Saturday, 26 April 2014

Fifteen to One: Out and out stoppers

Just a short one, this. I’ve still been watching and enjoying Fifteen to One, and throughout the week it has continued to be a case of saying – I know him! – and – I know her! – and shaking my head in sympathy as some of them get two or three absolute stoppers and have to switch their lights out. It’s been over a decade since Fifteen to One was last on our screens, so my recollection could easily be faulty, but it seemed to me that on the old series there were certainly some tough questions, but not as many out and out stoppers that hardly anyone is ever going to get right. See what you think. If you click on this link: -


it will take you to a page on the Quiz site. Take the 432 and 433 challenges you’ll find on the page. These give you the chance to try your luck with the questions asked to Bill McKaig and Daphne Fowler when they set their record making totals. Now, I’m not saying that there are no difficult questions there – there are some difficult questions – but there don’t seem to be any of the out and out ‘you-won’t-get-this-because-nobody-knows-it-and-nobody’s-interested-in-it-so-don’t-even-bother-giving-an-answer’ questions which have been so noticeable in the current series.

What I’d be interested to know is whether this is a deliberate decision of the new series’ producers to regularly throw in these questions. I would guess that it is – you don’t have to be a good quizzer to see that some of the questions asked in every show are out and out stoppers. However I would also like to know if the appearance of these questions is just a matter of pure, random, blind luck, or whether there’s someone sitting up in mission control, with a direct link to Sandi’s tablet, deciding that so and so has been in long enough, and then sending a stopper down the line. Who knows?

Mind you, when I was learning the game back in the late 80’s, in my first ever league team, after it had been on for a while some of my olders and betters conceived their own conspiracy theory about the original show. They reckoned that William G. Stewart probably had three questions on each card, and depending on whether your face fitted or not he would decide whether he gave you the hard, average or easy question on it. I’m not saying for one minute that I bought into it – but a couple of the boys were convinced. More realistically, they did also say that William G. Stewart could be a little inconsistent with what he’d accept for an answer – with some people he would let them be within the same postal district, while with others if it wasn’t word for word what he had on the card he wouldn’t accept it. Well, even if there was any substance to this particular observation, you could say the same thing about Brain of Britain sometimes. Meeoowww.


davidbod said...

There was some truth to this, but not what you think. The original lady who compiled the questions, Maureen Hiron, was told that there needed to be about 3 contestants down after round 1 so that the programme was able to finish on time.

So she would pull three numbers out of a bag and make sure that those two contestants got real stinkers. Et voila.

How do I know this is true? She told me once at a gaming convention.

Watergrass Jon said...

There does seem to be a greater variation in the standard of Qs in the new series - from extremely easy to extremely hard. I can't see anyone getting a 433 in this format.
Maureen Hiron! There's a blast from the past. I haven't seen her in 20 years.

Londinius said...

Hi Guys

Hi David - great to hear from you. I did worry when I saw that you're not question editing with OC now. Oh, BTW - can I just say how much I'm enjoying your "Riddles of the Sphinx" at the moment?

Well, I gotta be honest, I never thought I would ever hear a definitive answer about the old Fifteen to One format like that. I didn't know that Maureen Hiron was the setter either - ah, Quizwrangle! The antidote to Trivial Pursuit.

Hi WJ - no, absolutely not. However, I stand willing to be proven wrong.

George Millman said...

They surely wouldn't be able to pick and choose questions to appear on Sandi's tablet for certain contestants beyond Round 1, because they don't know until a split-second before who is going to answer the next question, so there wouldn't be time to prepare it.

neil wright said...

I completely agree that having more difficult questions does detract from the appeal of the new 15 to 1. It is not so important in Rounds 1 or 2, because with everyone getting 3 attempts to get into the final 3, if you are good enough, you should eventually make it. However, in the final 3, too many difficult questions means that only one strategy makes sense. Whenever you can, nominate and get rid of the other 2 players. This results in a game of passing the hot potato and this then comes down to who is unlucky in getting the stoppers.

I always found 2 other possibilities much more interesting. The first is when somebody gets in and goes for questions from the start, hoping to get them all right or, at least, get enough points on the board to rule the others out of any chance of getting through to the grand final. Of course, if you falter on the way you become a target and may need to try and hold on. (Do we know if the winners will be invited back to the next series, assuming there is going to be one?)

The second is where still have 2 or even 3 players in it and are nearing the end of the 40 questions. Presumably everyone has been nominating up till now but the possibility is there that someone will make a run for the line and go for questions. It becomes a game of cat and mouse where by continuing to nominate you are giving up control of the game. That is my absolute favorite type of game.

I hope that the present level of difficulty with the questions is just a matter of the production team finding their feet and that they will feel able to adjust as the series proceeds. I am also hoping that, for the Grand Final, they continue with Question and Nominate, as happened in the early series of 15 to 1, instead of doing the whole of the final three's forty questions on the buzzer. This, to my mind, completely altered the nature of the game and just became a matter of buzzing in before the question was finished and trying to anticipate what was going to be asked.

I was in the Grand Final of the second series of 15 to 1 (?1999 or 2000) and I believe that the same mistake of making the questions too difficult occurred there as in following series. This may well be why they went over to doing it all on the buzzer. In the Grand Final you needed to have harder questions otherwise Round 2 could go on for a very long time. However, I believe they kept the same level of difficulty for the final 40 questions and that wasn't necessary. We didn't realize at he time but eventually everyone in the final took to nominating and this ruined it as a spectacle and it was sometimes over very quickly.

neil wright said...

Old age is definitely getting to me. The series 2 that I was in the Grand Final of was 1988, not 1999. Mal Collier was the eventual winner and the Quiz Players website has me down as coming 2nd but it was in fact Paul Webbewood with me 3rd.

Watergrass Jon said...

Going through Daphne's set I managed all but about 3 of them, and even the ones I missed were very gettable. I felt they were all at a similar level of difficulty, so I don't think it's my memory playing rose-tinted tricks, there definitely seems to be a deliberate question-setting ploy. And I agree it makes the nominate strategy the sensible choice for the final, especially as you only need a moderate score the reach the final.

davidbod said...

I presume the reason for the Grand Final being on the buzzer was to stop contestants A and B agreeing to pick on contestant C beforehand. While that would be within the rules of the game, given that the entire series built up to that point I suppose it's a fair enough rule change.

neil wright said...

I also managed about 37 out of 40 for both sets of questions in the challenge. In the most recent program I saw with a full set of 40, I could only manage 27. I would suggest that somewhere in between is about the right level.

With regards to possible collusion in the Grand Final, surely that is only a problem if the questions are too difficult. Even if one person is nominated all the time by the other two, if they keep getting them right, they will outscore the other two.

Sometimes the way the game plays out means that two have to try to eliminate the other one. That was what almost happened in my Grand Final in 1988. Mal Collier was the favorite as he had done so well in the first series. He was first to answer 3 correct and proceeded to take questions, which, in my view was a mistake. He got to about 100 and then nominated. That made him a target. Paul Webbewood and I nominated him at every opportunity. I think that strategy would have worked. However, Paul decided at some stage to nominate me instead, probably because I had more lives left and he wanted to even things out. I got 2 wrong in quick succession and was eliminated. Mal then saw off Paul to win. There was no collusion beforehand. It was just the circumstances in the game that led us to the same strategy and, personally, I think that makes for a far more enthralling contest than a race on the buzzer. Of course, my view on this might just be influenced by the fact I have never been quite quick enough when buzzers are involved.

neil wright said...

I have been watching 15 to 1 on series record and am still way behind. However I have just watched the one with Gary Grant and I think it goes some way to support my assertion regarding easier questions, at least in the final part. I managed 32/40, significantly up on previous shows. Suddenly it was a whole new show with all three contestants still there at the end and all sorts of tactical considerations to take into account. Much the best show I have seen so far.
No spoilers, please.