Thursday, 31 March 2011

University Challenge - Semi Final 2

Peterhouse, Cambridge v. Magdalen, Oxford

Well, although its probably fair to say that Magdalen Oxford started favourites over Peterhouse Cambridge in this , our second semi final of one of the most closely contested series in recent years, but it might be worth remembering that Peterhouse had beaten York on the way to the semis – and York are already in the final. Not only that, but they didn’t lose in the quarters, which is more than can be said for Magdalen.The teams remained the same . Peterhouse were represented by Edward Tait, Ben Slingo, Christopher Stanton and captain Louise Howes while Magdalen fielded James McComish, Kyle Haddad- Fonda, Captain Matthew Chan, and Will Cudmore.

Right – off we went. We began with a very quick buzz for the literary career of Churchill from Ben Slingo. Bonuses on University dropouts brought Peterhouse two more correct answers. For the second starter James McComish got Déjà vu. For the second starter James McComish got Déjà vu. No ? Well, please yourselves. Answers requiring items of furniture followed to give Magdalen a slight lead. Ben Slingo buzzed too early on the next, letting in Kyle Haddad-Fonda on Magellan . A good 3 bonuses on poetry followed. Matthew Chan buzzed into early next, allowing Edward Tait in on Vitamin D for a set of bonuses on Physics. Ouch. Actually Peterhouse coped perfectly well with these, taking a full set of quarks. Both teams were twitchy on the buzzer, since Kyle Haddad-Fonda buzzed too early on Phoebe, which Peterhouse didn’t know either. However Christopher Stanton knew that York was the former name of Toronto to make amends. Descriptive extracts from Queen Victoria’s diary brought the team two bonuses. The picture starter gave a diagram illustrating the result of a UK general election. Ben Slingo leapt in confidently with 1983, Margaret Thatcher. More of the same followed, and you have to say that Peterhouse dealt with these effectively – even if the skipper did query whether Harold Wilson was in fact Howard Wilson. Good set. Will Cudmore opened his own account with John Singer Sargeant. This led to a set of bonuses on philosophers , and Magdalen managed 2 of them. This brought a conclusion to a breakneck first 10 minutes, and Peterhouse held a deserved lead of 85 to 55.

Will Cudmore took the next on Neptune. Bonuses on traitors followed. They missed the Tarpeian rock, but took the other two, thus cutting the lead to 5. Will Cudmore’s 3rd consecutive starter wiped it out completely, and you sensed that perhaps the mighty Magdalen machine was now on the march. Quotations about happiness followed. I knew that the first numeral in which the letter B appears is one billion. So did Kyle Haddad-Fonda. Cell biology proved tricky, since the team only managed one bonus . This then led to the music starter, with pieces of music accompanying poems. The teams were asked for the name of the poet whose work had been set to the music. Will Cudmore buzzed in so quickly with Wilfred Owen that he even impressed JP . “Well done !” he said with uncustomary sincerity “you recognised it instantly. “ Three more works by Benjamin Britten followed, and the names of the librettists were required. This proved much more difficult, and they only managed one of them. Ben Slingo proved that Peterhouse were still in it, by taking the next starter with the adjective Marian. Unfortunately this brought a tricky set of bonuses on national flowers. Under the circumstances they did well to take two of them. I knew Edelweiss and Protea – which to be honest was exactly what I thought Peterhouse said anyway . Oh well. Ben Slingo buzzed in too early with the poison on flypaper. Will Cudmore knew it was arsenic. The bonuses on Geoff Dyer were tricky, but they managed 2 of them. Edward Tait took the next starter, knowing that the famous proposition alluded to in Principia Mathematica is that 1 plus 1 equals 2. 3 bonuses followed on astronomical distances. Yes, it never happens when you’re desperately trying to catch up at this stage that you get a nice set of bonuses on capital cities, for example ! Peterhouse didn’t manage any of these. Will Cudmore, who was playing an absolute blinder in this show, knew that the dried leaves being described yielded coriander. This brought up descriptions from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and I have to say that JP’s Middle English accent was spot on. This brought us to the 20 minute mark, and Magdalen had a healthy lead of 160 to 105.

A second picture starter followed, and Kyle Haddad-Fonda identified the flag of Bermuda. Other british territories confounded them a little, and they didn’t get any. A question on capacitance escaped me completely, but Edward Tait knew it. A set of bonuses on time zones brought them another another correct answer. Ben Slingo buzzed in early – too early on the Jacobite victory of 1745. Will Cudmore knew it was Prestonpans. 2 bonuses followed. Kyle Haddad –Fonda, the scent of victory in his nostrils, knew a set of tectonic plates for the next starter. With their tails high, a set of bonuses on glucose molecules brought another two correct answers. Ben Slingo was still hitting and hoping, but nobody knew that Garret Breedlove et al were all played by Jack Nicholson. Kyle Haddad-Fonda knew the term Most Favoured Nation for the next starter. They dropped some bonuses on retail movements, but you had the feeling that it didn’t really matter. James McComish, who was having a quiet evening up to now, heard the name Wagner and leapt in with “leitmotif”. Good shout. Still the bonuses came, and amazingly then Will Cudmore got a starter wrong. Ben Slingo knew that it was Pushkin, not Lermontov in the duel. Kyle Haddad-Fonda, who was buzzing for fun by this stage correctly identified a set of states of brazil for the next , and as it proved, last starter. At the gong, the score stood at 260 to 130 for Magdalen.

Hard lines, Peterhouse. You played well throughout the series, and deserved your place in the semis. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Many congratulations to Magdalen. The final is an intriguing one, and I’ll be looking forward to it in a post to come over the next few days.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

After Magdalen mistook the first quotation on happiness as Jeremy Bentham, they correctly identified the third as Jeremy Bentham. “Yes, “confirmed our man , “ Jeremy Bentham. Then , under his breath “ . . . unmistakeably.” Classic Paxman. I noticed that he wasn’t anything like as nasty to Peterhouse at the end as he was to Sheffield last week. Yes, he’s right, Peterhouse are obviously one of the finest student quiz teams. But so are Sheffield, and he could have said something to that effect last week, but didn’t. Surely this has nothing to do with the fact that our JP was a Cambridge man himself.

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

Juvenal coined the phrase rara avis – and he gave the example of a black swan as an illustration.


Jack said...

This was certainly a good match, played in good spirit by two very good teams. In the end, it was Magdalen's quicker hands on the buzzer that won the match. Will Cudmore got seven starters, upping his series total to thirty-four. The side made an average 25/44 bonuses with three penalties.

Ben Slingo made four starters for Peterhouse, making his total for the series thirty-one. 13/24 bonuses was their final total, again with three penalties.

Unlucky call from Mr Slingo on the Jacobite question; he was probably thinking of Dunbar rather than Dundee (what he actually said).

And I'd say Peterhouse got that last round of applause because they were such a young team, and so to have come this far was an even more impressive acheivement.

Not much else to say, except that whoever wins on Monday will deserve the title; both sides have certainly proven their worth.

Unknown said...

Talking of spoilers (which you were) it seems to me that the BBC is as bad as anyone. Even before Monday's programme had been transmitted the UC website was announcing that the Grand Final constituted a contest between Magdelen Oxford and York - which rather made Magdelen scorching hot favourites to win their semi. I believe a similar thing happened before episode 34 was transmitted (when York featured in two programmes in a row).

Londinius said...

Hi Jack

Thanks as ever for the stats.Agree about Peterhouse's relative youth - take nothing away from them, they're a good team.

Hi david.call2

Doesn't it make you want to spit ! This happens more often than you might think with the Beeb. I haven't forgotten the iplayer mess up last year, when they changed the order of the Mastermind semis, and didn't tell the iplayer people, so I ended up posting a huge great big spoiling review having seen the iplayer version.

Then there was the first series of Are You An Egghead, where the announcer blithely told us before the final that later on we could watch Eggheads featuring the new Egghead, Barry Simmons !

I think that the Christmas Radio Times also gave away the identities of the teams in the Only Connect final last year , before the semi finals had been shown too.

Note to BBC - people generally prefer not to know the result before the show. Lets be honest, this isn't rocket science !

Des Elmes said...

It's not often that a University Challenge match leaves me disappointed - but, I'm afraid to say, this one did...

While I expected Magdalen to win (and indeed was cheering them on), I also expected that it would be another close match.

And it was like that for the first half - but, afterwards, the questions fell rather badly for Peterhouse, and Magdalen extended their lead, though they didn't necessarily run away with it.

In the end, I honestly felt the match delivered less than it promised...

No disrespect at all to both teams, though - and I don't disagree that the spirit was good.

Jack said...

Here's a thought: last year, the Boat Race was held the Saturday before the UC final; Cambridge won both the boat race and the final (Emmanuel beat St John's). This year, Oxford won the boat race, and the following Monday's UC match (Magdalen beat Peterhouse).