Saturday, 18 July 2015

University Challenge 2016 - Round One - Match One

Glasgow v. Peterhouse, Cambridge

One of my last posts, I notice, was actually the Grand Final of the previous series. Surely it isn’t a year since we were watching the documentaries about the selection of all of last year’s teams? Well, yes, I’m afraid it is. Well, I didn’t notice any such documentaries this year, but never mind, we certainly have the first two teams of the series anyway. Glasgow were represented by Andrew Davidson, Vitali Brejevs, Ollie Allen and captain Evelyn McMenamin. Peterhouse in their turn were represented by Thomas Langley, Oscar Powell, Julian Sutcliffe and their skipper Hannah Woods. Well, that’s the niceties over with, and away we go.

The first question was a relatively gentle lob about Thomism, and first to the buzzer was Thomas Langley. This brought a series of bonuses on Bleak House. This was not a novel with which the Peterhouse team were familiar, and thus a gettable set went begging. The next starter asked about the term bitcoin. Vitali Brejevs opened his team’s account with this one, and they took the lead with a set of bonuses on Physicists, of which they managed one. I did my first lap of honour of the living room of this series when my guess of Ernest Rutherford brought me a point on this set. Vitali Brejevs zigged with Galvani for the inventor of the first battery, allowing Thomas Langley to zag with Volta. Artists as described by Simon Schama brought us both a full house. I knew that “The Aspern Papers” is set in Venice, and so did Evelyn McMenamin, which earned Glasgow a set on South America,in which each answer began with –qu-. A good full set were taken. This brought us to this series’ first picture starter. We were shown a map with the trail marked on it. Hannah Woods offered ‘ The Pennine trail’ and this was accepted under the ‘close enough’ ruing. The answer is more correctly The Pennine Way. Yes, ok, that’s fair enough, as long as other teams are also allowed answers which are equally close while not adhering to the strict letter of the answer. Time alone will tell on that one. Three more of the same followed, and Peterhouse took one. I would only have had the same one – Hadrian’s Wall path – myself. So after a brisk and competitive start to the contest Peterhouse led by 50 – 40 at the 10 minute mark.

Thomas Langley provided a good early buzz to identify Charles I’s Short Parliament. The SOHO space mission provided slim pickings, yielding one bonus. Oscar Powell opened his account identifying a series of words beginning with the letters –ul-. Regions of China provided one bonus. Now, coming back to the ‘close enough’ rule, Hannah Woods offered the Taklaman desert, and it was reassuring to see that this was not accepted for the Taklamakan Desert. Bad luck because she obviously knew the right one, but the right adjudication. Some Physics questions about optics eluded all of us. Now, you hear the words 1961 – and – New Capital – and you buzz in with Brazil before you even hear the words ‘world heritage site’. Well, that’s the idea. Both teams listened to the whole question, then Hannah Woods buzzed in. She sounded uncertain, but she was right. Peterhouse at this stage of the game were outbuzzing Glasgow. Questions about Graham Greene (met him once and was very unimpressed. Mind you, so was he.) A couple of bonuses were answered correctly. The first music starter of this series saw neither team manage to identify a little bit of Monteverdi. Not surprised. So the bonuses rolled over while we had another starter, and Ollie Allen recognized a definition of the term ‘bus’ as used in computing. The music bonuses offered three pieces inspired by the myth of Orpheus, and asked for their composers. I fancied we’d be getting the Can Can, and this was actually the last one. It was the only one I got, but Glasgow didn’t know it. A very good early buzz from Vitali Brejevs identified “Cabbages and Kings” as the work of O. Henry. The 2014 Winter Olympics brought 2 correct answers and ten points. Oscar Powell looked as if he was guessing when he buzzed to offer sial as the name used for the upper part of the Earth’s crust, but he was right anyway, and he earned his team bonuses on English and Scottish monarchs. Now the first one, about the king at the time of the Norman Conquest was asked in the rugby club two weeks ago, and considering the difficulty of the question I was a little annoyed that we weren’t given anything for putting Malcolm II rather than Malcolm III, but I digress. Peterhouse were close to all three, but only managed the one. This took their score to 115, which meant that they had now established a 50 point lead by the 20 minute mark, and were looking like the stronger of the two teams.

Julian Sutcliffe recognized the Duke of Wellington’s quote about battles won being as melancholy as battles lost. Miserable old git. That’s the Duke of Wellington, and not Julian Sutcliffe. Questions on Switzerland brought another 5 points. Vitali Brejevs, who to be honest so far had been almost single handedly keeping his team in the game, was first to buzz in for the second picture starter to identify an engraving by Gustave Dore. The bonuses were further illustrations by Dore, and the team had to identify the work it was created for and the author of the work. They managed two, but were probably kicking themselves for not getting the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. A great early buzz from Hannah Woods saw her recognize the definition of postmodernism. I’m a post-impressionist myself. My impression of a post is brilliant. I’m here all week, ladies and gents. Neglected Tropical Diseases brought a good full set, and Peterhouse were, if not home and dry, certainly in their own street and only slightly damp. Oscar Powell was unlucky not to quite understand the question for the next starter. Only participle was needed, while he offered past participle, which wasn’t quite the answer to the question as asked – and again he was correctly decided not to have quite qualified for the close enough rule to come into operation. Maybe misled by the previous answer, Glasgow plumped for gerund. Close but no cigar. Hannah Woods knows that you hear the words ‘Swiss French architect, and you hit the buzzer and say ‘Le Corbusier’. Novels about the First World War brought two correct answers – I didn’t know “The Daughters of Mars” either. Ollie Allen knew that the first country to declare war in July 1914 was Austria-Hungary. Bonuses on Ancient Greece took them to 105, and with maybe 5 minutes left they at least had the chance of making a bid for a repechage slot. Now, with the Maths starter that followed, I used the Clark principle of always answering zero or 1, and got it right by answering zero. So did Vitali Brejevs. European cities with 4 letter names took Glasgow to 130, and a good enough score for a run at the repechage was looking a much higher possibility. The impressive Mr. Brejevs knew that FLOPS stands for Floating Operations Per Second, and a set on royal wives added 5 more points. 145 might just do it, and in fact a win wasn’t out of the question now. Well, Oscar Powell wasn’t having any of that, and won the buzzer race to say that ATP stands for Adenosine Triphosphate. Italian football grounds provided 5 more points, but the two they missed out on were gettable. Vitali Brejevs won the buzzer race to name the Indonesian province on Borneo as Kalimantan, and that, I fancy, might just be enough to take them to the repechage round. There was no time for any bonuses, and so Peterhouse won 185 to 155.

This was a good and enjoyable contest, and both teams can be pretty pleased with their displays. On balance Peterhouse seem to have a little more buzzing throughout their team than Glasgow, but then first round form is notoriously unreliable.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP earned himself some Clark brownie points by alluding to the TV series Doctor Who, but lost all of them immediately by calling the character Doctor Who, rather than The Doctor. The Doctor supposedly gained his degree from Glasgow.

I thought that we were going to get a comment about Peterhouse’s identification of the Glyndwr Way as the Brecon Beacons, but JP merely looked down his not inconsiderable nose and moved on. There was the hint of a laugh when Glasgow offered Handel for the composer of the Can Can.
I’ve rarely seen JP so lost for words as when Vitali Brejevs offered the title of “The Firebird” in Russian! In English? he replied, his expression suggesting that he maybe felt that Mr. Brejevs was ‘showing off’.

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

Thomas Keneally wrote the 2012 novel “The Daughters of Mars”


Jack said...

A good match to start the series. Peterhouse were probably the better team overall and probably deserved the win, but Glasgow certainly deserve to reach the repechage. Both sides certainly look potentially promising, but it is only the first match of the series, and we certainly have plenty more to look forward to.

On the bonuses, Glasgow managed 14/25 and Peterhouse 16/33, and both sides incurred one penalty.

Next week, St Peter's College Oxford play Liverpool, and the week after, the University of Kent makes its debut in the BBC series, playing Newcastle.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack,

14/25 isn't series winning form, nor is 16/33, but then it is early days here.

Paul said...

I'm no physicist, but I thought Paxman unfairly rejected the answer given by Brejevs (Glasgow) at about 13m 0s. The starter question about Malus's Law boiled down to this: the intensity varies as what function of the angle theta? Brejevs buzzed and answered: cosine. Paxman awarded a 5-point penalty and passed the question across to Peterhouse, who didn't get it. The answer on Paxman's card was cos squared theta. Cos (or cosine) is the function of the angle; whether it's two cos theta or cos squared theta hardly seems material (to me). Given the closeness of the contest, this might have made a difference to the result.

Electric Dragon said...

I would say it's perfectly fair. Cos squared is a different function from cos. For one thing, the cosine can be negative, which rules it out as the answer: intensity is a positive quantity.

Stephen Follows said...

A very hard music set for a first-round match - I'd consider Stravinsky's 'Orpheus' too obscure for 'Counterpoint' where most of the contestants are classical specialists. However, it was a tad harsh of Paxman to laugh at Glasgow for saying 'Handel', when he himself didn't know how to pronounce 'Offenbach'.

Dan said...

I have to say, Stephen, that I got Stravinsky, but by going through all the operatic Orpheos I could think of, and having a stab at the style (ie, clearly not Gluck, Offenbach, etc). I didn't take the more direct route of actually knowing the piece.

But then, I suppose the game is about getting to the answer, no matter how, even if you have to make an educated guess.

Adam "Addy" Lewis said...

As an alumnus of a university that will never, ever, ever get to the TV stages of this show - Glasgow Caledonian - I still find myself supporting my fellow Scots. Brejev did very well for the team, but unfortunately clearly better than the rest did (not that any of them are idiots by any means), whereas Peterhouse seemed to have more of them buzzing more often.

Good start to the series, and already a benchmark for the repechage score. It's been good enough recently, and hopefully will be again to give them Glasgow a second bite of the cherry.