Friday, 12 January 2018

University Challenge - Round Two - Newcastle v. Southampton

University Challenge – Round 2 – Newcastle v. Southampton

Yes, my friends, I can only apologise to those teams whose matches I’ve missed. If you’re a regular you know that I have my problems from time to time, and sometimes you have to bend a little so that you don’t break. 

Onto the show then. Newcastle’s first opponents, Sheffield Hallam, weren’t great to be honest, so this show at least would maybe give us a clearer idea of how good Newcastle were. The team consisted of Jack Reynard, Molly Nielsen, Adam Lowery, and their skipper Jonathan Noble. Cardiff, Southampton’s first round opponents, had a similarly lowly score to Sheffield, however Southampton’s 280 points against them was an impressive performance however you look on it. They were Juan-Pablo Ledesma, Andrew Knighton, Niall Jones and their captain Lorna Frankel. 

There is a reason why I immediately answered “Bayeux Tapestry” after the words ‘depicting 49 trees’ has passed JP's lips. It was the specialist subject on which I had my highest ever MM specialist score (17 in 2 minutes, thanks for asking.) Jack Reynard took a little longer than me to give the correct answer – but not a lot. This brought up a set of bonuses on the importance of tea. 2 bonuses on a tricky set saw the on their way. Jack Reynard doubled up his total of early buzzed in starters knowing Dalton’s Law. Bonuses on cinnabar provided us both with a full house. Niall Jones opened his team’s account, knowing that the Volga rises near Moscow and discharges into the Caspian Sea. The set of Physics bonuses delivered the same to me as my Physics O Level exams delivered in 1980 – that is, nowt. However Southampton managed 2. Game on. You had to wait with the next starter, but once the words “In the bleak midwinter” passed JP’s lips it was a mad scramble for the buzzer, won by Niall Jones, who knew it was Christina Rossetti. The Palace of Versailles was one of those sets where you know you can get at least one right if you just keep answering the Hall of Mirrors – and indeed this was the only one that either of us got. So to the picture starter. We saw part of the details of the contents page of a notable work of non-fiction. Phrases like “Causes of Improvement” and “political economy” led me to take a punt with The Wealth of Nations, and both teams had to think about it. Juan-Pablo zigged with Das Kapital, allowing Molly Nielsen to zag with my answer. This earned Newcastle 3 more notable 18th century works. They took one, should have had 2, and there was enough help on the first for them to have had all 3, but you don’t always think clearly in the heat of battle in the studio. As we approached the ten minute mark Newcastle seemed to have had the better of the opening exchanges as they led by 60 – 35.

A UC special starter followed asking for the sum of the atomic numbers of the elements whose symbols spell the word pwn (that’s what it said on the subtitles). Niall Jones was only one out, but you get nowt for a good try in this game. Jack Reynard came in early to identify Albert the Bear as the first Margrave of Brandenburg. Were the second and third called Winnie and Paddington, I wonder? It looked as if they weren’t going to get any of their bonuses on Scotland, but a good shout saw them correctly answer that Sutherland has a comparable population density to Wyoming. Andrew Knighton took his first starter, knowing that the Sabin oral vaccine is used against polio. The Mahabharata provided another five points, and a giggle at JP's discomfort in trying to pronounce the word. Johnathan Noble was in extremely quickly to identify the Critique of Pure Reason – I suspect he may even have had it just from the date of 1781. Terms used in astronomy gave Newcastle one correct answer, which is one more correct answer than I managed. This brought us to the music starter. Even though it was obviously from Swan Lake, Lorna Frankel was in exceptionally quickly, after about a note and a half. Three other classical works mentioned in Susan Sontag’s work on Camp. Both of us could only name Il Trovatore. Now, for the UC special which was the next starter, I didn’t know that Stokely Carmichael was born on Trinidad, but I knew that Brian Lara was. So the answer – the last two letters, was - ad. A little more of the question was given before the impressive Jack Reynard buzzed in for another correct interruption. Compromises in US History only gave me a correct answer with the Missouri Compromise, but Newcastle had this and the 1850 compromise. Now, if I’m ever asked for the name of a female French Impressionist painter, I always offer Berthe Morisot for the very good reason that she’s the only one I know. It worked for the next starter. Neither team had it, but Newcastle lost five for an incorrect interruption. For the next UC special we were given clues to the words frieze and sneeze, and asked which river of northern England they rhymed with. Jonathan Noble worked out early that it was the Tees. Things were starting to look ominous for Southampton, as Newcastle were having by far the best of this part of the contest. Islands and peninsulae based on their descriptions by Strabo brought a couple of more correct answers. Pelion was veritably piled upon Ossa as Jonathan Noble buzzed extremely early to identify the brightest star in the constellation as Antares. A rather gentle set on elements and words which they – sort of – resemble – provided a full house. Which meant that just part the 20 minute mark Newcastle had a commanding lead of 150 to Southampton’s 70.

A lead which only increased when Jonathan Noble, leading from the front, buzzed in to identify France as the European power left with the Indian province of Chanda Nagar. South East Asian history only provided five more points, but the lead was by now just a smidgeon away from triple figures. It was Juan-Pablo Ledesma who began the Southampton fightback, identifying a still from Curse of the Were Rabbit. Three more stop motion films nominated for best animated picture Oscars were not ones I knew, but Southampton took two. The next starter was one of those Maths ones where I always either answer 0 or 1. Actually it was minus 1 as the Newcastle skipper correctly answered. Bonuses on George Eliot saw them miss out on a gimme with Adam Bede, and a gettable one with Romola, but nonetheless the gap was back up to 90, and I just didn’t think there was enough time left for Southampton. They had a go though, with Niall Jones recognising various species of zebra. Electronics bonuses gave them sadly nothing. Lorna Frankel knew that in a calendar year hebdomidal events occur 52 times. Works to be found in the Prado brought in just 5 points. Again, Niall Jones won a buzzer race to identify Phileas Fogg as a member of the Reform Club. Bonuses on English cities saw them zig when they should have zagged on the first 2, to add just another 5. As it was the Newcastle skipper took the next starter on various connections with the word sage. 19th century novels gave them the 2 bonuses they needed to hit 200. This increased as Adam Lowery knew that you use Coomassie Blue to stain proteins. Fair enough. We only had time for one bonus on islands of the River Thames before the gong ended the contest with Newcastle winning by a score of 215 – 130.

Well played Newcastle. Hard lines Southampton. One felt that they were not undone by any great lack of knowledge, but by the precision buzzing of the firm of Reynard and Noble, Early Buzz Purveyors to the Gentry. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Apparently Boris Johnson once called Jez a swot. He didn’t say that he himself had called Boris something that rhymed with swot, but I’d like to think that’s what happened.
I was amused by JP’s struggles to pronounce the Mahabharata. He mentioned the word three times, and used a different way of saying it for each one.

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

George Eliot’s translation of the works of Spinoza were not published until 1981


Jack said...

Happy New Year Dave, and good to see you blogging again.

It was indeed a match won on the buzzer, with Messrs Noble and Reynard answering ten starters between them, two more than Southampton managed between the four of them. That coupled with a slightly better bonus rate, 20/34 to Southampton 10/24, won them the match. Unlucky to Southampton, another team unlucky to leave at this stage, but no shame in that performance either.

Two more second round matches to come, on Monday Fitzwilliam vs Magdalen, followed by Oxford Brookes vs Merton.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack, and thanks for the kind words.

Yes, I've never played on University Challenge, sadly, so anything I say has to be viewed in this light. However, I do think that when you find yourself under a buzzer blitz, then you have to try to do something to change the pattern. You have to take a flyer on a starter, and risk losing 5. It can change the whole rhythm of the contest. Yes, it can mean a heavier defeat than you were headed for, but any defeat in round 2 means you're going home any way.

Of course, it's easy for me to say this from the comfort of the Clark sofa, and quite another thing to actually do it, I should imagine.