Saturday, 17 August 2019

University Challenge - Round One - HEat Five - Wolfson, Cambridge v. St. John's , Oxford

Yes, Dearly Beloved, this brings us up to date with another Oxford v. Cambridge rumble. Wolfson, Cambridge won the series a few years ago, led by the estimable Eric Monkman. Hoping to emulate his team’s achievement were Tom Greig, Erin Spike, Tommy Lee and skipper Ryan-Rhys Griffiths. I noticed that JP did not try to imitate any former captain of St. John’s Oxford when he introduced them. They were Sam Burns, Isabella Morris, Arun Soor and their captain Asher Leeks. The head to head score so far in the series stood at 1 – 0 to Oxford, who also saw Magdalen progress a couple of weeks ago. All to play for for Wolfson, then.

The first starter was one of those which suddenly becomes blindingly obvious, and it was Sam Burns who was first in to recognise that “Becoming” was the best selling memoir of Michelle Obama. Song in the electronic age provided just the one bonus. Asher Leeks came in before the next starter became obvious, which allowed Wolfson to answer that the word being defined was spur. Tapestries proved too difficult for Wolfson, which left the scores level. I didn’t understand the next question, but Asher Leeks did and buzzed in with the correct answer of sulphuric acid. A hard set on SI base units provided just the one bonus, but took us up to the picture set. For the starter we saw a map of Africa with one country highlighted in red. Neither team recognised Liberia. Erin Spike knew that a crime of 1911 referred to in the next question was the theft of the Mona Lisa. This earned the picture bonuses, in the shape of other countries, like Liberia, which are the flag states of convenience for large amounts of the world’s shipping. This was not an easy set, and they failed to add to their score. All of which meant that the teams were tied on a modest 25 apiece after the first ten minutes.

Neither team knew the Aegir, the tidal bore on the Trent, but Tom Greig lost five for an incorrect interruption. This was compounded when skipper Ryan-Rhys Griffiths did the same for the next starter. St. John’s didn’t know the term rectification, and neither did I. Thankfully Arun Soor knew the next starter, that the 1979 revolution occurred in Iran. German rococo architecture didn’t sound at all promising, yet we both took a full house. Sa Burns knew the 2016 novel The Power, and the gap was widening between the two teams. Bonuses on pairs of words that differ only by the letters V and I at the start were a nice UC special set, which provided St. John’s with a further 10 points as we approached the music round. Now, I’m not a great devotee of classical music, but I was surprised when absolutely nobody on either team recognised Schubert’s Ave Maria. Not as surprised as Jeremy Paxman mind you. More on that later. Neither team knew that UNESCO had added reggae music to its list of types of music which added to our world heritage – can’t disagree with that. Sam Burns buzzed in early to identify the word fetish for the next starter. The music bonuses, then, were three more from Classic FM’s list of the most popular classical pieces for weddings. Unsurprisingly no points were scored from this set. Now when you hear the words ‘British leader’ and ‘Roman Invasion’ it’s only natural that the name Boudicca would spring to mind, as it did for Sam Burns. Who lost five for his pains. Well, if it ain’t her then it’s going to be Caractacus – whose harem have a habit of just passing by apparently. Finally, having been shut out for about 9 minutes, Tommy Lee took a starter for Wolfson with mockingbird, thus saving them from reaching the 20 minute mark with fewer points than they had scored by the 10 minute mark. At least one correct bonus on American cities meant that they had doubled their total with this visit to the table. They trailed by 70 – 30 at the 20 minute mark.

Okay, now if the question mentions a NASA lander, then it’s going to be Mars if it asks for the planet. Sam Burns took that to halt Wolfson’s mini revival. One bonus on Physics meant we were still some way from either team breaking into triple figures. A lovely UC special starter next saw both teams really fail to understand the question, which required the answers of Charles the Bold and Charles the Bald. It had been a long time coming, but I finally took my lap of honour for knowing that 100 million years before present would put us back into the Cretaceous. Sam Burns was closest with Jurassic. It was looking all too easy for St. John’s, who had time to dwell on the buzzer a moment before Asher Leeks identified that both golf clubs and tennis racquets have sweet spots. So do jammie dodgers, although you can’t hit balls very far with them. One bonus on Simones at last put St. John’s into trile figures. The second picture starter showed us Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, which Erin Spike was first to recognise. Other pictures refused by the salon but exhibited in the 1863 salon des refuses failed to add more points to Wolfson’s total. Nobody knew that the last adjective in Paradise Lost is solitary. Not surprised. A really lovely UC special starter asked in terms of accession years, which element was equivalent to Edward VII. Neither team knew 1901 which would have given them Hydrogen. Arun Soor knew that if the question name checks William Morris, then the answer is probably Arts and Crafts. This brought up a set of bonuses on domesticated animals, of which St. John’s answered one correctly. That brought us to the gong, with St. John’s winning by 115 to 40.

What can I say? I don’t want to be mean or hurtful. In a way it’s a pity that this match up should follow some very good contests. But it did, and being objective, I have to echo JP’s words that St. John’s performance wasn’t much better than reasonable. Their bonus conversion rate was less than 50%. As for Wolfson, well, if they got more than 2 bonuses, I didn’t see them. I may be wrong, but that’s certainly the lowest scoring match I can remember since the BBC revival. Hopefully, it’s just a one off. If I were a member of the Bristol, Corpus Christi or York teams, I’d be cursing our bad luck that we didn’t get drawn against either of those teams in our first round match. That’s the way it goes.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think much of JPs Eric Monkman impression when introducing Wolfson.

On the crooners bonuses, the last question asked which former prime minister of his country had been described as a cruise ship crooner, not having a scooby St. John’s tried Kevin Rudd. “Kevin Rudd!” exclaimed JP in what sounded like the highest of dudgeons, “ I don’t even know if he can hold a note!” No, and neither did St. John’s which is possibly why they gave that reasonable answer, Jez.

I can more understand his reaction to neither team knowing Ave Maria, which he described as ‘lamentable’. A bit extreme, but at least I know where he’s coming from with that. Unsatisfied with leaving it at that, when St. John’s last wild stab in the dark at the third music bonuses was wrong, he spluttered, “No, it’s Bach! Jesu joy of Man’s Desiring – You  barbarians!” Alright, Jez, we got the point. Don’t milk it.

When Tom Greig suggested Robert the Bruce for King Caractacus JP favoured him with the most old fashioned of looks, and repeated the name with incredulity.

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

There is one ship registered for every 18 people in the Marshall islands.


Jack said...

Well, that's smashed the record for the lowest aggregate score of the BBC era, the previous record of 210 having stood since 2004. At least it was an entertaining contest though, so well done both teams on that front.

Stephen Follows said...

Jeez, that was awful.

Keshava said...

It's easy to make the mistake, given that Monkman is the most memorable contestant on any recent series of UC, but Wolfson didn't actually win that year – they lost to Balliol in the final. said...

I thought Paxman's comments on the lack of recognition of classical composers was uncalled for. It was very snobbish. I bet the team members could identify all kinds of musicians and music that Paxman wouldn't know - not classical music, but music all the same.