Tuesday, 17 August 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge - First Round Match 7 - Christ's Cambridge v. Liverpool University

Let me begin with an apology to the teams from Newnham Cambridge and Southampton, who contested last week’s show. I was unable to review it since I was in Spain. Anyone who would like to read a review of the show can find a very good one in Weaver’s Week – just click on the link.

Weaver's Week

So to business. Last night’s show pitted Christ’s Cambridge against Liverpool. Christ’s, originally set up in the 15th century for the training of Grammar school teachers according to JP, were represented by Charles Darwin, Earl Mountbatten, Sacha Baron Cohen and John Milton– oh no, sorry, these were some of the famous alumni. The current Christ’s team were Jack Belloli, Joe Walmswell, and Alexander Greaves, all from Greater London, and captain Natasha Simonova, most definitely not a Londoner, originally from Moscow. As for Liverpool University, it originated with just 45 students, although now numbers more than 20,000. Representing Liverpool tonight were Carol Anne Duffy, Stella Rimmington, Patricia Routledge – sorry, I’ve done it again. The real Liverpool team are Andrew Dobrzanski, Daniel Jamieson, Dave Macleod and captain Chris Murphy.

On with the show. Captain Simonova of Christ’s showed that she meant business with an early buzz for the first starter. As soon as JP mentioned “Stendahl” she confidently answered “The Red and The Black “. Lovely to see a question follow in the first set of bonuses about William Shockley – I was asked something similar in my first GK round in the 2007 Mastermind SOBM. Neither team fancied lutra lutra – it’s the latin term for the otter. The next starter was one of those North American sports teams questions. The Toronto Maple leafs and the Edmonton Oilers will have given it to quite a few of those watching at home, but both teams showed admirable nerve in waiting for JP to say “ in which WINTER sport ? “ Quickest on the buzzer was Mr. Greaves of Christ’s. Only on UC could you get a bonus round on fictional pigs – very pleased with myself for remembering that the pig in Dr. Doolittle was Gub Gub, and that the Empress of Blandings was a Berkshire. Oh well, little things please little minds , they do say.

A good interruption from Chris Murphy, identifying the word dolly from several definitions brought Liverpool their first points. A set of bonuses on Savonarola, and Liverpool themselves were on a roll-a , picking up 2 bonuses. Natasha Simonova picked up her second starter by identifying an invented writing system from The Lord of The Rings.Christ’s took a full set of bonuses on these. I recognised Klingon, and guessed the first set was from StarWars, but missed the quasi-heiroglyphs from Stargate. Christ’s didn’t, though, getting their first full set of the contest. Liverpool were straight back in with the next starter. JP described a route taken by an academic between certain European cities, and Andrew Dobrzanski buzzed in impressively quickly having worked out the route was equivalent to a letter N. I would have got there in the end, but nowhere near as quickly as that. A set of bonuses followed on biological pigments, and again, Liverpool got 2 out of 3 of them.

So at the 10 minute mark Christ’s led by 60 to 40. On paper there was hardly anything in it. There were signs, though, that Christ’s might have an advantage in terms of buzzer reaction speed. Joe Walmswell was very quickly in with the name of the body that makes up over 90% of the mass of our solar system – the Sun. A good set of bonuses on the Kochel system – by which the works of Mozart are catalogued – followed, and Christ’s impressively answered each of them with barely a hesitation. Signs perhaps that they were smoothly moving through the gears. Captain Simonova took the next starter, and three bonuses on the events leading up to the start of the English Civil War were all gratefully taken. Christ’s now were through the 100 points barrier, and hurtling towards 200, as Miss Simonova interrupted correctly , identifying a Walter Pater quote as referring to the Mona Lisa. This impressed JP , who suddenly didn’t seem quite so inclined to pick holes in her pronunciation. He was even more impressed when in one of their bonuses the team actually gave more than he wanted about the current name of a nuclear accelerator facility in Tennessee – “That is absolutely correct – “ Well, don’t sound so surprised ! Joe Walmswell followed his captain’s lead by taking the next starter, identifying the word terminator from a series of definitions. Two correct bonuses from a set of three meant that Christ’s had now scored 90 unanswered points.

Neither team managed to identify song and singer in the music starter. Chris Murphy knew it was Bob Dylan, and did exactly the right thing in having a punt on The Times They Are A Changing. Not right , unfortunately. Mind you, Christ’s didn’t recognise “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall “. Neither team identified the peyote as being of the cactus family, but Dave Macleod of Liverpool made no mistake answering that Hilary Mantell was the author of , amongst others, Wolf Hall. Liverpool were given three cover versions of the Dylan song to identify. Sadly they didn’t manage any of the bonuses. Then we were back to business as usual as Natasha Simonova continued her fine buzzer form correctly identifying a European aristocrat as the current leading member of the Royal Stuart family. Just as impressive as Christ’s buzzing was their conversion rate of bonuses into points. It didn’t seem to matter a great deal whatever subjects were asked, they always seemed to answer at least 2, and often all three of each.

Neither team identified Owen as the poet behind a quotation, although Liverpool came close with Sassoon. Christ’s took the next , with Mr. Walmswell identifying the Bay of Bengal. A set of acronyms on astronomical acronyms followed. JP seemed to become more impressed with Natasha Simonova as the game went on. She correctly buzzed in on a picture starter, identifying the year in which three photographs were taken as 1960. It IS 1960 ! our Jeremy bellowed. For once they dropped 2 bonuses, only correctly identifying the last one that showed the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing .

We were well past the 20 minute mark by now, and poor Liverpool, who had been subdued not by any great failing of their own, but by Christ’s heavy artillery on the buzzer, were only 5 points more to the good. The match was essentially over, and it would take an exceptional last few minutes to put them in reach of the repechage. Christ’s , though, having passed though 200 seemed to have their eye on the 300 barrier, as they answered the next starter by identifying the subtitle of Darwin’s “On The Origin of Species “. Well, since Darwin was the captain of Christ’s 1828 University Challenge semi finalists I should jolly well think so ! Actually at this point the foot seemed to be coming off the gas pedal a little with regards to the bonuses, since they didn’t get one of them. Alexander Greaves made up for it by taking the next starter, and earning a set of bonuses on castles and palaces in Germany. Normal service was resumed with Christ’s taking 3 out of 3.

At this late stage Natasha Simonova for once did actually get a starter wrong. In a very nice literary starter, the teams were asked “Claudius in Shakeseare’s Hamlet, and Edward Murdstone in Dickens’ David Copperfield, stood in which relation to the title character ? “ Christ’s skipper buzzed in with “Uncle “. Ah, there’s the rub. Claudius was Hamlet’s uncle, but nasty old Murdstone wasn’t David’s. They were both stepfathers. It didn’t put her off her step one little bit. She correctly took the next starter identifying that wikipedia has the word ‘search’ in 6 different languages on its homepage. The game was almost over, but I was pleased to see Daniel Jamieson of Liverpool correctly buzz in to identify a Churchill quote as referring to appeasers. Its too my shame that in their set of bonuses I didn’t know that Bruce Robinson made the film “Withnail and I “. One bonus took their score to 60.

A great UC starter followed. “Which form of precipitation occurs through the concatenation of the symbols for tin oxygen and tungsten ? “ Yeah, given enough time we could see that it would be snow – sn – tin – o – oxygen and w – tungsten. But we wouldn’t , most of us, have got it as quickly as Joe Walmswell. I did actually know the three bonuses on lanthanoids – thanks sporcle ! Christ’s were at 280 when Alexander Greaves buzzed in to correctly spell Connecticut. How much time remained ? Not enough to get them quite to 300. Not enough for any bonuses at all. The final result was a win for Christ’s by 290 to 60. No harsh words for Liverpool from JP , who merely said that the questions didn’t fall well for them. I’d say it possibly had more to do with the fact that Christ’s were so good on the buzzer. Very hard luck that. Its early days in the competition, but you have to say that this Christ’s team look very impressive. Joe Walmswell and especially captain Natasha Simonova have set themselves quite a standard to live up to in the next round. A team to watch, I think.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Not a lot to report this week. Indeed, I'm really sorry that I missed last week when Newnham were on. Last year JP seemed particularly smitten with the Newnham team as I recall. Still, I digress.
When asked to name two of the 5 members whose arrest Charles Ist sought, captain Simonova tried to offer Pym and Hampden. “Who ? !” sniffed our Jeremy, seizing the opportunity to highlight a slight mispronunciation . “ Pym and Hamp – TON ? Well, I think I’ll accept it , I think it was just a misunderstanding between the two of you. “

On the Bob Dylan covers, JP seemed rather upset that Liverpool didn’t recognise the Bryan Ferry version, saying “Amazing – how quickly these people fade !” JP a secret Roxy Music fan ? Who would have ever thought it ?

Interesting Fact That I Did Not Already Know Of The Week

Liverpool University is actually the one where the term ‘red brick university ‘ comes from.


Jack said...

Good to have you back Dave. Last week felt strangely absent without your reviews. Hope you kept yourself well while you were away.

I was hugely impressed by Christ's, particularly Miss Simonova, who seemed very confident whenever she answered. Like York a few weeks ago, they look like potential champions already. We'll need to see them again before we start betting on them to win outright though. You'd be brave to bet against them after a performance like that though.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack

Thanks for the welcome home !I take your point about Christ's looking like potential champions, although I know that you're also fully aware of the fact that the best teams don't always produce the best results in round one. Still, as you so rightly say it will take another very good team to beat them if they perform anything like this in their next match or matches.


Londinius said...

I have just deleted a comment by 'Emma'. The comment in itself is perfectly inoffensive, but she included a link to a commercial site. This is the second time that she has done this. Emma, every time I find that you have included a link to a commercial site without my prior permission your comments will be deleted. This is a forum for people to express their opinions - not a commercial opportunity for you.

IanJC said...

Unlucky for Liverpool to meet such a strong team so early in the competition.

You're right about the best teams not always doing so well in round one, last year's winner Emmanuel had to rely on being one of the highest-scoring losers.

Londinius said...

HI IanJC, and welcome to LAM.

Yes, first round form can only tell you so much. As I said, I think Liverpool, when they managed to get to the buzzer before Christ's , showed that they are better than the scoreline suggests. Its very early to be picking out favourites for the whole series, but I think we could all see that Christ's are a team to be reckoned with.

Thanks for taking time and trouble to leave a comment.