Friday, 31 January 2014

Mastermind - Round One - Heat Twenty One

For the second week in a row we got to see a contest that went right down to the wire. Having taken part in a final that turned out that way, I’m all for it.

First up was Ben Holmes, offering us a specialist round on Wales’ finest, the Manic Street Preachers. I’ll be honest with you, the Manics are a little bit after my mid 80s heyday, and so I was pleased enough to get my gentleman’s 2 on this round. Taking me on another trip down Memory Lane, Ben did exactly what I did with my first question of my first round in 2007 – and passed on it. Mind you, to be fair I passed on one more in that round, and then never passed again for the whole series. However, I digress. After that first nervy pass Ben grew into his round, and by the expedient of plugging away and answering the vast majority of the questions as they came up he registered the distinctly useful score of 12. So he was going to be in the shakeup in the GK round.

Sir Edmund Hillary was the subject for Alister Jones. I’ll be honest, I never really got beyond the foothills of this round, again clocking up 2. Alister knew his subject though. In this series anything in the teens on specialist is the mark of a quality round. Crisp, concise and precise answers for a score of 13 marked the contender out as one to watch in the GK round.

The History of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, as offered by Richard Pyne, seemed to promise me even less than the previous two rounds. Yet strangely enough it enabled me to double my specialist round aggregate for the evening with 4 points. Oh no, I didn’t know any of the specialist stuff about individual gardeners, but I knew that Decimus Burton designed the palm house, and a few other bits and pieces like that. Anything in double figures has proven to be a good specialist score in this series, and yet following the previous two rounds Richard’s wasn’t enough to guarantee him anything better than third place as we turned round. And there was one contender yet to come.

Barrister Sarah Greenan was answering on a specialist subject which pops up about once every other series or so, a bit like the Mapp and Lucia Novels of E.F.Benson which we saw again a week or two ago. In Sarah’s case she was answering on the Ghost Stories of M.R.James . I idly mused whether 50 Shades of Whatsername was one of them, but of course that was by E.L. James, whose own ghost stories, should she decide to write any, would probably be a bit different from her namesake’s. To cut a long story slightly shorter, Sarah managed her own teen score, a very good 13. I still haven’t read any of the stories so failed to trouble the scorer.

It’s been a little while since we saw all four contenders post GK scores in double figures, and combined totals over 23, so kudos to all 4 contenders in this show. First of them to return was Richard. Now, this was a curious round indeed that he served us with. For the first half minute or so it seemed as if he had slipped beyond the event horizon of a pass spiral, and yet it actually turned out that he was well in control. His tactic was obviously, that if the answer didn’t occur at once, then he was going to pass. It’s a difficult strategy to implement well, and yet it worked for Richard. Suddenly, around the 30 second mark it started to click, and the answers started coming. Alright, the 14 that he scored isn’t amongst the highest we’ve seen all series, but considering the start the round got off to it was really rather good. He finished with 25.

One point ahead of Richard at halfway, although only a point off the joint lead, was Ben Holmes. Now this round was to my eyes, even a little better than Richard’s. At just one point I feared he was going to lose his concentration when he showed obvious annoyance with himself when unable to dredge up an answer he knew so that he had to pass, but he kept his head, and posted a good 14, which gave him the total of 26, and a one point lead. That might just be enough, I thought.

For two questions, though, Alister looked as if he had the goods to challenge and even overhaul it. However on the third question he hesitated for what seemed like ages, but was probably in reality no more than 2 or 3 seconds. However it robbed him of momentum at a crucial time in the round, and by the time he had re-established any kind of rhythm the finishing line was bearing down upon him at a fair old rate of knots. He finished with 24, a perfectly respectable score, and only a couple of points down on Ben, but he hadn’t really looked like getting there for over half of his round.

Only Sarah remained to go. To put it into perspective she needed 13 and no more than 3 passes to win the show. Well, that’s certainly enough to place most contenders within the corridor of uncertainty, although to be fair to Sarah she never looked uncertain or nervous as her round progressed. It was always looking close on the clock, but a couple of wrong answers in the last minute made the job look harder, and in the end she fell short by one question, finishing with 25. Well played all – a good show, and special congratulations to Ben, and best wishes for the semi-final. John said at the end of the show that there was still a chance for Sarah and Richard to make it to the semis in highest scoring runner up spots. Well, maybe there was when the show was recorded, but since then the best peas have gone to farrow on that one, I’m afraid. Congratulations to Ron Wood who, if my calculations are correct (never a given) is now guaranteed a semi-final spot. As for the remaining shows, well as regards a repechage slot, the banker only pays 27 and 1 pass or better.

The Details
Ben Holmes Manic Street Preachers12 - 214 - 226 - 4
Alister JonesSir Edmund Hillary13 – 0 11 - 324 – 3
Richard PyneThe History of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew11 - 114 - 425 - 5
Sarah GreenanThe Ghost Stories of M.R.James13 – 0 12 - 425 - 4

Repechage Places

Steven Broomfield 30 – 1
Beth Webster 28 – 2
Ron Wood 28 – 3

=Carol O’Byrne 27 – 2
=Peter Russell 27 – 2
=Chloe Stone 27 – 2

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