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.


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


Jack said...

Pretty sound analysis of how the game played out Dave: Bristol's slightly better bonus rate of 11/18, to Darwin's 8/24, made up for getting two fewer starters. Agree that both teams will likely have to play better in their next matches: I would guess Bristol will play Durham and Darwin Glasgow.

On Monday, Edinburgh play Manchester; remember Scottish viewers, the show is on Tuesday up here due to LIVE football.

Aethelstan said...

I had a sense of foreboding about this match, I honestly thought our Bristollian friends were going to be crucified, and I really mean no disrespect to the good Bristol team here. I think any team would be very worried to go up against Golfinos, effectively a team in his own right. This does show Darwin can be defeated - we are at the stage of the competition were teams need to be balanced on the buzzer and the collection.

I for one am very glad Paxo has finally pulled up Golfinos on his habit of buzzing, then pausing to think before delivering. My favourite on the buzzer last season, Ms McKeown, certainly never did this. I shall have to do some Youtube research to remind myself of other strong buzzers from the last few years!! The impression given is 'I know this, waiting for it to arrive but I will block the other team anyway..' - drives me to ranting at the telly....!!

dxdtdemon said...

Aethelstan, in American quizbowl, it is common to pause before answering, and he was probably doing it out of habit. I'm pretty sure that Eric Monkman was doing it, too.

Unknown said...

dxdtdemon, that is true but I feel in University Challenge the time it takes to read out the contestant's name should take the place of the pause in quizbowl. It is a couple of extra seconds for thinking.