Saturday, 20 July 2019

University Challenge 2020 - Round 1 - Heat 1 - Lancaster v. Glasgow

Lancaster v. Glasgow

My cup overflows. Not only did the school term finish yesterday, but on Monday, University Challenge returned. Given the honour of being the first team to introduce themselves on this series were Lancaster, represented by Steven Ford, Daniel Green, Matt Roscoe and captain Holly Lawton. Their opposition came from Glasgow university. Fair play to the researcher who found out that the Doctor, from “Doctor Who” once claimed to have studied there (for purists he made the claim during the 1966 story, “The Moonbase”.) The team were Ben Whitcombe, Cat McAllister, Ben Whitworth and skipper Finlay McRobert.

Both teams showed commendable patience with the first question, waiting until the answer became obvious, at which point Ben Whitcombe buzzed in to supply the link between all the clues, the name Seth. Glasgow took the first two bonuses on Prime ministers and monarchs, but missed out on the gettable third. An early UC special starter saw Finlay McRobert work out clues to punt and punnet, which could obviously be formed from some of the letters of Neptune. Only one bonus on poverty followed. Ben Whitworth and I both got the next starter following JPs revelation of some of the cast members of the film version of the 1928 novel Orlando. Sets of Science answers, beginning with the consecutive letters A B C saw me take an early lap of honour for getting Arcturus, Betelgeuse and Castor for the second. As it happened I also got Ampere, Becquerel and Coulomb for the third answer. However, I believe that the IOC has instituted a ban on taking more than one lap of honour during any single UC match, so I remained in my seat. Blooming bureaucrats. Three consecutive starters had fallen to Glasgow, and I really felt that Lancaster needed to start slinging some buzzer, if only to break up Glasgow’s momentum. The Glasgow skipper was the first in to try his arm with the next starter, and correctly adjudged that the question was working its way through a number of clues towards Frederick the Great of Prussia. Bonuses on Wilfred Owen were something of a set of gimmes, and to be fair to Glasgow they had a full house. So to the first picture round of this series, and a straightforward starter saw us asked to identify the state highlighted on a partial map of the USA. Steven Ford made Lancaster’s first buzz of the match, with a quite close but no cigar answer of Kentucky. This allowed Ben Whitcombe in with the correct answer of Tennessee. Other maps showing locations with chemical elements named after them brought two more correct answers. This meant Glasgow had achieved a rare double, shutting out Lancaster completely and reaching 100, a triple figure score, by the ten minute mark.

Seemingly roused by his previous buzz, Steven Ford buzzed in with the far from absurd answer of surd to take the next starter. Ideal gases – that’s a new one on me – provided nowt for any of us. Still, at least Lancaster were in the black now. I did think that one of the teams might have had Christy Mahon as the protagonist in “The Playboy of the Western World” rather more quickly, but after both teams had mulled it over, Ben Whitworth buzzed correctly. The deaths of philosophers in an article in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy – sounds a barrel of laughs, that – brought 2 more correct answers. Ben Whitworth also took the next starter, knowing that the words ‘palace’ and ‘Marco Polo’ are the cue for an assault on the buzzer, and the answer ‘Xanadu’ – Kublai Khan’s Palace named in homage of the Olivia Newton-John movie, I believe. Right then, the next starter opened by asking which museum had satellite museums in various places. Frankly, I would have done what Glasgow did and guessed Guggenheim, but actually it was the Louvre. This set of bonuses was the first from which Glasgow failed to take any points. Poor old Lancaster couldn’t take any heart from that mind, since JP at this point tried to encourage them, and we all know what that means. So to the music starter, and the kind of classical music starter that I like, ie one that is bleedin’ obvious. Steven Ford won the buzzer race to identify the Blue Danube Waltz. Three more classical works that evoke waterways brought just the one bonus. Steven Ford continued to do the heavy lifting for Lancaster, guessing that Foster’s observation about smaller mammals increasing in size referred specifically to islands. Geometry was far more to Lancaster’s liking, and brought their first full house of bonuses. Their mini revival though was halted as Cat McAllister took her first starter with magic numbers. Ideal gases – Magic numbers ? What were we going to get next? Sexy metals? Well, the bonus set on people whose 4 letter surnames used Y as a vowel brought a couple of bonuses. The next starter asked for the animal on the British road sign which indicates a zoo. Ben Whitcombe was first in for that particular piece of low hanging fruit. The river Garonne provided no bonuses. This meant that at the 20 minute mark, the score stood at 155 – 55 to Glasgow. However, at least that proved that Lancaster had taken as many points in the second ten minutes as Glasgow had.

A great early buzz from Steven Ford identified Kansas City as being the name of settlements in the Show Me State and the Sunflower state. Good shout that. Vulcanologist Matt Roscoe gladly took a full house on Volcanoes. So to the second picture round. We saw a black and white still showing Gregory Peck, in glasses and a courtroom. “To Kill A Mockingbird” said I. So did Ben Whitcombe. Other films on the BFI list of films to see before you’re 14 brought a full house. Steven Ford knew that the Saha equation relates to stars, and the set of bonuses on surnames gave them the opportunity to take their score to triple figures. I’ll be honest, I only got the one of these, while Lancaster managed two. For the next starter, asking who wrote “Leaves of Grass”, Whitworth beat Whitcombe to answer Whitman. Parasitic plants brought both of us two bonuses. When JP started talking about Russell-Saunders coupling I wondered if my prediction about sexy metals was about to come true, but it was some Science thing requiring the letters L S. Neither team had that one. A good old quiz chestnut saw us asked for the single word name of the maidenhair tree. Both teams rather sat on their buzzers, before Daniel Green launched a speculative punt with Monkey Puzzle, but Glasgow couldn’t dredge up gingko to capitalise. Steven Ford, so admirably battling on his team’s behalf, was a little out with his next buzz, offering Charles Parnell instead of Gabriel Wolfe Tone. Sadly this lost 5 of his hard earned points. Ben Whitworth knew that one. Major cities of Brazil provided a couple more bonuses. There was just time for Ben Whitworth to take the last starter with Leonard Bernstein before the gong brought proceedings to a close. Glasgow won by 230 to 95.

Hard lines to Lancaster. They had some decent answers, and a conversion rate of over 60%. Special commiserations to Steven Ford, whose 5 starters made Lancaster respectable. Congratulations to Glasgow, though. That was a useful showing, with all 4 members taking at least 1 starter, and Messrs Whitcombe and especially Whitworth particularly impressing on the buzzer.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Well, there were just a couple of encouraging signs that the mellow Paxman of recent years still has a little fire in his belly. When asked for the American writer of the 1879 Progress and Poverty, Glasgow knew they didn’t have a Scooby, and did what you should do, lofting a hopeful punt skywards with the suggestion of Paine. If they meant Thomas, then they were quite a long way away. JP clearly seemed to think so. His eyebrows shot skywards, and he repeated the answer “Paine?!” as if holding it in a pair of tongs.

There was just a hint of irritation in the JP voice when Glasgow failed to get Cardinal Richelieu, or as he rather exaggeratedly pronounced it “Reeshleeyur”, which he then followed with the kiss of death for poor Lancaster “There’s plenty of time left to get going, Lancaster.” I’m sure he is only ever trying to be encouraging when he says this, but I doubt that it’s helpful because a) there isn’t lot of time left, less than half the show, and b) chances are they won’t get going.

His prickliness towards Lancaster when Steven Ford answered the first music bonus with “Smetana – Die Moldau” was evident as he sniffed, “Yes, I only needed the composer.”

I suppose it was only to be expected that he’d pass a comment like “Well Lancaster, you never really got a chance to show us what you were made of.” But it was rather unfair, nonetheless. They did have a chance, and Steven Ford certainly did. They were undone not by a lack of knowledge, but by a lack of buzzing – being brutal, they didn’t create their own chances. That’s the way it goes.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
Hassium was named after the state of Hesse