Can it really be 3 years since the late, great Mark Bytheway triumphed over Chris Hughes and Pat Gibson to win the last Brain of Brains title ? Well, yes it can. Once again it’s the tourney between the previous three champs, acting as curtain raiser to the latest series, which begins tomorrow. And what champions they are ! Geoff Thomas, my predecessor as Mastermind champ in 2006, winner of , well, pretty much everything that’s out there. Iwan Thomas, reigning champion, and setter of the highest score in last year’s mastermind. Then Ian Bayley. I had a ringside seat from which to witness Ian’s Brain of Britain prowess when he – lets not beat about the bush – thrashed the three of us in the 2010 final. So my thoughts for Geoff and Iwan were – try to get as many of your own questions right as possible, because Ian is one of the fastest people on the buzzer that I have ever seen.
There was a very nice touch from Russell Davies at the start of the show, when he dedicated the show to the memory of the late Robert Robinson, who made, as Russell so rightly said, such an enormous contribution to the success of BoB for so many years. Then on with the contest. As always we kicked off in alphabetical order. Ian took his first two questions, but didn’t know that a clegg was an old norse word for a horsefly. Neither did Geoff or Iwan, nor indeed most of us sitting at home either, I shouldn’t wonder. Geoff took his first three, but didn’t know that the late Irvin Kirshner directed the very successful sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Ian did. Iwan couldn’t quite remember the name of the plague village in Derbyshire, Eyham. Geoff could, and this gave him a one point lead going into the second round. Well done Geoff – there’s not many people can say that they have led Ian Bayley in BoB. Ian again took the first two, but struggled to find the name of the main town that became part of Stoke on Trent. Burslem it was. Geoff only managed his first, but didn’t know that Satyagraha was an opera based on the life of Ghandi. Iwan got off the mark, taking his first two, but then none of the three champs could answer that it was Cecil Day Lewis who wrote The Otterbury Incident. I read it at school. When bonuses were added in, Geoff still led Ian by 7 to 6, with Iwan now on 2. The third round saw Ian flexing his muscles somewhat as he whacked in three answers on the bounce, only being beaten by one on a film composer’s music for a production of Much Ado About Nothing. Nobody got him. Geoff could only take his first question, but didn’t know that the cornea does not have any blood supply, taking its oxygen directly from the air. Ian knew this. Iwan was going great guns, and looked set for a full set. However the fifth question – which I’m afraid I did not note down, stopped him in his tracks. So once bonuses were added in , Ian now led with 10, Geoff had 9, and Iwan had pulled up to 6.
The Beat the Brains questions were appropriately difficult. Asked to name two famous Italian composers born in Luca, they correctly supplied Puccini, but tried Scarlatti instead of Boccherini. For the second question they guessed that the famous novel that mentions Luca in its first sentence was “A Room With A View”, but no – it was “War and Peace”. A well earned book token there.
Back to the contest, and as yet it was anyone’s game.Still, how long it would remain so was called immediately into question when Ian reeled off a full set of five and a bonus. Both Geoff and Iwan responded well with threes, but it was a seven point round for Ian, and with a lead of 17 to Geoff’s 12 it was beginning to look as if the title would be going to Oxford. However, BoB can be a fickle mistress, and after gaining a full set, Ian failed on his first question of the next set. None of the three champs knew that Rose Bay Willow Herb is also nicknamed fireweed. It was a funny old round, the 5th. Iwan was the only one of the champs to answer his first question. Geoff didn’t know a question about Bernoulli, and Iwan missed his second about Rosa Luxembourg. The bonuses went to Ian and Geoff, and so the gaps remained the same. Ian piled on the pressure by taking his first two questions in round 6. Geoff was caught out with his first, not knowing that the Cotswolds are Britain’s largest Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. None of the champs knew that one. Iwan took a spirited set of three, before falling on Humboldt’s Sea, which is on the moon. With two rounds left, Ian led with 20, from Geoff on 14, and Iwan on 15. In the next round, nobody knew that it was Rosie Burdock with whom Laurie Lee had his cider. Geoff took his first , but then had something of a stinker with a question on the founders of gestalt psychology. Iwan couldn’t answer that it was Angela Eagle who was told to “Calm down dear” by David Cameron. Ian knew that. With one round to go, Ian had 21, Geoff 15 and Iwan 13. Theoretically it was still mathematically possible for Geoff to win. If Ian had a scoreless round, and Geoff took a full set and two bonuses, he could do it. Ian took just the one point in the round. Geoff made a good fist of his set, but was stymied by the 4th question – about the cause of a mass withdrawal of entries to a horse race. Iwan got a stinker for his first question, on which organization used the Lamp of Ypres for its emblem. It was the Toc H. Fair enough.
So, at the end of what Russell correctly called a very sporting competition, Ian was worthy winner of the title Brain of Brains. He scored 22, Geoff 18, and Iwan 13. Well played gentlemen, and many congratulations Ian. Another fine performance.
Ian Bayley – 22
Geoff Thomas – 18
Iwan Thomas - 13