Tuesday, 5 April 2011

University Challenge - Grand Final - 2010/11

Magdalen , Oxford v. York

Yes, the contest that everyone has been waiting for finally took place last night. After a huge struggle, Llangewydd Arms won the cup final in Bridgend. Oh, and there was the small matter of a little University Challenge match on at the same time. Of course, it was Grand Final night, of this, the most closely contested series of University for quite a while. The mental gladiators prepared to give their all in this final bout were :-
James McComish,
Kyle Haddad- Fonda,
Will Cudmore
Captain Matthew Chan

for Magdalen, and for York,
Chris Caudwell,
Ben Keane,
Simon Donnelly
captain Andrew Clemo

The outcome of the final was always going to be settled in the buzzer race. Possibly the race to the first starter could be an indication of how the whole contest was going to go. First blood went to Andrew Clemo, the inspirational captain of York, who knew that the rule of mughal emperor Akbar the Great closely coincided with that of Elizabeth Ist. Bonuses on responses to Shakespeare proved rather daunting, and they only managed one. Will Cudmore hit back immediately, knowing that the man who changed the eating habits of the British more than any other man since world war 2 was Egon Ronay. Good bonuses were taken on Huxley, Handel and others. A great answer to the next starter followed from Andrew Clemo, involving working out the differences in minutes between historical events if rendered as times on a clock. Believe me, it was as hard as it sounded. 2 game theory bonuses followed. Will Cudmore took the first picture starter, identifying Berlin. More of the same followed, and all three were taken. Magdalen were certainly into their stride on their bonuses early in this show. Will Cudmore then correctly paired Perdita with Florizel from the play “A Winter’s Tale”. Bonuses on names of elements of the periodic table saw them drop their first points, but nonetheless they were still forging ahead. A great early buzz from Kyle Haddad-Fonda saw him say what sounded like ‘jumping jeans’ but I guess was ‘jumping genes’. It was right, anyway. A set of bonuses on quotations rather stopped them in their tracks, although they managed the last of them. Kyle Haddad-Fonda identified definitions of the words – east – least – yeast for the next starter. I half hoped that he was going to follow it up with –iron – lion – zion – but alas it was not to be. Bonuses followed on British trees, which took them up to a score of 105 by the 10 minute mark. York languished on 35, and at this stage were looking to get a toehold in the match again.

Kyle Haddad-Fonda knew the term fixation, and this brought up a set on metaphysics and theology. 2 were taken. Simon Donnelly , justifiably trying to break the cycle of Magdalen dominance, buzzed early on the next starter, unfortunately wrong, and given the whole question Will Cudmore confidently asserted that the answer required was Elgar . So it was. On the music starter neither identified a little tune on the harpsichord by Bach. Andrew Clemo managed to nip in with a double a town – Aachen – to get the music bonuses. This involved identifying keyboard instruments. Simon Donnelly got virginal ( ooh, matron ! ) , the clavichord and spinet got away. James McComish waited until York jumped too early on the next starter, then came in with tea tree for the next starter. 2 bonuses on rulers with epithets were taken. And still it went on. Magdalen took the next , and a full set of bonuses on JM Keynes. Ben Keane came in with the epiglottis to take the next starter, and made a slight temporary inroad into the lead. However bonuses on conductors and artistic directors proved difficult and only yielded one. A mathematical starter I couldn’t follow came next. Neither team could either, and so we rolled on to the next. Will Cudmore took the unzip starter, and the bonuses brought them up to 200, and , realistically, took them over the event horizon before the 20 minute mark. The picture starter asked for the painters of two paintings to be identified. Neither team could see Turner and Constable. Andrew Clemo knew that if its Hungarian wine, then its either Tokay or Bulls Blood, and he zigged correctly with Tokay. Picture bonuses comparing a Turner with another artist’s work followed, but I’m afraid they managed none of them. So at the twenty minute mark there was, realistically, only pride left for York to play for, as Magdalen led by 200 to 60.

A brilliant buzz from Matthew Chan for the next starter showed that he knew that ten to the power of minus 9 is – nano, and if you turn that round you get the name Onan. Fantastic answer. A set on medicine proved tricky, but no matter. Lovely starter next , about titles of books with the word ‘room’ in them – and Forster’s, as Will Cudmore knew, had a view. A set on economists proved difficult. Ben Keane took another starter for York, recognising a set of areas of the city of Beijing. Terms from the lyrics of Bohmeian Rhapsody were my all time favourite set of bonuses ever, and I’m delighted that York had them all. Still, back came Magdalen to take the next mathematical starter. A set of bonuses on astronomy saw them add a couple more . They were in no mood to show mercy to York, and Will Cudmore leapt in on the next starter on The Merry Wives of Windsor. A couple of bonuses on writers were taken. With the next starter it was Kyle Haddad-Fonda leaping in with Piaget. A set of literary terms followed, and a couple again were taken. Poor Ben Keane buzzed in for the next, but made the mistake of hesitating, and JP was having none of it. Kyle Haddad-Fonda knew hydrofluoric acid for the last starter, and then that was it. At the gong Magdalen had won by 290 to 85.

The trophy was presented by Anthony Beevor, who certainly impressed JP, going by the fulsome approval which he gave him. Thanks to Mr. Beevor for pointing out that the series gives the lie to the old chestnut of the dumbing down of education.

Hard lines York. You have played with guts, grit, and knowledge in your last few matches, and fully deserved your place in the final.

Many congratulations to Magdalen. Any team from Magdalen has a lot to live up to, and you have proven yourselves the equals of any previous vintage. Very well done.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Surprisingly not a lot to report tonight. I enjoyed his comment that Anthony Beevor rather broke the mould by topping the best selling non fiction charts without having written a cookery book. Thanks, Mr. P. as always, for the enjoyment you have given us during the series. In a world of often very bland, eminently forgettable hosts, you are a purple emperor among cabbage whites.

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

I liked two of them so much that I couldn’t choose between them – so here they both are.
The Queen Mum said that T.S.Eliot looked so gloomy he looked like he worked in a bank. ( He did !)
The only headword in the OED beginning with unz – is unzip.


Jack said...

Well, without any disrespect to either side, this was a disappointing final, especially compared to the rest of the series.

Still, very well done to Magdalen. Four wins now! That's extraordinary. We suspected they'd do it from the start.

Amazingly, this is only the fourth time under Paxo that the highest scorers of Round 1 have actually won the series. The others are the OU ('99), Somerville ('02) and Corpus Christi ('09), although they were later disqualified.

Nothing against York, but their score is the lowest grand final loosing score under Paxo. But they have nothing to be ashamed of. Andrew Clemo is the series's best buzzer, with forty-three starters over Will Cudmore's forty-one.

The bonuses: York made 7/18 with two penalties. Magdalen made 26/45.

Well, that's it! Thank you to all the teams and Paxo for a great series. And thank you Dave for some very well-written, opinionated reviews. It's been great fun commenting on this series. Roll on the next!

Anonymous said...

Having met Kyle H-F at Oxford in November and being well aware of his reputation, I have been a little disappointed with his performance throughout the series - he has been strong without being outstanding. however, cometh the hour, cometh the man. He was IMHO the dominant force in the final and his speed on the buzzer was decisive.
Well done Magdalen - living where I do I'm always going to support an Oxford team! But congratulations to York and thanks for the entertainment you've given us. Whilst Magdalen always had that gritty determination that they were going to win, York had the wide eyed excitement of Alice falling down the rabbit hole - never quite sure where they would end up but that they'd make the most of it come what may!

joe said...

The supposed Queen Mum remark about T S Eliot is uncorroborated and appeared in an anecdotal article by AN Wilson in The Spectator years after Wilson had interviewed HRH. I think it owes much more to Wilson's comic persuasion than to reality (cf. his claim that the Queen referred to Eliot's poem as 'The Desert').