Sunday, 23 August 2015

Mastermind 2016 - Round One - heat three

Well, I’ve just finished watching Friday’s show, and I found it an interesting demonstration of the some of the enduring truths about the show. We’ll get to those as they arise.

First to go then was retired teacher Diane Hardman. Now, as you know one of the pathetic facts about me is that I’m proud of being the last schoolteacher to win the series – we’ve had University and College lecturers win since, but not school teachers. But, and I am being sincere here, when another fellow schoolteacher does win the show I will be absolutely delighted for her or him. Diane was answering on Christopher Marlowe and it was interesting to see that her round had been loaded with a majority of ‘life of’ questions in the first two thirds or so, and then questions on the works more towards the end. I was glad about that myself, since the works questions pushed me up to 6 on what should, on paper, have been a good SS week for me. 13 and 2 passes was a very good return on a tricky round, I thought.

Remember season 9 of “Only Connect”? Yes you do (3  words – American Municipal Bankruptcies!) One of the teams that caught the eye in that series were LAM readers The Heath family. Well, skipper Alan,  doubtless supported by Heather and Kip, made his Mastermind debut in this heat. His specialist subject? I,Claudius, specifically the BBC TV series. I love the TV series, but even more than that I have read and re-read the two original Robert Graves book until the covers have literally fallen off them. I’d venture to say that it must be the same for Alan, since he provided us with a flawless example of a perfect round – and I dare say he could have gone on doing the same all night. For the record I missed out on the director’s name, but it pushed me up to 20 for my SS aggregate for the show, which is already a record for this series for me. Alan, I wonder if you could have answered if you'd been asked the name of the actor who played the son of Sejanus (Patrick Stewart) in the series? I only know because it was my mate Alfonso DiLieto (Fonzie) who I was at school with. He filmed it when he was at the Italia Conti school before joining my school. He continued to get small royalty cheques from all over the world for all the time we were at school. Fonzie also claimed that he sang the original Finger of Fudge is Just Enough advert, but I don't know if that was a wind up or not. Apologies for the digression. 

Arkle, our 3rd SS of the show, looked to be the most difficult for me. Still, I did know Mill House, and that provided the one point that I needed to give me a great shout of getting at least one question right in each of the 4 specialist rounds. Grenville Davies, needless to say, knew his stuff a lot better than I did. Based on my extremely limited knowledge this seemed like a pretty difficult set of questions, and Grenville, while he was never quite going to break any speed records, maintained a steady momentum right throughout the round. In another show his 12 and no passes might have put him on the lead, or at least on the leader’s shoulder. 3 points behind Alan though looked a significant gap.

Enduring truths about Mastermind, then. John Thompson will have been disappointed with his round of 6 points on Joseph Stalin, I’m sure. Nobody deliberately gets questions wrong on Mastermind (despite what Michael Burton claimed in 2009), and so I don’t wish to make things any worse for John. I use it merely as an example – it was one of those rounds where you felt that something had gone wrong. I’m sure that John was quite badly affected by nerves. However, one of the things that can make you more nervous is being asked a question in the first half minute which makes you realise that you haven’t learned your subject as well as you thought you did. Which brings me to the enduring truth – you can’t cut corners when learning your subject. If you think – oh, they’ll never ask me that- about a particular fact or set of information, then you can practically guarantee that you’ll be asked that.

Actually John’s round, and his subsequent GK round lead me to another enduring truth. While there are occasions when a show is won by a truly outstanding SS round, more often than not you can lose the show on SS, while more often than not you win it on GK. John went on after his SS round to return to the chair and give us a great GK round. Like Grenville earlier, he wasn’t fast, but for the most part he was pretty accurate. Even on a 2 and a half minute round, 14 is a pretty useful GK score, and had he matched the other 3 contenders in specialist, then he would have given himself a chance of a repechage semi final slot. If there is a crumb of comfort for John to draw, on this evidence he has the general knowledge to compete. Now, it’s a lot easier for a contender with a mediocre SS to improve that, than it is for a contender with a mediocre general knowledge to improve enough to make a difference on a subsequent appearance. That’s harsh, I know. But it’s true.

So to the business end of the competition. Grenville Davies’ GK round illustrated a couple of enduring truths about the GK round. All Grenville could do was to put the two remaining contenders into the corridor of uncertainty, and achieve the kind of score which would at least give him a chance of a repechage slot. And for at least the first minute and a half he looked as if this was a distinct possibility. Then the score hit 20, and Grenville had a couple of wrong answers. One of the enduring truths of the GK round is that it’s a marathon, and not a sprint. Another is that momentum, and maintaining momentum are vitally important. Poor Grenville looked as if he was mulling over the couple of wrong answers, and this put him into a spiral of passes and wrong answers which he just couldn’t pull himself out of. In the end he finished with 20 overall – nothing to be ashamed of, but I would venture to say he is potentially a bit better than that.

Now, we come to Diane’s GK round. I wonder if you noticed something that I did? I’ll come to that in a moment. What I liked about Diane’s round was that she kept her head, and maintained her momentum, answering what she could as the questions went past. It wasn’t a great total, nor one which gives her a realistic chance of a repechage slot, but 22 is nothing to be ashamed of, especially since I dare say that Diane probably isn’t a regular quizzer judging by some of her answers. Now to the interesting bit. For one of her questions, she hesitated then replied er. . . um. John H. decided that this was an attempt at an answer, and helpfully moved her on by giving the correct answer. Now, hang on a minute. Did that REALLY constitute an answer? To me, it didn’t, and was the sort of thing I’ve seen John take as a pass before now. OK, it made no difference to the result or the positions of the show, but it’s the sort of thing we need to watch out for.

Right, let’s move onto Alan’s round and one final enduring truth. If you are a regular quizzer, then you have an advantage in MM – in the same way that if you are a serious golfer you probably have a much better chance of winning your club’s monthly medal than a weekend hacker. It didn’t take very long at all for Alan to win the show, and he just kept on answering the questions in a way which made winning the show look ridiculously easy. It isn’t easy scoring 16 on GK of course. Although I would say that answering questions sitting in the chair gets easier the more times that you do it – that’s not an enduring truth, mind you, it’s just my opinion , and as with everything else I write, feel free to disagree.

That was a terrific display Alan. I honestly wish you every success in the final.

The Details

Diane Hardman
Christopher Marlowe
Alan Heath
I, Claudius
Grenville Davies
John Thompson
Joseph Stalin


Anonymous said...

Wasn't he just amazing? Sadly, I was sat at Lungi airport (Freetown) during filming and had to wait nearly 24 hours to find out how it had gone. I will be at the semi final filming as the embarrassing cheering relative though.

Actually, I don't believe Dad has ever read the book. I bought him the DVDs when he got onto Mastermind. He revised very hard!

I am really excited for the semis and hope he carries the momentum through to the final. :D

Kip said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the show. It seemed as though the SS questions were less wordy than they've been in the recent past. I'm sure that in the last series, people were answering everything correcly, at a fair speed, and only getting 13 points at best, rather than tonight's top score of 15.

As you know, I'm not a dedicated quizzer, but I got decent scores on all of the general knowledge rounds on this show. If only I'd had those questions on my shows....

Horsey_Heroes11 said...

I agree totally with Skiffle Cat.

Admittedly it's a small sample size so far, but it does seem like they've "rebalanced" the SS round slightly - not back to the "classic" model of about 18 questions in a round, but certainly higher than the 13 of the past couple of series.

And I also believe that the GK questions have been a bit easier so far this series. Like Skiffle Cat, i'm not a dedicated quizzer either (I scored 10 on GK on my appearance in the chair) but i've noticed that my scores from the sofa have been a bit better this year - in fact I think I set a PB in episode 2 by scoring a 17 on one round and i've been averaging about 14 or 15, compared with the 12 or so I usually score from the safety of my living room.

Dan said...

I concur on the GK round. I generally get around 12, whether on my sofa or in The Chair. So far, I'm getting up to the 15/16 mark this year.

Londinius said...

Hi All,
Kip, if Alan wins, buy him the two books (I,Claudius and Claudius the God) - he'll love them. If anything they are even better than the TV series IMHO.

Gillian, Jeff and Dan, you could well have a point about SS, and I think you may be right on GK. I often have a perfect round on sleb MM GK. but last week was my first time I can remember having a perfect round on regular MM GK. Since we switched to 2 and a half minute GK rounds I've averaged about 17, but for this series it's more like 18.

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I actually have to retract my previous statement - he did read the book once. I've never seen Dad read a fiction book so I was surprised. I should read them though. I loved Goodbye to All That.