Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Congratulations John McKenna

I've just watched - and enjoyed - the second episode of "Fastest Finger First". This was won by a chap called John McKenna. Why is this worthy of a separate blog post? Well, he's from Port Talbot, and I've lived in Port Talbot for 36 years now.

To the best of my knowledge our paths have never crossed before. Still, John showed formidable form to win the first head to head, stay in the hot seat until the final head to head, then win that one as well. John, I wish you every success in Millionaire now, and hope that you take home a substantial wedge.

As for the show, I enjoyed it very much again. I haven't tried to work out how many questions are asked, but I'd imagine it's high. Within each head to head here's a minimum of four and a maximum of 7. However, in the quickfire rounds there's an impressive number asked. We've yet to se anyone suffer the heartache of winning three head to heads and then lose the final one - I'll be interested to see whether this does actually happen during this short series or not. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

New Quiz Show - Fastest Finger First

Contrary to what you might have thought, ITV’s “Fastest Finger First” is not actually the first quiz show where the prize is the right to appear on another quiz show. If you cast your minds back into the dim and distant past, some fifteen odd years ago the BBC aired The People’s Quiz in the National Lottery Quiz Slot. It’s not the time or place for me to go on about this show, but it’s of interest mainly because it gave a £200,700 first prize, comfortably the biggest ever on a BBC quiz show, and it brought Mark Labbett to national prominence, even though he was runner up. A sister show – The People’s Quiz Wild Card aired at teatime on BBC2 where the winner would get a place in the Grand Final of the People’s Quiz.

Okay, so “Fastest Finger First” is not a new idea. But it is, in my opinion, a good one – feel free to disagree. I knew nothing about it and only found it yesterday when I was channel hopping. It works like this. The show is presented by Anita Rani – who is perfect for it. There are five shows in this first series. In each show, five contestants battle it out. Each round begins with a quickfire general knowledge round. They have to buzz in to answer a question. Get it right, and then they will be asked a series of questions, building up a ladder of correct answers. At any time they can use the safety net. This freezes their score where it is, and we have another open buzzer question. When the contestant with the frozen score buzzes in correctly they continue to build their score from where they got to previously. However if they get any question ladder question wrong they go back down to zero. Each round has a relatively short duration, the end of which is announced by the Millionaire Klaxon.

So, at the end of this round, the two players with the highest score in it play a head to head. And this is where it really does become a game of fastest finger first. A set of multiple choice – put these four things in order – questions follow. Same as on the parent show, whoever gets the answer right in the fastest time wins. At the end of the round, the one with the most points stays on, the other goes back to the other contestants. Essentially it means that you only need to play in one of the head to heads – the last one, and you only have to win one of the head to heads – the last one – to win your place into the chair on Millionaire.

Looking at yesterday’s show, where the same contestant won all of the head to heads, I’d say that the mechanics of the show do a lot to ensure that it’s the contender with the best combination of speed of recall and breadth of knowledge who wins. I like that. It’s clever as well in that it will provide  contenders for Millionaire who will at least have a better chance of winning big than the average.

Okay folks, it’s cards on the table time. I’ve obviously only seen the one show so far – there’s only been one – and this is not a lot to form hard and fast opinions on. But I really enjoyed the show yesterday. It has many of the things I like in a quiz show. I missed the first few minutes, so I don’t know if a huge amount of time was wasted spent getting to know the contestants at the start. Crucially, though, it wasn’t once the game got started. From then on it was as quickfire as the name suggested. There was no over-reliance on popular culture/entertainment questions either, and that’s something that can be the curse of a lot of teatime quiz shows. There was a fair range of easy – medium and quite hard questions, which gave the show a high score on my patented play-along-at-home-ability-ometer.

Yes, you bet I’ll be watching it again today – already set a series link on it, thanks very much. If yesterday’s show is typical, then it’s a series I’d much rather watch than Millionaire itself.

University Challenge at 60 Documentary

Well, well, dearly beloved. After months of having very little to say but still saying it anyway, we’ve got a lot to get through today. We’ve already reviewed last night’s UC. So let’s discuss for a moment the filling in last night’s UC/Starter for 10 sandwich, University Challenge at 60.

I felt it was a little ironic to see that Samira Ahmed voiced this affectionate documentary. She’s been the stand-in presenter should anything happen to JP for a while, yet she has been passed over for the main gig in favour of Amol Rajan. Well, there we are. Her affection for the show came through the voice over, and indeed, so did the affection of everyone else taking part.

There seemed to be a conscious effort to avoid going over similar ground to previous celebrations of OC. This we didn’t have contributions from some of the luminaries who went on from appearing on UC during its first quarter century on ITV. The only one was the lady from Southall (London Borough of Ealing! Yay!) who explained how appearing on University Chalenge for the University of Leicester in the early 70s - the first woman of asian heritage to do so - gave her back some of the confidence which years of racial bullying at school had taken away from her. This was moving and added a welcome serious note amongst all the jolliness of the show. 

Instead we had contributions from Chasers Mark Labbett and Jenny Ryan, both of whom had early TV appearances on UC. Neither won the series, but be fair, they’ve both done alright for themselves since. Then really a group of luminaries from the last fifteen years or so. Erik Monkman was the most relaxed and engaging that I’ve ever seen him appear on TV, and a joy to listen to. Part of the show looked briefly at the question whether anyone could be called the greatest contender ever. The name of Alex Guttenplan, who did not appear sadly, was toyed with, before a section featuring the great Gail Trimble, who it claimed holds the record for a single show of fifteen starters. I’m not arguing. Mind you, it made no reference whatsoever to the greatest controversy of the 60 years of the show when Gail Trimble’s Corpus Christi team were stripped of their win when it emerged that one of their team has left the University before filming the final. I mean, come on, we all know what happened, and a long time has passed. It could easily have been mentioned, along with – filming dates have been since changed to ensure that this won’t happen again. It just struck me as odd that you’d go to the trouble of having Gail Trimble on, yet not even mention it once.

I did enjoy the filmed insert featuring Brandon of Imperial, the 2020 champions. He described his single minded preparation, which involved watching something like fifty hours of Newsnight to get familiar with Jeremy Paxman’s accent and diction. His point was that preparation will beat talent, and he suggested that anyone can do it with the right preparation. I’m not so sure. Preparation beats just talent – yes, probably. But I think that preparation plus talent beats just preparation. Or let’s put it another way. I feel that we probably each have an optimum level of quizzer we could be. Some of us, because of our personal talents and abilities – our recall, for instance – have a higher optimum level than others. So in the same way, it doesn’t matter how hard you practice and how many lessons you have with a top professional, you are never going to be as good a golfer as Tiger Woods was in his pomp. However if you do undertake the preparation and have the lessons you are going to become a lot better than you were. I think it’s the same with preparation for quizzes.

An enjoyable hour then, when all of the talking heads had something interesting to contribute. I found it amusing to hear Griff Rhys Jones say that when he met Bamber Gascoigne the great man was far too polite to mention Griff’s impersonation of him for the immortal Young Ones ‘Bambi’ episode. Mind you, Griff himself didn’t mention that he’d previously made the same impression in an earlier Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch – HM Prisons Challenge. (Was it Reggie ‘the dog’ Trubshawe?)

So now that we’ve had justice done to University Challenge, come on BBC – what about Mastermind’s Fiftieth Anniversary?

Monday, 29 August 2022

University Challenge 2023 - Round 1 Match 1 - Bristol v. Durham

The Teams


Sam Kehler

Jacob McLaughlin

Tess Richardson (capt.)

Alejandro Ortega


Harry Scully

Chloe Margaux

Alex Radcliffe (capt.)

Bea Bennett

University Challenge is always one of the things that makes the fact that Summer’s lease hath all too short a date more bearable. This will be the last series to be helmed by Jeremy Paxman, as I’m sure you’ll have read, so let’s make the most of it.

As it so often is, the first starter was a nice gentle underarm delivery, which saw Alex Radcliffe identify blank as the word linking verse, slate and look. The geology of British National Parks sounded the sort of thing Alex Yee would have snapped up in the last series. In this one Durham didn’t add to their score on this set of tricky bonuses. Bea Bennett knew that the US congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene confused Gestapo with Gazpacho. Bet that landed her in the soup – and no, I’m afraid, the puns aren’t going to get much better than that in these reviews. Novels written by political leaders brought their first correct bonus, but they’ll be kicking themselves for not getting the First Consul reference, an obvious pointer to Napoleon Bonaparte. I thought that the Churchill one was gettable too. A good UC question for the next starter saw Alejandro Ortega earn Bristol’s first points by recognising the first and then most recent examples of the phrase single-use from the OED. Bnuses on algebra followed. I’ll say something about what seemed to me to be a very large amount of Maths and Science in this match a little later. Now, being as Boolean algebra is the only type of algebra I’ve heard of (know nowt about it either), I was delighted when the last bonus asked for a type of algebra and this proved to be the right one. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this did earn the first lap of honour around the sofa of the series. Bristol took that one and the previous. So to the picture starter – and it was a Science one, showing us the formula for a chemical process. Harry Scully quickly knew that it was the contact process. More formulae for chemical processes saw me giving the one answer I had in my locker – the Haber process for all 3, and thus getting the last one right by a process of elimination. Harry Scully also took the first one. Another Science starter followed, and Harry Scully took his double by knowing that GRBs are Gamma Ray Bursts. Which surely were responsible for turning Bruce Banner into the Incredible Hulk, although sadly that did not form part of the question. Bonuses on video games by Polish developers promised me nothing, which they duly delivered. One correct answer was enough to give Durham a lead of 60-20 at the 10 minute mark. They were being somewhat profligate with the bonuses, but it was all looking fairly comfortable for them at this point.

Alejandro Ortega knew that Robert Bresson and Carl Theodor Dreyer both made films about Joan ‘Lawks a-lordy, my bottom’s on fire’ of Arc. Bonuses on – oh bloody ‘ell – Physics brought none of us any points. Jacob McGlaughlin knew that the Great eastern and western Ergs are in Algeria. Sporting firsts in 2021 were tricky but gettable. Bristol remembered Sky Brown. If you didn’t have it from Bellamy’s, I’m sure all hardened quizzers would have been slinging buzzer at the mention of Drones in the next starter. Bea Bennett came in just as Diogenes was added to the list to give the correct answer of clubs in works of fiction. A relatively gentle set of bonuses on notable earthquakes allowed Durham to widen the gap, which had shrunk to fifteen points, out to forty. So to the music starter, and Harry Scully recognised a piece of music from the film Spirited Away. The bonuses were more film music from the same composers – I answered My Neighbour Totoro to all of them and thus earned the last bonus. This was the only one that Durham managed as well. The next starter, a Science one, was worth waiting with. We were looking for a word beginning with C, and as soon as JP said ‘ basic to the structure of plants’ I yelled ‘CELLULOSE!!!!’ – which caused my cat to run out of the living room. It was right though, as Jacob McLaughlin’s buzz confirmed. The Italian artist, Rosalba Carriera, better known as Rosalba Who? gave a surprisingly gentle set of bonuses of which Bristol took a brace. Peka peka tou roa certainly sounded Maori enough to make me identify its country of origin as New Zealand, much as it did for Alex Radcliffe. Alright, so the bonuses were on microbiology. Leeuwenhoek was a gift I was happy to accept, as was Agar and then Gram. Bloody hell – I’d just had a Science full house. To be fair Durham did too, and since they didn’t get up and do a lap of honour around their seats, I stayed put on the sofa as well. Now, in my world, NFT stands for National Film Theatre, but Alejandro Ortega said it was non-fungible token and who am I to argue. Neolithic sites in Scotland didn’t require much more than a decent knowledge of Scottish Geography for another full house – which Bristol had. The next starter saw both teams sitting on their buzzers a little but Sam Kehler chanced his arm just before the clincher – the Battle of the Boyne – was mentioned to correctly give the answer William III of Orange. Operas featuring children as lead characters gave me a third consecutive full house. Bristol took two. This meant that as we reached the 20 minute mark Durham still led, but only by fifteen points, 110 to 125. A grandstand finish looked to be a distinct possibility.

So to the picture starter, with a painting obviously the work of Gustav Klimt. Tess Richardson won that buzzer race for Bristol. Other artworks associated with court cases gave Bristol a full house, and the lead for the first time in the match. Nobody knew that torque multiplied by angular velocity is power. I thought that knowledge was. In comparison the next starter, with the last words of “A Tale of Two Cities” set off a buzzer race won by Jacob McLaughlin. Computing bonuses saw me expostulate ‘more bloody science’ somewhat unfairly. Bristol managed one, but crucially they had the momentum at this vital stage of the match. A good early buzz from Durham’s go-to buzzer, Harry Scully, saw them add 10 precious points to their total for peer review. Even if they didn’t win they were close to a repechage score already with several minutes to go. Bonuses on books first published in 1982 gave them the one correct answer they needed to narrow the gap to 10 points. Jacob McLaughlin, the bit now firmly between his teeth won the buzzer race to give observe – obverse or verbose would have done equally well. Languages of India brought us both just the one correct answer. I’ll be honest, Stoicism is my usual answer for any school of philosophy and it worked for the next starter. The mention of Marcus Aurelius confirmed it for me. Sam Kehler thought so too. Words ending in -use – brought me a full house, and Bristol 2 bonuses. This put them within one starter and one bonus of the psychologically important 200 barrier. I’ll be honest, I did know Rubik’s Revenge 4x4 cube, but not Rubik’s Professors 5x5 cube, but Harry Scully did, improving his team’s chances of a repechage slot. Events in years ending in 99 obligingly coughed up a full house, and put Durham just 20 points behind, so even the win was not out of the question now. What a good contest. It would be unforgiveable for me to say that Alex Radcliffe got the horn for the answer to the next starter so I won’t. He did buzz in to answer horn as in flugel correctly, though. Two of a set of bonuses on Norway put the teams dead level. Looking at the clock, surely whoever took the next starter would win. It was the Durham skipper who did so with the answer of simultaneous equations. There was no time left for the literature bonuses, and this meant Durham won by 195 to 185.

Well played both teams and thank you. JP told Bristol he bets that they will come back to play in the repechage, and I’m sure he’s right. As for Durham, excellently held nerves put them straight through. Well done!

As for the Science thing – my initial impression was that there was a lot of Science and Maths for my liking. Watching it back, I don’t think there was any more than usual, it was just a little unevenly spaced. It seemed like almost every set contained either a Science based starter or Science based bonuses in the early-mid part of the match, with much less in the later stages. Panic over. As you were.

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

Mussolini wrote a novel called “The Cardinal’s Mistress”. Dirty sod.

Friday, 26 August 2022

12 Month Anniversary

Well, we’ve made it, you and me. Sometimes it wasn’t easy. Sometimes it wasn’t even the least bit interesting, but we did it. It’s been a full year since I revived the blog. Yippee. For the record, not including this one I’ve made 142 posts since 26th August 2021. That’s comfortably more than 2 posts a week.

So, what’s the big story today? Awww – you know exactly what it’s going to be. The quiz at the club last night. If we won, then I would have won every quiz that I have played in for a full 12 months. Now, if this isn’t a story of mine that you are following – and who would blame you if it isn’t – I think that I should stress that I have only played in the Thursday night quiz in the rugby club, some of the monthly film quizzes in the Gwyn Hall, and three times in the Tuesday night quiz in the 6 Bells in Coity. With the Gwyn Hall it is Adam, Fran, Dan and Jess who do all the heavy lifting, while I’m really catching a ride on their coat tails. With the Rugby Club, only one of those wins was in a quiz where one of the other teams boasted a serious quizzer. Nonetheless, when you consider all that can go wrong for you in a given quiz – basically any team can win given the right set of circumstances, and any team can lose given the wrong set of circumstances – I’d be lying if I said there was no sense of achievement at all.

I’d like to think that I can stop counting now. Because, and I’ve said this before, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we lost a quiz in the club now. But there’s the rub. How do you do it? How do you bring that situation about? Oh, don’t get me wrong, we are going to lose. But when will that be? I do not know, says the big bell of Bow. It’s hard, because I just find I can’t not try. I’ve said before that although I give many wrong answers, I don’t do so deliberately, and I can’t do so deliberately. But it’s even worse than that. I find that I can’t not try. I’ll give you an example. Last night we were asked for the name of the novelist who occasionally aids Hercules Poirot in his cases. Now, I don’t watch Poirot – that’s my wife’s department. She was there last night as my mother in law is in town and wanted to come as well. Neither of them could remember. The easiest thing would have been to just say – well, we don’t know – and leave it blank. But I kept cudgelling my brain, trying to remember from all the times Poirot has been on – and the name Ariadne surfaced. I wrote it down. I could have just left it as the first name, and then bemoaned my bad luck as getting so close but not close enough for the point. My mind wouldn’t let me. I kept up with the cudgelling and a faint echo fo the name Oliver surfaced. I shoved it down. Point gained. Now, at this point we were comfortably ahead and highly unlikely to lose. It didn’t matter in the great scheme of things, but I couldn’t stop myself from acting like it did.

I think that my son in law Dan has the same attitude too. Case in point, we were asked – why was Rachel Blackmore in the news in 2021? – I knew that I asked this in the New Year quiz, but I also knew that it had gone out of my memory. Dan did the cudgelling thing himself, and he came up with that she won the Grand National. Well, the horse did a fair bit of the work, but you know what I mean.

As a team we all had a good night, I think. Adam had a couple of corkers, and in round 6 or 7, out of 10 questions Jess had three of them nobody else had. Mrs. Clark had a couple, and I’m not trying to be mean when I say that this was something of a first for her. Alright I am being mean. Jen, my mother in law had at least one as well. We’ll be a similar sized team next week. I say only similar sized, because Dan is actually question master next week. Which means we get the music round – yay. Love the music round. I have no intention of doing one next time I do a quiz, whenever that may be, but I do love the music round.

So, if you’ve been with me during he past 12 months, all I can do is thank you very much, and promise I will do my best to keep going for the next 12 months.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

University Challenge at 60

 I've just been looking at the schedule for the next week on the iplayer, and it has confirmed that the new series of University Challenge starts on BBC2 at 8:30 following Only Connect, which begins series 18 at 8pm. Happy days - quizzy Mondays are back. No sign of Mastermind returning yet, but soldier on. At the bottom of the BBC's own Mastermind Website History fo the Show page it does say that the show returns in September 2022.

Straight after the first match, though, I noticed there's a special documentary - University Challenge at 60. Fantastic - and it's well deserved by the show. It's an hour long too, so well done, BBC. It's followed by the film, Starter for Ten. So full marks for recognising this milestone.

On the other hand, I've still not found out any information regarding when the next series of Mastermind is going to start. I hope - without necessarily a massive amount of anticipation - that the BBC are intending to mark the 50th Anniversary of Mastermind somehow. In purely symbolic terms if nothing else, 50 is a hugely significant number, which the BBC recognised ten years ago when they celebrated University Challenge reaching the milestone with a similar evening to that planned on Monday. This, mind you, even considering that University Challenge, this most archetypal of BBC quiz shows, was shown on ITV for the first 25 years of its existence. Mastermind has always been made for the BBC, even if it hasn't been made by the BBC for the last few years. On the BBC Mastermind web pages, on the History of the Show page it does say "Mastermind celebrates its 0th Anniversary in 2022'. Well it doesn't actually say 'Mastermind celebrates its anniversary in 2022 (but we don't)' so one can only hope.

Look, you know me well enough by now, and how defensive about Mastermind I can be. I can't help it. I do hope that the BBC mark the anniversary in some way. Even if they've decided not to involve past champions - or even if they do involve past champions but not me - I can live with that. But as I hope hat I showed when I wrote about the history of the show a few months back, there is an interesting story to be told there. 

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Kara Bloody Danvers

Calm down. I know what you’ve been wanting to ask since Thursday night, and I’ll tell you the answer now. Yes, thanks, we did win on Thursday evening at the rugby club. I will say a little more about this in a moment. All of which means that everything hangs on what happens this coming Thursday evening.

Everything? Well, everything, and nothing. Everything because it is the last quiz I’m going to be playing in this month. I came back to social quizzing at the start of September 2021. In all that time, I have not yet lost a quiz. So yes, the whole uneaten year hinges on this one quiz. So that’s everything. Nothing? Yes, nothing because suppose we do win? So what? If we lose, then it doesn’t mean all of the other quizzes in the last 12 months count for nothing.

Coming back to Thursday night’s quiz, once we saw what the handout was, we had the feeling that this was going to be our night again. We were given the alter-egos of 25 superheroes and villains. Dan and Adam pulled out a couple of corkers, and between us all we felt that we had a pretty good chance of a full house. As it was, we ended up with twenty four. What was the one that messed us up? I’ll tell you. Kara Danvers. Now, you have to bear in mind that the handout itself had a couple of bloomers on it – Oswald Copperpot rather than Oswald Cobblepot for the Penguin being one example. So all of us immediately thought this was another mistake and that it was actually meant to be Carol Danvers – the Marvel Captain Marvel. The answer? Well, it’s Supergirl. It is too, but none of us knew this. I knew she was named Kara-El to Superman’s Kal-El, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

All of which illustrates something about the frustrating nature of quizzes. When we look back on the handout, are we congratulating ourselves over some of the brilliant answers we came up with – for example Adam or Dan knew that Britt Reid is the alter-ego of the Green Hornet? No, we’re frustrated about Kara bloody Danvers. That’s quizzing for you.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

- and Hello, Amol Rajan

 Blimey. Literally just posted about JP leaving, only to find that the Beeb have announced that the new host will be Amol Rajan. Is this another chalk following cheese choice? Well, I think that there's reasons for saying yes, and reasons for saying no.

Some will say - and some already have said that we have another Cambridge educated presenter with a journalism background. I'll be honest, I'd rather this than some more light entertainment personality who might be tempted to think that the show is all about them. On the other hand, though, you can also argue that Amol Rajan, if he hasn't exactly become a jack of all trades he'd certainly accrued a wide range of presenting experience in over a decade, including Radio 2 where I first encountered him covering for Simon Mayo, the One Show, and a range of other assignments.

It's probably fair to say that the reaction to the news from the some of the most vocal sections of the UC audience has been mixed. A widely held opinion is that Amol probably won't want to stay presenting the show for long. I don't know whether there's any grounds for saying this other than the wide range of jobs he's taken in his career. And to be honest, I'm not sure what the BBC could have done about this anyway. I hope that UC goes on forever, but can you realistically ask someone to commit to, shall we say, a  10 year contract when there's no guarantee the show will still be around. 

Like a lot of people, I thought Samira Ahmed would have been a good choice. For whatever reason, she's been overlooked. There we are. These things happen. Amol has been appointed, and he deserves to be given a fair chance with the show. As i is we have a whole JP series to enjoy before we'll get the opportunity to see what the Rajan era UC will look like. Good luck Amol. 

So Farewell, then, Jeremy Paxman

 Did you miss me? I've been in Spain for the last couple of weeks, which is why I haven't posted. No quizzes out there this time, so really not a great deal to say. 

Now that I'm back however, we have to start with the big news. You'll probably have heard by now that the coming series of University Challenge will be Jeremy Paxman's last as host. It's only a year ago that I made my first review of UC for quite some time, and I said that I was not going to continue with the Jeremy Paxman watch section of the reviews since I didn't feel comfortable doing so bearing in mind that Jeremy Paxman had announced that he is suffering from Parkinsons. I've read a number of articles about him stepping down, and none of them are explicit about his reasons, but I doubt that any of us can seriously blame him for doing so.

After all, he's been hosting the show for 28 years. That's even longer than the late great Bamber Gascoigne's twenty five year stint. I believe that Bamber was offered the opportunity to helm the series again when it returned to BBC in 1994, but politely declined, thinking that he'd done enough. Why exactly the production team decided to opt for JP's chalk when they couldn't have Bamber's cheese heaven only knows, but it turned out to be an inspired decision. So thank you, Jeremy Paxman. I've thoroughly enjoyed the show, and you have been a vital part of it.

Which begs the question, though, who will take over? The appointment has already been made, so it seems, although the Beeb are giving nothing away at the moment. One name being bandied about is Samira Ahmed. A similar thing happened in 2021 with Mastermind before Clive Myrie was announced as the new host - taking to it like a duck to water it should be said. So I'm not reading too much into it, although I think she's fit very well into the question master's seat. Whoever is appointed I hope that they have similar credibility to Samira and JP himself. Yes, it worked out well the last time they did 'and now for something completely different' - but please, please, please do not parachute in some light entertainment personality. It's just not that kind of show. 

I have no right to offer advice to whoever takes over, but I'm going to do it anyway. Take one leaf from Bamber's book, and one from Jeremy's. Do your homework. Bamber always used to go through the questions very carefully himself long before filming started. Also, be yourself, and when you're enjoying it, don't be afraid to show it. With JP I thought you could always tell when he was particularly enjoying a contest. 

According to the first article I read, UC's new series starts on the 29th, a week on Monday.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Beware of Obscurity

 You know, I’ve just been checking over my previous posts since my return. I made the first post in late August 2021. This led me to believe that I returned to the quiz in the rugby club in late August. Au contraire. A close reading of the first post revealed that no, it was in fact the first quiz in September – it would have been 2nd September. Does that matter? The honest answer is no, it doesn’t, but yes, it does. I will do my best to explain.

I’m off to Spain tomorrow. It’s been 3 years since my last trip, what with covid. In terms of the quiz, this means that I will miss the quiz on the 11th, and since I’m travelling back on the 18th it’s quite possible that I will miss this one as well. Which means that he next one I’m certainly going to play in will be on the 24th, the last quiz in August. I thought that the last quiz in August was the first I played in during 2021. Which means that I would have completed a year unbeaten. But no, to do that my team now has to win the 24th as well. That’s why it matters. Which of course is nonsense, because whether it’s quite a chronological year or not, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we have won all those quizzes – and that’s not just in the rugby club, but also in the Gwyn Hall and the pub in Coity as well.

On paper, to be honest we should win the vast majority of quizzes in the club. On their own when I’m question master my team are very competitive anyway, and in terms of range of competitions I've taken part in over the years, or level of competition and achievement I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I’m the most serious quizzer to play in the club regularly in the last year. So yes, we probably should win. But as you know, quizzes can be funny things. Any team can win a one off quiz given the right set of circumstances and likewise any team can lose a one off quiz given a particular set of circumstances. I said in one of last week’s posts that easy quizzes can be a great leveller, and indeed I can think of two occasions in the last year when we came close to defeat. We got lucky on both nights.

Last night, to be honest, was not a quiz where the easiness of the questions was going to be a great leveller. To be fair we were lucky we had a quiz at all. The question master was taken ill yesterday, but he still managed to get the quiz to the club and get someone else to act as question master with the quiz he compiled. I’m grateful for this. I’ve never been taken ill on a day when I’m due to be QM, but I did have one time when I was sent on a weekend course when I was supposed to be doing the quiz, so I provided the quiz for Brian to read out. So I appreciate that last night’s original QM might well have been tempted to say sod it, and I’m very glad he didn’t.

For all that, though, it really wasn’t one of his best quizzes. If he compiled it while he was ill, then fair enough, thanks for doing your best anyway. But it did see him doing some of the things I used to criticise him for when he first started compiling quizzes for the club. Back in the day he would always ask quite a number of obscure questions, then, when giving the answer say “None of you had this right – I didn’t expect any of you to.” To which my reply was invariably “Why the hell bother asking it then?” I can’t be certain whether he thought at the time that he was in competition with the teams. That’s not an attitude I subscribe to myself. Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the idea of asking hard questions in a social pub quiz, but if you choose to do so, then I do think you should bear in mind a couple of things. Firstly, it’s better if the questions are actually interesting. Secondly, when a question is that hard, it’s often a good idea to offer something to make it more gettable. Let me give you a couple of examples that were asked last night :-

“In what year did St. Patrick’s Day become a National Holiday in Ireland?” Now, I can’t say that I find the question particularly interesting. But also, the way it is phrased, the chances of you picking the right date out of thin air are extremely slim. At the very least you could say – In which year did St. Patrick’s Day become a National Holiday in Ireland? Was it 1903 – 1913 – 1923 – 1933? You’ve got a one in four chance to at least it keeps a little interest going. It was 1903 as it happens.

Likewise we were asked,

“How many times is Christmas mentioned in all of Shakespeare’s plays?” Now you’d think that a question master would only ask it like this if the answer would lead you to say either – I should’ve guessed that – or – Oh, well that’s interesting! Which is why we put 0. The answer was 3. Again, it’s not something you’re going to pull out of thin air. The question allows you to give options – 3 – 30 – 300 – 3000, for example.

There was a lot like that last night. We knew enough that we won fairly comfortably in the end, but despite that I can’t say that I enjoyed it very much. In my 30+ years of quizzing you can count the number of times my teams have answered all the questions in a quiz correctly on the fingers of one hand – and not all of those fingers either. Nobody, I think, really wants to play in a quiz where they know all of the answers. But I want to feel, with the majority of questions that even if I don’t know the answer, I should be able to use what I do know to help me come up with a decent, sensible answer, even if it’s not right. I don’t really like guessing games, and that’s what was the case for too many of the questions last night. It’s a shame because there were some decent questions in amongst all of the obscurity, and we didn’t get all of them right either.

Oh well, a fortnight now to recharge the batteries.