Saturday, 18 April 2015

University Challenge 2015 - Grand Final

Gonville and Caius, Cambridge v. Magdalen, Oxford

One of the quirks of the current quarter final rounds is that it enables us to get a final where two teams that have already met in the quarters meet again in the final. In the quarter final match between these two teams, Gonville and Caius, in the shape of Ted Loveday, Michael Taylor, Anthony Martinelli, and Jeremy Warner, defeated Magdalen’s Harry Gillow, Chris Savory, Cameron J. Quinn and skipper Hugh Binnie by 60 points. That margin was perhaps just a tiny bit flattering for that match – the outcome never looked certain until the last two minutes or so. Still, if we’re looking for a psychological edge, then it has to be said that it was advantage Gonville and Caius.

If we’re looking for psychological bonuses, then answering the first starter is always useful, and it was Ted Loveday who answered it, recognizing the words of John Maynard Keynes. Ted is from Hammersmith – so, being a West London boy myself I was hoping he’d have a good evening. This brought up bonuses on British monarchs since 1660, which gave them a full house. As a statement of intent this was pretty emphatic. Not that Magdalen were worrying at this stage. Hugh Binnie took an early buzz to identify the term colloid, and earned his own team a set on trite language. They too took a full house. These two teams put on a great show in their quarter final match, and early indications were that they were going to do the same here. Now, when I heard the words – Renaissance – London and Rotterdam for the next question I went for Erasmus and Thomas More, and Ted Loveday did exactly the same. 2nd correct starter. Only one bonus was taken on astronomy, which is one more than I got. I liked the picture starter very much. We saw a table of flags, with numbers underneath. These represented nationalities, with the number of Nobel Prize winners of each – so the USA was top, then Uk , then Germany, then France. Asked which country would be next I guessed Russia, as did Michael Taylor, and we were both wrong. Hugh Binnie went for Sweden, and was right. Great shout. As a reward Magdalen received three more similar tables, representing the winners in a specific prize category, and they had to identify the category. Of these they managed two. Various definitions of the word Mensa came next, and Ted Loveday took his third starter in the first ten minutes. A full house on cubism followed. Anthony Martinelli knew the superior vena cava for the next starter. No bonuses were taken on internet pioneers, which meant that the lead at the 10 minute mark remained 75 – 45 to Gonville and Caius.

Cameron Quinn took a flyer on the next starter. Good tactic, but it didn’t come off this time. Asked which year Virginia Woolf was referring to, he buzzed before he was told it was the year in which Edward VII died. This let Jeremy Warriner in. 2 bonuses on literary quotations followed to take them to the brink of a three figure score. I didn’t understand the next question, but Hugh Binnie did, and supplied the correct answer of hypothesis. A couple of bonuses took their score to 65. For the music starter Harry Gillow was very quick to recognize an excerpt from Tristan and Isolde. Other works depicted by Marc Chagall in a fresco in the Palais Garnier provided no correct answers, but nevertheless the gap was down to less than one full house of start and bonuses. Cameron Quinn took the necessary starter, knowing about a painting of the Lady of Shallot. The first bonus on geometry was taken. Gap down to 5 points. Second bonus wasn’t taken, but the third was, and we had a tied game. There was a great buzzer race between Ted Loveday and Michael Taylor for the next starter. Ted Loveday won, and took his 4th starter answering that Ted Heat’s Cabinet had the previous tory PM – Alec Douglas Home, and the next tory PM – Margrapet Thatcher – in it. Incidentally, Ted Heath is an anagram of Had Teeth. We had that asked in a quiz once. Bonuses on Kyrgyzstan ( incidentally, is there another country which has a name that would have a higher score in scrabble? Answers on a postcard please) brought a full house. Ted Loveday took his fifth starter, guessing that the language being referred to in the question was Sanskrit. Bonuses on some physicsy thing brought little – but I did actually know about the precession of the Heavens. After I’d completed my lap of honour around the living room Ted Loveday took his 6th starter identifying Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter as the work of Simone de Beauvoir. Geology bonuses yielded a further 5 points. Now, shown a portrait of Ben Jonson, JP asked which famous poet this represented. I don’t know – he was certainly a great poet, but I would have said he was better known as a dramatist – or a 100m runner. I think this is the reason why neither team was able to answer. Anthony Martinelli recognized several items all linked by the word ghost. This earned the picture bonuses. More poets laureate were shown, and the team was asked for their names, and the monarchs who appointed them. A full set gave them a commanding lead of 170 to 95 at the 20 minute mark.

The game wasn’t over, but G and C, and in particular Ted Loveday were in commanding form at this stage of the match. It was Ted Loveday who recognized a description of the works which inspired Mussorgsky’s Pictures at An Exhibition for  his 7th starter. A set of bonuses asking the team to identify the centuries BC in which certain events happened yielded another 15 points and a 100 point lead. Some physicsy thing about sound saw G&C lose 5 for an early buzz, but Magdalen couldn’t capitalize. Ted Loveday took his 8th starter with the term Chiasmus. Bonuses on rococo libraries – don’tcha just love a good rococo library? – brought another 5 points. The irrepressible Ted Loveday took his third starter in a row, and his 9th overall recognizing a definition of magma. Fluvial Geography didn’t add a great deal to their score, but it was all academic now anyway. Now, my favourite starter of the night came next. Meaning said only once – which two-word Greek term denotes  - and Ted Loveday took his 10th starter with the correct answer Hapax Legomenon. That’s a particularly sonorous phrase which I encountered studying Old English and Old Norse at Uni. My best mate, KD Johnson, had also studied Old High German, and encountered the same term. I remember one summer evening, two wine boxes liberated from the English Society, and an increasingly bizarre series of toasts, one of which was a toast to the Hapax Legomenon. Not much else do I remember of the evening. Still, within a couple of hours of the final being broadcast KD tweeted me words to the effect of – 30 years I’ve been watching UC, waiting for that question to come up – and he beat me to it! –Ah yes, one of life’s bitter ironies that. The bonuses – a bit of an anticlimax, but then anything would be an anticlimax after the hapax legomenon – were on epithets applied to Greek heroes and deities. Hugh Binnie rightly took his team into triple figures by identifying Poland as the 6th most populous EU state. Bonuses on Henry Kissinger (altogether now – Henry Kissinger – How we’re missin’ yer – and Wishin’ you were here. _ Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album, I think) yielded a further 10 points. Ted Loveday capped a remarkable performance with his 11th starter, knowing that Tribunes could be Miliatry, or Of The People. There was just time for a couple of bonuses on geology, and this enabled G&C to take the score to 255 – 105 at the gong.

Hard lines to Magdalen. They have consistently been one of the very best teams in this whole series, and in the final, well, in the final they were up against a terrific team, one of whose members was absolutely on fire for this final, and that’s something you can’t legislate for. As for Gonville and Caius – many congratulations! Another great performance – worthy University Challenge 2015 champions.

Many thanks to the whole production team for yet another absolutely wonderful series – a pure pleasure from start to finish.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP has had a quiet series. He’s definitely mellowed since giving up Newsnight. Having said that, he is always on his best behaviour for the Grand Final. In fact, his words of consolation to Magdalen – you were unlucky with the way the questions fell, I think – were surprisingly well chosen. Having said that, though, the more you know the more likely it is that the questions will feel your way.

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

Cliché originally referred to a stereotype or stencil plate in printing.


Jack said...

Well, it was a shame that the final started so close and became so one-sided at the end. But you have to give credit to Caius, Mr Loveday in particular, who thoroughly deserve the title. (BTW, Google searches for 'hapax legomenon have hit an all-time high since Monday!)

I would be saying the same about Magdalen had they won too; they did superbly throughout the series, and would have deserved the win too, but Caius were just too strong for them this time.

On the bonuses, Magdalen managed 12/18 (with three penalties) and Caius 24/42 (with one penalty).

So, what do I think of the series as a whole? Well, I'll be posting a fuller set of thoughts on JOW this evening, but in the mean time, I'll simply say: it wasn't the best series I've covered, but it was adequate. I agree about Paxo as well; I'm having trouble thinking of memorable Paxo-isms from this series.

Also, Dave, I was wondering if you have been following the Brain of Britain semis? I may be able to provide a review of Monday's final on JOW.

Gavin Tillman said...

An excellent series. Now that UC OC and MM have finished, I'm bereft. I guess I will be watching more Pointless.

I'd been rooting for Magdalen as they are the team that stood out through the whole series, but Caius were awesome, and are the only team that bested Magdalen in the whole series (twice!) and thoroughly deserved their win. I agreed with Will Self re team balance, Magdalen needed a scientist on board and they missed the odd gimme but on the day I don't think it made any difference, Loveday was unstoppable.

My Fantasy UC team for this year: Well Trueblood, Loveday, the mighty Quinn for sure - who else? Maybe Martinelli.

Stephen Follows said...

Huh? Magdalen's problem was that they were mostly chemists. They needed fewer scientists, not more.

Jazzy Jon said...

Democratic Republic of the Congo. But it wouldn't fit on the board.

Gavin Tillman said...

My bad. Looking back there were a couple of chemists. But they did seem to struggle on a lot of science questions.