Well, that was a very quick couple of weeks, wasn’t it ? Nonetheless, as wonderful as the Olympics were it’s somehow reassuring to see good old University Challenge back in its rightful slot. Wadham College Oxford , last seen in 2007 when they reached the quarter finals, was the first of tonight’s teams to be introduced, and they consisted of Alistair Smout, Jonathan Hall, Oliver Forrest and captain Jonathan Stanhope. Bristol were beaten in the quarter finals last time out, in 2011, and tonight their team were James Xiao, Andy Suttie, Madeleine Fforde and skipper Will Brady.
The first starter is usually a gentle lob in the direction of both teams, and Alastair Smout was the first to whack it with the full meat of the bat, knowing that if a writer is paying tribute to another writer on the 200th anniversary of his birth, Charles Dickens is probably a pretty good answer. A set of quotations about money followed. neither the team nor I got any, but I liked Francis Bacon’s observation that money is only good when it is spread – like muck. Will Brady opened Bristol’s account , recognizing a set of facts all about National Service. 2 bonuses were taken on Bulwer Lytton. Very popular in his day, the poor old dear is almost forgotten now. That’s Bulwer Lytton, not Will Brady. Andy Suttie took his first starter with the next question about bile. 1 bonus followed on elements discovered in the year 1817. Neither team recognized for the next starter the famous tag team of David and Ken Livingstone, but Will Brady knew a question about the Catalan language, and Bristol took a bonus on US Cities. This brought us the first picture starter. When I heard that it was going to be a flag, I said to no one in particular – this will be either Libya or South Sudan. Well, Libya it was, as Alastair Smout knew when he buzzed in for his second starter. South Sudan was the last of the bonus flags, the other two being Democratic Republic of Congo ( formerly Zaire ) and Lesotho. This brought us nicely up to the ten minute mark, and pulled Wadham well back into contention, although Bristol still led by 50 to 30.
Neither knew the answer to the question about the politican from Turkmenistan. Neither did I . Neither team knew that Archbishop Scrope evoked the ire of King Henry IV – a little surprised that they didn’t, as a Shakespeare wallah on either team could probably have told them. Whatever the case, the next starter , on terms from the game of croquet was well taken by Andy Suttie. Bristol were doing better on the starters than Wadham, although not that much better, but they weren’t converting bonuses well, and missed the full set on female prophets, offering ‘Margaret Shipton’ rather than ‘Mother Shipton’. Neither knew a science starter next, and Andy Suttie showed a twitchy buzzer finger when he came in too early and lost five. Madeleine Fforde compounded this by taking a flier on the book “Imperium” with Robert Harris, only to find that the question swerved to ask which roman writer was a main character – Cicero. Hard lines – but the right tactics. You can’t sleep on your buzzer, because if you snooze, well, you know the rest. Jonathan Stanhope took that one, and Wadham took a bonus on US Nobel laureates. Which was enough to bring Wadham up to level pegging now. Would Bristol be ruing those lost bonuses ? Well, maybe not, because they were still winning the buzzer race. Will Brady knew that named after a pacific island etc. most likely required the word ‘Bikini’. He was right, and at least this gave them a couple of bonuses on Danish Scientists. You pays yer money . The Music starter played a wee bit of opera, and asked which character was singing. Oliver Forrest recognized Don Giovanni. This brought up a nice set of bonuses, on other Dons from opera. I answered Don Carlos to all of them and added one bonus to my total. Alas, Wadham didn’t use this old pros tactic, and failed to add to their score. Andy Suttie took a good starter on anagrams of the word Granite ( ingrate etc. ) This was followed by a bonus on the quaintly named ‘authors and their pleasures ‘ – no , missus, not what you’re thinking. Neither team could get the magazine National Lampoon for the next starter. Bristol managed to find the term cracking, though, although once again bonuses on recent non fiction proved elusive. Not surprised. Still, it was enough to give them a lead of 95 to 55 at the 20 minute mark.
Either team could have won at this stage. We’ve seen how a score can suddenly start to rocket when a team start getting full sets of bonuses.Especially when the other team buzz in too early , as Will Brady did with SOPA – he gave the abbreviation, but JP wanted the meaning, which Wadham were happy to supply. No bonuses were taken on insects, though. For the second picture the teams had to identify a fortified city . Carcassonne ! I shouted. They obviously didn’t hear me, since neither team got it. I was glad to see the next starter – which was a number of words derived originally from Cymraeg, in fact so excited that I didn’t take note of who actually answered it . One of Wadham I think. A bonus on the pictures of other fortified towns followed. Mr. Xiao of Bristol opened his starter account with Corundum, and a lovely set on Scottish battles, and the towns or cities they were closest to followed. A maths thing came next, and neither team could answer it, although Will Brady did buzz in too early and lose 5. Skipper Jonathan Stanhope buzzed in with the knowledge that Thomas Jefferson was one of the two US former presidents who died on the same day. A bonus followed on words with silent letters. You sensed that this was not going to be enough, especially when Andy Suttie took the next with LCD. A set of bonuses on mountains only yielded one. Nobody knew the Belarus question – more about that later – and although I missed the next starter, which was taken by Wadham I think, it wasn’t enough. In the end the final score was Bristol 120 , Wadham 105.
I’m glad that Wadham reached 3 figure respectability. I’m glad that UC is back now as well, although if I’m honest I hope that this isn’t the most exciting contest we get to see this series. Well done to Bristol, and good luck in the next round
Jeremy Paxman Watch
Maybe it was just me, but I thought that there was a sluggish atmosphere about the whole show tonight, and maybe it got to JP. Certainly I didn’t jot down anything in my notes about him tonight, and it was almost as if the great man had decided that he was going to get no joy from winding either of these teams up, so the best thing to do was to keep the questions coming until the gong put an end to what had been ( sorry to say this – I don’t do it lightly ) a rather lacklustre contest.I suppose you could say that maybe the Mother Shipton call was a little harsh, but not really - they did say Margaret. Had they just said Shipton they'd probably have been alright.
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
Belarus is the largest landlocked country of Europe. Really good enjoyable fact, that.