Friday, 30 August 2013

Mastermind - Round One - Heat Four

I’ll be honest, I didn’t check out the contenders or the specialist subjects prior to tonight’s show, so this was another unwikied one. It would have been quite enlightening to have had a look at the contenders first, though, since there were a couple of very familiar faces on show.
First up tonight was Barry Humphrey. Barry has appeared on quite a number of TV quizzes. You might well remember him as a member of the Footballers, the team which took 4th place in the last but one series of Only Connect. Or failing that, winning the final of Breakaway in 2012. In what I believe is his first go at Mastermind he offered us the TV show “Six Feet Under”. Barry answered very quickly, and for the most part, very correctly. Now, I wonder if this struck anyone else who watched tonight’s show. A number of regulars have commented on the length of some of the questions, but tonight it seemed to go beyond a joke in the specialist rounds. There were very few questions that were not qualified by a piece of needless, and sometimes irrelevant extra information. I’ll be honest, it makes even a round which you might know something about into something of a chore. As I say, Barry answered well, but even so the length of the questions meant that he was only able to score 10. The only thing I can really say in the show’s defence was that the questions in the other three specialist rounds seemed equally prolix to me.

So to this show’s second familiar face. By my reckoning tonight’s show was the start of Hamish Cameron’s 6th Mastermind campaign. If my information is correct – which I can’t guarantee – then Hamish has reached the semis on three occasions, but never made it through to the final. I should imagine that the closest that he came was in the 2007 SOBM, where he had the third highest score in all the semis, but was in the same semi as Stuart Cross, who had the first highest score in all the semis. Few people, then, know more about winning first round shows than Hamish. The subject he was hoping would carry him part of the way there tonight was James Ramsey Macdonald – one time MP for Aberavon (although that question didn’t come up). Hamish knew the majority of those that did, though. Bearing in mind the length of the questions his 12 looked to be a quality round.

Philip Price certainly hasn’t made 5 previous attempts to win a show on Mastermind, but he did make one in 2012. Back then he came 4th in his heat, so full marks to him for having another go. We’ll maybe discuss that a little more fully later on. His subject was The City of London Parish Churches of Sir Christopher Wren. Actually that’s a good subject, although I only managed 3 on it myself. Philip knew his stuff, but he probably didn’t quite know it quickly enough. I’d guess that he could have managed another couple of questions if he’d answered a little more quickly. 11 and 1 pass, on these questions, was a good return, but judging from his previous GK performance I couldn’t see him living with Barry or Hamish.

You wait all series for a first round contender from 2012, and then two of them come along at once. Our fourth contender, Isabel Morgan, also played in the first round two years ago, although not in the same heat as Philip. She was joint runner up in her heat, losing out because of the GK round. Her subject tonight was Welsh poet Alun Lewis. She knew her stuff, too. 13 and 1 pass on these questions is pretty good going. I don’t see how you could score above 15 on a 2 minute round with questions this long. Well, let’s leave that to one side for now.

Barry was the first to return to the chair, however this was not necessarily significant bearing in mind that the most likely opposition – Hamish – was only 2 points ahead. All you can do in Barry’s position is to go as fast as you can, answer as many as you can, and set a target which is as high as you can. Barry answered very quickly for the most part, and although he seemed to lose momentum once or twice he battled his way through to 14, for a total of 24. That was enough to leave all of his opponents needing double figures to win, and that can put anyone into the corridor of uncertainty.

Philip certainly never looked convincing in his round. 6 correct answers and six passes wasn’t a great return. Slow answers and a pass spiral meant he was doing the Mastermind equivalent of trying to roll a pea uphill with his nose. I somehow expected that it would be a different kettle of fish when Hamish came to sit down for his second round, and I was right. To put it into perspective, Hamish needed to score 13 to go into the outright lead, and if we take 28 to be a safe repechage score, he needed 16 to be almost certain of reaching the semis. Not easy, but doable if you keep your head. Hamish certainly managed that. He didn’t answer them all correctly, although he answered a lot of them correctly, and he did pass, but each of those three passes were made at a moment when he was right to do so, to get his round moving again and just keep racking up the points. Alright, despite his 17 for a total of 29 he didn’t know for certain that he was through, but Isabel would have to produce something very special to deny him.

She certainly started well enough, but as we’ve seen so many times, 2 and a half minutes can be a very long time indeed when you're trying to maintain a full head of steam. After the third question she was asked who wrote ‘not waving , but drowning’ she just couldn’t remember, and that was it, her momentum had gone completely. She had the presence of mind to pick off the questions she knew for certain, but it’s momentum which helps you come up with answers to questions that you aren’t sure of, or don’t know. The round was not even half over before the total Hamish had set was out of reach, and it wasn’t long before the current repechage threshold passed as well. By the end she’d reached double figure respectability with 10 and 5 passes.

So many congratulations to Hamish on reaching another semifinal, and I do sincerely hope that you make it to the final now. Hard lines to Barry – it was bad luck meeting such a good, seasoned Mastermind veteran in the first round. I hope that he might make a repechage slot, but it's looking precarious, even now. Now, just before we move on to look at the details, I would like to return for a moment to the whole question about what makes people come back to Mastermind for more. Now, this is all speculation on my part, and they may each have reasons which I haven’t ever considered. Still, I can only tell you what I think. I came back for a second bite of the cherry myself, and I had two reasons for doing so. One, despite losing in the first round in 2006 I enjoyed it, and two, more importantly to me, I was sure that I could do better. Hamish , having reached the semifinal so many times, cannot reasonably be expected to stop trying until he at least reaches the final. As for Isabel, well, as I said she was the joint runner up in her previous show, so it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to enter in the hope that she could go one better this time. As for Philip, though, well, that might be a little harder to understand. In Philip’s previous show, he had another modest GK score, and finished a considerable way behind the 3rd placed contender. Maybe tonight was a shot at putting that to rights. Or maybe he just enjoyed the whole experience last time round. There is actually something to be said for putting yourself through the discipline of learning a specialist subject for Mastermind, something actually rather enjoyable. When you get right down to it, enjoyment is the only sensible reason for applying for the show in the first place.

The Details

Barry HumphreySix Feet Under10 – 214 – 524 - 7
Hamish CameronLife and Times of James Ramsey Macdonald12 – 117 – 329 – 4
Philip PriceThe City of London Parish Churches of Sir Christopher Wren11 – 16 – 617 - 7
Isabel MorganLife and work of Alun Lewis13 – 110 – 523 – 6

Repechage Table

Beth Webster 28 – 2
Barry Nolan 26 – 3
Ricki Kendall 25 – 4
John Berridge 24 – 3
Barry Humphrey 24 - 7
Lauren White 23 – 4

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