Saturday, 24 September 2016

University Challenge: Wolfson, Cambridge v. SOAS

Wolfson College Cambridge were represented by Justin Yang, Ben Chaudhri, Paul Cosgrove and Eric Monkman, their skipper. Their opponents, the London School of Oriental and African Studies, or SOAS were represented by David Bostock, Magda Biran-Taylor, Odette Chalaby, and captain Henry Edwards.

Eric Monkman was in with the answer Discworld about the same time that I was for the starter – immediately after JP said the title “The Colour of Magic”. Scientists who were also proficient musicians provided a full house, but only two for me. My suggestion that Richard Feynman might have been a dab hand at the musical saw – well, Marlene Dietrich was – fell somewhat wide of the mark. The Wolfson skipper took his second consecutive starter, knowing all about how the rules for zero originally being written in verse – There was a young figure called zero? Eleventh century English history brought just the one bonus. When asked which European capital had artworks decorating more than 90 of its 100 stations I had a feeling we might be looking at the Stockholm T Bana. Skipper Henry Edwards from SOAS buzzed too early to offer Moscow. Given the names of several stations Wolfson should have done a little better with it, offering Amsterdam. That early buzz seemed to infect Wolfson for a while afterwards, since Justin Yang buzzed in too early on the next starter which asked for the greek-originated term sclerosis. Nobody had that. I’ll admit that like Justin Yang I came in too early with John Donne for the next starter – poet and cleric seemed to suggest that – but nobody had it was Robert Herrick. Magda Bira-Taylor waited until it became obvious that the edible nut of Jupiter was the walnut, and that tactic paid dividends. I thought that Alfred Nobel would be an answer to one of the questions about explosives, and that was the only one that we both had right. Still, at least SOAS were now in credit. Cuba, Hispaniola and others were highlighted on a map for the picture starter. ‘Greater Antilles’ I suggested, but neither side had that. The next starter Asked about the first person to reach his funding goal on Kickstarter. Henry Edwards took that one. In the picture starter SOAS gave an example of what can happen if you don’t listen closely to the question. Told that JP wanted the island name highlighted, and that it might not necessarily be the name of the nation, they offered Trinidad and Tobago rather than just Trinidad. It’s a shame, but at least the two bonuses they did answer meant that the two teams were all square on the cusp of the 10 minute mark.

Eric Monkman began the next section of the contest in the same way he had began the previous with a good early buzz to identify King Stephen as the father of Eustace of Boulogne. They took one bonus on the Battle of the Somme, and frankly might have done a bit better with them considering that this is the centenary of the battle. A great early buzz from the SOAS skipper identified Tennyson’s Ulysses and earned a full set of bonuses on rice cultivation to give SOAS the lead for the first time in the competition. Gibbs free energy sounds rather jolly. Never heard of it myself, but Paul Cosgrove knew it Both of us took the first two bonuses on Miranda Carter. Now, if you hear the words ‘loudest sound in recorded history’, just slam the buzzer down and answer Krakatoa. Both teams rather slept on their buzzers, until Eric Monkman made a despairing lunge with the fall of the Berlin Wall, allowing David Bostock to have a three frow with the right answer. Places named after saints is one of those categories which can be nice or nasty – on this occasion it proved relatively benign providing two  strictly speaking two and a half – correct answers. Ben Chaudhri was in extremely quickly to identify a wee snatch of Elgar. The bonuses were other pieces played by Jacqueline du Pree. Off the point completely, but it was at this point of the proceedings that it struck me that the way the Wolfson scarf was draped in front of the team resembled nothing quite so much as a giant Walkers’ Frazzle. Sorry. Eric Monkman couldn’t resist the lure of the early buzz on the next question, and lost 5 for his pains, but it fell to JP to tell us all that both Florida and Texas joined the USA in 1845. Eric Monkman again came in too early for the next starter, giving away another 5 hard earned, but Magda Biran-Taylor knew that Sun Yat Sen was highly influential in the removal of the Chinese Imperial Dynasty in 1911. Nobel prizes for economics provided two bonuses. I applaud Eric Monkman by not being deterred from another early buzz, and he was right to come in early with the dwarf planet Ceres. Scientific unit provided both of us with just the one answer. Once again, Eric Monkman timed his buzz correctly for the next starter, about the derivation of the term Art Deco, after David Bostock had buzzed too early. One suspects that SOAS might have fancied bonuses on languages of China more, but Wolfson managed enough to take them into triple figures. AT 20 minutes they led 105 – 90.

Fair play to Justin Yang for getting the letters ZA from little more than Japanese dumplings. A full set of bonuses on Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” saw them start to pull away from SOAS. I loved Wolfson’s attitude of buzzing first even if they’re just guessing, but Justin Yang misidentified Martina Navaratilova as Steffi Graf for the second picture. Odette Chalaby supplied the correct answer. Three other players to have won career Grand Slams narrowed the gap a bit. Apparently something was derived from the cells of Henrietta Lacks. Henry Edwards knew all about it, and earned bonuses on books published in 1516 put SOAS back in the lead. Against expectations, this was turning out to be a good contest. Would Wolfson come to regret those incorrect interruptions? Ben Chaudri added another one, by misidentifying the founder of the Seleucids as a general of Ptolemy. No, the first Ptolemy too, like Seleucus, was a general of Alexander the Great. Henry Edwards had that. Amino acids both promised and delivered little. Both teams had, it seemed by the next starter, learned to wait until the question became obvious. Flightless birds was not enough, but Emperor and King gave Henry Edwards penguin. Fictional newspapers saw them only get one of three very gettable literature questions. Still, with a 40 point lead SOAS now had the upper hand. A rush of blood to the head saw Henry Edwards sacrifice 5 points of the lead by saying Presbyterian when the answer required was Episcopalian. The Wolfson skipper was never going to make a mistake on that one. Lead down to 25. Three correct answer on Sanskrit film titles and the lead was down to 10 – one starter. Again SOAS didn’t listen to the question. Magda Biran-Taylor correctly answered got, but didn’t add the rhyming stoat. Lead down to 5, and an easy tap in for Wolfson to take a 5 point lead. A full house on Christmas Day Coronations and Wolfson now had a 20 point lead. Fair play to Henry Edwards, he was in like a whippet to identify some Persian poet for the next starter. Right – I’ll be honest, I thought it was Castor and POLLUX in Roman Mythology, and Castor and POLYDEUCES in Greek – but if Pollux is also applicable in Greek, then I withdraw my objection. A second correct answer was enough to level the scores.


A one question tie break saw Ben Chaudr correctly identify the radula as something you find in molluscs. A great game, and I look forward to seeing both teams again.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP was guilty of a pedantic and unnecessary correction. When offered the equally correct – in fact, technically more correct since it is the original Anglo-Saxon Harold HARfoot, he corrected it with – Yes, Harold HAREfoot – which is the modern rendition of it.

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

J. Rule from New York was the first person to reach his target for crowd funding on Kickstarter.


Jack said...

Last week's show was exciting, but this was on another level! A great performance from both sides, that went right down to the wire. SOAS will almost certainly be back in the play-offs, and they totally deserve another go, as would Wolfson had it gone the other way. Great match anyway!

The only downside with this match was the notice that penalties for buzzing wrongly just as Paxo is finishing are still in force. Thankfully, both sides falling foul of this means the outcome wasn't impacted in any way.

And, once again, my condolences to the family of Mr Bostock, who has sadly passed away since recording the series.

On Monday, Queen's of Belfast play Birmingham; the week after, St Andrews take on Worcester of Oxford.

Stephen Follows said...

'They took one bonus on the Battle of the Somme, and frankly might have done a bit better with them considering that this is the centenary of the battle.'

Presumably, this match was recorded in the autumn of 2015, before all the Somme shenanigans got going, which would make your comment more than a little unfair.