Friday, 29 September 2017

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 9


Here’s a question, dearly beloved, and not one to which I know the answer either. When was the last time that two Mastermind finalists had to play each other in the first round? For all I know it may not have happened before, but it certainly happened tonight. All of which just goes to demonstrate what I’ve always said – they don’t follow a seeding procedure in Mastermind, it all comes down to which subjects make a good mix for a particular show. Which is probably the best way of doing it, although that’s scant consolation if it’s you who ends up in a top heavy heat like this one.

First of our two previous finalists was my mate Les Morrell. I’ve told before how we met when Les’ successful first round heat in the 2007 Series of Blessed Memory was recorded immediately after mine. Les got as far as the semis in that, his first tilt at the title, and in 2010 he went all the way to the final. For some of us, Mastermind is an itch which you can only ignore for so long before you have to scratch it and have another go, and so tonight Les offered us The Lusitania – that’s the Cunard Ocean Liner, not the Roman province. As you’d expect from such an experienced Mastermind hand, Les’ answering technique was pretty much textbook, snapping out the answers as soon as John finished asking the question. Not knowing a huge amount about the Lusitania I can’t comment whether the ones Les missed were stinkers – knowing Les I’m certain he would have prepared thoroughly, so I tend to think that it might well have been the case. Les scored 9 – perfectly respectable, but not the kind of platform you need to make a realistic bid for a win.

Especially not when you’re playing against another former finalist. Tonight’s second contender, David Love, was third in Gary’s 2012 series. He’s been back since, but that season was his most successful campaign to date. Tonight he offered us The Life and Paintings of Pieter Brueghel the Elder – or as John called him one of the questions – Pieter Broogle (rhymes with Dougal). Like Les, David knows how vital it is to prepare thoroughly, and he duly delivered an excellent round of 13 and no passes. Suddenly Les’ task looked all the more difficult. 

Did either of our last two contenders know about the previous exploits of the first two? If they did, it didn’t seem to phase them. Mastermind virgin Cliff Houghton offered us Everton FC. Now, here’s something I like to see. If you’re going to take a sports club, or a sporting event, I do like to see you go the whole hog, and take the whole subject, rather than only answering on a specific period of its history. And let’s be fair to Cliff, he was more than up to the task. After the horrible experience of just not finding the name of Kevin Ratcliffe for the first question, which of course he knew, he hardly faltered for the rest of the round, and turned in a creditable score of 12 and no passes. 

So to our final round. Teresa De Billot answered questions on British Oscar winning Actors and Actresses. A few years ago a contender answered on British Olympic medallists 1960 – 2008, a round which many people, this columnist included, felt was the easiest specialist round  we could remember. Well, this round was, I felt, on a similar level. This is no reflection on Teresa. She produced an absolutely perfect round of 14 correct answers from 14 questions, and that’s always worthy of applause. But for me, a lot of these things were things you’d just know through general knowledge quizzing. Too many of them were either – So and so won the Oscar for which film – or – Who won the Oscar for his/her role in the film such and such. This is Mastermind, and while I don’t say that stinkers need to be put in each round, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there will be at least a few questions which the well prepared contender will find testing. This is all purely my own opinion, and as always, feel free to disagree.

Les must have known that it was a long shot, but strange things can happen in a GK round sometimes, and so he started the round very well, ripping off five answers in quick succession. The problem is, though, when you’re behind you just need everything to fall for you, and after he named Janice Long rather than Anne Nightingale as the first female Radio 1 DJ a couple of guesses failed to come off. Then he built momentum again, but failed to hear a question properly and had to ask for a repeat. For the last half minute he was rattling off the answers again, but was chafing at the bit for John to finish the Shankly question so he could get in with the answer. By the end of the round Les had added 12, to set the target at 21. Mastermind can be a cruel mistress sometimes.

Cliff Houghton was one of those contenders whose tone of voice sometimes suggests that he can’t believe he just gave a correct answer. And believe me, he gave plenty during a fine GK round. Alright, he had a few wrong, but still added 14 to his total. In terms of the first round heats, his total of 26 is often good enough to win. I’ve said before that I sometimes get the feeling when I’m watching the GK rounds that a contender whom I don’t know must be a quizzer. I had this feeling with Cliff’s round, judging by the range of knowledge that he showed. 

For the outright lead, then, David would require a score of 14, and believe me, that is enough of a target to place you within the corridor of doubt. However good you are, you can always end up having one of those freak rounds where all the tiny gaps in your knowledge are exposed, or the answers just resolutely refuse to leap past the tip of your tongue. David must have known that this was not going to be one of those type of rounds when he answered “Soup Dragons” correctly despite obviously never having heard of the band. In the end, not the least bit phased by John's rather out of place impression of Queen Victoria, he scored 15, and that’s a seriously good GK round, and his total of 28 made me certain that we’d be seeing him in the semis, one way or another.

Whether this would be as a winner or a repechage runner up was dependant on Teresa. The writing was pretty much on the wall for her round when she committed the Mastermind cardinal sin for her second question of pausing, then passing. The rest of the first minute seemed a bit of a struggle for her. Yet let’s give credit where it’s due, in the middle minute  she really did start to show her quiz credentials, putting together a string of consecutive correct answers. It was a valiant effort, but in the end there were just a few too many gaps in her knowledge to quite get her there in the time allotted. She finished with a fine score of 26. 

This was a great show, and a pleasure to watch. Keep it up guys, and David, best of luck in the semis.

The Details

Les Morrell
The Lusitania
9
2
12
1
21
3
David Love
The Life and Paintings of Pieter Brueghel the Elder
13
0
15
2
28
2
Cliff Houghton
Everton FC
12
0
14
0
26
0
Teresa De Billot
British Oscar winning Actors and Actresses
14
0
12
3
26
3

9 comments:

Mycool said...

Totally agree with your comment about Teresa's choice of specialist subject. This was my best performance on a specialist subject using my GK knowledge in the season so far. If you can sit down for a couple of hours and learn off four narrow lists of British Oscar Winning Actors & Actresses, why did I spend weeks preparing my specialist subjects, making detailed notes from multiple sources, and lose valuable points when I was asked really obscure questions where I did not know the answers? Not sure whether that was Teresa's fault, though; the choice of specialist subject and revision sources is a question of negotiation with the production team and Mark Helsby in particular. And the question setters could conceivably have tweaked the questions to make them more difficult.

Paul Gilbert said...

A quick search shows that this is indeed the first time in the Humphrys era that 2 former Humphrys-era finalists have faced off in Round 1 of a subsequent series.

Other tidbits that I unearthed in this search:

Prior to this series, 15 different people had reached a final then appeared in a subsequent series.

The series with the most former finalists is the 2014-15 series with 6 (David Love, Diane Hallagan, Julia Hobbs, Les Morrell, Mark Eves, and Neil Crockford).

The first former finalist to appear again and not reach the final of that series was 2009-10 finalist David Buckle, who lost in the first round in 2011-12.

Diane Hallagan and Julia Hobbs are the only pair to meet in the final of one series (2010-11) and then both appear in the same subsequent series (albeit in different episodes).

Mark Grant is the only 2-time finalist to make a further appearance after his second final (he has actually since reached 2 further semi-finals). Prior to Les and David last night, the only other finalist to make 2 subsequent appearances is 2008-09 finalist Roger Canwell, who reached 2 further semi-finals.

Londinius said...

Hi Mycool, and thank you for taking the time and trouble to leave a comment. I love Mastermind – always did even before my own time on the show, and I don’t criticise the show lightly. The fact that this round seemed to me to stand out so much is testament to how often the question setters get it absolutely right. But I’m not surprised it isn’t just me who had this opinion about the British Oscar winners round.
I’m well aware that just because I find a particular specialist round easy or hard it doesn’t mean that anyone else would necessarily do so. However, I do think that there were issues with this particular round: -
• Well done to Teresa for picking a round which gave her the best chance of achieving a great score and putting in a fantastic performance, which she did. However, it does make you think that maybe the production team might have tried to widen the subject a little bit. The list of British winners of the 4 acting awards is not an exhaustive one. It might have been rather more effective if they had insisted the list be widened to include directors and screenwriters at least.
• I have never tried to set a round of questions for Mastermind, so I accept the argument that I may hardly be in a position to criticise. Be that as it may, as a set, bearing in mind the very limited scope of the subject, I thought that they could have been far more testing. With the questions asked you could answer most of them just by knowing the names of the actors and actresses, and the films for which they won.
Mastermind has received enough unfair criticism over the years about specialist subjects. I suppose we will always have the debate about the validity of lowbrow or popular culture subjects. We shouldn’t, because as long as a subject makes reasonable demands upon a contender I don’t think highbrow/lowbrow/middlebrow makes any difference. But as you rightly point out, a couple of hours revision with the help of Wikipedia would leave one fairly well prepared for this particular round. Which brings me to another point.
I don’t know how long Teresa took to prepare, and how carefully she did. But I have no reason to suggest that she did not prepare as carefully as any of the other contenders in the series. I can’t help thinking – suppose I’d spent the same amount of time and trouble preparing as I spent on all 5 of my subjects (or 6 if you include the one which was never used) – suppose I’d put that much effort into trying to cover all eventualities, and then I got something which was not a true test of my knowledge? I’ll be honest, I reckon I might have felt a bit of disappointment. Only Teresa could tell us if this was the case for her, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Londinius said...

Hi Paul - thanks for the stats. The nature of the beast is probably that the longer that Mastermind goes on, then the more liley it is to happen again, and the more finalists there would be to reappear.

neil wright said...

I also did well on Teresa's SS, scoring 11 without any preparation, which is my best sitting at home ever. The problem, I believe, is that this subject is meat and drink to seasoned quizzers and we could all score well on it, but getting a perfect round is a lot more difficult and we shouldn't dismiss Teresa's score here.

I do believe that I am detecting some sort of pattern in Specialist Subjects in the first round. If we assume 14 questions to be about normal. and with a generally accessible subject, then I reckon that perhaps four questions are aimed at the level someone with a decent general knowledge. Another six at the level of someone who has read around the subject at some stage in the past and that leaves just four questions to really test all the intense study and hard work you will have done (or not). The trouble is that it doesn't seem to make much difference how easy or difficult your subject is, the pattern seems to still be there.

claire slater said...

Are both Cliff and Teresa eligible for the highest scoring runners up places in the semifinals? Or is it just Cliff who could be a semifinalist as he was 2nd in his heat?

neil wright said...

I think I am right in saying that there have been a number of cases where more than one person from the same heat has gone through as a highest loser. That was certainly the case in my first round in 2012 and, indeed, in the other heat from my own recorded in Newcastle in 1978. I think we are still waiting for all four contestants from one heat to get through to the semis but I am sure it will happen eventually.

Londinius said...

John certainly seemed to say that they were both eligible. The rules are not exactly clear. When the repechage places were first reintroduced, the rule was that only those in second in their heats were eligible. This was clearly changed within a couple of years though, since there have been incidences of 2nd and 3rd in the same heat getting to the semis. My personal opinion is that's only fair. Suppose you come third with 29, as has happened in the past. Is it then fair if you don't get a semi slot, but a second place with 27 does? I rest my case, yer 'onour.

Stephen Follows said...

Having come to this heat rather late in the day, my twopennorth is that Teresa's specialist subject round was demonstrably easier than the other three, but that her GK was quite a bit harder. Whether this was because the hardest round was reserved for the leader at halfway, or because the producers were trying to even things up, who can say?