Friday, 3 May 2013

University Challenge - Grand Final 2013

The last two teams in this year’s competition, then, were UCL and Manchester. UCL , consisting of Adam Papaphilippopoulos, Tom Tyszczuk-Smith, Tom Parton and Simon Dennis had been picked as potential winners since the earliest stages of the competition. Manchester, on the other hand, David Brice, Adam Barr, Debbie Brown and Richard Gilbert, had flirted with disaster in the first round, winning on the last question, and then again in the quarter, where they lost one of their matches. To UCL no less.

I’m sure that someone will be able to tell me whether we’ve ever had this situation before, of a team who have already been beaten by another team meeting that same team in the Grand Final. I know that it certainly came into the equation when many people – me included – were reflecting on the relative chances of both UCL and Manchester. The fact is that in their quarter final match, UCL beat Manchester. UCL beat the only other team to reach the semi finals unbeaten, New College Oxford, in their semi. So it’s fair to say that they were the favourites going into the match. However, Manchester have an awesome record in this competition over the last few years, and you’re never going to make money by betting against them . . .

David Brice struck for Manchester on the first starter, but neither team took Thomas More’s “Utopia” for the first starter. Perhaps a few nerves there. Simon Dennis buzzed in too early before More’s name was mentioned and lost 5. The second starter saw David Brice in early with the Laws of thermodynamics. This brought up a set of bonuses on Dickens’ opinions of tourist attractions in Rome. Now, last week we saw Manchester beat Bangor by winning the buzzer race, while they only managed a modest bonus conversion rate. They took two of their first two now, which they would surely need to do to give themselves a good chance of carrying back the trophy to the Manchester cabinet. A nice UC special followed, asking teams to add together the number of letters in the surname of the Prime Minister who came to power in the 1945 General Election with the number of letters in his two successors. David Brice worked out that Attlee – 6, Churchill -9 and Eden – 4 add up to 19. Bonuses on cycling again saw them take two, to give them a lead of 40 against -5.Adam Papaphilippopoulos opened UCL’s account with a speculative punt that various rivers throughout Britain were called the Avon. Right enough. ( It’s from welsh – afon – which means river). Geology saw UCL, like Manchester before them, take two out of three. Game on. The picture starter was word cloud showing the most popular words in the works of an English poet. It was that man David Brice again who nipped in for Manchester to supply the correct answer of Milton. Three more word clouds based on major poets appeared. I should be Ok on these, but I really struggled. I took TS Eliot, but that was me done. Same for Manchester. Tom Tyzsczuk-Smith buzzed in too early on the next starter before the point of the question became clear. This was a wonderful little cryptic one which gave clues to unfold the headline – Man Bites Dog. You won’t get a question quite like that anywhere else. Bonuses on herbs didn’t bring much joy, only the last one – being that carminatives relieve flatulence – bringing points. Still, this took us nicely up to the 10 minute mark, and Manchester had taken a good lead with 70 to 10.

Something mathematical about P and N and K allowed Tom Parton to put me out of my misery by giving the answer of proof by induction. British Prime Ministers promised much but UCL were unable to convert. I think they had a d’oh moment when they missed out on Spencer Perceval. Tom Parton knew that if a question contained the words ‘outer’ and ‘asian country’ then you would never be far wrong if you buzzed in with the answer Mongolia. The bonuses were on literature and alcohol. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t get them, but UCL managed one. The music starter followed with a wee snatch of Smetana, and it was the impressive Tom Parton who buzzed in first for it. Three bonuses followed, with pieces of classical music, and the team being asked for the country that had inspired each. Am I the only person who has a mental picture of Eric Morecambe grabbing Andre Previn by the lapels every time I hear that bit of the Grieg Piano Concerto? I guessed that the next would be Sibelius’ Finlandia, and the last was clearly Chopin , so Poland. UCL managed that, but not the first two. David Brice, whose buzzer finger was turbocharged in this contest of contests again won the race to give the name of Kuiper of the Kuiper Belt fame. Another UC special set of bonuses followed, this time on two word terms that sound like a combination of an educational establishment and a common surname, which sound as if they could be Roger Tilling announcements – eg – Newcastle Brown. How clever is that? Kudos to the setter who came up with that one for the final. Brilliant work. Tom Tyszczuk-Smith was the first in to say that Pilot fish swim alongside the jaws of sharks, and this earned a set on Non Euclidean Geometry. was it me, or did I see the team make a whispered groan? Amazingly there was one of these I could get, when it related the question to Dostoevsky’s last novel – which I guessed was The Brothers Karamazov.UCL were only 15 behind now. The gap widened though, when Debbie Brown buzzed in first to say that the substance in the question was silk. The bonuses which followed on opera only saw them take one. Richard Gilbert took his time to answer that Glasnost and Perestroika are terms associated with Mikhail Gorbachev, and earned the customary JP rebuke for doing so. US State Capitals were not by any stretch of the imagination easy, and the two that Manchester managed increased the gap to 55.Adam Barr won the next starter on probability. Manchester fans, scenting a famous victory, began to cheer. Bonuses on chemistry brought 10 more points. For the second picture starter we saw an exceedingly good photo of Mr. Kipling. Adam Papaphilippopoulos couldn’t get it, so skipper Richard Gilbert nipped in with the correct answer. I liked the bonuses, of Kipling’s pictures to illustrate his own Just So Stories. I had two, but Manchester didn’t add to their score. Amazingly David Brice lost 5 points on the next starter – Manchester could afford it, and he was unable to say which month Shakespeare called “Well Appareled”. UCL couldn’t say it was April either.

To be honest the game was over once Debbie Brown correctly supplied the answer Flibbertigibbet for the next starter. This and bonuses on classic terms and their anagrams, of which they answered 2 gave them a lead of 175 to 75. Adam Papaphilippopoulos narrowed the gap slightly, taking Roth and Rothko for the next starter. Bonuses on Jon Ronson brought UCL to three figures. Neither team knew MLD – Median Lethal Dose. Tom Tyszczuk-Smith knew the sinuses for the next starter. Bonuses on the solar system followed and narrowed the gap to 50 points. Two full sets – but was there time for these? It was immaterial since David Brice capped a splendid performance by answering that it is Oregon that is almost the same size as the UK. Pace names in Turkish. 2 were taken. Tom Parton, himself a fine performer on the buzzer in this contest knew that there are 6 carbon atoms in a benzene ring. Bonus on shipping forecast areas brought 10 more points, but the gong sounded before the third could be asked. Cue wild cheers from the Manchester home support, as they had run our worthy winners by 140 to 190.

Many congratulations to both teams for their performances throughout the series. UCL? Nothing to explain really. We’ve all had the experience of when it’s just not our night, and the questions don’t run for us. Nothing you can do about it except take it on the chin, and applaud the victors. As for Manchester, a terrific performance. Very well done. And also a thank you to the production team, who have provided us all with hours of such great quiz entertainment. Thank you very much.

Jeremy Paxman watch

We all know that JP is always on his best behaviour in the final. Still, it was nice to see him have a wee chuckle at the answer that carminatives relieve flatulence. I always kind of suspected that he might just be a lover of a decent fart gag.

The great man also liked the ‘Roger Tilling announcement ‘ bonuses, allowing himself a little chuckle over them.

Interesting fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

The term ‘whiskey fictions’ has been applied to some of the work of Graham Greene


Jack said...

Well, I wouldn't say the final was a classic match, but it was certainly watchable, and not a disappointing finale at all. It was a shame that U.C.L. sort of ran out of power after doing so well all series, but they've done very well this series, and should not be dissatisfied at all.

And well done, once again, to Manchester for another well deserved series victory. Who'd have thought they'd be winning their fourth title when they trailed Lincoln by all those points back in the first round?!

The stats: Manchester managed 18/33 bonuses, U.C.L. 14/23, and both sides incurred two penalties. David Brice was the night's best buzzer, with five starters, while Tom Parton was U.C.L.'s best with four.

It's been an interesting series to cover, both over on JOW, and with my comments on here. Thanks once again to all involved for another enjoyable series.

Of course, when the show returns in the Summer, we will have the new set back again. Those who watched the Christmas specials will recall it, as well as the new opening titles.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack,

As you can probably tell from most of my posts, I did expect UCL to win this one. The first thing to say is that it's more of a case that Manchester won, rather than UCL lost, if you see what I mean. Manchester were better on the buzzer for much of the contest, and they impoved their bonus conversion rate from the semi final. They would have been forgiven for being nervous of facing UCL after being beaten in their quarter final match, but they seemed to use it as a spur to producing their best form. Full credit to them.

I do feel sorry for UCL. However good you are it can always happen that you have a night when the questions just don't suit you. The better you are, the fewer of these nights you get, but it's just one of those things if it happens on an occasion when it really matters. There's precious little that you can do about it.

Here's a thought. Pity the poor Manchester team next year. How much pressure will be on THEIR shoulders?! Has any team ever had a 3 year hat trick of wins?

Thanks for all of your comments this seaason Jack

All the best