Saturday, 27 September 2014

University Challenge - Round One - Heat 10

Trinity, Cambridge v. St. Andrews

Well, we’ve already met the Trinity team of Matthew Willetts, Claire Hall, Aled Walker and their captain, Hugh Bennett in the two documentaries about the selection of teams for the series. Whether this meant that they would be a team to watch out for or not the next half hour would show. The teams from St. Andrews always have the choice of whether they wear their distinctive red cloaks or not. The team of Lewis Fairfax, Will Kew, James Adams, and their captain Jamie Perriam had opted for the clock, although according to JP they were wearing them with different degrees of casualness depending on how long they’d been at the university. Fair enough.

The first starter gave a Walter Bagehot quote about a future PM, and while Lewis Fairfax zigged with Disraeli, this allowed Matthew Willetts to zag with Gladstone. 20th century Prime Ministers weren’t easy, and they took just the one. Never mind – first blood drawn. Jamie Perriam knew that Russian Museum ship in St. Petersburg is the Aurora, and opened St. Andrews’ account. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wales didn’t fill me with anticipation. I knew that the Gower Peninsula (simply Gower to most of us nearby) was the first, but that was it. Actually I say that, but I guessed the Wye Valley as well. St. Andrews didn’t manage any of the bonuses. Neither team knew about deciduous teeth. Aled Walker knew the word conurbation to take Trinity’s second starter. Biological terms all beginning with – syn – followed, and Trinity managed just the one with Synaesthesia.  Right, did you know that in sporting terms, a Grand Slam city in the USA has a professional ice hockey, gridiron, baseball and basketball team? Me neither, but it makes sense. The first picture starter showed us a city, all we had to do was to identify it and name one of its teams. It was clearly Washington, so I offered the Redskins. Hugh Bennett buzzed in, but couldn’t dredge up a city. Lewis Fairfax offered the Washington Capitals, which was good enough. Three more cities followed. I recognized Philadelphia but didn’t know the ice hockey team, I didn’t get Denver and the Nuggets, which St. Andrews did, but I did have Minneapolis and the Minnesota Vikings. Asked for the only group of mountains in the Eastern USA that is not Appalachian, I plumped for the old quiz favourite, the Adirondacks. Matthew Willets offered Catskills, a sensible suggestion, but it was the Adirondacks. Lewis Fairfax took a good starter next, knowing that Thor, the cliff with the greatest vertical drop, is on Baffin Island. Plays about the Iraq war offered me but little, but we both managed Black Watch, and none of the others. So after the opening ten minutes neither team had managed quite to impose their will upon the other, the score standing at 35 – 30 to St. Andrews.

Now, I guessed that Nixon appointed Kissinger in 1973, which neither team got. Pate and Paté brought Lewis Fairfax the next starter, while cricket broadcasters didn’t add anything to their score. To be fair, I only had the Henry Blofeld one myself. Now, the Starkadders are a good old UC chestnut, and Claire Hall was the first to identify them as characters from Cold Comfort Farm. Places with reduplicative names, like Bora Bora, gave them two bonuses. The music starter played a piece of popular music inspired by a work of fiction, and they were asked for the author. I didn’t know it, but the repetition of warm leatherette, and the mention of steering wheel suggested J G Ballard’s Crash. Which turned out to be right, although neither team managed it. Nobody in either team knew that Jules Grevy gave his name to the largest species of zebra. One of those astronomy number questions followed – to the nearest whole number the radius of the sun is how many times that of the Earth? It’s 109 apparently. There’s not really many excuses for not knowing that the first battle of the English Civil War was Edgehill – it’s just one of those things that comes up time and time again. Now if you’re given precise times like 17:04, and asked what item is broadcast on Radio 4 at those precise times, then you slam the buzzer through the desk and answer Shipping Forecast, even if you’ve never heard it yourself, because it’s bound to be the answer. Will Kew did just that, to earn the music bonuses, more artists influenced by Ballard’s work. I recognized Gary Numan and the Human League for the first two, and didn’t recognize the third, but guessed Empire of the Sun. St. Andrews took two of a highly gettable set. Nobody knew the main gases of coal gas. Lewis Fairfax won the buzzer race to identify Syngman Rhee as the first premier of South Korea. Two bonuses on the Brothers Grimm took them to a 35 point lead. Cristobal Colon and Simon Bolivar are the highest peaks of Colombia, as Hugh Bennett knew, buzzing in after Jamie Perriam had offered Venezuela. The chemistry of water was provided another bonus. Nonetheless St. Andrews still led by 85 to 65 at the 20 minute mark.

So, in the best sporting tradition, the outcome was going to be decided by who wanted it more, and who could dredge up the most correct answers under pressure. Matthew Willets identified a painting by Gauguin, and three more paintings on the same theme failed to provide any more points. I didn’t understand the next question in the slightest, but it was Jan Burgers. Aled Walker knew that if it’s a question about an ode by Keats on UC, the majority of times it will be about the Grecian Urn. Jane Austen normally proves to be a happy hunting ground for UC teams, and the full set taken by Trinity was enough to give them a 15 point lead. The increasingly influential Matthew Willetts buzzed in to identify the Moluccas as the Spice Islands. Popular Science (all those who say that this is an oxymoron please go and stand at the back of the class) provided a couple of correct answers. Nobody knew that George I was born on the day before Charles II arrived in London in 1660 to mark the restoration of the Monarchy. How on earth did I know what adipocytes store? Because I remember the Doctor Who story in which little monsters came into being out of human fat, and they were called the Adipose. Will Kew obviously watched the same show since he answered correctly. UK airports gave them two bonuses, enough to break the three figure barrier. It still looked too close to call this one, but one thing looked certain – the losing team in this one looked unlikely to get on the repechage board, and would be going home at the end of the show. A little surprisingly neither team knew that Lethe is the river of Forgetfulness. Matthew Willetts knew about the Tulip period of the Ottoman Empire, and earned Trinity some bonuses on the year 1919. One was taken, and the gap was still bridgeable. Neither team knew that the Eocene takes its name from the greek word for dawn. At this point Jamie Perriam threw caution to the wind and buzzed in early on a question asking for the word rime. The gambit didn’t come off, but with so little time remaining it was still the right tactic I think. This allowed Claire Hall in with the correct answer. Complex numbers saw me answer 0 to the first, as is my wont. That was wrong – and Trinity had it with 5. That meant that on the gong they finished with 150 to St. Andrews’ 100. Not a great match, although an interesting contest. As for Trinity, well, on this showing you’d say that they’ll need a little bit of the rub of the green to get through the next round.

Jeremy Paxman watch

“It is Gladstone, of course” our hero informed Matthew Willetts, on the first starter, which was a slap in the face to Lewis Fairfax who had offered Disraeli.
He was in a fairly spiky mood at the start. When St. Andrews buzzed in early and failed to get deciduous teeth, Claire Hall buzzed in almost immediately, and gave a wrong answer as well. “No, you should have listened to the whole thing!” JP chided, “You could have done, you know.”
Henry ‘well, hello my dear old thing’ Blofeld was the next to receive both barrels “He’s always rambling on about something like that.”
Not knowing J G Ballard’s Crash, Aled Walker jokingly offered Philip Larkin. “PHILIP LARKIN!” cried our hero in mock apoplexy as his eyebrows shot towards the ceiling. ”I – DON’T – THINK – SO! It was by J. G. Ballard – “ dramatic pause “ – it was nice, wasn’t it!”
When the teams didn’t buzz in immediately for the sun radius question he dismissed both answers contemptuously when they came, with the words , “I thought you were all working it out.”
At the end, being in his best rubbing salt into the wounds mood, when the 50 point gap between the teams somewhat flattered Trinity, he observed, “You never really got going there St. Andrews. Did you?” A little unfair, Jez – they were in the contest right up until the last four minutes.

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

The word conurbation was first coined by Sir Patrick Geddes


Jack said...

Rather slow match throughout really. Both sides managed reasonable efforts without being spectacular. Agree that Trinity will maybe need to play better next time to reach the QFs; but then, the past few years have seen teams perform similarly modestly in the first round, and then pick up the pace in the second round. We shall see.

On the bonuses, Trinity converted 12/25, and St Andrews 7/21 (with two penalties).

On Monday then, it's a rematch from two series ago, with UCL vs Exeter, then the week after, Brasenose College Oxford play Durham.

dxdtdemon said...

As far as I know, the term Grand Slam city is something that someone made up that a question writer thought was more common than it actually is.

Unknown said...

It was a bit weird for me to see another Hugh Bennett on the show.

Londinius said...

Hi dxdtdemon,

Not surprised. I liked the question though, since you got Geography AND Sport all thrown into one.

Hi Hugh,

Such is life!

Unknown said...

I'm almost totally certain that Matthew Willetts is the son of Conservative MP and former Universities/Science Minister David Willetts - can't believe this wasn't picked up on by Paxman!