Saturday, 5 April 2014

Mastermind - Semi Final 4

Ah, Mastermind is back after its lambing-enforced lay off. Let’s have a look at the runners and riders in last night’s show.

Name1st round GK1st round overallUnofficial position
Andries Van Tonder1629 - 39
Beth Webster1228 - 212
Hamish Cameron1727 - 4=17
Colin Foster1226 - 021
Ben Holmes1426 - 425

You might be tempted to say that there’s not a lot to choose between the 5 contenders, with only 3 points separating their first round scores. You would have a point, too, however the GK scores tell something of a different story. With only 90 seconds on specialist in the semis, the chances of you blowing everyone else away before half time is limited. Here’s another factor to consider. Many people find that the GK questions in the final are of another level of difficulty. I’m not entirely sure there’s evidence for that, but often people who have done quite well on GK in the heats struggle with their rounds in the semis.

However you looked at it, Andries van Tonder looked a decent each way bet for this contest. Andries had played in that remarkable heat 23, in which a fine score of 29 points and 3 passes could only bring him third place. Back then Andries answered on the History of Rhodesia, and he scored a fine 13. Last night he offered us Black Sabbath, and scored 10. 10 off 90 seconds is pretty good going, and suggested that if he could produce something approaching his GK round of the heat he would be in the shake up.

Beth Webster has appeared in several Mastermind series, but this was her first ever semi final. Back in Heat one Beth scored an amazing 16 on the Muppet films. That looked like a good score anyway, but when we saw just how long and convoluted the specialist questions were going to be during this series it came to look better and better, Experience suggested that if Beth was to win this semi, then it wasn’t going to be on GK, and she would need a flier on her Specialist round on the novels of Barbara Vine. Sadly, early on in the round Beth was stopped in her tracks by a question. She did pull it out of the bag, but her momentum was gone, and for the rest of the round she was wrestling to bring it back on track. In the end she managed 7 points. No shame in that in a 90 second round, but not a score to give her the chance of making the final.

Colin Foster popped up in the first round of Brain of Britain since we last saw him. He was unlucky enough to have been in the same heat as Dag Griffiths, whose heels he watched rapidly receding in the distance in that match. Still, back in August Colin won heat 2 with a round on British Olympic medalists 1960 – 2008 . I would argue that the round he had this time out, the life and times of William II, was a lot harder than the Olympic round, which, to be honest, had been relatively easy with even a passing knowledge of the subject, and yet this time Colin had a fantastic perfect round with 12 from 12. That looked extremely useful, but his score of only 12 in GK in the heat worried me, and left him vulberable.

Ben Holmes won a very tight contest in heat 21, where he had answered on The Manic Street Preachers. Even though Ben was the lowest scoring of all the contenders in last night’s show in the heats, his GK score made him look like something of a dark horse, with the proviso that he had a good specialist. It gives me no pleasure to say that this, but I’m afraid that he didn’t. Last time out Ben scored well on The Manic Street Preachers, but last night Adolf Hitler proved fairly unforgiving for him, and he only managed to garner 6 points. It seemed as if the majority of questions concentrated on his life before world war II, and whether that was a problem for Ben I don’t know.

Like Beth, our final contender last night was also a contender in the 2007 SOBM. Back then Hamish reached the semis, where he was unfortunate to be in the same semi as high scoring Stewart Cross, and so when I met Hamish at the final he was stand in rather than contender. In fact I may be wrong, but I think that Hamish Cameron has probably been in more Mastermind semi finals than anyone else. This was his 4th semi-final in 6 series, and with all due respect to the other contenders in last night’s show, he was my sentimental favourite to make his first ever final. He needed his specialist subject of Veronese to give him a good start, though, and that’s exactly what it did. By my reckoning, with everyone else having gone, and being on paper the best GK performer in the show, any score of double figures should leave him with an achievable task. 11 points later Hamish was sitting comfortably in second place, just one behind Colin.

Sometimes when things haven’t gone as well as a contender wouldn’t like in specialist, then, being so far behind, they seem to feel free of the pressure when they come to the GK round and produce an absolute corker. Ben’s round was a very good one indeed. 13 points and no passes pushed him right up to 19. “He won’t finish bottom in this heat.” I observed to Zara, not having noticed that she’d got up and walked out when I started shouting out the answers. I didn’t in all honesty think he’d maintain that lead through to the end of the show, but 19 was certainly a ‘corridor of uncertainty’ score. Beth gave it a lash, but it was one of those evenings when the answer just refused to jump off the tip of her tongue, and she ended up finishing with 13.

Now, the first of the three contenders who were realistically still in the competition for the place in the final was Andries. He scored a fantastic 16 in his first round heat. I don’t know whether it was the pressure, or whether this set of questions just didn’t suit him, but he never hit those heights in his round last night. The right answers just wouldn’t come, and it was clear before the 90 second mark that he wasn’t going to get close to the 10 points he needed to go into the lead. Now, I can’t help wondering if Hamish was thinking about previous semifinals as he walked to the chair. He would have been forgiven for thinking that maybe, just maybe, his time had finally come. He needed 9 to take the lead, and as many more points as possible to make Colin’s job even more difficult. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think that it was the finest GK round I have ever seen Hamish produce. It wasn’t as good as Ben’s round, for example. But it was good enough to take the lead, and set a target. 11 points meant that Colin needed at least 10 and no passes to win. He gave it a go as well, but really just didn’t have enough juice in the tank. For the first minute he was just about on target, but after that the correct answers just dried up, and with only a few seconds to go he was still some way off the target. In the end he managed 7 points.

Many, many congratulations to Hamish. A long awaited and well deserved place in the Grand final is yours. I wish you the very best of luck.

The Details

Andries Van Tonder Black Sabbath 1968 - 197910 - 1 6 - 116 - 1
Beth WebsterThe Novels of Barbara Vine7 - 16 - 313 - 4
Colin FosterThe Life and Times of William II12 - 07 - 019 - 0
Ben HolmesAdolf Hitler6 - 213 - 019 - 2
Hamish CameronLife and Works of Paulo Veronese11 - 011 - 122 – 1

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