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


Adam "Addy" Lewis said...

Excellent final, congratulations to all involved! Thoroughly enjoyable to watch, as has the series as a whole.

If I may, however, pick up on this: " 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"

I've got to say, it's something I've seen repeatedly in the series and it annoys me quite a bit. If a question is right, Humphries should be acknowledging as such and moving on straight away. That after all is the whole point of the format - you can pass and move straight on, or guess and if wrong, you have to lose time by hearing the answer. You should not have to hear the answer once or twice more if you give it correctly.

Perhaps I'm being unfair in criticising this happening, but in cases like this it can be the difference between an extra question and not getting one. Obviously the outcome wasn't impacted here, but it could have been, and this is far from the only time I've seen it. Nor am I the first to point it out on LAM.

None of this takes away from my initial praise for the show, however, and I'm already eagerly looking forward to the next series!

Dan said...

Last year's was much closer. Just saying.

Jack said...

Great final, high quality and very close indeed. Congrats to Ms Fairthorne on a deserved victory.

I flat out told someone the other day I was considering applying for the next series the other day; maybe I'll do just that now.

Stephen Follows said...

Yet more evidence that the one golden rule in Mastermind is that you should never pass.

That's how I won in 2000, after all (and obviously I'm only pointing this out because, yet again, the radio winners were airbrushed out of the opening montage - there are photographs of us, Mr Humphries)