Saturday, 16 March 2019

University Challenge - Qualification Match

University Challenge – Bristol v. St. Edmund Hall

Bristol, in their first quarter final, beat one ‘superbuzzer’ in the shape of Darwin’s Jason Golfinos in their first quarter. To make it through to the semis in this match they would have to beat another in the shape of Freddy Leo. Hoping to do just that were George Sumner, Owen Iredale, Pushan Basu and skipper Anne LeMaistre. In their own first quarter final, Teddy Hall beat Dani Cugini’s Emmanuel, Cambridge, through the inspired buzzing of that man Leo. Favourites to win this contest, the team were once again Agastya Pisharody, Marceline Bresson, Lizzie Fry and captain Freddy Leo.

This was a rare occasion that Mrs. Londinius was in the front room while the show was on, and I confidently predicted that this would be a Teddy Hall win, with Leo again starring on the buzzer. So of course, Bristol won the first starter. Nobody seemed to fancy a shy at the country alluded to in the question, so it fell to Owen Iredale to have a correct punt with China. This earned bonuses on the American bishop, Elizabeth Poet – sorry, I’ll read that again – the American poet, Elizabeth Bishop. Bristol took a good full house. Mr. Iredale’s buzzer finger was obviously well warmed up since he beat Freddy Leo in the buzzer race to answer that the elements of the periodic table with the longest and shortest names are tin and rutherfordium. Yes, of course I took a lap of honour for that one. European folk dances didn’t look likely to be particularly fertile ground yet yielded me a full house and Bristol 2 correct answers. The next starter, using the memorable phrase ‘frozen music’ is one of those UC hardy perennials, but neither team knew it referred to architecture. Freddy Leo made his first buzz of the night, and lost five points for his pains. Once again, Owen Iredale beat Freddy Leo to the buzzer for the next starter, knowing that the Poe story often regarded as one of the earliest works of detective fiction is “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Some physics bonuses brought me absolutely nothing (say it again) and Bristol one, although if skipper LeMaistre had nominated George Sumner for the last rather than misrepeating his answer, they would have had 2. So to the picture starter. A capital city was indicated on a map, and both Owen Iredale and I identified it as Khartoum. That was his 4th correct starter so far. Three more major cities that grew up around the confluences of major rivers provided a full house, and only one of those was anything like a gimme. George Sumner recognised a definition of the term Moment of Inertia for the next starter, while Teddy Hall continued to have moments of inertia whenever a starter was being asked. Bonuses on cyborgs brought the 5 points Bristol needed to reach 100 just after the 10 minute mark, while St. Edmund Hall languished on minus 5. Mrs. Londinius complimented me on my powers of prophecy and skill as a tipster. My reply was spherical and in the plural.

A three figure lead is not to be lightly dismissed. It was too early to say that the contest was over, but it would take a hell of a fightback for St. Edmund Hall.

They missed an opportunity with the next starter when Pushan Basu came in too early and lost five, but they were unable to recognise John Keat’s “Ode to Autumn”, one of the most perfect poems in the English (or any other) language. At last the Leo buzzer finger found its mark with the next question, on the Italian drinking song called a Brindisi. Places described in a work on Anglo-Indian words and phrases brought a couple of bonuses. Freddy Leo then took his second starter in row, knowing that Vega completes the summer triangle with Deneb and Altair. The communist politician Anna Pauker – yes, Anna Who? in LAM Towers – proved equally tough to Teddy Hall who drew a blank. Rather bizarrely, Pushan Basu came in very early on the music starter to suggest that Tina Turner’s River Deep Mountain High was the work of Kate Bush. This allowed Lizzie Fry in for the correct answer. Other works featuring the session musician Carol Kaye only produced a further five points. Still there was a lot of time still remaining, and the gap was narrowing. Freddy Leo linked stoa and stomata to get S T O for the next starter to narrow the gap further. The Hogarth Shakespeare bonuses saw Mrs. L observe that Freddy Leo wasn’t really listening to the advice of his team, and was dropping gettable bonuses. Well he certainly did that with the first, and his team only managed one bonus from a gettable set. So as we approached the 20 minute mark this last ten minutes had been all Teddy Hall, yet they had only taken their score to 55, while Bristol’s had been reduced to 95.

Now, all the momentum being with Teddy Hall at this stage of the competition, what was called for was a good buzz from Bristol, and that’s what we got from Owen Iredale, who identified Dr. Tulp from the famous work by Rembrandt. Orbital elements from Astronomy provided a distinctly useful 2 bonuses. I didn’t understand the next question, but Marceline Bresson knew the answer was 2.5%. Good answer. Bonuses on Lactantius brought a well earned full house. For the second picture starter Freddy Leo did a Golfinos, buzzing then pausing before answering, and was called out for it by JP, He still got the right answer of Toni Morrison, though. Other givers of the Jefferson Lecture took Teddy Hall into triple figures, and more importantly, one good buzz would give them the chance of taking the lead. Asked the number of the English King in 1414, Anne Le Maistre missed an opportunity by answering 4. Freddy Leo buzzed and then didn’t answer for a long pause. He earned even more of a Paxman wigging, but was still given the points for a correct answer. Quotations from the 1860s provided the one bonus they needed to draw level with Bristol. It had taken a long time, but all the evidence of the last 15 minutes suggested that they would go on to take the contest. Bristol seemed a little shell shocked, as Leo was having it all his own way on the buzzer. The final words of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner proved all too easy for him to identify for the next starter. Jewels provided a full house in short order, which actually gave time for Owen Iredale to take the next starter, knowing that as well as Peru, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina are all entirely south of the Equator. Bristol needed a full house on place names beginning with Kar but passed on the second and third. It was all down to the last starter – and it was Freddy Leo who applied the coup de grace, knowing that Thoreau wrote Walden. Gong.

What a thoroughly interesting contest. It showed that what Bristol did to Darwin was no fluke, and also that Teddy Hall are vulnerable if Leo’s buzzing is a little off, as it was for the first ten minutes. However it also showed that Teddy Hall are resilient when things don’t go their way. That contest could have gone either way – both teams over 50% on the bonus conversion rate. Well done to St. Edmund Hall, but certainly don’t write Bristol off after that.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP back was to his stern self early doors, giving Anne Le Maistre a wigging for not repeating George Sumner’s answer to the Physics bonus correctly. He didn’t give them the points either. I’ve no problem with that as long as the rule is applied consistently.

As early as 10 minutes into the competition JP was issuing the dreaded “Perhaps you’ll get going with this” to Teddy Hall. Few teams ever come back from words of encouragement from Paxman. He was very disbelieving when Marceline Bresson offered Spring for the Keats question, but then just chuckled. Time was when he’d have ridiculed her unmercifully for that.

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

Emperor Hirohito made the Jewel Voice Broadcast in 1945


Jack said...

A good contest, though many have expressed dissatisfaction with the final result given the rather long pause Paxo let Mr Leo off with at a crucial moment. No problems with that myself, he's allowed similar length pauses before, and, according to Ms Cugini on Twitter, he's unofficially obliged to be more lenient with the team that's trailing.

The teams were exactly level on the bonuses, Bristol 13/21 and St Edmund Hall 13/24, so it was those two extra starters that won them the game. Deserved semi-finalists, and, yes, Bristol are definitely not out of it yet.

On Monday, a Cambridge derby between Darwin and Emmanuel. Then, if the comment from last week is correct, Edinburgh vs Bristol and Manchester vs Monday's winner.

Keshava said...

I thought that this was, if anything, even more impressive than Mr Leo's earlier showings, given the mental resilience it took to pull off a comeback like that. Bristol were clearly rattled – Sumner saying 5% instead of 2.5% (on what was essentially an AS Level maths question) is the sort of error I put down to pressure.

All the same, this match brought Teddy Hall's limitations into sharper focus. The main one, for me, is that Mr Leo's teammates do not adequately fill in the gaps in his own knowledge. He is as good as any UC contestant in the past decade on the humanities and "high" culture, and impressive at science for a non-scientist. But he's much weaker on things like sport and pop music – and his teammates don't pick up the slack.

Teddy Hall can beat anyone if Leo is on form, but are at risk of losing to a more rounded team – such as Durham.

Aethelstan said...

This was an interesting match! I seem to remember a few weeks back the question was asked what would happen should Mr Leo have an off day. This seems to answer that - I was a bit surprised but as is the way!