Saturday, 4 April 2015

University Challenge - Semi Final 1

St. Peter’s, Oxford v. Magdalen, Oxford

Yes, in this, the first of the semi finals, an all Oxford affair saw high flying St. Peter’s take on Magdalen. St. Peter’s, in the form of John Armitage, Ed Roberts, Spike Smith and their skipper, Gabriel Trueblood have thus far carried all before them, winning all of their matches. Their skipper, Gabriel Trueblood, has drawn many of the headlines this series, as much for his excellent buzzing as for his habit of twirling the toggles of his hoodie. Magdalen’s team of Harry Gillow, Chris Savory, Cameron J. Quinn and skipper Hugh Binnie needed quarter final matches to get this far. As for their prospects in this semi final, well, I confess that I tipped St. Peter’s. However it is worth considering that Magdalen’s loss came to potential champions Gonville and Caius. St. Peter’s have beaten some good teams so far, but they had yet to face any team quite of that standard.

The psychologically important first question was won by a great early buzz from Hugh Binnie, who recognized a list of people who were booked on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, but didn’t sail on it. Good shout that. They were given a set of bonuses on Charles Darwin’s voyage on HMS Beagle, and had the same two correct answers as I had. Spike Smith opened St. Peter’s account with the next starter, on the mathematical term closed. The set of bonuses on fluid mechanics wasn’t kind, but they managed one of them. I was a little surprised that nobody knew that the son of George II, who earned the soubriquet of The Butcher for his brutal suppression of the Jacobite uprising was the Duke of Cumberland. A long question on a piece of classical music followed, but the last words – by Stravinsky – made it clear we were looking for ‘The Rite of Spring’ and this particular buzzer race was won by Hugh Binnie. A UC special set of bonuses, combining the answers to two clues to find the names of comfort foods – eg – Edgar RICE Burroughs and PUDDING Head Wilson = Rice pudding. A full set of these led to the pictures. We saw the periodic table with some of the elements – Nitrogen – Oxygen – Chlorine and Manganese – and were asked in which decade they were discovered. Well, knowing that Priestley discovered Oxygen (before writing An Inspector Calls) I went for the 1770s. The teams went either side of this decade, and so the pictures rolled over. The next starter asked for the author of a quotation. I had it from the words ‘hideous progeny’ I have taught Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” on occasion. Cameron Quinn opened his account with this starter. This opened up the picture bonuses, more elements and decades of their discoveries. Magdalen managed just the one of these, which was just the one more than I did. Cameron Quinn took a great early buzz to ascribe the word Anarchist to the writer Proudhon. Two bonuses on Europeans in Asia took the score to 80 – 15 at the ten minute mark. Early days yet, but Magdalen were looking ominously fast on the buzzer.

Gabriel Trueblood took an early buzz to identify hares as members of the order leporidae. They couldn’t convert any of the bonuses. Nobody knew that Chadwick discovered the electron by bombarding beryllium with alpha particles. Well, quite. Chris Savory lost five for an early buzz on that one. Gabriel Trueblood knew that Schumann was responsible for the Spring and Rhenish symphonies. A full set of bonuses on quotations about the constellation of Orion was a timely addition to his team’s score. Neither team could quite manage to ascribe a set of locations to Henry IV part 1. Spike Smith had a maths starter I didn’t understand to which the answer was 0110. That was three unanswered starters to St. Peter’s. Two bonuses on latin terms for logical fallacies pushed them to within ten points of Magdalen. A very fast buzz saw Cameron Quinn identify Gounod’s Soldier’s Chorus for the music starter. They were asked to identify three pieces with military connections, and only missed out on the first, Men of Harlech. Cameron Quinn took a second successive starter, buzzing early for a starter on an alternative pathway to photosynthesis. Fair enough. Bonuses on whales sounded gettable, and indeed they were with Magdalen taking a full set. Poor Gabriel Trueblood was unlucky with the next starter. Asked who, in Greek Mythology, was the father of a number of figures, he answered Neptune. Arrghh! The correct answer, sort of, but he was the Roman God, while the answer was the Greek equivalent, Poseidon. Not only did he lose 5, but it allowed Harry Gillow in with the correct answer. Complexity Theory in computer science promised me nothing, but Magdalen took a full set, and at this particular point their lead was starting to look ominous for St. Peter’s. Gabriel Trueblood wasn’t conceding defeat yet, though. He knew that Seqoyeh compiled a syllabary of Cherokee. This provided them with 10 points on bonuses on servants in opera. Now, when asked for part of the former Gilbert and Ellice Islands it’s a 50/50. Sometimes it will be Kiribati, and sometimes Tuvalu. Hugh Binnie zigged with Kiribati, and he was right. A UC Special set followed on prime numbers – eg – what prime number is the result when you subtract the year of the Great Fire of London from the year of The Boston Tea Party? A couple of answers meant that at the 20 minute mark they led by 165 to 85. Game Over? Maybe not, but it was a hell of an ask for St. Peter’s to come back now.

Cameron Quinn, who was having another great game, recognized a piece of sculpture as St. George by Donatello. Blimey, that turtle couldn’t half sculpt. The bonuses showed three paintings of saints, and asked for the name of the saint and the artist who painted each. Now, coming back to my turtle comment, I said as much before noticing that the paintings were by Raphael, then Leonardo, so it was obvious that the last was going to be by Michelangelo. Spike Smith sadly went a decade too early for the Treaty of Nanking and the publication of the Communist Manifesto which should have let Cameron Quinn in. He actually gave the year of the publication of the Communist Manifesto, 1848, and since he had been asked for the decade he was refused the point. I’ve seen those sort of answers given in the past, but have no problem with a letter of the answer adjudication as long as it’s applied across the board. Chris Savory buzzed in too early on a question on Voyager 2. He thought it was about the point at which it became the first man made object to leave the solar system, but it was somewhat earlier in its career than that when it passed Neptune. Ironically, bearing in mind his Greek mythology misfire, Gabriel Trueblood supplied the correct answer of Neptune as the planet it was the first to pass. Bonuses on languages of South Africa weren’t easy, but the two they answered took them into triple figures at least. The apterygota are so named for their wings – which Gabriel Trueblood knew to earn the next starter. Two bonuses on Physics – the last of which I had myself (the traditional lap of honour round the living room followed) reduced the gap further, but there just wasn’t enough time left in the match. Be honest, how many of you also shouted ‘Oak’ when you heard the word ‘sessile’. A couple of years ago that was one of those recurring chestnuts. Given a little more of the question, Cameron Quinn buzzed in correctly. Bonuses on histology brought nowt, which really didn’t matter, since the highly impressive Cameron Quinn took another fine starter, buzzing early to identify the words of Francis Bacon. Bonuses on presidents of Pakistan took Magdalen through the 200 point barrier. Hugh Binnie was in early for the next starter, on the term dipole. Bonuses on dem bones dem bones dat help you walk around only brought another 5 points, but it was all academic by this point. My favourite question of the evening asked which country’s capital city can be made if you rearrange the roman numerals for 552? The Answer is east Timor – from DLII – making Dili. Great shout from Hugh Binnie for that one. Poor old St. Peter’s seemed shell shocked by the fact that their participation in the contest was now over. That was that. Magdalen won convincingly by 235 – 120. In the battle of the superfast buzzers, Cameron Quinn won convincingly for Magdalen, although Gabriel Trueblood at least fought a valiant rearguard action for st. Peter’s. Very well done Magdalen – what price the final being a repeat of their excellent quarter final against Gonville and Caius, I wonder?

Jeremy Paxman Watch

On the Structural Anthropology bonus JP seemed amazed, asking “You’ve never heard of Claude Levi Strauss? Amazing – sic transit Gloria ey?” I wish he wouldn’t do that. Until you’ve had a go on a sleb quiz show yourself, Jez, leave it out. He seemed to have it in for St. Peter’s a bit with this set, since he made comments about both of their other answers, which were also wrong.

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

Perthes Disease affects the head of the femur


asphinctersays said...

Jezza did seem mighty peeved with Peter's in this match... The result was what I thought might happen to Peter's when they finally met someone (well two people in this case) who could beat Gabriel Trueblood to the buzzer. Magdalen had been my tip for the title until I saw Caius play - a Magdalen-Caius match would be a fair reflection of the two best teams reaching the finale.

I did think Jezza let Cameron off quite lightly with his buzz and answer of 'Shelley' when he didn't even press him on which Shelley and just assumed Cameron knew it was Mary Shelley (which I'm sure he did know, but I think it one of our team buzzed in and gave the same answer, he'd have pressed us for the full answer).

Gavin Tillman said...

Shame this wasn't the final as it brought my two favourite teams from this series together and it's a shame one of them had to go. I thought the Mighty Quinn would be the key factor in this match.

Jack said...

A match that perfectly encapsulates the sort of high quality we'd expect at this end of the series. Unlucky St Peter's on finally getting outdone, but by a worthy team, and Magdalen totally deserve their place in the final.

On the bonuses, St Peter's managed 12/21 and Magdalen 23/36 and both sides incurred two penalties each.

So, Caius vs Durham on Monday, with the winner playing Magdalen in the final.

Andrew B. said...

Minor correction: Chadwick discovered the neutron, not the electron.

The last of Paxman's comments on St Peter's set of bonuses on centenarians - ridiculing their suggestion of "Buster Keaton" for the comedian who died aged 100 in 1996 - was particularly ignorant, since Keaton was born in 1895!