Monday, 31 January 2011

Brain of Britain - Semi Final 3

Yes, dear friends, no sooner do I review semi final 2, than I review semi final 3 ! All the wonders of modern technology. Or in this case a lull in the proceedings at lunchtime enough to allow me to listen to the first broadcast of the third semi.

The line up was
Ian Cassidy
Raymond Eaton
Michael Parsons
Iwan Thomas
All of them did well int eh first round heats, but the ones whose performances really stood out were 2006 Mastermind finalist Ray Eaton, and Iwan Thomas, who is through to the semis of this year’s Mastermind .

This show wasn’t really a nip and tuck affair like the previous show. Iwan took a very good lead in the first round with 6 points to Michael Parsons’ 2, but after that he didn’t get a run of more than two going in any round. This didn’t matter. His buzzer and bonus work was much better than any of the other contenders, and by the Beat the Brains interlude he looked very much the man to beat.

The listener’s questions were a pair of spot the odd one outs. I didn’t catch the full list of either, but caught enough to know that the first one was a set of bridge bidding conventions, apart from Steadman, which is from bellringing. The second question also proved to be similarly elusive.

In the 6th round things became rather more exciting, as Michael Parsons laid down the gauntlet by taking a full set of five and a bonus. This in a round where he took a buzzer bonus as well, to pull his score up from 5 to 12, 3 points behind Iwan. Game on ? Well, not really. Michael didn’t manage a point in the next two rounds, and while all of the contestants found points hard to come by in the last two rounds, Iwan bagged one in each and ended with a comfortable win , scoring 17 to Michael’s 12. As for Ray, well the questions just didn’t suit today, and when that happens, there’s nothing you can do. With regards to Iwan now, he’s a Brain of Britain finalist, and who’s to say he won’t do Mastermind in the same year. In fact we have the mouthwatering prospect of him becoming the first person since Kevin Ashman to hold the two titles simultaneously. Can it be done ? Sure can. Will it be done ? Your guess is as good as mine.

Brain of Britain - Semi Final 2

Brain of Britain – Semi Final 2

So sorry to everyone involved that I missed the first semi final. Unable to catch up on the iplayer, and busy on Monday lunchtimes I’ve been trying to catch the 11pm Saturday night re-run. Well a week ago I fell asleep and dozed all the way through it. So I can only apologise to the winner, whose moment of triumph has had to go unrecorded by this column.

The second semi last week though was a cracker. The contestants were, in order, Graham Barker, John Beynon, Caroline Pearce and John Watson. Graham you may recall scored a massive 30 points in his heat to record the highest score of the first round. John Beynon was a high scoring runner up, and both Caroline Pearce and John Watson had good scores in their heats as well. No mugs in this show, then.

Up until the Beat the Brains interval it was difficult to pick a winner, with both John Beynon and Graham edging ahead of the others, but neither establishing a dominance over the other. A lovely listener’s question stumped the contestants – What is the derivation of the name Aslan ? It is Turkish for lion. I didn’t know that. Mind you, like the contestants I guessed that the connection between Mein Kampf and the tribe of Naphtali is that they both translate into English as My Struggle.

Throughout the second half of the show it looked like a straight fight between Graham and John B. However John Watson also started to pick up points at this stage. Going into the final round, the positions were – Caroline Pearce had 5, John Watson – 9, Graham Barker – 11 and John Beynon – 13. Graham started the last round in fine form , picking off three in a row. This gave him 14. John B. levelled the scores with a bonus, but didn’t answer his own, a medical question, which Dr. Graham was on in a trice. 15 – 14, and advantage Graham. Caroline failed her first question – John B took it to level the scores. Then John Watson reeled off 4 correct answers on the bounce. He now had 13. If he got the 5th one right, then he would also get a bonus, and we would have a three way tie. Agony of agonies after such a great fight back, he didn’t, and John Beynon won the buzzer race to secure the point, and the win.

Great show – many commiserations , especially to John Watson and Graham, who put up a terrific fight, and couldn’t have come much closer. Congratulations to John B.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

A confession

Despite my fulminations against the evils of certain quiz practices such as using your mobiles to google answers, I have to admit to you now that I am not a paragon of quiz virtue. Only last night I was a willing participant in the rather dubious practice colloquially known as ‘bringing in a ringer’. Yes, I was that ringer.

Just in case you’re not up on the jargon, bringing in a ringer means drafting a player into your team for the sole purpose of winning a specific quiz. The player involved may well have no connection with the team at all , and never normally play in the competition involved. It’s a shady practice at best, and while not necessarily against the letter of the competitions involved, its certainly against the spirit of it. Does the fact that I recognise this make it any better ? No, didn’t think so.

Well, as Friar Lawrence tells Romeo , “Riddling confession finds but riddling shrift” so I’d better tell the story. You know about my friend John. Well, a friend of a friend of John’s asked if we would both take part in a quiz specifically for employees, family and friends of the company which he works for. We are not employees, nor are we family, and since I had never even met the chap before last night I think you’d be stretching it a bit to call us friends. Most of the times when I’ve been asked to do this I’ve found that at the bottom of it isn’t a great desire to win the quiz, or whatever prize may be on offer, it’s a desire to win bragging rights over another team, and this was the case last night.

There’s one problem with being a ringer. You might lose, and believe me, losing in these circumstances is far worse and far more embarrassing than any other you could imagine. Last night a third of the quiz was specifically to do with things work related, which john and I couldn’t help with. The upshot of this being that we had an 8 point lead after the first third, which had been whittled down to a 1 point lead going into the last part of the quiz. We just about limped over the line to avoid the embarrassment, but it was a close run thing.

Mastermind - First Round Heat 20

Last night’s show was highly watchable, if for no other reason than the fact that it proved that Gypsy Rose Clark’s crystal ball is on the blink again. Allow me to elucidate.

First to go was Martin Short – no, not the little feller from The Three Amigos. He had what I would say was the most esoteric subject of the show, in the shape of The Witches of Pendle. If I may be allowed a small digression, it immediately put me in mind of something the late great Magnus wrote in “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish”, his history of the first 25 years of the show. He recalled the appearance of Dr. Reginald Webster, an eminent scholar and former Brain of Britain, in one of the very earliest series, who answered on ‘Witchcraft’. What transpired was that the question setter apparently knew a lot less about his subject than Dr. Webster did, and what resulted was a round in which practically every other question was challenged by Dr. Webster – who won the heat and advanced, taking a different subject. So witches as a subject have a rather chequered history in the show. I can’t answer how difficult or fair these questions were, since alone of all of tonight’s subjects I didn’t manage to answer any of them, but Martin scored 8.

Right – here comes the prediction. At this stage I turned to Jess and said – well, he won’t be back in the semis.

Next up was a subject much more to my liking, as Matthew Cheadle offered us the England Football team in the World Cup, beloved of masochists throughout the land. I didn’t do as well as Matthew, who scored a good 11, although at one stage he looked set for an even higher score before becoming a little bogged down as the round progressed. Still, I got 8, which I was pretty pleased with. I knew that the linesman and ref who didn’t give the Lampard goal in last summer’s fiasco were Uruguayan, for example. Still, at this stage I made the confident prediction that 11, although good, would not give Matthew the lead after round one.

Peter Cookson’s subject , the Life and Music of Gary Numan, was less to my liking, although I did manage a couple of correct answers. I was in my mid teens when Tubeways Army topped the charts with “Are Friends Electric ? “ and then Gary had his solo hits, but I have to say that he and his music were never for me. Sorry Gary. Peter seemed very nervous. I don’t know whether the questions just concentrated on areas of the subject he had given less thought and preparation to, or whether he just had a ‘mare in the chair, but the round didn’t go well. He scored 6.

Second World War subjects have cropped up regularly throughout the history of the show – indeed in the final of the 2007 SOBM I remember the other David, David Down taking the Normandy Landings and scoring a fantastic 16 on it. Our last contender, Glen Entwhistle, was answering on Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Russia during World War II. I had a couple, but got nowhere near the 9 Glen scored, which to my limited knowledge of the subject looked like a pretty good score on some very difficult questions.

So, at the end of the round, we had so far only seen one score in double figures. Despite my prediction, Martin Short wasn’t out of it, only 3 behind on 8. The smart money still said that Matthew or Glen were more likely to do it, but one thing looked certain. The four of them were all out of contention for a highest scoring runners up spot, so nothing less than winning the show would do.

Peter Cookson returned, and to be honest he still seemed rather shell shocked after his first round. He managed to add 7 to take his score up to 13. OK, not great, but there you go, it happens. Its only a game. ( I can’t believe I just said that ) . Martin came next, and he did considerably better. In a 2 minute round 12 is a pretty good score. Even in a 2 and a half minute round it’s a decent effort, and although his score of 20 was lower than any winning score we have so far had in this series, the fact was that he was still in with a shout. Especially after Glen Entwhistle struggled his way to 6 for a total of 15. So only Matthew Cheadle remained to bar Martin’s passage into the semis. The total required , 9 and 2 passes or less didn’t look that difficult, but then it had been a nervy, edgy show throughout, and you had the feeling that maybe this wasn’t all over yet. As indeed it wasn’t. Matthew picked off a couple, but then either nerves, or brain freeze, or an unlucky run of questions that he just couldn’t answer kicked in, and he managed only 4, to take joint second place, and leave Martin, whom I had confidently predicted could kiss goodbye to his chances after the first round, with a comfortable 5 point win.

Well, one of the programme’s delights is its capacity to surprise us, and this show certainly lived up to that. Thanks for playing guys anyway. Not the most impressive performances we’ve ever seen, but if we didn’t have contenders willing to give it a go, then we wouldn’t have a show.

Congratulations to Hamish Cameron as well, who is now guaranteed a repechage slot in the semi finals.

The Details

Martin Short Witches of Pendle8 - 212 - 120 - 3
Matthew CheadleThe England Football Team in the World Cup11 – 0 4 - 415 - 4
Peter CooksonLife and Music of Gary Numan6 - 57 - 513 - 10
Glen EntwhistleOperation Barbarossa9 - 26 - 415 - 6

Current Highest Scoring Runners-Up

Nick Mills – 34 – 4
Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 – 2
Philip Evans – 28 - 1
Duncan Byrne – 27 – 2

Neil Richardson

This is very late to write about his, I know, but it was only in this past week that I read of that Neil Richardson passed away in November. You might not know the name, but Neil Richardson wrote ‘Approaching Menace’, the theme of Mastermind. I’m sure that he wrote much else besides, but I wonder if any other piece of music he ever composed put the wind up quite so many people as “Approaching Menace” has in its time ?

When you record a show, you are doing it in a studio complete with audience, and the theme is not something that is dubbed on afterwards in production. You sit there, you get counted down to when recording of the show is going to begin, and then they play the music at full blast. The first time that you take part in a show, that’s the part where it all starts to get a bit weird. There’s no doubt at all that the start of the show is an intimidating experience, and that owes a lot to the music, which was absolutely perfect for the show.

In “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish” if I recall correctly Magnus describes how Bill Wright found the piece, newly composed, within the BBC library. Fortunate occurrence for all concerned.

PC Probs

If I was a better man I would be able to laugh at this. You may have noticed the fact that I only tend to post on LAM once a week at the moment. This is due to my ongoing PC problems. First the laptop caught a virus and died. Then the PC gave up the ghost. Now I find that my daughter's 3 month old laptop has also packed in ! So I am currently throwing myself upon the mercy of the County Borough Of Neath and Port Talbot Library services public computers. I hope that the jinx doesn't continue and I burn the whole system out !

University Challenge - Quarter Finals Match 3

Are we sitting comfortably ? Good, then I’ll begin. This, ladies and gents, was a biggie. You’ll recall that I made my predictions for better or worse of the four teams that would make it through to the semis. Two of them were drawn to clash in tonight’s match. Magdalen Oxford had been possibly the most impressive of all the teams in the first round, although perhaps not quite as sharp in their second round match. Three big hitters in the shape of James McComish, Kyle Haddad – Fonda and Will Cudmore offered captain Matthew Chan plenty of options. Sheffield are, as you’ve probably worked out by now, my adopted team for this season, with at least three LAM readers in their team – our own Hugh Bennett and Tris Cole, and also Andy Bolton, who backed captain Tom Thirkell. On with the motley – sorry, the match.

Tris took the first starter, recognising that the five letter word that JP was looking for was magic. So was his answer. A couple of bonuses were taken on political terms. James McComish started early tonight taking the next starter on Marcel Proust – there was no temps perdu here ! Sorry. They also took two bonuses on Central America. James also took the next , recognising a good gossip when he heard one, and once again two bonuses on novels adapted for the screen. Then 4 consecutive Sheffield starters followed, as my boys began to find top gear. Andy recognised a definition of a prism. Hugh took the picture starter, seeing the late Joan Sutherland . Here’s a thought – had she actually passed away before they recorded the show ? Unpleasant coincidence if not. Hugh took a second consecutive starter with woodpeckers, an exceptionally good anticipation that one, I thought. Finally Tris recognised a quotation from Wordsworth. At the 10 minute mark Sheffield were firmly in the driving seat, and looked good value for their lead, of 85 to 40.

Magdalen are far too good to be just brushed aside, though. Andy added to the lead when he identified the ancient site on Orkney under discussion as Skara Brae. Only 1 bonus on mutinies followed. Then both teams were becalmed for a while, as two starters passed by untaken. Kyle Haddad –Fonda, one of Magdalen’s big hitters, miscued , allowing Andy Bolton to grab the points for the Eustachian tube. Then Kyle Haddad-Fonda found his range. He buzzed in extremely quickly to identify the music of Offenbach on the music starter. He followed this up with the next, on Bretton Woods. James McComish then knew that the small duchy being asked for in the next starter was Cleeves. It was Andy Bolton’s turn to miscue on the next starter, but he was doing the right thing. When the opposition are building up momentum like this, you have to get in on the buzzer. He managed this with the next one, knowing well that the album prize created as an antidote to the Brits is the Mercury Music prize. Kyle Haddad-Fonda took his third correct starter of the mid period next with Charlemagne, a quick buzz which earned JPs approval – not easily done, that. James McComish took the next on the Human Development Index, to release a UC special – a set of bonuses on anagrams of elements. Cracking good set . As dominant as Sheffield had been in the first period, Magdalen had repaid this by the 20 minute mark, with the scores now standing at 135 apiece.

Nip and tuck, then. Not half. Hugh fought back with the next starter on Bombay. No bonuses followed on my home city . Shame on you boys ! Will Cudmore finally got on the scoreboard with the 1001 Arabian Nights. 3 bonuses on pictures from the same followed. Nobody took the next, but then Kyle H-F. answered that apart from black and white there are four colours on the flag of South Africa. Quite right. Will Cudmore took the next, knowing that we were dealing with Shakespeare’s King Henry IV. Magdalen were stretching away. Was it to end like this ? No, , at least, not yet. You have to say, though, with a few minutes left and a 45 point lead they looked like the favourites. Andy Bolton made a crucial buzz with the next to identify glycogen. A cracking pressure answer. Tris took the next with Rebus. With 5 bonuses out of 6 the boys were all square. Hugh took the next starter, knowing that the two primes whose sum makes up the next prime are 2 and 3. Yet no bonuses were taken on shellfish. Kyle H-F., very much the hero of the Magdalen team tonight, weighed in yet again with the word Her for the next starter, and two bonuses on deserts followed. This was undone with a Will Cudmore miscue, which allowed Hugh to inform JP that it was Eisenhower who was president when Macmillan became PM. Just so. That man Haddad-Fonda was back again to save Magdalen with the next starter. Just in front now, there was only one more starter to go. Will Cudmore miscued, supplying the wrong girl’s name - 5 points gone. If Tris, who buzzed for Sheffield got it wrong, then Magdalen would win anyway. “Agnes” he replied, cool as a cucumber. Correct, of course. Sheffield now had a 5 point lead, and no time remained at all as the gong sounded.

My goodness, what a great match. Sheffield, I’m so proud of you ! Many congratulations. As for Magdalen – I know that it must have hit you hard. But you played a blinder too, and I can’t see that you won’t get to the semis as well playing like that.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

No doubt in my mind that JP saw this as a crunch match between two of the top contenders, and he was on his best behaviour in the show. In fact I have to pay tribute to the way he rushed Magdalen through their last set of bonuses to get the last starter in – anyone who says he is automatically biased towards Oxford and Cambridge should understand that on reflection this may well have cost Magdalen the match.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
Insects take their name from the fact that their species are divided into classes – in – sects see ?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Nobody's Perfect

No, nobody’s perfect, and no quiz is either, although 15 to 1 came close. Rather closer than 12 Yard’s ‘Perfection’, which I caught for the first time on the BBC last week. Let’s be fair, though – very few quizzes could approach that standard. So let’s judge it on its own merits, shall we ?

Right , its confession time. I haven’t been able to catch a whole show yet – see, I told you I was busy – so any of my comments must be viewed in this light. But I’m fairly confident that I’ve got the point of how it works. You might have more than one game in one show. At the start of a game there are four contestants, one of whom will be randomly selected by the computer. That one will play for the money, and the other three – now christened the Usual Suspects – will play to frustrate them contestant and deny them the cash. Sort of. There are several rounds. In each round the contestant is asked a number of true or false questions. If the contestant answers them all perfectly – hence the title of the game – then they win the round. If not, then the Usual Suspects will be told, for the sake of argument – the contender has three answers correct, and one wrong. So all they have to do is supply a correct set of answers. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. If they give more correct than the contender, then they win the round.

Whoever wins the round gets to choose two categories from a selection , which will be question categories for the final round, where the money can be won. It’s in the contender’s interest obviously to select categories they think they can answer. Its in the Usual Suspects’ interests to select categories to make the contender struggle. Why ? Well, once the rounds have all been played out then the questions in the six categories get read out. If the contender has a perfect set of answers, then the money is his or hers. If not, though, they can enlist help of the Usual Suspects. Lets say that the contender is uncertain about the answers given. They can turn to the Usual Suspects. If any one of the Suspects knows for certain that there are wrong answers, they can negotiate their own fee for coming out and sorting out the answers. So if the prize – which starts at £1000, but rolls over when not won – is £3,000 lets say, a canny player might reasonably ask for half of that if they are certain of the answers.

I suppose that this part of the show is a tiny bit reminiscent of Sky’s unenjoyable Sell Me The Answer – but much less nasty. Come to think of it this sort of gimmick was originally used in The Vault , and that wasn’t a bad show. This isn’t a bad show either. Its not the best thing since sliced bread, admittedly. There aren’t enough questions for my taste – you know me, the more questions asked in a show, the more I like it. Its central to the workings of the show, but I don’t particularly care for a non stop diet of true or false questions either. But that’s just me, and by all means feel free to disagree with me. This is made for a teatime audience, most of whom probably aren’t quizzers, and bearing this in mind it does just fine. I like Nick Knowles – he’s a good, safe pair of hands whose served his time on Who Dares Wins and the less than impressive Guesstimation. The show is fairly simple – despite the way I’ve probably made it sound, and I think this will be part of its appeal. The Beeb have 3 teatime quizzes firmly established in the shape of Weakest Link, Eggheads and Pointless. Could this make it four ? It could, although I do know its been held back in the can, as it were for a little while, so your guess is as good as mine.

Mastermind - First Round Heat 19

I think that the last time that we saw Julia Hobbs on TV would possibly have been in the 2009 series of “Are You An Egghead ? “ As far as I know we’ve never met, but nonetheless I knew enough to know that she would be the one to beat on General Knowledge tonight. Before that though she had to negotiate her specialist round, the Life and Work of Armistead Maupin . The production team always assure all the contenders that every care is taken to ensure that if the contenders provide the optimum correct answer, then all the contenders have exactly the same amount of questions. I believe them too. But I have to say that some times I cannot help thinking that some of the contenders do get very long questions, and that is what it seemed like happened with Julia’s round. 13 was a good score to take away from that lot.

Stan Hedley’s round on Prehistoric Orkney was one which I guessed would be unlikely to give me many chances at getting any answers correct, and I was right. Skara Brae is about the limit of my knowledge, I’m afraid, and when those words were contained within the question, and not part of the answer, I was out with the washing. Still, Stan knew his stuff. I don’t care what your subject might be, 15 is very good going.

The Films of Michael Mann was this week’s dip into the world of popular culture. As the round rolled on I came to the conclusion that although I’ve heard of pretty much all of these films, I certainly haven’t ever watched many of them, so I’m guessing that Mr. Mann and his oeuvre probably aren’t really my cup of tea. They appeal to Nick Stewart, though, since he knows a lot about them. Anything in the teens is a good score, and his 13 and 2 passes matched Julia’s .

Finally then to Chloe Wells. Chloe was answering on the Finnish Winter War, one of the most interesting and yet underplayed conflicts of World War II. I took a couple of these , but Chloe’s performance was understandably considerably better than this. Despite seeming rather nervous, she bagged a fine 15 to take forward, and ensure that she would be last to go in the general knowledge round.

Never one to pass up the chance to show off, I boldly predicted to my nearest and dearest that although Julia would be the first to go in the GK round, she would set a target which the others would fail to reach. Well, we’ll see how true that was shortly, but she rattled along fairly comfortably, albeit that she dropped one or two that might have been gettable. Nonetheless she added another 14 to finish on 27. Looking at the fallback position of getting onto the runners up board if worse came to the worse, this wouldn’t have been quite enough, since she would have been disqualified by virtue of the 4 passes overall. So it really was all or nothing.

Poor Nick Stewart fell into one of the mothers of all pass spirals in his won round. The confidence drained out of him, and for half a dozen questions in a row all that he could force from his lips was the dreaded P word. This is when I really feel sorry for those who have to do a 2 and a half minute GK round. When you’re on a roll it goes like a flash, but when you’re struggling I should imagine it seems like an eternity. He finished on 18.

Stan Hedley kept up with the clock for much of his round, and to be honest I felt that of the two remaining contenders he looked the more likely to give Julia a run for her money. Time wore on , though, and not quite enough answers were coming. At the buzzer he was still a couple short, making it into double figures for the round, to end with 25 overall. As for Chloe Wells, it was fairly clear before the minute was up that her best round was going to be her specialist round, and there’s no dishonour in that, either. She maintained her smile, and at the end seemed to have enjoyed the whole experience, finishing with a decent 24 overall.

So well played, Julia ! Thanks for not letting me down , and making my prediction come true ! Good luck in the semis .A quick glance at the Repechage board reveals that with 5 shows to go, Nick Mills is safe. Mind you, with 34 there was no realistic chance that he wouldn’t be.

As for me, I scored 6 on all the specialists added together, and 69 on the GK, for a total of 75.

The Details

Julia Hobbs Life and works of Armistead Maupin13 - 2 14 - 227 - 4
Stan HedleyPrehistoric Orkney15 - 010 - 425 - 4
Nick StewartFilms of Michael Mann13 - 25 - 918 - 11
Chloe WellsThe Finnish Winter War15 - 19 - 724 - 8

Current Highest Scoring Runners-Up

Nick Mills – 34 – 4
Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 – 2
Philip Evans – 28 - 1
Duncan Byrne – 27 – 2

Only Connect Special - Crossworders v. University Challengers

Just HOW good are reigning University Challenge champions Emmanuel ? Well if they could live with the Crossworders, one of only two undefeated champion teams of Only Connectors , then the answer would clearly be extremely good. Brilliant in fact.

Round One – What’s the connection ?

Kicking off for the University Challengers were Jenny Harris, Josh Scott and who else, Alex Guttenplan. Indeed I may be wrong but I do think that our Victoria is something of a Guttenfan. Lucky boy. The team opted for Lion, and received a set of pictures for their pains. I didn’t recognise the first, but as the full set unfolded we came to see the flag of Qatar and a qwerty keyboard. The team had it, with words with q but no u. The Crossworders – in case you’ve forgotten they are Mark Grant, Ian Bayley, and captain David Stainer – looked behind the Eye of Horus, and saw the Swedish Air Force – KLM – HM Customs and Revenue – Rolex. All of them , as they knew, use crowns as part of their logo. All square . Behind the flax the UC team found Glass Bead Game – Merce Cunningham’s Choreography – Darma Initiative Loop – and the South Korean Flag. They didn’t get it. Then a bit of confusion among the ranks of the Corssworders saw Mark offer games of chance – then Ian offer the I Ching. When pressed to pick , captain David sportingly went with Mark’s original answer, although I’m sure he knew that Ian’s was the right one. So a potential bonus dropped, but fair play not just done, but seen to be done. The Crossworders upped the tempo with the next , taking it after three clues. Aurelian – Stonewall Jackson ( at which I , like the team, had a inkling ) and Anwar Sadat, which confirmed it for them that we had a set of people killed by their own troops. The Challengers picked the sound set behind horned viper. On three clues they correctly answered that all of the sounds we heard were sent into space on satellites – specifically the Voyager satellite. You know – the one that threatened the Enterprise in Star Trek the Motion Picture. The Crossworders finished off with Two Reeds. Fortis Shareholders and Mutadar Al Zaidi gave them the right link, and Saboteurs confirmed it – they all made protests with shoes. Liked the way that Ian protested when Kruschev was revealed that he didn’t throw his shoe. I was shouting the same thing at home ! Mind you Victoria explained that these were protests primarily , not necessarily throwings, then in a gesture reminiscent of question masters since time immerorial offered to take the points away if he so wished ! At the end of a great round the Crossworders led by 5 to 3.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

The Challengers had the horrible experience of knowing what the connection was between Parasurama – Rama and Krishna – but not what came next. Being that they are all successive avatars of Vishnu, the Crossworders knew it was Buddha. Both teams knew what came next after Devon – Carbon and then when it was revealed – the Kingdom of Perm – but neither could say that the Triassic era took its name from three strata. So close . . . The Challengers got their second set of pictures of the evening when the flags of Spain, then Mexico, then the short lived Republic of Texas were revealed. That was the one you had to know – they didn’t unfortunately. The Crossworders knew that they all successively ruled Texas, so by rights the next would be the flag of the USA, the Stars and Stripes. Cracking answer. A great number one came next , with one, then two , then three sevenths rendered as decimal fractions. When it was passed over Alex rattled off the correct answer .571428 as if he was back in the final of UC . He did something very similar with their own question, knowing that Fraction of the Earth’s meridian and Bar containing plutonium were previous definitions for a metre. He rattled off the current definition , which is the distance that light travels in a specific fraction of a second. Finally a nice little cryptic set , which didn’t trouble the Crossworders – 5 =V , 6 = IX – working on the roman numerals contained within the written names of the numbers, then it would be 8 = I. Quite right too. Another brilliant and enjoyable round saw the Crossworders still ahead with 10 to the Challengers’ 7.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Crossworders took Water, and frankly made it all look rather easy in the unravelling stage. Shrapnel , Leotard Jacuzzi and Silhouette fell first. More about them in a minute. Then Harket, Quisling, Much and Greig – obviously famous Norwegians, Nature – Goose – Hubbard and Courage – all mothers and finally Viper Maverick Iceman and Hollywood, from the best film ever made by Ridley Scott’s brother, Top Gun. When asked about the first set, the Crossworders said, as I would have , that they were all named after their inventors. Au contraire ! Apparently none of these things were named after the person who invented them, but someone else. Live and learn.

The Challengers had shaped up well so far, but a little wall inexperience cost them time and the chance of a big score here. In the full time they only unravelled Gamblers – Lion – Opium and Vice – which may sound like ingredients of a good Saturday night in some parts of the country, but are all in fact dens. Once the wall was resolved they didn’t see that Royal Arms – Oak Tree – Forth Bridge and Celtic Cross have all featured on £1 coins. They did know that Acorn – Dragon – Apricot and Sinclair have all been British computer companies, and also that Box – Delta – Malay and Stunt are all kites. So it was very much advantage to the Crossworders , as they led by 17 to 11.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

Honours fairly even in this round. The Crossworders took the fictional pairs by 2 to 1. The only team to get one of the – Equals 42 set were the Challengers – who knew of course that 42 is Life , The Universe and Everything. The Crossworders took 3 films based n true life events. The Challengers took the other, but also committed the only miscue of the round. Still they did very well with a set of analogies of white is to black as – taking three. Loved the one which come up right at the death , too late for either team to answer – Barry is to Cilla ! Think about it !

The final score then was a win for the Crossworders by 22 to 17. But how do we reckon that the Challengers did ? Damn well, if truth were told ! On that performance , they’re as good as almost any team we’ve seen on the show – and that is praise indeed. Well deserved, too.

University Challenge - Quarter final match 2 - York v. Peterhouse

You don’t want to hear about my problems, I’m sure. You do ? Alright – bust computer, knackered email account, busiest time of the year at work. Sorry that you asked now, I bet. But seriously folks, we have a lot to catch up on. So let us begin with the Challenge.

Neither of the teams in Monday’s match were among my favourites for the semis, yet you couldn’t claim that either of them were rank outsiders either. Both of them had rather similar records in terms of points scored in the series. Both of them had victories over Exeter under their belts as well. York were represented by Chris Caudwell, Ben Keane, Simon Donnelly and captain Andrew Clemo. Peterhouse were represented by Edward Tait, Ben Slingo, Christopher Stanton and captain Louise Howes.

As has been customary in his matches so far Ben Slingo was in for the first starter. Two bonuses followed on extinct birds. Chris Caudwell hit back with ‘kitchen sink’ as the two word phrase referring to a gritty , realistic genre of literature and art. York failed to take any of their set of bonuses on poetry. We’ve already noted this series that with these close matches it is absolutely vital to make the most of your bonuses. Ben Slingo took a good buzz on the next starter , but this time it was Peterhouse that failed to convert the bonuses into points. Chris Caudwell was quick on the buzzer again with the next question, but it proved to be a miscue, and it was Edward Tait who correctly identified the condition in question as haemophilia. A good set of bonuses on paintings in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art helped to increase the lead. 2 bonuses were taken on Milennium Prize Problems. My problem was I didn’t have a clue what the Milennium Prize was all about, but that was not an issue for Peterhouse, who managed 2 of them. Simon Donnelly pegged back the gap a little by identifying a question referring to the two Eddas of Icelandic literature – a little more about that question later. 2 bonuses on US presidents helped York’s cause even more. When Ben Slingo miscued the next question, it meant hat the score at the 10 minute mark was 45 points apiece.

The next starter saw captain Andrew Clemo miscue when asked for a painter, but Ben Slingo supplied the correct answer – Rubens, to take the points and earn a set of bonuses on wasted time. 2 were taken. Edward Tait knew that the next starter was referring to neutrinos, but Peterhouse didn’t do any better with poetry bonuses than York had fared with theirs earlier on. There was no need to panic for York – not yet anyway, but they weren’t timing their buzzer runs right at this part of the contest, as there was another miscue, this time from Simon Donnelly, which handed Christopher Stanton some points on Shakespeare’s Henry V. One bonus on cells was taken. Neither team knew their Tchaikovsky well enough to take the music starter, so the bonuses were held back for the next. Chris Caudwell earned them for knowing that the car manufacturer being called for with the next starter was John deLorean. 2 bonuses followed. Neither team knew that the outermost layer of the atmosphere is the exosphere. One of those things you either do or you don’t, I’d say. Ben Slingo took the next starter on a set of people with the surname Jones. Then Edward Tait completed what was almost, although not quite a complete shut out of the beleagured York team by identifying Leek for the next starter. At the 20 minute mark Peterhouse weren’t just in the driving seat – with 150 to 60 they were occupying the passenger seat, the back seat and half of the boot space as well.

Not that the game was over yet. We’ve seen how quickly points can be scored when one team gets on a roll. York really needed to get their mitts on a starter, though, and it was Christopher Stanton of Peterhouse who took the next, recognising the description of a graphic novel called Laika. Picture bonuses on depictions of Lady Macbeth followed . Did you know what her dog was called ? No ? It was Spot . (‘Out, out, damned spot ‘ ) Sorry about that. The boys on the Peterhouse side were enjoying the starters so much that captain Louise Howes decided to grab the next for herself, and she answered my favourite question of the night. Which word is spelled out by a combination of the chemical symbols for Iron, astatine etc. It was feathers. Only on University Challenge. Game over now ? Perhaps not. Ben Slingo opened the door slightly by miscuing the next starter to allow skipper Andrew Clemo in to identify Spencer Perceval – you know him – famous for being shot and not a lot else. 2 bonuses were taken, and then the skipper took his second starter in a row , recognising the surname Herzog as belonging to a Saul Bellow hero amongst others. 2 bonuses were taken. Still captain Louis Howes put the brakes on the York revival with a remarkably good early buzz on a number starter , correctly providing the number 6 as required. Again, a little more about that later on. Ben Keane took the next starter on Ethiopia, but it was too little too late, and indeed , the gong sounded before the next set were completed. Final score - a win for Peterhouse by 205 to 120.

York aren’t out of it, but you have to say that they look very vulnerable at the moment. Sorry about that , York. Peterhouse have a win under their belt, so their chances have to be taken seriously.

Jeremy Paxman Watch
A spectacularly old fashioned look was bestowed on the hapless buzzer who suggested that the painting of Lady Macbeth showed a scene from King Lear. I’ve said it before , and I’ll say it again, JP HATES it when you get a Shakespeare question wrong.

On the other hand though he was mightily impressed with Louise Howes’ second starter answer . “How on earth did you get that when I hadn’t even finished asking the question ? !” – Its called anticipation, Jez.

Interesting Question That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
As part of my English literature degree I studied Old Icelandic Literature ( don’t ask ) – but I had no idea that the word Edda derives from the Icelandic word for Grandmother.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 18

Well, now that I’ve got that rant off my chest, and broken that resolution rather earlier in the year than usual, lets get back to something a lot more positive. Heat 18 of Mastermind to be precise. Looking down the list of specialist subjects I felt that I had a decent chance of achieving my weekly target of being able to answer at least 1 question in all of the specialist rounds, with only Iron Maiden looking rather tricky on that score.

Before that though we kicked off with the Life and Work of John Steinbeck, which was put before us by Harry Woodward. The very first question gave me a point, a gentle lob asking where Steinbeck was born. Thank you very much, and I picked up another 5 on what I felt was a tricky round. Certainly it seemed to concentrate rather too much on the life for Harry’s liking, or mine for that matter. He managed to take his own score to 9 by the end of the round.

It was Tom Scotney who offered the afore-mentioned Iron Maiden. Difficult as it is to believe, I was a bit of a headbanger back in my early 80’s youth, but for some reason Iron Maiden never really did it for me. Thankfully ‘Eddie’ and ‘Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter’ brought me 2 points. We’ve discussed popular culture subjects before , and I have been at pains to point out that whatever certain sections of the media might suggest, these are certainly nothing like soft options. So I thought that Tom’s 12 was actually a pretty good score on what seemed like a tough round.

I did think that I might do a little better on Ellen Salkeld’s subject, Mahatma Gandhi. He was the originator of one of my favourite quotations : -
To Gandhi – What do you think of Western Civilization ?
Gandhi – I think it would be a very good idea.
As it was I think that I only managed to answer the two easiest questions of the round, “Great soul” and “salt tax”. Ellen looked rather nervous compared to the other three contenders in last night’s show, but 11 points on the round was no poor return.

Finally my banker subject , Stephen Porter’s English First Division Football of the 1970s. Now, ok, my team , Spurs, were not in the first division for every year of the 70s, but nonetheless I managed a respectable 7. Which was next to nothing compared with Stephen’s 15,easily the performance of the night in the specialist rounds. All of which put him in the enviable position of having a three point lead at the halfway stage.

Neither Harry nor Ellen managed to impress greatly with their GK rounds, I’m afraid. It happens, and while a score of 9 is no cause for shame or embarrassment, it gave neither of them a realistic hope of progressing any further. A look at the repechage board revealed that to have any chance of making the semis via a runners up slot Tom Scotney would need to push his score up to 27 and 1 pass. Well, he did give it a fair go. Pretty soon , though, he had more than 1 pass, and he never quite established the head of steam he would have needed to get the 16 points to take him to 28. He didn’t do badly though, getting 13 and 3 passes to finish on a decent 25.

OK, so anything can happen when you’re in the chair. Still, Stephen Porter only needed 10 and less than 4 passes to bring him the win, and frankly that is not that much of a chore in a 2 and a half minute round. To be fair to Stephen he certainly didn’t make it look like a chore either. He had clearly been the best quizzer throughout the show, and he answered what he knew quickly and with an economy of reply. 15 is a good score, and 30 a good total, and he thoroughly deserves his place in the semis. Well played.

The Details

Harry Woodward Life and Works of John Steinbeck9 - 39 - 518 - 8
Tom ScotneyIron Maiden12 - 113 - 325 - 4
Ellen SalkeldMahatma Gandhi11 - 39 - 420 - 7
Stephen PorterEnglish Division 1 football of the 1970’s15 - 015 - 330 - 3

Current Highest Scoring Runners-Up

Nick Mills – 34 – 4
Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 – 2
Philip Evans – 28 - 1
Duncan Byrne – 27 – 2

Friday, 14 January 2011

Why Does It Get Me So Angry ?

The finest legal minds here at LAM Towers have been poring over the fine print of my carry over New Year’s Resolution : -
I resolve to stop saying that any team who beat us in a straight pub quiz must have cheated, even when they have actually been using their phones in front of us.-
and they categorically assure me that there is no way that I can make this particular post without breaking it.

Fair enough.

I honestly wasn’t going to post about this. Then in last night’s The Chase,( see my last post ) one of the good contestants was asked if he played a lot of quizzes. He replied that he used to, until they were ruined by the use of mobile phones.

I’m not asking why anyone should bother to use phones to cheat in a social quiz where there is no prize. I’m asking why it should have got me so angry when it happened a week ago.

Perhaps I should explain a little more. If you’re a regular you may recall me mentioning the Thursday night quiz in the rugby club. We have a few traditions, one of which is that the first quiz of the New Year always consists solely of questions concerning the previous year. The last question of each round is always a four part question. You can attempt as many parts of it as you like. However if you choose to attempt all 4 parts of it, then if you get them all right you get 8 points, and if you get any one of them wrong, then you get nothing.

OK, now these 4 parters are tough. Well, in the first three rounds in the quiz, two teams picked off all three four parters, one after another. They were swelled by non regular members, and the non regulars were blatantly using WAP phones, and supplying them with answers to the 4 parters. This isn’t just an unfounded suspicion on my part. People from two other teams told me that they had watched them doing it, as did the question master after the quiz. After the third round scores were announced the mutters from other teams were getting louder, and neither team gambled again – but the damage to the competition and the quiz was already done.

OK, so it happens. I know it sounds pompous of me to say it, but I feel a little disappointed that the regular members of both teams didn’t have a quiet word and tell the non regulars that this was not how its done, and not acceptable quiz etiquette. But there we are.

The question I really am asking is why the hell it should have bothered me so much ?

Look at it this way. We win more quizzes in the club than any other team as it is anyway. That's not that much of a boast, since frankly we should, being that there is only one other team with what I would call any serious players in it, and they don’t even come every week. There’s never any prizes, other than your own satisfaction. So why the hell was I so angry about it when I got home on the Thursday evening ? What is wrong with me so that something so trivial should get me so frustrated and indignant that I was still muttering about it in last night’s quiz at the club, a week after the event ? I’m not so very sure that I would like the answer to that question.

Did You See -

- yesterday’s 'The Chase' ? I’ll be honest that this is the first time I have caught the show during the current series. Chasing was Mark, and he’d probably be the first to admit that he was a little bit off form for much of the evening in yesterday’s show.

In a nutshell what happened was that the first three challengers all had a pretty decent general knowledge. 2 of them took the money offered, and one of them even had the confidence, or chutzpah, or whatever to take a step closer, and he pulled it off, adding a massive £21,000 to the prize pot. The first three contestants all made it home, and carried forward £42,000 into the Final Chase.

OK, with me so far ? What happened next was pure theatre. The fourth contender, obviously nothing like as good on General Knowledge, was offered the chance to take a step further away from the Chaser, but it meant that if he got home it would actually mean £2000 being taken off the total. He went for it. Needless to say this did not impress the three players already home and dry, and they happily cheered on every correct answer Mark supplied. To be fair it didn’t take a long time to catch him.

So to the Final Chase. The team actually started as if they were going to get a huge total, but just ran out of a little bit of steam. They set a gettable total of 25. Then Mark started getting his own answers wrong, while the team kept getting them right and pegging him back. There looked to be no way that he could do it. Then suddenly he clicked into form, and with a string of terrific answers he had a fraction of a second left to answer ‘How many legs does a flea have ? ‘
‘ Four ! NO ! Six!’ he shouted, but the first answer had to count. You probably couldn’t have scripted that ending, and believe me I know Mark well enough to say that I cannot envisage any circumstances under which he would have deliberately got that last answer wrong.

Why mention it ? Well, simply because yesterday evening, and then today, no less than 7 different people all asked me, independent of each other, whether I’d watched the show, and raved on to me about how much they had enjoyed it. Keep up the good work, guys.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Brain of Britain - Review and Preview

Brain of Britain – First Round Review – Semi Final Preview

Right then – here are the qualifiers for the semi finals of Brain of Britain. Mark hasn’t yet got back to me to explain how the BBC have made the decision between himself and Elizabeth Manning, and that’s why I‘ve included the both of them. For Mark’s sake I hope that they don’t decide it by alphabetical order !

Heat Winners

William De’Ath – 18
Carolyn Pearce - 19
Michael Parsons – 17
Derek Moody - 13
Raymond Eaton – 22
Ian Welham – 19
Andy Tucker – 17
Mark Kerr – 23
Stuart Rudd – 10
Graham Barker – 30
John Watson – 16
Iwan Thomas – 24

Repechage Places

John Beynon - 18
Angela Wilson – 15
Ian Cassidy – 13
Elizabeth Manning / Mark Walton – 12

Phew – pick the bones out of that lot. I mean, I did think there were some good players in our series last year, but I have to say that this series so far has been outstanding. If you were to start picking out individuals, then Graham Barker’s astounding 30 took the breath away. However Iwan Thomas, Mark Kerr, and Ray Eaton all scored in the 20s. Last year it helped me I’m sure that the three top scorers from the first round were all put in the same semi – not mine ! Yet I hope this doesn’t happen this year.

Of course there are a few other players I would like to draw your attention towards. Caroline Pearce and Ian Welham both scored 19, and so are not to be underestimated – especially since Ian’s was achieved in the same show in which John Beynon scored 18, so there weren’t necessarily that many bonuses flying about. William De’Ath must not be underestimated either , a superb quizzer. A word too for Derek Moody, who was a very gallant runner up in the Mastermind 2007 SOBM. I would love for Derek to make it through to another final. As regards the chances of our first lady champ since Daphne Fowler – I may be wrong, but I think that the field in the semis this year is just too strong, and while we may well get a lady finalist, I think its less likely that there will be a lady champ.

No , sorry, I will not be making a prediction. There are far too many people I know and like in the semis for me to run the risk of upsetting them by burdening them with the Clark tip.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Only Connect Champions Match - Gamblers v. Epicureans

Well, since we’re on the subject of Only Connect, let’s talk about Monday Night’s Champions match , which pitted Series 3 champions The Gamblers against our conquerors from Series 4, the Epicureans. On paper a fascinating match. Both teams showed great skills in all four rounds throughout their victorious runs. Who would win ? Well I didn’t know the outcome before I watched the show, and I was making no predictions either, bearing in mind that Gypsy Rose Clark had predicted a semi final defeat for the Gamblers in series 3. I hope that I’ve learned my lesson there.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

The Gamblers weren’t phased by the adoption of the hieroglyphs it seemed, and they kicked off with reeds. Like them I was foxed with B=33920 – FF 8282 – C.3.3. Like them I saw it as soon as the last - 46664 - came up. That was Nelson Mandela’s number as a prisoner on Robben Island. The Eps took Flax, and when given Nero – Mary Portas – Alan Cumming and Elton John I think it was Katie who spotted that all of them had married partners of the opposite sex, and then later partners of the same sex. I could see it when she said it, but I’ll come clean, I wouldn’t have had it had I been asked it. Behind Viper the Gamblers found a set of pictures of unfinished buildings. The first chink in either team’s armour was revealed with the music set behind Water. The Eps so nearly had it, but offered songs with titles of bands other than the ones performing. As the Gamblers knew, they were actually songs with the same title as the band performing them, a small but significant difference. The Gamblers buzzed early and incorrectly , giving the Eps a bonus , knowing that the Chicago Transit Authority and the others all had to change their names through legal disputes. In the first case this was the band who became Chicago. Finally a set of Marathon – Hamburger – Alcoholic – Watergate escaped the Eps, but a brilliant answer from Jenny of the Gamblers saw that all of them provided the origins of generic suffixes. So the Gamblers had a well earned lead of 4 to 2 at the end of the round.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

The Gamblers kicked off with a real pig of a set. Neither team knew what followed Opera – Matinee – Princess. They are all lengths of necklaces, with choker being the next. Neither team got a rather lovely picture set. We saw Water – The Sun – A Stone . Which gives you the origins of the words hydrogen – helium – lithium ! So Beryl – beryllium would come next, A fantastic set that. Alright, no, I didn’t see it myself either. Satisfied ? The next set behind Horus fell unkindly for the Gamblers. They knew there was a set of nerves, but went for size with sciatic, which was not the answer. Dr. Katie knew that they were cranial nerves, and the next would be the olfactory. That’s the luck of the draw. They capitalised on this knowing that Hunting – Pasturage – Farming would be followed by the next stage of human development – Commerce. Now, you can believe this or not, but I knew the next from the first clue. Montgomery came up . “Little Rock !” I shouted, that being the state capital of the 4th US state alphabetically, while Montgomery , capital of Alabama is first. I felt the Gamblers were a little cautious with this one, but made sure of points. Alan took a great bonus on the next. Given 1 of 4:f3 – 2 of 4:e5 – 3 of 4 : g4 – the Eps knew it was chess notation, but Alan knew how to complete Fools Mate with it – sorry , but I didn’t get the correct answer down in my notes. That nifty piece of brainwork kept the lead to two points, with the Gamblers on 7 and the Eps on 5.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

Both teams were outstanding on their walls tonight, and both earned a full set of ten. Going first the Eps found that 7 – Chimney sweep - ladybird and rabbits foot are all thought to be lucky. Norman – pointed – ogee and lancet are arches. Imagine – Omnibus – Everyman and Horizon are all documentaries ( BBC documentaries , stressed Victoria ) , and Thrust , Black Box, Proscenium and Arena are all stages . Great work.

The Gambles proved equally adept, sorting out mushrooms – oyster – button – magic and Portobello, London Markets – Borough – Greenwich – Covent Garden – Smithfield, places which can follow New – Scotland Yard – South Wales – York and Brunswick, and finally Hill, Hunt, Stewart and Mansell, who were all British world formula 1 drivers champs. If you didn’t know why these two teams are champions by now, you knew it after watching these wall rounds.

Round Four – Missing Vowels.

With a two point lead I feared for the Gamblers, simply because I have sat where they were sitting and I know how fearsomely quick the Eps are in this round. The first set on old board games saw the Gamblers actually increase their lead. Both teams answered two, but the Eps put in a rare miscue. Exactly the same happened in the second set - the wonderful 'comedians merged with artists' . Don’t get it ? Think Larry Grayson Perry and you’ll get the point ! Wonderful. On the next three categories – figures of speech, Parts of the heart and bottles, the Eps took an amazing 11 of the 12 points on offer. Despite a miscue on the last category, musical instruments, they took another point on that as well. In the end, they won by a comfortable 28 to 22, a hell of a performance against a team as good as the Gamblers . Brilliant work.

Which all begs the question – will we see a winner takes all champion of champions v. champion of champions tussle between Crossworders and Epicureans ? ( and just as importantly between husband and wife captains David Stainer and Katie Bramall-Stainer ) I think we should be told . Aaron – any chance ?

Only Connect - University Challenge Special - Monday 8:30 - BBC4

There’s a question I’ve heard asked a few times. It goes something along the lines of – How well would University Challenge winners fare against winners of other serious quiz competitions ? Well, on this coming Monday we’ll all get the chance to find out as Alex Guttenplan, Jenny Harris and Josh Scott, 3 of last year’s University Challenge winners get to take on the Crossworders – David Stainer, Mark Grant and Ian Bayley, who won the first series of Only Connect, and then went on to defeat my friends the Rugby Boys, winners of series 2. I won’t lie to you, I know the result, but I don’t know the full ins and outs of what happened in the show. So I shall be watching with great interest on Monday evening as soon as I get in from our League quiz match. I suggest that you might enjoy it if you do the same.

University Challenge - Quarter Finals

1) - Christ's Cambridge v. Oxford Brookes

Well, we’ve reached the fascinating quarter final stage of UC, where teams need two wins from a maximum of three matches to progress. There, you see Jeremy ? Really not all that complicated at all, is it ? I think I should remind everyone that my predictions for the teams I think should reach the semis were Sheffield, Magdalen, Oxford Brookes and Bristol. Which certainly meant that Oxford Brookes would carry the burden of the Clark tip into Monday’s match against Christ’s Cambridge.

Playing for Christ’s sake – I am so sorry, I can’t believe I just wrote that – playing for Christ’s were Jack Belloli, Joe Walmswell, Alexander Greaves and captain Natasha Simonova. For Oxford Brookes we had Sarah Johnson, Austin Sherlaw – Johnson, Richard Williams and captain Anthony McLarin. Austin Sherlaw Johnson took first blood for O.B. , recognising that the deity after whom a famous balsa wood raft was named was Kon Tiki. A full set of bonuses on meteorological extremes followed. Joe Walmswell of Christ’s evened things up with the next starter, to bring the team 2 bonuses on literary feuds. Jack Belloli looked most surprised when he correctly guessed that a quote from Paul Dirac referred to poetry. Jack, it doesn’t matter if it’s a guess or if you know it, a correct answer brings the points no matter what. This released a set of bonuses on visions. Again, 2 were taken, but so was the lead. A good buzz from Anthony McLarin saw him identify the theoretical common ancestor of mankind as the Mitochondrial Eve – or simply the African Eve according to JP. As long as it wasn’t the New Year’s Eve I really shouldn’t worry. OB revealed perhaps a slight Achilles Heel as they failed to get any of a set of bonuses on enzymes. Still, the skipper followed up with his second consecutive starter as he identified a map of unnamed Roman provinces as showing Dalmatia. Again, no bonuses could be taken. A fantastic buzz from opposing skipper Natasha Simonova identified catabasis as the term for a literary journey to the underworld, and with two bonuses on philosophy, Christ’s led by 55 to 45 at 10 minutes.

So far, so even. Jack Belloli widened the gap by taking the first starter on Christina Rossetti. A lovely set of 3 bonuses followed on taglines of films of Shakespeare’s plays. Then Sarah Johnson, who would go on to have a few more good buzzes before the end of the competition, identified the word Honey from a set of cryptic clues – the symbol for the element named after water being the first. A splendidly titled set of bonuses followed. Even JP had to suppress a chuckle as he announced that the bonuses were all on Heads of State with Weight problems ! Richard Williams of OB weighed in with the next starter on physics, and this brought them no bonuses. Following this we saw the finest buzz of the night. Looking for a series of 3 letter words where the 1st and 3rd letter remained the same, but the vowel changed each time, I hadn’t even understood the question by the time that Jack Belloli buzzed in with – bat, bet, bit, bot, but. Fantastic shout. To make it even better for them Christ’s took a full set of bonuses on John Keats. A rather odd sound starter played the sound of a british mammal, and invited teams to guess what it was. Sarah Johnson had a punt with fox, and it proved to be right too. The team guessed one more of the set of three bonuses. Sarah Johnson took the next starter for good measure, and this time the team put away two bonuses on false friends in language learning – see the note at bottom of this review. The next two starters went begging, but Sarah Johnson took the last before the 20 minute mark. By this time the 10 point lead for Christ’s had become a 10 point lead for OB, who led by 115 to 105. Would they rue all those missed bonuses, though ?

They wouldn’t need to if they kept winning the buzzer race, though, and Austin Sherlaw – Johnson, so influential in the 2nd round match, identified the 2nd picture starter as a painting of St. Jerome. 2 bonuses followed on other paintings of Saint Jerome. However OB weren’t gong to be allowed to make a clean getaway as Joe Walmswell took the next starter on homeostasis. Alas , some of his good work was undone with a miscue on the next starter. Given a list of numbers and mammals, he wrongly went for bones in their bodies. Well, when you are trying to catch up you do have to take risks some times. This let Sarah Johnson in again, though, as she correctly answered these were days in their gestation periods. No bonuses were taken on Normandy. Austin Sherlaw-Johnson took the next starter , identifying Germaine Greer’s most famous work as The Female Eunuch. 2 bonuses were taken on Anna Pavlova. Daylight was appearing between the teams, but part of the gap was plugged as Alexander Greaves took the next starter for Christ’s. Once again though this brief revival was extinguished with the smart buzzing of Sarah Johnson, who knew that quotidian ( daily ) events happen 7 times more frequently than hebdomadal ( weekly ) ones. Once again no bonuses followed. Joe Walmswell took the next starter, but no bonuses on Nordic composers were taken. The lead was still 40 , and virtually no time remained as Alexander Greaves took the last starter. There was time for only one correct bonus before the gong, which meant the final result was a win for OB by 185 to 160.

So, well played Oxford Brookes. Not a vintage performance on the bonuses perhaps, but still you have one foot in the semis, which is no mean feat when burdened with the Clark tip. But well played too Christ’s. You are certainly not out of it yourselves.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I’m very disappointed. Other than a rather supercilious “Of course” when Sarah Johnson provided the answer to the quotidian question, there was little or nothing of note, although he did seem to be very amused at having to listen to the sound of a natterjack toad !

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

A ‘false friend ‘ in language learning is a word which although spelled the same has two different meanings in two or more languages. Eg – nombre – number in French, yet name in Spanish.

Brain of Britain - First Round Heat 12/12

Well, here we are in the middle of another week, and there’s a lot to catch up on , and its hard to know just where to start. BoB is as good a place as any. Monday brought us many good things, among them the last of the first round heats in the finest quiz on the radio. A cursory glance at the list of contestants revealed the name of Iwan Thomas. Regular readers, and regular Mastermind viewers probably recall Iwan’s stunning first round performance in the current series, where he whacked in a magnificent 37. Look out, I thought, the other three are going to have to go some here.

Well, they managed to hold their own for the first round. Phil Harvey didn’t get off the mark, and both Margaret Burke and Ian Fennell managed 2, the same number as Iwan, who had forgotten Howard Jacobsen, the writer of the 2010 Mann Booker winner, The Finkler Question. After that though it was pretty much a one horse race. Iwan’s total climbed round by round to 8, 10 then 14, and all before the Beat the Brains interval, by which time the closest challenger, Margaret Burke, was 9 points behind.

The listener’s questions were set by an American listener. The first was a gettable “America has an element – Americium – named after it. There are two other elements that are specifically named after places in the United States – which are they ? “ it took the brains all of about 2 seconds to polish off that one – California ( Californium ) and Berkely ( Berkelium) .The second was a bit of an old chestnut, asking which is the only element named after a place in the UK, with Strontium being the answer. No book token, but thanks for playing anyway.

Iwan continued where he’d left off by adding 5 points in each of the next two rounds to take his score to 24. Which seemed to satisfy him, as he didn’t take another before the end of the contest. There was still much to be decided though, since a score of 13 would gain a repechage slot. None of the other contestants could put together a realistic bid though, and in the end Ian Fennell took runner up slot with 9. So well done Iwan ! Even more impressive when you consider that the score was achieved without a full set of five either. Best of luck in the semis. We’ll have a look at the qualifiers for the semis in a later post.

The Details

Margaret Burke – 5
Ian Fennell – 9
Phil Harvey – 7
Iwan Thomas – 24

Highest scoring runners up

John Beynon – 18
Angela Wilson - 15
Ian Cassidy – 13
Elizabeth Manning – 12/ Mark Walton – 12

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Brain of Britain - heat 11

I made a bit of a booboo last Monday, when I lost track of time and missed Brain of Britain on its first airing. Well, I’ve done this before and its not been a disaster since I’ve always had the iplayer to fall back on. Not so now. As I think I may have mentioned before my laptop has recently given up the ghost, and this poor old PC is no good for it since the sound won’t work. So this necessitated clearing my hectic Saturday evening schedule – ie, not falling asleep – so that I could listen to it.

I’m glad that I did. This penultimate first round heat was a seesawing contest between Nicholas Comfort, Elizabeth Manning, Mark Walton and John Watson. John was the only one who failed to score in the first round, but the early leader was Mark Walton, who was much sharper on the buzzer than the others at this early stage, and led by 3 points with 4. 2 points on the next round saw the lead stretched to 4 points. However there was a seismic shift in the balance of power in the next round when Elizabeth managed the only full set of the whole contest. With a bonus in the round as well this took her score to 8, and with Mark failing to score she leapfrogged him to lead by 2 with 8. John Watson had also announced his intent by this stage, taking his own total to 6. One more round remained before the listener’s questions. No fireworks in this one though, as each contender added one more point to their score.

I knew the answer to the first question, as did the contenders – What did Goethe once describe as frozen music ? The answer is architecture. However I didn’t know that a 20th century swiss architect once described Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake” as the greatest piece of 20th century architecture. Live and learn.

On with the second half, and at this stage only Nicholas Comfort is really lagging behind. Elizabeth couldn’t add to her 9, so when John Watson managed 2 he joined her in the lead, with Mark 1 point behind. Just to complicate matters, Nicholas whacked in a set of three at the start of the next round, and only John could score a point after this. So our scores were 7, 8, 9 and 10. Round seven would prove to be decisive. Nicholas couldn’t capitalise on his 6th round surge, and remained on 7. Elizabeth only managed to add one of her own. With 2 of his own points and two bonuses Mark Walton made a spirited late surge, but John Watson took a good set of 4, which when couple with a buzzer bonus brought him to 15.

Nicholas needed to answer all the remaining questions to win. He gave it a go, but managed only 3 to end with 10. Elizabeth added 2 to equal Mark on 12, and this is where he stayed , failing to add any more points. John added another to take his overall score to 16. Well done to all involved. With only one show to go, if they don’t get pushed off the board,how will they decide who out of Elizabeth and Mark goes through to the semis ? Answers to the usual address, please . . .

Current Highest scoring runners-up

John Beynon – 18
Angela Wilson - 15
Ian Cassidy – 13
Elizabeth Manning – 12/ Mark Walton - 12

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Sleb Mastermind - Final Table

Yes my friends, here is the table I’ve compiled with the results from Sleb mastermind – all just for fun, you understand. Many more scores over 30 this year, and Hilary Kay and Rhys Thomas hold the record for the highest total on the show, while I am sure that Rhys Thomas’ 21 on Queen is likely to be a record for a 2 minute celebrity round.Frank Gardner's round of 20 on general knowledge may well be a celebrity record, as indeed may Sir Clive Sinclair's 15 passes. A word and a thought too for Richard Herring, whose score of 35 would have comfortably won 8 of the other shows.

The Table is organised firstly by highest overall score, then lowest number of passes, then surname.Winners' names are in bold.

Click on the table, and it should enlarge for you.

Only Connect News - Champions show - Monday 10th January

Yes, the one we've been waiting for , the champs of series 3 v. the champs of series 4, is on this Monday. This in from the Epicureans Aaron Bell -
You might like to know that Epicureans v Gamblers is now, at short notice, scheduled for next Monday (8.30pm), with Crossworders v Emmanuel the week after.

Thanks Aaron - and good luck ( retrospectively ) to both teams.

Mastermind - Round 1 - Heat 17

Yes, dear John H, and the team were putting in overtime yesterday, for as soon as the last Sleb show died on our screens they had to rush over to BBC2 for the next in the first round of the original and best.

In what has become something of a rarity for me recently I didn’t know any of the contenders last nigh personally, or by reputation. So all benefited – or suffered – from equal support from the sofa tonight at the start of the show at least. Our first contender was Jenny Lycett. The Films of Alfred Hitchcock is a good Mastermind subject – I can’t swear to it hand on heart, but I’m sure it must have been offered before as well. Jenny started brightly enough, but there were a few gaps in her knowledge it seemed, and I think the nerves took over a little in the second minute of the round. Nonetheless 9 is a respectable total.

Tim Fenn offered us the Life and Works of John Hunter. I didn’t either until the round had begin, but from the questions it became clear that he must have been a gifted and influential 18th century surgeon and doctor. Quite appropriate really, since I believe that John said that Tim Fenn is a doctor himself. I can speak from personally experience when I say that scoring 17 in a 2 minute round ain’t easy at all. Well done sir !

Marryk Harvey’s subject is currently one of the one most often nominated as potential subjects by applicants for the show – if my sources are to be believed, anyway. Yes, its been a while since anyone took Harry Potter on the parent show, and you have to say, the team picked the right person to allow to do it. Yes, you could get a certain way just by having read all of the books. I managed about 11 on the round myself. But to get the 16 that Marryk managed required real, in depth knowledge. A good round.

Finally, Philip Evans, a retired teacher – prepare to receive support from the sofa – from Wales – support duly dispatched ! Philip was offering the Welsh settlement in Patagonia – and its surely the first time that this has been s specialist subject on the show. I will admit here and now that all I know about the welsh settlement in Patagonia is that the original ship carrying colonists was called the Mimosa – and Gabriel Batistuta, Argentinian striker of World Cups gone by, was from Patagonia and could speak welsh. Philip, needless to say, knew more than this. A lot more. His 14 was well earned, even if it did leave him in third at the halfway stage.

Jenny, still rather nervous, returned to the chair, and earned herself another 9 points and a respectable 18. Then we got down to the nitty gritty of the battle for the win, and potentially the spot on the repechage board. Philip put himself well into contention with a very good 14 to leave him on 28 and 1 pass. At the start of the show the lowest score on the repechage board was 27 and 7 passes. However to qualify for the repechage you have to finish second in a heat, whatever your score. With Marryk 2 points ahead at halfway, and Tim 3 , this was by no means a given.

You can’t say that Marryk didn’t give it a go. He didn’t answer as many correctly as Philip, but then he didn’t need to if he could get close enough. He too had 28, but couldn’t find that extra point to take him clear. So it was down to Tim Fenn. At this stage of the game you wouldn’t have been surprised if he too had finished on the same score, especially since he was edging rather than steaming towards the total. He kept his head, though, and while his 12 wasn’t the finest score we’ve ever seen, it’s a pretty good score to produce when you’re under pressure like that. He finished with 29. As for the repechage spot, well, very bad luck to Marryk, but it was my boy Philip Evans whose 1 pass to Marryk’s 6 was enough. Well done to all.

The Details

Jenny Lycett The Films of Alfred Hitchcock9 - 29 - 418 - 6
Tim FennThe Life and Works of John Hunter17 - 012 - 229 - 2
Marryk HarveyThe Harry Potter Novels16 - 112 - 528 - 6
Philip EvansThe Welsh Settlement in Patagonia14 - 014 - 128 - 1

Current Highest Scoring Runners-Up

Nick Mills – 34 – 4
Hamish Cameron – 30 – 2
Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 – 2
Philip Evans – 28 - 1
Duncan Byrne – 27 – 2

Sleb Mastermind - Show 10

The last of our sleb shows, and not a moment too soon, for the real McCoy started up again shortly after this on BBC2. I’m afraid that three of the slebs on the show were not people whose work I was previously acquainted with, still, that’s neither here nor there. First up was Martin Roberts. He presents a daytime TV show called Homes Under the Hammer – not, as I originally thought, a programme about demolition, but about buying properties at auction. Takes all sorts, I suppose. I liked Martin’s subject – Hanna Barbera cartoons. Anyone growing up in the 70s in Britain surely would have watched a few of these. Still, some of the questions were pretty testing, but you have to say that Martin looked to be out of contention when he posted a 6.

So who was the sleb I already knew of on this show ? Sashay forward Kristina Rihanoff. Kristina is probably most famous for being the professional dancer who partnered the immortal John Sargeant on Strictly a couple of years ago. Her specialist subject was Patrick Swayze. They didn’t mention it in the chat interlude, but Patrick Swayze himself was quite a fan of Strictly Come Dancing, and I even remember him once appearing on the BBC2 weekday show, doing an impression of Bruno. When you consider that I don’t think that English would be Kristina’s first language, you have to say that 13 points represented a very good performance.

Seeta Indrani, though, went on to show just what an excellent performance looks like. Seeta is an actress, singer, dancer, who has sung opera, acted on TV, and been a member of the cast of Cats for good measure. She was offering the Operas of Puccini, and virtually sprinted through a set of questions to earn a massive 18 points. A performance from the top drawer, that.

The last sleb of this series to offer us a specialist round was Micky Flanagan – a comedian. I’m not much of a fan of Bruce Springsteen, which I know is hardly likely to cause the Boss any sleepless nights – so I couldn’t really judge the relative easiness or difficulty of this set of questions. Still, a score of 13 is not to be sniffed at, and ensured that Micky – who decided that comedy was for him after training as a teacher – sensible man – would have a bit of a rest before returning to the chair.

Martin returned to the chair, and atoned for his less than impressive first round with a battling 12 , the joint highest of these GK rounds. Still, it would only need 6 for Kristina to improve upon his total, and this she managed. The GK round really does I think put you at a disadvantage if you have only been UK resident for a limited period, and Kristina did seem to find this round rather heavy going. She finished on 20.

Being realistic , it was Micky or Seeta to win, and if Micky was going to set a realistic target he was going to need a very good round. Well, he equalled the highest GK score of the night with 12, but with respect that was not going to put anything like enough pressure on Seeta . Faced with the task of scoring 8 for the outright win she never looked 100% at ease, but was never behind on the clock, and in the end did it with a few points to spare, scoring 10 for a total of 28.

Well done, and well done and thanks to all the Slebs who have entertained us in this year’s series.

The Details

Martin Roberts Hanna BarberaJust A Drop / Animals Asia6 - 312 - 318 - 6
Kristina RihanoffPatrick SwayzeLatch13 - 47 - 720 - 11
Seeta IndraniOperas of PucciniMultiple Sclerosis Resource Centre18 - 010 - 428 - 4
Micky FlanaganBruce SpringsteenKids Company13 – 0 12 - 025 - 0

Sleb Mastermind - Show 9

OK – next on our list of sleb catchups is Thursday night’s show. This pitted Charlie Slater – alright, Derek Francis – against comedian Alex Horne, solicitor, pundit and former England and Lions rugby international Brian Moore and Arthur Smith. Derek’s specialist subject was Western Films. This is similar to one of Kevin’s subjects in the semi finals of the 1995 series. Poor old Derek, who was looking vainly for the 7th Cavalry to ride over the hill to his rescue long before the buzzer put him out of his misery, managed 7 points.

Alex Horne, not a comedian I was previously aware of, tried his hand at answering questions on the career of Ken Dodd, and I have to say that he made rather a good fist of it. I did actually know that Ken Dodd’s ‘Tears’ was one of the biggest selling singles of the whole of the 60s, but it was still nice to hear this one being asked. Forgive my ignorance, but is Doddy still going strong ? I haven’t seen him on telly much, but then I suppose that the outlets for a stand up on TV, such as panel games like HIGNFY really aren’t for him. I digress. Alex scored 13.

Here’s a coincidence. Earlier this week I bought a copy of Brian Moore’s autobiography “Beware of the Dog “. In it he does mention that Peter Gabriel is something of a god to him, so its no surprise that he opted to take Genesis as his specialist subject. Well, when I did get to see Genesis in about ’83 Peter Gabriel had long since departed , still, I was happy with my total of 10 on the round – one of which Brian himself didn’t get. I knew that the two groups which eventually became Genesis were called The Garden Wall and The Anon. There you go. Brian, as competitive as you would expect, scored a very good 14.

Cards on the table, I like Arthur Smith. With his striking looks, and a voice that would make a cement mixer sound like an elocution teacher, he seems like something from a bygone era. As was his subject, really and truly, Radio Comedy since 1950. I think it says a lot about me that I answered almost every question on comedy before about 1995, and almost none of them on comedy since. Arthur , lets make no bones about it, was playing for the fun of taking part, and as such he did just that- took part. He scored 6, thus ensuring himself a quick return to the chair.

Despite the carefully cultivated image Arthur Smith is no mug, and he duly posted a perfectly respectable 12 to take his overall score to 18. Derek didn’t fare quite so well on his round. He knew more than he answered, but he was having one of those days when the memory just wouldn’t shove the words past the tip of his tongue, and so he added 9 to finish with 16. Alex Horne didn’t show any great urgency in his round, but he did let the answers keep coming, and eventually he, like Arthur, added another 12 to his score. This set the bar at 25.

Needing 12 for an outright win, this seemed well within Brian Moore’s grasp. He set off at a good pace too, and even though he grimaced each time an answer passed him by he was through the finish line well in advance of the buzzer, and produced the best GK round of the evening, with a good 16, to take his score to 30. All the more impressive since he had the burden of support from the Clark sofa to contend with. Yes, I might live in Wales – in fact I’ve lived in Wales for longer than I lived in England – but when it comes to rugby I’m sorry, but I’m English. Good on you, Brian.

The Details

Derek Francis Western Films Grand Order of Water Rats7 - 39 - 116 - 4
Alex HorneKen DoddSave The Children13 - 212 - 125 - 3
Brian MooreGenesisNSPCC14 - 216 - 130 - 3
Arthur SmithRadio Comedy Since 1950Vitalise6 - 412 - 018 – 4

Sleb Mastermind - Show 8

I’ve been neglecting you, and I’m sorry. So lets start off with a round up of the last three Sleb Mastermind shows. First of all , Wednesday night’s. Simon O’Brien , first into the chair, you may remember as a Brooksider. He’s done quite a bit since mind. He earned brownie points from the Clark sofa for taking Bob Marley as his subject, and these questions were no picnic either, he had to know his stuff to get 10 . Well done for that.

Digby Jones – or Lord Digby Jones – is a businessman and politician probably best known for heading up the CBI IIRC. I liked his subject too, the Kings and Queens of England since 1485. – Hello Dave – I said to myself – rich pickings here boy, and I wasn’t disappointed. Like Digby I too scored 16, although not the same 16, interestingly enough, and I didn’t pass any. Not that it matters. 16 looked pretty good, and my noble lord looked sharp and in form.

Jason Merrells is an actor . John Humprhys alluded to roles in Emmerdale and Lark Rise to Candleford, but for me he remains Jack Rimmer from Waterloo Road - or as we in the trade call it, The Gross Professional Misconduct Show. Its actually a guilty pleasure of mine, and I do enjoy it. And the show too, come to that. Sorry, I apologise for bringing smut and pointless digressions into your homes. Jason scored 15 on Leonardo da Vinci, and was well in contention at the halfway stage.

Finally Terry Christian. He made the telling point in the inter round chat that his seminal TV show The Word actually looks pretty tame considering some of the things you see today. Well, that’s progress ? Oh well. He was answering on the Manchester music scene from 1977 to the present day – a topic full of interest, and also much wider than you might think. He managed 11 points.

Simon returned to the chair, and put on a fine GK display to garner a further 14, and take himself into the mid twenties. Terry Christian couldn’t quite manage double figures, and 9 left him languishing with 20. Jason Merrells found that his own challenge foundered in this round, in a case of the memory refusing to share what it knows with the mouth. You could see he knew a few more than he answered, but they just wouldn’t come. It happens. Digby Jones then needed just 9 for the win, but as I had expected did considerably better than this. A bravura performance on an admittedly gentle set of questions added another 17 to take him to 33, which is a fine score even in sleb terms. Well done.

The Details

Simon O’Brien Bob MarleyGreenpeace10 - 114 - 124 - 1
Digby JonesKings and Queens of England from 1485Breast Cancer Care16 - 117 - 133 - 2
Jason MerrellsLeonardo da VinciLeukaemia and Lymphona Research/ Diabetes UK15 - 08- 423 - 4
Terry ChristianManchester Music 1977 – present dayFive Star Scanner Appeal11 - 19 - 420 - 5

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Sleb Mastermind - Show 7

The current series of Sleb Mastermind enjoyable winds is way onwards, and last night we saw Elaine C. Smith – best known for the seminal comedy show Naked Video, and its subsequent spin off Rab C. Nesbitt – take to the chair to answer questions on Joni Mitchell. I’m neither a great fan nor very knowledgeable about Joni Mitchell’s oevre, and I was sincerely hoping the Big Yellow Taxi would be one of the answers. It would, and thus a duck for the Clark sofa was avoided. To be fair I did guess the ones about Woodstock, Leonard Cohen , and the Isle of Wight festival. Elaine herself posted a very useful 12.

She was followed by Robert Llewellyn. I loved the first few series of Red Dwarf – Robert joined the regulars from series 3 after – and I was also a devotee of Scrapheap Challenge, so Robert was burdened with my support tonight. Mind you I don’t think he made life any easier for himself by taking what looked like a decidedly left field subject in the shape of electric cars. In the end I though that 8 points was not a bad score at all on these questions, but the fact was that it left him with a mountain to climb in the second round.

Michael Buerk – or Mike – as John called him throughout the show, offered the Aubrey and Maturin novels of Patrick O’Brien. I’ve never read any, and I’m afraid that I haven’t even seen the film of Master and Commander, so I’m afraid that I sank without trace on this round. Not so Michael Buerk. He managed a good 14, and looked comfortably in pole position after this.

Cerrie Burnell is an actress currently to be seen on the Ceebeebies channel. I’m afraid that’s about as much as I ca tell you there. Still, she was offering as a specialist subject the Life and Work of Augustus Boal – about whom I could tell you even less. A Brazilian writer, I believe. Cerrie got stuck in a bit of a pass spiral, and though she extricated herself from it before the end of the round she was, as you might say, holed below the waterline, and sinking fairly rapidly. Still her score of 7 was certainly not the worst this year.

A quick turn around for Cerrie then, as she went first in the last round. To be honest for three of the contenders the GK rounds became a bit of a pass fest, with only Elaine C. Smith showing commendable restraint on this score. Cerrie added 8 passes to her total, but this was at least less than the 9 correct answers she managed. Robert Llewellyn also scored 9 in his round, but he only passed 7 times. Elaine C. Smith only passed three times, and she jogged along well enough to score a very respectable 14, setting the winning post on the score of 26. So Michael Buerk needed 12 to be certain. Well, although John was delighted to point out to Michael that he had, in fact, passed o less than 8 times, he also added 14 correct answers to his score, for a comfortable win with 28 points. Well done.

The Details

Elaine C. Smith Joni MitchellPaul O’Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre12 - 313 - 325 – 6
Robert Llewellyn Electric Cars NSPCC 8 - 3 9 – 7 17 - 10
Michael BuerkAubrey and Maturin novels of Patrick O’BrienAction for Children14 - 114 - 828 - 9
Cerrie BurnellLife and work of Augustus Boal Scope 7 - 6 9 – 8 16 - 14

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Sleb Mastermind - Show 6

Robert Webb has certainly been seen more on his own in these last few months than previously. I mean, you normally can’t get David Mitchell off the box, but Robert has been a little more selective. The specialist subject he selected for the show was the novels of Ian McEwan. I’m aware of his work obviously, but never having read any myself I was unable to garner a single point, which was the cause of much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Clark sofa. Robert on the other hand did much better, and despite a sticky patch – that’s in the middle of his round, not on my sofa – managed 9.

Second up was Helen Skelton, whom I am ashamed to say that I did not immediately recognise as the Blue Peter presenter who canoed along the Amazon. A person of determination and nerve then, two qualities which can take you a long way in the black chair. Answering questions on Debbie Harry and Blondie even allowed me to get a couple right – I knew the title of Debbie Harry’s first solo album for example. Ah, Debbie Harry . . . Sorry, I was miles away there. A terrific round with only one pass marring an otherwise splendid 17 points.

Now, Sir Clive Sinclair is, I am sure, a very clever man, who unfortunately has been lumbered with the public perception that he is, in fact, a bit of a berk, due to the failure of his C5 electric pedal car. What better way to remind everyone how smart you are than to appear on Sleb Mastermind ? Only its not very smart to take a wide, catch – all subject such as british inventions. Its even less smart to do so and then not really go to town learning your subject. Poor old Sir Clive really just didn’t know his stuff, I’m afraid, and I would imagine that most quizzers sitting at home will have known a good half dozen or so old chestnuts – like Sir Tim Berners Lee was at CERN when he came up with the world wide web, and that ACV stands for Air Cushioned Vehicle. There were others like these which he didn’t get. Sir Clive levelled out at 4 points.

Finally actor Stephen Mangan, offering probably my banker subject for the night, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Very well he did too. I was pretty good on the questions about the first 4 books, although I couldn’t name the keeper of the Total Perspective Vortex, but struggled on questions about Mostly Harmless, my least favourite of the 5 part trilogy ( don’t ask ) . Stephen though scored an excellent 15 on them, and believe me, it needed a really detailed knowledge of those books to achieve that.

So, back to the chair for Sir Clive. To lift himself off the bottom he needed to score 6, and he managed that. To beat Stephen’s first round 15 for second place, though, he needed 12, and that he couldn’t manage. He gave a little too much thought to the easier answers, and really ran out of time before he had built up any head of speed. Fair play to the man, he was only doing it for charity, but 13 overall is the least impressive score we’ve seen this series, I’m afraid.

Robert Webb added another 12 to his total to lift himself comfortably into the orbit of respectability. Stephen then put on the best GK round of the night, maintaining concentration well to do what you must do – have a guess at what you don’t know, but answer what you do know correctly and quickly. He put on 14 to set the bar at 29. Well, we’ve already seen that being exceeded several times this series, but nonetheless it is not to be done easily. Certainly Helen didn’t find it so. She maintained her good humour throughout, but it was fairly obvious that she wasn’t going to get there from before the 1 minute mark, and in the end she scored 8 to take her total to 25.

Was I wrong, or did Stephen Mangan describe his trophy as ‘perspex’ ? Naughty boy ! I’m pretty sure that like the iconic bowls presented to the series winners, these are handmade pieces of glassware by Dennis Mann.

The Details

Robert Webb Novels of Ian McEwan Medical Foundation For Care of Victims of Torture9-212 - 121 – 3
Helen SkeltonDebbie Harry and BlondieEden Valley Hospice 17 - 18 - 4 25 – 5
Sir Clive SinclairInventions since 1940Big Issue Charity4 - 7 9 - 813 – 15
Stephen ManganThe Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Marie Curie Cancer Care15 - 214 - 229 – 4

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Sleb Mastermind - Show 5

The last sleb show of the year brought together am interestingly mixed bag of slebs. Before the rounds started I made a mental bet with myself that Adam Boulton was most likely to do well. Hmm. Before him, though, was Toby Buckland, a gardening presenter. His subject, Father Ted, was the same as that taken by Pat in the final of the 2005 series, He got a little bit bogged down early on, which prevented him from setting a truly formidable score, but nonetheless his 13 certainly set a marker for the rest to aim at.

Adam Boulton was offering the novels of Anthony Burgess. I must admit that I was a little surprised to see his score stop at 9. It seemed to me that there were a lot of long questions in this round, and I’m sure that they didn’t get through anything like as many questions as Toby had done in the first round. So actually his 9 points was rather better than it looks on paper.

Kirsten O’Brien, children’s TV presenter, was answering on the Comedy of Reeves and Mortimer. Now, I did actually happen to catch one of their original Big Nights Out in the Goldsmith’s Tavern when I was a student, so I was delighted to see this being asked as one of the questions. I’ll be honest, I love Shooting Stars, but I’ve found a lot of Vic and Bob’s stuff is a bit hit and miss. Kirsten’s round, though, was certainly more hit than miss, and she scored 13 and no passes.

Right, here’s an interesting coincidence. Rhys Thomas actually got his start when he was working as a runner on Vic and Bob’s Shooting Stars, which allowed him to put some material he’d written in front of Bob and Charlie Higson. The rest is history. Comedian he may be, but there was nothing funny about the way that he ripped the guts out of his round on the band Queen. From early on it became clear that we were watching something a bit special, and only one wrong answer late on prevented him from perfection. Not to worry. His 21 is a record for Celebrity Mastermind, and it raised the question whether he would actually need to take the chair again in order to win ?

Well, actually, yes, he would. Adam Boulton restored my faith in him by posting a very fine 18 on his return to the chair, taking him up to 27, a score which would have won yesterday’s show as it happens, and looked good for second place tonight. Toby Buckland wasn’t the most knowledgable of the celebs we’ve seen this series, but he looked like he was enjoying himself anyway, and he pushed his score up to 22. Kirsten looked a little daunted by the task of trying to get the 15 she needed to take the lead, but she got into double figures, with 11 to push her score up to 24. So Rhys needed 7 to win. To be honest it looked highly likely that he’d do this, but it has happened that a few celebs have scored less than this in this series, so there was just the slight possibility that he might not do it to keep interest going. It was pretty clear he would do it from very early on. In fact he posted his own highly impressive 15. As a footnote, this equalled the record set by Hilary Kay in the first show of the series. Superb performance – well done !

The Details

Toby Buckland Father Ted45 Royal Marine Commando Woodland Trust13 - 19 - 222 – 3
Adam BoultonAnthony BurgessWorld Questions/Kings Answers, Kings College London9-318 - 027 – 3
Kirsten O’BrienThe Comedy of Reeves and MortimerTeeside Hospice13 - 011 - 1
24 – 1
Rhys ThomasQueenMercury Phoenix Trust21 - 0 15 - 236 - 2