Friday, 14 November 2014

University Challenge - Round Two - Match One

Leicester v. Trinity Cambridge

Here we are in the second round proper. No repechage reprieve in this round – the losing team was going home. Leicester were amongst the most impressive teams in the first round, having beaten the OU, the highest scoring losing team in round one. The OU also qualified for this round by winning their repechage. The team of John O’Doherty, Adam Brown, Nadal Al Masri and their captain Robert Greenhill were probably one of the teams that others most wanted to avoid. Their opponents, Trinity College Cambridge, were less impressive, in their first round, knocking out St. Andrews with 150 to 100. I said in my review of their match that the team of Matthew Willetts, Claire Hall, Aled Walker and their captain, Hugh Bennett would maybe need a little bit of the rub of the green to come through their second round. Well, time had come to find out whether they would get it or not.

Claire Hall took a great early buzz about the Greek philosopher Epicurus. Grains brought them a single bonus. Claire Hall then took her second quick starter in a row. She knew that if you have a critical quote about a 20th century novel published in Paris, then you have to say “Ulysses”. A gentle set of bonuses on the works of Aristophanes brought them a full house. Guess who buzzed early for the next starter, on definitions of the word sublimation? That’s right, Claire Hall, taking a splendid hat trick with the first three starters of the show. Scientific prizes brought another 5 points. At last Robert Greenhill won a buzzer race- hearing the words ‘three word hyphenated term” – and =”Norman castle” he gave us Motte-and-Bailey. This earned Leicester their first bonus set on Scottish composers. 2 good bonuses took their score to 20. For the picture round we saw a map of Southern England and Northern France with several key locations marked although not named. We were told this represented the locations of key scenes n a Shakespeare play and asked which. I was a little surprised that both teams took so long to work out that this must be Henry V, but it was Aled Walker who did it first. More of the same followed – lovely idea for a Shakespeare set this was. 2 were taken. Matthew Willets knew that the two auxiliary verbs most often used to describe the problem known as Hume’s Law are – is-ought. Nope, me neither. Years in the 60s brought one bonus. Matthew Willets knew the old favourite, the Wheatstone Bridge, and bonuses on Physics brought them a full house. So just past the ten minute mark, and Trinity were already racing towards the finish line with 115, while Leicester were reeling on the ropes with 20. A long way to go yet, but Leicester were going to have to start throwing caution to the wind on the buzzer to claw back the advantage.

Nobody knew that Mercury has the most eccentric orbit of any object in the Solar system. Robert Greenhill took only his team’s second starter, knowing the incident that starter the 1937 war between Japan and China. 2 bonuses on 19th century art followed. Nobody knew tocopherols (gesundheit) but an injudicious early buzz from Matthew Willets lost five points on the next starter. Robert Greenhill took a speculative punt at Cezanne for the name of the post-impressionist who provided a particular quote and reaped the benefit. I wonder how good his impression of a post actually was, however, I digress. As seemed to be the case for Leicester in this show, they took two bonuses, this time on the former Straits Settlement. Robert Greenhill, seemingly starting to find his range on the buzzer, identified the undying greatness that is Olivia Newton-John’s Xanadu for the music starter. More pieces of music referencing mythical or spiritual locations and guess what? They managed two of them. Robert Greenhill completed his hat trick knowing that the Plains of Abraham are located near Quebec. The bonus set was on the Eiffel Tower, and now Leicester made no mistake, and took a full set. This brought them to 105, just 5 points in arrears. Hugh Bennett decided that was enough of that, and buzzed in first to link JRR Tolkein and the language of Chaucer with the word middle. Animal histology did them no favours, and they took no bonuses – I had my lap of honour round the living room answer with collagen for the second one. Matthew Willets buzzed too early for the subject of the opera The Perfect American and lost 5. Nobody knew it was Walt Disney. It seemed to me that all the teams were sitting on their buzzers a little when given the names for the first and last Space Shuttle commanders and asked for the missions they commanded. Matthew Willets looked relieved to make amends for his previous buzz with that one. Canadian provincial capitals were a nice set and Trinity had the lot. This meant that the gap had just widened again to give them a lead of 140 to 105, but Leicester had won the last ten minutes 80 – 25.

For the second picture starter nobody fancied identifying a photo of Charles Dickens until Claire Hall had a pop. For me, this was one of the differences between the teams. Even when not 100% certain Trinity were having a go and reaping the rewards. Leicester were sitting too far back on their buzzers. The fact that only skipper Robert Greenhill had answered a starter to this point was telling. Illustrations from Dickens novels featuring dogs asking for the name of the work and the dog. The only one I got was the wonderful George Cruickshank illustration of Bill Sykes and Bullseye from Oliver Twist. What followed was one of those algebraic questions where the answer is usually 1 or 0. I went for 1, Aled Walker went for 1 and we were both right. Bonuses on General Cornwallis brought one correct answer. 5 minutes to go, and the outcome was not yet cut and dried, but Trinity would have been short priced favourites to go through at this point. I surprised myself by dredging up the name of Freya Stark for the next starter, but neither of the teams managed to do so. Inevitably it was Claire Hall who won the buzzer race to take a UC special starter which asked for the three consecutive letters of the alphabet that began various words. The bonuses were on computing. When JP mentioned the acronym ASCII I couldn’t help showing my age by saying ‘Allo playmates.’ Trinity only managed one, but the clock was very much their friend at this stage of the game, and their lead was 75. A fine buzz from Hugh Bennett identified the internet code for Kyrgyzstan as the abbreviation for the SI unit of something or other. Bonuses on names in botany zoology or geology ending in – ot took them to 200. Claire Hall recognised a quote from Henry James referring to Tolstoy, and laughed when her captain gave the answer at the same time. Not sure about the rules regarding that one – but it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome of the match anyway. European cities with 4 letter names brought a further two bonuses, and stretched the lead past 100 points. It was nice to see Robert Greenhill buzz in for the next starter about Harrises. Leicester are too good a team to allow a complete shut out in the last few minutes of the show. Which they proved by taking a full house on Japanese cuisine. John O’Doherty took his first starter with the word Karyotype. Bonuses on botany were beaten by the gong.

Well, the final score was a clear win for Trinity by 220 to 140. So what did we learn in the show? Did Leicester flatter to deceive in their first round win? Not necessarily. I think it was more that Trinity played much better than their first round match. Leicester showed their class when they won starters, but Trinity outbuzzed them for a majority of the match, and were impressively good on the bonuses. I said at the start that they’d need the rub of the green to win. Rubbish – shows how much I know. They were, on the night, clearly the better team. In recent years we’ve seen Manchester take and then retain the title. Early days yet, but you’d be foolish to start writing off this Trinity team’s chances of doing the same after that performance.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Absolutely nothing until the Canadian capitals bonuses. When Edmonton Alberta was given as a last gasp guess, and proved correct, JP replied, “That’s correct. . . you know more about Canada than you do about Britain.”
Amazingly JP was forgiving on a literature round, describing the Dickens pictures as ‘One of the hardest picture rounds we’ve ever had.’ Well, quite.

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

The Marco Polo Bridge Incident began the Sino Japanese war in 1937


Jack said...

What did this match prove to us? A couple of things. Firstly, that first round form is still a bad guide to future form. It will remain to be seen, however, whether Trinity will be able to hold that form in the later stages, or will revert back to their first round form next time. Good luck to them next time anyway.

Secondly, Weaver's Week was right: making the QFs the group phase and the second round sudden death is a mistake. The fact that a team as potentially strong as Leicester have gone out is a huge shame, but well done to them anyway on two great showings.

Leicester were, again, nigh on perfect with the bonuses: 14/19, compared to Trinity's 20/39 (with two penalties).

I am reliably informed it is Durham vs York next.

I may decide to look at potential new second round group phases in greater depth on JOW later.

Londinius said...

Yes Jack, you're of course right about first round form. Still, Trinity were mightily impressive in this match. The bonus stats don't really surprise me, but what did surprise me is that the other members of the Leicester team didn't start throwing caution to the wind a bit more and really going for it on the buzzer.

Adam "Addy" Lewis said...

This is the kind of score I was expecting - but with the teams reversed.

Leicester were unfortunate there, and will rue some slow starters - they could have taken a few penalties easily with that conversion rate. Still, to the victor go the spoils and it will be interesting to see how Trinity handle the QFs.

Stephen Follows said...

What happened to seeding the second round? The last thing the producers want, surely, is to set two of the strongest teams against each other and risk ending up with a much weaker team in the quarters?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the second round is seeded. Trinity didn't overly impress in their first round, so it stands to reason that they played one of the stronger teams based on first round showings.

From what I know of the second round fixtures the producers either pitted 'strong' vs. 'weak' winners /high scoring losers or drew evenly matched teams against each other.

Just on this occasion, Trinity played much better in the second round than they did in the first and it was a bit of a surprise.