Saturday, 10 March 2018

University Challenge 2018: Quarter Finals - Elmination match - Bristol v. Ulster

The executioner’s axe loomed large over this contest for the first time in this set of quarter finals. Put in simple terms, the team that won would not yet be through to the semis, but the team that lost would be going home. Bristol’s team were Oliver Bowes, Kirsty Biggs, Tom Hewett and captain Sam Hosegood. They lost a rather close contest with Newcastle, where it was even for all but the last few minutes when Newcastle cut loose. Their opponents, Ulster, were Cathal McDaid, Kate Ritchie, Matthew Milliken and their own skipper, Ian Jack. Their own first quarter had seen them lose to St. John’s Cambridge in a match which had seen them snooze for the first half of the contest, before matching St. John’s stride for stride, and even having the better of the last quarter of an hour. So for me, one of the big questions of this match was how quickly Ulster would get into their stride.

First indications were that it might be some time. Oliver Bowes was first in to recognise a description of the Royal Standard. African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature brought a full house. Now, with the second starter, as soon as JP mentioned a painting with ‘Cookham’ in the title I knew it was by Stanley Spencer, and since we wanted a given name, the answer was obviously Stanley. I saw Ian Jack twitch on the buzzer, but he was beaten by Tom Hewett. Now, a full house of bonuses on essential oils was almost enough to send me off on a lap of honour, but inertia won and I stayed put. Bristol managed one. A lovely UC special starter followed. If you take the initial letters of the 8 planets of the solar system, the name of which planet can be spelled using some of them? Sam Hosegood was the first to work it out, and buzzed in with Venus. Good shout. 19th century Science writer Mary Somerville promised but little, but when I worked out that the second bonus must refer to Herschel’s sister I set off on my trot around the sofa. I considered making it a double for knowing Ada Lovelace, but then that would have been gilding the lily. Bristol had 55 points, and Ulster couldn’t get into the contest. For the picture starter we showed a map showing what the effect of a rise in sea level of 60 metres would look like. The teams were asked to name two of the 5 capital cities which would have been submerged. Neither team could manage two. Nobody knew the investigative journalist Nick Davies for the next starter, and sadly Cathal McDaid put his team into negative equity with an incorrect early buzz. A fantastic buzzer race ensued for the next starter. I saw at least 5 reaching for their shootin’ irons, but it was Kirsty Biggs who got to supply the three answers – folk – Polk – yolk. The picture bonuses – more ‘drowned Earth’ maps – provided a further 10 points. This took their score to 80, while Ulster languished on -5. History repeating? It certainly appeared so.

Using the atomic numbers of the periodic table, if boron (5) plus carbon (6) is sodium (11), what is nitrogen plus oxygen? Working quickly through magnesium – aluminium – silicon – I got to phosphorus just as Sam Hosegood did the same. Too knackered by the mental effort for a lap of honour this time I watched as Bristol managed a single bonus on Oscar awards of 1976. Now, when you hear ‘sculpture’ and ‘Paolo and Francesca – “ you go for your buzzer and answer’ the Kiss’. That’s what Matthew Milliken did to put his team in the black. A hard set of bonuses on Russian cities yielded no further points. Ian Jack was at least slinging some buzzer as well now, but his punt of Henry II as the king who prosecuted the 7 bishops for seditious libel was way short of the mark. People whose surnames began with Ner provided 10 more points, and the lead was now in triple figures. Nobody managed sorrel – as in Hetty – for the next starter. Tom Hewett knew that C.S.Lewis wrote ‘Mere Christianity’ but components of the brain provided none of us with any points. For the music starter nobody recognised the work of the great Alan Menken from the wonderful “The Little Mermaid”. The next starter was one of those which became patently obvious in its last word – namely – pouch. Ian Jack won that buzzer race to answer marsupials. The Ulster team earned the scorn of my daughter who was watching with me by failing to answer any of the music bonuses which required them to identify the actor singing and the Disney film from which the song came. Sam Hosegood threw a slender lifeline to Ulster, coming in too early for the next starter, allowing Matthew Milliken to answer that Germany’s first university was in the state of Hesse. The French Directory again proved a set of bonuses too far for them. So, with Ulster having taken three starters but missed out on 9 bonuses, the score at the 20 minute mark stood at 120 – 25.

Oliver Bowes won the race to answer Valkyries for the next starter. Fundamental constant in Physics saw me take a full house. Nah, just joshing, I got zilch. Bristol took 2. Sam Hosegood added to Ulster’s woes by knowing that Eugenius Warming is regarded as the founder of the science of ecology. Greta Garbo (Great bloody Garbo – God bless the memory of Peter Cook) saw Bristol add a further ten points to their score. Ian jack won the buzzer race to identify Billie Jean King for the second picture starter, brought up a set of bonuses on other tennis players who have had stadia or courts named after them. At last they accrued a couple of bonus points. Kirsty Biggs knew that Scott Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise – which was also the title of an episode of Star Trek, the original series, although I don’t think that was written by Scott Fitzgerald. Poor devil had already been dead for decades – although I’d  like to think he’d have wanted to write for Star Trek. Literary characters with three letter names brought both of us just the one correct answer. Tom Hewett knew that Khaleda Zia was the first female prime minister of Bangladesh. Bonuses on Chabrier took Bristol, who had long since passed over the event horizon, to 185. An astronomy bonus on degrees of Ascension saw me have a wild stab of 45 which proved correct both for me and Sam Hosegood. Bonuses on India provided nothing, but this was immaterial bearing in mind that their opponents were already lying prone upon the canvas. The final moments saw Tom Hewett identify Fort William from a description. Gonged out before we got any of the bonuses, the final score was 205 to 45 for Bristol.

Hard lines Ulster. I think it’s fair to say that this was a match too far for them, and I shudder to think what their bonus conversion rate was.

As for Bristol, well played, and good luck in the sudden death match to come. Without wishing to be horrible, I doubt that their own bonus conversion rate quite reached 50%. It will need to be better to have a chance of going much further, I dare say.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Rather sniffy our Jez when referring to the picture starter – “the picture starter which everyone had such difficulty with – “ they got it wrong Jez, that’s all.

He was less sneery and more amused when Ulster suggested that Marshal Ney was Napoleon’s chief diplomat, “No. . . he wasn’t a diplomat in the slightest!” The words ‘pot’, ‘kettle’ and ‘black’ spring irresistibly to mind, Jeremy.

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

‘Anna Christie’ – Garbo’s first talkie, was based on a play by Eugene O’Neill


Jack said...

Yeah, Bristol won this one on the buzzer, their bonus rate being a respectable but not that groundbreaking 16/36, while Ulster could only manage 2/12. Agreed it was maybe a match too far, but no shame in going out at this stage. Bristol are certainly still in the game, but their progress will likely depend on who they face in the play-offs, and will likely be won on the buzzer again.

On Monday, Merton vs Edinburgh for a place in the semis, the week after Fitzwilliam vs Emmanuel to stay in the contest.

Aethelstan said...

Bit unexpected, I thought Ulster were tougher than that. As I said at Jacks I've been a critic of Ulster but now am sad to see them depart, they were the wildcard! I am very happy to see from twitter that they enjoyed themselves! I think your comment a few weeks back about their conversion rate was quite correct and they were duly punished by the big guns.

Bristol, maybe Jack can confirm but my little Excel file seems to suggest they routinely weigh in with conversiin rate 50% which as you say may be a bit on the low side at this stage. But they were fighting for their spot and came out guns blazing, unlike Johns who seemed to underestimate our Ulster friends. Personal view, Newcastle best shot for a non Oxbridge derby as final.

Monday could be fireworks with two of the most interesting remaining teams!

The Herschel question was a delight, a little fact I came across recently whilst preparing a lecture!