University Challenge – Round 1 Match 14 – Merton, Oxford v. St. John’s Cambridge
Here we are then, after golf – stopped – play , at the end of the first round. For our two teams the stakes were clear, anything over 155, and you’re in the next round. Mind you, both teams were keen to cement their place as of right, by winning the show. Lets start with Merton. One of the more venerable colleges in England’s green and pleasant land, Merton was founded in 1264. Considerably younger were the four team members, Tim Coleman, Verity Parkinson, Kim Al-Hourani and captain Tom Hudson. St. John’s College, who reached the semis a couple of years ago as I recall, began life as a hospital. Tonight’s team were Elliott Bennett-Spragg, Caroline Tecks, Barratt Wilson and captain James Orr. On with the show, then, and let the devil take the hindmost.
The first question was a tricky - how many British Prime Ministers were there between the outbreak of world war II, and the surrender of Japan . Ah, yes, don’t forget Clement Atlee . Tom Hudson remembered him, and took first blood. 2 out of 3 bonuses followed. James Orr of St. John’s took the next starter, identifying a battlefield description as belonging to Bosworth. Bonuses on the state of Nevada gave them a clean sweep, and a slight lead. Neither team managed the next starter. Apparently 1 joule = 10 million ergs. Fair enough. I didn’t know it, neither did Barratt Wilson or Tom Hudson, who both chanced their arms on this one. Worth a shot, anyway. There was a lovely starter on Shakespeare next. Which is the highest ordinal number to appear in the title of a Shakespeare play ? Henry VIII I yelled, quite forgetting that he wrote a popular little number called Twelfth Night as well. Tim Coleman took that one. One out of 3 bonuses on the mistresses of French kings was taken. The picture starter followed. This showed a representation of part of a London Underground map drawn to scale, and nobody managed to identify the station shown. Never mind. Neither team knew that it was his depiction of Lenin in Diego Rivera’s Rockefeller Plaza murals that caused them to be removed. Mr. Wilson, who had been flexing his buzzer finger several times so far cut in with the answer to the next starter, knowing that subjunctive, indicative etc are the moods of verbs. Given the 3 tube map bonuses St. John’s swept up the lot. I knew that RKO studios made stars out of King Kong, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, although not in the same film, but neither team got it. Barratt Wilson took the next starter on some thing to do with angles of incidence and angles of reflection. Well, he knew what JP was talking about anyway. 3 bonuses taken thank you very much, and St. John’s led at the 10 minute mark by 65 to 35.
Merton then had a little bit of a deficit to pull back, and Tim Coleman began by taking a starter on the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. I suppose its probably better than bad fiction in sex. 2 bonuses were taken on cricket. Elliot Bennett-Spragg took a good starter by identifying a definition of the word sibyl, and I was able to quote-a-long-a-Paxman with lines spoken by Lady Macbeth. 1 bonus taken. The music starter followed, with a track from a film soundtrack, which required the name of the artist and the film. St. John’s got the film, Trainspotting, but plumped for leathery old insurance salesman Iggy Pop when they should have gone for Underworld. Kim Al-Hourani knew it, and they gratefully took 2 out of the 3 bonuses on the same film soundtrack. They missed Heaven 17, plumping for Human League – from which group I think Heaven 17 had actually split some time earlier. A miscue from Mr. Wilson on a maths/biology starter let in Tom Hudson, and one bonus on the Dambusters gave Merton a slight lead. The skipper followed this up with his knowledge of Japanese Knotweed. A full set of bonus meant they were keeping the pedal to the metal. Still the indefatigable Barratt Wilson struck right back, recognising Hooke’s Law when he heard it. 3 bonuses on Ancient European languages kept them motoring at full speed themselves. James Orr recognised the picture starter as king Edward VII, and 1 bonus on other people who died in 1910 meant that they were back in the lead. At the 20 minute mark St. John’s had a reduced lead of 120 to 110.
Going into the last part of the quiz both teams had an excellent chance of making it past the total needed to progress. Mr. Wilson was too quick for his own good, answering about a statue found on a greek island. Tim Coleman knew it was the Venus di Milo. Bonuses followed on Thomas Hardy. As a coincidence, Thomas Hardy was the answer that St. John’s gave to the picture of Mark Twain in the picture bonuses, but I digress. Another clean sweep of bonuses followed. Neither team got the next starter, but James Orr impressed me by knowing Berlins as the Riga-born British philosopher. 1 bonus followed. Goodness, but this was a good match. Next question, and it was Tom Hudson who buzzed incorrectly, and Barratt Wilson, waiting this time, came in with ‘nicotine’ , which impressed JP, who to be honest seemed to be enjoying this match as much as I was. Only 1 bonus on opera was taken, but it was enough to edge St. John’s into the lead again. However James Orr buzzed too early on the name of a son of Poseidon, and Merton knew it was Triton. 1 out of 3 bonuses put them on the brink of at least the repechage round. James Orr made amends by taking the next starter, and 2 out of 3 bonuses guaranteed them at least one more match in this year’s competition. Barratt Wilson came in too early for the next starter, but Tim Coleman knew John Knox, and so Merton were also through. The small matter of the winning the game remained. Barratt Wilson identified Plaster of Paris, but we were on the very cups of the gong. When it went, as the smoke cleared we could see that Merton had just edged it by 180 to 175.
Congratulations both teams. Not quite the tightest finish this series, but a good contest between two good teams. Well played !
Well, that completes the first round. Watch this space for my now traditional review of the first round, and preview of the second in the next few days.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
My favourite Paxman moment tonight was illustrative of the way he gets awfully protective about people taking liberties with Shakespeare. When St. John’s dithered over the Lady Macbeth lines he snapped
“These are FAMOUS quotes ! You either know them, or YOU don’t – give us an answer !”
I also enjoyed the way that he baited Tom Hudson, asking for more when Tom had already given him a perfectly acceptable answer, then letting him have the point ,
“Yeah , you can have it !”
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle only took one wicket in his first class cricket career. Mind you, it was that of Dr. W.G. Grace !