Saturday, 16 September 2017

Mastermind 2018 - Round One - Heat 7

Last Friday, dearly beloved, we saw one contender take the heat by the scruff of the neck, give it a good old shaking, and win by a whopping 5 points. This Friday’s show did not have such pyrotechnics for us, but nonetheless proved to be an interesting contest in its own right. 

The Green Wing is one of those TV series which I’m aware of, and which I know other people watched, but which I never actually watched for myself. In simple terms, I knew absolutely nothing about it. So while Alyx Weston blitzed her way through the round to score 13 and 2 passes, I scored nowt, in what would prove, by the end of the round to be my lowest specialist aggregate for the series. Alyx provided the kind of specialist round I like to see – she’d obviously prepared extremely well, and rattled off the answers without agonising and wasting time over the ones she didn’t know. 

Hammad Hassan is from Cardiff, but I don’t believe that our quizzing paths have crossed at any time. Hammad was answering on Rumi. To my shame, I did not know anything about Rumi prior to the show. If you’re in a similar position of ignorance to my own, Rumi was a 13th century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, scholar, theologian and Sufi mystic. Needless to say I failed to open my account, while Hassan battled through to a total of 10. You don’t really want to be more than a couple of points behind at half time – well, you don’t want to be behind at all at half time, if we’re being pedantic – but a deficit of three does at least give you a fighting chance.

Like many of us, Jonathan Frere has been round the block a few times. A former Brain of Britain contender, he last took part in Mastermind as recently as last year. Well, I can’t say anything negative about that. I’m still the only person to be knocked out in the first round in one series, and to come back to win the series the very next year. Last year he was second in his heat, answering on the history of Hungary 850 – 1920. Last night he gave us Julius Caesar, a good old traditional sort of subject. Like Hassan he seemed to have a couple of stumbles along the way, but kept his cool, and pushed on to double figures. 10 and no passes seemed a reasonable return. Under the circumstances my 4 was a godsend. 

So to our final contender, Matt Jackson from Bury. Matt was answering on Lancashire County Cricket Club. I have it in mind that this was once a subject taken by the great Geoff Thomas, but may be mistaken, and if I am, then I apologise. Well, last week, Australian test cricket netted me 5 valuable points. This week, cricket netted me none whatsoever. Thus ended my worst aggregate specialist round set, not just for this year but for many a long year as I recall. Matt’s round was, for much of the time, on a par with the previous two, although he levelled out at 9.

So, at 4 points behind the leader at the turn around, did this mean that Matt was out of contention? No, but it would require a very good GK round to give him a decent chance of keeping the lead. His round of 11 was good, but didn’t at this stage look as if it was going to be good enough. What it did do, though, was take him past 20, the point at which you have to be satisfied that you’ve taken on the chair and given a good account of yourself. Sadly, when Hassan returned to the chair we got to see something which has become actually rather rare in the last few series, a horrible pass spiral. You could see clearly that he was locked in for much of the last minute or so, and though it only cost him something like 4 or 5 consecutive passes, the damage was much greater for it robbed him of any momentum. In the end, though, he still managed to squeeze 7 points out of the round, but that wasn’t going to be enough. 

Last time out, Jonathan Frere managed 11 on GK. If he could repeat that score, and keep the passes down to less than 5, then he would go into the lead. Well, he did a bit better than that, scoring 12 to go into the outright lead. His round was rather like Adam Gilchrist’s winning round from heat 5, starting rather slowly and hesitantly, but really picking up momentum as it progressed. A total of 22 gave him the lead with only Alyx Weston still to go. Would it be enough, though?

Let’s put Alyx’s task into perspective. Alyx had already picked up two passes in the first round, so she couldn’t force a tiebreak. 9 for 22 would not be enough. This put the target at 10. Now, once that GK target is set in double figures, then funny things can happen. The way that Alyx started her round I was fairly sure that she’d get there with maybe 15 or 20 seconds to spare. But if Jonathan’s round was like Adam’s from a fortnight ago, then Alyx’s was like Nicky’s from the same show. In terms of tactics I think she did nothing wrong. She got a run of questions to which she didn’t know the answer once she’d scored 19, and then when that happens what can you do but guess? Sometimes this will work, sometimes it won’t – this time it didn’t. In the end, Alyx took her total to 20.

So, well done Jonathan. Speaking as a recidivist myself, I ‘ve got a lot of time for anyone who gets close to a win first time round, so comes back and gives it another lash. Good luck in the semis. 

The Details

Alyx Weston
Green Wing
Hammad Hassan
Jonathan Frere
Julius Caesar
Matt Jackson
Lancashire County Cricket Club


neil wright said...

You mention that Julius Caesar is a good old, traditional sort of Mastermind subject. Perhaps this might have something to do with the fact that it was my first round subject back in 1978 and I was able to take it again in the final that year. As a result I find myself inclined to take an almost proprietorial interest in the subject.

I know that it has been taken at least once more since then. On that occasion, I had no warning it was coming up and found I couldn't recall as much of the detail as I would have liked. This time I was able to glance at my notes from 1978 beforehand, although I found they were far too detailed and I could only manage to get halfway through in the time I had available. As a result I managed to score 9 on Jonathan's questions. It was interesting to note that at least four of the questions this time were pretty much repeats of ones I was asked back then. However, I suppose there are only so many things you can ask.

Londinius said...

Hello Neil
Yes, it's certainly true, Julius Caesar hasn't been up to much since 1978!
Alright, my earliest appearance on MM was only 11 years ago, and to the best of my knowledge only the first subject, the Modern Summer Olympic Games - has recurred - twice I think. But yes, you do end up paying it special attention.

neil wright said...

At the risk of boring people with more ancient history (both figurative and actual) I went back to listen to my audio cassettes (no VCR even, then) of my specialist rounds on Julius Caesar from 1978. There were some observations that may be of interest.

In Jonathan's round last week, I think he managed to get through 14 questions. That is about as much as can be achieved nowadays unless you are very good and/or lucky. In 1978, over the same two minutes allocated, I got through twenty questions on the same subject in both the first round and the final. I didn't even seem to be going all that fast with a number of pauses and hesitations.

The other noticeable thing was the style of questions then, which probably contributed to the pauses. You have to bear in mind that these were being set by experts in their field but not necessarily with any experience of writing quiz questions. Mine were set by a university lecturer and one or two sounded more like exam questions. Consider: "What was Caesar's principal objective at the Conference of Lucca in 55 BC?". Now, I believe he had more than one objective so this almost becomes a matter of opinion even if there is a consensus. There were also questions beginning with How? or Why? which, I believe, are explicitly excluded from Mastermind now. One example: " Why didn't the conspirators against Caesar in 44 BC involve Cicero in their plans?". I looked for all sorts of reasons without success, so passed. The required answer was "Because they thought he might tell someone" which I had considered and rejected as too prosaic. It just goes to show.

Unknown said...

Hey! I‘ve just found this. Thanks for your analysis and kind words. I actually got 21 in the recording but because Humphrey fluffed the question, it was edited out. 😂 Glad you enjoyed it though, never been so scared in my life. I’ll be on telly 12th May ITV if you fancy seeing me again. Alyx x