Saturday, 15 February 2014

University Challenge - Qualification Match

Trinity , Cambridge v. SOAS

Matthew Ridley, Filip Drnovšek Zorko, Richard Freeland and Ralph Morley left Christ Church, Oxford team and Peterhouse, Cambridge trailing in their wake in the first two rounds. They put one of their collective feet in the semis when they defeated a fine Manchester team in the first quarter final match – one of the very finest matches of this series. SOAS – the London University School of Oriental and African Studies – represented by Maeve Weber, Luke Vivian-Neal, James Figueroa and their captain Peter McKean, beat surprise package Southampton in the first round, and then knocked out Reading in the second. In their own first quarter final match they comprehensively beat Cardiff. I hadn’t bet against Trinity in this series so far, and Monday night saw me loath to change this policy.

Peter McKean lost an immediate 5 points through buzzing in too early to identify parties in a European Presidential Election. This allowed Matthew Ridley to supply the correct answer of France. Russian visitors to London promised much but they missed out on the second and third. The words ‘sprung rhythm had no sooner passed JP’s lips, than the words ‘Gerard Manley Hopkins’ had passed mine. It took Maeve Weber considerably longer after she had buzzed to dredge up the name, and had she not been a more mature lady than the average contestant I dare say she would have brought the wrath of Paxman down upon her head for her hesitation. Writers who completed only one novel in their lifetimes gave them a full set, and the lead. Apparently Primo Levi wrote a poem to Carbon. I didn’t know, and neither did anyone else. I have heard of Instagram, and so had our own Filip Drnovšek Zorko, thus earning a set on the Space Shuttle. One was taken.The next starter was one of those where you have to wait, and then go like Billy – O for the buzzer, when it becomes obvious right at the end. If the question ends with ‘Thomas a Kempis’ then it’s pounds to pennies that the answer is “The Mimitation of Christ”. Peter McKean won that battle. How nice that there was a set on Syon House in Hounslow. I spent many happy Sunday afternoons there as a kid – E1 bus from Elthorne Park, as I recall. This was enough to put SOAS back in front as the first picture starter hove into view. We saw a map with some of the prominent battle sites from a series of wars. Filip Drnovšek Zorko won the buzzer race to identify the conflicts as the Napoleonic Wars. Three more maps of wars in which France was invioved were shown. War and French monarch at the time were required.2 correct answers earned a cautious well done from JP. This was enough to put Trinity in front by 50 to 40 as we reached the ten minute mark. Early exchanges had been inconclusive, and neither team had yet established dominance over the buzzer.

Richard Freeland was first in to identify a conchoid curve. Not really sure why JP felt the need to correct his pronunciation of that one. Terms from photography weren’t at all easy – panning was gettable, although I didn’t – and no further points were scored. I guessed social mobility for the next starter, and Matthew Ridley knew it. Bonuses on songbirds weren’t that easy either, but we both got the first and last, missing the redstart. Peter McKean stopped the rot for OSAS, knowing a series of clues that all pointed to 24 hours. I had it from 24 hour Party People. Modern Feminist works. I think we were all grateful for the appearance of Germaine Greer in this set to give us some points. For the music starter Richard Freeland recognized Shostakovitch very quickly. This earned Trinity a go at 3 waltzes by composers not often associated with waltzes. I was surprised to recognize both Gershwin and Ravel. Right then, some Mathsy thing about a pendulum followed. I didn’t understand it, and nobody else had it either. A great early buzz from SOAS’ inspirational skipper identified the Namib desert as the home of some of the biggest sand dunes in the world. A good UC set of pairs of words with transposed vowels – eg lintel and lentil – followed. It promised much and delivered a full set, taking SOAS back to within 15 points of Trinity. Nobody knew ‘Scenes from Clerical Life’ by George Eliot for the next starter. Filip Drnovšek Zorko knew that the coriolis force is created by the rotation of the Earth. Trinity put in their own full set on glands, to stretch the lead again, and take them into triple figures. Ralph Morley, quiet so far in this show, buzzed in very early with the term Commonwealth Realm for the next starter. Ancient empires delivered a full quota as well. This latest flurry meant that there was now daylight between the teams at the twenty minute mark, with Trinity leading by 145 to 75, and just as importantly, having all the momentum.

Nobody knew that the historic area of Courland is part of modern day Latvia. Filip Drnovšek Zorko knew that Matisse painted “Woman with a hat”. Indigenous peoples took Trinity to 160. Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Marriage appeared for the next starter, and Filip slammed the buzzer to win the race for that chestnut.More paintings of couples gave me an unexpected full set, and Trinity took a maximum as well. That’s one of the things I like about this Trinity team. When they have the scent of their opponents’ blood in their nostrils they tend to become clinical with a very diverse range of bonuses. Nobody knew “I am My Own Wife”, however Ralph Morely knew that Malta has the highest population density of any EU member state. I didn’t know, but made a good guess. Misleading culinary names – eg Scotch Woodcock - . The next starter was a real, buzzer race question. In terms of chameical elements, what comes next – N – O – F – Ne ? The next element was sodium – so ‘Na!’ – I shouted at the same time as Richard Freeland, desperate to get a rare chemistry starter right. Bonuses on scales saw Trinity take two, but miss out on the rather chestnutty Beaufort Scale. Didn’t matter. They already had 220 points, and were already in the semis. I didn’t work out the meaning of the next starter by the time Filip Drnovšek Zorko had already supplied the correct answer of Athens. Geoffrey of Monmouth gave me three bonuses, and Trinity two. Such was SOAS’ collapse by this stage that you never expected them to win a buzzer race now. Filip Drnovšek Zorko was first in to give the names of two of the largest moons of the solar system. Ganymede and Titan he gave us – I substituted Callisto for Titan, but we were both right. That old quiz chestnut – the Haber –Bosch process – gave two bonuses. To be fair to SOAS, Peter McKean did chance his arm with the next starter, but he didn’t know the way that the word man is described in the Devil’s Dictionary. Matthew Ridley knew that Othello said that he ‘loved not wisely but too well’. Look, Oth, old son, you killed her, so you didn’t love her very well at all, mate. Some rather simple poetry collection bonuses gave a full set to Trinity. Peter McKean managed to salvage one crumb of comfort by taking the next starter, knowing that South East Iceland is the northernmost of the areas on the UK shipping forecast. This denied Trinity a shot at 300. Godwins brought them to 95. Maeve Weber knew that phrenic refers to the diaphragm, which just pushed SOAS past 100. That was enough for the timekeeper, who gonged the contest to an end. Trinity had 280, and SOAS 105. Well played Trinity. As for SOAS, well, they are still in it, and for more than half the contest they were right up there with a very, very fine team. But once Trinity put their foot on the gas there was only going to be one winner. Good luck in the semis.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

We had to wait quite a long time for JP to give us anything worthy of mention in this show. With the feminist writers bonuses , when SOAS only managed to score with Germaine Greer (oooohh, Matron) he observed,
”That’s the only feminist writer you know!”
Well, come on then Jez – name all the ones YOU know, then!
For some reason JP was extremely tickled by Luke Vivian-Neal’s offer of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” for “I Am My Own Wife”. When Trinity offered lamb for the main constituent of the New Zealand dish of colonial goose, he made the observation “There’s no other meat in New Zealand, is there.” Such was the reaction I almost expected this to be followed with a Frankie Howerdesque ‘well, please yourselves’.

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

New Zealand, Tuvalu and Barbados should all be referred to by the term ‘Commonwealth Realm’.


Jack said...

Another great performance from Filip and co there, and a deserved place in the semis finals earned. I would imagine SOAS will be able to go through too if they keep playing like they did, though there are some good teams out there, so we shall see.

SOAS's bonus rate was a very good indeed 11/15; Trinity's was a less good but not bad 27/45, which suggests that purple patch on the buzzer in the second half is what won them the game.

Manchester vs Cardiff next; think I'll have to tip Manchester for that one. Followed, presumably, by Somerville vs Southampton, then Clare vs Queen's.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack

Blimey - you're right about that bonus rate from SOAS. Very impressive - but their slump on the buzzer - albeit that Trinity were very good on that score - is a little worrying. They're certainly good enough for the semis, but I doubt somehow that this quarter final stage is completely out of shocks just yet.

I don't want to scupper Manchester by tipping them, but Cardiff will have to play better than they did in their last match to make a game of it.

opaltiger said...

Argh, the Gerard Manley Hopkins question was so annoying. I knew who it was as soon as Jeremy said "sprung rhythm" but could not for the life of me remember his name. I'd've been fine if they asked the question the other way around. The carbon one was annoying too -- I'd misheard the question and thought it specified oxygen and carbon, and went for the third atom in calcium carbonate (though I was wondering why anyone would write a poem about calcium). And I am still mystified as to what etymological connection exists between "phrenic" and the diaphragm.

But, you know, I really have nothing to complain about! We went into this match quite confident, but in hindsight I think we were lucky to do as well as we did - a lot of our starters were, I suspect, won on quite close buzzer races. Had we seen SOAS's first or second round matches I think we would have been a great deal more worried.

All of which goes to say that SOAS are a great team, and I wish them the best of luck in their last quarter final!

Cromarty(IV) said...

I have to say that I didn't see this result coming at all - I had a feeling that this game would be a much more closely-fought battle. But very well done to Trinity for another fiery performance - you're very deserving first semi-finalists!

SOAS were certainly smoking with their bonuses when they did get into the game, but I think their odds of taking home the series title have lengthened somewhat after what happened this week - although I still wouldn't bet against them making the semis. It may well end up being a question of who their opponents are in their last quarter-final.

Regarding tomorrow's match, I remember when I was up at the studios and first heard the news of this Manchester-Cardiff match-up. We hadn't seen Cardiff in action by this point, but we had watched Manchester's first-round game, and I'm afraid we were a bit worried for Cardiff. But we shall see whether they can overcome the Mancunian machine and prove us all wrong!

(On a bizarre final note, when we were in the contestants' hotel in the evening after our first quarter-final, news somehow percolated back to us that SOAS had beaten Trinity and qualified for the semis! I don't know where this news came from, but we soon found out that the opposite was true.)