Friday, 16 March 2012

University Challenge - Second semi final

Pembroke College Cambridge v University College London

Pembroke College Cambridge are , JP delighted in telling us, the only team to get to the semis in this year’s series without losing a single match. They weren’t by any means all against easy opposition either. With big hitters Ben Pugh and skipper Bibek Mukherjee ably supported by Edward Bankes and Imogen Gold they had certainly been some people’s tip for the final ever since their first appearance against a good team from St. Anne’s. Nottingham, Balliol and Clare had all been beaten since. A formidable record to carry forward.

Not that UCL had any reason to go into the match as hugely unfancied underdogs themselves. The only blot on their escutcheon was a quarter final defeat by Worcester College, Oxford, themselves semi finalists in their own right. No shame there then. Skipper Jamie Karran has been hailed as one of the most interesting personalities of the whole series, however this shouldn’t detract from the fact that they have buzzers throughout the team in the shape of Hywel Carver, Patrick Cook and Tom Andrews– they all contribute to their success, and that’s all to the good where UC is concerned.

Patrick Cook took the Eiffel Tower for the first starter for UCL. The first set of bonuses were on red hair. One was taken. Tom Andrews took UCL’s second starter with the word Glee. Fact recall provided them with another five points. Did you know of the Ugly Sister effect ? Me neither, but now I’ve heard of it I know that I suffer from it often – especially during quizzes, worst luck. At this point Bibek Mukherjee decided that UCL had quite enough of a lead to be getting on with, and correctly identified a number of cities as having had former names derived from Stalin. This brought Pembroke a set of bonuses on Astronomy and Shakespeare. Weren’t they a progressive rock duo who used to play pubs in Greenford in the late 70’s ? I digress. Pembroke in turn took one bonus. Jamie Karran weighed in with histogram for the next starter. Bonuses on frequencies proved to be a little more to UCL’s liking as they managed a pair now. Onto the picture starter, showing a chess diagram. Ben Pugh was first in to identify Fool’s Mate. I was wondering when he’d make his mark in this contest, having been so much to the fore in earlier rounds. Pembroke’s bonuses were on a similar set of problems, giving them a series of three chessboards, from which they had to tell what the winning move would be. 1 was answered correctly. Patrick Cook knew that various counties took their titles from the roman Palatine Hill. Heroines from Greek drama gave UCL their first full set of bonuses. At the ten minute mark, had there been any time to do so UCL could have reflected on a job well done so far, as they led by 75 to 30.

The fightback began with the next starter. Ben Pugh recognized Coleridge’s description of Shakespeare, bringing up bonuses on the former East Germany, of which they managed all 3. Ed Bankes knew the term reification for the next starter – which is more than the BBC subtitler did, who rendered it as rarefication. Economics bonuses saw them take a full set to go into the lead with 80 points. Game on. Patrick Cook struck right back with the next starter, knowing that Lord Aberdeen, and the ‘hero’ of Khartoum shared the surname Gordon. Square number bonuses gave them opportunities for points, but they just missed out on any of them. The music starter gave two different excerpts for the composers to be identified – well , it is the semi final after all. Ben Pugh was equal to the task, and very impressed JP was as well. This gave rise to a UC special set on pairs of composers – the second being born in the same year that the first one died. I thought they did extremely well to get two of them. Imogen Gold buzzed in a little too early for taramasalata and galatasaray, losing five, and allowing Hywel Carver in. Science bonuses on meta materials brought them just the one. Neither team could get a reference to EM Forster’s epithet Only Connect, although Tom Andrews did buzz in too early and stun JP with “The Working class smell “. Not often I see him lost for words, there. All square, and Imogen Gold made up for earlier twitchiness by answering that a greek term denoted rule by the mob. Good shout. Bonuses on French cinema escaped them, but nonetheless they had a lead now at the twenty minute mark, with 105 to UCL’s 95.

Well, to use a time honoured cliché it was all going to come down to who wanted it more. Shown a picture of a biblical scene Tom Andrews offered “Water into Wine”, and as JP knew he obviously meant the wedding at Cana he accepted it. Quite right too. The bonuses were more depictions of the same by Italian Renaissance artists. They took the first, but that was it. Ben Pugh knew that the author of Rasselas, and of Not Waving but Drowning share surnames with former Home Secretaries. Again , a good shout. Bonuses on peaks which give their names to various science thingummybobs yielded nothing. Ben Pugh took a really good early buzz with Lammas – from Loaf Mass. Words from Arabic, used for parts of cities – souk, casbah etc. - , brought up 10 more points. Jamie Karran kept UCL in it with the term rarified. They needed all 3 bonuses on French scientists to draw level, but managed just one. Still, there was nothing in it. I was rather surprised that no one from either side knew that the Menai Straits were bridged first by Telford and then by Robert Stephenson. But then I do live in Wales, albeit right at the other end of the country. Ben Pugh again had a great early buzz for Seurat. They do say that who dares wins, and it was Ben Pugh who was daring to really go for it on the buzzer at this stage. People whose surnames began with Za gave a valuable 10 more points. Imogen Gold pushed Pembroke closer to the final by correctly supplying the answer binary star system for the next starter. Children’s Charities added 10 more points. Imogen Gold took her second in a row with Odeon, and Pembroke looked as good as there. Analysis of colour was the bonus topic, but there was only time for the one question before the gong. Pembroke had prevailed by 185 to 125. Very well played. As the only semi final team who had not sustained a loss earlier in the competition they had to be fancied to go all the way, but very well done to UCL, who have been one of the teams we’ll remember with affection from this year’s series. They pushed Pembroke all the way.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Well, we’ve seen in the past how much JP enjoys working with this UCL team, hence his very restrained reply to Tom Andrews’ answer to the Only Connect question. Other than that there really didn’t seem anything of note in this show. We can only hope that he’s keeping his powder dry for Monday night’s final.

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

The Bader Meinhoff terrorist group gives its name to the internet meme and phenomenon in which having heard an obscure fact for the first time one encounters it repeatedly in other contexts.


Jack said...

Definitely an exciting match, and I'm pleased UCL gave Pembroke a good match, even if the Cambridge side did get the expected win eventually.

But UCL have given us some very memorable moments this series: there was the 'buntings' answer in the Manchester match, and also a charming discussion about a dance that might have a French name in their first match, which still makes me laugh.

I can only wish Mr Karran and his team all the best in whatever they do next!

Well done to Pembroke though; worthy finalists, and all the best to them there.

Des Elmes said...

Three weeks late, due to more things getting in my way than ever before - but anyway…

As Jack says, Pembroke’s win was ultimately expected - but no doubt that most people wanted UCL to go out with a bang.

And they weren’t to be disappointed. Not only did Karran and Co add to their impressive collection of funny answers - Tom Andrews’ remark about the working classes being a real gem - but at no stage did they make life easy for Pembroke.

In the end, though, it was the ever-impressive Ben Pugh’s “Seurat” buzz that proved crucial.

As for the stats? All eight contestants got at least one starter correct - but, not surprisingly, it was Pugh who was the best of them, as he finished with six. Imogen Gold's late surge, meanwhile, took her to three.

Patrick Cook finished with a trio of his own for UCL, while Karran and Andrews picked up two each.

Pembroke were unusually hit-and-miss on their bonuses, finishing on 16/31 with one missignal, while UCL managed 10/24 with that side-splitting incorrect interruption of Andrews'... ;)

Obviously, as I type this comment, the final has already been broadcast - and though I have still not watched it, I have a fair idea of the result.

If I didn’t, though, then I would have still said Manchester to win, as of course I had done ever since that unbelievable match against Clare. However, I can see why many people couldn’t choose between them and Pembroke…