Saturday, 21 July 2018

University Challenge 2019 - Round One - Heat One - Warwick v. Exeter

Yippee! It’s mid-July, and University Challenge is back. The 2018 series after a dodgy start proved to be an absolute cracker. Here’s hoping the latest edition will prove to be so too, and if it can do so with fewer first round mismatches, so much the better. Now, I may be wrong, but I fancy that this might well be JP’s 25th year of presenting the show, in which case it sees him equal the great Bamber Gascoigne’s run in the show’s original incarnation. Many congratulations if that is the case.

And so to business. First up we had the universities of Warwick and Exeter. I’ve never been fortunate enough to visit the University of Warwick but had a wonderful day a couple of months ago where a party of my pupils were hosted by Exeter University for the day, and a most beautiful place it is. Warwick were represented by Emily Wolfenden, Jacopo Sartori, Robert Gowers and captain Ben Beardsley. Exeter’s team were Simon Waitland, Will Klintworth, Jessica Brown and their skipper Danny Lay. 

The first starter gave us several clues to the word fever. The last being the 1977 film whose soundtrack features ‘Stayin’ Alive’, Jacopo Sartori got the right film, but the wrong word with night. This allowed the Exeter skipper in. He earned bonuses on  words marked ‘origin unascertained’ in the OED. Exeter took the first two, but for the last they zigged with Tory when they should have zagged with Whig. The next starter asked for the name of a ship. As soon as it mentioned setting out in 1831 I took a flier with HMS Beagle. Moments later Will Klintworth did the same just before JP was about to give us the name of Robert Fitzroy. Right – here we go. The next question gave us the first (very mildly) controversial moment of the series. Asked for the French artist who depicted the oath of the tennis court amongst other things, Exeter answered Jean-Jacques David. JP awarded them the point, although he took care to correct them that the painter’s name was actually Jacques Louis David. “Yes, David is correct – it was Jacques Louis in fact.” OK, now, to the best of my knowledge there’s no internationally accepted hard and fast written set of rules for quizzing. But what I’ve observed I many if not most of the quizzes that I’ve played in is that UNLESS the forename is specifically asked for in the question, then the surname alone is acceptable for an answer. However, EVEN IF the question does not ask for the forename, if the player chooses to give the forename and gives it incorrectly, then even if the surname is correct the answer is adjudged wrong. – AS I say, there’s no hard and fast set of written rules which applies to all quizzes, and not every quiz that I’ve played in follows this convention. I mention it though because it sets a precedent, and if it’s allowed in this question, then in the interests of fairness it should be allowed throughout the series.  – OK, 1 – 2 -3 we’re back in the room and out of pedantry corner. Exeter took the full house on David. Did you know that mebi denotes 2 to the power of 20 – I think? Me neither, and nor did either team, with Warwick losing five for an early buzz. For the next starter I took a flier on tall tree like grasses of Asia being bamboo, meaning that the only two consonants in the word were b and m. Other clues bore this out. Emily Wolfenden was first in to wipe out the Warwick deficit. Physics and astronomy gave me nowt but Warwick took 10 points. So to the picture starter and , wonder of wonders, something I actually know a little about in Science, the periodic table. We were shown a small section and asked to work out the missing element. “Gallium!” I shouted, and set out on my lap of honour, before hurriedly sitting down again as Danny Lay gave the correct answer of Germanium. I was one out. Still, I took a full house of bonuses of more of the same. You can bet your life I completed my lap of honour then. Ben Beardsley atoned for losing five on the previous starter by coming in very early to identify a Fresnel lens for the next starter. Economics and economists did nothing for me, nor for Warwick for that matter. This left the score at 65 to 20 in Exeter’s favour at just after the ten minute mark.

I knew that it was Gore Vidal who coined the term The United States of Amnesia. Neither team twitched until JP mentioned Myra Breckinridge, which saw Will Klintworth buzz in for the points. This gave Exeter bonuses on Chien-Shiung Wu (yes, quite right, also known as CHien-Siung Who? in LAM Towers) . Doesn’t matter – I still got Uranium 235 and 238. I’m too old for two laps of honour, but for me it was worth one. Exeter took two bonuses to my one. I knew that the Glomma is a river in Norway though, which neither team did. Fair play to Ben Beardsley of Warwick, though. He had answered Angels in America for the next question while I was just starting to process the question. Albums of Bob Dylan should have given me more, but I only managed the first and last. Warwick took one bonus. The Warwick skipper clearly had the bit between his teeth when he took the starter knowing something about calculus to which the answer was lambada – sorry - lamda. Fair enough. Biology answers beginning with the letters co – gave Warwick a couple of correct answers, and me an unexpected full house. Cotyledon? Really? Where the hell did I dredge that answer from? No idea. So to the music starter. Now, played part of a symphony I thought – sounds like 20th century, which for me narrows it down to two composers – Stravinsky and Shostakovitch. I zigged with Stravinsky, while Danny Lay knew it was Shostakovitch. More classical works with a title or nickname taken from the name of a city. I recognised the first two, but missed Haydn’s London symphony, as did Exeter. Now, for the next starter, after the date of birth, and the fact he started as a Conservative MP, then an Independent, then became a Labour MP I confidently asserted it was Oswald Moseley. As JP was halfway through mentioning the British Union of Fascists, Robert Gowers came in with the correct answer. Place names beginning with Ak gave Warwick two correct answers and me one.  Danny Lay pounced on the next starter knowing the founders of the video game company Valve. Performers who are also Companions of Honour saw the funniest moment of the show, as Exeter offered Mick Jagger when the answer was Dame Vera Lynn. Which reminds me of a nice story. When jazz legend George Melly once remarked on Jagger’s growing number of crow’s feet, he replied that they were laughter lines. Quick as a flash Melly retorted “Nothing’s that funny!” No? Well, please yourselves. They failed to take either of the other bonuses on offer. Right then, ladies and gents. Believe it or not I had a third lap of honour-worthy answer when I supplied the word organelle just before Ben Beardsley did for the next starter. I only knew it through past editions of UC. Aquatic ecology provided both of us with just the one correct answer. Neither team knew that the 1946 Peace Constitution was that of Japan – I thought that one was guessable if you didn’t know it. Still, on the cusp of the 20 minute mark the scores stood at 115 to 85 to Exeter. They’d looked well in control in the first 10 minutes, but now we certainly had a game on our hands. Good show.

A rush of blood to the head saw Will Klintworth lose five for suggesting the Brownlee Brothers won medals in the decathlon. This allowed Ben Beardsley in for triathlon. Medical radio isotopes promised me but little, still I managed the second. Warwick took the last. The second picture round saw the impressive Warwick skipper provide the title of a painting – The Last Judgement – all the time shaking his head as he did so. More paintings on the same subject brought just 5 more points. Emily Wolfenden buzzed early to identify Tchaikovsky’s words about Rome and Juliet. Bonuses on British History and specifically Princes of Wales were all gettable, and they managed two. That set had put Warwick into the lead for the first time in the match with just 5 minutes remaining. I was impressed with the way Simon Waitland identified the Oystercatcher from its description and the fact it is the national bird of the Faroe Islands. The musician and performer Wendy Carlos (yes, alright, Wendy Who? in LAM Towers), gave Exeter a timely full house. Both teams were tied, and this was turning into an excellent match. Warwick looked in trouble when Jacopo Sartori took a flyer that Warsaw was the city being described for the next starter. It lost them five, and let in Will Klintworth with Krakow. (“KRAKOFF is correct” sniffed Jex). Microbiology offered a chance to stretch the elastic between themselves and Warwick, but they failed to add to their score. None of us had a clue about a Leclanche cell for the next starter. The next one was a buzzer race, though, with Emily Wolfenden the first to work out that the capital of the US State named after Elizabeth I is Richmond. One bonus to tie the scores – any more and Warwick would lead. The Islamic Calendar gave them 10 points, and a sender lead. With only a minute to go, it looked like it would all come down to the next starter. Quite rightly Will Klintworth gambled on speed – but his answer was wide of the mark. Robert Gowers gave the correct name, the Italian mathematician Peano, and bonuses on Romantic poets and birds took their score to 165. Even a full house for Exeter would only tie the teams again now. On a flag starter I was pleased I could identify Rwanda, as did Danny Lay. I reckon that could be an important answer. We were gonged before they could answer a bonus, so it didn’t mean that Exeter won. However, 150 makes them more likely to take a repechage slot than 140 would have. Warwick’s 165 though put them through as of right.

Well played both teams. This is the kind of match we want to see and was a great start to the new series. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Hardly anything to report. He still corrects punctuation does Jez, though. When Warwick offered AYKron he replied somewhat pointedly, “ACKron, yes.”

On the second picture bonuses, where Warwick came up with the sensible suggestion of Dore, he poopoohed this, “No it’s William Blake - Very distinctive.” Yeah, well, it’s easy to say that when you’ve got the answer written down in front of you, Jez. Try it from the other side of the desk. Not so easy now, matey boy. 

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

The OED lists the origin of the word tantrum as possibly deriving from a Welshman’s mispronunciation of the word ‘anthem’. (Personally, I think that’s probably a load of cachu. If you don’t speak Welsh, guess or look it up.)


Jack said...

Excellent start to the new series, two well matched teams, both sides deserve to come back in some way or another, and I'm sure Exeter's score will be enough. Warwick deserve credit for fighting back well after that poor start, not to mention after being fined for a highly pedantic interruption. It is early days of course, but both these sides could get a good run with a reasonable draw.

On the bonuses, Warwick managed 15/33 (with four penalties) and Exeter 14/25 (with two penalties), so, as with many a game last series, it was a game narrowly won on the buzzer.

On Monday, Emmanuel College Cambridge play Glasgow; the week after, our first Oxbridge match of the season, with Pembroke for Oxford and Downing for Cambridge.

Aethelstan said...

Glad to see you're both back in business on your respective blogs!

What a cracker to get us started, had serious doubts Warwick would pull that one back and was indeed a little surprised at the weak start. I seem to remember last years Warwick team being snappy buzzers, I suppose this shows how that can be dangerous. I've never visited either but both are suppliers of quality grad students to us. Both teams seemed quite STEM heavy which I hope doesnt hobble them in later matches. I'm sure Exeter was one of them institutions that disgracefully closed its chemistry school a few years back.

The questions were enjoyable for me. The isotopes one was tricky but gettable, but I have a slight advantage as a collaborator works at a nuclear research facility that has a sideline in producing said isotopes..

I think the derivation of tantrum a Welshmans pronounciation of anthem is a stretch, must look this up. The obvious Welsh derivative I have heard of is Penguin..

Londinius said...

Hi Both,

Yeah, nice to be back, and it was a good match. Funnily enough Aethelstan I felt the sae about both teams being STEM heavy. It didn't matter so much in this match as it wasn't overly weighted towards Arts and Humanities, but it does make you worry that they might struggle to overcome a genuinely all-round team. First round form is unreliable, but I think we'll see some stronger performances before we get to the repechage.

qdx1 said...

Very enjoyable first episode and a great review as ever.

Much closer than I expected as Warwick have a good student quizzing record and take part in various University-level student quiz competitions. For instance, the results of the 2018 British Student Quiz Championships (which took place after the 2018-19 UC series was filmed, and won by Cambridge for the first time) are at

I certainly was surprised that Warwick had three mathematicians on their team, but Warwick does have a very strong reputation for maths. Also having three people studying the same subject can work: Peterhouse won a few years back with three historians I believe.

I thought Exeter were unlucky not to get the final bonus awarded - hope that those 5 points don’t make a difference as to whether they return as one of the highest scoring losers.

Stephen Follows said...

He's correcting pronunciation, surely not punctuation?

'Sorry, Exeter, you used a semi-colon wrongly in your answer, so I'll have to turn it over to Warwick'. Perhaps not...

Keshava said...

Goldsmiths are back on University Challenge this year, and our first round match airs Monday, September 24. Hope you'll be cheering us on!

Londinius said...

Hi Keshava,

Too right! Congratulations for making it back on!