Right, there was barely time for a cappuchino before I put on this, the 6th heat of this year’s contest. Now this heat saw the first outing in this series for David Stainer
LAM regulars probably don’t need me to say much about David, but I’m going to anyway. To give you an idea of David’s calibre, let me just say that David is the captain of Only Connect’s Champions of Champions of Champions , The Crossworders. For many people David is one of the outstanding favourites to win this year’s title, although I have a sneaking suspicion that an Egghead from Leeds will have more than a say in the eventual destination of the silver salver. That’s all to come though. When I heard that David was in this heat I had a temptation to go all Mr. T. ( in his role as Clubber Lang in Rocky III rather than B.A.Baracas in The A Team ) and start saying about the other contestants in this show ‘ I piddy da fools ‘ etc. But that would have got funny looks from my nearest and dearest so I didn’t. The first three contestants in this heat were
We were given an idea of the way that the show was going to go when George Duda was given a very tricky one for his second question about the term myosis. He missed it, and David was in for a bonus. I was a little surprised that nobody got Claire’s first question, about the star shaped flower that shares its name with a song- Edelweiss. Oliver took his first, but then nobody knew that the Bond film narrated by a woman is “The Spy Who Loved Me”. It is a gettable one, but try working things like that out when you’re under pressure , and doing it in front of a studio audience. David then rattled his first three off, but didn’t get a waterwheel from the names of three different kinds of them. Me neither. On with round two. I recognised the quote from Kipling for George’s first, but nobody was able to take a point from it. I had just an inkling that Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy , and this provided a bonus on Claire’s first for George. David took a good bonus on Oliver’s first, knowing that bilirubin causes the yellow discoloration in jaundice. He didn’t know the album by Madness, which gave Oliver a bonus.
In the third round none of the contestants score at all, except for David. He, mind you, had a hatfull. Firstly he answered George’s first, recognising the dulcet tones of former Labour leadership contender George Brown. I knew that sphalerite is a main ore of zinc, which foxed all of the contestants. I was a little surprised that nobody got Fenners cricket ground either. Still, David more than made up for this with a full set. I had the first 4, but couldn’t remember that JFK and La Guardia airports are now in Queens. David now led with 15 points to Oliver and George’s 2. In the last round before the beat the Brains interval George took his first, but made a simple error by saying that frangipani is marzipan flavoured. It’s actually almond flavoured as David well knew – marzipan being made from almonds. Claire , who was well overdue a gentle first question got another nasty one. She was played a country and western version of the song Misty, and couldn’t identify Ray Stevens as the singer. Neither could I, but George managed it. David took a fantastic bonus on Oliver’s first question. I’ve heard of the Gay-Lussac scale, but never the law. Still, I did know David’s first , which none of the 4 contestants did – that the Cossack who inspired a novel by Gogol and a rhapsody by Janacek was Taras Bulba. He was also played on film by Yul Brynner. At the interval, then, David had an 11 point lead, and the bookies had stopped taking bets on the outcome.
The first Beat the Brains question was hailed by David as a very good question, and it was. Which American winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature did not write in English ? I didn’t know, and neither did the Brains that it was in fact Isaac Bashevis Singer. Who did not, as I once thought, also invent the sewing machine. The brains, and I , did get the answer to the second – which US Nobel laureate translated Singer’s Yiddish works into English. It was Saul Bellow.
On with the show. Nobody knew George’s first, that dried llama meat is charqui, from which the word jerky comes. Fair enough. The question setters must have really had it in for Claire, as she got another kick in the teeth with a question which required the answer The Oxidation Number to start her off. Nobody got it. David took another really good bonus on Oliver’s first, knowing that Lord Grenville led the “ministry of All Talents”. To cap this off he followed it up with a full set on his own questions. To give you an idea of the scale of this achievements, the standard of questions in this show was such that none of his opponents managed to get two in a row throughout the whole show. David was now through the 20 point barrier, and it was just possible that he could break the amazing 30 point barrier the way he was going.
Two more rounds remained. In his first of round 6, George didn’t know the term mezzotint. David did. Claire received her usual ‘stop her before she even starts question’ and didn’t know that Rugby League was banned in Vichy France. Oliver took that one. He took his own first, but Christmas Disease stumped him and everyone else. David fell at the first, not knowing that Parkinson, after Parkinson’s Law was named, based his observations upon the Royal Navy. Nobody knew that. I certainly didn’t. I did, however, know the answer to the first question of the last round. Amazingly, the first person considered for the role of Lieutenant Columbo, eventually played by the late Peter Falk, was actually Bing Crosby. Claire, who could have been forgiven for thinking that she had at least earned the right to a ‘what is your name ‘ question after the string of stoppers she’d been given, was unable to dredge up the name of the artist Richard Dadd, which gave David a bonus. Aged world billiards champion Fred Davis gave George a bonus on Oliver’s first question. David took two, but missed out on the names of a group of scorpions to give Oliver a bonus. These were the final scores : -
George Duda – 5
Claire Green – 0
Oliver Levy - 5
David Stainer - 26
What should be even more frightening to David’s prospective opponents is that I thought that this was a hard show, and wouldn’t be surprised if he would have scored even more highly in some of the other heats we’ve heard so far in this series.To underline the point though - I have a copy of former champion and question setter "Mycroft" - Ian Gillies' 1986 Brain of Britain quiz book - red cover, published by Robson Books, well wroth getting hold of a copy. In the introduction he explains his tried and trusted formula of starting the early rounds with easier questions to get everyone off to a start, more difficult ones in the middle of the show, then easier ones at the end to produce a hopefully fast and furious finish. There's a lot to be said for this formula, but there's no sign of that now. Not on this particular show, but you can sometimes be struck by how much easier one contestant's questions seem than another's as well. All in the ear of the behearer I suppose.
I think that all four of the contestants had some hard first questions. In particular Claire Green. You can look at all 7 of the questions she was asked, and you can’t say with any of them – well , you really should have known that. I was glad to hear Russell use the word ‘sorry’ when he commiserated with her. If by any chance you do read this , Claire, don’t let it get you down. As for David , many congratulations on a very fine performance, sir, and best of luck in the semis.