Friday, 12 October 2012

Mastermind - Round One Heat 9

Well, that was a funny old show, wasn’t it. For the record it’s been a busy week again, and so although I didn’t really have any banker subjects in last night’s show I didn’t take the wiki challenge. First into the chair , then, was Barbara Bell. Now, sometimes you may get a clue as to how contenders are going to do from the way that they walk to the chair and sit down. Maybe this was just my imagination, but it seemed to me that Barbara walked rather slowly and nervously into the chair, and I did wonder out loud whether nerves were going to affect her performance. It didn’t seem so as Barbara answered her first couple of question, but then , I’m afraid, the nerves well and truly set in. Later on John Humphrys would make the point that Barbara’s subject, The National parks of England and Wales, is a very large one, and that’s true. However you could tell that she knew quite a few that she couldn’t answer, and she was suffering. In the end she managed 5 points. I managed 2 of these, and was happy to take the money and run.

Nick Gunatilleke’s subject, The Battles of the American Civil War, offered the promise of perhaps a couple more points than that for me. Now, going back to the chair walk, Nick too seemed slow and hesitant making his way to the chair. Surely, I mused, we weren’t going to see a second nerve-ridden round in a row ? Well, that’s exactly what we saw. My superficial knowledge was enough to bring me 4 points, and I’m afraid that Nick, who clearly knows a great deal more about the subject than I do, also managed that score. I would have lain odds that Barbara’s score would have left her in last place at the halfway stage, but that just goes to show how much I know.

The Life and Works of H.P.Lovecraft is a subject that has been taken before – indeed I think Sheila Altree, who played in my 2007 semi final , took that subject in an earlier series. Never read any myself, but by answering “Cthulhu” to every question until it was the correct answer I managed to find my single point. John Chadwick walked with a little more purpose to the chair , and confidently rattled off 10 correct answers. Alright, that’s not a huge score for a 2 minute specialist round, but in this particular show it was looking pretty good.

The closest thing to a banker specialist subject for me in this show was Boxing World Title Fights since 2000, although if I’m honest I would have preferred title fights of the 70s, 80s and 90s. It wasn’t my choice, though, it was Xavier Woodward’s, and I’m sorry to say that the same cloud of misery and nervousness which had lifted during John’s round descended once more with a vengeance. It was almost like watching a rerun of Barbara’s and Nick’s rounds. I’m sure that Xavier knew a lot of these answers, but he just couldn’t get them out, and leveled out at 4. I managed 5 of my own answers. My aggregate of 12 was my lowest specialist aggregate so far this season. While we’re on the subject of aggregate scores too, I have no idea if the 23 scored by all 4 contenders is the lowest aggregate ever for a 4 person specialist round. I do know that it is exactly the same score as Jesse’s 2010 record 23 – although Jesse didn’t have passes.

I felt for Barbara, Nick and Xavier. They must have been sitting there at half time, brooding over what had happened, with little prospect of a win, no chance of a repechage spot in the semis, and the fear that more of the same was to follow for them. During this season John has always said that it’s the General Knowledge round that the contenders fear most – I’d disagree with that. They don’t all fear GK at all. Still, all three of them must have approached the chair for their second bite of the cherry with quite a bit of trepidation. Nick , then , showed admirable grit in applying himself to score 13. This was despite taking another 5 passes along the way. It was hard going for him at first, but the last 30 seconds or so was tremendous, and pushed his GK up to 13, and his overall score to 17. Yes, it’s a little modest, but it’s well above a Hall of Shame score. Xavier did a little better. Again, it wasn’t the most free flowing round, but it was an example of what a little application can achieve. Xavier maintained his concentration throughout , and picked off the answers he knew, which brought him 14, and a total of 18.

Barbara had certainly seen the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune during the show. She’d fallen into a pass spiral and seen nerves destroy her chances of posting a good total in her first round. She must have felt after that that coming last in the show was the best that she could hope for. Then she’d seen two contenders score fewer points than she had, putting her up to 2nd, and even the leader wasn’t so far ahead that there was no chance of a win. If she could post a really competitive score. Being realistic, the leading total was 18, and I would say that it would need a total of 20 to put leader John into the corridor of uncertainty. This meant that Barbara really needed a score of at least 15. It turned out that this was asking a little too much. She got two thirds of the way there with 10, for a total of 15, but that was as close as she came.

So John Chadwick needed a score of 8 and no more than 4 passes to see him safely into the semis. He didn’t post the highest GK round of the show. John’s tactic was to answer each question as quickly as he could, preferably correctly, but to avoid passing more than absolutely necessary. As a result he got through a few more questions than the other three contenders – as a comparison I scored 21 on John’s round, and then 18 on both Nick’s and Xavier’s, and 16 on Barbara’s. John himself scored 13, to give him 23 , which was more than enough to see him comfortably through. Well done, and hard lines to the other three.

The Details

Barbara Bell The National Parks of England and Wales5 - 510 - 415 – 9
Nick GunatillekeBattles of the American Civil War4 - 213 - 517 – 7
John ChadwickThe Life and Works of H.P.Lovecraft10 - 113 - 223 – 3
Xavier WoodwardBoxing World Title Fights since 20004 -3 14 - 318 – 6


tuckeraj said...


glad someone else is irked by the "that's the one they fear most" trope. For me, being asked about bits of your specialist subject you skipped over is the real nightmare

Londinius said...

Hi Andy

I've meant to say it for a couple of weeks now. I don't like to criticise John because I think he does an excellent job, but when it comes to this he's just wrong. I don't really know how he thinks he knows what goes on in the contenders' minds, because in my experience he doesn't spend a great deal of time talking to them in the green room - I exchenged far more words with him when I was in the chair than I ever did when I was out of it.

For the reasons you've said, I can't hep feeling that for a sizeable tranche of contenders, general knowledge is where you feel most comfortable.

LisaH said...

I was far more worried about my specialist subject than General Knowledge - with the GK I knew what I was going to get and thought (wrongly as it would happen) I should be able to get an average score on it but the SS and how my question setter had interpreted it was far more uncertain. As it happened the SS couldn't have gone better but the GK was awful!

jim360 said...

Haven't watched mastermind in a while (I think partly due to family competition for the TV) but tremendous respect for people that do go on it. In general I do worse watching MM than UC - maybe because the specialist subjects are never anything I know about so I'm lucky to manage a point per round. Can't remember what the General Knowledge rounds were like.

Two very different shows, anyway. For whatever reason my family has always chosen to watch UC, since before I can remember I'm fairly sure. Anyway, kudos to anyone who appears on the show, and sitting in the black chair myself I'm sure I'd be terrified!

untruth said...

At 23 aggregate score on the Specialist round, that was the lowest such score of the Humphreys era. The only such previous scores under 30 were a 28 in 2005, and a 29 back in 2004.

LisaH said...

What's the highest? I was in a heat with a SS total of 56 but I'm sure that's been beaten

untruth said...

The first heat in the 2007-08 series scored 16-14-16-17 for 63. Who'd have thought that a score of 14 would be in last place and three points off the pace?