Dark horse Paul Whittaker kicked us off with Birds of Britain. This was a mixed bag of questions. There were a couple of gimmes which I was able to answer, but plenty of difficult ones as well. Paul answered impressively quickly, so much so that even without a perfect round he still put on an impressive 11 points. That’s the kind of performance which will always give you a chance of winning the show.
I can’t say that I am familiar with the work of Takeshi Kitano at all, which is a shame since this was the specialist subject on offer from Jon Chadwick. I do know that a Japanese gangster can be called a yakuza, which brought me my only point in this round, for which I was truly thankful. Jon had done his homework certainly, because you can’t get 8 in a 90 second round unless you know your stuff. Still, he was three points behind, and that looked like a bit of a mountain to climb.
Sean Howley, the ante post favourite, was answering questions on Newcastle United FC. In his first round Sean had scored 10 on his specialist round. Not a bad score for a 2 minute round, but we’d already seen Paul score 11, and he risked leaving himself with a lot to do unless he could proportionately improve in this specialist round. Well, he managed 7, which meant he wasn’t out of it. He’s maybe kicking himself he didn’t get the Paul Gascoigne question, but then that is what the chair can do to you. Frankly, if you only have one of those moments in a round, then you’re doing better than most.
Alcuin Edwards won heat 15 back in November, and I remember noticing that he didn’t answer particularly quickly, although he didn’t make that many mistakes either. In shorter rounds, the chances were that this was going to put him at a little more of a disadvantage. I knew about as much about the Jagiellon dynasty as I did about the work of Takeshi Kitano, so I can’t comment on the level of difficulty of the questions that Alcuin faced. In the end he managed to answer 6 of them, and you couldn’t help thinking that if he had only answered a little more quickly he would have had a couple of points more. I hate seeing people out of the game by half time, but I’m afraid that this was the way it seemed to be for Alcuin.
Helen Marshall had managed a score of 12 in her specialist subject in the first round heat. A similar performance would see her behind Paul in this show. However we got quite a better performance. Helen was answering on the Adam Dalgliesh books of P.D.James. Helen showed a superb recall of details of these books. Of the ones she knew, which was most of them, she didn’t waste a micro second’s pause, and as a result crammed the questions in. She didn’t have them all right, but still posted a highly commendable 11 points of her own. However she also passed once . Would that count against her, I wondered.
In a 2 minute GK round if you can get into the teens then you’re doing pretty well. Alcuin Edwards didn’t quite manage that. As I said earlier, his pace was very measured, and especially in a Mastermind semi that’s a luxury you just can’t afford. Still, his ten was made up of a significant proportion of correct answers, and he can reflect with satisfaction upon having made the semi finals in the first place. Sean Howley had shown himself to be a good quizzer with his 19 on GK in the heat. His round tonight started in a similar style, and you really started to think that he was going to set a total that the others were going to find it difficult to beat. The round slowed down a little in the second minute though. The 12 he posted was a good score, and looked likely to be the best GK round of the night, but it still meant that Paul and Helen only needed 9 to post a higher score. You sensed that this was going to be 2 or 3 short of what would be needed to beat them.
Jon returned to the chair first, though. He’d set a respectable 13 in the heat, but tonight, well tonight you could see that he had one of those rounds where there are a lot of questions where you’re 50/50 about the answers, and you take the wrong option every time. It can happen to anyone, and it’s just hard lines that it happened at the worst possible time. Jon finished on 13. So the dark horse returned to the chair, knowing that 9 would take the lead. Paul never looked 100% at ease during the round, but he kept on picking off what he knew, and often that’s the best way to handle a Mastermind GK round – if you get one wrong don’t dwell on it, because there will be another one along in a minute. 10 points set the bar at 21. That and the two passes that Jon had picked up during the round. Helen set to her task in a purposeful manner, answering as crisply and cleanly as she had during her specialist round. I had her slightly ahead of the clock at the minute mark. The wheels rather came off, though, as the passes began, and the wrong answers. By the buzzer Helen was in sight of the finish line, but not close enough, having added 8 to her total to finish with 19. So very well played Paul, good luck in the final.
|Paul Whittaker||Birds of Britain||11 – 0||10 - 2||21 – 2|
|Jon Chadwick||Films of Takeshi Kitano||8- 1||5 - 4||13 – 5|
|Sean Howley||Newcastle United FC since 1945||7 - 1||12 - 1||19 - 2|
|Alcuin Edwards||The Jagiellon Dynasty||6 - 1||10 - 2||16 – 3|
|Helen Marshall||The Adam Dalgleish Novels of P.D.James||11 - 1||8 - 4||19 – 5|