Monday, 29 August 2011

University Challenge - Round One - Match 8

St. Andrews v. Merton, Oxford

Well, I did actually manage to watch this one as it happened, thanks to the wonders of satellite technology. I enjoy all UC matches as it is, but I have to say that when I sat down to watch this one I was hoping that we’d see a much closer one than the previous two. The teams involved, then, were St. Andrews’ and Merton, Oxford. Both teams have quite a distinguished pedigree in the competition, and both have been champions during the Bamber era. St. Andrews’ were represented by Thomas Volker, Thomas Lazarides, Dustin Frazier, and captain Doug Kennedy. Merton’s team consisted of Bill Hellier, Dennis Dillon, Cosmo Grant and the skipper, Tim Smith-Laing.

First was drawn by Merton when Dennis Dillon correctly answered that the word which linked a colour of uniform worn by GIs and a hill outside Jerusalem, among others, was olive. With three bonuses taken on founder members of royal organisations it was fairly clear that Merton meant business. Mind you, so did St. Andrews when skipper Doug Kennedy took a good starter on Angel Falls in Venezuela. 2 bonuses followed on the British Royal family. A good starter followed from his opposite number, Adam Smith – Laing, on Project Guttenberg , although the bonuses on pigments were a tough set and yielded but little for them. Cosmo Grant made an excellent early buzz on the next starter on a mathematics quotation, which brought up, for me at least, a set of rather more friendly Shakespeare bonuses. This brought us to the first picture starter. The picture showed us, and asked us to identify, the logo of the US Republican party. Dustin Frazier played with fire by buzzing and then hesitating, but his answer was right. I was hoping for at least one logo I might recognize in the bonuses, but the best I could do with them was to identify two of the countries and none of the parties correctly. St. Andrews had all of the countries, but only one of the parties. Not daunted by the Wrath of Paxman, Dustin Frazier also answered the next starter, realizing that a quote given referred to life. One of a set on mathematical conjectures was taken. Neither team recognized the next quotation from Thomas Hardy, concerning the Titanic. Doug Kennedy surrendered 5 by buzzing in a touch too early, and with the teams so evenly balanced at the ten minute mark, this gave Merton a slight lead of 50 to 45.

Dennis Dillon took his second starter, knowing that if it’s a flying machine that flies like a bird, then it is an ornithopter. A lovely set of bonuses on dear old the late Sir Norman Wisdom followed. Warming to his work, Dennis Dillon then took a double by answering the next starter on Rousseau. A full set on philosophy increased Merton’s lead. Maintaining their advantage Merton also took the next starter, with captain Tim Smith-Laing knowing that middle was the word which linked middle English , middle distance etc. A good set of old quiz chestnuts on shipping forecast areas followed – sadly for Merton they didn’t have either a sailor, or a middle aged quizzer on board, and so missed out. Cue the music starter – none other than a snatch of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. We’re a cultured lot here, and so before the end of the first couple of bars both Mrs. C. and I chimed in with “’E were a great baker were our Dad !” in homage to the iconic Hovis adverts (via the Grumbleweeds Radio show of years gone by ) . Funnily enough this didn’t help either team, and so the bonuses, on other well-known pieces of classical music were tagged on to the next starter. St. Andrews knew that the deputy PM during most of the Second World War was Clement Attlee. We were in danger of being a little becalmed at this stage of the competition, when neither team could take a starter on the Wallace Line, named after Alfred Russel Wallace. Still, a good UC special on bridle and bridal got us moving again. Cosmo Grant took the next starter, knowing that the stage of an insect’s life which shares its name with a spirit from Greek mythology is nymph. The set of Booker prize winners passed Merton by completely, I’m afraid. Still, they were winning the buzzer race at this stage. Dennis Dillon knew that Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper, and this brought up a couple of bonuses on cotton. Thomas Volcker took his first starter for St. Andrews knowing that film director Duncan Jones is the son of David Bowie. A full set of bonuses on Whistler made a significant inroad into what had, a couple of minutes ago, been a considerable gap, but Merton still led by 130 to 105 at the 20 minute mark.

So did this mean that St. Andrews were going to hit top form and power past Merton and through the tape ? Well, it looked possible for a while. Doug Kennedy took another starter when he recognized a photograph of Roman Abramovitch. They could only manage one of the bonuses with photos of other owners of premier league football clubs. Neither team could solve a problem referring to the acceleration of a car, but Thomas Lazarides picked a good time to answer his first starter with the nest, recognizing the latin prefix – ex. 2 bonuses on poets’ graves put St. Andrews into the lead, and our wishes for a closer competition had been granted. Tim Smith Laing hit straight back with a good answer on the term closet drama. 1 bonus on cetaceans followed. With the benefit of hindsight the next starter proved to be very significant. Given several words, including matter, and asked for the word which could precede all of them , Thomas Lazarides gambled and went early with ‘anti’. Wrongly , as it turned out, and not only did this give away five points, it also allowed Tim Smith-Laing a free run at the question, which he correctly answered with ‘dark’. This brought up a full set on film scores. Sometimes a finely balanced match will hinge on one or two crucial questions. No reflection on Thomas Lazarides , who I think was right to have a go – when it comes to the buzzer if you snooze, you usually lose. Not that the match was over yet, but the skipper of Merton had the bit well and truly between his teeth when he took the next starter, knowing that a list of horses from Fujiyama Crest to Wall Street were all ridden to wins on the same carefree afternoon in Ascot by Lanfranco Dettori. Once again, a full set of 3 bonuses followed, this time on the planet Neptune, and its satellites. With only a couple of minutes left the game was effectively over, but there was time for St. Andrews to take a couple of starters. Thomas Volcker knew that the style of writing called boustrophedon is meant to be read each line in alternated directions. Dustin Frazier also knew she walks in beauty like the night – and you never know, it may be that starter which puts St. Andrews into the repechage round. Merton, who are automatically into the second round, won with 195 to 165. St. Andrews’ score of 165 is borderline – it may be enough. Watch this space.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

There was an old fashioned – do that again and I’ll do you, sonny – moment when Dustin Frazier buzzed in on the first picture starter, and then as JP turned his baleful gaze upon him seemed like a rabbit caught in the headlights. JP even wagged a finger at him as he administered a wigging. However that was almost it for the show.

With regards to the music bonuses JP didn’t seem the least bit perturbed that neither team could recognize the New World Symphony. He’s worrying me, is our JP. Time was that this would have received some kind of barb. Still, he redeemed himself slightly when he described the use of classical music in adverts as ‘irritating’.

Interesting Fact Of The Week That I Didn’t Already Know

Apparently there was a possibly Wikipedia derived urban myth that Sir Norman Wisdom wrote the lyrics to ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’. I didn’t know that it had ever been said that he did – nor did I know that the song and lyrics were actually written by Walter Kent and Nat Burton


Jack said...

Not the most spectacular match, but a respectable performance from both sides and I wouldn't mind betting on seeing St Andrews in the repechage.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack,

Yes, and that would probably be fair too. They'll do better against a team who maybe aren't quite as strong on the buzzer.

Des Elmes said...

Have to agree with Jack - not a classic match, but an entertaining one nonetheless.

And that "anti-" missignal by Thomas Lazarides was indeed crucial - had he come up with the correct answer, Merton probably wouldn't have quickly built up an unassailable lead.

The stats: Tim Smith-Laing led from the front for Merton with five starters; they answered 17/33 bonuses correctly. Doug Kennedy and Dustin Frazier got three starters each for St Andrews; their bonus conversion rate was 16/29, but three missignals hurt them.

Have St Andrews done enough to make the repechage? One would think so: only two teams have scored 165 and missed out, Glasgow in 1996/7 and Brasenose Oxford in 2002/3 (the latter in a three-way tie with UCL and UMIST), and none have scored more than 165 and failed.

Londinius said...

Hi Des

Good to hear from you again. Thanks for the stats regarding the repechage. I'm glad about that - I think that St. Andrews deserve their place in the repechage, and they might well do some damage there.