Saturday, 9 December 2017

University Challenge Catch Up 1: St. John's, Cambridge v. Corpus Christi, Cambridge

Round 2 Heat 2 – St. John’s Cambridge v. Corpus Christi Cambridge

One of the more impressive teams of the first round, St. John’s were represented by John-Clark Levin, Rosie McKeown, Matt Hazell, and their captain James Devine-Stoneman. Their opponents were Corpus Christi Cambridge, and they were Tristram Roberts, Kripa Panchagnula, Benedict McDougall and skipper Joseph Krol.

Off we went, then. Matt Hazell took first blood for St. John’s , recognising early that a type of deer and a type of star could both be red. Good shout. A full set on Zavodovski island, part of the South Sandwich islands gave them the best possible start. Tristram Roberts struck back equally quickly for Corpus Christi, knowing that Fermat didn’t have enough room in the margin to write the solution to his last theorem. I’ll be honest, the only one of their bonuses that I knew on choreographers was the one that they got on Bob Fosse – whom I also though was the subject of the film Gorillas in the Mist. Rosie McKeown knew that Prayers and Meditations was written by Catherine Parr – good shout again. Thermodynamics bonuses followed. In the words of Ultravox, thie means nothing to me, but provided another full house for St. John’s. John-Clark Levin had a speculative punt that the European capital described in the next starter would be Stockholm, being 7 degrees further North than London, and he was right to do so. Once again, St. John’s took a full house on bonuses, this time on Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Never read that myself, but I read the Oryx and Crake trilogy over the summer and rather enjoyed them. Again Tristram Roberts hauled Corpus back into the game, knowing that the result of the meeting of particle and anti particle is annihilation. One bonus on mutinies followed to take us up to the picture starter. An abridged set of first lines from a famous poet appeared. In the middle, “Let us go then, you and I” was the big clue that this was TS Eliot. Rosie McKeown snapped that one up. For the bonuses St. John’s had to supply both poet and title of collection, and yes, they did have another full house. This meant that every question that St. John’s had answered up to the 10 minute mark they had answered correctly. Corpus Christi, with 30, were not playing at all badly. But to this point St. John’s, with 100, were playing brilliantly.

It really paid to wait with the next starter, as all of a sudden it became clear that the answer required the word longhorn, supplied by Rosie McKeown. The Geography bonuses saw them wavering on a couple of questions, but still they supplied the answers to a full house of bonuses. The impressive Rosie McKeown showed no mercy towards poor, shell shocked Corpus, knowing the Cuban dance, the Habanera for the next starter. Finally they showed just a little vulnerability on a set of Geology bonuses, not knowing the term orogeny. Is that where orogenous zones come from? Mind you, they still took the other two bonuses. Again, Tristram Roberts interrupted the run of St. John’s starters, knowing the definition of the metre squared. Sadly they only managed one of a gettable set on Edouard Manet. It was Rosie McKeown again who knew that the Iolani Palace is in Honolulu. Again they missed out on a full house, but staphylococci bacteria still provided two correct answers. So to the music starter, and for once St. John’s supplied an incorrect starter answer.Neither Corpus nor I recognised the work of Weber. The St. John’s skipper was very quickly in to win the dubious honour of the music bonuses, knowing all about particles and spin. The bonuses did nothing for any of us. Matt Hazell correctly identified sparrows as being one of the four pests, the eradication of which was one goal of China’s 1958 Great Leap Forward. Bonuses on works of European Romanticism brought a further two correct answers, and I did wonder if JP was about to administer the coup de grace to Corpus by telling them that there was plenty of time left to come back. Rosie McKeown edged her team through the 200 barrier, recognising various writers with the Christian name Elizabeth. A single bonus on capitalism followed. Joseph-Clark Levin knew that Stalin was criticised in the work The Cult of Personality and its Consequences, which brought up an excellent UC special set on nationalities whose name appears when a certain combination of words are entered in Google – eg – cheese and army knife for Swiss. 2 correct answers meant that on the cusp of the 20 minute mark St. John’s led by 230 to 45.

Nobody recognised the work of Delacroix for the 2nd picture starter. Tristram Roberts knew the acronym DDS in computing terms, and received the picture bonuses for his pains. The team could only recognise the work of JMW Turner. Rosie McKeown knew or guessed that the 1930s was described poetically as a low, dishonest decade, and bonuses on Shakespeare provided 2 more correct answers. Matt Hazell knew that in biological terms NK stands for Natural Killer. 5 letter cricketing terms only provided one guessed answer, but so what? St. John’s were through, and poor old Corpus were over 200 points behind. One had to feel for Tristram Roberts. HE took another starter knowing Confucianism, and his personal total was a good one, but sadly none of the rest of his team had been able to find their range with the buzzer. I’ll be honest, when JP announced that they had won a set of bonuses on Norwegian writers, I would have blamed them for saying ‘you’re having a laugh, aint yer? ‘ – my answer to each was Ibsen, and was wrong. This left Corpus becalmed on 70. James Devine-Stoneman guessed that cetane rating applies to diesel fuel, to stretch the gap to over 200 points again. 10 points on chess terminology put St. John’s within striking distance of the 300 barrier – one visit to the table could be enough. Yet it was the Corpus Christi skipper who recognised the 2 St. Bernards (humans, not dogs) in the next starter. Sadly there was no time for them to find a correct answer to the set on Archbishops of Canterbury, and at the gong the score was 285 – 80 in St. John’s favour.

I’m glad that JP said nothing to rub it in to Corpus Christi. Yes, maybe they might have thrown caution to the wind a little more with the buzzer, but let’s give credit where it’s due. The margin was heavy because St. John’s played so well, and displayed good and at times great knowledge across a very wide range of disciplines. Nobody will fancy playing against them in the quarters, and they need to be taken extremely seriously. A very fine performance.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Nothing to see here. Get on with your lives, citizens.

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


Both Temple Archbishops of Canterbury, father and son, died in office. 

Mastermind 2018 - Round One - Heat 18

What an interesting show that was, dearly beloved.

Now, the first SS subject on offer was Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. I kind of feel the same way about the Discworld series as I feel about the work of Anthony Trollope. Put the shotgun down and I’ll explain. Whenever I’ve read a novel by Trollope I’ve never been really disappointed, but on the same hadn I’ve never been moved to run down the street shouting – I’ve just read a fantastic novel!, if you know what I mean. It’s the same with Discworld. I haven’t read all of them, and of the ones I have read, while I have ones I prefer, I’ve never read one and felt that it wasn’t up to scratch. Coming back to the show, Michael Benbow put on a bravura performance to score 14 and only 1 pass. That’s the kind of score which will put you in the lead when the half time oranges are passed round in most heats.

Mahatma Gandhi was last a specialist subject back in 2011, I believe. A great and important subject, and Suraj Anad had obviously prepared well and knew his stuff. I’ll be honest, he did look a little tense and nervous to me, and maybe this meant that he jumped in on a couple of questions and possibly missed out on a couple of points. Maybe. Whatever the case he scored a good 11. He was in contention, but he was going to have to make up ground on the GK if he was to win.

I love watching athletics, so it is with some shame I admit that the round on which I scored least was Tony Fleat’s round on the history of the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon is the oldest and still one of the greatest and most prestigious city marathons, and a very interesting subject. Tony did very well to score 12 and 1 pass I thought, and I did think John’s comment on Tony’s last answer ‘you’re right, and I can’t pronounce the name either’ was an unnecessary attempt at a cheap laugh. John, I’ve seen you work an audience, and you’re better than that.

Finally Pam Poole. Now, her subject is the sort which can cause controversy. Top 10 singles from 1963 – 1973 might seem like a relatively short period to have to learn, nonetheless, I should imagine that there were many hundreds of questions you could potentially be asked. Pam knew her stuff – although I prided myself that I knew the Lemon Pipers’ Green Tambourine which she missed. We can gloss over the many questions she knew which I missed. A decent 10 looked to me to have put her pretty much out of contention being 4 behind the leader.

Now, before I make any other comment, let me state for the record that it doesn’t matter what questions you are asked, a score in the teens is a very good performance on GK. Which is exactly what Pam achieved. I have to say that maybe it was just me, but I did think that all the GK rounds in this heat were a little bit more gentle than usual. With Pam’s round, I answered all of them correctly, and never had more than 2 wrong in any of the other three rounds. Pam didn’t manage that, but she took 6 correct answers on the bounce at the start of the round, and crucially didn’t let any wrong answers affect her. She kept picking off what she knew, and in the end had taken her total to 23. Incidentally that was last week’s winning total. With that round Pam had just made this heat a lot more interesting, by placing at least 2 of the following contenders within the corridor of doubt.

I say that, but obviously I don’t know what was going through any of the contenders’ minds. Suraj did not look noticeably more nervous than he had in his SS round, and like Pam he started confidently. There wasn’t a huge amount in it, but with about 45 seconds to go it looked fairly clear that he wasn’t quite accumulating points quickly enough to reach his target. He finished with 21. Tony Fleat’s round never looked as good as either of the two rounds that preceded it. His points tended to come in fits and starts, though. At one point he looked as if he was going to fall quite some way short, and then a spurt of answers would put him back on track. . . almost. In the last 20 seconds or so he needed a run of correct answers again to put him across the line, and these didn’t come, leaving him with a total of 21 and 4 points.

Now, it’s not completely unknown for a contender to go from 4th place at the end of the SS round, to first place at the end of the show. It is rare though, but that’s the prospect we were still facing as Michael Benbow approached the chair. He started his round, though, knowing that anything in double figures would be good enough.  9 and no passes would earn a tie break. There was no sign of panic for the first few questions, however a pass signalled potential danger. As I said, I can’t read people’s minds, so I don’t know for certain , but it looked for all the world as if the pass started affecting Michael, and he rather froze. To be fair, he didn’t give in, but was accruing passes at a fair old rate of knots. He did have that head start, though, and he reached 23 with enough time, just to get over the line. The questions didn’t fa;; for him though, and the 6 passes in the round were the margin of defeat. Very hard lines – that’s a horrible thing to happen in the chair and you have my total sympathy. As for Pam, many congratulations!


The Details

Michael Benbow
The Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett
14
1
9
6
23
7
Suraj Anand
Mahatma Gandhi
11
0
10
0
21
0
Tony Fleat
History of the Boston Marathon
12
1
9
4
21
4
Pam Poole
Top 10 singles 1963 - 1973
10
1
13
0
23
1

Mastermind 2018 Round One Heat 17

Episode 17

Dearly beloved, I must apologise for my silence over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been under the weather – it started off as flu but then became a chest infection, and I’ve soldiered on at work, but then come the weekend I’ve been totally bereft of energy, mental or physical. I’m recovering now, though, and so I’m going to do my best to try to catch up on what I’ve missed.

So to last week’s Mastermind, then. First up was Ikenna Oguguo answering on The Champions League. I fancy that Shaun may have taken something very similar during his 2004 series. Ikenna obviously knew his stuff, and achieved a perfectly good score of 11. In this series, though, I really think you need one or two more to really have a good tilt at the win in the second round. Having said that, a great general knowledge can carry all before it, as we’ve seen once or twice in this series.

I’m sure that the Alexandria Quartet has been a specialist subject before as well. I’ve never actually tried to read any of the novels, but I did once, as a kid, sit through half an hour of the film version of “Justine”, not having a clue what was going on, and being bored witless. O I wasn’t really surprised to post a fat zero on this round. Ian Jack, though, set the highest score of the round with a very impressive 13. Now, if you can manage a score in the teens in the specialist round in a first round heat thee days, you will nearly always be in with a chance of winning.

Queen Hapshepsut, Egypt’s first, and greatest female pharaoh should probably be a lot better known than she is today. Believe me, Cleopatra (all of them) does not come into the reckoning at all. Cathy Eder certainly knew her stuff. I managed 5, but Cathy just missed out on sharing the lead, scoring 12. I like contenders who can keep a smile on their face throughout their rounds, and Cathy certainly seemed to be enjoying her Mastermind experience.

Finishing off the round then we had Julian Aldridge answering on the USTV series, “House of Cards”. Now, I really rather liked the British original, although I did think that each successive series of the 3 was less effective than the previous one. However I’ve never watched any of the US series,, so couldn’t answer any of the questions, to finish the SS rounds with a measly aggregate of 8. Julian managed 11, and at only 2 points behind the leader he was certainly not out of it. He hadn’t passed either, which just might affect the outcome of the show, I thought.

Let’s think about the received wisdom about the 2 and a half minute GK rounds for a moment. Now, not everyone agrees that the best thing to do is to avoid passes. I think it is, but you must of course feel free to disagree. Another thing I’ve observed in the past is that the GK round in the heats is a marathon, not a sprint. Or to put it another way it’s one thing to build up momentum with a string of mostly correct answers in the first minute, but an entirely different thing to be able to maintain this momentum once you get past the one minute mark. Several of these GK rounds were a useful demonstration of this. Ikenna started extremely well, however by about halfway through his round a couple of answers floored him completely, and he passed. When you’ve passed once, then it becomes easier and easier to pass again, and it can take an immense amount of concentration to get your round back on track again. In the end he scored 11 for 22. I didn’t think that it would be enough to win, but it gave him the triple crown of SS score in double figures, GK score in double figures, and combined total over 20. Respect.

Julian again started well, although did seem just a little more measured in his responses. Again, though, we saw the dip in the mid section of the round. What he did very well, though, was to keep composure. Every question was answered without passing, and for the most part even the wrong answers were pretty sensible guesses. This gave him a score of 22 and no passes. Possible wining score now? The coin was in the air.

For the first minute of Cathy Elder’s round it looked as if she could surpass the target with a bit to spare. This is just my opinion, and feel free to disagree, but I did think that the first minute or so of each of the GK rounds tonight was pretty gentle, and Cathy helped herself to almost all of the low hanging fruit in the first minute. However it couldn’t last. Gaps in her General knowledge were exposed by quite a few of the questions in the latter part of the round. She’d passed, so needed to score 23 to have a chance of the win. She came close, but like the two previous contenders finished with 22.

So to Ian Jack. And for the fourth round in a row we saw a contender negotiating his way quickly and easily through the first minute of questions. In fact, Ian made pretty calm and serene progress as far as a score of 20. Then everything seemed to slow down, and progress towards the target happened only in fits and starts. Ian had passed, so he too needed to get to 23 in order to win. Well, to paraphrase the Duke of Wellington (who never actually sat in the Mastermind chair, to the best of my knowledge) it was a close run thing. However he managed to get over the line before the blue line of death ended the round, finishing with 23 and 4 passes. Well played sir, and best of luck in the semi finals.

The Details


Ikenna Oguguo
Champions League 1992 – present date
11
3
11
5
22
8
Ian Jack
The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
13
0
10
4
23
4
Cathy Elder
The Life and Times of Hatshepsut
12
0
10
4
22
4
Julian Aldridge
The US TV series House of Cards
11
0
11
0
22
0

Friday, 17 November 2017

University Challenge 2018 - Round 2 - Heat 1


Strathclyde v. Emmanuel, Cambridge

Strathclyde, represented by Ian Brown, James Flanigan, Paul Dijkman and skipper Alastair Logan, won through to the second round in a tight match against Imperial. Their opponents, Emmanuel Cambridge, represented by Ed Derby, Kitty Chevallier, James Fraser and their captain Alex Mistlin also won a tight contest against St. Hugh’s. My personal feeling was that Emmaneul had looked the stronger of the two teams first time out, but then first round form is notoriously unreliable.

Kitty Chevallier won the buzzer race for the first starter, recognising a couple of definitions of the word scale. Bonuses on agricultural machinery brought a full house which served well as a statement that this Emmanuel team meant business. Alastair Logan came in too early for the next starter – although I don’t blame him for trying to land a counterblow as quickly as possible – allowing Kitty Chevallier to correctly guess that the bivalve mollusc that the question required was a mussel. Ugh, mussels. Love the taste, but ate a bad one in France once and became intimately acquainted with a fetid toilet for hours. Bonuses on the philosopher Hannah Arendt promised me little but delivered another full house to Emmanuel. You can’t do better than 50 points from 2 visits to the table. I liked the next question, since it was one you just had to wait and then go for it. You see, there are actually no fewer than 4 elements named after Ytterby in Sweden, and it wasn’t till the end of the question that it became obvious that it was the first three letters of Terbium that were required. James Fraser took that one. Only one bonus followed on astronomy, but I was glad to take a lap of honour for correctly guessing that a star with an apparent magnitude of 6 seems 100 times bright than a star with an apparent magnitude of 1. Little things please etc. A great buzz from the Emmanuel skipper saw him identify 1914 as the last year in which, according to AJP Taylor, an Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the State. A UC special set on historical figures who shared the first and last letters of their names saw JP rather leniently allow Alex Mistlin to correct the team’s first answer of MarEt to MarAt. On another occasion he would have insisted on taking their first answer. Nonetheless, this gave Emmanuel another full house. Out of the first 16 questions asked, they had correctly answered 14. That’s great quizzing by anyone’s standards. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t work out the first picture starter any more than either of the teams did. They were flags showing the nationalities of Premier League winning managers since 2007/8. Perfectly fair question, perfectly work outable, but I didn’t and neither did either team. As soon as the next question became obvious, requiring the country that hosted the first FIFA world cup final, Alex Mistlin struck mercilessly to provide the correct answer of Uruguay. Incidentally this brought up 100 points before the 10 minute mark. This soon became 115 as the team made short work of the picture bonuses. With poor old Strathclyde languishing back on -5 I feared that it was only a matter of time before JP unleashed the dreaded announcement that they had plenty of time to catch up.

Up stepped Alastair Logan, who knew that if a question mentions ‘Byron’ and ‘Greece might be free’, then you’re never going to lose points answering Byron. This put his team’s.  account into the black, and they added one bonus on the Wirral peninsula. From somewhere I dredged up the idea that a bird’s migratory habits can be changed if you expose it to an increased magnetic field, and Alastair Logan took his second starter in a row with the same answer. Some physics stuff brought me nowt and Strathclyde another correct answer. Alastair Logan couldn’t complete a hattrick on the next starter, which allowed Ed Derby in to tell us that Gauss said number theory is the Queen of Mathematics. Fair enough. Another full house of bonuses on infectious diseases widened their lead again. So to the music starter, and Ed Derby well knew that if you’re asked for a German composer and it doesn’t actually sound like music, then you’ll go a long way by answering with Stockhausen. More composers who suffered bad reviews by Cardew (the cad?) took an awfully long time and brought none of us any points. I don’t think either team ‘got’ that the next question was asking for a given name, as both offered surnames even when it became fairly clear that we were looking for Charles. The indomitable Strathclyde skipper correctly answered that Measure for Measure begins with a song taken from the St. Matthew version of the Sermon on the Mount. A couple of bonuses on Californian cities took their score to 45. That man Logan also knew that the moment you hear the words ‘Council of Clermont’ you give the answer – the First Crusade. A couple of bonuses on calculus meant that for the previous 10 minutes, Strathclyde had actually had the better of the contest. Mind you, that was all relative to Emmanuel’s dominance in the first 10 minutes, since they still led by 145 to 65. 

Ed Derby looked as if he knew the answer anyway when he confidently offered Bertrand Russell for the next starter, but even so he’s always a good shout for an English philosopher. Bonuses on Africa were in short supply. The second picture starter asked us to identify a virginal as the instrument in a Vermeer painting. The bonuses rolled over. Paul Dijkman correctly identified the Parthenon for the next question. Picture bonuses brought nothing to Strathclyde, sadly. I wasn’t that impressed that neither team recognised the description of Lord Melbourne, but then no team knows everything. Neither did either team know that strawberry pips are called achenes. Alastair Logan did know that the Minch and the Little Minch separate the Outer Hebrides and the Western Isles. Questions in poetry delivered no points, and I am surprised that nobody on the team recognised the one from Blake. Ian Brown knew that Turkey was the answer to the next starter, and two bonuses on Kings of Scotland took them to 105, a splendid fightback after a disastrous start. Ed Derby knew the start of Catch 22, though, and Emmanuel managed one bonus on pairs of explorers. Nobody knew that Nessler’s reagent detects the presence of ammonia in water. That was it, and the gong ended the contest.

As I said, a good fightback from Strathclyde, but they were always going to be second best in this contest. As for Emma, well, they did the damage in the first ten minutes, and then somewhat slackened off. They’ll still be a handful for any other team in the quarters though. Well played. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Unlike last week, we saw something worthy of comment. When Kitty Chevallier took a stab in the dark with the Six Nations for the answer to the first picture starter he wrinkled his nose and sniffed, Very odd Six Nations. No!

For some reason as well the great man seemed to wet himself at the suggestion that a hurdy gurdy might actually be called a drone. Weird. 

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

Rwanda and Burundi have the highest population densities in sub Saharan Africa.

Mastermind 2018 - Round One - Heat 16

I couldn’t help thinking back to a comment left by Mycool on the review of heat 14, asking us to spare a thought for Brian Chesney, runner up in both Mastermind and BoB. For there he was last night, another former finalist having another tilt at the title. We’ll come back to Brian shortly. Meanwhile, let’s start with Darren Smith. Being a teacher, Darren was saddled with the burden of support from the Clark sofa. He was answering on The Vicar of Dibley. This is just my opinion, so please feel free to disagree, but from my vantage point the round got harder as it went along – I rattled off the first 7 answers, but then struggled to find many more as the round progressed. Darren, though, was hardly phased at all, only missing out on one to end with an excellent 14.  

Andrew Gregory, our second contender, offered us something altogether more serious, in the shape of George Orwell. I will admit that I’ve only ever read two of Orwell’s works – “Animal Farm” and “1984”, and I missed one of the questions on those, so I was impressed with Andrew’s command of the full range of his oeuvre. In the end he finished with 12. Normally I would have been confident that this was a score which would keep him in contention. However, with a score of 14 on the board, and Brian still to come, I did feel that this might leave him a little short.

Our third contender, Hugh Williams, was answering questions on Roman coinage in Britain AD 41 – AD 402. This was one of those subjects where the armchair viewer could pick up a few points without knowing a huge amount of the subject. I know little or nothing about Roman coinage, but I do know a bit about the Roman Empire period, and the Roman occupation of Britannia, and this was enough to take my specialist aggregate to 20 after three rounds. Hugh did absolutely fine with a score of 11, but in this particular heat, even a couple of gaps in knowledge were always going to leave you amongst the backmarkers.  

So to Brian. Brian was in the agonising position of coming second on pass countback to my friend Clive Dunning in the 2014 series. To the best of my knowledge I’ve never met Brian in the flesh as it were, but he’s always struck me through his demeanour that he is more than able to treat the twin imposters of success and (relative) failure just the same. Certainly he gave a perfect display of tackling a specialist round on Harold Wilson, giving us a nerveless and perfect 15 from 15. As for me – well, I needed 7 to raise the highest aggregate total for this series. . . and I managed 6. Such is life.  

Going into the GK round, then, it looked pretty obvious that this heat was going to be won by a high score. Brian looked favourite to provide it. Still, nothing was guaranteed. Nobody knows everything, and if you get a rogue round where you get a run of questions you don’t know and can’t guess, then anything can happen.Hugh returned to the chair, and started very well. For the first half of the round he was cruising along nicely. However he then hit a patch of turbulence, and the answers dried up. Never mind. He scored 10 to take his score to 21, and having double figures in both rounds he had acquitted himself well. Judging by his expression he’d really enjoyed his Mastermind experience, and that’s always good to see.  

Andrew Gregory, I think, knew he was going to have to set a terrific score to give himself the chance of a win. And let’s be fair, he wasn’t far short of a top drawer performance. The main thing with a Mastermind GK round is to take it as a marathon rather than a sprint, and make sure that you keep picking off the answers that you do know, and keep guessing the answers that you can guess. In the end, Daniel had added a praiseworthy 13 to his total, to set the bar at 25. That’s a good Mastermind score, and in many cases it will give you the chance of a win.  

Certainly it was too good for Darren Smith. He had a massive 14 already in the bank at the start of the round, but this meant that he would still need 12 to go into the lead without resorting to pass countback. His round never quite looked as good as Andrew’s, and he ended with 24. Again, it’s a double figure round, and 24 is the kind of score which means you can leave the show with your head held high. Tonight, though, it was not going to be a score to take him to the semi finals.  

In my heart of hearts I was pretty certain that Brian would make short work of throwing in the best GK round of the night, and that’s exactly what happened, and in fact it turned out to be amongst the best GK rounds of the series so far. What I was most interested in was what Brian was going t do with the questions to which he didn’t know the answers – was he going to go all out to avoid passes this year? Well, there’s an old boxing adage I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, that states you gotta dance with the one that brought you. This basically means, you have to stick with the style that brought you success, and this is what Brian did, maintaining speed and momentum while accruing 15 correct answers and one pass.  

Congratulations to Brian, a fine performance which serves as an excellent statement of intent – best of luck in the semis.  

Darren Smith
The Vicar of Dibley
14
0
10
0
24
0
Andrew Gregory
George Orwell
12
1
13
3
25
4
Hugh Williams
Roman Coinage in Britain AD 41 – AD 402
11
2
10
5
21
7
Brian Chesney
Harold Wilson
15
0
15
1
30
1

Saturday, 11 November 2017

University Challenge - Repechage 2


Ding dang dong,

ding-a-ding-a-dang-dong-

ding – a -dang – ding – a -dong

Do you always join in with ‘College Boy’ , the theme to University Challenge? Well, there’s no need to be like that, I was only asking. I do. In fact I would go so far as to say that it’s one of my highlights of a Monday evening. I’m a traditionalist, so I tend to do the original ITV version, as opposed to the sting quartet arrangement that the Beeb use.  Once the last dying echoes of my off-key warbling had faded on the evening air, JP was announcing the two teams. Representing UCL again were Tom Allinson, Charlie Dowell, Omar Raii and their captain, Robert Gray, while St. Hugh’s, Oxford were Kazi Elias, Ewan Grainger, Aiden Mehigan and their own captain Daniel De Wijze. Nothing much to choose between these two teams in their first round matches, so it looked like a good match on paper.

Right, then I think you know what I’m going to say here. You hear “novel – posthumously published – 1818” you slam the buzzer through the desk and answer Jane Austen. Tom Allinson did, and claimed UCL’s first set of bonuses on birds, and their archaic names. They managed one correct answer.  Robert Gray knew fossil words, or, as I did, guessed. The Old Testament provided us both with a full house. Nobody knew that Rama II of Thailand sent troops along with those of France to occupy the Rhineland immediately after the 1918 Armistice, but St. Hugh’s came in too early and lost 5 points. A fine early buzz from Charlie Dowell saw him identify several of the applications of the word castor. Robert Gray nodded his head approvingly when JP announced a set of bonuses on physics, and they took one. Incidentally, my old tactic of answering a Science or Maths - . . . adds up to what? – question with 0 or 1 paid dividends with the last of the bonuses, and sent me off early on my lap of honour. So to the picture starter. Omar Raii identified the highlighted area on a map of England as Bradford. Three more of England’s Metropolitan Boroughs brought 5 more points. Both Robert Gray and I guessed that the scale going up to 14 metres measures wave height at sea for the next starter. Claire Tomalin’s biographies saw us both take a full house. This meant that as we approached the 10 minute mark the score looked extremely ominous for St. Hugh’s as UCL led by 90 against minus 5.

St. Hugh’s account was put back into the black as Aiden Mehigan answered that Hayek wrote the Rod to Serfdom. Was that before or after she guest starred in the (unfortunately) never to be forgotten “Wild Wild West”? Memory gave them a further five. Robert Gray recognised the titles of works by Jim Al-Khalili for the next starter to take his team to a triple figure score to bring up a set of loan translations, or calques. We both took another full house on that set. Did you know that the word disparage originally meant to trap someone into marriage with someone of a lower class or stratum of society? Me neither, and neither did the teams. Robert Gray knew that Cystine is one of the building blocks of Keratin. No jokes about the cystine chapel, please. Transuranium elements gave me the opportunity for another lap of honour – but even a full house couldn’t stir me from the sofa. It must be said that UCL all stayed in their seats after their full house too. So to the music starter, and Omar Raii won the buzzer race against what I’m guessing must have been a pretty dispirited St. Hugh’s by this point. The answer – REM’s The End of the World As We Know It had an upsurge in interest on spotify immediately after the election of Donald T. Rump. 3 more songs which also had an upsurge in interest at this time brought two correct answers. I know nothing about Magic: The Gathering, but Aiden Mehigan was in very quickly for it. St. Hugh’s second set of bonuses were on fiction, only brought the one bonus. Aiden Mehigan, seemingly singlehandedly keeping his team from drowning completely, knew Bedrich Smetana wrote an autobiographical piece about his deafness. Painting and photography brought another single bonus. Omar Raii knew the Dutch physicist Lorenz for the next starter, bringing UCL a set of bonuses on plastics and their recycling codes. They probably should have done better than just the one bonus, but they were so far ahead that it looked unlikely to have much bearing on the contest in the final analysis. Charlie Dowell new that the first adjective in my favourite Keats’ poem – Ode to Autumn – is mellow. American musicals of 2010 saw 2 correct answers take the UCL score to 200 at the 20 minute mark, while St. Hugh’s languished on 40. Game over.

So to the second pictures. Omar Raii identified a photo of John Hurt, and photos of his roles provided a rather easy full house. Charlie Dowell veritably bounced out of his seat to win the buzzer race for the next starter, identifying various soup flavours associated with Andy Warhol – cream of eccentric was not one of them, sadly. Biochemistry gave me nowt, but UCL a full house. On a score of 250 with several minutes to go, the rarely seen score of 300 looked a distinct possiblility. 10 of them came when Robert Gray knew that there are 100 pico metres in an angstrom. No, me neither. Bonuses on France and the direction to travel between cities put them on 270 with 5 minutes to go. For once Robert Gray came in too early and lost five as the question as to which island nation has the motto – Star and Key of the Indian Ocean – allowed St. Hugh’s to answer Mauritius as the question became clearer. They really could have done better with the questions on Scotland, even though it was all academic by this time. Nobody knew that the word rough could precede a set of given words. Merciless Omar Raii was in extremely quickly to identify Caernarfon Castle as the birthplace of the future Edward II. Managers of the England National Football team brought the UCL total to 285. If they could answer the next starter, then 300 would be likely. Well, Tom Allinson knew when Bangladesh became a test playing nation, to take them to 295. One bonus would do. Places associated with 12th century authors saw them do it. Just as well because they missed the next two. Charlie Dowell again sprang into action for the next starter, knowing a device that measures ozone. Bonuses on chemists born in the Russian Empire saw me say that Borodin would definitely be one of them. I was right, and so were UCL and that was the last question. UCL had won by a whopping 315 to 45.

As we often say, we need to be cautious about what conclusions we draw. For whatever reason, St. Hugh’s seemed a little off the pace on the buzzer. Mind you, all of the UCL team were buzzing well, with both Messrs Gray and Raii looking particularly impressive. They’ll fear no one in the second round, nor, I dare say, should they. 

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Absolutely nothing of note in this show.  

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

Words such as ‘kith’ which only appear in set phrases and are no longer used on their own are called fossil words.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Mastermind 2018 - Round One - Heat 15

Yes, dearly beloved, I am aware now that last week's heat was not the one scheduled, but I'm numbering them in broadcast order. Sorry I’m a little late posting this. Knackered last night, if truth be told. Still, let’s make up for lost time and crack straight on.  

Out first subject, offered by Chris Sloley, was the Simpsons. Now, for potential contenders, this is the sort of subject that should come with a government heath warning. To the average person on the street, who has never harboured the least intention of appearing on Mastermind, the Simpsons may look like a more easy subject than many. Au contraire. According to Wikipedia, there are currently over 600 episodes that have been broadcast. And yes, some episodes are more famous than others, and maybe more likely to be asked about. But you can’t leave it to chance. You have to be familiar with every episode. Even then they might well ask you about the creator, or the vocal performers, or the background to the show. Put bluntly, taking a subject like this puts you on a hiding to nothing. To get a high score would be an amazing feat of memory, yet if you did, the general public would probably be unimpressed. More likely though you would find yourself in the same position that Chris did. He was let down by his knowledge of specific episodes, and finished with 7.  

Is Venomous Snakes of the World a subject with less to learn than The Simpsons? I have absolutely no idea. What I do know, though is that whatever the size of the task, our second contender, Tim Kenny was well up to it. He managed 13, and as we know, with the current SS rounds, if you can get into the teens then you’ve done a very good job. On a personal note, I was surprised and happy to score as many points on this round – 7 – as I’d scored on The Simpsons (and I’ve been a fan of that show ever since it was a series of brief inserts in the Tracey Ullman Show 30 odd years ago. ) 

Way back in 1981 I won my first Mastermind competition. This was Elthorne High School Mastermind, which in its own way was just as hotly contested as the TV show. I was in the lower 6th form. A girl in the upper 6th was answering on Sherlock Holmes. Now, the gossip after the competition was that she’d turned up, fully expecting that she would only be asked about the 4 novels, and only realised that she was going to be asked about the 56 short stories after the round began. Well, Charley Hasted, our third contender, was well prepared for all eventualities, and she too scored a great 13. I pushed my score to 19 – well, I have read all of the stories, although this was a few years ago, to give me just a chance of breaking my best aggregate SS total for the series. 

I would have to do well on the last subject, though, which was Alfred the Great. I didn’t expect to get zero, since I knew a bit about Alfred from having studied Old English literature as part of my degree, but that was a long time ago. In the end, though, I managed 5. A good aggregate performance of 24, but no cigar this week. Alfred Williams, our 4th contender, really proved himself to be Alfred the Great, since he managed a superb 15 from 15. He hadn’t won yet, since Tim and Charley were still very much in the competition, but he had given himself a great springboard. 

Chris returned to the chair, and I fancy he may have been a bit downhearted after what had happened in his specialist round. Who knows? He battled manfully with his round, not quite accumulating a double figure score, and added 9 to his total to make 16.  

Tim’s round was rather better, and indeed with abut 20 seconds to go he was in with a chance of making a score of around 25/6. Wrong answers to most of his last few questions though left him high and dry on 23, and with the best will in the world that was not going to be enough to put Alfred into the corridor of doubt. Charley too scored 10 to put herself on 23, although behind Tim on pass countback. Any GK score in double figures is perfectly decent, but this left Alfred needing only 9 correct answers in order to win outright.  

And let’s give credit where it’s due, Alfred did considerably better than that. His technique was, I felt, extremely good. He snapped out his answers the moment that John had finished the question, and didn’t agonise over the ones he had wrong. As it was he passed on 3, but if you’re going to pass, then you have to pass quickly, which is exactly what Alfred did. In the end he had amassed a hugely impressive 16, for an overall total of 31. That’s extremely good quizzing, and I dare say that Mr. Williams will be one to watch in the semi finals. Very well done sir – we at LAM salute you.  

The Details

Chris Sloley
The Simpsons
7
3
9
4
16
7
Tim Kenny
Venomous Snakes of the world
13
0
10
0
23
0
Charley Hasted
Sherlock Holmes
13
1
10
4
23
4
Alfred Williams
The Life and Times of Alfred the Great
15
0
16
3
31
3