Saturday, 4 November 2017

University Challenge 2018 - Repechage 1 - Ulster v. St. Anne's, Oxford

Repechage 1: - Ulster v. St. Anne’s, Oxford

Yes, it’s that time again, dearly beloved, we’re onto the repechage matches, and soon the second round will begin. First up we had Ulster, who, frankly, looked pretty much the pick of the bunch of runners up, and were certainly my favourited to make it through this match. They were represented by Cal McDaid, Kate Ritchie, Matthew Milliken and their captain Iain Jack. Underdog opponents St. Anne’s Oxford were well beaten by the impressive Corpus Christi team first time out. They were represented by Ramani Chandramohan, Cameron Royle, Andrew Jamieson and captain Kanta Dihal.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t recognise a group of objects that all feature in self portraits by Frida Kahlo, but Kate Ritchie was in well before the question ended. This earned a set of bonuses on Japanese innovations, which brought just 5 points. Both teams rather sat on their buzzers for the next starter. It asked for a type of cloth, and suddenly became much clearer when we were told that it was often dyed green. Even so it was a moment or two before Iain Jack won the buzzer race to tell us it was baize. This brought bonuses on stars, which saw Ulster fail to score, but also saw me take an early lap of honour for Algol. Strictly speaking I shouldn’t have, since I know more about astronomy than most other branches of Science, but I wasn’t going to wait on the offchance that a more worthy opportunity might come along later. Kanta Dihal opened her team’s account, knowing Charles Seife’s work ‘Zero’. The title proved sadly prophetic of how many points St. Anne's would score on Scottish Artists. To be fair, I only managed the Eduardo Paolozzi one myself. This was compounded when Cameron Royle buzzed too early on the next starter letting Kate Ritchie in with Acetylcholine. Gesundheit. Composers – specifically Polish ones, brought me two and Ulster a full house. Thence to the first picture starter. We saw the floor plan of St. Paul’s cathedral – which floor plan once featured on the Christopher Wren £50 note, unless I’m very much mistaken – not that I ever saw many of these when they were around. Cal McDaid had that one. 1 from a set of more floor plans of London buildings meant that by the 10 minute mark they led by 65 – 5, and it looked ominous for St. Anne’s since Ulster clearly had the whip hand on the starters.

It looked even worse for them after Cameron Roye lost 5 for getting the first English translator of Virgil’s Aeneid wrong. To be fair I didn’t have a clue until it was mentioned that he shared a surname with the actors who played Spartacus and Gordon Gecko (I’m Gordon Gecko! No, I’m Gordon Gecko!) It fell to the Ulster skipper to buzz in with Douglas. Modern Feminism provided both of us with just the one correct answer. Matthew Milliken seemed surprised that Matthew Arnold appropriated the term Philistines in his work Culture and Anarchy, but he was right. I was surprised that Ulster missed the old chestnut about John Ruskin being sued by Whistler – I think Whistler received damages of a farthing -  - but managed both other bonuses. Now, if you subtract the number of moons in the inner solar system from the number of planets in the inner solar system, you get 1 – (Moon, Phobos Deimos from Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars). No, I didn’t take another lap of honour after this one. The fauna of New Zealand stymied Ulster – again the Moas at least are a bit of an old chestnut, considering that they were the largest species of bird known to have ever existed. To be fair to Ulster, at least their skipper was very quickly in for the old chestnut of the Norse word berserkr. Roman history added another 5 points. I have to admit, at this point, with the score at 125 – 0 I felt that the dreaded “Plenty of time to catch up, St. Anne’s” was due to be launched from the Paxman lips at any moment. I was right. Poor old St. Anne’s – it must have felt like the kiss of death when he came out with that one. So to the music starter. Now, I knew it was the music used for the Austin Powers films, but couldn’t for the life of me remember that it was Quincy Jones’ “Soul bossa nova”. Andrew Jamieson did. More pieces of music later reused for films provided another 5 points. Again, I thought that both teams dwelt a little on the buzzer for the next. The Bitter Lakes have come up quite often in quizzes, and that by itself could have given the correct answer of the Suez Canal, while the construction between 1859 and 1869 was even more of a clue. However it wasn’t until the 1956 nationalisation was mentioned that Iain Jack – pick of the buzzers in this contest, gave the answer. Questions linked by burning saw Ulster manage none of an extremely gettable set. Cameron Royle knew that the original standard metre was made up from platinum. Noble laureate Tawakkol Karman brought them a further 5 points. Thus, at the 20 minute mark Ulster led by 135 – 30, and the contest was well and truly over. 

Still, there was interest at least in seeing how close St. Anne’s could come, and Kanta Dihal added 10 to her team’s total, knowing two sons of Rama. Rather fortuitously this earned St. Anne’s a full house on provinces of the Netherlands – the St. Anne's skipper is from the Netherlands. Iain Jack knew that one of the years in which William Jennings Bryan was defeated in a bid for the US presidency was 1900. The US philosopher Richard Rorty brought 1 correct answer. The second picture starter showed us a phot of Sir Tim Berners Lee – who was in my picture quiz for the rugby club only days earlier. Neither of the teams could see it. I earned a second lap of honour for guessing Pascal as the SI Unit in the next question – well, 10 to the minus bar sounded like pressure to me. Cameron Royle had that to earn the picture bonuses. Other recipients of the Bodley medal brought St. Anne’s total to 75. Iain Jack guessed that siphonaptera are fleas, which brought a set of bonuses on physics. I had one right! I knew Einstein actually received his Nobel prize for his work on the photo electric effect. Ulster missed Einstein, but took the first. The stage direction ‘enter a servant with two heads and a hand’ comes from Titus Andronicus. I hated that play. Neither team knew it. Andrew Jamieson knew the term ‘skew’ in statistics. Well done. Hong Kong Cinema might as well have been Hong Kong Phooey for all St. Anne’s knew about it – I can’t say that much since the only one I knew was John Wu. Cameron Royle knew various varieties of olive, but could get none of the bonuses on Tuberculosis. Sadly Cameron Royle lost five by buzzing too early on the next starter, allowing Matthew Milliken to answer Krakow, which fitted the definition given. That was it, and at the gong Ulster had won by 175 – 90.

Well played Ulster – clear winners over a St. Anne’s team who were buzzed out of the contest until the last few minutes. Do I fancy Ulster's chances? Sorry, but no, I don't. It all depends on whom they play in the second round, but without wishing to be horrible I was struck by their low bonus conversion rate, which makes me rate them as unlikely to go all the way. I hope that they may prove me wrong. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

What has happened to the great man? AT the top of the show we were served up the unedifying spectacle of him descending into childish schoolyard abuse, suggesting that Ulster had received a highly commended in the Yul Brynner lookalike stakes – presumably directed at Matthew Milliken. Ho ho ho. Jez, grow up. 

I did like the way that JP had to cough to cover up his amusement that Ulster offered ‘Nelson lost his left arm (no he didn’t!) “ rather than “The boy stood on the burning deck”.

Once again he demonstrated that he gets awfully sniffy when one of the teams gets an English Lit question wrong. When Ramani Chandramohan suggested that the stage direction – enter a servant with two heads and a hand ‘ might be from Troilus and Cressida, he wrinkled his nose and snorted “Good Heaven’s no!”, as if she’d maybe suggested Scooby Doo. 

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

The only mammals native to New Zealand are bats.


Jack said...

It was a match won on the buzzer: Mr Jack answered seven starters correctly, same as St Anne's managed between them. Both sides answered a third of their bonuses correctly, Ulster 11/33 and St Anne's 7/21. Agreed Ulster will need to improve that, but we know from their first match, they can do better on them, so we'll see.

The Yul Brynner remark is presumably reference to Mr Milliken's answer in the first round. Agreed it was a bit naughty, but, in all honesty, I have nothing wrong with Paxo's commentary provided he doesn't actually offend any contestants.

On Monday, St Hugh's play UCL in the second play-off. Week after, the second round begins!

Mycool said...

This episode just proved the old adage that, the older you get, the better you quiz. As JP remarked, the Ulster team had an average age of 60 and the St Anne's team had an average age of 22. There are exceptions, of course, but generally there is no contest with such an age difference. The average punter on my quiz night teams could beat the average (repeat, average) UC contestant; the CCC Oxford team of 2009 won (before they were disqualified) because Gail Trimble was an exception, not because they had a great team.

dxdtdemon said...

Mycool, I think this is only true in Britain, since in most other countries, there are more quizzing opportunities for youth, and that people have built up a lot of trivia knowledge by the time they're in college. That's why I think that someone like Aidan Mehigan or Kyle Haddad-Fonda who had been doing competitive stuff since they were nine have a big advantage, even if they don't know some of the super-British stuff that people not on the Isles wouldn't know.

Londinius said...

Interesting points, my friends. Mycool, I know where you're coming from when you say 'The average punter on my quiz night teams could beat the average (repeat, average) UC contestant' but I think that while this might be true on an average PUB quiz, I question whether it would be true in UC. Let's be honest, Ulster really weren't all that good tonight. The one area they did well was on the buzzer. Also, while both Gail Trimble and for that matter Alex Guttenplan were exceptional, their teams won because their teams were good. I don't know if you remember the Trimble final, but Gail Trimble didn't contribute much until a storming last 10 minutes - it was the rest of the team who put them in contention so that her contribution would make a difference.

For many years I've said that an older team should have an advantage on UC, due to life experience etc. However that hasn't really been borne out by what happens in the show. Yes, okay, the 1999 series was won by the Open University, whom I believe were the only team in the Paxman era to score more than 400 in a match. But then that team earned the opprobrium of Paxman for being 'quiz professionals' - unfair and inaccurate since none of them actually made a living from quizzing to the best of my knowledge. It was a long time before we saw the Open University back on the show, mind you, since which they've had some good performances, but haven't stood out as being head and shoulders above the average UC team.

In this very blog I've made the observation that young people in this country do not have a great general knowledge. I'll stick with that. However it's a valid question to ask - does the average person in the UK have a great general knowledge? I'd suggest that the answer is not really. In fact, even people who go to pub quizzes week in, week out are not that much to write home about in many cases. Why should they be? You either need a memory which has little or no filter and takes all kinds of rubbish in, or you need to prepare specifically for quizzes - which means putting time and effort into what for most of us is just a leisure pursuit.

I'm rambling - time to shut up.