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
Liz Woodcock
David Hockney
Conor McMahon
Tony Benn
Nicholas Young
John Buchan


Paul Gilbert said...

The lowest aggregate score of the Humphrys era is 57, which has been achieved twice:

September 2004: 19-16-8-14 (won by Ian Copland)
June 2006: 18-14-12-13 (won by Steevan Glover)

Since the increase to 2.5 minutes, the lowest is 63 (1 point less than last night), which was achieved in January 2011 with scores of 20-15-13-15 (won by Martin Short).

The Humphrys era has also seen two instances of contestants having won their match before starting their GK round: Tom King in 2005 (scored 16 on Dad's Army, next highest total score was 15), and Ray Eaton in 2006 (scored 15 on British Track & Field Athletics since 1980, next highest total score was 14).

Londinius said...

Thanks Paul - as always I stand ready to be corrected. I played in the 2006 season - and met Ray at the semis. Nice guy and very good quizzer.

Stephen Follows said...

For what it's worth, the Radio 4 rounds were (I'm pretty sure) two minutes for both SS and GK. I couldn't tell you what the lowest aggregate was, though.

I'd love to know what subject this McMahon chap teaches (and, indeed, how).

Hyder 'anOK18' Al Hassani said...

"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"

I can say in my case this was firmly the case. I've never been really into revising, and although I did read 2 of the 3 books and watch plenty of the films again I wanted to keep the whole process fun. I've always loved Arnie and really just used the show as excuse to force my wife to watch more of his movies than she would normally be comfortable with.

There were some questions I should have got - 3 in the SS and the first question in GK(I still hate myself for that, complete idiocy) but even then I wouldn't have won.

All in all I didn't go on to prove myself as some master quizzer, I went on for a laugh and free trip to Manchester. And on those accounts I succeeded!

Glad you liked the show and weren't too disappointed in me!