Saturday, 17 February 2018

University Challenge - Quarter Final Match - St. John's Cambridge v. Ulster

St. John’s, Cambridge v. Ulster

Last week we saw what I believe to be the best Oxford team this season, Merton, over come a good Fitzwilliam side. This week we saw what many people – this writer included – believe to be the strongest of the Cambridge teams, St’ John’s. The team, consisting of John-Clark Levin, Rosie McKeown, Matt Hazell, and their captain James Devine-Stoneman have made very smooth progress up to this point in the competition. Their opponents were the doughty battlers of Ulster, Cathal McDaid, Kate Ritchie, Matthew Milliken and their own skipper, Ian Jack. They had to fight their way through the repechage, but have shown good resilience and spirit already in the competition.

Now, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia had the surname Lee, as in Robert ., which gave first blood to John-Clark Levin of St. John’s. Literary figures who were also MPs were a nice set, and they brought us both a full house. However 5 points of this was lost by an incorrect interruption for the next starter. Neither team could dredge up the term horizon from the definitions given. I could, but decided to gamble on there being another lap of honour question for me later. Both teams sat on the buzzer a bit for the next starter. Even after the clinching clue – opera inspired by two lovers in celtic legend – it was a good second or so before Rosie McKeown buzzed in with Tristan and Isolde. Museums and Art Galleries brought 2 more correct answers for St. John’s, and meant that I had answered the first 9 questions on the bounce. I didn’t get into double figures – the Kennelly Heavyside layer did for me next. Did for both teams as well. The answer was E. No, me neither. The next starter took a moment or two to get going, but when the novel Coningsby came into it, both I and Rosie McKeown knew it was Disraeli. Apparently he wrote it during one of Gladstone’s shorter speeches. Experiments at CERN did none of us any good for the bonus set. The picture starter showed us a map of Africa with a body of water highlighted. John-Clark Levin buzzed in just after I said The Gulf of Guinea with the same correct answer. More alliterative Geographical features brought a couple, but they missed out on Cape Cod. I know nowt about marginal utility, but John-Clark Levin took a double with it. Bonuses on Academy awards for best foreign language films brought a further ten points. This meant that just past the ten minute mark St. John’s led with 95 to 0, and Ulster had been completely shut out to this point. 

Now, the next question on sub atomic particles saw me answer neutrinos, and as I set off on the lap of honour the St. John’s skipper gave the same answer, That was over a hundred unanswered points now. Annie Kenney, the political activist, was a new one on me, but St. John’s took one. JP must have been thinking about offering the doom -laden words of encouragement – plenty of time to get going Ulster – but refrained long enough to allow John-Clark Levin to take what I think was already a fourth starter with the term Life Force. The Primordial Soup Theory – they used to serve that in my old school – provided more bonuses for the St. John’s express. Still no encouragement from Jeremy for Ulster. Rosie McKeown took a punt on Kalisz being in Poland, and was rewarded with another starter to her name. Poetry brought two more correct answers. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember the last time we got as far as the music round with one of the teams not managing a shot on target, but this is where we were. Was it me, or was there genuine surprise in Roger Tilling’s voice as he announced ‘Ulster Milliken’ as Matthew Milliken correctly identified the work of Cole Porter. Phew. More songs performed by Ella Fitzgerald yielded another five points. Still, thus encouraged Kate Ritchie buzzed early to identify Banting as one Scientist who’d won the 1923 Nobel for the discovery of insulin. I knew that, but I was not going to take another lap of honour in the same show, thank you very much. The Biblical Book of Judges built on this good work and saw Ulster score a full house. Again, Kate Ritchie was in very early with the word timbre for the next starter. Volcanoes didn’t bring anything to the table. Now, Cathal McDaid knew that if you hear ‘author’ and ‘Prague’ in the same question, you’ll be right a hell of a lot more often than you’ll be wrong if you answer Kafka. Organic chemistry offered chances – even I knew that carbolic acid is phenol. Ulster took that and had a full house – and so did I! Yes, ladies and gents, this meant that I had to set off on another lap of honour. Exhausted, I sank back to the sofa to see that Ulster were now 75 points behind, with 75 to St. John’s 150 at the 20 minute mark.

It got even better for Ulster as Cathal McDaid took their 4th consecutive starter, identifying a still from Twin Peaks for the second picture starter. Three other examples of feature film directors working on the small screen provided 5 points and took them to 90. Now, I’m sorry, but you just can’t sit back on a question which says ‘spacecraft’ and ‘Yuri Gagarin’. That’s a gimme, and their should have been a buzzer race. Sadly for Ulster Kate Ritchie took a complete guess with ‘soyuz’ , while Matt Hazell was if anything even further away with Mir. Sorry guys, but first man in space – Vostok 1, and you should know it. James Devine-Stoneman decided that Ulster had seen quite enough of the ball now, and answered correctly that the Southernmost point of the Indian peninsula is in Tamil Nadu. The Danish author Karen Blixen brought a further five points. Kate Ritchie practically leapt out of her chair in her haste to identify formaldehyde for the next starter. This brought Ulster to triple figures, which had looked unlikely at one point. Cities of the UK brought them to within 55 points of the leaders, but so little time remained. What slim chance remained for Ulster was stamped out by the St. John’s’ skipper, as he provided the term Lemma for the next starter. John Pym bonuses saw the Cambridge side stretch their lead again. Still, Matthew Milliken won the buzzer race to identify “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. Italian composers offered me but little, but allowed Ulster to add a further 5 points to their score. That was it. At the gong, St. John’s had won by 185 to 130. 

A curious contest that. For the first half, St. John’s looked like world beaters, but then what happened afterwards suggested that they had been shooting at an open goal. John-Clark Levin and Rosie McKeown completely buzzed Ulster out of the game during the first 15 minutes or more. Yet when Ulster finally started to throw caution to the wind they at least matched them, and actually had the better of the second half. Well played, though, St. John’s, and as for Ulster, if they play their next match the way that they played the second part of this one, then they’re still not out of it by any means.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I was keeping an eye open in this one, for Jez has made a habit of directing jibes towards Ulster in their previous contests. Maybe this was just due to their difficulty in finding buzzer range, but he was remarkably subdued, not even telling them that there was plenty of time to come back, and just smiling when cheers greeted their first starter, which he simply acknowledged with ‘Okay, you’re off the mark.” Jez was enjoying this contest, openly chuckling when Ulster considered both Alaska and Hawaii for one of the volcano bonuses, and zagged when they should have zigged, causing Matthew Milliken to splutter. 

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

Right – now by no means did I already know everything in this week’s show, nothing like. However I can’t say that any specific fact jumped out at me this week. Sorry.


Jack said...

Nice recovery from Ulster there, but the first half blitzkrieg from St John's enough for the win in the end. Both sides fared similarly on the bonuses, St John's 18/30 and Ulster 12/21, so it was, again, on the buzzer the match was won.

On Monday, Emmanuel vs Edinburgh, followed by Newcastle vs St John's in the first qualification match.

Aethelstan said...

I was interested to read both you and Jack's perspectives on the match as I didn't quite know what to make of it. Ulster are clearly trouble (in a good way, I think you put it best with doughty) but Johns either tailed off in that second half, which they wont get away with against Newcastle. I even wondered if they were holding back . I rewatched the match and stand by my comment on Jacks blog that Ulster were quite slow on the bonuses, I suspect they benefitted from that and denied Johns a lot of playing space, whether this is their deliberate tactic or not isnt clear. They looked pretty shell shocked in the first half. Loved the exchange with Ulster at the end from Paxman, and the other big news, Ms Mckeown hair down! Good performer, would hope to see her on other quizzes in the future.

Londinius said...

Hi Both,

I'll be honest, it did occur to me to wonder whether St. John's had deliberately taken the foot off the accelerator, but actually I don't think so. Some of the Ulster buzzes were very fast. More of a mystery is why they sat on their buzzers for so long at the start of the match.

Aethelstan said...

Was an interesting question to ponder, maybe the first half didnt really pitch to their stengths. This is also the first time they haven't been a dominating force in their fixtures so maybe they were wrongfooted. I still think Ulster could best a few of the other teams in the Qf but they don't really scream champions. Johns who so clinically dispatched Corpus and St Andrews will need to show better form I think...

George Millman said...

When you say you can't recall the last time a team didn't have any points by the music round - are we including the Christmas special series for graduates in this? The Grand Final for the most recent series was won by Keble Oxford, with 240 points to 0. Not that their opponents (Reading) were particularly bad or anything (it was the Grand Final, after all) - just Keble were really quick on the buzzer.