Friday, 30 September 2016

Mastermind: Round One - Heat 12

Mastermind can be a cruel mistress. If you’re still with me after that pretentious opening, then I’ll endeavour to explain. In order to save yourself an awkward walk back to the chair after a disappointing first round it really demands that you put a lot of time and effort into preparing for your specialist. Even if you do, there’s no guarantee that nerves or some other factor won’t scupper your chances, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if you haven’t prepared thoroughly then it will be cruelly exposed. Last week I felt that at least one and probably two contenders had not prepared well enough, and I’m afraid that I had a similar feeling with Marcia Bull’s round. If I’m being unfair I apologise, but I did feel that the way that she passed some of them so quickly made me think that there were things she probably should have prepared that she maybe didn’t. 7 is nothing to be ashamed of – well, let’s be honest, it’s only a game and so no score is anything to be ashamed of, but it is a modest SS score.

Keith Nickless is an old hand, having reached the semi finals in Ian’s 2011 series. Ironically in his 2011 first round he scored a massive total of 18, while this time out he posted exactly half that score with 9. It should be noted that as a rule the questions that are asked in SS now seem significantly longer than they did in 2011, and scores above 15 in specialist are very rare beasts indeed now. That having been said it really looked as if Keith was going to have his work cut out making a second semi.

Paul Armstrong offered us a subject about which I knew nothing, Sophie Scholl and the White Rose. Having seen scores of 7 and 9 so far I thought that Paul had an excellent chance of taking a good lead, yet he too put in a round which could have been a bit better. He seemed a little nervous compared with the previous two contenders, so maybe this just prevented him from reaching a double figure score.

So the stage was set for Adam Tumber to give himself a winning lead by the half way stage. Well, he didn’t manage that, but his 12 on Ayrton Senna was significantly better than anything else we’d seen in this contest so far. As regards taking an unassailable lead, well, I tend to think that a lead of 5 points will put you over the event horizon except in very exceptional circumstances.

Marcia bull returned to the chair first, and she actually looked a lot better on GK than she had looked on her Bath round. Now, I don’t blame Marcia, or any of the contenders in this series at all for this next point, but I’m going to say it anyway. I’ve already made the point several times about how gentle these first round GK rounds have been this series, but I have to say – is it just me or do these rounds seem to be getting even easier? Case in point – in which city would you find Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports? – I’m not being funny, but this is meant to be Mastermind, not Tipping Point. Well, Marcia scored a decent 12. This paled into insignificance when Keith took the chair. The only thing you can do with sets of easy GK questions like these are is knock them to the boundary with the contempt they deserve, and that’s precisely what Keith proceeded to do. Mind you, he needed to do so since he was 3 points off the lead, but his final total of 26 was just what was needed to put half time leader Adam into the Corridor of Doubt.

Before that, however, Paul returned to the chair. Without dwelling on it his GK round was not a conspicuously good one. Nerves, possibly, but whatever the reasons he only added 7 points to his total to finish off the pace with 16. This brought Adam to the chair, and a fascinating round followed. Adam was clearly not answering as well as Keith had done. However he wasn’t answering that much worse. The score was creeping up, but the clock was ticking away as well. In the end, he managed to take his score to 14 for 26 with the last question of the round. A good battling effort. . . but sadly not quite enough, for he had incurred 3 passes, while Keith had used the classic recidivist’s tactic of avoiding passing. Well played both.

The Details

Marcia Bull
The History of Bath
7
3
12
4
19
7
Keith Nickless
The Faces 1969-75
9
0
17
0
26
0
Paul Armstrong
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose
9
1
7
6
16
7
Adam Tumber
Ayrton Senna
12
0
14
3
26
3

6 comments:

jeffgrimshaw said...

The data would seem to confirm your theory about the GK rounds being easier this series.

In the 2014-15 season, the average GK 1st round score was 10.1

In the 2015-2016 season (albeit with incomplete data i only have scores for 13 heats), the average GK score was 10.3

In other words, the scores were virtually identical for 2 series.

This series so far (after 12 heats), the average GK score has grown to 12.8.

This an absolutely huge increase - 25% up on the past years - and can only be achieved if the questions were either easier or shorter - and I think, like you, that it is the former.

(For comparison, the SS scores over the past 3 series have been 11.3, 11.2 and 10.7 - so they have dropped a bit this series, but not by as much as the GK scores have grown.)

Rod Allday said...

I was interested to note that Adam scored 12 with no passes, answering promptly and correctly throughout, which compared with previous 'full marks' SS rounds is quite a low score - 13, 14 and 15 having been achieved by others.

Ian F said...

One of the mysteries of Mastermind - two contenders (perhaps in different heats) can get all their SS questions right without pausing, and yet get quite different scores. Maybe there's a trick to get John Humphreys to speed up his delivery?

Paul Gilbert said...

There definitely has been a change in either the length of the questions or speed of delivery, given that in the Champion of Champions series in 2010, Jesse Honey scored 23 in his SS round (although I don't think anyone else has ever managed more than 19 in the Humphrys era), and in the Magnus era there were a few instances of contestants scoring 40-41 in total (with just 2 minutes for GK).

jeffgrimshaw said...

@ Rod Allday & Ian F - it's amazing how even the smallest of apparent pauses before/during answering can add up - a half second gap before beginning an answer and then another half second extra while answering (eg saying the first name as well as the surname) is not particularly noticeable in real time, but over the course of a round, that adds up to 12-15 seconds, which is the equivalent of 2 additional questions.

I was a Mastermind contender about 5 years ago (back in the days of shorter SS questions) and I was intrigued by the fact that both myself and another contender were asked 18 SS questions each, while the other two contenders were only asked 15 each. I initially thought that they must have been asked longer questions, but I got my stopwatch out (yes I was that sad!!) & the average time per question hardly varied at all - all 4 rounds were between 5.8 and 5.9 seconds per question asked by Humphrys.

The difference was, in fact, entirely driven by the time taken to answer the questions - about 1 second per answer compared with about 2 seconds per answer - that was the difference between being asked 15 and 18 questions.

I do think that answering questions correctly also helps to "speed" you up - I don't think it's any coincidence that the two contenders who were asked 18 questions got 15 (that was me) and 17 correct answers respectively, while the two that were asked 15 questions "only" got single figures in terms of correct answers. Getting answers wrong and/or passing can make you more hesitant, which then becomes a bit of a vicious circle as the round progresses.

Of course, all of the above is just my own subjective analysis, combined with a sample set of real data from just one single heat, so I could be completely wrong...

Ian F said...

Now I'm thinking of getting the exact times using Audacity (waveform editor). You thought a stopwatch was sad!