Tuesday, 18 January 2022

University Challenge Quarter Final - Kings College, London v. Imperial College

 The Teams 

Kings London 

Ananth Sathyanath 

Rachel Bedwin 

Atyab Rahid(capt) 

Oliver Beard


Imperial College 

Max Zeng 

Fatima Sheriff 

Michael Mays (capt) 

Gilbert Jackson 

So, let’s begin with the traditional glance over the form book then, shall we? Kings just about beat Glasgow in a low scoring first round match, then showed a clean pair of heels to Hertford, whom they beat 175-115 in the second round. Imperial bust through the 200 barrier in both of their victories, over St. John’s in the first round and then Exeter in the second. The smart money said Imperial to win – but would the smart money be smart enough? 

The first starter gave clues to, amongst other things, the given name of one of the famous Mitford sisters. Atyab Rahid showed his intent by chancing his arm with Nancy, however the required answer was Jessica, which Fatima Sheriff well knew. This brought up bonuses on Boethius. I don’t know more than about three things about him, but those were all covered in the bonuses. Imperial managed the second and third of these. Right, now, last time out I made the point that Max Zeng is extremely good at Geography questions. I think he may have had one wrong last time out though. Well in this game, he opened his account with the Sea of Marmara. Zoological surveys of wildlife in the River Thames again provided two bonuses. Atyab Rashid took Kings’ first points recognising that Elegast is a brown dwarf. I thought he was one of the wizards in “The Lord of the Rings”. Chemical compound bonuses promised me nowt, which is just what they delivered me. If I said that I understood any of the bonuses I’d be lying, but Kings had all of them. So to the picture round. The moment a map came up I thought – in you go, Max Zeng! - and he did, identifying the state of Tamil Nadu and the capital, Chennai. There was a sense of inevitability as he picked up three more Indian state capitals for a full house of bonuses. Nobody was able to identify the Griffith Observatory for the next starter. Another rush of blood to the head saw captain Rahid in too early on the next starter, allowing that man Zeng in to identify the French term Flaneur. Works inspired by earlier artworks just provided a single bonus. That was enough to complete a very effective opening ten minutes for Imperial who led by 80 – 15. 

Nobody could dredge up that it was Blefuscu at war with Lilliput in Gulliver’s Travels. Fatima Sheriff was first in for Imperial to recognise the original meaning of the word tenterhooks for the next starter. Fungi provided nothing in terms of bonuses for any of us. It was a good old quizzers starter next. You’re given up, down , bottom and top so you slam the buzzer down and say ‘strange’ and ‘charm’, being the missing quark flavours. That’s what last night’s supercharged Max Zeng did. It’s also what I did. What’s that you say? Yes, of course I took a lap of honour for it. I’m afraid that my knowledge of They Might Be Giants goes no further than birdhouse in your soul – a song I love if it’s any consolation – so I didn’t manage any of the bonuses. Imperial took all three, which pushed them into a triple figure score and a lead of 95. One couldn’t help feeling that the event horizon was rapidly approaching. With the music starter Michael Mays was in extremely quickly to recognise the Magic Flute. Imperial struggled with the bonuses though, not recognising any of the opera with mothers singing to daughters. Not surprised. There was a hint of Geography in the next starter – which city in Indiana – so it inevitably fell to Max Zeng. I had it right too, but only because Gary is my stock answer to any question beginning with – which city in Indiana. Authors and bank notes brought a full house. It seemed an awfully long time since Kings had put any points on the board, do it was good to see Ananth Sathyanath buzz in to tell us that Hellas is one of the two football teams of Verona – a title that Shakespeare inexplicably passed on for his play. Their bonuses were on thermo dynamics, and yes, I did take a second lap of honour for guessing the Scottish scientist referenced in the third bonus was James Clerk Maxwell. Kings managed one of these. Sadly, Ananth Sathyanath came in too early on the next starter, allowing Fatima Sheriff to identify a list of films belonging to Charlie Kaufman. 2 bonuses on vaulting – fan rather than pole – were enough to ensure that Imperial led by 165 – 25 on the brink of the 20-minute mark. Game over, I’m afraid. 

Landmarks in Taiwan fell to Max Zeng, as the Imperial onslaught continued. Terms beginning with amph – did not unfortunately contain amphitheatre or Amphitryon, so I was out with the washing after amphora, but Imperial took two. Atyab Rahid rediscovered his touch on the buzzer to win the race to identify a picture of Ayatollah Khamanei for the second picture starter. Others among the world’s longest serving leaders brought one bonus but at least the Kings score was moving upwards again. A nice UC starter on films followed, asking who starred in films ending in Glory, Winter etc. Small point of order here. Atyab Rahid offered Hepburn, which JP accepted on the nod. I just thought he might have asked – which one, bearing Audrey in mind. Yes, I know he knew that Kings knew, but that hasn’t stopped him in the past. This only brought one bonus on physiology, but at least Kings were giving themselves a chance to show what they could do. Right – would you accept a third lap of honour? I took this hat trick for guessing that the physics starter that followed was about the something ratio between electrons and protons. Guess who took that for Imperial? What an evening Max Zeng was having. Units of measurement accepted for use with the SI did nothing for any of us. It didn’t matter – this was running the clock down and hastening the inevitable Imperial win. Michael Mays correctly buzzed in early to supply the answer Ethics  (as opposed to Suthics and Middelthics) and earn a set of bonuses on US state panhandles. Fair play to Max Zeng, I give credit to him for not rubbing his hands together and licking his lips. He had all of them though. To be honest, the two of the Great Lakes linked by the Welland Canal is an old chestnut, but everyone seemed to give Max Zeng a clear run. Yes, of course he had it. The Simon Bolivar Orchestra brought us both just the one bonus. The contest was gonged before Max Zeng had the chance to answer another Geography starter – was it just me, or were there quite a lot of these tonight?  

Imperial won by 235 to 50, and let’s be honest, they were pretty good value for their win. Kings aren’t done yet, though. Yes, they’re in the last chance saloon in their next match, but don’t count them out just yet.  

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

The French word ‘flaneur’ is thought to ultimately derive from Old Norse 

Monday, 17 January 2022

Mastermind 2022 Round 1 heat 19

Another week, dearly beloved, and another heat of Mastermind. Yay!

First up was Tom Lea, who was answering on “Line of Duty”, of which I have yet to watch a single episode. I guess it’s just one of those shows that I never actually started watching and so gave it a miss every time a new series came along. It seemed to me that all the questions were on details of the events of the shows, and there wasn’t much about the production at all. This seems to be the way that we’re going with rounds about TV and films on the show now.

Now, I wouldn’t say that I know a great deal more about the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood than I do about “Line of Duty”, but what I did know was enough to bring me a couple of points and open my account for tonight. Louise Radice – who looked extremely nervous, managed a respectable 7, but it  did look as if she’d left too many points on the table to have any realistic shout of taking the semi final slot.

John Ball was answering on a staple of any self respecting Welsh school’s History curriculum, the Rebecca Riots. Just once or twice he didn’t seem to get hold of the question. However, I wouldn’t question John’s grasp on the subject since he did manage a good 10 overall on the round, which was several times better than the couple of points that I managed to scrape.

Bringing the specialist round to a close was Shanine Salmon. I do think that rounds like Shanine’s on Gin should come with a government health warning. The range of things that the setters could ask you about is huge, and I would say that they produced a pretty testing round here. It just showed that Shanine was very secure on aspects of her subject, but not on others. She still managed 6, mind you, but at 6 points off the lead she was out of the contest to all intents and purposes.

Which made Shanine’s performance in the GK all the more praiseworthy. With nothing to play for except respectability I thought she did very well. A double figure GK round is never anything to be sniffed at, and Shanine’s 10 certainly brought her respectability.

As good as Shanine’s round was, Louisa’s was even better. I don’t care what anyone says, 11 in a first round heat general knowledge round is good going. Which makes it all the more frustrating that things hadn’t gone so well for Louisa in her specialist round. Well, I suppose that it serves to underline the point that you have to have both, specialist and GK, if you want to do well.

A point which was certainly underlined with John Ball’s GK round. It’s rather difficult to know what to say about this round. Even allowing for the fact that John misinterpreted one question about The Wizard of Oz, it really wasn’t great. In the end John added  to his total to finish with 14.

In statistical terms Tom Lea really didn’t have a great deal to do in his own GK round. The target was 7 points for an outright win, and while the questions still have to be answered, it isn’t a very challenging target. Still, John’s round had illustrated just what can occasionally happen with a GK round, and just a little doubt crept into the proceedings as Tom dwelt a long time on the first question. He mentally gathered himself together, though, and ploughed on to his own double figure round, scoring 10 for a total of 22 and what turned out to be a very comfortable win in the end. Well done sir, and as always, I wish you the best of luck in your semi.

The Details

Tom Lea

Line of Duty







Louisa Radice

The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood







John Ball

The Rebecca Riots







Shanine Salmon








Sunday, 16 January 2022

Fancy having a go yourself?

 I had an email from the Mastermind production team, and they are looking for contenders for the next series. 

If you fancy a go - and why not? - then email AyrtonM.HTH@hattrick.com

 and ask for an application form.

Doing the New Year Quiz

Right, so this is what happened. I had a phonecall almost a fortnight ago from Howard, a regular at the Thursday night quiz. Since Brian, the finest quizmaster we ever had at the quiz, passed away, I have been question master for the annual New Year quiz. This was due to go off on the 6th January. However, Howard told me, there were so many members of staff at the club suffering from Covid 19 at that time that the club couldn’t open, and so it was put back to Thursday 13th.

In all the 26 years that I’ve been going to the quiz at the rugby club, the New Year quiz has been a bit of an institution. By tradition the first quiz of the New Year is always about the events of the previous year. Probably its most notable feature is the 4 part gamble. In the quiz at the club, the rounds are each 10 questions long. However, in the New Year quiz, the 10th question always consists of  parts. Here’s the gimmick. You can answer 1, 2 or 3 parts, and you will get whatever you score for correct answers. If you attempt all 4 parts, though, if you get any part of the question wrong, then you don’t get any points at all for it. If you get all 4 parts right, though, you get double points – 8 points or the question. This is what makes the quiz possibly more exciting than the majority of quizzes in the year.

If you go back 20 years, several of my teammates, including me, would have told you that of all the quizzes of the year, the New Year quiz was the one we most wanted to win. During the Christmas holidays we’d be scouring the papers to find out who married whom, what famous people named their kids born that year, and which famous people had passed away, since Brian had sometimes included these hatches, matches and dispatches in the gamble questions. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it ruined the year if we lost the New Year quiz, but it certainly made a good start to the year when we won.

I started to go off the New Year quiz in the late noughties when the smart phones started coming into their own. If you choose to use a smart phone, then it really takes the gamble out of a 4 part gamble. One of the older teams would draft in younger, extra members for the New Year quiz, who used their phones, and so one of the other teams began using theirs as well. Prior to this time if you got one gamble right you were doing well, and if you got two right in an evening you were going to win the quiz. We had the ridiculous situation where both these teams were gambling 4 or 5 times, and beating all other teams by over 30 points. Yes, of course I used to moan like hell about cheating and what this was doing to the quiz. I’m far too childish to just let it go.

Sadly Brian passed away in 2016, and so I’ve been question master since the new year quiz of 2017. We didn’t have a quiz in 2021 dues to lockdown. I’m delighted to say that the phone cheating has stopped – and I can’t recall it going on in any of my New Year quizzes.

So to the 2022 New Year quiz about events of 2021. Now, if you’ve ever put your own quiz together, you’ll have an idea of whether putting a quiz together is something that you enjoy, or not. I like to think of myself that I’m pretty creative, and I do get pleasure from taking the raw material of facts, and crafting them into questions, and rounds of questions. When I first started I would write each question out maybe as many as three times in the process. Well, I don’t do that now but I enjoyed putting the quiz together over Christmas. As for how it worked, well, the thing about this particular quiz, more than any other quiz during the year, if you put in some work to prepare it is more likely to yield you some points. And I know that my team of my youngest daughter, son-in-law and two of our friends did at least watch some of the end of year review shows which tend to abound at the end of December. To cut a long story short, they won the first round. They won the second round. In fact they won most of the rounds, ad those rounds they didn’t win, they only lost a point of their lead. They also had the highest score on the handout. When I was last question master they adopted the name The Scarecrows because, in the words of my son-in-law “We haven’t got our brain with us tonight.” After assuring all the other teams that I hadn’t fed them any answers prior to the quiz, I also told them that they’ll have to stop using the name Scarecrows after that performance, next time that I’m question master.

That’s a point as well. After the quiz, Dai Norwich – so called because his name is David, Dai for short, and he comes from Norwich – after the quiz Dai asked if he can include me on the rota as a semi regular setter now. I didn’t say no. However, I didn’t say yes, either. I’m just not yet sure that I’m that ready to commit again. At least, on the bright side, I did enjoy being question master on Thursday a lot more than I enjoyed doing it a couple of months ago. So I guess that’s a watch this space.