Saturday, 16 February 2019

University Challenge Quarter Final Match 3 - Manchester v. Edinburgh


Quarter Final Match 3 – Manchester v. Edinburgh 

The Manchester team of Alexander Antao, Georgia Lynott, Joe Hanson and captain James Ross didn’t, in the words of Shania Twain, impress me much in their first round heat. Their second round match though was a much more useful performance. As for the Edinburgh team of Matt Booth, Marco Malusa, Robbie Campbell Hewson and skipper Max Fitz-James, well they were more convincing in their first round match. Who would win then? You paid yer money and took yer choc ice.

Robbie Campbell Hewson took first blood with a good early buzz to say that Victoria is the southernmost state of the mainland of Australia, thus earning an early Paxman well done. Bonuses on Baghdad brought a quick full house. Much like the England rugby team in recent matches, Edinburgh’s tactic seemed to be to blitz the opposition at the start, as Max Fitz-James put in a terrific early buzz to say that the Mantoux test is widely used to detect immunity to TB. Ladybird books made a nice UC special set which brought another full house. So far Edinburgh were 6 out of 6. This run came to an abrupt halt when Max Fitz-James came in too early, and suggested that “Go Set a Watchman’s” manuscript was discovered in a trunk in 1991. Not a daft suggestion that, but had he waited a couple of seconds more he’d have heard that it was written more than 100 years earlier, which ruled out Harper Lee’s book. Given the Widow Douglas, Manchester still missed out on Huckleberry Finn, which will have to count as an opportunity spurned. Joe Hanson, as well as winning the accolades for by far the best shirt of the whole match, knew the Poynting Vector – no, me neither – to kickstart his team. The physicist Thomas Sydenham brought both of us two points. I was a little surprised that nobody knew that Sarah Kingdom’s famous son born to a French father in Portsmouth in 1806 was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but there we are. Just 6 years later Charles Dickens was born in the same city. Alexander Antao came in far too early for the next one. Asked for a particular style of decoration, we just hadn’t been given enough to narrow it down by the time he offered the Arts and Crafts Movement. In fact, associating it with Islamic Art at the end of the question took me out of the equation, and Edinburgh couldn’t dredge up Arabesque or Moresque either. Another early buzz from Robbie Campbell Hewson saw him identify the first of a series of MPS elected in 2017 as representing constituencies all in Cumbria. Nuclear models in physics promised me nothing, which is what it delivered. More surprisingly, Edinburgh also took nothing more from that visit to the table. So to the picture starter, and first to buzz in to identify the city on the map in question as Bruges was Marco Malusa. Other cities whose tourist websites call them the Venice of the North provided two correct answers. So as we approached the 10 minute mark Edinburgh certainly looked the sharper of the two teams, leading by 75 – 15.

Captain James Ross made inroads into the deficit, knowing the Guelphs and Ghibellines for an early buzz. Arthur Schopenhauer bit a further 10 points out of it. I didn’t understand the next question, but Georgia Lynott knew the answer was plagal cadence. Gesundheit. The director Mary Harron provided both of us with one correct answer, and meant that Manchester were now just a full set behind. Clearly on a roll, Georgia Lynott buzzed early to identify the Oktoberfest for the next starter, thus earning bonuses on blood coagulation. I awarded myself a lap of honour for knowing vitamin K for the last of these. Manchester had the other two as well, and so the scores were level, but all the momentum was with Manchester. Something about triangles and resistors went begging – not surprised – and so Max Fitz-James came in too early for the herb in sauce bearnaise and lost five. Alexander Antao tapped tarragon into the open goal, and Manchester took the lead for the first time. Multiple gold medallists at the 2016 Olympics didn’t do Manchester many favours. The music starter, om popular music, was always going to be a buzzer race, and Max Fitz-James got his team’s bandwagon rolling again by winning it with the name of Chuck Berry. Other tracks also played to drive Manuel Noriega from his hiding place. It was maybe a little bit strict not to allow them just the Vandellas for Martha and the Vandellas, but there you go. They took the other two and the lead. Something maths-y led Robbie Campbell Hewson to give the correct answer. Fair enough. Bonuses on the great Anish Kapoor brought a timely full house. There was a great buzzer race between the two captains to identify the penultimate character to die in Hamlet, won by James Ross. Fractions in binary notation brought laughter but not points. So, by slightly after the 20 minute mark Manchester had had the better of the previous ten minutes, but Edinburgh still led, by 115 – 95.

Matt Booth knew that the 4 states bordering Mexico west to east have initials which spell cant. Fair enough. Bonuses on Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey brought a couple of bonuses. So to the second picture starter, and a stamp commemorating famous Gandalf lookalike, Walt Whitman. He was number 1 in the UK for weeks on end with ‘Rose Marie’, I believe. Matt Booth took his second consecutive starter with that one. More US postage stamps commemorating famous Americans provided Edinburgh with no further points. Alexander Antao buzzed in very early on the names Trung Trac and Trung Nhi to supply the correct answer of Vietnam. Volcanic activity in the solar system brought Manchester 10 points closer. Nobody knew that Cecil Beaton and Edith Head won Oscars for costume design. My Mum’s cousin studied under Cecil Beaton, but that’s another story. Did you know that pteridomania refers to a passion for ferns? Me neither, and more importantly, nor did either team. A good early buzz from Max Fitz-James saw him identify Kurosawa’s film Rashomon. Nazi Germany provided rather a gentle set of bonuses, which Edinburgh quickly dispatched to the boundary. Alexander Antao correctly identified refugee as a word first coined to describe French Huguenots – of whom my ancestor William Rainbow was one – who escaped to Britain in the 17th century. People with the name Quiller allowed one bonus before the contest was gonged. Edinburgh won by 170 – 130, and on reflection it was that opening burst in the first 7 minutes or so which proved the difference between both teams, and I may be mistaken but I did think that Edinburgh were slightly better on the bonuses, although neither team did badly on that score. Well played – good match.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

On the tarragon question Max Fitz-James give a long pause before answering ‘cilantro’. Our hero replied “I’m sorry, but you must answer when you buzz . . . (pause for comic effect) You’re wrong anyway.” Oh Jez, you old tease.

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

The Mantoux test is widely used to detect immunity to tuberculosis

Friday, 15 February 2019

Mastermind 2019 - Heat 17


Another first round heat, then, dearly beloved. One which interestingly saw me gain my highest aggregate total on the combined specialist rounds, certainly of this series, and possibly of all time. I’ll come to that.

The first of these specialist subjects was Best Picture Academy Awards 1928-1970, and it was offered by Jodie Underhay. Not all that often, but every now and again you’ll hear a specialist round where you think – this is absolute meat and drink to a decent, regular general knowledge quizzer – and this was such a round. There was such a round a few seasons ago on British Olympic Gold medal winners which you might remember. Now, I don’t blame Jodie for this for one minute, but for anyone who plays in quizzes regularly a majority of questions in that round have been asked over and over again in General Knowledge quizzes. I’m not trying to be horrible, but in my opinion that was a comparatively easy round. Jodie could only answer the questions she was asked, which she did extremely well, scoring 14. I had 13.

So to our second specialist – Greek Mythology. As it happens, I won my first ever Mastermind competition answering on Greek Mythology. This was Elthorne High School Mastermind in 1981. I wasn’t even going to enter it, but Mr. Browning, head of the 6th form and one of my English teachers said I should enter with Greek Mythology because whenever references to Greek mythology were made in Shakespeare I always understood what they were referring to. Yes, I did win, thanks for asking. Back to last night, the subject was being offered by Nifthy Jamaldeen. Now, as it happens Mrs. Londinius was watching with me, and we both commented how nervous Nifthy looked sitting down into the chair, and then he hesitated on answering his occupation. So we weren’t entirely surprised that he struggled with his round. The poor fellow seemed quite badly affected by the chair. I felt that as a round, it was tougher than the Oscars round – I scored 9 on a subject that I actually know better than the Oscars – but even so Nifthy missed a few which were easily gettable – the Argonauts being possibly the most obvious example. Whether his score of 6 was due just to nerves, or just to not having prepared well enough, or a bit of both, well, only he could say.

Teacher Sarah Skelton gave us a round on Joseph Bazalgette. Joseph Bazalgette was an unsung hero of my home city, London, although he became slightly less unsung when an episode of the brilliant Seven Wonders of the Industrial Age was devoted to his construction of the London Sewer system. He did a lot more to create modern London than most. As such, I knew a bit about him. When you add to that the number of questions which weren’t so specifically about Bazalgette as about London – the Chelsea Embankment and the Woolwich ferry, for example – I managed to take my own total for the round to 9. Sarah went one better, which was a perfectly respectable performance, but put her 4 points behind at the halfway point.

Last but not least, then, we had Pat Williamson, who was answering on the History of Manchester and Salford. This was another one of those rounds where a good general knowledge can bring the armchair punter points, even though you don’t really possess any great knowledge on the topic. I’ve only ever visited Manchester to appear on Mastermind or act as a stand in – although what I saw of the city I liked very much. Yet I have a good enough general knowledge to pick up all the stuff on C.P. Scott, Orator Hunt, the Pankhursts etc. to get 8 out of this round. All of which meant that I amassed a ridiculous aggregate of 39 for these 4 specialist rounds. In a way I’m quite annoyed with myself for not managing to squeeze out one extra point to take it to 40, but there we are. Pat’s score of 11 put her in with a shout, but meant she’d have to produce a good GK round to have a chance.

Nifthy returned to the chair for his GK rounds, and if his specialist had been nervy, I’m very sorry to say that his GK looked even more so. There’s no way of sugar coating this, I’m afraid. Nifthy scored 2 on his round. He shook his head, and looked absolutely devastated, and even more so as he sat back down in his chair on contenders’ row. I’m sorry to bang on about this, but I have to make this point again. We can’t know how Nifthy performed in his audition, but if there was any indication that he might struggle to perform in the GK round, then was it really fair to put him in this position? The poor guy looked as if he wished the ground would open up and swallow him up as the final scores were read out at the end. For the record, he was the 6th contender just in the heats shown so far in 2019 to fail to score more than 7 on GK. What does it prove? It doesn’t prove anything, but it certainly suggests that there may have been a relaxation of GK qualification standards – if indeed this is a selection criterion still.

Well, we can but hope that Hat Trick and Hindsight will be a little more protective towards potential contenders for the next series. For now, Sarah Skelton returned to the chair for her GK round. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m always alert when a teacher plays to see if he or she might be the one to take over the mantle of last schoolteacher to win. Well, it wasn’t going to be Sarah, but nonetheless she posted a pretty decent double figure score with 11 to take her total to 21. Nothing to fear from the kids on Monday morning with that score, Miss.

Now, I mentioned earlier that Pat needed a good performance on GK to give herself a good chance of overhauling the 3 point lead. Well, what she produced was excellent. I was highly impressed not just with the number of correct answers she produced – 15 – but with the breadth and range of her knowledge. I don’t know Pat, but I’d venture a guess that she’s a quizzer. In fact it could have been an even better round apart from the fact that she wasn’t going very quickly, otherwise she’d have squeezed at least another one, and possibly 2 questions in. But whichever way you looked at it, that round had winning performance stamped all over it.

Jodie Underhay, though, had banked that 3 point lead in the first round, so she didn’t need a 15. She needed a 12 and no passes, and that would be enough. Well, the passes came, but so did some answers, and it wasn’t until the last 30 seconds that it became clear that Jodie was just behind the clock, and would not get the 13 she needed to win. She fell a little short, scoring 11 for a total of 25. Nonetheless, a good, all round performance.

So very well done to Pat. With the right specialist subject, and a little more snap with the answers, judging by her general knowledge round she could well be one to watch in the semi finals. Best of luck to you.

The Details

Jodie Underhay
Best Picture Academy Awards 1928 - 1970
14
0
11
3
25
3
Nifthy Jamaldeen
Greek Mythology
6
4
2
7
8
11
Sarah Skelton
Joseph Bazalgette
10
1
11
1
21
2
Pat Williamson
The History of Manchester and Salford
11
1
15
0
26
1

Saturday, 9 February 2019

University Challenge 2019 - Quarter final match - Darwin, Cambridge v. Bristol


Darwin, Cambridge v. Bristol

Yes, last Monday saw the return of high-fiving Jason Golfinos, and his Darwin, Cambridge team of Stuart Macpherson, Chris Davis and Guy Mulley. Jason Golfinos amassed a very large number of starters in the first two rounds, and there’s been speculation as to how Darwin might fare if he had an off night on the buzzer. Would time tell? Well, aiming to put this to the test for Bristol were George Sumner, Owen Iredale, no slouch on the buzzer himself, Pushan Basu and captain Anne LeMaistre.

The first starter was one of those that, if you had the nerve to wait, would suddenly become obvious. Winning the buzzer race when it did was Owen Iredale, who correctly deduced that the required answer was Claude ‘Show me the’ Monet. W.H.Auden provided 2 bonuses. The Darwin skipper hit back with his first starter of the evening, with one of my pet hates, Brutalism in architecture. British artists born in the early 20th century enabled them to level the scores with two correct bonuses. A very long and involved economics question resulted in Guy Mulley correctly answering the letter J for the next starter. Jason Golfinos once again had to bully him into giving a reluctant high 5. Bonuses on Joseph Swan saw them fail to add to their score. I’ll be honest, I also answered silver nitrate for the photograph one, although I did have the previous two. So to the pictures, and a coat of arms from the flag of Ecuador. Nobody knew this, nor the fact that removing the coat of arms leaves the flag of Colombia. Lovely question. I didn’t understand the next question about molecular biology but Chris Davis knew that the answer was TATA. With a long suffering look on his face he held out his hand, rather low, I thought, for the inevitable high five coming in from his captain. Three more sets of flag charges followed, with Darwin being asked from which flag they were taken, and which flag resulted from removing it. I’ll be honest, you have to really know your flags to get these, and Darwin didn’t, so another set went begging. Nevertheless, approaching the 10 minute mark they led by 40 – 20 and were outbuzzing Bristol at the moment.

Jason Golfinos threw away 5 points of that lead coming in too early for the next starter. Once the question informed us that the ancient Empire in question became a major rival of Rome it became clear that we were looking for the Parthian Empire, although Bristol couldn’t capitalise. George Sumner then came in too early for the next starter, allowing Jason Golfinos to correctly answer that shell and bone script is often considered to be the earliest for of Chinese characters. A rather incongruous set on cocoa and football provided Darwin with another correct answer. Jason Golfinos sailed a little close to the wind with his next buzz. He knew the quotation in question belonged to Otto Von Bismarck, but he hesitated, and probably just avoided a Paxman wigging. Again, they failed to make the best of their bonuses taking just one. For all of their domination on the buzzer, Darwin were only 55 points ahead at this stage as the music starter loomed on the horizon. Neither team recognised the work of Brahms. If you add together the stars on the flag of New Zealand - 4, stripes on the flag of Thailand - 5 and colours on the flag of South Africa – 6 you get 15. It sounded like Owen Iredale was guessing, but who cares, it was right. More pieces of music referenced in Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia provided nothing in the case of the first two bonuses. For the last they had to decide who composed the Sound of Music. Ah, they zigged with Hammerstein, but should have zagged with Rodgers. Fair play to Owen Iredale. I’ve never heard of Lydia Koidula, nor did I know that Parnu is in Estonia. That was enough for him to get the correct answer. Binomial pairs, where the two are always in the same order and always joined by ‘and’ provided a rather gentle set, and Bristol duly despatched them to the boundary. This meant that Bristol were just 20 behind now. Owen Iredale seemed to have found his range now, as he was first to buzz to identify bivalves amongst others as molluscs. Peter Sloterdijk – gesundheit – provided a full house, and put Bristol into the lead. How would Darwin respond? Well, asked about a Norwegian polar explorer Jason Golfinos slung some buzzer and zigged with Amundsen, losing 5. Bristol couldn’t dredge up Nansen, the other one. Nonetheless, as unlikely as it had seemed a mere 5 or 6 minutes earlier, Bristol now led by 75 – 65 as we approached the 20 minute mark.

No need for either team to panic now. Jason Golfinos showed that he was not daunted by the previous buzz and came in very early to identify Tagalog as one of the official languages of the Philippines. Bonuses on Kings of Scots promised to be a little trickier than they sounded, and indeed added nothing to the Darwin total. I’ll be honest, like Jason Golfinos I thought that the second picture starter looked like the work of Caravaggio. JP informed him that it was not, let him thump the desk in anguish, then told him off for hesitating after buzzing. Ouch. Pushan Basu applied a little salt to Darwin’s wounds by buzzing in to correctly say it was the work of Gentileschi. Three more works featuring biblical scenes with women of the female gender brought the Bristol total to 90. Chris Davis chanced his arm on the next starter, but came in too early and lost 5. However the Bristol knowledge of Shakespeare sonnets was not up to producing coral and rose from sonnet 130. Again that Golfinos buzzer finger dragged his team back into contention, knowing some Physics thing named after Curie. Prime numbers gave Darwin a prime opportunity to get back on terms, but they managed just the one. That man Iredale knew a number of things connected by the word Mona, and this earned Bristol the opportunity to take a couple of bonuses on African currencies. Jason Golfinos was still plugging away though, and earned a terrific fast starter for the poet Mistral. Indigenous fauna of New Zealand brought two bonuses and narrowed the gap back down to 5. George Sumner’s twitchy buzzer finger saw him squander that gap by coming in too early for the next starter. Which seemed the perfect point for the gong to sound, as indeed it did.

So to a tie break. As JP succinctly explained, the next to score a point would win, or the next to lose a point would lose. Both teams showed nerve in waiting for the full question, on how man times the letter A appears in three book titles. Neither could answer correctly. Now, unlike both teams I knew cholesterol was the answer to the next starter, and so I took a very belated lap of honour. Nobody knew that the Rite of Spring premiered in 1914. Nobody knew Aaron’s Rod. Finally Pushan Basu applied the coup de grace, knowing Graham Greene’s “The End of the Affair”.

Okay then, let’s try to unpick what happened here. You cannot say that somebody who manages six starters, as did Jason Golfinos, has had a bad night. As it happened, Darwin won 8 starters in total – 2 more than Bristol who won 6. But their conversion rate was – and I’m sorry to say this – poor, standing at about 33%. Bristol on the other hand had an over 60% conversion rate, and that’s what kept them in the contest up to the gong. So, a very exciting match, which I thoroughly enjoyed. But if I was a betting man, I’d be lengthening the odds on either team winning the competition after this.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Not until the tie break was there anything worthy of note. When Bristol initially declined to have a free throw for the first starter, as captain Anne LeMaistre said “We don’t know it” JP spluttered, “You don’t know it!!!!!!” with indignation. As we approached the 5th tie break starter, with more than a hint of exasperation he exhorted both teams “Come on or we’ll be here all night.”

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

Shell and bone script is often considered to be the earliest for of Chinese characters.

And

A prime number that forms a different prime when the digits are reversed is an emirp. 

Friday, 8 February 2019

Mastermind 2019 - Heat 16


Let us begin, if we may, with a word of congratulations to Hat Trick and Hindsight productions, who won the bidding process for the right to produce Mastermind in Belfast for the next two seasons. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what you do with the show, although would like to make an early plea, on behalf of fans, that you don’t make changes just for change’s sake.

So to last night, and let’s begin by paying tribute to the fact that we had 4 credible contenders, which to my mind made for a better show, as it certainly made for a better contest. Just my opinion, and as always, feel free to disagree.

First up was Oliver Forrest. Now, for no particular reason I don’t think that I’ve ever watched a Wes Anderson film. I certainly hadn’t watched any of them which were the basis of questions in Oliver’s round. So my score remained at 0 throughout. Oliver, on the other hand, did extremely well, and had it not been for one question that got away from him this was a pretty much perfect specialist performance. As I was banging on about last week, preparation, thorough preparation can’t guarantee you a perfect score, but my goodness it makes a difference.

This was proven again in Lesley Bowen’s round on King Richard III. This provided me with the chance to get off the mark, and I was quite pleased with myself to score 8 – mind you, I always get annoyed with myself if I can’t get a half decent score on Kings and Queens. They were not all gimmes by any stretch of the imagination , and Lesley really knew her stuff to score 14. Game on.

Another specialist subject very much to my liking was offered by Phil Robinson. I owe qute a bit to the England rugby team. In the late 70s, discovering International Rugby turned the younger me from someone who didn’t understand sport, and thought it was all pretty pointless into a real armchair sports fan, and set me on the path in which I’d eventually play rugby for my school, for Goldsmiths, and for a local club. Throughout the 1990s right up until 2003, there were worse places to live and work than Wales if you were an England rugby supporter. So I was hoping to do well, and another 8 was added to my score. Phil showed a good depth of knowledge to amass his own 12 points, and at 2 behind he was still very much in contention.

The specialist rounds last night were strangely symmetrical for me, as I didn’t score on the first, and I didn’t score on the last either. I’ve never read any novel by Nancy Mitford. I caught an episode or two of an ITV adaptation of Love in a Cold Climate years ago, and it didn’t send me running off to the local library, if truth be told. So I can’t comment on the level of questions in the round. I can comment on the quality of the answers though, and Rachael Charman did extremely well, finishing with 13, and being right on the joint leaders’ shoulders as we turned into the back straight.

Well, could we top off a high quality specialist round with an equally good GK round? Maybe not quite, but it was a pleasure to see that all 4 contenders produced at least respectable performances. First to return was Phil. Now, all contenders have to face the fact that there are likely to be questions in their GK round to which they don’t know the answer. So you have to decide – guess or pass? Passing is a valid tactic if you do it quickly enough, and it seemed to me that Phil had decided if he didn’t know it instantly, then he was going to pass. It did seem to mean that he maintained some momentum throughout the round, which saw him into double figures. He added 10 to his score to take him to 22.

I don’t know if she was inspired by watching Phil, but it transpired that Rachael would use exactly the same tactic in her round – passing quickly – which had a very similar result. She too scored 10, but having started a point to the good, she took the lead with a total of 23.

Oliver Forrest is a former UC competitor. So although a Mastermind virgin he does at least have this much background in quizzing, and I fancied he’d have the drive and focus to amass the 10 points he’d need to take the outright lead. He actually did slightly better, taking 12 points for a total of 26 overall.

All of which made Lesley’s task pretty clear. The least she needed was 12 and no passes to force a tie break. Anything better she’d win outright, anything worse and no dice. Lesley too was adopting the strategy of passing, although not so crisply and quickly as Phil or Rachael, and by the end of the round she’d fallen a little way short, adding 9 to her total for 23. Well played to Oliver, and best of luck in the semis, but well played all 4 contenders.

The Details

Oliver Forrest
The Films of Wes Anderson
14
0
12
0
26
0
Lesley Bowen
Richard III
14
0
9
8
23
8
Phil Robinson
The England Rugby Team Since 1945
12
1
10
7
22
8
Rachel Charman
The Novels of Nancy Mitford
13
0
10
7
23
7

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Universty Challenge 2019 - Quarter final match 1 - Glasgow v. Durham


The quarter finals at last. I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t sat down and done any analysis of which teams are most likely to contest the final, but the real contenders will emerge during the next few weeks.

So on Monday we saw Glasgow take on Durham. For Glasgow, conquerors of my own Goldsmiths team in round 2, we had Lewis Barn, Freya Whiteford, Cam Herbert and captain James Hampson. Against Goldies they had got off to a great start, and looked dead certs for the win by the 20 minute mark, but were given a scare as they took their foot off the gas in the last 7 minutes or so. Such generosity in this match would surely be punished. Their opposition, Durham, were Sian Round, Cameron Yule, Ben Murray and skipper Matthew Toynbee. They scored a massive 360 in the first round, and posted a comfortable win over Keble in the second.

Glasgow once again got off to a blitz start with skipper James Hampson recognising clues to Boris Pasternak. Recent non-fiction works brought them two correct answers. I’m not going to pretend that I had a clue about baroreceptors – I though they were something in your potting shed – but James Hampson made it 2 out of 2 starters with them. Naomi Mitchison did little for me, and in fact both of us only managed the one bonus. I did know Tristram Shandy for the next starter, and James Hampson made it a triple with the same. Chemical elements classified as carcinogenic to humans were like manna from Heaven to me – since all I actually do know about Science really is the periodic table. A full house sent me on my way to a lap of honour, while Glasgow managed 2. An early picture starter in this show showed us the titles of films in the original language in which they were shot. For once Glasgow misfired, allowing Matthew Toynbee to identify the work of Ingmar Bergman. I liked him in Casablanca. More of the same brought Durham a timely full house. Cam Herbert came in too early for the next starter, losing 5 and allowing Sian Round of Durham to identify various clues to the word window. Bonuses on Jean Paul Sartre took them to just 5 points behind Glasgow, who led 50 – 45 as we approached the 10 minute mark.

Years ago, in this very blog, I admitted that I didn’t know what a Golgi apparatus was. I went away and learned it, so I took my second lap of honour worthy starter when this reared its homely head in the next starter. Matthew Toynbee took the lead for his team with this one. A series of animals with crests brought us both a full house. It was proving a good night for the captains, as Matthew Toynbee took his second consecutive starter with the mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias. Indo Saracenic Architecture sounded tricky and yielded just the one bonus. I didn’t know the world Exposition took place in Astana in 2017, but Cameron Yule did. A rather gentle UC special set on words, which become other words with an additional letter quite rightly yielded a full house. So to the music starter. We heard a snatch of an opera, and Cam Herbert quite rightly identified it as the work of Joe Green – or Giuseppi Verdi if you want to be pedantic. Other recordings of Marion Anderson yielded a further, well, nothing to be perfectly honest. I didn’t really understand the next question but James Hampson knew that the answer was negative feedback. ‘Spect we’ve all had our fair share of that in our time. Sherlock Holmes short stories brought them no joy. I don’t blame Ben Murray for jumping in early with Zoroastrianism for the next starter, since I did exactly the same, but Glasgow couldn’t capitalise. Manichaeism was what the question wanted. Fair enough. Glasgow’s redoubtable skipper knew George Orwell wrote “Why I Write” to earn bonuses on plant derived substances. A single correct answer meant that Durham led by 105 to 85 at just approaching the 20 minute mark.

A rather fiendish mental maths question about a Fibonacci sequence saw Matthew Toynbee win the buzzer race to give the correct answer of 34. Historical sources saw Durham add a further 5 points to their score. The second picture round saw James Hamspon earn a Paxman well done for identifying a portrait of Voltaire, the inventor of the battery. Bonuses on other famous folk known by one name followed. One of the bonuses showed us a portrait of well known Pat Gibson impersonator, Stendahl. Glasgow managed just one for Moliere. Ben Murray recognised two definitions of the word jerk for the next starter. Marine invertebrates provided a very timely full house. Lewis Barn won the buzzer race to identify Icarus for the next starter. Bonuses on Dutch colonial history did Glasgow no favours. Nobody knew that President Polk presided over the annexation of Texas in 1845. Nobody knew pachynema – gesundheit. Ben Murray won the buzzer race for the next starter to identify Bolivia. French economists promised and delivered nowt to me, but the 5 points they gave to Durham meant that Glasgow needed two full houses just to draw level. Looked unlikely. Nobody knew that a square and an equilateral triangle form and octahedron. Me neither. Matthew Toynbee sealed his team’s win, knowing about various works of literature connected with the word arrow. Expressions containing a repeated name were announced, but gonged before any were answered. This sealed a win for Durham by 170 to 110.

A good contest, that, and for once, not won on the buzzer, where both teams were much of a muchness. Glasgow were just far too wasteful of their bonuses. They will fight at least one other day though.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Very little worthy of note this week. I did think he might kick off when Glasgow offered clock as a body part for the first Sherlock Holmes bonus, but he merely repeated what they’d said rather scornfully, and favoured them with a look that was so old fashioned it was practically mummified.

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

There was plenty that I didn’t know this week, but I can’t recall going – ooh, that’s really interesting – to any of them. Apologies.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Mastermind 2019 Heat 15


Good morning. Well, I don’t know if you saw it, but that was an interesting show last night for all the wrong reasons, wasn’t it? You didn’t see it? Well, let me elucidate.

First to go was Hyder Al Hassani. Hyder was answering on the Life and Films of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now sometimes I hear people who don’t know any better suggesting that popular entertainment rounds on films, TV or music are somehow a soft touch. Au contraire. For these rounds you have to know your stuff and you have to prepare. If you don’t, then you’ll most likely get found out. Hyder’s 8 points certainly wasn’t a disaster, but he missed out on a number of questions requiring detailed knowledge of some pretty well known films.

Our second contender, Liz Woodcock, was answering on David Hockney. Now, look, when you get right down to it, I can only speculate on why a contender has a less than impressive score on specialist, and I can’t know for certain. In Hyder’s case I’d guess it was through failing to concentrate revision in the right areas, and maybe through not doing enough concentrated preparation. In Liz’s case, for she ended up with 7, I suspect it might be a little more complicated. I think it all unravelled with her second question. Asked where Hockney studied, she confidently replied “Royal Academy” while the correct answer was Royal College of Art. That was either careless, or a slip of the tongue, but I think it upset her for the rest of the round. So in another question, when asked for the title of a painting, she froze into immobility for several seconds, so much so that John had to encourage her to take a guess – no reaction – or pass – at which she replied. After that it wasn’t a terrible round at all for what remained, but the time had just gone.

For several years now, every time I’ve seen a teacher take to the black chair in the first round I have wondered whether this will be the person to relieve me of the title of the last schoolteacher to win Mastermind. That would be fine by me, I’ve had a good long run so far of 11 years (12 if you count the fact that my final was recorded in 2007, although not shown until 2008). Well, without wishing to be horrible, it soon became clear that this was not going to be Conor McMahon. The poor chap only managed 4 on Tony Benn, and two of these were the first two. Maybe nerves played a part but there’s no denying that Conor didn’t know his stuff. And that’s fatal on Mastermind.

To be honest, the contest was crying out for someone to grab it by the scruff of the neck and rip a specialist round to shreds, and thankfully that’s what we got with out final contender, Nicholas Young. Answering on John Buchan, (who I thought had been the first player to captain sides which won the Scottish and English FA Cups), Nicholas produced an excellent score of 14, in what seemed like an effortless performance compared to what had gone before.

I won’t lie, the specialist rounds last night did provoke some comment on the Mastermind Club Facebook group. For what it’s worth, and without wishing to be horrible or mean to any of last night’s contenders, here’s my feelings on the subject. On the one hand, Mastermind is JUST a TV show. A high score doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re super intelligent, and a low score doesn’t mean that you’re not. If you appear on the show, and you don’t do very well, at the end of the day you haven’t hurt anyone, and the only person likely to suffer from it is yourself, through the comments people are likely to make about how you performed. On the other hand, though, considering that the show does offer you more chance of embarrassing yourself than many a quiz or game show, I find it difficult to understand why you would want to apply if you’re not willing, or find yourself unable to prepare thoroughly for your specialist round. It is the only part of the show where you have any real control over your own fate. Nobody forces you to go on, and personally, I feel that if you accept a place on the show, then you do have an obligation to do the best that you can. Juts my opinion and as always, feel free to disagree.

Right, this is very mean of me, but I was checking both Hyder and Liz’s expressions to see if they would look surprised when John announced that Conor was the lowest scoring contender of the first round. Can’t say that they did. All things considered, it probably wasn’t very nice of John to start Connor’s round by saying, “I dare say you won’t want me reminding you how many you scored.” Bit nasty that, John. For all that he qualified this by saying that Conor was now used to the black chair, he’d begun the round by reminding Conor how poorly he’d done. Sadly for Conor, being used to the black chair now only seemed to make things worse. What followed looked like an ordeal. The evidence of the round – and that is the only evidence that we have to go by – was that Conor does not currently have the kind of General Knowledge to cope with a Mastermind GK round. I’m willing to accept that this may well have been exacerbated by nerves and by the trauma of that specialist round, but even allowing for that this wasn’t very good at all. Conor finished with 7 points.

Coincidentally, 7 was the total Liz, our next contender, had scored in the specialist round. Look, once again, I can accept that maybe her first round performance was playing on her mind and that this had a detrimental affect on her performance, but once again if we take the evidence that we have, the round itself, then she didn’t do very well. She added 6 to her total to take her score to 13.

Thus, as Hyder returned to the chair, a thought came to me. I don’t recall ever watching a heat of Mastermind where the last contender to go had won the show already without needing to even do his or her GK round. This could happen. Granted, Hyder only needed 7 to take the outright lead, but after what we’d already seen during this show who would have put money on him doing it? Well, thankfully normal service was resumed. Hyder scored 10 to take the target to 18, and although it wasn’t one of the highest or one of the best GK rounds we’ve seen all series I felt like standing up and applauding by this point of the evening.

Nicholas had a smile on his face as he returned to the chair. It wasn’t a smug, arrogant or unpleasant smile, no, but the smile of a man who knows that he is good enough to score the 5 points he needed to win outright. He did quite a bit better than that. In the end he added 12 to his score to take his winning total to 26. Not the highest of the series, no, but a good performance. Well done to you, sir, and the best of luck in the semi finals.

We’ve been speculating as to whether this show would be the lowest aggregate total ever. Who knows? Not me. It is a little complicated by the fact that each contender faced 4 and a half minutes of questions, as opposed to 4 minutes for most of the classic series (the first ever final gave contenders 2 and a half minutes of GK) and for the first few revived series. Not to mention shorter rounds for Discovery Mastermind. I’m not sure how long rounds were for Radio 4 Mastermind. Certainly, though, I’d be surprised if any show in the current round format had a lower aggregate total than the 64 we had last night. What does it prove? Probably nothing. Still, it does act as an object lesson for future contenders. If you thoroughly prepare your specialist there’s still no guarantee of a perfect round. I worked like stink on all of my specialists but never had one. However if you don’t thoroughly prepare your specialist it can really come back to bite you.

The Details

Hyder Al Hassani
The Life and Films of Arnold Schwarzenegger
8
3
10
3
18
3
Liz Woodcock
David Hockney
7
0
6
4
13
4
Conor McMahon
Tony Benn
4
0
3
2
7
2
Nicholas Young
John Buchan
14
0
12
4
26
4