Tuesday, 20 August 2013

University Challenge - Round One - Match Six

The University Of London School of Oriental and African Studies v. The University of Southampton

The London University School of Oriental and African Studies – SOAS for the sake of brevity, last played in 2008, and also featured two years previously. Last night they were represented by Maeve Weber, Luke Vivian-Neal, James Figueroa and their captain Peter McKean. Their opponents, the University of Southampton, included none other than our own Cromarty(IV) within their ranks. This is the sixth time the University have competed since the start of the Paxman era, including consecutive appearances in 2009, 10 and 11. The team were David Bishop, Richard Evans, Matt Loxham, and skippering the team was Bob De Caux. JP also urged viewers to check out the antics of the team’s cat mascot on Youtube and Facebook. Fair enough. Now, I don’t at this point know which one of the team is Cromarty(IV), but I know he’s there. So obviously I wanted them to do well. On the other hand I am an alumnus of the University of London myself, and so I also wanted SOAS to do well. Decisions decisions.

Bob De Caux knew that Hilary Mantel won her second Booker in 2012. First blood to Southampton. A set of bonuses on Brits born in 1913 and a full house was duly taken. Maeve Weber knew that the word interference describes the effect of one language on another causing deviations from the norm. Artists born in the Russian Empire provided SOAS with their first set. 25 apiece, and first impressions were that we could be in for another good contest. Now, funnily enough I did get the Science starter which came next, but only because I know that uric acid in synovial fluid causes arthritis, because I suffer from it. Matt Loxham knew it as well, and he was in with the answer for Southampton. I didn’t get any of the bonuses on Turing, I’m afraid. Southampton had two of them. The first picture starter came next. This showed us a badge issued by the UK Scouting Association, and asked what activity it represented. All I can say is that the organization has changed since I was in it 40 years ago. Neither side could quite see that the parachute canopy on the badge represented paragliding, or parascending. Neither team knew that want is often reckoned to be the first Science Fiction film, “Un Voyage Dans La Lune” – just think projectile in the eye of the Moon – was made by Georges Méliès. James Figueroa was in very quickly to say that the area which takes its name from the Greek for between rivers is Mesopotamia. This earned the scout badge bonuses, and camp cook and circus skills brought them points, although dragon boating eluded them. All square again. Richard Evans very quickly worked out that if the University term begins on 22nd September, then there are 100 days until the end of the calendar year. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do very well on the bonuses on 20th century British novelists. That’s a little embarrassing because I did once have breakfast with Graham Greene – grumpy old devil. The team managed one with George Orwell, and this was enough to give them a lead of 60 to 45 at the ten minute mark. On the evidence of the first ten minutes these were quite evenly matched teams.

Peter McKean gave the first evidence of his buzzer speed when he buzzed in early to say that the king John Evelyn had been describing was Charles II. That’s a good buzz. Evelyn’s diary does cover the reigns of Charles I and James II as well, but if you’re asked about which king he’s writing about you’ll be right a lot more often than wrong in saying Charles II. The bonuses were on wine regions, and they took two of them. The SOAS skipper took his second good interruption in a row with a quadrat. 1 bonus on stuff about atoms followed – do stop me if I get too technical. Maeve Weber got in on the interruption bandwagon with the next starter, correctly answering that a Nobel prize winner of 1951, and a multi gold medal winning paralympian athlete share the surname Cockroft. Good shout. Bonuses on logic followed. I’ll be honest, I just answered a priori to each of them until it was right, and that was the one that SOAS answered too. Logic told me that SOAS were building up a healthy head of steam in this mid section of the competition as we moved into the music round. Maeve Weber, with a rush of blood to the head buzzed very quickly but misidentified it as Schumann, but Matt Loxham knew a lovely bit of Chopin when he heard it. More nocturnes followed as bonuses, and Southampton took the first. Not the least deterred by the previous starter, Maeve Weber again buzzed early on the Royal Navy fortifications named after an area in Corsica, and gave the correct answer of Martello Towers. A good old UC chestnut, that one. A UC special set of bonuses followed, on place names and their anagrams – the country that surrounds the Gambia, and the second word in the name of the second largest city of the USA = Senegal – Angeles. You see how it works. SOAS did, for they had a full set. Peter McKean was first in with the answer that the examples given, containing the British General killed by the forces of the Mahdi were all linked by the name Gordon. Another full set on Archaeology and human ancestors followed. We were just seconds away from the 20 minute mark, and it had been an extremely good ten minutes for SOAS. By going for the buzzers as hard as they could, they had pulled out a lead of 145 to 75. Not yet a winning lead, but with plenty of time to go you have to say that SOAS looked a very good bet for at least a repechage slot.

Matt Loxham knew that when you roll two dice, the probability of rolling a combined score of 4 is 1 in 12. Now, it’s an unwritten rule that when you’re chasing a lead in UC your opponents get all the easy bonus sets, and you get all the crappy ones. Or that’s how it sometimes seems. So it was no surprise that Southampton got served up a portion of algae to deal with. Under the circumstances they did well to take one of them. Now, the second picture starter demonstrated the need for speed on the buzzer. Asked to identify a famous sculpture, we were given the extremely familiar image of Rodin’s The Kiss. James Figueroa took that one, and earned three more artworks with the same title. Bang, bang, bang, three bonuses taken and the lead increased, thank you very much! Given a quotation about a Shakespeare play Luke Vivian-Neal took his first starter with the answer Othello. A tricky set on Nobel Prize laureates followed. I had the Lee Duc Tho and Linus Pauling ones, but SOAS only had the last. Not to worry, it still gave them 185 to 90, and that did look like a winning lead. Luke Vivian-Neal also took the next starter, knowing that magazine, zenith, ghoul and giraffe are all ultimately derived from Arabic, which took his team up to the 200 mark. 19th century assassinations only yielded another one, but even so the match was decided, and the only question that remained really was whether Southampton could make a score that would give them a fighting chance of a repechage slot. The next starter didn’t help as Luke Vivian-Neal was first in with the answer of Vienna as the home of the Schonbrunn Palace. It was one of those sets you hope you’ll get asked, because if you get the first, then you’ll get all of them. In this case they were all on the prefix exo-, and SOAS took a full set. 225. Luke Vivian-Neal, flushed with success at his hattrick went one starter too far by buzzing in early, and answering that the Pleiades are in Orion. Bob De Caux supplied the correct answer of Taurus. That put Southampton into three figures, and 2 bonuses on cricket took them to 110. Matt Loxham buzzed early to identify the Nottingham Goose fair. 120. Two bonuses on nuts and seeds – 130. Richard Evans knew the term flash point. 140. US presidents provided a full set of bonuses – 155. There was an absolutely terrific buzzer race for the name of the South African president who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela, which was won by millimetres by Peter McKean. That was the final question, and at the gong the score was a win for SOAS by 230 to Southampton’s 155. Well played SOAS. The difference between the teams was that from the ten minute mark onwards SOAS were bussing early for the starters, and that paid dividends. As for Southampton, once they started going hell for leather for the starters and throwing caution to the wind they showed that they too are a quality side. I hope that 155 will be enough for them. Good show, in what is shaping up to be a very good series.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

There was nothing to report until Southampton offered Conan Doyle as one of the British novelists. JP gave them a real old fashioned sidelong look, before informing them it was D.H.Lawrence.
When Peter McKean corrected himself as he started saying Kenya in answer to the location of the Olduvai Gorge, then corrected himself to Tanzania, JP made a point of letting him know that he hadn’t fooled anyone “Luckily you stopped yourself!”
JP does hate it if you get an English literature question wrong, and never gives much praise if you get one right. When Luke Vivian-Neal took the Othello starter our man sniffed “Yes, of course!” as if he was insulted by the idea that anyone might possibly have got it wrong. I mean, alright, it’s not that difficult if you know the play, but then not everyone does, Jez.
Generally the man was in good spirits during this contest. He chuckled away at the fact that SOAS got the Arabic starter, quipping “You had to get that one, didn’t you.”

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

Shakespeare’s Othello was once described by critic Thomas Rymer as “a warning to all good wives that they look well to their linen.”


Jack said...

Another high scoring match. Who'd have thought that Christ Church's score would end up bottom of the repechage board within four weeks? Not me. Unless we suddenly see a huge drop in the average aggregate score, like we did three years ago, I can see the repechage places being very narrowly fought for.

Anyway, I hope Cromarty(IV) and co have done enough, as, like Christ Church, they did a good job considering who they were facing. SOAS performed brilliantly, second best this series behind Trinity. I would imagine they could go far this series with a favourable draw.

On the bonuses, SOAS managed an impressive 23/33 (with one penalty), while Southampton got 15/24, which is also decent enough.

Next week, Manchester return, playing Brasenose College Oxford. A tough draw for Brasenose, but also for Manchester, who will be under immense pressure after the last two years! Maybe the change of studio location will see a shift in their dynamic. We shall see.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack,
I'm enjoying this series. I did wonder after the first couple of matches, but it's been pretty good since. SOAS impressed me with the way that they seemed to make a tacit but collective decision after the first ten minutes to go harder for the buzzer, and it certainly paid dividends. That bonus rate is not at all bad either. we could, just could, be having some very good second round matches.

Cromarty(IV) said...

The time has come when I can hide no longer! I won’t identify myself in plain daylight, but from my reflections on this match, you’ll find out who I am.

What’s striking about this match, as broadcast, is that my memory has cheated me. This is quite possibly due to my mind spinning in all directions when SOAS started their buzzer rampage and surged to a 225-90 lead with less than 4 minutes to go! I was on the verge of losing my grip on reality, because I was suddenly so worried that my UC life – I’ve wanted to appear on the show for at least 9 years – would be ending ignominiously in less than 4 minutes. I’m very relieved that we managed to pull ourselves up to a good score in that time.

Anyhow, I had completely forgotten that my first buzz-in was so early in the game. I also remember being much more hesitant than that before buzzing in (for the “100 days” question), because not long after our team was formed, it became clear that I loved questions about the calendar – partly due to a mathematics quiz that my school took part in 4 years ago, in which I answered all the calendar-based questions very quickly. I was hell-bent on getting that starter question right, so I checked, double checked and triple checked it in my head, which, of course, is not the best strategy when it comes to bagging starters!

I don’t remember Peter McKean answering the quadrat starter so quickly, either. I’ve used quadrats several times, so I was privately fuming when I couldn’t think of their name quickly enough – and to make matters worse, we would all have loved the “atomic theory” bonuses that followed!

Something that really took me by surprise was a starter question that got completely edited out of the programme – I didn’t think they would do that. It went something along the lines of “Which four letters start the name of a capital city on the Danube and end the name of a Caribbean country?” David (Bishop) fell into the classic trap of buzzing in with the wrong piece of information (he said Budapest), and then SOAS also fell into the trap by naming another city, whereas what JP wanted was the four letters BUDA, as in BUDAPEST and ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA!

Finally, Paxman’s stumbling over the title of the final set of bonuses escaped my memory between the recording date and yesterday, so it was an unexpected, amusing end to an exhilarating and sometimes terrifying episode!

Just as an additional point of interest: I insisted on providing JP with a bit of information about our university cat, Susu, but I certainly didn’t expect a massive close-up of her in the opening minutes! And Jack, the first round matches were filmed in the old Granada Studios, so you won’t be seeing the new environment for quite a while yet.