Friday, 29 March 2013

Mastermind - Semi Final 6

Well, by a process of elimination we knew that tonight’s contenders for the last place in the Grand Final were going to be
Nell Whiteway - =16th on my table
Gregory Spiller - =4th on my table
John Savage - =26th
Marcus Hake - = 15th
Colin Daffern - =4th

Well, we’ve seen already in this set of semi finals that relative performance in the first round really doesn’t amount to a whole hill of beans as you might say. So whoever was going to win was anybody’s guess.

Nell Whiteway won heat 20 with a great round on Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons” and a solid rather than spectacular round on General Knowledge. Tonight she was answering questions on a subject which was much more to my liking – Yes, Minister – a sitcom which was as practically perfect in every way as a piece of television is ever likely to get. As such I was disappointed to only get 4 answers . This suggests to me that maybe this was a tough set of questions, in which case it makes Nell’s 9 points look even better. A good round, but she looked unlikely to have the kind of serious lead she’d had at the halfway stage in her first round match.

It’s a hell of a long time since we watched Gregory Spiller win heat one, way back in August. He answered on Fawlty Towers (see my previous comment about Yes, Minister) back then. The Rebus novels of Ian Rankin provided his specialist subject tonight. I’m afraid that I’ve never read any, but I knew that the novels are set in Edinburgh, so that brought me my one point. Gregory managed a very good 10 points on this round – seriously, in a 90 second round you have to go like the clappers to get into double figures. Good round.

John Savage scored 11 on his first round specialist subject of Celtic FC. That hadn’t given him the halftime lead, but he romped home with a good GK round. Once again, he didn’t match the highest specialist round. Tonight he was answering on Nazi Germany 1933 – 1945. 8 put him two behind Gregory and 1 behind Nell. That was by no means a disaster, but it meant that his GK round needed to be a good one to give him a shout.

Like John , Marcus Hake had answered on a sporting specialist subject in his first round heat. Back then he answered on the Ashes since 1981. In a complete change of pace tonight he offered the Novels of Haruki Murakami. Again, I have to admit that I have never read any, and this time none of the questions offered any help to the non reader, and so I left the lists with my tail between my legs, and no points. As had Nell, Marcus fell just one short of double figures. Like the previous three contenders, Marcus attempted every question as well. 4 rounds down, and we had yet to see our first pass. Good quizzing, that.

Colin Daffern, the last semi finalist of this series, has been this way before, having been a semi finalist in Geoff’s 2006 series. You may remember he fought out that splendid duel with Roger Canwell in heat 17, scoring a fantastic 19 on GK in the process. This followed on the heels of a round of 13 on The Life and Career of Michael Foot. He did proportionately better on tonight’s specialist round. Setting off at a cracking pace, Colin rattled splendidly through his round on the Glastonbury Festival, picking up 11 points and once again , no passes as he did so.

So John returned to the chair for his GK round. He desperately needed to hit the teens in order to give the other contenders pause for thought, and push them towards the corridor of uncertainty. Which was exactly what he managed to do. I’ve conjectured before that the hardest GK rounds you tend to get are in the semis. I know that in Magnus’ day, the great Boswell Taylor used to arrange it so that the GK rounds would be harder in the semis, then a little easier again in the final to speed things up and heighten the excitement. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. 21 looked vulnerable, and yet not easy. Game on.

Nell Whiteway fell behind on the clock fairly quickly, and really never looked like getting back on terms She retained admirable composure in the face of adversity, but by the end of the round she had only managed to raise her score to 15. Regardless of which she still has the knowledge that she was good enough to make it to the semi final, and that is an achievement in itself. Marcus Hake was able to give it more of a lash, but you could see the clock inexorably catching him up, then passing him. The buzzer came before the finish line, but at least he did make it into double figures for the round. His 10 put him on 19, close, but still a little short.

Gregory Spiller had a two point lead over John at the halfway stage. However John had very cleverly not passed. so in order to go into the outright lead, Gregory needed a round of 12 points. Even 11 and no passes would only bring him a tie break. Well, although he seemed just a little behind John on the clock, Gregory kept his calm, and kept answering. However there were passes along the way. He had scored 11, and John had begun asking the last question as the buzzer went. Oh, Gregory gave it a good go, but in the end he just didn’t know that the Lipari Islands are also called the Aeolian Islands, and so, albeit on pass countback, John’s lead was still intact, with only one contender left.

Colin needed 11 points to render pass countback irrelevant, and his tactic was fairly clear. Go like the clappers, and pass if the answer didn’t come quickly. It’s certainly a legitimate tactic. Based on the first 30 seconds of the round it looked as if he was going to make it with a little time to spare. At the minute mark he still looked ok. At the 90 second mark there were doubts. In particular a hesitation where he nearly gave the correct answer ‘sap’ before passing looked particularly costly. At the buzzer Colin obviously didn’t know if he’d quite done it – well, you don’t – John Humphrys made it pretty clear by reminding him sadly that he had so nearly given the correct answer to the sap question. Oh, John. Believe me, when you’re in Colin’s position, you really don’t want someone telling you this. However kindly it is meant I’m sure that it comes across as having your nose rubbed in it a little. For Colin had score 10, and his four passes meant that John had won.

Hard lines to all 4 runners up, especially Colin and Gregory who came so close, but many congratulations to John. From 5th at the halfway stage to first at the end of the show. Many congratulations on reaching the Grand Final, and the best of retrospective luck to you.

The Details

Nell Whiteway Yes Minister9 – 06 - 315 – 3
Gregory SpillerThe Rebus Novels of Ian Rankin10 – 0 11 - 321 – 3
John SavageNazi Germany 1933 - 19458 – 0 13 - 021 – 0
Marcus HakeThe Novels of Haruki Murakami9 – 0 10 – 119 - 1
Colin DaffernThe Glastonbury Festival11 – 0 10 - 421 – 4

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