Wednesday, 7 March 2012

University Challenge - Semi Final 1

Manchester v. Worcester, Oxford

Well, once again a mighty Manchester team have made it to the semis. They got over their loss to UCL in their first quarter final match, to win the finest match we’ve seen in this, or any other series for a long time, against Clare.

Worcester, on the other hand recorded their loss in the first round, in a tight match against Clare , Cambridge. Well, they had the last laugh, having progressed further than their conquerors did.

On with the show. Michael McKenna was first to recognise a description of the national flag of France. The first bonus set was on Anglo Saxon kings and the epithets associated with them. Last time out Manchester had an outstanding bonus conversion rate. They didn’t quite start off at the same blistering pace with these, taking one. Still, they were happy enough to pick up the second starter, when skipper Tristan Burke recognised a work by Wittgenstein. . Economic schools followed – well, all schools have to be economic with the credit crunch now – and they took two of these. Manchester took their third starter in a row with Neville Chamberlain. Luke Kelly, who was to have a fine evening, supplied that one. Bonuses on the Parthians proved elusive, and passed them by completely. Well for Worcester that they did, for Manchester were winning the buzzer race at a canter, as Paul Joyce took the next , to bring up an astronomical set, based on the premise that if the Earth was 1cm in diameter, then how far away - etc. etc. No, I wasn’t even close either. Amazingly Manchester still managed to get one of them. This brought us to the first picture starter. This was a fine UC special, with three consecutive dictionary definitions, and wasn’t easy, even though Paul Joyce made short work of it. Three more of the same were to follow, and none of them were to provide them with points. No matter. If you recall, Manchester had set a blistering pace at the start of their last match, and they’d done exactly the same in this one, completing a shutout for the first ten minutes of the show, to lead by 70.

More one way traffic followed, as Tristan Burke recognised a description of Pittsburgh. Bonuses on edit wars helped stretch the lead to 90. The Manchurian Candidate fell to Luke Kelly, and Manchester were into three figures. Quotations on books gave them another one correct answer. Luke Kelly knew the kulaks, and buzzed in early to say so. A set of equations forced the confession from Tristan Burke – “I don’t know what the question means !” I know the feeling. Not surprisingly, they didn’t get any of these. On to the music starter, looking for the name of the composer of an opera. A rare buzz came in from Worcester, but unfortunately not a correct one. Nobody recognised Gounod. Now, though, Worcester broke the duck. I couldn’t transcribe the answer that Jack Bramhill gave to a biology starter, but it was right, and Worcester were now in the game. They’d earned the music starters, a set of works based on the Faust legend. Unfortunately they didn’t manage any of them – zigging with Bartok rather than sagging with Liszt, for example. Poor Jack Bramhill knew the answer to the next starter, but only supplied the word ‘Joy’ when JP really wanted the three words ‘The Joy Of’. 5 of those hard earned points were thus lost. Hard lines, especially when Manchester took two of the bonuses on a UC special set of two word phrases, where the last two letters of the first word are also the first two letters of the second. For example transitive verb. Paul Joyce knew about the Dissolution of the Monasteries for the next starter. Philosophers’ works followed, and they managed one. Paul Joyce also knew that Spencer Tunick photographed groups of naked people in 2010 – beats working for a living, I suppose. Bonuses on artists took us up to the 20 minute mark, and I’m afraid the score was 170 to Manchester, to 0 for Worcester.

As an aside I had a little argument with work colleagues over this, who were scornful of the way that Worcester had lost the only points they’d earned so far. I pointed out that when you’re being beaten to the buzzer, as Worcester were, then you have a choice – either sit back and accept it, or go down all guns blazing by buzzing the second you have even so much as an inkling of what the answer might possibly be. If you do this, then it’s not going to come off all the time. It’s still better to go down having had a go. Full credit to Worcester for doing that.

Still with a few minutes to go, the questions remained – how close to 300 would Manchester get, and would Worcester break the psychologically important 100 point barrier ? Paul Joyce picked off lemmings for the next starter. The team weren’t that secure on US state capitals, but still managed one of them. The second picture starter passed both teams by. Jack Bramhill took his second starter, on something in a tomato, and this brought up a set of mosaics of Byzantine emperors. One of these was correctly answered. Dave Knapp, so effective on the buzzer in earlier contests finally elbowed his way into the contest, identifying Argentina as the first South American country to legalise gay marriage. Bonuses on the Periodic table proved to be much to their liking, and now their score was up to 40. Earning a heartfelt well done from JP as it happened. The log jam seemed clear now, as Jonathan Metzer took the next starter on coughing. Bonuses on scrofula didn’t yield much to them , but nonetheless the score was now up to 50. At the words ‘Dublin born painter’ Paul Joyce was straight in with “Francis Bacon “ - well it’s got to be a good shout, hasn’t it. It was right , anyway. Bonuses followed on national Parks raised the score to 200. Luke Kelly knew that Luxembourg shares its name with gardens in Paris. Two bonuses followed. “To thine own self be true. “ was the show’s tribute to Shakin’ Shakespeare. Tristan Burke knew it was Hamlet. Tributaries of the Thames followed. Jack Bramhill took his third starter on the german word wurst to lift the score to 60, to which one bonus was added. The gong then went, leaving Worcester on 65, to Manchester’s 240. Congratulations Manchester, first of this year’s finalists. Hard lines Worcester – it happens to all of us . Sometimes it just isn’t your night.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

A lovely little touch of disdain to start with, as he muttered “Of course. “ as Tristan Burke answered Wittgenstein. No of course about it, Jez, believe me. It was on the 13th minute mark that Worcester must have started to lose hope, because that was the precise moment that JP chose to say “Plenty of time left Worcester college , we’re not even half way yet. “ I know he was only trying to be encouraging, but whenever he says something like that you just KNOW that you’re having one of those nights. Has any team ever come back to win after JP saying something like this to them ? Answers on a postcard, if you please. He made up for it later. When Jack Bramhill scored his second starter to lift Worcester away from zero, for the second time in the match, JP muttered “There we are, you’re storming away now.” Sarky devil.
To be fair he did make amends somewhat by saying that although it’s hard to be beaten by such a wide margin, Worcester have been a terrific team this series, and put in some fine performances. Damn straight there, JP.

Interesting Fact Of The Week I Didn’t Already Know

In 2010 Argentina became the first country of South America to legalise gay marriage.


Jack said...

Your analysis on Worcester's loss of points is very true, Dave. If you're that far behind, you have to get in early in order to try and get in, especially if your opponents are so quick. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't.

Worcester were just unlucky to come across Manchester on a night when they were on good form on the buzzers. Not on the bonuses though: just 18/45, unless I'm mistaken. Though to be fair, they did seem to be unusually tricky bonuses.

If Manchester are going to beat Pembroke or UCL, they'll have to do better on the bonuses than that. But, do that, and they could be very serious contenders.

Des Elmes said...

The stresses of university, and of travelling to and from it, have almost completely bogged me down over the last two weeks...

But they're not doing so now, so here goes.

After that unbelievable battle against Clare, not many people could have expected anything less than victory for Manchester in this SF.

And not many people could have expected either that Worcester's buzzers wouldn't sound until the music round - and that after they'd got a starter, they'd end up actually resetting their score to zero...

It certainly doesn't happen very often that a team puts some points up on the board and then loses the lot through two or more incorrect interruptions.

Slight shades of Wipeout with Paul Daniels and Bob Monkhouse, IMO.

But anyone who laughed at Worcester for this was plain wrong to do so. Like Newcastle on 30 January, they were just unlucky that Manchester were red-hot on the buzzers.

And I absolutely agree that if you're so far behind, you simply have to buzz in as early as you can, even if it doesn't work out. As you say, Dave, it's better to go down having had a go.

Worcester certainly agreed, and one had to feel happy for them when they finally got some points to keep. And the applause they received when they got all three bonuses on chemical element symbols and geographical locations was well deserved.

As for Manchester? I doubt they expected such an easy ride, especially after their last match...

But I do agree that the bonuses they got were unusually tricky. IMO, they did very well to pick up the one on relative distances in astronomy, and the one on the Barbizon School.

18/45 is still a far cry, though, from the 28/39 they achieved against Clare.

They did, however, provide plenty of entertainment whenever they didn't know, à la Jamie Karran and Co - and that could only be A Good Thing. ;)

And it was very impressive that all four members shared the first four starters between themselves. After that, though, Paul Joyce pulled away to six starters, while Tristan Burke and Luke Kelly finished with four each.

For Worcester, Jack Bramhill had three starters, while Dave Knapp and Jonathan Metzer picked up one each; they answered 5/15 bonuses correctly with those two penalties.

On, then, to tonight's second SF, where you have to feel that this might be the end of the road for UCL.

As has been pointed out before, Pembroke certainly have all the necessary tools for becoming champions. Ben Pugh, of course, has been brilliant on the buzzer, though the other three members have made very handy contributions too. And they've done very well on the bonuses more often than not.

But then again, not only have Karran and Co provided plenty of laughs - but they've certainly been capable of surprises, too. Not just their win over Manchester, but their win over Balliol as well, going from being 0-75 down early on to being 90 points clear at the gong.

As Murray Walker says, anything can happen and it usually does...