Monday, 20 December 2010

Brain of Britain

Brain of Britain – First Round – Heat 9

Blimey, its cold outside. I don’t know what its like wherever you happen to be reading this, but here in Port Talbot its freezing, and we’ve had snow down since Friday. Its been snowing on and off for several days now, which is more than we’ve had than at any time since I moved here the best part of a quarter of a century ago. All of which is a very long winded way of saying that I’ve been very happy to stay by the open fire today, with the radio on, waiting for BoB.

Second to go in today’s line-up was LAM reader Min Lacey. You’re probably aware that Min was a member of the excellent Archers Admirers, semi finalists in season 3 of Only Connect, and she also won heat 6 of this year’s Mastermind. So she’s at least a semi finalist in Mastermind as well. Could she, I wondered, make it the hat trick by getting through this heat to the BoB semis ? Certainly her GK round in Mastermind this year showed that she is a good general knowledge quizzer, and so there was every hope that she could.

First to go, though, was Julie Aris. Maglev presented her with no problems, but her second question stopped her dead. Asking about the white skirt traditionally worn by men in Greece is a bit of an old chestnut, but nobody knew it. Min was stopped by her own first, not knowing it was Hitchcock who directed Blackmail among others. Plenty of time to go. Keith Porter, third to go, knew that Stingray Bay was the original name of Botany Bay, but didn’t know that chromium gives emerald its green colour. Stuart Rudd knew that Aberdeen was the third city of Scotland, but he didn’t know Fuller’s earth. Julie did. In the second round Min took an early bonus, knowing that Peter Sallis plays Norman Clegg. She took her own first question, knowing a furnicular railway, but that was as far as she went in the round. Keith missed his first. Stuart knew all about chads in the 2000 US election, but didn’t know that Louis IV and V of France ruled in the 10th century. So at this stage all were off the mark, but Stuart led with 4.

Julie again knew her first, but again failed on the 2nd. Min knew Lincoln succeeded Buchanan, but got a nasty one for her second question. Nobody knew that the Best Friend of Charleston was the USA’s first steam locomotive. Keith again missed his first , and then Stuart missed his. In all honesty this was sounding like a nervy contest, as Julie joined Stuart with 4, with Min another point behind. Round 4 gave Julie Aris a bit of bouncer to begin . In the music question I recognised Oh Superman by Laurie Anderson, but that wasn’t the question. The question was which rock musician she is married to. Its Lou Reed. Nobody knew that in the studio, or chez Clark for that matter . Min missed a gettable question, not knowing that Simone de Beauvoir was the lifelong companion of Sartre. Nobody had that. Keith didn’t know the part of the Sahara desert in the north eastern Sudan. Not easy, but gettable – the Nubian Desert. Finally Stuart missed his first on Endocrine glands. Julie’s correct buzz was enough to give her a one point lead, going into the Listener’s questions.

The first question asked where the Falcon, the Effra and another were once found, and what they were. Through my work for the final of the 2007 SOBM of Mastermind I knew that they were lost rivers of London. The team didn’t, but they did know that Holborn takes its name from a stretch of the lost river Fleet.

On with the contest. Points remained extremely hard to come by. Julie knew that a pardon in the medieval catholic church was an indulgence. Good answer. She didn’t guess that a law in Physics would be named after Hooke. Stuart did. Min got a golf question, but nobody knew that the 1971 Open champion was Lee Trevino. Keith didn’t know where the Explicit is in an early printed book. Stuart was close, but not close enough for a point. Apparently it is at the back, but not in the index. It’s the last words of the text. Now you (and I ) know. He didn’t know that Burghley Park is in Lincolnshire, but Min did. Which meant that Keith now had 2 , Min had 4 , Stuart had 5 and Julie had 6. Still anyone’s game at this stage.

Julie looked possibly most the most likely winner, as you just couldn’t see anyone scoring more than a couple of points in any one round. She knew the chestnut that Walter Gropius was the original leading figure in the Bauhaus movement. Min got another starter which prevented her scoring on her own questions. Nobody quite got the abbreviation SPQR – Senatus Populusque Romanum. Keith couldn’t answer his own question, knowing that what the germans call white coal is really hydro-electric power. Stuart missed his own on the architectural term piloti. So Julie had edged out another point, to 7. Julie then missed her first question on a pair of Webers. Keith , who had now taken stock and begun to make his move, got a bonus. Min got a question on the troy scale which nobody answered correctly. Keith then took two of his own questions on the bounce, before handing Min a bonus for naming two of the other cities in Northern Ireland apart from Belfast. Stuart knew that the first scheduled programme on BBC2 was Play School. However he missed his second. So at the end of the round Keith had pulled up to 5, equal with Min, Stuart had 6, and Julie still led with 7.

Lets think about this for a moment. This was such a tight game, and points were proving so hard to come by that anyone who could put together a string of five would surely win. In fact a string of three or four might be enough. Julie got a nice question on millefiori to start. A second music starter did for her. I was particularly pleased with myself for recognising the theme to ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier ,Spy’. Stuart knew it, putting himself level with Julie. Min got a question on John le Carre’s 22nd novel. Bad luck that since nobody quite knew it. Keith didn’t know that histamine is released by the body as part of an allergic reaction, which gave Min a bonus. Stuart’s question about the country in which a huge field of dinosaur fossils has been discovered gave her another, with China. Which meant that the scores were now Keith 5, Min and Stuart 7, and Julie 8.

Anyone could win in the last round, and with the scores so close the situation could change with each question. Julie missed her first question, so any points she got would have to come from bonuses. Min answered her first question on the Schneider trophy . Level with Julie on 8 points ! Her second did for her though, and Keith got it, on a primitive seismograph. Keith couldn’t answer what the middle name of Dorothy L. Sayers was. Mathematically this put him out of the running. Min knew it though! Yes ! I shouted . Come on Min ! She was in the lead now by one point by my reckoning. If Stuart missed his first question, and Julie couldn’t answer it. . . Stuart knew his first. 8 points, one behind Min. He knew his second , on a neutrino. 9, and a blooming good shout . Tied for first place. He knew escape velocity . 10 points, and the outright lead. He got the next wrong ,and Min buzzed in. If she was right, it was a tie ! Oh, Min, you were so close. She couldn’t quite get out Leni Reifenstahl. Julie could, though. All of which meant that at the end Keith had 6, Min and Julie both had 9, but Stuart had won with 10.

I felt emotionally drained by the end. Very hard lines Min, but well played Stuart. This wasn’t the best first round heat I’ve ever heard, but for last round drama and tension it would take some beating.

The Details

Julie Aris - 9
Min Lacey - 9
Keith Porter - 6
Stuart Rudd - 10

Current Highest scoring runners-up

John Beynon – 18
Angela Wilson - 15
Ian Cassidy - 13
Anne Finch – 11/ Richard Hedges – 11


Des Elmes said...

Well Dave, you said a string of three or four might be enough - and so it proved.

Min was terribly unlucky, though - and so was Julie, since she'd led for most of the match and led going into that last round.

Londinius said...

Hi Des,

Yes, I felt sorry for Min and also for Julie. But fair play to stuart for having the presence of mind to be able to take those three answers - I thought that the neutrino answer was a cracker.

Its a great show to play in , Brain of Britain, but if fortune decides to stop you with hard first questions then points canbe hard to come by. This is not meant as a criticism of any of the contestants, but there were just a couple of questions which went begging in this show which do fall into the category of old chestnuts, and the show can be so unforgiving that you just can't afford to let them go.