Saturday, 21 January 2012

Mastermind - Heat 9

For once BBC2 Wales deigned to allow us to see Mastermind at the same time as everybody else, so I got to watch the show on the big telly downstairs last night. I was interested to see that last night’s first contender, Kate Foley , hails from Mid Glamorgan. That’s well within my local quiz range, but I can’t say that I recognised her from any quiz I’ve been to. Not that it signifies anything. Kate’s specialist subject was The Archers – 1980 to the present day – a frankly massive undertaking , I would have thought. No, I don’t listen to the Archers, and so I scored precisely zero. Kate did a bit better than this, with 7, but I have to say that I think she was found out by the sheer scale of the undertaking she had set herself.

Now, Paul Radford gave us the Apollo space programme. This is a subject which I liked the look of. I was an impressionable 5 years old when I was woken in the middle of the night to get up and watch the Apollo 11 moon landing on TV, and so it’s been something I’ve always had a little bit of an interest in. I got 6 of these questions, and I don’t think you could claim that the average person might have got them through general knowledge in this case. These were pretty testing , I thought, and Paul did well to get his 12.

Mark Wyatt was answering on the Life and Music of Nick Drake. I can only apologise to his fans that I am afraid that I knew nothing about him. So at least the fact that I couldn’t get any of these questions right shows that it probably wasn’t a round padded out with GK questions masquerading as specialists. Mark’s 18 from 18 was as fine a perfect display as we’ve seen all series. Unless final contender Chris Forse could manage a high score, then the show as a contest was already over.

The Cold War – 1946 – 64 – was our final subject. I haven’t studied this period specially, and it’s over 30 years since I read about a lot of these things in O level history. I still managed 11. I know that this is going to add fuel to the fire about the debate which has gone on in some recent posts and comments about the use of GK questions in specialist rounds, but I have to say that I thought that this round was a lot more accessible to the home viewer with a decent GK than any of the others. For which I don’t blame Chris Forse at all. His 15 was a fine performance – he can only answer the questions that he’s asked, after all. The fact that he did manage 15, as well, meant that at least the show would not be decided until Mark’s GK round.

Kate returned to the chair. I can only judge by facial expression and tone of voice, but it did seem like a number of Kate’s correct answers were not certain, only guesses. What she did well was in most cases, to go for the obvious, or the only thing you can think of – so who sulked in his tent in the Iliad – well you know Achilles was a greek hero, so go for him. It’s a perfectly valid tactic, and together with the answers she did know for certain, she put on a good score of 12 points. Her total of 19 meant that she did lead the contest, even though this was only going to be for a couple more minutes.

Paul Radford started his round confidently enough, but the passes and wrong answers started to set in after the first half a minute. I can’t say that I thought his questions were particularly harder than the other rounds – my lowest score was 15 out of 19 on Kate’s set. On Paul’s I managed 18 from 20. Paul answered 9 correctly, which gave him a total of 21, Which at least meant that he , too , would be in the lead for at least another two minutes.

Chris got through more questions in his round, but unfortunately this was because nerves seemed to get the better of him, and he fell into a nasty pass spiral. I made it that he was asked 22 questions, of which I answered 18. He managed double figures by the end of the round, but the 8 passes told their own story, I’m afraid. He finished with 26, and took the lead himself. With only 9 needed for an outright win, it seemed highly likely that Mark would overtake him.

Mark started impressively. The thing about Mastermind is that you get into a rhythm. If you answer quickly, then John askes quickly, and you can really build up ahead of steam. Granted Mark didn’t maintain this cracking pace throughout the whole of the round, but he’d already won by the time he began to slow down. For the record I had my best performance on Mark’s round with 21 from 23 questions. Mark himself managed 14, a good score by anyone’s reckoning.

So well done ! A performance which suggests that , should he get an equally good run at the specialist round in his semi, Mark can certainly get to the final.

The Details

Kate Foley The Archers 1980 – Present Day7 - 412 - 219 – 6
Paul RadfordThe Apollo Space Programme12 - 49 - 521 – 9
Mark WyattLife and Music of Nick Drake18 - 013 - 331 – 3
Chris ForseThe Cold War 1946 - 6415 - 011 - 826 – 8


drgaryegrant said...

Hi Dave,
In true quiz-fan style, I am now going to indulge in some textbook pedantry and point out that (i) Mark Wyatt's winning score was 31, not 32 and (ii) your repechage board after the last MM entry includes Simon Spiro, even though he came 3rd in Heat 1, and not John Snedden who came 2nd.

That bout of anal retentiveness over, I see you are beginning to anticipate our quibbles in the comments! Absolutely agree about The Cold War questiona - very accessible to a non-specialist. Other than the *possible* general dumbing down of SS I have queried before, you do have to ask whether the whole contest is now being skewed/devalued by different levels of SS question-setting. It is my understanding that any one show could have 4 different question setters, each writing one SS round each, for example. If one person is setting at a level where someone at home is likely to score quite highly, while another is setting a much tougher round that needs the in-depth knowledge supposedly required, where is the fairness? Especially as, as you know and as I've said before, MM is often 'won' by half-time after the specialist rounds. It is notable that the last 2 shows have been won by someone who, by popular consensus, got a very accessible SS.

By their very nature, it is much harder to spot a SS round that is demonstrably easier than its fellows, because so few people (any?) are expert in all 4 topics. The sort of person who is best placed to see it is simply someone with a wide GK - namely a Mastermind champ like yourself. And, I would further argue, if you are spotting perhaps overly 'accessible' (and let's be honest, that is just a polite quiz word for 'easy') rounds nearly every week, is that not further grist to the mill that the show has fundamental flaws and needs an overhaul?....

Ha, I'll get that job QCing for Beelzebub yet.

Londinius said...

Hi Gary

Ooops. That'll teach me to rush my posts.

Right - I'm a little puzzled by your comment that the last two shows have both been won by someone who got a very accessible ss. Last night the Cold War was the accessible subject, and the contender who took it came second, not first. Mark Wyatt who won took Nick Drake - and I didn't find that round accessible at all, scoring precisely zero on it.

I don't discount the possibility that I'm only noticing these ( alright, let's call a spade a spade ) 'easier' SS rounds because I am actively looking for them. Maybe they were always there. But I don't know. Taking this week, I did say that the Apollo programme is something I should know a bit about - I have actually read several books on the subject in the past. I managed 6, which seems about right for a subject you have an interest in , but haven't prepared for. The 11 on the cold war seems excessive, as did the football grounds round the other day.

Even if you are telling me that the Nick Drake round was as accessible as the Cold War round - as I asy I know nothing about Nick Drake so I can't possibly judge - the fact is that the strongest contender won the show, as did the strongest contender on the previous show. More often than not the strongest contender in any given show does win, and then there's the safety net of the repechage places.

I'm not trying to pretend that the show is perfect. No show is - although 15 to 1 came close - but I still go along with those who say that if you tinker too much with the SS rounds, then it ain't Mastermind.

Stubborn and pighheaded ? Probably, but it's the way I still feel about it.

drgaryegrant said...

Oops, mea culpa.

In my rush to try to prove the point that the SS rounds are nowadays very frequently too easy, I confused Mr Wyatt and Mr Forse's rounds. Apologies! (And how especially useless of me after a bout of smug pedantry)

Does that however disprove the general point that the knowledgeable layman shouldn't get double figures on someone else's specialism? Or that these SS rounds are being watered down? Hmm, you know what I think there!

Very right there about 15 to 1, mind. I almost think that it shouldn't ever be brought back, just because it would never be as good as before (particularly as William G Stewart is nearly 80 and they just don't make hosts like him anymore).

HughTube said...

In defence of the show - although I agree with a number of the criticisms of the SS rounds - it appears that the winners of the last five shows have come top in both the SS and the GK. Maybe they were just better?

Horsey_Heroes11 said...

I have to agree about the toughness of the Apollo questions - this is a subject i'm pretty interested in and have read a number of books on the subject over the past 5 years, so I was looking forward to having a go. I really struggled though and felt that there were very few "gimme" questions.

The fact that I got more right on the Cold War, a subject which I have read very little about, seems to suggest that it was a relatively easier set.

I can't comment at all on The Archers or Nick Drake as I knew practically nothing about either subject before watching the show.

bj said...

OK, I read your comments before actually watching the SS subjects. Interesting. I lived through the Cold War and Apollo programme and remember watching Armstrong on the moon on tv. I did write a big feature about Nick Drake just as posthumous interest in his music was taking off. I know about five things about The Archers, but was ready with Barwick Green/Native Heath/Arthur Wood.
In the event I scored..
The Archers 0,
Apollo 1 or maybe 2,
Nick Drake 3,
Cold War 13.
It seems you may have a point.

Gruff said...

What bothers me about the SS round is that the number of questions received varies significantly. This never used to be an issue, but now the repechage is a factor. You can have people answering speedily, getting all of their SS questions correct and still only bagging 15 or 16 points. Whereas in another heat they may get 18 or19.