Friday, 6 August 2010

Mastermind Champion of Champions Grand Final

The first part of this post is taken from my journal of my involvement with Champion of Champions : -

I was pleasantly surprised that the school allowed me to leave at 12:30 today. Call time wasn’t until 6:15, so I wasn’t too worried about making it on time, so long as we didn’t get caught up in a huge tailback where the M5 joins the M6. This had happened in 2007 when I was driving up for my semi. Then, thankfully, I was staying overnight in Manchester before the show, so that didn’t matter. Navigator for the day was my daughter Jenniffer. I’ll be honest, since I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, and understand what its all about I have actually found that I’m better on long journeys, and don’t experience the drowsiness I sometimes used to get. But at the moment I just don’t feel confident with it, and so I like to have someone accompany me on a long drive. We arrived in Manchester in plenty of time to go to Asda and stock up on supplies and cheap petrol for the return journey before reporting to the studios.

All 4 contestants, Pat, Jesse, Gavin and David were there already. It was lovely to catch up with all of them, but we didn’t have a great amount of time to talk, as the team wanted to brief them all for the show. With the best will in the world, the best thing you can do as stand – in is to keep out of the way and enjoy the show. Which I am glad to say I did.

The Magnificent 4 – plus 1. Left to right – Me, Pat Gibson, David Edwards, Jesse Honey, Gavin Fuller

We were a little late going into the studio. The Champion of Champions show was being recorded at the end of a day of recordings of regular Mastermind. As it happened a friend was in the last heat of the day to be recorded before the final. She explained that during the recording there had been such a colossal downpour that the studio had flooded ! I kid you not ! Still, once we actually got into the studio and the recording started it went as smoothly as I can ever remember any of the shows I’ve been in. There were a couple of retakes of John Humphrys presenting the trophy, but that honestly was it.

Speaking of the trophy, I was delighted to see that this too was a Caithness glass bowl, although I was peeved to hear John Humphrys describe it as a ‘modest’ bowl. You only say that because you haven’t got one, John !

First into the chair was Gavin Fuller. Gavin, looking extremely elegant in tuxedo and bow tie, was answering on HMS Warrior. For those who don’t know, HMS Warrior was the world’s first iron clad warship, and a ship in many ways ahead of its time. Gavin proved to be right on time with his answers, setting a massive 17 as the standard to beat. Only one question prevented it from being the perfect round.

Pat followed, this time offering us Great Mathematicians, which was certainly a huge contrast to his first round topic of the Disney/Pixar films. Maybe Pat was not as sartorially refined tonight as Gavin, but there was a reason. Pat confided to me that he’d somewhat overheated in our show, and was running no risk of that happening tonight. Pat’s lovely wife confided to me before the start of the show that the Great Mathematicians had turned out to be a truly massive subject. Well, massive or not, Pat never has a bad round in any quiz, and he didn’t have a bad one in this show. His 16 and no passes put him just one point behind, with General Knowledge still to come.

So our first Magnus and Humphrys champions had laid down the gauntlet, and the second Magnus champion picked it up. In a way its ironic that David Edwards followed Pat into the chair. The last time we saw these two sharing a studio they were duking it out in the final of last year’s Are You An Egghead. David too looked very smart in a grey suit, as he announced that his specialist subject was Count Rumford. You could have easily forgiven him if he’d been daunted having to follow two rounds of the caliber of Gavin’s and Pat’s, but David is made of the right stuff, and he too made a complex subject look easy, whacking in another tremendous score of 16.

Finally we had Jesse Honey. There were many beautifully symmetrical things about this final, and to these you could add the fact that two contenders had opted for more formal attire, and two went a little more casual. Jesse this time opted for open necked shirt but no tie. That completes the comments from our fashion department. Following Jesse’s breath taking record breaking specialist round in the heats, to say there was an air of expectancy as he made his way to the chair would be a bit of an understatement. In the heat Jesse had answered on international flags. Now Jesse was answering on Westminster Cathedral. That’s the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and not the more famous Westminster Abbey. In the 2010 regular series Grand Final Jesse scored 18 on Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. He came close to equaling that, but leveled out at 17 and 1 pass. We’ll come back to that.

During the interval John Humphrys paid tribute to a first round the like of which we’ve certainly not seen during his own tenure, and possibly never before either. The aggregate score of 66 would take some beating. Just as importantly, only one point separated the 4 champions. It literally was anybody’s game, and that’s the way it should be.

Pat returned to the chair first. Now, unlike the heats, in the final we were playing by the new rules, which give contenders 2 and a half minutes on General Knowledge. With great concentration, Pat went on to demolish his set of GK questions, scoring a massively impressive 20, to set the bar at 36 and no passes. It was a stunning round, with questions coming from all angles, and Pat just sending them straight back where they came from. Stunning to watch. Beat that. Well , with three of the contenders on no passes going into the round, a tie break was certainly not out of the question.

Well, they all tried. David returned to the chair, and I’m not sure that there was a huge amount of sympathy in John Humphhrys’ comment – yes, you may very well wince ! David didn’t make his own job any easier by missing the first question, but he got into a hell of a good run after that. He got slightly bogged down in the mid 20s, but then picked up speed again with a tremendous run towards the end of the round. By the time the buzzer went he had added a symmetrical 16 to take his score to 32.

Gavin next returned to the chair. If he could equal Pat’s 20, then he would go into outright lead. If he scored 19, then he and Pat would be tied, with only Jesse to go. Even in a 2 and a half minute round 19 is a fearsome target to have to contemplate.Gavin was going great guns until the score reached 25, then a couple of passes pulled him up slightly in his tracks. He rallied on what I felt was the set of GK questions I would least like to have been given myself, to add 15 to his score.

So it all rested with Jesse. I know that many people have seen this final as a shootout between Pat and Jesse. This is very unfair to both David and Gavin, either of whom might have won the series and become a worthy champion of champions. Still, only Jesse stood between Pat and the title now. Jesse too needed 20 points for an outright win. Lets come back to that pass. Jesse was in exactly the same position I had been in in the heat. I had outscored Pat by one point on specialist. However I had accrued a pass in doing so. That meant I had to equal Pat’s GK score. So it was for Jesse. He had to equal Pat’s GK score - 19 would mean a pass countback – and we already knew that Pat had none. 150 seconds later we knew. Jesse produced yet another amazing, stupendous, barnstorming GK round, almost, but not quite as good as Pat’s. He scored 19, and as he already had a pass going into the last round, that meant that there was only one winner, the great Pat Gibson.

On a personal note, I would have loved to have played in the final as well, but it was a privilege to be able to watch it live with the audience. I spoke to Jon Kelly, the producer, after the show, and he said how proud he is of this show, being the most remarkable Mastermind show he has ever been associated with. You won’t catch me disagreeing with that, Jon. Loved playing in the series, loved watching the series.

The Details

Gavin Fuller HMS Warrior 17 – 015 – 2 32 – 2
Pat GibsonGreat Mathematicians 16 – 0 20 – 0 36 - 0
David Edwards Count Rumford16 – 0 16 – 0 32 - 0
Jesse Honey Westminster Cathedral 17 – 1 19 – 1 36 – 2


Ben Dutton said...

An absolutely cracking final episode and some of the best quizzing we've seen on TV. I loved it and the producers should be proud of it. If only all TV quiz shows had the dignity of this one.

On an unrelated note: I was talking with a friend about the changes to Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and he said there used to be another quiz show that offered the player a chance to switch a question they didn't like. I don't recall such a quiz, but I said, if it had happened, I knew a man who might. So, any idea?

Will Jones said...

Excellent series and excellent reports. Sorry if I've missed it, but I was wondering what your subject would have been if you had into the breach at the last minute. Hopefully not a new one!

Gruff said...

A truly great final to perfectly top off a brilliant series.

Ben, The People Versus had a switch option. I don't know if that's the show you are thinking of

Londinius said...

Hi Ben, Gareth and Will.

Ben, Gareth beat me to it ! He's absolutely right that the switch option was used on The People's Quiz.

Will, my subject had I been needed in the final was the Daughters of Queen Victoria, and I did have a few weeks to learn it just in case. It was a new one for me, although very similar to Kath's subject from the last final, when she took the Granddaughters.

I did originally want to do the Tour de France, but this was rejected. Could it be that someone is using it in this series to come, perhaps ?

DrTim said...


Yes, an excellent series and final. I was barracking for Jesse in the final and I thought he should have had it ... if only he had 23 in the specialist again :)

So I just wanted to throw out there 2 things I have wondered but don't seem to have been discussed.

a) The virtues of passing versus just saying 'Kevin' if you don't know. I know that a Pass means JH won't read the answer saving a second but passes seem to always come back to haunt you. Has anyone done an analysis of the probability of getting an extra question by passing versus just saying 'Kevin'. I would think it was possible?

b) From my armchair it seems like the topic you choose for the specialist results in quite a range of the number of questions JH gets out in 2 minutes. Basically how succinct are the questions going to be? Because in Jesse's 'Flags of the World' subject he got 23/23 ... most other specialist rounds only have 17 or 18 questions. So do the contestants put much thought into picking subjects that will result in more questions? Do the producers ensure that there are the same number of 'words' overall in the questions so as not to bias the first round?

And of course ... is all this way too serious :)


Londinius said...

Hi Dr. Tim

Great post and very interesting questions.

Re: Passing. Of course it is always better to give an answer than pass. As a matter of fact John Humphrys told me off for passing, saying that I should have done a Rav Wilding. Rav said cheese sandwich and television to answers he didn't know. But you are under pressure, and sometimes your brain just doesn't work quickly enough to do it. Hence my first round problem. After passing in my specialist round of my first round show in 2007, I vowed never to pass again for the whole series, and in five return visits to the chair I never did. But its really hard, and requires massive concentration. As far as I know no detailed analysis has been done .

Re: number of questions in a round. The team always stress that they take the greatest care so that all the contenders in the same show, if they answer every question just as quickly, should theoretically get through the same amount of questions. Yes, I know that Jesse's was exceptional, but the team try to be very meticulous about it.

Do people specifically pick subjects that they think will give them short questions ? Maybe some people do. Personally I was more worried about picking things which I already had some written sources of information about so that I wouldn't have to buy a ton of new books, and which I would be happy to live, breathe and sleep for weeks at a time.


Will Jones said...

Thanks for your answer about your specialist subject. I hope you'll get to tackle it at some stage as it seems a bit of a waste to revise something and not be tested on it.

Regarding the passes discussion, as far as I was aware, if a contestant says something that is in effect a pass, it is counted as such. I don't know how strict/lax this rule is, but I think if you were to say something utterly implausible, they may count it as a pass and/or ask for the response to be re-recorded as one. I can also imagine the rules might get bent on celebrity shows.

DrTim said...

Thanks guys! Interesting stuff. I'm pretty sure I have seen contestants just saying a junk answer and there being no problem?

TIP: It's pretty well known that the guys who invented Trivial Pursuit wrote a lot of the questions in Spain so if in doubt answer Spain to the Geography questions. And I personally answer Mark Twain to any pesky Arts & Literature questions.

Now I feel like a Cheese Sandwich :)

Londinius said...

Hi Dr. Tim

Your post puts me in mind of a tactic my Thursday night team uses for questions about Wales. If you're asked a Geography question about Wales and you don't actually know the answer, we always answer Llandudno for North Wales, and Merthyr Tydfil for everywhere else. Its brought us a surprisingly good haul of points over the years !

LisaH said...

"Personally I was more worried about picking things which I already had some written sources of information about so that I wouldn't have to buy a ton of new books...."
I deliberately chose a subject I had seen a set of books advertised for, to give me a justification for buying them!