Tuesday, 29 July 2014

University Challenge - Round One - Match Three

University of Bristol v. The Courtauld Institute of Art

I wonder if you were thinking what I was thinking? Before the start of this show I sincerely wished the Courtauld Institute every success and hope that they did well, having won their place through the selection process which we saw played out in two documentaries a few weeks ago. But you have to say that on paper at least the odds were against the. Let me try to explain. Let’s say that you don’t have an English specialist on your team. The chances are that you may still have someone who, although studying something light years removed from English literature, still reads avidly and has an excellent knowledge of literature. Likewise with History, and a number of other subjects. Now, if you’re studying in the Courtauld, you’re not likely to already have a degree in Physics, Chemistry or Biology, and so without a Science specialist chances are you’re going to be up against it. Now, this is not a complaint against the series, well, it’s not a complaint at all, but it is an observation that some institutions, by their very nature, are going to be up against it.

Trying to put the lie to all that I’ve just said for the Courtauld Institute were Annie Gregoire, Matthew McLean, Thomas Bodinetz and their captain, Anna Preston. The University of Bristol, unlike the Courtauld, has made quite a few appearances on the show, the last coming in 2013, when they were beaten by Imperial in the second round. Bristol ’s team consisted of Lewis Rendell, Benjamin Moon, Miles Coleman and their captain, Anastasia Reynolds. That’s enough of that then. Let’s go.

Now, for a certain type of quizzer, whenever you hear the words “Stettin in the Baltic”, even before you get to “Trieste in the Adriatic” you’re going to give the response “Iron Curtain”. A nice old chestnut to kick off with, and Matthew McLean showed some nifty buzzer work to take it and score the Courtauld’s first ever points in UC. Food or dishes linked with specific places gave them two bonuses, but they couldn’t quite get Mahon for mayonnaise. 20 points a decent haul for a first visit to the table. Lewis Rendell opened Bristol’s account knowing that the Coliseum in Rome is in fact an amphitheatre. A nice set on fictional masters and servants saw all of us miss out on Plautus. I had the other two, but Bristol couldn’t dredge up that Mosca comes from Volpone. For the third starter Benjamin Moon knew that CO2 falls as snow on Mars. Rodents provided them with another two bonuses. I didn’t know the degu either. The picture starter showed a table of Oscar winners from a particular year, and asked for the best picture. Well, if Eastwood directed and Swank actressed then it had to be Million Dollar Baby that pictured. Miles Coleman had that one. Three more of the same followed as bonuses. They had the first two, but missed out on the fact that the starter and first two were years in which the Best director also went to the director of the Best Picture – which might have led them to No Country for Old Men. Lewis Rendell took his second starter of the contest with the phrase Heirarchy of Needs. British place names with odd pronunciations such as Belvoir – Cholmondeley and Beaulieu – in fact those were the three – provided them with another 2 bonuses. All of which completed a good start for Bristol, who led by 72 – 20 at the ten minute mark.

Asked for a Venetian artist who died in 1576, the Courtauld team breathed a collective sigh of relief when Matthew McLean supplied the correct answer of Titian. He’s my stock ‘Venetian artist’ answer, as it happens. Courtauld managed to answer exactly the same number of chemistry bonuses as I did – that is, none. Miles Coleman knew that the country whose capital city was the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to have an underground railway system is Argentina. Good shout. I was delighted to pick up a full set on Mozart Symphonies, but Bristol only managed the last. Something Mathsy about a rigid boat in cold water followed next. Nobody had it. Miles Coleman identified the opening of “The Children of Men”. Given bonuses on politicians who were also writers Bristol couldn’t convert any into points. This brought up the music starter, and I amazed myself by recognising an aria from La Traviata. Neither team could, although both were on the right track with Verdi operas. Percy Spencer is another rof those names that would have a hardened quizzer slamming the buzzer through the desk. Thomas Bodinetz had it first with Microwave. This earned the bonuses for the Courtauld, and they were offered three arias from operas within the top 10 most listened to. They took Madame Butterfly, and Carmen, but missed out on the Barber of Seville. Lewis Rendell recognised a couple of definitions of the word Fess, and this gave Bristol bonuses on mathematics. Be honest with you, I didn’t understand any of them, but when they were all over Bristol had scored their first full set, earning them congratulations from JP. Neither team knew Perugia is the capital of Umbria. However Anastasia Reynolds knew that Noel Coward wrote “Present Indicative”. A lovely little UC set followed on books in the Bible containing phrases beginning with I am. It’s not always Leviticus – laughed JP on their second answer – but he was laughing with them rather than at them. What has happened to him? Is he subconsciously channelling Bamber Gascoigne now, or what? Well, whatever the answer to that one, the bonuses they did answer were enough to take them to 140, which gave them a 95 point lead over the Courtauld at the 20 minute mark. Now, that’s not an unbridgeable gap in the last few minutes, but based on the evidence of what we’d already seen it was all over bar the shouting. The question was, how many points could the Courtauld manage by the end of the show?

Neiher team recognised a selfie by the artist Joseph Durcreux – never heard of him, but he looked like – well, an interesting chap if his self portrait did him justice and was anything to go by. So the bonuses rolled over. Now, the next starter was my lap of honour around the living room answer. In the periodic table, which element appears above tungsten and below chromium. “Molybdenum!” I cried – thanks Sporcle. Neither team had it. Thomas Bodinetz did though know three films by Rudolf Valentino, and this brought up the portrait bonuses. 2 were taken. Neither team knew various names of the magpie. Miles Coleman knew that Menelik II was a ruler of Ethiopia. Capitals of Central Asia weren’t easy by any means, but Bristol managed one of them. Thomas Bodinetz knew what CAD/CAM stands for, and earned the Courtauld 10 more points and a set of bonuses on J.M. Barrie – who incidentally grew up in Kirriemuir very close to one pair of my great great great grandparents. Sadly they didn’t manage any of these quite. Lewis Rendell knew that Brest – as in the Treaty of Bret Litovsk – is in present day Belarus. A chemistry set followed of which Bristol managed the last. Nobody knew a question about hydrogen. Nor about the confluence of the Rhine and the Moselle. Anastasia Reynolds, by a delicious irony, knew a question about the establishment of the Romanov dynasty. Answers about politicians in the House of Lords promised much, but only delivered the one correct answer. Benjamin Moon knew the term intergalacial to take the next starter. That was all we had time for before the gong, and meant that Bristol won by 190 to 75. Jp folded his arms, looked across to the Courtauld team and nodded saying, “I think we’re going to be saying goodbye to you, “ then he went on to say that they were a very, very nice team. Then, as if he had committed some kind of faux pas he turned to Bristol and paid them the same compliment. At that moment he seemed to snap out of the post hypnotic trance he had surely been in, and made the observation, “I must be getting soft.” Well, quite. Hard lines Courtauld, but no shame whatsoever – you got to the televised stages. Well played Bristol – good luck in round two.

Jeremy Paxman watch

After taking their second starter on Titian, JP allowed himself a half chuckle as he announced, “Your bonuses are on Chemistry, Courtauld.” He didn’t quite add – is it even worth me asking? – but he was maybe thinking it. We’re used to JP correcting teams with additional information on Literature questions, but he even did it with the Mozart bonus on the Prague Symphony, informing Bristol that “No, Paris is 31, I think.” Well, Jez, you think correctly! Impressive.
There was a very enjoyable moment when Anna Preston, who probably misheard the quotation, suggested that a novel which began “Early this morning, 1st January 2021 . . . “ was in fact George Orwell’s 1984. Jp first gave a straightforward “No” then was frozen into immobility for a moment. Actually I say immobility, but his eyebrows did in fact move southwards as the implications of the answer sank in. Fair play, though, our man is made of stern stuff, and resisted the opportunity to indulge in an outburst.

Following the music starter, JP announced “we’ll come to the music bonuses in a moment or two. First off somebody has to get a starter question right.” It earned him a cheap laugh, but please, Jez, not too many of those. You’re capable of better.

Miles Coleman buzzed in early when asked about an Italian city with Universities, and answered, “Oh no, it’s not Bologna, is it?” Time was when JP would have given him a frightful wigging for such blatan fishing. But in this case he just sat there, like a sly predator who knows his prey is cornered, and said nothing. “Bologna” then said Miles Coleman. “You’re quite right, “ our hero replied, “ it isn’t Bologna.” He’s definitely mellowing.

In fact he was really playing it for laughs. Annie Gregoire quite clearly offered Thallium for Molybdenum, to which he replied in tones of mock indignation “Valium??!!!” Another cheap laugh, Jeremy. I have to say I didn’t really like his comment, when the Courtauld failed to identify the Ernst Kircher self portrait, ”Maybe you haven’t quite got that far yet.”

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

Pie Bavarde – which means something like gossiping magpie – is actually the French for magpie – while in Italian it is the rather splendid gazza in Italian.


Jack said...

A very pleasant match, despite being one sided. Courtauld were a very cheery team who clearly were there for a laugh, and didn't do that bad considering their narrow subject range. Well done to them. Bristol gave a good account of themselves too, though I feel we'll need to see how they fare against a stronger team first I feel.

On the bonuses, Bristol converted 16/31 (with two penalties) and Courtauld 6/15 (with one penalty).

No show next week, due to WW1 centenary commemorations. When the show will resume, we shall have to wait and see.

Dan said...

Any opera buff would have got the magpie question from Rossini's La Gazza Laddra - The Thieving Magpie

Londinius said...

Hi Jack - Hi Dan

I agree with what you say about Bristol, but that's not a terrible conversion rate. I have a feeling that if they get matched with a fast buzzer team in the next round they could maybe struggle.

Not being in any way shape or form an opera buff, Dan, I will take your word for that.

Adam "Addy" Lewis said...

If this lurker may comment again, I have to say I really enjoyed this show. Aside from the overall entertainment factor, with Paxman getting in on the act as much as the teams, there were several questions that jumped out at me.

The Joseph Ducreux picture made me laugh a lot as the impressive painting has become memetic in recent years. Specifically it's the Archaic Rap meme, with the painting being captioned with "archaic English" translations of modern rap lyrics. "Stop, Hammer time!" being rendered as "Suspend thy current actions! My timepiece indicates a necessity for mallets!" being an example. Despite my knowledge of this I still forgot the man's name during the show though!

The Maslow question on Hierarchy of Needs was one I knew the answer to as soon as Maslow's name came up, as I was forced to study it extensively in university. I did a finance degree but there were generic business subjects we all had to study but didn't want to. The lecturers got rather frustrated at perhaps 20 of 600 students actually choosing to study the subject in which the Hierarchy came up, but I doubt I'll ever forget it! Still, I've seen Maslow's name come up in quizzes before, only ever for that reason, so it's one for the knowledge bank. Incidentally, it discusses human needs from basic (food and water) to more complex (psychological).

The Barrie question was another, also because I have a connection to him - I live in Dumfries where he grew up. His home here was recently secured for preservation for its history and potential tourism.

As a contest, Bristol effectively got a bye to round 2, but it's always good to see debutants do well, and four history of art majors and no experience of the show or old veterans to discuss such things with, Courtauld could have done far worse - no record breaking loss by any means.

I'm really enjoying this series so far, we've had three varied shows and I can't wait to see what the rest of the series brings!

Stephen Follows said...

'When the show will resume, we shall have to wait and see.'

Monday 11 August: St. Anne's v Caius

Dasypus said...

Not something that usually bothers me, but it got to me on this episode that Paxman kept mispronouncing 'kinase'. The first syllable has the vowel of 'mine', not of 'bin'. Otherwise, a terrific episode, and it's great to see a new institution making a good showing.