy||The Tudor Monarchy||10 - 3||12 - 3||22 - 6|
|Ian Packham||The Travelogues of Michael Palin||15 - 4||12 - 3||27 - 7|
|Chris Hill||Postage Stamps of the 19th Century||13 - 1||12 - 2||25 - 3|
|Rachael Neiman||Belle and Sebastian||18 - 0||10 - 1||28 - 1|
Highest Scoring Runners - up
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 - 7