Monday, 1 February 2010

Brain of Britain - The Grand Final

This time last year I wrote about Geoff Thomas' victory in the last grand final, a victory which put him into the ranks of the great ones who managed to achieve the Mastermind/Brain of Britain double. I was already intending to apply for the latest series even then, but I little thought that I would be one of the contestants in the next grand final. If you listened then you'll know that I fell considerably short of emulating Geoff's achievement, but then that was always likely to happen, given the calibre of the other finalists. As has become traditional, with your indulgence I will share my thoughts about the final, which I wrote the evening after the final was recorded : -

The Final

After the two semi finals were recorded Paul Bajoria, the producer, announced the line up for the final. The four semi-final winners were: -

Ian Bayley
David Clark – me
Rob Hannah
Anne Hegerty

This was quite some food for thought. The only thing I had with which to make a comparison was my Mastermind Final. Then, though, I didn’t know who else was in the final until the actual day of the final itself. Then when I did meet them, I didn’t actually already know any of them before.

This time, I already knew of my three fellow finalists, and more than that, I had met all of them before, and started to get to know each of them to a greater or lesser extent. More than that, I knew about each of them by reputation as well. And believe me, each of them needed to be taken seriously, and not just because they had reached this final, either.

Rob I knew because we posted on the same internet forum, and we had met at the Cardiff Grand Prix. He tended to sell himself short , because he’s younger, and has less experience than the rest of us. Still, he is , in my opinion, one of the top young quizzers in the country, and he sets some wonderful quizzes himself. Rob had won two terrific if close victories in his first round and his semi final, In the heat he had won on a tie break, buzzing in like lightning to take the win by a point. Then in the semi he had been behind the opposition throughout the whole contest, although never trailing by more than one or two points, but a super last round gave him the win by a short head.

Ian I knew by reputation before I ever met him in the flesh. A top 5 ranked quizzer nationally, he had appeared in the first series of “Are You An Egghead ?” and been a key member of the Crossworders, the first ever winners of BBC’s fiendish quiz “Only Connect”. He had been a previous finalist on Brain of Britain, and in 2009 was the runner up in the Grand Final of Mastermind. His Brain of Britain first round heat had been recorded before mine, and he had scored an incredible 33 points. His semi final had been closer. For reasons best known to themselves the production team had put the next two highest scorers in the first round into Ian’s semi final, and although he led for pretty much all of the way, he only won by a point.

Anne I first met when she beat me in the quarter final of “Are You An Egghead ? “ She had been on the circuit for a while, having reached the semi finals of BoB before, and also having appeared in Mastermind, but this year had very much been a breakthrough season for her, which had seen her achieve great results in Grand Prix meetings, and reach the semi final of “Are You An Egghead ? “ Anne had a comfortable win in her first round match, and then in her semi final she had scored the highest in the semis, beating the much fancied David Edwards, the man who had beaten her in the semi final of “Are You An Egghead ? “ Small world.

As for me, I’m probably more of a pub quizzer, and much less of a Grand Prix regular than the other three. I often play in up to 3 pub quizzes a week, and at the time of writing I’ve only ever taken part in 2 Grands Prix. My greatest quiz achievement was winning Mastermind in 2007/8. I won my first heat by a couple of points, and my semi final a bit more comfortably, with the second highest score of the semis.

We had 5 or 6 weeks between semi and final, and I would like to say that I worked hard to prepare for the final. I did do some quiz book work, but I’m afraid I didn’t obsess over it as I had with Mastermind. I tried to do some work on my weakest areas, but there are too many of these to cover in a few weeks in anything but the most cursory fashion.

I’m very good at taking an ostrich like , head in the sand approach to a big event like the final of Brain of Britain. I manage to put it into a corner of my mind that is dusty and neglected, and almost forget about it until the time comes. Well, the time came on the night before the final, as I drove to London. Not that I didn’t have some other things on my mind as well. The snow had started to fall the week after my semi was recorded, and now, several weeks later, it was still falling, and although the road was clear for this out journey, there was no guarantee that I was going to be able to make it home again the night after. Still, much as worrying about this proved a useful sidetrack, my thoughts kept coming back to what I expected, and what I wanted of myself.

Winning would be amazing. But the way I looked on it was that my Mastermind win had been so miraculous, well, it was to me anyway, that to expect anything like it to ever happen again was just being downright greedy. Probably a little unrealistic as well. As I drove down I was well aware that up to that time only 5 people had won both Mastermind and Brain of Britain, although many had tried, and some had come close. So while I would love to win, I’d settle for fourth, and that was probably a lot more likely than winning. In my heart of hearts, though, I did have a target. I have two good quizzing friends who both made it to the final of Brain of Britain in the past, and both of them ended up as runner up. So if I could at least equal their achievement, then at least I could derive some satisfaction from that achievement even if I couldn’t win the whole thing.

In each of the three rounds we were all asked to present ourselves at Broadcasting House for 6:15. As usual, we were a bit early, Mum, Tony and me, and as usual I wasn’t the first competitor there. Rob Hannah had already arrived, complete with winter cold, and so we chatted for a while. In fairly short order Ann and Ian arrived too, and so we waited in the foyer. And waited. For some reason we were kept waiting a bit longer than usual, but eventually we were met, and guided in to the radio theatre.

I really like the radio theatre. Its big enough to get a good sized audience in it, yet it still feels like a cosy and rather intimate venue. As we were being walked down, we warned that Paul, the producer, would probably ask us if we’d mind doing the warm up in front of the audience, instead of before they came in, so that they could get a bit more value for their money. I know what he meant, but then again, I thought the tickets were free anyway ! so as soon as we entered the auditorium I asked Paul,
“I’ve got a suggestion – would you like us to do the warm up in front of the audience ? “ Well, it raised a small laugh, all gratefully received on the build up to a big event like this.

Before the audience were shown in I did take a close look at the prize. The winner of Brain of Britain each year gets a handsome silver salver , engraved with the words Brain of Britain champion – and the year. Very nice it was too. Deep in my hearts of hearts I had a kind of certainty that I wouldn’t be getting a chance to have that close a look at it later, since while one of the others might have an off day, the chances of all three having a very bad day, and me having a very good day were frankly laughable. In the Mastermind Final we were never given a glimpse of the trophy until the contest was over.

Paul went over the rules again, then invited us to take our places on stage as the audience came in. What an audience it was too. There weren’t many empty seats in the heats or semis, but for the final every seat in the house was taken, and this included the balcony, which had never been needed for any of the other shows in the series. Introductions were made, and the warm up began.

You will have to forgive me for this, but the whole show went by so quickly that my impressions are incomplete, and some of the way I remember it even now, just a couple of days later, may be inaccurate. So, having said that, this is what I can recall. Firstly, that Ian was fearsome in the warm up , on his own questions, and on the buzzer too. I think I may actually have had two or three in a row on my own. Alas, I didn’t manage this at any other time during the show. Rob seemed a bit under the weather, and Anne looked to be on good form too.

In the first couple of rounds Ian blazed off to a lead, with Anne in hot pursuit Rob and I trailing. Round after round I could answer my first question easily enough, only to be stopped dead in my tracks by the second. Even when I knew the answer to other people’s questions it wasn’t much more than a couple of times that I managed to beat Ian to the buzzer.

By the interval for the listener’s questions Rob was trailing, I only had a point more, Anne was ahead of the pair of us, and Ian already had one hand on the trophy. The listener’s questions were set by reigning champion Geoff Thomas.

In the second half Rob and I started clawing our way back towards Anne, with Ian sailing blithely on, taking at least two full sets of 5 and bonuses. Ian was unstoppable , and was never going to be beaten in this show. Its one of the features of Brain of Britain that there can be nights when you’re out with the washing on your own questions, but you know you would have done better with the set that’s just gone. So it was in the final. I wouldn’t have won with Ian’s questions, but at least my score would have been quite a bit higher. But that’s the nature of the game. Luck tends to balance itself out throughout a series. Questions fell for me in the semis, and they didn’t in the final.

Because of the speed with which we whipped through the rounds, it was actually decided to put an extra round in. It made no difference to the destination of the title, since Ian couldn’t be caught. However, Anne was only a point ahead of me, and two or three points in front of Rob. Had the contest ended there she would have been outright runner up. This actually made me perk up a bit for the first time in the contest. I pulled myself up level with her, and then Rob, on a last buzzer question, pulled himself level with the pair of us ! So the final scores, in the Final of Brain of Britain 2010, was Ian Bayley 32, and myself, Rob and Anne all tied on 9.

Many, many congratulations to Ian. If you think of his incredible performance in the first round, and the fact that he won the toughest of the semi finals, then you have to concede that he is a most worthy champion, and was the player of the series. You cannot argue with class like that.

- Well, its a couple of weeks since the final was recorded. I wish I could have put up a bit of a better performance, but it didn't happen.I don't think abyone can argue that while other contestants put in some excellent individual performances during the series, Anne's semi final comes to mind - Ian was the outstanding competitor during this series. I don't think it would have made the slightest bit of difference whichever questions he had been given, he was simply unbeatable. which is a good thing for me, since it means that I'm not sitting here thinking - if only-. There's no if only - coming joint runner-up was absolutely the best that I could do, and sharing that distinction with my friends Rob and Anne makes the pleasure even greater.

I began this post with a nod to the MM/BoB double. Ian, you will recall, was runner-up in last year's Mastermind. Without wishing to bring down the curse of the Clark sofa upon him, I think we can look forward to his reappearence on MM some time in the near future, and it would be a very brave person who would bet against him completing the double when he does. Congratulations again , Ian. You're a great quizzer, and it ws an honour to play a bit-part in such a fantastic performance.


Rach Cherryade said...

What a great final, such formidable contestants, very well played and Ian Bailey was indeed spectacular! It really has been a brilliant series! Well done again on making the final and thanks again for a great write-up! I love reading your accounts of your matches!

Mondays really are quiz heaven, off round to friends to watch our UC match tonight so will probably miss OC, thank god for Iplayer!
Take care,

Anonymous said...

Well done on being runner-up — and for between you managing to get the scores level, which seems a most fair result.

About the only answer I got correct listening to it was ‘Ben Goldacre’ — so I could at least console myself with knowing something none of the finalists did; so thank you to all four of you for getting that one wrong and making me feel better! (Curiously, Mr Goldacre will be appearing in the same slot next week: he's listed as a panellist for the first episode of ‘Quote, Unquote’.)

Another Anne said...

Actually, Ian ended up with 32, not 31. But I agree it was kind of hard to keep track of.

The thing about Ian is that he's not just one of the best quizzers in the country, he's probably THE best at buzzer quizzes. Had it been any other format, we might have had more of a chance, but when one contestant is simply on another planet, there's very little one can do!

Londinius said...

Hello Rach, Smyler and Anne,

Thanks for all your comments. All I can say is that being a part of great quizzing events like that don't come long too often, so its important to try to enjoy them. I certainly did.

Anne, I think you've summed it up well. Ian , in both his first round match, and the final, was on another planet indeed. We were not going to beat him, and that is that. As we said to each other at the time, all you can do is applaud the performance. Congratulations on your - our - joint runner up sspot. For me its an achievement which ranks right up there with anything else I ever managed to achieve in a quiz.

Londinius said...

Oh, and I've amended the score in the post as well !