Friday, 25 April 2014

Mastermind Grand Final 2014

If you’re a pundit, even a self-appointed pundit such as myself, the least people probably expect from you is that you are going to pund. A duty which I failed to fulfill in my preview of this Grand Final, being unable to pick a winner from the lineup. Actually that’s not strictly accurate. The fact was that I could pick a winner, the problem was that I could pick quite a few winners among the line up – about half a dozen as it happened. Where I struggled was that I couldn’t pick out 5 runners up.

First to go in the final, making his first appearance in the Grand Final after several attempts to win a semi was Hamish Cameron. Hamish was answering on Scottish Lighthouses. That’s actually a very good subject. I read a book all about the Stevensons a year or two ago. Young Robert Louis Stevenson was something of the black sheep of the family, going on to become a writer, instead of building lighthouses. In his filmed insert Hamish got to go to an offshore lighthouse – which is pretty much a mid level prize in terms of the insert lottery. Hamish very humourously tackled the subject of his multiple appearences during his filmed insert, noting that he desperately wanted to win the final so that he’d never have to apply to the show again. Well, his specialist round gave him a chance. Hamish scored 11, and in the context of this series, nobody is likely to score much more than the mid teens on specialist, so while he might have been hoping for a slightly higher score, he was definitely in there with a shout.

Our own Daniel Adler was second to go, and he was answering on Richard Wagner. For his film Daniel was one of the insert lottery winners, having been taken to Bayreuth to make his short and interesting introductory film. He obviously knew his stuff, too. During the round he maintained his composure and his confidence, but you couldn’t help thinking that the 10 that he posted was going to leave him needing a very high score on GK, and that he would be towards the rear of the field at the turn.

Retired librarian Brian Chesney had opted for the Italian Front during World War I. Brian’s number too had come up on the insert lottery, so it seemed, as his film was made in Italy. Nice to see the Beeb pushing the boat out a little with the insert filming budget. Brian needed 12 to take the lead, and indeed this was a very good specialist round, and saw him actually improve upon Hamish’s score by 2, setting the bar for the first round now at 13.

Now, I knew that Clive was going to be the contender who had the shortest journey for his filmed insert, since he was answering on the life and work of Philip Larkin. Which must mean, I reasoned, a visit to the University of Hull. Larkin is my favourite English 20th century poet, so this was a round I was quite looking forward to. I must admit a certain amount of envy that Clive got to look at Larkin’s notebooks. As for the round itself, I did Ok with 4 answers, but this was nowhere near to Clive’s 12. With two rounds to go he was in a decent position.

Roderick Cromar looked likely to have a trip to France, answering on French Cinema 1895 – 1945, and indeed his prize was a trip to the Institut Lumière in Lyon. Roderick said a couple of interesting things in his film. Firstly, that he had come to realize how wide his subject was while learning for it, which made me a little apprehensive for him. Secondly he spoke of his own memories of the show when he was little, being told about the first series rather than watching it because it was on too late at night. I had a similar experience myself. The earliest final I can actually remember watching was Elizabeth Horrocks’ final in 1974 when I was 10. Roderick’s fears were only partially confirmed during the round. He was certainly not shown up in any way by his round, but it was, sadly, just a couple of points short of a competitive total. You fancied that at 4 points behind, with one contender still to go in the first round, he was a little too far behind for a realistic chance of the win.

Our final contender, Michael McPartland, had a good claim to having won the jackpot in the insert lottery. Answering on The Salem Witch Trials he had the longest journey of all of the contenders, being whisked away to – well, where else – to Salem Massachusetts. As had all of the contenders, he spoke with interest and authority on his subject, before settling down into the chair to produce the best specialist round of the show. 14 points and no passes put him into the enviable position of being the leader at the turn.

Well, nobody had ‘done a Gary’, that is, blown everyone else away with a titanic specialist round, and Aidan McQuade last year had shown how it is possible to come from some distance back to win on GK. Even so, I did feel for Roderick as he returned to the chair. He needed a great GK round to put everyone else within the corridor of uncertainty. Right then. These GK rounds were 2 and a half minutes long. Was it just my imagination, or were last night’s GK rounds also struck with the same ‘overly long question’ disease that has so afflicted the specialist rounds throughout this series? It certainly seemed so to me. Every time that Roderick seemed to be building a bit of momentum a nasty one came along to stop him in his tracks, and in the end he scored 9 to push his score to 18.

In his semi-final Daniel had attacked his GK round with gusto and overturned a deficit on specialist to win his place in the final. Last night he attacked his GK round with the same gusto, and again produced a very good, battling performance. You have to view these GK scores in the context of this show, where each round had its share of ‘stoppers’ and questions were not exactly crammed in with a shoehorn. 12 put him up to 22. Bearing in mind that last year’s winning total was 25 this looked a little short of a winning total, but nonetheless, as a target it was enough to make the four contenders yet to come pause for thought.

For Hamish Cameron, even though this was his first Grand Final, it must have been a case of déja-vu as he was served up a set of questions which contained some straightforward questions he was able to dispatch to the boundary, but which, like Roderick, kept serving up stoppers every time he threatened to build up a head of steam. I have a feeling that he knew, as the round was racing towards the buzzer, that he had not done it, and indeed, like Roderick he didn’t quite achieve double figures. His score of 9 left him on 20.

Three contenders down, and three to go. The indications were that the 2014 champion would be one of these three gentlemen. First to go was Clive Dunning. Clive was stopped in his tracks a little by an early question, but after that he really didn’t look back. As much as you could with these rather disconcerting GK rounds, Clive grabbed it by the scruff of the neck, and bulldozed his way through the remaining questions to score a very good 13. This put him up to a total of 25, our magic number, and laid down the gauntlet.

I enjoyed watching Brian’s face during his GK round. He could feel slightly aggrieved as he had progressed smoothly to about 16, when he was hit by a series of three or four snorters one after another. The look on his face seemed to say to me – what sort of questions d’you call these? – and to be honest, I know where he was coming from. Brian’s chosen tactic was to pass quickly and get on with the round – a valid tactic, certainly, and he gained some momentum when he passed this hurdle. With the very last question he raised his score to 25, level with Clive. Would it all come down to passes?

The only person who could prevent that from happening was Michael McPartland, and for the first few questions this looked on the cards. An old quiz hand, Michael answered quickly and economically. However those stoppers were just waiting around the corner, and he, too, found his momentum taken away, and never quite managed to get it back again. Michael too added 9 to his total. His total of 23 guaranteed him third place – well done! – but who had actually won? Well, on pass countback Brian had 5, while Clive had only the one, and so Clive Dunning, college lecturer and LAM reader, is our new champion! Well done Clive. You held your nerve brilliantly, and deserved to win. Many commiserations to Brian Chesney, and in fact to all of our finalist, who made this such an enjoyable and high quality competition.

As a footnote for those interested in the history of the show, this is not the first final to be settled on passes. In 2004 Chaser Shaun Wallace beat Don Young on passes. No final of the Magnus era was settled on passes, although the 1974 final nearly was. At the end of the Final, Elizabeth Horrocks was tied on 21 with Brian Wright, but the winner on passes. However during the recording break before the presentation of the trophy it was discovered that Brian had been given a point to which he was not entitled, and so the scores were amended before the presentation. As a footnote, on a personal level, when I contacted Clive a short while ago to give my congratulations he was kind enough to point out that although giving his profession as teacher, he is in fact a college lecturer, and so strictly speaking I am still the last schoolteacher to win the show. What a nice man!

Congratulations to everyone involved with the show on another thoroughly absorbing and entertaining series (although please can we have some shorter questions next year? High scores are not a crime if you’re good enough to achieve them.)

The Details

Hamish Cameron Scottish Lighthouses11 - 19 - 220 - 3
Daniel AdlerThe Life and Work of Richard Wagner10 - 012 - 0 22 - 0
Brian ChesneyThe Italian Front During World War I13 - 012 - 425 - 4
Clive DunningThe Life and Poetry of Philip Larkin12 – 0 13 - 125 - 1
Roderick CromarFrench Cinema 1895 - 19459 - 49 - 218 - 2
Michael McPartlandThe Salem Witch Trials14 - 09 - 023 – 0

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