Sunday, 15 September 2019

University Challenge 2020 Round One Heat 8

Durham v. Trinity, Cambridge

Right then, ready for the next? Bad luck if you’re not, for here it is. Durham, then, first into the lists in this match, were represented by Charles Bland, William Tams, Arthur Raffle and captain Joe Cooper. Representing three times winners Trinity were Nadia Hourihan, Lillian Crawford, Liam Hughes, and skipper Joseph Webber. Let’s crack on.

Joe Cooper took the first starter, buzzing early to identify the term default. Two bonuses on cave systems could have been a full house, had they not zagged with Cheddar when they should have zigged with Wookey Hole – which incidentally is the punchline to a very rude joke I once heard about Star Wars which I have no wish to repeat. William Tams knew that Cameroon was a German protectorate until 1916. The bonuses on sporting positions were a deceptively easy set which Durham were happy to take a full house from. Respect to Laim Hughes who very quickly worked out that in binary a 1 followed by 5 zeroes is equivalent to 32. Scientific memoirs brought Trinity a brace, but I’m a little surprised that cartilaginous fish didn’t make them think of sharks. Knowing about imehouse I was fairly quickly in with Chinatown for the next starter, but Joe Cooper eventually took it for Durham. Battles named after rivers gave Durham another rather gentle full house. A terrific UC special picture starter showed us Greenland, White Sea and Orange County, from which we could deduce the national flag of the Republic of Ireland. William Tam was first to work this out. More of the same – although harder clues, I felt, brought a very good two bonuses to Durham. This meant that by the ten minute mark Durham led by 90 – 20.

I’ve never knowingly heard of Chebyshev, but Liam Hughes had and that was enough for the next starter. Two bonus on a good set on artists who were also muses to other artists made their score look a little less anaemic. Nobody knew that the Knights Templar were founded in the 12th century. Joseph Webber knew that Faure composed Pavane. JP announced bonuses on elements of the Periodic Table, so I put my trainers on in preparation. Both Trinity and I took a full house. By the time I returned, wheezing, to the much maligned Clark sofa neither team had been able to say that Fagus refers to Beech trees, and Trinity had lost 5. Nadia Hourihan was the first to recognise titles by Cormac McCarthy for the next starter. He must have written them before he became Roman Catholic Primate of England. The Architect Amanda Who – apologies, Amanda Levete – provided us both with 2 correct answers, and put Trinity in with the chance of taking the lead on the next set. Being mere youngsters, it took both teams a while to recognise the immortal Kylie Minogue version of The Locomotion (I believe she is a big fan of George Stephenson). It was Lillian Crawford who reached up to pick this particular piece of low hanging fruit. Three other artists or groups performing songs by Carole King brought them the two correct answers which took them into triple figures, and also the lead. I don’t think that I could even type out the mathematics starter which followed – but nobody knew the answer – affine transformation – anyway. William Tams came in early to identify the kingdom formed by Picts and Scots as Alba, and bring the teams level. Scientific terms offered little to me, but delivered me one bonus, and Durham one. I nearly awarded myself another lap of honour for guessing Thermoplastic for the next starter, but inertia won the day. Joseph Webber had that one. Two bonuses on a gettable set on Mrs. Gaskell were taken. So, teetering on the brink of the 20 minute mark, Trinity had reestablished a narrow lead of 120 – 110.

Anyone’s game, then. A great buzz from Liam Hughes to supply the term quincunx showed that Trinity meant business now. Bonuses on the town of Gainsborough earned a further bonus and brought us to the second picture starter. This showed the copy of a lost painting. To be honest, it was absolutely shouting out Brueghel, and I’m surprised that both teams sat on their buzzer before Lillian Crawford gave the correct answer. More paintings brought just the one bonus. Arthur Raffle pushed Durham closer to at least a shot at a repechage score by correctly identifyin the work of Robert ‘Gravy’ Browning. Films based on French Language Comics saw them edge 5 points closer. Again, a superfast buzz from Liam Hughes edged Trinity away, as he correctly gave the answer permutation to the next half completed starter. Chinese Emperors, and the years of their reigns, saw none of us get any correct answers. I’ll be honest, the work of Orlan has somehow passed me by all these years, but Nadia Hourihan knew her for the next starter, pretty much putting her team out of Durham’s reach. They took a couple of bonuses. As for Durham, well with 125 it was entirely conceivable they could win a repechage slot with just one more full house. That would involve winning a starter, though, which is exactly what Joe Cooper did, knowing that young Amy Tinkler won an Olympic medal in Gymnastics. With two bonuses and a total of 145 they now had at least a chance. Nadia Hourihan knew that Dun Laoghaire and Cobh were previously known as Kingstown and Queenstown. Recent winners of the Booker Prize showed us all 3 clean pairs of heels. I didn’t really understand the next Physics starter, but the answer, as supplied by Joseph Webber was excited. Biblical patriarchs were announced but the contest was gonged before the first question was completed. Trinity deservedly won by 200 – 145. Well played both teams – another very enjoyable contest.

Trinity’s win was more impressive considering Durham’s blitz start in the first few minutes – conceivably this Trinity team could play even better than they did here. Their conversion rate was 50%, but they won on the buzzer. As for Drham, well, they’re worth keeping an eye on as well. Should they reach the repechage stage an impressive bonus conversion rate of over 60% suggests that they could be a handful for another team.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nothing worthy of note here.

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

Cameroon ultimately derives its name from the Portuguese for River of Prawns

University Challenge Round One - Heat 7 - Jesus, Oxford v. Manchester

Jesus, Oxford v. Manchester

Good evening, dearly beloved. Look, I’m really sorry that I’ve been so tardy about posting reviews of the last two UC matches. It’s not much of an excuse, but I did start back at my school a couple of weeks ago, and while things have been going just fine, I just haven’t found time in my hectic schedule up to now.

So, then, a couple of weeks ago we had two of the teams you might expect to do well battling it out with each other. The Jesus team consisted of Lucy Clarke, James Cashman, Miranda Stevens and captain Matt Cook. Manchester were represented by Jack Rogers, Melissa Johnson, Adam Booth and skipper James Green.

Both James Cashman and I got the word mandate early from the first clue for the first starter. Films directed by Alfred Hitchcock provided one bonus. James Green struck back for his team, recognising that Generals January and February probably belonged to Russia. Eugene Ysaye – yes, Eugene Who? – might have provided LAM Towers with nul points, but Manchester knew enough to level the scores. A tricky starter on the periodic table saw me take a lap of honour – in fact I nearly did a double since I thought it was that good – for knowing that W only appears in the element Lawrencium, although it does symbolise another element – tungsten – in whose name it does not appear. Kudos to Jack Rogers for working that one out as well. Pairs of words differing only by the addition of the letter j  ape and jape for example – promised a full set, and indeed delivered one to all of us. Already we had reached the picture starter.We were shown a graph of the finishing positions of an English Premier League football club and asked which it was. Adam Booth answered with Arsenal, yet didn’t get a telling off for bad language from JP, who actually congratulated him on a correct answer. More of the same brought one bonus. James Green came in early to identify bated breath as a phrase which first appears in “The Merchant of Venice”. Blinking idiot also appears in that play, although I don’t know if that’s its first appearance. Test matches played by the West Indies were easy enough that I managed a full house, with Manchester getting just the one. So by the ten minute mark, Manchester led by 65 – 15. They had clearly had the better of the buzzing, however a certain profligacy with bonuses suggested that there was still a lot of this match to be played.

Adam Booth played with fire by hesitating for a moment or two before supplying a correct answer to the next starter – knowing that the Kelvin – K – is named after William Thompson. Biology did little for me, more importantly it did little for Manchester, either. The next starter was one of those where you had to wait and wait, until suddenly it became obvious, at the mention of the word Halcyon in this case. Melissa Johnson won that buzzer race. European History bonuses finally brought Manchester a full house. With Jesus College languishing on 15, I did wonder whether the dreaded Paxman encouragement would soon be on the way. Lucy Clarke forestalled this by buzzing early on the nest starter to identify Lucan as a favourite of the Emperor Nero. Till he disappeared to run a beach bar on Bali, that is. Bonuses on Serbia in World War I brought another 5 points. This was added to when Miranda Stevens buzzed in to correctly identify the stigma in a flower’s reproductive parts. This earned a set of bonuses on true flies, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, if I remember correctly. Jesus managed two bonuses, and this brought us to the music set. Now, I’m not familiar with the oeuvre of the performer Kesha, but Lucy Clarke is, since we hardly heard any of her distorted warblings – Kesha’s, not Lucy’s – before Lucy buzzed in with the correct answer. The song quotes the tune known as “Streets of Cairo”, which is often used as musical shorthand for an Arabian setting – three more of the same sort of thing brought two bonuses, one maybe a little controversial. I’ll say more about that after. Melissa Johnson unfurled the sails for her becalmed Manchester vessel, being first in to recognise a description of a Stegosaurus. The novels of Robert Harris brought a timely full house. Adam Booth took a flier on the next starter. To be fair, if you’re asked for an Italian scientist Galileo is always going to leave you in with a shout, but this time it lost five, because he didn’t invent the barometer. Jesus were unable to dredge up the name of Torricelli. I was a little surprise that the mention of Flatford Mill didn’t suggest The Haywain to any of the 8 contenders, but then again nobody knows everything. Matt Cook won the buzzer race to identify “First Man” from a number of clues. Bonuses on Physics brought 5 more points, taking them to 85 at the 20 minute mark. Manchester led with 120, but at least Jesus were now slinging buzzer, and matching Manchester blow for blow.

Now, be honest, when you heard the name Jubba in the next starter, how any of you involuntarily thought – The Hutt -? I did. It’s a river which, as Adam Booth answered, reaches the sea in Somalia. People in the Art world brought two bonuses. So to the second picture starter and a still from West Side Story. As I shouted this out, I added – more films based on plays by Shakespeare (which indeed turned out to be the subject of the bonuses) and correctly predicted Forbidden Planet as one of them, and Ran as another. Coming back to the starter, James Green took that one. I didn’t have 10 Things I hate About You and Taming of the Shrew, while Manchester took a full house. The Manchester skipper took a double, recognising a description of Glengarry Glen Ross. Electronics should have excluded me from answering, but I’m glad to say I managed 2. The Chi squared test saw Manchester lose five, allowing Miranda Stevens in for Jesus. Manchester were over the event horizon by now, but a repechage worthy score was possible. New York’s Chelsea Hotel gave them a fighting chance, delivering a full house. This was followed by a very good shout by Lucy Clarke identifying the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Poisonous plants found in the UK delivered a second full house, giving Jesus 8 correct answers in a row. Matt Cook gave Jesus a reasonable shout at a repechage slot, knowing some characters created by Evelyn Waugh. Bonuses on US Geography took Jesus to within a full house of an improbably draw. Lucy Clarke was very unlucky to incur an interruption penalty for being just a millisecond too early with an incorrect answer to the next starter. This was compounded when Melissa Johnson answered that the world’s oldest artificial sweetener is saccharine. The periodic table saw me rubbing my hands together, prematurely as it happened. The contest was gonged as JP read out the first question, with Manchester winning by 185 to 145.

Well played both teams. Not much to choose in bonus conversion rates – Manchester recovered after a bad start to post a rate just slightly above 50%, as did Jesus. If Manchester had emerged from their collective shell 5 minutes earlier, well they could even have won. As it is though, I think we’ll see them again. We’ll definitely see Manchester again, and rightly so.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

A slight flicker when Manchester suggested that a 1990 Test Match might have been switched to Buenos Aires, but there was no real effort at derision, I’m afraid. As for controversy corner – well, for the second musical bonus Jesus College offered They Must Be Giants instead of There Might Be Giants – as JP confirmed while still awarding the points. My opinion – and as usual, please feel free to disagree – is that they clearly knew the correct answer . . . however they didn’t actually SAY the correct answer. I know it’s very, very harsh. However, when you accept near misses, then you are opening a can of worms. It might not have made a difference to the outcome of this match, but it’s the sort of thing where five points might make the difference between a place in the repechage and going out.

Indignation came late from JP when neither team knew that the town of Navan is in the Republic of Ireland.

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

The first known appearance of the phrase ‘bated breath’ occurred in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Mastermind 2020 - First Round Heat 5

Good morning, dearly beloved. If, like me, you live in the BBC Wales area you were treated to the delights of premiership rugby instead of Mastermind, but that’s what the iplayer is for.

First up, then, in heat 5 was John Larkin. John’s subject was the islands of Great Britain. That’s one of those subjects where the scale of the subject is a lot broader than you might think, being as there are over 6000 of them, and over 100 are inhabited. While John was answering, I got the impression that he was very sound on the purely Geographic questions, but this round was far more wide ranging than that, with questions about local customs, and who was buried on which island etc. which threw him off balance a bit. He battled to a 7, but it looked like he would be out of contention by the time that the half time oranges were being passed around.

Going into the show, my current record specialist aggregate for this series is 23. A score of 8 on the islands promised good things, however my knowledge of Tamsen Hiles’ subject, The Pop Larkin Chronicles, is limited to a couple of episodes of the TV series The Darling Buds of May. That, and a couple of good guesses, brought me three points, which was enough to keep the pot boiling. Tamsen all the while looked as if she was going to take a full house. Well, she didn’t quite manage that, but it was still a speedy and very impressive round which brought a total of 13.

One reason why I thought I had a good chance to set a new target was that our third contender, Nathan McLelland, was answering on “Doctor Who “ 2005 – present. No bones about it, I love Doctor Who, have watched every episode of the post 2005 series more than once, and have written books about it. So it really is something of a banker subject. Nathan himself did very well. He only missed two questions, although he might be kicking himself for not remembering that Roger Lloyd Pack played John Lumic. I added 12 to mean that ‘d equalled the target with one specialist set to spare.

This set, on The League of Gentlemen, fell to Paul Gurrell. Now, to be honest, I liked the radio series , but never really warmed to the TV version, although I know people who absolutely loved it. So I had to be fairly satisfied with the 4 points I earned to set the new target of 27. Paul was very unlucky. John seemed to have just started voicing what was presumably the next question as the buzzer went, and the ruling was that he hadn’t actually started the question proper. It didn’t, in the end, make a huge difference to the result, but Paul can count himself a bit unlucky there. He scored a highly respectable 10.

So to the General Knowledge. Now, usually, when the contender in 4th does his or her GK round, it is a little bit of a side show to the main event. Not so with John Larkin. After John’s irritating plenty of time to catch up call to arms, John provided one of the two best GK rounds we’ve seen all series so far. This was, to my mind, a quizzer’s round. 14 took him to 21, and at least did enough to put the others into the corridor of doubt.

Paul Gurrell again put on a respectable performance in his own round, and for much of the round looked as if he was going to at least match John’s total of 21. However he ran out of a little bit of momentum as the tape came into view, and fell one short, scoring 10 to take his total to 20.

As for Nathan, he started very well, and was ahead of schedule by the halfway mark of his round. However the wrong answers began to outnumber the correct answers, and in the end he finished with 8 to take his total to 19.

So, as Tamsen returned to the chair, the big question was, could John hang on and win the contest from 4th at the halfway stage. We have seen it happen before, but it’s rare. Once again, we had a contender, in Tamsen, who looked as if she was going to smash it for the first few questions. After that, though, it was a little bit more a struggle, and it needed a late spurt to put her over the top with one question left. 9 points meant that she finished on 22.

Well done Tamsen. Hard lines John, but with GK like that, if you choose the right specialists for a future appearance, you, my friend, could be a contender. As for Tamsen, throughout both of her rounds, I thought – judging by the look on her face she is clearly having the time of her life – I bet she’s been a fan of the show for years, and I’m glad to say her piece to camera at the end of the show pretty much confirmed it. Best of luck in the semis.

The Details

John Larkin
Islands of Great Britain
Tamsen Hiles
The Pop Larkin Chronicles by H.E. Bates
Nathan McLelland
‘Doctor Who’ 2005 - present
Paul Gurrell
The League of Gentlemen