Friday, 15 December 2017

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 19

There are, dearly beloved, certain specialist subjects which I’m sure go down on more application forms than others. Such a subject was offered by our first contender last night, Madeline Grant, in the shape of the Harry Potter novels. Last time out was in 2015, when Barbara Flaherty scored a perfect 15 from 15, and before that in the 2012 Sleb series, and the 2011 series proper. Madeline produced a perfect round, and you cannot do better than that. I’ve read and enjoyed all of the novels, and I have to say that these were as testing a set of questions as you’d get on any subject – put it another way, you really had to know your stuff to have a chance of a good score on this.

Burdened with support from the Clark sofa last night was teacher Peter Stiles. He offered us The Battle of the Bulge as a subject. Now, twice during the specialist rounds last night I was struck by the way the effect of the black chair can sometimes make contenders miss out on one of the simpler questions. In Peter’s case it was Robert Shaw Von Runstedt, which I bet he would normally answer without a second thought. 9 was a perfectly respectable score, but with a 6 point lead to overhaul I couldn’t see him progressing to the semis.

Now, Allan Cook produced another excellent round, his subject being Juliet Stevenson Rosalind Franklin. For the uninitiated, Rosalind Franklin was the X Ray crystallographer who played a vital role in the discovery and final confirmation of the structure of DNA. Allan answered very accurately, but his technique was an interesting contrast to Madeline’s. Madeline gave her answers as quickly as possible, while Allan’s answers were built for comfort rather than speed. I don’t blame him for this – an accurate 12 is far better than a lightning fast 10. Still, at least he had given himself a shot.

Finally Nick Gunatilleke, who gave us the Waterloo Campaign, and the second example of missing out on the relative sitter. I bet you that Nick has never failed to answer the name of Christopher Plummer The Duke of Wellington’s horse before, and never will again. He did rally after this nervous start though, and produced a respectable round of 9. Sadly, though, this meant that that at the turn around we were really left with a two horse race, and one of those horses was a long shot. 

Peter, then, returned to the chair for his GK round. I’m always glad to see a contender reach double figures on GK. If you can manage that, then you’ve got nothing to beat yourself up over, and Peter did manage 10. With the best will in the world though this was never going to win this show. Nick gave it a lash, but he finished with 16 overall. 

Allan Cook actually produced the best GK round of the night. In my heart of hearts I felt that he needed at least 13 to really give himself a chance and to put Madeline into the corridor of doubt. His 11 was perfectly respectable, but it did leave Madeline needing just 9 for an outright win. I do think that there’s quite a big psychological difference between the prospect of needing 9, and the prospect of needing 10 – it’s only 1 point, but double figures are a lot more daunting than single figures. 

Madeline left little doubt that she was going to win after her first minute. She looked a little nervous as she sat back down in the chair, but her performance belied that, as she ripped through the first 90 seconds or so of the questions. In the last minute she did run out of steam a little, as the incorrect answers started to accrue, but in the context of this heat this was immaterial to the outcome of the show. 10 correct answers gave her a winning total of 25 and no passes. A good performance, and best of luck in the semis.

The Details

Madeline Grant
The Harry Potter Novels
Peter Stiles
The Battle of the Bulge
Allan Cook
Rosalind Franklin
Nick Gunatilleke
The Waterloo Campaign


Dan said...

Frustratingly symbolic that the first question of the Rosalind Franklin set was actually a question about Watson and Crick..,

Jazzy Jon said...

I know Nick and his exact words were,

"How was I supposed to know the name of his horse ? I am an academic"

I guess it's just the kind of question that comes up a lot in quizzes but not in history books regarding the battles.

Londinius said...

Hi Guys

You know, that didn't even occur to me Dan! D'Oh!

Hi Jazzy Jon and welcome to LAM - thanks for leaving a comment. Yeah, I guess it probably is a question that comes up in a lot of quizzes, but then, Mastermind is a quiz. It's just one of those things, I guess.

Paul Gilbert said...

For the record, 3 of the 4 contestants had appeared before: Madeline Grant reached the first round in 2014-15, Allan Cook was a semi-finalist in 2004 and also appeared in 2013-14, and Nick Gunatilleke appeared in a heat in 2012-13 in which only 23 points were scored in total in the Specialist Subject round.