Tuesday, 20 July 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

First Round Match 3 – Balliol College Oxford v. Queens’ College Cambridge

By my calculations we were overdue a one-sided match, and so I really wasn’t expecting another nailbiter like the first two shows of the series. Still, this was an Oxford v. Cambridge match up, and you can never tell how these particular matches will turn out. Going into bat for Oxford was venerable Balliol College, founded in 1263, and home to 600 students. Queens’ College Cambridge is a little less venerable than Balliol, but I was interested to hear that the position of its apostrophe is owed to the fact that it was founded twice, by two queens, no less. Enough of such things.

Balliol took first blood. Their team consisted of Ollie Murphy, Keiran Hodgson, Anne Marie Debray and captain Michael Slater who correctly identified various clues as pointing to the word little. They then took the second starter by identifying La Mancha as the home town of Don Quixote. Queens’ were represented by Mark Jackson, Simon Wallace, William Bellfield and captain Sam Gilbert. Mr. Jackson took Queens’ first starter by identifying a pair of homophones as air and heir, but still they only managed to take one of the bonuses. Neither side managed to identifying a self penned epitaph as belonging to Robert Frost. In this early period neither team were converting the majority of the bonuses into points.

Balliol began to pull ahead when captain Slater identified nitrus oxide as being a gas used once in dentistry, which brought the team two successful bonuses on cities. Ollie Murphy took the first picture starter by identifying an Olympic medal table which showed China at the top as belonging to Beijing of 2008. This was followed by 3 other tables from other olympics, for which 2 bonuses were taken. So at the ten minute mark Balliol had a useful lead of 70 to 15. Had they been a little less profligate with bonuses it might have been even greater.

At once Queens’ began to eat into the deficit. Simon Wallace correctly interrupted a starter to identify the subject of a definition as DNA. In fact, while we’re on the subject of Science questions I was thoroughly delighted with myself to get the answer to the next starter, which was which scientist, the last assistant of Tycho Brahe, formulated the laws of planetary motion – to which the answer was Keppler. However I have to say that I didn’t do quite so well with a set of bonuses on salad ingredients in literature. I did know that Peter Rabbit was warned not to eat the lettuce in Mr. MacGregor’s garden. Still, these two starter both went to Queens’ and they were pulling back the deficit steadily. The music starter followed, with a snatch of Great Balls Of Fire. Captain Gilbert of Queens’ correctly identified the singer as Jerry Lee Lewis. They failed on two of the other Sun Records artists – Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins, but correctly identified Elvis.

At this point in the game we saw the importance of judging when to buzz in on a starter. JP gave us a list of British Prime Ministers, and immediately Michael Slater of Balliol buzzed in and offered just that – Prime Ministers. Incorrect, and JP finished the question, asking which father and son were missing from the list. Mark Jackson gratefully accepted the windfall, and the Queens’ machine rumbled on. Not that it was completely one way traffic. Miss Debray of Balliol made a great interruption on explorers, enabling Balliol to eschew their former profligacy by taking all 3 bonuses. This was followed by my favourite starter of the show, a great question of the kind you only get on UC. If a = 1 and b=2 , and c=3, what is the total of the first 3 letters on a qwerty keyboard. Neither side got the answer - 44. Captain Gilbert kept up his side’s momentum by making a great interruption to identify a definition of quantative easing. Still, no bonuses were taken. Then, for the second time in the show poor captain Slater interrupted just a second or two too early. He correctly identified amongst others, The Rain It Raineth Every Day as being by Shakespeare, but they weren’t sonnets. 5 points lost. Given the rest of the question – these were all sung by Feste in which play ? Queens’ were very happy to take the points .

With a very pleasing symmetry, at the end of the second third of the competition the score stood at 100 points apiece. So another very close and exciting match. Neither team could answer the first starter, but Queens’ managed the next. However they were unable to pull far away since they failed to take any of the three bonuses on opera. The second picture starter saw William Bellfield correctly identify a photograph of Bobby Fischer. Three photographs of chess players followed, and they took all 3. Full marks to whoever thought of putting in a photo of the chess super computer Deep Blue.Momentum was now with Queens’ but captain Slater of Balliol was ready to stand up and be counted, and he correctly identified the description of a lagoon for the next starter. After the bonuses Balliol were still 30 points behind. Following his captain’s lead, Ollie Murphy correctly guessed that Jonson said that making dictionaries is dull work. Quite.

A few minutes to go, and it was nailbitingly close again. Neither side correctly explained what UNHCR stood for. Mr. Slater buzzed in very early to identify polio as the disease which the Salk vaccine gives protection against. This to huge cheers from the Balliol supporters in the audience, as it just nudged them into a slight lead. Three bonuses were taken by identifying the decade in which particular sets of players captained the England test cricket team.

Any chance of another tie-break this week ? Not this time. From here to the gong it was all Queens’. Both starters, and three bonuses between them pulled them away, and by the bell they had won by 190 – 155. Well played both teams. Yes, the margin was clear enough by the end, but everything was in doubt right up until the last two minutes. If I’m honest I think its very unlikely that 155 will quite be enough for Balliol to make the repechage. So bad luck, but well done anyway for playing your part in another terrific match. Congratulations Queens’ .

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Yeeesssss ! The Paxmeister is back in town. Alright, we only caught a glimpse tonight, but it was a good ‘un. When given a definition of the famous Portland Vase, William Bellfield of Queens’ offered “The Elgin Marbles”. JP gave him what I believe is commonly called an old-fashioned look, and replied, his voice dripping with disdain, “Lord ! No!”

Interesting Fact Of The Week I Didn’t Already Know

Excluding micro states and island nations, Bangladesh is the world’s most densely populated country.


Jack said...

Well, I may be away, but I can still find the time to watch UC and comment on it! I should point out that both my grandparents were at Cambridge, so I may be a bit biased when it comes to future Oxbridge matches.

Not sure if Balliol have done enough to come back. They still have a reasonable chance, I feel. They'd have just missed out last year though. That doesn't help matters for them.

But after three very close matches, a trouncing is now well overdue. Next week, Peterhouse Cambridge play Exeter, and if Jacob Funnell (from the 2008/09 team) is to be beleived on his page, the new Exeter team is very good. I look forward to it. Well, I always look forward to UC! And your reviews of the matches! ;)

Londinius said...

Hello Jack

Your dedication to the cause of University Challenge can only be commended !

So far this serie the losing scores in the first two matches were higher than the scores needed to qualify for the repechage round last year. So I think its reasonable to say that the banker is only going to pay 170s and over. In fact the target could be even higher this year. so I'm very sorry to Balliol, who were a good team, but I don't see them qualifying. For their sakes I hope I'm wrong.


Unknown said...

ok, something is doing my head in on this one. You said your favourite starter of the show was the one where if a=1, b=2, c=3 etc. then what do the first three letters on a qwerty keyboard equal and the answer was 44. Well, here's the thing. q=17, w=23 and e=5 which total 45. Now either I'm making some horrendous mistake or UC have mucked up.

Another Anne said...

Nononono, Jonathan, it was the first three letters vertically - Q, A and Z. That's 17, 1 and 26.

Londinius said...

Hello Jonathan and Anne,

Jonathan, I must apologise , since the mistake was all mine. Anne is absolutely right that it referred to the first three letters vertically, but I didn't get that while I watched the show. Thanks for that Anne.

Emma, forgive me for saying this if your comments really are genuine, but I do take some exception to you leaving a comment which links into a commercial site, without so much as a by - your - leave. I shall leave your comment for now, but any other attempts to do something like this with my blog will force me to delete your comments.


Londinius said...

Actually, thinking about it, Emma, I'm sorry, but I am deleting your comment now. If you wish to repost you are very welcome to do so, but any comment linking into a commercial site will also be deleted.