Tuesday, 6 April 2010

University Challenge - Grand Final

University Challenge Grand Final – St. John’s Oxford v. Emmanuel , Cambridge

At last the final. A fascinating match up , and as JP pointed out its been a while since we had an Oxford v. Cambridge final. The St. John’s team were the only one to get this far undefeated, and they are
Oliver Chen
Lauren Parry
George Woudhuysen
David Townsend.

As for Emmanuel, JP memorably described their first round defeat as “that pratfall in round one “. They are
Andy Hastings
Jenny Harris
Alex Guttenplan
Josh Scott

JP was wasting no time on lengthy introductions now, and it was straight on with the first starter. Faced with a list of book titles, regular LAM reader Jenny Harris buzzed in with an impressively early interruption to identify Hamlet as the linking theme. 3 out of 3 bonuses were a signal of intent, as was Alex Guttenplan’s comfortable win in the buzzer race for the next starter to identify a trading league with a base in London as The Hanseatic League. Personally I though that came somewhere between the Doctor Martens League and the Unibond Premiership, but I digress. Bonuses on documentary films followed , and one was taken. Captain George Woudhuysen of St. John’s showed a cool head and a fast buzzer finger to identify the decade that saw the accession of Henry VIII as the 1500s. A rather interminable set of bonuses on Gilbert and Sullivan’s modern major general followed . Three out of three bonuses narrowed the gap considerably. Amazingly Alex Guttenplan got the next starter wrong, although nobody on either team managed to recognise a definition of sunspots. Jenny took the next , though, recognising houses central to the plots of Jane Austen novels. Faced with bioluminescence I thought that they did well to take two of them. The picture round followed, with a road sign in Gaelic. Alex G. correctly identified Dublin. Then followed Aberdaugleddau, which the team could see was welsh. I actually knew that this was Milford Haven – or at the mouth of the two River Cleddau’s as I think it translates, but this passed them by, as did Newquay rendered in Cornish, and the one they really should have had – Edinburgh in Scots Gaelic. Its an old chestnut to ask which New Zealand city has a name which is the old name for Edinburgh – Dunedin being the answer.

Asked to identify a series of popes sharing the same name Jenny guessed incorrectly, but David Townsend correctly supplied ‘Leo’, a good shout at a time when Emmanuel’s lead was threatening to become oppressive.A good set of bonuses on Polybius followed. St. John’s weren’t getting as many starters as Emmanuel, but when they did they were converting bonuses brilliantly. Mr. Townsend took the next starter, and three bonuses again took their score to 75, and a ten point lead on the ten minute mark. What a good final so far.

Moving into the second phase of the competition, and the momentum seemed to be with St. John’s. Not for long. Alex G. recognised an example of a syllogism, and the first bonus gave them back the lead. Andy Hastings buzzed in early on the next question, being beaten by a swerve which saw his answer actually emerge as part of a question. St. John’s had to let the opportunity pass untaken. So to make amends Andy Hastings correctly identified DH Lawrence as dying of tuberculosis in 1930. 2 bonuses took Emmanuel into treble figures. For the next starter, a music starter, we were given the rather unsettling experience of listening to a recording of the very last castrato. No, sorry, I’m not explaining that one. The clue is in the question. Neither team identified the composer.Alex G.showed that he has the knack of waiting to exactly the right moment when the question becomes clear before buzzing. Offered a definition of a philosopher, as soon as JP said ‘associated with hedonism’ he buzzed, to correctly identify Epicurus. The music bonuses followed and were duly taken.

15 minutes down, and Alex G. took his 5th starter to earn a set of bonuses on Vesalius. Josh Scott then impressed with a fast identification of a number of lines adding up to the verse form sonnet. An interesting set of bonuses on people born on September 21st. No prizes to the team for confusing Leonard Cohen with Neil Young. Still at least all four members of the Emmanuel team had answered starters correctly now. They had scored 100 points unanswered, and the time when St. John’s had held the lead seemed a long time ago. Alex G. correctly identified a quote from king Lear referring to astrology .With the next starter, asking how many squares are visible in total on a 3 by 3 square grid, Lauren Parry had a stab with 6, but inevitably the correct answer was supplied by Emmanuel’s irrepressible captain, with 14. This was followed by the unusual sight of him saying ‘I don’t know’ in response to two of the bonuses. Not to worry though. Josh Scott correctly identified a portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein. Twenty minutes gone, and St. John’s had been shut out of the contest completely for ten minutes.

Put yourself in St. John’s position. They were getting beaten to the buzzer consistently. What do you do in that position ? Do you give up, or do you buzz early and hope ? Full credit to George Woudhuysen for doing this with the next starter. Vile Bodies was the signal to go for Evelyn Waugh – alas the swerve on the question meant that they were all by different Waughs. His opposing skipper took the points. When things don’t run for you, they really don’t run for you. George W. buzzed infirst for the next , to identify which body of water European capitals identified by their initials were on. Neither team got the Adriatic.At least on 21 minutes David Townsend permitted himself a wry smile as he correctly identified a set of Prime Ministers of New Zealand. 2 bonuses were taken, and with 5 minutes to go the score stood at 230 to 85. Alex G took the next starter, knowing that the word vintage can apply to both cars and port. A set of bonuses on Mali saw Emmanuel take 2 out of 3. No matter, the match was settled, and there would be another starter from AG shortly. And another. Full credit to George Woudhuysen for getting the next starter after that, identifying the unnamed listener in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as the Wedding Guest. 2 bonuses took them into treble figures, and that’s no more than they deserved. Alex Guttenplan inevitably took the next starter to identify geographical features of Alaska. I didn’t even understand the next starter, but Alex G. did to take his 13th starter for the match. An unbelievable performance which puts him on a par with Gail Trimble.As the gong went, the final score was 315 to 100.

Congratulations, Emmanuel ! And well done for showing your obvious joy at picking up the trophy from Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. From your repechage round onwards you always looked like one of the teams to beat. Thank you for beating the curse of the Clark sofa. As an interesting point, it worked out that you actually beat all 3 of the other semi final teams during the contest.

Many commiserations to St. Johns. You have played a huge part in a memorable series, and can be proud of your achievements.

Thanks BBC, and especially thanks to all the teams who took part in the series. Roll on the next.Finally a thank you to all the members of various teams who have taken time and trouble to leave comments here at LAM. Contact with you has made this series very special for me.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

We know that JP is always on his best behaviour when the Grand Final comes round. He was in top gear tonight, racing through the sets, and what’s more, obviously enjoying it as much as the viewers at home. Full marks to our Jeremy as well for pointing out that he could see that St. John’s were racing to the buzzer all the time as well, but just getting edged out. Jeremy P says it like it is, so this wasn’t just some transparent attempt to console the gallant runners up – it was obviously true, and needed to be said. Well done, sir.

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

Leonard Cohen performed on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury in 2008 . That was before Hallelujah was released by Alexandra Burke.


Christopher said...

What a fantastic match! I was absolutely blown away by how good both teams were, I could hardly answer a single question.

Thanks again for your superb commentary Dave, it's been a joy to read.

Londinius said...

Hello Christopher,

You're more than welcome. Writing about this series has been a delight - I can't think when I've enjoyed a UC series this much.

Best regards


Andrew B. said...

Interesting to see (looking back at your blog for their first round match) that Emmanuel not only got through via the repechage, but also various people commented that they didn't even deserve that!

Similarly in Weaver's Week he cast doubt on Paxman's comment that they were "good enough to come back"...

Since then, they've scored over 250 six times out of six; as many such scores as all the other teams in the series combined!

Londinius said...

When you looked back as well, Andrew, you probably noticed that I don't think that I mentioned Alex Guttenplan during the review of the first round match ! What are the chances of that happening, eh ?!

Well, nerves can affect anyone, although in that first round match Regents' Park played a blinder, with Ealing's own James Aber particularly impressive IIRC.

As regards the 'controversy' at the time, well, someone has to make a call, and Jeremy Paxman, as I said at the time, is a fair and honest man and he called it as he saw it. End of story.

Who would deny that Emmanuel are most worthy champions ? Not me, that's for sure !


tessera said...

Hi Dave,

Great summary of the match last night- Emmanuel were absolutely on fire last night, especially a certain skipper!

And a great series- although my view's a bit biased having appeared on it, I think UC's getting better and better, with more confident and smart teams (the odd "Dumb Britain" blooper notwithstanding). So cheers for your entertaining blog, which makes a change from inane Twitterers and journalists who jump onto the bandwagon at the end ;)

On Emma- they really did get better and better as they went along, and I think that's what made them a GREAT team as opposed to just a very good one. My Jesus UC colleague Jim Waterson did quite a good piece in today's Grauniad on them, and he's spot on- in their first round they were ordinary, to the point my Jesus team thought they were actually the best team to get when we heard they had got into QFs. Well, how wrong we were. A very good and balanced team- and having played with and against Gail Trimble, Alex G's definitely her standard, if not better bearing in mind he's only 19. Alex will be one to watch, mark my words.

Best, TS (Jesus '09-10)

Gerepidox said...

What Emmanuel have managed to do, considering their poor start and then overcoming at least three other excellent teams, is remarkable. The teams of St. John’s, Manchester and Imperial, all at times having looked like potential series victors, have simply wilted under the onslaught of the irrepressible quartet from Cambridge.
Keenness of mind, speed on the buzzer and a captain with an untouchable breadth of knowledge have been their marks of quality. Maybe they will now slip back into obscurity but as your last contributor ‘tessera’ suggested, we surely haven’t seen the last of one particular member of the winning team.
Finally, thank you David for providing this forum to discuss a great competition.

Unknown said...

The sole disappointment is that this marks the end of the season!

I'm not convinced about the validity of the new quarter final model but at least it provided us with extra games.

Again the series has thrown up some excellent players with the captains of all four semi-finalists being particularly impressive.

As for the final, when one team is in such form, it is very difficult for the opposition to get a foothold in the match. The only solution is gambling on early buzzes, a policy that can backfire spectacularly too!

So, hard luck Manchester, Imperial and St Johns - fine teams all and many congratulations to the outstanding Emmanuel team.

Unknown said...

Just to say thanks so much again for all your UC blogging, and to everyone for their nice comments. It's been a wonderful if somewhat surreal experience seeing the events of one weekend last October played out over several months on national television, and it's lovely to know so many have been watching with us!

Very many thanks for such interesting reading over the past year or so,
Jenny ('Emmanuel Harris')