I’ll put my cards on the table now. Mastermind proper has always been a knockout competition. Granted that Sport Mastermind had just heats and finals, with the 6 highest scoring heat winners progressing to the final, but this isn’t Sport Mastermind. This is just a personal view, but I would hate to see any situation where heat winners weren’t given automatic passage to the semis. Not that I think that this idea has ever been on the table, anyway.
With regards to the repechage slots in the semis, though, this is a whole different ball game. Taking the historical perspective, for nearly all of the Magnus era, a semi final was kept purely for the four highest scoring contenders who didn’t win their heats. (Granted things were a bit different in 1997, but that was a truncated series anyway). It could – and it did happen on at least one occasion – happen that 3 of the 4 repechage slots would go to players who had all contended in the same first round heat. Then when BBC Mastermind was revived with John Humphrys in 2003, no repechage slots were allocated at all. Only heat winners went through to the semis, and this situation remained the same until Jesse’s 2010 series.
This situation was not altogether satisfactory for fairly obvious reasons. If we take the 2007 SOBM 3 contenders all scored 29 in losing their heats ( Chris Jones and Howard PIzzey in the same heat ! ) yet were out despite such fantastic performances. SO the idea of semi final slots for the highest scoring runners up was revived, and revamped. Due to the larger number of heats and contenders, there were now 6 slots allotted to runners up. Also, there would be no special semi allocated to the runners up, instead they would be mingled in amongst the heat winners. It wasn’t clear at the time whether these places were just open to people who placed second in their heats, so I put out an open question, and to his credit Jon Kelly, the Producer emailed me to confirm that these slots were only available to those who placed second in their heats.
Since then Jon has moved on, and the new producer is Mark Helsby. He may well have decided , as is his right, to change policy on the allocation of runner up slots. Still, presuming that the policy has remained the same, I take the li9berty of showing you a table of the performances of all of those contenders who did not win their heats so far :-
|Chris Cann||The Savoy Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan||29||2|
|John Wheeler||The Shipping Forecast||29||5|
|Helen Marshall||Catherine of Aragon||28||3|
|Paul Whittaker||The Life and Career of George Harrison||27||2|
|Chris Quinn||The Novels of Roddy Doyle||27||3|
|Alan Sharp||Everest Mountaineering||26||3|
|Nathan Joss||The Life and Times of Elizabeth I||26||3|
|Nina Featherston||Guns n’ Roses||25||1|
|Philip Walters||Dr. Who - 1963 – 1989||25||1|
|Andrew Hunt||The Life and Work of Caspar David Friedrich||25||2|
|Bart Smith||The Life and Career of Fanny Craddock||25||5|
|Kevin Baker||Sir Ian Botham||24||1|
|Philip Wharmby||The History of Rome until 1944||24||3|
|Rosalind Winter||The Completed Novels of Jane Austen||24||4|
|Laurie Handcock||The British Alpine Club||24||5|
|Hazel Humphreys||The Life and Work of Dave Allen||22||3|
|Chris Kirk||General Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn||22||3|
|Ian Copping||The History and Geography of Arkansas||22||3|
|Les Wallace||Extinct Fauna of the Ice Age||22||5|
|Graeme Marley||The Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle||22||7|
|Alan Haddick||Shakespeare’s Comedies||21||7|
|Jackie Phillips||The Story of Moses in the King James Bible||19||4|
|Sarah Lefevre||The Goodies||19||6|
|Xavier Woodward||Boxing World Title Fights since 2000||18||6|
|Matthew Clarke||Eddie Merckx||18|
|Nick Gunatilleke||Battles of the American Civil War||17||7|
|Barbara Bell||The National Parks of England and Wales||15||9|
Now, it may well be that another two second place contenders will beat Chris ‘ score, in which case the argument is purely academic. It’s not a pointless one, though. Basically, my thoughts are that if you have the rule that just heat winners go through it’s harsh, but it’s the way that it is. After all, that’s the way that knockout competitions usually work. If, though, you recognize that you can lose some great contenders this way, and you want to have highest scoring loser slots, then don’t do it by half measures. Have the highest scoring runners up, regardless of where they placed in their heats. It makes sense to me, but then it’s just my opinion, and as always, feel free to disagree.