Saturday, 10 November 2012

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 12

One of the vagaries of the first round of Mastermind which is either endearing or infuriating, depending on whether you’re one of the people who gets the short end of it, is that it can throw up heats where two or even more serious contenders who both deserve to get to the semis have to battle it out against each other. Yes, last night was one of these.

Making a third entry to the Mastermind lists was last night’s third contender Mike Foden. Mike was a contender in both 2009 and 2011. In 2009 he answered on Kazimir Malevich, and in 2011 the life and work of Robert Doisneau, Last night he was offering one of my wiki subjects , Steely Dan. I would have had 1 without wiki, since I would have guessed that the William Burroughs novel in which the object Steely Dan features is “Naked Lunch”. With wiki’s help, though I managed 6. Mike didn’t seem to be either answering slowly, answering many wrongly, or passing many, but he managed 9 which certainly seemed as if it would give him a bit to do in the GK room.

Julie Green, whom I will call one of last night’s ‘civilians’ , answered on the Mapp and Lucia Novels of E.F.Benson. Now, once again tonight I didn’t hear a lot of wrong answers, and there were only 2 passes. Yet the score was 12. Now, don’t get me wrong , 12 is a good score, no doubt about that. But it’s not the kind of score I thought that the round was worth. All of which seemed to confirm my impressions that this was a show in which all the contenders were being given long questions. In which case Mike’s score was looking better, especially considering that he would probably be a force to be reckoned with on GK.

The second ‘civilian’ was James Jack, who offered my second wiki subject , The Boston Bruins since 1970. I would have had precisely one of these, since I would have guessed Fenway park if I didn’t know it. With wiki though I managed a pleasing 7. James set the best score of the round so far with a rousing 12 and no passes. I know what you’re thinking , and no, he didn’t have many wrong either. On one hand, at least the rounds within the show were being consistent. Whether it was consistent with specialist rounds in other heats, well, that is more of a question.

Our last contender, then , was Mark Grant. Mark is well known to Mastermind fans, and indeed within the wider quiz world. If I mention that he is a member of the seemingly unbeatable Crossworders, the Champion of Champion of Champions of Only Connect you’ll have some idea of the calibre of quizzer we’re talking about. Not to mention that he was 3rd in the Mastermind 2010 Grand final, and runner up to Pat in the 2005 Grand Final. How unlucky can you get, having to play quizzers of the calibre of Pat, Jesse, and Kathryn Johnson in your two grand finals ? Make no mistake, Mark is a contender for the title this year. However he had to first earn a place in the semis. His specialist round on Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor didn’t make his task any easier for him. Mark answers quickly, and for the most part correctly, and in my opinion he always prepares meticulously for his specialist rounds. However a few bouncers caught him out in this, and he too only managed to get into double figures on his last correct answer. Still, with no disrespect intended towards the other contenders, since they were only 2 points ahead Mike was his real opposition. The two of them were almost tied, so it was all down to GK. I managed three of Mark’s questions. For the record my aggregate for the specialist rounds was 17, which is not a vintage week, but considering that I would have scored 5 if I hadn’t wikied I’m happy to take the money and run on that one.

Mike struck first, and he produced a terrific round of answers. Anything over 15 in a two and a half minute round is a very good performance, and Mike’s 17 was a clear message to the other contenders, and surely enough to at least put Mark into the corridor of uncertainty. Mark reminded me of one of his Only Connect teammates during his GK round, none other than Ian Bayley. When Ian won his title, he was a picture of concentration, his eyes closed, oblivious to everything except the questions. Mark looked just like this as he produced one of the very best GK rounds of the series so far. Mike’s score had been a very good one, so it took Mark a long time to pass it, but he did, and managed another correct answer to be sure. 18 is a terrific score for a GK round, and although we still had 2 contenders to come I felt certain that Mark had secured his third semi final appearance.

Julie Green wasn’t able to put on a GK performance to match the two we’d already seen, but I have to say that I was impressed with the way she kept going, and kept supplying correct answers to the questions she knew. She maintained admirable concentration, and by doing so amassed another 13 points for a total of 25. That’s not to be sniffed at, and would have won some heats in this series. She can be proud of the account she gave of herself in a hell of a heat to be placed in.I don’t know if James Jack had been a little overawed by the GK performances he had witnessed, but he looked a lot more nervous now than he had done in his specialist round. He was answering more slowly than the others, and didn’t ever really manage to get up a head of steam. Fair play to him, he gritted out the round, picking up the points that he could, but by the end of the round he had only managed to add another 8, to finish with 20. So we almost had that Mastermind rarity, of the positions at half time being completely reversed by the end of the show. Alright, so Mike was 4th and Mark was third after round one, but you know what I mean. Commiserations to Mike. John said that he may get a highest loser slot, but if it is true that it’s the 6 highest scores regardless of finishing position who qualify, then I’m afraid he won’t. Nathan Joss is already in the 6th slot, and he had 26 and fewer passes than Mike. Very hard lines, that. Congratulations to Mark, and word of warning to other semi finalists. I doubt very much that you’ll see Mark trailing after a specialist round again.

The Details

Mike Foden Steely Dan9 - 317 - 126 – 4
Julie GreenThe Mapp and Lucia Novels of E.F.Benson12 - 213 - 225 – 4
James JackBoston Bruins since 197012 - 08 - 120 – 1
Mark GrantHenry Mayhew’s ‘London Labour and the London Poor’ 10 - 118 - 028 – 1


Ewan M said...

I had the pleasure to meet and compete against Mike Foden when he was up in Edinburgh at the recent Nordic Grand Prix event. I hadn't realised that Mike shared an enthusiasm for Steely Dan. Having considered them as a potential specialist subject for a future MM application I'm rather glad Mike got there first! A really tough set I thought. I would certainly have gone with Mike and said ABC was the record label for the first 3 Steely Dan albums. The question about the obscure director of the little-known Richard Pryor movie seemed of tangential relevance at best and there were 2 or 3 other very obscure questions IMO.

For the record, David, Mike got 9 on his specialist round not 10 (his 17 on GK representing a very impressive return indeed). It was always going to be difficult to beat a contender with the pedigree of Mark Grant, but well done Mike, despite what I thought was a very tricky set on Steely Dan, a great comeback on GK saved the day. Hopefully a place in the semis as one of the highest scoring runners up beckons.

Londinius said...

Oops - thanks Ewan. I've corrected the post now.

I agreed that I thought Mike was right with ABC - that was one of the things I got from wikipedia

bj said...

I thought it was really odd that Mike Foden didn't get a point for the Coubertin. question. He was asked what sports organisation he was head of. He replied the Olympic association. JH said "International Olympic Committee" - sometimes he gives just a little extra info/clarification on correct answers. I couldn't believe that Mike's score didn't alter. I actually went back and replayed it four times, in case I had misheard or missed the point going up. But, no, he definitely wasn't given the point, which seemed harsh, to put it mildly. Of course it might just have been a mistake. I certainly hope it doesn't make the difference between and semi-final spot and not.

bj said...
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julie said...

You have to feel sorry for the poor 'civilian' who's only in it for fun because one's husband entered on their behalf, so has had to quickly cobble together a specialist subject, only to turn up and find her opponents all know each other and are virtual professionals! - Kinda takes the wind out of one's sails - It's a whole world of quizzing I never knew existed.....having said that, everybody so nice and encouraging - it was such a good experience I would definitely do it again - will have to take it a bit more seriously next time.... I really hope that Mark goes on to win it.

dxdtdemon said...

You did impressively well for a first-timer. I think there have been four heats so far where your score would've won.

tuckeraj said...

Just watched this on catch up.

A cracking contest; the luck of the draw this year has been harsh for some.

I kept thinking "That's a ridiculously long question" throughout Julie's round. So not surprised that she only faced 15 or 16. By way of comparison, I faced 12 in 90 seconds in my semi-final (against 14 for the half way leader). However my sympathy was rather tempered by not one but two occasions where JH corrected her pronunciation, but said "yes".

The rigour then applied to Mike on the Olympics seemed inconsistent at least.

Mark's lead-off question on his SS was also paragraph length.

In sum, the quality of the candidates was not matched by the hosts tonight. This edition provided further ammunition for those who question whether all contenders would have the chance to answer the same number of questions

Londinius said...

Hi All

Julie, thanks so much for taking the time and trouble to come by and leave a comment. You did extremely well, and I love your comment that you weren't taking it as seriously as you could have done. You were certainly not overawed, and more than held your own against two very very good quizzers. I'm glad that you enjoyed it, and will look forward to seeing you giving it another go in the future.

Guys, I'm glad it's not just me who thought that the questions were noticeably longer than usual in this heat. As more than one person has noted, it didn't metter when there were not repechage places, but it certainly does matter when there are.

Re: The Olympic Question. I agree that consistency is important. On the night I thought that the decision to take Mike's answer as a wrong one was certainly a judgement call, but I felt it was justifiable since Mike said Olympic Association, but didn't say the IOC, or International Olympic Committee, which is the correct answer. If you were asked for , let's say, the world governing body that used to award the Jules Rimet Trophy, and you said the International Football Association, would that be acceptable ? I know it's harsh, and don't get me wrong, I wanted Mike to do well as much as anybody, but I felt it was a correct call. Still, what clouds the issue, as people have pointed out, is when other 'near misses' have been accepted.

I fully admit that I am extremely biased towards Mastermind, but I do honestly feel that the 'quality control' for want of a better phrase has been very good on this series. But particularly with teh question lengths, this edition stuck out like a sore thumb.

tuckeraj said...

I should also say that I emphathise with Julie about entering the quiz world. Two years ago at Maida Vale for BoB, I felt in a minority; all credit to Iwan Thomas for breaking down that barrier.