Tuesday, 25 February 2014

University Challenge - Quarter Final Qualification Match

Somerville, Oxford v. Southampton

The Somerville team of Sam Walker, Zach Vermeer, Chris Beer and their skipper Michael Davies eventually overcame Clare, Cambridge in a close contest in their first quarter final match. Sam Walker, I noticed, keeps his place following his coming in as a replacement for Hasneen Karbalai in their previous match. Their opponents were Southampton, in the shape of the unchanged team of David Bishop, our own Richard Evans, Matt Loxham, and skipper Bob De Caux had a very comfortable win over Queens, Belfast. This was an interesting match on paper. Somerville had seemed vulnerable against Clare, but they hadn’t lost yet, whereas Southampton have carried all before them since being defeated by SOAS in the first round.

Chris Beer struck first for Somerville, knowing that if it’s a former goalkeeper, French, and worth quoting it’s – no, not Fabien Barthez, but Albert Camus. Good buzz. Bonuses on novels set in London added a further 10 points to their total. Once again it was Chris Beer who played the percentages quickest for the next question, knowing that ‘portrait of a man’+’Wallace Collection’ usually= Laughing Cavalier. No comment from JP on that one. Early computer networking brought both Somerville and me another 2 correct answers. I knew Arpa and Ether, but not the middle one. Chris Beer took a terrific hat trick of consecutive starters by again playing the percentages. Since the 2010 election if you’re asked a question about a male character from Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair”, incidentally possibly my favourite novel of all time, then you answer George Osborne. Ancient bronze artworks gave me a full set, but Somerville took just one. Somerville weren’t exactly eating up the bonuses, but they were getting the starters, and that’s often what matters. Nobody knew that urea was the first organic substance synthesized – or something like that. Richard buzzed in to break Southampton’s duck, knowing that Kosovo’s capital city is Pristina. This brought them a set of bonuses on films based on journalism. I’ll be honest, I was struggling with these myself, although I had The Killing Fields, as did Southampton. They also took the last. For the picture starter we were all shown the logo of Medecins Sans Frontieres, with the wording removed. Nobody had it. Thus as we approached the ten minute mark, for all their superiority on the buzzer Somerville had only established a lead of 55 to 20.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know Mandelbrot, but he made a lovely quote about Geometry, and Chris Beer, so effective for Somerville on the buzzer, knew him. All he got for his pains was the picture bonus set – more logos from organisations which have won the Nobel Peace Prize. They only recognized UN Peace Keepers, and I’ll come clean that this was the only one I knew as well.Nobody knew that NHK is the national broadcasting network of Japan. Bob de Caux, normally so fast on the buzzer, found his range for the first time in this contest, buzzing in first to identify the sun’s corona. A set of bonuses on disorders of the eye was interesting. I’d never realized that my condition – astigmatism – takes its name from the greek for ‘without a mark’. Once the question was asked I had it, but hadn’t heard it before. Southampton sadly did not convert any of this set into points. There was a lovely starter next – which monarch occupies the North West if the South East is occupied by Sir Charles Napier? Smashing question – it’s about plinths in Trafalgar Square. “It’s George IV!” I shouted. You either knew it or you didn’t, and the teams didn’t. A UC special followed with the word pair musty and fusty. Michael Davies, the Somerville skipper took his first with that one. Bonuses on Economics really seemed to get JP’s dander up when Somerville started to clean up on them. The Somerville skipper apologized for finding them too easy, but still answered them all correctly.Chris Beer earned a little contempt of his own from JP – after a couple of bars he identified the brass stylings of Mr. herb Alpert, which earned the response “I can’t believe you’d confess to that!” This earned three more instrumentals from the 1960s. They didn’t know ‘em, I didn’t know ‘em, that’s life. Now something about a single self-replicating robot, and how many years it would take to end up with a million of the little devils followed, and Michael Davis knew it was 6. Fair enough. A gettable set on artists provided Somerville with a good fifteen points, and the gap, which now stood at 100 points, was looking formidable. I was very pleased with myself for guessing that “I Am The Wife of Mao Tse Tung” was an aria from the opera “Nixon in China”. Zach Vermeer, unusually quiet in this match up to now, took his first starter with this one. US States, which autocomplete into a historic phrase on google, offered opportunity, and they had two, although somewhat surprisingly missed out on the Massachussetts Bay Colony. Poor old Southampton, then, had been almost completely buzzed out of the contest during this second period Somerville powerplay, and the Oxford side led by 150 – 30.

Matt Loxham buzzed in for the next starter with “Magnox” as in nuclear reactors. Good shout, that. The US Architect Daniel H Burnham brought them a full set, and put them up to 55. A portrait of John Locke followed, and it was Zach Vermeer who identified it correctly. More pictures of philosophers followed and they had the lot. The next question was a buzzer race about the magazine bought by Peter Cooke, and almost inevitably it was won by Chris Beer. Given a set of bonuses on the Solar System. Now, I was pleased with myself with the second question. I didn’t know that Meitner was an Austrian physicist, but I did know that Meitnerium was about 109 in the Periodic Table, so guessed correctly. That was the one that Somerville missed, ironically. I guessed Sedna as well. Zach Vermeer knew that potage is the thick stew in the Bible story of Jacob and Esau. (For my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth Man – Alan Bennett, Beyond the Fringe, was it?) Events in years of the 1920s brought a further 10 points. Bob de Caux managed to fight his way in ahead of the Somerville buzzer onslaught to identify the greek prefix meta for the next starter. Bonuses on Senegal pushed their score to 75. Some Maths thing about logs and xs escaped everyone. Poor old David Bishop. When things don’t run for you, they really don’t run for you. Asked where Constantine was proclaimed emperor in 306, he buzzed in early, as Southampton had to, and answered Britannia. Actually correct, but not precise enough. Given the full question Somerville knew they wanted the city but missed out on York. Matt Loxham knew that one of the decades that saw 4 General Election was the 50s. Microscopy bonuses took them to 85. Richard was in for a tapeworm – horrible thought – for the next starter, bonuses on Saint Saens following. They were allowed a chance at one of them, which would have taken them to 100, but sadly didn’t get it. At the gong Somerville had won comfortably by 215 to 95. Congratulations to Somerville, our second semi finalists. As for Southampton, well, I think JP was probably right to suggest that they seemed uncharacteristically subdued. Whether that was down to Somerville’s blitz start, or whether they didn’t know the answers, or whether it was just a bad day at the office, well, only they can say. I still have my fingers crossed though. They’ll still be in there fighting for a semi place.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP seems to share my opinion that some questions become obvious before the end of the question has been asked. When Chris Beer answered “Albert Camus” to the first he veritably tutted
”It could only be.” Well, as I said, there is always the admittedly unlikely possibility of Fabien Barthez.

I have no idea why, but JP thought that Chris Beer’s offer of “North Korea” for the country with national broadcaster NHK to be particularly chuckleworthy.

There was a fine display of mock indignation from our hero as Somerville’s skipper, Michael Davies, seemed rather bored by a pair of Economics questions so easy that even I knew them, which earned the response,
”Look, some people find these questions quite difficult! There’s no need to dismiss them with such contempt!”
Hmm, slight case of pot, kettle and black there Jez, dare I say it.

When shown a portrait of Edmund Burke, Somerville seemed surprised that their answer was right, and our hero added,
”Yes, I was surprised . . . I thought he was fatter than that.” I’m sure he would have spoken very highly of you too, Jez.

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

Guinevere is a geographical feature on the surface of Venus.


Jack said...

Yeah, Somerville were a bit too strong for Southampton there. They definitely deserve to go through to the semis though. Whether Richard and co will join them or not will probably depend on who they play next. Best of luck to them for that play-off!

On the bonuses, Somerville converted 21/33, which is in line with their previous efforts, while Southampton managed 8/16, which is respectable.

So, Clare vs Queen's next week in the second elimination match, and then the play-off matches.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack,

I did feel sorry for Richard and the guys, and I still want them to go through.

I don't really know what it was that tripped them up so badly - maybe Richard will have some comment to make on that. If they just didn't know the answers, then that's fair enough, and there's nothing you can do about it. On the other hand, Chris Beer was lightning fast on those early starters, and this may have just knocked them out of their stride.

I don't think there's much in it between the two teams next week, but I fancy that Clare might just have the edge.