Well, then, does last night’s last semi final make anything clearer in terms of what is likely to happen in the final ? Maybe yes. . . but then again maybe no.
Lets start at the beginning. If we look back to last year, you can say that the semi finals produced some great matches, and some close matches, but you can’t say that any of the finalists came as a real shock. Compare that with this year. Only one of the finalists was among the 10 highest scorers in the first round. Even in my year, out of the finalists both Derek and I were in the top scorers in the first round, albeit that I was only just in there by the skin of my teeth. I really hope that they don’t take offence if they read this, since I have nothing but admiration for what they have achieved so far this series, but I think its fair to say that both Tim Fenn and Peter Reilly were something of a surprise package in the semis. After their first rounds I certainly hadn’t marked them out as potential finalists. Especially when you consider the number of great quizzers who lost out at the semi stage – I shan’t add to anyone’s agony by singling them out, but trust me, they were there.
So , enough beating about the bush. Let’s have a look at the runners and riders, and I’ll tell you what I think.
1st qualifier – Peter Reilly
Peter is actually the second highest scoring qualifier from the semis, and so he really has to be taken seriously . His semi score in particular was built on a great specialist round, and a very good GK round of 12. However I do have some doubts – and Peter, please, by all means prove me wrong. Its just that he only scored 12 on the GK round in the heats, which is OK for 2 and a half minutes, but not championship form. I worry that he may be vulnerable on GK. So I’m playing safe on this one – possible podium finisher, but not the top spot, and more likely in the chasing pack.
2nd qualifier – Tim Fenn
Tim was the other real surprise package of the semis. Now, if you average out first round scores and semi final scores, Tim actually has the second highest average total of the series behind Paul. He scored 13 and 12 in his semi, but I have the same reservation as I had with Peter. Tim only scored 12 on his first GK round, and while I admit that this may have been a one off, it may also suggest that he is vulnerable on GK. Come the final, unless you produce a performance of Jesse Honeyesque proportions you are not going to blow everyone else away on your specialist, and you have to be prepared to equal the best on GK. I am not convinced that Tim can do this. Prediction – again, possible podium although not top spot, most likely off the podium.
3rd qualifier – Diane Hallagan
The first finalist whom I mentioned as a potential finalist in the preview of the semis. Diane actually came second in her first round heat, and when I spoke to her just after the show was recorded she was rather despondent about her chances of making the semis. Well, Diane, you’ve certainly done that . In terms of quizzing Diane has seen and done it all, she is very experienced, and a great quizzer. Now, Diane had a great GK score in the first round, with 17, and a more modest specialist. In the semi, she had a great specialist, and a more modest 10 in the GK. It all comes down to whether she can get close to her best in both rounds. If she does, then she’ll be in the shakeup when it comes down to the final reckoning. Prediction – podium, but maybe not top step ( Sorry Diane , and I hope I’m wrong. )
4th qualifier – Ian Bayley
Well, if Diane has seen it and done it all, so has Ian, who also had time to stop and buy the T-shirt and read the book while he was at it. In case you need reminding, Ian is a former Brain of Britain Champion – and a member of the mighty Crossworders, first winners of Only Connect , and series champion of champions. Speaking of that , incidentally, I do think a showdown between the Epicureans and the Crossworders is in the pipeline somewhere down the line, however, I digress. Ian was runner up in 2009 , to Nancy. If anything should make the other finalists worry about Ian, though, it is the fact that he hasn’t necessarily seemed to be on absolute top form throughout the series. He scored a brilliant 17 on GK in the first round, but only 11 on his specialist. In the semi he only scored 11 on GK – good enough to get through, but only 4th highest of our 6 finalists. Ian has the ability to blow everyone away in the final, be in no doubt about that. But I’m basing these predictions on what I feel may happen in the show. So . . . Prediction. Possible champion – yet more likely on the podium.
5th qualifier – Julia Hobbs
Julia is an experienced quizzer and TV campaigner, and this will always give you an edge. For me she’s certainly less of a surprise package than Tim or Peter. However if we dispassionately look at the stats, Julia’s suggest that she may be among the outsiders for the final. Like Diane she scored 10 in the GK round in the semi, however she only scored 14 on GK in the first round heat. Alright, I say only , its actually a good score, but when you consider some of the heavy artillery she is competing against , you can see that it looks like she’ll have to produce her best GK round by some distance to have a realistic chance. So once again – Prediction – not on the podium – sorry Julia, and I’ll be delighted if I’m wrong.
6th qualifier – Paul Steeples
If you believe the stats, then Paul is the most likely winner of the grand final. His was the best performance of the semis. A great and difficult round on The Victorian Churches of London was followed by a terrific GK round. Believe me, 15 in a 2 minute semi final GK round is no mean feat at all, and comfortably better than the rounds any of our other finalists managed. When you add this to the fact that Paul also scored 17 on GK in the first round – as did Diane and Ian, you can see that his challenge has to be taken extremely seriously. Paul is no stranger to Grand Finals either, having been runner up to Geoff in Brain of Britain 2009. I don’t like to burden anyone with the tag of favourite, but bearing in mind that the final will already have been recorded some time ago, and being realistic nothing that I say can possibly affect the outcome, I make Paul my favourite to be the next champ. So – prediction – most likely champion, and definitely on the podium.
Well, ladies and gents, you have already seen that first round form doesn’t necessarily tell you that much about how well people can do in the semis, and we’ve often seen that semi final form is no reliable guide to what may happen in the final. So please take my predictions with a modicum of sodium chloride. Whatever happens, only a week to wait before we find out. Best of luck to all 6 finalists.