Saturday, 12 September 2015

University Challenge - Round One - Heat 9

King’s College, Cambridge v. Sidney Sussex , Cambridge

Right then, before we start, let’s get what I groaned when I saw it being dubbed ‘vestgate’ out of the way. Kaamil Shah of King’s was wearing a leather vest! Shock! Horror! Indifference! I would imagine that the majority of viewers wouldn’t have cared if he’d been wearing a roman centurion’s uniform, a Darth Vader costume or a day-glo boob tube. If that’s what you felt happiest in and that’s what helped you perform to the max, Kaamil, then bloody good luck to you. Kaamil’s King’s team mates were Kevin Lin, Alessandro Mariani and captain Jack Smith. Opposing them were Sidney Sussex, in the shape of Nicholas Bennett, Elly Thompson, Dan Wilson and captain Thomas Hitchcock. So then, who would win this civil war of a Cambridge contest?

My schoolboy latin was enough to tell me that semibovemque virum must be referring to the Minotaur. When JP mentioned the word labyrinth that was enough for Nicholas Bennett. Sidney Sussex’s first set of bonuses then were on centenaries in 2015. They took two, but missed on the old quiz chestnut that it was Sir Fred Hoyle who coined the term the Big Bang. Poor Jack Smith was very close to the answer for the next starter, which gave several examples – eg team that play in Tynecastle stadium – and asked for the two words that linked them. He offered ‘Hearts’, and lost 5 points. His opposite number Thomas Hitchcock compounded the error by offering ‘heart of darkness’. Moral of the story – listen to the question being asked, and not the question you THINK that’s being asked. Nobody recognized a far from complimentary quote about the royal family from Hilary Mantel – how appropriate just two days before her Majesty became the longest reigning monarch in British history. Right , in terms of the internet, if Austria is Astatine, and Sweden is Selenium, then Portugal, as Dan Wilson knew, is platinum. Good UC special that, and a good quick buzz. This preceded a terrific full house on mythical creatures – I’d never heard of a jackalope. Jack Smith knew the term hagiography to get King’s off the mark. The last of a set of biochemistry bonuses saw a rather entertaining game of pass the question ensue, as Smith nominated Lin, who didn’t know and so gave the hospital pass to Mariani, who thankfully did. That was the only one they had. I don’t often get a full house on science, - I don’t often get even a one third of a full house on science -  so there was no way that I wasn’t going to mention that I had all of these.So to the picture starter, and three rivers marked on a map of the UK. ‘Ouse’ I shouted – ‘Owse’ said Nicholas Bennett – but we both said the same thing. The bonuses each also showed the locations of rivers with the same name. I knew the Dee would come up – and indeed it was first. This was followed by the Derwents and the Avons. Which incidentally comes from the welsh word ‘afan’ which means river. So effectively the River Avon is the river river. And the river which flows through my adopted home town of Port Talbot is actually the river Afan – or Afan Afan. This brought us up to the 10 minute mark and Sidney Sussex looked good value for their lead of 60 – 10.

The next starter about a chain of gears I was pleased to get right, as did Nicholas Bennett, looking by some way the sharpest on the buzzer in this contest so far. Archaeological sites in Africa provided another full house. The next starter repaid waiting for the easy clue – this one being that we required the decade in which Henry Bolingbroke deposed Richard II. A decent working knowledge of dates of monarchs is often useful on UC. Jack Smith couldn’t get it, but Dan Wilson did, and Sidney Sussex were then given a set of bonuses on space exploration in 1965. Yum yum, said I. The bonuses were all easy if you know and like the history of early space exploration. SS didn’t, but still managed 1, guessing that Mariner 4 went to Mars. Right, I didn’t even understand the next starter, a physics thing, but Alessandro Mariani had it – something like kilograms times metres per second. Sadly they couldn’t make anything from a set of bonuses on Watteau (Watteau Jeeves!) I do understand why Kaamil Shah threw caution to the wind with the next starter, when asked for an event of 1819 which roused the poet Shelley to indignation, but his guess of Krakatoa was out by several decades. Never mind – in UC it’s always better to be hung for a sheep than a lamb – if you have to go down then go down buzzing. I’d guess there’s no out and out historian on the SS team, since they didn’t know it was the Peterloo massacre either. I didn’t know the computing term heartbleed, but Alessandro Mariani did, and this earned his team bonuses on East Asian philosophies, of which they took one. They certainly weren’t drawing any long straws on their bonus sets. For the music starter we heard the prelude from Philip Glass’ Akhenaten, which passed all of us by. The next starter saw Thomas Hitchcock identify a question about Henri Matisse. This earned the music bonuses of three more operas set in Egypt. By the simple expedient of answering ‘Aida’ to each one I earned one myself, which was one less than Sidney Sussex. Thomas Hitchcock knew Thomas Piketty (otherwise known as Thomas Who? In LAM Towers) for the next starter. We both of us took a full set of bonuses on Tilda Swinton. Much as with the first ten minutes, the second belonged to Sidney Sussex, and at the 20 minute mark they looked pretty secure with the score at 145 – 25.

A good buzz from Kaamil Shah saw him identify Salieri, best known from one of my favourite films, Amadeus. This earned a set of bonuses on elements of the periodic table. Cue my second science full house of the night. Now, I’m sorry, but if you put a team on UC you really ought to have at least one team member who can eat this sort of set up for breakfast. King’s failed to get any of them, and for me, that was that for them. A still from Blade Runner was identified by Kaamil Shah. I’m sorry to say it, but they didn’t get any bonuses on other visions of cities of the future. Right then, Mozart’s Symphony number 31  - Paris. If you didn’t get it from that, a George Gershwin orchestral piece should have sealed the deal. Indeed it did for Elly Thomspon. A terrific full house on events since 2001 followed. Showing no mercy on poor King’s, Nicholas Bennet was the first in to recognize a description of the city of Petra. A lovely UC special set on the relationships various women bore to specific kings yielded just the one bonus to Sidney Sussex this time. Kaamil Shah won the buzzer race to answer that Interdit means forbidden or banned. Once again they got a set of science bonuses, and this time they managed one of them. Well, look, the way things had turned out a repechage slot was beyond them now anyway – sometimes it just isn’t your night. Elly Thompson knew that Sir Alex Ferguson’s (2nd) autobiography became in 2013 the fastest selling non-fiction book ever in the UK. Bonuses on United Arab Emirates followed. They had the last one right but it was ruled to be after the gong. Didn’t matter,as the final score was a win for Sidney Sussex by 195 – 60. Good win for Sidney Sussex and they’re a team it might well be worth keeping an eye on in the next round. As for King’s – well it was one of those nights. Had their bonuses coincided more with their areas of knowledge then maybe they might have got closer to 100.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I didn’t think he’d let the ‘Owse’ go without comment, and to be fair, he didn’t. When captain Jack Smith answered the first Science bonus that King’s managed there was a definite tone of frustration in his voice, to which JP responded, “There’s no need to be so dismissive”. Sorry – what was that Jez? Pot – kettle – black – you understand where I’m coming from.
It’s been suggested in some quarters that JP has a different attitude to Oxbridge than he does to the rest of the world. I think that this is something it would be difficult to prove, and generally think he’s pretty even handed. However, the fact is that he is a Cambridge man himself, and frankly I thought he gave both teams a rather easy ride in this show. Either that or he’d been taking a double dose of happy pills before the start. Yes, he couldn’t resist saying to King’s that they never really got going, but even then he sweetened the pill by adding ‘that’s the way it crumbles some times’.

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

The jackalope is a mythical creature of North American folklore which resembles a jack rabbit with antelope horns. 


Jack said...

Totally agree about 'vestgate'. As is always the case, the media takes the slightest minor incident on UC, and creates an enormous media storm over nothing. Same with that incident with Mr Tyszczuk Smith of UCL a couple of years back. Journalists should only highlight something on UC if it really is controversial enough to warrant such criticism.

As for the match itself, it was simply a case of one team having a slight edge on the buzzer race, and the other team having severe bonus problems, making the margin of victory bigger than it probably should have been. Indeed, King's could only manage 3/18 (with three penalties not helping either), while Sidney Sussex managed 19/30.

We shall have to wait and see how Sidney Sussex fare against a better team on the buzzer. In terms of buzzer domination, they weren't actually that much better. Against a team who does better on the bonuses, we'll have to see how they cope.

On Monday, Reading vs Imperial. The week after, St Catharine's College Cambridge, Paxo's old college, play Southampton.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack,
I thought that the bonus stats would work out like that. I didn't want to be too mean about King's, but when a team have an absolute mare on the bonuses like that you can't blame it all on the luck of the draw, I'm afraid. They weren't the best team, and this wasn't their night, and that's an unfortunate combination.

Well, let's see how JP reacts to St Catherine's being on. Should be worth watching, that.

Terrier said...

Surely the highlight of this otherwise largely forgettable contest was when Mr Lin finally got a starter and Roger Tilling was able to gleefully shout "King's Lin!!" He must have been beginning to think that the opportunity would never arise.