Sunday, 29 March 2015

Only Connect Semi Final 1

Chessmen v. The History Boys

A match between two returning teams, in fact, two teams both from the second series where they never actually met. The Chessmen, Henry Pertinez, Nick Mills and captain Stephen Pearson, made life harder for themselves by losing their first round match to the Linguists, but battled back to make their way through to this semi final. The History Boys, Rob Hannah, Craig Element and captain Gareth Kingston, have made rather more serene progress, and were my slight favourites to go through to the final from this match up.

Round One – What’s the Connection?

Gareth, going first, opted for the Lion. PHP: Hypertext preprocessor didn’t help me, neither did GNU’s not Unix! – The TTP Project again didn’t enlighten me, nor did WINE is not an emulator. The Hists had it not, but Henry of the Chessmen worked out that they are recursive acronyms. I get it – I just don’t like it that much. Steven invited down the curse of the viper by saying Horned, and earned a set of picture clues. Now, I have to thank Mr. Rose for four years of latin lessons here, as I got the answer which neither of the teams managed. I didn’t know the band Placebo – however we had a VIDEO cassette – the AUDIO symbol, and a game of LUDO – latin for I see – I hear – I play. Eye of Horus gave the Hists Lanthanides. Well, bearing in mind this is a semi final the answer Elements looked far too simple, so I would definitely have asked for another. Gaelic Football team seemed to make it clearer. There are 15 in a Gaelic Football team, and there are 15 lanthanides. The boys had the connection but weren’t sure of the number. UN Security council came next, and I wondered if Rugby Union team would finish it off. The Boys went off 3 clues, and the last would have been A Scottish jury – ah. The Ches went for water and received Samenwerken Profiteren Allen Regelmatig. Gesundheit. Look at the first letters, peeps. That’s Spar! Albrecht Diskont is definitely Aldi. So that has to be the full name of (grocer’s) retailers which we normally know by abbreviations or acronyms. Phew. Twisted Flax gave the Hists The Boulevard (Crime and Punishment) – Pamela’s Suitor (Pamela). In Samuel Richardson’s Pamela ( only worth reading because it means you can get the full benefit of Henry Fielding’s Shamela) the suitor is Mr. B. Mr. Wickham’s Regiment (Pride and Predjudice) I couldn’t recall. The last clue The Year (Treasure Island) made me wonder, would these all be things which were left incomplete – as in Twas in the year 17 - - I think my answer would have been accepted too, even though the Ches’ bonus answer, that they are not given wasn’t. Inevitably this left the music waiting behind two reeds for the Ches. The Battle of Aughrim – The Battle of New Orleans – The Battle of Evermore and The Battle of Jericho gave the Ches battles for a point. My Dad always swore that he knew Lonnie Donnegan playing around the pubs in Acton before he got famous. Lonnie Donnegan, that is. My Dad was never famous. Notorious in some circles, but that’s another story. That point saw the Ches take a lead of 5 – 2 into the second round.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

The Hists opted for Lion first, and received – Starting to Develop (- - - - - - - ) – Upward Movement (- - - - - - ) – at this stage Rob hd the principle behind the set, saying words where you take a letter off each time. After he worked that out, I had nascent – ascent – so the last would be American coin. The next clue – odour (- - - - - ) proved this. What a terrific set. Sadly words failed the Hists, but the Ches weren’t going to turn it down. Thus emboldened Steven again spurned the curse of the Viper. The first picture gave  what looked like the recycling sign with 4 in the middle and LDPE. Which meant we either needed Recycling 1 or Recycling 7. Didn’t matter since I didn’t know what either of them would be. The CHes helpfully supplied that this was all plastics. The second clue was 3 – PVC. SO which plastic would 1 be? 2 was HDPE. 1 apparently is PET – and the Ches had it. A well deserved point for that. Two Reeds gave the Hists a music sequence. I had no more idea than the Hists did, but Steven well knew that we’d heard a violin concerto, then a Viola Concerto, then a Cello concerto, so what would come next would be a double bass concerto. Hokay, moving swiftly on. Water gave the Ches A shotgun Shack, - another part of the world – obviously the lyrics of Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads, so I plumped for in a beautiful house. The third was behind the wheel of a large automobile  - The Ches just couldn’t get the next line, and sadly neither could the Hists to make up some lost ground. For their own next set they plumped for Eye of Horus. This gave them 300: Diocletian and Maximian. Well, in 300 AD Diocletian was certainly Emperor of Rome, and I had no problem with accepting that Maximian may have been co-Emperor. Working backwards, then Augustus was emperor in the year 0. A 5 pointer? Too royal, for the next was 200: Septimius Severus, who incidentally became Emperor in Eboracum, or York, if I recall correctly. This was the point at which the Hists went for it, and we were both correct. Much needed points earned there. The Ches took Twisted Flax, for that’s what was left. This revealed The Avenue – Saint Anne – and I was floundering at this point – then Saint Peter Port. The obvious thing was to go for St. Helier for the last, obviously the Ches thought so too. We were both right for a point. Which mean that the score stood at 11 – 5 to the Ches, and the Hists were in need of a very good wall.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Ches kicked off with the water wall. Steven saw 5 sons of Jacob, and methodically isolated Asher – Benjamin – Gad and Joseph. Now, I thought that the mountains on the wall weren’t just mountains, but also second highest mountains – K2 (the world) – Ojos de Solado (S. America) – Logan (N. America) – Kenya (Africa) Great idea except the set didn’t work when the boys tried it. Dykh Tau had to come in for Logan. That’s the second highest in Europe. They then saw 5 Irish Eurovision Song Contest winners, and took out Logan – Martin – Quinn and Dana. The words left -  Simeon – Leo IX – K-9 and Formic are all homophones for words describing creatures. 10 full points meant that the Hists were going to have to make like the Red Queen – run like hell to stay in the same place.

Pretty quickly the boys isolated a set of Brazilian footballers – Leonardo – Cafu – Didi and Socrates. Four fire deities – Pele – Hephaestus – Vulcan and Agni fell in fairly short order. Very quickly they sorted out their painters – Dali – Warhol – Duccio and Tintoretto – from their chickens – Poussin – Capon – Broiler and Pullet. Ten points needed and only 7 gained. Apparently the artists all painted the Last Supper. A bit harsh really, since it cost them 3 points. If you’re going to be that specific, at least include the really famous one – Leonardo – as part of the set. It made a difference too, since the Ches now led by 21 – 12.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

Well, it maybe wasn’t quite Mission Impossible for the Hists, but it was certainly Mission Flippin’ Difficult for them. Twin towns fell 2 – 1 to the Hists. Words you can type using only the top row of a qwerty keyboard. Now, on one of these Craig offered Typer insetad of Toper. Victoria said “No, because that would need a Y” Hello – there is a Y on the top row!!! I( think that must have been just a slip of the tongue, and the word is not in the OED or whatever source they used.) That and another early buzz put them back to 10 points behind, I’m afraid. Vowels fell 3 – 1 to the Ches. Antarctic Geography went 3 – 0 to the Hists, but at the end the score was 27 – 18. Hard lines, boys, but congratulations to the Chessmen! Best of luck in the final. 

Only Connect - Semi Final 2

Orienteers v. Q. I Elves

Yes, dear friends, I’m back to reviewing Only Connect, now that the blessed oasis of the Easter Holidays are here, following the most hectic school term of my almost three decades long career. I will try to catch up with the first semi final as soon as I can. 

 So on Monday night, with a place in the final at stake, the Orienteers, Paul Beecher, Simon Spiro and Sean Blanchflower, took on the Q.I.Elves, Anne Miller, Andrew Hunter-Murray and James Harkin. In a straight General Knowledge quiz, I’m sorry elves, but my money would be on the Orienteers every day of the week, and to my mind they had been the stronger of the two teams throughout the series as a whole. Well, nothing to lose for either team, so here we go.

Round One – What’s The Connection?

The Elves began picking Two Reeds. The first clue was a picture of the cast of George and Mildred, with Yootha Joyce’s face circled. Next we had a photo of Pat Phoenix, Elsie Tanner as was. Third picture, which I didn’t recognize was. The last clue was a photo of the entrance to the Salford Lads’ Club. In the photo there was a street name cut off, which could conceivably have been Coronation Street, so seeing Pat Phoenix as well that was my guess. Completely wrong. As were the Elves. The Teers, though, knew that they had all appeared on Smiths Album Covers. Right, you may recall how I’ve sometimes mentioned a number of parties which I arrived at after everyone else has left? Well, the Smiths are one where I never arrived in the first place – just never really ‘got’ them I suppose. Good bonus shout from the Teers, though. Twisted Flax gave the Teers – Island home of Circe. Now, I love my Greek Mythology, and knew that Circe’s island was known by the unlikely name of Aeaea. So were we going to get a set of words with no consonants? Yes, in a word, since the second, the three toed sloth, is an ai. The Third – Jupiter’s 3rd largest moon – was Io. That was enough for the Teers – and I’ll be greedy enough to claim a five for myself. Wouldn’t have been if I’d been sitting in the studio mind, but I wasn’t, so it was. The Elves took Lion and the bong announced that they had picked the dreaded music set. Nobody had the set, but they were all titled, or nicknamed Pathetique – which is a pretty good description of my attempts to identify any of the pieces being played. The Teers picked Eye of Horus, and received for the first clue a complicated equation – for the second clue Unicode U+2665  - for the third – Less than three. Appparently they all make heart shapes. Nope, me neither, but the Teers did , more to the point. Bloomin good shout. James of the Elves obviously spurns the curse of the viper, since he asked for it Horned rather than Hornèd, and received Henry IV’s humiliation at Canossa. That’s not Henry IV of England, but the Holy Roman Empire. The Pope ordered the door of Canossa to be shut in his face. Indian Soccer Team 1948 Olympics gave it to the Elves, who knew that they played barefoot So obviously Henry had to go barefoot to the Pope to make up for whatever it was he did in the first place. Good shout – and needed too. Left with Water, the Teers started with Birmingham (1976 - ) then Stratford (2009 - ) International Stations occurred to me as well as to the Teers, but I didn’t know where Harwich (1995 -) came in. Unless there was also a Harwich International station – not impossible since it’s a port. Incidentally, my step father used to work in Mount Pleasant sorting offie, and he said his favourite ever letter was one addressed to Arijaba – which turned out to mean Harwich harbor. Waterloo (1994 – 2007) pretty much confirmed it. The point the Teers gained meant that they led by 6 – 3.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth?

Two reeds gave the Elves – 4 of 4: Reed. Nope. The second clue was 3 of 4: bible and the last was 2 of 4: bonnet. Neither I nor the elves had a clue. Amazingly, Simon of the Teers knew them as nicknames of the stomachs of a cow. He got it! Amazing considering that this was of the level of obscurity we saw in the oft criticized 9th series. Lion gave the Teers 1st: water jump in 300m Steeplechase. 2nd was The Chari in the Grand National. Now, the Water jump isn’t jumped on the first lap, the chair not on the second lap. The third clue – ladies singles tie break at Wimbledon – well, it isn’t used on the third set. So you needed something missed out on the 4th part of a competition, for example the vowels in Only Connect. Neither team had it, and I patted myself a bit on the back for doing so. Twisted Flax then showed the Elves an orange dice with the three dot face on show. Then a yellow dice with the six dot face. The Third was the same, but in green. The elves were out with the washing, but the fiendishly good Teers had it. This was colours of the rainbow with the number of dots representing the number of letters in the perceding colour – so the last would be blue with white spots. Eye of Horus gave the Teers 4th Int: Perigny. Nope. 3rd Int: Moscow. That suggested Communist International.I wasn’t put off by  2nd Int: Paris. I had it in my head that the last would be 1st: London. I was right too – Thanks Mr. Wheeler-Robinson (headteacher of my school, taught us 20th century Russian History for A Level in 1981). Sean guessed it, and apologized for doing so. The Elves finished with , in red , #FF0000, then in pink #FF00FF, then yellow #FFFF00. None of us knew the answer is #FFFFFF in white. Fair enough. They are apparently the hex codes for internet colours. Finally the Teers were given 1000=Malta. Nope, then 500 = Germany. Simon came up with a brilliant shout – D is the registration letter for Germany, and also roman numeral for 500. So logically we would be looking for the country symbolized by L which would be Luxembourg. Great shout and the Teers looked awfully good value for their lead of 13 – 3.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

At first the Teers had a go at instruments, and then switched their attentions to a set of fictional abbeys. They didn’t see Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey at the start. Then they did isolate a set of words which are names with one letter removed from the start – Liver – Avid – Ames and Avid.  That makes me an Avid Lark, apparently. Downton, previously thought to be one of the abbeys, was then lumped with Parks, Rhodes and Evans – England wicket keepers, I said, slapping my forehead. One go was all it needed to separate the keyboard instruments – CP-70, Wurlitzer, Clavinet and Baldwin Combo, which left Northanger – Theleme – Nightmare and Redwall. A little surprisingly they didn’t have England wicketkeepers, going for explorers/politicians, and they didn’t have electric keyboard instruments, so a potential 10 became 6. Still good enough, I fancied.

The Elves could see a group of male ballet dancers, but not isolate them, and a group of fictional kingdoms. I could see a group of words which all ended with boy’s names.They did too, but not quickly enough. Time ran out with no lines isolated. When the wall was resolved they saw Camelto – Troy – Nijinsky and Galileo were racehorse, but not that they were Derby winners.
Oceania, Oz, Narnia and Gilead were the fictional lands. Tharp, Nureyev, Guillem and Acosta were the ballet dancers, and Verbatim, Compete, Worsted and Chromophil the ones ending with boys’ names. 4 points not a bad return considering that they didn’t isolate any lines, but not enough. The Teers led 19 – 7. Game over.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

Things that aren’t an orange – eg -  William of Orange (nice one) fell 3 – 1 to the Teers. English Language national anthems fell this way – both teams lost a point, while the Teers took 2 and the Elves 1. Alternative names for fruit went 2 apiece and there was no time for features of the Solar System.

Well, the final score was 25 – 10. Congratulations to the Orienteers, and commiserations to the Elves. They can have no complaints – they had done well to get this far, but in the end, with the difficulty level ramped up they were always second best in this contest. As for the Teers, best of luck in the final. 

University Challenge: Quarter Final Sudden Death Match

Liverpool v. Durham

Ben Mawdsley, Jim Davis,  Hugh Hiscock,and their captain, Declan Crew saw off the challenge of Bristol min their first quarter final match before falling to the collective might of St. Peter’s Oxford in their second. Durham, in the shape of Daniel Morgan – Thomas, Freddie Lloyd, Nikul Boyd-Shah and their captain Fred Harvey lost to the impressive Gonville and Caius team in their own first quarter final, but beat Trinity, Cambridge in their second. From here on in it’s lose and go home, so without further ado, let’s get on with the game.

Fred Harvey had an impressive early buzz to take the first starter with various definitions of the word action. A full house of bonuses on London squares put them well on their way. I give full credit to both teams for waiting for the next very long winded starter to wind through Italian composer .  . . opera. . . until the words William Tell were uttered. Then Daniel Morgan-Thomas won the buzzer race. It would have been easy to buzz too early and gone for Verdi, let’s say. US presidents as a category of bonus looked full of eastern promise, and indeed yielded another full set. Two sets of questions, and Durham were already at the half century mark. Freddie Lloyd took Durham’s third consecutive starter, knowing that the TV series Breaking Bad is sometimes referred to by chemical symbols. Chess openings finally proved their Achilles heel. They took the first, but didn’t know Ruy Lopez (my favourite opening, but then I’m a terrible player) and the term gambit. When asked for the title character of a Shakespeare play who was a Phoenician Prince one might have expected one of the players to go for Pericles, Prince of Tyre, but they didn’t. I felt for Declan Crew who buzzed in early and lost 5 for Deep Grammar rather than Universal Grammar, which was then supplied by Freddie Lloyd. Bad luck on that shout, but the right tactic from the Liverpool skipper. One bonus of a difficult astronomy set was taken. The famous gerrymander cartoon was shown for the picture starter, and neither team recognized it. Neither team knew the origin of the term explicit, and sadly Jim Davis buzzed too early with a wrong answer. Declan Crew squared the books for Liverpool by buzzing early for the next starter, having recognized the description of a lava lamp. Three bonus sets of maps of US congressional boundaries were duly taken to put them 15 points in the black. However Durham led with 75.

Asked for the Archbishop of Henry VII whose ‘fork’ was infamous, Daniel Morgan-Thomas went for Henry VIII’s Archbishop Warham, the man who actually kept Wolsey out of Canterbury, losing 5 points in the process. Nobody in Liverpool’s team knew it was John Morton. Daniel Morgan-Thomas made immediate amends by knowing that the architectural term frieze is derived from Phrygia. Words beginning with the letters lex yielded a further ten points for them. High Hiscock took a flier on the music starter. Asked for the name of the leader of the jazz orchestra we were listening to, he offered Glenn Miller. I thought it was probably Duke Ellington, which was a good guess as it turned out. Durham went for Louis Armstrong. So the bonuses rolled over. Declan Crew earned them, recognizing very quickly two definitions pointing towards the Game of Life. The music bonuses were all to do with choices made by presenters of Desert Island discs when they themselves were castaways. I had a rare full house in music, and Liverpool took ten points. Nobody knew that Henry III died in the 1270s. A superb early buzz from Hugh Hiscock saw him identify the term katybasis as the word coming from the Greek for going downhill. 1 bonus on Chinese provinces took them to 50, and 40 points behind. For the next starter Ben Mawdsley opened his starter account, correctly guessing that JM Barrie said some plays peter out, and some pan out. Great quote. One bonus on resonance was taken, but the gap was now down to 20 points. Nikul Boyd-Shah won the buzzer race when asked for an Irish politician ruined when named in a divorce case, knowing that our old friend Charles Stuart Parnell was being asked for. Two of a set of rather easy bonuses on cricket reestablished a lead of 40. On the cusp of the 20 minute mark the score was 100 to 70.

Asked for the English name of a constrictor Eunectes Murinus, Jim Davis offered boa constrictor. Now, here’s a curious fact. The boa constrictor is the only creature whose full English name is exactly the same as its full latin name! It was an anaconda, while Durham incorrectly offered python. Daniel Morgan-Thomas recognized the full name of English Heritage. Here’s a question for you. What’s the name of the Welsh equivalent body to English Heritage? Answer at the bottom. British mammals as a set focused exclusively on deer. Missing out on red deer and roe deer for the first two bonuses, it would have been funny if cruel if the last answer hadn’t been fallow deer, but it was. The impressive Daniel Morgan-Thomas won the buzzer race to identify an illustration from Alice in Wonderland as the work of John Tenniel (the Captain’s drawings were crap. Younger readers might like to ask their parents to explain that reference.) Works by other British illustrators from the ‘golden age of illustration’ provided a further ten points, and with a lead of 80 Durham were looking pretty fair set for the semis. Especially when Nikul Boyd Shah knew about Ensor’s painting of Christ’s entry into Brussels for the next starter. A UC special set on pairs of people followed in which the surname of one of which appears at the end of the surname of the other. Bonuses took the lead to 100 points, and that was game over, even though a few minutes remained. Ben Mawdsley recognized a list of different types of galaxies. Bonuses on Alex Gibney, better known as Alex Who? In LAM Towers, took Liverpool to 85. Surely they could get triple figures. If you’re asked for a 19th century Nordic composer if it’s not Grieg it’s Sibelius, and if it’s not Sibelius it’s Grieg. Hugh Hiscock zigged correctly with Sibelius for the next starter, which took them to 95, and earned them a UC special set of bonuses on biological terms which can be made up from the letters of the word challenge. One bonus took them into three figures. Nikul Boyd-Shah won the buzzer race to identify the Aleutian Islands as being part of Alaska. They didn’t manage any of a set of bonuses on populations. That was it. In the end Durham won comfortably by 175 to 100, and progress to the semis, where they will probably be looked on as underdogs, but hey, every underdog has its day. Well played, and bad luck Liverpool.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

On the JM Barrie starter, asked for the two words completing the JM Barrie quote about plays, “Some peter out and some – “ Daniel Morgan-Thomas offered Peter Pan. Well, that made perfect sense to me, but JP wrinkled his nose as if he’d just caught a whiff of a rotten egg and intoned, “Good lord no!”

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

I recognized the definition of the term frieze, but I had no idea that the word derived from Phrygia.

·      *   The Welsh body equivalent to English Heritage is Cadw

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Mastermind 2015 Grand Final

What an exciting show! You may have seen my preview earlier this week. I have made a habit of getting it spectacularly wrong for several years now, and the question is, then, how well did I call it? Only one way to find out.

First up was Gareth Williams. I tipped Gareth for the podium. To me, he had looked pretty impressive in all 4 of his rounds, and especially looked to be a good performer on GK. His subject for the final was the Falklands Conflict. He’d had a solid round of 10 in the first round heat, and an excellent round of ten in the 90 second semi final round. Something of that order would be required to give him a shot, but sadly he didn’t quite make it into double figures. There’s nothing to be ashamed of with 9, but it looked extremely likely that at least one of the 5 contenders to come would post a score which would put him out of contention.

Marianne Fairthorne arrived in the final with two very good specialist scores, of 14 and 10. Marianne lost on passes to Only Connect winner Alan Gibbs in her first round heat. Since then she very comfortably won her semi final. My prediction was a place on the podium, although not necessarily the top step. Well, her specialist subject was Caterina Sforza, illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Milan. Now, the dream scenario in a Mastermind Grand Final specialist round is to have a full house, a perfect round. That’s exactly what Marianne produced – 15 questions, and 15 correct answers. I turned at this point to no one in particular, and said – there’s going to be quite a few who’ll be out of contention by half time after that round.

I mentioned Alan Gibbs earlier. He was one of my most favoured contenders going into the semi finals. In a remarkable semi Liz Gore beat him to land her final slot. My prediction was that she’d be among the minor placings, despite this, working on the principle that the one who wields the knife rarely wears the crown. He first round GK was fine, but not great, and it was going to need a very good GK round to win this. Still, as regards specialist Liz was answering questions on the Raj Quartet of Paul Scott, and she too had a dream round of 15 from 15.

John Beynon, in his filmed insert, made the point that he’s accrued a lot of experience in Mastermind over the years, although this is the first time that he has reached the grand final. John didn’t mention that he is also a runner up in Brain of Britain. I was a little surprised to see him say that although he loves the learning of a subject – me too – he doesn’t really enjoy sitting in the chair, because he gets terribly nervous. Well, I can understand that, but at least it made my prediction of the minor placings look a little less daft. Answering on Lord Palmerston, John sadly never convinced, and missed a couple. His score of 8 put him out of contention.

I dubbed David Greenwood the dark horse of this competition. As had 3 of the other finalists, he’d scored 10 in his specialist round in the semis. However he had only scored 11 in his specialist round in his heat. If he didn’t do better than that this time round, then chances were he would also be out of contention at half time. His specialist subject was The Ashes 1964 – 1981. Ok, that doesn’t seem like a very long time, but cricket in general and the Ashes in particular is one of those subjects where there is so much esoteric trivia which can be dredged up you could never accuse it of being a subject which is ever likely to give a contender an easy ride. 12 points was a good return on the round, but left him 3 points behind the leaders. That’s a big gap to have to make up.

I did apologise to Diane Hallagan in my preview for making her favourite, since that’s often been the kiss of death for likely contenders in the past. Yet what other conclusion could I draw, based on form throughout the competition? Of all of the finalists, Diane had the top score in specialist in both the first round and the semi final. She also had the top GK score in the semi final. She’s been a finalist before, and is an all round terrific quizzer. Diane’s specialist subject for the final was The Life and Work of Rudolf Nurevey. This meant at least that she was one of the winners in the filmed insert lottery, having a filming trip to Russia. Being realistic, Diane needed to at least match David’s score to have any realistic sort of chance of coming through in the GK. I felt a little for her when John amplified her correct answer of the island of St. Barts – saying St. Bartholemew and sstumbling a little before the next question, she might well have had another question otherwise. Notwithstanding that, though, Diane managed 10, and that left her 5 points behind.

First back to the chair was John Beynon. Now, with a 7 point gap to bridge the pressure was off John, since there was virtually no chance of him being able to set a total which would give him a realistic chance. Thus, with the shackles of nervousness removed, John put in a terrific round of 14, and raised his total to 22. I didn’t think for one moment that this would be enough to put both Liz and Marianne within the corridor of doubt, but it at least gave him a chance of climbing up the standings. Gareth Williams has been a fine performer on GK throughout the series. It doesn’t matter who you are, sooner or later you can have a round in Mastermind where the questions just don’t run your way, and you end up struggling. It’s very cruel luck when this happens to you in a grand final, and sadly this was what happened to Gareth. He finished with 15 points.

Diane followed, knowing that she needed perfection, or very near perfection, to give herself a realistic chance. Ah, it wasn’t a bad round, it wasn’t a bad round at all, but she did make a couple of slips, and it looked like she realized this as the round progressed. I know lots of people who’d be delighted with 11 in a Mastermind GK round, but sadly, it just wasn’t enough to allow her to overhaul John’s score. Bad luck Diane. David Greenwood has been a good performer on GK throughout the series as well. What was called for in this round was a clear head, and an ability to treat every question on its merits – answer what you know quickly, guess what you don’t know quickly, and keep up the momentum of the round. That was pretty much what David produced, answering no fewer than 13 questions to set the target at 25. To win, either Marianne or Liz were going to have to set double figure rounds. Now in the context of a grand final, that’s what putting another contender into the corridor of doubt is all about. David could have done little more.

Of the two, I had clearly said that Marianne was the more likely to win. She’s a quizzer, and had performed well on GK in both first round and semi. It has to be said that for the first minute or so of her round it looked like she was going to comfortably beat David’s total. She reached double figures, but the end of the round was tortuous, as it seemed as if a brick wall had suddenly been erected in her path. In the end, she too finished with 25 points. Now, Liz had had a brilliant round of 14 in her semi final GK, but , I don’t know, I just had the feeling that this was always going to be her best GK round of the series, and that she could well end up scoring a bit less in the final. I don’t take great pleasure form having been right. Liz was clearly enjoying herself, and never stopped smiling in her round. Good on you Liz. In the end she added 7 points to her total to finish on 22.

So, wait a minute. Didn’t that means that we had two contenders level on their answers? Yes it did. Both Marianne and David had scored 25. Now, I ask you to cast your mind back to Heat 18 in December. Both Marianne and Alan scored  27 points, but Marianne had incurred 2 passes to Alan’s 0. Therefore he won, and Marianne had to be content with a repechage slot. She obviously took that to heart, since in the final Marianne had a grand total of no passes whatsoever, while David had incurred three in his GK round. A small margin, but it made Marianne the rightful champion. A brilliant performance from both, and many many congratulations to Marianne.

Just before we go, John H. made the comment that he cannot remember such a close result. Well, John, you have a short memory old son, since in 2004 Shaun won the title by 2 passes from Don Young – technically a closer result than last night. While we’re on the subject of achievements Marianne becomes the first champion of the Humphrys era to be champion after making the semis in a repechage slot – and she joins a number of champs from the Magnusson era with this distinction. She is also the second woman to become champion of the Humphrys era, the first since Nancy in 2009. Hey come to think of it, I did in this very blog advise Nancy that I though that she was likely to lose her position as the last woman winner this year. At least I got something right.

Many, many congratulations, Marianne!

The Details

Gareth Williams The Falklands Conflict9 - 17 - 116 - 2
Marianne FairthorneCaterina Sforza15 – 0 10 - 025 - 0
Liz GorePaul Scott’s Raj Quartet15 - 07 - 322 - 3
John Beynon3rd Viscount Palmerston8 - 114 - 122 - 2
David GreenwoodThe Ashes 1964 - 198112 - 013 - 325 - 3
Diane HallaganThe Life of Rudolf Nureyev10 - 211 - 121 – 1

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Mastermind 2015 Grand Final Preview

Let’s have a look at the form guide before we start, then. In order of semi final : -


R1 Tot
Semi SS
Semi GK
Semi Tot
14 - 0
13 - 2
27 - 2
10 - 0
12 - 1
22 - 1
10 - 0
16 - 0
26 - 0
10 - 0
13 - 0
23 - 0
16 - 1
12 - 2
28 – 3
12 - 0
15 - 0
27 - 0
14 - 0
11 - 1
25 – 1
9 - 0
14 - 1
23 - 1
14 - 0
11 - 1
25 - 1
10 - 0
13 - 0
23 - 0
11 - 1
14 - 4
25 - 5
10 - 0
12 - 0
22 - 0

I won’t lie to you, I find a Mastermind Final difficult to call these days since they changed the amount of time given for the rounds. Just 30 seconds more or less in a GK round can actually make a wealth of difference. So whatever I say, please accept that  I have no idea and no insider knowledge of who actually won – and I have no wish to know before the show is broadcast either.  This is just my opinion, and is no more to be taken seriously than anybody else’s.

Let’s go through the runners and riders, then.

Semi final winner 1: Marianne Fairthorne. Marianne is a quizzer, as opposed to someone who has just had a go at Mastermind for the hell of it, and I always think the winner is far more likely to be a quizzer than anyone else. She’s maintained a very good level of GK in both rounds – but then so have all our other finalists. She has had fine performances on specialist in both rounds – but so have two other finalists. With Marianne’s quiz pedigree, and with her TV experience from Only Connect, I predict the podium, but not necessarily the top step.

Semi final winner 2: Gareth Williams. I don’t know Gareth, but the way he has gone about his GK rounds in particular convince me that he is a quizzer. I said before that Gareth could well be the person who strips me of the title of the last school teacher to win Mastermind, and I stand by that – and Gareth – if you do it, I will be delighted to hand you that title – you will deserve it. His first round specialist score of 10 was the lowest of all of our finalists – maybe that was just nerves at a first go in the chair. What we can say though is he can’t afford to give away points in specialist in the final. Again, a potential podium place – which colour of medal I can’t say.

Semi final winner 3: Diane, if you’re reading I feel I should apologise to you for what I’m about to do. With the highest score of the first round and the semi, and a wonderfully impressive quiz pedigree, Diane looks like the favourite to me. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but you have to say that she was mightily impressive in her semi final. I really think it will all come down to specialist for Diane. If she has a third great specialist round in a row, then there is no reason why she can’t carry all before her in GK, and as a former podium placer she has experienced all the pressure and hoopla of a final before, and knows how to deal with it. Prediction – another podium place – and tipped for the title. (Sorry Diane)

Semi final winner 4: John Beynon. You’re maybe working out that I’ve already picked my three podium places, and may be asking yourself how I can possibly leave a Brain of Britain runner up off my predicted podium. Good question, and make no bones about it, John can win this show. So can they all, and that’s the difficulty that I have here.  I’m just going on the fact – well, I don’t really know what I’m going on, and if I’m wrong I will be absolutely delighted for John. It’s not fair if I sit on the fence though, so my prediction is that while John CAN win it, I see him finishing in the minor placings. Sorry.

Semi Final Winner 5: Liz Gore.  As I said all of the finalists are capable of winning this show. Liz had that amazing semi  final win when she took two really impressive scalps in the shape of Gareth Kingston and Alan Gibbs. Can she do it again, though, that’s the question. Put it another way, the one who wields the knife rarely wears the crown. She has absolutely nothing to lose, but I have to make a prediction, and my prediction is that she will be among the minor placings.

Semi Final Winner 6: David Greenwood. David had the second best GK round of all our finalists in the first place, and yet the joint lowest GK round in the semis of all of our finalists. What are we to make of that? I think that he needs a terrific SS round to give himself a chance, but if he does then he has as good a chance of winning as most. Prediction – Dark Horse. Looks set for minor placings, yet could still come through and win the whole thing.

So there we are. In terms of other predictions – well I think there’s at the very least an even money chance of having a new female champion – Diane looks most likely, but Marianne has a fine chance too, and I won’t discount Liz either.

Whatever the case, I humbly ask that none of the contenders takes my ramblings to heart, and can only hope that you enjoy(ed) your Grand Final experience tremendously, however well you did. 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

University Challenge - Quarter Final Sudden Death Match

Bristol v. Magdalen, Oxford

Maybe I am doing the Bristol team of Lewis Rendell, Benjamin Moon, Miles Coleman and their captain, Anastasia Reynolds a disservice when I say that I was a wee bit surprised to see them put away Oxford Brookes in their last match. It didn’t exactly get them out of the last chance saloon, but at least it gave them a shot at the semis. Standing in their way, though, were the impressive Magdalen, Oxford team. Tipped as semi finalists themselves, their only stumble ame against the fine Gonville and Caius team. The smart money said that Harry Gillow, Chris Savory, Cameron J. Quinn and their captain Hugh Binnie should prove too good for their opponents, but Bristol had already been written of once and confounded the doubters.

Chris Savory took the first starter, knowing that the Three Gorges Dam is now the world’s largest hydroelectric power station. Three bonuses on border cities provided a full house to open Magdalen’s account, and it was tempting to fear the worst for Bristol even at this stage. Chris Savory took the next starter as well – it was about DNA Ligase apparently. Didn’t they have a minor hit in 1985 with Baby, I want your love thing? Three bonuses on fauna of the British Isles meant they had taken a perfect 50 points from 50. Cameron Quinn made it 60 from 60, knowing that as well as sunflowers, Van Gogh had quite a penchant for painting irises. Guess what – three bonuses asked on Kings of England, and three correct answers given. 75 from 75. I’ll be honest, I don’t know about George Monbiot, but Miles Coleman did to stop the rot and get Bristol off the runway. One bonus on quotations about hope took them to 15. For the picture starter we were shown a map of the UK with several locations all linked by the same word. Nobody knew it was Castle. So the next starter asked about Mozart’s divertimenti, and Hugh Binnie took it. This brought the dubious benefit of the picture bonuses, in this case more places linked by names which began with the same first three letters. One bonus was taken. All of which meant that Magdalen led by 90 – 15 at the ten minute mark, and were looking well in control in this early stage of the game.

Chris Savory answered some mathsy-sciencey thing. This earned bonuses on number theory, and with two bonuses the gap between the teams was up to 95. For the next starter Cameron J. Quinn extended the lead to three figures, knowing the difference between egoism and egotism. The names Harry, Ron and Hermione as used in Shakespeare (sort of) provided another Magdalen full set, as they set sail towards a second century of points. The next question required the teams to spell the answer, which was nitrite. Neither knew it. I lived right on the edge of Blackheath for three years at Uni, so I was pleased to know that Blackheath was the football club which split with the FA and played a leading role in the development of the oval ball game. Nobody had it. Nobody had the Cleopatra’s Nose approach to History either, for that matter. A UC special starter gave a set of definitions, and it was down to the teams to work out that the answers are also name for card games. Hugh Binnie arrived there first, earning bonuses on languages of Russia. Only one bonus was taken, which led us into the music starter. It was Benjamin Moon who was the first to recognize a little bit of Chopin. Of the three more etudes or studies played they took a good full set to take their score to 40. Thus encouraged, Miles Coleman took the next starter for Bristol as well, knowing a set of characters created by Ben Jonson – this was before he became disqualified for using drugs in the 1988 Men’s 100m final. Another full set, this time on alkanes put them up to 65. Benjamin Moon was the first to recognize a description of the term savanna. This brought up a couple of bonuses on Portuguese writers, and now they were up to 85. It was a good fightback, and happening at exactly the right point of the game too. A UC special set on multiplying a number of prime ministers by another number of prime ministers fell to neither team. The next starter was funny. Asked about US servicemen in a famous photo, raising the flag on a pacific island, Cameron Quinn was first in and offered Okinawa, much to the consternation of this team mates who seemed to all know it was in fact Iwo Jima. I bet he knew too, and it was just one of those times. So Miles Coleman accepted that windfall. A UC special set on words which can be made from the letters of the word curvaceous meant that in the space of the last few minutes plucky Bristol had lowered the gap from over 100 points to 35, as Magdalen led by 140 – 105.

Harry Gillow knew that Virgil wrote his Eclogues. Historical questions linked with the word Iron provided two bonuses. Now, you see a photo of a white haired old gent, and you’re told it’s a 20th century US poet, you slap your buzzer and answer Robert Frost. Very occasionally it might be Carl Sandberg, but you’ll rarely go wrong with Frost. Cameron Quinn had that one. More 20th century US writers followed, but they only took the one. The formula for calculating the volume of a cone - 1/3 H piR squared – was supplied by Hugh Binnie. A full set would take them to 200, and they achieved just that. That looked to be a winning lead now, but Bristol weren’t finished yet. Anastasia Reynolds knew that the London street with 6 consecutive consonants was Knightsbridge. Cells in the immune system took them to 120 points. LX multiplied by IX is DCLX as Hugh Binnie was the first to answer for the next starter. Waterfalls took them to 240, and with virtually no time left Miles Coleman took a flyer on barotitis affecting the veins, and lost 5. Nobody knew it was the ear. Cameron Quinn recognized the names of several Ottoman Sultans. There was no time left for the bonuses on airports. The final score was 250 – 115. Magdalen were very comfortable winners in the end, but well played Bristol as well for coming back after the Magdalen blitz start.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Our hero was relatively well behaved until the Harry, Hermione and Ron bonus set. The first two were about Harrys and Hermiones in Shakespeare. The second began “Although Shakespeare never had a character called Ronald – God, this is laboured !” He moaned. Well said , Jez! – although don’t remember, this is all part of the charm of it too.

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

Blaise Pascal popularized the Cleopatra’s Nose approach to History, which concentrates on the effects of chance events 

Mastermind - Semi Final 6

Here we are then, the penultimate show of the series, with 5 more contenders going head to head for the last place in the grand final next week. The form guide, such as it is, goes like this : -

Hazel Humphreys – 28 -4 (17)
Iwan Thomas – 27 – 4 (13)
Peter Russell – 26 – 0 (12)
David Greenwood – 25 – 5 (14)
Mike Foden – 21 – 6 (8)

Hazel put in an amazingly good GK round of 17 in her heat, and if she could approach anything like those standards in this show she’d certainly be in with a chance. Nobody is ever going to make a lot of money betting against Brain of Britain winner Iwan Thomas. Casting an eye down the field, David Greenwood’s 14 on GK in the first round looked quite tasty as well. Of course, I couldn’t help rooting for my friend Mike Foden, making his first appearance in the semi finals.

First up, then, was Iwan. I think that we can safely say that if you can get into double figures in your 90 second specialist round you are going to be very hard to beat in the GK round, especially if you have as good GK as Iwan does. He was answering on The Bodyline Series. This was a good specialist round, and there weren’t many wrong answers. A couple of long questions, and a couple of slightly slower answers limited Iwan to 8. Nothing wrong with that as a score, but there was daylight for others to come in above that.

I picked up three points on Iwan’s round. I picked up zilch on Peter Russell’s round on the Life and Work of Elizabeth David. Much of what you could say about Iwan’s round you could say of Peter’s. Looking at the form guide we could expect him to put in a good performance on GK. So 8 meant that he was by no means out of the running, but he was likely to have some work to do by the time he got there.

Next up was Mike. Now, Mike was answering on the life and work of Will Hay. I’m a bit of a Will Hay fan myself. I watched a lot of his old films when I was a kid, and being an Ealing boy myself I’m naturally proud of the fact that he made some of his films for Ealing Studios. Now, if you were expecting any questions about his most famous films – for example ‘Oh, Mr. Porter” and “The Goose Steps Out” you were to be sadly disappointed in this round. It just never quite went Mike’s way, and while 6 off 90 seconds is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, but it left him with a mountain to climb in the GK.

By contrast, David Greenwood’s round on “British Admirals of the Napoleonic Wars” went very much his way. Now, here’s a fact. Admiral Duncan pressganged my 4x great grandfather to serve on HMS Belliqueux in the Battle of Camperdown. Well, I say Admiral Duncan – I doubt he was actually the one who bopped him over the head as he was coming out of the pub in Dundee on New Year’s Day 1797, but it was on his orders. Funnily enough there wasn’t a question about this in David’s round. Ten of the questions which were asked he did answer correctly, though. Now that looked like a serious statement of intent.

Finally Hazel. The Life and works of Mary Shelley didn’t offer me a great deal. Yes, I know “Frankenstein” , in fact I’ve taught it on more than one occasion. Other works though – not so much. I reckon that there were quiet a few obscure ones in there, from what I know, so Hazel’s 8 looked a pretty good lash to me. All of which meant that at the halfway stage, probably only Mike was in a position where the odds were really against him, although that two point cushion of David’s was looking significant as well.

Mike’s an old quiz hand, and knows that all you can do when you’re doing your GK round and there’s other contenders to come after you is to give it a really good old lash, and to set a score which can at least put the others into the corridor of doubt. Mike produced a very good round too, and had 10 on the board with several questions still to go. He was unfortunate that a couple of tricky ones just halted his momentum in the last part of the round. Nonetheless he scored 11 off what wasn’t actually my favourite GK round of the night. The score to beat was now 17, and yes, alright, it’s not a score likely to get you into a final, but it is a score enough to make other contenders appreciate the size of the task ahead of them.

Iwan came next. In previous series we’ve seen Iwan rip a GK round to shreds, and if he was to do that again here, then the game could be as good as over. He did put in a good round, but not a round which would guarantee him a place in the finals. Maybe there were a couple of answers he might have had on another night, but as I was watching I couldn’t help thinking that 11 for 19 points might well leave him 2 or 3 short at the end of the contest.

Peter Russell, though, couldn’t match it. I feel a certain sympathy for Peter, since of the 5 GK rounds I found his to be the hardest, and would probably have had my lowest score on it. That’s just the luck of the draw. He managed 9 and no passes, but it left him a couple of points short of the lead. Hazel adopted the same strategy as she’d adopted in her GK round in the heats – answer what you know, guess what you don’t, and don’t let it worry you when you get one wrong. It’s certainly the best tactic you can use, I find. This brought Hazel 9 points as well, and she joined Mike and Peter on 17.

The task ahead of David was simple, then. 10 correct answers in two minutes, and he would be in the final. Anything in double figures off a 2 minute GK round isn’t easy, though, so there would have been no room for complacency. David started his round in a very calm and measured manner, and he kept this up throughout. All of which meant he put in the best GK round of the contest to earn 12, and take his total to 22. Very well done, sir, and best of luck in the final.

The Details

Iwan Thomas The Bodyline Series 8 - 011 - 319 - 3
Peter RussellLife and Work of Elizabeth David8 - 09 - 017 - 0
Mike FodenThe Life and Work of Will Hay6 - 111-117 - 2
David GreenwoodBritish Admirals of the Napoleonic Wars10 – 0 12 – 0 22 - 0
Hazel HumphreysLife and Works of Mary Shelley8 - 39 - 017 - 3

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Answers to News Questions

In the News

Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news?

Boris Nemtsov
Pebble Smartwatch
Toby Rowlands
Misao Okawa
Nathan Matthews
Bafetimbi Gomis
David Sharpe
Jamshed Javeed
Papiss Cisse
Jonny Evans
Adeyemi Zubairu
Mark Lippert
Adam Johnson
Les Munro
Turing Law
Dave Mackay

In Other News

What was the result of the Carling Cup Final?
In the 6 Nations what was the result between England and Ireland?
Who retained his European Heavyweight boxing championship?
What is Britain’s favourite superbrand?
Who said his great regret was that he had never become a rock star?
What was Thursday 5th March
Who called Bollywood Directors ‘thieves’ for stealing his plots?
Which comedienne is making her return to the BBC after 30 years?
Who had her Commonwealth Games gold medal returned by thieves?
What have been causing damage to trees in the woods in Crewkerne?
What is happening to the Cornish language partnership?
The last Ebola patient has left hospital in which West African country?
The home of which former MP was searched by police in association with historic sex abuse allegations?
What disaster befell Ambridge this week?
Which sporting celebrity is taking part in the Australian version of I’m A Celebrity at the moment?
Which golfer won his first title for 7 years in the Honda classic?
Who was stripped of his CBE by Buckingham Palace last week?
Poundland was told what by the ASA last week?
Aston Villa got their first win in 13 matches against whom?
Which Hollywood actor survived crashing his own plane?


Who or what are the following and why have they been in the news

Russian opposition leader who was assassinated
The most funded Kickstarter project ever
PC who received £80,000 in damages over plebgate
World’s oldest person 117
Charged with the murder of his stepsister Becky Watts
Japanese battleship from WWII found by Microsoft’s Paul Allen
Swansea footballer collapsed during match against Spurs
23 year old who has taken over as chairman of Wigan Athletic from his grandfather
Chemistry teacher, aspiring Jihadi given 9 year prison sentence
Newcastle striker given 7 match ban for spitting
Man Utd player also accused of spitting
Illegal Immigrant who used a forged passport to get a job working in the House of Commons
US Ambassador to South Korea attacked by knife man
England Footballer arrested in connection with allegation of sex with girl under 16
Last surviving Dambusters pilot, selling medals to make donation to Bomber Command Memorial fund
Ed Milliband promised that if Labour are elected gay men with convictions for homosexual activity under historic laws will be pardoned
All time great Spurs and Scotland player passed away
Ancient Assyrian city allegedly destroyed by ISIS

In Other news

2 – 0 Chelsea
19 – 9 Ireland
Tyson Fury
British Airways
Boris Johnson
World Book Day
Jeffrey Archer
Tracey Ullman
Kelly Southerton
Someone has been nailing ‘fairy doors’ to them
It is closing after losing its funding
Harvey Proctor
Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff
Padraig Harrington
Rolf Harris
They can no longer claim that everything in their shops is £1 – because some things aren’t
West Brom
Harrison Ford