Barnaby Stonier (Capt)
Royal Northern College of Music
Lila Chrisp (Capt)
You know, I always think it must be hard for a specialist institution like RNCM to compete in a general all-round competition like University Challenge, considering that all of their team are going to be music students, while their opponents most likely will have members representing a variety of disciplines. Yet for all that, we have seen some fine performances from such teams over the last decade, so who was to say that RNCM were going to prove a pushover for anyone?
Well, Conor Phillip from Dundee – which fine city I visited for the first time a few weeks ago – took the first starter, recognising different meanings of the word mint. Bonuses on ancestors of the present Duke of Cambridge gave them two more correct answers, and allowed JP to pooh pooh the idea that the Royal Family are inbred. Jacob Spurrell made a superbly early buzz for the next starter to identify the film “Parasite”. I’ve never seen it, although I’ve taught a few in my time. Partnerships between screenwriters and directors only brought one correct answer. Dominic Wills, seeking to give his team a toehold in the game, clutched at a bit of a straw with an early buzz to suggest that Siberian Brown is a species of tiger, thus putting his team in the red. Given the benefit of the full question, it became obvious that the answer was lemming - although at one time it could have swerved into a reference to the famed filigree Siberian hamster. Two bonuses on artists kept the scoreboard pushing along nicely for Dundee. This took us to the picture starter. Shown a map of the US with a city marked in, I thought Barnaby Stonier buzzed in very well to give the correct answer of Oklahoma City. 3 more US cities with a footprint of more than 300 square miles brought another two correct answers. Dominic Wills stopped the rot, and put his team into the black for the first time, working out that the next starter wanted the answer of mariachi. 1 bonus on blood classification doubled their score, but even so, the fact that Dundee led by 75 – 10 suggested that the Scottish side would continue to make serene progress into the second round.
Keelan Carew continued RNCM’s fight back with the answer of Oslo for the next starter on a play named after the city in which a 1993 peace accord was signed. However, they weren’t brilliantly served by a set on Polish football, and were only able to take one bonus. Jacob Spurrell buzzed early to identify Paraguay as the country where a majority speak Guarani, and this was rewarded with a set of Science bonuses. The first of these saw me take a lap of honour around the Clark sofa for knowing cold fusion. Then before I had the chance to sit down, I awarded myself another one for guessing cold dark matter. Which also formed the main course on a Thursday lunchtime in my old school, if I recall correctly. I didn’t have a scooby about poikilothermal, which is probably just as well, or my knees might have given way after another lap. Keelan Carew buzzed early again, and all I can tell you is that it was something to do with Beethoven, and the answer was Waldstein. The bonuses were on the year 1666, and kudos to the setters for not referencing the Great Fire of London in the set, which brought RNCM one bonus. So to the music starter, and Keelan Carew recognised the theme of Stranger Things extremely quickly. Three other retro synthesizer TV themes brought us both two correct answers. Nobody knew the answer to the next starter, about sun spots. I’ve not heard of hinomaru, but the word seemed Japanese, and I guess Alex Robarts must have thought so too since he gave the same answer as I did, thus earning bonuses on some rather venerable video games, on which they took a timely full house. Nobody knew that of all the countries entirely in the Southern hemisphere, New Zealand has an area closest to that of the United Kingdom. Lila Chrisp knew that the title of the first chapter of the first Harry Potter book is “The Boy Who Lived”, which earned a set of bonuses on British coastal towns. These passed them by completely. However, that starter alone was enough to ensure that, as we reached the 20 minute mark, not only had RNCM wiped out Dundee’s lead, they had a 5 point lead of their own, 95 – 90. What an interesting contest this was turning out to be.
Now, about that third lap of honour. Had I not been still wheezing on the sofa I would have taken another one for saying that the maximum number of hydrogen atoms that can combine with an atom of a neutral molecule is three. Yes, of course it was a guess. Jacob Spurrell knew that one to take back the lead. Dundee could only manage one of a gettable set on Roman emperors. Keelan Carew continued with his excellent work on the buzzer, coming in to identify a still from “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”. More stills from films or TV shows based on Le Carre novels were enough to give them a ten point lead. Barnaby Stonier wiped it out with the next starter, knowing various Italian words beginning with GE. Now, having already earned 3 laps of honour I’m afraid that my brain just switched off after the first three words of the next starter – ‘If the isotope. . . “ By the time my mind was back in the room, Dundee had failed to convert any of the bonuses. Both teams, with tied scores, lingered on the buzzer before it was the Dundee skipper who identified Hamlet as the tragedy about a man who could not make up his mind. He should have listened to Bucks Fizz (Hamlet, that is, not Barnaby Stonier). The Women’s Prize for Fiction brought three questions to which Dundee had no idea of the answers, and I give them credit that they admitted this without running down the clock. Jacob Spurrell knew that India and Pakistan celebrate their Independence Days one day apart, to give Dundee just a little breathing space in sight of the finishing line. Schools of thought named after places - no, me neither – yielded just one correct answer. However with time almost gone, RNCM needed more than a full house to force the match into extra time. So, just as if written in the script, Alex Robarts of RNCM correctly answered that the fruit in question in the next starter was dates. They took the first bonus, but the Muscovian novelist Voinovich did for them. Even though they took the next bonus, this left them 10 short of Dundee’s score. Was there time for another starter? Well no, not quite. JP started it, but didn’t have time to finish, leaving Dundee the winners by 145 to 135.
Congratulations to Dundee – a lesser team would not have found the nerve to steady the ship and fight back once RNCM took the lead. I have to admit for a partiality towards the team, because Dundee was my Grandy Clark's home town, which he had to leave to seek work in London during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Hard lines to RNCM, but congratulations also on a splendid fight back. As the saying goes, jolly good show.
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
India and Pakistan celebrate their Independence Days one day apart, despite gaining their independence on the same day.