Saturday, 16 September 2017

University Challenge - Round 1 - Heat 8

Sheffield Hallam v. Newcastle

Right, what were we asking from this heat, ladies and gents? Well, another close match would be nice. Sheffield Hallam’s team were Richard Simkins, Alex Crombie, James Hanson and their captain, Chris Doyle. Their opponents, Newcastle, were Jack Reynard, Molly Nielsen, Adam Lowery and skipper Jonathan Noble. None of the 8 claimed to hail from Chiswick. 

The first starter required the name of a religion. Jack Reynard buzzed in too early, before it became obvious we were looking for Hinduism. Chris Doyle missed something of an open goal with that one when he answered for Sheffield. The next starter gave us descriptions of the moon and the sun, but nobody recognised them. Finally first blood was taken for Newcastle by Molly Nielsen, who recognised definitions of a group of words that all began with – who - . We both scored a full house of bonuses on Russian Composers. Neither team knew that Einstein went to University in Switzerland, which was the key to answering the next starter, and Alex Crombie came in too early, losing 5. He made up for it, mind you, with a great early buzz to identify Lyme’s Disease for the next starter. Orwell’s 1984 provided no extra points, and we moved to the next starter. Jonathan Noble came in early to identify Henry VIII as the recipient of the title Defender of the Faith. A full house for me on John Napier provided two correct answers for Newcastle. We came thus to the first picture starter. This was an interesting one. We saw a graph basically showing how many searches there were for a particular neologism in June 2016. Alex Crombie was the first to get it, buzzing in with Brexit. Good shout. More google graphs provided no more points, and this left the score at the ten minute mark at 40 – 15 in favour of Newcastle.

A rush of blood to the head saw Alex Crombie lose 5 with a speculative punt on the next starter, but Newcastle didn’t know the islands of Rum, Eigg and Muck. A Maths thing about how many braille dots can be created in a 6 dot matrix passed by all of us. The next starter described a painting and asked for the painter. It sounded like Normal Rockwell, and Molly Nielsen thought so as well. We were both right. Greek philosophers brought both of us a couple of correct answers. Now, I haven’t previously heard of Adam’s Bridge, but I have heard of Adam’s Peak, so I answered Sri Lanka to the next question. So did Molly Nielsen, whose patient buzzer work was gradually extending the Newcastle lead. Te Solar System promised much to me but delivered nowt. Newcastle took one. Now, for the music starter, I got it, but only because I recognised how similar it sounded to “Blurred Lines” ( or bird lime, as I misheard the lyrics on first listening). I knew that the song allegedly plagiarised a song by Marvin Gaye. Listen to the two and you can see how the allegations came about. Nobody could answer. The next starter was a real old quiz chestnut – which is the only element named after a location in the UK. You hear that, then you slam the buzzer through the desk and answer ‘Strontium’. Jack Reynard didn’t exactly do that, but he did at least answer before the end of the question. This brought up the music bonuses, on songs that have been the subject of plagiarism accusations. I’ll be honest, I only got the last one – Sweet Little 16/Surfin USA. Which is one more than Newcastle managed. Molly Nielsen again pushed her team a little bit further ahead, knowing several things sharing the name Margarita. Now, I’m a bit partial to Umberto Eco, so wasn’t unhappy to get a full house. Newcastle managed two, which pushed them into triple figures. At last Sheffield Hallam managed to force their way back into the game. If you hear the words ‘novelist’, and ‘Poland’ you go for the buzzer and do what Chris Doyle, did, answering Poland. Frankly, I thought that it was a waste of time asking for the melting points of various metals for the bonuses. I can’t see many teams having been able to answer any. I couldn’t, Sheffield Hallam couldn’t, it’s a boring set, and it was insult to injury giving it to Sheffield Hallam when they were so far behind. At the 20 minute mark Newcastle lead 105 – 20. The game was over as a contest, and had been for some time.

None of us knew the Lombard Reflex, and so another starter went unclaimed. The first verb in the first line of Wordsworth’s Daffodils is wandered. This I’m sure everyone knew. The buzzer race to give the answer was won by the Newcastle skipper. Bonuses on various applications of the name The Great Bear saw Newcastle claim a full house. For the second picture starter it was obviously Brueghel, and Molly Nielsen did the smart thing, offering just the surname to see if that would be enough. It wasn’t, but when JP asked which one she zigged correctly with the Elder. Bonuses were provided with three other paintings used as album covers. Bit much that it asked for both Artist of painting and artiste of album. They took one, which was one more than I did. I knew the paintings, but didn’t have a clue about the albums. Richard Simkins made a good early buzz to quote about ‘the unexamined life’ from Socrates. Jan Van Eyck gave them a chance, but they couldn’t manage any bonuses. Jonathan Noble buzzed in first to link Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood” with “Macbeth”. British Prime Ministers and popular fiction provided another full house for Newcastle. Nobody knew that there are 2 and a half acres in a hectare. Finally I got my lap of honour answer, knowing that objects beyond the 8th planet of the solar system are TNO  - Trans Neptunian Objects – and Alex Crombie won the buzzer race for that one. Helena Bonham Carter might have given some more points, but the gong put us all out of our misery. 

Right, I don’t want to upset anyone, and I don’t want to be mean. But the fact is this. Had this low scoring contest been the first mismatch we’d seen this series – or even the second for that matter – then nobody would say anything, I’m sure. But it wasn’t. Think about this

·       This is the 5th match of the series in which 1 of the teams has scored less than 100.

·       It is the 6th time in this series that the winning margin has been greater than 80.

And it’s not as if most of the winning scores have been all that impressive either – it’s not as if these losing teams are being flattened by opposition of seemingly Guttenplan or Trimble-esque ability. Does this have implications for whatever means have been used to select teams for the series? Hey, I don’t know. But what I do know is this. Walkovers are not entertaining. I’m not talking about those games where one team is just simply overwhelmed by the brilliance of another team. I’m talking about matches like – well, to call a spade a spade, like this one. I mean no disrespect to Sheffield Hallam. They applied, they were selected, so they came and they game it a lash. Respect for that. But. . . and I feel a bit of a heel for saying it, Newcastle themselves weren’t all THAT great, if truth be known. In particular, I worry about their buzzing when it comes to round two - they'll have to buzz more quickly in my opinion. Good luck, nonetheless. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

There was more than a flash of the old JP early doors after the two teams both failed to get the universities starter – just a hint of – even I knew that! – in the pause and the old fashioned look that he gave both teams. 

Then, later on we had that music starter. Nobody could answer it. “We’ll have the music starter later,” the great man observed, pausing before adding, “When someone gets a starter question right.” As in come on, at least ONE of you should be able to answer these. Bit harsh Jez. 

JP waited until the 21st minute before administering the kiss of death, “Sheffield, there’s still plenty of time to – “ and then added insult to injury, by not suggesting that they might still snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Instead he said, “ – salvage some more.” Now, we all know what salvage means in this context don’t we? Translation – Sheffield – you’re having a ‘mare.

Even then JP had not finished, and in his finest performance in a heat for a couple of years, he made the point that although Newcastle had identified a Van Gogh, “It is Van Gogh, but if you couldn’t get that you shouldn’t be here at all.” I fancy that he was getting even more frustrated than me at the number of questions going begging in this show.

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

Neptune’s northern Springtime lasts more than 40 Earth years.


Jack said...

I agree that it is a shame that we seem to be getting so many low scoring and/or one sided matches this series, but bear in mind it is the first round, which can prove to be something of a lottery. Not to mention the 'first round nerves' that a lot of teams seem to get in the first round, then lose in the second and fare much better. We can only hope things will pick up then.

Two unfortunate stats of note: this is the joint lowest scoring match of the Paxo era, equaling the record set in the first round of 2004-05, and Sheffield Hallam are the first Paxo era team, that I know of, not to answer a single bonus correctly (0/12). Newcastle, on the other hand, managed 17/27, which isn't too bad, but I agree that they may wish to improve on their buzzing speed in the next round.

On Monday, then, we have Leicester vs Fitzwilliam of Cambridge, followed the week after by Imperial (formerly) of London vs Strathclyde.

Londinius said...

Hi Jack
Maybe it's just me, but it does seem very pronounced to me at the moment.

When it comes to UC, it's maybe not quite a case of the buzzer is king, but without the buzzer you can't do anything. In one way I feel really sympathetic to Sheffield Hallam. Even if you only take a small number of starters, as they did, you're unlucky if you don't get one set of gimmes. I've already make my feelings clear about the melting point set. But you can't say that the rest of their bonus sets were totally ungettable. Sometimes it's not your night.

If it really is the case that all of these teams acquitted themselves extremely well, and were the best options available, then fair enough. For example - sadly, Cardiff were well beaten earlier in the round. Well, I complained a year or two ago when I felt that Wales were not fairly represented, so if Cardiff really were the best of all the Welsh institutions that applied, then fair enough. As regards the match ups, I have a feeling that the production team that make UC must have an idea of the relative strengths of the teams through the whole application and selection process. Which leaves two possibilities -
* a) - The draw for the first round heats is made totally randomly, and this year's draw just happened to throw up more mismatches than usual.
* b) - The draw is arranged carefully. In which case I have to say that the handicapper has well and truly got it wrong this year.

Whichever way you look at it, mismatches such as we've seen half a dozen of this year are not very entertaining. Oh, don't get me wrong - even a UC show like this is better than most shows on TV, but it's well below UC's standard excellence.