Friday, 13 October 2017

University Challenge - Round One - Heat

St. Andrews v. St. John’s Cambridge

It’s picked up a bit in recent weeks, this season, hasn’t it? After all of those no-contests earlier, we’ve had some enjoyable matches more recently. I was hopeful that this match up of the second and third oldest universities in the UK (alright, there are older colleges than St. John’s in Cambridge, I know) would provide us with another well fought contest. Representing St. Andrews we had Euan Grant, Christina Fell, Matthew Leighton and captain George Davies. St. John’s, in turn, were represented by John-Clark Levin, Rosie McKeown, Matt Hazell and James Devine-Stoneman. No Chiswickians in either team, but James Devine-Stoneman is from Southall which is in the London Borough of Ealing, so that’s good enough for me too. 

It was this same James Devine-Stoneman who showed a superb turn of speed on the buzzer for the first starter, working out that not only was Mr. Canning the PM who dies within months of taking office, but also that his given name was George. Francois Truffaut brought them a good full house, even if the Last Metro did look like a guess. A good buzz from John-Clark Levin saw him identify former first lady Laura Bush, and this earned a set on Islamic Art. I didn’t trouble the scorer with this set, but St. John’s managed a couple. There was a biological/chemical thing next which I didn’t understand, but the answer, supplied by St. Andrews skipper George Davies, was B. Bonuses on nuclear physics saw an early outing for the lap of honour around the living room. I have no idea how I knew Plutonium 239 – I have a vague idea it may have been from something in Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress – but I did. No bonuses for St. Andrews. Euan Grant buzzed early to identify Harlequin as a name linking an Agatha Christie sleuth with a DC comics villain. Women buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris brought me my first full house, and St. Andrews their first two bonuses. For the picture starter we saw a picture representing the widest extent of an empire. This was always going to be a buzzer race, and it was won by George Davies. More of the same brought them another 10 points, and meant that they had a slight lead just before the 10 minute mark. So once again it was shaping up for a good contest. Both teams looked lively on the buzzer. 

This was demonstrated on the next starter. Where both teams waited. . . waited. . . and then JP mentioned Amstrad and Matt Hazell was straight in with Lord (no longer Sir Alan, please) Sugar. Hydrocarbons did not promise much, but had I not already taken a lap of honour I would have done so after getting propane. St. John’s had a full house. Another Science starter followed. Of course I didn’t understand it, but the answer, correctly provided by James Devine-Stoneman, was the square root. Of course it was. Questions on an international crisis over Luxembourg brought me just the one, and St. John’s nowt. For the first time St. John’s showed just a little vulnerability on the next starter. James Devine-Stoneman leapt onto the mention of a novel of Walter Scott, and not on the link to the name of a district in Scotland. Given an open goal, Euan Grant gave the correct answer of Lothian. Ghost stories saw St. Andrews manage just the one on a decidedly gettable set. Respect to Rosie McKeown for coming in early with the literature question – which short first name links the titles of novels from 1816 and 1857 – “ She looked as if she knew that “Emma” was the title of Charlotte Bronte’s last, unfinished novel too. Electrickery bonuses saw me score another opportunity for a lap of honour, because I correctly guessed resistivity for the first. St. John’s took the second as well, but not the third bonus. So to the music starter. Now, following a principle I think I’ve already outlined, as soon as JP asked for the name of a German composer, I shouted out ‘Beethoven’ before the music began. Which didn’t work since it was Mendelssohn, as Rosie McKeown knew. Three more symphonies in the key of A Major brought me 2 points when Beethoven turned up late for the third bonus – I’d already guessed Shostakovitch for the 1971 Russian. James Devine-Stoneman was first to win the buzzer race to say that John Dalton coined the word atom. Film versions of Shakespeare plays saw them add another correct answer to their score, which had already reached triple figures. Respect to John-Clark Levin for knowing that the 4th largest state of the USA is Montana. French client states during the revolutionary and Napoleonic rules were not at all easy, but St. John’s managed 2. For the next starter Matt Hazell worked out incredibly quickly that forty is the only integer with all of its letters in alphabetical order. People born in Herefordshire added another ten points to an already burgeoning score. In fact, the power buzzing of St. John’s had completely shut out St. Andrews for several minutes, so much so that at the 20 minute mark they led by over 100 points, with 175 to 65. 

Power buzzing which continued with the next starter. You hear ‘English poet’ and ‘1649’ you buzz, because it’s (probably) Milton. Rosie McKeown did just that. IT acronyms and abbreviations were a bit of a gift to a regular quizzer, and so St. John’s should have had a full house rather than 2. The picture starter showed us Robert Frost, which allowed the St. Andrews skipper to get his team back on the road. Multiple Pulitzer winners weren’t all easy – I only had Eugene O’Neill – and St. Andrews sadly couldn’t get any of them. At last St. Andrews won a buzzer race, when Christina Fell grabbed the low hanging fruit which was the secretion of the lacrimal glands – otherwise known as tears. Biblical figures who doubted provided a much needed 10 points. A third consecutive starter for George Davies saw him identify something about speciation – no, me neither. I didn’t know the three novels about one of the less attractive cures for insomnia, Henry James. In fact both of us only got the last one, knowing that it was Britten who wrote an opera based on James’ “The Turn of the Screw”. Nobody knew about Patti Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. A chemistry bonus saw James Devine-Stoneman give the correct answer of nitrogen before JP was halfway through the question. 20th century history according to Billy Joel saw an impressive accuracy with precise years, to earn a full house which deserved but didn’t get the Paxman ‘well done’. Nobody knew that Shakespeare referred to Anne Boleyn as ‘a spleeny Lutheran’. That’s a splendid insult which I intend to use more often in the school. Matthew Leighton knew that a speed of one metre per second equates to 2 knots. Literary pseudonyms saw two quick bonuses taken, but they sadly missed out on the David Cornwell – John LeCarre chestnut. James Devie-Stoneman was never going to let anyone beat him in a buzzer race to say that Brass is made from copper and zinc. The Scilly Isles saw James Devine-Stoneman prove that he is a serious quizzer beyond question, for correctly answering that old quiz trap about Puffinus Puffinus actually being the Manx Shearwater. Alright, they missed the other 2 but it didn’t matter. They’d already passed the event horizon several minutes earlier. I knew PNG and Samoa had the Southern Cross on their flags – for some reason Brazil escaped me. Escaped both teams as well, for that matter. Annular coral reef is a wee bit of a gimme, and Rosie McKeown won the race for that unconsidered trifle. That was it. St. John’s win was completed, by a score of 255 to 120.

This , for me, was one of the most impressive performances in this first round. Make no mistake, their opponents, St. Andrews, were no mugs, but were just buzzed out of the game. First round form is often unreliable, but I think that this St. John’s team have the goods to go a long way this year. Hopefully the Clark tip won’t be the kiss of death to them. Good news for last week's runners up, St. Hugh's, as I think that this result ensures that they go through to the repechage. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Has JP got an axe to grind with Lord Sugar? Far from awarding him his correct title, he just replied “It was Alan Sugar, yes.”, pronouncing the great man’s name as if he was holding it in a pair of tongs to avoid contamination. 

A rare slip saw JP introduce the second bonus on the ghost stories set with the word ‘finally’. 

An incredibly quick buzz from Matt Hazell on the integer question saw a disbelieving JP ask “Did you know that or did you just work that out?” – which I guess is the closest we got in this show to a Hollywood handshake. A simple ‘well done’ might have sufficed, Jez. 

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

Kenneth Branagh filmed a version of “Love’s Labours Lost” where much of the dialogue was replaced by Cole Porter and George Gershwin’s songs.


Jack said...

Unlucky for St Andrews, just five short of a possible place in the repechage. Against another team, they'd most likely have won given that performance. But an excellent performance from St John's, who I agree will definitely be a team to watch in the next round provided they get a favourable draw. And, yes, this does mean St Hugh's will be back in the play-offs.

So, final two first round matches in the coming two weeks, on Monday Corpus Christi of Cambridge vs St Anne's of Oxford, week after Merton of Oxford vs King's of London.

Londinius said...

Thanks Jack. Yes, it was bad luck on St. Andrews, but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.