Tuesday, 16 August 2011

University Challenge - Round One - Match 7

Plymouth v. Durham

Plymouth, which became a university in 1992, is one of the largest in terms of student population in Britain. Apparently it has some 30,000 students. Representing Plymouth were Rachel Remnant, Laura Donaghy, Rebecca Emmett, and captain Peter Lord. Durham on the other hand came into being in 1832, and have won the series twice since JP took over. Their team consisted of Mark Rodgers, Adam Robertson, James France and skipper George Twigg.

For the first starter captain George Twigg recognized several different definitions all pertaining to the word code. This brought them bonuses on children’s rhymes. James France stretched Durham’s lead with the second starter, knowing that it was Franklin Roosevelt who signed Lease Lend into being. This brought up another two bonuses on old names for Scotland. James France couldn’t make it a double, when he answered the question – which French city takes its name from the roman name of Gratianopolis. Given a clear run at the question Laura Donaghy correctly answered Grenoble. Unfortunately Plymouth failed to convert any of the bonuses on eponymous spacecraft. The first starter to elude both teams concerned a Skinner Box. No, me neither. A good answer followed from Adam Robertson, who either knew or guessed that Croydon takes its name from crow’s valley. This brought Durham a full set of bonuses on Greek mythological creatures. Flexing their muscles they took a full set of picture bonuses as well, after James France had identified the chemical structure of morphine from a diagram. This time he did manage to make it a double, as the next starter called for 2 of the 3 central American capital cities, which have the word – city – as part of their name, offering Mexico and Panama cities. 2 bonuses on fermented foods brought their score to 110 at the halfway mark. Considering that Plymouth up to this time had scored only 10, the signs were ominous.

Still Laura Donaghy managed to double Plymouth’s total with the very next starter. She knew that it was Ursula LeGuin who wrote The Earthsea Trilogy. This time they managed a bonus on 20th century history. For the next few minutes, though, it was all Durham. A great early buzz on a description of a cloud followed from Mark Rodgers, earning bonuses on trigonometry. He had all three of those as well. George Twigg knew that the smallest nation to qualify for the 2010 world cup was Slovenia. However animals in the works of Dickens stumped them. Neither of the teams could recognize La Isla Bonita by Madonna, and so it was James France who earned the music bonuses for recognizing platinum on the next starter. I bet they wished they hadn’t. The bonuses were on songs picked by coalition ministers on Desert Island discs. They had to identify both song and castaway. They nearly managed it with Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West, chosen by David Cameron, but didn’t know Benny Hill, for which they earned opprobrium from JP. I’d love to see JP trying to do a Fred Scuttle impression, but I digress. A UC special starter followed, with several answers, all with one different vowel in the middle followed. George Twigg leapt in with Ball – bell – bill – boll – bull, and was rewarded with a full set on Leipzig. Funnily enough neither team knew about the world custard pie throwing championships. Not to worry, for James France knew that the Latin name given for a land crustacean referred to a woodlouse. One bonus on illustrators followed. Mark Rodgers leapt in with an answer to the next starter – recognizing that Eleven Plus two is an anagram of twelve plus one, both of which have the same answer. This hugely impressed JP. SO barring that first starter, this mid-section of the contest had been a virtual shut out, and Durham now lead by 210 to 25.

Working on the fact that JP tends to speed up throughout the last few minutes a score of 300 or more looked on the cards for Durham. Adam Robertson did his bit to make this a reality by buzzing in on the second picture starter to identify a painting by Vermeer, and the team between them took a full set on more of the same. Neither team knew that Thor Heyerdahl’s raft launched from Callao in Peru was called Kon Tiki – a little surprising that, although they may have been led up a blind alley by the preamble. Captain Rebecca Emmett buzzed in early to identify the weight linking horseracing and boxing as featherweight. A good buzz that, which confirmed one's suspicions that Plymouth were capable enough, but just not quick enough on the buzzer for the majority of the time. This brought two bonuses on the Indian Ocean. George Twigg identified the Miramax film company for the next, and a nice set of bonuses on pairs of words – where one word was created by adding a t to the start of the other – e.g. rash and trash. The irrepressible James France correctly identified ultra violet radiation for the next starter, and earned 2 bonuses for the team on plants. I loved the next starter, which asked the teams to identify the novel, the title of which is an anagram of the Tasty Beggar ! The Great Gatsby , of course, which George Twigg was the first to buzz in with. 2 bonuses on barometers were taken. Neither team could manage a starter on prime numbers – not surprised. Still, when asked which creatures produced apitoxins my guess that it would be bees was confirmed by Adam Robertson, and two bonuses were taken on regencies. Neither team could identify one of the two reigns during which Nicholas Hilliard painted some rather exquisite miniatures. However Durham had already passed the 300 barrier, to which further gilding was added as James France took the final starter, identifying the inert gas argon. The final result was a win for Durham by 325 to 45.
Very well done, Durham. A score which has to be taken seriously, by a very good team, who seem to cover a great deal of ground between them. First round form can be a little unreliable as an indication, but you have to say that they could go on to do very well this series.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

For the first time this series JP gave just a little bit more than a glimpse of what he is capable of giving us. I liked his reply to James France’s early buzz for the second starter. When offered what I though was a perfectly acceptable answer – FDR – he replied – “Yeah – bit more ? “ Not necessarily the kindest comment he might have made to Plymouth came on their second bonus, when he said ,
“Secondly for five points . . . if you can get them. “
There was just a touch of the belligerence of years gone by when James France hesitated over the answers to the capital city question, and he told him off for being ‘cheeky’ in no uncertain terms. Way to go Jezza.
For the second week in a row he rubbed it in that a team was struggling at the halfway point by saying
“Plymouth, there’s still plenty of time to go, we’re about halfway through. “ I mean, I know he’s only probably trying to be helpful, but, as skipper Adam Melling – Smith said of last week’s show, you know you’re really in trouble when he says it.
I did like the way that he acknowledged James France , though. In answer to the name of Dora Spenlow’s dog in David Copperfield, he took a speculative punt with ‘Toto’. Then , for the following question, the La Isla Bonita one, laughing, he buzzed in with the same answer – Toto. Very clever , considering that the song didn’t sound that unlike the mid-80s group. JP acknowledged this with a chuckle, and a half surprised, “ Quite witty.” Damn with faint praise, as it were.

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

The title “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest “ is the second line of a nursery rhyme which begins – Three geese in a flock, one flew east, and one flew west, and . . .


Jack said...

I was expecting great things from Durham, but that was incredible. Poor Plymouth never got a chance, but at least they appeared to take it well, and that's good.

I should say that Mr Twigg and Mr Rodgers were recently part of the team from Trevelyan College Durham that won the inter-Durham quiz contest, so good things should be expected from them too.

James France led for Durham with seven starters, while the side made 31/50(?) bonuses, leaving Plymouth with just 3/9.

Next week, England plays Scotland, as St Andrews take on Merton College Oxford.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack.

I agree about Plymouth. Its difficult to find something to say which doesn't come across as patronising- it wasn't their night, and that's about it really.

Thanks for the stats. Seven starters is a very good haul. I'll be interested to see how James France does in the next round, against a more battle hardened team.

Quentin Vole said...

Every week in the credits of UC, I see my namesake 'Chris Miller' (you didn't think I was really called Quentin, did you?). Does anyone know which questions he sets?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who found the entire episode bizarre and uncomfortable to watch in the way Durham Twigg pretty much shut out Durham France from all team discussion?
There was clearly something brewing between those two and it was very distracting.

-- Mike

Des Elmes said...

First time I've posted on here in ages, due to many other things getting in the way... *looks sheepish*


Durham used to have a right knack of getting past the first round - so it was quite remarkable that this was the first time they did just that since 2006/7.

They couldn't have done it in a better way, though - that was a brilliant performance from start to finish.

(And their bonus conversion rate was indeed 31/50, Jack.)

That said, I can't help but wonder if the Plymouth team were, with all due respect, perhaps a bit on the nervous side - after all, this was the very first time the institution was appearing on UC...

Mind you, I was actually quite impressed by their line-up of one man and three ladies - something you don't see very often.

And did Paxo actually say that Durham have won the series twice since he took over as host? They have indeed been champions twice - but the first time was in the Bamber Era, in 1978.

Anyway, we're now halfway through the first round, and here's a remarkable stat - no less than four of the seven matches so far had no incorrect interruptions to starters.

For comparison purposes, every match in the 2007/8 series had at least one...

Londinius said...

Hi Quentin - er - Chris

Pass. Sorry.

Hi Mike

I'll be honest, I didn't notice anything untoward when I watched the show. But you can bet your life I'll be watching for it in their next match !

Hi Des

Actually it could just be my mistake rather than JP's on that one. I may well have misherd the years he said.

Good to have you back.