Friday, 16 February 2018

Mastermind 2018 - Semi Final Three


Well, you know how this works by now. We’ll start by casting an eye over the form guide.

Michael Taylor
U2
14
1
14
4
28
5
Ian Jack
The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
13
0
10
4
23
4
Neil Wright
Emperor Tiberius
10
3
16
1
26
1
Maggz Bennett
Duran Duran
12
0
12
1
24
1
Tim Footman
The Beach Boys
12
1
17
0
29
1

As we’ve so often seen in the past, form from the heats is not always a very useful guide to how contenders may perform in the semi final. Still, for what it’s worth there looked to be two very heavy hitters in GK in the shapes of Tim Footman and our own Neil Wright. Neil was runner up in his heat having put in a good but not outstanding specialist round. Also looking worth a punt was University Challenge winner Michael Taylor.

It was Michael who kicked us off. Now, to date there is but one double Mastermind/UC champion, our own Stephen Fellows. Michael looked as if he was intent on changing this state of affairs in the way that he attacked his round on the films of Paul Thomas Anderson. I’ve only seen one of the films mentioned, so take everything I say in that light, but judging from what I heard Michael was asked for some pretty esoteric details, and he was headed for a perfect round until the very last question. Still, a score of 11 in the semi was at least as impressive as his 14 in the heat. He was going to definitely have a say in the outcome of this semi.

Of all this week’s contenders, Ian Jack had delivered the weakest performance in GK in the heats – although 10 is by no means a weak performance, having said that. Still, it suggested that if he was going to challenge he was going to need an outstanding GK score on his round on The Novels of Virginia Woolf. Now, with the exception of ‘Orlando’, me and the Woolfmeister  (Woolfmeistress?)just don’t get on. She is not one of my favourite writers, so I take my hat off to anyone who could study her work in enough detail to post a score of 10. This was if anything slightly better than Ian’s performance in the heat, but I felt he needed to be ahead of the pack rather than snapping at the leader’s heels.

So to Neil Wright, this week’s repechage semi finalist. When I saw Neil was taking Wines of Burgundy I did worry for him a little. I’ll tell you why. Back in my heat in the 2007 SOBM, the runner up, Tim, was taking wines of Germany. Now, my thought was that this was an exceptionally wide subject, since there’s just so much that falls under the subject banner that ‘wines’ is one of those subjects which should come with a Government health warning. I fancy that this may have been what caused Neil to post a rather modest 6 on this round. Now, don’t get me wrong – my own 2 sitting at home was a hell of a lot more modest than that, but in terms of the contest, essentially it put him out of the running. 

Maggz Bennett had won a lower scoring heat answering on Duran Duran. Well, if anyone thought she was just making up the numbers here they were abused of that notion in the way that she posted a fine 12 on the band Motley Crue. It wasn’t a perfect round, but answering quickly meant that she just squeezed in a correct answer quickly enough to allow John to start the last question just as the blue line of death completed its circuit. 

Finally Tim Footman. He was answering on the Life and Works of Kazuo Ishiguro. I wonder if it was the production team who insisted on the whole Life and Works, rather than just the novels, which would be, in my opinion, a valid subject in their own right? Whatever the case, it added a whole other level of complexity to what was a difficult enough subject anyway. Tim, like Neil previously, posted 6, a modest score in the context of this semi final, and was, to all intents and purposes, out of the contest. 

Coming back for GK, both Neil and Tim demonstrated something of what might have been. Neil, I noticed, took the first half dozen or so questions on the bounce, and they were by no means all at all easy. The rest of the round was punctuated by a few wrong answers, but he never completely lost his momentum, and posted 12 to take his score to 18. Sadly, with the best will in the world that was not going to be enough to win. Tim really needed a round of the same quality as that which he’d produced in the heat, where he’d scored a wonderful 17. Well, he too scored 12, which is a fine score in a semi, although not to my mind quite as good as his score in the heats. This meant he led, for the time being, having no passes, but again, it was highly unlikely to last. 

Ian’s round was rather more faltering than the two we’d already seen. However, he had a 4 point head start. He needed it too, since it was only on the last question, where his disbelieving reply of Dr. Johnson brought him the 9th point he needed to edge him across the line just ahead of Tim and Neil.

Michael had already shown his GK mettle in the heats. Remember, in the heats, anything in the teens is a useful score on GK, and Michael had scored 14 off 2 and a half minutes. A similar performance should bring him the 10 he needed. Well, he actually did a bit better than that. He too managed to accrue 12 points, and this put him out in front with 23, 4 points ahead of second, with only 1 contender to go. 

Maggz had scored 12 off 2 and a half minutes in the heats. To win this semi outright she needed to match that score, but do it in only 2 minutes. This looked to be a tall order, which got taller as the first minute progressed. Well before the blue line of death brought the proceedings to a close it was clear that she was only really playing for second spot on the podium. This, to be fair, she managed, with a round of 8, to finish with 20.

Well played Michael – best of luck in the finals. Stephen, if you’re reading, are you ready to make a bit of room up there for Michael on your pedestal? 

The Details

Michael Taylor
The films of Paul Thomas Anderson
11
0
12
0
23
0
Ian Jack
The Novels of Virginia Woolf
10
1
9
1
19
2
Neil Wright
The Wines of Burgundy
6
1
12
3
18
4
Maggz Bennett
Motley Crue
12
0
8
0
20
0
Tim Footman
The Life and Works of Kazuo Ishiguro
6
0
12
0
18
0

11 comments:

Paul Gilbert said...

Remarkably, 2 of this week's BBC2 primetime quizzes (University Challenge and Mastermind) featured a contestant called Ian Jack (one a university student, the other a university lecturer). I wonder if anything similar has happened before?

Londinius said...

Who knows? (Not me!) Answers on a postcard please.

Jazzy Jon said...

It seemed strange to me that both the Semi Finalists from the Wirral were placed in the same heat. Interestingly I was reserve for this day's semi final recordings so if one of the other contestants had dropped out we could have had three Wirralians in the same semi final.

Londinius said...

Hi Jazzy Jon
In my experience the main concern when they're putting together a show is the spread of subjects - I don't know how much they take other factors into consideration, if at all.

neil wright said...

This was certainly one of those Specialist Subjects that shows that, however well you think you have prepared, the question setter can take a completely different view of the subject.

I should say, from the start, that I don’t agree with the premise that wine is inherently difficult and too risky a subject. Wines of Germany in 2007 was too big a subject with lots of complicated names. However, after that we have had Wines of the Loire (about 2009?) where I managed about 9 or 10 sitting at home with no preparation. On that basis I did French wines of the Rhone Valley in 2012, scoring 13 out of 14 (and I knew the other one). So, as far as I was concerned, Wine was treated very easily and as such, Wines of Burgundy was meant to be my banker subject in the difficult semi-final stage.

The Rhone did not, I believe, really test me. I had learnt things in much more detail than was asked. The emphasis was on grape varieties, wine villages and appellations, literary and historical references and a general overview of the area. There were no questions at all about individual vineyards or winemakers, despite some superstar winemakers in the area who are virtually synonymous with their Appellation and with a worldwide renown.

So, I must admit, I took al this into account when preparing the subject. Burgundy is very different, however, and the vineyards or Crus can be important and the Grand crus are separate Appellations in their own right. But the individual producers are much less important, as they are much smaller and don’t dominate in the same way. So, as well as the wider view, I did some work on the Grand crus (of which there are about 40) but largely ignoring the Premier crus (1800) and the individual growers (about 15,000).

neil wright said...

Looking at the questions I got, the six I got right I believe that I would have got without preparation. That, of course, means that all my preparation was of no use whatsoever. The remaining four were much more difficult. They concentrated on one area, the Cote d’Or, where admittedly the very best wines come from, but ignoring the Yonne (Chablis), the Cote Chalonnaise, the Maconnais (Macon villages and Pouily Fuisse and the Beaujolais. There were questions about an individual producer, who I had never heard of, a Premier Cru (supposed to be of grand Cru status) and a Premier Cru promoted to Grand Cru. I should have known that one but it had passed me by. To virtually ignore most of Burgundy, I think, gave a very distorted coverage of the subject.

Worst, though, was the question, about vineyards entitled to call themselves by another town. The problem here was that I couldn’t hear the question. There was a word before vineyards that I couldn’t decipher. I didn’t think it worth asking for a repeat as it wastes time and usually still results in a pass. And I think I was right in this case. When John went over the passes I was no wiser. After the show I asked for a transcript or copies of the questions, which they wouldn’t give me. Watching the program on Friday left me still in the dark. I watched my recording over and over, with sub titles but that was no help. Whoever wrote the sub titles must have had the same problem and simply omitted the word he/she couldn’t hear. Finally, I went back to my reference books, looked up the vineyards and discovered the word I had missed. The word was Blagny but not being able to understand it threw me completely. I might have got Meursault from “mouse jump” but, as that was a theory discounted in the only book I have found it in, I probably disregarded that completely. The other thing is that the question said “certain wines” but this dispensation is for white wines only. So, in my view, the question would have been much clearer and fairer if it had said: - White wines from the vineyards of La Jeunelotte and La Piece sous le Bois are entitled to add the name of which town to their wines? The name is thought to be derived from “Mouse jump”. That might have given me a chance.
I hope that this doesn’t just sound like sour grapes. Maybe a couple more questions might have redressed the balance between regions. But Michael was a worthy winner and I wish him good luck for the final.

neil wright said...

I should have added in my alternative question "from the village of Blagny" after the vineyards.

neil wright said...

And another thing. I have had to contain my frustration since last September and this is my one chance to sound off.

One question in the GK section particularly affronted me. This was the question about the stars Acubens and Al Tarf (or, at least, that is what the subtitles called them) representing the claws of which Zodiacal animal?

Now, way back in 1978, I won my semi-final taking Astronomy as my SS. There have been a lot of changes in Astronomy since then and I may no longer be up to date but the night sky remains the same. I would suggest that, if I have never hard of these stars or of them representing the claws of the Cancer the Crab, then this does not constitute General Knowledge. The stars are, it would appear, very faint in an obscure constellation. I doubt if you would be able to see them where most people live, for more than 6 nights a year, if that, even if you new where to look. If anybody did know about them, please let us know.

Of course, there is another level to this question. You are told that they represent the claws of a Zodiacal animal. Now I reckon there are three that might be depicted with claws. I discount Leo as the claws would be unlikely to be prominent enough to have their own stars. That leaves a straight choice between Scorpio and Cancer. I knew that, once upon a time, the constellation of Libra was previously known as "the Scorpion's Claws". that was sufficient to push me in the direction of Scorpio( or Scorpius as the astronomical constellation is known). You can't get away, however, from the fact that, if the primary question is not knowable then this question comes down to a guess.

Although we often have to fall back on guesses but Mastermind should be above having questions that, effectively, consist only of a guess. The problem with guesses is that the more that you know, sometimes the harder it is to guess

Stephen Follows said...

I could have sworn that the only double UC/Mastermind champion is Stephen Follows, not Stephen Fellows. But what do I know?

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