Friday, 30 October 2009

Mastermind - First round heat 9/24

3 newcomers braved the chair this week, together with Frances Gregory, who last braved the chair in the 2007 SOBM . A little more on that later on.

Our popular culture round of this week was taken by our first contender of the night, Ian Speed. Mr. Speed offered us “British Indie Music 1979 – 1989”. My initial thoughts were – 10 years ? That’s really not a huge amount of time. Still its easy to say that when its not me who had to learn the subject. From my halfway decent knowledge of the subject this seemed like a pretty testing round. Still it was one that Mr. Speed was more than equal to, and he manage a very fine 16.

John Grasham followed Mr. Speed into the chair. His specialist round was “The Life and work of Leonhard Euler”. I knew that Euler was a mathematician, but I am indebted to Mr. Grasham for informing me during his filmed insert that Euler was possibly the most important mathematician of the 18th century, most famous, apparently, for Euler’s Identity. Thanks for that. This looked like a hard round, for the little that I would know about it. Under the circumstances 9 was a good performance, but it left Mr. Grasham out of contention for a semi final place.

Frances Gregory offered us “The Life and Work of Peter Cook “ in her 2007 appearance, where she lost in the first round by one point to the contender who eventually took third place in the final – David Down. Tonight she took “The Short Stories of Graham Greene”. Big subject, in my opinion, but Frances Gregory made pretty short work of it, matching Ian Speed’s top score of 16 and 1 pass.

Mike Court brought the first round to a conclusion, with “Transatlantic ocean liners 1907 – present day “. Mr. Court, a writer by profession, has taken no less than 162 cruises, and describes himself as an anorak. Aren’t we all, my dear fellow. With that amount of experience of his subject you’d think he ought to do well, and to be fair he does, with 14 and 1 pass.

John Grasham answered his first two GK questions correctly, but it was rather uphill work after that, with a particularly nasty mid round pass spiral to contend with. He finished what to my mind was a difficult set of questions with 14. Mike Court came next. You may remember that last week I made the point that you don’t have to win the specialist round, only to be in contention. Mike Court was only two points behind going into the round, and he scored a fine 14 to finish on 28. I personally though that as a whole his round was easier than Mr. Grasham’s , but that’s just my opinion, and all the luck of the draw. With this score he had surely guaranteed himself a place in the semis. Still, Ian Speed had his own bid for a place in the semis still to make. To be honest he never quite looked like getting there, and ended a little way behind with 24. In her previous appearance Frances Gregory had scored 8 on General Knowledge, and this is what she scored again tonight. 24 and 2 passes gave her the last place in the highest scoring runners up table, but I have to say that I think that with 15 shows still to go that her occupation of that spot will only be temporary.

Well done to Mike Court. I always like the look of a contender who can score equally well on specialist and GK. If he gets another good subject for the semis, then he’ll be worth an each way bet to reach the finals. Good show again.

The Details

Ian Speed British Indie Music 1979 - 8916 - 18 - 3 24 - 4
John GrashamThe Life and Work of Leonhard Euler9 - 25 - 514 - 7
Frances GregoryThe Short Stories Of Graham Greene16 - 18 - 124 - 2
Mike CourtTransatlantic Ocean Liners 1907 – present day14 - 114 - 028 - 1

Current Highest Scoring Runners Up

John Cooper29 – 3
Ian Scott Massie26 – 2
Les Morrell26 - 3
Colin Wilson25 - 0
William de'Ath25 - 4
Frances Gregory24 - 2

TV Watch - Are You An Egghead - Week Three

Heat 12

This heat saw the return of Olav Bjortomt. Olav has a huge list of quiz credentials. Suffice it to say that he was the inaugural world quizzing champion. Dermot rather mischievously reminded Olav how he was beaten in the second round last year by eventual finalist Shaun Wallace, now of ITV’s The Chase.

I was delighted to see that Olav’s opponent was none other than Gill Woon. As Gill Doubleday, her maiden name, she reached the final of the 1989 series of Mastermind, where she was runner up to vet Mary –Elizabeth Raw.

Olav won the first three categories, which came as no surprise to anyone who watched last year’s series, I’m sure. This enabled him to add Kevin, Daphne and Chris to his team. Gill staged a fight back, and picked Judith, leaving Olav to secure CJ for himself by winning the last round.

In the final Gill was rather undergunned, and fell to the might of Olav and his almost full hand of Eggheads. I think she would probably have to concede that the writing had been on the wall from early on in the show. She put up a good performance though, and has nothing to be ashamed of. Olav won comfortably by 4 points to 2.

Heat 13

A rarity, this one. Jan Crompton, who reached the second round last year when she lost to Pat Gibson returned this year to take on none other than her own brother Alan Crompton. Jan is a researcher and question setter, while Alan has a certain amount of experience on TV before, having played in WWTBAM. He was a little coy about this, and didn’t mention how much he has won.

Before the start of the first round you might well have been forgiven for expecting Jan to do well, since she pushed Pat all the way last year. She only lost 6 – 5 in the final round. Mind you, having said that Pat did win all five Eggheads that day. Brother Alan took first blood, and had snaffled up both Kevin and Daphne before Jan made a real mark on the game. She bagged both Chris and Barry, leaving Alan to win CJ on the last round.

Jan earned a huge round of applause from the Clark sofa for having a go at Dermot for saying “Don’t put all your Eggheads in one basket “ yet again. Dermot, though, took it in good spirit. He comes across as such a nice guy when you meet him, and I kind of think that he’s exactly the same kind of nice guy off screen that he is on screen.

Neither sibling really showed themselves to be among the top performers in the first round up to the final, but then both siblings played this last round superbly, not using Eggheads where they didn’t have to. In the end, it came down to the last pair of questions. Alan didn’t trust Kevin – he should have. Jan did trust Chris, and was rewarded with a 5 – 4 win. Good show.

Heat 14

The 14th heat saw the return of the People’s Choice, David Rainford, who reached the semi finals of last year’s AYAE competition. His opposition was Isabel Morgan, who won a quarter of a million pounds on Millionaire. Interestingly she said that she and her son had used up all their lifelines by £2000 , so her success was all the more remarkable.

I can always listen to David Rainford, he’s a witty and amusing guy. He’s also a very clever one, and had a full set of all five Eggheads – Daphne, Chris, Barry, CJ and Judith by the time the final round started. That’s when the fireworks started. Isabel may have had no Egghead to help her out, but she matched David question for question. At 4 – all we went into sudden death. David correctly named the co founder of Google, while Isabel fell to a rather innocuous question – In which British city is the Soane Museum. No excuse really for a Londoner not to get it, and that’s the sort of mistake which can always cost you the game. Hard lines, but the people’s choice marches on into round two.

Heat 15

This week’s last heat , and the penultimate heat of the first round, matched two quizzers I’m afraid that I didn’t know. Not that this is any reflection on them.Amy Godell has done in her own words one or two TV quizzes. Says she knows a little about a lot. Rupy - and I’m really sorry , sir, but I didn’t catch your last name, has appeared on Eggheads. His team lost, but he beat Daphne on a head to head. He’s a quiz league player as well.

These were quite a well matched pair. Rupy had the better of the first five rounds, winning 3 to Amy’s 2. I was interested in his tactics of choosing Judith before Chris. No disrespect to Judith is intended, but I think that this is the first time that this has happened.

Rupy didn’t manage to use his Egghead advantage to best effect. He guessed one wrongly himself, and then had to use both Judith and Kevin to answer what rank Prince Harry was commissioned at in the Household Cavalry. Judith was right, Kevin was wrong, and poor Rupy zigged with Kevin when he should have zagged with Judith. In the end, Amy won by 4 points to 1.

Week Three Summary

Once again a good week for the recidivists. Olav, Jan and David R. from last year all won their heats to progress to the next round. I make no comment about my own match, but I really enjoyed David’s and Jan’s matches. One more first round match to go, and then we’ll be onto the second round.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

TV Watch - University Challenge

Repechage Round – 2/2 – Christ’s Cambridge v. Emmanuel Cambridge

JP seemed almost indecently eager to crack on with the show tonight. He introduced the two colleges as next door neighbours, introduced the two teams, and we were off. On paper, this was going to be a very close match. However you may recall two weeks ago that Emmanuel seemed to benefit from a couple of marginal Paxman calls for two starters, and some people have felt that they were rather lucky to gain their place in the repechage round. Well, time would tell.

Anderson of Christ’s took the first starter, on a word with a whole plethora of definitions, the word in question being ‘device’. From then on, though, Emmanuel consistently beat them to the buzzer, not allowing them another look in until the match was safe, and dead as a serious contest. By half time Emmanuel had a 100 point lead. By the 20 minute mark they looked certain for the highest score of the series so far, and even had a chance of crashing through the 300 point barrier.

Full credit to Christ’s for not giving up, though. In the last ten minutes John Anderson and Will Critchlow particularly started to build up the score towards three figures with some timely starters and bonuses. I have to pay tribute to Emmanuel’s captain Alex Guttenplan. He stood out in this show, winning the majority of Emmanuel’s starters. I don’t know if it was just me, but it seemed like there were a lot of science based starters tonight, but Mr. Guttenplan showed a very wide range of knowledge as he ate up starters across the board. Well done , sir. Emmanuel won by 280 points to Christ’s 105, which was the highest score of the series so far. As the impressed Jeremy Paxman pointed out – “You were on fire tonight. “ Which brings me to : -

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I thought that JP seemed to be rather on autopilot tonight. Yes, there was a little flash of temper when the teams were given as a starter a phonetic rendition of the words “Call me Ishmael “ , and then asked to identify what it said, and who wrote the novel it begins. Jenny Harris buzzed in, gave half an answer, - call me Ishmael – then hesitated for half a minute before offering “Moby Dick”. Then Christ’s buzzed in, and offered exactly the same answer. If there’s one thing our Jeremy doesn’t seem to like its people not paying attention, and he barked out that he had asked for the name of the author. Other than that he kept himself on rather a tight leash, even pulling himself back at one stage, when he told one of Emmanuel
“Well done ! Spectacularly good guess. “ he immediately qualified it with, “ Maybe it wasn’t a guess. I’m insulting you. “ Its never seemed to bother you before, Jeremy.

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

I’m a member of Butterfly Conservation UK, so I did actually know that the Spanish for butterfly is ‘mariposa’. However I did not know that mariposa is derived from the phrase Maria posa – which means the Virgin Mary is resting. Brilliant. Seriously, it was worth watching just for that.

Looking forward to next week, when round 2 begins.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Are You An Egghead - First Round - Heat 11 - My return to the small screen

Or put it another way, I’m glad that’s over ! Watching it, I mean. Actually playing in AYAE was actually great fun.Also it means that I have fulfilled my resolution made in January to take part in another TV quiz this year.
Tonight’s “Are You An Egghead?” was filmed back in the end of May IIRC, and its funny how you forget some of what actually happened on the show. The abiding memory that I have of the show is of what a nice guy Peter Ediss is. If you watched the show, and noticed Dermot’s comment at the end it may seem a little surprising, but what the editors have skilfully cut out is the amount of talking we were doing with each other between the questions.

Well, onto the show. I won the first round on TV, which is usually one of my stronger subjects, and I’m not totally daft, so picked Kevin. Then Peter rightfully won the Art and Books, and the Sport rounds, bringing him Barry and Daphne. That’s a serious thing to consider when you play in the show. You have to reckon that Barry and Daphne will both bring you correct answers in the final round. Then, amazingly, I won rounds on Music and Science, probably two of my least favourite rounds of all. Lucky questions brought me the Music, and lucky guesses on the third option brought me the Science.

In the final round first Kevin and then CJ dug me out of holes, contributing 2 of my 4 answers. Poor Peter was forced to use Barry for a horrible distance question, easily the hardest question of the final round. This left him to have to guess in which London thoroughfare the Ritz hotel is situated. He correctly whittled it down to 50/50, but went the wrong way. So I won without Judith by 4 points to 2, but believe me it was a lot closer than it looked on the small screen.

Radio Listen - BoB

Brain of Britain – Round One Heat 3/12

Heat three pitted four contenders from the Midlands, Phil Anderson, David Edwards, James Haigh and Karen Hore. David is the 1990 Mastermind champion, the first man to manage the mastermind and £1million on WWTBAM double.

Both David Edwards and Phil Anderson started briskly, while James Haigh and Karen Hore found the pace a little too hot from the start. By the halfway break for the listener’s questions, David was leading with 12 points, 5 of which were bonuses, to Phil Anderson’s 9, which also contained 5 bonuses.

The listener’s 2nd question was an interesting one – which was the last year to see both a new British Prime Minister and a new American President. The answer, which escaped the contestants, was 1976 – James Callaghan and Jimmy Carter respectively.

In Round 4, Phil Anderson and David both only managed one of their own questions, but two bonuses for Phil Anderson narrowed the gap between them to one point. This was as close as Phil was going to get, and the next round saw David score the only 5 and bonus set of the whole contest. Only James Haigh managed to answer any of his own questions in the last round. No matter, for David won comfortably in the end, with a fine score of 20 to Phil’s 14.

As always, a couple of little gems cam out during the questions. Apparently the first mobile phone call was made on a phone weighing a kilo, in the mid 70s. Also, on hearing of David Steele standing for an Italian seat in the European Parliament, Margaret Thatcher replied that she had never heard of a ‘spaghetti scotsman’ ! Good one that. I wonder who wrote it for her .

The Details

NameOwn QuestionsBonusesTotal
Phil Anderson7714
David Edwards13720
James Haigh527
Karen Hore202

Friday, 23 October 2009

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 8/24

It’s a been a week where we’ve been served up an embarrassment of quiz riches, what with UC and BoB on Monday, AYAE throughout the week, and now this tasty dessert to round things off for us. What a show this was too ! Almost everything you could want from one edition of Mastermind, whatever your reasons for watching. Served up, I might add, by 4 Mastermind newcomers.

Chaz Early was the first into the chair tonight. His specialist subject was The Life and Career of Bill Hicks. I have to hold my hand up to the fact that I’m really not familiar with either the life or work of Mr. Hicks, but apparently he was a controversial American comedian during the 90s particularly. I loved the description of him posing as a journalist during the Waco siege, all the time holding a blow-up dinosaur. However, I’m getting myself sidetracked here. Chaz Early didn’t, though. His was one of the very finest specialist rounds I’ve seen for a long time, no passes, one wrong answer, but 18 correct ones delivered at lightning pace. Highly impressive.

A lesser man than John Cooper , our second contender, might have been disconcerted by such a formidable gauntlet being thrown down. However Mr. Cooper proved himself equal to the task. In Mastermind you don’t have to win the specialist round, but you need to keep yourself in contention. This he did admirably scoring a fine 16 points on George Frederic Handel. Sharp and crisp answering promised fireworks in the GK round.

Julie Duff, answering third on the Mont Blanc Massif found herself with something of a mountain to climb, should you forgive the rather obvious pun. She has the experience, as she described her own experiences of scaling the mountain herself. She seemed a little tentative, but then most of us would if we were following the two virtuoso performances which preceded her round. She scored 10 and no passes. In other weeks she would have still been in contention at the halfway stage, but not this week, alas.

Evan Williams brought the specialist round to a dramatic close with the Life and Work of Isaiah Berlin. He suggested that modern politicians could learn a lot from Berlin, particularly the lesson that there are two sides to every story. Amen to that. Mr. Williams obviously cares a lot for his subject, but I think that nerves drew him down into a mortal pass spiral, and so I shall not add any more to his pain. He scored 3 points.

There was some comfort that he could draw from his GK round, though. Despite starting off seemingly locked in the same pass spiral, he did manage to haul himself back from the brink, and in a heroic effort pulled himself up to respectability with a fine last minute . He finished with 11 points. Julie Duff put in a good performance on her GK round. It was never going to be enough to bridge the gap to the leaders, but then that’s not always the main point anyway. She equalled her specialist score of 10, and thus joined the ranks of contenders who have managed to get into the 20s.

John Cooper then strode to the chair and it was game on. I thought that all of the GK rounds tonight were very fair and even, and I have to say that John Cooper displayed the same snap and decisiveness that he had shown in the specialist round. At one stage I thought that the symbolic 30 point barrier might even be broken. Still, he managed 13 more points for 29, a hefty target for Chaz Early to beat. Mr. Early gave it a good old lash too. He had a 2 point lead after round 1, and he needed both of these as he scored 11, after seeming with 3 or 4 questions to go a dead cert to score 30. So to a passes countback, in which Chaz Early, playing like a pro, won, having answered every question, while John Cooper had passed on 3.

A great show. Commiserations to John Cooper whose score would have won many a show, although I wouldn’t feel too downhearted, since surely that 29 will earn him a semi final spot too. Both he and Chaz Early have shown that they need to be taken very seriously in the semi finals.

The Details

Chaz Early The Life and Career of Bill Hicks18 - 011 - 0 29 - 0
John CooperGeorge Frederic Handel16 - 113 - 229 - 3
Julie DuffThe Mont Blanc Massif10 - 010 - 220 – 2
Evan WilliamsThe Life and Work of Isaiah Berlin3 - 108 - 411 – 14

Current Highest Scoring Runners Up

John Cooper29 – 3
Ian Scott Massie26 – 2
Les Morrell26 - 3
Colin Wilson25 - 0
William de'Ath25 - 4
Vishal Dalal23 - 4

TV Watch - Are You An Egghead ? Week Two

Are You An Egghead – Week Two – First Round Heats 6 – 10

Show 6

Monday’s show pitted former Mastermind semi finalist Cathy Gillespie against one of the true greats of the quizzing world, Pat Gibson. Cathy explained how she lost in the semi finals of Mastermind 2003, but it took no less than the series winner, Andy Page, to beat her. I have to say, as well, that Cathy gave her age as 62. Unbelievable. She could easily pass for a lady in her thirties. As I may have said before, brains and beauty is a heady combination.
No less lovely in his own way is Pat, former world champion, and a man who has achieved the unparalleled £1million win on WWTBAM, Mastermind and Brain of Britain titles.
Cathy put up a good showing against as formidable opponent as you are going to meet, and she claimed both CJ and Judith for her team. Pat on the other hand had Kevin Daphne and Chris on his side. In the end, he won the final round 3 – 1, without needing to turn to his Eggheads at all, a fact which left the genial Dermot Murnaghan sounding just a little put out.

Show 7

One of the things I really like about this show is the way that it sometimes throws up a real blast from the quizzing past. Step forward Jim Eccleson. Now you might not remember Eamonn Andrews’ prestigious ITV Top of the World quiz from the early 80s, but I do. Jim rather gleefully explained that he won the series which also featured a certain Mr. Christopher Hughes, just months before he won his Mastermind crown in 1983. To add to this achievement, Mr. Eccleson also won Brain of Britain as well in the 90s.
His opposition came in the form of Liz Heron. Amongst other achievements Liz had scooped the pot on Bob Holness’ Blockbusters, winning all 5 gold runs. Yes, she did ask for a p please Bob too.
In the opening I think that Dermot explained that Jim had never lost a broadcast quiz. Well, he certainly didn’t have it all his own way , and although he managed to win Barry and Chris to his side, this left Liz with Kevin, Daphne and CJ. To be fair Jim always looked a little under the cosh in the final round, and although Liz let one chance to win the round slip, she made no mistake with her second, winning 4 – 3.

Show 8

On Monday night Pat Gibson was highly impressive in his first round match. Now, on Wednesday his quarter final conqueror from last year, Mark Kerr, began his campaign. Mark you may know from last year’s AYAE semi final, from Battle of the Brains, from his final appearance in Discovery Mastermind, and as he was very proud to point out, from the fact that he is still officially Britain’s Brainiest Estate Agent !
His opponent, Barbara Thompson I didn’t know, and that is to my shame since she has a list of quiz credentials enough to make any quizzer green with envy. Barbara led the Open University to win University Challenge in 1984. She has won Brain of Britain. She was 15 to 1 series champion in one of the 1992 series. In fact you felt rather sorry for the fact that one of these illustrious quizzers would have to be leaving the competition in round one.

Without Kevin to play for Mark had slightly the better of the opening rounds, recruiting Chris, Barry and CJ. Barbara though was far from out of it, having Daphne and Judith on her team. As you would expect , this was a close fought contest, but Mark pressed home his advantage to win by 4 points to 2.

Show 9

Jenny Ryan reached last year’s AYAE quarter finals, where she lost to Dave Rainford. She’s quite a well known face in TV quiz circles, and her latest achievement was in being the most highly placed british woman in the recent European Quizzing Championships. Well done Jenny ! Jenny and I were stand-ins together for the semi finals of Mastermind 2006, so she always receives the not always helpful honour of support from the Clark sofa.
Ken Owen is another well known face around the quiz circuit. My heart went out to him as he explained the agony of getting the £250,000 question on WWTBAM wrong. Believe me, getting the £32,000 wrong is bad enough.

Ken took the first blood, and Kevin, but Jenny hit back with Daphne Barry and Chris, leaving Ken to add Judith to his team after winning the penultimate round. In the final round Jenny used her Eggheads wisely, and I’m afraid that Ken didn’t. Twice he ignored Eggheads who weren’t, to be fair, 100% certain of their answers, and on both occasions the advice he had been given was right. Jenny won by 4 points to 2.

Show 10

Last up this week was a match up between Anne Hegerty and Melanie Beaumont. Anne is a regular LAM reader, so she is a lady of wit and discretion, as well as great general knowledge. To my knowledge Anne has taken part in Mastermind a couple of times, and also Brain of Britain.
Melanie Beaumont you might well have recognised from the first series of “Only Connect”, which is where I remember her from. As you know if you’ve ever seen it – and if not, why not ? – there are no mugs who get onto that show.

There were a couple of close rounds, but Anne had the better of the play , and she took Kevin, Barry, CJ and Judith through to the last round, while Melanie nabbed Chris for her team. This looked a little bit of an uneven contest, but Melanie kept her cool well to answer her first two questions correctly without needing to call on Chris. Anne matched her question for question, with the help of Barry. Unfortunately for Melanie , Chris was unable to help identify that TRT is the state broadcaster for Turkey. With CJ’s help , Anne identified that it was Paul Klee who identified his style as taking a line for a walk. Melanie failed on her own to identify that there were 6 founder members of the EEC . Anne played Kevin on the last question, and duly completed a 4 – 2 win.


Its been a good week for the old AYAE hands , with Pat, Mark and Jenny all progressing. I know from the IQAGB forum that its not just me who thinks that the questions seem to have settled down a little but more this week. Far too many times last week we were given questions which nobody, including the Eggheads could answer – and you have to question where the entertainment value is in that.

Looking forward to next week, I’m reliably informed that my first TV appearance since Mastermind 2007 is due to be shown on Monday. Please be kind.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Who Owns A Quiz ?

It’s a philosophical question, I know, but I do feel moved to ask – who owns a pub quiz ? Obviously the person who compiles it. But then what about the landlord or lady in whose establishment it takes place , if this is not the same as the person who compiles the quiz. What about the audience, the people who take part, though ? For that matter, you can even split the audience, into the staunch regulars, and the occasional participants. All of these parties have their own stake in the quiz.

I raise the question because we have a new landlord for my favourite quiz in Cowbridge, which takes place every Tuesday night in The Duke of Wellington. I’ve said this before, but this quiz has had a number of things going for it, namely –

A 40 question quiz, containing a range of questions, including always a lyric question, a guess the year question, and a multiple points question which all teams can expect to score over half marks in , and most teams can expect to get up to three quarters of the marks available.

A 7 question rolling jackpot, separate from the main body of the quiz

A first prize, a second prize and a third prize – usually about £10 – £20

A choice of free sandwiches at half time

A chance to buy raffle tickets in the interval

All this for just a pound each, and another one pound for the team to contribute towards the jackpot. Now, I’m not saying that this was exactly quiz utopia, but for a Tuesday night pub quiz that wasn’t bad.

As is his right, the new landlord has changed the quiz somewhat. Last night’s quiz consisted of 8 rounds of 10 questions each – 2 GK rounds, rounds headed “Robots”, “United Kingdom” , “Cowboys and Injuns” , a picture round on Rugby Union International players ( come on, this IS Wales ) , Phobias, and Food and Drink. Each team was given a joker which could be played on any round other than a general knowledge one. Each point scored on a joker round was automatically doubled up.

Now, if you’re saying to yourself that I will have liked the fact that there were almost twice as many questions as before, then you are absolutely right. I’ve said it before, I’m a straightforward question and answer man, myself. The fact is that if you take all of the rounds together, the level of the quiz was quite a bit harder than before, and once again, if you think that this is something I like you are right. However, its not just about me.

The GK rounds particularly were hard. This is just my opinion, but I think that they were too hard, and too obscure for a midweek pub quiz. If you’re not at least a semi serious quizzer the phobias round probably proved a step too far for most. It’s a fine line I think that you have to tread between not insulting people’s intelligence, and not making them feel inadequate. I think the biggest winning margin we have ever had in the quiz prior to last night was 3 or possibly 4. Even allowing for twice as many questions we won by 13 last night. That’s a little worrying.

On the other hand, the money prizes for 1st 2nd and 3rd have gone. I’m not complaining about this at all. If the quiz last night is anything to go by I’ll enjoy playing in it for no prize at all, let alone the couple of bottles of wine on offer for first place. The Lucky 7 has gone as well. Again, its not that big a deal. Instead, the jackpot goes to a “Winner Takes All “ game at the end of the evening. 3 teams have their names drawn from a hat, and a member from each gets the chance to play the game , along the lines of old Brucie’s not- that- much lamented ITV game show, predicting whether a series of cards will be higher or lower than each other. You have to predict a lot of cards to win, so I foresee the jackpot growing a lot. Its a bit of fun, and I've got nothing against that.

No, probably the saddest thing about the evening was the demise of the sandwiches. You may be surprised to learn this, but I wasn’t actually one of the people calling out for the sandwiches when they failed to appear at half time. I missed them, though.

I hope that people will give the quiz a chance. It’s a very different kettle of fish from what it was, and I can see this putting some people off. I wouldn’t be saying this, but a significant number of teams failed to get even half marks, and from a top score possible of 94 points , we scored over 70, and only 1 other team scored over 60. I just hope that they’ll give it a chance to bed in. Which brings me back to my original question – who owns a quiz ? The landlord says that the new quiz format is one he used with great success in his last pub, and I have no reason to doubt this at all. I only hope that the other teams come to feel the same sense of ownership over it that they did of the quiz in its previous format.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

BoB - or perhaps I should call this Radio Listen ( as opposed to TV Watch )

Brain of Britain - Round One - Heat 2 /12

OK, so the upshot is that dear old Robert Robinson was very unwell over the summer. I'm sure that all of our thoughts go to him, and wish him a speedy recovery. Unable to guarantee his participation at any particular stage of this year's series, he suggested to the producers that they find someone whose safe hands could steer the whole series through. Step forward Russell Davies. Hands up anyone who has listened to both shows so far and thinks Mr. Davies has put the slightest foot wrong this series. No ? Good - me too.

I thoroughly enjoyed Monday lunchtime's second heat, which pitted contestants Michael Banks, Lesley Walker, Hilary Forest and Anthony Payne. Apologies if I've spelled any of the contestants' names wrongly. While not as quirky perhaps as RR, Russell Davies has a gentle manner, with a very witty and wry sense of humour that is quite infectious. Maybe he doesn't call all the contestants Mr., Mrs. or Dr. etc. but he does at least use both christian name and surname, which is formal enough, I think. This was a good contest, although Mr. Payne took a 3 point lead in the first round, and although this was cut down to a difference of two in the second, from then onwards he pulled steadily away to finish with 16, ahead of Hilary Forest with 8, Lesley Walker with 7, and Michael Banks with 6. Well played all. At the end of the show Russell Davies announced that all of next week's contestants are from the Midlands, which answers the question about whether the heats are still all regional affairs.

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Repechage Round heat 1 of 2 - University College London v. Clare College Cambridge

There’s something about the repechage round. The fact that you’ve got teams who managed to score highly even while losing often means that you get pretty close and well fought matches. This year there’s barely a starter’s worth between all 4 teams.

Top out of the 4 repechage teams were UCL, although as JP reminded us they only scored 10 points more than Clare did in theirs. The loyalties on the Clark sofa were divided in this show – after all UCL are a University of London college, but on the other hand Clare’s star is Matt Cliffe from Ealing, my home borough.

Clare drew first blood but my hopes for a close match were fulfilled at first as, for the first ten minutes, neither side managed to gain the ascendancy. It was all square on 45 points each as two starters went begging. Then it was that UCL’s 3 big hitters, McKenna, Moore, and captain Woolley began to find their range and started to comprehensively beat Clare to the buzzer. I was particularly impressed with Mr. Moore’s remarkable calculation that in the JK Rowling Harry Potter series there are 493 knuts in a galleon.

UCL’s power surge through the third quarter left them nearly home and dry as we moved into the last 5 minutes. However I was impressed by my compatriot Cliffe’s show of Dunkirk spirit as he continued to fight a rearguard action for Clare, running out in the end their best scorer with 6 correctly answered starters. In many ways this was the main difference between the teams – UCL having three big hitters, and Clare only having the one. So very well done to UCL, who put on an impressive 220 points, and commiserations to Clare, whose 145 tonight and performances this series have been nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

In every match of the first round that I actually saw, JP made a point of saying that he wasn’t going to go over the rules. Tonight he did, although at pretty much breakneck speed.
We had to be content tonight with no controversial adjudications like last week, but at least had two light to medium outbursts. When given “Gateshead” the answer to “In which North East town is MIMA ? “ his nose wrinkled as if an invisible elephant had just dumped a load all over his desk . “Gateshead !? No ! Its Middlesbrough. “ Then when given the correct answer that a version we heard of “We Can Work It Out “’ was originally by the Beatles, but this version sung by Stevie Wonder, he replied “ I don’t know how it took you so long. “ Well – they’re all about 2 decades too young to answer it quickly, Jeremy, that’s why. He was quite tickled by the suggestion that Anthony Gormley’s installation “Quantum Cloud” might have been titled “Girder Christmas Tree. “

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

Fingersmith was actually a Victorian slang term for a pickpocket. I have actually heard this term before, but I have no intention of telling you what I thought it really meant. Suffice it to say that I shall be washing my mind out with soap before next week.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Mastermind - Mastermind Plant Cymru

Just when you were maybe starting to think that the schedulers had learned to keep their nasty , grubby little mitts off Mastermind, the World Gymnastics championships hoves into view. Hence no MM this week.

Look, I have nothing against Gymnastics, and I suppose that its only natural we should cover a big sporting event when its happening in our own country. My congratulations to Daniel Keatings, the first british gymnast ever to win a medal in the all-round world championship, where he took a brilliant silver.

I just wish that the schedulers weren't so eager to drop Mastermind , thats all. Hopefully normal service will be resumed next week.

On a much happier note, my congratulations to Joseph from Bala, who won last night's Mastermind Plant Cymru 2009. Da iawn , Joseph !

Are You An Egghead - Week 1 Round Up

Are You An Egghead ? First Round Heats 2,3,4 and 5
Heat 2

Well, there’s no point in being coy about it any more. If you read my reply to Gary’s comments after my last post you’ll know that my appearance in the show is going to be aired a week on Monday. So any comments I make about the series have to be viewed in this light. Of course I’m not going to unfairly criticise a series that I’ve been a part of.

After the great excitement of show 1, where a huge lead in terms of Eggheads won was overturned, show 2 pitted Pam Thomas against Chris Young. I don’t personally know either , but as you’d expect they both have form behind them. Pam Thomas won this year’s “A Question of Genius” – well done ! Chris Young gave the impression of having been on a number of shows, especially UC where he was a quarter finalist.

The categories rounds saw Chris taking three Eggheads to Pam’s two. A good old scrap saw him emerge winner by 4 points to 3, with Daphne providing the winning answer that King George VI had once played in the Wimbledon mixed doubles.

Heat 3

Wednesday’s heat saw Charles Moseley battle it out with Nic Paul. Nic has certainly put in his apprenticeship on the TV quiz show treadmill, with probably his most lucrative appearance being a £32,000 win on WWTBAM. Charles Moseley on the other hand, one of the more senior quizzers to appear so far in this series, was able to claim the rare feat of appearances on UC as a student, and then UC – The Professionals some thirty or more years later.

Charles had clearly the better of the categories rounds, leaving Nick with just one Egghead. However, if you could only have one Egghead, wouldn’t you want it to be Kevin ? Alas for Nic, it didn’t do him all that much good, and he fell to a 3 – 1 defeat, sportingly wishing Charles good luck in the next round.

Heat 4

On Thursday Beth Maclure took on Shanker Menon. Beth has made , AFIK, appearances on Mastermind in 2004, 5, 7 and 8. Last year she was unfortunate to lose in MMs first round where she met Richard Heller, who was on absolutely cracking form and went on to reach the final. Shanker is one of the more high profile young quizzers in the country – you may well remember him from appearances on Battle of the Brains, and last year’s AYAE. Dermot mischievously reminded him that it was Barry who knocked him out in the second round.

Going into the final categorised round, Shanker held the aces with 3 Eggheads to Beth’s 1. This round was a corker, going to sudden death, with Beth eventually winning out to even it up a little more. The final GK round was rather nailbiting, and both contestants had their chances. In the end Barry supplied the finishing touch to the final question concerning types of window, and Shanker won by 2 points to 1.

Heat 5

Tonight saw Rob Huxley take on Paul Sinha.Rob Huxley I don’t really know, and he himself confessed that he really has only one TV credit, appearing on the short lived Busman’s Holiday, although he has been a phone a friend on WWTBAM.Perhaps it was Rob’s place of work that really sold him to the producers, since he works at the Natural History Museum. Lucky man. Paul Sinha is , IMHO, the funniest quizzer on the circuit. He is a part time GP and also a stand up comedian, and I have to say that his recent appearance on radio 4’s Shappi Talk made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately I was listening on my headphones in a queue in Morrison’s at the time.

Its fair to say that , in the categories rounds Rob didn’t exactly cover himself in glory. So much so that Paul completed a grand slam, and went into the General round with a full house of 5 Eggheads. Both answered their first question correctly. Then I’m afraid the wheels came off the wagon a little. Paul used both Kevin and Daphne on the question asking what the original rate of VAT was. He plumped for Kevin’s answer, and it turned out to be Daphne’s. 2 Eggheads gone, but no need to panic yet. Rob correctly answered that a helixophile collects corkscrews. Paul chose to gamble on his next question, not using an Egghead, and it was a gamble that didn’t pay off. 2 – 1. Rob failed to answer which director made Major Dundee with Charlton Heston – apparently it was Sam Peckinpah. A chance for Paul to pull a point back. With a very nasty question, - which rock is the rosetta stone made from – Paul was forced to pull the two card trick again. Both Barry and CJ failed to give the correct answer – granodiorite – and Paul was left with 1 Egghead, still trailing 2 – 1. Rob failed to spot that Dimity fabric is made from cotton, but he still held the 2 – 1 lead. For Paul it was do or die. Asked where the chateau which is the summer resident of the French President is , he turned to Judith, and I’m afraid that she proved no more successful for him than the others had. They plumped for Fontainebleu, but the answer was Rambouillet. Poor Paul. A case of using the wrong Egghead for the wrong question, but well done to Rob. An amazing show. Being the good egg that he is, Paul paid fulsome congratulations to his opponent, and wished him every success in the next round.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

TV Watch Supplementary - Are You An Egghead ?

First Round Match 1 – Gary Grant v. Julia Hobbs

Yes, after being postponed more than once, the great search for the 7th Egghead has finally begun. The series began with a nice little chat between Dermot and the charming and self effacing Barry Simmons, last year’s winner, and Egghead number 6. I can confirm that he is a thoroughly nice chap, who deserves the success that has come to him over the last year.

So on to the first match up. Gary Grant you might remember from last year’s Mastermind, when he reached the semi finals. He’s been on other shows as well, with a teenage appearance on 15 to 1, and a sudden death final spot in The Weakest Link. I know Gary through the IQAGB forum, and he’s a sharp and witty guy.

Julia Hobbs I don’t know, but she seemed to have quite a quiz pedigree . Her friends have nicknamed her “Trivia Queen” . She appeared in 1 v. 100, and has written questions for a couple of TV quiz shows, including Going For Gold.

Julia seemed to have by far the better of the play in the fight for the Eggheads. She bagged Chris, Daphne, CJ and Kevin, while Gary had Barry as his lone teammate. With this imbalance you could probably have written your own odds if you fancied backing Gary at this stage. However, as we saw last year, in AYAEH, nothing is over until its over.

Julia opted to go first in the General Knowledge round. She recognised the term quantative easing. 1 – 0.
Gary looked in desperate straits after needing to play his Barry card on the first question, requiring him to name Andrew Jackson as the 7th president of the USA. 1 – all.
Julia turned to CJ for the chess question, and the MENSA chess champion obliged with the answer that zugszwang means a position where whichever move you make it will only weaken your position. 2 - 1.
Julia still held 3 Eggheads to none. Gary answered his next one, then Julia called on Kevin to answer a question he didn’t really know the answer to, about a Yiddish word which escapes me at the moment. 2 – 2 and 2 Eggheads left .
Gary then failed his next, and Julia called on Daphne. 3 - 2, and one Egghead to Julia.
Gary was asked what Ned Kelly’s last words were. Unfortunately he missed out, going for 'Them’s the breaks' rather than 'Such is Life'. Still 3 - 2. One correct answer needed for victory, and Julia called on Chris to tell her where Sand Dancers come from. He couldn’t, going for Southport rather than South Shields. Gary grabbed the lifeline, and evened to 3 – all to go into sudden death.
Julia couldn’t answer Reggie Perrin’s middle name, Iolanthe, and Gary could answer that the A in NICAM stands for Audio. Game over.

Great match, exciting to watch. Well done to both players.A fine start to the new series.

Come and Have A Go

Now Betsan and Bamber too ? Three on to one is bullying, chaps.

The Dumbing Down spat between our Jeremy “Piledriver” Paxman and John “The Hurricane” Humphrys rumbles on. I see that Mastermind Plant Cymru’s Betsan Powys has added her weight to the Mastermind camp.

It seems that John Humphrys may have been reading LAM, since he has challenged Jeremy Paxman to appear on Celebrity Mastermind, offering to make the questions a bit easier for him, or if he prefers, to have a 10 question shoot out, with each one facing questions from the other’s show . The quote in the article in Wales Online ends with the words, “Come on Paxman, if you think you’re hard enough.”

Betsan Powys has come out in support of her fellow Mastermind host, saying that in Mastermind there is no place to hide, which is absolutely true, of course. As for Bamber Gascoigne, I noticed a headline in the paper saying that Bamber thinks that Jeremy Paxman is beastly to contestants. However it must be said that this is from the ‘old news’ file, and is a comment made after watching a show some years ago , I believe. Bamber doesn’t watch television before 8:30 in the evening.

Reading the article in Wales Online it was nice to see my friend Mark Labbett , from the Rugby Boys in Only Connect, and also from ITV’s The Chase, being quoted. Mark know what he is talking about with regards to quizzes; he is media savvy, and always available for every eventuality. He said some very complimentary things about Mastermind, saying that “contestants are in the top 10, nationally and internationally. They are serious quizzers. If someone who won the show in the 1980s entered now they would not even get to the final.” Well, that’s probably forgiveable hyperbole, Mark. Last time I checked my ranking I think that it was more like top 100, if that, rather than top 10. I think Mr. Chris Hughes – champion 1983 to name but one might disagree too.

Jeremy Paxman himself has described the reaction to his comments as a confection of nothing. So I guess we won’t be seeing this heavyweight contest any time soon. A pity. If the two of them took it in the right spirit it would make a hell of a segment for Children in Need or Comic Relief.

University Challenge - Review of the First Round

University Challenge Review of Round One

Ten teams are now out, and four teams will fight out the repechage for the last two slots in the second round. A timely opportunity then to review the first round, and look at the form guide for round two. Lets begin with a list of the winners. The numbers after each team’s name show, firstly the amount of points they scored in their match, and secondly , the total number of points scored by both teams in their match : -

St. John’s Oxford 270 / 360
Newnham Cambridge 260 / 380
St. Andrews 255 / 405
Manchester 235 / 295
Jesus Oxford 215 / 380
Loughborough 205 / 380
Regents Park Oxford 205 / 370
Warwick 200 / 370
St. George’s London 200 / 255
Girton Cambridge 180 / 325
Imperial College 175 / 310
Edinburgh 170 / 325
Kings London 155 / 295
St. Hugh’s Oxford 145 / 280

Repechage Places

University College London 175 / 380
Christ’s Cambridge 170 / 370
Clare Cambridge 165 / 380
Emmanuel Cambridge 165 / 370

So looking at this we can see that Oxford University are sitting pretty with four colleges safely through to the second round proper. Cambridge only have two through, but with three teams in the repechage, then they are guaranteed one more place in round two, and may even take both slots. London University have two sides through, and Imperial also used to be a college of the University of London. Also University College could well win a place through from the repechage.

The finest matches of the first round were probably the highest scoring match, when St. Andrews beat Somerville Oxford, with the teams managing a mighty 405 points between them, and the nailbiting match between St. Hugh’s Oxford and Magdalene Cambridge, which went to sudden death. At the other end of the scale the most one-sided match was probably St. John’s versus Durham, where St. John’s won by the impressive margin of 180 points.

If you look at the scores you’d be forced to say that the top teams don’t seem to have hit the same heights as team’s last year. But let’s face it, last year’s series was an exceptional one, and a number of last year’s teams were actually good enough to have been worthy winners. Still it makes for an exciting series, and its difficult to pick out and out favourites. Ten of the teams are separated by less than 100 points. So while its tempting to look at the table and say St. John’s, Newnham and St. Andrews look impressive, while Manchester have a huge pedigree in the show and can never be counted out, actually its nothing like as simple as this. Most of the teams can say that they beat teams who were not really as strong as they were. That’s not necessarily going to be the case in the next round. Who can handle the pressure better should have a large bearing on the outcomes. Which is one of the reasons why I, for one, can’t wait.

As for Jeremy Paxman, my personal pick of the Paxman moments from round one has to be this : -
“Swaziland ? ! In the EU ?! Are you mad ? !”

TV Watch - University Challenge

First Round Heat 14/14 – Regent’s Park College Oxford v. Emmanuel College Cambridge

Here we are then, the last first round match of the series. Its an Oxbridge match, too, always guaranteed to bring out the best fighting qualities in both teams. Be honest, did you have any idea that there was a Regents Park College in Oxford ? That’s definitely something I’m going to use in a quizlink connection in the future. If I heard correctly, then some of the fewer than 200 students apparently go on to take up a ministry in the Baptist church.

As for Emmanuel, or Emma as its known in Cambridge apparently, has a chapel designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and one of the oldest swimming pools in the country. Alumni include Sebastian Faulks, who is a former contestant in University Challenge himself unless I am very much mistaken.

For much of the match this was an absorbing contest between two good teams, and it wasn’t until well into the second half of the show that Regents Park had the clear edge, and looked like they were going to win. Which left Emmanuel in the position of playing for a place in the repechage, and knowing exactly what they needed to do to get there. A bit of a strict adjudication, and a late flurry gave them the points they needed to join fellow Cambridge colleges Christ’s and Clare, and also University College London.
Here at LAM we may often make a point of highlighting some of Mr. Paxman’s more enjoyable interjections, but we must stress that in our opinion he is a very fair and honest man. However, a former Cambridge man himself, he couldn’t resist a wry chuckle at the fact that 3 of the 4 teams qualifying for the repechage are from Cambridge University.

Although the Regents Park team didn’t post one of the highest scores of this round, they did break the 200 points barrier, and they seem to have unearthed a little bit of a star in Mr. James Aber. What’s more – he’s from Ealing, like me ! What a man ! He managed no less than 8 starters, a terrific performance, and it was amusing to see his captain nominating him to answer bonuses even when he clearly hadn’t got a clue, and at one point he even said “Will you stop doing that ! “

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Mr. Paxman, after his spirited rebuttal of the dumbing down charges last weekend was in bullish mood right from the start. “Henry VIII ? !” he exclaimed at one ill-judged answer. A little later though, we saw the rare sight of him changing his mind as Jenny Harris of Emmanuel hesitated for a long time over a starter to which the answer actually was Henry VIII, which originally he seemed to be disallowing, then allowed with a stern warning and a verbal slap on the wrists. My goodness, but he was up for it in this show. Normally he only gets up to full speed by the last ten minutes, but last night he was like Murray Walker on amphetamines as he literally raced through the questions right from the start. Coming up to the last five minutes he refused James Aber of Regents Park’s answer of “RAB Butler and Hugh Gaitskill” to a question about Butskillism, since the full question did actually give Butler’s name, and specifically asked for the Labour leader. A fair adjudication, and one which did not materially effect the outcome of the match. As an aside, a question about the same subject was asked on Monday lunchtime’s “Brain of Britain “ on Radio 4. So does that mean that people are now going to suggest that BoB is dumbing down too ?

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

I’m tempted to say everything that Jeremy Paxman told us about Regent’s Park College to this one. I was also intrigued that the Economist Style Guide defines ‘hikes’ as ‘walks, not increases.”

So that concludes the first round, which has been as enjoyable as ever. For a review of the round, and a look ahead to the next round, check out the next post.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

There's Only One Way To Find Out -

Now- I like University Challenge. I also like Mastermind. But which is the more dumbed down ? There’s only one way to find out . . . FIGHT !

I awoke this morning to see in today’s Sunday Times a feature detailing a supposed spat between Messrs Paxman and Humphrys. Reacting to the old chestnut about the double-D words ( Dumbing Down ) Jeremy Paxman is supposed to have said that University Challenge is in fact continually ‘dumbing – up’, and thatif people want to lay the charge of dumbing down anywhere, they should lay it at the door of Mastermind. According to the article John Humphrys was far from slow to rise to the bait, making comments about Jeremy Paxman’s underpants, and offering him the opportunity to appear on Sleb Mastermind if he thinks its that easy. Which I suppose is quiz master speak for “D’you want some then? “

Well, that’s how its all been reported anyhow. All good knockabout stuff, I suppose. However on reading the article it struck me that there was a rather pronounced anti –MM line to it, resulting either from the writer’s own bias, or from laziness. To give you an example of what I mean, the article compares some very obscure questions from UC, with some of the easier questions from last Friday’s GK rounds in MM. It also makes play of the fact that MM now achieves an average of 2 million and more viewers, while UC manages over 3 million.

In the interests of balance, lets look at some of the facts concerning the two shows : -

*FACT – Since MM’s BBCTV revival in 2003, UC has consistently earned higher ratings than MM. UC has a very loyal fanbase , who will watch the show year in year out. However ratings for MM are climbing, and most of the shows of the current series have achieved a very healthy more than 2 million viewers, despite being shown at 8pm on a Friday evening, and despite BBC2 Wales often showing it later on in the week.

*FACT – University Challenge is only open to current students. Mastermind is open to anyone of the age of 18 or over.

*FACT – In each Mastermind, each contender faces 4 minutes of intense individual questioning. In each UC, teams of 4 face about 25 minutes of questioning.

*FACT – In Mastermind it is essential to devote time and effort to learning a specialist subject. In UC it is not.

*FACT – Both shows ask questions across a wide range of subjects. The level of questions, taken across each show as a whole, is broadly comparable. Some questions on UC are more difficult than would be asked as GK on Mastermind, but this is probably balanced by the Specialist rounds. It is quite usual to hear the same questions being asked on both shows.

*FACT – In Mastermind your individual performance need not be affected by the strength of the opposition. IN UC a good team can be made to look poor or mediocre when playing another equally good team who happen to be good on the buzzer.

*FACT – Both shows have been hit by controversy earlier this year.

The more you look at it, the more you reach the conclusion that these are two very different shows, both excellent, both asking questions of a very demanding nature, and both probably catering for a similar core audience. Arguments about which is the most demanding can only ever be subjective at best, and pointless at worst.

So if I make a few observations about MM, then don’t please take it as an implied criticism of UC. I love UC, and if I perceived anyone to be attacking the show like this I would be equally vociferous in my defence of it.

Coming back to the original article, I found myself getting annoyed about some of the comments that accompanied the online version of it. One of the people who left a comment remarked that some of the Mastermind Specialist Subjects could be learned in an evening. Even allowing for deliberate exaggeration for comic effect, this is a ridiculous and in the strictest sense of the word, an ignorant comment. I’m presuming that the person who left it was referring to subjects such as this Friday’s The Films of Tim Burton. Perhaps he’d like to try and learn this subject in one evening. He might be interested to know that Tim Burton has made about 20 films. Just watching each of them once would mean an outlay of between 30 and 40 hours. Which wouldn’t be enough to let you get anywhere near Sarah Dakin’s score on Friday. Perhaps he’d like to try something else. How about last week’s old favourite, Egyptology ? Try learning that in one night. Unless, of course, you’re in the North or South pole where the night can last for weeks at a time.

Oh, but look at the subjects some people take – is the cry we still get. How can you put, lets say, The Life and Career of Jennifer Aniston against The Life and Work of Frida Kahlo, as happened in my first round heat of 2007 ? Yes, well, the same people who raise their voices in protest now would be the first to complain that the show is too elitist if we were to go back to shows containing only the traditional ‘highbrow’ subjects of the 70s and most of the 80s.

Well, lets return to the article in question. Presuming that things are the way that they have been reported, while it might be interesting to put Messrs Paxman and Humphrys together for a steel cage match, and let them fight it out until the last man is standing, on reflection I can’t help thinking that they should probably know better. Play nicely, boys. Or if you want a way to settle your differences, then how about this?

The Clark Plan For Peace

Both of you go on Sleb Mastermind, with the same subject – British Politics 1990 – 2007.
Then both of you captain a team against each other in a UC quiz. JP can have a team made up of , lets say, the captains of the last three UC winning teams, and JH can have a team made of the last three Mastermind champions.

Should any enterprising BBC producer be reading this, then yes, I am most definitely available, and would even act as MM questionmaster for their show for no added fee.


Belated Congratulations to Joseph of Bala, who won the last heat of Mastermind Plant Cymru to go forward to this Thursday's final. Commiserations to David of Bridgend, Lowri of Caerphilly, and Samuel of Brecon, who also took part in the show.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Mastermind First Round - Heat 7/24

No messing about from the iplayer tonight, I’m glad to say. I switched on the laptop at 9 o’clock sharp and there Mastermind was all ready and waiting. 3 newcomers braved the hotseat tonight, but one of our contenders has some quite serious previous form.

Ian Scott- Massie kicked off the show tonight with the Life and Work of Paul Nash. Paul Nash was an early 20th century artist, who was profoundly influenced by his experiences serving in Flanders during the first world war. Mr. Scott-Massie finds his unconventionality very appealing. Well, Mr. Scott-Massie, I found your performance in this round very appealing too. This was good confident stuff, maybe not a perfect round, but a very good one, with quick confident answers bringing a total of 14 and no passes. A cracking good way to start the show.

Sarah Dakin lightened the mood a little with The Films of Tim Burton. Cards on the table time here. I mostly love Tim Burton’s films – although what on earth he was thinking with Charlie and The Chocolate Factory I have no idea. I was intrigued to learn that Tim Burton’s first film was “Peewee’s Big Adventure”. That one will come up again in a quiz sometime. After a confident start I think that Sarah Dakin had a slight attack of nerves, asking for a question to be repeated. I found that the way she apologised for not knowing an answer very appealing, although maybe she might have got another question in if she’d just passed.

If you’re wondering who out of tonight’s four was our previous contender , then look no further than Andrew Warmington. In the 2004 series Mr. Warmington took the unusual subject of Capital Punishment in the UK since 1945, and won to take aplace in the semi finals, where he lost to Jim Cook. Tonight he offered the rather more traditional Ancient Greece – 490 – 323 BC, a period which was characterised by the great struggle between the city states, and the Persian Empire, he explained. Like Mr. Scott Massie, he also produced a fine, quick round, although he did ask for one repeat mid round, ending on 14 and no passes.

So to Dave Taylor, who was to answer on The Life and Work of Paul Dirac. Mr. Taylor in his insert must have anticipated the cry of “Paul Who ? “ from the Clark sofa, since he explained that Mr. Dirac developed the equation of the electron, which forms the basis for much of modern electronics. Clever bloke, then. So is Mr. Taylor, who managed a score of 10 on some pretty impenetrable questions, which forced John Humphrys to admit that he hadn’t understood any of them. Its one of Mastermind’s particular qualities which means that someone like Mr. Taylor explained that he’s had a 30 to 40 year interest in Dirac, but he still ended up with a lower SS score than the other contenders, one of whom certainly wasn’t even born when he first became interested in his subject.

Not to worry, though. There was always the hurly burly of the GK round to look forward to. Mr. Taylor didn’t answer very quickly, which may have cost him a few questions, but he answered pretty well, and 11 took him to 21. Not a score likely to bring a win or a place in the semis, but a creditable performance nonetheless. Unfortunately Sarah Dakin struggled a bit on this round, but kept her composure, and managed to still seem like she was enjoying the experience. That’s important. It goes by so quickly when you’re in the studio that it is important to try to enjoy it as it happens.

Joint leader Ian Scott- Massie set about reaching the target with gusto, and did so comfortably, pushing the score up to 26. In most of the shows so far this series that score has been good enough. However Andrew Warmington is an experienced Mastermind contender, and he had the glint of battle in his eye as he strode to the chair. For me he put up possibly the best performance we’ve seen so far this season, not only managing to score an excellent 14 on GK, but showing that he can cover an awful lot of ground in the process. OK, you can only tell so much from first round form, but I say that Mr. Warmington is a potential finalist. Make no mistake, his was a terrific performance. Ian Scott-Massie showed himself to be a force to be reckoned with as well, and I shouldn’t be very surprised if he reaches the semis with this.

The Details

Ian Scott Massie The Life and Work of Paul Nash14 - 012 - 226 - 2
Sarah DakinThe Films of Tim Burton11 - 25 -216 - 4
Andrew WarmingtonAncient Greece 490 – 323 BC14 - 014 - 328 - 3
Dave TaylorThe Life and Work of Paul Dirac10 - 011- 121- 1

Current Highest Scoring Runners Up

Ian Scott Massie26 – 2
Les Morrell26 - 3
Colin Wilson25 - 0
William de'Ath25 - 4
Vishal Dalal23 - 4
Joe Docherty22 – 5

Mostly a good week . . . but. . .

I said in my last post that its been a busy quiz week.Its been mostly a good week. I say mostly rather than totally, because of a discussion I had with a good quiz friend during the last few days. Really and truly he’s one of a group who make up the unsung heroes of quizzing throughout the length and breadth of the country. By this I mean that he’s pretty much kept a quiz going in his watering hole of choice for a long time, 27 years by a conservative estimate, for no remuneration at all except for a couple of pints every time he produces the quiz himself, and he’s feeling pretty cheesed off with it at the moment. With some good reason he’s unhappy about the fact that he, along with a small group of other setters, has maintained the quiz, making sure that there is always a quiz every week that the club is open. Attendances have been falling for some time, and in his last quiz we were down to 4 teams. Alright, its happened before. Not often, though. However as he explained it to me there are teams who have asked him if he’s doing it in the coming week, only to make a point of not turning up when he does so.

Its such a shame. In the decade and a half that I’ve been going to the quiz in question my friend has maintained a standard of excellence which you’d find hard to match anywhere. If anyone misses a turn to make the quiz, he always steps in, however short the notice. Answer sheets etc. he produces himself – the club give him no help whatsoever on this score. It must seem a thankless task. I remember ten years or so ago he described it to me as a labour of love, and I guess that it’s a labour you can fall out of love with. With the result that he is seriously considering giving up the quiz.It’s a huge shame, and I desperately hope that he might reconsider. Even if the quiz does manage to keep going – and I’ll be honest , that is by no means a given – I’ll really miss his quizzes. I think people will realise just how good they were once he doesn’t do them any more.

One of those weeks.

In my defence, I never really planned such a heavy quiz week as this last one has been. As originally planned, this week would have just consisted of a trip to the Duke of Wellington in Cowbridge on Tuesday night, and my turn as quiz master in Aberavon Rugby club on Thursday night. Nothing too taxing there.

On Monday, though, we made a return to Newport, to Trevor’s quiz in the Pill Harriers Rugby Club. Its been a good three weeks since we last played there, not, I hasten to add for any reason other than illness and work. My good friend Alan was feeling OK, and Barry fancied it as well. I didn’t need to be persuaded either. It was a good quiz. In fact all of the quizzes I’ve been to this week have been very enjoyable. We managed to give the handicapper a good run for his money this week, drawing for second place with a team who’d had a five point head start, and finishing one point behind the winners, who’d been given an 8 point head start. My favourite question of the night was on the handout. I have to say this, you get two handouts in Newport – Round Two which is a pictures handout, and Round Four which is a multiple question handout, and is a work of joy , and often , of genius . On the multiples handout this week we were asked for the ten countries with the smallest populations. Helpfully we were given the initials of each. Having become a devotee of, I greatly enjoyed this one. By the way, if you haven’t checked it out yet, sporcle is great fun. But be warned, it is addictive, and it absolutely devours spare time.

On Tuesday evening John and I returned to the Duke of Wellington. They’re a really nice crowd down there, and seemed to have forgiven us for scoring 100% on the last one we attended a fortnight ago. Thankfully the Lucky Seven was apparently won last week, so at least the money is getting shared around a bit. It’s a good little quiz as I’ve said before. We had most of them right, but amongst those we missed was the Guess the Year question.
“In which year did Eric Cantona do his famous karate kick at a member of the crowd in a game against Crystal Palace ?” You can probably appreciate the discussion this engendered . - I know that it was after the season of Ferguson’s first double, in 1994. But was it at the tail end of 94, or early 95 ? - We plumped for the end of 94, but were a year out, 95 being the right answer.

Let me go back to Monday night. It was at the end of the evening that Trevor called me over, and invited me to the Mega Quiz on Wednesday. I really wanted to play, but that’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t take Mary for granted about. Thankfully she agreed, and you can read all about the quiz in my previous post.

Last night, then, last quiz before Sunday, and it was my quiz for the Rugby Club. I hope that people enjoyed it. Sometimes its difficult to tell, after all, the good people who make up the regulars in the quiz there would never be rude to you. This was a connections quiz, I tend to do these for about one in every three quizzes I make. In its basic form it works like this. Each round comprises of 10 questions, 6 of which will be normal GK questions. However three of the questions will have answers which can be connected in some fashion, and the last question asks what the connection actually is. This one none of the teams managed to answer last night : -
When he became King, which name ( name and regnal number needed ) did the Prince Regent take ?
Who invented logarithms ?
Name the British artist, with no arms, and shortened legs, who received the MBE in 2003 .
What is the connection between your last three answers ?

Now, if you’re really tuned in you might get it from the first two. However for me it’s the third one that is the clincher, and unfortunately none of the teams knew the answer to the third one. For the record, the answers are : -
King George IV
(John) Napier
Alison Lapper

The connection ? All have had statues on plinths in Trafalgar Square. George IV and General Napier’s are permanent, while the statue “Alison Lapper Pregnant “ occupied the 4th plinth for some time. By way of an aside – Havelock is the other permanent one. Also by way of an aside, General Napier made one of the best, most educated puns I have ever heard. On the conclusion of a successful campaign in the sub-continent, he sent the war office the one word telegram
which even my schoolboy latin enables me to know means “ I have sinned ( Sind ! )” Oh well, please yourselves.

Please believe me when I say that a week like this really is the exception rather than the rule. If I wasn’t virtually teetotal then I couldn’t do it at all. Very early on in my career ( teaching or quiz, take your pick ) I realized that for me, alcohol on a school night is just a no-no. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against it, but if I even just have the one I find it can make me just that tiny bit more tired the next day. That’s why I don’t drink at the quiz. Sometimes I’d like to, but I just can’t. It works like this. I won’t have a drink on a school night. Well, during term time that leaves me with Friday and Saturday evenings. When I never go to a quiz.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Thank you , Birmingham

Birmingham has, in its time, given us many fine things. Think of Bourneville chocolate, think of Balti, think of the Electric Light Orchestra, if you will. In the field of quizzing, one of the fine things that Birmingham has given us is the Lord Mayor’s Mega Quiz.

Its quite an event this. If you’re looking for something akin to a grand prix event, or even a national CIU final, then you’re going to be disappointed. However if you are looking for a quiz event which is more grand than prix, then you certainly won’t be. Of course, you’ll have to wait until the next one, since the 2009 Lord Mayor’s Mega Quiz took place last night.

I can’t be certain whether that will be next year, mind you. I also played in the mega quiz the last time it was held which was in November 2007. The one before that, though was in June 2006. Last time out the team I was with ended up 4th, and the quiz was won by a team containing, amongst others, the pride of Wales, aka David Edwards, the 1990 Mastermind champion. This year David was back with a different team. As for me, I was with three quarters of the oft-conquering Maesglas team. Scribe for the night was Richie Parnell, probably best known for being one third of the Rugby Boys who won this year’s Only Connect. Richie had been part of a multi winning Battle of the Brains team called The Ant Hill Mob, as had second team member Gordon Galliford, a big winner on WWTBAM in the past. Team Captain was the redoubtable Trevor Parry, the doyen of question masters. That’s quite a team to live up to – no pressure there then.

If I say that the Mega Quiz is no grand prix event, I must also state quite clearly that it is a great quiz event. This year attendance was a little down on last time’s, so much so that only 92 teams competed. No, that’s not a misprint. Almost 100 teams came together in the Great Hall of the University of Birmingham to do battle over 10 rounds of 10 questions. That’s not bad at all. You already know that as far as I’m concerned the more questions that you ask in an evening, the more I like it, so this got the Clark seal of approval. The ten rounds were – and apologies if I don’t remember all of these in the correct order –
General Knowledge
Current Affairs
Food and Drink
a pretty broad cross section I think you’ll agree. As for the rounds themselves, they tended to consist of 6 straightforward questions, two or three difficult but gettables, and one or two absolute snorters. In addition to this each team had a joker, for double points, which had to be played on one of the rounds. The rule was that you had to nominate which round you wanted to play it on before the start of the quiz.

A great GK round, a stunningly good TV round, and good rounds on Geog and Sport, and a well played joker on History saw us with a good lead at half time. Our second half wasn’t quite so impressive, but we managed just to hold on to win by two points from previous winners Utopia Limited. You probably know me well enough to know I’d be lying if I said that winning the quiz didn’t matter to me. Although I know it can’t and won’t happen, I still want to win every quiz I take part in. But regardless of that it was a great event to be part of. Compere and question master for the evening was Nick Owen , Breakfast TV’s Mr . Dependable in the old days of TVAM. Yes, I thought he must have retired a while ago too. He’s not been on national TV for a long time, but apparently he’s quite big in BBC Midlands. Very nice if you like that sort of thing. He’d obviously prepared a few quips for the occasion, and this one,
“I’ve just become chairman of Luton Town – Yes ! When I was 10 I asked my Dad to get me a cowboy outfit for Christmas. Now I’m 60 its finally come true ! “ should give you the flavour. He’d dressed for the occasion too, in his tux and his dickie bow, and looked quite dapper. However the effect was spoiled a little when someone shouted “Waiter !” as he walked down he main aisle.

To be fair to him, he performed his main task – Getting On With The Quiz – surprisingly well. Allowing for a half hour half time break he cracked on through the rounds at a fair old canter, which always adds to the enjoyment of a quiz I find.While I'm at it I have to pay tribute to the organisation of the quiz. Collecting all the papers in, for example, was run as smoothly as silk by a veritable army of blue t-shirt clad volunteers. Yes, volunteers. This was all for charity, lets not forget it.

In fact the only drawback to the quiz was that it took place in Birmingham. No , I don’t mean that as it sounds. Birmingham is actually a great city, and I look forward to staying overnight in one of its top hotels as my prize very much. However Birmingham is a good couple of hours’ drive from home, and that’s the bugbear of the quiz being midweek.

Let me leave you with a question they asked. This is a little selfish, since it’s a question I had to really dredge the depths of my memory to find the answer to.
What was the surname of Jim Bergerac’s boss in the first few series ?
You might well be saying Hungerford, but wily old Charlie Hungerford was his former stepfather. It was actually Crozier – Barney of that ilk. I don’t know that I contributed a huge amount to the win, but at least I had that one eventually.

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – First Round Heat 13 – St. Andrews v. Somerville College Oxford

Two days late with your review, Mr. Clark ? What is the world coming to ? Yes, apologies to anyone who has come to check out the review of the latest heat, only to find that LAM seems to be neglecting its public duties. The only mitigation I can plead is that its not through sloth, only through the fact that this has been an exceptionally busy quiz week, which I will only too gladly tell you all about. However, let us deal with UC first.

This match paired two former series’ champions, the University of St. Andrews, and Somerville College Oxford. St. Andrews apparently have a student population of about 3,000 to draw from, while poor old Somerville have about a 6th of that number. Once again , we were reminded that the red cloaks of St. Andrews were originally meant to make their students easily identifiable, and thus help keep them out of houses of ill-repute. Nothing quite so juicy about Somerville, and we had to content ourselves with the titbit that both Shirley Williams and her mother Vera Brittain were both former students, as indeed was Dorothy Parker.

St. Andrews made most of the early running, although it was noticeable that they failed to score on a set of bonuses which required them to identify which cities various test cricket grounds could be found in. After ten minutes they had carved out a very healthy lead for themselves, but then captain Guy Fletcher-Wood of Somerville began almost single handedly to haul his team back into contention, finding range with a number of starter answers.

The fight back began to look temporary though, as St. Andrews , and in particular Christopher Flaherty began to apply a stranglehold on the match. The team passed the 200 point mark before twenty minutes had passed, and were clearly going to win. The foot came off the gas pedal in the last four minutes though. Having reached 255, they failed to answer another starter correctly. This allowed Somerville to finish with 150 points. If I’m correct, then that put them just 5 points away from a repechage spot, actually a really good performance. Special honours to Guy Fletcher – Wood of Somerville, with 6 starters. However the star turn was really Christopher Flaherty, whose individual haul of starters was amongst the finest I’ve seen this series.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

A disappointing week for Paxman watchers. Mild and congenial throughout. The only comment I particularly noted was in his explanation to an unanswered starter,
“They’re the people who conferred the blessed Arndale Centres on us. “ Even when he told Somerville “ You were a bit slow “ – meaning on the buzzers – he qualified this with “You got some brilliant answers “ All of which leads LAM to ask – has someone been slipping happy pills into his tea ? I think we should be told.

Interesting Fact I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

I really liked the question which required the three separate answers of Dunk, Flunk and Munk – sorry – Monk. However the two which really stood our for me were –
a) That nostalgia is greek for a return to native land and pain
b) JK Rowling is actually one of the top ten mispronunciations !

Monday, 5 October 2009

Just A Quickie -

To congratulate the Wales team for winning the series of Radio 4's "Round Britain Quiz" that ended today. Da iawn !

Sunday, 4 October 2009

News about BoB - Mastermind Plant Cymru

I found out last night that Robert Robinson won’t be presenting this year’s Brain of Britain. Ok, as a piece of news that’s hardly up there with the Berlin Wall being knocked down, or 9/11. To be honest, as far as the Great British Public are concerned its not even up there with any of the non-stories currently generated by Katie Price and Peter Andre. Still, for those of us who know and love BoB, it’s a bit of a shame.

I’ve checked out the Radio 4 website, but since the new series doesn’t start within the next 7 days its giving no details, even on BoB’s own dedicated page. However the quiz community being what it is the word has already gone out that Russell Davies has been at the helm of the shows that have so far been recorded. Mr. Davies took the presenter’s chair for the 2004 series, as I recall, and actually did a pretty good job of it. Peter Snow took over the chair for 2007, where I personally felt he was a little too ‘chummy’ with the contenders for my liking, and without the reassuring presence of Kevin Ashman’s Jorkins beside him I felt that some of his adjudications were rather inconsistent. Sorry Peter, but if there’s no Robert, then its Russell for me, every time.

The very best presenters put a certain stamp on the shows they front, don’t you think, which can make life very difficult for those who have to step into their shoes. If we take Robert Robinson himself, even such a robust and reliable format as “Ask the Family “ never really prospered when revived twice without him. Can anyone honestly imagine a Fifteen to One without William G. Stewart, or a WWTBAM without Chris Tarrant ? I’m tempted to add a Weakest Link without Anne Robinson, which would certainly be different. Lets leave that to one side for now. I suppose that the trick must be to do it like a Dr. Who regeneration. From the first of these onwards the production teams of the show seemed to grasp the idea that a new doctor offered a chance to go in a new direction, and they never made the mistake of having the new doctor try to replicate his predecessor. Of the top of my head I can only think of one quiz that has pulled this off. University Challenge, where the BBC were smart enough to offer us Jeremy Paxman’s chalk to Bamber Gascoigne’s cheese after Bamber turned them down himself.

However good Robert Robinson has been, he’s never had his Christian name become synonymous with his role, in the way that both Magnus Magnusson and Bamber Gascoigne did. Its funny how the use of a TV question master’s name, either as an accolade for someone with a demonstrably good GK, or a perjorative term for someone patently lacking in such, seems to have passed out of fashion. The last time I can personally recall this happening was in about 2003. John and I won a quiz we’d never been to before, where the question master congratulated us for beating ‘Bamber’ , which apparently was the nickname for the captain of the team who usually won. Its probably something to do with the name itself. In their 1970’s and 80’s heydays there were precious few Bambers or Magnuses ( should that be Magni ?) out there for them to be confused with. Whereas today’s top TV inquizitors must content themselves by being known by their surnames – Paxman, Humphrys, Tarrant, Robinson , Murnaghan etc.

I believe that the first of this year’s Brain of Britain will be broadcast a week on Monday, which will be the 12th October. I wish Russell Davies and everybody else taking part in the show the very best of luck.

Mastermind Plant Cymru

Look, I can only hold my hands up to this one and apologise. You know by now my love of all things Mastermind, so I am very sorry that I have not yet mentioned the start of the new series of Mastermind Plant Cymru , which is the welsh language Junior Mastermind. The series, a competition to find the successor to last year’s champion, Seren Jones, actually began on S4C, the mainly welsh language Channel 4, on Thursday 10th September.

I can’t review the shows, neither having seen them, nor having the command of the welsh language necessary to enjoy them. However I would like to pay tribute to all of those children – and remember that these are all of primary rather than secondary school age – brave enough and gifted enough to take part. So congratulations to

Lowri – CarmarthenHenry VIII and his wives
Geraint – Wrexham2nd Series of Doctor Who with David Tennant
Owen - BreconBooks by Rick Riordan
Rhys - BridgendThe Roman Empire
Sara – CarmarthenAlex Rider books
Daniel – BangorGreek Mythology
Ffion – Colwyn BayRoald Dahl Novels in Welsh
Gruffydd – PontypriddHigh School Musical 1 – 3
Sarah – BridgendHarry Potter films 1 – 5
Rhun – LlanbrynmairLife and works of Gwynfor Evans
Lowri – AbergavennyThe Roman Mysteries Books
Matthew – CaerphillyOes y Dinosoriad
Aran – BangorThe First 12 Tintin Books
Elliot – LlanelliThe Titanic
Isabelle – AbergavennyThe Inheritance Cycle Series
Rhys – BridgendThe Vicar of Dibley

who have so far competed in the series, with special congratulations to the winners whose names are underlined.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Does it make me mellow, or yellow ?

I’m not proud of this, but I have been known to argue with question masters on occasion. I try to stop myself, because I know that its not a good thing to do, and that its absolutely pointless, but it still happens, I confess. Twice during these last seven days I’ve been to quizzes where a question has been asked, where either the question or the answer given to it has been wrong. No surprise in that. Many many question compilers and question masters get things wrong from time to time in good faith, me included, as those of you who read my monthly quiz will be well aware of. I accept that. I do my best to check the accuracy, but no doubt I could do more.You can’t expect perfection from a question master. But both times last week the questions or the answers have been SO wrong that I’ve been too shocked or stunned to remonstrate with the question master. Which is probably a good thing, when you think about it.

On Sunday night we were asked this multiple question.
Name the 6 countries outside of Africa that have a letter Z in their names
Taking the question at face value we wrote down Switzerland – Czech Republic – New Zealand – Bosnia-Herzegovina – Azerbaijan – Brazil
Good answers ? Not good enough – instead of New Zealand, he offered us Venezuela ! All of a sudden other countries’ names also popped into our heads – among them Kazakhstan – Uzbekistan – Kyrgyzstan to name but three. Now, if he had also left out Azerbaijan, I could accept that I’d misheard, and he had in fact said countries outside of Africa AND Asia. But leaving out New Zealand ?

Then on Thursday night we were offered this one –
In which Shakespeare play do Florizel and Perdita appear ?. Now, OK, I do know that we all get a little protective, a little touchy about what we believe to be our own subjects, and being as I once studied and now teach English Literature I knew I should be on the firmest ground with this question. As I’m sure you know, the answer is “The Winter’s Tale “. All of which begs the questions, how the hell did the question master come up with the answer “The Tempest” ? All I can think of is that maybe he was using a reference which listed the plays in order of composition, next to which there was a list of main characters from each. Winters Tale and Tempest were both very late plays, so possibly his eye just slipped. What made this one worse, apart from being a subject that I think I know a bit about, was that none of my team mates had known the answer, and so had just accepted Winters Tale with a very touching blind faith. In such a case it doesn’t matter how much you remonstrate that the answer you gave is actually the right one, you know what’s going through their minds. Exactly the same thing that would be going through my mind if the boot was on the other foot. It was a little bit of a sod's law night, really. You may remember that we were asked a question to which the answer was Threepenny bit last week ? Well, this week we were asked how many sides one actually had. All three of my compadres fell into the trap of saying 7 - which is the 50p and the 20p of course. I replied that I'd looked at photos in my post mortem googling last week, and could confirm it was definitely an even number, and I reckoned about 12. I let them beat me down to 10. Then I began to beat myself when it was revealed that the answer was of course 12.

Returning for the moment to the subject of my leaving the question masters alone despite, or maybe because of the magnitude of the wrong'uns, is it , I wonder, a sign of old age ? Is this just a one – off, or does it mean that I am finally beginning to see the error of my ways ? Is it a usual thing to get more mellow about wrong’uns as you get older. Any other ‘mature’ quizzers ( is this an oxymoron ?) out there I’d really welcome your views on this one.

As for the two quizzes themselves, it didn’t really make a lot of difference. We won fairly comfortably on Sunday night anyway. On Thursday night at the rugby club we were well beaten on the picture round, so would have lost the quiz overall anyway.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Mastermind - First Round Heat 6/24

After last week’s excitement at seeing Mike Hely , who had last competed in the inaugural series of 1972, we were once again dealt a complete hand of Mastermind virgins tonight.

Tonight’s first contender to face what John Humphrys called “the short but daunting walk to the black chair “ was Chloe Stone, a part time teacher. If I have this correct, then no less than 8 champions have been schoolteachers, and another five have been University or College lecturers. That’s not including the 3 radio 4 champions, but only because I don’t have any record of their occupations, and no slight is intended there. So Chloe Stone had quite a lot to live up to. She was answering questions on “The Cazalet novels of Elizabeth Jane Howard” . Before you ask, yes, I have definitely heard of Elizabeth Jane Howard, so this does not qualify as an obscure authors round. I liked Chloe Stone’s technique. There was no nonsense wasting time over questions she didn’t know the answer to, no. Such questions were met with a firm and decisive ‘pass’, which ensured that she got through no less than 19 questions in the round, scoring a fine 14.

Shaun Deehan followed, answering on “The Life and Times of John Hume”. John Hume you will remember was the former leader of the SDLP, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In his film Mr. Deehan described him as a man who went into politics for the right reason. In the round of questions itself it rather seemed to me that Mr. Deehan was a little better on the politics rather than the life, but he managed 9 points by the end of the round.

Ron Ragsdale was offering the potentially huge specialist subject of Egyptology. Mr. Ragsdale’s accent suggested a well travelled man, and indeed he said that he had learned about his subject while actually living in Egypt, and looked on Mastermind as “A good opportunity to test my knowledge”. Yes, Mastermind will certainly do that for you. About halfway through the round Mr. Ragsdale lost his way somewhat, falling into the dreaded pass spiral, and the round never really recovered from this hiatus. He ended the round with 8.

It had been a rather highbrow week so far, but at least Joe Docherty offered us an entertainment subject, even if this was one with precious few laughs, as it happened. His subject “British New Wave Cinema” focussed on a generation of gritty British film dramas, which he explained that British cinema had no option after the war but to film in black and white. This was a pretty wide ranging round. The only film mentioned in the questions that I’ve actually seen was “This Sporting Life” but I managed to answer a good half dozen through knowledge of authors, etc. Of course, Mr. Docherty did considerably better than this, scoring 14 .

A somewhat shellshocked-seeming Ron Ragsdale kicked off the GK round. In truth he was given a very fair set of questions, but he struggled , and finished with 14. By way of comparison Shaun Deehan was given what seemed to me to be a rather tough set of GK, and coped admirably to take his total to 21. Yes, this is just my opinion, and I know that they are all easy if you know the answers. Speak as you find, and I found that Mr. Deehan put up a good performance on GK.

Chloe Stone, then , came to the chair knowing that if she was going to win, then she would have to do it on GK. Which didn’t seem to upset her one little bit. Granted that in my opinion her GK round seemed slightly easier than Mr. Deehan's, still she showed a good width of knowledge to confidently handle the round, and post a fine score of 12 to set the target at 26. Even if this could be beaten, it still gave her a very good chance of claiming a runner up semi final spot.

Joe Docherty was less than a minute into his GK round, and I’m afraid that he already looked unlikely to reach the target. Was his round tougher than Chloe Stone’s ? Maybe, maybe not, but you have to say that her performance was better, as Mr. Docherty fell somewhat short, levelling out at 22.

So, well done Chloe Stone. 26 is a fine score, and this was a good performance. Her chances in the semi finals should not lightly be dismissed, even though John Humphrys seemed none too impressed, saying “She held on, Chloe Stone !” Sorry to correct you there, John, but a 4 point win is hardly just holding on.

The Details

Chloe Stone The Cazalet Novels of Elizabeth Jane Howard14 - 512 - 326 - 8
Shaun DeehanThe Life and Times of John Hume9 - 211 - 420 - 6
Ron RagsdaleEgyptology8- 46 - 414- 8
Joe DochertyBritish New Wave Cinema14 - 08 - 522 – 5

Current Highest Scoring Runners Up

Les Morrell26 - 3
Colin Wilson25 - 0
William de'Ath25 - 4
Vishal Dalal23 - 4
Joe Docherty22 – 5
Adam Lister/Mike Hely 21 - 5