Saturday, 28 November 2009

Christmas keeps on coming earlier each year

Its that time of year again. With no Mastermind, and no Are You An Egghead to watch and review what else could I do on a Friday night ? I went to a quiz. Not that it needs any defending, but by way of an excuse I have been living off iron quiz rations for the last fortnight or so. Pressure of work and the fact that my dear friend John has been in Hong Kong for a couple of weeks, and then ill after he came home necessitated restricting myself to the Thursday nighter. Last night, though, John was better, so we kept a long standing date to join up with a friend to play in a charity quiz in Margam village.

Checking past posts I find that the last time we played here was back in July. They do the two charity quizzes a year. The main thing I remember about the last one was being asked how long Canada’s coastline is, and being absolutely staggered by the answer that it is over 150,000 miles.

Well, last night there was nothing quite like this. However, there was a good reason for this, since last night’s quiz was the first Christmas themed quiz I’ve attended this year. Yes, its not only the High Street Christmas Lights which seem to start earlier and earlier each year. I mean, it is still November, isn’t it ? Well, what the hell. I know that I have said some horrible things about themed quizzes in the past, and I do stand by them. However, I concede that it is possible to make a good themed quiz. It just takes a hell of a lot more planning and effort than normal.

So, what was the verdict? Well, I don’t know, maybe I’m going a bit soft in my old age, or maybe it really was a cut above the usual Christmas themed quiz, but I really enjoyed this. Anyone who can put together a quiz of 7 rounds of 10 questions, with a picture handout and a written handout, for nothing more than the satisfaction of helping a good cause deserves a lot of credit. I’ve been to two quizzes put together by Ken our QM, and I’ve enjoyed both of them. So he’s a good safe pair of hands.

On the subject of the Thursday Night quiz, I found out two nights ago that it will be my turn to do the last quiz before Christmas. Which means that I will have to decide whether I shall be Scrooge or Fezziwig ( see my post of the same title in December 2008 ) Being realistic I shall delay my decision, since its quite possible that one of the QMs who are doing the other Thursdays before mine may well not be able to resist the lure of the Christmas themed quiz, in which case I shall be Scrooge.

By way of a footnote about the rugby club quiz, Brian was QM on Thursday night, and he gave us a connections quiz. I’m delighted to take the credit for introducing the concept of the connections quiz to the club, back in 1995. Basically in each round you ask three seemingly unconnected questions, and then the next question is to name the connection between the answers. I say that I introduced it to the club rather than invented it, since I got the idea from Geoff Evans’ open quiz for the teams of the late lamented Neath Quiz League. As I recall Geoff included a couple of connections, one of which worked something like this.
1) The film and play “Shadowlands” are about which writer ?
2) The three male suspects in Cluedo are Reverend Green, Professor Plum and which other ?
3) Which Ken Dodd 1966 hit is still one of the 20 biggest selling UK singles of all time ?
4) What is the connection between your last three answers
The answers are, of course,
1) C.S.Lewis
2) Colonel MUSTARD
4) GASES ( used against people )

Its good fun, and in the hands of a skilled question master it can enable you to ask harder questions than you might normally do. It also means that you can ask a simpler question in a way that makes it more difficult. Fitting three completely unconnected questions together so that, if you get the three answers, a connection should be obvious also enlivens the whole process of making the quiz.

So, in Brian’s quiz my team, down to just three members, managed to find all 8 connections. However , one of the sets of three made a good example of the danger of not playing the man. Let me ask you,
1) Who had a hit with the song “Welcome Home “ in 1973 ?
2) Which gas operated machine gun was the standard machine gun used by the British army during world war I ?
3) What is the county town of County Clare in the Republic of Ireland ?
4) What is the connection between your last three answers ?

OK . So the answer to number 1, not so much of a problem for forty and fifty somethings , was Peters and Lee. I proved my worth to the team by knowing that the answer to number 3 was Ennis. For me, that was the clincher to give you the connection – British multi event athletes who won gold medals at either world or Olympic level. Well and good. Then for the machine gun, one of us chipped in with Tommy gun. Tommy actually comes from Thompson – Daley Thompson ! Well, that was our reasoning. Initially I did disagree on two counts – namely that it was a sub-machine gun, and also that I did think it was invented after World War I. After hardly any thought we reasoned that the connection as too good, and maybe Brian didn’t know the difference between a machine gun and a sub machine gun. Which meant that we got exactly what we deserved when the answer was the Lewis gun. If we’d been honest we’d have known that of course Brian would not have made that mistake, and I think we would have got to Lewis eventually.

Not that playing the man and not the ball is always a tactic that pays off. In the previous Thursday’s quiz I asked the question
- What is an ‘edzell blue ‘ ?
I overheard one of them suggesting the correct answer – potato – to be argued out of it by the rest of the team, who know that I like butterflies very much, and am a member of Butterfly Conservation UK. So they answered butterfly.

Speaking of which it reminds me that its simply ages since I posted a quiz here, so I shall have a look , and a rummage around my dusty drawers. Then when I’ve done that I’ll have a look for a quiz to post too.

Monday, 23 November 2009

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Second Round Match 4/8 – University College London v. Emmanuel College Cambridge

This remarkable second round match pitted the two most experienced teams in the competition against each other.I say the most experienced because these teams have both already played two matches, winning through the repechage round. University College beat Clare College Cambridge in their repechage , while Emmanuel saw off Christ’s Cambridge in theirs.

Two battle-hardened teams then, so we had every right to expect a good, hard-fought match, and for most of the show we weren’t disappointed. Grahl, McKenna and Wooley of UCL had all been significant hitters in their previous matches, and they combined well throughout the first 20 minutes of the show. At ten minutes in UCL led by 85 to 80. After this UCL began to pull away a little bit, and with 20 minutes to go there was daylight between the teams. The gap though was a little deceptive, as it never really stretched beyond two starters and bonuses. Then, on the five minute o go mark Emmanuel suddenly switched into top gear. Hastings of Emmanuel snapped up his first starter. The gap was almost closed. Jenny Harris of Emmanuel took the next. Then Guttenplan took the next too. Olivia Wooley pulled one starter back for UCL, but by this time Emmanuel were unstoppable. I have to pay tribute to the superb captain of Emmanuel , Alex Guttenplan. He had a relatively quiet first half of the show, possibly because he had rather a stern Paxman wigging for delaying the answer to his first starter. In the second half, though, he was outstanding. It wasn’t just his 8 starters, although that’s enough for anyone, but the number of bonuses he converted single handed. By the end, thanks partly to his great virtuosity, Emmanuel had won by 260 points to 185. I have to be honest, each time I see Emmanuel play, I think more and more what a great performance of Regents’ Park it was to beat them in the first round. Make no mistake, these guys will be a handful for anyone to face in the quarters.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Relatively slim pickings for the serious JP devotee tonight. We had the rather threatening rejoinder to Guttenplan early on,
“Next time you buzz, answer straightaway. “ He didn’t add – or I’ll smash yer face in , but the menace in his tone seemed to say it for him. The best Paxman moment also came in response to a Guttenplan answer, when he refused to accept “semi hardy annual” when the answer was “ half hardy annual” .In response partly to the audience and partly to Emmanuel, he sneered,
“Groaning won’t get you anywhere. “

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

Apparently the German surname Daimler was originally an occupational surname for a torturer who operated the thumbscrews !

Are You An Egghead - The Final

Pat Gibson v. David Edwards

There are only two people who have been Mastermind champions and won £1 million on Millionaire. Both of them featured in this splendid match. Ireland , in the shape of Pat , played Wales, in the shape of David. I am fortunate enough to have played in a team with both of these great quizzers, and I can tell you that they are also something much more important than great quizzers. They are both gentlemen, and damn good company .

When asked which he was prouder of , Millionaire or Mastermind, David explained that he was very proud of Mastermind, where his hours of preparation had taught him skills he wished he’d had as a student. Its like you have just looked inside my head David. Pat diplomatically explained that they are both very precious to him.

Off we went with Music. Both answered their first two questions with the greatest of ease, but Pat managed his third answer, about of all things Wu Tang Clan, while David failed on his.

Poor old David saw Pat getting the geography question on Wales. He knew it. David knew that Unst was the northernmost inhabited island of the british Isles. He’d been there, just to be the most northerly standing person on Britain at the time. Pat of course knew that Baffin Island is Canadian. David knew that Mt. Fuji is on Honshu. Pat correctly guessed that Thorpeness is in Suffolk. David answered that the Karakorum Highway joins China and Pakistan. So on to sudden death. I shudder to think how many questions this took to decide in the studio. As it was they showed Pat and David both getting two right, before David failed. So 2 – 0 to Pat.

Arts and Books came next , and Pat opted to go first. He took an early lead, as David failed on his own first question. Pat gambled that Meg was a horse in Tam O’Shanter. He was correct to do so. Alas David failed to guess that Albert herring was based on a story b Maupassant. So 3 – 0 to Pat.

Science once again saw Pat go first. I have to say, David is an outstanding quizzer, but Pat’s reasoning and working out of questions where he wasn’t 100% certain was out of this world. Sadly David didn’t listen fully to his last question. 4 – 0 to Pat, and at this time you could have named your own odds on David.

Last special round was sport. Pat knew Lord Burghley was a hurdler. David said that he was beginning to doubt his own name at this time, but he shouldn’t have. He correctly identified Seve Ballesteros. Pat knew that Daniel Mendoza had been a boxer. David, asked about horse racing odds, guessed that nets is 10 – 1. Pat answered that , in the 1982 Grand Prix, Nelson Piquet got out of his car and started punching the driver who’d just hit him. David of course knew that Serge Blanco was born in Venezuela. So again to sudden death. Pat struggled to name the Barbadian who once ran the 100 m in 9.69 seconds, but he got it. Obadele Thompson. That’s the mark of a champion. Michael didn’t know the basketball player nicknamed the Mailman. So Pat took a 5 – 0 lead into the final, General Knowledge round.

So, no options, and first to 10, Pat already being halfway there. Pat knew Sigourney Weavr was originally called Susan. David knew that mews was originally a term in falconry. Pat knew that facetious has all 5 vowel in correct order. David didn’t know that Lycaeon was turned into a wolf – tough question. Pat knew that Michael Frayn wrote Noises Off. David knew that Alexander Fleming shared his Nobel Prize with Florey and Chain. Pat zigged with wet rot, when he should have zagged with dry rot. David knew that Dan dare first appeared in the Eagle comic. Pat guessed Jodi Kidd was the granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, but incorrectly, as it was Stella Tennant. David knew that the Queen was born on April 21st. Pat didn’t know that Carol Hersey was the testcard girl. Just had a mental blank for a minute I would suggest. Still, David was coming closer. He knew that Loch Katrine was the scenic Loch in the Trossachs. 8 – 5. Pat didn’t know that Robert Dudley married Lettice Devereaux. David knew that Zola wrote Therese Raquin. 8 – 6 . Pat must have been getting a little nervous at this point, but he didn’t know a very tough question about George Plimpton, American journalist. David knew that tombola comes from the Italian for somersault. 8 – 7. Pat knew that Carnival derives from the latin for to put away flesh. 9 – 7. David couldn’t remember that the Chief Executive of Northern Rock who resigned in 2007 was called Adam Applegarth. 9 – 7. so Pat only had to answer that Augustus Melmott was the main character in The Way We Live Now.

What an incredible final. Congratulations to Pat. You deserve your success, but David, what a stupendous fightback ! It is an honour to have played in the same series as you guys. Wonderful TV.

Angels and Demons

I don’t know if you recall Michael Burton’s appearance on mastermind a couple of weeks ago. He’s the guy who answered questions on Angels, and equalled the lowest ever total score on the show. At the time I said that I thought that his attitude, one of laughing in the face of disaster as he took the seat for his GK round was a commendable one.

An article a couple of days ago in The Daily Mail saw him claim that this was actually deliberate, and that the whole thing was a prank. If you’d like to read the article itself you can follow this link : -

Daily Mail Article

Oh Michael ! I don’t know whether to laugh with you, laugh at you, or just tut in suppressed frustration. I’m not saying that he isn’t telling the truth. However if the man really is telling the truth, I am saying that there’s a couple of things in the article that have just the whiff of the stale pork pie about them. For instance,
“He claimed that when you go on the show you are given three encyclopedia style books to read on your specialist subject and he read just one.”
Well, if he did say such a thing, I’d like to know when they started doing that. In both series when I took part in the show it was me telling them which books I was reading, which you have to disclose in a document they send you along with your contract. They certainly never offered me any help in revision at all, which is the way that it should be.

Then again we had,
“He said: 'I was told by one of the producers on the second round (of preliminaries) that I had scored very highly.'”

I’m sorry, Michael ? Come again ? Second round of preliminaries, you say ? Since when did they do a second round of preliminaries ? I had one audition for 2006, and one audition for 2007. That was it. I don’t recall them telling me how well I had scored on the questions either.

I’m sorry , Michael, but I also recall the look on your face and the sweat on your brow as you were trying to answer those questions. Not the face of a man who is in on the joke, I’m afraid. One other thing while I’m at it as well. You compare yourself to Jeremy Beadle. Well, I’m sorry, but the late great Beadlebum was a great quizzer, who actually won Sleb Mastermind. Yes, he loved a prank. But his pranks weren’t the kind that , after they had been carried out, he’d have to explain that anything had actually happened. You see, Michael, had you answered lets say 7 out of your first 10 questions, and never answered another , or passed on the rest – now THAT’s a prank. Had you deliberately answered all the questions wrong – now THAT’s a prank. Case in point – in 1975 on University Challenge, a team from the University of Manchester answered Trotsky, Lenin , Che Guevara to every starter question. Now THAT’s a prank. Not doing terribly well just doesn’t really register on the prankometer.

Having said that, I really like you for having a go with this, Michael.I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear a bit more about you. Even though you’re trying to make a programme which is very important to me look stupid, and trying to act as if you’ve somehow fooled a team of hardworking and dedicated people, I like you for giving it a lash. I'd like to even see you back on the show, as the article seemed to say that the team have promised you another go. I’d like it even more now if you came out and said that your claim that this was a prank was, in fact, a prank.

Radio Listen - Brain of Britain Heat 7

Todays contestants were all from the south of England. Marie Coyle, Roger Johnson, LAM reader Will Jones and Michael Levy. So could Will Jones escape the curse of the Clark tip ?

Well, the brightest start was made by Roger Johnson, who scored 4, to Marie’s 3 and Will’s 2. In round two, interestingly Marie had a question about Pope John VIII, also known as Pope Joan. It was one of a series of 5, and gave her a good springboard into the lead. At the end of the round she had 9 to Roger’s 5, Will’s 2 and Michael Levy’s 1. A low scoring 3rd round saw each of the contestants foxed by horrible early questions. So Roger pulled a point back on Marie, as did Will. Sadly Will zigged with rattel when he should have zagged with kinkajou for honey bear in the fourth round. At the halfway stage Marie led with 10, by a single point from Roger, with Will and Michael both on 3.

The ungettable listener’s question from Ian Clark - no relation – gave three numbers – all of them apparently belonged to the mini coopers in The Italian Job.

In round 5 Russell Davies made a great joke about the Shat-al-Arab, which I cannot repeat here ! Roger Johnson scored his own five in a row, and took the lead, and frankly seemed pretty good value for it, even though Marie Coyle scored a bonus back to keep her only one point behind. In round 6 we were given the interesting news that the J. in J. Arthur Rank stands for Joseph. No pyrotechnics in the 6th round as only Will and Michael added a point to their scores. Similar low scoring followed in the last round, but crucially Marie Coyle added one point to her score, to tie with Roger Johnson. So we had a tie break –
In which British city is there a monument to the Pilgrim Fathers ?
Roger Johnson buzzed in first with Plymouth, to take his score to 16, and win the day.

Will, I can only apologise for cursing you with the Clark support, which as we know seems to be the living embodiment of the Kiss of Death.

The Details

Marie Coyle - 15
Roger Johnson – 16
Will Jones – 5
Michael Levy – 6

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Mastermind - Half Term Report

Apparently that's it for mastermind 2009 until 2010 - Gardener's world takes over next week, I believe. So its probably an opportune time, halfway through the first round, to look back over what we've seen so far this series.

Name - Subject - SS score - GK score - Total score - Total passes

Chaz Early - Bill Hicks 18 – 0/ 11 – 0/ 29 - 0

John Cooper - Handel 16 - 1/ 13 - 2/ 29 - 3

Mike Court - Ocean Liners 14 - 1/ 14 - 0/ 28 - 1

*Andrew Warmington - Ancient Greece 14 - 0/ 14 – 3/ 28 - 3

Will Salt - Robespierre 15 - 2/ 13 - 2/ 28 - 4

Tony Esau - Greeks in Sicily 14 - 1/ 13 - 1/ 27 - 2

*Mark Grant - Manet 17 - 0/ 10 - 2/ 27 - 2

Ian Orriss - Latin kingdom of Jerusalem 16 - 1/ 11 – 3/ 27 - 4

Ian Scott - Massie Paul Nash 14 - 0/ 12 – 2/ 26 - 2

* Barbara Thompson - Female Cabinet ministers 14 - 2/ 12 - 1/ 26 - 3

* Les Morrell - Clement Atlee 16 - 0/ 10 - 3/ 26 - 3

Gavin McEwan - Germanic Languages 14 - 0/ 12 – 4/ 26 - 4

Chloe Stone - Cazalet novels 14 - 5/ 12 – 3/ 26 - 8

Colin Wilson - World Heavweight Boxing champs 16 - 0/ 9 - 0/ 25 - 0

Keith Pottage - History of the NFL 14 - 0/ 11 - 2/ 25 - 2

William de’Ath - Kurt Vonnegut 15 - 1/ 10 - 3/ 25 - 4

Brian Allerdyce Apple Records 12 - 3/ 13 - 4/ 25 - 7

* Frances Gregory - Graham Greene 16 - 1/ 8 - 1/ 24 - 2

Susan Sworn - Richard III 19 - 0/ 5 – 3/ 24 - 3

Richie Venner - Henry VII 14 - 2/ 10 - 2/ 24 - 4

Ian Speed - Indie Music 16 - 1/ 8 – 3/ 24 - 4

Euan McCulloch - Architecture of Aberdeen 16 - 0/ 8 - 6/ 24 - 6

Vishal Dalal - Akiro Kurosawa 16 - 0/ 7 - 4/ 23 - 4

* Tom Hutchings - Thomas Arnold 15 – 1/ 8 - 4/ 23 - 5

Joe Docherty - New Wave Cinema 14 - 0/ 8 - 5/ 22 - 5

Dave Taylor - Paul Dirac 10 – 0/ 11 - 1/ 21 - 1

Philip Smith - Morehei Ueshiba 11 - 1/ 10 - 2/ 21 - 3

Roy Watson - Davis - Basil Rathbone films 15 - 1/ 6 - 3/ 21 - 4

Adam Lister - Groucho Marx 13 - 3/ 8 – 2/ 21 - 5

* Mike Hely - Battle of Britain 10 - 0/ 11 – 5/ 21 - 5

Bernadette Turner - Twilight novels 12 - 1/ 9 - 6/ 21 - 7

Penny Billyeald - Dorothy Whipple 10 - 5/ 11 – 4/ 21 - 9

Julie Duff - Mont Blanc 10 - 0/ 10 - 2/ 20 - 2

Mike Wilkin - Jazz Music 13 - 0/ 7 – 3/ 20 - 3

Lisa Hermann - George Cross 14 - 1/ 6 – 2/ 20 - 3

Abigail Maher - Louis Wain 15 - 1/ 5 - 3/ 20 - 4

Shaun Deehan - John Hume 9 - 2/ 11 – 4/ 20 - 6

John Higgins - Birdcage Novels 12 – 3/ 7 - 5/ 19 - 8

Paul Tucker - Chartism 11 - 0/ 7 - 4/ 18 - 4

Katie McCorkindale - Paul Auster 11 - 1/ 7 - 3/ 18 - 4

Mike Gradone - The Stone of Destiny 13 - 1/ 4 - 8/ 17 - 9

* David Porch - The Ascent of Man 10 - 0/ 6 – 1/ 16 - 1

Sarah Dakin - Tim Burton 11 - 2/ 5 – 2/ 16 - 4

John Grasham - Leonhard Euler 9 - 2/ 5 – 5/ 14 - 7

Ron Ragsdale - Egyptology 8 - 4/ 6 – 4/ 14 - 8

Maud Robinson - Oscar Wilde 8 - 6/ 6 – 4/ 14 - 10

Evan Williams - Isaiah Berlin 3 - 10/ 8 - 4/ 11 - 14

Michael Burton - Angels 2 - 7 /5 - 8/ 7 - 15

Bold denotes a heat winner
Bold and italic denotes one of the current six highest scoring runners up - although I have also included Brian Allerdyce. Mr. Allerdyce came third in his heat, and its not clear to me whether he will take one of the six slots or not.
* denotes that the contender has played in a previous series
For the sake of brevity , I have shortened the titles of some of the specialist subjects.

The table above shows the details of the contenders in the first half of the series. I don’t really know that it proves anything in particular, although its worth noting that at the moment, John Cooper, who leads the runners – up board, has the second best score of the whole series, being only beaten on passes by Chaz Early. Bad luck on being in that heat, Mr. Cooper, but surely you’ve got a runner up spot in the bag.

So what has caught the eye in the first half of the first round ? Well, Susan Sworn’s brilliant specialist round on Richard III was something of a Hall of Fame performance. Alas, her 5 on GK gave her the unenviable achievement of having the greatest gap between her SS and GK performances, a difference of 14 points. In the same way my favourite weird and wonderful subject was Angels, taken by Michael Burton, but he too made an impression for the wrong reasons, having the joint lowest ever total score in regular MM.

In terms of specialist subjects, Historical and Biographical subjects have been quite fruitful providing us with 6 semi finalists or potential semi finalists, while popular culture has provided us with just one semi finalist so far. If you take the Arts and Literature as one category, that has provided us with 5 semi finalists, or potential semi finalists.

Its also worth noting that only 8 of the contenders so far have been on the show before, which makes 1/6 of the this first half.

Anyone who is still in the competition is a potential winner, and so my comments have to be viewed in this light. So with this caveat, I would say that the top 13 contenders in the table could potentially win. All of them scored double figures in GK. A lot of it will come down to a couple of factors –
1) How well will they cope with learning a second subject ?
This is one thing which stops me from coming out and tipping Chaz Early at this stage. He scored a massive 18 on Bill Hicks – he’ll have to go some to repeat this in the semi. 11 on GK makes him look a little vulnerable. I may of course be wrong. On the other hand, both Mike Court and Andrew Warmington scored 14 on their GK rounds, to go with 14s on their specialists. That’s the kind of performance which makes you look like a serious contender.
2) How well with they cope with harder GK in the semis ?
OK, I’ve no actual proof that he GK gets harder in the semis, but I kind of have a sneaking suspicion that it does. Everyone who gets to the semis has pretty much already shown that they can learn a specialist subject, and so this makes GK all the more important in the semis.

So working on this, I think Mike Court and Andrew Warmington definitely look like potential finalists, as do Will Salt and Tony Esau. However bubbling just underneath these we also have former runner-up Mark Grant, and this year’s best chance so far for another female champion, Barbara Thompson, both of whom have the wherewithal to make a serious challenge in the semis.

A pat on the back for Jon and the production team as well. A body of public opinion has been calling for the return of highest scoring runner up semi final places, and an end to the inter-round chat for some time now, and this season has brought both of them. I think that the filmed inserts are in the right place, and as a result the pace of the show has dramatically improved. Well done !

Facts and figures

Highest score – Chaz Early – 29 – 0
Highest specialist score – Susan Sworn – 19 – 0
Highest GK score – Mike Court 14 – 0

Saturday, 21 November 2009

My Website

If you've ever checked out my profile here you might have seen that there's a link to my website. I created the website on Geocities, and if you too had a group on Geocities then you'll know that Yahoo ditched it about a month ago. I managed to save quite a bit of the content, and transferred it to a new host offering free websites. I've changed the link in my profile, but I'll also give you the link at the end of this entry, so you can check it out if you're interested.

It has sections on my TV and radio career, with pages on each of the shows I've taken part in. There's a page about my quiz career before I first appeared on TV, and also pages on - making your own quiz - getting onto a TV show - the History of the quiz show in Britain - quiz books - books about quizzes and quizzing. Some of the stuff has appeared in LAM, but not all of it by any means.

If you're interested and fancy a look then here's the address -
My Quiz website

Friday, 20 November 2009

Mastermind - First Round heat 12/24

Well, after all the excitement of the last two weeks, tonight’s show, on the surface, seemed to have a little less to offer us. No dramatic implosions from a seemingly impregnable position, no recidivist returnees, no record scores. Yet was the show devoid of interest ? Absolutely not.

First in the chair, in the first of 2 Mastermind shows tonight was interviewer Keith Pottage. His subject was the history of the NFL 1920 – 1974. Mr. Pottage said that he wanted to do the early years of the NFL as they are more interesting. Well, maybe so, although I have to say that stopping in 1974 was a little disappointing, since my knowledge of American football doesn’t start until the great Pittsburgh Steelers team of the 70’s started racking up superbowl wins like they were going out of fashion. 14 was a good score on a wide ranging round, and looked certain to put Mr. Pottage in the final shake up for the semi final place on offer tonight.

Richie Venner offered us a far more traditional Mastermind subject, in the shape of King Henry VII. Mr. Venner’s filmed insert was a good illustration of the great difficulty you find when you consider Henry VII, which is that his son, Henry VIII is just a lot more interesting. Half of Mr. Venner’s talk was more about the son than the father. Doubtless this is just the way its been edited, but still it does prove a point. Less interesting subject or not, Richie Venner had done his homework, and he too scored 14 points. So job done, as far as the specialist round was concerned.

Bernadette Turner gave us tonight’s author round, although this one was far from obscure. You might not have heard of Stephanie Meyer , but if you have any teenage girls I bet you’re heard of Twilight. The series have become immensely popular recently, and have found even greater audiences from the film adaptations. This was a deceptive round from Bernadette Turner. There were a couple of wrong answers at the start, and a couple of longish pauses, but as we moved into the second minute she kept the score ticking along, and 12 points put her handily placed to challenge if she could put in a barnstorming general knowledge performance.

Our last specialist round tonight – The Architecture of Aberdeen – was taken by solicitor Euan McCulloch. He explained that it was only in the beginning of the 19th century that granite became more available, and its granite that gave Aberdeen both its nickname, and its austere, almost Scandinavian character. Well, dare I say it, the call of my Scottish blood was strong tonight, what with the Clark side of my family hailing originally from Dundee, and so poor Mr. McCulloch was cursed with support from the sofa of doom tonight. It didn’t seem to affect him adversely either, since he practically zipped through the round, scoring an eye catching 16 and no passes. A fine round.

Its all relative, I know, but I felt that the GK rounds were rather more contender friendly than they’ve been in recent weeks. Still, with the lowest score of the first round being 12, it meant that a good score on GK would be essential. Bernadette Turner returned to the chair first, and she gave a measured performance, never getting stuck into a pass spiral, and eventually stretching her score to 21

Keith Pottage returned to the chair, 2 points behind after the first round. Midway through his GK round he got a little stuck, but just gave it a little thought, and produced another flurry of correct answers. What he knew, he answered pretty quickly, and that’s always a good idea. His 11 wasn’t outstanding considering that these were a pretty nice set of questions. Still, 25 would guarantee him a place on the highest runners up board for now.

Richie Venner was asked about Children in Need in one of his questions. You can’t tell me that they didn’t plan that this show would go out on the same night as Children in Need. He’d reached 24 with a good three questions to go, but couldn’t find another point, which would have put him equal with Keith Pottage.

Following last week’s Uriel / Jibril controversy over Michael Burton’s round on Angels last week, it was ironic that Euan McCulloch was actually asked which religion had Jibril as one of its main angels. Mr. McCulloch started confidently enough, but once he reached 21 the round slowed drastically, and although he picked up enough to put him on 24, the end of the round came just too soon.

So well done , Keith Pottage, and good luck in the semis. Well done too the other three contenders. A show when only 4 points separate all 4 contenders is a contest, and I enjoyed it.

The Details

Keith Pottage History of the NFL 1920 – 197414 – 0 11 – 225 – 2

Richie Venner
King Henry VII 14 – 0 10 – 2 24 – 2

Bernadette Turner
The Twilight Novels of Stephanie Meyer 12 – 19 – 6 21 - 7
Euan McCulloch The Architecture of Aberdeen since 1800 16 – 0 8 – 6 24 – 6

Current Highest Scoring Runners Up

John Cooper29 – 3
Ian Scott Massie26 – 2
Les Morrell26 - 3
Colin Wilson25 - 0
William de'Ath25 - 4
Frances Gregory & Richie Venner24 - 2

While we're on the subject of MM, congratulations to Lucy Porter, who won an entertaining special edition of Celebrity MM in aid of Children in Need. 4 comedians took to the chair - Mark Watson - Stephen K. Amos - Lucy Porter and Dave Spikey. Using my knowledge of the fact that Dave Spikey has played sleb MM before, and won, I confidently predicted he'd be the man to beat. Even on Sleb MM the power of the sofa of doom works its evil hex, apparently.
Mark watson scored a terrific 18 on the World Cup Finals since 1966. Stephen K. Amos, who gave support and encouragement to my son's comedy group in Edinburgh this year, so is officially a Damn Good Bloke, scored a symmetircal 5 points and 5 passes on the group 5 - Star. Lucy Porter scored a breathless 18 on Steve Martin. Dave Spikey picked the most unusual subject of all with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, on which he scored 12. Stephen K. Amos then added 10 to his score, and Dave Spikey 12 to his. Mark Watson put in what semed to be a winning GK performance with 15 to make 33. However Lucy Porter, who jokingly tried to leave the chair, saying she didn't want to spoil a nice day, scored a tremendous 17 for 35 - a sleb record for the show. Yeah, OK, so these particularly GK questions wouldn't give any of us a sleepless night, but it still takes some doing , even if you know nearly all the answers.

Are You An Egghead - Week 6 Summary

Quarter Final 2

Pat Gibson v. Mark Kerr

This was a replay of one of last year’s quarter finals, where Mark knocked out Pat in a match notable for its quality. In fact, lets be honest, these two could easily have contested the final, and its hard lines on both that they had to encounter each other at this stage of the competition.

Still, encounter each other they did, and so we have to report on it. The play throughout the subject rounds was as superior as you would expect with these two titans of the quizzing world. However Pat managed to shade the majority of the rounds. Mark drew first blood with Daphne, but then Pat mopped up Chris, CJ Judith and Barry.

As we’ve seen before, a good enough quizzer can make light of such a serious lack of Eggheads, and Mark is certainly good enough. Pat used Chris to tell him which river the R38 Airship crashed into. All square – 2 apiece. Barry confirmed that tefillim are cube shaped for Pat. Mark kept on answering correctly all this time. Judith told Pat that she believed that sweet rationing had ended in 1953, and she thought correctly. Mark had saved Daphne all this time. In return, she now informed him that the Friar in The Name of the Rose was called William of Baskerville. So 5 – 5 – a perfect general knowledge round, and through to sudden death. Pat correctly answered that Lammas falls on the first of August. Mark identified the grand challenge cup and the diamond sculls as being events in the Henley Regatta. Pat knew the leader of Myanmar up to 1988. Mark guessed a description of a sport referred to hang gliding. Pat identified Leonid Kravchuk as a former head of state of Ukraine. Mark, though was asked what LMF stood for in the RAF during world war II. He didn’t know – not surprised either. Apparently it was Lack of Moral Fibre. Not something that you could ever accuse either of these quiz warriors of. So Pat marched forward , having conquered the conqueror of last year. As for Mark – very hard lines on you meeting Pat at this stage. This game was worthy of a final.

Quarter Final 3

Anne Hegerty v. David Clark

See my earlier posting for comments on this match.

Quarter Final 4

David Edwards v. David Rainford

The battle of the Davids. This was a difficult match to watch, not , I hasten to add because the two Davids aren’t great quizzers. They are great quizzers. Both have a witty and self deprecating sense of humour. Both of them would make fine Eggheads. That’s the problem. Whoever won, you were going to be sorry that the other one wasn’t still in the competition.

On previous AYAE form, last year David Rainford made the semi finals, where he was beaten by eventual winner Barry Simmons, while David Edwards bowed out in the second round. However David is a formidable quizzer. You don’t win Mastermind, and you don’t win £1 million on WWTBAM unless you are a very fine competitor. So it was that David had the better of a fine contest , winning 4 Eggheads to David R’s 1. David E. took forward Kevin, Judith, Barry and CJ, while David R. had to content himself with Chris. True to his nature, David R. was the very first to offer his congratulations.

In the end it was a reasonably comfortable win for the man with the Egghead majority. So alas, the People’s Choice bowed out gracefully. Could we, perhaps, be on the brink of having our first Welsh Egghead – although CJ is I believe resident in Wales.

So the Pride of Wales moves on to meet my conqueror Anne in the semi finals, while the People’s Choice leaves the field , joining me , Mark and Shanker among the ranks of the walking wounded.

Semi Final 1

Gary Grant v. Pat Gibson

It just doesn’t get any easier for our Gary. He should worry ! He’s earned himself huge kudos by his indomitable, against the odds performances in the final rounds of all 3 of his matches to get this far. As for Pat, he’d shown tremendous nerve in keeping his head, and powering through the three rounds to get him to the brink of the final. I hope that Gary won’t take offence if I say that on paper, Pat looked favourite to progress to the final. But then AYAE is not played on paper .

Gary amazed himself by going to sudden death in the Film and TV round. Pat won in the end, but still Gary showed that he had no intention of going down without a fight. He himself managed to win Barry – and don’t forget, he only had Barry on his side when he won both his first and second round matches. Pat marched forward with Kevin , CJ, Judith and Daphne.

Gary and Pat swapped answers to go to 2 – all. Then Gary was asked which fish is used in a scotch woodcock. He knew it was gambling not to ask Barry, but he did it all the same, on a who dares wins basis. Alas, he selected sardines rather than anchovies. He never got another question wrong, but that was enough. Pat completed his set of 5, and Gary’s amazing run came to an end. However for me Gary has been the real ‘find’ of the series, in the same way that David Rainford was in the first series. Gary, you’ve had an amazing run, and deserve all credit. As for Pat, he marches confidently into the final. All I can do is ask a familiar question – Can Anyone Beat You ? !

Semi Final 2

Anne Hegerty v. David Edwards

When I lose in a competition like this, I always want my conqueror to do well. Yes, that’s probably just a selfish thing, inasmuch as losing to the eventual winner of a competition somehow feels better than losing to someone who didn’t win. But nonetheless, Anne greatly impressed me in our match, and so I was keeping my fingers crossed for her, albeit that David is a great guy and a terrific quizzer.

Anne maintained her splendid quarter final form in the first round, winning on Geography to take Kevin. A good start. Second round was sport. With one wrong each the round went into sudden death. David correctly guessed that Guardiola manages Barcelona. Anne didn’t know who knocked Ronnie O’Sullivan out of the world snooker championship. So All square, and David recruited Daphne to his team, saying he’d rather have her on his team than Anne’s. We’d all do the same in the same position I’m sure. In Film and TV David failed to answer that it was Shelley Winters who received and Oscar for her part in the Diary of Anne Frank. So CJ joined Anne. David hardly covered himself with glory in the Music round, and faced with a straight choice between Chris and Judith, Anne plumped for Judith. A great History round went to sudden death. David knew that Lloyd George promised to make Britain a land fit for heroes. Anne knew that HMS Bounty left Tahiti with a cargo of breadfruit. David knew that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for espionage. Anne knew that Commodore Perry persuaded Japan to open its borders to trade with the outside world. David knew that the Cathars were all but stamped out by the Albigensian crusade . Anne knew that the Thugs were a strange Kali worshipping cult. Apparently, Dermot did run out of questions on this amazing tiebreak. David failed to get that the Olduvai Gorge is in Tanzania. Anne didn’t know that Bock’s Car was the name of the plane that dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki. So on we went. David knew that the german airraids on historic british cities were called Baedecker Raids. Anne knew that jingoism was a word that entered our language in the 1870s. David incorrectly suggested that Inigo Jones designed Blenheim Palace, and at last Anne clinched the round, knowing that Chaka Zulu was assassinated by his half brothers.

At last to the final round. Anne certainly seemed to be in the driving seat with 4 Eggheads to David’s one. However sometimes it all rests on whether you choose to go first or second. Anne chose to go second. David correctly identified Cary Grant as a film star who originally ran away from home to join a troupe of acrobats. Anne was asked on which island of the Phillipines Magellan died. She asked Judith for her help- and she immediately responded “No idea !” Well, at least she didn’t steer Anne the wrong way. So Anne turned to Kevin. He didn’t know. Anne in the end went for Luzon. The answer was actually Mactan Island. Two Eggheads gone, and one behind. David knew that Mah Jongg takes its name from the Chinese for sparrows. So David two fair questions, and Anne one snorter. Anne knew that AA Milne wrote “When we Were very Young. “ David was given another gentle lob – what was Thomas Minton famous for ? “ and he duly smashed it over the pavilion. Anne was given a nasty tricky question – how many test matches did Bradman play in. Chris is not renowned for his sporting knowledge, and so he fell into the trap of thinking that a long career in terms of years means a huge number of tests played. So he went long with 92, while the answer was 52. David needed one more answer and got it when he knew that Sherlock Holmes said “when you eliminate the impossible etc. etc. “ He knew it, but he double checked with Daphne. Game over.

Congratulations, David. You’re a great player, and a smashing bloke, and you deserve to be in the Final. Anne – you also deserve to be in the Final too , though. Had you chosen the first set in this unmatched pair of sets, you might well have been there. Very hard lines on you.

Roll on Monday !

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

AYAE2 - Over and Out

Well, there we are. That was the end of that then. In the interests of fairness, its only right that I should give you a rather more detailed account of my last match in AYAE2.

I hope that I don’t shatter too many people’s illusions if I tell you that the three shows were actually shot over a relatively short period of time. In fact my matches with Olav and Anne were actually shot on the same day. I don’t offer this by way of an excuse – there’s no point in me even trying to do that because if you watched the match you’ll know that Anne beat me by the simple expedient of being better than I was. I believe that they went on to film both the semi finals and the final the very next day. So its all rather hectic.

My match against Olav was first up in the morning, while my quarter final with Anne was scheduled for the late afternoon. So this gave me quite a bit of time to kill, in which, in the nicest possible way, the production team really didn’t want me cluttering up the place. So I went for some lunch in the new Westfield Centre, which is literally over the road from TV Centre. I was, in all honesty, in a little bit of a state of shock. After all, if you enter a show like AYAE you know that sooner of later you are going to come up against a star. If I’m honest I had hoped that it wouldn’t be a second round show, but there we are. I was prepared to take my beating like a man, and bow out of the show as gracefully as I could. Then I beat Olav.

I wasn’t really sure how to handle it, and was in a bit of a daze as I wandered through the Westfield. In the end I got a bite to eat, and bought the second volume of Bobby Charlton’s autobiography. Then back to the dressing room to read for a couple of hours. Incidentally, I’ve included a picture of the dressing room here. Nice, isn’t it ? I have to say that these are the nicest dressing rooms I’ve ever been in. I had been in them before for both “Come and Have A Go “ and “ Eggheads”, but then I was part of a team on both occasions. The changing rooms for WWTBAM are not as big or as nice – but then the Mastermind dressing rooms are non-existent, so I should worry.

Anne is a valued LAM reader now, but to the best of my knowledge we had never met before we shared adjacent chairs in the makeup room. So there was a lot of catching up on who we’d played in which rounds. I have to take my hat off to Anne – if she was at all phased by the fact that I’d fluked my way past Olav in the previous round she didn’t show it. In fact she came out of the blocks at a blistering pace, and it seemed to me that I’d hardly so much as blinked before she was 2 Eggheads to 0 up. Not just any Eggheads either, but Kevin and Daphne. The fightback saw me take the next two rounds on sudden death, to claim Barry and then Chris, which at least gave me some kind of chance. If you watched the show you’ll know I was whitewashed on Science. I’ll go further than that. I was lucky to get zero. So Judith joined Anne for the final round.

What a rollercoaster the final round was. I was given a just about guessable one for the first question. Anne was given a bouncer, and used Kevin. All square, and all square in Eggheads, with Kevin now out of the game. A nice second question, and Anne used Judith for hers. Now , if you were watching, you might have thought that I had the whip hand. I would be lying if I told you that it didn’t cross my mind at the time. However with my next question one of my many weaknesses was exposed. I don’t know who the various ministers for this that and the other are. A serious quizzer probably should know this, but I’m just too damn lazy. I got it right, but I asked the wrong Egghead. Chris didn’t know, so I needed to ask Barry as well. So the seesaw swung back, since Anne still had Daphne. The next question , when Desmond Tutu won the nobel peace prize I have no excuses for . I ought to have got it right. I didn’t. That’s why Anne won. Not because I got a question wrong, but because she didn’t make a mistake. She kept her nerve, backed her excellent knowledge, and reaped her just reward. It was a very fine performance.

One other compliment I have to pay to Anne. She is a great and gracious winner. I thought she said some lovely things about me at the end of the show, and I’m really grateful for that.

Twelve Yard seemed a bit dithery about arranging a taxi back to the hotel for Anne, and since I was passing it on my way back to Wales I offered her a lift. Away from the studio we could both relax a bit, and it was a great pleasure to start to get to know her. I hope that we’ll meet again at a quiz some time in the not too distant future.

Well played Anne. I wish you the very best of luck in the semis – even though I know it was all recorded months ago, I’m sure you know what I mean.

Monday, 16 November 2009

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – second round heat 3/8 – St. John’s Oxford v. Loughborough

Jeremy Paxman paid tribute to St. John’s first round performance, where they scored 270 points to Durham’s 90. In their own first round match Loughborough defeated Univeristy College London by 205 to 175 in one of the best matches of the round. On paper St. John’s seemed to have a clear advantage, but then it was worth remembering that Loughborough’s points had been scored against UCL, a team good enough to head the repechage board, and win through to the second round .

St. John’s kicked off with the first starter, and seemed to be having the better of the buzzer battles, certainly for the first ten minutes. As we moved into the second third of the contest they had a 45 point lead, with 95 to Loughborough’s 50. Loughborough have some good players, though, and they weren’t going to give in without a fight. Ann Jennings had impressed in her first match and she made some timely buzzes, as Loughborough cut the lead to a mere 25 points at the halfway stage.At no time during the contest, though, did Lougborough quite manage to close the gap.

At this point my son Michael rang to say that he’d seen my last AYAE show on the iplayer, so I lost a little concentration, so much so that I could have sworn that JP said that one of the characters in Rossini’s opera “The Thieving Magpie “ had a servant called Viennetta. Surely not.

This year we’ve noted that maybe there aren’t the superb teams we saw last year, but there are some superb individual players in the tournament. St. Johns seem to buck the trend, with all of the team contributing to the haul of starters and bonuses. As such they’re rather convincing. By the end of the contest they had eked out the lead to 30 points, winning by 220 points to Loughborough’s 190.

Jeremy Paxman was certainly impressed with Loughborough’s score, calling it one of the highest losing scores we’ve had. Which I guess really points to the fact that this is a series in which many of the teams are quite closely matched, which makes it anyone’s series. All of which has to be good for the viewers.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Not having the charms of the ladies of Newnham to soothe his savage breast this week, JP was back to his more usual self tonight. When offered “Costa Rica” as the answer to which Central American country has the colon as currency, he responded “Of Course” as if insulted that the question needed to even be asked in the first place. As a music starter, teams were asked to identify that the band singing “Sugar Sugar” were The Archies. JP curtailed this song as quickly as was humanly decent with the words,
“We don’t want to endure any more of that . “ Strange. By my reckoning our Jeremy would have been in his late teens when that one came out – right up his street I would have thought.

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

The flag of Angola has a star, and a motif of a machete crossed with part of a cogwheel on it .

Radio Listen - Brain of Britain

Brain of Britain First Round Heat 6/12

Today’s contestants were all from the North of England, and what a line up they were. In a series which has, IMHO, been notable for the high calibre of many of its contestants, this heat stood out for the fact that the three contestants I know of in today’s show are all great quizzers worthy of a place in the semis. I don’t actually know Mike Frazer from Bradford. However I do know Diane Hallagan, Nick Mills and Chris Quinn. That’s the kind of first round line up that nightmares are made of, that is, if you’re playing against them rather than listening to them.

Chris Quinn and Nick Mills led after the first round, with Mike Frazer on one and Diane Hallagan yet to score. Diane soon rectified this in the next round, and Nick pushed his score on too. Not as much as Chris Quinn. He scored a full five pointer and bonus, and forged a lead which was never again to really look much less than comfortable.

The reader’s questions were about a poem penned about himself by Clement Atlee, which the team , and me listening at work, all knew. However they failed to identify that when Ernest Bevin was told that Herbert Morrison was his own worst enemy, he replied, “Not while I’m breathing he isn’t . “

When Nick and Diane picked up ones and twos, Chris picked up threes and fours. When they picked up threes and fours, he picked up fives. The gap kept on growing, and at the end, Chris had amassed the considerable score of 21. Nick just shaded the runners up spot, with 12 compared to Diane’s 11. Unfortunately this is unlikely to bring him a semi final spot. Hard lines Nick, but I have to say that Chris is one of the most impressive winners I’ve heard this year.

The Details

Mike Frazer – 3
Diane Hallagan – 11
Nick Mills – 12
Chris Quinn - 21

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Are You An Egghead - Week Five

Are You An Egghead ? Week 5

Round Two Match 5

Jenny Ryan v. Ann Hegerty

In the first round Jenny knocked out Ken Owen, while in her match Ann knocked out Melanie Beaumont. Both competitors very experienced and able quizzers tonight. Ann had by far the best of the opening rounds, shutting Jenny out until the last round, enabling her to take Judith into the final, while Ann marched confidently forward with Kevin, Chris, Barry and Daphne.

Jenny got the first question wrong – didn’t identify Pythagoras. Chris told Anne that vitiligo affects the skin. Jenny asked Judith who bought Necker Island, and Judith told her correctly that it was Richard Branson. Kevin told Ann that Eric Pickles was the chairman of the conservative party. Jenny, on her own, did not know that Heather Fell won a silver medal in the Modern Pentathlon in Beijing. Ann needed no help to answer the next question correctly, so it was all down to Jenny’s next question. She didn’t know that Darwin’s last book was all about Earthworms, and so that was the end of that. Anne won by 4 points to 1.

Match 6

Olav Bjortomt v. David Clark

See my earlier posting for comments on this match.

Match 7

Jan Crompton v. David Rainford

Horror of horrors ! A match between two LAM readers. Who on earth was I supposed to curse with my support ? Well – I like Jan. I like David. But who was going to win ? There was only one way to fi – sorry , a little touch of the Harry Hills there. Jan knocked out brother Alan in one of the most exciting final rounds of the first round. David knocked out Isabel Morgan in an equally tense final round, sudden death shoot out.

David – the People’s Choice – had a commanding lead of 4 Eggheads to 1, as he took Judith, Barry , Daphne and CJ in consecutive rounds, after Jan had won the first to take the not – inconsiderable prize of Kevin. Jan, though, has proven on all 3 of her previous appearances in this and the previous series that she is a force to be reckoned with in the final round.

David went first , and correctly answered without using an Egghead. Jan , not entirely sure, chose not to use Kevin, but still managed to answer that George M. Cohan wrote “Give My Regards to Broadway “ . Asked who created the phrase “The Pen Is Mightier than the sword, Daphne apologised for giving an uncertain answer of Bulwer Lytton. Uncertain or not, she was right. 2 – 1. Winchester man Kevin told Jan that the Clink prison in Southwark was built on land owned by the Bishop of Winchester. 2 – all. David asked Cj what was the name of the tribe of apes that adopted Tarzan. CJ tentatively suggested Mangani, and provided David with his third straight point. 3 – 2. Eggheadless, Jan was able to name the actor killed in a duel by Ben Jonson. 3 – all.
David answered that Stephano was Gabbana’s Christian name. 4 – 3. Jan knew that Siobahn Fahey married Dave Stewart. 4- all. Barry and Judith helped David answer that stinking nightshade and poisoned tobacco are other names for henbane. 5 – 4, but all the Eggheads were now out of the game. Jan answered that Johan and Peewit first appeared in The Smurfs. 5 – all, no Eggheads left , sudden death. David guessed that a sailor in a Wagner opera would be in the Flying Dutchman. Jan couldn’t answer that Count Rostov in War and peace lost a fortune playing the card game Faro. Very unlucky Jan, well done David. Wonderfully played the pair of you.

Match 8

Amy Godell v. David Edwards

The last match of round 2 pitched Amy Godell against David Edwards. In round one Amy defeated Rupy, while David overcame Alan Gibbs.

The first five rounds were pretty tight. David topped and tailed with Kevin and Judith, while Amy took forward a formidable force of Daphne , Barry and CJ. David elected to go first, correctly answering that Anthony Sher was born in South Africa. Amy knew what Barack Obama’s dog was called. David called on Judith for his second question – An ace cafĂ© with quite a nice museum attached – and plumped for the correct answer of the V and A. Amy identified a wheel clamp as a Denver Boot. David answered that the pineapple is often used in architecture as a symbol of welcome. Amy called on Daphne to answer that Cleopatra died in Alexandria. Dermot bowled a real bouncer at David, who in his own words was reckless but correct. Amy got a world cup football question, and had the two Eggheads who know little about football to help her. She needed the name of the top scorer in the 1978 world cup. Chris liked Johann Cruyff. Alas, he wasn’t there, but Mario Kempes was. 4 – 3 to David, and one more correct answer needed. He duly got it, and a very tense and tight match was finished.

Quarter Finals

Quarter Final 1 – Gary Grant v. Shanker Menon

Well, the main question was whether Gary the greatest escapologist since Harry Houdini, could continue his brilliant run into the semi finals. Both Julia Hobbs and Chris Young fell to his incredible final round prowess in the first two rounds. Tonight Shanker Menon was standing in his way. Shanker himself had displayed remarkable sang-froid in a sudden death shoot out in his second round match.

Shanker took a commanding early lead in the first three rounds. During the course of these Gary revealed that The Muppets Christmas Carol is one of his favourite films – which funnily enough is my wife’s favourite film too. By the end of round 3 Shanker had Kevin, Daphne and Barry. Gary, though, began his fight back a little early tonight, winning CJ and then Chris in quick succession.

So to the final round. Both players, using Eggheads judiciously answered their first 4 questions correctly. Then Gary had one of those horrible number questions, which he guessed wrongly. If Shanker answered the next one correctly, then he was through. He didn’t, deliberately eschewing the obvious answer, which turned out to be right. So to sudden death. Gary was asked the name of Princess Anne’s second husband, and dredged Timothy Lawrence from the depths of his memory. Shanker was asked which style of hat was originally designed to protect gamekeepers from low lying branches. He went for ten gallon hat, whereas the answer required was bowler. Very hard lines, Shanker, but Gary, total respect to you. Brilliant.

Mastermind - First Round Heat 11/24

Many people who have commented to me on last week’s heat have said that it contained all of the very best and worst aspects of Mastermind, and I tend to agree with them. So surely we weren’t in for the same dramatic mix tonight ? Well, perhaps not, but there was still plenty there for both the Mastermind connoisseur, and also the casual viewer.

Barbara Thompson was the only one of tonight’s contenders to have taken part in the show before. She played in the 1995 series, which is famous for two main reasons, namely, that it was the first season when previous contenders were allowed to reapply, and as a direct result of this, it was won by former semi finalist Kevin Ashman, who set a record of 41 points which seems unlikely to ever be beaten. Barbara Thompson is the same person who lost in the first round of this year’s Are You An Egghead to Mark Kerr. However she won Brain of Britain 20 years ago in 1989. So you just knew that she was going to be a serious contender before she was even asked her first question.Her special subject was british women cabinet ministers. Some of these questions were accessible enough that I could answer them – not that many , I hasten to add, but Barbara handled it all confidently, and scored 14. Along the way she informed us that a young Hazel Blears appeared in a street urchin in the film of “A Taste of Honey “ !

Michael Burton from Peckham came next. He won the prize for the widest, most esoteric subject of the night, offering Angels. That is, the celestial beings as opposed to the 1980s BBC twice weekly soap opera. I don’t know a great deal about angels, although I’ve been told that salvation makes their wings unfold. Sorry. OK – Mr. Burton didn’t have a great round, and scored 2.

Mike Gradone was answering questions on The Stone of Destiny. If you’re not aware of this, it was the special stone which played a part in the coronation ceremony of the kings of Scotland from time immemorial, until stolen by King Edward Ist of England, and placed within the English coronation chair. You wouldn’t necessarily have thought that there was an awful lot you could have asked about this, but you’d have been wrong , since it provided a varied and interesting round, and Mike Gradone put himself in a good position with a fine 13 points.

John Higgins’ subject was “The Birdcage Novels of Victor Canning”. I will admit that I only know Victor Canning from some of the children’s novels he wrote, which I used with children at the start of my teaching career. Fair play to Mr. Higgins, the smile never left his face, and he really seemed to be enjoying himself. And why not ? 12 was a good performance, and put him only two points behind the leader at the halfway stage.

So after the specialist round only one contender was out of the running. Michael Burton added 5 in the general knowledge section , to take his score to 7. This, I believe equals Colin Kidd’s lowest ever 7 from 2005. Full credit to Mr. Burton – he knew that he’d had a ‘mare in the first round, and as he took to the chair he quipped “Did I have any passes ? “ A fine example of what Kipling would have called treating those two imposters, success and failure, just the same.

If truth were told, John Higgins didn’t do that much better in his own GK round. He scored 7, to give him 19. However Mike Gradone suffered all kinds of agonies in his own round, where a horrible pass spiral derailed both his challenge for the win, and his hopes of getting onto the semi finals board. He scored 4 to finish with 17. So Barbara Thompson needed a modest 5 and few passes to go through. Barring an implosion , she was home and dry, and her general knowledge was always going to be far too good for that. She seemed to concentrate on accuracy rather than speed. The range of her knowledge was very impressive, which you’d expect from a Brain of Britain, and even the questions she seemed to be guessing were mostly answered correctly. Congratulations, Barbara. She will be a force to be reckoned with in the semis, especially if she can answer just a little more quickly.

The Details

Barbara Thompson British female cabinet ministers14 - 212 -126 - 3
Michael BurtonAngels2 - 75 - 87 - 15
Mike GradoneThe Stone of Destiny13 - 14- 817 - 8
John HigginsThe Birdcage Novels of Victor Canning12 - 37 - 519 – 8

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

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Are You An Egghead 2 Take Two

I thought that it might be quite interesting if I told you all about my second round appearance on AYAE, so I wrote quite a detailed account of it at the time. Allow me to share it with you.

My 2nd round match was scheduled for a Monday, and the call time to arrive at TVC – Television Centre for the uninitiated – was 07:00. You’ll appreciate that this made an overnight stay in a hotel necessary the night before. So the afternoon before, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far I drove almost the entire length of the M4, to the Holiday Inn Express in Park Royal, where 12 Yard had booked me in for the night.

This wasn’t without its own problem. I’d stayed in the hotel the night before my first round match, and had a bit of a problem at reception. The guy behind the counter said, yes, my room had been paid for, but he still expected me to pay a £30 deposit upfront. I played along so far, offering him my debit card, but he wasn’t having it. Actually, I could have paid him cash, but I was damned if I was going to. So I refused, and stood my ground. He backed down, with rather poor grace if truth were told. A small victory.

Accomodation, as you can see, was basic but functional. The two best hotels I’ve ever been put up in for a quiz show were the Palace Hotel in Manchester for my Mastermind semi final, and a wonderful hotel in Kensington just around the corner from the Royal Albert Hall, for Come and Have A Go If You Think You’re Smart Enough. That was a two night stay as well, which made it even better. However, I digress .

I drove into TVC by 7 am the next morning. Once I was picked up in the foyer of TVC Rebecca, the production assistant took me to my dressing room. If you’ve never taken part in a TV show before, then I can tell you that the bit between your arrival and actually going on set is usually very tedious, and is mostly concerned with checking what you are going to wear – avoid lines, checks , white or pale colours – and then getting you down to makeup. However I hadn’t been in there long before Rebecca brought in my opponent to meet me – Olav Bjortomt.

Now, in the interests of truth I will admit a couple of things here. Firstly that a friend of mine who was in the know had actually told me beforehand that Olav would be my opponent – I’m sorry Twelve Yard, but you have a security leak somewhere in your organisation. Secondly, as soon as I heard that Olav was going to be my opponent I pretty much felt – Oh well, that’s as far as I go, then. – I wasn’t being pessimistic. The simple fact of the matter is that Olav is a much better quizzer than I am. There’s no shame in that. He’s a much better quizzer than most people. Yes, if I’m honest I did have it in the back of my mind what had happened in last year’s series, when Shaun Wallace had upset the odds to beat him, and in the People’s Quiz where he had been by far the most impressive qualifier, yet didn't win the series, but lightning doesn’t keep on striking in the same place.

So in a perverse way the pressure was off me in the match. I had no pretensions about being good enough to win the series. I really hadn’t wanted to be knocked out in the first round, and thankfully I hadn’t been. If I had to lose, then better that I lose to a star, rather than someone without such a quizzing pedigree and background.

The Match

Thank heavens for the iplayer, for I could remember very little about the match itself before I watched it back. Research told me that Olav had won 3 Eggheads to 2 in his first round match of 2008, and then 4 Eggheads to Shaun’s 1 in the second round match. It wouldn’t have done my confidence any more good if I’d known that in his first round match against Gill Woon this year he’d won 4 Eggheads to one. I’m a believer in the theory that the more times that you take part in a particular TV quiz, the better you get at coping with its demands and using a strategy designed to bring out the best in yourself.

Sport was the first round. Olav claimed that this was a dodgy round for him. A nice first question, and a lucky second question brought me the round, and Kevin. Film and TV theoretically should be a good game for me. Well, the TV part of it anyway. Luck ran out with the second question , which was well overdue. At least we went to sudden death. Olav, though, was too good, and took Barry. Science, along with Food and Drink probably my least favourite round, came next. 3 guesses, two of which were at least partly educated, and one which was a wild stab in the dark brought me a round which I never have any right to win. Music followed – and I think I had a lucky set of questions to even get me as far as sudden death. As an English teacher, Arts and Books is always guaranteed to prove a major stumbling block !

So moving into the final round I had Kevin and Chris, while Olav had Barry, Judith and CJ. At that stage I was just delighted that I hadn’t been totally outclassed. As long as I wasn’t beaten 3 – 0, then I wouldn’t have been too unhappy. I was lucky to get a straight English question first. Olav was served up a bouncer on dactylology , and lost Cj and the point. However I was served up a bouncer, and lost Kevin and the next point. Fair is fair, and Olav had a decent question on test cricket, which he dispatched over the pavilion roof. I had to gamble a little on the next question, but at least I got it right, and kept Chris. Olav used Barry to correctly answer the next. Chris then told me that the Punta del’Este is in Uruguay. A 3 – 2 lead. Then Olav was bowled two bouncers in succession – a butt and ben – apparently a two roomed cottage, and in town and country planning, which type of property is classed as A1 – shops.

I’ll be honest, I was gobsmacked, and had never expected to win. Hence the shocked expression on my face. I meant what I said about Olav – he’s a much better quizzer than me, and if it hadn’t have been me playing against him, but merely watching it on the telly at home, then I would have definitely felt that he got the short straw with the questions he was asked in the final round.

Me, the Eggheads, and Olav Bjortomt, a gentleman, and an incredible quizzer.

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round 2 – heat 2/8 – Newnham , Cambridge v. St. Andrews

Newnham , second highest scorers in the first round, played St. Andrews, the third highest scorers in the first round. So that proves they don’t use seeding in UC. Or if they do, they have a pretty odd way of going about it. Or if you look on it another way, an all male team, which is not unusual, against an all female team, which is a little more unusual, but hardly surprising , being a women only college.

Newnham took an early lead, correctly converting a series of bonuses on Shakespeare. St. Andrews began to force their way through , but even ten minutes into the show the lead was no more than one correct starter, partly due to Newnham keeping their heads, and partly due to St. Andrews being a little profligate with bonuses. So for the first ten minutes a close match, as it should be, when you consider that both teams had shown such good form in their first round shows. In the second third of the show the smart buzzing of Christopher Flaherty.

I was surprised that none of the teams recognised that the can can music – the Infernal Gallop – was penned by Offenbach. Still, these are very impressive young quizzers, and you don’t necessarily expect young quizzers to know old chestnuts. The gap between the teams at the 20 minute mark was still relatively small – St. Andrews led by 110 to 80. Two correct consecutive starters and bonuses, and it would be gone. They didn’t get them, though. St. Andrews’ superior work throughout the contest, in particular the excellent work of Christopher Flaherty, saw them win by 185 to 110.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Not only did our Jeremy seem to have been taking his happy pills before this match, you would have sworn our hero had been slipped a Harry Potter style love potion , so gallant was he towards the Newnham team. “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day ? “offered Megan Williams, through captain Lizzie Cole. “Thank you.” He replied, obviously taking the compliment to heart.
Five and a half minutes into the show a virtually impenetrable starter about a gas that has been found in traces on Mars brought a miscue from St. Andrews. Immediately the Newnham team began to confer, bringing a stern “You may not confer !” Then , wonder of wonders, he realised who he was speaking to, and apologised, “I’m sorry to shout at you . “ Good Lord ! still , he made up a little for it when the picture starter came up. It showed a Supermarine Spitfire fighter plane, and when St. Andrews correctly identified it he sniffed, “Yes , we’re more in your territory now, I think, aren’t we !” After being shut out for five minutes or so, Lizzie Cole correctly identified the first line of Wordsworth’s “Lines Written Upon Westminster Bridge”. “Yess!!! “ he shouted, as if last week’s winning Euromillions ticket had suddenly materialised in his top pocket .

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

The pizza theorem states that if a circular pizza is divided into 4 N slices, where N is an integer greater than one, by making cuts at an arbitrary angle, then the sums of the areas of alternate slices are equal !

Monday, 9 November 2009

Radio Listen - BoB

Brain of Britain First Round Heat 5/12

Today’s contenders were all from the West of England , well, sort of. Valerie Cooper from Yeovil, 2008 Mastermind contender Ann Fallow from Totnes, LAM reader Rob Hannah from Torquay, and Peter Rodney from Gibraltar. . . Gibraltar ! That’s a hell of a commute to Broadcasting House.

Rob, Ann and Peter all scored buzz in bonuses, but Rob had answered two of his own questions correctly in the first round. So he led by the end of the first round. This set pretty much the template for the whole of the first half of the show. Rob continued to pick up bonuses, and was the only contestant to get at least one of his questions right in each round. So at the interval for the listener’s questions, Rob had a comfortable lead , having scored 9 points to Ann and Peter’s 4, and Valerie’s 2 points.

The canny listener managed to beat the contestants with both questions –
What can be sold in sizes including Marchioness – Queen – Empress etc. ? Apparently its roofing tiles.
Where would you find Galvane’s groove ?
Its in the upper incisor of a horse.

In the next two difficult rounds Rob failed to add to his 9 points. Nobody was scoring too highly, until the penultimate round. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, as Peter Rodney managed the first five question run. Those five points and the bonus took his score to 13. So going into the final round, he led Rob by 4 points. But LAM readers are a redoubtable and resilient bunch. Rob ideally needed a five question run. He didn’t get it, but he was close, with 4, and when this was added to a buzzer bonus, it took his score to 14. Peter Rodney could only add one to his score. 14 – all.

Great quizzing from the pair. So we had a tie-break – one, sudden-death question. Who said “ You taught me language . . . “ Rob knew it was Caliban in The Tempest, and wasted no time in buzzing in. A brilliant display of keeping ones nerves when in danger of having everything snatched away. Great show.

The Details

Valerie Cooper – 6
Ann Fallow – 6
Rob Hannah – 15 ( after tie – break )
Peter Rodney - 14

Friday, 6 November 2009

Did you see -

Wonderland – I won University Challenge ?

It was on last night. What a brilliant idea for a documentary, I thought. Last year, the day after the final of UC was broadcast, when the nation was gripped for all of 24 hours by Trimblemania, I was interviewed by a journalist from the Times for an article titled “Is there Life After Quiz Shows ? “ Come to think of it, I wonder if they stole the title from LAM ? The article did pretty much what it said on the tin, and they also interviewed many former UC contestants, two of whom won the show. None of them were made out to be particularly eccentric at all, and came out of the article rather well, I thought.

Last night’s show announced that there have been 156 winners of University Challenge, and this was the story of some of them.Yes, and somehow I don't think this was anything like a random choice o which winners they chose to interview either. It focused particularly, it seemed to me, on pointing out what makes a UC winner different from the rest of us ordinary mortals, and IMHO it didn’t do it in a particularly flattering way. The winners focused upon described a variety of experiences,amongst them, being viewed suspiciously when applying for jobs, being bullied for being a swot at school, being unable to form lasting relationships, and suffering from alcoholism and drug abuse. A significant number of them were shown as being very obviously on their own, and with several of them the director seemed to go out of his or her way to point up certain eccentricities.

The show was peppered with quotations, the first of which was John Major’s observation that Britain is the only country where a person can be criticised for being ‘too clever by half’. Yet it seemed to me that the whole thrust of the show was to suggest something very close to this – that anyone clever enough to win UC would of necessity be, or become, a slightly odd, introverted misfit, some of whom may even have a dependency on harmful substances.

The show wasn’t totally lacking in its lighter moments. I expect that one of the 2007 champions quite possibly cringed when he saw himself grabbing hold of Anne Widdecombe and kissing her when she was about to present him with the trophy. But overall this show left a slightly sour taste in the mouth. I’m sure that there are many UC winners who are gregarious, happy and successful, and have lives that have been enriched by the experience. Ah, but then if they’d interviewed them, then it wouldn’t have allowed them to make the points they wanted to make, would it ?

Mastermind - First Round Heat 10/24

Just as I was starting to think that the series was starting to look a little short on recidivists, we had two in the same show tonight. Susan Sworn was a semi-finalist in the 2007 SOBM. Mark Grant , one of the victorious Crossworders team in the 2008 series of Only Connect, reached the Grand Final in 2005, where he was runner up to Pat Gibson. Quite a pedigree. Philip Smith and Paul Tucker, who completed tonight’s line up were both newcomers to the show.

In 2007, Susan Sworn scored 16 in the first round on specialist and then 18 in the semi final. That’s hugely impressive, but her round on King Richard III bettered it tonight. A massively impressive 19 and no passes , with no incorrect answers is actually the second highest individual specialist round in the whole of the John Humphrys era, behind William Barrett’s 20 on the Royle Family.

Philip Smith was answering on Morihei Ueshiba. You might not have heard of him – I certainly hadn’t – but in his film Mr. Smith explained that Ueshiba had invented Aikido, and you’ve certainly heard of that. You certainly wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d let Susan’s marvellous performance put him off his stride, but he pushed on into double figures and scored 11.

Paul Tucker followed, offering us The Chartist Movement. Chartism , he explained, really only flourished as a political force between 1837, and about 1860, but we have it to thank for much of what constitutes our modern democracy. Mr. Tucker appeared to be one of the more nervous contenders we have seen this series – and that’s nothing to be ashamed of either. Still he too managed to push on to score 11 points.

Mark Grant is an old hand at big quizzes. Apart from Only Connect and Mastermind, he’s also been a semi – finalist in last year’s Brain of Britain, and experience can count for a lot in this game. Tonight his specialist subject was Edouard Manet, who he informed us was a friend and often a supporter of the Impressionists, but never actually an Impressionist. I do a decent Tommy Cooper myself. Sorry, couldn’t resist it. In almost any other show Mark’s specialist round would have been the outstanding round of the heat, as he scored 17 and 0 passes.

Poor Philip Smith and Paul Tucker must have felt that their General Knowledge rounds were something of a sideshow tonight. Paul had a very nervous start to his round, but managed to pull together a string of answers to take his score to 18. Philip’s round was rather better. He broke the double figure barrier for the second time in the show, and pushed his score up to 21. As Mark sat down in the chair, John Humphrys ‘helpfully’ reminded him what a huge score Susan Sworn had made, and suggested that he pile on the points as much as possible. The ten that he managed was not the highest GK score he’s ever achieved, but at the very least it put him into a prime runner up spot. So, Susan came to the chair requiring 9 to win outright. Last time out, Susan had rather imploded on the GK round, answering everything, but only scoring 5. Tonight I’m sorry to say that History repeated itself somewhat. Her final score was 24 and 3 passes.

So well done to Mark, who goes forward into the semis by right. Last year we saw Richard Heller win his way through to a second final, and who is to say that Mark won’t repeat that feat this year ?

The Details

Susan Sworn Richard III19 – 0 5 - 3 24 - 3
Philip SmithThe Life and Times of Morihei Ueshiba11 - 110 - 221 - 3
Paul TuckerThe Chartist Movement11 – 0 7 - 418 - 4
Mark GrantEdouard Manet17 - 010 - 227 - 2

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

Are You An Egghead - Week Four

Show 16

This show pitted one of Wales finest ever quizzers, David Edwards, against the well known Alan Gibbs. David , who lost to Alan Morgan in the second round of last year’s series, was the first ever person to do the Mastermind / £1 million on WWTBAM double. Alan is no slouch himself either, having appeared on many shows, including a £125,000 win on WWTBAM. So no mugs in this show, not that there tend to be mugs in any of them.

David took first blood, and chose ‘young Kevin’ as he called the great Mr. Ashman, much to his amusement. He also managed to claim CJ and Judith. Keeping it interesting, though, Alan took the not-to-be-sniffed-at prizes of Barry and Chris. In the end David completed a 4 – 2 win, but this was a genuine contest between two fine quizzers, and very enjoyable as such

Round Two

Match 1

Gary Grant v. Chris Young.

Gary isn’t a film buff, and is also too young to remember that Tom and Barbara Good in the Good Life lived in the Avenue. Chris, though, didn’t know the old chestnut that Bing Crosby was originally offered the role of Lieutenant Columbo. He did know that Roddy Macdowell played the Bookworm in the old Batman TV series, and that was enough to win the round and Kevin.

Gary fought back to win a tough Geography round, and take Barry. Then Chris won the sport to choose Daphne. Then he won the Music to take Judith. Finally he won the Arts and Books to win CJ. During this period I am sure Gary would be the first to admit that he had an absolute ‘mare. However in his first round match he also won, beating Julia Hobbs, with only Barry on his side. Could lightning strike twice ?

Well, the fightback began when Chris went first. He gambled on his own hunch that a skipper is a dragonfly. Its not, it’s a butterfly. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to save your Eggheads. Gary got his question right. Then Chris used two Eggheads on his next question, not trusting CJ’s correct answer, so backing it up with Kevin’s. Gary saved himself by picking out that 8 comes between 11 and 16 on a dartboard.Daphne helped Chris to get his third answer correct. However now it was Gary and Barry, versus Chris and Judith, and Chris was one behind. Gary despatched the next ball to the boundary. Chris did the same with his. But Gary was one to the good. Barry helped him to get his 4th correct answer. Chris at this stage kindly informed us that he would have got all of Gary’s questions right without Eggheads.Was this a sign that he saw that things were slipping away from him ? Well, whatever the case, he managed, with Judith’s help, to get his own question right. But it was all down to Gary’s fifth question. He got it right, for a brilliant 5 – 4 win. Amazing ! Well played Chris, and bad luck. Gary, superb ! It ain’t how you start . . .

Match 2

Charles Mosley v. Shanker Menon

Charles Mosley, who knocked out Nic Paul in the first round took on Shanker Menon who knocked out Beth Maclure in his previous match. Last year Shanker lost in his second match, and so he was determined to go further this year.

He didn’t have it all completely his own way, though. The first five rounds saw the advantage clearly go to Shanker, who won Kevin, Daphne, CJ and Judith, while Charles only managed to grab Chris. However in the final round , in a way that was reminiscent of Gary in the previous show, Charles started to play superbly, holding Chris back in reserve until asked which bird was also named Mother Carey’s chicken. Chris of course put him right with Storm Petrel . At the end of the first five questions the two were tied at 5 apiece. Both answered correctly. Then Charles missed the next question, and Shanker, who lets remember still had an unused Kevin to call on, informed us that the original name for the American defence computer network which later went on to form the basis of the Internet was the Arpanet. I must admit it was impressive the way that Shanker moved up a gear when we got into sudden death. There was not the slightest hesitation about either of his answers.

Charles, you performed brilliantly in the final round, and have nothing to be ashamed of, but the congratulations go to Shanker, who marches through to the quarter finals.

Match 3

Rob Huxley v. Pat Gibson

You’ll definitely remember Rob Huxley, if you saw his first round show. His opponent Paul Sinha won all five Eggheads, but a series of unlucky and frankly inscrutable questions evened the scores up, and Rob won through to win despite being Eggheadless. Tonight his second round match pitted him against Pat Gibson, who had won his first round match against Cathy Gillespie comfortably enough.

Somewhat surprisingly Rob won the first round. Even more surprisingly he chose CJ out of all the Eggheads. That’s not meant to be unfair to CJ, but my surprise reflected the fact that Kevin was available. CJ is often unfairly underestimated, and he has consistently improved throughout his Eggheadship, but he would admit, I’m sure, that he isn’t Kevin. Rob’s reasoning was that CJ could fill gaps in his own knowledge of modern popular culture. I wouldn’t argue with that, but I dare to suggest that Kevin could fill more gaps in anyone’s knowledge than pretty much every other Egghead.

Pat didn’t give Rob any opportunity to rectify his error, winning the next four rounds. Particularly impressive quizzing from both of these worthy gentlemen was evident in the Geography round , which went to several sudden death questions.

The last round had something of an inevitable feel to it. Last time Rob overcame his opponent and 5 Eggheads, but 4 Eggheads were more than enough to see Pat home by a 4 – 1 win.

Match 4

Liz Heron v. Mark Kerr

Britain’s Brainiest Estate Agent Mark Kerr took on Liz Heron. Both of them had beaten former Brains of Britain in their first round heats. Mark had seen off the challenge of the redoubtable Barbara Thompson, while Liz had beaten Jim Eccleson. So both of them had form coming into the show.

First of the head to head rounds was Arts and Books. Mark wasted hardly any time on explanations, and won the round, picking Daphne to start. He followed this up with the Sport round and Barry. The fightback began on the Music round, where Liz won on a sudden death question to take Chris over to her side. Again, the next round, politics went to a sudden death fight out, with a different result, and Mark picked CJ , being unable to resist the little jibe that he probably wouldn’t use him. History was the final chance to win an Egghead. Mark took the win, and Judith, to go into the final round with a 4 – 1 advantage.

Mark correctly answered the size of A3 paper without using an Egghead. Liz incorrectly answered that the Comet and the Cromwell were british aircraft in World War II – they were tanks. Chris could have told her that, but she gambled on saving him. Mark again left the Eggheads alone to answer that a solecism is a grammatical error. Liz asked Chris when the first transatlantic telephone cable was laid. He didn’t know, and guessed incorrectly. Mark, with a 2 – 0 lead and all of his Eggheads intact, called on Barry to no avail to identify the Flynn effect. Liz pulled back a point by identifying the Ormulum as a book. 2 – 1, and just a chink of light. Mark kept his head as Judith and Daphne helped him identify Nantgarw as being renowned for pottery in the 19th century. Liz had to answer the next one correctly and she did . Still, one more answer would take Mark through , and he correctly identified William Betty as an actor. Well played both – good game.


I’ve enjoyed all 4 second round matches this week. Gary ‘Lazarus’ Grant’s fantastic fightback in the first particularly caught my eye, as did Shanker’s ice-cool nerve in the sudden death final of his show.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Perils of AYAE

This really isn’t a complaint. Nobody forced me to go on AYAE – although Twelve Yard did make a point of asking me very nicely to apply for it – and the whole thing was a lot of fun, a good experience. Should there ever be an Are You An Egghead 3 and you are thinking of applying, my advice would be to definitely go for it. If you don’t get in then you haven’t lost anything, and if you do get in you’ll have a ball.

So what’s the problem then ? Well, it works like this. Last week was half term, which is ironic, since it was in the last half term holiday in the summer term that I recorded my appearances in AYAE. Being as it was half term I threw caution to the winds, and played in 4 quizzes. Desperate to play, I even ignored the fact that John was under the weather, and Phillippa wasn’t interested, and played in two of them on my own.

Yes, I know that you really shouldn’t play in a pub quiz on your own. If you haven’t read Marcus Berkmann’s “Brain Men” – in the latest edition retitled “A Matter of Facts “, then he goes into some detail about why you shouldn’t. Incidentally, unless your reading this blog by mistake, then you really would love this brilliant book. Suffice it to say that playing by yourself, you look like the worst kind of sad recluse, Billy-no-Mates, quiz obsessive imaginable. Worse than that, you might just win.

Quick cut to last Tuesday night. By this time I’d played on my own in a good quiz on Sunday, and won. Then I played in Newport on Monday night, in the middle of a great team, and we narrowly lost to a team that had a substantial handicap. Tuesday was another solo effort in the new look Duke of Wellington quiz in Cowbridge. This week we had 7 rounds of 10 questions, rather than 8. First and last were General Knowledge, and the other 5 were all concerned with Halloween in some shape or form. As I said last week, there’s a hell of a lot goes into making this quiz, and I salute the landlord who puts it all together himself. I won.

That’s not actually the point. I’m not writing this to big myself up – alright, that may be part of it – but to explain what happened next. First prize was 2 bottles of wine. I suggested that the landlord give one of them to the SOBs, the team who came second. He said that I could do it if I wanted to, so, bottle in hand, I approached the table, handed over the bottle with my congratulations, and was rewarded with a quizzical look from one of the team members.
“Where do I know you from ? “ he asked. I considered reminding him that I had played in the previous week’s quiz, but he then remembered,
“Was that you playing in Are You An Egghead last night ? “ he asked. So I confessed, guilty as charged, and then the whole Mastermind thing came out as well. We were all on our way out of the pub at the time, so its difficult to know whether my TV exploits, such as they are, will become common knowledge throughout the pub, and whether it will make any difference in the end. I hope not, but I have my doubts.

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round Two heat 1/8

JP began by telling us that in the first round Girton Cambridge scored 180 points, despite having what he called a ‘rather diffident performance’. Opponent’s St. George’s London were ribbed mercilessly about being medical students who were unable to answer correctly on the constituent parts of the eyelid.

Girton raced out to a big lead of 100 before St. George’s were able to put a single point on the board.Miss Brown-Kerr of Girton was hugely amused to get a starter which involved identifying that Alan Rickman was playing Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. She was just as amused as she absolutely lapped up the set of bonuses which involved naming the rest of the Defence from the Dark Arts teachers in the films.

These medics of St. George’s are made of the right stuff, though. 100 points behind and captain Sturgeon claimed the first starter, and they were away. Together with his go-to man Tinsley he set about shutting out Girton for the time being, and hauling his team back into contention. 14 minutes in and the St. George’s boys had reduced the deficit by half. At least one member of Girton kept her head, as Miss Cawley correctly identified Saint Saen’s Carnival of the Animals. St. George’s though kept on coming. By the twenty minute mark the gap was narrowed to 30. This had shrunk to 10 minutes on the 23 minute mark, and with the next starter, all was level. Joy of joy, what a grandstand finish this provided. Miss Cawley of Girton, her team’s star performer IMHO, took the next crucial starter, although they only managed one bonus. Hazlehurst of St. George’s took the next starter and one bonus. All square. Next starter to St. George’s – but no bonuses. Next starter to Girton, all square. Bonuses taken. St. George’s must take the next starter, but it’s a miscue ! Roger Tilling is so excited that he sounds strangulated. St. George’s do manage the next starter, but its too late. Girton win a fantastic match by 170 to 160. I’ve always said that one of my favourite types of UC match is one where one team sprints off to a lead, only for the other to fight back to even terms to set up a virtually photo finish. This delivered.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP started early tonight, saying that St. George’s had probably got the answer about the eye wrong in the previous round because maybe they hadn’t reached that chapter in the book yet.

On 20 minutes Dennison of St. George’s buzzed in on a starter, and hesitated, for which JP gave him a stern wigging. He still accepted the correct answer, though.

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

In the future technology of the Star Trek franchise, Eisenberg compensators remove uncertainties in the transporter system of the Starship Enterprise. So THAT’s what does it !