Friday, 18 August 2017

Mastermind - Round One - Heat Three


So to heat three. A quick glance at the subjects showed me that I had a chance of nswering questions on 3 of them, and so maybe there was a possibility of exceeding last week’s specialist aggregate of 19. The first of the three subjects I might be able to pick up points on was offered by tonight’s first contender, Alan Burns. He was answering on Clint Eastwood. I felt that this was a fair to relatively gentle round, as I was able to pick up 8 myself, albeit that I was sitting in the comfort of the Clark sofa. Alan’s 11 points therefore seemed perfectly competitive, but not the sort of score which would end the competition by half time. 

Dan Martin, our second contender, was answering questions on the Tommy and Tuppence novels of Agatha Christie. I’ve never read any myself, but I’ve always viewed them as very much bargain basement Agatha Christie when compared with Marple and Poirot. My grandmother was a great aficionado (see last Monday’s University Challenge) of Agathat Christie, and she held that view herself. Coming back to Dan Martin, it seemed to me that he walked towards the chair with all the enthusiasm of a French aristo approaching Madame Guillotine, and this nervous appearance was augmented when he spent a couple of seconds before answering the first question. After that, though, he settled down, and produced a good round of 12 and no passes to take the lead. Incidentally, this round provided me with a guessed point, and considering the fact that I’d expected none, this was a result.

If you can remember the 60s, they say, then you weren’t there. What it means if you can remember the 80s, I’ve no idea, but I do, and so I felt there would be a few points for me on Duran Duran, the subject being offered by our third contender, Maggz Bennett. Indeed there were, four to be precise. Maggz did considerably better, as she too managed a round of 12 and no passes. Judging by the fact that there was only a point separating our first three contenders all the appearances were that the show was going to be decided on GK. 

So, recapping, I needed a score of 7 on the last round, on Eleanor of Aquitaine to set a new aggregate target of 20. I’ll put you out of your misery now, and tell you that I scored 4, to finish with 17 in total. Not bad, but no cigar. To take the lead, Robert Butlin needed to score 13. Well, he didn’t quite manage that, nor did he manage 12, or 11. SO the 10 he did score left him in 4th as the half time oranges were being doled out. More importantly, though, only 2 points separated him from the joint leaders, so the matchmakers seemed to have got it right in this show. 

Experience shows us that in its current format, you really need a double figure lead in order to put those who come after within the corridor of doubt. Robert Butlin, making a swift return to the chair did at least manage to take his total to 20 – and if you can achieve any score in the 20s in Mastermind then you’ve justified your appearance in the show. However his 20 meant that if any of the following three contenders scored in double figures, then they would beat him. I felt that Alan Burns, in third at the turn around, was going to do it as well, until a horrible pause stopped him in his tracks. The poor chap was caught in two minds between answering and passing, and so, for a couple of seconds, he did neither, eventually passing. By the end of the round he too had scored 20 in total, but the look on his face showed us that this was a case of what might have been. 

After another very hesitant start, Dan Martin started to put together a good run of answers. I often play a game of ‘spot the quizzer’ while I’m watching the GK rounds. By this I mean that you can often tell who might be a regular quizzer from the sort of questions that they answer correctly, and of all the contenders tonight Dan was the one I got that feeling most with – sort of. I’ll explain that when we get to Maggz’ round. Having said that, his return of 10 points on the round was no better than Robert’s. H started two points to the good, though, and so led with 22.

Right, let’s get to Maggz’ round then. It really was a round of two halves. For the first minute or so she didn’t seem like a regular quizzer at all as she failed to grasp some pretty low hanging fruit. Then, all of a sudden it was as if a switch had been flicked, as Maggz began answering the majority of questions correctly, and not all of the ones she answered from this point onwards were by any means easy ones either. So in the end she not only made it, but put daylight between herself and Dan, scoring 12 to take her winning score to 24. SO well played Maggz, and best of luck in the semi final. 

The Details

Alan Burns
Clint Eastwood
11
0
9
1
20
1
Dan Martin
The Tommy and Tuppence mysteries of Agatha Christie
12
0
10
1
22
1
Maggz Bennett
Duran Duran
12
0
12
1
24
1
Robert Butlin
Eleanor of Aquitaine
10
0
10
0
20

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

University Challenge - Round One - Heat 4 - St. Edmund's, Cambridge v. Magdalen, Oxford

Yes folks, it’s another Oxford v. Cambridge duel, with St. Edmund’s taking on 4 time champions Magdalen. St. Edmund’s were represented by Zou Tang-Shen, Alex Knight Williams from Putney (close to Chiswick but no cigar), Ryan Blank and captain Sahaid Motala. Magdalen’s team were Winston Wright, Christopher Stern, Sarah Parkin and skipper Johnny Gibson.


Now, when the first starter mentioned a river, with a huge length and a Portuguese sounding name, I thought exactly the same as Zou Tang-Shen, that we were dealing with the Amazon. We were both correct and this brought up a set of bonuses on educational philosophy. As did St. Edmund’s, I had the first and last, but I should have done better with Rudolf Steiner. Now, when the words “Sometimes described as the most famous Kurd in History. . . “ had come from JP’s mouth I immediately leapt in with ‘Saladin’, but both teams waited until the reconquering of Jerusalem was mentioned, at which point Johnny Gibson leapt in. This earned bonuses on sleep in Shakespeare. I had the first two, but missed out on Othello for the last. The Magdalen skipper took a double by recognising a description of Karl Popper – ‘Party’ as his mates called him, I believe. Physics in the 1970s promised me but little, yet Dennis Gabor and holography saw a early outing for the ceremonial lap of honour around the sofa. A great buzz from Alex Knight Williams saw him identify the Mosque of Djenne as being a world heritage site in Mali. Greek Mythological fathers and sons brought both of us two bonuses. Winston Wright came in too early on the next starter, dropping five points, and this allowed Alex Knight Williams to take his own double, knowing that IFF stands for If and Only If. Fair enough. Classical music and birdsong provided two bonuses, one more than I managed. Schoolboy French helped me answer the picture starter, which showed a quotation to the effect of – If God did not exist then it would be necessary for Man to invent him – and I knew this was one of Voltaire’s one-liners. Sarah Parkin knew that one, and more of the same for the bonuses brought Magdalen both of us two more correct answers. This meant that the score at just after the ten minute mark was a pleasingly symmetrical 60 – 60.

Sahaid Motala came in too early for the next starter, allowing Christopher Stern to identify tau as the Greek letter standing for various bits and pieces in Science. Questions on Mayfair brought me a full house, and Magdalen were unlucky to only manage the two. Various Fulks were given for the next starter, and after both teams sat on their buzzers a little it was Ryan Blank who answered that they were Counts of Anjou. When JP said the bonuses were on stereoiosmers I replied gesundheit, and then supplied not another word until St. Edmund’s had added a pair of bonuses to their score. Fair play to Zou Tang-Shen – JP did not quite hear his answer to the last bonus, and he sportingly admitted that he had given a wrong un. I didn’t begin to understand the next question, but Christopher Stern knew that it related to nuclear fission reactors. Spanish cities and their patron saints gave a single bonus, and took us to the music starter. I recognised the theme of “Out of Africa”, and knew it was composed by John “Mr. Bond Theme” Barry. Nobody else did. Both Johnny Gibson and I knew that the first president to impeached was Andrew Johnson. This brought Magdalen the rollover music bonuses, and composers who have been nominated for both an Oscar AND a Golden Raspberry. They recognised the work of Jerry Goldsmith, which I missed, but I did have Giorgio Moroder. Hey, I grew up in the 70s, be fair. There was a terrific twist on the next question. ‘My brother is an aficionado of oolong tea – give the dictionary spelling of the word – “ and at this point Johnny Gibson buzzed in with “o-o-l-o-n-g.” JP docked him 5 points, and continued “ give the dictionary spelling of the word aficionado – at which there was much laughter. Which grew even more when St. Edmund’s tried to spell it with a double f. As a punchline JP added. Oolong – you were quite right. It’s the way he tells them. None of us knew the term mercerisation for the next starter, but there was a bit of a buzzer race for the next starter, won by Zou Tang-Shen who recognised that a group of given countries were all bordered by countries beginning with the letter I. Bonuses on music did nowt for me nor for St. Edmund’s for that matter. This meant that Magdalen led by 105 – 85 on the cusp of the 20 minute mark. Still very close, although you did sense by this stage that Magdalen looked to have the edge on their opponents. 

“The Lady Of Shalott” made it’s officially umpteenth appearance in a UC question for the next starter, and this was swooped upon by Johnny Gibson. British armies in India brought one correct answer, but they were in the lead, and putting daylight between themselves and St. Edmund’s. Now, if you’re shown a picture of a blue and white vase and asked which Chinese dynasty it belongs to, if in doubt always answer Ming. That’s what Ryan Blank did for the next picture starter, and it worked. 3 more Chinese artifacts followed, of which they managed the same 2 that I did. This narrowed the gap to 15, and there was still little to choose between Oxford and Cambridge in this contest. Both teams really sat on their buzzers for the next one – lucky shot and parasitic flatworm should have been enough – as it was there was time for the whole question to be asked and a pause before Zou Tang-Shen gave the correct answer of fluke. Lead down to 5 points. Inevitably St. Edmunds took 1 of the chemistry bonuses to give us a tied game. Squeaky bum time. Neither team could come up with the term sidereal year for the next starter. Neither team managed the next starter on Devon either. Finally Magdalen’s indefatigable captain stopped the rot, telling us that Maine is the most sparsely populated US state east of the Mississippi. Italian neorealist cinema saw a brilliant full house, which not only gave Magdalen a 25 point lead, but which also must have taken at least a bit of the wind out of St. Edmund’s collective sails. Zou Tang-Shen did what was probably the right thing to do at this stage of the game, and came in early with a plausible answer to the next question about a formula of a substance used in old school non digital photography, but sadly lost 5, allowing Magdalen the actual formula of AgBr. Well, I’m sorry but even I know that’s silver bromide, as did Christopher Stern. Human physiology provided points which gave them a lead of 55, and with very little time remaining you could have named your own price on St. Edmund’s. I doubt there would have been many takers after Johnny Gibson identified the work of Giotto in the next starter. Russia and the United States saw Magdalen take another ten points but this was almost irrelevant. There wasn’t time for the whole of the next starter, although sadly there was enough of it for Zou Tang-Shen take a good stab with a flying interruption, losing 5. 

So Magdelen won by 185 to 105. Looks like a comfortable win, going by the score line, doesn’t it? Yet it really wasn’t – until the last 4 minutes it really was anyone’s game. This, I’m sure is scant consolation to St. Edmund’s, but I am sure they would admit that in the final analysis Magdalen had just that little bit more , and were worth the win, even if the margin of victory was a little flattering.

Well played both – a good and enjoyable contest. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I think we have to admit it – our JP has mellowed (translation – gone soft). For example, when St. Edmund’s only offered Beethoven, all he did was ask – which – and even the ‘come on’ which followed seemed to lack conviction. 10 years ago our man would have unleashed a blast of withering scorn at this point.

There was just one nice bit of sarcasm, when, having failed to answer the music starter, JP greeted their answer to earn the rollover bonuses with “Lucky old you, Magdalen, you’ve got the music bonuses. . . “

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

Maine is the most sparsely populated state to the east of the Mississippi

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 2

Right, let the catch up begin. I didn’t actually get to see this heat when it was broadcast, as I was in Spain, but now that I’ve returned I’ll give you the benefit of my opinion.

Ian Dunn was making a quick return to the show after last year’s first round appearance. Ian was answering on the radio show “Bleak Expectations” last year – and very well he did too. In this year’s heat he picked on the topic of the 4 (synoptic) Gospels. We last saw these as a specialist subject back in 2008, when Kathryn Price scored an impressive 14. Ian’s score, sadly, was half that. Maybe I’m wrong, but looking at him as he answered in several cases I formed the distinct impression that he was having one of those rounds when the answers just won’t jump off the tip of your tongue. 

By way of contrast we had Christine Quigley’s round on Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam novels. I’ll be honest, the only one I’m at all familiar with is “Oryx and Crake”, and that one not much. So I didn’t trouble the scorer on this particular set. Christine, on the other hand, produced a perfect round of 15. Now, that, ladies and gents is how you prepare for a specialist round. You can’t expect to get a great score without at least knowing your subject inside out. It looked to me as if Christine knew hers up and down and side to side as well. Fantastic performance. 

Now, let’s think about Colin Atkin’s specialist round for a moment. Some might say that he was tempting fate by taking World Flags. Why? Well, National Flags of the World was the subject which yielded the all time Mastermind record score of 23, for Jesse Honey in his heat of the 2010 Champion of Champions series. Well, nobody is going to get 23 on a specialist round nowadays, with the length of questions. However I did think that Colin might well have been kicking himself a little with his round of 9, having let several gettable ones pass by. 

So to Simon Cottee, and the colour films of Danny Kaye. Here’s a funny thing. I watched a lot of Danny Kaye films when they were on telly when I was a kid, and I thought all of his films were in black and white. Then I realised that we only had a black and white telly when I was a kid. Enough of such nonsense. Simon too looked as if he maybe missed a couple he might have had on another occasion, reaching 9 as well. Totally off the point, I was banking on the flags round to break last week’s aggregate of 10, which it did, and when you added my score from the flags round to 4 from the Gospels and 3 from Danny Kaye I set the new mark at 19. Getting back to the point, with a lead of 6, Christine Quigley pretty much had one foot in the semis already.

I felt for Ian when John told him that there was plenty of time left just before the start of his round. It kind of leaves you in no doubt that you didn’t do brilliantly with your specialist round, does that, however kindly it’s meant. Maybe it put Ian a little off his game as well - last year he scored a competitive 11, whereas this year he put 8 more on the board. Some nights, Ian, it’s just not your night. Hard lines. Colin, now, started 6 points behind Christine’s score. Being realistic, you need to set a target of as close to double figures as possible in order to force other contenders to traverse the corridor of doubt. Colin never really looked like doing that. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was a gritty, battling performance, and any double figure round is a good one, but a target of 6 for a win was never going to be enough.

So it fell to Simon Cottee to try to raise the bar. What we got was a perfectly respectable round of 9, but again, in terms of raising the tension for Christine’s round yet to come, I’m afraid it couldn’t do it. So Christine had the luxury of knowing she only needed to answer 6 questions. Never having been in that position in any of my own appearances I can’t tell you if that would make you more relaxed, but the first 2 minutes of Christine’s round were pretty good. Then, surprisingly, she fell into a pass spiral for the last 5 questions. None of which mattered, since she’d already set the highest GK total for this show, and passed the target some time previously. Well played Christine – good luck in the semi finals. 

The Details

Ian Dunn
The 4 Gospels
7
0
8
2
15
2
Christine Quigley
Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam novels
15
0
12
6
27
6
Colin Atkin
World Flags
9
3
11
3
20
6
Simon Cottee
The colour films of Danny Kaye
9
2
9
3
18
5

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Warning: Departure to Spain imminent

Yes, just a wee note to say not to worry if I don't manage to post for the next seven days or so - it's only because I'll be in Alicante. If I don't manage to post I will try to catch up with what I missed when I get back.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Only Connect Fans - New Quiz Book

Just seen this on Facebook - if you're a fellow fan of the show you might be interested in checking this out: -

The Only Connect Quiz Book

University Challenge - Round One - Heat Three

Southampton v. Cardiff

In this third round Southampton were represented by Juan Paolo Ledesma, Andrew Knighton, Niall Jones, and captain Lorna Frankel. Their opponents, Cardiff University were Freddie Colleran, Daniel Conway (Who, I believe, is this year’s second contestant from the centre of the universe – Chiswick), Rosie Cowell and skipper Ian Strachan. Let us begin.

Both teams rather sat on their buzzers for the first starter, and eventually it was Niall Jones of Southampton who claimed first blood for recognising definitions of the word diet. In fairly short order Southampton converted this to a full house with bonuses on Sinbad the sailor. Again, both sides sensibly sat back on the next starter until it became obvious the slang to which JP was referring was Polari, as claimed by Lorna Frankel. A second consecutive full house on citizenship continued Southampton’s impressive start. An impressive early buzz from Juan Pablo Ledesma saw him identify the word syndrome taking Southampton to 9 consecutive correct answers. However events of 1867 brought the run to an end at 10. Never mind, they had a lead of 55 already. Asked which in field athletics event Yuri Sedykh set a world record Ian Strachan did what he had to do for Cardiff by throwing caution to the wind and having a punt with discus. It might have been right, in which case it would have robbed Southampton of a little momentum. As it was, it lost 5. Almost inevitably Juan Pablo Ledesma’s guess of hammer proved right. City planning bonuses brought Southampton a third full house out of 4 visits to the table, and they were looking mightily impressive, as much for their breadth of knowledge as for their buzzer speed. The picture starter showed a map of the USA with the border between two states erased. Juan Pablo Ledesma buzzed in to identify the missing border between Mississippi and Alabama. Impressive – and it brought Southampton a 3 figure lead even before the 10 minute mark. 3 more maps with borders between countries erased saw another full house. To put things into perspective, up to the end of the picture round, right on the cusp of the end of the first 10 minutes of the show, 20 questions had been asked, of which Southampton had correctly answered 18. That’s the most impressive start I can remember for a very long time. They led 115 to minus 5.

Niall Jones refused to show Cardiff any mercy, correctly answering that Kyrgyzstan had staged the first two world nomad games. Helen of Troy in stage works brought another full house. When you hear “Along with the White Devil. . . “ you have to go for your buzzer and answer “The Duchess of Malfi” which is exactly what English student Niall Jones did for the next starter. Scientific terms beginning with ‘homeo’ slowed the Southampton juggernaut somewhat, as they only took the one. The old chestnut about Brownian motion gave me the pretext for a lap of honour around the living room, and Andrew Knighton a correct buzz. 20th century psychologists gave none of us very much, although I did know Piaget. Nobody knew the economist Simon Kuznets, which meant we were almost halfway through the show and this was the first starter that Southampton had failed to answer. Niall Jones showed a nifty buzzer finger to identify Julian of Norwich for the next starter, bringing up a set of bonuses on Chopin. Southapton’s fabulous form on the bonuses seemed to have dried up a little by this time, as again a set went begging. The agony continued for Cardiff though, as Juan Pablo Ledesma identified the warblings of Katy Perry for the music starter. More examples of the millennial whoop – gesundheit – brought both a full house, and a score of 200 for Southampton. As if things weren’t bad enough for Cardiff, JP gave them the kiss of death by telling them there was still plenty of time to get going at this point. Nobody knew that Bridget Riley was heavily involved with Op Art, and so this allowed Daniel Conway (from Chiswick) to identify the word matrix. Bonuses on Dories Day promised them but little, and delivered nothing, but at least they had a positive score now. They looked to be on a roll as Rosie Cowell identified the word March as following Long and Salt. Estates with landscapes designed by Lancelot Capability Brown brought their first correct bonus answer. At just before the 20 minute mark the score stood at 200 – 20. 

Ian Strachan couldn’t repeat Cardiff’s recent successes with the next starter, incorrectly answering, leaving Niall Jones to identify Stamford Raffles as the founder of Singapore. Didn’t matter. The contest was over, and had been for some time, and the only questions that really remained were whether Cardiff could get to 100, and Southampton could get to 300. The latter looked at this stage a lot more likely than the former. Bonuses on the skeleton made this look even more likely as a full house was taken. Shown a geodesic dome for the next picture starter, Ian Strachan correctly recognised the work of Buckminster Fuller. Two other remnants of world fairs took Cardiff to 40. Niall Jones came in far too quickly for the next starter on GBS and lost 5, but Cardiff could not capitalise through not knowing the term bardolatry. Nobody knew a series of Haydn symphonies linked by Paris. Neither did anyone know of the use of the word Guillotine in Carlyle’s History fo the Revolution. Niall Jones knew that Reagan was president at the times of the deaths of Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko (is the name Reagan by any chance Russian for ‘jinx’?) and thus earned bonuses on more US presidents. These only earned another 5, and the 300 mark seemed to be receding towards the event horizon away from Southampton. Nobody knew the term validity in logic. Juan Pablo Ledesma won the buzzer race to identify Whooper, Bewick and Mute as swans. Astronomy, and star classification yielded nothing to any of us. For these last few starters it seemed like each was an example of low lying fruit, easy for Southampton to pick up, but the bonuses seemed to have dried up. Sparkling wine saw them take just 1 of a very gettable set. A second lap of honour resulted from me knowing that the flavour of quark with the shortest name is up. Andrew Knighton also had that one. Bonuses on the Nobel Peace Prize saw them take the first two before the gong denied them of the chance of a full house. Final score – 280 – 40.

Well, what can I say? Granted, Southampton were generally much faster on the buzzer, and there isn’t a great deal you can do about that. However, what we did see of Cardiff suggested that even if you took the buzzer out of the equation, judging by the answers both teams provided, Southampton were considerably stronger. That’s just my opinion, feel free to disagree. As for Southampton, well they buzz well, and have a wide range of knowledge throughout the team. One to watch, I fancy.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Seemingly despite himself JP couldn’t help acknowledging the superb form of Southampton in the first 10 minutes with a ‘well done’.

It had to happen. I was laying mental bets with myself about just how early JP was going to tell Cardiff that there was still plenty of time to get going. If you’re going to say it at all Jez, then waiting until the score is 200 to minus 5 is possibly a little late. Then, moments later when Daniel Conway (from Chiswick) scored Cardiff’s points, JP looked on disapprovingly as he earned a fistbump from the Cardiff skipper, and told them to get on with it. That’s more like it.

He was rather gracious at the end, though, saying that Cardiff never got a chance to show us what they can do – a commendably charitable interpretation of what happened.

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

George Bernard Shaw first coined the term ‘bardolatry’