Friday, 23 March 2012

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 24

I did say in my previous review that I am not the most observant person in the world, and I’m not, but I wonder how many people also noticed Pat and Shelagh Gibson sitting prominently in the front row of the audience. I wonder which of this show’s contenders they were supporting ? Well, whatever the case this was the last of the first round heats. What a show it was, too. Audrey Williams kicked off the show with The Life and Work of William Yeates Hurlestone, or as he is known in the Clark household, William Who? A composer , contemporary of Holst and Vaughan Williams, I gathered from the answers to the questions. Audrey started the round brightly enough, but found it a little tougher going than most of our contenders did in tonight’s two shows. As we’ve said, 8 is nothing to be ashamed of , but it wasn’t a score likely to give her any realistic chance of a win.

Quentin Holt answered question on my favourite subject of the whole evening , The London Olympic Games of 1908 and 1948. Maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed as if there were more questions on the earlier of the two, which is hardly surprising since the 1908 Games was certainly not short on controversy. Wyndham Halswelle’s 400m walkover and Ralph Rose refusing to dip the flag to the king were there pretty much as I expected, for example. Now, in the previous show Ken Owen posted a perfect 16 for 16 in two minutes. Quentin also posted a perfect score in this round, of 15 from 15. This sounded just about fair because I don’t believe that he was quite as quick as Ken was. We’ll come back to this later. As it is, you can’t do better than perfection. Superlative performance.

The specialist subject chosen by Julie Aris, The What Katy Did Novels of Susan Coolidge irresistibly brought to mind an old Two Ronnies joke. It went something like this : - The BBC have announced that they will be screening 4 new classic serials – What Katy Did – What Katy Did Next – Who Did What To Kay – and – Son of Katy. Well, be fair , it was the 1970’s. - Now, Julie too scored a perfect round. She, tho0ugh, scored 18. Gary left a comment after my last post , suggesting to look out for something like this. I have to say I can’t see that Quentin was 3 questions slower than Julie. Julie answered well, and she answered quite quickly, but she wasn’t greased lightning fast. I may be wrong, but I expect people will have some opinions about this. None of which is Julie’s fault. As we always say, you can only answer what you’re asked, and she did this superbly well. 18 is a brilliant score.

Lord alone knows what was going through Paul Maddern’s mind when he had to follow that. More power to his elbow that he produced a very good round himself on Lord Byron. I didn’t score quite as highly on this round as I had on the Olympic Round, but picked up a half dozen or so which was pleasing enough. Paul got 14, and what do we always say ? Anything in the mid teens on specialist is a good round.

Audrey Williams returned to the chair, and methodically picked off those she knew, and made her way to respectability with 11 , which raised her total to 19. Paul too managed 11, which took his overall total to 25. It didn’t look like a winning score with two contenders yet to return to the chair, but you have to say remember that this would have been a good enough score to win several of the earlier heats. Quentin Holt returned to the chair, and he took a little bit of time to wind himself into the round. He dropped a couple of points early on, and wasn’t answering that quickly, but the tempo quickened, and by the minute and a half mark he was reeling them off like shelling peas. In the end he posted 15 and no passes to finish on 30. Which guaranteed him a place in the semis, whether Julie could beat that score or not.

I wondered whether we might possibly have another tie break. I stopped wondering after Julie took the first of her 6 passes. Still although she wasn’t going to post as high a score as Quentin, the fact was that she didn’t need to. She was inching towards the target, and there was enough time on the clock . Enough time to get to 30 herself, that is. Which wasn’t enough to get the win, since Quentin was passless, but that proved to be academic since Julie earned herself a runner up slot anyway. Well played both.

The Details

Audrey WilliamsThe Life and work of William Yeates Hurlestone8 - 211 - 519 - 7
Quentin Holt London Olympics 1908 and 194815 – 0 15 - 030 - 0
Julie ArisWhat Katy Did Novels of Susan Coolidge18 - 012 - 530 - 5
Paul MaddernLord Byron14 - 011 - 625 – 6


AaronW said...

I like John Humphreys but i can't help feeling his pace of delivery of the questions is too variable. I thought it as soon as i heard about Jesse Honey's 23 score, and listened to the round. Humphreys was speaking fast then. Other times he seems more nonchalent, and surprisingly often, repeats or expands on an answer when it is given correctly. The variation between 15 and 23 is obviously not purely due to the contestants. If both contestants have answered all questions right...there is no way even a few pauses of a second or two could make a full 8 questions difference. I'm assuming the time controls were the same in the two cases.

It must be very easy for the question setters to ensure that batches of, say, 4 questions at a time, contain almost the same number of syllables, and i would expect John H. to be able to practise timed recitations to ensure some maximum allowable amout of variation (+/- a few seconds).

Musicians, actors, sportsmen, and orators all know how to keep to a fairly precise should be the same here.

Granted that a perfectly fair contest is impossible, due to answering on different topics and different sets of general knowledge questions, but i don't like the idea that the delivery of the questions can become as variable as it seems to be at times, skewing the comptetition in a rather arbitrary way...perhaps even becoming the dominant source of unfairness between competitors!

ok, it's just a bit of fun, but as a prestigious competition into which many of the challengers put a great deal of work to do their best on the day, every effort should be made to make it fair.

I don't know if it is something that has been allowed to drift over time, or has always been there to some extent. It was much better in the Magnus era though, watching some old episodes, one can usually count no fewer than 19 and no more than 21 questions being asked.

I like John Humphreys as i said, but would hope the production team is alert to this problem as it detracts from the competition.

Variation between 18 and 22 at an absolute maximum. 15 and 23 (or even 16 and 22) is far too much. I reckon someone really needs to point this out before it slips any further. It might be time to write a Dear Points Of View letter lol.

AaronW said...

I can really imagine Magnus practising a standard reading speed at home - such as 9 syllables per second. You could get a precise sense of speed if you did it often enough, on plenty of text samples; and could absorb - inwardly - a standard tempo, ensuring consistency within and between shows and series.

For some reason I can't imagine John H. doing this so assiduously - either because he is less personally invested in the show, or because he is a otherwise a radio presenter, rather than an academic. I don't know but he seems generally more lackadaisical and casual somehow. (Good to put people at ease in some ways, i have no problem with that).

My S.O. made an interesting suggestion. It could be that 'back in the day' the filming was more leisurely, meaning more time for relaxing between shows. Now if shows are filmed in bulk it could become fatiguing to rattle off so many questions in a single day. Even the questionmaster may start to mentally flag.

Another possibility is the Celebrity spin-off, which is by its nature more relaxed and informal, has created a more laissez-faire ambience amongst the presumably common set of producers and question setters. Academic formality is less of a priority to a team focused as much on chatty, glamorous celebs dropping in (and requiring some pampering).

Maybe no one's counting the number of questions anymore...Britain is too cool to worry about such things...we're just all having too much fun to notice...aren't we?!

AaronW said...

Final comment.

Regardless of the cause, it's definitely something to watch, and if there are large discrepancies in tempo, hopefully to improve.

I'm sure the team would make some efforts to improve it if it is a genuine problem.

ok - i enjoyed reading your write-ups about all these quizzes. I'll have to sign off now though, since otherwise i'm likely to get addicted to posting here (have a weakness for forums of any kind, and like a reformed alcoholic, the only cure is total abstinence!)

So all the best, and thanks for your feedback.

Q said...

Hello -Quentin here. Thanks very much for the report David. First of all, just to say how much I appreciate your quizzing reports. From Aberavon Rugby Club to the big Quiz Finals, your blog is unmissable.

I have now watched my heat and as you mention, it does raise the interesting question of the relative number of questions in MM Specialist Subject Rounds. Fortunately, I was able to make up the difference but several friends and relations were quite surprised by the discrepancy. Having said that, I could have gone a bit quicker (switching between 1908 and 1948 was tricky sometimes) and Julie did superbly to answer what she was given. I have some other observations on the show which I will save for a later date...

Londinius said...

Hi Quentin

- and welcome to LAM. Thanks for your kind comments about the blog, and many congratulations on a highly impressive performance. I certainly look forward to your future observations. As I said I thoroughly enjoyed your round. Did you offer just one of those two Olympics, and find yourself bidded up by the production team, or was it your choice ? Good choice, anyway !

Best of retrospective luck in your semi


Q said...

Thanks Dave
- I actually offered all three; then on the day of the recording, they told me the questions were just on 1908 and 1948...