University Challenge: Round Two – Open University v. Edinburgh
The Open, who defeated Salford in round One, were represented by Rob Mitchell, Dale Crawford, Mags Adamson and captain Sarah Banks. Edinburgh defeated Durham in their own first round match, and they were represented by Luke Dale, Euan Smith, Emily Goddard and their captain, Joe Boyle.
Euan Smith took first blood, knowing that when you hear “Friedrich Engels” you buzz in with “Das Kapital”. This brought bonuses for Edinburgh on Dunstanburgh Castle, of which they took one. Now, unlike many people whose opinion I respect, I thought that “The Great Gatsby” was nothing special when I read it, just my opinion, feel free to disagree. So I was really impressed when Dale Crawford recognised it from a description which didn’t sound like anything I remembered. Epitaphs came and went without any of us adding to the score. I knew Ishtar Terra is on Venus, and so did Sarah Banks. Scientific mnemonics gave me 2 bonuses – not quite lap around the living room territory, but not far off – while Open managed a full house. For the picture starter Euan Smith recognised a list of minor characters from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. Three more of the same brought Ednburgh’s first full house, and an approving well done from JP. Another good interruption from Dale Crawford identified the Central African Republic, best known for featuring often in Pointless, and for being one of only 6 countries whose full name both begins and ends with the same consonant. Two word rhyming phrases such as hob nob brought another full house. Rob Mitchell waited and buzzed at exactly the right moment, just as the phrase ivory tower became clear for the next starter. Bonuses on George Curzon took them to 75, a lead of 30 at the 10 minute mark.
Luke Dale took his first starter knowing that a sea cow would probably be a manatee starting with m – a – n. An extremely easy set on greek mythlogy was despatched to the boundary with the contempt it deserved. The next starter was about possibly my favourite Booker Prize winner, “Midnights Children”. Rob Mitchell made an incorrect interruption, allowing Euan Smith in. Edinburgh received bonuses on physics, and my mind went wandering for a bit. When it came back, Edinburgh had a ten point lead. Right, you hear “opera” and “British composer” you buzz in and say Benjamin Britten. I have a tin ear and wouldn’t be able to distinguish the difference between almost any classical composers, but I still played the percentages with this one and was right. So was Dale Crawford. 1 opera bonus followed. Euan Smith restored the lead, knowing the Bishops’ War, and there was a lovely moment immediately after when the whole Edinburgh team took swigs from their glasses in unison. Bonuses on common names of birds took them to 100. Both teams waited on the next starter about an artist, until it became obvious that Beryl Cook was the answer, and Dale Crawford won that buzzer race. People whose lives spanned a similar period to Sir Winston Churchill saw a full house which took Open back into the lead. Good contest. I’ve never heard of the thermocline, but Joe Boyle had, and the bonuses on US state flags gave them the five points necessary to edge ahead again. Sarah Banks answered what has become an old chestnut in the last 12 months, knowing that the youngest MP in the 2015 general election is Mhairi Black. They might have done better than the one they managed on Dickens, nonetheless, they led by 125 to 115 at the 20 minute mark.
For the second picture starter Luke Dale recognised an iconic still from “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. If you like your 50s and 60s B films the set of pictures that followed were easy. I guess that Edinburgh don’t, because they failed to trouble the scorer. Joe Boyle had an incorrect interruption on the next question about greek symbols used in physics, allowing the impressive Mr. Crawford in again. By the time I mentally switched on after the chemisty bonuses the Open had a lead of 30. Luke Dale ate into the deficit knowing that Justinian oversaw the reconquest of Italy. Portrayals of Thomas More saw a full set reduce the deficit to a single bonus. Right – it works like this. If you hear the words British Thinker it’s usually Bertrand Russell. Euan Smith knew that and made sure of winning the buzzer race. Bonuses on Cordoba gave them a 15 point lead. “The team that gets the next correct starter wins this” I announced to the empty living room. “Rubidium” said Dale Crawford, thus condemning his team, since predictions from the Clark sofa are almost invariably wrong. Bonuses on Ivan the Terrible – one of which was controversial and I will discuss later – saw captain Sarah Banks just a little flustered. Arguably she was given one she shouldn’t have been given, and then rather than nominating Dale Crawford who had the correct answer, misheard it, said what she misheard, and lost the points. So instead of taking the lead, Open only managed to pull up alongside Edinburgh, and were, seemingly, feeling the pressure. Far from flustered though was Joe Boyle of Edinburgh who didn’t hesitate to buzz in to say that there were two apostrophes in the original title of Love’s Labours Lost. Well, fair play, you wouldn’t have asked if it was one, would you. Cities gave Edinburgh a 20 point lead. Now at this point we arrived at another potentially decisive moment. If Open took the next starter, then they could do it. If Edinburgh did, then a full set would not be enough for Open – at this stage that would mean game over to all intents and purposes. Rob Mitchell knew Jerry Rawlings and Kwame Nkrumah had been heads of state of Ghana. Food additives with e Numbers saw captain Sarah Banks play a blinder. She took two to put them level, and you just knew the gong would go at that moment. It did too. So after a frankly wonderful contest it all came down to the tie break. Both teams understandably sat on their buzzers a bit, but Euan Smith knew his Tolkein when he heard it. Game over.
Ladies and gentlemen of both teams, you gave us wonderful entertainment, and I thoroughly enjoyed this match. Thank you. Commiserations to Open, and best of luck to Edinburgh in the quarter finals.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
There was just the flash of the old Paxman when Open misattributed Pope’s epitaph to Spenser. “He was long dead by then!” he snapped. Nice to see him still getting shirty over English literature.
Then when he asked for a decade on the first Ivan the Terrible bonus and Sarah Banks offered “16th Century” he snapped “It’s a decade!” and allowed them a second bite of the cherry. Then when they gave the right answer he allowed it, saying “I’m being kind.” Oooh, I don’t like this kind Jeremy. It’s creepy. On a point of order as well, look – I like the Open too. But they gave a wrong answer. They should not have been allowed another go – in a tight match like this it might have been crucial to the outcome. Just my opinion, of course.
As for the ending, JP hit the nail on the head when he sincerely said “You were both brilliant,n either of you deserve to lose.” Amen.
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
The razorbill – symbol of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park as it happens – is the largest living member of the auk family.