Saturday, 5 October 2013

University Challenge - Round One - Heat Twelve

Cardiff v. Exeter

Well, here we are coming towards the end of one of the best sets of first round matches for a good year or two. Cardiff, represented by Eleri Evans, Sara Caputo, Tom Parry-Jones and captain Roderick Lawford had to battle against support from the Clark sofa – well they were part of the defunct University of Wales with whom I did my PGCE. Their opposition, Exeter, were Tom Nelson, Finn Sharpe, Martin Gentile and their captain John Earle.

The first question started difficult, but got easier quickly as JP asked for the author of The Constant Gardener. John Earle won that buzzer race, and earned bonuses on wedding music. They answered one of the chestnuts – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but missed the other with Lohengrin, and the more difficult Prince of Denmark’s march. Tom Nelson too k the next starter identifying equivalents of LOL. A good shout that one. Not quite so good were the shouts they made about 20th century British Prime Ministers. They were gettable, but none were actually got. Neither team knew that it was Millais who painted Christ in the House of his Parents. Poor Finn Sharpe hadn’t quite listened to the question for the next. When asked for the Greek letter at the start of a set of words he offered ‘chiro’ – which was at the start of one of the words, but not the actual letter asked for. Tom Parry-Jones offered mu, but of course it was chi. The next question was about Buzzfeed. No, me neither, and nor did the two teams. Tom Parry-Jones was in for the next starter, asking for the sea lying between Australia and New Caledonia, the site of a major battle between US and Japanese navies, and supplied the correct answer of the Coral Sea. So far Exeter hadn’t done brilliantly with the bonuses that they’d been given, and so I asked myself how would Cardiff manage with their first set. Words deemed obsolete and excluded from smaller recent editions of the OED . I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of supererogate, but they could have had charabanc. The picture starter showed us the flag of an autonomous community of Spain. Tricky, since there are several to choose from. The word Oceano on the top suggested this was an overseas area, but neither team spotted this, and both suggested mainland areas, leaving the Canary Islands to go begging. So something of a nervy opening first ten minutes saw Exeter holding a narrow lead of 20 to 15.

Something about joules, amps and henrys saw neither team able to come up with the answer of a quarter. You pays yer money. Sar Caputo correctly identified a quotation about the State, to put Cardiff into the lead, and earn the set on flags, in this case flags with animals upon them. We both had Ecuador and a condor, missed Wyoming and a bison, and took Papua New Guinea and a Bird of Paradise. Eleri Evans won the buzzer race to say that Mars has the same spelling of the third person present of a verb meaning to spoil. Bonuses on solar eclipses in fiction made me put money on Twain’s Connecticut Yankee… being one of them. I lost, since it wasn’t. However I knew John Banville, which the team didn’t, and they knew Generation X, which I didn’t. We both knew King Solomon’s Mines. Sarah Caputo buzzed too early on one of those – in which decade starters, and lost 5. Exeter were unable to capitalize, not knowing that, among other things, A Tale of Two Cities was published in the 1850s. Tom Parry-Jones also had a case of twitchy buzzer finger, and lost five buzzing in too early for the mineral rubies and sapphires come from. Again, Exeter just couldn’t capitalize when given the whole question. It’s corundum, and a little bit of an old quiz chestnut, to be honest. I didn’t know novels by Angela Brazil, but I did know that Marc Almond sang with Soft Cell, and Hazel was a rabbit in Watership Down, so the linking foodstuff was nuts. The next question started waffling about something that sounded like Geometry , then took a swerve asking for the name of the legendary Queen of Carthage. Well, I don’t care, that gave me a rare Geometry question right. It also gave Finn Sharpe a rare starter for Exeter. I really enjoyed the set on parody religions, such as the ‘pastafarians’ . Respect to Exeter for managing two of those – I had Bertrand Russell, but the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and Pink Unicorn are new ones on me. For the music starter Sara Caputo quickly identified that Oh What a Beuatiful Morning was from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (don’t forget the exclamation mark). Bonuses on the locations of other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals brought them one more correct answer. To be fair knowing that Maine is the setting for Carousel was tricky, but they might well have got South Pacific. It was not to be. African Geography did not prove to be either team’s strong point, as neither could guess that the Orange River rises in the Lesotho Highlands. If Martin Gentile was guessing that Quebec produces 70% of the world’s maple syrup, it was a very good guess indeed, and it got Exeter moving again. They took full advantage with the first full set of the contest, this time on Botany. This put both teams level. Neither team knew that the faces of a dodecagon are pentagonal. Well, quite. A good early buzz from Tom Parry-Jones identified Alastair Cook as the youngest batsman to reach 7000 test runs. This put Cardiff back in the lead. Irrigation schemes provided them with another five points. AT the 20 minute mark they led by 75 to 60. Going on the evidence of what we’d already seen, the implications for both teams were quite simple. They had to win the show, because neither of them looked likely to get a repechage score.

John Earle started Exeter’s run for home by identifying a picture of the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi for the next starter. 3 more pictures of people given Soviet awards for peace followed and they took one of them. All square again. Roderick Lawford then began his team’s run for home, knowing that if it’s a piece of music, and it has the word rag in the title, then you just answer Scott Joplin. The first real UC special set of the night came next, with words that appear in the short English names of EU member states, for example spa and pain in Spain. These are the type of question which are usually gettable if you keep a clear head and think. So Love and Oven gave us Slovenia – Ire and Eland gave us Ireland and Man and Oman gave us Romania. Cardiff only took 1 – I thought it was strange that they worked out that Oman was part of it, then went for Germany. Neither team knew that Turkey is the world’s largest producer of hazlenuts. Eleri Evans knew a set of membranes that can be found in the ear. This brought Cardiff triple figures, and a full set of bonuses on radians meant that Exeter suddenly had a mountain to climb if they were to win. Tom Parry-Jones lost five points of Cardiff’s advantage by buzzing too early on the next starter which Finn Sharpe capitalized on by knowing the father of Linguistics. English towns whose names contain only 4 letters put them onto 95 points, and they were halfway up the mountain. Some Maths thing followed, and Eleri Evans was in very quickly with the correct answer. 1 bonus was taken on Mrs. Dalloway. Asked which 4 letter word ends the names of rivers that flow through Ipswich and Manchester Exeter had to get it right to have a chance, but they didn’t. Tom Parry-Jones had it with –well, and that was the game. Bonuses on 1413 followed. They had time for a couple, and then the gong put an end to what was an interesting show, but never a great match, I’m afraid. Neither team showed as wide or impressive a range of knowledge as some we’ve seen recently. Maybe we’ve been a little spoiled by the quality of some of the teams in recent weeks. Still, very well done Cardiff, winners by 145 to 95. Bad luck Exeter, that’s just the way it goes.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP started early. He rarely misses a chance to make a comment about politicians, and when Exeter suggested Alec Douglas-Home entered parliament in 1945 as the MP for Ormskirk he replied “I don’t think he ever darkened the door of Ormskirk.”

I thought JP was quite restrained for a lot of the show. When one of the Exeter team suggested the Nile as the river that rises in the Lesotho Highlands he merely favoured him with an old fashioned look, and refrained from passing the comment he might have made to a team who were doing better.

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

555 in Thai , ASG in Swedish and MDR in French are equivalents of LOL, or Laughing out loud in English.


Jack said...

Two more first round matches to come actually Dave. On Monday, a fourth Oxbridge outing between St John's College Oxford and Downing College Cambridge, and the week after, an all-Welsh affair between Aberystwyth and Bangor, which is a nice end to the final rounds.

Agreed that this was a low scoring affair, and was a bit disappointing compared to what else we've seen this series, but I suppose we were due a match like this. And we will get matches like this as well as high scoring ones given that the show is random and unscripted.

The ironic thing is, despite the low scoring, both teams did decently on the bonuses: Cardiff 14/27 and Exeter 9/18. The starters was what let them down; I am reliably informed by Filip Drnovsek Zorko (from the Trinity team) that 11 starters were dropped, which is a lot more than usual.

But, on the plus side, this is the first time Cardiff have won a UC match since 1998! And good on them for that.

Londinius said...

Oops - thanks Jack - amended the post since.

I think that the disappointing thing was the number of starters that weren't answered by either team, and the amount of , for want of a better word, relatively well known general knowledge stuff that wasn't answered.

Still, nobody answers things wrongly on purpose ( well not since the Manchester Trotsky debacle of years gone by ) and both teams did their best.

I hope Cardiff find a run of questions that suits them in the next round.

Michael said...

Only easy if you know the answers, of course, but I do worry for a team that won't even muster a guess at a 20th Century Prime Minister. Still, some good answers nonetheless so hopefully we'll see more of them in the next round.

Now that all the opening matches are known, I'm sad to see UCL (one of my alma maters and a pretty consistent performer) didn't make the cut. Admittedly I'm not too surprised - I watched the team being selected (UCL have a buzzer contest after a written test whittles applicants down to about a dozen) and had my concerns at the time, but a shame to see a four year run of appearances come to an end.

Londinius said...

Hi Michael

I do think that the two teams this week may have been a little unlucky to have come after several weeks of more impressive performances, which contrasted with this week's match.

Still, first round form is only so reliable as a guide to future performance, and you certainly can't count Cardiff out whoever they face in the second round. All the same you wouldn't necessarily blame anyone for making them underdogs whoever they face in the next round.