Sunday, 9 December 2012

James Gratrex - On that 2nd Round Match

I am indebted to James of King's College for sending me this entertaining and enlightening account of the superb match we saw on Monday, which I take the liberty of sharing with you : -

Well, phew! From 70 points up with total buzzer, if not bonus, control, we went 60 down and had we gone on to lose I might never have forgiven myself for missing that Genetics starter, or Hobbs the cricketer. Or at least felt pretty bad about it. Losing a match to a better team is sad, but you can't do anything. Losing a match you should, or could, have won is always much worse.

The fun started early on in the day, managing to get my mum and brother over from Leeds at very short notice in time for the show. That fun over, and with fresh memories of our last match, I thought we had a good chance to win but wasn't really expecting us to storm away. At least, on the buzzer - looking back on it we did pretty badly making many of the bonuses - though they seemed to be pretty tough.

I'm not really one from sitting down to a book and learning facts, facts, facts for the sake of knowing them. So most of the stuff I pick up comes from random sources I just overheard. Mainly the news or books I read for fun. But computer games?! Back when I was a young teenager, one of my favourite games was Formula One 2000. The bonus feature, though it drove me mad at the time, was Murray Walker's commentary telling us all about the 1999 season. The full table, teams, drivers, race wins etc. So how lucky it was that the F1 season chosen was 1999! As soon as I saw the date, it clicked! Thank you Murray Walker's incessant repetitive commentary. So there you are, proof that computer games are educational! My bad luck that the next two seasons they chose are before my time, but I have heard of Alain Prost and Graham Hill you'll be pleased to know.

At the time that 70 point lead feat like a lot, but these things evaporate quickly. So as they clawed their way back, and then passed us, I could just feel that the match was slipping away - even on things I knew or had heard of, Warwick was beating me/ us to the buzzer. I did know most of their bonuses though.

After the picture round, and seeing Warwick now ahead and moving away quickly, I felt I had to take action. So buzzed in early on the next starter. My bad luck that I've actually never heard of "Hypersonic" - what's so special about Mach 5 anyway? - but even so, as I'm buzzing in you can hear, as I did, that Paxman was definitely not about to say Mach One... so I knew I was wrong even while I said it. Another 5 points lost, and ten for them, and an easy bonus set (I had all three). Grrr...

I think at that point I was on the verge of collapsing. The camera kindly didn't cut back to me as I fell forward in despair after my wrong answer - but the next starter was a gimme. Or should have been... It's a famous story. Gauss, the great Mathematician of the 19th Century, was in a class one day and was asked to work this very sum out. Probably by a teacher who just wanted an hour's peace and quiet. But Gauss spots that 1+1000 = 2+999 = 3+998 etc. = 1001, so it's really just 500 sums of 1001, which is of course... At this point, the only bit I needed to know, I couldn't reproduce the answer. 5 times 1!!! Couldn't do it. Honest. "I'll tell you what," I said to myself, "I know that 1+2+3+...+10 is 55, so if I buzz in and say that, only shove a few zeros in somewhere..." Which, by and large, is what I did. And yes, that is true! Though probably the right answer occurred to me while I was starting to say it.

Anyway, the recovery began, and we drew level - then Shaw's excellent interruption gave them the lead again. The circumnavigation starter I just guessed at - the date sounded right - and we were level again. Then Ace's secret pulled us ahead! Apologies for not getting Gettysburg - I think I said it but if not it was just the pressure. Then the final starter of the day, Comet, seems to have seen me just snatch it from the whole Warwick team. And the Gong came! Relief! At the end, off-camera, as Jeremy Paxman was saying "I thought you were going to win" to Warwick, I said aloud "So did we". Didn't mean to, but it helped lighten the mood.

So anyway, we made it through to the quarters. I think on the train ride home I barely said a word, I was still in shock.

See you later in January


BoiCymraeg said...

I generally agree with you regards sitting down and learning stuff, at least in preparation for UC - the odds against certain things happening to turn up are just so small that it hardly seems worth the effort. We did a certain amount of practice as a team before the filming, which I think was a good idea but only inasmuch as it helped us learn what each other knew (and thus when to keep quiet) and got us in the habit of drawing information at random. Most of the stuff I got, as I suggested elsewhere, wasn't even anything to do with my university course but rather stuff I just happened to know for whatever reason... even playing computer games helped in some cases! (Civilization / Total War type games are good for history and geography for example!)

jim360 said...

Yes, by and large my practice was similar - drawing on what I already knew but also watching every single past UC episode I could get my hands on. Although it's unlikely that the same question comes up again, you can get a feel for the pace and it helps to practise your recall and buzzer speed. We did that as a team too when we could - even sitting in the right order and so on!

I don't quite know when your second-round match is but (retrospective) good luck!

BoiCymraeg said...

Yes, watching past episodes gets you used to the format of questions as well. UC questions have a particular style - if you know the "kind" of answer you need that can let you know the answer a vital second or two before the other guy.

Our match was one of the last matches (the last?) filmed in the second round.