Friday, 30 March 2018

Mastermind 2018: The Grand Final


Well, I’ve had a lovely day, dearly beloved. Last week I was teed off that we didn’t have Mastermind to watch, but anticipation only serves to heighten pleasure, I suppose. First day of the Easter Holidays, and I spent the morning out with daughters two and three, and my granddaughter. Lovely, and made all the better through having this grand final to look forward to.

And so to Mastermind. If you read my preview you’ll hopefully recall that I tipped Brian Chesney and Alfred Williams as the ones to watch, with Michael Taylor, going for a rare UC Mastermind double, looking like a good dark horse. Michael was first up. Now, if, like me, you are an avid follower of the annual filmed insert trip lottery, you’ll have noticed that Michael stayed in the UK, with a trip to the Royal and Ancient in St. Andrews. Theoretically they could have taken him to the Augusta National in the USA, but fair enough. Hey, my family originally came from Dundee, not so very far from St. Andrews, so you’ll hear no complaints from me about it. To be fair, he did get to handle the Claret Jug too. Answering on Major Championship golf from 1997 to now, Michael came close to perfection, dropping just the one answer on his way to 14. Game on.

Second up, Brian Chesney. Answering on the Revolt in the Netherlands 1568-1609, a visit to Amsterdam gave Brian a shout at the Most Picturesque Filmed Insert, although not the one needing the most air miles. Brian made no secret of the fact that he was runner up on passes in 2014 to our own Clive Dunning, and had every intention of going one better this time out. You know, I’ll be honest, I wish they wouldn’t ask contenders how well they think they’re going to do, or how much they want to win. I always thought it was tempting fate. When they asked me in my own filmed insert 10 years ago what I thought my chances were I made a point of saying 1 in 6 – it all depended on the questions – which is as true now as it was then. Not that the questions on Brian’s specialist gave him many problems. He scored 13, just missing out on a couple, but with 2 and a half minutes of general knowledge to come, he’ll have been quite content to be so close to the lead, I’m sure.

Kyle Nagendra got a serious shot at the most air miles for his filmed insert as he was flown out to Pittsburgh PA, where much of the location shooting for The Silence of the Lambs was carried out. Looking at the formbook based on first round and semi final performances I had the feeling that Kyle was something of an outsider for this final. Nobody seemed to have told him that, though, as he calmly and competently set about assembling a highly competitive 13 on the Hannibal Lecter novels. Did I see this as a platform for a potential win? Well, it would require a remarkable round on GK.

Ben Holmes was offering us possibly the most unusual of the specialist subjects in the shape of US Constitutional Amendments. In terms of the filmed insert lottery, that’s a rather good choice, pretty much guaranteeing a trip to the US as it does. Washington DC gave him very respectable air miles, and DC is somewhat more picturesque than Pittsburgh. Again, getting the contenders to nail their colours to the mast about their chances seems to have been high on the agenda, as Ben declared his intention to win. Well, fair point. You have to think you’re going to win, so that you prepare as if you think you’re going to win, to give you the best chance of actually doing it. This is just my opinion, and by all means feel free to disagree, but I do think that a rather left field subject does have a high risk-reward ratio. You do risk the fact that they will drag up some esoteric fact you just never encountered, and sadly this happened a couple of times to Ben. Don’t get me wrong, his 11 was a good round. But you don’t want to be 3 points behind the leader going into GK in a Mastermind final.

Hands down winner of the most air miles for the filmed insert lottery was Ken Morland, whose visit to Kolkata trumped Kyle’s visit to Pittsburgh by several hundred miles. I did speculate that Ken seemed very shocked when he won his semi final, and he was quick to bear this out. Ken it seemed followed my ‘1 in 6 chance’ line when asked about his chances. Answering on Indian Premier League Cricket, he too played as if he believed he could win, whacking in a highly competitive 13 of his own. It’s a credit to all of the finalists that their scores were so similar, proving how seriously each contender was taking it, and how carefully they had prepared.

Which brings us to Alfred Williams, our final contender. Alfred didn’t seem to even quite get into Scotland, travelling to Hadrian’s Wall, being as that was his subject. To be fair, he looked absolutely delighted to be there, and I must admit, it’s a matter of some shame to myself that I’ve never visited the wall myself. Yet. Now both of Alfred’s previous specialist rounds had been stand out rounds, so I expected some fireworks. Well, we didn’t quite get a perfect round, no , but even a couple of wrong uns didn’t stop Alfred taking the joint lead with 14.

With the current format, come the Grand Final you get 2 minutes on specialist, and two and a half minutes on GK. Last year the final was settled by a great GK performance, and for any contender to head the field, the same was going to need to happen this year as well.

First back was Ben Holmes. Now, Ben’s GK aggregate from the series so far was as good as Brian’s, and only Alfred had a higher aggregate. I don’t know if he was affected by lying in 6th place at the halfway stage – despite, as I said, having had a good round – but he did look concerned throughout the round, and it was a battling rather than free flowing performance he managed. 11 is a perfectly respectable score, but sadly, 22 is not a winning score in a Mastermind Grand Final.

So to Brian Chesney. Last time he came this way, Brian lost the final on passes. Then he was a very close runner up in Brain of Britain. Would third time be the charm? Well, 2 and a half minutes after the start of his GK round it certainly looked that way. He had been asked 20 questions, and answered 19 of them correctly. Yes, of course I was standing up, applauding the telly. Funnily enough, the only one he got wrong – Hemingway’s ‘Death in the Afternoon’ wasn’t necessarily the hardest question in the round, but I dare say that he won’t be too bothered about that! It was a terrific round, and more importantly, it looked like a winning round. Would it be, though?

Well, Kyle Nagendra couldn’t beat it. You may recall that I’ve praised Kyle’s calm and thoughtful technique in his previous appearances, and he applied the same approach this time. For once, it didn’t quite work out, as the questions just didn’t seem to fall Kyle’s way this time. It happens. Nobody knows them all, and if you get one of ‘those’ rounds you’ve just got to do the best you can with it, and add it to your collection of threads from life’s rich tapestry. Kyle scored 8 to take him to 21. Doesn’t matter. He is, and will always be, a Mastermind finalist.

Three contenders down, and three to go, and it was Ken Morland’s go to have a tilt at the towering edifice of Brian Chesney’s total. Ken seemed to have decided on the tactic of passing quickly on what he didn’t know – and that’s a valid tactic. He eventually accrued 11 correct answers and 3 passes. This gave him a perfectly good 24, and meant that the worst that could happen would be that he’d end up 4th.

I did wonder what might have been going through Michael Taylor and the other contenders’ minds as Brian piled on his massive score. I was lucky in as much as I never had to follow a round quite like that. To be fair to Michael, though, he really gave it a lash. If you watch Michael’s round, maybe you’ll make the observation that I made, that the only thing Michael needs in order to be right up there challenging for the title, is maybe a decade on the quiz circuit. What I mean by that is that he obviously has a fantastic knowledge, but missed out on a number of those things you’d just know after 10 years or so at the quizface. If he wants to, he’ll be back. As it was, 13 for a total of 27 guaranteed him a place on the podium. It wasn’t going to be the top step, though.

Finally, then, Alfred Williams. Alfred had impressed me with both of his GK outings in the series so far. However, only having a one point advantage over Brian at half time meant that he was going to have to match Brian’s performance in order to win. Now, while it’s perfectly possible that you could have two GK rounds like that in the same show, it’s very unlikely. I’m sure it’s no consolation to Alfred, but I found his round a bit harder than I found Brian’s – but that’s all in the eye of the beholder and the ear of the behearer. They’re all easy if you know the answers. Alfred did not have many wrong, but he could hardly afford any, and with a minute to go he looked slightly off the pace. In the end he finished with 29 – a very fine score in its own right.

Commiserations to Alfred, Michael and the others, but many, many congratulations to Brian. Well done, Sir! Enjoy your status as a Mastermind Champion.

Thanks BBC, for another highly enjoyable series. I look forward to Mastermind 2019 beginning in the summer.

The Details

Michael Taylor
Major Championship Golf 1997 - Date
14
0
13
1
27
1
Brian Chesney
The Revolt in the Netherlands 1568 - 1609
13
0
19
0
32
0
Kyle Nagendra
The Hannibal Lecter Novels
13
2
8
3
21
5
Ben Holmes
US Constitutional Amendments
11
0
11
2
22
2
Ken Morland
Indian Premier League Cricket
13
0
11
5
24
5
Alfred Williams
Hadrian’s Wall
14
0
15
2
29
2

9 comments:

Garth said...

Thanks so much for blogging this whole series! I've really enjoyed your reviews and don't consider watching an episode complete until I've read the review too. All the best til the next series!

Londinius said...

*Blush* Thanks Garth! That's very kind of you to say so. I'd call it a labour of love, but it isn't really a labour. I've enjoyed blogging this series immensely. Here's to the next one.

Dan said...

Absolutely delighted for Brian, the perennial runner-up (Mastermind, Brain of Britain, 15 to 1, Brain Of Brains). A worthy winner, and you could feel the passion for his subject in his VT too.

Incidently, I have now seen myself on two consecutive Mastermind Grand Finals. Apart from Humphrys, is this a record?

Graham Barker said...

Congratulations to Brian,a good example of persistence and dogged determination rewarded.l enjoyed his insert very much,a subject I knew little about and feel inspired to do more research.
A big thank you to David,excellent reports-fair,balanced and above all entertaining.
Here’s to the next series,it will have to go some to match what has been a vintage set of shows.

Londinius said...

Thanks very much Graham. It's a pleasure.

Paul Gilbert said...

Brian's win keeps up a pattern whereby the 6 most recent winners have been the winners of SF1 and SF5 alternately i.e. Aidan McQuade, Marianne Fairthorne and Isabelle Heward (winners in 2013, 2015, and 2017) all won the first SF of their series, and Clive Dunning, Alan Heath, and Brian Chesney (winners in 2014, 2016, and 2018) all won the 5th SF of their series.

Another random fact is that the top 2 finalists in this series (Brian and Alfred) were winners of successive heats. This is the third time this has happened in the Humphrys era, following 2005 (where Pat Gibson and Mark Grant were the winners of the first 2 heats - curiously, the winners of the final 2 heats finished 5th and 6th in the final) and 2008-09 (where Nancy Dickmann and Ian Bayley won successive heats).

Paul Gilbert said...

On the topic of appearing in 2 successive Mastermind finals, I believe Steve Lacey may have that honour - the 2017 final showed a clip of Isabelle Heward's 3-way tie-break SF win in which he was one of the contenders, and the 2018 final started with a montage of all the contestants to have appeared in that series, of which he was one.

Liam Holton said...

Brian was unbelievable that night! That GK round was nearly as similar to Isabelle Heward last year, she was also low down at half time and then thanks to general knowledge, shot up into an unreachable lead! Nonetheless it was a fantastic series with some high quality contenders and great finalists to play the series out with a bang!


Also, I've been thinking of launching a Wikia page of Mastermind on FANDOM, so the question is does anyone know where I can find some archived information on Mastermind from 1972 up to now? Thanks in advance :)

Dan said...

I was in that same semi final. Not my finest hour.