The first contender, Beth Webster, is not unknown in these parts. As Beth Maclure she came up against eventual series winner Shaun Wallace in 2004, she was runner up in her first round heat in 2005, in the 2007 SOBM she also took part in the first round, and in 2008/9 she was unlucky to lose to eventual finalist Richard Heller in the first round. This appearence makes Beth a 5 series Masterminder, and there aren’t many of these. To say that I wanted her to win this heat would be something of an understatement. I was cheering every one she answered correctly in her specialist round on the Muppet films – which meant an awful lot of cheering, since she answered sixteen from sixteen – a perfect round to start the series. Brilliant. On a personal note I was a little upset to see that only a couple of questions were asked on the Muppets Christmas Carol. It's probably Mary's all time favourite film - come to think of it I'm quite fond of it too.
I don’t believe that John Berridge, our second contender, has appeared on Mastermind before. he was answering questions on Alexander the Great. You'll appreciate that having had hardly any warning that the show was on last night I went into each subject unwikied. Thankfully there were the Muppets Christmas Carol ones in Beth's round, and one or two sitters in each of the others, or I'd have been struggling. I managed one of John's round. John produced a good round on what had the potential to be a tricky subject, I thought, but even so, his 12 points and 1 pass meant that he would have to outscore Beth by 5 on the GK. Yes, I make no apologies for having watched the rest of the show just mentally calculating how everybody else’s performances might possibly affect Beth’s chances. So far, we were on track.
The third contender, Ricki Kendall, endeared himself to me by being a teacher. His subject was the Biblical writings of Saint John. He too I believe to be a Mastermind virgin. Ricki was maybe a little fortunate that John had just managed to say one word of the last question as the buzzer went, but it’s the rule, and when he answered this last question correctly it took his score to 12 and 1 pass. Again, a good round, but not one that should get in the way of Beth winning the show hopefully.
The appropriately named Cliff Challenger was the final contestant to go in the specialist round. He was answering on a good old traditional Mastermind subject in the shape of the life and work of Benjamin Britten. Now, to put it into perspective, if Cliff also managed a 12 or under, then surely Beth was going to go on and march forward into the semifinal, not that I wished him or either of the other two contenders any misfortune, you understand. If Beth’s performance had been the pick of the first round – and it had – Cliff’s wasn’t far behind. He gave hardly a hesitation in answering 15 questions correctly, with just 1 pass as a blemish on the round. So Beth’s fate would be decided on General Knowledge.
Long before that, however, John Berridge had to return to the chair. With the reminder that these GK rounds are 2 and a half minutes, we were away. John needed to take his time over the answers, which meant that he didn’t get through as many questions as he might have hoped. However when he did take his time he quite often had the right answer. He passed on three, scoring 12 to take him to 24. Beth would beat that. Ricki answered a lot more quickly than John had, and as a result I got into a rhythm and had a pretty good round on this set. Ricki wasn’t doing badly for the first minute either although he did slow down, and the correct answers became a little more sporadic after this, and he was clearly running out of steam at the end. Nevertheless a round of 13 put him into the lead with 25. Beth would beat that, I knew.
So it was down to Cliff Challenger. What could he do in 2 and a half minutes of GK? The answer was, quite a lot. He took a little while to build up a head of steam, but once he got going he powered through the rest of the round. Cliff scored 17, which is a good score off a two and a half minute round. Not unbeatable, no, but the kind of score which would put any contender trying to beat it into the corridor of uncertainty. For the record, this GK set gave me my highest score of the night, when I only got the last one wrong. I liked John’s expression when his score was read out – he clearly didn’t think he’d done as well as that. All of which begged the question – could Beth beat that?
The honest answer of course was that the next two minutes would tell. On past form, Beth’s previous best GK score was 11 on a 2 minute round, which equates to about 14. This would not quite be enough, as 16 and 1 pass or fewer was the target. I’ll be honest, I don’t think John needed to say “IN the first round you had sixteen points, and by golly you’ll need them , as the score to beat is 32.” I think she already knew this, John, and there was no need to ram it down her throat just as she was about to begin her attempt. Beth started well, and was up to 21 in short order. However a few tricky questions in a row held her up, and although she did regain rhythm in the last half minute I’m afraid it looked form this point that the clock was going to beat her. In the end she scored 12 to take her total to 28. Once again, very bad luck Beth. However here’s a thought. In all four of Beth’s previous series, there were no repechage semi places. Last series 27 was enough for a repechage slot, 28 was enough in 2012,and 28 was enough the year before that. So there really is every good chance she’ll do it. Fingers crossed. Congratulations, then to Cliff Challenger, first semifinalist of this series. Well played sir.
|Beth Webster||Muppet Films||16 - 0||12 - 2||28 – 2|
|John Berridge||Alexander the Great||12 - 2||12 - 3||24 – 3|
|Ricki Kendall||The Biblical Writings of Saint John||12 - 1||13 - 3||25 – 4|
|Cliff Challenger||The Life and Career of Benjamin Britten||15 - 1||17- 0||32 – 1|