Wednesday, 22 February 2017

University Challenge Quarter Final Elimination Match: Warwick v. Bristol

Warwick v. Bristol

What an unpredictable series this has been. Be honest, looking at first and second round form, how many of us would have put money on the first elimination match featuring these two teams? For, as JP’s memorable metaphor at the top of the show stated, one of them would be taking the minibus of broken dreams immediately afterwards.

Warwick, collectively Sophie Hobbs, Sophie Rudd, Thomas Van and skipper Giles Hutchings, had looked very sharp until their encounter with Emmanuel in their first quarter match, when they were comprehensively outbuzzed. For Bristol, represented by Joe Rolleston, Claire Jackson, Michael Tomsett and skipper Alice Clarke, it was a similar story. Amongst the teams with the best records in the first two rounds, they were outplayed by Corpus Christi. Indications? Well, last week we saw Emmanuel beat Corpus, so did that point to a Warwick victory?

I enjoyed the way that several definitions of the word howler for the first starter provoked no reaction, but the moment that the words “Harry Potter” passed JP’s lips a buzzer race ensued, won by Joe Rolleston. Bristol took two bonuses on landmarks featured in films, but should really have had a full house, since they knew the right answer to the middle question, but didn’t say it. Ouch. I have no idea why I guessed Kant in answer to the next starter, but it was right, both for me and for Sophie Rudd. This gave Warwick bonuses on Dorothy L. Sayers, of which they took the one. Sophie Rudd took her second consecutive starter, knowing about sticky wickets in cricket. A UC special set followed, in which the question defined two people, the surname of one being the given name of the other – the linked name being the answer to the question. I particularly liked Max Ernst and Ernst Mach – kudos to the setter of that one. Warwick took two of these. For the picture starter we were shown the locations of two battles in England. Respect to Joe Rolleston for knowing not just that these were Stamford Bridge and Battle (as in – of Hastings) and for saying that Harold II (and not just King Harold) was the royal figure who commanded armies in both. More of the same provided two correct answers, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the one they missed either. Now, I’m very sorry, but when you hear ‘published in 1915’ and ‘theory’ you slam the buzzer through the desk and answer General Relativity, whether you know it or not. For some reason both teams showed a reluctance to go for the buzzer, and it fell to Claire Jackson to give the answer. Bonuses on ancient philosophy were enough to give Bristol a lead of 60 – 35 at the ten minute mark. To be fair, both teams seemed more lively than in their previous appearance, and this looked as if it could be a very good contest.

The next question was one of those which seems very difficult, until the key detail slaps you in the face. So it was about an island – and nothing occurred until the words South Africa were mentioned. Boom – has to be Robben Island. That’s what Joe Rolleston thought, and he was right. 1 bonus followed on sugars, and I got one as well, by waiting to see which ones came up in the first two, and guessing from what was left. Once I’d completed my lap of honour, JP was asking the next question. If you’re asked a question which involves French porcelain there’s normally only two answers to choose from – Sevres and Limoges. This one even helpfully asked for a city, so obviously Limoges. Neither team had it. The next one was quite long and involved, but even if you didn’t know ectomorph you had a halfway decent chance of getting it from the fact that we were told it comes from the Greek for outside form. Sophie Rudd zigged with Endomorph, but that’s inside form, I think. Joe Rolleston had the correct answer. Now, you can see the setters of the next set of bonuses rubbing their hands together by giving them something which had a decent chance of making the average armchair viewer feel superior to the contestants – three dart checkouts in darts. Bristol managed to take a long time to get the first wrong, but then redeemed themselves with the next two. Sophie Rudd came in too early for the next starter, and Joe Rolleston, revelling in his ‘sweeper’ role in this contest, came in to give us Cyrus the great. Bristol gave one correct answer on pairs of literary mothers and daughters, but this was a very gettable set, and in a tight match you have to maximise your points when you’re in the ascendancy, as Bristol were at this point. As it was, the six minute shutout we’d just seen had increased the Bristol lead to 80 points. For the next starter we heard a lot of “Virginia Plain” by Roxy Music, but had to wait what seemed like ages until we heard the second excerpt which we had been told was coming. It was clearly Talking Heads.Still, both teams are probably too young to be that familiar with Roxy Music, and neither could identify them. It was that man Rolleston who took the next starter, knowing Caen and Cannes from the descriptions and spelling both of them correctly. This earned Bristol the dubious honour of the music bonuses. Basically in each one a performer on the first track was the producer of the second. Clever, that. Two of the three bonuses gave them a lead of 100, and completed a ten minute shutout, during which Warwick’s score had actually fallen to 30.

So, an easy win in the end for Bristol, then? Not necessarily. If you watch a lot of UC – and if not, then why not? – you’ll know that in many matches both teams will have their periods of ascendancy. You’ll also know that JP noticeably speeds up his delivery of the questions in this last period of the contest. There was hope for Warwick in this. But you have to say that if there ever was such a thing as on course bookies in UC – perish the thought – then you could probably have named your own odds on Warwick at this stage.

The fightback began with a great buzz from the previously subdued Giles Hutchings, who knew the German mathematician Gauss. 2 bonuses on duels reduced the deficit by 20. Now, I know why Michael Tomsett interrupted so quickly after he heard the name “Simon Sudbury” with the incorrect answer of Wat Tyler. For Simon Sudbury was indeed killed under the orders of the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt – they nailed his bishop’s mitre to his disembodied head and stuck it on a pole on the drawbridge gate on London Bridge, I believe. But it was too early to be certain that this was where the question was going – which it wasn’t. Five points of the lead gone. I’ve no doubt that Michael Tomsett knew that he was an Archbishop of Canterbury, which Warwick didn’t – and so that really was an opportunity missed, I’m afraid. Did that take the wind out of Bristol’s sails a little? Maybe. The next one was the old chestnut about the African capital city whose name translates as Elephant’s trunk – and if that wasn’t enough to give you Khartoum, then the bit about being at the confluence of Blue and White Niles should have been. Sophie Rudd took that, seemingly energised by having her answer for the Archbishop question taken out of the equation by her skipper. I knew the same two of their anatomy bonuses as Warwick did, and that was another 20 point bite out of the lead. No need for Bristol to panic yet, but with a good five minutes to go Warwick were back in the contest. Right, now, even if JP had not shown the actual painting for the 2nd picture starter, as soon as he said “painting inspired by a 19th century poem” you knew, just KNEW it was going to be “The Lady of Shallot”. Thomas Van won that buzzer race. More pictures by the same artist depicting women from literature only added 5 points, but the gap of 40 points meant they just needed the next two starters. Sophie Rudd, the light of battle in her eyes, suffered a rush of blood to the head and came in too early for the next question. However Bristol could not dredge up the term psephology for the study of elections. Nobody knew Brecht and Weill’s city of Mahagonny or the next starter. Again, Michael Tomsett was definitely thinking on the right lines when he came in early for the next starter, but again was not quite on the money, and lost five. This allowed Sophie Rudd in with the Thames Valley. Castles on Scottish islands yielded nowt. Two and half minutes to go, and Bristol still led by 30 points. One full house would not be enough. There might just be time for two sets – no more. Claire Jackson was very unlucky to lose five points in a question that seemed finished when she answered. Nobody could dredge up buntings. Thomas Van took a cracker, knowing some of the aboriginal languages of Australia. Sophie Rudd crossed fingers on both hands as bonuses on church architecture needed to yield at least one bonus to reduce the gap to a single starter. They missed the first two, but crucially took the third. Nobody knew that Ecclesiastes comes between Proverbs and the Song of Songs. Oh, how ironic that the moment which it transpired would put Warwick in with a chance of winning should come from Joe Rolleston, easily Bristol’s star player of the contest. He buzzed in early and identified Henry V as the play during a performance of which the Globe burned down. Right name, wrong number – it was Henry VIII. No gong yet. Essentially, if Warwick took the next starter, they would win. If Bristol took it, or even if neither team answered, then Bristol would hold on – it was that simple. The question – Which Austrian film director’s first sound film was entitled M – the winner of the buzzer race, Sophie Rudd. “FRITZ LANG!” she shouted, understandably excited by one of the greatest comebacks since Lazarus. The gong didn’t sound immediately, but surely there would not be time for bonuses and another starter? Indeed not. One bonus gave Warwick a win by 120 to 110.

It will be little consolation to Bristol, I’m sure, but that was a great match in which both teams showed the best of themselves. This is just my opinion, and feel free to disagree, but I think Bristol actually had the right tactics – if you think you know the answer you can’t afford to hang around, and you have to go for it. Had any of those interruptions paid off, then they would have won. Many congratulations to Warwick, and best of luck in your next match.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

We’ve seen in the past how JP can be susceptible to the charms of the opposite sex, and this for me was demonstrated when Alice Clarke offered the word gluctose instead of glucose. He couldn’t have accepted it, but felt the need to sweeten the pill saying, “Clearly just a slip of the tongue”. It’s not exactly Alexander Armstrong calling members of the 200 club ‘brilliant contestants’, but it’s a step on that slippery path, surely.

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

Dorothy L. Sayers coined the phrase “It pays to advertise”


Jack said...

Well, this was definitely the most dramatic match for a while! Excellent comeback from Warwick, who could easily have just given up after falling so far behind after the (rather late) music round, and excellent play by them that they managed to pull it off.

And I totally agree that Bristol did exactly the right thing in keeping on buzzing in; even when you're in a very strong position, you have to keep buzzing in, as these things can happen. I can recall at least one instance of a team taking their foot off the pedal in the final minutes, thinking they were home and dry, only for the other team to catch them and pip them at the post. Has any one of those four penalties Bristol incurred worked out, they would have won. And thankfully, that borderline penalty on the buntings question didn't cost them the match, as Warwick would still have won by five.

But still, a great match that made for fantastic viewing; well played both sides, thoroughly enjoyed it!

Next week then, we are expecting to see Edinburgh vs Wolfson, followed by Birmingham vs Balliol the week after.

Stephen Follows said...

Well, I think Bristol were robbed, at least of a tie-break. Not only should they not have penalised for the 'buntings' non-interruption, but 'Prater' should have been accepted for the Orson Welles question: the wheel is clearly within the park, and is commonly used as an alternative name for it, among other places in the book and the film. On this evidence, we'll soon see someone penalised for saying 'Houses of Parliament' instead of 'Big Ben'. Absolute nonsense.