Wednesday, 22 July 2015

University Challenge - Round One - Match 2

Liverpool v. St. Peter’s Oxford

We’re one contest in already, and it was quite a good one too. Hoping to match that first game we had Liverpool and St. Peter’s, Oxford. According to JP the two have met in UC before, and that time it was the Oxford college who had the better of it. Liverpool were represented by Jenny McLoughlin, Jack Bennett, Ed Bretherton and skipper Robin Wainwright. St. Peter’s’ team were Isaac Kang, Jeremy Thundow,  Yaroslav Sky Walker, and their captain Nathan Gower.

I have actually heard the first starter about Alien Hand Syndrome before, so I chucked in Dr. Strangelove before it became obvious where the question was driving towards. As soon as it did, though, Robin Wainwright won the buzzer race. Liverpool took two out of three bonuses on British coronations. Nathan Gower opened his team’s account, recognizing a description of the pineal gland. Wizards, as in ‘the wizard of’ followed. We were asked Wishaw (John Higgins), Riga (Mikhail Tal) and Menlo Park (Thomas Edison) , although not The Dribble (Stanley Matthews). A mental pat on the back to myself for knowing Mikhail Tal was from Riga. Jack Bennett had a good early buzz, linking the names of the author of “The Magnificent Ambersons” with the founder of the Salvation Army to get Booth – Tarkington and William respectively. The novels of E.M.Forster, film versions of – provided two bonuses. Did I ever tell you that my nan swore blind that E.M. Forster wrote “Howard’s Way”? Onto the first picture. This was hard. We had a map of Europe, and then in the place where three capital cities would be were the distances to a 4th capital city. The teams had to work out which the 4th was. Very hard, and neither team, nor me, managed it. I wasn’t that far out, since Berlin isn’t THAT far from Prague, but still no cigar. The next starter was a little cracker. I had it from – The titles of non-fiction works by which author include a reference to the venues of the 1900 and 1908 Olympic Games – which gives you Paris and London as in Down and Out in – so we’re in George Orwell territory. We also had a reference to Wigan, and another one to Catalonia before Jack Bennett took the plunge. This earned Liverpool a bonus set on more maps and distances, and they were unlucky to fail to add to their score. The Cardwell and Childers Report in the 19th century led to the reorganization of the British Army.  I didn’t know that – I guessed the Royal Navy – but both captains had a pop at it, and Robin Wainwright had it. Subatomic physics offered me but little, and delivered zilch, and Liverpool looked equally lost as well. It didn’t matter too much. At just past the 10 minute mark they led with 60 – 15.

British protectorate off the coast of East Africa. Be honest, if you go for Zanzibar every time you hear those words you’ll be right a lot more often than you’re wrong. That’s what Jeremy Thundow did, and this brought up a set of bonuses on disputed islands. A full set made their score look a lot more healthy, and the competition look a lot closer. Jack Bennett had already shown an ability to buzz in the moment that the answer became pretty clear, and once the obscure definitions of the word cataract were done, and we had ‘waterfall’ and ‘medical condition’ he was in there. Fossil hominids – I think I’ve taught a few of them in my time – were actually more straightforward than they appeared on the surface, and Liverpool duly despatched the full set to the boundary. So to the music starter, and that man Bennett won the race again when we’d had a couple of seconds of Jimi Hendrix. Again, this was a lovely set – because according to statistical information collected by YouGov ( who, me? Yes, you, guv.) a significant number of people for whom University Challenge is one of their favourite programmes list Jimi Hendrix as one of their favourite performers. More of the same followed with Ian Dury and the Blockheads (yes), Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (nyeh, not so much) and Dusty Springfield (meh). That last one provded the only bonus. Nathan Gower had an impressively early buzz to identify Nate Silver as the statistician who correctly predicted the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election. Not so impressive as an act of prediction in a two horse race, but there we are, nice work if you can get it. Human physiology provided me with my lap of honour moment, since I did know that melatonin controls the sleep-wake cycle. BY the way, in terms of ridiculous misheard lyrics I was very disappointed to see a while back that in “A Whiter Shade of Pale” Procul Harum actually sing ‘ As the Miller told his tale’, rather than ‘As the melatonin fails’ which is what I’d heard. However, I digress. St. Peter’s added no points on that set. Nathan Gower, though, had found his buzzing form well, and identified the Mississippi born author who published her first novel in 1992 as Donna Tartt. Two of my work colleagues whose opinions I valye both absolutely love Donna Tartt. I’ve only read The Secret History, and while I agree it’s well written, I’m afraid it just didn’t do it for me. Benjamin Britten and the Cinema provided two good bonuses, and at least kept them in the game. The gap narrowed more when Jeremy Thundow identified the 1850s as the decade in which lord John Russell, and the earls of Derby and Aberdeen were Prime Minister. 19th century US history sounded full of Eastern promise – er – western promise. I was pleased with myself for dredging up the Gadsden Purshase – St. Peter’s couldn’t capitalize sadly. Robin Wainwright was the first to buzz in to identify Tannhauser as the Wagner opera about a 13th century minnesanger. Bonuses on French cities meant that at the 20 minute mark Liverpool led by 115 to 80. Judging from what we’d already seen you wouldn’t have bet against Liverpool completing the win, but both teams looked as if they could post a repechage score as well.

Nathan Gower identified Blake’s picture of Shakespeare. More pictures of poets from Manchester Art Gallery reduced the gap to 10 points, and took St. Peter’s into double figures. Neither team knew the term amphibolic and so we moved on. Now, you hear Flemish Artist – and – beard – and you slam the buzzer through the desk and answer Van Dyke. That’s the theory anyway, but neither team were very quick in their response. As it was Robin wainwright buzzed in to win a set of bonuses on geology. 1 bonus pushed them close to a repechage score. The Achievement of a synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits is how Carl Sandburg described poetry apparently. Neither team got that. Robin Wainwright knew that in France, bandes dessines are comic books/comic strips. Leaders of the Lib Dems gave Liverpool a full set, and they were looking good for the win. I was well pleased in my instant answer that 1000 in binary is 16 in decimal, and when the rest of the question was asked Jeremy Thundow had it as well. Books by Nobel Laureates took their score to 120, and although Liverpool led by 35, the result was once again in question. Nobody knew that the southernmost point of mainland Asia is in Malaysia. You say Swedish dramatist, and I think – Strindberg. Why? Because I don’t know any others. Well, it would have bought me the next starter, as it did for Robin Wainwright. Birds brought another timely full set, and at 180 Liverpool were coming back for another game whatever happened. Jack Bennett – best buzzer of the evening, I think, knew that A Tale of the Christ is better known as Ben Hur. Paintings in the collection of the J Paul Getty collection in Los Angeles gave them 5 more to take them to 195. Isaac Kang knew that every King of Scotland in a given period had the regnal name James. At 130 a full set could give them a decent chance of a repechage slot. Operas premiered in La Scala gave them a chance, but they had none. Jenny McLoughlin knew that the metacarpal phalangeal joints are the knuckles. Bonuses on time zones gave them only one chance to add to their score, and they were gonged out.

Liverpool won by 205 to 130. For St. Peter’s sake I hope I’m wrong, but I have a feeling that they may miss out on a repechage slot by a couple of bonuses there. Well played Liverpool, though – the better team on the night.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP again seemed to have been taking his happy pills, since he even went as far as to say that the first picture starter was pretty difficult when neither team got a correct answer.

He doesn’t like Dr. Hook, does our Jez. When that turned out to be one of the favourite groups for a large number of people who love UC he wrinkled up his considerable nose and virtually spat out,
“The viewers of this programme are even older than the presenter!” That’s quite clever actually – an insult to the viewers wrapped up in a seemingly self-deprecating comment. Welcome back JP – we’ve missed you.

There wasn’t much in the rest of the contest, although his exasperated ‘What?!’ when Nathan Gower suggested Carl Sandburg as a noted exponent of the limerick hinted at better things to come during the series.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
The Cardwell and Childers Report in the 19th century led to the reorganization of the British Army.  


Jack said...

Another pretty good match between two reasonable enough teams. The slightly better team won, and I too suspect St Peter's will fall just short of the repechage, but we shall wait and see.

Hope not too many people missed the show due to the rain delay at the Golf; most of the people on Twitter were not pleased.

On the bonuses, Liverpool converted 17/35 and St Peter's 10/24.

Next week, the University of Kent makes its debut in the BBC series, and play Newcastle.

Adam "Addy" Lewis said...

I always have to watch the show on Iplayer anyway Jack as I quiz on a Monday, certainly wouldn't complain about it on Twitter! Nor could I much complain about my own 50/90, reasonable for a solo effort if never threatening a win.

This series has started well so far, and it's a shame St Peters couldn't build on last series success. JP was right that the team had potential, though meaning no disrespect to any of them they lacked a replacement for last year's phenomenal Gabriel Trueblood.

Still, 130 being the lowest of the 4 scores posted so far shows potential, it will be interesting to see what happens from here.

Jack said...

Thanks for the review. :)

Gavin Tillman said...

Here's a question. The two teams had obviously met last year, in a series where Trueblood was one of the dominant and memorable players.

Presumably once a player has appeared in one series, he is barred from representing his team in subsequent years? Neither team had afaik fielded anyone who'd played the year before.

Shame about St Peters, we may well not see them again this series; they had a tough act to follow from last year.

Matt said...


I appeared on the series the season before last (for Southampton). It's an interesting question, but the rules are quite clear - you can appear on only one series. You certainly can't represent the same university on another series. Also, if you appear on one series and then switch to another university, you are not allowed to represent this second university in a subsequent series. The rule was previously different, however, whereby you could only appear on one series for the same university, but appearing on more than one series WAS permitted if it was for different teams. As far as I know, the only person to take advantage of this rule in the Paxman era was Ian Bayley, who has since won Mastermind and Brain of Britain (also Brain of Brains). He played for Imperial and Balliol, but I don't think he got past the quarter finals.

I don't know the exact reason for the rule change regarding multiple teams, but it could be to avoid the show becoming stale with the same people appearing in multiple years, especially with the increase in postgraduate study. It might also be to prevent especially good quizzers who have already appeared being snatched up by universities with the main aim of appearing on the show (similarly to how some boat race teams work, I've heard). I remember Open won in 1998(?) by doing this, and it didn't go down well at all.

Andrew B. said...

Open won the 1998-99 series with one team member who apparently signed up for an OU degree purely to get on the show (another Open team also knocked up some very high scores two years early and this led to some comment in the media). Possibly as a result of this, Open weren't on the show again until last series.

Londinius said...

It’s a question I have been asked before – if you could afford to do so, would you take another degree just so you could have a chance of playing in University Challenge? It’s easy for me to say – No, I wouldn’t – when the fact is that I’m certainly not in the position to even do an Open University Degree at the moment. But on reflection I think it’s the most honest answer anyway. I just couldn’t see me signing up for a degree course just to get on UC. Call me old fashioned if you like (you’d be right) but somehow I think that this is just not cricket. Which is just my opinion, and by all means feel free to disagree.

Which is no criticism of UC, by the way. UC is without a doubt the greatest quiz show I haven’t been on, and if there was any way I was ever given the chance to play in a version of it I wouldn’t need to be asked twice.

If things were different, though, and I could afford to, I would love to study for a Masters in English Literature. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really enjoy studying for the M. Ed (Master of Education) but that’s because, even though it’s put food on the table for almost 3 decades, I find that as an academic subject rather than a practical one, education isn’t all that interesting. Sacrilege, maybe, but I am trying to be honest. And if it ever did come to pass that I had the opportunity to embark on a Masters, would I as a by product also find out whether there was any chance of getting in a UC team? You bet I would.

The whole Open University issue is a pretty clear one to me. I mean, unless you stop mature students from playing on ANY team – which would be ridiculous – then the OU has as much right to compete at least for a place on the TV show as any institution. Now, I don’t know if the BBC has ever actually said that the OU didn’t appear between their 1999 win and last year because of the nature/composition of the 1999 team, but it’s a conclusion which which one could be forgiven for drawing, and just as I feel doing a degree for the sole purpose of playing in UC isn’t cricket, excluding a team on the basis that some of its contestants may have done this is also not cricket.

Which I hope answers a question that nobody had even asked in the first place!

Gavin Tillman said...

Thanks Matt, I guessed as much.

Interesting your point about representing a second institution. I guess it was before the policy change but a friend represented Churchill, Cambridge as an undergrad towards the end of the Bamber years, and (I believe) UCL as a postgrad in the early Paxo years.

While I'd never go to uni with the sole aim of getting on UC, I feel I have another degree inside me, and would jump at the chance if it arose. I was away from college the weekend that Churchill held their selection auditions.

Unknown said...

Hi everyone, first contribution to this super site as I found this to be a particularly interesting and relevant thread

I captained the Newcastle team in last night's match against Kent.
I'm a mature student and, after over 20 years as a teacher, decided to work part-time for a couple of years to satisfy a long-standing desire to go back to university so that I could study new and challenging ideas, meet new people and, yes, to possibly have a go at University Challenge. I'd missed out on a place in the Leeds University team as an undergraduate many years ago and that had always rankled.

At our audition to get onto the show I was honest with the production team and told them that maybe ten percent of my decision to study at Newcastle was with UC in mind.

However, even as a reasonably good quizzer it would have been ridiculous to base the decision to spend many thousands of pounds to study, produce quality written work and contribute to seminars solely to get on UC.

Indeed, there's absolutely no guarantee that having made a costly decision (I'd estimate that my MA has cost over £20000 in fees and lost income) to go back to University that you'd get onto the show. I'm taking an MA over two years and my team and I failed to get on to the televised stages last year - such is the competitive nature of the application process.

To comment on Matt's point above; I've yet to see any evidence of university looking to attract good quizzers in order to do well on UC. Indeed, I have been annoyed at the sheer lack of interest Newcastle University has shown in us.

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