Friday, 9 April 2010

Mastermind - Semi final 1/6

It was only as the show started this evening that it finally occurred to me to ask the question – how are they going to squeeze an extra contender into what is still a half hour show ? Looking at it in terms of sheer logistics, it seemed to me that they needed to find another 4 minutes from somewhere to accommodate the extra rounds. Fairly obviously for the chop were the filmed inserts. However that wouldn’t provide enough. So the answer they’ve come up with is to reduce the specialist rounds to 90 seconds rather than two minutes. So this measure had the dual effect of reducing the amount of time needed to be found by 30 seconds, and of finding 2 minutes from the specialist rounds.

I do have mixed feelings about this. On the positive side at least it means that the highest scoring runners-up have been accommodated. As a rule people tend to get more excited about watching the GK rounds, than the specialists. The show did have shades of the Magnus era tonight, as it was lean and mean, with no unnecessary chat or talk whatsoever. Less positively though this was almost shades of Discovery Mastermind too. Some people may well feel that this does make the General Knowledge rounds, which are still 2 minutes long, disproportionately important. Its early days to make hard and fast pronouncements on this from just one show, and I think we need to see all six semis. Still , it s a development which is bound to cause a fair amount of comment and debate. Will they return to the 2 minute Specialist rounds for the final ? I sincerely hope so.

If you read my review/preview a couple of days ago, you’ll have seen that I noted that you can often get semi finals where several of the top contenders from the first round have to battle it out with each other for one place in the final. Such a semi was tonight, which contained round 1 top scorer, Kathryn Johnson, round 1 second highest scorer Chas Early, and round 1 4th highest scorer, Chris Sowton. Also playing were Nathan Jones and David Sutherland.

LAM reader Kathryn Johnson led off this first new style semi final. In the first round she had scored a magnificent thirty points, where her specialist subject had been Victorian and Edwardian Poisoners. She offered us a slightly more traditional subject tonight in the shape of The Lord Peter Wimsey Novels of Dorothy L. Sayers. It certainly felt like a good round, and a little elementary arithmetic tells me that its equivalent to 14 /15 in a 2 minute round. No passes as well, which is the mark of a good, experienced Mastermind hand.

Back on the 22nd January Nathan Jones won heat 15 on Karl Gustav Mannerheim. Tonight he gave us The Anglo American War of 1812. Very much a lesser known war this one, but it was during this war that The Star Spangled Banner was written. Nathan too scored 11, despite looking and sounding extremely nervous.

Chris Sowton won heat 17 in February, where he had produced a good GK round, and a very impressive specialist round on Lord’s Cricket Ground. His subject tonight was Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Of all of tonight’s other contenders he was the most likely to be able to mount a challenge to Kathryn, if he could only get a lead on specialist. Well , he did get a lead, but getting a substantial lead in only 90 seconds is very difficult. 12 points was what I suspect will turn out to be a very , very good performance in a 90 second round.

When he won heat 22 a few weeks ago, answering on The Child Ballads, David Sutherland had marked himself out as a solid performer with 24. Tonight he was answering on the Life and Work of Cecil Sharp. In case you’re as ignorant about Cecil Sharp as I was, according to wikipedia he was the father of the folklore revival in England in the early 20th century. I cannot say whether it was nerves from the added pressure of the semis, or that Mr. Sutherland’s understanding of the parameters of his subject was at variance with that of the question setters, but he really seemed to struggle, and hit quite a nasty pass spiral, to finish the round with five.

Chas Early scored a truly massive 18 on Bill Hicks when he won heat 8. Tonight he answered questions on the TV series The Wire. I liked the way that he raced through his questions, giving surnames when names were asked for, and snapping out the answers the second that the questions had died on John’s lips. He too scored 11 points, which meant that at the end of round 1, any one of 4 contenders could win.

Not David Sutherland this time, though. He needed 7 points just to take the lead, and although he did get this , and some more, he finished on 14 points. He has nothing to be ashamed of, being now and forever more a Mastermind semi finalist. He fell foul of the fact that it is one thing to have one good subject for Mastermind, and quite another thing to find 2. He won’t be the last to do so this series, I fancy.

Kathryn came next. Kathryn you may recall had the highest general knowledge score of the first round, with 15. Not satisfied with this, she went one better tonight and scored 16. That’s a superlative performance. To put it into perspective , nobody scored 16 on GK in the whole of the 2008/9 series, and nobody scored 16 in the whole of the 2007/8 SOBM. With three contenders still to go, you couldn’t escape the conclusion that the show was as good as over – with only Kathryn’s 4 passes to give any scrap of comfort to the opposition.

Nathan Jones had struggled in his GK round in the heats, and as he nervously worked his way through his GK set tonight, you couldn’t help thinking that for him, his real achievement had been in getting to the semi final. To that extent his first round match had been his final, and he’d won that. He added 8 to his score, for a total of 19.

You may recall that I picked on poor Chas Early in my preview of the semi finals as an example of a contender who had really impressed in the heats through a massive specialist score, who might not fare that well in the semis. The wry smile he gave as John Humphrys reminded him that the score to beat was 27 indicated that he realised that it was probably beyond him. He answered quickly, but never reached the level he had managed in the first round heat, and in the end his final score was 18.

This left Chris Sowton. He’d managed 12 on GK in his heat, so in all probability the 16 he needed to win outright without a countback was always probably beyond him. However a 15 and few passes wasn’t totally beyond the bounds of possibility. To be fair to him he had a good old crack at it, managing 12 to finish on 24. When you think that you can add 3 or 4 to that score if there was a full length specialist round, then that’s a fine score. However, that would give Kathryn another 30 plus. So well played all. As for Kathryn, although I’m not going to scupper anyone at this stage by burdening them with the Clark tip, you looked formidable again. Many congratulations – and best of luck for the final.

The Details

Kathryn Johnson The Lord Peter Wimsey Novels of Dorothy L. Sayers11 – 016 – 427 – 4
Nathan JonesThe Anglo American War of 1812 11 – 1 8 – 219 – 6
Chris SowtonHindu Gods and Goddesses12 – 012 – 224 –2
David SutherlandThe Life and Work of Cecil Sharp 5 – 59 – 514 – 10
Chas EarlyThe TV Series – The Wire 11 – 27 – 318 – 5


JonnoNeath said...

I don't like how the GK round has become, as you have said, disproportionately important. It is rectified by dividing 30 seconds by 2! One minute forty-five for each round.

Well done to this week's winner though...I think she is probably going to win the whole thing. Though, it only takes one set of stinkers to send you packing.

I have applied for the 2010/11 series and I think I have made it on to the show. I received a call back clarifying my specialist subjects and they asked me to change one of them; they didn't explicitly say I had made it on the show. I'll get back to you on that though.

On a separate note, I think I recognise you from the 'Crime Prevention' quizzes that were held at the Apollo Cinema, Sandfields. It was way back to the year when 'The Polar Express' was released as it was the trailer to this film that acted as the observation round. I was a member of the Cefn Saeson team...I think you were Cwrt Sart. Forgive me if I am wrong though. :)


I commented back in November on one of your posts about me possibly going on 'University Challenge' - I and the strongest member of the team (he was great) were taken off the team. Less said the better I guess.
Just wondering if there are any tricks to doing well on Mastermind...have you noticed any patterns in the questions they ask on the show? I have noticed for example that they have asked a few questions on 'Shameless' this year. (I love that show!)

I feel I need to improve my GK a little before I appear (if I appear) on the show. I kept my score for each GK round in the last episode:

Me v Contestant

7 v 9

11 v 16 -- Kathryn's set (I was pleased to get 11)

8 v 8

9 v 7

9 v 12

So I am almost there, but am just missing out by a couple.



Londinius said...

Hi Jonathan,

How are you ? As regards the Crime Prevention Quiz, yes, that was me . I used to ( still do ) dread the Crime Prevention stuff, simply because its so hard to find time in school to do anything with it properly. With the results that there are years when I simply can’t get a team together for it. Such is life.

105 seconds for each round – GK and SS would certainly do the trick. As I say, I don’t think it would have made the slightest difference last night, because on that form nobody in the heat, and possibly in the whole of the series, was going to beat Kathryn. However it must alter the dynamic for the whole show. I will watch the rest of them with interest. IMHO it militates against the chance of an upset, but time will tell.

As regards going on Mastermind, them asking you to change your specialist subject is a very good sign. They did exactly the same to me in 2006, and within a week ot two I heard that I was definitely on. I know a couple of people who have already been told for definite, so I shouldn’t think that they will keep you holding on too long, especially as the filming is beginning in May.

I’ll be honest, I can’t give you a great deal of advice about what they tend to ask on GK rounds. Basically anything and everything. My advice would be to watch each remaining show on the iplayer where you can pause it. Make a note of all the questions you get wrong in the GK. Yeah, I know it’s a pain, but you don’t want to be sitting in the green room after your show thinking – if only. There might well be a pattern emerging, and it will give you a chance to see what your weakest areas are which tend to recur. Obviously your main task in preparation is to learn your specialist subject inside out. For each of my specialists I learned over 700 questions.

I have more to say, ut am only allowed so many characters per comment that I'll need to put it in another comment.

Londinius said...

Right - to continue: -

As regards tricks to doing well, they’re not really tricks, but here’s the best advice I can give.
1) Prepare thoroughly. Learn your specialist subject inside out.
2) Build in an element of quickfire/under pressure testing to your revision. By the time of the show its really helpful to be used to chucking out answers to questions about your subject under top speed.
3) Try to work on your weak general knowledge areas as well – but ONLY when you are happy with your specialist subject revision. Specialist subject revision will bring you points – but there’s no cast iron guarantees that anything you learn for GK will come up.
4) I don’t know how true this is, but I have a friend who reckons on most specialist subject, the answers to between 6 and a dozen questions can be found on the subject’s wikipedia page. Might be worth checking out the page for yourself.
5) Try to get your head right for the show itself. If you’ve never been on TV before its really weird, suddenly being a part of something you’ve seen so many times before on the box. Accept that you are going to feel nervous, but also accept that you are allowed to enjoy the experience too. Remember that however calm your opponents on the day seem, they will be just as nervous as you are.
6) Get your strategy sorted out in your own mind before the day, and stick to it. Remember that passes are worse than wrong answers. However, dithering and then giving a pass or a wrong answer may be even worse. My advice to you would be to try to always given an answer in specialist, even if its wrong, but if no answer pops into your head on GK, then pass and move on quickly.
7) Trust yourself. If an answer pops into your head for any particular question then go with it. Sometimes they do ask blindingly obvious things .
8) Don’t worry about the last question. If you get something wrong, then forget about it, otherwise you’ll not do as well on the next question as you should do. Dwelling on wrong answers leads to a pass spiral.
9) Don’t try to count how well you’re doing – how many answers you have right as the round goes on. You can’t do it – your brain has got enough to worry about as it is.
10) Get it clear in your mind as you go to sit in the chair that this is honestly not a matter of life and death. If you’ve learned your subject then you’re honestly not going to have a disaster. Its supposed to be fun – try to enjoy it.

Do you mind me asking what your first specialist subject will be ? When you know that you’re definitely on I can try to put together a set of questions for you.

I’m interested by what you say about University Challenge. Who took you off ? Was it the university, or was it the programme ? Getting on a TV show can be a funny old business, and its not always about who’s got the best general knowledge. Mastermind and UC are straighter than most in this regard, though.

I hope that this helps. Let me know if there’s any other way that I can help you out.

Best regards

Dave C.

Londinius said...

Today I can't see any of the three comments that I know have already been posted on this. what is the matter with this %$£!! blog ?