University Challenge Semi Final 2 St. Edmund Hall, Oxford v. Darwin, Cambridge
If I was being unkind I would say that this contest was all about the two skippers, Freddy Leo of Teddy Hall, and Jason Golfinos of Darwin. The two have certainly been the most outstandingly good players on the buzzer throughout the whole series, and there’s certainly been a lot of speculation as to who is the faster. So you could be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be all about that contest. And I certainly had little doubt that this was going to be crucial. However, I’m also experienced enough to know that it would be foolish to discount the other 6 players. Since losing on a tie break to Bristol, for example, Darwin have proved to have a fine conversion rate, and that’s not just down to their skipper. So, Teddy Hall once again fielded their team of Agastya Pisharody, Marceline Bresson, Lizzie Fry and the mighty Freddy Leo. Darwin also fielded an unchanged team of Stuart Macpherson, Christopher Davis, Guy Mulley and the brilliant Jason Golfinos.
Marceline Bresson had obviously not received the memo that this was all about the two skippers when she correctly answered the name of economist Friedrich Hayek for the first starter. Her skipper seemed very happy as JP informed us all that the bonuses were on Wagner. He wasn’t so happy when he got the first one wrong. Mind you, so did I. 2 correct answers followed for both of us. For the next starter, Jason Golfinos opened his account recognising several clues leading to the word ‘mercy’. Golfinos 1, Leo 0. Less common English nouns in the To be or not to be soliloquy from Hamlet brought two correct answers to level the scores. Jason Golfinos took a second consecutive starter by recognising a description of the Peace of Westphalia. Golfinos 2 – Leo 0. Lasers promised me but little, but my tactic of answering Einstein for any 20th century physicist brought me an unexpected lap of honour. Darwin took this and one other bonus. This brought us to the first picture starter. We saw a diagram of the structure of a vitamin, and Freddy Leo opened his personal account by recognising vitamin B12. Golfinos 2 – Leo 1. 3 more discoveries of Dorothy Hodgkin brought the 10 points they needed to level the scores once again. Both Freddy Leo and I said that the second of the Plagues of Egypt in the book of Exodus was frogs, and we were both right. Golfinos 2 – Leo 2. Bonuses on punchcards meant that as we approached the 10 minute mark, Teddy Hall had edged in front with 55 – 40, in a contest that so far was living up to the hype.
I recognised the novel Perfume a little before Freddy Leo came in for the next starter with the correct answer. Golfinos 2 – Leo 3. Bonuses on Thomas Gainsborough saw Teddy Hall take full advantage with a full house, which for the first time opened some daylight between the two teams. For the next starter Jason Golfinos tried to stop the rot, but came in too early and lost 5 for his pains. Golfinos 2 (1miscue) – Leo 3. This allowed Marceline Bresson to give the correct answer of Pietro della Francesca. Bonuses on French Departments brought just one correct answer, but that gap between the teams was starting to look ominous for Darwin. Nobody knew the SI unit the Katal for the next starter. Right, as soon as the next starter linked essay – 1936 – and – Burma I threw Orwell on the table. A moment or two later Guy Mulley beat the Teddy Hall skipper to the buzzer, and won a UC special set on chemical elements. These rather surprisingly defeated them, and indeed moved Jason Golfinos to announce ‘we got nothing’ when asked for the last answer. So to the music starter, and Freddy Leo was first in to recognise the work of Bach. Golfinos 2 (1miscue) – Leo 4. 3 more secular cantatas brought 2 correct answers, and more importantly a 70 point lead. Jason Golfinos came in first for the next starter about a constellation, then shook his head “Actually no, nothing.” Believe it or not, folks, that’s what a good buzzer does. You have to buzz before you’re certain of the answer, in the hope that it will come in the next couple of seconds. Perfectly legitimate tactic. Freddy Leo had a punt with Hermes, but it turned out to be Hercules. A fine buzz from Jason Golfinos this time saw him guess correctly with Charlemagne for the next starter. I’ll be honest, I was still working out what the question meant while he was answering. Golfinos 3 (1 miscue) – Leo 4. Sofia Coppola brought just 5 points but at least Darwin were moving again. It was that man Leo who took the next starter, though, knowing the pleural membrane. Golfinos 3(1) – Leo 5The term agonistes brought a full house. So on the cusp of the 20 minute mark Teddy Hall seemed pretty much in cruise control, as they led by 140 – 60.
Jason Golfinos struck right back being first to recognise a definition of the term imam. Golfinos 4(1) – Leo 5(0). Biochemical compounds linked by the prefix cyto brought two bonuses, and led us into the second picture starter. Jason Golfinos was the first to buzz recognising a photo of Anthony Burgess. Golfinos 5(1) – Leo 5 (0). Other winners of the Benson medal only brought 5 more points. If they were to catch up, they were going to need more than this. Jason Golfinos duly took the next starter, knowing a designation of supernovae 1A. Golfinos 6(1) – Leo 5. England and Scotland in the 12th century failed to bring Darwin any more points. Agastya Pisharody stopped the Golfinos charge, knowing that calomel is derived from Mercury for the next starter, which earned a Golfinosesque fist bump from skipper Leo. One bonus was enough to reestablish a 50 point lead. Jason Golfinos recognised that the next starter was leading to William F. Buckley. Golfinos 7 (1) – Leo 5 (0). Football clubs with classical names brought an overdue full house. Darwin were now just one full set behind. It had seemed all over by the 20 minute mark, but now. . . Yes, Jason Golfinos did take the next starter, knowing that the Yangtze is the longest river in the world entirely in one country. Golfinos 8 (1) – Leo 5. Aphra Behn seemed unlikely to bring Darwin a full house, but the one bonus they did get narrowed the gap to 10 points. A single starter. After all the shouting, it came down to this , a one question starter shootout. Darwin had to get it, there just wasn’t enough time left for anything else. And yes, Stuart Macpherson had won the race. And yes, he answered ligament, which I felt was the right answer too. We were both wrong, and as the rest of the question revealed we were looking for meniscus. Teddy Hall had done it, and Freddy Leo took his 6th starter knowing the correct term meniscus. Golfinos 8(1) – Leo 6. There was just time for one bonus, which Teddy Hall failed to get, but it didn’t matter. They had won by 165 to 140.
What a splendid match, worthy of a final, let alone a semi final. For the record, then, Jason Golfinos edged the battle of the skippers, which I’m sure will be scant consolation, but certainly is one of the finest buzzers we’ve seen not to make the final in recent years. With little to choose between the two teams, Teddy Hall had slightly the better bonus conversion rate, which is what won them the match.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
JP had a good old laugh at Jason Golfinos’ admission that he had nothing for the constellation starter. Other than that he did what all god question masters do, and allowed a great contest to play itself out without unnecessary contributions from himself.
Interesting Fact That I didn’t Already Know Of The Week
The Yangtze is the longest river inn the world to flow entirely in one country (I guessed it, but didn’t know it before the question was asked.)