Monday, 25 November 2013

University Challenge 2013-14: Round 2: Match 4: Bangor vs Southampton

Er, how do I respond to that?! The same way I always do: with a straight review of yet another extraordinary edition of UC! What a series this is turning into!

On the top row tonight, we had Bangor, who comfortably defeated Aberystwyth in the final match of the first round by 230-110. They remained unchanged from before, and were still:
Owain Wyn Jones, from Abertawe in Swansea, studying Medieval Welsh History 
Daisy Le Helloco, from Dorchester, studying English Literature 
Captain: Catriona Coutts, from Angelsey, studying English Literature with Creative Writing 
Anna Johnson, from Chippenham, studying Marine Biology

Apparently, Miss Johnson's studies focus mainly on 'imposex in the common dog welk'! And yes, she did say that! Paxo was dumbfounded!

On the bottom row tonight, we had Southampton, who lost their first match to SOAS 230-155, but survived to the repechage, where they beat Loughborough 185-80. The unchanged team still comprised:
David Bishop, from Reading, studying Physics 
Richard Evans, from Frimley in Surrey, studying Chemistry 
Captain: Bob de Caux, from West Sussex, studying Complex Systems Simulation 
Matt Loxham, from Preston, studying Respiratory Toxicology

With JOW and LAM reader Richard 'Cromarty(IV)' Evans amongst themselves, Southampton had my support tonight. But, realistically, I did not know who would win here.

Miss Johnson took the first starter for Bangor, and they took a full set of bonuses on statues of fictional characters. Bob de Caux interrupted the next starter incorrectly, dropping his team back to -5. But Matt Loxham made up for that with his first starter of the night, and the side soon pulled level. A misstep from Bangor allowed Southampton to take the lead, and, after the first picture round, on streets in New York, they led by 70-20.

And, from then on, they never looked back. They began to ace the buzzer race, and pull away into a very strong lead. And when they did get starters wrong, Bangor were unable to seize the opportunity. Soon, the lead was into three figures, and Paxo felt the need to tell Bangor there was still plenty of time left. Of course, he means well when he says this, but it is a sure sign that you're in big trouble, and only Manchester last year have gone on to win after being told this (though Pembroke came close).

The music round was on songs that were once banned by the BBC; it was the latest starter taken by Matt Loxham, and his side took all three bonuses, and their lead was now 145-20. The next two starters were dropped by both sides, before Southampton resumed their buzzer race acing. There seemed to be a lot of science based starters again tonight, which probably helped Southampton on the buzzer, as they were all science studiers, while Bangor only had one.

By the second picture round, Southampton's lead had not just broken 200, but smashed it! Owain Wyn Jones finally stopped them in their tracks, and took the second picture starter for Bangor, their first starter since the first one of the match. They side took one bonus, which took the gap to 240-35. There wasn't much chance of Bangor recovering the gap, but could they pick the pace up, and reach respectability?

'Fraid not. Southampton resumed their buzzer work, and their score was beginning to creep towards 300. A starter about Welsh allowed Owain Wyn Jones to pull his side up a bit more, and a full set of bonuses on the UN lifted them out of the 'Sub-50 club', which they definitely deserved to do. But this was as far as they could go; there was no telling how far Southampton could go though, as Bob de Caux was first to the buzzer to spell 'excerpt'.

Another starter from David Bishop, and Southampton reached 300. And it didn't stop there, as there was time for our man Richard Evans to get two more starters, and haul the side to the biggest score achieved on the show since Manchester trounced Newcastle two series ago. At the gong, they had won by a massive 335-60!

What an amazing performance from Richard and co, and a thoroughly deserved epic win! Paxo was amazed too, and remarked on how even their guesses were right, leading Bob de Caux to say he wouldn't 'do a Guttenplan'! Quite!

Spare a thought for poor Bangor though; they definitely did not deserve to get trounced like that, after their good performance in the first round. They were just repeatedly beaten on the buzzer tonight, and there's not much you can do when the opposition is just repeatedly beating you to it. Well done to them anyway.

When they did get to play, Bangor did very well, getting 7 bonuses out of 9; Owain Wyn Jones got two starters in their cause. All four of Southampton got at least three starters; Matt Loxham was best buzzer with seven, and the side converted 32 bonuses out of 52. Both sides incurred one penalty.

I'll say it again: what a series this is turning into! Maybe the much needed change of set was what did it! Whatever the case, I'm sure this won't be the last memorable affair we see this year.

As for Only Connect, Jamie Karran and co were back tonight as well. I won't say how they did though.

Monday, 18 November 2013

University Challenge 2013-14: Round 2: Match 3: Clare vs Christ Church

Well, how about that?! An Oxbridge match, so bound to be interesting in some way, but how many non-contestants saw that coming?!

In the Cambridge corner, Clare College, who beat Loughborough 195-155 in the first round, and were unchanged from before:
Tom Watson, from Navenby in Lincolnshire, studying Chinese studies 
Carys Redman-White, from Hampshire, studying Veterinary Medicine 
Captain: Tom Wright, from Sevenoaks, studying Theology 
Mark Chonofsky, from Boston, studying Physics

In the Oxford corner, Christ Church, who lost their first match to Filip 'opaltiger' Drnovsek Zorko's Trinity team, but (just) survived to the repechage, where they comfortably beat Durham; they were also unchanged from before:
George Greenwood, from Exeter, studying PPE
Andreas Capstack, from Norway, studying PPE
Captain: Ewan MacAulay, from Hong Kong, studying Chemistry
Phil Ostrowski, from Poland, studying Cardiology

If I'd had to pick a winner before this match, I'd have said Christ Church. But looking back on my review of Clare's first match, they converted bonuses almost as well as the Oxford side did against Trinity. So we could expect a close match.

Off we set, and Christ Church stormed off the mark with the first two starters of the match, and three of six bonuses. But back came Clare with the next two starters, and they too secured three of six bonuses. A superb early buzz from Tom Wright handed them the lead, and it was at that moment I began to think we could be in for something here.

The first picture round was on family trees from the works of Ms J. Austin; Christ Church got the bonuses, and clearly had no idea on any of them, resulting in much hilarity! At one point, Ewan MacAulay asked if any of his colleagues had read any Austin! Paxo told them it served them right, and they should read more! After all that, they trailed 60-45.

An early interruption from Christ Church handed Clare back the advantage, and a set of bonuses of optical illusions. Back hit Christ Church, who seemed very happy when their resultant bonuses were on cell biology; I think they've had a set of those in each of their matches! Just one bonus was converted this time though. In shot Mark Chonofsky with another superb interruption. At this point, the teams were roughly equal on the buzzer, but Clare seemed stronger on the bonuses.

The music round went to Clare, and their lead increased to 115-75. We finally saw a starter get dropped, before George Greenwood identified Major and Brown as the two most recent men to make the direct jump from No 11 to No 10. No bonuses followed, but they swept the board on their next set, on European capitals, and the gap was down to five points.

And then up it went again courtesy of Mark Chonofsky. The second picture round was on depictions of horse racing by French artists. The starter was dropped, and Clare dropped all the subsequent bonuses, leaving their lead at 140-110.

Into the home stretch now, and either side could take the match with a run of momentum. Christ Church hit first, and a set of bonuses of characters in the Tempest saw them only get one. The next starter was dropped, but the one after went to Clare, and up went the gap again. Back hit Christ Church, and this time they took the resultant bonuses saw the gap fall to just five points. And the next starter gave Christ Church their first lead since the start of the game. But no bonuses followed.

Back shot Clare, and they took the lead back! Just one bonus went with it, but at stakes as close as these, every little helped! The next starter asked for the spelling of 'facsimile'; Ewan MacAulay took his time answering, but was correct, and the scores were level! Just one bonus would be enough, but before they could answer the first one, the gong went! It was a tie, 165-each!

So, it was down to whoever got the next starter correct. Tom Wright just beat Ewan MacAulay to the buzzer... and was right! Clare had done it!

What a superb match! Best for a wee while. Very well done Clare for a very good showing, and best of luck for next time around. But very hard lines to Christ Church; they played superbly in all three of their efforts, and, as Paxo said, were very entertaining too, and were so unlucky to just get pipped this time. A good effort.

The stats: Mark Chonofsky was the night's best buzzer, getting seven starters, while Ewan MacAulay, as usual, led for Christ Church with four. On the bonuses, Clare converted just 11 out of 33; Christ Church converted 12 out of 31, but also incurred a penalty. Those stats just give you a sense of how evenly matched these two good teams were, and how easily it could've gone the other way.

If this is the sort of close match we should be getting used to, this is going to be a thrilling series!

Sadly, Only Connect wasn't as close, but a good effort from the winning team, who are now through to the semis. The losers could yet join them if they win their next match.

Monday, 11 November 2013

University Challenge 2013-14: Round 2: Match 2: Downing vs Queen's

Well, who saw that coming?! Apart from the teams in the quarter-finals, obviously!

Downing College Cambridge easily defeated St John's College Oxford in the first round 260-115, and came joint fifth in the end of Round 1 rankings posted by Filip 'opaltiger' Drnovsek Zorko of the Trinity team. They were unchanged from the first round:
Tom Claxton, from Grantham, studying Natural Sciences
Georgina Phillips, from Shoreham-by-Sea, studying Geography
Captain: John Morgan, from Abingdon, studying Theoretical Chemistry
Tom Rees, from Guildford, studying Maths

By comparison, Queen's University Belfast narrowly won the first match of the series, beating Aberdeen by a low-scoring 140-105, and finished bottom in opaltiger's rankings. Very much the underdogs tonight were the unchanged team of:
Suzanne Cobain, from County Down, studying History
Gareth Gamble, from Lurgan in County Armagh, studying Medicine
Captain: Joseph Greenwood, from Manchester, studying Irish Theatre
Alexander Green, from Lytham in Lancashire, studying Plasma Physics

But matches aren't played on paper. Remember Bangor's victory of Durham last series?

Indeed, Queen's got off to the better start, with Gareth Gamble getting the first two starters of the match. The third was dropped, and Downing didn't get going until the fifth. The first picture round was on recipes from a cake cookbook by a Ms D Smith. Paxo seemed amazed when Gareth Gamble got the starter, and then, when the side failed on the bonuses, remarked that he would be postponing his trip to their place for tea! (According to UKGS, he has used that line before in the past)

Queen's currently led 70-10, and a fourth starter for Mr Gamble added to that lead. But Downing pulled back with the next starter, and a full set of bonuses showed that they could yet pull back the gap if they could string a good run together. Queen's were unlucky to miss one starter, not wording the answer quite right, allowing Downing to take the points.

The music round, on classical pieces used in sporting events, allowed Queen's to extend their lead to 115-50. Another unlucky miss handed Downing a starter, but that seemed like a blip, as Queen's were acing the buzzer race, and making a mockery of their afore-mentioned ranking. They has soon eclipsed their score from the heat, and their lead had reached three figures by the time of the second picture round.

I'm sure I'm not the only viewer who guessed Gormley when asked for a sculptor! Tom Rees of Downing said it too for ten points, but no bonuses followed, leaving the deficit at 170-80. And when Queen's took their lead back into three figures with the next starter, it looked like they had won the game. But Downing were still going to give it a go, ending the match with a run of starters, though, again, not many bonuses went with them. One set, on novels published in 1928, saw the side employ the tactic of saying the same answer to all three bonuses; on this occasion, it didn't work!

At the gong, Queen's had completed their surprise victory, 210-135. I wonder if this is the 'shock' Cromarty(IV) hinted at a couple of weeks ago. Bad luck Downing, who, as Paxo said, didn't seem as on form tonight, but he added that 135 is a respectable leaving score, which is also true. A good pair of showings. But very well done to Queen's for proving their worth, and best of luck next time!

The stats: Gareth Gamble got six starters for Queen's, five of which came before the music round, and the side converted 19 bonuses out of 36, with one penalty. John Morgan's four starters were the Cambridge side's best tally, and but only 9 bonuses out of 27 may well have contributed to that surprise loss.

I imagine this won't be the last 'shock' we see this year.

The annual Only Connect Children-in-Need special tonight. Didn't see much of it, but 'twas a very close one. Watch it, and you'll see what I mean.

Monday, 4 November 2013

University Challenge 2013-14: Round 2: Match 1: York vs Somerville

Here we are again people; Monday night, and time for University Challenge. And with no prior word on who was playing, tonight's match was going to be surprising in more ways than one.

York easily defeated Bath in Round 1, 270-70, but were never really threatened by their opposition, thus raising doubts over how they'd perform against a better team on the buzzer. They remained:
Greg Carrick, from Hull, studying Maths
Brian Morley, from Liverpool, studying History and English Literature
Captain: Jeremy Harris, from Droxford in Hampshire, studying Medeival History
Laura Kemp, from Colchester, studying Chemistry

Somerville College Oxford also had an easy first round victory, defeating the decent Pembroke College Cambridge team 250-145. Given that their points were earned against better opposition (who fell just ten short of the repechage), they would probably be favourites for tonight's match. They were still:
Hasneen Karbalai, from Calgary in Canada, studying Medicine
Zac Vermeer, from Sydney, studying Law
Captain: Michael Davies, from Blackburn, studying PPE
Chris Beer, from Blyborough in Lincolnshire, studying English Literature

Here we went then, and Somerville had the better of the opening exchanges, scoring well on the buzzer, and fairly on the bonuses. York's first action on the match was a penalty, and aside from that, they were being beaten on the buzzer. However, the side did take the first picture round, on regions of Northern Ireland, and swept up the bonuses. This left Somerville's lead at 70-20.

The next starter asked for two landlocked countries in Africa; York only supplied one answer, and Somerville supplied two, one of which was wrong; we never did find out what the four correct answers were. Somerville resumed normal business courtesy of Zac Vermeer getting two starters in a row. The side was unlucky to narrowly miss the next starter, on the best current estimate of the age of the Universe, allowing York to pick up the points.

The music round was on arias relating to alcohol, allowed Somerville to increase their lead to 120-35. York stepped back in with the next starter, and two bonuses followed, but any hopes of a recovery were quashed when Somerville took two starters in a row, and a full set of bonuses on the 1912 US election went their way as well. York were now just over 100 behind, but then Brian Morley managed two consecutive correct starters, including the second picture starter. The bonuses, on figures of the Italian renaissance, allowed York to close the gap to 160-95.

A third consecutive starter went to Mr Morley, and you began to wonder if York could pull back and win this. The next three starters were dropped, before Zac Vermeer finally got one right, and a full set of bonuses gave Somerville more breathing space. But back struck York, and the lead shrunk again. But when Chris Beer took the next starter, and all the bonuses went Somerville's way, it now looked like they had won the match.

At the gong, Somerville had won by 240-135. A good and deserved win for the Oxford side, who, having defeated two good sides, could be considered a good bet for the title. Bad luck to York, who clearly struggled against a better team on the buzzer, but a fair performance nonetheless, and nothing to be ashamed of at all.

The stats: Michael Davies was narrowly the night's best buzzer, getting five starters, while Brian Morley's four (matched by Zac Vermeer) was York's best tally. On the bonuses, York managed a reasonable 14 out of 21, while Somerville finished the match with an equally good 23 out of 36, thus suggesting the Oxford side won the match on the buzzer. The sides incurred one penalty each.

As for Only Connect, tonight saw the return of Jamie Karran and co. I won't say how they did in case you haven't seen it yet.

Friday, 1 November 2013

University Challenge: Cromarty(IV) on Southampton vs Loughborough

Hi all, I’m the shady figure known on these pages as Cromarty(IV), a name which combines my interest in the eternally hypnotic tones of the Shipping Forecast and one of the notation systems that I regularly deploy in my chemistry degree.  (By writing Roman numerals immediately after the name of an element in a compound, often a metal, it denotes its oxidation state, which is roughly analogous to the charge that the element would carry if the compound were purely ionic.  I couldn’t resist choosing IV for my penname, because Cromarty-Four doesn’t sound too far removed from “Cromarty, Forth”, which are two consecutive area names in the Shipping Forecast!)

In fact, I’m Mr Evans from the Southampton University Challenge team.  Earlier this week, our repechage match against Loughborough beamed its way onto BBC Two, and so I thought I’d share a few recollections from the contestants’ desks.

I was awaiting the filming of this repechage match with a mixture of anxiety and excitement.  I’ve been wanting to appear on UC for at least 9 years, and as exhilarating as our first-round match against SOAS was, I was terrified that it would be my only game.  So when we got the call back to the repechage stages, we resolved to play a much more brutal game on the buzzers.  We didn’t want to get outplayed on the buzzers again and to leave the competition through silence!

These two repechage games were the first in the series to be filmed in MediaCityUK, Salford, rather than Granada Studios, Manchester.  Shortly after our arrival there on the day of filming, we met the teams from Durham, Loughborough and Christ Church, and learnt that our opponents would be Loughborough.  My mind immediately cast itself back to the British Universities Lifesaving Championships held the previous week, at which I watched my friends flying the flag for Southampton… and the Loughborough team winning a large number of events.  I thus had an “old score” to settle with Loughborough, making the match-up an extremely interesting one!

In the studios, following Paxo’s introduction of our team, I was able to introduce myself without fluffing my lines, which was a small achievement in itself!  (In the first round, I somehow came out with “I’m originally from Frimley in Surrey”, and I thankfully managed to drop the “originally” for this game.)  I then turned my head to face our captain, Bob De Caux, which I hadn’t done in the first round.  It was another UC quirk which I just had to have a go at!  Unfortunately, there was no fanfare for our team mascot, Susu the cat, this time around.

So on came the first starter for 10.  The first clue of a question about “a given name” played very much to the strengths of our ancient history specialist, David Bishop, who grabbed it impressively quickly.  This unlocked a series of bonuses on Parliament, so I was very eager to have a go at them!  Sadly, the Septennial Act of 1715 was not something which I knew anything of, and I am still kicking myself for not remembering that the Parliament Act was a direct response to the political deadlock at Westminster in 1910.  Thankfully, I managed to avoid flopping completely on this subject that I’m very interested in, by identifying the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act as a product of Nick Clegg’s latter-day constitutional meddling.  This took us to 15-0, so there was plenty of room for the game to go either way.

For the second starter, on a three-letter prefix, I considered “exo” almost at once, but wasn’t brave enough to chance my luck.  Bob was, and he earned us some bonuses on songbirds in poetry.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’m not as well-read as I would like to be, so these bonuses were never going to be my cup of tea, but I did manage to offer up the correct answer to one of them!  The bad news was that my poor old blackbird wasn’t submitted as our final answer!  On the recording, I am audibly surprised when Paxo looks in our direction and says, “No, it is a blackbird”!

This was shortly followed by a great starter about the British monarchy, another favourite subject of mine (I think there’s a bit of a trend developing here).  Embarrassingly, I failed to pick up on the fact that William IV’s widow was certainly not Queen Victoria’s mother, and Charles II’s widow was certainly not James II’s mother, so my minus-five for saying “Queen Mother” was my just desserts!  However, this premature buzz meant that I could tick another prestigious item off my list of “things that I just had to do while I was on UC” – namely to lose five points like that.  When the question continued, only to reveal a strong emphasis on the line “..who is NOT the mother of his successor”, I felt rather foolish!

My next positive contribution to the game was to recall one of the most often-churned-out nuggets of information from GCSE and pre-GCSE biology, namely that malaria is transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes.  I then almost redeemed myself for missing the blackbird question when a starter related to British wildlife came up, but Ali Thornton beat me to it, identifying red and grey squirrels and getting a set of bonuses on websites that I certainly wouldn’t have been able to navigate.

Then came the first picture round.  It was to do with the recent US presidential election.  It was a fantastic subject area for me – or at least it could have been, had we not gone one election too late every time!  I had a sinking feeling that I should have pushed 1992 a lot harder for the final bonus, what with Texas showing up red again, a sure sign of the presence of a Bush.  But I have no regrets over 1984/1980 – Reagan, Mondale and Bush Snr were all around for both, so there was very little to choose between for those two years!  (For the starter, I unfortunately didn’t look closely enough at the red Massachusetts, so I was thinking along the same lines as Matt.  When he came out with “bellwether states” and then couldn’t stop himself from elaborating further, we could all tell that he was wrong!  That moment was one of our favourites from this particular episode.)

By the time the music bonuses rolled around, I was just starting to think to myself, “I’m not being very useful in this game” – after all, the only thing I’d really done was to lose five points!  I’d also lost a buzzer race to Kathy Morten of Loughborough by what felt like nanoseconds, and hence missed the chance to relish some chemistry bonuses that would have been home questions for me.  (Watching these questions back, I’ve noticed – or, rather, my sister noticed – that Paxo asks Loughborough to identify a “cation” that forms a white precipitate when tested with silver nitrate solution, although the correct answer is an anion – the very opposite of a cation!  Someone among the question setters has been rather sloppy!)

I would also have loved to get the “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” bonuses, as my family are all fans of the musical genre – but I might well have said “Omid Djalili” as Loughborough did, and thus been berated by Paxo!  (On that note: Paxo clearly wasn’t aware that Djalili has actually played Fagin in the West End, and that this answer wasn’t as bad as he thought!  And if Laurence Olivier had ever taken the role, that really would be unmissable…)

The music bonuses gave Loughborough a five-point lead, so I was more anxious than ever to get back into the game.  It was a great relief all round for the team when Bob worked to his strengths and solved a word puzzle relating to Asian countries.  When I watched the episode back this week and saw the last of the bonuses that followed, I immediately knew that the country that was governed by Spain for 400-odd years from 1492 was Cuba, which was not what we came up with in the game.  It just goes to show that the old story is very true: the studio lights do have a habit of frazzling your mind at times!

I should point out now that, back in 2007, five members of my local chess club appeared on Eggheads.  In their episode, Judith Keppel failed to identify the numerical series that started with 6 and 28 – they are, in fact, perfect numbers, and I looked the term up shortly after the episode aired.  It turned out that the next two perfect numbers after 28 were 496 and 8128.  So when Paxo read out a starter question that began, “8128, 496”… I had a feeling that there was only one way this was going.  I mashed my buzzer and said 6, gaining me one tally on the starter chart.  (I seem to remember sounding ridiculously overexcited when I said 6, and much to my relief, it doesn’t show too badly on the broadcast!)

Our reward was a set of bonuses on bread.  The good news was that I am renowned in my household for eating more bread than everyone else put together – I absolutely love the stuff!  The bad news was that I am not a baker, and nor do I know very much about international breads, so I couldn’t offer much in the bonuses.  The other good news was that we had definitely regained the initiative and were beginning to power away on the scoreboard.

I threw a bit of a spanner in the works by buzzing in on a subsequent starter as a knee-jerk reaction to hearing the name F Scott Fitzgerald.  The QI klaxons silently went off all around me as I said The Great Gatsby.  Bob later admitted that he knew the correct answer, but his buzz-in wasn’t at knee-jerk speed, so a good opportunity was sadly missed there.

David got an opportunity to stand in the spotlight when a series of bonuses on military engagements of the 1500s came our way, and he ably took control of them, with a small amount of support from my appalling pronunciation of Tenochtitlan (or “Tenoch”, according to Paxo)!  The starter that followed shifted the focus from centuries-old history to 20th and 21st century affairs, so the onus was on me to get this one.  (Actually, the broadcast shows that Matt turns and looks in my direction hopefully midway through the starter!)

“Add the number of the current French republic” – I pictured the number 5 in my head – “ the number of permanent members of the UN Security Council” – I pictured another number 5 and made 10, then waited for the next clue – “What number results?”  I was extremely surprised that this question didn’t go on any further.  Either way, I took to the buzzer and made 10 more points.  The adrenaline rush from going to the buzzer so quickly was fantastic, which is yet another reason why I strongly encourage anyone who’s thinking of applying to appear on UC to get out there and have a go! 

The following bonuses were on “an acid”, namely uric acid.  Strangely enough, Matt’s first starter in our first round game was also about uric acid.  I, still dazed from saying the number 10, couldn’t think of the name, so we went with a bit of a comedy answer to move the game on; I hope “ornithic acid” will never fail to make me smile!

With less than 3 minutes to go to the gong, and our lead standing at 105 points, I allowed myself to break slightly out of the mindset that I’d been adopting all through the game (“You’re probably not going to win”), and I accepted that we were home and dry.  I had decided even before our first-round match to go into every game expecting to lose, as I do whenever I play chess, thus forcing me to play with all guns blazing all the way through – largely because of the sad story of last year’s Lincoln College, Oxford team.  But our lead felt absolutely unassailable by this point.  I felt sorry when Katie Spalding buzzed in on the next starter to no avail, with a resigned tone of defeat in her voice.  Grant Craig won a terrific buzzer race on a chemistry starter thereafter, beating Bob and I by the narrowest of margins, allowing Loughborough to take their bow with a set of bonuses on their institution’s famous strength – sports!

The final starter of the game involved a quotation about treaties with Russia.  I had a flashback to my A-Level history course on German nationalism in the 19th and early 20th (ie up to 1919), in which that exact quotation (or a form of it) featured prominently at one stage.  The buzzwords “which statesman” were all I needed to hit the buzzer, deliver the Iron answer “Bismarck” and bring the curtain down on the show.  Just as Bob was answering the first bonus on our behalf, the gong went, confirming a victory for Southampton by 185-80.  (We had to reshoot the “Kim” answer several times.  We variously jumped the gong, were beaten by the gong and got drowned out by the gong, while we were supposed to be saying “Kim” just on the gong, which led to much mirth from Paxo!)

I’m slightly less happy now with the outcome of this show than I was in the studio.  There were plenty of bonuses that were very gettable for us, but we just threw them away somehow or other.  But the main line was, and is, that we had succeeded in doing what we came back to do: we were much better on the buzzers than before.  We’ve seen many times that a team with ultra-fast buzzer speed can win a match with deeply lacklustre bonus conversions simply by keeping their opponents quiet.  That was why we had to up our game on the buzzers, and I’m pleased that we managed to do so.  185 is not a bad score by any means, or so I felt while I was sitting in the chair.  We nearly made 200, but I was happy to settle for 185 – on the condition that we scored at least 190 in round 2!

I ended the show with the notoriously slightly clumsy “Goodbye from Southampton” moment, in which I unintentionally channelled the great Corporal Jones by waving and saying goodbye considerably later than my three allies!

When I phoned home a few hours after leaving the set, I summed up the experience with just six words.  I had won a game of University Challenge, something that I’d wanted to do since I was ten years old.  “I can die a happy man,” I said.

(Thank you Mr Evans for your comments; much appreciated!)