Monday, 9 April 2018

University Challenge: Semi Final One - St. John's Cambridge v. Edinburgh

St. John’s, Cambridge v. Edinburgh

Right, allow me to begin by quoting my own preview of this match which I posted last weekend: -

let’s be blunt, and say that it would be a major upset if Edinburgh were to defeat St. John’s. Edinburgh are doughty fighters, and they have a fine quizzer in the shape of their captain Innes Carson. But I just don’t see that they have fast enough buzzing to do well enough on the starters to beat St. John’s.

Doubtless John-Clark Levin, Rosie McKeown,  Matt Hazell and their captain James Devine-Stoneman of St. John’s were determined on making this prophecy come true, while John Heaton-Armstrong, Stanley Wang, Philippa Stone and skipper Innes Carson of Edinburgh were going to do their utmost to put it to the lie.

I don’t know if it was nerves but both teams rather slept on their buzzers for the first starter. – Who sailed on the Antelope – is just one of those chestnuts which would see a regular, serious quizzer slinging some buzzer. However it wasn’t until JP announced that one of the places he visited was Glubbdubbdrib that Rosie McKeown buzzed in to take the points. It was the start of another excellent evening for her. Literary works that S.T.Coleridge thought contained the three most perfect plots – let’s face it, he was maybe whacked off his moobs on laudanum when he made that observation – provided St. John’s with a full house. If you knew that Ferdinand Foch was the supreme French general by the latter stages of World War One, then you knew that his quote for the next starter had to be referring to the Treaty of Versailles. John-Clark Levin won the buzzer race on that one. Swiss Mathematicians held out scant opportunity for an early lap of honour, and indeed yielded none for me. Somewhat more surprisingly they only yielded one correct answer to St. John’s. The next starter was one of those which repaid patience, as it became obvious when we were told that the astronomical term required was also the word for what links clauses in grammar. John-Clark Levin took his second consecutive starter on that one. A wonderfully incongruous set of bonuses asked for countries which rank high amongst the world’s pineapple producing countries, based on their national football team’s performance in the 2014 World Cup. St. John’s produced their second full house of the night, even though the sneaky second of the set asked for a country that didn’t even qualify for the finals. Put yourself in Edinburgh’s position, folks. You know it ain’t your night when the opposition are scoring full houses on sets like that. An impression which must have been reinforced when Rosie McKeown took the picture starter. This involved identifying both the Korean language, and the script in which it was written, Hangul. I won’t say that I stood up and clapped the telly for that one, but I did think that this was impressive knowledge. I knew it was Korean, but somehow Hangul has managed to elude me for the last 53 years and 10 months. Other languages and scripts brought an impressive two more correct answers. Right, be honest, how many of you missed out on old Church Slavonic? For the next starter, Matt Hazell was first to join the dots, and work out that a quote from former slave Frederick Douglass about a national celebration was going to be about July 4th. Moral philosophers escaped both of us. Even so, St. John’s led by 95 – 0 just after the 10 minute mark, and you feared that JP was about to send that kiss of death, a “plenty of time to get going, Edinburgh” flying in their direction.

None of us were conversant enough with the Stefan-Boltzman Law to answer the next starter. Innes Carson broke his team’s duck, knowing that don Alfonso is a character in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte. English words whose 2nd, 3rd and 4th letters are URM caused some amusement when the skipper, clutching at straws, cheekily suggested that an avaricious, ill tempered, churlish person was Burmese, rather than the correct answer of curmudgeon. Still, the one bonus they did manage was much needed. This seemed to galvanise his team a little, as John Heaton-Armstrong had a great early buzz to identify a text written in reconstructed proto Indo European.This earned a UC special set on astronomy. Basically each question gave an answer, which would be a clue to the name of a constellation – gem for Gemini, for example. Two bonuses kept their score ticking over. So to the music starter. At first I thought it was Peter Ustinov’s creation Liselotte Beethoven-Fink singing about das heilbutt, but no. It was James Devine-Stoneman who identified the work of Schoenberg. Pupils of Schoenberg saw St. John’s add another full house, which must have dampened Edinburgh’s spirits at this point. None of us knew that in the medical term NGF, the N stands for Nerve. Fair enough. Stevie Smith’s quote, “She has written an enormous book about women and it is soon clear that she doesn’t like them “ suggested a few authors, and as soon as JP mentioned the name Simone de Beauvoir it was obvious that we were dealing with The Second Sex. Innes Carson won that buzzer race. Poets name checked in “Northanger Abbey” brought a single bonus. For the next starter Rosie McKeown knew that if you’re asked a question which mentions a series of paintings by Whistler, you buzz and answer Nocturne and you’ll be right more often than you’re wrong. Lord William Bentinck brought just the one correct answer. Stanley Wang fell foul of the next starter which was one of those where you needed to wait for the moment it became obvious, and lost five of his team’s hard earned points. He’d been asked for a King of Spain married 4 times, and as soon as Mary I of England was given among the list of his wives, that allowed Rosie McKeown to give us Philip II. A UC special set on pairs of words in which the last three of the first were the first three of the second – eg. ginger and geriatric – certainly made it look like she had all three of the bonuses as well. At the 20 minute mark, despite Edinburgh’s fight back, St. John’s led by 160 – 45, and frankly, it seemed that the only question remaining to be answered was how many points the Cambridge side were going to win by.

So to the second picture starter. I recognised Gertrude Stein at the same time as the excellent Rosie McKeown buzzed in with the answer. Regular visitors to Gertrude Stein’s salon (did she do hairdressing as well, then?) gave us both a full house. I’m not familiar with the work of Daniel Dennett, but John-Clark Levin dredged him up for the next starter. Geometry and the work of Gaudi provided the subject of the bonuses. Another full house took St. John’s through the 200 mark. A fine quick buzz from Philippa Stone identified Cumbria/Cumberland as the ceremonial county taking its name from the Welsh word for Wales – Cymru. At long last I got to take a lap of honour, knowing that Auguste Picard was first to reach the stratosphere in a balloon.  Edinburgh managed one of the set on him. James Devine-Stoneman came in very early to identify various flavours of arsenic, and his team took one of a gettable set of bonuses on Kings of Scotland. With the bit now between his team the St. John’s skipper took a second consecutive early starter, knowing that ceci n’est pas une pipe is what’s written at the bottom of a famous Magritte painting. Artistic works connected with the word light gave me a full house, and St. John’s 2. The John Bates Clark (no relation) medal was a new one on me, but John-Clark Levin came in early to say it is awarded for economics. By this stage Edinburgh must have felt like they were being continually beaten over the head with a blunt instrument. Bonuses on chemical compounds brought just one bonus, which incidentally gave the Cambridge team a lead of 200 points. The St. John’s skipper added to that when he came in early to say that two of the elements which were 7,8 and 9 on the Mohs scale were quartz and corundum. That was it, since the gong was bonged halfway through the first bonus.

Hard lines Edinburgh, but you were beaten by a better team. Indeed, I dare say that to me, this was St. John’s best performance, and if they reproduce this in the final, then they are going to be extremely hard to beat. In all honesty I thought that was a fantastic performance.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

On the Gaudi bonuses, JP did that annoying thing he does , correcting the contestants’ pronunciation. When James Deinve-Stoneman correctly answered with the term catenARY, JP replied “Yes. The catEnary. . . “ Get over yourself, Jez.

In his final words to both teams, he told Edinburgh “all the viewers know that you’re capable of doing much better than that.” Yes, we've seen them do better, but that’s a bit of backhanded compliment, serving as it does to say – but you didn’t do very well tonight, did you? Bit harsh that.

On the other hand he said to St. John’s “You were well balanced, your were fast, you were great.” Well, that’s all true. However, when have we ever seen Jez gush like this? Heaven alone knows how this Cambridge man will react if they won the final – which would come as no surprise after this performance. A lap of honour around the studio, perhaps? Watch this space.

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

Jazz great Dave Brubeck was a pupil of Schoenberg


InCa said...

Edinburgh Carson here - many thanks for the kind words throughout the series, and for taking the time to write up these posts, they've been very interesting and enjoyable to read. A rather weak point in our defence is that Stanley and I were both confused by the phrasing of the first starter - we knew it was talking about Gulliver but interpreted "Which ship's surgeon" as "The surgeon of which ship", and then were left with no idea what to say after he rattled off the well-known ships' names. That said, it's highly possible that the same was true for our opponents, and even if not, needless to say it wouldn't have made a whole lot of difference to the eventual result! An outstanding team performance from an excellent (and thoroughly pleasant) team which left us with absolutely no regrets.

ailsa said...

Hi Innes - I had exactly the same issue watching along at home, I figured it was Gulliver but couldn't think what he was looking for in terms of the ship. Incredibly well played throughout though, you were my favourite team to watch, and not just because I know two of you :)

qdx1 said...

A great review, as ever. And St. John's were very impressive.

Of course we all try and predict what will happen in the next match based on past performance - this is very difficult! Performance in a particular match will depend on exactly how the questions fall but I've also wondered if we always see teams at their very best given the UC recording format (37 episodes all recorded over 3 long weekends). In particular, when a team occasionally has to play its second match of the day, does that affect the outcome? I would expect that recording a UC episode (get clothes and the makeup done, cope with the lights, studio audience, cameras and Paxman, lots of adrenalin) must be all rather tiring. In some cases there could be a fairly small gap and then you have to do this all again later on the same day.

So for example this year, when Corpus Christi Cambridge played St. John’s Cambridge in the second round it was actually at the end of the first round filming block and was Corpus’ second match that day (whereas St. John’s match against St. Andrews would have been the day before) and Corpus were surprisingly subdued. On the Friday of the QF/SF/F filming block, St John’s match against Newcastle was St. John’s second match of that day (and Newcastle’s only match). Did that make a difference? On the other hand, Edinburgh were on fine form in their second match of the day in their QF against Bristol (after losing to Merton earlier in the day). For the St. John’s / Edinburgh SF, St. John’s had the previous day with no matches whereas Edinburgh had two matches. Of course it is impossible to really know if there is any effect here, and perhaps in any case it might vary between teams.

Aethelstan said...

Thanks for another great review. Good linguistics questions - I must be forgetting my science in old age as I clocked Old Church Slavonic. Oh dear!! I got all the chemistry ones, as well I should.

My 'fear', if it were that, around the John's team were misplaced, as you predicted, and much as I hated seeing the lovely Edinburgh manhandled I was pleased that my favourites regained their form and came out storming with some, frankly, superb knowledge. I was also pleased to see all contributing, but of course props to their youngest player..
all hail McKeown! You can absolutely tell when she's clocked a question and the buzz is coming.

Innis, your team was great and delivered some stunning performances!

Let's see what next week brings.

Jack said...

Excellent stuff from St John's, proving that their momentum hasn't run out yet, as some of us feared it may have done; in fact, I'd say that was one of their best performances yet, against a proven team who should feel no shame at all in going out at this stage to such a strong performance. St John's must definitely be taken seriously in the final, whoever they face; hopefully we get another good match between them on Monday!

On the bonuses, St John's managed 26/39 and Edinburgh 5/12.

qdx1, thanks for that insight into the filming blocks. Confirming my thoughts on which order the first round matches were filmed in, though I'd have thought both St John's and Corpus Christi would have filmed their first and second match on the same day.

Carly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carly said...

I'm still catching up with old UC episodes (I'm going to be sad when I run out of eps on Youtube :P) and watching a first round match from the 2015-2016... with St John also correctly answering a question on Hangul! Meant I could get this one right. ... although, I just realised it's a different St Johns, it's confusing when they're at both Oxford & Cambridge.

Aethelstan said...

Yes there's quite a few colleges with the shared name! Both St John's' are considered to be fairly wealthy and are of the same historical vintage, although the formal sister colleges of St Johns Cambridge are Balliol and Trinity College Dublin. I think the Cambridge one is larger, I've never had the pleasure.

qdx1 said...

Jack, regarding the timing of the first block of filming. There are 4 episodes filmed each day (normally) and these are in two sessions (the audience is the same for the pair of matches in a session and there is a fairly short gap between the matches). The St. John’s Cambridge vs St. Andrews 1st round match was the 12th match and so would have been filmed at the end of the 3rd day of filming (a Sunday). On the Monday the first session would have had the Corpus Christi Cambridge vs St. Anne’s Oxford match (episode 13) and the first 2nd round match (Strathclyde vs Emmanuel: episode 17) . The afternoon session would then have had the final first round match (Merton vs KCL: episode 14) and the St. John’s vs Corpus 2nd round match (episode 18).

BTW: in terms of a team filming two matches in one day, for the Newcastle vs Fitzwilliam QF, this was Fitz’s second match of the day, but Newcastle’s first. I thought that in that Fitz under-performed my expectations.