Friday, 5 April 2013

Mastermind Grand Final 2013

I know I’ve said this before on more than one occasion, but well, that just goes to show how much I know, doesn’t it? I’m talking about the Grand Final, of course. In one of the most unpredictable seasons for many a year we saw it come to a climax with a suitably exciting and unpredictable final. Once again, the format was 2 minutes of questions for specialist, and 2 and a half minutes of questions for GK. The scores for all the contenders in the semi finals were all so similar that it was very difficult to draw any conclusions about who might be expected to run well, but if you read my preview last week you’ll know that I predicted podium places for Andrew, Didier and John. Fellas, I can only apologise.

John kicked off with Pop music of the 1970s. John’s semi final win saw him come from 5th place to win with a barnstorming general knowledge round. I worried a little about his subject – not that I thought it wasn’t an enjoyable round, because it was. I grew up during the 70s as well, turning 16 in 1980, so I was able to get a couple of them. It did strike me as a very wide subject, though, and I did worry that John would leave himself too much to do in the GK. Nine wasn’t a bad score at all, but it did leave room for someone to establish a significant cushion.

It turned out that this someone would be Paul Whittaker. Paul was one of the winners of the insert lottery, getting a chance to film in London’s Globe Theatre. This was because he was answering on Shakespeare’s plays about The Wars of the Roses. Interesting subject – and plenty difficult to learn, as there’s quite a few of them. I’ll be honest, I’ve little familiarity with the three parts of Henry VI and the two parts of Henry IV, but managed a few points on some of the others. Still, Paul did a lot better. It wasn’t quite a perfect round, but it was a strong one. 14 is the kind of score which will put you in with a chance at halfway, and at the moment he had a useful lead of 5 points.

The outright winner of the insert lottery was Aidan McQuade, whose subject of Abraham Lincoln bought him a visit to the USA. Aidan had a good 90 second 10 in his semi-final, but this round didn’t quite manage to hit those heights. I read a biography of Lincoln last year, and this pushed me to a round half dozen. So I know that these weren’t all gimmes by any stretch of the imagination. 11 put Aidan 3 points behind Paul – not good in a final, but not insurmountable. However the GK rounds had not been his strongest point in the first round and the semi.

In contrast to John, Sian West had won her semi final by setting a very good total on her specialist subject of The Pembrokeshire Coast, and then hanging on through the GK round. Tonight she was offering the operas of Verdi. I may be wrong, but it seemed to me that there were more questions about things which were tangential to the operas than Sian would have liked, and the round seemed a bit of a struggle. It’s horrible when you can feel a round slipping away from you, as there’s nothing you can do about it, save keep concentrating and answer what you can. I give Sian full credit for pushing her score up with a late burst, when she might have been forgiven for panicking. 6, though, meant that she was out of the race for the title, if truth be told.

Didier Bruyere had answered in previous rounds on first Marie Curie, then Garibaldi. Tonight he forsook the biographical subjects, and plumped instead for the Paris Commune of 1871. Historically a hugely interesting subject, however, I pondered, not one easily reduced into one 2 minute round. With the target at 14 it meant that Didier’s round of 11 gave him a shout of overhauling Paul in the GK rounds. However he was one of the three contenders battling against the curse of the Clark tip, so anything could happen.

Andrew Frazer made no secret of his wish to win the show in his filmed insert. I don’t blame him for that. Both Gary and Ian did exactly the same, and it didn’t hurt either of them. Out of interest, both Gary and Ian had taken part in an earlier series, while I believe all 6 of tonight’s finalists had made the final on their very first attempt. Andrew also pointed out that he had answered every single one of his specialist questions in both heat and semi correctly. Tempting fate there, Andrew, I thought. Well, answering on the late Roman Empire he maybe didn’t have them all right this time, but I think there was only one wrong and no passes. I thought that of all the rounds his questions were a little on the long side. Still, a score of 13 put him in second place, only 1 point behind the leader. So nobody had managed to blow the opposition away with a barnstorming first round, but then almost all of them were in with a shout if they could produce a great GK round. It’s been a while since 5 of the contenders were still in contention at the halfway stage.

If you watched the final you’re maybe wondering – when are you going to get around to your cameo appearance, Dave? Ah, you know me too well. If you watched the final you’ll have seen a good little half time film about the history of the show. There were clips of a number of champs receiving their just desserts, and I’m very pleased to say that me collecting my bowl from Sally Magnusson was the second, immediately after Fred Housego. (By the way, Fred, if by any chance you’re reading this, the offer of that pint is still on the table.) One small thing, though. John said that only 34 people had ever won a Mastermind bowl. Now, there have only been 35 BBC TV Mastermind winners including tonight’s, true. But what about Discovery Mastermind and Radio 4 Mastermind? That’s another 4 in total. I’m sorry, but I don’t go along with pretending that BBC never made the mistake of leaving it to Radio 4 to preserve the show, and to the Discovery Channel to bring it back to the TV. If you’re a champion of any of the 4 – original BBC TV – Radio 4 – Discovery – revived BBCTV – then you’re a Mastermind Champ, as far as I’m concerned.

The next champion, then, was surely going to have to earn the title through General Knowledge. Sian started off like an express train in her round, but became a little bogged down around about the 90 second mark. She kept the total moving enough to push her score up to 15. Next up was John Savage. Now, it’s only a week since we saw John win his semi by blowing away the competition with a very good GK round. He needed a great round to at least open the door of the corridor of uncertainty to the remaining contenders. It certainly wasn’t a bad round, not at all, but it wasn’t of the calibre of the previous week’s. 11 put him on 20, which is perfectly respectable, but it looked very vulnerable.

In my preview last week, I said that while I thought that Aidan, Paul and Sian were all capable of winning, Aidan’s first round GK score of 9 worried me. Had Aidan repeated that in this round, then he would have tied with John on 20. He didn’t repeat it, though. Aidan had said in his filmed insert that he was more concerned about doing his best, the best that he was capable of, than he was about winning. He had also said that he entered because Mastermind looked like good craic. For me, this calm and sensible attitude was one of the factors that enabled him to do much, much better. 14 is a good round in anyone’s money, and it took his total, and the target, up to 25. Now we had a target that was going to test all three of the remaining contenders.

The first of the last three to have a go at beating it was Didier Bruyere. Didier never once mentioned in his filmed insert that he has the disadvantage of the fact that English is not his first language, despite how well he speaks it. It didn’t seem to hamper him in the first round and the semi, and I’m not saying it hampered him in this round. However he did seem more nervous than he had done in first round or semi – understandably so, and although he managed double figures, his 12 would only take him to 23. I thought that this might well have left the door open for Andrew Frazer to achieve his goal. Andrew never looked entirely convincing in his GK round in the semi, but even so he scored 10 in 2 minutes then. With another 30 seconds a similar performance would put him very close to the target. If he could reproduce his 19 from the first round, though, the game would be as good as over. Sadly Andrew just couldn’t get going in his round. I think he was aware of this as the round went on as well, and when the buzzer went during the last question you could see the disappointment in his eyes. He knew he hadn’t done it, and a score of 9 for the round left him on 22.

One contender remained. The specialist rounds had ended with Paul Whittaker holding a 3 point lead over Aidan. 3 points is a significant lead, but it’s not necessarily so significant over a 2 and a half minute round. Paul needed 12 to win outright. At first too, it seemed as if he could do it. He wasn’t blasting his way through, but he was keeping calm, picking off the answers to the ones he knew as they came. However, heartbreakingly for him, these dried up in the middle of the round, much as they had done in Sian’s round. At 2 minutes he was significantly behind the clock, and he finished on the same score of 9 correct answers. So Aidan McQuade had done it! Many, many congratulations to you , sir, as much for what you said, and for the attitude in which you approached the contest, as for the splendid GK round which brought you the title.

Congratulations too to Mark Helsby and the team, who brought us a highly enjoyable, and wonderfully unpredictable series. Thank you very much.

The Details

John Savage Pop Music of the 1970s9 - 011 - 020 - 0
Paul WhittakerShakespeare’s Wars of the Roses Plays14 - 09 - 323 - 3
Aidan McQuadeAbraham Lincoln11 - 114 - 325 - 4
Sian WestThe Operas of Verdi6 - 19 - 215 - 3
Didier BruyereThe Paris Commune of 187111 - 012 - 223 - 2
Andrew FrazerThe Roman Empire 284 – 476 AD13 - 09 – 022 – 0


dxdtdemon said...

Congratulations, Aidan. That was a much-deserved win, as they gave you some really obscure Lincoln questions. You studied well.

I guess when people were trying to predict scores, we thought that they'd revert back to shorter questions for the final so that there would be more of a comparison between this year and previous years. Do you think that the longer questions will continue?

Will G said...

Well done to Aidan. Thought it was a tough contest. As a Verdi fan, I agree with Dave's comment on Sian's SS round.
Apologies for the appalling prediction!!!