University Challenge Round 2 – Match 4 – Peterhouse, Cambridge v. St. John’s, Cambridge.
Peterhouse were comfortable winners over Exeter in the first round, and tonight’s teams were Edward Tait, Ben Slingo, Christopher Stanton and captain Louise Howes. St. John’s didn’t qualify quite so easily, needing to beat St. Andrews in the repechage round to progress. The team, consisting of Elliot Bennett-Spragg, Mark Wilson, Caroline Tecks, and captain James Orr did just that. An interesting match up this, both teams not just playing for a place in the quarters, but presumably for Cambridge bragging rights too.
Ben Slingo was, as I recall, something of a star on the buzzer last time out, and he started as if he meant business tonight, recognising a set of clues all pointing to the name Hamlet. 2 bonuses on fossils followed. Mark Wilson knew that the Italian musical term for – from the top – is da capo, and St. John’s also took two bonuses, this time on the Great Depression. Come to think of it, great depression probably settled over the St. John’s team for quite a while, as they were shut out for the next couple of minutes. Firstly by Ben Slingo, who knew that Cadiz was the Spanish port much raided by English sea dogs, and then by Edward Tait, who took some mathematical thing involving E and Pi. Ben Slingo took the next two starters. One was a brilliant early buzz to identify people whose names had a double z – Ok he didn’t mention the double, but JP took it anyway. Then for the first visual starter they showed the name of the UK, written in another European language. Unlucky for St. John’s that they plumped for Spanish – geographically and also linguistically close, but the answer was Portuguese. No one fancied a shy at Cocteau, but at least captain James Orr managed the last starter before the ten-minute mark, recognising a definition of the word Heuristic. Good and indeed timely shout that. So the first phase of the game clearly belonged to Peterhouse, who led by 100 to 40.
If they had done well in the first phase, then Peterhouse veritably dominated the second. First of all Edward Tait supplied the full name of ATP. Ben Slingo knew about the Missouri River, then Fictional Browns, then Anagrams. At this stage of the game his performance was almost Guttenplanesque – sorry Alex, but until another UC legend comes along you’re stuck with this. Captain Louise Howes then chanced her arm by buzzing in on the music starter, giving half the answer, then pausing, then giving the rest after JP had started saying he was going to pass it across. More about that later. Still, at last the brakes seemed to be applied to the runaway express that was the Peterhouse team at his stage. Mark Wilson muscled his way in to supply Cadmium after a wrongly given Peterhouse answer. Neither team could get a fabulous UC special starter on dates written as roman numerals, but Caroline Tecks gave more fuel to the mini revival by recognising a description of the word cartouche. As we reached the 20-minute mark Peterhouse still had a commanding lead of 185 to 80, but at least St. John’s were on the move now.
The increasingly effective Mark Wilson buzzed in quickly on a definition of the term to Quench. Not only that, but St. John’s took a full set of bonuses on physicists. James Orr knew that the wars Rome fought against Carthage were the Punic Wars. Another 2 bonuses on pigments followed. With the next starter, a second picture starter, we had the rare sight of a Ben Slingo miscue. H recognised an engraving of the infant Moses, but wrongly placed it in the Book of Genesis. St. Johns needed no second invitation, and Mark Wilson knew it was Exodus. I don’t know if this unexpected show of fallibility from Ben Slingo gave St. John’s renewed vigour, but from this moment on they went at it hammer and tongs, as Elliott Bennett Spragg took the next starter identifying which fraction of an old pound was represented by 15 shillings. This was an incredible fightback, and in a way reminded me of Corpus Christi’s final surge in the 2009 final. The excellent Mark Wilson buzzed in again to correctly offer syncline, and with one bonus on garden birds the gap was down to 5 points. So he did it again, recognising a question referring to Thomas More’s Utopia. Only one bonus was taken, but more importantly St. John’s now had the lead. All bets were off. Nobody took a punt at one on ascorbic acid. Then Ben Slingo showed that he has nerves to match his buzzer speed, leaping in when he recognised the two countries which contested the last African Nations Cup in football. So Mark Wilson took the next, knowing that a cross of St. George is on the white ensign. There was surely only time left for one more starter. Which ever of these two titans of the buzzer, Slingo and Wilson, could react first would surely either win it – or if he buzzed early and incorrectly – lose it. Ben Slingo heard Ernest Simpson, and slammed down the buzzer to offer Wallis Simpson. The correct answer. That was it – the gong followed immediately.
What a great show. The finish was simply the most magnificent Devil’s gallop. Very hard lines to St. John’s, but you put up a fantastic show.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
For about 18 minutes JP was all sweetness and light. He loves a team who are on song, and while Peterhouse were building a comfortable lead Jeremy was grinning and almost purring at them.
Then Louise Howes offered the late answer – giving The Beatles right away, but then only offering Eleanor Rigby just as he was saying “ I’m sorry, . . . “ This earned her a most stern “Don’t do it again “ , in the tone of voice which in certain areas is usually followed by words to the effect of– or I’ll smash yer face in.
Interesting Fact of The Week That I Didn’t Already Know
Nadezhda Krupskaya – or Mrs. Lenin – was at one time a librarian.