Monday, 27 October 2008

TV Watch

Mastermind - Heat 8/24

Another good heat this week, and totally different from the last . All the contenders scored well in their specialist rounds, which saw 16 from Sophie Hollender on The Mitford Sisters, and Mel Kinsey on Ty Cobb.

I thought that Mel Kinsey's name rang a bell, and a quick check up confirmed that he had indeed taken part in the show before, and with great success, since he made the Final of the 1995 series, which was won by Kevin Ashman.

Bart Smith can count himself unlucky to have been in last place at the halfway mark. 13 is a good score, especially on such a wide subject as The Spanish Civil War. Still, he must have been quite surprised to see himself remain in contention after his 10 on General Knowledge. 23 was a modest score, and 10 on a very fair set of General Knowledge questions looked well beatable. However, first of all Pab Roberts faltered with a round of only 4. At least he kept his sense of humour and was still smiling by the end of it. Then Sophie Hollender did slightly better, but still fell short at 22 overall. As I said, though, Mel Kinsey is a veteran at Mastermind, and he made short work of getting the 8 he needed for a win, and actually managed 12, for a score of 28. He has to be considered as a contender in the semis, and may well make it through to another final.

Out of interest I did a little research, and if he did make it to the final, he wouldn't be the first contender to make it into 2 Grand Finals. The first person to manage this feat was Roger Stein. He lost to Ian Meadows in the 1985 final, and then went on to feature in the 1998 final as well, although admittedly this was on Radio 4 , rather than television. Then my predecessor Geoff Thomas, was the runner up in the 2003 final, and then champion in 2006. That's it.

Its much more common for people to make two appearences in the semi finals. In fact, there are even a couple of competitors who have made it to the semi finals 3 times, without ever managing to get to the final. I pay particular tribute to Isabelle Heward, who made the semis in 96,03 and 05, and Hamish Cameron, who made the semis 3 times in 5 attempts, in 1990, 2003 and 2007. Hamish had the 3rd highest score in the 2007 semi finals, but unfortunately for him Stewart Cross, who had the highest score in the semis last year was in the same semi final.

The Details

Pab RobertsJames Clerk Maxwell14 - 1 pass4 - 4 passes18 - 5 passes
Sophie HollenderThe Mitford Sisters16 - 2 passes6 - 2 passes22 - 4 passes
Bart SmithThe Spanish Civil War13 - 0 passes10 - 2 passes23 - 2 passes
Mel KinseyTy Cobb16 - 1 pass12 - 1 pass28 - 2 passes

Are You An Egghead ?

I watched all of the heats last week, and I continued to enjoy it throughout the whole week. Congratulations to all the winners - of the five I have to say that Dave Rainsford on Monday, and Dr. Ian Bayley on Thursday particularly caught the eye, and the Jenny Ryan v. Mark Labbett match up on Tuesday was very enjoyable too.

I think that the show provides a bit more entertainment value than Eggheads itself does, since most of these matches are real contests between genuinely good quizzers. Having said that, I must just make one observation. The poor girl who played on Friday - I'm sorry but I didn't catch the name, was not a serious quizzer. She was a serial game show contestant, and has won quite a bit of money on television, but this does not necessarily make her a good quizzer. She was from Newport South Wales, but I've never seen her on the South Wales quiz circuit at all. She was really shown up on this type of show, and it did her no favours picking her as a contestant at all. I would say that for this show you have to pick people on ability, not just on how many shows they have appeared on, or how much money they have won. Friday was a massacre, and not the most absorbing thing I have ever watched on television.

One other observation too. The disparity between the difficulty of some of the questions has been as bad at times as it is on the main Eggheads show, although at least it does seem to even itself out between the contenders across the whole show, in a way that it doesn't on the main show.

The Brain of Britain

On last week's show the afore mentioned Geoff Thomas produced a masterly display to destroy the opposition, and it would not surprise me in the least to see Geoff join Roger Pritchard, Kevin Ashman, Chris Hughes, and Pat Gibson by completing the Mastermind - Brain of Britain double.

University Challenge

Last week was the 2nd repechage match. Kings College Cambridge took on Surrey. Kings lost out in the very best match of the first round, which went right to the wire, as they lost out 190 -180 against Edinburgh. For over half the show this was another ding-dong battle, but in the last third Kings powered away to win by 225 to 150. Apparently the series is off the air until mid November for the BBC to be able to show Autumn Watch. A case of Bill Oddie stopped play, I suppose.

No daftest answer of the week this time - apologies.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Correction to TV Watch

I do apologise. I've just read back my last post. The Sunday quiz is in the DYNEVOR Arms in Groesfaen - not the Dyffryn Arms. I apologise to all concerned.

The only reason I can think that prompted me to make such a mistake is that I played for the Dyffryn Arms in Pontardawe in the Swansea Independent Quiz League a few years ago.

TV Watch - Tuesday 21st October

TV Watch

Mastermind - Friday 17th October

The details

NameSubjectSpecial scoreGen ScoreTotal
Martin BrownStax Records 1960-7216 - 0 passes11 - 0 passes27 - 0 passes
Gillian TaylorRomney Marsh novels of Monica Edwards 18 - 0 passes9 - 0 passes27 - 0 passes
Ray DriscollThe battleship 'Bismark'13-0 passes14 -1 pass27 - 1 pass
Kathryn PowellThe Welsh Castles of Edward I5 - 1 pass11 - 3 passes16 - 4 passes

Once again 4 Mastermind virgins take to the chair. Gillian Taylor's 18 on her specialist subject is probably the finest specialist round we have seen in this series so far, although at the halfway stage its by no means guaranteed that she's going to win, because Martin Brown is only 2 points behind. I venture to say that if he'd answered just a little faster he might even have sneaked another correct answer in. While its important to retain great respect for anyone brave enough to face the chair, I have to say that I think Kathryn Powell must have had a different conception of the boundaries of her subject than the setters of the questions did, for she had a bit of a disaster, only scoring five. Still, she rallied a bit, and did at least score double figures in the general knowledge. I noticed that John Humphry's chat in between rounds seemed very short this week, and wondered whether this meant that we were due for a rare tie break. It did, and we were. Ray Driscoll must have been kicking himself. his was by far the pick of the general knowledge rounds, an impressive 14, and only a single pass kept him out of the tie break. You'd have put your money on him to win if he'd been in the tie break. As it was, both Martin Brown and Gillian Taylor inched their way up to 27, but no further, each of them missing out on several questions on the trot as the buzzer approached. Respect to both of them for having had the presence of mind not to pass.

So we came to that rarest of rara aves - the tie break. Gillian Taylor was escorted from the studio, and Martin Brown managed to answer who was the Sun King, but nothing else, for 1. When Gillian Taylor returned, she also knew Louis XIV was the Sun King, and she also knew what a witchetty grub was. They were the only answers she knew, but they were the only ones she needed, and she squeezes through into the semis, despite having the lowest general knowledge score of this heat. I can't see her being a finalist, but then semi final form is notoriously difficult to predict based on first round performance.

Are You An Egghead ? BBC Two weekdays 4:30pm

I'm not. I wish I could be, but I'm afraid that even if I won, which I suppose would have been possible, but no more for me than many of the contenders, they weren't offering enough money per year for me to give up my job. Its a shame, because this is a decent show to take part in, and in my opinion a cut above the usual Eggheads mismatches. On Monday we saw Stephanie Bruce - winner of the BBCs biggest ever cash prize in 2007's The People's Quiz, taking on a chap I don't know, called David. I didn't see the start of the show, so I don't know his surname. The two players play standard Eggheads type head to head matches against each other in five categories. The winner of each category gets to pick one of the Eggheads to help them in the last round. So theoretically you could win all 5 categories, and still lose in the last round. The last round is a head to head again, with each contestant facing 5 general knowledge questions. Each Egghead they have won can be called on for help once. Its a good format. Apart from anything else its really quite amusing seeing Judith and CJ get picked last invariably. Having said that Judith provided David with a cracker of an answer about Tattersalls to win Monday's show.

Tuesday's show saw my friend, Mark Labbett take on quiz regular Jenny Ryan, who is also someone I know through the incestuous world of quizzing. If you didn't know either contestant it would have looked like Jenny was guessing a lot tonight, but they were all educated guesses. She edged out the fight for the Eggheads. Mark won the first pick, and chose Daphne over Kevin, which was an interesting choice. He also later on picked CJ over Judith. This gave Jenny a line up of Kevin, Chris and Judith. Goin into the general knowledge round, Mark was given a question about which island Nassau, capital of the Bahamas is found on. Having picked Daphne first he chose not to ask for her help, when she actually knew the correct answer, and guessed wrongly himself. On such small margins are shows won and lost.

Its a good show this. Much more of a match, and therefore much more interesting and exciting than the Eggheads show itself. Mark made my week when he was asked the answer to the question about which actress won the BAFTA for her part in Cranford. Mark and CJ are quiz friends, and Mark knew straightaway that this was the sort of thing that CJ does learn for quizzes. When CJ supplied him with the correct answer, Mark replied words to the effect of " Thanks CJ. You're not a great quizzer, but you're a great researcher !" Good on you Mark !

Only Connect - BBC4 - Monday 8:30pm

This seems to be my week for watching my quiz friends and acquaintances to make appearences. Up this week were a trio containing Dave Roberts and Nick Lewis, both of whom I have played against many times. Dave plays for a team in the Pill Harriers in Newport on a Monday Night. They are given, and accept a head start every week . Dave, along with Nick, also play for a team in the social quiz in The Dyffryn Arms on a Sunday night. Regular readers may remember that John and I stopped going to this quiz because we were killing it by winning the majority of the time. On the occasions when we didn't win, Dave and Nick's team invariably did. So from what I know of the two of them they're good, but not great quizzers. Well, they thrashed the opposition on this one. With barely fifteen seconds to go they hadn't assembled one set on the connection wall. Ten seconds later and they had the lot. Well done guys ! Good luck in the next round.

Haven't caught University Challenge yet, I'll catch up with it when I can.

Daftest answer of the week

Yes - its the return of the daftest answer of the week, since I caught the Weakest Link tonight. There were two which stood out. I couldn't choose between them, so I shall include both.

Question: The geographically incorrect title of a 1957 film about a volcanic disaster is - "Krakatoa - East of " where ?
Answer : - Pompeii ?

Question - which game, played on a chequred board with black and white pieces is named after a play by William Shakespeare ?
Answer : - Draughts ?

Friday, 17 October 2008

A Legend in our own Local

There have been a few times over the years that teams I've played in have come close to achieving the holy grail of social quizzing - a 100% success rate for an evening. My best quiz mate John, my daughter Phillippa and I even once achieved this in the Dynevor in Groesfaen once. Having said that, it wasn't that night the most testing of quizzes. There were 20 stills from Disney films to make up the picture round - the ten songs in the music round all came from a film - Love Actually - that we had only watched the day before, and the thirty general knowledge questions weren't very difficult. Even so, it was still an achievement.

So what has that got to do with the price of tea ? Well, last night, in the Aberavon Rugby club, I repeated the feat. Only this was so much better. My quiz career began in 1988, and it kind of grounded to a halt by 1993. Then, in 1995, I was invited to come to the quiz in the Rugby Club. The week after, I actually made my first quiz for the rugby club, and I've either made the quiz, or contested the quiz almost every Thursday since. In all that time, and in fact for the quarter of a century that the quiz has been running, nobody has ever gone right through the quiz getting every question right for the whole quiz. Until last night.

I'm not surprised that its not happened in all that time. I'm just surprised that it happened at all. After all, when you consider how easy it is to get an easy question inexplicably wrong, then the chances of getting through a whole evening without doing so are ludicrously small.

Look at it like this. As far as I'm concerned there are 4 different types of question. Many, many different categories or subjects, but only 4 completely different types. These are
1) The questions you know that you know

2) The questions you know that you don't know

3) The questions you don't know that you know

4) The questions you don't know that you don't know

Categories 1 and 2 aren't a problem. Category one contains all those questions you always get right. The ones where you can supply the answer before the question master has even finished asking the question. For me, I find that the number of category 1 questions I'll get in a typical quiz will be anywhere between 60 and 80% of the questions. Of course there are occasional bad nights and good nights when this figure may be lower or higher, but as a rule of thumb its pretty accurate. Conversely, Category 2 is full of the questions which you don't know at all. In a typical quiz these may make up between 10 - 15% of the answers . Believe it or not , these questions are far less of a problem for you than category 3 or 4. You don't waste time with these, hoping against hope that the answer will just pop into your head. No. You just make your best guess and leave it at that. If you get it wrong - big deal. You didn't know the answer anyway. But if your guess is right, then that's a bonus. So its an answer to nothing.

Category three is a lot more tricky. These are the questions where you know the right answer, yet this may never make it onto your answer sheet. You see , you have the right answer, but you can't quite bring yourself to put it down. You don't know where the answer has come from, and so don't trust it. Perhaps your team mates make plausible suggestions, which you feel duty bound to accept because you don't want them to think that you're obsessed with being the 'star' of the team who supplies more answers than anyone else in the team. You've done the hardwork, finding the right answer - yet with a question like this you're just as likely not to put it down on your sheet. Only a few of the questions each evening will be in this category, but these will be the ones you argue about and brood over for hours after the quiz has ended. Its most frustrating.

Finally, category 4, the evil twin of category 3. You see, this is the question where the wrong answer pops into your head, but you think its the right answer, and you argue for it for all you're worth. Thank God, you're unlikely to get more than a very few of these of an evening, and just as well, too, because no team would ever put up with you if you had many more. These are the questions you spend the rest of the evening trying to forget all about.

Now, the point is that in a quiz of at least 60 questions you are bound to get enough category 2 and category 3 questions to expect to get at least one of them wrong. Yet last night. . . we didn't. It was amazing. We were like a well oiled machine. There were 70 questions. Of these I would say that about 60 were category 1 bankers - which is a high figure, I admit. There were a good three or four category 2 guesses. The rationale behind all of our guesses on this score was that it was an easy quiz, so the trick was to pick the most obvious guess, and write it down. It never failed us. This left 5 or 6 category 2 or 3 stinkers. We argued like hell - and amazingly the outcome of each argument was the correct answer. So, 13 years after my debut in the club quiz, the miracle has been achieved.

I have suggested that the club might like to put up a plaque in the corner where we sit to mark the achievement. The reply was spherical, and in the plural.

Friday, 10 October 2008

TV Watch - Mastermind Update - Comebacks

Mastermind - BBC2 Friday 3rd October

The Results

Ara Varatharaj
Medical student
The Challenger novels
of Arthur Conan Doyle
16 and 0 passesGeneral - 7 and 1 passTotal 23 and 1 pass
Edwin Hird
Support Service manager
Hector Berlioz6 and 8 passesGeneral - 9 and 3 passesTotal 15 and 11 passes
Roger Luther
The governments of Margaret Thatcher 14 and no passesGeneral - 8 points 4 passesTotal 22 points and 4 passes
Jack Robson
Stage Manager
The life and plays
of Bertold Brecht
9 and 3 passesGeneral - 10 and 1 passTotal 19 and 4 passes

Mastermind BBC2 Friday 10th October

The Results

John Beynon
Girgory Rasputin15 and no passesGeneral - 14 - 0 passesTotal 29 points 0 passes
Jeremy Pick
Communications manager
West Coast Underground
Comics 1961 -75
11 and 2 passesGeneral - 9 0 passesTotal 20 points 2 passes
Kathryn Price
The Gospels14 and no passesGeneral 7- 3 passes Total 21 points 3 passes
Olav Bjortomt
West Indies Test
Cricket 1976 - 1991
8 and no passesGeneral 14- no passesTotal - 22 points no passes

Yes , I'm back. Apologies for missing last week out. Family commitments meant that time was at a premium last weekend. So - what have we missed. Well, two Masterminds is a pretty good place to start.

Lets start with the 3rd October. This was rthe first show of this series with 4 Mastermind virgins - according to my list none of them have ever competed in Mastermind before. Ara Veratharaj impressed with 16 on The Challenger Novels of Arthur Conan Doyle, but only just managed to squeeze through on a modest 23. I know from experience that anything can happen in the semi finals, but his general knowledge would have to improve considerably to give him a realistic chance of getting to the final.

My heart went out to Edwin Hird, answering on Hector Berlioz. He got trapped in a pass spiral, and in the end did well to compose himself enough to take his score to 6 on the specialist.

Funnily enough tonight's heat also had 4 Mastermind virgins, but at least one of the contenders is a very serious quizzer indeed. For the benefit of those not in the know, Olav Bjortomt is widely reckoned to be one of the best quizzers in the country. He won the inaugural world quizzing championships. He took part in a team which won three shows of Battle of The Brains earlier this year, and was the first person to reach the final of the 2007 People's Quiz. A serious quizzer, whom I have met on a couple of occasions. All the more of a shock then, to see the wheels come off in his specialist round. Now, I don't know enough about cricket - West Indies or otherwise - to be able to say whether his questions were particularly hard or unfair. But I'm sure that Olav would have expected to score more than 8.

To be fair, Olav composed himself and scored a fast and impressive 14 on General Knowledge to take him to 22. At one stage it almost looked like this would be enough. Both Jeremy Pick and Kathryn Price failed to take advantage of the lifeline that Olav had extended towards them, and with only John Beynon left to go, Olav was still in the lead. John Beynon never gave the impression of answering particularly quickly, but he got a lot of correct answers , to score 14 and no passes. That's a serious score , and I have to say that Mr. Beynon looks more like a serious contender for the title than any other competitor I have seen so far this year. Well done sir. That's a hell of a scalp you claimed in this heat.

Comebacks worth noting
No time for reviews of the usual. University Challenge and Only Connect continue to deliver great entertainment on Monday Nights - I just wish the BBC would spread their quizzes over the week.

On their way back - ITVs The Krypton Factor - I have no details as yet.

Talkback Thames are reviving "Going for Gold ". Fear not. Garrulous old Henry Kelly is not part of the deal. The show will be presented by John "My brother is Poirot" Suchet.

Finally, the Production company Shine are advertising for teams for a new series of "The Battle of the Brains". Watch this space.