Friday, 12 June 2009

Mastermind Semi Final 6/6

Well, on paper this was going to be a close semi final with only 2 points difference between any of tonight's contenders' first round heat scores. But as we have noted before, Mastermind is not played on paper, and when you get to the semi finals, anything can happen.

Louise Mayer, last of this year's lady semi finalists kicked off tonight. In the beginning of March we saw Louise win heat 20, with a great score of 15 on the Canterbury Tales, and a good general knowledge round of 11 for 26. Kicking off tonight she excelled herself with a massive 17 and no passes on the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. This was all the more impressive when you consider that she made a slip of the tongue on the 2nd question, substituting 'spring rhythm' for 'sprung rhythm ", which could have played on her mind. It didn't, and she recovered brilliantly.

Stuart Macdonald came next. Back in November Stuart won heat 13, which was certainly not unlucky for him , as he scored 26, with a good 14 on Genghis Khan, and a distinctly useful 12 on general knowledge. I've had the experience of waiting for my turn, watching someone else whack in a massive score of 17, and believe me it can be very daunting. Not to Stuart, though. He in turn put in a terrific showing on the hero Blair "Paddy" Mayne, an incredible all round sportsman, a soldier who won the DSO 4 times, and a highly important figure in the early days of the SAS. He too scored 17. The possibility of another determined assault on the 30 point barrier seemed to hove into view.

Gareth Kingston and I both post on the same internet forum. back in February I made a very unnecessary and pedantic posting about one of Gareth's questions on The Great Fire of London, his specialist subject in heat 16. Gareth is a gentleman, and his reply was full of courtesy and sweet reason. In that round, Gareth scored a great 16, and won with 24 points and no passes. Tonight he repeated that feat with a fantastic round on Northampton Town, to score 16. Believe me, the number of questions referring to pre-war - and by this I mean pre Great War - events would have quite phased a lesser fan. Three contenders down, three great scores, and three still very much in contention for the final spot.

Finally Paul Moorhouse. Three times a contender - three times a semi-finalist. If experience counted for all that much, then Paul would have been the favourite for tonight's show. Paul won heat 21, answering questions on British Trotskyism, where three contenders all tied with 25, but he had managed to go through the two rounds of questions without passing once. Tonight he took on Alfred Russel Wallace, the naturalist, and pioneer , along with Darwin, or the theory of Evolution. Twelve is a good score in specialist, but alas, in this company it wasn't going to be good enough, and left him languishing 4 points off the pace.

So it was a quick return to the chair for Mr. Moorhouse. John Humphrys seemed keen to push the claim that Wallace deserved at least as much recognition as the more celebrated Darwin. I'm sure that didn't have anything to do with the fact that Wallace, like the good Mr. Humphrys himself, was welsh. Mr. Moorhouse gave us a far more measured response, pointing out the acclaim that Wallace himself paid to Darwin. Mr. Moorhouse stuck to his guns, and didn't pass, but it seemed a bit of a struggle on general knowledge, and nine points gave him a total of 21.

Gareth returned to the chair to face, what I suppose was an obvious quip from John - "Cobblers is the nickname of Northampton Town - its also a good description of their record, isn't it ?!" Gareth was more than equal to this, and indeed got in a good one of his own when he quoted that the real miracle of 1966 wasn't England winning the world cup, but Northampton getting into the first division. As I hope I've made clear in the past, to do well in Mastermind sometimes you just need a little bit of the rub of the green, and for the questions to fall the right way for you. It didn't quite happen for Gareth, as he scored 9 for 25. That's a good score in a semi, but we've seen some high scores in the semis this year, and it looked like it might not be enough.

Next Louise Mayer. John Humphrys discussed with her the view that Manley Hopkins was the first 'green' poet. Actually, I think I might go along with that. She showed remarkable presence of mind to be able to quote a few lines on demand, when I'm sure that all she wanted to do was just get on with the questions. Two minutes later she had added ten to her score to take her to 27 and 3 passes, exceeding her performance in the first round heat. You can't really ask a great deal more than that.

So Stuart Macdonald also really needed to exceed his first round performance. I think that John Humphrys felt the same as I did about Blair "Paddy" Mayne, as in - why on earth have we never heard of him ? His life was aptly described as that of a real life Boy's Own Hero. Is his story not well known because of the covert missions which were alluded to ? Stuart got cracking, and did exactly what you must do. He kept on answering the questions, and that's not always as easy as it sounds. There were enough bouncers and googlies bowled at him during the round, that if he'd taken too long over one of them his whole round could have taken a nose dive. He didn't. He crossed the line with a little bit of time to spare, and becomes one of three finalists to go into the final with an excellent semi final score of 28.

So congratulations to all four contenders on an excellent, and yes, lets admit it, exciting show. A special word, now , about Stuart Macdonald. He emailed me earlier this week, and a very pleasant email it was, and I am honoured to have him join the august group that is the Life After Mastermind readership. I do hope that Stuart won't mind me saying this, but you have to salute him for the fact that he only ever went to the audition, because he wanted to see what an audition for a TV show would actually be like, and didn't expect to win his heat. He didn't tell me how he'd got on in this show, which added another level of excitement to an already terrific semi final.

So now we know the finalists. There are just 3 points separating five of them on their semi final performances - and I will be posting a preview of the final shortly.

The Details

Louise Mayer Gerard Manley Hopkins17 - 0 10 - 327 - 3
Stuart MacdonaldBlair "Paddy " Mayne17 - 111 - 2 28 - 3
Gareth KingstonNorthampton Town F.C.16 - 09 - 225 - 2
Paul MoorhouseAlfred Russel Wallace12 - 09 -0 21 - 0


Gruff said...

Hi David, Gareth here. No need to apologise about that comment about Nonsuch House. I was perhaps unduly swift to take up the cudgels over what was an issue irrelevent to the final result.

Congratulations to Stuart who was a worthy winner and a very nice guy. I never managed to get into any sort of a rhythm. After a while I was so keen to answer quickly that I wasn't fully listening (hence I made Belize an island).

I think what seperates the wheat from the chaff at this level is that the winners tend not to miss answers that they ought to get. In comparison, I rejected Rayon in favour of the percentage answer (nylon), picked the wrong one between Verdi and Puccini, and couldn't remember under pressure two answers I would get with ease at a pub quiz (Haemophilia, Antonine Wall). That is the difference between winning and losing.

Rob Hannah suggests that you ought to take 3 points from the score you get at home in order to reflect the impact of being in that black chair. I think that is largely true, but not for the very best players.

I understand that the pre general knowledge chat is being dispensed with. I would welcome that. I felt that the chats affected my focus. If I have another stab at the black chair in the future it will be interesting to see what difference it makes not having to make small talk with JH.

Anyway, the final has a good lineup, and but for a slight regret that I wasn't in semi final 4 ;) I have no complaints.

Btw, for anyone who is interested I did a Mastermind diary which has been serialised this week at

Great blog David. Keep it up. My blogging attempts seem to have fallen by the wayside.


Londinius said...

Hi Gareth ! Thanks for your kind words. Oh, do I ever echo your comments about the inter-round chats. Wasn't it just the worst thing ever having to sit through them while waiting for your GK round. You know as well as I do that they go on for MUCH longer than the minute or so that you get to see in the broadcast version.

I will post that link on a blog entry - I am sure that the LAM readers will be as interested in it as I am.