Friday, 19 April 2013

University Challenge - Semi Final

UCL v. New College, Oxford

Before the start of this interesting match up we had two unbeaten teams. By the end of it we would be left with just the one, striding forwards into the final. Many people are already almost awarding the winners’ laurels to this very fine UCL team of Adam Papahilippopoulos, Tom Tyzsczuk-Smith, Tom Parton and their captain Simon Dennis. Well, I wasn’t going that far. However I did think that they had looked a little stronger in their matches than their opponents from New College, Oxford. The team of Remi Beecroft, India Lenon, Tom Cappleman, and skipper Andy Hood have come this far unbeaten, but some pundits, this columnist included, have noted that several of their performances have been based on stellar starter performances by Tom Cappleman. Having a great buzzer like that on your team is wonderful, but it does always pose the question of what happens on an ‘off night’.

Tom Cappleman certainly seemed on top form when he buzzed early to take the first question, knowing that a number of names alluded to all began with –Hippo-. A set of bonuses on trading blocs brought two bonuses. Given a list of names of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Andy Hood gave a wrong answer, which left his opposite number Simon Dennis to open UCL’s account. The bonuses he earned for doing so were pairs of places with one same element – eg – Manchester and Chesterfield. They too took two.All square. The next was a long question, which needed you to hang on until the easy bit came , which was that the person in question was chiefly remembered for the absolute temperature scale. In previous games we’ve seen Tom Cappleman come in at precisely the right moment with a buzz, but this time it was Simon Dennis who judged it to perfection to provide the answer of Lord Kelvin. This was telling. Physics was the subject of the bonus set, and the team scored 3 more than I did. We had another such wait for it starter in the next question, where we were asked for a set of initials. A list of people was given, which was finished off by – and the local rivals of Inter Milan. This time it was Tom Tyzsczuk-Smith who won the buzzer race with AC. Historical Provinces of Japan didn’t seem to promise a lot, but I was pleasantly surprised to get a full set.UCl took one, and at this admittedly early stage they had a 40 point lead. No need to panic for New College, but they needed to get busy with the buzzer and try to muscle their way into the buzzer race. The picture starter showed a map , with some highlighted countries on the map of Africa. Tom Parton buzzed in to supply the correct answer that all are linked by having Portuguese as an official language. For the bonuses they were asked to identify three Lusophonic countries. The first two were hard, but they had them all. Andy Hood did what I felt he needed to do at this stage, and took a flyer on a very early buzz on the next starter. He took a punt, but because he hadn’t heard enough of the question he didn’t answer correctly. It was another of those questions which meant you had to wait until it became more obvious – in this case through the words “Title of a Robert Harris novel”. Hard lines. UCL didn’t know it was “The Fear Index”. On the next starter, a great little curio, the teams were asked which Aberdeenshire hamlet has seen a huge number of hits on it’s website due to it sharing its name with an acronym for a BBC2 reality show. Tom Parton guessed correctly, and gave The Only Way Is Essex for the answer, but the question asked for the name of the village – the acronym TOWIE. No points. New College couldn’t capitalise. We were now practically on the ten minute mark, and it had been a very good session for UCL, even by their own high standards, as they led by 80 – 15.

Adam Papaphilippopoulos buzzed in too early on the next starter. He knew it was asking about a play by Dario Fo, and so supplied the name of the playwright, but it wanted the name of the play – The Accidental Death of an Anarchist. New College couldn’t answer. A UC special asked for the last time when the 8 digits of a date taken together add up to 12. No dice. A question about atmospheres of pressure finally got Tom Cappleman off the mark. New College’s bonus set was all about English coastal cities, which were to be identified from a heraldic description of their coats of arms. A very tricky set, but they still managed one of them. Nobody on either side knew that the kazoo comes in a familiar submarine shape. Andy Hood knew that Acer and several other IT companies have their headquarters on Taiwan. Insects in music was an interesting idea for a bonus set. Only one fell to the team, but I got my first music full set for ages. This was coincidentally followed by the music starter, and Adam Papaphilippopoulos recognised the work of Handel. Other notable composers who worked in England in the 16th and 17th centuries followed, and the team managed two of them. Remi Beecroft waited on the next question until it explained that the order of mammals called chiroptera have wings, when he buzzed in with the correct answer of bats. Human anatomy brought another 10 points. Andy Hood’s early buzz on the next starter about a columnist for the New York Times brought dividends in the shape of terminology in the Met Office shipping forecast. They managed one. The scoreboard revealed that their fightback in the last few minutes had been remarkably effective, as the gap now stood at just 15 points. They nearly had the next starter as well. Given a list of political figures, Andy Hood knew that they all switched sides, as it were, but he buzzed in early with – they all switched from Conservative to Labour. The answer JP wanted, as supplied by Adam Papaphilippopoulos was that they crossed the floor – not all in the same direction. UCL got to try their luck on Chinese literature for the bonuses. These asked specifically which dynasty certain writers lived during. The team did remarkably well by taking the first two. This success seemed to spur UCL to greater effort. Simon Dennis took the next starter, giving a list of things which are all linked by the three letter word orb. Nculear Physics promised me nothing at all, which is exactly what it delivered. UCL took one of them. This was enough to stretch the lead to 55, as UCL had 130 to New College’s 75. Not over yet, and the gap had still shrunk overall in the previous ten minutes.

The second picture starter showed us a painting by Caravaggio, and Andy Hood had it very quickly. More paintings of the same scene by different artists followed. 2 were correctly answered. A test to find glucose in urine was taken by Tom Tyzsczuk-Smith - not literally - and it earned a lovely little set on Keat’s odes. Yes, I did have a full house, but then I love Keats. UCL took one. Maths came next, about our old friends x and y. Nobody had it right. The next starter asked if the sixteen states of Germany are arranged alphabetically by their English name, which comes second? I didn’t know, but I made a mental bet it would be an obvious and well known one, and plumped for Bavaria. I was right and so was Simon Dennis. One of those – I’ll give you the rulers , you give me the century – sets provided UCL with another 10, and the gap was at 70. It looked like a winning one. Remi Beecroft wasn’t conceding yet, and recognised Lowood, Thornfield et al as locations in “Jane Eyre”. People born in the city of Rouen didn’t help them. A regular polygon finally put Tom Cappleman in the driving seat, and he buzzed very early with octagon. Comets helped bring the gap back down to 40. This was less than two full sets – it was still do-able. Port Natal gave Simon Dennis Durban, and what had looked quite a tall order was looking even taller. The silk route saw them fail to add to their score. Fair play to Andy Hood. his buzzing had hauled his team back into contention after the first ten minutes, but this time he knew he buzzed in too early to answer the question asking for the writer of “Six Characters in Search of An Author” He said “It’s Camus, but it’s not right.” At any other stage of the game this might have earned an interesting reply from JP, but to be fair to the great man he never tends to mess around in the closing stages. UCL didn’t know it was Piranadello. Simon Dennis knew a set of breeds of pig. Pigs in literature gave them two correct answers to bring us to the gong. The final score was 195 to 115 to UCL, and I don’t think that you could argue that they were certainly worth their place in the final. Respect to New College though, and especially their inspirational captain. Yes, the gap lengthened again in the last few minutes, but they were in contention late on. Had the crossing the floor question gone the other way, they might even have taken the lead, and who knows what might have happened then? So well played both. Next week our own Adam Pearce and his Bangor team fight it out with Manchester for the right to play UCL in the final. Looking forward already.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Tom Parton committed the cardinal sin of buzzing in for the first picture starter and hesitating before supplying the answer. JP has a certain way of responding to this sort of thing as if it is a personal affront. he points his finger at the offender and when I hear him say “Next time you buzz you must answer straight away.” I tend to imagine him completing this with the words – “or I’ll smash yer face in.” even if it is only in my own head ( or his).

JP does this thing whereby if he knows an answer he expects that everyone else should as well. So when UCL gave the answer of Purcell to one of the music bonuses he replied rather dismissively “Yes it is Purcell. Unmistakeably. “ I wonder what he would have said if they hadn’t answered it.

There was a wonderfully long suffering “Is ANYONE going to buzz from UCL?" after the X and Y Maths starter. Actually I know that tone of voice. I’ve used it in class often enough.

Interesting Fact That I didn’t Already Know Of The Week

The Kazoo was patented by Warren Herbert Frost in 1883.


Jack said...

Agreed that New College managed to keep U.C.L. close for much of the match, and it wasn't really until the very last moments that it was clear they couldn't catch them. Their loss, however, does mean there won't be an Oxbridge side in the final for the first time since 2006-07!

The stats: Simon Dennis got six starters for U.C.L., while Messrs Hood and Cappleman got three each for New College. The Londoners managed 19/33 bonuses with two penalties, and the Oxonians 10/24 with three penalties.

Now, I won't say anything about Monday's match, as I already know the winners, thanks to a slip-up from the Radio Times listings for the 29th. I reported it on Wednesday, and it has now been rectified. But still...

Jack said...

I'm afraid the accidental spoiler I briefly mentioned earlier is back on the RT website. So, unless you want to know who wins on Monday, don't go to the RT listings for the 29th.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack - thanks for the warning, and I've posted about it now, to give your warning, and ask if the producers could possibly help us out with this.

jim360 said...

And they'd even gone and removed it. Shame it's back up. I still don't know who wins on Monday, having resisted so far the temptation...

Well played UCL and I'd expect them to win the final regardless of who wins on Monday. I might be being unfair to Bangor and Manchester, but then UCL has been impressive all series and I don't expect them to change for the final.

Back luck to New College who with a kinder draw could so easily have been finalists - but they would probably have had to beat UCL anyway so that it may not have changed much.

Nice stat on the Oxbridge in finals Jack! Pity in some ways, but nice to see some more unusual teams in the finals. Except Manchester, so I hope very much that the spoiler said it was Bangor who won! Will have to wait and see...