Saturday, 3 January 2015

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 19

Last night saw that strange occurrence which happens but once a year if at all – an edition of sleb Mastermind on BBC1, the same evening as an edition of the real thing on BBC2. Well, we’ll get to the sleb stuff all in good time, but for now it’s just nice to get back to writing about proper Mastermind.

3 of last night’s contenders were making their first appearance in the chair. The first of these to go was Phil O’Rourke. Maybe this was just in the eye of the beholder, but Phil seemed extremely nervous as he stared into the camera at the top of the show, and then was first to walk to the chair. He needn’t have been. He was answering on the band U2, and he very much knew his stuff, albeit that a couple of answers just refused to get beyond the tip of his tongue. By my reckoning you need 25 and less than 3 passes to have a chance of going into the repechage semi slots, so this wasn’t totally out of reach, but it certainly looked like his best bet was winning the heat to be certain.

Standing in his way, though was Mel Kinsey. Mel has been this way before. He was a finalist in 1995, the year in which Kevin Ashman carried all before him. Since then, Mel has made three previous attempts in the Humphrys era, bowing out in the first round in Shaun’s 2004 series, and Gary’s 2012 series, and reaching the semi in Nancy’s 2009 series. Mel is one of a number of stalwart members of the Mastermind club, and in fact an all-round good egg. I hoped that it wouldn’t mean me scuppering his chances, but I tipped him as the winner of this heat right from the start. His subject in 2012 had been the Watergate scandal and the fall of Nixon, and in a way US politics featured in his round last night, as he answered on first ladies of the USA. Very well too, as he accrued 10 points. If he remained only a point behind the leader at the halfway stage, then he looked good to take the outright win.

Neville Twitchell offered us the Films of Stanley Kubrick. I must admit, while I’m by no means a great film buff, I’m quite partial to Kubrick’s films myself. To be perfectly fair this round did tend to stick to the biggies too – 2001 – Dr. Strangelove – The Shining – Full Metal Jacket etc. So without wishing to be mean and kick a man while he’s down, I found Neville’s round to be a little disappointing. I may well be wrong, but to me it did seem as if the nerves kicked in about halfway through the round, and answers which Neville probably knew just refused to pop into his head. As a result, what had started quite promisingly petered out to 7 points. Perfectly respectable, but leaving him too far behind at the halfway stage.

The final contender of the show was Fiona Somerville. Now of all of last night’s subject, hers really was Mastermind old-stylee. Athens in the Age of Pericles could have come from any edition of any era of the show. I think, judging by her responses, that Fiona may have had a narrower conception of the parameters of the subject than the setters. The things she knew she answered exceptionally quickly and sharply, but some questions seemed to provoke an expression that suggested the question – why are you asking me that? – was crossing Fiona’s mind. Maybe I’m wrong there. Whatever the case she still managed a respectable 7.

Neville returned to the chair first for the GK round. I’m afraid that whatever had afflicted him during the second half of his specialist round continued to do so all the way through his GK round, and he didn’t find points at all easy to come by. He finished with a total of 11 – double figures at least. I hope that he still managed to enjoy the experience. Fiona put a little more attack into her own round than Neville had managed, and managed to add 7 points to take her own total to 14. To be fair she did smile at the end of the round, having guessed the correct answer to her last question, and she looked like she had enjoyed the experience. Good – that really is the point of doing it when you get right down to it.

The task for Mel, then, was a simple one. No real targets, other than setting the highest score he could possibly manage. John had made a point in his preamble to the show that while you can revise your specialist you can’t revise the general knowledge. Not strictly true – but it’s a much longer term job than learning a specialist, and no actual pay off from doing so is guaranteed. However, the fact is that you can learn to make the best out of a Mastermind round, and Mel has done this so many times that he knows how to do this. If the answer pops into your head at once then say it – it’s probably right. If the answer doesn’t pop into your head, then say something which COULD be the answer – which makes sense. Some of the time this will be right. If, and only if, your brain refuses to suggest anything, then pass before the pause becomes oppressive and start moving again. Above all else – concentrate entirely on the question in hand and ignore the last. Now, if you can do all that – as Mel did – then you can start to accrue a formidable score in a 2 and a half minute round. Mel finished with a fine 16, to take his score to 26. Even in event that Phil beat this total, Mel would still be in a repechage slot, at least for the time being.

That, though, would require a terrific round, and it was fairly clear from the first thirty seconds of so that Phil wasn’t going to quite produce on of those. He was thinking about his answers, and getting quite a few right, but it did mean that he never built up any kind of momentum over the first minute of the round. That’s more important than you might otherwise think in a 2 and a half minute round. The 8 points that he managed represented a perfectly respectable return, but meant that he was clearly beaten in the end.

Well played Mel! Good luck in the semis!

The Details

Phil O’Rourke U211-38 - 419 - 7
Mel Kinsey1st Ladies of the USA10 - 216 - 126 - 3
Neville TwitchellThe Films of Stanley Kubrick7 - 64 - 711 - 13
Fiona SomervilleAthens in the Age of Pericles7 – 0 7 - 214 – 2

Highest scoring Runners Up

Gareth Kingston – 28 – 0 (qualified)
Diane Hallagan – 28 – 3
Marianne Fairthorne – 27 – 2
Alice Meynell – 26 – 0
John Beynon – 25 – 1

Julia Hobbs / Jeremy Renals/ Susan Sworn – 25 - 3

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