Saturday, 19 January 2019

University Challenge 2019 - Round 2 - Downing, Cambridge v. Darwin, Cambridge

Downing, Cambridge v. Darwin, Cambridge

Yes, dearly beloved, I will admit that I’d been especially looking forward to this contest, since it featured the return of Darwin’s remarkable skipper, Jason Golfinos. Mr. Golfinos you may recall, put in a buzzer performance of Guttenplanesque or Trimblesque stature by scoring 13 starters in Darwin’s first match. Well, first round form isn’t everything. Alex Guttenplan’s Emmanuel were actually beaten in their first round match, and I hardly mentioned Alex’s name once in my review of that contest. That would certainly change as the series progressed. Would Jason Golfinos’ fortunes take an opposite trajectory? Hoping that they would were Downing, represented by Fergus O’Dowd, Jane O’Connor,  Felix Prutton and their own inspirational skipper, Yanbo Yin. Downing were no slouches on the buzzer themselves in the first round. For Darwin we had Stuart Macpherson, Christopher Davis, Guy Mulley, and the irrepressible Mr. Golfinos.

Jason Golfinos started early. Like me, he heard ‘Hindu’ ‘five peaks’ and ‘temple’ and correctly guessed Angkor Wat, although he gave a little grimace before answering. Participants at the Congress of Vienna provided a pretty gentle set of bonuses, which were duly sent goalwards with the minimum of fuss to give Darwin the perfect start. A little of the gloss of which rubbed off when Stuart Macpherson came in too early for the next starter and lost 5. Never mind. At least it was perhaps a sign that the other members of the Darwin team were going to be buzzing and not waiting for their captain, and that’s a good sign. Given the whole question I knew that Selenium was named after a Moon goddess, and so got my lap of honour (done at slow walking pace) over early. Meanwhile Felix Prutton tapped that one into the hole. Downing’s set of bonuses on pairs of words differing by the addition or subtraction of the letter r – a good UC special set, that – saw Downing struggle and only get 1 of a distinctly gettable set. Jason Golfinos was back for the next starter, where he recognised references to Cezanne. Again, he grimaced before giving his answer. I have to be honest, he seemed very wound up during the contest. Counties of Ireland provided them with one bonus. It seemed that the grimace was catching, since Yanbo Yin now did it when he buzzed in for next starter. It didn’t do him any good as it happened, for he only had one of the two islands being asked for correct. However when Jason Golfinos buzzed in and grimaced, it worked for him as he correctly offered Hokkaido and Honshu. Gesundheit. Controversial operas brought Darwin another full house. Even at this stage of the competition their team seemed particularly wound up. Was this, I wondered, because the opposition were another Cambridge college? Do the members of the two teams, or some of them, know each other of old, thus making an even greater incentive to win? Certainly it seemed as if there was more riding on this for them than just a place in the quarters. I did consider awarding myself another lap of honour for recognising that the mathematical manifold we were shown for the first picture starter was correctly termed a torus. Too old, knackered and ill to do it, frankly. This time Jason Golfinos didn’t grimace as he buzzed in. Christopher Davis did pump his fists in triumph as his skipper gave the right answer. This was slightly before the 10 minute mark. What wild scenes of jubilation were we likely to see if Darwin actually won, I asked myself. Three more diagrams provided a further 10 points. At just before the halfway stage Darwin were carrying all before them, leading by 80 – 15.

Downing are no mugs, though. Yanbo Yin correctly identified a novel from the 1850s with a character called Mr. Hale (nicknamed Ginger? Sorry) as Mrs. Gaskell’s “North and South”. A couple of bonuses on members of the auk family followed. Jason Golfinos forgot to grimace when buzzing early for the next starter, and thus lost five with his first incorrect buzz. To be fair to him, his answer – cloaca – was my answer as well, and it did seem to be where the question might be headed. It wasn’t though, and once it became clear we were looking for the name of the order of mammals that actually have a cloaca, it was easy for Yanbo Yin to give us monotremes. Departments of France with three letter names seemed to be right up Fergus O’Dowd’s street and he helped his team to a full house. With the gap reduced to 15 points it seemed we had a game on our hands. Good show. Serialism – no, me neither, allowed Jason Golfinos to put a halt to the fightback, at least for now. Myrna Loy films brought them no further points. The grimace was noticeably back for the next starter as Jason Golfinos took his sixth with Purchasing Power Parity. Metallurgy brought just the one bonus, but that was enough to take Darwin into triple figures. The music starter was brilliant. We heard a couple of seconds of Chic’s good times, then Christopher Davis buzzed in, and looked to either side when Roger Tilling announced his name as if he couldn’t believe that he was the one who’d buzzed in. ‘Chic’ he answered with a look of bemused disbelief on his face. Jason Golfinos held his hand up for a high five. Christopher Davis ignored him. He tapped Mr. Davis on the shoulder and after looking at his skipper’s hand with an expression which seemed to say ‘what the hell do you want me to do with that?’ he delivered the most reluctant half mast 5 I think I’ve ever seen. Classic. 3 more songs recorded in the 70s that were later sampled in hip hop tracks saw them provide one correct answer – one argument (about which more later), and one more one sided high five. That Golfinos buzzer finger remained as sharp as ever though when he was first to buzz in to say that Messrs Mascagni, Tchaikovsky and Almodovar all had versions of the name Peter as their given name. Latin legal terms saw the ebullient skipper think twice before deciding not to try a high five with Guy Mulley after he supplied his first correct answer, then insist on a high five as he provided another. If possible Mr. Mulley seemed even more uncomfortable than Mr. Davis had. Didn’t matter – Darwin had still taken another full house. A lovely UC special starter using elements to represent the numbers at which they appear on the periodic table saw Felix Prutton narrowly miss, allowing Stuart Macpherson in. Dutch artists brought two bonuses, and that ensured that just after the 20 minute mark, Darwin led by 160 to 60.

When you’re faced with a buzzer onslaught you can either sit back and accept it, or fight fire with fire and go down all guns blazing. Which tactic would Downing adopt? Well, Fergus O’Dowd came in commendably early to identify the Leningrad oblast of Russia for the next starter. Really and truly they could have done with more than just the single bonus on Salvador Dali’s muse and wife Gala. (did she inspire him to create the Chipa Chups logo? The mind boggles) Never mind. Thus encouraged Yanbo Yin was first in to identify a still from the film “Get Out” for the second picture starter. More cinematic social gatherings from hell saw them fail on three films, two of which at least were pretty gettable. Again, Yanbo Yin threw caution to the winds on the next starter, guessing that Buston Keaton would have been the original performer of a stunt recreated in Dead Pan. European Geography saw them take a full house in short order. In just 3 minutes they had reduced the deficit by half – and there were still more than three minutes left. Asked for the title character of an opera by Delibes, Jason Golfinos buzzed, grimaced twice, and gave the correct answer ‘Lakme’. He received a wigging from JP for not answering straightaway, but earned the points. Years in world history ending with the digit 6  provided two bonuses to increase the magnitude of Downing’s task. Yanbo Yin failed to correctly say what LI as in LISA stands for, and sadly lost 5. To add salt to the wounds Stuart Macpherson then gave the correct answer of Laser interferometry. Too far away from each other for Jason Golfinos to offer him a high five, the skipper instead gave a congratulatory fist bump. Bonuses on oil painting pigments only brought one correct answer, but it really didn’t matter. The gap was now too wide, and there just wasn’t enough time left. Fair play to Yanbo Yin though, he took the next starter, recognising a description of Vilnius. Bonuses on the Lake District really didn’t do them many favours, providing just the one bonus. Jason Golfinos knew the term behavioural economics to take his 9th starter of the evening. 20th century writing saw the contest gonged before Darwin could add to their score. Darwin had won by 205 to 120. That’s a good performance, because, as I said, this is a good Downing team. I suspect that both teams had similar bonus conversion rates, at just over 50%. But this game was won on the buzzer, make no doubt about that. Jason Golfinos was slinging buzzer right from the start of the contest. Downing only threw caution to the winds in the later stages – a shame, because when they did, Yanbo Yin seemed to be achieving similar success to that of his opposite number. This was a thoroughly enjoyable game, and I look forward to seeing Darwin at least 2 more times (and probably more).

Jeremy Paxman Watch

When Jason Golfinos took what looked like a speculative punt for his 5th starter, “Um, like. . serialism?” JP seemed rather taken aback – “Serialism is ABSOLUTELY right, yes.”

Jez was really into the dynamic between Messrs Davis and Golfinos during the music bonuses. When they got the first one wrong, Mr. Davis committed the cardinal sin of remonstrating that he’d said the correct answer. Mr. Golfinos is a New Yorker, and they don’t take that sort of thing lying down. Jez then started stirring saying in pointed terms to Mr. Davis “Your CAPTAIN gave an answer!” – then he jumped on his desk, removed his shirt and tie and started twirling them round his head chanting “Fight – fight – fight!” No he didn’t. However he did challenge them “Go on, have a fight!” I like this Paxman, Jez. Can we have him every week, please?

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

Dali’s wife Gala had previously participated in a menage a trois with first husband Paul Eluard and Max Ernst.


Jack said...

You are correct about the bonus rates Dave, Downing's was 11/21 and Darwin's 19/36. Shame these two had to play each other in the knockout round, Downing can rightly consider themselves unlucky to go out this early. Darwin worthy quarter-finalists though, worth keeping an eye on with a virtuoso buzzer like Mr Golfinos in their line-up.

On Monday, Warwick play Bristol in the final second round match. Then, the quarter-finals begin; if the last few years are a guide, the first two will be Glasgow vs Durham and Darwin vs Monday's winners.

Aethelstan said...

I'm going to be a bit of a dissenter here and say I wasn't taken with Darwin. I would join them at the bar for a drink but I prefer my UC teams to be a bit more ensemble. I did frown a bit at the way Mr Golfinos would buzz and pause but I appreciate everyone roles differently.

Dave in answer to your questions above there has been a bit of chatter in the twitterverse that both teams were pretty well known from the Cambridge quizzing circuit and Yin and Golfinos has apparently been on the same winning Cambridge quiz team last year. I'm sure one of our other readers will correct me if I'm wrong. I'm sure I have seen it written that the Durham team is one of the few 'outsider'teams in the top rated tranche.

Londinius said...

Hi Both

Thanks for the stats Jack - I did feel that it really was the buzzer separating the two teams.
Aethelstan, I'm not surprised, and you're not necessarily a 'dissenting' voice. I can imagine that, to the purist, Mr. Golfinos' demands for high fives, and his pauses before answers would be cause of irritation. But hey, I can't say anything about pumping yourself up during a quiz. I'd like to think that I'm not as bad as I was, but I will admit that I take it all far too seriously. Hey, I found them entertaining rather than irritating, but one man's meat is another man's poisson.

The danger of having a super-buzzer on your team is that anyone can have an off-day. What happens with Darwin if Jason Golfinos can' find his buzzer range? Maybe that will make room for his team mates to get in on the other act - although there's been precious little evidence that they'd be able to take up the slack in the two games so far. Maybe time will tell.

Aethelstan said...

Hi Dave

I actually didn't mind the fist bumping - quite American behaviour I thought. I'm never overly fond of teams dominated by some star player - although all of last years semi-finalists had their strong buzzers they were generally ensemble teams. I think this Darwin team will be hard to beat, Golfinos is awfully sharp. I was having a ponder over this and it occured to me Teddy might, might, have the goods to deliver an upset. Agree fully that if the questions don't fall the way of Golfinos they could come unstuck quickly. I did note from the twittersphere and a few other fora that they polarised opinions...!