Friday, 11 January 2019

Mastermind 2019 Heat 12

Happy New Year to you all. Well, there was a definite teacherly feel to last night’s heat, as one teacher and two retired teachers – and that’s probably the best kind of teacher to be, in my opinion – chanced their arm against a chemical engineer.

First of all we had our teacher. Now obviously I can’t be certain, but it definitely sounded to me as if Devin Healy, our first contender, had an American or possibly Canadian accent. Nothing wrong with that either. Devin was answering on The Wright Brothers. Hello- thought I – chance of points here, since I did read a good biography of the brothers a couple of years ago. I must have remembered it quite well too since I picked off 9 of these. Which is not as good as Devin who managed 11, which was good but left a little bit of wiggle room for the following contenders to improve upon the target.

Our chemical engineer, Sanjoy Sen,if he was intimidated by the phalanx of educators to the left and right showed no sign of this. He rattled off 13 correct answers on the TV series Jeeves and Wooster, which wasn’t quite a perfect round, incurring two passes, but still looked pretty good to me. I didn’t add to my score. Although I am a huge fan of Stephen Fry, I never watched the TV series, and I’ve never read any Wodehouse, even though I know that he was an influence, believe it or not, on one of my favourite writers, Douglas Adams.

Chloe Stone has been this way a couple of times before. In previous appearances in Jesse’s series and Clive’s series she reached the semi final on both occasions. We’ll maybe say a little bit more about that later on. Chloe was answering on The Rumpole Stories of John Mortimer. I took 5 of these. It’s been many years since I read any, but I was a bit partial to both the stories and also the TV series starring Leo McKern. I did actually meet John Mortimer once. It was 1983, and I was washing up in the canteen of BBC’s Lime Grove studios near Shepherd’s Bush for a couple of weeks. I was going up the stairs and he was coming down. I did a bit of a double take, and then said, “Excuse me, you’re John Mortimer aren’t you?” I’ll never forget those words he said in reply. “Who are you and what are you doing in my way?” No, he didn’t really, he said, “Yes, good day!” and then toddled off down the stairs. Chloe finished with 12 and 1 pass.

Only our second retired teacher remained, Alan Keys. Now, Alan was offering Olympic Track and Field 1896 – 1948. Now, my first thought when I saw this was – blimey, I wish they’d have let me do just 1896 – 1948 when I did the Olympics in 2006. My second thought was – and I wish they’d let me just do track and field instead of all sports! Well, there we are, times change. My third thought was – come on Dave, son, fill your boots here. The 11 of these I answered took my aggregate of all 4 SS rounds to 24 – I’ll take that any day of the week. Alan of course did better. Like Sanjoy, he scored 13, although he managed to do so without passing.

Once again, it’s nice to see all 4 contenders obviously having put the time and effort into preparing for their specialists well. Kudos to all for that.

So to the GK round. Devin was first to return to the chair, and sadly she gave us a round the like of which we only rarely used to see in days gone by. Yet this was the second time in two heats we've seen a contender have an absolute 'mare on GK. Now, I don’t know if Devin is American, and if she is, I don’t know how long she has been living in the UK. I do always think that trying a general knowledge round in a country where you don’t have the grounding of knowledge that those of us who grow up in the country have must put you at a disadvantage. I’m sure that nerves must also have paid a part in what happened as well. The fact is that Devin passed the first couple of questions, which saw her fall into a pass spiral. At the end of the round her total had risen to 15, and that one round had incurred 10 passes.

Okay, this isn’t intended as a criticism of Devin. We don’t know how Devin will have performed at an audition, and we don’t know how much of that GK round last night was just due to nerves. And you can’t legislate for the effect of nerves. I know that. But I also know that there will have been people out there watching, who failed to gain a place on this year’s show, who won’t have been happy watching that performance. To be honest, if there had been any hint that this sort of thing could happen when she did her audition, then I think it was a bit reprehensible putting her on the show, and putting her through this. Not to mention that it's quite uncomfortable to watch and not very entertaining - well unless you're the sort of person who would have enjoyed Christians v. Lions at the Colosseum in days gone by,  Just my opinion, and feel free to disagree.

So to Chloe. Now in two previous series, Chloe produced good enough specialist rounds to put her towards the top of the leader board, and good enough GK rounds to win her heat in her first appearance, and to win a repechage slot in her second. In both semi final appearances she produced relatively solid GK rounds, which weren’t good enough to give her a chance of winning. This particular GK round fell some way short of her previous first round heat performances. There were just too many gettable questions which she couldn’t answer, and it seemed fairly clear that her final of 21 was very unlikely to win the heat this time.

Sanjoy Sen, on the other hand, didn’t let much that was gettable go past him. It was a good round which needed him to show a wide range of knowledge. He wasted little time, and his decision to pass three questions did at least enable him to maintain his momentum until the buzzer. His final total of 28 would give him every chance of reaching the semis, at least via the repechage route if need be. But would need be, that was the question.

Well, for the first half of Alan’s round I felt that Sanjoy was home and dry. Alan wasn’t doing badly. He adopted the same non-passing tactic that he’d used in his specialist round, but it did mean that he wasn’t going as fast as Sanjoy had. He was clearly behind the clock. Then, in the last 45 seconds or so he really started to put on a spurt. It wasn’t quite enough as he scored 13 to finish with 26, but this was still a good performance, and as John pointed out it does give him a sniff of a repechage slot.

Well done to Sanjoy, who may well be worth keeping an eye on when the semis start to come round. Best of luck to you, sir.

The Details

Devin Healy
The Wright Brothers
Sanjoy Sen
The TV series Jeeves and Wooster
Chloe Stone
The Rumpole Stories of John Mortimer
Alan Keys
Olympic Track and Field 1896 - 1948


Dan said...

Sanjoy is the first person so far in the contest who I know (QLL) - suspect the casting has changed a bit.

Londinius said...

That doesn't surprise me Dan. You have to be a quizzer to display that breadth of knowledge, in my opinion.
I honestly don't know about the casting. As I've said before, it certainly isn't all about how good your General Knowledge might be. I sincerely doubt that I would have even been auditioned for 2007 after appearing in 2006 if I'd still been living in London for example. It's perfectly understandable that the production team want a range of contestants that represent the range of society in Britain in the 2010s, and there's nothing wrong with that in my opinion. However I do think that on a show as intense as Mastermind, with such a high risk of falling flat on your face, there is a duty of care that must be considered. If you have any reason to suspect that a contender might have such as 'mare as, well, let's call a spade a spade, as Devin did in her GK round last night, then I'm afraid that I don't think it's right to put them in a position which gives them such an opportunity to do so, however willing they might be. A good friend of mine who did very well in Brain of Britain a few years ago told me that in his heat there was a lady who did very badly only answering one or two questions all evening. Trying to make polite conversation with her in the green room he found that she never did quizzes, never listened to Brain of Britain, and did so badly because she didn't know the answers, not because she was nervous. She'd been put up to applying by her daughter, a big fan of the show. She was extremely upset by the whole experience. She shouldn't have been put in that position by being put on the show in my opinion. Coming back to Devin last night, of course, as I said we don't know if there was any indication that this might happen when she auditioned. If there was though . . .

Keshava said...

As someone who has lived a total of 14 months in the UK (September 2017-November 2018), and in that time was a contestant on two quiz shows (UC and Mastermind), I can speak to how much of a disadvantage not being from the UK can be, particularly on Mastermind. The major impact is to totally invalidate the question setters' idea of how easy or difficult a round is. Each Mastermind GK round contains questions at varying levels of difficulty, including quite a few that are clearly intended to be "gimmes" that no contender would get wrong. Most rounds start with one of these.
Well, if you're not from the UK, quite a few of these supposedly obvious answers aren't that obvious at all. I had a few questions in my Mastermind GK rounds that I suspect every other person in the room, and 99% of those watching at home, would have got right; but not me. Conversely, questions that are intended as difficult about India/South Asia and the United States are very easy for me – since I have lived in those countries.
I knew this going in, of course, which meant I couldn't be embarrassed about the ones I got wrong (and my accent would give the game away to those watching). But what I found is that, compared to a British contestant, I experience a much greater variance in the number of answers I know on Mastermind GK. There are rounds where I might know 18 or 19, and rounds where I know as few as 4 or 5. It all depends on the ratio and nature of the UK-specific questions.
One implication of what I'm saying is that it's very difficult for the producers to anticipate a round like Devin's. Things can go smoothly at audition, and you can just be caught out by the wrong set of questions. And, of course, it's very different to tell at audition how the person will handle the pressure of the black chair.

Mycool said...

Sanjoy Sen got a respectable score in Brain of Britain last year, but he was up against the formidable Jack Bennett and came second equal. By the way, Jack Bennett is one to watch in the coming years.

Dan said...

Or, as he’s now known, The Numberwang Kid.

Anonymous said...

it’s nice to see all 4 contenders obviously having put the time and effort into preparing for their specialists well. Kudos to all for that. DP-200 dumps