Qualification Match – Edinburgh v. Wolfson, Cambridge
Yes, we’re getting through the quarter final stage at affair old rate of knots now. This was our second match with automatic qualification the prize for the winners. Edinburgh, represented by Luke Dale, Euan Smith, Emily Goddard and their captain, Joe Boyle saw off Birmingham in their first quarter final match, while Wolfson College Cambridge, represented by Justin Yang, Ben Chaudri, Paul Cosgrove and their skipper Eric Monkman, defeated Balliol, Oxford in their first quarter. An interesting match on paper, this one. In previous matches both teams had demonstrated buzzing throughout the team, and in Messrs Smith and Monkman, two of the most impressive performers on the buzzer of the whole series so far.
Eric Monkman showed an impressive turn of speed on the buzzer for the first starter, but didn’t quite get the right definition of HDI and lost 5. Small margins can make a difference. Euan Smith came in with Human Development Index to earn the first points and a set of bonuses on Thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment. I would have answered David Hume to all three until it was right, but it was right on the first and that was me done. Edinburgh took two. Nothing daunted by the first question, Eric Monkman came in to answer that Geoffrey of Monmouth had written that Stonehenge had been brought to Britain from Ireland by Merlin. Wonder what he was on when he wrote that? Bonuses on French territories were not easy and both of us only managed the one. I love Angela Carter’s definition of comedy as “tragedy that happens to other people”, and that one went to Mr. Monkman’s able buzz lieutenant, Ben Chaudri. Astronomy yielded just one correct answer, but you could see there were a couple where had they zigged rather than zagged they’d have had them. Now, had you asked me what P-value was I’m afraid my answer would have shown nothing other than my penchant for schoolboy humour. Joe Boyle knew it though, and earned bonuses on the architectural style known as Brick Gothic or Hanseatic. Didn’t sound that promising , but it yielded a full house. The picture starter showed a map of India , with a state highlighted, and basically shading to indicate the highest proportion of speakers of a given language. Phew. Nobody – apart from me – had it. A good shout from Paul Cosgrove saw him identify an alloy of platinum and iridium as making up the international standard kilogram. This brought up the picture bonuses – more Indian states and languages, and 2 correct answers meant that both teams were dead level on the cusp of the 10 minute mark, having scored 45. This was looking as good a contest as we had expected it to be.
The next starter was a cryptic refence to Washington Crossing the Delaware. Didn’t faze Euan Smith at all, and this earned a set on matrices. When I switched my mind back on again, Edinburgh hadn’t added to their score. I knew who founded the Boys Brigade, as did Emily Goddard. Florentine Churches seemed to be to Edinburgh’s liking, and they took a full set. A UC special on words followed – basically you had to quickly figure out which two consonants produce words which have specific different meanings if you stick each vowel in turn between them. Winner of that particular buzzer race was Emily Goddard with a superfast answer of S and T. The astronomer Lassell provided Edinburgh with a further 2 correct answers. Now, you had to wait and wait and wait with the next question, then as soon as JP uttered the words ‘Russia’s best loved writer’ go like Billy-o for the buzzer. That’s what Euan Smith did with Pushkin, and he was right to do so. Pushkin once wrote a poem about my great, great, great, great uncle. True story. Bonuses on Western Europe as defined by the US statistics office brought them another full house. Dearly beloved, we have noted in the past that in a University Challenge match both teams will have their periods of ascendancy, their purple patches, if you like. It’s imperative to make the most of it while it’s happening, and Edinburgh were certainly making hay while the sun was shining on them, having by now powered through the triple figure barrier and put on 80 unanswered points. The music starter saw a rare wrong buzz from Euan Smith, allowing Eric Monkman to identify the Danse Macabre of Saint-Saens. Three more dances of death all escaped them, but at least their score was climbing again now after the Edinburgh blitz. I’ll be honest, ignoring all of the stuff about the periodic table for the next starter, after I heard ‘Latin subjunctive form’ I went for fiat, being about the only one I can remember. When, goaded by JP, Ben Chaudri offered the same, it proved to be right too. Susan Sontag promised me but little, and delivered me but the one bonus, as it did for Wolfson. I think I watched a TV show at least part of which was dedicated to Dorothy Hodgkin, as she gave me my first – and only – Science starter for the week. As I set off on the lap of honour Eric Monkman too supplied the correct answer. The human skeleton provided a couple of bonuses. That Wolfson fightback, led by the efforts of their inspirational skipper meant that Wolfson had reduced arrears somewhat, and coming up towards the 20 minute mark the score stood at 125 – 90 in Edinburgh’s favour.
Mind you, Edinburgh’s own skipper was leading from the front as well. Joe Boyle buzzed in early to identify panther onca as the jaguar. Film titles including the name of a food grain did nowt for me, but Edinburgh managed one. For the next starter about an African river, Ben Chaudri zigged with Congo, allowing Euan Smith to zag with Niger. South America brought them two more correct answers. I was impressed with the speed with which Eric Monkman identified Mendeleev for the second picture starter. 3 more scientists with chemical elements named after them brought a much needed and well deserved full house. I thought both teams sat on the buzzer a little bit after the words – awakenings – and - neurologist – were spoken in the next question, but Ben Chaudri chanced his arm with Oliver Sacks and was right to do so. Oh great – thought I – chemistry bonuses now. When I came out of my chemistry induced catatonia, Wolfson had narrowed the gap to 30 points. 10 points of which were immediately knocked off by Eric Monkman, knowing that the Crito de Delores was the starting point for the Mexican Revolution. Books about language reduced it by a further 10 points. Less than 4 minutes to go, and all that separated the teams was a single starter. Nobody knew that Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936. Ben Chaudri was the first in with the term larvae for the stage in many insects which comes immediately after egg. We had a tied game. Words ending in the letters za provided 5 points, but all three were, I thought gettable. Would they regret dropping those couple? Maybe, but on the other hand maybe not. They had retaken the lead, and it was now down to Edinburgh to play catch up. This they did as Euan Smith knew that the novel The Betrothed was originally written in Italian. A gift of a set on English counties saw them gain a full set at top speed. Syrinx could possibly have given Eric Monkman the idea of a flute – unluckily he plumped for clarinet, allowing Euan Smith to claim a vital starter for Edinburgh. Medical conditions affecting the spine brought nowt, but crucially Edinburgh led by 30. One visit to the table would not be enough for Wolfson now. It was so unlucky for Eric Monkman that he knew the right answer to the next starter, but blurted out the wrong answer having brilliantly recognised the answer to a question which had only started to be asked. He said ‘sand’ knowing that the place name component wich refers to the production of salt. Well, that one couldn’t go across, but he lost five, such a shame considering he had played so well all match. It wouldn’t have made a difference. We were gonged straight afterwards, giving Edinburgh a 195 – 160 victory.
Huge congratulations to Edinburgh – best of luck in the semis. As for Wolfson, well, whoever faces them in the last chance saloon will have a hell of a job on their hands. Very well played as well.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
I think that the Paxman tongue was firmly in cheek when he remarked that both teams’ reluctance to engage with a latin subjunctive form was “getting embarrassing”. Still, that’s a step in the right direction Jez – give us as much of that as you like. Warmed up he went on to mock Susan Sontag’s description of watching TV as a creative pursuit. When Edinburgh identified Peru and Bolivia as the countries sharing Lake Titicaca they chuckled and immediately the great man took them to task – “Why is it so funny?” Oh, come on, Jez – it’s maybe a long time since you were a school boy, but Titicaca is just a funny word. End of. Then finally there was poor Eric Monkman blurting out ‘sand’ – and then correcting himself with the correct answer of salt. JP was not pleased because it denied Edinburgh a run at the question, and rather took him to task. Not quite the vintage Paxman of a few years ago, but definitely more entertaining than in most of this series. Well done sir.
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
The suffix – wich – in place names denotes the production of salt.