Friday, 5 October 2018

University Challenge 2019 - Round One - St. Peter's, Oxford v. Pembroke, Cambridge

St. Peter’s, Oxford v. Pembroke, Cambridge

Heat 11 already, dearly beloved, and that perennial UC favourite, an Oxbridge derby. St. Peter’s were represented by James Hodgson, Seb Braddock, Laura Cooper and captain Nick Williford.  Pembroke for their part consisted of Dan James, Joe Kiernan, Jamie Bamber and skipper Anki Deo.

The first starter was one of those typical UC starters where you just had to wait, wait, wait. . . and then buzz like hell as it became obvious. Nick Williford took first blood, recognising recipients of the Pulitzer Prize. Literary works concerning deaths brought one bonus. Now, for the next one we were given a series of items all beginning with the same three letters. After the first – the second largest island in the Phillippines, I went for min – after Mindanao, while Joe Kiernan waited for the American state known as the land of Ten Thousand Lakes – Minnesota, before supplying the correct answer. Now, Astronomy often gives me an early opportunity for a lap of honour for getting a Science question right, and in fact both I and Pembroke took two with Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. My nerve broke after the second, and I set off on my lap while the going was good. The next starter was a bit of an old chestnut so it was pleasing to see Nick Williford come in early to answer that the artist Whistler had sued John Ruskin for damages. A really tricky set on insults in Shakespeare saw St. Peter’s fail to add to their score. I only managed one myself, with Ajax being the giveaway. Magic numbers did none of us any good for the next starter. Laura Cooper was given a little bit of leeway with the next starter, answering Maggie Farrell for Maggie O’Farrell. This is the sort of thing which can cause controversy. Once you start giving leeway, how can you apply it even handedly? Of course Laura Cooper meant Maggie O’Farrell, but she didn’t say it. Well, there we are. I don’t really have such a huge problem with this, as long as it’s done fairly for all teams in the series. Time will tell. St. Peter’s took two good bonuses on Life Sciences, and recognised that the last was concerning the discovery of the structure of DNA, but went with Watson – of Crick and Watson – while the answer was Rosalind Franklin. So to the first picture starter. Here we saw the first part of a well known nursery rhyme written in musical notation. I was out with the washing on this one. James Hodgson obviously knew it. . . but not the title. And he knew that he didn’t know it as he shook his head and offered ‘my fair lady’, This led Anki Deo to buzz straight in with London Bridge is fallen down. Which is probably the only well known nursery rhyme to draw on the work of Viking poet Ottar Svarte, but that’s another story for another day. Pembroke took two of the bonuses on other macabre nursery rhymes. So, at the ten minute mark we had a good, closely fought match on our hands, with St. Peter’s slightly ahead with 45  to Pembroke’s 40.

Bevis Hillier is one of those names which usually requires but one answer, in this case, Art Deco. Both teams allowed the question to unfold before Anki Deo won the buzzer race for her team. They missed out on the first, but did well to take the other two, I thought. Now, if Astronomy sometimes brings a lap of honour opportunity, then so does the periodic table. Dan James took a flier when asked which element is the only one beginning with the letter a – and wrongly answered aluminium. The whole question wanted the only one whose name starts with a, but whose symbol does not. ‘Antimony – antimony – anti – mon -ee!” I sang to the tune of chim – chiminee from Mary Poppins. The cat looked at me as if I’d gone mad. After being gee’ed up by JP, James Hodgson gave the same answer, although not, sadly, in the same fashion. Literary works that have inspired operas by more than one composer saw St. Peter’s fail to score, although a couple of their answers were pretty decent shots in the dark, which just saw them zig when they should have zagged. Laura Cooper, whose buzzing from this point of the show onwards was going to be one of the things which proved the difference between these two teams, knew that works by Bertrand Russell and Norman Mailer, amongst others, were linked by the interrogative – why? -. Medieval princesses saw St. Peter’s again fail to add to their score. Tricky set. The next starter was one of those which suddenly becomes obvious, and when it did become obvious that the name wanted was Wagner, Laura Cooper won the buzzer race. Organic chemistry brought 2 bonuses, which were timely to say the least since their conversion rate had taken a real dip on their last couple of starters. So to the music starter, where we heard Leonard Bernstein discussing a piece of classical music. James Hodgson allowed just a few words before he buzzed in with the right answer. The bonuses were recordings of Bernstein conducting the work of another composer. Another two bonuses served to stretch the gap between the two teams, which was now 50 points, and also to take St. Peter’s into triple figures. I don’t blame Dan James for trying to buzz his team back into the contest by coming in early for a family of venomous snakes with a five letter name, and offering viper, but it was another of those which became obvious only after he’d answered. When Jamieson’s, East African green, black and Number Five varieties were mentioned it became obvious we were looking for mamba. (Alright, I made Number Five up) Laura Cooper completed a treble by giving the correct answer. Cities and towns whose names begin with Lu- brought one bonus. Laura Cooper then converted her treble into a quadruple, buzzing in very early to identify photosynthesis as the process being referred to in the question. At which point the camera cut to a shot of Jamie Bamber indulging in the international sign language gesture for – for heaven’s sake, let’s press these flipping buzzers a bit quicker!- St. Peter’s were given bonuses on cranial nerves, and added a further 5 points to their burgeoning total, which stood at 135 t Pembroke’s 50 at the 20 minute mark. As Jamie Bamber had noted, Pembroke were going to have to find their buzzing range pretty sharpish if they were to have any chance of pulling this one back.

Jamie Bamber did try to practise what he had preached for the next starter, but just couldn’t dredge up the answer having buzzed in early. Don’t blame him. On UC you might just as well throw caution to the winds and be hung for a sheep as for a lamb when you’re a significant distance behind. This allowed Laura Cooper her 5th in succession and her 6th overall, as she recognised a definition of the term cracking, as in ‘- cheese, Grommit.” Waterways named after explorers was a set that had full house written all over it, and so I was a bit surprised that St. Peter’s only took two. Slight controversy followed for the picture starter. We were shown a photograph of Katherine Hepburn. Nick Williford buzzed in, then Larua Cooper offered us Lauren Bacall – and then held her head in her hands, realising what she’d done in the heat of the moment, and apologised. This might have been worthy of being penalised, but it wasn’t, and the skipper ignored this and gave the correct answer. They took two of the bonuses on winners of acting Oscars who didn’t turn up to receive the award. Another – how many double letters in the sentence – starter bamboozled (1 double letter in that one) both teams. Nick Williford worked out that the Navajo nation, as well as being partly in Utah is also in Arizona and New Mexico. The novels of Kazuo Ishiguro brought a full house, courtesy of Laura Cooper, so it seemed. Joe Kiernan came in too early, understandably, for his team for the next starter. Left with an open goal, nobody on St. Peter’s knew about Barnard’s Star. I did, and you bet I took a second lap of honour for it. Poor old Joe Kiernan got his buzzer timing perfect for the next starter, on Norse mythology, but zigged with Fafnir when he should have zagged with Fenrir. James Hodgson took that one. England cricket captain Heather Knight did nowt for St. Peter’s. Jamie Bamber finally bagged a starter, as both teams rather dwelt on their buzzers before he recognised a list of characters from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Biology brought just the one bonus. When you put all the countries hat border South Africa alphabetically, Zimbabwe comes last. Nick Williford took that to apply another coat of gloss to St. Peter’s score. Poetry anthologies added nothing to their score before the gong ended the competition with St. Peter’s winning by 225 to 50.

So, Pembroke’s score was actually 5 points lower than ULIP’s last week. Yet one felt that they were a better team than the score suggested (while ULIP, bless them, were not.) They were slinging buzzer for the last few minutes, and it didn’t come off and lost them points, so they would have scored more highly. Their conversion rate – when they were given any bonuses – was very respectable actually. No doubt, though, that St. Peter’s were the better team by some distance, certainly on the buzzer. I really wasn’t convinced at all by their bonus conversion rate, though, which was below 50%, and below Pembroke’s. They’ll have to do better than that to go much further in the competition. Best of luck in round two.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Our hero dismissed the work of the Kinks as ‘ancient history, anyway’. Hmm. I bet he’d have words to say if someone said the same about Shakespeare.

When Nick Williford offered Triginial for the last of the cranial nerve questions, JP in his best “Oh do please pay attention, Bond” voice, replied “Trigeminal is, I think, what you were TOLD. But that isn’t what you said. Unfortunately.”  For that matter, Maggie O’Farrell isn’t what Laura Cooper said earlier, but she still had the points. You see what I mean when I say that allowing leeway does cause problems? No? Well, please yourselves.

Our hero seemed to much enjoy St. Peter’s mistaking Joan Crawford for Joan Collins. It’s interesting to speculate whether Jan Collins would be more angry about being thought to be of the same vintage as Joan Crawford than she’d be happy about the thought that she’d ever even been in line for an acting Oscar.

Jamie Bamber got a real old fashioned Paxman wigging for buzzing in too early on the Navajo starter, to be told “I haven’t even finished reading out the question!” Yes, but that’s the point, Jez. Don’t wait until you know it because you’ll be too late. Buzz in when you think you MIGHT know it with another word.

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

Katherine Hepburn never attended an Oscar ceremony to receive any of her four academy awards.


Jack said...

Yeah, Pembroke definitely a much better team than that scoreline suggests (as you said, an OK bonus rate, 7/12), but they just had a retched run on the buzzer (five penalties). Testimony from Paul 'Wolfson' Cosgrove says they are a decent team who just got unlucky here.

St Peter's, though, have the makings of a very decent team: two players getting more than a certain number of starters (Mr Williford five and Ms Cooper six) rarely loses. 17/40 isn't the best bonus rate, but the foundations are there, and if they can improve it next time, they could be a team to watch most definitely.

On Monday, a second London derby, U.C.L. vs King's College. No show the week after, Autumnwatch once again getting priority. We can only hope when the show comes back whenever, Only Connect comes back with it.

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