Friday, 16 December 2011

Mastermind - Round 1 - Heat 6

Last week’s review of Mastermind sparked the liveliest debate here on LAM for some time. What will tonight’s bring, I wonder? Who knows? Tonight’s first contender was Hannah Coates. Her subject was Sir Francis Walsingham – often touted as Elizabeth Ist’s spymaster. I will admit that following last week’s debate I did keep a weather eye open for specialist subject gimmes, but I didn’t notice any quite as blatant as the Tbilisi one from last week. For the record I scored 3 on Hannah’s round. Hannah did considerably better. In fact, I was surprised that she ended with 13. She seemed to be answering more quickly than that, and getting hardly any wrong at all. Still, 13 is the kind of score which will usually give you a shout of featuring in the final shake up.

Graeme Jones offered us The Valley of The Kings. I would say that the aristocrat who sponsored Howard Carter’s excavation to find the Tomb of Tutankhamen was probably one of the most obvious gimmes tonight – that I think it’s fair to say is well within the bounds of general knowledge. As it happens I had my highest specialist score in this round tonight with 5. Graeme struggled and fought his way through to respectability with 10, and I think judging by his face he was kicking himself about one or two of the ones he missed.

Isabel Morgan’s subject, The Life and Work of George Orwell, should, by rights, have been the SS which suited me best. In fact I only managed to scrape the one point by remembering Mr. Frederick from ‘Animal Farm’. This was a good, confident round from Isabel. She needed in depth knowledge of both the life and work to get the majority of these, and 14 looked to me to be a good return. It put her into the lead, with one more round to go before half time.

Simon Alvey offered us a little light relief, as it were, in this week’s popular culture subject, the TV series The West Wing. I have never watched any of the series, so I was at a bit of a loss to think of where I could possibly gain any points. When a question asked about a problem with a North Korean would be defector who played an instrument I correctly guessed piano. I don’t care if it was pure blind luck – they all count. Simon needed no luck. He was answering at 100 miles an hour, and looked at the end of the two minutes as if he could have happily gone on for another 5. 15 points put him into pole position at half time.

All four contenders managed double figures in their GK rounds tonight, which is a less common occurrence than you might think. I thought myself that the rounds were pretty fair, and much of a level with each other – my own scores were respectively 19, 19, 17 and 20. Graeme began crisply and succinctly, picking off the answers he knew with the minimum of fuss. Alas, it never quite looked like he was going to be able to whack in something like 15 or 16 which would have been a sufficiently challenging total. Nonetheless 12 and 2 passes is very respectable, and it left him with a final total of 22 and 3 passes. Hannah returned to the chair. She seemed quite composed as she picked off 11 of her own answers. Her total of 24 was just enough to make the last couple of rounds interesting, albeit that I think you’d still have got fairly long odds on this score keeping her at the top of the leaderboard until the end of the show.

Isabel gave us the most hesitant round of the show. She obviously knew a number of answers which just didn’t quite make it off the tip of her tongue. 10 is by no means a disastrous score. However it only put her level with Isabel – both had scored 24 with 5 passes. All of which raised the interesting prospect that we might in fact see a tie break if Simon couldn’t score more than 8. For a moment or two at the start of Simon’s round that looked a possibility. He locked into a nervous pass spiral right at the start, passing on three in a row. He pulled out of that with plenty of time to spare though, and began rattling off answers – some right and some wrong – at a fair old clip. That’s good technique. Keep blasting away, and if the total you require is quite a modest one, then you’ve every good chance of getting there. Simon did with tread to spare, and in the end whacked in a commendable 14. His winning score of 18 meant that there was daylight between him and Isabel and Hannah in second. Well played.

The Details

Hannah Coates Sir Francis Walsingham13 - 111 - 424 – 5
Graeme JonesThe Valley of the Kings10 - 112 - 222 – 3
Isabel MorganThe Life and Work of George Orwell14 - 210 - 324 – 5
Simon AlveyThe West Wing15 - 114 - 329 – 4


drgaryegrant said...

Hi Dave,
I'll try not to let this drag on, but while you were watching out for 'gimmes' in the SS round, I was looking for 'drama'. Gotta say, with the exception of the entertaining-to-watch Isabel, what we got were 3 poker-faced contenders betraying no visible emotion, being asked questions that made little sense to 99% of watching viewers (tho the choice of The West Wing as a SS went down so well it briefly trended on Twitter). In short, still not convinced it's good telly! But more of my grumblings in 2012.

And did anyone else think Simon could get a valuable second career as a Rupert Grint lookalike?
Just me then....

Btw, the scores you get playing at home on GK (19s and 20s etc) are pretty phenomenal. Have you ever considered applying yourself? I reckon you might do OK. ;-)
Have a good Christmas & New Year,

Ewan M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ewan M said...

As a "non-quizzer" who enjoys Mastermind, UC etc, I don't always watch the SS round, I often fast forward through the first half of the show but, nevertheless, I'm glad that it exists. There is more than enough lowest common denominator rubbish on tv, so an oasis of defiantly non-populist esoterica, such as the MM SS round, is to be cherished. As it happens, I decided to watch the first half of the programme this week. I got one each in the first 3 rounds: the questions about Frobisher/the Northwest Passage in the Walsingham set and Lord Carnavron in the Valley of the Kings set were both "gimmes" for anyone with a reasonable GK I thought. On the Orwell set, I knew TS Eliot worked at Faber & Faber for a time it seemed the most likely answer to that particular question and, having enjoyed "The West Wing", there were four questions there that I managed to get, so I managed to answer at least one question on each set. Not sure if that level of return will keep me glued to the SS rounds, which are often the televisual equivalent of watching a student take an oral exam in a particularly arcane subject, but I'd hate to see them go. The highest score I can remember getting on SS in this series is 6, on a set on the Scottish Enlightenment, which seemed to contain a higher than normal number of questions accessible to those with a decent general knowledge. I have scored 9s and 10s on SS in the past, once on post-punk Scottish bands and once on Manchester indie music, both areas of interest, but the life and work of Tigran Petrossian is just one of many spheres of knowledge with regard to which I'm more than happy to maintain a state of blissful ignorance.

On the GK round, I have to admit I found a huge discrepancy in difficulty between, at least, two of the rounds, but as a non-quizzer my knowledge is inconsistent, so perhaps that is to be expected. I found the first GK set of the 4 very tough and scored a modest 10, but the second set (Hannah's) seemed remarkably easy, almost on a par with Celebrity MM GK sets, and I scored 19. The other two rounds saw me register rather less erratic scores of 13 and 14 respectively.
I have noticed a pattern on MM of being able to answer more questions on younger contestants' sets (I recall scoring 18 on Simon Spiro's GK set earlier in the series for instance) and a particular weakness on middle-aged female contenders' sets. I'm not sure if that's due to sets being, at least to some extent, influenced by perceived (or actual) relevance to particular constestants' areas of interest. Though it's just a hunch, it seems that there tends to be a higher proportion of popular culture (which is a relatively strong subject for me) questions in younger constestants' sets, just as questions about gardening or plants (a particular weakness of mine) seem to feature more frequently in those sets aimed at older people. It may just be co-incidence, but being able to predict, at least to some extent, how well I'll score on the basis of the age and sex of the contestant does seem to be a recurring pattern, for me at least.

DanielFullard said...

I certainly agree Eugene about the huge differences in difficulties in some of the GK sets

Londinius said...

Hi Everyone

Well, sometimes you get the drama, Gary , and sometimes you don't.I still say if it ain't got a specialist round, then it ain't MM, and if you force people to take wide wide subjects you are , in effect, making them less specialist and more general. But that's just my view . . . Compliments of the season to you as well.

Eugene and Daniel - I do sometimes see a noticeable discrepancy between the sets - not as often as I once did, though. But how much of that is in the eye of the beholder ? If you put a room full of quizzers together, and then asked them to individually write down which round they found the hardest, would they all put down the same round ? Maybe so, and maybe not. Your own scores on the GK rounds are also dictated to some extent by the speed at which the contender answers. This week I thought that the rounds were pretty even, for example - the lowest score I had was on Isabelle's round , and she answered rather more slowly than the others did.