Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Mastermind Champion of Champions Heat 3

Alright, I’m biased, but I think that this has been a great little series so far. If as you’ve been watching you’ve thought it looks like all the champions were really getting into the spirit of the show, and really enjoying it, then there’s a reason for that. They did and they were.

The first of tonight’s champions was Richard Sturch.

Richard was crowned champion in 1996. His subjects then were Charles Williams, Frederick III, German Emperor, and for the final, the Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Tonight he opted for a new subject in the shape of Michael of Romania.

I enjoyed Richard’s piece to camera very much. He explained that he had entered primarily to counter the way that television had a way of portraying clergymen as rather amiable fatheads. He also explained how he had played in a heat of no less than 4 clergymen, which was originally meant to be shown on Easter Sunday, although for some reason it didn’t go out then. So that confirms that even back in Magnus’ day the schedulers would play silly buggers with the show when they felt like it.

Despite picking a totally new subject for the show, Richard put on a fine performance to lay down the gauntlet with a very impressive 15 and 1 pass.

Second to go was Andy Page.

Andy holds the enviable distinction of being the first ever Humphrys era champion, from 2003. His subjects were Academy Awards, ironically Gilbert and Sullivan as well, and Golf Majors for the final, which is probably as diverse a set of three subjects as you are likely to find. Tonight Andy followed what seems to be a pretty universal policy of the Humphrys champions, by opting for a completely new subject in the shape of the TV series Arrested Development.

Again, I really enjoyed his chat to camera. He explained watching the show as a child, something I can totally relate to. Winning the show was the fulfillment of a long held ambition, and again this is something which really strikes a chord with me too.

Alas, this heat was filmed immediately before my show, and I only saw Andy briefly in the corridor as they were going out and we were coming in, so was only able to shake the hand of an internet friend I’d never yet met in the flesh. I didn’t have my camera with me, so no picture of Andy, or David for that matter. Guys, I sincerely apologise.

Andy, frankly, went like the clappers on his round, getting through a highly impressive number of questions, of which he too achieved 15 correct answers.

The next champion was Nancy Dickmann.

Where do I start talking about the distinctions of my friend and successor , 2008 champion Nancy ? First and so far only lady champion of the Humphrys era. Nancy is settled in the UK, but she is originally from the States, and so to this extent our first ever overseas champion. In 2008 Nancy’s subjects were the Amelia Peabody novels of Elizabeth Peters, the Life and Films of Fritz Lang, and for the final, the Lewis and Clark Expedition. True to expectation, as a Humphrys champion, Nancy chose a new subject tonight, the Life of Roald Amundsen.

Nancy hit the nail on the head in her filmed insert when she said that its not easy to win Mastermind. I was interested to watch Poet Laureate Andrew Motion present the trophy. Shall I let you into a secret ? It should have been me to present the trophy, but I had to decline the chance. It was a special day at school , well in one way every day at school is special, and the special project I was doing with the new Year 7 pupils couldn’t be done by anyone else at short notice. Still, how many people can say that the Poet Laureate has been their stand in ? I digress.

When you watch these shows you are reminded just how good these champions were. Nancy fairly snapped out her answers with hardly the slightest hesitation during the whole round, and some of these seemed very long questions too. 16 and no passes put Nancy into the lead.

Last but not least of these champions was the 1990 champion, David Edwards.

I’ve known David for a couple of years now, and the most honest thing I can say about him is he is just as brilliant, charming, humble and nice as he manages to project on the telly. He’s a great guy. In 1990 David’s subjects were Michael Faraday, Benjamin Thompson, and James Clark Maxwell. David exercised the option of taking a brand new subject, and what a subject it was, none other than the mystery of Rennes le Chateau. As a reader of Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the Tomb of God, Foucault’s Pendulum ad many others, I thought that this was a great subject to choose.

In his filmed insert David modestly described his win on Millionaire as just a big one. BBC rather spoiled this by actually showing the clip of him winning, and the word Millionaire being flashed in bold underneath ! David described the challenges of Mastermind and Millionaire as being very different. You never said a truer word as far as I’m concerned, David.

This was one of those subjects which was full of interest, but as a specialist subject should only ever be approached with caution. David threw caution to the winds, and only dropped two points on the way to equalling Nancy’s score with 16 and no passes.

So the contest was beautifully balanced moving towards the GK rounds, with only 1 point separating 4 champions. First back to the chair was Richard Sturch. He got off to a cracking start. And put on a very good display, only really being undone by popular culture and sport questions. Still 11 points on GK is absolutely never to be sniffed at, and he was still in with a chance of winning. Not by the time that Andy’s round had finished, though. Andy ripped through his round like an express train. He didn’t know all of the answers, but he didn’t waste ay time worrying about those he didn’t. By the end of the round he had raised the bar to 27.

Nancy , then, needed 11 and less than 8 passes to take the lead. She’d never scored less than this during her championship series. She too, like Andy, raced through the round, dropping a couple, but picking out those that were there to be got. By the end she’d scored 11. Like Andy, this meant a total of 27, but only 2 passes put her on top of the podium. Only David could possibly relegate her now.

It was always going to be close. David stumbled for a moment before passing his first question, and then too , like those who had gone before, started finding answers at breakneck speed. He had to, since the target was not an easy one. John began the last question just as the buzzer sounded. At this stage David had 11 and 2 passes, and a tie break would be the result if he could not find a correct answer. He could and he did, and claimed the third spot in the final, which now has a line up of 2 Magnus and one Humphrys champion so far.

That was a great contest- very well played to all of you.

As for tomorrow’s show, well the review will be a little different because, well, I’m in it.

The Details

Richard Sturch Michael of Romania 15 – 1 11 - 5 26 – 6
Andy Page The TV Series Arrested Development 15 – 5 12- 3 27 - 8
Nancy Dickmann The Life and Career of Roald Amundsen 16 – 0 11- 2 27 - 2
David Edwards The Mystery of Rennes le Chateau 16 – 0 12 – 2 28 – 2


Chatterbox said...

Nancy deserved to win - David was given too much time after the beep to answer the last question giving him the crucial one point lead.

Londinius said...

Hello Chatterbox

I've watched the end of David's round on the iplayer since reading your comment. Yes, I agree that the pause was a bit of a long one after the question was asked. However it is not uncommon in the show for a contender to be given a tiny bit of leeway on the last question. In my opinion it was fair - and Nancy herself gave no hint at all that she was in any way upset about what had happened when I spoke to her directly after this show was recorded. In a great show the result will often hinge on small moments such as this one. I personally felt hat the time allowed to David was nothing untoward.

Thanks for dropping by.

Gruff said...

After the buzzer is the only occasion where the contestant has the luxury of time. What happened last night is not uncommon and nor was it an extreme example.

I would imagine that David simply took the opportunity to mentally re-check his answer before giving it. Something along the lines of: "I think it's Alba, Hibernia was Ireland, it's not Caledonia which was Roman rather than Gaelic, it has to be Alba".

No greater luck hath a Mastermind contestant than for the question master to begin a question just as the buzzer goes. It's part of the game, always has been and always will.

Plus Chatterbox is assuming that Nancy would have gone on to beat David in a tie-break. That would by no means be a certainty. They are both very good quizzers so it would be down to the luck of the draw with the questions.

Unknown said...

If David had not come up with any answer at all it would have counted as a pass, I think, which would have meant a win for me (two passes as opposed to three). If he had given an incorrect answer then it would have gone to a tie-break, as you say.

I don't think the amount of time he took to give his answer was at all unreasonable - JH normally gives contestants that long (if not longer) when the buzzer has already gone. Although I was disappointed not to win, there are no hard feelings at all. David is a top quizzer as well as a lovely chap and I'm pretty chuffed to have come so close to beating him!

Thanks as always for the review, David. Looking forward to seeing your heat tonight!

Gruff said...

Good point Nancy re: the implications of a non-answer to that final question, although I don't think that was ever on the cards.

I can only assume with David's first question that he didn't hear it properly. It struck me as odd that he couldn't even muster a guess when the question was asking for a country. I know that JH has a tendency to slur and merge words, which are later re-recorded for transmission. Perhaps Nancy can shed some light on whether this was the case. Or did David simply freeze on that question?

Anyway, it was a fantastic episode with 4 great competitors and a nail biting conclusion. What more can you ask for?

Londinius said...

Hi Gareth and Nancy,

Nancy, thanks for commenting on this one. I'm not being insincere, am I, when I say that for all of 16 of us there, while we would have loved to have won a place in the final, we were all just happy to be there and be part of it. I had an amazing day, and I know that you enjoyed it too.

Gareth, agreed it was a wonderful show. However, just you wait until tonight . . . !

Léon said...

Hi there, just want to say I enjoy following your blog -- found it when I googled for "champion of champions" upon seeing it in the TV listing Monday. I'm watching from the Netherlands and like reading your review and recapitulation afterwards!

I guess I was rooting for Nancy to win, being a bit biased towards her since she's the only one I've seen winning, in 2008.

Looking forward to tonight's show!

Léon said...

Ah... just a short follow-up on myself... thought it strange that it was as long ago as 2008 that I saw Nancy win, but I see now that it was aired just last year :-)

Londinius said...

Hello Leon !

How lovely to have a correspondent in the Netherlands , and how kind of you to take the trouble to leave a comment.

David and Nancy are both friends of mine, so I can't take sides, but put it this way, whoever had won the heat we'd have had a worthy finalist going forward, and that goes for Andy and Richard as well.