James Mackenzie – 22 - 9GK 30th on the unofficial list
Anthony Barton –26 - 11GK - 26th on the unofficial list
George Ferzoco -27 - 14GK 23rd on the list
Allan Clarke – 27 - 12GK - 24th on the list
Maya Davis – 27 - 13GK - 25th on the list
Yes, alright, all of the contenders in tonight’s semifinal were among the lower scoring qualifiers of the first round. It can happen. It didn’t alter the fact that only one of these five contenders was going to qualify for the final, and whoever it was they’d have to earn their place.
The first to lay down a marker was James Mackenzie. Last time out he offered us the Lost Railways of West Yorkshire. Tonight he was still answering on a transport related subject, in the shape of Route 66. Welcome to the city that’s oh so pretty, etc. etc. In his previous specialist round he scored 13. Tonight he also scored 13, which was a superb performance considering that he only had 90 seconds in which to do it. I’ll be honest, I still thought he was a little bit of an outsider based on his GK score in the first round heat, but give him his due, he certainly couldn’t have got off to a much better start.
Anthony Barton won heat 15 on the Franco Prussian War. His second specialist subject was Flanders and Swann – follow me follow, down to the hollow etc. In the heat Anthony scored 15 , a very good performance on a two minute round, I can assure you. A couple of questions rather caught him out this time, I’m afraid, and a long pause, bad in a 2 minute round, can be pretty devastating in a 90 second round. He rallied , and fought his way to 7 points, but I fancy this was playing on his mind as he returned to the chair later.
You might remember George Ferzoco. He won heat 16, answering on Frederico Fellini, and avoided a number of passes on his GK round by snapping out the answer ‘Smith’. A perfectly legitimate tactic, albeit one that requires admirable presence of mind. It was vital that he did so , as well, since he only went through on passes. In this semifinal, George was answering on the Italian Football team since 1978. His first minute was extremely good, but just a couple of wrong answers tripped him up. He finished on 10 – a good score off 90 secs, but one that left him trailing by 3.
Allan Clarke won heat 17 on Luton Town FC. Heats 15 – 16 – 17 ? Hmm, interesting. As had George, Allan scored 15 in the heat. His specialist subject of choice tonight was the Ramage novels by Dudley Pope. No, sorry, never read any so I can’t really comment. We’ve seen a few perfect rounds already in these semifinals, and this was another of them, 13 questions and thirteen correct answers. Fine performance.
Lastly Maya Davis, the only one of tonight’s semifinalists that I’ve met. Maya scored 14 on the life and work of Gerald Hoffnung in heat 2, which she won comfortably. Tonight her subject was the owls of Great Britain. I actually learned a few of the Latin names for common British birds a decade or so ago, so I was delighted that tyto alba was part of the first questions. Maya didn’t quite manage perfection herself tonight, but she was close, and finished on 12, handily placed on the leaders’ collective shoulder at the bell.
As I mentioned earlier, I do think Anthony was shell-shocked a little by what happened in his specialist round. In the heats he had managed 11 in two and half minute on GK. Tonight he just couldn’t get going at all, and in the end his score was 10. Sir, you have my sympathy. The chair could strike any of us, and when it does, there’s nothing you can do. George Ferzoco scored 14 in the heats, with a few Smiths thrown in into the bargain. He didn’t do quite so well proportionately tonight, leveling off with 9 points. 19 off 3 and a half minutes is fine, but it’s not a semifinal winning score, and I think he must have known this as he walked back to his seat.
Maya needed 8 to take the lead herself. She is a general knowledge quizzer, indeed we met when we were in consecutive heats of brain of Britain 2009/10. She only scored 13 in the first round, but she certainly started as if she meant business tonight. Comfortably through the 20 point barrier with quite a bit of time to spare she raced on to equal her first round GK score, off 30 seconds less time. That must have given her some satisfaction, as must the fact that she had set a challenging target, which wasn’t going to be beaten easily by either of the leaders.
James Mackenzie needed to exceed his GK round score of 9 from the heats to have any chance of winning the show. As do many contenders, he certainly started brightly enough. Before halfway through the round , though, he was becalmed, and from then until the end points were not easily gained. 21 was not a winning score, but the 8 he managed did represent a proportional improvement on his first round. If you can do better each time you sit in the chair, then you can’t ask a lot more than that.
It was all down to Allan Clarke to settle who would become the latest finalist. He needed to score 13 to be sure. To be honest it looked unlikely when you consider that he only managed 12 in the heat. However Maya had shown that it was possible to perform quite a bit better in the semi GK round than the heat, and so nothing was impossible. Again, Allan made the customary fast start, but bogged down just a little in the middle of the round. It wasn’t disastrous, but it did mean that he needed to answer his last question on the buzzer in order to tie the scores and take us to pass countback. It was not to be. His 11 took him to the brink, but he remained agonizingly one behind.
Well played all, especially Maya. Many congratulations ! That was a performance which has to be taken seriously. I still feel that Andy and Gary look more likely champions, but you never know. Best of luck.
|James Mackenzie||Route 66||13 – 0||8 - 3||21 - 3|
|Anthony Barton||Flanders and Swann||7 - 1||3 - 5||10 – 6|
|George Ferzoco||The Italian Football team since 1978||10 – 0||9 - 3||19 - 3|
|Allan Clarke||Ramage novels by Dudley Pope||13 – 0||11 - 1||24 - 1|
|Maya Davis||British Owls||12 - 0||13 - 1||25 - 1|