Friday, 12 September 2014

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 5

Well, seemingly to make up for the fact that there was only the one recidivist on last week’s show, we were served up no less than three of them in last night’s show. The first of whom was my friend Diane Hallagan. Diane is a very well-known and successful quizzer, and if I mention that last time out on Mastermind was in Ian’s 2011 series, where she reached the Grand Final, that should start to give you an idea of the calibre of player that we are dealing with. I first met Diane in the semis of the 2006 series, in her first tilt. Back in her last MM specialist round in the final of 2011, Diane took Margot Fonteyn. Last night she was answering on the TV series House of Cards and its sequels. I watched the first, House of Cards, and the last, The Final Cut, and so I had a go, and wasn’t too disappointed to come away with 7. Diane though produced one of the finest specialist rounds of the series so far, with a magnificent 16 and one pass. Normally you’d have said – that’s it, game over, at this point.

You had to feel a little sorry for Mark Roman-Gold. For one thing he was answering on John Milton. In my opinion, nothing about John Milton is simple, and some of the questions seemed fairly labyrinthine to me. Just my opinion, and as always . . . Not only that, but he was the solitary Mastermind virgin in last night’s show, and sometimes that can work against you. I can’t prove this, but I do feel that handling the pressure of being in the chair becomes easier the more times that you do it. Mark produced a perfectly respectable round of 9 points on a difficult set, but at 7 points adrift, his realistic chance of a place in the semis was over.

You’d have to have a very good memory to remember the last time that you saw Ian Clark on Mastermind. Ian reached the semi final in 1974. However you don’t need quite such a good memory to remember Ian reaching the final of Brain of Britain in 2012, and being a member of the Francophiles, who won Only Connect last year. Now, you might do well as a fluke in one of these shows, but to do that well in all three can’t be done unless you’re a very good quizzer. Ian’s subject – the Siege of Constantinople of 1453 had the words ‘obscure round’ written all over it. Yet Ian pretty much ripped it to shreds. He didn’t go as fast as Diane, and ended up a point behind on 15, but whichever way you look at it those were both extremely good rounds.

I remember watching Derek Heyes in the first round in 2004, when I’m sure that he answered questions on Manchester United – although I stand willing to be corrected on this one. Back then Derek posted a good score, but failed to go through. Last night he offered us FA Cup Finals at Wembley 1923 – 2000. I have actually read a little bit on the subject, and I fancied my chances. Derek did what is always a good but tricky tactic, namely to answer all of his questions at top speed. However it did mean that he missed a couple of gettables. Derek scored 11, which would have put him well in contention in several other of the heats we’ve seen so far, but left him well behind the leaders in this one. I was delighted with my 10.

Well, it was poor Mark who was down among the wines and spirits having to kick off the GK round. I would venture to say that Mark is not a regular quizzer. He gave each question due consideration, and answered what he could, but never built up any kind of momentum. Mind you, it hasn’t looked easy this series, what with long questions and all. More about that later. Mark finished with 15, and to be honest looked a little glum as he stood up to take his seat. I hope that he enjoyed his time on the show nonetheless. Derek Heyes went a lot faster in his own GK round. Once again, though, I observed that phenomenon which I’ve noticed in this series. You know that the round is 2 and a half minutes long. You see how well the contender is answering, and how fast they are going. Then you see their total score at the end of the round, and it always seems a little less than you thought. Leslie’s round, while not a match winner, looked like a double figure round, yet in the end he only added 9 to his score. I say only – 9 points is a perfectly decent GK round – but you know what I mean, I’m sure.  

Needing 6 to take the outright lead, Ian returned to the chair. Actually the task ahead of Ian wasn’t just to take the lead, it was to set a high enough score to at least place Diane into the corridor of uncertainty, and if possible, to win the show outright. Ian’s GK  round was an excellent example of how to do it. On first viewing it didn’t look like Ian was actually answering that quickly. However a second viewing revealed that Ian, while not snapping the answers back at John, was starting to voice the answer almost simultaneously with the question finishing. That’s good technique. Even with ones where he didn’t answer immediately he still got it right. In the end Ian added what John would call a very hefty 15 to take his total to 30. As much as it ever can be his place in the semi was guaranteed by the score – but would it be as winner?

It didn’t look like it at first. Diane took a grip on her round from the start, and she was snapping back the answers. Now, remember that I mentioned that this show just added more fuel to the flames of my suspicion that the GK questions are unnecessarily long in many cases this series? Well, on more than one occasion during this round the question looked to have come to its conclusion, Diane snapped out the answer, only for John to bulldoze on with more needless waffle as part of the question. In one of the times where it happened, it actually cost Diane a point, since she swapped a correct answer – Cranford – for an incorrect answer – Middlemarch. Now, I think the rules are quite clear. You are not supposed to answer while a question is being asked, and if you do that answer will be ignored, and the answer you give when the question is complete is the one that will be taken. But it was unfortunate, certainly. The level of difficulty really seemed to ramp up a bit in the last 30 seconds, and Diane could see the target, but the finishing line was approaching too quickly, and she finished on 28 overall. I believe, and I hope that this should be good enough for a third semi final for Diane.

So congratulations to Ian on a masterful performance, and also to Diane, and commiserations to Derek and Mark. Good show.

The Details

Diane Hallagan House of Cards16 – 112 - 228 - 3
Mark Roman-GoldThe Life and Works of John Milton9 - 26 - 115 - 3
Ian ClarkThe Siege of Constantinople 145315 – 0 15 - 030 – 0
Derek HeyesWembley FA Cup Finals 1923 - 200011 – 0 9 - 220 – 2


neil wright said...

I would agree that the GK questions are slightly more difficult this year(or perhaps the questions are longer). Sad person that I am, I try to see how well I would have done on every set of GK questions and I reckon my average is at least one or two down on last year.

At the same time the specialist round is becoming slightly easier (or less wordy) enabling slightly higher scores there. It was very difficult to score more than 14 last year but we have already had a number of 15 and 16 scores and 17 seems eminently possible. Perhaps it is just a question of altering the balance with the overall standard remaining about the same?

Londinius said...

Hi Neil
Personally I think that they are longer, while the SS have become slightly shorter than last series (possibly as a result from criticism in this blog and others - who knows?)

jeffgrimshaw said...

The first 5 episodes of this series have definitely seen a shift towards higher SS scores and lower GK scores, compared with the past few series.

The average scores so far this series are:

13.0 SS, 9.4 GK, 22.4 Total (meaning SS accounts for 58% of all points

Going back over previous series, these were the averages:

2013/14 = 11.1 SS, 12.1 GK, 23.1 Total (48% SS)
2012/13 = 11.1 SS, 12.6 GK, 23.6 Total (47% SS)
2011/12 = 12.3 SS, 10.9 GK, 23.3 Total (53% SS)
2010/11 = 12.5 SS, 11.4 GK, 23.8 Total (52% SS)
2009/10 = 12.2 SS, 8.8 GK, 22.0 Total (58%)

You can see the pattern over time - the move from 2 minute GK to 2.5 min GK in 2010/11 shifted the emphasis towards GK scoring.

Then in 2012/13 there was a further shift (I think it was longer SS questions combined with slightly easier GK questions) and for the first time, GK accounted for more than half of Mastermind scores.

This season suggests a rebalancing, but it's early days yet and 5 shows is a very small sample...

Misterig said...

Thanks for your kind comments. I've listened to your podcast as well, and I think you may be right about the record gap between appearances. I pointed this out at the audition, and the folk from the BBC sounded interested, but seemed unable to confirm whether it was right or not.

As for the questions, I had 15 SS questions in two minutes and 18 GK in two and a half, which might suggest that the GK questions were longer, but it didn't feel like that in the chair. As a rule I didn't mind the longer questions; they gave me time to think. The only type of long question that I dislike is the one where you can't see where it's heading, and then it takes a swerve about two-thirds of the way through to an area that you weren't anticipating anyway. Sometimes the length has other advantages. I was all at sea with the Greek admiral question until JH mentioned The British Grenadiers; the brief pause after that is me frantically going through the lyrics in my head and coming up with Lysander by a process of elimination.

I chose the Siege of Constantinople because I'm generally interested in Byzantine history, but it struck me as having the advantage of being spatially and temporally very contained (the siege lasted 59 days, and Constantinople in those days wasn't very large). But the first two questions were such slow lobs that I was taken aback. In the whole set I only had to pause and dig down a couple of times.