Friday, 5 September 2014

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 4

Well, the answer to the first question I asked myself about tonight’s show was no, there was only one recidivist rather than two. This was none other than Mike Foden. Lovers of irony and coincidence might like to reflect that Mike was beaten in his very first appearance in 2009 by Paula Keaveney, who won heat 2 a fortnight ago. In 2010 he was knocked out in round one by eventual series runner up Peter Reilly, and in 2012 by 2014 Brain of Britain Mark Grant. So I think it’s fair to say that he was overdue a little bit of the rub of the green. Still, Mike was fourth to go, so let’s have a look at the others.

Writer Sidin Sunny kicked us off with Champagne. I tutted a little knowingly when I heard that this was a subject. Back during the 2007 SOBM Tim Vick, the runner up in my heat, opted for German wines. He was served up some very long and rather obscure questions, and even granted that German wines is probably a much wider subject than champagne, it still seemed that this would be a troublesome subject. There’s no doubt that Sidin knew his stuff, either, but it was never a round that was going to allow a contender to build up a momentum, and in all honesty I thought that the 8 he scored was the least that he deserved.

The Manhatten Project hardly proved more forgiving towards second contender Graham Gowland, either. Like Sidin before him his answers proved that he really knew his stuff as well, but the nature of the questions left him just short of double figure. Again, I thought that this was a poor return for a round in which he showed considerable knowledge of his subject.

Like a majority of viewers I would imagine, I think of Tina Modotti as Tina Who? She was a photographer, apparently. Now, biographical rounds, even obscure biographical subjects, often prove to be fruitful for a contender. Certainly it enabled Lena Gazey to get into double figures – quite an achievement when in a heat where it seemed that points were proving very hard to come by. 11 points, though, made it look as if there was plenty of room for Mike to establish a lead at the halfway stage.

Mike was offering the cult TV show, “The Prisoner”. Good choice. 17 episodes, and I would imagine that there is quite a wealth of source material out there to work from. Which Mike doubtless had done, since he negotiated his way through his questions, accruing just a single pass, and taking the lead with 13. With his prior experiences of Mastermind, and his GK track record you fancied that this was probably game over as far as this heat was concerned. As for me – well – no time to wiki this week, and so I had to settle for an aggregate of 11, 5 of which had come from the Prisoner round.

IN some ways, this heat reminded me of heat 2. There were some rather long GK questions, and although the heat was calling out for someone to take the GK by the scruff of the neck. . . but I’m getting ahead of myself. Sidin was the first to return to the chair. Much like his first round, he actually supplied some good answers to his questions, but never established any kind of momentum. A total of 15 was never going to win, but nonetheless it had been hard earned. Graham Gowland could probably vouch for that. His round didn’t get off to a great start, and when that happens you start to question your own answers and to second guess. It slows you right down, and stops any chance you might have of achieving a competitive total. Graham put a brave face on it, but after adding 6 to his total he looked rather glad that his round was over.

I’ll be honest, bearing in mind Mike was yet to come, I thought that the least that Lena would need to put him into the corridor of uncertainty would be a double figures round. Well, she didn’t quite manage that. She did, though, keep the round rolling on, albeit somewhat slowly, eventually accruing 8 and 7 passes. What must Mike have felt walking to the chair, knowing that he only needed 7 to win outright, and reach the semi finals for the first time? Certainly there was a look of steely determination on his face as he began. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I think that he maybe suffered from a little nervousness, answering Big Blue rather than Deep Blue, and in mid round he became becalmed on 16. He steadied his nerves, though, recovered, and made the target with a couple to spare. He’s had better rounds and not won before, has Mike, but this was what he needed. Many congratulations, Mike, and the very best of luck in your semi.

The Details

Sidin Sunny Champagne8 - 27 - 215 - 4
Graham GowlandThe Manhattan Project9 - 16 - 415 - 5
Lena GazeyTina Modotti11 - 18 - 719 - 1
Mike FodenThe Prisoner13 - 18 - 321 – 6


Dasypus said...

Perhaps you or one of your readers can answer a concern that has come up a couple of times in my house: to what extent is the length of questions controlled across contenders? Because in this episode it seemed striking that Graham Gowland received only 11 (or maybe 10) questions, where Mike Foden was given 14 to answer; and Gowland did not seem to be answering noticibly slowly.

Any insight would be most welcome!

-R, a regular reader from Ontario, Canada

Londinius said...

Hi Dasyprus and welcome to LAM. During my appearences on the show the production went to great lengths to assure each of us that the questions and the optimum answers were always rigourously timed to ensure that each contender, answering at the same speed, should receive the same number of questions.

I too sometimes think that contenders have received notably fewer questions than others, but I have no reason to disbelieve what I was told on the show - in all honesty it can be quite difficult to judge with great accuracy how fast or slow a contender may be going. Remember, it isn't just the interval between the end of the question and the start of the answer, it's also the length of answer and the speed with which it is given.

Hope that this goes some way towards answering your question.

Stephen Follows said...

Another question is the unfairness involved in Humphrys repeating, or rewording, some perfectly correct answers and thus depriving some contestants of valuable seconds.

An example would be his 'Joan of Arc' after Lena Gazey had said 'Jeanne d'Arc'. Since translating a French name into English makes it less, not more, correct, one can only assume that this was done for the benefit of the audience, and not to help Ms Gazey in any way.

jeffgrimshaw said...

I was a contender on MM in 2011 and wondered about this myself after my appearance.

The reason being was that myself and one other contender each received SS 18 questions while the other 2 contenders each received 15 SS questions.

This seemed like a big difference to me so I went back over the "tape" and timed the rounds.

What I found was interesting...

...there was VERY LITTLE difference in the length of questions asked to all 4 of us - the average times per SS question were, respectively, 5.83 seconds, 5.78 secs, 5.88 secs and 5.89 secs.

The reason why two contenders received 3 fewer questions was entirely down to the time taken to answer.

If you hesitate for even a second, on average, in your answers, this (based on an average of ~6 seconds per question) will cost you about 3 questions in a 2 minute SS round.