Before we get on to the events of tonight’s show, as unreliable as it may be, let’s still have a look at the first round form guide. : -
Gareth Kingston – 28 – 0
Alan Gibbs – 27 – 0
Chris Grandison – 26 – 1
Philip Isaac – 26 - 2
Liz Gore – 25 – 1
Well, here’s an irony. Of the five contenders in tonight’s semi final, the highest scoring qualifier – Gareth – was a runner up in his heat. Well, only last week we saw first round runner up Diane Hallagan gallop into the grand final, so if Gareth was looking for omens, that was a pretty good one. On the other hand, Alan defeated Marianne Fairthorne in the first round, and Marianne has gone on to reach the final too. Of the others, well, both Chris and Liz scored 11s on their GK rounds in their heats, while Philip put on 13. So no mugs in this show, even if Gareth and Alan looked to be the ones to watch.
Chris Grandison answered questions on Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins. I’ll be honest, I find it hard to get excited about snooker – I don’t blame snooker for that, it’s just me – but I did pay it some attention when it was at the height of its popularity in the 80s, and so I felt able to have a stab, or should I say, attempt to pot, a couple of these questions. And indeed, a couple were all that I managed to answer. Now you have to remember that these semi final rounds are 90 seconds only, so it is commensurately more difficult to blow the opposition away than it is with a 2 minute round. If you can manage close to double figures then you’re always going to have some kind of a shout in the GK round – and Chris’ 8 looked as if it should do that for him.
Last time that Gareth Kingston was in a Mastermind semi final he came as close as you can come to getting into a Grand Final without actually making it, losing out on a tie break to Nick Reed – who incidentally won his heat in BoB recently. In tonight’s show Gareth answered questions on Erasmus Darwin. Erasmus was the granddad of both Charles Darwin, and Francis Galton – the father of fingerprinting, and by all accounts a remarkable polymath. Gareth , being an old Mastermind hand now, made sure that he didn’t pass any, and posted 9, good enough to put him into the lead.
A lead which, it turned out, was soon to be shared by Alan Gibbs. Last time out Alan was answering on one hit wonders, while tonight he gave us the TV series Curb Your Enthusiasm – the Larry David show from a few years ago – and very good it was too. There really wasn’t a lot wrong with this round either, and Alan too reached 9 without any passes. So far then, all seemed to be going according to the way I had thought that the show would pan out.
I was intrigued during Liz Gore’s round on Margot Fonteyn to hear that the great ballerina had once attended a dance school in my home borough of Ealing. I rarely get back to Ealing nowadays, but I always keep an ear open for it. Now, my gut feeling was that Liz really needed to give herself a bit of a cushion if she could in order to have the best chance of winning, but although she didn’t quite manage to do that, she did manage to match Gareth and Alan. No, of course I didn’t answer any of the Margot Fonteyn questions correctly.
Philip Isaac won heat 15, answering questions on Allo Allo. There was a little bit of a change of pace tonight as he offered us the Dirk Pitt novels of Clive Cussler. Now, I will admit to never having read any of them, but I did rather enjoy the film version of “Sahara” a few years ago. Philip had a couple of points on the board when a question seemed to catch him on the hop. He passed, and I dare say that was on his mind for the rest of the round as he descended into a pass spiral. He’s got nothing to be ashamed of, since he is a Mastermind semi finalist by right, but I’m afraid that he scored 3 on his specialist round.
Philip did better on the GK round. Returning to the inquisition first, he put on another 7 points. Look – sometimes it happens – for whatever reason sometimes it’s just not your night. We’ve all had it, and all you can do is take it on the chin and chalk it down to experience. Chris Grandison did slightly better with his own GK round – but only to the tune of another point, as he scored 8 to take his total up to 16. You may recall me saying that with the rounds as they are at the moment, you need to get into the 20s to have a realistic chance of winning the majority of the semi finals.
Make no mistake, Gareth is certainly capable of scoring the 11 he needed to get him into the 20s, and a couple more besides to give him a cushion. Ah, but that all depends on the way the questions fall, though. Tonight the questions didn’t fall kindly, and while there were quite a few intelligent guesses, not enough of them were hitting the target. It’s cruelly bad luck that you get a round which doesn’t quite suit in the semi finals, but Gareth is not the first person it has happened to during this series. Hard lines, Gareth, many commiserations.
Of course, his 17 was actually the leading score, but in my heart of hearts I was pretty sure that Alan would be able to overhaul it. I wasn’t wrong either, but, crucially, in the middle of the round Alan hesitated over a question to which he knew the answer, but just couldn’t dredge it up – the answer being Godiva – who was actually called Godgifu in Anglo Saxon. I fancy it may have cost him at least one other question, since he used up a bit of time and was robbed of momentum, but it’s nothing I can prove. Nonetheless, 22 and no passes is usually enough to put you through. Liz would need 14 to win outright. She had managed 11 in 30 seconds more time in the first round, so this seemed to be asking a lot.
She started well, though. In fact, she started very well, and she was continuing well. Liz’s answers were short, snappy, and above all else correct, and when a contender gets into a rhythm like this, so does John as well, and as a result you can get through a couple more questions. Now, relative difficulty of GK rounds is an issue which people are never going to agree on, so much of it being in the eye of the beholder. I’m not saying that there was necessarily a huge amount in it, but for what it’s worth, on a personal level – given a choice between Gareth’s, Alan’s and Liz’s GK rounds I would rather have been asked Liz’s, but as I say, that’s just my opinion, and by all means feel free to disagree. She had 18 points on the board when she missed one or two, but then she really picked up momentum again, and 19 – 20 – 21 – 22 went the score. The penultimate question was about crop circles. . . and she had it. She had to have it as well, since she passed on the last question, while Alan had no passes. Phew, that was close. Commiserations to Alan, but many congratulations to Liz. You can only ever answer what you are asked, and she produced a cool, calm and impressive performance under great pressure.
Now – here’s a thing. We already have three female finalists qualified. As far as I know this has never happened during the Humphrys era. In fact, for all I know, maybe it hasn’t happened since the very first final in 1972, when all three finalists were women. Nancy – I hope that you’ve been polishing up that crown as the last Female Champion – since I think that you might well be handing it over soon.
|Chris Grandison||Alex Higgins||8 - 1||8 - 0||16 - 1|
|Gareth Kingston||Life and Work of Erasmus Darwin||9 - 0||8 - 0||17 - 0|
|Alan Gibbs||Curb Your Enthusiasm||9 - 0||13 - 0||22 - 0|
|Liz Gore||The Life of Margot Fonteyn||9 - 0||14 - 1||23 - 1|
|Philip Isaac||The Dirk Pitt Novels of Clive Cussler||3 - 6||7 - 3||10 - 9|