Friday, 6 April 2012

Mastermind Semi Final 3

I knew that this week was Gary’s semi-final, but being the good egg that he is he hadn’t given me any idea of just how he did. Obviously he was bearing the full burden of support from the Clark sofa tonight, but countering that I couldn’t help noticing that he was wearing the lucky shirt. Still, let’s get on with the show.

Tonight’s contenders , and their placings on my unofficial first round table, were as follows : -

John Beynon – 2nd
Ken Owen - 5th
Gary Grant – 6th
Jonathan Perry – 28th
Mary Bucknall – 30th

SO this was looking rather like one of the top heavy semis we see at least once every series. Based on their first round performances, and their track records over the last couple of years, all three of Ken, Gary and John had every good hope of getting to the final.

That’s not to discount Jonathan and Mary completely. However Jonathan, offering us the Life and Times of Cardinal Wolsey, struggled to impose himself on his round, and after 90 seconds he had managed 4. It happens. Don’t forget the fact that he won his first round heat, and is a Mastermind semi-finalist. He has nothing to apologise to anyone for. There’s lots of people who’d like to be able to make that boast themselves.

Ken Owen posted a perfect specialist round last time out with 16 on the Roy Grace novels. Answering on the Apostle Simon Peter tonight he did even better. His perfect 15 from 15 off a 90 second round was about as good as you can get, and this round required a very detailed knowledge of the subject. With last week, when Julie Aris managed a perfect 15 to take a useful lead after the SS you always suspected that she’d be in danger of losing the lead on the GK round. Ken, on the other hand, looked good value to hold it – depending on how close the remaining contenders could come to matching him in their specialist rounds.

Mary Bucknall this time out answered on Heraldry of Britain. Now, there’s an old fashioned Mastermind subject, I thought. 10 points and 1 pass seemed to be a pretty good return on a round which had only 1 or 2 points for a good quizzer who’d done no specialist work on the subject – I did know the mullet was the five pointed star. As we know, double figures in a 90 second round equals a job well done. However you fancied that she wouldn’t be able to bridge a 5 point gap in GK.

Next was Gary, wearing his lucky shirt. In 2010 Gary and I both wore lucky shirts in the first round of Only Connect , and at least one of them must have worked since we won that round. Gary was answering on the history of the Monaco Grand Prix. That’s one of those subjects where you always suspect the sneaky devils are going to find one or two things to catch you out, however hard you manage to work on the subject. Gary is an old hand at this game now though, and when those couple of questions did rear their ugly heads he snapped out answers anyway to avoid passing, and didn’t let it affect the momentum of the round. In the end he managed 12. The three point gap looked large – but not impossible.

Finally John Beynon, the runner up in Brain of Britain 2011. John came heartbreakingly close to making the final in his last Mastermind semi final in 2009. I had 4 right on his round, about Catherine the Great. John though managed to get into the teens, with 13. One point more than Gary, but still two points behind Ken. So at the halfway stage we looked as if we were in a three horse race, and the three horses were the ones who’d performed best in their heats. No surprises there so far.

Jonathan returned to the chair, and John felt duty bound to pass comment on his modest score on the first round. Well, believe me John, it won’t have been caused by lack of trying. Actually, the GK round that Jonathan produced was a very good one. He scored 12, and putting that into perspective, 12 from 2 minutes is actually better in real terms than 13 from two and a half minutes, which he scored in a his heat. So well done, sir ! Jonathan could easily have been forgiven for losing his concentration completely in GK – he didn’t and produced a good round.

Mary Bucknall had scored 11 in the GK round in her heat, and this suggested that she might find it rather hard going in the semi. I’m afraid that this was the case, and she finished with 13 points. As I said , though, Mary won her heat. She is, and will always be a Mastermind semi-finalist , and there’s a lot of people who wish that they could make that boast themselves.

With all due respect to the previous two contenders, it was at this point that we moved to the real business end of the competition. Gary was three points behind Ken. All he could do was make the highest score he possibly could in GK, to set a challenging target. And what a round he produced ! This was a fantastic display. 16 off a two minute round is a wonderful performance, and these were by no means gimmes either. The speed he maintained was exemplary, and you could feel the concentration coming out of the TV. To put it into perspective, if you can leave your opponents requiring double figures in GK you at least put them into the corridor of uncertainty. This left John needing 15 just to equal him, and Ken 13. Basically it left John staring down the barrel of a gun, and Ken with a difficult ask.

John had a go, but he picked up a pass which meant that even 15 wouldn’t be good enough. His 13 was actually a very good round in its own right. But it wasn’t enough. Which meant it was all down to Ken. As for Ken, well, he managed 15 in two and a half minutes in the heat, which suggested that this was going to be tight. It didn’t help when he had two of his first three questions wrong, and maybe I’m doing him a disservice here, but it looked as if this played on his mind a little bit. Before the minute mark Ken was behind schedule, and in the end he finished with 22. It was hard lines on Ken and especially John being put into such a relatively strong semi, but they can take comfort from the fact that they were beaten by an outstanding performance. I’m not just saying that because Gary is a mate, a LAM reader, and my Only Connect skipper. Watch it yourself on the iplayer. You’ll see what I mean. Many congratulations, and the very best of luck in the final.

The Details
Jonathan Perry The Life and Times of Cardinal Wolsey4 - 212 - 216 - 4
Ken OwenThe Apostle Simon Peter15 – 0 7 - 022 - 0
Mary BucknallHeraldry of Britain10 - 13 - 713 - 8
Gary GrantHistory of the Monaco Grand Prix12 - 0 16 – 028 - 0
John Beynon Catherine the Great13 - 013 - 126 – 1


drgaryegrant said...

Thanks very much Dave, much appreciated!

You know what I noticed whilst watching though? ( and I've just replayed it to confirm). My last question on the SS was started AFTER the buzzer - Humphrys did it again! So by rights, I should have scored 11 in the SS, not 12. Thankfully, this wouldn't have affected the final result as I would still have been third and got the same question set, but still.....once in a series is a mistake, twice is starting to look more like carelessness...

I also have to say that I felt very much for John and Ken, given that their GK questions seemed a fair old step up in difficulty on mine - and even then, I seemed to get a massive degree of luck in that I got questions on Japanese tatami mats and Ghana, both countries I'd visited in the preceding 6 months; and people say there's no such thing as a 'lucky shirt'!

Still, you can only answer the questions put in front of you, but it's fair to say that I would have done no better than John did on his GK, and if I'd had Ken's set I'd not have got myself up to 28, either.

Mastermind is sometimes about luck as much as skill and experience, and the shirt certainly did me proud in that regard. A hard do on Ken and John though. I think we'll see Ken again on ths show, but I do hope John Beynon will also give it another crack - after the game he (naturally) seemed a bit disinclined after coming so close to the final twice (and of course coming close to BoB), but 9 times out of 10 he'd have beaten me, and he is definitely now owed the luck of the draw. If he'd like to borrow a certain shirt he's more than welcome....

contentedofcheltenham said...

Many congratulations, Gary, on a fantastic performance. I think the nation must have been on the edge of their sofas and knowing that you had a three-point deficit to make up (and in theory needed to put away the ‘perfect round’) must have – shall we say – concentrated the mind! To keep it together under those circumstances was doubly impressive, and you got some great answers.

Had no idea that the ‘Japanese mat thing’ is known as a tatami – someone got asked about the ‘shoji’ a few weeks back, so maybe the question setter has also been to Japan recently! (Another ‘so that’s what it’s called’ question came up in Jonathan’s round – now I know that the ‘ushanka’ is one of those Russian hats with earflaps). Other ones I’d have struggled with (and failed) were the definition of viscosity, the Ghanaian flag and being able to pull Anthony Worrall-Thompson from all the possible alternatives. Like yourself, I immediately went for Edward the Confessor on the Westminster Abbey question before then instantly kicking myself when the answer was given. I only got Gunter Grasse because he’s been in all the newspapers this week. No need to apologise for the ‘good luck’ in being well-travelled – one likes to fondly imagine that good general knowledge is based on rich life experience rather than just the obsessive learning of lists!

You’re absolutely right that Ken had some tough questions. If you’re having to mentally juggle syllabubs, junkets and possets you soon get the idea it may not be your night; not sure that I’ve got a ‘spokeshave’ in my toolkit, and who knew that those Tory grandees were called ‘the magic circle’? John’s performance was also formidable.

contentedofcheltenham said...

For me, the other interesting thing about recent programmes has been the subject choices. I should say that picking a specialist round which is (a) academically ‘rigorous’ (b) interesting for the viewers and (c) relatively easy to prepare for is a skill in itself. Last week’s round on Lady Jane Grey (the ‘nine days queen’, executed at the age of sixteen) is a case in point; compare this with Catherine the Great who reigned for 35 years and lived to her late sixties. This week, we had ‘the Apostle Peter in the New Testament’, and I must immediately say that I am not disparaging these choices – quite the reverse, it is more ‘why didn’t I think of that’? If you’re a churchgoer or Sunday-school veteran and thus familiar with the broad outline, a five-minute perusal of Acts (up to Chapter 12, where St Paul begins his missionary journeys) would have instantly yielded four of last night’s answers. To be fair, the setter did make it as tricky as possible with questions on ‘variations’ between the four gospels. And I repeat, making a judicious and strategic subject choice can be a stroke of genius just as going too broad can be fatal to your chances, despite the heroically wide specialisms of the earliest Mastermind champions. I would also far rather hear questions on St Peter or Lady Jane Grey than some of the more abstruse and obscure choices.

In the context of last night, I felt that Jonathan’s questions on Thomas Wolsey were very tough. I’ve attempted the ‘Wikipedia challenge’ on a few occasions and often the Wikipedia article will give you a majority of the answers (The ‘Who’ a few weeks back was a case in point). Not so with the Cardinal Wolsey questions, which were much harder and more specific than many in my Disraeli round. The Monaco Grand Prix questions were also extremely challenging – seventy-plus years of racing to recall. A few of the questions on the ‘early history’ were expected but then I waited in vain for the predicted mention of Graham Hill, Ayrton Senna and the two guys who drove into the harbour! You could tell that Gary was completely on top of the minutiae but it was almost inevitable that the odd point would be dropped, and that is almost a calculated risk.

Choosing your subject is something that I’m sure has been discussed many times in this blog. I was keen to ‘learn something new’ rather than re-heating existing knowledge and for that reason was initially reluctant to take on Bing Crosby – having been a long-term fan, especially of his early work. Fortunately, wiser counsel prevailed! With Disraeli, beyond the obvious basics of O-level History, I was starting from scratch and found the summer of reading a more rewarding experience ... though it served me less well in the black chair!

Finally, thanks again to Dave for all the quality postings in recent weeks and months. As a working teacher, I simply don’t know how you find the time to keep the blog updated with all the in-depth reviews and anecdotes! Obviously a mix of passionate interest, genuine empathy and superb organisation.

With the weight of expectation heavy on my shoulders I’m going to a ‘previously untried’ pub quiz next week (an unusual event these days) and unsure whether there will be a current affairs round. In these circumstances, your News Quiz represents the best preparation I could possibly find! Best wishes to you all for a happy Easter and I await subsequent Friday nights with keen anticipation.

Londinius said...

Hi Gary

Many congratulations. Both you and Malcolm ( Hi Malcolm ! ) have made the point about Ken's GK round, and yes, he did seem to have rather more out and out stoppers than anyone else in the same show. You made the point about the spokeshave, Malcolm, for example.I don't see rounds like this quite so often now as was once common - but it's just one of those things which can happen. Best of luck for the Final.

Malcolm, thanks as ever for your comments.

The whole point is that I don't find the time to post when I really want to post. Time was that I would always try to post a UC or OC review on the night after the show. But during term time posting much midweek is just too difficult - the time really isn't there. This year seems to have been even more fraught than normal. Having said that the reviews don't take as long to write as you might think. This sounds anal, but when I watch UC or OC I sit with a notepad, and just jot down details as the show goes along. The act of actually writing it up really isn't that time consuming then. AS for MM, that's even easier. I compile the details table as the show goes along, and then write the rest from memory afterwards - again, not as time consuming as you might think. I'm sure you can tell this from the number of errors that creep in - or rush in headlong in the case of some posts - but I don't spend a lot of time drafting and revising posts - shame though it is for an english teacher to admit this.

I like to give over Saturday morning to posting, but I enjoyed the MM semis so much both last week and last night that I wanted to post about them on the same day. There have been a lot of posts this last week, simply because it's the Easter break - don't worry . Normal service will be resumed as soon as I'm back.

Londinius said...

Oh, and best of luck in the untried quiz Malcolm. I like the anticipation of going into a quiz I've never tried before, even if many of them turn out to be a bit of a disappointment. The one little gem you find makes up for the half dozen duds you have to wade through to get there.

drgaryegrant said...

Thanks for the congrats and kind words, Malcolm. As for the SS choice - I know that Dave and I disagree on this but I always feel you should pick something that you might be interested in, but don't actually know much about to begin with - the reason being that it guards against complacency.

I can't speak for the other contenders' questions, knowing virtually nil about all 4 of their topics, but I thought I got 'hard' Monaco GP questions. As you say, the obvious ones (who won most Monaco Grand Prix? Who was called 'Mr Monaco'? Who was the only driver to die taking part in an F1 Monaco GP? Which 2 men crashed into the harbour but were fished out of the water unharmed?) were conspicuous by their absence. But even then, 2 of the 3 I got wrong were fairly easy for someone who counts himself as an F1 nut as I do - I'd even watched the races in question (incidentally, I'd never have got the Bernie Ecclestone question in a month of Sundays). And it was precisely because I'd seen those races and thought I remembered them well that I didn't study as fully as I had for the 7 wonders (if you know nothing to start with you can't succumb to complacency) and dropped points.

In the end this turned out quite well because it meant, by coming 3rd after R1, I got my benign Japo-Ghanaian GK set and not John's or Ken's horror shows. But the moral of the story is: if applying for MM, choose a subject you DON'T already know anything about... perhaps, for example, 'Spokeshaves Through The Ages'. Poor Ken.

Londinius said...

I would never be dogmatic about it, Gary. Hey, whatever subject you pick, if it works for you, then good luck to you. I can understand why you'd want to pick something you don't know that much about. The reasons why I always wanted to go for things in which I was both interested and already had a fair grounding was that it's a lot of time and a lot of hard work studying something if you find that you're not as interested in it as you thought you were.It's probably a bit cheaper as well, if you go for things where you already own definitive works ont he subject. But as I say - whatever works for you.

tuckeraj said...

At the risk of opening up another can of worms, I had thought over many years of watching VHS tapes of the programme sent out to whereever, that the GK sets were not random, but personal, with a "kicker" about 1/3 of the way in, relating back to the SS or the contestant's day job.

After this year's first hand experience, I'm less certain, but still not persuaded that the GK set you get depends on your position.

Londinius said...

Hi Andy

It was certainly true in the Magnus era that GK sets were assigned to specific contenders, and would contain at least one about their own Geographical area, for example. It certainly happens in Sleb Mastermind still - you can clearly see how sets have been tailored to give them a few they should get without any trouble at all. I don't know if it still happens that you get your set wherever you go in the GK round, but it's certainly not out of the question.

bj said...

I can't be certain about this year, but certainly last year the GK sets were allocated specifically to contestants irrespective of their position after the first round.

drgaryegrant said...

Well, MM certainly knew I was in Japan as I told them I was going for a month, and they'd thus have to e-mail me rather than phone if they wanted to contact me before the semi. To know I'd visited Ghana a few months before that would have taken some impressive stalking on their part, so I like to think that that one was a happy co-incidence.

I don't remember getting a 'kicker' in R1, or indeed the final, but it is amazing how many questions you forget you were asked (I had no recollection whatsoever of the Westminister cathedral one) so like Andy, I'm still a touch sceptical.

But if the GK sets *are* still partly tailored to each contender it does beg the question: what on earth had Ken done to offend them?

AaronW said...

Spokeshaves lol.

Understand the logic Gary (and very well played), but i think an exception is if a character already knows a topic not just well but inside out (to a freakish degree!). Would be foolhardy to switch to something completely new in that case.

I know a chap who could win Mastermind were it only a matter of 3 specialist subjects and would not have to lift a finger in preparation to do so since he already gets full marks (or perhaps drops one) whenever the topics or similar ones come up from other contestants. That's the result of studying out of total love and obsession for 30 years.

Most of us haven't been that single-minded to acquire any true, exhaustive specialisms though so have to start fishing around for which case i like the idea of vigilantly conquering completely uncharted territories.

Perhaps it is best not to strategise too much though...the Corinthian spirit would recommend to pick whichever specialist subjects inspire you in some should ideally be fun, and remain so, whether winning or losing...

Londinius said...

Hi AaronW
I do think that you still get people going on the show who have this great love of and obsession with a particular subject, and want to be tested on it, and get the chance to at least introduce it to a wider audience. I suppose I felt a bit like that about my original choice of first subject - W.M.Thackeray - but I wasn't allowed to take that as a subject. So I'm afraid that pragmatism took over for me.

AaronW said...

Hi Dave,

Hadn't considered the possibility of Mastermind rejecting beloved categories!

Do you have any idea what their criteria for selecting topics are?

Gary's hit nail on head for some characters though, i think, such as poor Arfor Wyn Hughes, had he picked a subject unrelated to his work, he may have done much better in the hotseat. Active recall is a very specific skill and related to, but definitely distinct from, understanding!

Something the press don't seem to know when they lay into the disasters on the show!!

Londinius said...

Hi AaronW

What I was told when Thack and other writers were rejected as my original choices for the show was that they really didn't want me taking them because I'm an English teacher - too close to my work see - which actually links back to the point about Arfor.

Subjects get rejected because they may be too popular - eg the Harry Potter novels - they may have come up too recently - although some subjects do recur within a couple of series - they may be too obsucre - hence the oft quoted rejection of uses of orthopaedic bone cement. I don't have any proof of this, but I suspect that a subject that nobody has offered before, but which has a certain level of interest to the layman is particularly appealing - I know that they liked it very much when I offered the life and work of Henry Ford.

AaronW said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks. I'm surprised in a way an English teacher would be forbidden from picking writers. Thinking back to my school days, i don't reckon any of our English teachers actively worked with more than a handful of texts in detail in English.Lit classes (isn't enough time to pore over the entire writings of anyone in study periods, after all). ok, you might have several Shakespeare plays being taught simultaneously across year groups, but i can't imagine more than a couple of classic texts by any other author typically being in school syllabi? Is that about right.

Which would leave swathes of writing (probably 5 - 10 complete works left off depending on the writer) from which to draw as the 'extra-curricular' specialism. I think you should have been allowed to take Thackeray or indeed any other author for that reason...

...especially if 'Whatever happened to the likely lads' and 'Father Ted' are ok (i don't pick those because of their lack of interest, both comedies are absolutely great, but because of the relatively small number of episodes i.e. small bulk, as such).

I think David Edwards took a bunch of physicists for his specialisms anyway!

The Gods are fickle indeed!!