Friday, 20 October 2017

Mastermind - Round One - Heat 12

If tonight’s show did nothing else, it at least proved beyond all reasonable doubt that John Humphrys, for all his undoubted qualities, does not listen! I will explain this all in the fullness. 

Before we come to that, though, let’s go through the specialist rounds, for it wasn’t until the GK rounds that John revealed his weakness. One look at the range of GK rounds tonight was enough to make me feel that, for the first time in weeks I had a chance of getting a 20 point aggregate, and in fact, an outside chance of improving on my best specialist aggregate of 24 so far this series First of these serendipitous subjects was Alison Zrada’s round on Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials”. Granted , it must be over a decade since I read them all, but I felt sure that enough might have stuck to bring me a few points to boost what I was likely to get from my bankers. That’s pretty much how it proved. Alison scored 13 herself, which is the mark of a quality specialist round. 

So the first of my two bankers was Steve Lacey’s round on the Life and Career of Tony Hancock. I know many people whose judgement I value and respect who rate Hancock as the greatest post-war British comedian. I don’t know if I would ever be prepared to go quite that far, but undoubtedly a rare talent, and a fascinating, complex personality. Steve’s round of 11 was the kind of score you’re only going to get with careful preparation, and I know enough about the subject to know that some of these you really had to know your stuff for. 12 put him 1 point behind, but by no means out of contention at this stage.

If you’ve never sat in the Mastermind chair for a specialist round, then you don’t know how you’re going to react. Sitting in the audience at home it’s sometimes difficult to gauge whether a relatively modest specialist performance is caused by the contender suffering an attack of nerves in the chair, or whether its down to the fact that the contender didn't prepare that well. I have to be honest, there were times during Claudia Webb’s round on Ryvita Peron where John would ask a question, and a fleeting look of – what the hell are you asking me that for? – passed across her eyes. That’s the thing about a Mastermind specialist round – whatever you think they won’t ask you, that’s what’s going to catch you out. Claudia’s score of 7 was not a disaster, but it meant that she was out of contention, when all was said and done.

And so to my second banker. I’d scored 3 on Pullman, 8 on Hancock, and 2 on Peron. With 13, I needed 7 to get to 20, 11 to equal my best of the series, and 12 to set a new target. I felt confident I could do it, since the subject final contender Shahab Mossavat was offering, Muhammad Ali, was one that I’d have loved to have taken as a specialist if I’d been allowed. No, no , no, they said when I suggested it. Well, that’s life. As it was, I dropped 2 points, not knowing “Freedom Road” and saying Bermuda rather than Bahamas by a slip of the tongue. Still, 13 bought me a new best specialist aggregate for this season of 26. As for Shahab, well, he managed a sparkling 14, although he’ll probably be very annoyed with himself for missing Doug Jones, which was not a way out question by any stretch of the imagination. 

So to the GK. Claudia’s GK round actually started and finished brightly enough, with most of her 8 points coming from the first and last few questions. The middle of the round proved something of a struggle for her though. Such is life. She kept smiling throughout and certainly looked as if she’d enjoyed her appearance on the show. Well done for that.  Steve’s round was a rather better performance, although again he never really built up the head of steam he needed to achieve the kind of score which would really make the other contenders have to pass through the dreaded corridor of doubt. What his score of 9 did achieve, though, if not quite double figures in both rounds, was a score of 20+ overall, which should be a source of some satisfaction. 

Now we come to Alison Zrada’s round. Like Steve, Alison achieved 10 points, which gave her a 2 point lead. Now then. One of her questions asked about the bridge rebuilt in Lake Havasu, USA. She passed, and when John gave the answer, he perpetuated the hoary old myth that the Americans thought they were buying Tower Bridge. 

Forgive the vernacular.


In 2007, I sat in that very chair, in the Grand Final and answered a round of questions on the History of London Bridge. This was back in the days of the excruciating pre-round chats with the contenders before each GK round. These would usually go on a lot longer than what you’d see on screen. During ours, John asked me whether the Americans believed that they were buying Tower Bridge, and I set him straight then and there. Tommyrot. Robert P. McCullough knew EXACTLY what he was buying – there was even a model of London Bridge on the table in front of him.  So John, I’m very disappointed in you for perpetuating what is, when you get right down to it, a steaming pile of Arsenal. 

You can’t argue when a contender produces both the best specialist and the best GK of the show, and this is what Shahat proceeded to do. Granted, we’ve seen better this series, but even then it was nice to see a contender answering every question and avoiding passing. I speak from experience that doing this takes a certain coolheadedness and presence of mind. A good performance, sir, and I wish you every success in the semis. If you could provide us with another boxing round in the semis – then so much the better as well. 

The Details: - 

Alison Zrada
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials
Steve Lacey
The Life and Career of Tony Hancock
Claudia Webb
Eva Peron
Shahab Mossavat
The Life and Career of Muhammad Ali


Claire Slater said...

Love the fact that Claudia was answering questions on Ryvita....

Londinius said...

Thanks - old joke, but maybe better than no joke at all

Unknown said...

Hi. This is Will G on a different account. FWIW I'm pretty sure Claudia scored 8 on GK (15 in total) and that Steve's split was SS: 12 GK: 9

Mycool said...

Just watched it. Will G is quite right on the scores of Claudia and Steve. Also, Dave, you normally comment when somebody has been on before. In this case Steve Lacey took part in the famous three-way tie-break in the first semi in Mastermind 2017 and narrowly lost out with 4/5 against Isabelle Heward, who scored 5/5 in the tie-break and went on to be champion.

Londinius said...

What can I say ? Sorry guys - don't know how that happened. I will amend.

Paul Gilbert said...

Shahab Mossavat has also reached the semi-finals before, in 2012-13 (his semi was won by Didier Bruyere, who we saw a couple of weeks ago).

George Millman said...

I felt that Shahab's GK round was a lot easier than the other ones - at least as far as that there were a lot more that I myself got right, which is the only method I can use. Not that that takes away from his win. I also felt that Humphrys wasted quite a bit of time on Claudia's GK round. Firstly there were two questions that she got correct and Humphrys corrected to more specific answers, like Yorkshire/North Yorkshire (I'm aware that that happens frequently, but it irritates me when taken in context with my other examples); then she passed on a question and it seemed to take him a few seconds to begin reading the next question, which surely defeats the object of passing; and finally she got the Black Books question right, and Humphrys said at quite a measured pace, 'Black Books is correct', which is really unnecessary when you're against the clock. I doubt it would have made much difference to her overall position in the scoring, but it did seem a bit unfair.

(And I do realise that this comment is so long after broadcast that you probably won't remember any of these things! What can I say, only just catching up on iPlayer.)

George Millman said...

And by the way, Alison actually had five passes in the GK round, totalling six in total. She passed on the last question and Humphrys told her the answer immediately because time was up, so when he said 'You had four passes' he meant apart from that one.