Saturday, 11 January 2014

University Challenge - Second Round Match 8

Reading v. London School of Oriental and African Studies

Well, we’ve waited a long time for the conclusion to this second round of UC matches. Now, it has been noted that Cambridge did well in the first round with a significant number of teams making it through. Reading, though, with their team of Michael Dunleavy, Christopher White, Luke Tudge, and skipper Peter Burgess, knocked out St. John’s Cambridge in the first round. The London School of Oriental and African Studies – SOAS for short – beat A Southampton team good enough to get to the repechage, win a place in round two, and then defeat Bangor with the highest score of the series so far. So the team of Maeve Weber, Luke Vivian-Neal, James Figueroa and their captain Peter McKean looked to be a pretty good one. Enough of such chaff, and let’s get cracking.

James Figueroa knew about the US Federal Reserve to take SOAS’s first starter. It wouldn’t be their last. A rather gentle set of bonuses gave both of us a full house. Now, I guessed that Sails of the South would be on the entrance to Portsmouth, and once JP mentioned the Spinnaker Tower I knew I was right. So did Peter McKean. My run of six correct answers came to an end with one of the bonuses on fictional students, as did SOAS. Nonetheless 45 unanswered points in the first minute or two suggested that they meant business. Michael Dunleavy buzzed in too early on the next starter, and Peter McKean supplied the correct answer with Paradox. A Maths set followed, but thankfully the last of the set was a question about the play Proof, otherwise it would have been a pointless set for all of us. Maeve Weber knew that Sir Walter Scott wrote Waverly. The bonuses on clouds were instructive. They were one of those sets where you give a wrong answer to the first, then give a different one to the next two, where as if you’d kept your first answer you’d have had at least one right. So they answered cumulus to the first, which was wrong, and didn’t answer it to the second which would have been right. Never mind, we all had cirrus for the last. The picture starter was a good one. This showed us the starting lineups of two teams, and we had to identify that it was the football teams of Man Utd and Bayern Munich for the European Champions League final of 1999. James Figueroa gave everything required except the year, and that was enough to allow Reading skipper Peter Burgess in to wipe out the negative score and put them on the road to recovery. Three more pairs of teams, which were not all gimmes, gave them a full set, and meant that by the ten minute mark they trailed with 20 to SOAS’ 75.

Luke Vivian-Neal took a very good starter with the sumptuary laws. OED buzzwords of 2012 brought another ten points. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know any of the things in a list all linked by the word Primavera, but I knew the word, and so did Peter McKean. One of those starters where you just have to hang on and refrain from buzzing until it becomes as clear as it’s going to. The set which followed on marriage in England made me pleased with myself for knowing that Register Offices were first brought into being in the 1830s- a magic decade for anyone who has researched their family history in England. Mind you, Scotland didn’t do it until the 1850s, but, in my humble opinion, when they did they did it much better and more thoroughly. However, I digress. By the end of the set SOAS’ lead had increased to triple figures. A rare occurrence happened next when I guessed the right answer about lengths of electrical wire and resistance. Nobody had that. The next starter saw Luke Vivian-Neal dredge up the name of Baron Munchausen, to earn bonuses on Bights. They only took a bight out of this set with one. Now, for the next one, the music starter, we heard a snatch of Elton John’s Tony Danza – sorry, that should read Tiny Dancer – but it wasn’t him singing it, and the singer was what was being asked for. Christopher White tried his hand with Elton John, and SOAS didn’t fancy a stab at it, so it fell to JP to tell us we had been listening to Jamie Cullum. Fair play to Peter Burgess. When we were given a long quotation from a painter, as soon as JP said the words ‘Latvian born’ he leapt in with Mark Rothko. That’s how you play this game, wait, wait, and as soon as you get the key to the answer, slam that buzzer. The music bonuses followed, which was a set of songs chosen by other musicians as one of their Desert Island Discs choices. They took the full set, recognizing Wham, Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield. I don’t know about the secant, and neither did anyone else, so the next starter went begging. Peter McKean knew that Walsingham was – and now again is – a pilgrimage site in Norfolk. One correct answer on justice followed. Now, the Clark side of my family come from Dundee originally, and there are several jute weavers in my family tree that I know of. So I was in very quickly for the next starter which required jute for the answer. Nobody had that, and so, on the cusp as we were of the 20 minute mark, SOAS led by 145 to 45.

Now, it is possible to score 100 or more unanswered points in the last part of the contest. JP consciously speeds up, and you get through a lot of questions. However Reading hadn’t shown the kind of speed on the buzzer that they would need to have in order to stage that kind of fightback. Especially when the impressive Peter McKean buzzed in to identify The Thirty Nine Steps as the novel preceding Greenmantle. A good old UC special set followed, on shorter words that can be made with any of the letters of the word ragtime. This is the sort of set you really ought to be taking a full set on, and SOAS made no mistake with them. The second picture starter showed us the Venus of Willendorf, and Luke Tudge was quickly in for that. Three more Venuses followed of which they managed two. Now, you know me and bridges, so as soon as JP said potentially misleading – and – River Seine – I was in with the Pont Neuf. Lovely bridge, in a city that is particularly well served with good bridges (although none as good as Tower Bridge IMHO). That man McKean was in for that starter. A set of bonuses on prominent Irish figures in Science and literature took them to within a starter and a bonus of 200. Now, I may have been happy to take my scraped grade C O level in Maths and run back in 19 hundred and frozen to death, but I could still remember that 22 over 7 is an approximation of pi. Peter Burgess had that for Reading, and earned Biochemistry for his pains. They managed one, which is one more than I did. The SOAS skipper won the buzzer race for the next starter, knowing that the only decade of the 20th century with just one UK general election was the 1940s. We all had a full set of bonuses on cricket – specifically on those immortals who make 100 centuries in first class cricket. Neither team managed to spell isosceles correctly for the next starter. Maeve Weber recognized T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets, and bonuses on Asia promised much, bearing in mind the institution that the team represent. They managed two. Luke Tudge gave us swim bladder for the next starter but couldn’t manage any bonuses on invasions of Britain. Luke Vivian-Neal knew that Geneva is an anagram of avenge, even if there was a little slip of the tongue as he gave the answer. It didn’t matter as the set of bonuses on unfinished operas appropriately remained unfinished because the gong brought an end to the contest, with SOAS winning comfortably with 240 to 90. Welcome back UC – it’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’ve missed you.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I think that maybe JP has been champing at the bit to get his teeth into some students, having been fed a diet of soft slebs for the last couple of weeks, because he was very early into his stride in this show. When James Figueroa suggested that the significance of the Hardy-Ramunajan number 1729 was that it has no particular interest he snapped back like a coiled cobra,
“It may not to you, matey!” and then managed to explain it in a way that sucked any interest whatsoever out of it.

Later on we had some geometry thing, to which Maeve Weber wrongly answered Cosine. A couple of seconds later Luke Tudge buzzed in and offered cosine. There was a great double take. Firstly he said “No, it’s the – “ and then he realized what had happened You’d have thought someone had just dissed his momma from his reaction,

For the last of the Asia bonuses, he hustled SOAS along with “Let’s have an answer chaps.” Then, showing a rare concern possibly for letters which might have followed, backtracked with “I’m using ‘chaps’ in a non-gender specific way, don’t worry.” JP – PC? What is the world coming to?

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

The 2012 buzzword ‘swishing’ means the act of swapping clothes with other people.


Jack said...

Good to have the regular series back. The Christmas series was OK, but I think we can all agree that nothing can beat the regular series.

I think we can now safely say SOAS should be taken very seriously, having comfortably defeated two good teams, one of whom broke 300 in another match. That said, most of the other teams in the QFs have done just that as well, such as Trinity and Somerville.

Both teams converted bonuses very well: Reading managed 9/15 when they managed to get in, while SOAS's rate was 23/37.

I think we should be prepared for some very good matches from here on in. Almost all the teams have had at least one convincing win. It's been a great series so far, and I'm pretty sure things aren't going to slow down just yet.

LisaH said...

I thought Paxo was harsh about the Hardy-Ramanujan number as it seemed like the person who said 'it's an uninteresting number' had the right anecdote in mind. To quote Hardy, "I remember once going to see him (Ramanujan) when he was ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavorable omen. "No," he replied, "it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways."

Londinius said...

Hi Jack - I agree about the series so far - much promise for some great quarter final matches.

Hi Lisa, - can't say that I knew that - well I didn't. I think JP's tongue was in his cheek a little as he said it - I think he's an English graduate himself so probably didn't know it

jim360 said...

I believe Ramanujan is also meant to have leaped out of his bed, despite being ill, at the thought that 1729 might be thought of as uninteresting!

It's an anecdote I'm familiar with, and equally one that Paxman is surely not familiar with at all.