Friday, 3 February 2017

University Challenge Quarter Final match: Warwick v. Emmanuel, Cambridge

The form book, prior to the start of this contest, suggested a win for Warwick over the hardened battlers of Emmanuel. The Warwick team of Sophie Hobbs, Sophie Rudd, Thomas Van and skipper, former Countdown champion Giles Hutchings had looked to be one of the most impressive while climbing the foothills of the competition, while Emmanuel’s team of Tom Hill, Leah Ward, Bruno Barton-Singer and their irrepressible captain Bobby Seagull had taken a rather more difficult route. Yet Emma had already shown that they could cope well with being underdogs against SOAS in their previous contest, and only last week we saw one much fancied team beaten by a team with a less impressive record. What price lightning striking twice?

For the first question both teams demonstrated their nerve by holding off the buzzers until it became obvious, when it asked which coin replaced the old shilling. Sophie Rudd, very much Warwick’s star player in previous performances, won the buzzer race to supply the answer – 5 pence. This brought up a set of bonuses on tall structures on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 2 were taken. Thomas Van recognised a quote describing Montesquieu, earning bonuses on trees and shrubs. On these they failed to add to their score. Thomas Van took his second starter in a row, knowing that Johannes Brahms was the composer once called the ‘soul of Vienna’. Mountains in Hinduism made up for the previous set of bonuses and returned a full house. We’d reached the first picture starter, and so far Emma had been outbuzzed by Warwick. Early days yet, of course, but their fingers must have been twitching to get into the action at this stage. A real UC special came up. We saw the word Soome. When JP said that this was the name of an EU member country, well, I worked out that it must be Finland. However, this was not written in Finnish, and I hadn’t a Scooby in which language it was written. It was Sophie Rudd who did, suggesting that it was written in Estonian. Maybe it was my imagination, but there seemed to be a touch of disbelief in JP’s voice as he confirmed her answer was correct. More of the same provided no more correct answers for the bonuses. Now, off the top of my head I couldn’t give the symbols of elements 18 and 19, but as soon as JP said that they make up the name of an object constructed in the Book of Genesis I’d have been straight in with Ark. Sometimes an answer is so overwhelmingly likely that even though you don’t know it for certain you just have to take a flyer on it. Sophie Hobbs was first in, but didn’t get it, allowing Bruno Barton-Singer to break Emma’s duck. Science in the 17th century surprised me by giving me two correct Science answers. Emmanuel managed a full house. This made some impression on Warwick’s lead, but the 10 minute mark saw the score at 65 – 25, which was some indication of Warwick’s domination of the buzzer to this point.

A great interruption from Leah Ward to identify Asquith as the Prime Minister when “Sons and Lovers” was published kept Emmanuel moving forward. The 1922 General Election provided a difficult set of bonuses. I only managed the Moseley question, to which Bobby used the good old quizzer’s tactic of answering Smith, in the grounds that it will be right a little more often than ‘I don’t know’ . On the next question Tom Hill got his buzzing tactics absolutely right, coming in the moment that the answer, India, became clear. The Solar System saw them take two, but there was a definite chance of a full house there. Never mind, they were now just a couple of answers away from taking the lead. I understood the words – which Greek letter – and hardly any of the others in the next question, but Bruno Barton-Singer knew it was eta. The greek dramatist Aeschylus provided a rather gentle set, all of which Emmanuel grabbed with both hands, as they forged ahead, establishing a lead of 15. The pendulum, it seemed, had well and truly swung. And then proceded to swing back as a rush of blood to the head saw Bobby buzz in very early on the music starter, misidentifying the work of Delibes as that of Tchaikovsky. This allowed his opposite number Giles Hutchings in. More pizzicato interludes filed to provide any more points, but the Emmanuel lead had been cut to five. Bobby came in too early on the next question, sacrificing that lead, while Sophie Rudd gave the correct answer of Halstad. No, me neither. A set of bonuses of pairs of place names of which the final letters of the first place make the first letters of the name of the second required a knowledge of the states of India which neither of us possessed. Sophie Rudd returned the favour to Emmanuel by coming in too early on the next question, which wanted part of the name of the third son of Adam and Eve. She offered – eth – Tom Hill offered just -th -, and that took the points. Emmanuel were back in the lead which they increased by answering a bonus on the French thinker Lacan. I love watching Bobby waiting for the starters. His arm and hand hover over the buzzer, waiting to slam it through the desk at the slightest provocation, and he did just this when he recognised a definition of GDP. This took Emmanuel into triple figures, but some medical thingummy bonuses provided no more points. All of which meant that Emmanuel had extended the lead to 20 points by the 20 minute mark. What a good contest.

In both their previous matches Emmanuel had pulled away in the back straight of the final lap. Would they manage to make it three from three by doing the same? It looked a distinct possibility when Bruno Barton-Singer identified the second picture starter as a still from The West Wing, and gave the name of its creator, Aaron Sorkin. Three more of the same saw Bobby change his default ‘not a scooby’ answer to Jones, then take 5 points for knowing the creator and showrunner of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In all fairness, it was a great early buzz from Bobby that identified James Clark Maxwell as the author of an 1865 work on electromagnetic theory. You had the sense that the familiar scent of victory was in Emmanuel’s collective nostrils by this point. Bobby certainly seemed very pleased with the answer himself, and even JP seemed a little amused by his extrovert joy. FA Cup venues added a further 10 points, and gave Emmanuel the cushion of a 55 point lead. Game over? No, not necessarily, but the elastic binding the teams together was showing the strain. Both teams seemed reluctant to guess the third novel of Kazuo Ishiguro, and so it was Tom Hill who came in with the percentage answer of Remains of the Day, which was correct. Oh good, thought I – more Science bonuses. Actually to be fair all the Vs did give me viscous and valency, but not vacuole. Emmanuel now had precisely twice as many points as Warwick, and the elastic had snapped. Another Greek letter used to denote something or other in Science (change the record for gawd’s sake!) gave Bruno Barton-Singer the chance to give the correct answer – tau. Artistic depictions of Saint Sebastian saw Emmanuel take two bonuses to increase the lead to 100. Poor old Warwick were out on their feet at this stage of the contest. There was an inevitability to the way that Bobby came in early to correctly answer that the architectural feature linking a number of buildings is a dome. The Holy Roman Empire and its Electors gave 2 bonuses which brought up Emmanuel’s 200. Warwick avoided a shut out for the crucial last period of the contest when Sophie Rudd came in with an interruption to say that the longest nerve in the leg is the sciatic. Sisters in 20th century literature might well have taken them into triple figures, but the gong denied them that crumb of comfort. In the end Emmanuel were the emphatic winners by 200 – 90. Hard lines Warwick, but that last lap finishing kick by Emmanuel is proving harder and harder for opposing teams to cope with. Well played Emmanuel – who proved they need fear no one in their next match.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nothing to see here. Go back to your lives, citizens.

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

Salvadra persica is otherwise known as the toothbrush tree

1 comment:

Jack said...

A match rather similar to last week's in some ways, a close match at first, before one team hit their stride in the second half and ran away with it. That's three times now Emmanuel have held their nerve to recover an early deficit and win by a decent margin. Excellent stuff on their front again, and good luck to them next time! Unlucky for Warwick to slip away after a good start, but certainly they're certainly not out of it yet. I actually had to explain to someone on Twitter the other night that they weren't out; even after all these years, the QF format still hasn't caught on with the casual viewer.

The bonus rates were quite telling: Warwick managed just 5/18, while Emmanuel fared somewhat better with 19/33.

On Monday then, we can expect Birmingham and Edinburgh, possibly the hardest QF to call yet, and given how unpredictable the three we've had so far have been, that's saying something.