Tuesday, 9 November 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round Two Heat 2 – Oxford Brookes v. University of the Arts, London

Yes, two of the surprise packages of the first round met in an interesting contest. Oxford Brookes University showed huge nerve to emerge winners over Cardiff in the first round through a tie break, with both teams managing to break the 200 barrier. With the full backing of my Brain of Britain conqueror, Ian Bayley, they were going to be a team to watch. Sara Johnson, Austin Sherlaw- Johnson, Richard Williams and skipper Anthony McLarin completed the team. UAL completed a very impressive win over Imperial, also from London, a fine performance from first timers. Nigel Booth, Mary Vettise, Cliff Andrade and captain Adam Walker represented UAL.

Off we go. Or went. The first starter was a nicely cryptic one where three clues suggested the triumvirate of Tom Dick or Harry. Neither team fancied it. All the old quizzers watching at home probably shouted Garibaldi at the mention of red shirt for the next starter, as I certainly did, but the teams waited for a bit more before Austin Sherlaw-Johnson buzzed in with the same. They picked up one out of a set of bonuses on design. Adam Walker took a speculative punt on Homer for a Greek historian, but Sara Johnson correctly went with Herodotus. They took 2 bonuses on composers. A number starter came next. I’m sorry, but I didn’t get it. Adam walker did, though, and took the first points for UAL. 2 bonuses on sport and the Olympics followed. Anthony McLarin was in very quickly to identify the first picture starter as the flag of the British Army. The bonuses were all flags representing military forces worldwide. They took one, but identified the US Army flag – which I didn’t recognise either – as belonging to the Swiss Army. Surely their flag has lots of useful tiny gadgets coming out of it. Sorry. Back to the show. A lovely starter followed, with the word alphabetical rendered with all of its letters given in alphabetical order. Sara Johnson’s mind worked with the speed of a human computer to get that one as quickly as she did. JP certainly thought so, judging by the smile on his chops. Bonuses on kings and succession crises netted them another bonus. This left time for just one more starter before we reached the ten minute mark, and it went badly for Adam Walker, who buzzed to guess that a world heritage site at high altitude would be Macchu Picchu. I guessed that too, but when the full question was given it became clear it was asking for something different. Neither team got it. So just on the 10 minute mark Oxford Brookes had clearly had the better of the early skirmishes, leading as they did by 65 – 15.

Mary Vettise of UAL recognised definitions of belle – letters, belle – époque, and belle dame sans merci. Good shout that. Sadly no bonuses on the Hofstadtters fell to them. A question followed which seemed for all the world like a what-the-‘ell , until the last words asked for an alkaloid obtained from opium. Well, surely its got to be heroin or morphine, and skipper McLarin zagged correctly with morphine. 2 out of three bonuses on verse forms followed. Neither team recognised lines from WB Yeats – When You Are Old. Never mind. Oxford Brookes’ redoubtable captain took the next starter, correctly answering that Roald Amundsen had made the first sea crossing of the North West Passage. 2 Bonuses followed on the nervous system .All of which led to the music starter. Classical music this time, and a name the composer question. Austin Sherlaw-Johnson struck like a coiled cobra, allowing just the briefest of snatches to be heard before buzzing in with Mendelssohn. 3 more bonuses on Mendelssohn followed, and if you expected Mr Sherlaw-Johnson to take all of them you weren’t to be disappointed. Fine work. At the half way mark it was beginning to look a little bit like a rout. Sara Johnson was as confident on her Dickens for the next starter as her teammate had been on his Mendelssohn, and she knew Mr. Turveydrop was from Bleak House. Bonuses on Sondheim saw Mr. Sherlaw Johnson taking good points for the team. Another full set. A chemistry starter followed on elements of the periodic table. Anthony McLarin knew that the element in question would be lead. Bonuses on latin America followed saw them take another full set. Nobody could say that the team hadn’t thoroughly warmed to their work by this point. They were seeing the answers before JP had finished the question, and the skipper buzzed in early again to identify the official being referred to as the Lord Lieutenant. Poor UAL looked completely demoralised by this time, and I think that it was having an effect on their buzzing. This time only two bonuses on isotopes followed, but it was enough to give them 200 points, and what looked like an unassailable lead. At last Adam Walker buzzed his way back into the show, recognising that a group of definitions all referred to words beginning and ending with D – deltoid, drunkard etc. 3 bonuses were needed, and they were needed fast. Bonuses followed on headlines in the Sun, and the year in which they appeared. Nice set, and UAL managed 1 bonus, but poor old skipper Walker ignored a correct shout from Mary Vettise which would have brought another. It’s a lonely job, being captain. Normal service was resumed as Richard Williams buzzed in when he knew that JP was referring to the term devolution. A set of bonuses on European Universities saw them take one. This meant that at the 20 minute mark they led by 215 to 45.

The last part of the show, then , began with a second picture starter. Mary Vettise recognised a pretty well known painting of Lady Jane Grey, to land a set of paintings by the same artist, Delaroche.They mulled over Joan of Arc for one picture, but didn’t offer it, thus missing a second bonus. Asked for the wife of Justinian and Wordsworth’s sister, Austin Sherlaw-Johnson gave the harder one – Theodora . Dorothy would have done, since they both come from greek words for gift of the Gods. Three bonuses on International Agreements followed. Neither team knew Cardinal Richelieu. Cultured Austin Sherlaw-Johnson knew that the thuggish race in Gulliver’s Travels were the Yahoos even before JP had finished talking about an internet search engine. The Oxford Brookes Express was pretty much unstoppable, as indeed it had been for most of the contest. Messrs McLarin and Williams practically rubbed their hands together with glee when JP announced bonuses on US state capitals, and well they might, since they had them all. Still some time to go, and the 300 barrier loomed large in their windshield. Mr. Williams fancied it, just buzzing in before UAL to identify a set of cities which are all on the Danube. A couple of bonuses took them up to 285. Adam Walker halted them briefly, taking a botanical starter. Playing for pride now, UAL took their first full set on cemeteries. Well played. Sara Johnson buzzed early on the next, recognising a set of literary Smiths. With 3 bonuses they were through that barrier, and still the show wasn’t over. Cliff Andrade took the next, ad if there was time for bonuses then UAL could at least get into triple figures and respectability. Yes! There was just time for Austin Sherlaw-Johnson to tell us that Measure for Measure is set in Vienna, then the gong went. The final score, a resounding win for Oxford Brookes by 320 to 100. No shots of a jubilant Ian in the audience this time, but you can’t have everything. A seriously impressive performance, which I think will make other sides sit up and take notice. Very well done.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I must say that I thought JP read the lines from “When You Are Old” rather well tonight, almost movingly, in fact. When Anthony McLarin struggled with the words “North West Passage”, he smiled and said “ your bonuses . . . if you can get them out.“

Interesting Fact Of The Week That I Didn’t Already Know

The first Paralympics to be run in the Olympic city the same year was the 1960 Paralympics in Rome


Jack said...

Great performance from Oxford Brookes, who definitely look like a force to be reckoned with now. They showed us their strength when they did get to play in Round 1 and finally got a chance to show it this time. Ian Bayley hasn't put his views on it on the Oxford Brookes YouTube page yet, but no doubt he'll be very pleased!

Next week, though, it's Exeter vs York. An odd pairing, as it means that, for the first time since 2001-02, the two teams that came through the repechage will not meet in Round 2. Should still be another good match though!

Des Elmes said...

A truly brilliant performance from Oxford Brookes throughout - proving that that Lazarus-like comeback against Cardiff was no fluke.

Sherlaw-Johnson did impress the most, but the other three members played their parts very well too - indeed, all four got at least two starters correct. The bonus conversion rate was also excellent - 32 out of 45.

And Brookes' 320 is easily the highest score by a 1992 university - thrashing the previous record of 265 by Sheffield Hallam against Bristol in 2000/1.

Moreover, this is the fifth time that a '92 university has reached the last eight - after Glamorgan in 1996/7, London Metropolitan in 2003/4, Hertfordshire in 2005/6 and the aforementioned Sheffield Hallam.

London Met, though, went even further - beating a much-fancied Jesus Cambridge side, 225-210, to reach the semi-finals.

And after these two performances, there's no reason to suggest that Brookes won't reach the last four as well. Assuming that the quarter-final format is the same as last year, though, they'll have to win twice more - and could run into the likes of Christ's, Sheffield or the college at the other end of Headington Road (my description of Magdalen, based on its location and that of Brookes) along the way.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack and Des

Cogent and helpful comments as always. Yes, Oxford Brookes were mightily impressive, and all of them contributed starters to the cause. I think that the new format will actually increase their chances of getting through. There can't be that many sides left who would fancy their chances of definitely getting a win against them, and in the new format they can afford to lose once and still go through. Time will tell.


Paul Steeples said...

There was a composer called Robert Sherlaw-Johnson (I think he died a few years ago). If they're related, it might explain why Austin is so good a classical music questions.

HughTube said...

I agree that was a fantastic performance by Oxford Brookes, but slightly irritating for me to see another team beat 315. It also means both the teams so far in to the quarter finals have got combined scores of over 500 which no-one managed last year (St John's, Oxford got 490).

I also agree that the new system is fairer at selecting the best four semi-finalists, judging by last years sf line-up. That said I'm not sure if it would have made any difference then as they all won their first qf.

Also re Austin Sherlaw-Johnson, I think you're right, though he is studying for a PhD in music and owns a music publishing company.