Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Group B Play-Off 1: Maltsters vs Oscar Men

Well, it looks like next week's break for Autumnwatch will be just a one off, and the Monday night quiz hour will be back to normal on Halloween. As for last night, Only Connect saw the first play-off for the second half of the draw. Playing were the Maltsters, Dan Jones, Raymond Baggaley and captain Pete Mitchell, who were beaten by the Policy Wonks in their first match, and the Oscar Men, who just lost out to our friends the Part Time Poets in their's.

Round 1. The Maltsters went first, and began the match with Water: 'Hetty (wand docking)' in pink writing, then 'James (8l drum capacity)' in yellow, then 'Charles (two floor nozzles)' in blue; they offered 'Thomas the Tank Engine characters', which wasn't correct. The Men saw 'Henry (two-speed performance and 10m cable)' in red, but were none the wiser. Victoria didn't seem impressed they didn't know this: they are brands of Henry hoover! (To be fair, I didn't get it for sure until the final clue) The Men made Eye of Horus their first choice: 'Evolution: Selenium sulphide' was the first clue, and Mr Slowey instantly identified them as films and things that aliens in them. Excellent shout for FIVE points! The Maltsters chose Two Reeds next, and got the music set: we heard Pink Floyd's 'The Great Gig in the Sky', then REM's 'The Great Beyond', then 'The Great Pretender'; they had it at this point for two points. The Men chose Twisted Flax next: 'Mother-in-law', then 'Court-martial', then 'Lord-Lieutenant'; this was enough for them to see that they are phrases where the plurals aren't at the end, eg 'Mothers-in-Law', and collected two points. The Maltsters chose Horned Viper next: 'Suits in bridge', then 'US professional baseball leagues', then 'Musical keys', and finally 'Ursa constellations'. That last clue gave it to them: they all have 'major' and 'minor' variants. Left with Lion, the Men got the picture set, and saw Jet from Gladiators, then a map with the Gulf region highlighted, then some mathematical equation, and finally a shell. They offered 'petrol station companies', which was correct for a point. (The third clue represented 'total') At the end of the first round, the Men led 8-3.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Maltsters kicked off the round with Lion: 'N12', then 'E3', and then 'S6'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: it's points on a compass combined with a clock face, so 'W9' would be fourth. For their own question, the Men chose Horned Viper: 'Big Matthew', then 'Captain Mark Phillips', and then 'Saving Mr Luke Banks'; they saw it to be Tom Hanks films with the names of the evangelists added, and offered 'Saving John Private Ryan', which was accepted for two points. The Maltsters chose Two Reeds next: 'Cyber', then 'NY', and then 'Miami'. They didn't quite get in, and their opponents got close but no cigar: they are the titles of the CSI series going backwards, so 'Crime Scene Investigation' would complete. The Men chose Water next: 'Albino', then 'Karol'; they saw it to be the original names of popes, then, after accidentally buzzing, offered 'Miguel' as the current pope's former name. Not right. Their opponents saw 'Joseph', and then offered 'Alfonso', which caused much hilarity! 'Jorge' is the right answer. For their final choice, the Maltsters chose Eye of Horus, and got the picture set: we saw the barrel of a gun with an arrow pointing at one of the chambers, then Patrick McGoohan in costume for the Prisoner; they offered an 8-ball, theorising that the arrowed chamber was the fifth chamber and McGoohan played Number 6. Clever, but not right. Their opponents saw a goblet for the third clue, and saw it to be the first words after the 'the' in the Harry Potter series, so something representing 'order' would be fourth. Left with Twisted Flax for their own final question, the Men saw 'Richard I > John', then 'Charles II > James II'; they saw it to be monarchs who were succeeded by their brothers, and offered 'Edward VIII > George VI' for three points. At the end of a rather one-sided second round, the Men led 15-3.

On to the Walls. The Men went first this time, and chose the Lion wall. They quickly had their first set isolated: 'Kitty', 'Jumbo', 'Nag' and 'Pooch' are nicknames for animals. After studying the remaining clues for a bit, they had a second group sorted: 'Black', 'Shot', 'Luck' and 'Plant' can all follow 'Pot'. They looked over the final clues, and soon had the final groups resolved: 'Carpenter', 'Hill', 'Rider' and 'Bough' are sports broadcasters, which they knew, while 'Carpet', 'Roast', 'Trash' and 'Slate' are synonyms for each other, which they didn't. So, one mistake, so seven points.

The Maltsters thus could claw some lost ground back if they could sweep up on the Water wall. They spotted a link of 3D shapes quickly, and eventually isolated 'Cone', 'Prism', 'Spheroid' and 'Tetrahedron'. They spotted another link, and eventually had a second set sorted: 'Carriage release', 'Cylinder', 'Drive roller' and 'Golf ball' are parts of a typewriter. They soon had the remaining sets all worked out: 'Rabbit', 'Chicken', 'Poltroon' and 'Wuss' are words for a scared person, while 'Key', 'Bolo', 'Suffolk' and 'Rum' can all precede 'Punch'. A full ten there, which meant they now trailed 22-13 going into the final round.

So, the Maltsters would have to run Missing Vowels to stand any chance of catching up. ''Beard of the year' winners' was split 2-each. 'Dante's circles of hell combined', such as 'GLUTTONY AND LUST', went to the Maltsters 4-(-1). 'Types of shark' went to the Maltsters 1-0, with just two clues coming, and that was time. The Men won 23-20.

Another good match with some good quizzing from both sides. Unlucky Maltsters, but a very good recovery considering where they were at half time, so thanks very much indeed for playing. Well done Oscar Men though, and very best of luck in the second round.

No show next week of course, but we will hopefully resume with the Genealogists vs the Wrestlers on Halloween.

Monday, 17 October 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Repechage Play-Off 1: Jesus vs Queens'

Evening all. So, we've arrived at the play-off stage of this year's contest. It's been a very good contest so far IMO, in spite of the fact that we haven't seen very many high scores, but we have seen some very good closely fought matches. Tonight, two teams who narrowly lost two such matches face off, with a place in the second round the prize for the winners.

Jesus College Cambridge led Corpus Christi College Oxford for large portions of their first match, only to fall behind late on and not quite manage to close the gap in time, ultimately losing 200-175. But their score is the joint highest of the four play-off teams, so here they are again, unchanged from before:
Sam Fairbrother, from Greater Manchester, studying Education with Drama and English
Rosa Price, from East London, studying English
Captain: Theo Morris Clarke, from London, studying Economics
Daniel Petrides, from Petts Wood in Kent, studying Political Thought and Intellectual History

Queens' College Cambridge fought a derby against Peterhouse, and though they came close numerous times, never quite managed to overhaul their opponents, though they ultimately only lost by ten points, 160-150. Having survived to the play-offs with only five points in it, they too returned unchanged from that occasion:
Sam Booth, from Greenford in London, studying Maths
Lorenzo Venturini, from Italy, studying Engineering
Captain: Frank Syvret, from Evesham in Worcestershire, studying Physics
Daniel Adamson, from Cambridge, studying History

Off we set again then, and Queens' opened their account first with Mr Adamson doing the honours, and two bonuses accompanying. Mr Booth got the right answer to the second starter just as Paxo was about to abandon it (and the producers cut it out); his side took full advantage, with a full set on football club nicknames. A third Queens' starter and two bonuses piled a load of pressure onto their opponents, but Mr Petrides held his nerve and took the next starter to break their duck. One bonus on lanthanide elements followed. The first picture round, on Ancient Egyptian deities, went to Jesus, who took all three bonuses, which reduced their deficit to 65-40.

It increased again when Mr Syvret was first in with Barber's Adagio for Strings for the next starter; one bonus accompanied. A starter was dropped, before Mr Morris Clarke reduced Jesus' deficit again, but a bonus set on pubs brought them nothing further. A slip-up from Queens' gave the Jesus captain a second starter in a row, and two bonuses from a very complicated set on SI prefixes meant they were not just five points behind. Another dropped starter only delayed the inevitable, with Mr Morris Clarke taking the next starter and the lead came with it. A full bonus set meant they now had a 20 point lead.

The music round, on pieces associated with the Mississippi ("Spell Mississippi, without looking at how we've spelt it in the question" - Frankie Boyle), went to Jesus, who took a second full set in a row, which increased their lead to 120-75. A very good quick buzz from Miss Price added to the advantage; they took two bonuses on Arthur Miller, missing the third (which I knew, thanks to Millionaire!). The rotten borough of Old Sarum provided Mr Fairbrother with a second starter, and Jesus with two more bonuses. Mr Venturini finally stopped the rot when he took the next starter; Queens' took two bonuses, and then Mr Syvret took a second in a row. Just one bonus followed, but you now sensed the match was far from over.

The second picture round, on paintings depicting sport or games, went to Queens', who only took one bonus, but now only trailed 160-125. A very prompt buzz from Mr Syvret knocked another ten off, and a further fifteen disappeared when they swept the board on a bonus set on UK towns ending 'bury'. A penalty then added five to the gap, but Jesus couldn't capitalise, Mr Morris Clarke just missing the right answer.

A second starter in a row was dropped, Mr Booth took the next, and the gap was down to five. But Queens' got nothing from the resultant bonuses, and Mr Fairbrother then put crucial daylight between the two teams. Just the one bonus was collected, but when Mr Fairbrother took the next correct starter, that was game over. Two bonuses followed this time, and the gong cut the final starter off. Jesus won, 195-155.

Another fine close match between two very good evenly matched teams, both of whom would've deserved the win. Unlucky Queens', who were very much in the match and just lost it near the end, but two perfectly respectable performances, so thanks very much for giving us them. Very well done Jesus though; another excellent performance against good opponents, and this time it was their night, so very best of luck in the second round.

Mr Syvret was the best buzzer of the night, with five starters for Queens', while Mr Fairbrother was just best for Jesus with four. On the bonuses, Jesus converted 19 out of 30, while Queens' managed 15 out of 27 (with two penalties); both perfectly good rates, and, once again, all eight players ended the night with at least one starter under their belts.

No show next week due to Autumnwatch, so we're back with the second play-off between SOAS and Durham in two or three weeks' time; will let you know which in due course.

Only Connect is off next week too; a look back at tonight's first Group B play-off tomorrow night.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: First Round Review

OK, day later than previous years, but nonetheless, time to look back at this year's UC first round. It's been the best first round for a couple of years IMO, with some really good close matches between very evenly matched teams. And at the end of it, here are the fourteen teams safely through to the second round, together with their score and margin of victory:
  • Bristol (210, 80)
  • Corpus Christi College Oxford (200, 25)
  • Warwick (235, 140)
  • Peterhouse Cambridge (160, 10)
  • Oriel College Oxford (150, 55)
  • Emmanuel College Cambridge (175, 40)
  • Balliol College Oxford (220, 165)
  • Robinson College Cambridge (155, 60)
  • Open (210, 95)
  • Edinburgh (190, 35)
  • Wolfson College Cambridge (175, won on tie-breaker)
  • Birmingham (165, 60)
  • St Andrews (175, 30)
  • East London (150, 15)
So, those are the raw figures. Normally there's more in it than that, but is that the case this year? I'm not so sure.

Well, Warwick have the highest score of the round, 235; Balliol have the second highest, 220, and the biggest victory of the round. In fact, only five teams broke 200 in the entire first round. So does that signify a low standard of team?

No, that's why I include the winning margins as well. Note how half the teams won by margins of less than 50, not to mention a tie-breaker! That signifies strong opposition that they emerged on top against which is the sign of a good team if they can do so well against good opponents.

This seems to be backed up by the fact that only one team, Imperial, who lost to Balliol, score around 50 or less, with 95 the next highest losing score. This probably suggests that almost every team this series has been of some sort of high quality, and just happened to run into well matched, slightly better opposition.

Also, the gap between the highest score, Warwick's 235, and the lowest winning score, Oriel's and East London's 150, shows that almost all the winning teams from the first round are pretty evenly matched. And thus, for once, I am completely stumped as to who to tip to progress.

At a push, I would say Warwick and Balliol would be lukewarm favourites to progress, given their scores stand out amongst the very closely matched scores of the other twelve teams. Then immediately below them, you have a whole clump of teams who scored between 175 and 210, but did so against decent opposition who reached, or just missed out on, the repechage (four of whom would've reached the play-offs last year), or could easily have won/reached play-offs against another team. Any of those teams could go through, as could the lower scorers, who I'm sure will be ready to up their game in the second round.

For once, it really will be just a question of who draws who, and who emerges on top. In my mind, any of the fourteen first round winners would deserve a coveted place in the group stage.

As would any of the four teams in the repechage, who are, in order of score and margin of defeat:
  • SOAS (175, lost on tie-break)
  • Jesus College Cambridge (175, 25)
  • Durham (155, 35)
  • Queens' College Cambridge (150, 10)
All four only just lost to strong opposition, and all demonstrated they'd have been more than capable of victory against lesser opposition.

My guess is that the draw will place SOAS against Queens', and Jesus against Durham. If that is the case, I would probably tip the two 175 teams to progress, but I wouldn't rule the other two out either. We know from experience how a team's first performance can be so different from their later ones, both ways. And whichever two progress, they'd not look out of place in the QFs either.

This really promises to be a cracking second round. It's a shame that some of these teams didn't enter the last series, as some of them would certainly have put up a great fight in it. But whatever happens in the second round, lets just hope the drama that we have seen this series continues!

I'll be back on Monday with my usual UC write-up; see yous then.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Group B Round 1: Match 6: Scunthorpe Scholars vs Beekeepers

OK, in a break with tradition, my annual UC first round review will be tomorrow rather than today. Not doing Only Connect on Tuesday night seems wrong I've been doing it so often this series, so, unless I have a backlog to work through, that's how it's staying.

Anyway, the final first round match (sort of) last night; playing it were the Scunthorpe Scholars, Paddy Stronach, Michael Wilson, and his wife captain Isabelle Heward (a noted alumnus of both old and new Fifteen-to-One), and the Beekeepers, Ian Wallace, Josh Spero (UC champion in 03-04 with Magdalen College Oxford) and Ian's son captain Mark Wallace.

Round 1. The Scholars went first, and opened the match with Lion: 'Umgrammatical string follows', then 'Multiply', then 'Not out', and finally 'Required field'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: they are all denoted by *. For their own first question, the Beekeepers chose Twisted Flax, and got the music question: we heard 'Going Down to Liverpool' by the Bangles, then Cilla Black's 'Liverpool Lullaby', then the Dubliners' 'The Leaving of Liverpool'; that one gave the connection to them for two points. The Scholars chose Water next: 'Actaeon, Stag, Artemis', then 'Io, Cow, Zeus'; they offered that they are Greek gods who punished people by turning them into those animals, and earned a good three points. The Beekeepers chose Two Reeds next: ''Interesting': Rip Rig + Panic', then ''Boring' and 'Sick': Madness', then ''Summer Holiday': John Otway', and finally ''Bambi': Motorhead'. The last clue gave it to me, at least one YT commentator had it at the first, but neither team saw it: they are episodes of the Young Ones and the bands that performed on them for funding reasons. The Scholars chose 'Horn-ed' Viper next: 'Grant Park, Chicago in October', then 'Tavern on the Green, Central Park, NYC in November', then 'Brandenburg Gate, Berlin in September', and finally 'St James's Palace, The Mall, London in April'. They offered 'locations of marathons in those cities in those months'; close enough, it's specifically where they finish. Left with Eye of Horus, the Beekeepers got the picture set, and saw a weight circle, then two men in drag, then a woman enacting a thrust exercise; they offered 'forces in physics', which Victoria accepted, having given the Scholars a borderline allowance. Specifically, they are the four forces acting on aircraft. At the end of the first round, the Beekeepers led 5-4.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Scholar opened with Lion: 'Buddhism: China', then 'Hinduism: India', and then 'Islam: Indonesia'. They offered 'Christianity: USA', which was correct; they are the largest religious populations. The Beekeepers chose Horned Viper next: 'Saving Private Ryan', then 'Catch Me If You Can', and then 'The Terminal'. Neither team got it: they are collaborations between Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg, so 'Bridge of Spies' would be fourth. The Scholars chose Water next, and got a music question: we heard Green Day, then James Brown with 'Night Train', and then 'Don't Fear the Reaper'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: 'I'm Coming Up' by Pink would acceptably complete the sequence (cue an admittedly rather good enforced sing-along!), the link being balls in snooker in ascending order of points. (Green, Brown, Blue) For their own question, the Beekeepers chose Eye of Horus: 'O+N+E = 3', then 'T+W+O = 6'; they saw it to be what the numbers are worth in Scrabble, but their answer of 'F+O+U+R = 8' was wrong. Their opponents saw 'T+H+R+E+E = 8', and offered 'F+O+U+R = 7' for a bonus. For their own final choice, the Scholars chose Two Reeds, and got the picture set: we saw a stick man, then a floor plan, and then a canal. Neither side saw it til it was too late: 'A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!', so something resembling Panama, such as the ubiquitous papers, would suffice. Left with Twisted Flax, the Beekeepers saw 'Nancy-Lorraine', then 'Monaco', and then 'Nagoya Grampus Eight'. Neither side gave an acceptable answer, though the Scholar's guess of 'Leicester City' was surprisingly close. 'Arsenal' completes the set; it is the managerial career of Arsene Wenger. (What's the betting 'England' will come next soon?!) At the end of the second round, the Scholars led 7-6.

On to the Walls. The Beekeepers went first this time, and chose the Lion wall. After quickly spotting a link of 'things that can be blown', they eventually isolated 'Trumpet', 'Fuse', 'Raspberry' and 'Gasket'. They then had a second set of 'Yoke', 'Knit', 'Connect' and 'Bind', which are words that can mean 'unite' or 'tie'. They looked over the remaining clues, and quickly had it all figured out: 'Man', 'Manic', 'Ruby' and 'Sheffield' can all precede days of the week, while 'Chinese', 'Titian', 'Blood' and 'Pillar box' are shades of red. A full ten for that.

The Scholars thus had the Water wall to deal with. They too spotted some links early on, and then managed to isolate 'Cayenne', 'Empty', 'Decay' and 'Essex', which all sound like a combo of two letters (eg KN, MT and so on). After studying the rest of the clues, they eventually isolated 'Barney the Dinosaur', 'Amethyst', 'Tinky Winky' and 'Cadbury Dairy Milk', which are all purple. They tried to resolve the wall, but ran out of goes, and thus had to try and pick up bonuses: 'Murano', 'Amaryllis', 'Maze' and 'Aubergine' are restaurants associated with Gordon Ramsay, which they didn't get, while 'Diner', 'Bugsy', 'Avalon' and 'Envy' are films directed by Barry Levinson, which they didn't quite figure out. So just four there, which gave the Beekeepers a lead of 16-11 going into the final round.

So, Missing Vowels would decide both the winners and the play-off places. 'Ways of asking some to repeat something' was a clean sweep to the Beekeepers 4-0, thus probably winning them the match. 'Things imagined in the song 'Imagine'' was split 2-each. 'Things you might find in a cage' went to the Beekeepers 3-0. 'Fictional professors and their subjects' only managed one clue, which the Beekeepers got wrong and the Scholars right. The Beekeepers won 24-14.

Another decent match despite not being as close as we've got used to. Very well done Beekeepers, and best of luck in the next round. Unlucky Scholars, who did perfectly respectably, but haven't quite done enough to push the Wrestlers out of the play-off places. Both them and the Eurovisionaries should count themselves unlucky they weren't in the other half of the draw, as they'd both have done enough there. I'll offer up some more thoughts on this format should I decide to do a second round preview in two weeks' time.

Next week's match: the Maltsters vs the Oscar Men in the first Group B play-off. Presumably the Genealogists will play the Wrestlers the week after.

Monday, 10 October 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 1: Match 14: Glasgow vs East London

Evening all. So, the final first round match of the series; hard to believe we've got this far already, sometimes. Just watch the rest of the series go by real slow now that we've met all the teams. Both teams no doubt went into tonight's match knowing a score of 155 or more would bring them back, no matter whether they won or lost.

Glasgow University is the second oldest in Scotland, founded in 1451; alumni include numerous politicians, including Nicola Sturgeon and the late great Charlie Kennedy, and political commentator Andrew Neil. After not appearing for ten years, this is the third year in a row it has sent a team; last year's lost to Newcastle in the second round. This year's foursome were:
Robin Thomson, from Edinburgh, studying History and Russian
Aleksander Shishov, from Riga, Latvia, studying Philosophy
Captain: Angus Lauder, from Glasgow, studying Politics and Russian
Ethan Simpson, from Hawick in the Borders, studying Engineering

The University of East London is this year's token former polytechnic, becoming a university in 1992, having been around in some form for nearly 100 years prior; alumni include presenter Jimmy Doherty and popular beat combo Tinchy Stryder. This is its first appearance on the show in its current form. Its first ever team were:
Christopher Ducklin, from Eastbourne, studying Civil Engineering
Kelly Travers, from Westcliff in Essex, studying for a Masters of Research
Captain: Jerushah Jardine, from the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, studying Peatland Ecology
Rachel Evans, from Grays in Essex, studying English Literature

Off we set again then, and Mr Thomson began the match with a perfectly pronounced answer of Dostoevsky; Glasgow took two bonuses from their first set on Italian art. Mr Lauder identified the Guinness Book of World Records (remember when that was trailed endlessly every Christmas?) for the night's second starter, and his side swept the board on a bonus set on Tchaikovsky. Mrs Jardine (wife of Peter Burt, one of the Dundee team that won UC in 1983) took East London's first starter, but sulphates only provided them with one bonus. A bonus set on religion in Iran proved more to the Londoners' liking, as they took all three. The first picture round, on UK cities and their Roman names, went to East London, who took two of the set, which gave them a lead of 60-45.

A very prompt buzz from Mr Thomson shut that gap down, and one bonus followed from a good set on films with chemical elements in their title, with another unluckily missed. This was enough to level the scores, only for a slip-up from Glasgow to reopen it; Ms Evans did the honours, and East London took full advantage, sweeping the board on a bonus set on autobiographies. Three starters in a row were then dropped, the only points acquired being a -5 from East London. The rot finally stopped when Mr Thomson took a starter for Glasgow, but vitamins gave them no further points.

Neither side recognised Ozzy Osbourne for the music starter (cue swarms of angry Twitterers!); the bonuses, on singers and their first solo songs after leaving a group, eventually went to Glasgow, who provoked more hilarity by mistaking Geri Halliwell for Zayn Malik! ("It's a woman! Shush!") The scores were now 80-each, before Mr Shishov pulled Glasgow in front, and the side took a full bonus set to give them breathing space. A rare starter with five possible answers was dropped by both sides, before Mr Thomson pulled the Scots side further ahead, but no bonuses came, not least when they amused Paxo by suggesting the Scillys are in the Bristol Channel!

The second picture round, on paintings depicting the aftermath of animal bitings, went to East London, who took just the one bonus, which closed the deficit to 115-95. A second starter in a row went to the Londoners, but no bonuses from a tough set followed. A third starter in a row, however, put them on level pegging again, and two bonuses on fog gave them a crucial lead, and set up a down-to-the-wire finish again.

Mr Simpson put Glasgow back level again, and two bonuses on Catalan World Heritage sites put them ten ahead. Ms Evans put East London back level again, and they took a ten point lead with a bonus set on novels by the Brontes. Next correct starter would surely decide it; Ms Travers buzzed, but got it wrong, dropping five. Glasgow had to let the chance slip, which proved their undoing, as Ms Travers made up for her error by taking the next starter. The gong cut their bonuses off. East London won 150-135.

Another good close match between two evenly matched teams. Unlucky Glasgow, who were just pipped at the post, and who have unfortunately fallen short of the play-offs, but thanks anyway on a good effort. Very well done East London though; a respectably good performance to see them through, and very best of luck in the second round!

Mr Thomson was best buzzer of the night, with four to his name, while Ms Travers and Ms Evans were joint best for East London with three each. On the bonuses, Glasgow converted 12 out of 24 (with one penalty), while East London managed a decent 18 out of 26 (with two penalties); both respectable rates, and, once again, all eight players ended proceedings with at least one starter to their names.

So, the four repechage teams are: SOAS, Jesus (175 each), Durham (155) and Queens' (150).

Next week's match: the first play-off. SOAS vs Queens' is my best guess, followed by Jesus vs Durham, but let's see.

Only Connect saw it's final first round match tonight as well; more on that tomorrow night, plus my usual UC first round review later this week as well, so keep an eye out for both.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Group B Round 1: Match 5: Maltsters vs Policy Wonks

OK, time to review this week's Only Connect. Apologies in advance for any typos I miss in tonight's review; I am writing this with the main lights off in my flat. Playing last night were the Maltsters, Dan Jones, Raymond Baggaley and captain Pete Mitchell, and the Policy Wonks, Helen Thomas, Robert Colville and captain Robert McIlveen.

Round 1. The Maltsters went first, and began the match with Two Reeds: 'Ubaldo dove sei?', then 'Hvor er Willy?'; this was enough for them to offer 'Where's Wally?' in different languages, for three points. (Hope you all saw the chap dressed as Wally hiding behind Victoria after that question was over!) The Wonks opened their account with Horned Viper, and the picture set: we saw four paintings, firstly 'Daughter of Jephthah', then 'And When Did You Last See Your Children', then 'Saturn Devouring His Son' by Goya, and finally 'Whistler's Mother' by Whistler. Neither side saw it, though the Maltsters came close; they all have family members in their titles. The Maltsters chose Eye of Horus next, and got the music question: we heard Sinatra's 'Moonlight Serenade', then 'Roamin' in the Gloamin'', then 'The Living Daylights' by A-ha; they ran out of time, and offered 'they take place in the evening'. Not right. Their opponents heard the Proclaimers' 'Sunshine on Leith', but couldn't capitalise. They all have natural sources of illumination in their titles. The Wonks chose Water next: 'Gilbert and Sullivan', then 'JMW Turner', then 'An illegal abortionist', and finally 'Beautician and soiree hostess'. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents: they are the subjects of Mike Leigh works (the final two being Vera Drake and Beverley from Abigail's Party). The Maltsters chose Lion next: 'Indonesian national airline', then 'Carla Lane sitcom', then 'International Rescue craft'; they offered 'something-birds', which was close enough. They are named after mythical birds. Left with Twisted Flax, the Wonks saw 'Grayson Perry', then 'Sebastian Flyte'; this was enough for them to offer 'teddy bears', for a much needed three points. At the end of the first round, the Maltsters led 5-3.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Maltsters began this with Twisted Flax: 'Washington DC', then 'Beijing', and then 'Ottawa'. They didn't get, their opponents did: it's the capitals of the four largest countries by land area in ascending order, so 'Moscow' comes fourth. For their own question, the Wonks chose Eye of Horus: 'Sir Christopher Wren', then 'Said, 'I am going to dine with some men.', and then 'If anyone calls'; they spotted it to be the famous Wren clerihew, but couldn't get the right final line. Nor could their opponents. 'Say I'm designing St. Paul's.'' is the final line. The Maltsters chose Water next: 'That place', then 'This place', and then 'Before'. Their guessed answer of 'After' was wrong; their opponents answer of 'About' was allowed. The sequence is 'There', 'Here', 'Ere', so something resembling 'Re' would be fourth. For their own question, the Wonks chose Two Reeds: '2012: Barack Obama', then '2013: Pope Francis', and then '2014: Ebola fighters'. They saw it to be Time magazine's 'Person of the Year', and offered '2015: Angela Merkel' for two points. For their final choice, the Maltsters chose Lion, and got the picture set: we saw Tuppence Middleton, then Penny Lancaster; they spotted the connection of pre decimal coins getting smaller, and rather humourously offered 'The Animals of Farthing Wood' for three points! Left with Horned Viper, the Wonks saw 'Liam Dutton', then 'Lucy Verasamy', and then 'Louise Lear'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: 'Carol Kirkwood' would acceptably complete the set. They are weather presenters on Channel 4, ITV1, BBC2 and BBC1. At the end of the second round, the Maltsters led 9-7.

On to the Walls. The Wonks went first, and chose the Lion wall. They quickly spotted fictional dragons, and isolated 'Smaug', 'Fin Fang Foom', 'Toothless' and 'Rhaegal'. A second set followed shortly: 'Colophon', 'Frontispiece', 'Spine' and 'Appendix' are parts of a book. They spotted the final links, and worked out the correct sets: 'Wales', 'Filo', 'Omidyar' and 'Page' are website founders, while 'Choux', 'Flaky', 'Puff' and 'Shortcrust' are types of pastry. A well worked out full ten.

So, the Maltsters had to equal that, or come close to, to stay in touch, as they set to work on the Water wall. They also spotted a link straight away, parts of a record player, and soon isolated 'Tonearm', 'Spindle', 'Turntable' and 'Speed selector'. After some sleuthing, they had a second set sewn up: 'Piano', 'Rogers', 'Foster' and 'Grimshaw' are surnames of architects. They too soon had the final connections worked out and the sets isolated: 'Ball', 'Gun', 'Needle' and 'Stand' can all precede 'point', while 'Read', 'Mayo', 'Moyles' and 'Radcliffe' are former hosts of the Radio 1 breakfast show. Another well solved full ten, which gave them a lead of 19-17 going into the final round.

So, Missing Vowels would decide the match, once again. 'Squirrels' went to the 1-(-1), with two humourous wrong answers. 'Gender-reversed TV titles', such as 'MUM'S ARMY' (also the name of an episode of that show) was split 2-each. 'Things that might make you cry' went to the Wonks 3-1. 'Things you might find in a bathroom' only managed one clue, which neither side got due to time running out. The Wonks had come from behind to win 23-21.

Another excellent match between two very good teams. Well done Wonks, and best of luck in the next round! Unlucky Maltsters, but your score is certainly enough for the play-offs, so best of luck then. Hard lines to the Eurovisionaries, who are now officially eliminated, but would've got another go had they been in the other half of the draw. This probably suggests that this first round format, while a decent enough idea, hasn't really played out in a terribly fair way, but there we go.

Next week's match: Scunthorpe Scholars vs Beekeepers

Monday, 3 October 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 1: Match 13: St Andrews vs Worcester

Evening all. It's been a good series so far, with some very good close matches between some very good and evenly matched teams, as we arrive at the penultimate first round match, and a rematch of a play-off match from 2011-12. For tonight's runners-up, as Paxo said, a score of 155 or more would give them a definite place in the play-offs.

St Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland, and the third oldest in the UK, founded in the early 1410s. Alumni include Scottish freedom fighter Alex Salmond, sports presenter Hazel Irvine (who was on just before the show with Ryder Cup highlights!), and its, of course, where Wills met Kate. It last sent a team two years ago, who lost in the first round, and it won the original series in 1982. This year's foursome were:
Matt Eccleston, from St Helens, studying International Relations and Spanish
James Green, from Schaffhausen in Switzerland, studying German and Persian
Captain: Toby Parker, from Bristol, studying Maths
Andrew Vokes, from Edinburgh, studying Chemistry

Worcester College Oxford is nearly 300 years younger, founded in 1714. Alumni include Simpsons guest star Rupert Murdoch, actress Emma Watson and newsman Sir Alistair Burnet. It's team won the play-off against St Andrews five series ago, and went on to reach the semis, where they were trounced by eventual champs Manchester. This year's quartet were:
Sam Barnett, from Buckhurst Hill in Essex, studying Maths and Philosophy
Rosemary Walmsley, from Solihull, studying Maths and Philosophy
Captain: Nick Williams, from London, studying Maths and Philosophy
Dennis Wang, from Manchester, studying Maths

Off we set again then, and the match got underway with Mr Barnett getting to the buzzer first to identify HG Wells after the trigger words 'The Time Machine' were mentioned. Just one bonus on forms of amusement followed. St Andrews quickly opened their account thanks to Mr Parker (who then got unfairly told off for looking miserable after answering!), and they snuck into the lead when they took two bonuses. For the next starter, as soon as I heard the name Susan Sheridan, I shouted "Noddy!"; Mr Williams followed suite just afterwards, and a good bonus set on opening lines of Roald Dahl books provided them with ten points. The first picture round, on maps of Church of England dioceses, went to St Andrews, who took two, including Baths and Wells (as in the Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells!), which gave them back the lead, 40-35.

Mr Green increased the lead by taking the next starter, but bonuses on optics gave them nothing more. Miss Walmsley moved the Oxford side back within five by taking the next starter, and they pulled level with one bonus on the career of Cornwallis. They retook it when Mr Wang took the next starter, and increased it by taking two bonuses. A slip-up from St Andrews gave Mr Wang a second starter in a row, and the bonuses gave Worcester ten more points.

The music round, on classical pieces inspired by Spanish folk music and dance, went to St Andrews, who took two of three bonuses, which reduced their deficit to 90-65. It increased when Mr Wang took the next starter, breaking his side into three figures, and astrophysics gave them two correct bonuses. Mr Green identified 'Eragon' for the next starter, which allowed St Andrews to take another two correct bonuses. 'Neolithic site in the Orkney Islands' could only really be Skara Brae (been there, but, regrettably, didn't actually see it); Mr Vokes was first in with it, and, once again, St Andrews took two bonuses, unluckily missing the third.

The second picture starter was dropped; the bonuses, on stills from documentary films, went to St Andrews, who, again, took two, which gave them a lead of 125-110. Worcester bit back quickly thanks to Mr Wang, and they retook the lead with, again, two bonuses, on cities in Iraq. A second starter in a row went to the Oxonians, and one bonus on geology, another of which they unluckily missed after Mr Williams misheard his colleague's whispered answer, put them one starter away from repechage contention.

But back came St Andrews, with Mr Green taking his latest starter, and two bonuses drew them level again. The crucial next starter went to Mr Vokes, putting St Andrews ahead, and one bonus ensured them at least a play-off place. And when Mr Eccleston took the next starter, they had won the game. They took one bonus, and the gong cut off their (correct) answer to the second (which was thus disallowed). St Andrews won 175-145.

Another very good close match between two very good evenly matched teams. Very unlucky Worcester, who were very much in the match until right at the end, and who have fallen agonisingly short of a play-off place, but thanks very much indeed for playing. Very well done to St Andrews though; a good first showing against good opponents, and best of luck in the next round.

Mr Green was, just, the best buzzer of the night, with five starters to his name, while Mr Wang was best for Worcester with four under his belt. On the bonuses, St Andrews converted 16 out of 30 (with the night's sole penalty), while Worcester managed 13 out of 24; both decent rates, and, once again, all eight players got at least one starter right.

Safely through to the repechage: SOAS and Jesus College Cambridge (both 175), Durham (155)

Next week's match: Glasgow vs East London in the final first round tie

Only Connect was good again tonight as well, with two more good teams; more tomorrow night.