Well, I recognized the name of the first of this week’s Brains as soon as Russell announced Hamish Cameron. You don’t have to be blessed with perfect recall to remember Hamish as a Mastermind semifinalist in the last series. Hamish is no stranger to the semis, and in fact I did meet him when he was stand in for the Grand Final of the 2007 SOBM. No prizes for guessing where the full burden of support from the Clark sofa was being placed, then. Hamish took his first question in round one, but then stumbled on the reservoir Rutland Water. None of the other brains knew it – and neither did I. Second brain was Jim Connolly. He was beaten by the University of the Third Age, and as with Hamish, no bonus was taken. Third of the brains to embark upon the voyage of discovery that is each show was Michael Frankel. He took a good three on the bounce, before being tripped up on the country that is home to the Jasper National Park. I guessed Canada. Jim might well have known it, or he might have been guessing. Whatever the case he said the same as I did and earned himself a bonus. Lee (or Leigh – sorry if I have it wrong) Stone was the last of the brains. She too took a first, but didn’t know Nellie Bligh – the assumed name of the lady who took it upon herself to travel around the world faster than Phileas Fogg. Michael led with 3, and all the others had one. In the second round Hamish again took his first question, but was tripped up on the original meaning of the word urchin. Michael knew that it was a hedgehog. Jim took the first of his own questions, but failed on the chestnutty question about which king instituted the order of the garter. He had the right name but the wrong number. Michael, busy hovering up bonuses at this stage, knew it was Edward III. He was stymied by his own question, though. In fact nobody knew what a Great Curassow is. It’s a large South American game bird. Innuendo overload warning. Sorry. Lee took her first two, but was halted by the patron saint of Paris. Hamish was glad to add this one to his collection. So, going into the third round, Michael led with 5, Hamish and Lee both had 3, and Jim had 2.
Hamish began to make inroads into Michael’s lead by taking his first two questions of round three. Rather surprisingly though none of the brains knew that the Borg Warner Trophy is annually awarded to the winner of the Indianapolis 500. Jim was given a music question to begin, and couldn’t identify that the tune ‘Repton’ was written by Hubert Parry. Michael knew it to take a well-earned bonus. Michael didn’t know what it was that killed the Trojan priest Laocoon and his sons. Hamish did – Russell had to check that his answer of serpents – snakes – was acceptable, but was given the green light. It would have been harsh to reject this when sea serpents was the answer. Given the name of a religious festival in French – Lee couldn’t identify candlemas. I’ll be honest, when the word crepe was mentioned I fancied Shrove Tuesday as well. Mais non, mes amis. Poor Lee didn’t have a great deal of luck with her questions from here until the end of the contest, and didn’t manage to take any of her remaining starters, and it was this as much as anything else which prevented her from making a serious challenge. As we went into the Beat the Brains interval, Jim still had 2, Lee still had 3, Hamish had 6, and Michael 7. The first of the 2 Beat the Brains questions was rather simple – which beach inspired Matthew Arnold to write a famous poem. Dover Beach of course, and the Brains gobbled it up. The next, though, which beach, less than 50 miles from Dover, inspired Wordsworth, foxed them, and me as well. It was Calais.
Hamish took his first question of round 4, but couldn’t identify the Battle of Minden and others as belonging to the 7 Years War. Jim had that one. He took his own first and second, but didn’t know a Devon Rex is a cat. Hamish knew it. Michael, defending a narrow lead of a point took a couple, but nobody knew that a warden pie has pears in it. Finally Lee didn’t know that the alternative name for the 4 stroke cycle of an internal combustion engine is the Otto cycle. That bonus went to Hamish. So while Lee remained on 3, Jim had improved to 5, Hamish to 9, and Michael to 10. It was already beginning to look as if bonuses would be decisive, and at the moment there was hardly anything to choose between Hamish and Michael on that score. Hamish took the next couple, but couldn’t identify the first known Mesoamerican civilization in southern Mexico. Jim took a good bonus with the Olmecs. I ventured the Olmecs myself, but was only about 75% certain. Jim failed on his own first, not knowing that Prudhomme was awarded the first Nobel Prize for Literature. Hamish was in fastest for that one. Michael kept his head, and took his first two. However he didn’t know that when Truman Capote died, it was Gore Vidal who said ‘Good career move’. Lee had that bonus. Her own first question – the person to whom Zeus appeared as a shower of gold – fell to Hamish, who knew it was Danae. Which point was enough to give Hamish the outright lead, with 13 to Michael’s 12, Jim’s 6, and Lee’s 4.
There were three rounds to go, but as it was to turn out all the decisive moments of the contest had already happened as we moved into round 6. Michael was unable to add another point to his score, after such a positive first half of the competition. That’s just the luck of the draw, and the way that it happens sometimes. Jim added two bonuses in round 6, and Lee single bonuses in both rounds 7 and 8. Hamish, though, was the only person to get one of his own questions right at all in the last three rounds. Not that it mattered, since he took 4 bonuses as well. I was pleased with myself for correctly guessing that St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of roman Catholic scholars, theologians etc. Getting back to the contest, I would say that the all-round general knowledge of Hamish ensured that he was always going to take the lion’s share of the bonuses. To have a good chance, the others needed that fortunate run of questions, which they didn’t get, and that was that. I don’t think that Michael’s 12 will see him into the semis, but you never know. Well played anyway and good luck in the semis, Hamish.
Hamish Cameron – 17
Jim Connolly – 9
Michael Frankel – 12
Lee Stone - 6