Friday, 11 September 2015

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 6

Well, I have to say it – credit where it’s due, that was a cracking good show tonight. Two virgins, two recidivists.

First of the recidivists then was Geoff Snape. Geoff was a first round contender in both the 2012 series, and the 2007 SOBM. I have to say that looking at his previous GK scores, if Geoff was going to make it to his first semifinal he was going to have to have an absolute blinder on specialist. He picked the Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and that’s a tall enough order since there’s getting on for 60 of them. It reminds me of my first ever Mastermind competition. This was Elthorne High School Mastermind ’81 – actually the inaugural running of the competition as it happened. One of my fellow contenders – I believe it may have been Emma Rushton, but my memory may be deceiving me here – had opted to take the Sherlock Holmes stories – but she believed that she was only going to be asked about the 4 novels – not the 50+ short stories. Uh oh. IIRC the show did go on, and she still achieved a creditable score. As did Geoff in reaching double figures with 10 points. A useful score, but not a blowing the opposition away score. I reckoned that he’d be behind at halfway, and would find it too difficult to make up ground on GK.

Margaret Brown was making her first Mastermind appearance, and answering on the excellent Radio 4 comedy series Old Harry’s Game. I know the series well enough to know that you have to have a very, very deep knowledge of it to achieve a high score on the questions that Margaret was asked – and she did as well as could possibly be done with them. Margaret scored a perfect 14 from 14. Very good performance, and it meant that the pressure was well and truly on the two contenders yet to go.

It didn’t seem to bother fellow Mastermind virgin David Shah too much. He was answering on the Roman Army 200BC – AD200. Now, that’s a long time. David can only answer what he’s actually asked, and he, as had Margaret before him, answered all 14 of them correctly. Now, my feeling is that I must know a lot more about Roman history than I thought I did since I managed 10 of these, and only really missed the ones which were specifically about the organization of the roman army. That’s immaterial anyway. An excellent performance from David, and poor old Geoff must have been sitting in his chair with a sinking feeling along the lines of – here we go again.

Speaking of déjà vu, I wonder if that’s what Ewan Paton experienced, since it’s only a year since he began his previous Mastermind campaign. Last year he reached the semi finals and was runner up in his semi behind LAM reader and all round good egg Diane Hallagan. Now, before anyone accuses me of hypocrisy, I am not saying there’s anything wrong with this quick return. How can I? To date I am still the only contender to be knocked out in the first round in one series, and to win the next series. In two outings last year Ewan impressed me as someone who knew his GK better than the average contender, and so the real question was whether he could get close enough to the two leaders in his specialist round on Harold Wilson. Yes. He certainly could. Another perfect round of 14 from 14. Has it ever happened that we’ve had three perfect rounds in a row? Well, possibly, but I can’t remember any instance of it happening before. And believe you me – it is incredibly hard to get a perfect specialist round. I tried five times and the closest I ever got was one wrong and no passes.

So after a fantastic first round, poor old Geoff was down among the wines and spirits, and had to return first. He will surely have known in his heart of hearts that it was highly unlikely that he could overhaul all three of his fellow contenders, and so made something of an uncertain start. The round actually got better, although he never seemed quite to build up a full head of steam. I was interested to see him give a double thumbs up to John as he stood up to go back to his seat. This seemed to me not to be saying that he thought it would be good enough, but a little satisfaction that he had performed as well as he thought he could, and that’s an attitude I can applaud.

There are two ways of looking at the position that Margaret was in. On the one hand you could say that it was hardest for her, having to set the target for the others to chase, and then wait to see if she could hang on. True. On the other hand you could also say that she didn’t have the problem of having a hugely daunting total to chase, and could then just concentrate on building the best total that she could. For the first minute and three quarters I thought that she was going to put the target beyond the other two. She answered so well that had it been a two minute round I think she might even have won the heat. However the last 45 seconds or something robbed her of momentum, as the answers dried up somewhat. Nonetheless her score of 13 to leave the target at 27 and no passes to force a tie break certainly looked to be enough to put the last two contenders into the corridor of uncertainty.

What was uncertain, mind you, was the outcome of the match. David wasn’t giving in and conceding defeat at all – however he did end up passing. This may have just been unavoidable for him – it may have been deliberate tactics. Whatever the case, it actually made the job harder for him since, having passed once he needed to score 14 – 27 wouldn’t do for a draw now. He wasn’t a million miles away from it either, but looking at his answers, I think a score of 12 was just about as well as he was going to do. Heartbreakingly close, but no King Edward this time.

So would Ewan prove the point I’ve often made about the value of experience in the chair? To me it looked pretty much neck and neck with Margaret’s round for most of the way through. However, we had seen that Margaret’s round slowed up towards the end. Ewan arrived at a target equaling 27 and no passes with time for a couple of questions left. He got the first of the two wrong, but the second, about the famous Jim Callaghan ‘quote’ – crisis, what crisis – would rob us of a tie break.

AS I said, that was a great show. Many congratulations Ewan on keeping your nerve, reaching the target and becoming a double semifinalist. As for Margaret, congratulations on a fine performance yourself, and sticking my neck out I’d say your chances of reaching the semis are pretty good. As for David, well played too – although, and I’m sorry to say this – I fear 26 and 4 passes may just be outside the repechage slots when the dust has settled.

The Details

Geoff Snape
The Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Margaret Brown
Old Harry’s Game
David Shah
The Roman Army 200BC – 200 AD
Ewan Paton
Harold Wilson


Unknown said...

Hello Londinius,

First and foremost, I'd like to thank you for your excellent blog, which definitely aided my preparation for my Mastermind baptism of fire (or in any quiz show for that matter). I also feel yours is a fair commentary on this evening's televised proceedings, firstly in relation to the not massively taxing nature of most of my 'Roman Army' questions. I had certainly prepared for a rougher ride in that round and I must have spent much of the week that followed looking for opportunities to slip 'sesquiplicarius' spuriously into any available conversation!

As for my possible "deliberate tactic" of passing in the GK, this was only consciously so in that my real aspiration for this first experience was to do as well as I could in my own right. In reading your blog and other past MM testimonies, it is impossible to avoid the "thou shalt not pass" mantra; and, jest aside, I completely see the sense in this. However, I wanted to get as many GK questions as I could to achieve as good a score as I personally could - I hope that doesn't sound too restrictive and uncompetitive. And, even if I could have remembered the painfully obvious 'calf' answer (my facial agony over this had my wife and boys in stitches tonight! :) and avoided the passes in the GK round, I honestly feel Margaret was better value for the second place and Ewan definitely a worthy winner.

This was a really worthwhile experience and a thoroughly enjoyable one in great company at that (my thanks particularly to Geoff for taking my mind off what was to come while we waited to go on stage), regardless of whether I manage to scrape through or not.

Thank you again and keep up the great work on this blog.


David Shah.

Londinius said...

Gratias tibi ago
- for your very kind comments David about the blog, and congratulations on an excellent Mastermind debut. As I always say, you can only ever answer what you're asked, and I certainly wouldn't say that you were asked an outstandingly easy set of questions, although I would agree that I did think that you could answer a reasonable number of them just through a decent working knowledge of Roman History. Which is no reflection on your brilliant performance. As I said in the review, I worked my socks off for five specialists and yet never quite managed a perfect round.

Your comments about your approach to the GK round does make sense. In fact going for the highest personal score you can get is in fact the one really sensible and achievable goal in Mastermind, since everything else relies upon something over which you have no control - your opponents' performances.

If the blog helped your preparation at all, then I'm absolutely delighted. I'm equally pleased that you enjoyed your Mastermind experience so much too. I loved all of mine - I'd never have gone back in 2007 had I not enjoyed 2006 so much. I will certainly keep my fingers crossed for you with regards to the repechage places for the semis - best of retrospective luck with that.

Thanks very much for taking the time and trouble to come by and leave a comment,

Best regards


Dan said...

After my first round, I rigidly stuck to the "no pass" rule - if I'd added another on that first outing I probably wouldn't have made it any further. Scrappy, I know, but it's a game, amd there's a fair amount of luck involved, even if you can make some of it for yourself. However, it's not an easy rule to keep in the heat of the moment.

I thought the Sherlock Holmes questions were a pretty good set - I got 12 despite not having read the books for a decade or so. Oh well - another possible specialist subject I have to cross off my list.

Good performance, David - better than any of mine, on numerical evidence. If anything, at least you know you're not one of those contestants that crumbles under pressure.

Unknown said...

Many thanks Dan (and to Dave earlier)...

And I assure you that all the "crumbling" was taking place in the inside! :)

Thank you both again...


Paul Gilbert said...

Other contestants who have appeared 2 series in a row (in the Humphrys era):

2003 and 2004: Helena Rogers (1R, 1R)

2004 and 2005: David Wilson (1R, 1R, also appeared in 2007-08), Mary Willmot (1R, SF), Derek Moody (1R, SF, also reached final in 2007-08), Beth Maclure (1R, 1R, also appeared in 2007-08 and 2008-09), Chris Wills (1R, 1R, also appeared in 2011-12), Hadrian Jeffs (1R, F)

2005 and 2006: Amanda Hill (SF, 1R), Pauline Beighton (1R, 1R)

2006 and 2007-08: Peter Gaskell (1R, SF, also appeared in 2013-14), our esteemed blogger David Clark (1R, W)

2007-08 and 2008-09: Beth Maclure (1R, 1R, also appeared in 2004 and 2005), Howard Pizzey (1R, 1R, also appeared in 2005)

2008-09 and 2009-10: David Porch (1R, 1R)

2013-14 and 2014-15: Andrew Teale (1R, SF, also appeared in 2010-11), Tim Allison (SF, 1R), Peter Russell (1R, SF)

plus Jeremy Renals and Ewan Paton so far in this series and the last. Ewan Paton is thus the first contender to reach the semi-finals 2 series running.

I am making the assumption that contenders with the same name are the same person, which may not always be correct.

Hamish Cameron has, despite appearing in 5 different series, never appeared in 2 consecutive series.

Interesting that there was a 5-year period during which this did not happen at all, but it has started happening again in the last couple of years.

Unknown said...

...I dare say that you are all aware of this: something I have picked up from chatting with other MM contestants this year is that some of them (or other contestants they know of) had in the previous year just missed out on qualifying for the semi-finals via a repechage slot, but were in any case asked to come to the semis as 'reserves'. If then all the scheduled semi-finalists all showed up, the 'reserves' would then be given a guaranteed place in the following year's first round heats, with the same specialist subject. I suspect that the latter point would be a mixed blessing...


Unknown said...

Hi there, Margaret here. I'd like to say thanks for the kind words about my round. Especially about my subject choice as I've had a few minor complaints about it being easy (mainly from people who don't understand how Mastermind works or how many episodes I had to go through). Regarding ththe GK, I managed to zone out for the first bit but then my brain remembered where it was and that's when it began to crumble.
Anyway, we will see if I can sustain this for the second round.


P.S. Hello, David, how are you?

Unknown said...

(Londinius, apologies for my taking advantage of your blog to briefly reply to Margaret...)

Hi Margaret, I hope you are well and that you had a safe return journey from Mastermind. As you may have worked out, I was whisked away to a waiting cab and I was sorry not to say goodbye properly. However, I have just contacted the Mastermind team and asked them to please forward you my e-mail contact. Hoping that they do, I also hope to hear from you; it would be good to compare notes! :). Thank you, David.