Saturday, 12 March 2011

Mastermind Semi Final 2

I won’t lie to you, after last week’s surprising and exciting show I couldn’t help wondering what last night’s semi could possibly have in store for us. Well, I knew that regular LAM reader Brian Pendreigh was in it already. Brian was the second highest scorer in the first round, still, as Brian was second to go in the Specialist round last night, we’ll come to him in a minute. A quick scan of the list of last night’s contenders revealed that this particular semi was comprised entirely of heat winners – nothing wrong with that, either.

John Wharton won heat 4, way back in September, when he answered on Bertrand Russell. His score of 27 was good, but only the 27th best of all the qualifiers for the semis. Last night he offered a subject close to my heart – the world heavyweight boxing championship from 1960 to 1994. Doesn’t sound like a particularly long period, does it ? Well, maybe not, but when you think that since the late 70s the division has been beset by the proliferation of different boards giving different belts to different champions, you start to see that this time period was actually quite a courageous choice. Bearing this in mind you come to see that John’s 12 in 90 seconds wasn’t just a good score, it was a very good one indeed.

And so to Brian. Brian scored a massive 35 points when he won heat 8 in October. Then he scored a very fine 15 on the Beatles. Last night he switched to the life and career of Sean Connery. Now, if 12 was a very good score, then 13 proved to be an excellent score, and with no passes either it looked as if Brian had put himself well into contention going into the GK round.

We had a previous semi finalist in our midst last night in the shape of Gillian Taylor. Gillian had reached the semi finals in Nancy’s series two years ago, when she lost out to Richard Smyth. Each of Gillian’s three previous appearances on Mastermind had been characterised by excellent performances in the specialist rounds. Indeed in heat 12 of the first round this year Gillian had scored a superb 18 on the life and career of Josephine Baker. Her overall score of 30 had meant that she was actually the 8th highest scorer in the first round. Last night she was offering Butch Cassidy, and sad to say , her usual golden touch on the specialist rounds deserted her. 7 was by no means a score to be ashamed of, but it put her out of contention with the two contenders who had already visited the chair.

Student Edmund Dickinson is surely one of the youngest of this year’s semi finalists. He too scored 30 in the first round, although more passes than Gillian meant that he was only the 11th highest scorer according to the Clark classification system. In November Edmund won heat 14 at something of a canter, answering on formula one motor racing. In a real change of pace last night he offered us another subject close to my heart, the Travel Books of Bill Bryson. I think Bill Bryson is a great writer, and I’ve been known to use examples from his Notes from a Big Country to illustrate to students how to craft a perfectly constructed short article. However , I digress. Edmund gave a very assured performance as he ripped through a set which required real, in depth knowledge of the books, and he too scored an excellent 13 points.

Finally Dr. Tim Fenn. Tim won a very exciting heat, heat 17 , by one point back in January. His score of 29 put him in joint 14th place in our list of highest scoring qualifiers. Back then he answered on The Life and works of John Hunter. Last night he answered on the Life and Times of John Adams ( was it only his friends who called him ‘Grizzly’ , I wonder ? ) Tim too made short work of his questions, and he too piled on a very fine 13 points by the end of the round, although he did take one pass along the way.

Gillian’s GK round was by no means a formality, but in all honesty it wasn’t going to bring her a place in the final. That doesn’t matter. What followed was a good round, a better GK round than Gillian had last time she appeared in the semis. That’s a positive to draw from the show. Now all the other 4 contenders were separated by just one point. The obvious implication being that whoever won the GK round would win the show. John Wharton was first to try. John had scored 14 in 2 and a half minutes in the heat – a pretty decent return. Last night though I’m afraid the wheels came off the round, as he fell into a pass spiral. It can happen to anyone, I’m afraid. He scored 7, to set the bar at 19.

Brian came next. I felt that he had a tough set of questions. Brian had obviously decided upon the tactic of blasting through what he knew as quickly as possible, and passing on those for which the answer didn’t come straightaway. It’s a perfectly valid tactic which worked brilliantly for Peter Reilly last week. The score crept upwards, comfortably past John’s 19, but the finishing line was approaching rapidly. Brian managed to take the last one just on the buzzer, and his 9 gave him 22. Lets bear in mind that this was 22 after 3 and a half minutes of questions as opposed to 4, or more, but nonetheless it wasn’t an insurmountable target. The anxiety on the Clark sofa was rising.

Edmund Dickinson never looked completely relaxed and confident, but he did what you must do, and kept picking off the answers. A minute and a half had gone , and he hadn’t reached Brian’s score yet. He was close though, and before the buzzer he’d done it. 10 didn’t give him a big lead, but it was enough, and whatever happened now he couldn’t be worse than second in a Mastermind semi final.

However it could turn out to be even better than that, all depending on how well Tim Fenn could do. To put it into perspective, Tim had scored 12 on his 2 and a half minute round in the heats. If he produced a similar round now, then chances were he might fall a point or maybe two short. Yet this was better. The buzzer was still a couple of questions away as he reached the 11 he needed, which allowed him to add one more for good measure, taking him to 25, and a well earned place in the final. Many commiserations to the other players, especially my friend Brian, but well played all, and congratulations on your achievements in the series .

The Details

John Wharton The World Heavyweight Boxing championship 1960 - 199412 - 07 - 919-9
Brian PendreighThe Life and Films of Sean Connery13 - 09 - 522 - 5
Gillian TaylorButch Cassidy7 - 010 - 017 - 0
Edmund DickinsonThe Travel Books of Bill Bryson13 - 010 - 423 - 4
Tim FennThe Life and Times of John Adams13 - 112 - 225 - 2


Anonymous said...

Had I been in the chair I probably wouldn't have got the azalea answer if it hadn't directly followed the Amen Corner answer - I wonder if that was coincidence or intentional!

Londinius said...

Hi Chris

I can't say I particularly noticed that. Another good show , though.