Friday, 13 January 2017

Mastermind 2017: Semi Final One

I do try not to wax lyrical about Mastermind too often. Sometimes, though, a contest comes along which just demonstrates why some of us love this show so much, and it’s difficult to hold myself back. The first of the semi-finals, which I watched earlier tonight, was quite the most exciting show I’ve seen since last year’s incredible final. Let’s begin with studying the racing form for a moment. Here’s the contenders in this first semi, and their first round form: -

Steve Lacey
The Films of Peter Sellers
12
0
16
1
28
1
Alan Morgan
The Films of David Fincher
12
0
14
1
26
1
Isabelle Heward
The Life and Films of Rita Hayworth
12
0
14
0
26
0
Robert Hemming
The Human Body
9
2
13
1
22
3
Daniel Adler
Borgen
16
0
15
0
31
0

Now, something might strike you when you look at this. There is a wide variation in the total scores – but all 5 of these contenders can handle a general knowledge round. There were only three points to choose between the 5 GK rounds they produced, and this made me think that maybe this semi would come down to who had the best second specialist round. Just goes to show how much I know.

Steve Lacey was this semi-final’s runner-up from the first round. Well, runner-up he may have been, but he was comfortably in the top 10 performers in the whole of the first round heats. Now, what do you really want to do in your specialist round in the semis? What else – shove in a perfect performance and answer all of your questions correctly. This is exactly what Steve managed to do – 13 from 13. Superb performance.

Next up was Alan Morgan. Alan had scored a good, solid 26 in his first round, not being noticeably weaker in either SS or GK. His subject tonight was Steve Ovett. Now, I love my athletics, and the 80s was something of a heyday for me, so I thought I was going to do quite well on these. Wrong. I had a mere 3. Yet Alan managed 9, and remember, this is the semi-finals, where you only get 90 seconds on specialist. Under any normal circumstances, 9 is a ‘keeping yourself in contention’ score. However, the fact was that Steve was 4 points ahead.

Had our very own Daniel Adler not been in the self-same semi, then Isabelle Heward would have been the lone recipient of the support of the Clark sofa. For the record, this was Isabelle’s 4th semi-final in Mastermind. The three previous attempts did not see her progress to the final. Could she possibly break the hoodoo? Well, I did wonder if a wee incident at the end of her round might count against her. Isabelle gave an answer, which John seemed to accept, and then she corrected herself slightly, which stopped him from beginning another question right on the buzzer. Would that potential point dropped come back to haunt her? Well, again, 4 points behind looked a bit of an ask.

Rob Hemming used good GK to win his heat, but throughout his SS round in this show he looked a dead cert to improve on his first round score, despite having half a minute less in which to do so. Answering on the Life of Al Capone he produced the next best specialist score after Steve’s, and frankly, anything in double figures in a semi-final specialist round is a very fine performance.

Finally Daniel, our own Daniel, 2014 finalist, and Counterpoint champion. Considering the number of people who have played in more than one semi-final, the number of people who have appeared in 2 finals, although it’s grown over the last few years, is still very small. His 31 in the first round had been a stellar performance, but in this company it was imperative to reach those high standards again. Daniel’s specialist subject was novels of Robert Harris, and he too managed to get into double figures. If he could manage another GK round like the one he had produced in the first round, then all things were still possible.

Let’s put that first round into perspective. Nobody was out of contention. That’s unusual. Not one single solitary pass. That’s unusual.

Alan Morgan returned to the chair to set the target. The chances of staying at the top of the leaderboard while 4 more contenders have their shy at your target are never great, but he set about his task manfully. At one time I did think a score in the teens was possible, but a tricky last 30 seconds or so just contrived to put the brakes on. 11 put the target at 20 – and that’s a corridor of doubt score. He had done all he could.

What, I wonder, was going through Isabelle’s mind? Did she firmly believe that everything was still all there to be played for? Or did she think that the final was still as far away from her as ever? I couldn’t begin to say, but she began her round as if totally confident that she could do it. It was a close run thing, for she did drop a couple of gettable questions, but crucially she did not break her answering stride to brood on this. In the end it was close, mightily close, but she scored that vital extra point. We had still to see a first pass in the show.

Daniel came next, and for the first minute it was on. Sadly, in the second minute a few too many wrong answers put him behind the clock. There wasn’t a lot in it – and it certainly wasn’t a bad round. It wasn’t as good a round as he needed though – sometimes the questions just don’t run the way that you need them too. Hard lines Dan, but you’ll be back.

Still no passes.

Rob Hemming, like every contender so far in this show, started off his round in cracking form. Actually his round in some ways was rather reminiscent of Isabelle’s. He did drop a few questions in the second half of the round, and he wasn’t going to equal Isabelle’s GK score. But he didn’t have to do that. He had a two point cushion from the first round. If he could score 11 . . . he didn’t. If he could score 10, though, he could equal Isabelle’s total, and that’s just what he did.

Still no passes.

Only Steve Lacey remained. Steve had scored one of the highest GK rounds this year in his heat. Surely he could manage half of that score to give him a tie – and one point more for an outright win. Well, maybe it was nerves, maybe the questions didn’t run for him, who knows? Yet the fact is that he made fairly heavy going of his round. In a way, what happened was rather like watching the stagger unwind in a 400m race. He began the round comfortably ahead, but throughout the two minutes he was being reeled in, and on the line he was caught. He too scored 21 and no passes.

Let’s consider the history making aspect of this. Firstly, I can’t remember a whole show without passes before, although for all I know it may have happened on umpteen occasions. I do know, though, that we have never had a three way tie before. Fabulous. Right, I shall not lie. Whatever happened, Daniel wasn’t going through, so I felt no reluctance in transferring my full support to Isabelle. I was lucky enough that I knew the answers to the 5 questions asked firstly to Steve. He missed but one. Isabelle though, answered all 5 correctly. I wasn’t quite holding my breath while Rob answered, but if I had been, then I would have exhaled sharply when Rob dredged his memory for Slaughterhouse Five, and came so close, just missing out with Slaughterhouse Nine. By such a small margin did Isabelle achieve a well-earned place in the semi. Steve, Rob, you have all of my sympathy – but please take satisfaction from the fact that you gave it everything. Isabelle, if you’re reading, many, many congratulations, and the very best of luck in the final.

Great, great show. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Details


Steve Lacey
Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads
13
0
8
0
21
0
4
25
Alan Morgan
Steve Ovett
9
0
11
0
20
0


Isabelle Heward
The Daughters of George III
9
0
12
0
21
0
5
26
Rob Hemming
The Life of Al Capone
11
0
10
0
21
0
4
25
Daniel Adler
Novels of Robert Harris
10
0
8
0
18
0


14 comments:

Liam Holton said...

I found it absolutely incredible that not one single pass happened!!!!!

Pity for Steve I thought with his score at 13 he would easily surpass with a few correct answers, until that 90 second jinx sinked in......

But that tie break was one hell of one that I literally called my mom into the room as well! And quite nerve-wracking!

Also fun fact remember last year the first semi final included a tie break between Richard Tring and Dave Barker?

neil wright said...

After last week, everyone was extolling the virtues of avoiding passing. That may have it's merits as a tactic on most occasions but I think this may have been an exception.

Avoiding passes only helps you in the event of a tie. Yet in Steve's position, going last and always assuming he was aware of the fact the others had no passes, he couldn't win on passes in the event of a tie. The best he could hope for was the three way tie break that ensued.

Surely this was the time to go flat out, pass quickly and hope to save enough time to get in that one precious extra question. Of course, he would still have to get that one right but I think he would have a better chance that way.

Londinius said...

Yes, it puts me in mind of what happened in my Champ of Champs match. I was going great guns in my specialist round, and then suddenly had a mental blank over 1 question. I stupidly panicked and passed.
Going into my GK round, Pat (Gibson) led with 30 and no passes. Now, there was no way I could tie - that pass had done for me in the first round. So I used passes rather than guesses to keep my speed up. It wasn't quite enough, I ended up one short. John's comments immediately after - which were untelevised, were - why didn't you just say anything rather than passing? I rather laboriously explained to him that it would not have made the slightest bit of difference had I come up with wrong answers to those couple of passes - that one pass from the specialist round had done for me anyway.

In the normal course of things, though, I'd still nearly always advise avoiding passes.

Dan said...

What can I say? My worst performance ever, especially on the GK. Truth is, I felt out of sorts that day from the moment I woke up, and when I started dropping questions I should have known (eg capital of Haiti, the Strachey book that I have actually read) I knew the game was up. Next time, perhaps.

In my opinion, the semi is the toughest stage, there's very little time, which means that the slightest mistake can be fatal. I have come to appreciate how lucky I was last time. I was relieved not to be involved in the tie break, though (which I would have lost), and delighted that Isabelle won. Can't wait to see how she did in the final.

Incidentally, I had some lovely messages from my specialist subject (the only one of the five I've done that I have actually met), and an exchange with Gill Hornby as to whether the novels are actually written by his wife or his brother-in-law. Apparently, he reckons he could have got five, which isn't surprising as he probably hasn't looked at most of his work for years, whereas I had read them all at least three times in a couple of months. All highly recommended, by the way, especially Fatherland, the Cicero trilogy and the Dreyfus one.

neil wright said...

I have to agree with Dan that the semi is the toughest stage although, as the person who came second to him in the 2012 semi, I can't agree that he was lucky. He was definitely the best on the day and deserved his place in the final.

The reduced time limits for the semis seem artificial and to alter the nature of the quiz. I have suggested previously an alternative which bears repeating.

Reduce the number of competitors per series from 96 to 80. This gives 20 heats with 20 winners plus 4 highest losers. 24 semi finalists in 6 semis at normal 2 mins/2 1/2 mins time limits. 6 finalists in an unchanged final.

The only difference would be 27 programs per series instead of 31. Four 30 mins slots for the BBC to fill on a Friday night. The trouble is that, I suspect, Mastermind is as cheap to produce as television gets and I can't see the producers wanting to reduce their coverage.

Ian F said...

Slaughterhouse 9! I really felt for him, I have to say. But a very exciting show.

Stephen Follows said...

Brian Blessed - superb! There should be an honorary place in the final for you, Dan, just for that.

Adam "Addy" Lewis said...

Brilliant show, absolutely outstanding. Huge, huge congratulations to all concerned.

Dan said...

Stephen - my intention was to follow that up with George Baker, John Hurt, Derek Jacobi and Christopher Biggins if there were any other questions I needed to pass on.

isabelle said...


Many thanks for the kind comments.

As for my thoughts during the semi final: after my SS round I was kicking myself for working up a subject from scratch in 8 weeks and thinking of all those more suitable topics I could've chosen. With the GK round I was disappointed with my score but, truthfully, I think it was only the mistake about John Curry which caused me to berate myself harshly! Having accumulated only 21 and knowing the calibre of the other contenders, I thought I had absolutely no chance of reaching the final so between trying to keep track of the remaining contestants' GK scores I was considering the SS subjects I could offer on my next application to the show.

When it came down to the tiebreak I was feeling really buoyed up that I'd been given a second bite of the cherry and absolutely stunned and delighted when I won. Thanks to Steve, Alan, Rob and Dan for all their good wishes to me for the final. It may have taken almost 34 years but I got there in the end!

Dan said...

Isabelle - 21 is a very good semi final score. Was more than enough for me three years ago ...

isabelle said...

I was looking at the calibre of the company I was keeping and the form displayed in the heats!

Londinius said...

Hi Isabelle - how lovely to (virtually) meet you, having namechecked you a number of times over the years. 34 years?!! Good Lord! May I respectfully suggest that you are possibly keeping a portrait in your attic?

Once again, many congratulations on a wonderful display of grace under fire. I wish you the very best of retrospective luck in the final.

AltJS said...

I have just got around to watching the 13/1 programme and, guess what, the Freeview recording cut off just before the last question. It's no longer available on iPlayer but thankfully I found this page. Disappointed to miss the results and reactions, though.