Wednesday, 20 August 2014

University Challenge - Round One - Heat 6

St. Peter’s, Oxford v. Sussex

St. Peter’s, one of this season’s debutant teams, were represented by John Armitage, Ed Roberts, Spike Smith and their skipper, Gabriel Trueblood. Their opposition, in the form of Sussex, were Tom Whitehurst, David Spence, Matthew Dean and Joss Macdonald.I enjoyed JP’s comment that although Sussex were twice winners in the past, the fact that their second win was 45 years ago meant that there was no appreciable sense of urgency about their quest for a hattrick. Let’s get on with the show.

Spike Smith was in very early or the first starter, knowing full well that the adjective often applied to the Beatles’ 9th album is white. Pedantically I did check the question again, in case it said that this word was in the title of the album, because it actually isn’t, but no, to be fair they just said associated with. The bonuses were on the sun and moon, and we all achieved a full set. There was a lovely moment when, asked for the Dickens novel which features Chadband, a despairing Gabriel Treublood threw Bleak House into the ring, and then shrugged his shoulders when it proved correct. Matthew Dean opened Sussex’s account knowing that Inment Inonu was the second president of Turkey. Stanley Baldwin, old “Safety First” himself, was the subject of their bonuses, and they managed two. David Spence knew about cavitation, which was a relief since I didn’t. On the cloud types bonuses I was pleased to get a full house, but Sussex were a little more profligate, getting just the last. Gabriel Trueblood knew that if a question asks for young artists and writers in the 1840s, you’ll rarely go wrong if you utter the words Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood. A tricky set on de- terms offered, and indeed delivered but little, which led to a lovely picture starter. This showed an English town on a map, and asked for the confectionary associated with it. Joss Macdonald could see it looked like Greater Manchester, and plumped for Eccles cake. The bonuses were more of the same and Kendal Mint Cake and Bakewell Tart fell swiftly, although they baulked at Pontefract cake. The old chestnut of the alloy of gold and silver, electrum, was taken by Gabriel Trueblood, and one bonus on photography as an artform meant that at the ten minute mark they only trailed Sussex by 5 points, 55 to 50.

Gabriel Trueblood knew that Belshazzar was deposed by the Persians.They managed one bonus on cosmology, which was one more than I did. A Newton’s law about the cooling of something or other – stop me if I get to technical, gave Spike Smith his second starter. Another nasty set of bonuses – this time on monoliths – yielded nothing. Right – controversial moment. JP gave the beginning of a mnemonic, which he revealed stood for a list of 118 things. Asked for what, Matthew Dean answered chemical elements. He was dead right, even though not given the point! I know that JP gets the adjudication in his ear, but after he said that I think that the worst outcome should have been that he was given a prompt, as in “Can you be more specific?” But even then – there aren’t any elements that AREN’T in the periodic table! So I would have thought that it was implicit in Matthew Dean’s answer. I’ve seen worse answers than this being given the points in the show before. It was very harsh – and of course Gabriel Trueblood took it. I don’t blame him for one moment – I just think that Sussex had done more than enough for the points. St. Peter’s’ bonuses were on invented religions and cults, and all of us only managed the one. Gabriel Trueblood, the scent of blood in his nostrils, heard maybe about half a bar of the music starter before identifying it as the work of J.S.Bach. We heard other pieces which have been very popular on Youtube and took a full set. Things were starting to look ominous for Sussex. We had our first starter of the contest which neither team could answer when given several definitions of sleep. Now, given the words ‘tropical’ ‘birds’ ‘extended’ and ‘bills’ you have to say toucan, and quick. Gabriel Trueblood supplied the answer, and this brought up bonuses on climatic types. 2 bonuses were taken. Gabriel Trueblood was putting on a command – in fact, commanding -  performance through this middle part of the show, and he took the next starter, identifying the Greek Fates. 1 bonus followed on August 1914. Matthew Dean, maybe unsettled at his treatment on his previous starter buzz, suffered a slip of the tongue, offering Gran Canada instead of Gran Columbia. It was bad luck, but he couldn’t have had the points for that one. It was Gabriel Trueblood rather inevitably who played Autolycus with that one (a snapper up of unconsidered trifles – Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale). Bonuses on pairs of rulers and the decades in which they were both on the throne proved very tricky, and added little to the pot. It didn’t matter. If your opponents can’t get the starters, then they won’t beat you. Approaching the 20 minute mark, Sussex had actually gone down to 50, while St. Peter’s now had a three figure lead with 160.

Undaunted by his earlier misfortunes, Matthew Dean knew that the lepton with the greatest mass is tau. Nope, me neither. 2 bonuses on east Europeans followed, and then we had a picture of John Logie Baird. This was not the most commonly reproduced picture of him – he was a bit older in this one, and none of us recognized him. For once the impressive Gabriel Trueblood failed on a starter, coming in too early on a UC special. He answered the first part – SIN – correctly, but there was more to the question. Given the whole lot Tom Whitehurst was able to come in with the correct answer of Singapore. Picture bonuses on famous Glaswegians  saw them take two correct answers, but none of us knew Liz Lochhead. Sussex took another starter when David Spence explained that the acronym FIAT contains the city of Torino – or – Turin. This took Sussex to 100, and reduced the gap to 60. The task still looked significant, but at least the gap seemed bridgeable now. American mountains and volcanoes provided two more bonuses, and the gap was down to 50. Gabriel Trueblood decided that that was enough of that, and buzzed in very early with the name Bathsheba as one time wife of Uriah the Hittite. A couple of bonuses on monotremes followed. Nobody knew the specific term brittle. David Spence knew that Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are on the Jurassic Coast. I liked the bonuses on Olympic venues, and was pleased to get the Baths of Caracalla. Sussex managed 2 bonuses. Right then, for the next starter, asked what linked Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar, 8th May 1945, and Winston Smith’s residence in 1984, Gabriel Trueblood offered V. Quite right too. Now, JP said that strictly speaking the answer was Victory, but accepted it because V was implicit. I agree with that adjudication – but how unfair did that render the adjudication on chemical elements?!!It just served to highlight how unfair that original adjudication was. Bonuses on accidental followed. David Spence knew that there are 1000 litres in a cubic metre. Pre twentieth century works of philosophy brought ten points to take them to 150. Gabriel Trueblood knew that a bridge links novels by Thornton Wilder and others. Country code top level domain names were a UC special set of bonuses. That was enough to give St. Peters a total of 205 at the gong, to Sussex’s 150.

St. Peter’s clearly deserved to win – that isn’t the question with this show. Gabriel Trueblood had, I believe, 10 correct starters, which is a hall of fame performance. But Sussex – well, JP said they could come back with 150, and they might. Still – how unlucky will they be if the last repechage slot goes to a team who scored 155? They should have had at least 160. I don’t know if there’s anything can be done about this now, but they will have every right to think themselves very, very hard done by.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Well, I’m sorry to say that I’ve already mentioned JP’s only noteworthy comment during the show – and that was the scripted one about Sussex’ hattrick chances. Maybe he wasn’t, but he just came across as a little disinterested during this show.

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

The Matorral is a climatic region of Chile. 


Andrew B. said...

Given how clueless some of the UC adjudications on science questions have been in the past, I could believe that there's no-one in the production team who knows that the Periodic Table is a list of the chemical elements...

Londinius said...

Hi Andrew.
Welll, I don't know enough about Science myself to make observations about adjudications on Science questions on UC in general, and I certainly wouldn't call anyone's expertise into question. However, surely . . . surely someone must have thought hang on a minute - when that one happened. said...

I thought the same about those two decisions on answers. The Periodic Table is a specific list of elements - and perhaps Paxman could have asked for clarification. The answer of 'V' was a little too vague and Paxman should have asked for something more specific, and refused the points if the answer hadn't been given quickly.

Jack said...

Agree that Paxo was maybe a bit harsh to disallow Sussex's answer there, and then allow St Peter's that V answer later. Some would call it Oxbridge bias; I wouldn't go that far, but it was maybe a bit unfair.

Other than that, a pretty average game compared to the series so far, the most notable thing being Mr Trueblood's personal tally of 11 starters! His team converted 16/38 bonuses, while Sussex managed 15/24; both sides incurred one penalty.

Next week, it's a London derby between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the LSE.

Gavin Tillman said...

The V question: the three clues were leading to Victory Mansions, HMS Victory and VE day ( Victory in Europe). So one of the three clues sees the word Victory abbreviated to V. Doesn't make V a correct answer for all three clues.

And "chemical elements" and "periodic table"? Both answer the question. You could argue that the periodic table is organised into periods and groups, that the mnemonic doesn't help with; it just helps you put the chemical elements in order of atomic number.

No: Sussex were VERY hard done by. Bad judgements in this show are rare I think, and to get two in one show must be quite unusual.

I remember when 15 to 1 used to make bad judgements, they would acknowledge it, and invite the hard done by back on a later show. I'm not really sure in the UC format how redress could be given. Let's hope Sussex get another go as a highest scoring runner up.

asphinctersays said...

This was the match that preceded ours in filming (though not in broadcasting - I'm on the Brookes team) and we were watching it on monitors backstage and in make-up. There was quite a discussion about the periodic table q in the studio between Jeremy and the producer through his earpiece about whether to allow Sussex's answer or not - the decision isn't just up to him in cases like that. We were on the end of a similar decision in our first match on a picture starter which ultimately was completely edited out of the show. We had to stop recording, argue about it for five minutes and then move onto a replacement picture starter. I also agree it was harsh on Sussex, especially given some of the other answers accepted.

For me, this match exemplified why it is so important to be quick on the buzzer - as Jack points out, Sussex's bonus conversion far outweighed St Peter's', but they just couldn't open up the bonuses due to Gabriel Trueblood's speed on the buzzer. Indeed St. Peter's' bonus conversion is the lowest on any of the winners so far (even lower than ours!). Will be interesting to see what happens if and when they come up against a team with another Trueblood or two (kudos to him though, he demonstrated a very wide range of knowledge here).

Londinius said...

Hi Everyone,

Bearing in mind what you say, asphinctersays, I am even more surprised that they didn't just void that question, and put another one in instead. I can't help seeing that one as an own goal. I tend to agree with what you say about St. Peters', but drawing conclusions based on one round's performance is a risky thing to do anyway. In the next round we'll see if Gabriel Trueblood really is a superfast buzzer - and it may well be that he is - or whether collectively Sussex were just that tad slower.

BallroomJam said...

The mnemonic in question is one I wrote a couple of years ago. You can find it at:

It's song with video format. I must admit I was really chuffed when the guitarist who plays on it rang me to say he'd seen it on UC.

Londinius said...

Hi Ballroom Jam

Well, the obvious question I have to ask is - would YOU have accepted chemical elements as an answer?

Jason McNeil said...

Did any else get the impression that apart from the Trueblood, the rest of the St. Peters team were pretty much dead-wood. Perhaps this explains the lacklustre conversion ratio. How many shoulder shrugs did we get from black-suit chap.

Wouldn't it be entertaining if UC hosted the 'Best of the Best' championship, where the top 16 players over the past 5 years (as measured by the number of cumulative starter questions / games but must >4 games played) fought it out in a special series? Each captain would be able to elect his/her other three team mates.

Perhaps it wouldn't be in keeping with the 'must be within the same institution' premise of the game, but seeing the paladins fighting it out for supremacy would certainly be worth it...