Saturday, 22 March 2014

University Challenge - final sudden death quarter final

SOAS v. Queens University, Belfast

What a wonderful, unpredictable series this has been. Going into the quarter final stage, based on their first couple of performances you’d have said that SOAS were looking good for a semi spot, while Queen’s University would be home before the postcard. Yet here we are, either standing on the threshold of the semi, or drinking in the Last Chance saloon, depending on whether you are of the glass half empty or glass half full persuasion. SOAS’ team of 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. However the might of Trinity overwhelmed them in their first quarter final. No shame in that. The Queens team of Suzanne Cobain, Gareth Gamble, Alexander Green and their skipper Joseph Greenwood had kept winning, without ever looking like one of the favourites, until they encountered Southampton in their first match of the quarters. Gypsy Rose Clark confidently predicted that they would lose their second against Clare, Cambridge, which they promptly won. Now, on paper you still had to fancy SOAS for this one, but I had the sneaking feeling that Queens still had a few surprises left to dish out.

After an incorrect interruption from Queens, James Figueora knew that the Gorbals Goebbels was an epithet applied to the character Malcolm Tucker. Destroyed artworks provided SOAS with a further 2 correct answers. Peter McKean was in early for the next starter, which required the knowledge that Crete was once owned by Venice. Cassini – he of the division – provided SOAS with a further 2 correct answers. A fantastic early buzz from Alxander Green brought Queens back into the black, as he correctly extrapolated carbon dioxide from half a question. Chancellors of the Exchequer promised a lot, and delivered two correct answers. They missed out on Sir Stafford Cripps. Apparently Churchill used to call him “Christ and Carrots”. I didn’t know that. I did know that Churchill once said of him, “There but for the grace of God goes God.” Quality. James Figueroa made an incorrect interruption on the next starter. He took the leap of faith that “Trey Parker and Matt Stone” would inevitably lead to the answer “South Park”. A couple of years ago it would have definitely been the case. However since then they created the musical “The Book of Mormon”, and this was what was required. Alexander Green had that. Films of 1973 was a fine set for an old codger like me, but the youngsters of Queens faltered on “Electraglide in Blue”. The picture starter showed the crest of the FBI. Nobody had it. A collection of books which were all published posthumously was recognized by Maeve Weber. This earned the bonuses on crests of other Intelligence Agencies. SOAS managed 2 of the three. So on the cusp of the ten minute mark SOAS led by 55 to 30. A close match, and both teams looked as if they were throwing all caution to the wind in jumping for the buzzer at the earliest opportunity. That’s my kind of team.

Cliometrics is a term I’ve never heard of, but Peter McKean had it. Sadly, this was the first question I’d dropped all night. It wouldn’t be the last. Animal viruses soon provided my first dropped bonus as well. SOAS again took two bonuses from their set. For the next one Luke Vivian-Neal buzzed in too early to identify the Polish Corridor, created in 1919 to give Poland a coastline. That gave Alexander Green the chance to come in with the correct answer. This brought Queens a set of bonuses on Prussian Generals, which yielded a few laughs but no points. Joseph Greenwood knew that Sosigenes invented the Julian Calendar. This brought Queens what looked like a more fruitful set on Shakespeare, but they were unable to convert, thus risking the wrath of Paxman, who often takes it as a personal insult when a team doesn’t get Shakespeare bonuses right. The music starter played us a little Elgar, which was identified by Peter McKean. Three pieces of instrumental classical music associated with the sea brought SOAS 2 bonuses, which meant that they scored as much in one starter and bonuses, and Queens had scored in their previous two starters and bonuses. A mathsy-chemistry-y thing followed. Whatever it was, 5 cm cubed was the correct answer, and Gareth Gamble had it. One bonus was taken this time, and you started to feel that Queens, who were making a real fight of it, and giving SOAS all the problems they could handle, might live to rue the number of bonuses they were missing. Luke Vivian-Neal knew that the river which makes up the last four letters of the common name of lagopus lagopus is ouse – as in grouse. Sets of 4 ideas brought SOAS a welcome full set. Approaching the 20 minute mark this meant that they led with 110 to 65. Still close, but the indications were that they might continue to just gently pull away from Queens.

A UC special asking for similar words saw Peter McKean make a rare error, buzzing in to give just one of them. Alexander Green, that snapper up of unconsidered trifles, gave the other one as well – compote and compost. At this stage Queens pulled a full set of bonuses on Presidents of the Royal Society out of the hat, and the gap was down to 20 – less than a full set. The gap narrowed further when Joseph Greenwood recognized the Betty Boothroyd puppet from Spitting Image. Three more puppets, or sets of puppets from the show brought a grateful Queens team another full set. Which put them in the lead by 5. Peter McKean was having none of that, and buzzed extremely early on the roman festival of Saturnalia. A terrific bonus on names that end with a unique letter for their category followed. This means, for example, Polk – who was the only US president to date whose name ended with a K. Two correct answers brought SOAS a narrow lead of 15 points. Suzanne Cobain buzzed extremely early to identify the description of the flag of Hungary for the next starter, and Queens were right behind SOAS again. Words that can be made using any of the letters from the word whimsical. Queens took all three, and the battle of wills – and buzzer fingers – continued. Suzanne Cobain took her second starter in a row identifying salt as the commodity sharing its name with a set of talks between USA and USSR. The summation of infinite series meant nothing to me, which didn’t matter, but they also meant nothing to Queens, which did. Their lead which they’d worked so hard to achieve, stood at a precarious 20. Luke Vivian-Neal wiped out half of the lead by giving the correct answer of Pius to the name of a group of Popes. One bonus on National Parks wiped out half of what remained. A starter question about Hadrian’s Wall was right up Peter McKean’s via, and he grabbed the lead for his team. Bonuses on the King James Bible enabled them to stretch their own lead to 20, and the last few grains in the hourglass were falling irresistibly southwards. Maeve Weber lost 5 points to a headstrong, speculative buzz about the Big Bang, but Queens couldn’t capitalize. Joseph Greenwood returned the favour, offering the gardens of Versailles for the Tuileries with the next starter. Peter McKean didn’t get it, but we were so close to the gong it surely wouldn’t matter. Indeed it didn’t. SOAS ran out winners by 165 to 145, and well done to them. As for Queens, what a fabulous fighting team they have proven to be. Nobody could have complained if one other starter had gone their way, and they’d come away with a win. Queens, you go away able to say that you came within a whisker of the semis.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Our hero started early this week. When Joseph Greenwood supplied the answer “Alastair Campbell” for the first starter which required the name of the fictional Malcolm Tucker, firstly he issued a wheezy laugh, which he only just prevented from developing into a full Muttley, then after James Figueroa gave the correct answer he added , “Right, you get the full set of bonuses . . . and a write for libel goes to you Queens.”

On the Scharnhorst question, a despairing Joseph Greenwood concocted the name “Von Keisling”, which earned a scornful “von What?!!” When they offered another speculative punt, for the second of the set he asked, incredulously, “Are you just making these up?” You think, Jez? What the hell else are you supposed to do if you don’t know the answer? At least when Joseph Greenwood admitted that this was exactly what they were doing he commended their honesty.
JP unneccessarily corrected Luke Vivian Neil’s answer to the –ouse question “It’s usually pronounced ooze” he sniffily informed us. Not when it’s part of the word ‘grouse’ it ain’t, matey!

JP got in a good aside when introducing the Spitting Image bonuses, “other regular targets of Spitting Image, all of whom are now Lords or Knights . . . you know how it is in the UK.” Boom boom!

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

Sosignenes invented the Julian Calendar.


Jack said...

Well, that turned out closer than most would probably have expected. If Queen's had pulled that one off, it would definitely have been the shock of the series. As you say, they have proved themselves effective throughout this series, and to get this far is certainly respectable. Well done to them.

Well done to SOAS too; a deserved place in the semis, but not as comfortably as you may have thought. Despite remaining good on the bonuses, their buzzer work has weakened somewhat in recent games. Still, it may well improve again in the semis; we'll see how they fare.

On the bonuses, SOAS converted 18/27 (and incurred two penalties), and Queen's 13/27 (plus three penalties), which is what won the match. It was that close.

So, the semis next. Thanks to a tweet I spotted the other day that I won't go into great detail on, I have an idea of who's playing on Monday. All I can say is, it should be another fine match, and good luck to those involved!

Londinius said...

Hi Jack,

Yes, it was probably clear from my comments at the time that I wasn't really very impressed with Queen's in their first couple of games. However I really warmed to them in these quarters, even though they were comfortably seen off by our own Southampton. Incidentally, thanks very much to Matt, Bob and of course Richard for their comments after last week's posts. Sorry that I didn't reply during the week guys - very busy time at work at the moment.

I'll have a look at the 4 semi finalists later. I dare say that the series still has some surprises for us in stock.