Saturday, 1 September 2018

University Challenge - Heat 5 - Clare, Cambridge v. Hertford, Oxford

Clare, Cambridge v.Hertford, Oxford. 

Dearly beloved, in heat 5 we had an Oxbridge match up, which is usually enough to get the adrenaline flowing. Representing Clare of Cambridge we had Anish Naik, Matt Nixon, Elijah Granet and captain Andrew Gurr. Batting for Hertford of Oxford were Steffi Woodgate, Pat Taylor, Chris Page and skipper Richard Tudor.

Elijah Granet came in very early to answer the first starter, knowing that a TV series – we didn’t hear all the details but I’m guessing it was The Wire – was set in Baltimore. Bonuses on words with the suffix -ist brought 10 points. I thought that both teams rather sat on their buzzers for the next starter. Asked for three letters starting a series of words, the first definitions obviously belonged to carburettor and cartilage. Richard Tudor was the first to buzz in, and earned bonuses on Physics. Now, I guessed argon for the first, but hung on to hear the second, when I actually knew about James Chadwick and the neutron. Knowing that there was no point in pushing my luck and hanging on for a hattrick, I set off chugging around the living room on my lap of honour. As it turned out, the last of the set was an absolute gimme, which gave me a full house on Physics. Which may have happened before, but not often. Hertford managed just the last. I’ll be honest, though. I couldn’t dredge up the title of T.S.Eliot’s The Dry Salvages for the next starter. Neither could either team. Now, I didn’t actually know that Henry II was ever called Fitzempress – but it was an educated guess that the term referred to him, especially when given other clues that made it a certainty. Richard Tudor took that one, earning a set on hedonism. Again, they took one bonus. For the picture starter we were given three Old English kennings. I did study Old English as part of my degree, over 3 decades ago now. Basically a kenning is a metaphorical compound. So we were given hwæl-weg, swan-rad, and fisces bæÞ. The first is literally ‘whale – way’ (Gweat Western Whale Way? Bwitish Whale Ways?), the second, swan road and the last fishes’ bath. Which obviously suggests the Sea. Honestly, old English poetry has loads of these. Chris Page was in for that one, earning the coveted Paxman well done. Three more of the same followed, of which they managed two. Anish Naik took an incorrect interruption for the next starter, allowing both Pat Taylor and me to answer that Einstein’s first scientific paper was about capillarity. To be fair, the extra details in the question gave me a decent shy at that one. The 1990s gave Hertford no more points. Nonetheless they led by 60 – 10 at the ten minute mark. At this stage of the contest it seemed like pretty plain sailing for Hertford. However I did wonder at this stage whether they might rue all of those missed bonuses.

A great early buzz by Matt Nixon to identify “What Happened” by Hilary Clinton began the Clare fightback. We returned t Old English poetry with a set of bonuses on the Exeter Book. Typical. You wait ages for a question on the subject, and then two sets turn up one after another. With the first question about a specific poet – usually if the question asks about a hymn it’s Caedmon, and anything else, then it’s Cynewulf. It was Cynewulf. The last question asked about the Lament for the Rohirrim, and which volume of the Lord of the Rings it appears in. Skipper Andrew Gurr offered The Return of the King, while it was the Two Towers, and Elijah Granet extended his arms beseechingly in the universal gesture of ‘you idiot!’. A little mutiny in the ranks there. Now, ‘Bunthorne’s Bride’ is one of those hardy perennials which surfaces from time to time in the rugby club, which wasn’t enough to give the teams the word Patience. Other clues though were enough to allow Matt Nixon to take a double. Western Australia brought Clare another 5 points, but they, like Hertford, seemed rather profligate with their bonuses at this stage of the game. Elijah Granet took Clare’s third consecutive starter, knowing the term McDonaldisation. Agglutination bonuses followed. No, me neither. Again, Clare took just the one bonus. This brought us to the joys of the music round. Playing Elton John’s Rocket Man and asking for the title, we were always going to be in for a buzzer race. The two skippers looked to go for their shooting irons first, and the quicker on the draw was Andrew Gurr. Other tracks on Major Tim Peake’s playlist saw Clare take. . . well, yes, they took one bonus. Which was enough to give them the lead. Paul Erdos – who wins the accolade of being this week’s otherwise known as Paul Who in LAM Towers – gave Richard Tudor a chance to stop the rot, and earned Hertford a set on the deaths of Roman Emperors. Which brought them a full house – yippee! They weren’t all gimmes either. Chris Page stretched the restored Hertford lead, knowing about earthquakes in Tokyo. Indie rock bands were a nice UC set, which meant that even someone with little or no knowledge of the bands themselves could achieve a full set with a little lateral thinking. This gave Hertford their second consecutive full house. Elijah Granet took an exceptionally fast flier to supply the correct name of Elena Ferrante when hardly any of the next question had been asked. It was a fabulous buzz, although I’m not too sure that extending the arms and inviting the applause from the audience was called for at this stage. Meera Bai gave Clare 2 bonuses. A rush of blood to the head saw Anish Naik hear ‘Swedish anatomist’ and buzz in too early with Linnaeus. The answer actually involved the teeth, and Hertford couldn’t take it. This meant that as we neared the 20 minute mark, Hertford led by 110 to 80. Alright, up to this point it hadn’t exactly been a match of the highest quality, but it was at least an interesting contest.

For the next starter Matt Nixon hesitated before giving the correct answer of Nunavut. Names in the Solar system associated with heaven or paradise saw Clare only take one of a very gettable set. This brought us to the second picture starter. I didn’t recognise the work of Edouard Manet, but Chris Page did. This brought a set of bonuses on Manet paintings inspired by original Spanish works, which gave them a timely full house. With a lead of 40 and just over 5 minutes to go, Hertford looked most likely winners at this stage. Nobody knew that, among other clues, the M1 runs by Leicester and Leeds. Elijah Granet took the next starter, recognising poems from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Questions linked to giga- brought them, well, it brought them one bonus, but crucially put them withina full set of catching Hertford. Andrew Gurr made the classic mistake of giving the Greek god, Dionysus, when asked for the Roman god. Chris Page made no mistake with Bacchus. (Bacchus was the Roman God of Wine, while his brother, Tobacchus, was the Roman God of cigarettes. Boom boom . That one came from my A Level English teacher, decades ago. John Browning, take a bow.) Literary oxymorons were the bonuses. Last time this came up I expected darkness visible and it didn’t come. This time it kicked us off. Hertford couldn’t get it, but did take the second bonus on Alexander Pope. With the gap at 40 and the ref already looking at his watch, you could probably have named your own price on Clare. Andrew Gurr won the buzzer race to identify red and roe as species of deer. They needed a full house on events of 1918, but only took two. Still, this brought the gap down to 20. With a full house, they could just snatch victory. The next question, on trignonometry, was one of those inscrutable what is the value questions. Whenever I hear one I always say either 1 or 0, and I was delighted to see Richard Tudor answer 1, and Andrew Gurr answer 0. Sadly, it was a half. The next starter really became a buzzer race when it became obvious that the question was looking for Grand Canal, and it was a race won by the Cambridge skipper. Flight ofs gave them the two bonuses they needed to draw level with Hertford. Squeaky bum time, as there quite possibly would only be time for one more set. Various Robinsons gave Elijah Granet the next starter. Now, if I told you that I’ve never fist pumped after a speculative punt answer has come off you’d know I was lying, so I can’t criticise Elijah Granet for that show of emotion. It literally was the moment that separated the two teams, since we were gonged immediately. Which meant that Clare had won with 160 – 150.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know if 150 will give Hertford a realistic chance of a repechage slot. It was an oddly polarised performance. As their bonus conversion rate seemed to improve, their buzzer form seemed worsen. As for Clare, well they won on the buzzer. I don’t know what their bonus conversion rate was, but I would imagine it was some way south of 50%, and that has to improve to give them any realistic chance of winning their next match. Thanks to both teams for a match which was exciting to watch, if not out of the top drawer in terms of quality.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Matt Nixon hesitated almost too long before giving the answer Nunavut. Now, JP’s words might have said “I’ll accept that but only because I’m being kind’, but the tone of his voice and the pointing finger said ‘do it again and I’ll smash yer face in’.

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

Nunavut actually means ‘Our Land’.


Jack said...

An odd match, neither side really got into gear but nonetheless gave us a very close match up. Your analysis that Clare were better on the buzzers and Hertford on the bonuses is reasonably accurate: Clare answered three starters more, but with 13/30 bonuses to Hertford's 14/24. Hertford's score might be enough for a play-off place, but with them only being joint second at the moment, it'll be a close call.

Aethelstan said...

Welcome back from your travels!

I'm in full agreement with your view of this match. Personally I'm unsure the better team won, and I even think Paxo was overly generous with the Nunavut question.

Golfinos was interesting, a stunning individual performance but I don't really have a feel for the team and the collection wasn't as good as some matches this season...