Well, here we are, at the real business end of the series. Just 6 more shows to go after this one. Casting an eye down the list of contenders in last night’s semi we see that Mark Eves was the highest scorer in the first round of these 6, with 30. Marianne Fairthorne had 27, just losing an automatic spot on passes, Brian Davies scored 26 in his first round, Julia Hobbs 25, and Rod Laver 23. Well, you can only tell so much from first round form. It’s one thing to have one great specialist subject for the first round, but for the semis you need to learn another just as well, and for some contenders this just doesn’t work out. Again, while sometimes a low to average GK score might get you through the first round, it’s highly unlikely to do so in the semis.
Enough of such chaff. First up in the 2015 semi finals was Rod Laver. He was answering on Kraftwerk. If you haven’t seen Bill Bailey doing an impression of Kraftwerk doing Das Hokey Kokey you can see it here
Rod’s 8 points looked pretty useful in the context of a 90 second semi final round, although I fancied that there was a little room to maneouvre, and this might leave him short when it came to GK.
Next up was Marianne Fairthorne. Marianne was unlucky to need a repechage slot to make the semis, when she was only beaten on passes by Alan Gibbs, a terrific quizzer himself. Last night she was answering on Çatalhoyük. Gesundheit. No, I didn’t know , but this is a large Neolithic settlement in Anatolia in Turkey. Now, if you can get into double figures in a 90 second round you’ve done extremely well, and this was exactly what Marianne proceeded to do. Whatever anybody else did , she was going to be a serious contender for the place in the Grand Final.
Brian Davis produced a fine round of 14 in the first round on Sir Robert Peel. Last night he was answering on the life and career of Sir Martin Frobisher. As had Marianne before him, Brian produced an excellent SS round to score 10 points. He incurred one pass. Looking at his GK score of 12 from the first round I fancied that he might need to do even better this time out to beat the field, but you never knew.
Julia Hobbs has been this way before. In her last semi final in 2011 she came from a point behind at the halfway stage to win on GK, so anything close to 10 on her specialist round on the Novels of Douglas Coupland would give her a real chance. For the first few questions it looked as if she would get there too. However the passes started to accrue, and the last half minute or so looked like a real struggle. In the end Julia scored 5, and with the best will in the world you can’t make up a five point gap in a 2 minute round of GK, so for this year Julia’s challenge was over.
Like Julia, Mark Eves has been in a semi final before, and he won it too, back in Geoff’s 2006 series. I was there – sitting in the audience as the stand in. Back then his semi final win was built on a terrific specialist round. Last night the Pentateuch was the subject of Mark Eves’ specialist round. Rather surprisingly he dropped the first question, and was a little while getting into his stride. Once the nerves were settled, then the correct answers came rattling in. However the wobble at the start meant that he hadn’t quite managed to achieve double figures. That needn’t have been a problem, after all he scored 9 and was only a point behind the leaders.
Julia returned to the chair first. Now, a quick reminder that in the semi final the GK rounds are 2 minutes long, as compared to 2 and a half minutes for the first round. Working on the principle that anything in the teens proved to be a good mark in the first round, then anything in double figures would be a good round in GK, and excellence would begin around 13. Julia put her disappointment in the specialist round behind her, and began accruing points. 9 from the round was a pretty good return, and left her on 14.
Rod came next, and while he never looked fully at ease in his round, and missed a couple of things he might have known, he too added 9 to his score to raise the bar to 17.
First of our three most likely winners to go on GK was Mark. For much of the round he was piling on the points, much as he had done in his first round heat. However he’d scored 10 points with, I think, 4 questions left, and he didn’t manage another point. With everything so tight, I had a feeling that this might well not be enough. If you’re behind, then if you can’t blow everyone else out of the water, the least you have to do is to put them in the corridor of doubt. I thought that this might prove to be a point or two shy of that.
I didn’t have long to wait to find out if my assessment of the situation was right. Marianne scored 13 in 2 and a half minutes in the first round heat – here she did proportionately even better. In the GK round of the night, she scored a fine 12, to put the bar at 22. That was the kind of round that wins semi finals. Now, going back to my point about putting the opposition into the corridor of doubt, when Brian returned to the chair he looked rather nervous about the size of the task ahead of him. After 30 seconds he was well behind the clock, and it was clear that he wasn’t going to get the 13 he would need to go through. In the end he managed to add 7 to his score – nothing to be ashamed about that – and finished with 17. So very well played Marianne – a fine performance. Best of luck in the Grand Final.
|Rod Laver||Kraftwerk||8 - 0||9 - 3||17 - 3|
|Marianne Fairthorne||Çatalhoyük||10 – 0||12 - 1||22 - 1|
|Brian Davis||The Life and Career of Sir Martin Frobisher||10 - 1||7 - 3||17 - 4|
|Julia Hobbs||The Novels of Douglas Coupland||5 - 4||9 - 2||14 - 6|
|Mark Eves||The Pentateuch||9 - 0||10 - 0||19 – 0|