Emmanuel, Cambridge v. Corpus Christi, Oxford
Doesn’t time fly? Here we are already at our first quarter final qualification match. This was an Oxbridge affair. The team from Emmanuel, as ever represented by Tom Hill, Leah Ward, Bruno Barton-Singer and skipper and perennial LAM favourite, Bobby Seagull had defeated the much-fancied Warwick team in their previous match in the quarters. Corpus Christi, collectively Tom Fleet, Emma Johnson, Adam Wright and skipper Nikhil Venkatesh, also pulled off something of a giant killing by seeing off the impressive Bristol team in their first quarter. On paper, this looked a good match. Bobby, the Emmanuel skipper, told me, “I had seen Corpus defeat one of the best Cambridge teams and the way they demolished Bristol on the buzzer, both live in the studios. I was really impressed with Corpus, being the highest cumulative scorers so far, and they are such a balanced team (and one that seems to enjoy being on the show). So to be completely honest, my team were expecting to lose but we went in relaxed as well.” And if that doesn’t whet your appetite for the competition, then nothing will, and so, without further ado –
It seemed to me that both teams slept a little on the buzzer for the first starter. It had become obvious that the answer was India a couple of seconds before Nikhil Venkatesh buzzed in. Bonuses on the Odyssey were a nice set of chestnuts, of which Corpus Christi took a couple. Bobby opened his team’s account when he knew that William Golding wrote, amongst other novels “Pincher Martin”. Films by the British director Gurinder Chadha brought the teams level on the scoreboard. Now, time was that you needed to know the order of the Plagues of Egypt in the Book of Exodus, because they would come up in quizzes on a regular basis. They seem to have dropped out of fashion of recent years. Still, they are stuck enough in my memory that I knew that 2 was frogs. Bruno Barton-Singer was first to chance his arm, and fortune favoured the brave as he gave the right answer. The number 12 did nowt for me, but it gave Emma another 5. I thought it was a bit mean having another mathsy thing for the picture starter where we were shown a roulette curve and asked for its name. I suggested Nigel, facetiously, but Bruno Barton-Singer put me in my place by giving the correct answer – cycloid. Three more of the same switched me off for a minute or so, by the end of which Emma had added 5 more points to their score. Now, I was pretty pleased with myself that I knew Alexander I the Fierce of Scotland before JP started bringing other Alexanders into it. Actually my great great great great uncle was court portrait painter to Tsar Alexander I for a while, but that’s another story. Tom Hill took that one. Queen Zenobia of Syria offered one gettable chance with Palmyra, but Emma couldn’t convert. Didn’t matter. At the ten minute mark they were well on top, even if the scoreboard only showed a lead of 60 – 20. The next ten minutes would show a lot about Corpus Christi, I felt, since they had never quite been under such a buzzer cosh as this before.
Nobody knew about the term notifiable diseases – it’s just one of those things you either know or you don’t, I’d say. You could see Nikhil Venkatesh tensing up ready to strike on the next starter about a gender equality charter in universities, and strike he did, correctly giving the answer – swan. This brought Corpus Christi a set of bonuses on psychology. Where on Earth I dredged up the term Nominative Determinism from I don’t know, but that had to be worth a lap of honour round the living room. This was a great, fun set for those of us with a schoolboy sense of humour, and brought a full house to Corpus. Nobody knew the Meselson and Stahl experiment for the next starter – even though they gave their name to apparently the most beautiful experiment in biology. Did it have much competition, one wonders. Now, I didn’t know that Caernarfon was the runner up in the 1954 Wales’s Got Capitals’ competition, but I did know that randy old Dai Lloyd George represented it in parliament. Adam Wright, normally so reliable on the starters, zigged with Pembroke, while Tom Hill zagged with the right answer – Prince Charles’ 1969 investiture as the Prince of Wales was the big clue. International Organisations gave Emmanuel a couple, and brought us to the music round. I think that Emma were doing so well on the buzzer that Bobby had already made up his mind when JP said “Austrian composer” to buzz in with Shoenberg, since we heard about half a bar before he did. To be honest, it sounded to me a little reminiscent of the Peter Ustinov skit whereby his superannuated operatic diva sings about Das Heilbutt (the halibut), but no, it was Kathleen Ferrier singing one of Mahler’s back catalogue. Nothing doing for either team with that. Emma Johnson came in just too early on the next question. When you’re told - 16 line poem – and – train journey – given half a moment’s reflection you’ll probably correctly think Adlestrop, but she concentrated on the periphery of the question about the First World War and gave In Flanders Fields. Bobby raised a finger to his colleagues urging the moment’s caution to which they were entitled. A wise tactic, for it allowed Bruno Barton-Singer in with the correct answer. This earned the music bonuses. Three more recordings of Kathleen Ferrier brought 5 more points. It was proving to be a tough show. For all of their dominance on the buzzer, Emma were only extending their lead relatively slowly. Right brace yourselves. I got a maths starter right. Along with Nikhil Venkatesh I worked out the answer to a sum as 5/7. Woohoo. Fiction bonuses showed that for Corpus there was no balm in Gilead, as they failed to add to their score. Tom Hill was in like lightning to identify the figure of Piers Gaveston from “Edward II”. This took Emma through the 100 barrier, although bonuses on political history did not help extend the lead. This stood at 105 – 50 at the 20 minute mark. Let’s note two things here. Emmanuel were still dominant on the buzzer, yet for all this, the gap had grown slowly, and if Corpus Christi took two full houses on the next two sets, then it would be reduced to 5 points.
Now, I had the answer ‘solar wind’ even before Bruno Barton-Singer buzzed in. Poor old Corpus Christi just looked a little shell shocked by this point of the competition. A UC special Geography set on largest countries whose names begin with a specific letter provided fun, and also 2 correct answers. One had the sense that the elastic connecting the two teams was about to snap, especially when Bobby identified the picture starter as the work of Vermeer in pretty short order. Three more paintings of atelier scenes brought a rare full house, and suddenly they had a lead of 100. Fair play to Nikhil Venkatesh, the Corpus Christi skipper hadn’t given up, but he sadly came in too early on the next starter. Nobody recognised works by Hazlitt. Still, at least this seemed to free up the Corpus skipper, and he came in very early to identify the Bodyline Series in cricket from the two skippers. Contemporary African American literature did not, if I’m honest, promise a great deal. The only one I knew was Toni Morrison and Corpus failed to add to their score. Bobby Seagull was happy to take a guess with the next starter, about words linked by the first 4 letters filo, and he was right to do so. The solar system brought a further ten points, and it was just starting to look possible that Emmanuel could pass the 200 barrier. However the gong would have something to say about that. Nobody recognised the names of provinces of Iran, and that was that. Emmanuel won by 170 – 55, and claim the first spot in the semis, and you have to say that they looked pretty good value for it. Well played. As for Corpus Christi – this was an uncharacteristically subdued display, but all is not lost for them. Would I put money against them winning their next match? No. However this is such an unpredictable series, I wouldn’t put money on them either. Anything can happen.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
Oh dear. Asked for three members of the EU that are not members of NATO, Emma offered 2. Back in the day JP would have cut them to shreds verbally for their effrontery. Now, he just yawned – no, I asked you for three of them. Look, Jez, I know that nobody wants to see you being nasty for the sake of nastiness, but a little sarcasm, a leavening of irony, that’s not too much to ask, is it?
Maybe I just detected a little spark when he gave Emma the music bonuses – “Now, for the music starter (dramatic pause for effect) which nobody GOT. . . “
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
Caernarfon came second to Cardiff in the competition to decide the capital city of Wales.