Saturday, 4 September 2010

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 3/24

Most of the time I try to be strictly impartial when writing about a quiz or a show, or a quiz show, however there are occasions when this is just not possible. Last Monday's University Challenge was one of these, and last night's Mastermind was another.

The contenders were Emma McCarthy, Ian Packham, Chris Hill and Rachael Neiman. Now, if you're a regular reader, you'll know that Rachael is in fact our very own Rach Cherryade, long time regular reader and contributor. Rach was last seen on screen with the fine Manchester University team who reached the semi finals in last year's University Challenge. Manchester beat the curse of the Clark sofa on more than one occasion last year in their run to the semis. Could Rach beat it again to reach the Mastermind semis ? Well, if vocal support from this corner of South Wales meant anything, she was certainly in with a chance.

Before Rach got her first turn in the chair, though, the other three contenders were to lay down the gauntlet. First to go was Emma McCarthy. Emma was answering on the Tudor Monarchy. I have to say that I really enjoyed this specialist subject, and found that what I remembered from A Level history was enough to enable me to build up a halfway decent score on this set of questions. She was a little unlucky to get herself tied up about the man Mary I appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. The correct answer was Reginald Pole, while Emma answered - de la Pole - perhaps thinking of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. Its the sort of thing that can happen when you're under pressure. 10 was a decent score, nothing to be ashamed of, but even at this early point looked unlikely to be a winning one.

Ian Packham came next, with another specialist subject to my liking, in the shape of the Travelogues of Michael Palin. Ian really knew his stuff. Even for someone who's watched each of these series several times - apart from the Hemingway Adventure - many of these were pretty tough. I noticed that the question setters got in a little plug for the beeb as well, by having Ian say that the Dalai Lama recognised Michael Palin because he watched the BBC ! 15 was a fine score.

Chris Hill, like Emma McCarthy, was answering on a more traditional type of Mastermind specialist subject. In Chris' case, it was Postage Stamps of the 19th Century. And if you're thinking that it sounds like a wide subject, then you're right, since this was about all of them - any stamp, anywhere in the world. If it was a stamp from the 19th century, then it was fair game. A very good start saw Chris well up with Ian up until the 6th question, when he broke the cardinal rule by having a lllooonnnggg pause followed by a pass. Fair play , he kept his head, kept answering, and scored 13, which is a good score by anyone's reckoning.

Now for Rach. I knew that Rach had decided on scottish group Belle and Sebastian for the first round when she made up her mind to apply for Mastermind. I also have an idea just how knowledgable she is about music, so I expected her to do well. I hope, though, that she won't be annoyed with me when I say that I didn't quite expect the fireworks that we were going to see in the next 2 minutes. The first 15 questions were absolutely devoured, questions 17 to 19 ditto, with only question 16 slipping through the net. I loved the way that you could see Rach giving a little smile when she knew the answers before John had finished answering the question - something people have also accused me of doing in the past. John quite rightly called Rachael's score a 'whopping' 18 points, a remarkable performance.

Not that the game was by any means over now. With the extra 30 seconds on General, certainly both Chris and Ian were still very much in it, and if Emma could produce a barnstorming performance, then she could spring a surprise. Well, it wasn't that, although to be fair she started the round extremely well, picking off 10 points in fairly short order. Last week I hypothesised that the extra 30 seconds calls for more mental stamina, and it certainly seemed the case in Emma's round, as she just seemed to run out of steam. Still, 12 points is nothing to be sniffed at.

Chris too seemed to suffer something of the same fate. He started very confidently , and very well, but lost momentum through the round. He too, though, scored 12, which put him ahead of Emma, and set the bar at 25 points. Ian Packham had answered pretty quickly and concisely during his specialist round, and I did wonder if we were going to see more of the same during the GK round. Well, to an extent yes we did, but he too levelled off at 12, for a total of 27.

My excitement , along with my volume level, had been rising throughout the GK rounds. To be honest, I never liked going last in the GK round, which has happened to me twice. However as Rach took her place in the chair this was the situation. Ian had 27 and a lot of passes. So if Rach could score 9 and less than 7 passes, then she would win. 9 and 7 passes would mean a tie break, and anything less would not be enough.
Come on Rach ! - I yelled at the set - you can SO do this ! Just keep answering, and you'll get there.
You can dismiss this as me being biased if you like, but I did think that Rachael's questions were a little bit tougher than the other three GK rounds - yes, its all subjective, I know. What Rach managed to do so well throughout the round was to keep the answers coming, and above all else, to keep her head, and keep picking off the points which were there to be scored. Progress was steady, but the clock was inexorably ticking towards the buzzer - 26 . . 27 . . Come on Rach, don't pass now . . . 28 - YES !!!!!!!!!!

Many , many congratulations to Rachael. I should point out that she is now at the very least a double semi finalist - with UC and Mastermind - and maybe, just maybe, she can go all the way with Mastermind now. Commiserations to the other contenders, all of whom justified their place in the series. If I was put on the spot I would say that Ian Packham's 27 is unlikely to get a place in the repechage, but you never know.

I feel drained ! Rach, I was so proud to be able to point you out to my kids last night and say - "I know her !" Best of luck in the semis.

The Details

Emma McCarthy The Tudor Monarchy 10 - 3 12 - 3 22 - 6
Ian Packham The Travelogues of Michael Palin 15 - 4 12 - 3 27 - 7
Chris Hill Postage Stamps of the 19th Century 13 - 1 12 - 2 25 - 3
Rachael Neiman Belle and Sebastian 18 - 0 10 - 1 28 - 1

Highest Scoring Runners - up

Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 - 7


HughTube said...

Well done Rach! I had been looking forward to it since Dave mentioned you were on and I'm delighted to see you do so well.

Dave you can certainly be excused for being biased in this instance but I also thought Rach's GK round was harder. I, perhaps rather pathetically, sometimes keep a tally on the GK questions and found I got fewer in that last set than in the others. Although a sample size of one isn't much to go by.

I enjoyed the balance of specialist subjects. Everyone knows a little about the Tudors and you could work some of the Michael Palin one's out even if you hadn't seen them, however it's sometimes pleasing to sit and know nothing at all for two minutes as I did for both the stamps and Belle and Sebastian.

Best of luck for the next round Rach.

Jack said...

I don't usually watch Mastermind, but I watched this last night because Rach was there. Boy, was I impressed by Rach and her opponents! I could hardly get any answers! Well done Rach, and best of luck for the next round (when it finally comes around)!

BTW Dave, do you happen to know how old you have to be to apply for Mastermind?

Anonymous said...

One of the other contenders had a question to which the answer was Ed Balls. I suspect the question-setters had the Fred Housego "cobblers" moment in mind and were trying to engineer a follow-up!

Londinius said...

Hi All

Hugh, there's nothing pathetic about keeping your personal tally on each of the GK rounds. When you also find yourself doing it on the specialist rounds, though, as I do , well . . .

Jack, I'm not 100% sure, but I think you have to be 18.

Jenny, I also had a Housego moment in my final in 2007 - I was asked a question about birds, to which the only possible answer was 'tits'. I went for it.

HughTube said...

I don't normally need to do it for the specialist subject, I can easily count to 2!

Des Elmes said...

Many congrats Rach!

As a BBC Northern Ireland viewer I had to wait till this evening to catch her performance, due to the usual slot being taken up by coverage of Ulster v Ospreys in the Magners League.

I suppose it was worth the wait, though. A fantastic specialist round, and a very exciting 150 seconds in GK.

I too thought that the questions Rach faced in those 150 seconds were tougher - but then, of course, such questions don't fall the same for everybody.

Congrats once again Rach, and best of luck for the semis!

Ben Dutton said...

Interesting that everybody here seems to think Rach's GK questions were tougher than the rest - I also thought that, watching the show this evening on IPlayer. Some interesting specialist subjects - two almost common ones, and two tough ones (though I got one of Rach's Belle and Sebastian ones - Todd Solondz being one of my favourite contemporary film makers). Well done to her, and can't wait for the semis.

viking_oneil said...

Well done Rach! Like Hugh, I'd heard you were on it and had been looking forward to it.

It was nail-bitingly close towards the end.

I watched it tonight on iplayer, and like everyone else who has posted I found your round of general knowledge questions noticeably harder than the previous three.

Congratulations and good luck in the semis!

Rach Cherryade said...

Aw, thanks for the lovely review Dave and thanks, Hugh, Jack, Des, Ben and Tristram for the lovely comments! I really enjoyed my specialist round (though still annoyed about the question I got wrong because it was a really stupid mistake as I knew the answer but blurted out the wrong b-side) but it was fun and the band were pretty excited to be a specialist subject which was very nice! I’m not sure if my questions were more difficult, I suppose it’s hard to judge because you're feeling so nervous at the time!

Anyway, it was a lot of fun and all the contestants were lovely and I’m looking forward to filming my second round on Tuesday. I’m doing the radio 4 shows of John Shuttleworth for my next specialist subject, I wish I could have done 3music subjects but I think they like you to do a range of subjects.

I'm a newcomer to Mastermind but I'd highly recommend applying for it, the production team have been lovely and the whole thing has been lots of fun!

Thanks again,
Best wishes,

Londinius said...

Congrats again Rach, and very good luck in the semis. I can echo Rachael's comments about Mastermind - its good fun, and a great show to be part of.