Friday, 25 December 2015

Christmas University Challenge 2015: Matches 1-5 (Sunday 20th - Thursday 24th)

OK all? Hope everyone is having a good Christmas. Someone on Twitter remarked that one of the good things about the festive period is UC being on daily! Indeed it has. So here is a rundown of the story of this year's Christmas UC so far. (NOTE: these reviews are based on memory, so may not be as completely accurate as my regular blogs)

Sunday 20th: U.C.L. vs Birmingham
U.C.L.: Vivienne Parry, Adam Rutherford, Lynne Truss, Tom Dyckhoff
Birmingham: Emma Darwin, Joanna Gosling, John Hammond, Pamela Relph

A nice steady match to begin the series. U.C.L. led from the off, and, while Birmingham managed to catch them a couple of times, couldn't overhaul them, and thus a better consistency gave U.C.L. the win 155-80. Highlights included a set of bonuses on easily misspelt words, none of which Birmingham got as the answers had to be spelt, and they misspelt all of them! As well as a bonus set on high profile casualties of May's election, and a music round on readings of Peter and the Wolf, including a Ms E. Everage!

Monday 21st: Oriel Oxford vs Trinity Cambridge
Oriel: John Nunn, Camilla Wright, Jon Bentley, Peter Harness
Trinity: Timothy Gowers, Zoe Heron, Faisal Islam, Bee Wilson

A good close match between two very evenly matched teams, both of whom seemed to take their time conferring on the bonuses. Highlight was a music round on popular dance tracks, which Mr Islam single handedly swept the board on, much to everyone's amusement! In the end, Trinity just scraped the win 140-135!

Tuesday 22nd: Manchester vs U.E.A.
Manchester: Lucy Porter, Jesse Armstrong, Christine Burns, Robert Rinder
U.E.A.: Andy Stanford-Clark, Erica Wagner, Caroline Flint, Tim Bentinck

The most one sided UC match in a long time. Manchester led from the off, with U.E.A.'s sole scoring in the first half of the show being a penalty! (They were on (-5) for so long, my Dad texted me saying he thought they'd end with it!) They eventually got a starter right about twenty minutes in, by which time Manchester were well out of sight. Manchester won 195-35, and will definitely be back for the semis next week.

Wednesday 23rd: Christ's Cambridge vs Essex
Christ's: Kieran West, Nina Gold, Natalie Haynes, James Reynolds
Essex: Richard Bartle, Rupert Maas, Dotun Adebayo, Nick Dear

This was a close match at first, with the sides pretty evenly matched for the first three quarters of play. Highlight was Mr Bartle's insistence that his wrong answer to the music starter was right, that went on so long Mr West had to buzz twice for Christ's! In the end, Essex won the match by taking the final three starters of the game, and emerged victorious 140-90.

Thursday 24th: Exeter vs Magdalen
Exeter: George Stiles, Hannah Kendall, Nick Baker, Barnaby Edwards
Magdalen: Robin Lane Fox, Heather Berlin, Louis Theroux, Matt Ridley

Best match of the week by miles. Both sides gave an excellent account of themselves, with all eight players getting at least one starter right, and the vast majority of bonuses being answered correctly too. It was close for the first half, then in the second, Magdalen ran away on the buzzer, and emerged on top 220-130. They'll definitely be back next week, Exeter are unlucky not to be; I suspect they'd have beaten some of the teams from earlier in the week.

So, at the end of the first week's play, Magdalen and Manchester are definitely through, and U.C.L. are borderline. We still have two first round matches next week before the semis. Hopefully they will make for just as good viewing as the first lot.

That, I imagine, is my final post on here this year, so all that remains is for me to wish yous all a Happy New Year, and I'll see you again in 2016!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Quarter-Final 3: Cluesmiths vs Railwaymen

OK, time to see if going straight from watching and recording stats for Christmas UC to writing up Only Connect is a good idea. I'm running the risk of ending up with a massive RSI here! Playing yesterday night were the Cluesmiths, Mick Hodgkin, Richard Heald and John Tozer, who defeated the Operational Researchers then lost to the Yorkers then beat the Mixologists, and the Railwaymen, David Smith, Bob Thompson and Sree Kanthamneni, who came straight through with wins over the Collectors and the Spaghetti Westerners.

Round 1. The Railwaymen went first, chose Two Reeds and instantly got the picture set: we saw a tree, then King Louie from the Jungle Book, then a drawing of the eye with an arrow pointing to some part of it, and finally a queue. Neither team got it: they are all words with four consecutive vowels, the tree being a sequoia and the part of the eye being the aqueous humour. The Cluesmiths began their match with Water, and got the music set: the only one of the three we heard that I knew was Bang Bang by Jessie J; recognising this, and knowing the second was Bang Bang by BA Robertson, offered that they were all called 'Bang Bang'. Good call for two points. The Railwaymen chose Eye of Horus next: 'Siemens (infrastructure)', then 'Volkswagen (savings scheme)', then 'Bertelsmann (propaganda)'; at this point, they offered that they are companies and the role they played in Nazi Germany. Correct, for two points. The Cluesmiths chose Horned Viper next: 'Sandra Bullock', then 'Nigel Farage', then 'Ernest Hemingway (twice in one day)', and finally 'Chelsey Burnett 'Sully' Sullenberger, III'. They correctly offered that they all survived plane crashes. (Farage famously crashed on the day of the 2010 election) The Railwaymen chose Lion next: 'ADN', then 'TVA', then 'SIDA' and finally 'OTAN'. They didn't quite get it, their opponents did: they are French acronyms that are anagrams of their English equivalents. Unlucky miss. Left with Twisted Flax for their own question, the Cluesmiths saw '1993 IAAF World Athletics Championships', then '2013 Africa Cup of Nations', then '2002 Ryder Cup', and finally '1994 Winter Olympics'. They didn't get it, the opposition did: they are the years when that tournament's cycle changed (the Winter Games used to be the same as the Summer, but it was changed in 1994). At the end of the first round, the Cluesmiths led 4-3.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Railwaymen went first again, and, again, kicked off with Two Reeds: 'MCMXCVI Germania', then 'MM Gallia', and then 'MMIV Graecia'; they got the wrong connection, and thus didn't get it. Nor did their opponents. It's the year and winners of the Euros changed into Roman and Latin, so 'MMVIII Hispania' completes the set. The Cluesmiths chose Lion next, and got the picture set: we saw Sir Sean Connery, then a young Daniel Radcliffe in the first(?) Potter film, and then David Beckham with an arrow pointing to his right foot. They offer anything, nor did their opponents. 'David Beckham's left foot' completes the set, it's Hugh Grant's prime ministerial speech from Love Actually. (Never seen it, don't intend too, especially after Will Self compared it to Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will!) The Railwaymen chose Twisted Flax next: 'Wireless interception', then 'Propaganda and 'press liason'', and then 'Overseas intelligence'; they offered 'Internal intelligence', which was acceptable. They are the responsibilities of MI8, MI7, MI6 and MI5. The Cluesmiths chose Horned Viper next: we saw 'UT' in the top left corner, then 'CO' in the top right corner. They offered 'NM' in the bottom right; not right. When passed over, that came next! Their opponents didn't get it. It's the 'Four Corners' states, so 'AZ' in the bottom left comes next. For their final choice, the Railwaymen chose Water: 'W (winter seawater)', then 'S (summer seawater)', and then 'T (tropical seawater); they didn't get it, their opponents did. 'F (freshwater) completes the set; it's the plimsoll line on the side of a ship going upwards. Left with Eye of Horus, the Cluesmiths saw for their own final question '4.40 p.m.', then '1.40 a.m.', and then '12.10 a.m.'; neither team knew it, and I'm not surprised. This was horrible: they are 1,000, 100, 10 and 1 minutes after midnight, so '12.01 a.m.' comes fourth. Too hard, even for the QFs! At the end of the second round, the teams were tied at 5-each.

On to the Walls then. The Cluesmiths went first, and chose the Lion wall to tackle. They quickly isolated 'Wertmuller', 'Coppola', 'Campion' and 'Bigelow', which are surnames of female film directors, and then 'Sunset', 'Hollywood', 'Ventura' and 'Wilshire', which are Los Angeles boulevards. They took their time looking over what was left, and soon worked it out: 'Umbrella', 'Geodesic', 'Gonbad' and 'Onion' are domes, while 'Allinson', 'Farriner', 'Poilane' and 'The Little Red Hen' are, not brands of bread, like they said, but bakers. So, just one mistake was good going considering how tough that was, so seven points.

The Railwaymen were left with the Water wall to try and assemble. They spotted some links, but had trouble working them out. Eventually, they isolated 'Gala', 'Twelfth', 'Bonfire' and 'Hen', which can all precede 'night'. They couldn't work anything else out in the allotted time, so were left to collect bonuses: 'Orlov', 'Churchill', 'Digby' and 'Tony' are animals in adverts, which they knew, 'Burns', 'Marx', 'Clarke' and 'Bender' are cigar smokers, which they didn't get, while 'Canal Street', 'Castro', 'Chelsea' and 'Darlinghurst' are gay 'villages', which they also didn't get. Just three points there, which meant the Cluesmiths led 12-8 going into the final round.

Still a closeable gap going into Missing Vowels. 'Things that can follow 'spare'' went to the Cluesmiths 2-1. 'Nicknames of French kings' went to the Cluesmiths 1-0, with the Railwaymen getting two right, but two wrong. 'They might use a needle' went to the Cluesmiths 2-0, and that was time. The Cluesmiths won the match 17-9.

Very tricky match, as you'd expect at this stage. Unlucky Railwaymen, but well played over the series. Well done Cluesmiths though, and very best of luck in the SFs!

Next week's match: a rematch between the Wayfarers and the Bookworms

I suspect I'll be reviewing next week's match in two week's time, as I'm going away next week. And, yes, I'll consider finishing Series 1 once this series is over. I'll be back sometime in the coming days with a mid-series summary of Christmas UC.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Quarter-Final 2: Yorkers vs Operational Researchers

Yes, Only Connect will still be providing us with our serious quiz fix over Christmas, while UC and Mastermind pause for the Celeb specials. A show next Monday, and one after that. That'll do us, I think. Playing the second QF were the Yorkers, Jack Johannes Alexander, Alasdair Middleton and Joe Crowther, who came straight through against the Polyglots and the Cluesmiths, and the Operational Researchers, Paul Allen, Clare Lynch and Alex Hill, who lost to the Cluesmiths but also defeated the Polyglots and also the Spaghetti Westerners.

Round 1. The Researchers kicked off the match with 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'Rebecca', then 'Cold', then 'Western', and finally 'Judean People's'. The final clue gave it to them: they can all precede 'Front'. The Yorkers began their match with Two Reeds, and got the music round: first was Maggie May by Rod Stewart, the second was Don't You Love Me by the Human League, and the other two I didn't recognise, but they were Miles Davies and Nine Inch Nails. Neither team spotted the link to be units of length until it was explained afterwards. The Researchers chose Lion next: 'Ludwig Wittgenstein', then 'ASF Gow', then 'Guy Liddell', and finally 'John Cairncross'. Again, neither team knew it. They were all accused of being the 'Fifth Man' in the Cambridge Spy ring; Mr Cairncross is widely considered most likely to have been him. The Yorkers chose Eye of Horus next: 'Record-breaker British marathon runner', then 'Geneticist and Curiosities captain', then 'Host of 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow', and finally 'Sex Pistols guitarist'. The third clue gave it to me, the final one gave it to them: they are all men called Steve Jones. (I quite liked 101 Ways, incidentally, but it worked best as a one-off series) The Researchers chose Water next: 'Three Countries: France & Germany', then 'New Europe: Bulgaria & Romania' then 'Ambassador: USA & Canada', and finally 'Oresund: Denmark & Sweden'. Again, the final clue gave it to them: they are bridges and the countries they connect. Left with Twisted Flax, and the picture set, the Yorkers saw actress Jane Seymour, then Michael Flatley, then Kate Bosworth, and finally Mabel the Blue Peter dog. Now, I did know about this thanks to Fifteen-to-One 2.0, but it wouldn't have occurred to me, nor did it to either team: they all have different coloured eyes. At the end of the first round, the Researchers led 2-1.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Researchers began the round with Eye of Horus: 'Here's Looking Ay You, BBC', then 'Scenes of London, ITV', and then 'Play School, BBC2'; they offered 'Countdown, Channel 4', which was correct. They are the first program to be shown on the four main channels in order they came on air. The Yorkers chose Lion next: '16mo', then '8vo', and then '4to'. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents. They are printers codes for paper sizes, so 'fo' would complete the set as a simple once folded piece of paper. The Researchers chose 'Horn-ed' Viper next, and got the picture set: we saw the Canadian province of Alberta, then a tree on a savanna, and then a pink Cadillac. They didn't get it, their opponents did; they offered a druid, which would suffice. The four items pictured begin AND end with A, B, C and D, the tree being a baobab. (Nicely timed to put this out the week after baobab featured prominently on the Apprentice!) For their own question, the Yorkers chose Water: 'Pison', then 'Gihon', and then 'Hiddekel, a.k.a. Tigris'; they offered 'Euphrates', which was correct, although they didn't know why. They are the rivers with their origin in Paradise according to the Bible, in the order they are mentioned. For their final choice, the Researchers chose Twisted Flax: 'Harding -> Coolidge', then 'Roosevelt -> Truman'; at this point, they offered 'Nixon -> Ford', which was correct for three points. They are US vice presidents who became president mid-term after their predecessor died/resigned, in order. Left with Two Reeds, the Yorkers saw 'John B', then 'Bertie A', and then 'Brian C'; the second and third clues gave away that it was Irish prime-ministers, or Taoisigh, and they successfully offered 'Enda K' for two points. At the end of the second round, the Researchers led 7-6.

On to the Walls then. The Yorkers went first, and chose to tackle the Water wall. Straight away, they isolated 'Bumblebee', 'Optimus Prime', 'Fixit' and 'Sideswipe', which are Autobots in Transformers. And immediately after that, they had a second group in the bag: 'Blow-out', 'Aquaplane', 'Rear-end' and 'Shunt' are types of car accident. They then spent some time looking over the remaining clues, and soon resolved the wall: 'Jumper', 'Probe', 'Busbar' and 'Coaxial pair' are electrical conductors, though the best they could offer was 'cables', thus dropping a connection point, while 'Rebrand', 'Grimlock', 'Okay' and 'Sidle' all end with the surnames of comedians. Just the one error meant they scored seven points.

The Researchers got to work on the Lion wall, and they too isolated a set straight away: 'Steuben', 'Swarovski', 'Tiffany' and 'Lalique' are makers of glasswear. They then hit a bit of a dead end, finding numerous possible links, but finding no more. Eventually, they isolated 'Vignole', 'Lida', 'Murano' and 'Crevan', which are Venetian islands. They tried to quickly resolve what was left, but ran out of lives, and thus had to pick up connection bonus points: 'Scimitar', 'Kitten', 'Rialto' and 'Bond Bug' are cars made by Reliant, which they didn't get, while 'Lucozade', 'Golden Gate Bridge', 'Basketball' and 'EasyCruiseOne' are all orange, which they did get. So five points meant, going into the final round, they trailed 13-12.

Once again, then, Missing Vowels would be the decider. 'Sportspeople who became politicians' was split 2-each. 'Transposed country names', such as 'ZEALAND NEW', was also split 2-each. 'Ballets that premiered in the 1910s' proved more tricky, with the Yorkers winning 2-0. 'British universities' only managed one clue, which went to the Yorkers. At the end of the match, the Yorkers won 20-16.

Another good half-hour of quizzing. Unlucky Researchers, but well played over the series. Well done Yorkers though, and best of luck in the semis!

Next week's match: the Cluesmiths vs the Railwaymen

Remember to stay tuned for Christmas UC, which begins on Sunday and runs over the festive fortnight. I'll give occasional reports on that over the coming weeks, and will try to keep on top of OC as well. And, yes, I'll say it again: someday, Series 1 will be sorted out.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Ten Years of Deal or No Deal: Part 6: Where Does The Show Go Next?

So, the final part of this retrospective. Won't be long here; all we need to do is tidy up the events leading up to the show's tenth anniversary.

The show returned from its longest ever sabbatical with its tenth birthday special: Noel playing the show himself! Sarah Millican acted as host for this special edition. Noel ended up making a perfectly reasonable deal of £26,000 for his charity.

Returning to regular service, the show did a second run of Double Trouble specials, this time featuring Grandparents and Grandchildren. Nothing of real note happened, with the exception of Pat Francis and Steph Finn winning £100,000 from the box. (Though the fact they were present as guest box openers for Noel's game was a bit of a hint they'd have a good game!)

With the regular players back, things appeared to be flowing a bit smoother than they did prior to the summer, with the players generally faring better and winning better sums.

Then... the £250,000 was won again! Ann Crawford became the eighth player to win the Jackpot winner, turning down £64,000 on a 50p-£250,000 finish, and won the big money! And then... she said 'Deal' to Box 23! It became clear quickly that this was a slip of the tongue, so they allowed her to change her mind and reject it. It was a good thing they did, as she'd have lost the lot had she been forced to stick with it!

It did, however, spring a good run on the other wingers, culminating in one of the all time great games of Deal: Harry Harding winning £100,000 from the box.

That was the final game before the show's official tenth birthday on the 31st of October. Noel's game was repeated the day before to mark this.

The show has carried on since then; we've had another week of Double Trouble specials, for siblings this time, two £35,000 wins in a week, two more Power 5 wins (one of which was just today), and, overall, the long summer break seems to have revitalised the show, as the games have been generally better since it came back.

But how much longer can the show go on for?

Well, just under three years ago, I spoke to former LAM regular contributor Des Elmes about the show's prospects; he thought the show would carry on for about three more years, provided the show didn't start flogging a dead horse.

Well, here we are nearly three years later, and the show is still running, albeit on its last legs. The show does still have the capability to produce great television, as shown by Ann and Harry's games, and the various Power 5 wins we have had since.

But the novelty has long worn off; most people have either stopped watching the show, or, like myself, taken to reading the commentaries on the forum to follow the show instead, or both. And the tweaks to the format (Box 23 and the Offer Button) have also alienated a lot of the fanbase, who do not approve of the twists that can alter the game. Main objection being that a blue win can suddenly be all OK again if +£10,000 is in Box 23.

The show has definitely had a good run, as Weaver's Week predicted it would back in 2006. How much longer it will go on for is anyone's guess. Channel 4 do still seem to want it to carry on, even if it is in truncated form due to horse racing being on some weeks, resulting in some weeks with just three or four shows.

Rest assured, when the show does eventually come to the end of it's run, I will reprint what I have written in this retrospective series, and add on to it with what happens for the rest of the show's run, however much longer it is.

That's it for this retrospective series. I'll be back next week with Only Connect. If I understand correctly, the show is carrying on as usual over Christmas and into the New Year. I will keep on top of it as much as I can.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Quarter-Final 1: Scientists vs String Section

OK, now this may get a bit tricky, so just bear with me if I can't properly explain some of these hard questions. Playing the first knockout match were the Scientists, Innis Carson, Ian Volante and Lorraine Murtagh, who defeated the Builders and the Athenians, and the String Section, Tessa North, Richard Aubrey and Pete Sorel-Cameron, who beat the Headliners and the Wayfarers.

Round 1. The String Section went first and, as they always do, chose Two Reeds: 'Israel = student', then 'The Netherlands = monkey tail', then 'Italy = snail', and finally 'Norway = curly alpha'. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents. They are what that country uses instead of an '@'. The Scientists began their game with Twisted Flax: 'Copenhagen - Ellen Price', then 'New York - Charlotte Bartholdi', then 'Piccadilly Circus - Angelo Colarossi', and finally 'Rolls Royce - Eleanor Velasco Thornton'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: they were the models for famous statues relating to those locations. For their own question, the String Section chose Eye of Horus, and got the music set: I didn't recognise any of the pieces, except one from an advert. They, however, spotted that they were all sung by Oscar-winning actors (the one I recognised was Lee Marvin singing 'Wand'rin' Star'). The Scientists chose Lion next: 'Michael Elphick and Helen Mirren as children', then 'Ray Winstone as a borstal inmate', then 'Leo McKern as Rumpole', and finally 'Alison Steadman as Beverly'. Again, they didn't get it, nor did the opposition. They are all roles in the BBC's 'Play for Today'. The String Section chose Horned Viper next, and got the picture question: now, I can't really describe this one, but they were all paintings that were subject to controversial restorations. They knew this for a point. Left with Water, the Scientists saw 'Memoir: My Life', then 'Song: Your Life', then 'Film: September', and finally 'Novella: the Life of Ivan Denisovich'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: putting 'One Day in' in front of the latter gives the former. At the end of the first round, the String Section led 4-0.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The String Section kicked things off with Two Reeds again: 'DA02 Nuclear / non-nuclear weapons', then 'DA03 Ciphers and secure communications', and then 'DA04 Sensitive installations and home addresses'. Neither time got it: 'DA05 UK security and intelligence services'. The sequence is the Defence Advisory Notice System. The Scientists chose Eye of Horus next: '1 x 11 = 11', then '10 x 11 = 110', and then '11 x 11 = 1001'; they offered '100 x 11 = 1100', which was correct for two points. It is the three times table in binary. The String Section chose Lion next: 'Sculpture of lovers by Rodin', then '1966 surfing documentary', and then 'Song from Jeff Wayne musical'; they didn't get it, their opponents just about did, offering 'Always Winter'. The clues represent 'Eternal Spring', 'Endless Summer' and 'Forever Autumn'. For their own question, the Scientists chose 'Horn-ed' Viper, and got a music question: only song I recognised was Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams, which was third. They didn't get it, their opponents did: a song by Dinah Washington would suffice. The artists all share their names with the first four presidents of the USA going backwards (the first two artists being Madison Avenue and Jefferson Airplane). For their own final choice, the String Section chose Twisted Flax: 'Ephesus', then 'Galatia', and then 'Corinth (twice)'. Neither team got it: 'Rome' completes the set. They are the epistles written by Paul the Apostle in reverse order. Left with Water, the Scientists got the picture question; again, it was one I cannot really describe in detail, but the pictures presented Stettin, the Baltic and Trieste. Neither team offered 'the Adriatic', the link being Churchill's famous Iron Curtain speech. At the end of the second round, the String Section led 5-3.

On to the Walls then. The Scientists went first, and chose to try the Water wall. After some unsuccessful gos, they isolated 'Victoria', 'Cairo', 'Juba' and 'Praia', which are African capital cities. A second group followed: 'Spiaggia', 'Strand', 'Plage' and 'Kahakai' are words for beaches. The final two groups followed: 'Surrender', 'Teddy Bear', 'King Creole' and 'Polk Salad Annie' are songs by Elvis, while 'Monrovia', 'Woody Guthrie', 'Hoover Dam' and 'Cristiano Ronaldo' are named after US presidents. Well resolved considering how tricky that was, so ten points.

The String Section were left with the Lion wall. After looking over the clues, they isolated 'Keynes', 'Lynn', 'Buzzard' and 'Walden', which are the second halves of towns in England. They soon had a second group sorted as well: 'Scarlet', 'Blue', 'Osprey' and 'Dragon' are Welsh rugby union teams. They worked out what the remaining links were, and tried quickly trying to solve them, eventually managing it on their final go: 'Hobby', 'Vulture', 'Kite' and 'Falcon' are birds of prey, while 'Modigliani', 'Friedman', 'Hayek' and 'Tobin' are Nobel prize winning economists. Another well resolved ten points meant they led 15-13 going into the final round.

Once again, then, Missing Vowels would decide the winners. 'Songs from Saturday Night Fever' was split 2-each. 'Names with the word 'Taylor' removed', such as 'TIM BROOKE', proved decisive, going to the String Section 4-(-2). 'Greek muses' was another 2-all split, and that was it. The String Section won 23-15.

Another good match in spite of some tricky questions. Unlucky Scientists, but well played over three matches. Well done String Section, though, and very best of luck in the SFs!

Next week's match: the Yorkers vs the Operational Researchers

I'll be back tomorrow to finish off my Deal retrospective.

Monday, 7 December 2015

University Challenge 2015-16: Round 2: Match 6: St George's vs Peterhouse

Evening all. Here we are with, what appears to be, the final regular UC before Christmas. The usual Christmas University Challenge series begins a week on Sunday, unless I'm mistaken, and a few hints as to the various celebs participating have begun to surface on Twitter over the past few weeks. On with tonight's show, and two teams with similar first round scores, but very different experiences.

St George's of London defeated the Institute of Cancer Research 190-70 in their first round match, but were never really challenged by their (pleasant) opponents, and only converted around half their bonuses. They'd probably need to do somewhat better on both fronts tonight. They were the same four as before:
Alex Costley-White, from London, studying Medicine
Charles Nicholas, from Lewes in East Sussex, studying Medicine
Captain: Tom Burns, from Amersham in Buckinghamshire, studying Medicine
Lucy Studd, from London, studying Medicine

Peterhouse Cambridge won the first match of the series, beating Glasgow 185-155. And we all know what happened to their opponents afterwards. Similar bonus rate to their opponents tonight, but achieved against better Round 1 opposition, making them lukewarm favourites for tonight. They too were the same four as before:
Thomas Langley, from Newcastle, studying Chemistry
Oscar Powell, from York, studying Geological Sciences
Captain: Hannah Woods, from Manchester, studying History
Julian Sutcliffe, from Reading, studying History

Off we set again then, and Peterhouse got off the mark first, with Mr Sutcliffe doing the honours, and two bonuses on the work of Mr Joseph Paxton. A second starter went to the Cambridge side, and two bonuses accompanied it again. St George's kicked off the mark courtesy of Mr Burns (resists temptation to make Simpsons joke!), and they too took two bonuses. That sequence was broken in the next bonus set, when Peterhouse only managed one on acting technique. The first picture round, on civil engineering works of Mr Thomas Telford, went to Peterhouse; one bonus followed, giving them a lead of 70-20.

The Cambridge side's momentum continued, as they took another starter, though, again, just one bonus followed. But as long as they could keep beating their opponents to the buzzer, that didn't matter. Two bonuses accompanied their next starter, before a slip-up pegged them back five, though St George's failed to capitalise. Miss Woods restored her side's momentum with the next starter, and one bonus followed. And at this point, Paxo gave St George's the kiss of death by telling them there was still plenty of time left!

The music starter saw an unlucky miss for St George's, allowing Miss Woods to take her second consecutive starter; the bonuses, on non-anglophone songs that have made the UK Top 10, only gave Peterhouse five more points, but they still comfortably led 130-20. And they weren't finished yet: Mr Sutcliffe took the next starter, and Mr Powell gave us the comedy moment of the night by stating he hated biochemistry! (Paxo pulled him up on this after the gong!) St George's just couldn't gain any traction, with Peterhouse taking yet another starter and two bonuses.

The second picture round, on alleged communist sympathisers from the HJollywood Red Scare, saw St George's finally break back into the match; they took one of the bonuses, reducing the deficit to 160-35. Mr Costley-White gave the Londoners a second starter in a row, and two bonuses on 2001: A Space Odyssey. A third starter in a row went to St George's, and two bonuses on medieval Europe showed they weren't going to give in, though they had perhaps left it a bit too late.

The London side then took a fourth starter in a row, but just one bonus followed this time. And any hopes of a miraculous comeback were put to bed when Mr Langley took the next starter for Peterhouse, and two bonuses on politics followed. St George's took another starter, but no bonuses followed, and they then rather harshly lost five to one of those borderline interruptions. (Luckily, it came too late to have any impact on the match) Peterhouse took the final starter of the match, the first bonus, and that was it. At the gong, Peterhouse won 195-90.

An enjoyable match, even if it was somewhat one sided. Unlucky St George's, who were simply outplayed until the final phase, but nothing to be ashamed of there, so well done and thanks for playing. Well done Peterhouse though; a decent showing, though I feel they'll need to be more consistant with the bonuses next time. Best of luck to them for that next time!

Mr Sutcliffe was the best buzzer of the night, with four to his name, while Mr Costley-White was best of St George's with three. On the bonuses, St George's converted 7 out of 18, while Peterhouse managed 16 out of 34, and both sides incurred one penalty.

So, that's it for this year. No show next week due to an hour long Nigella special. We'll resume in the New Year, and have the Christmas series to keep us going in the mean time. That will start a week on Sunday, and I'll post sporadic updates on it over the break.

Only Connect is on next Monday; it was on tonight as well with the first knockout match, which I'll go over later in the week, as well as finishing my Deal retrospective.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Ten Years of Deal or No Deal: Part 5: The Classic Era is Officially Over

OK, time to carry on with this retrospective.

Well, it finally happened. After just under eight years, we finally saw a male win the jackpot. 18 year old Paddy Roberts won the Jackpot in early August 2013, thus bringing to an end the show's longest running storyline. So, how would the show cope with that?

Well, as I mentioned last time, the show was not in a terribly healthy state in the summer of 2013; the memories of Iris' cautious gameplay in late June were still hanging around, with the Banker making poor offers for the board, and most of the players being complacent enough to take them. And those who didn't, with the exception of Marlene and Paddy, crashed to a blue win, enforcing the cautious approach even further.

Indeed, like Marlene's game, Paddy's game had impact on this approach; almost all the players who witnessed his game cautiously backed out. We did eventually get a run of better games in early September, with 8 players in just over a fortnight getting the most out of their game (including four in a row). But this was covering up the fact that the show was struggling. Like last year, we seemed to be having an Autumn drought of Power 5 wins.

We could have had one if Mel Williams had dealt her fifth offer of £35,000, but she didn't, and crashed to just 50p. For once, (nearly) everyone was in agreement that she had bought it upon herself. But it was another low blue win the following week, that of Laura Dean, which set the standard for a while. She was not a gambler, but she felt obliged to turn down her ungenerous third offer of £16,500 (IIRC), which was a stick from the second offer, and crashed.

Seeing such a cautious player take an out of character gamble and crash horrified everyone, and the cautious vibe that appeared to have been lifting in the prior weeks came back with a vengeance. The weeks after Laura's game saw some of the most cautious deals of all time, including a record that will never be broken: Colin Harrison's selling of the £250,000 for just £5,000.

Even when Pat Morgan achieved a finish of £15,000 and £75,000, she cautiously bailed out with £33,333, denying us that long awaited Power 5 win. But, eventually, come early December, the run was broken by two £75,000 wins in just over a week: Nenad Raicevic dealt it on a 50p-£250,000 final two, and Gwyn Hughes won it from his box.

Still, 2013 had been by far the weakest year of the show's run. The format was beginning to run out of steam, so action was needed. And the action taken would change everyone's perspective of the show forever.

Come the first game of 2014, that of Joey Gilchrist, a brand new feature was added to the show: Box 23. After the final regular box had been opened, the player now had the chance to buy Box 23 with their winnings. Inside it was one of five options: DOUBLE (winnings are doubled), +£10,000 (an extra £10,000 is added to the winnings), MONEY BACK (nothing happens), HALF (winnings are halved), and NOTHING (winnings are wiped out altogether).

On the (not unreasonable) basis that it wouldn't have one of the bad ones in it on its first game, Mr Gilchrist bought the box for his £10,900 winnings. And got an extra £10,000 from the box.

But his game would prove to be the only time for months that someone would risk that much on Box 23. The following players, having not expected Box 23 to be there, had no idea how to handle it, and most ended up rejecting it. Only players who won blues would buy it, and most would not be rescued by +£10,000.

Then Tash Evans won just £5, but got the extra £10,000 from Box 23. And, from that point on, the trust of many viewers was lost forever. Now, a player could simply go all the way, win a very low blue, and suddenly get an extra £10,000 for no risk whatsoever. Deal would never be the same again.

Then, in late-early February, Roop Singh won £250,000! Like Tegen, no-one had seen it coming, especially as he didn't appear to be much of a risk taker. He was half tempted to buy Box 23, and try to become the show's first half-millionaire! But the possibility of losing the lot got to him, and he very sensibly kept the money. But if he had gone for it, he would've had £500,000!

Other good games included Annalynn Cook winning £75,000, Stephen Hosie becoming the first player ever to receive an offer higher than the highest remaining sum(!) (thanks to a twist), and Pat Crick's game, another that came from nowhere. She managed to pull off only the second LIVE play achieving of the £100,000-£250,000 finish! She dealt the resultant offer of £170,000 for the highest ever sum dealt!

We also had the first ever players to win HALF A PENNY! Dave Wart and Tendai Zitira both won 1p, bought Box 23 with it, and HALF was in it! Players who win an odd number of pence and get HALF from Box 23 get a HALF-PENNY certificate, which the Banker hates having to make, as it costs 10p to use the photocopier!

Nothing much else of note happened for a while. April saw only one memorable game, Earl Woods' well earned £65,000 win, though Sam Haste's £20,000 box win was good as well. Other than that, it was just player cautiously dealing modest sums, or winning blues and either getting £10,000 or not.

Even a long awaited Power 5 win, Rosie Head's £46,000 win, was overshadowed due to it being a poor offer on a £20,000-£100,000 final two. Then, something amazing happened: someone bought Box 23 with a red! Matt Chapman bought it for £8,900, but lost half of it. And then: it happened again! Peter Harding purchased it for £12,200, and got an extra £10,000. The latter stands alongside Rich and Scott from 2012 as one of the biggest base breaker games of all time.

Mercifully, around this time, the Banker's ungenerous offer trend that had been going on since last summer seemed to have lifted somewhat, with generally better offers for the board. Two Power 5 wins from generous offers in under a week seemed to show this, as did the fact that Stan Colling's £50,000 box win, which would have been received by open arms a couple of months prior, was met with a mixed response.

The traditional summer themed week did little to improve general discomfort, though, with +£10,000 being upped to +£20,000 for that week only further umimpressing purists. But better things were to come in August, with three Power 5 wins in a single week marking the show's best run for months, boosted further by two £15,000 box wins and a £20,000 box win the previous week boosting it more.

But this good run of games only made the show's traditional September slump even more disappointing than usual. High points of a dour September were a decent £7,000 win from future Big Brother 'star' Jack McDermott, and Grant McTaggart's £18,000 win, which was overshadowed by unsporting Banker behaviour.

Come October, though, another new feature was introduced: the Offer Button. Basically, the player gets to predict their first offer, and, if they are correct or within 10% of it, the offer button is active. They can press it whenever they want to receive an instant offer.

As good an idea as this was, much better than Box 23, it did little to improve the indifferent form: key moments of the early button era were Aaron Dell using it to win £32,000, and Carly Payne's game, which was notable not for what she did, but for the fact something went wrong and the final part of her game ended up showing twice and pushing the entire evening's schedule back fifteen minutes! (Something similar happened in late July, when a technical fault in Glasgow resulted in an edition of Deal being shown live at the Commonwealth games!)

But it wasn't all bad. Halloween bought one of the best games of all time, as Bill Richards won £80,000, thanks to a use of the Offer Button at 4-box with the Power 5 in play!

But after that, nothing of note happened for a while: we did see two Power 5 wins in just over a week, but 2014 petered out somewhat with a run of very ordinary games of little note, perked up somewhat at Christmas, with a run of specials where NOTHING in Box 23 was replaced by a piece of coal!

Going into 2015, the show's tenth year, most had accepted that the show had run its course, and were just going through the motions daily. Nothing of note in the early months of 2015, apart from Mandy O'Brian's £50,000 win, and John Cooper buying Box 23 for £15,000 (IIRC), and losing the lot!

We did, however, see a new idea for the show: couples playing Deal. We had seen something similar before, with twins playing the game as a single entity, but it was the first time the show had broken for a full, stand-alone week of couples playing the show. The idea would be repeated twice later in the year with grandparents and grandchildren and siblings playing the show, but that's for next time.

To be fair, the couples shows were about the only other thing worth talking about in the early months of 2015. Eventually, April picked things up somewhat with a good early run of games, which led up to the final week of the month, where we had two Power 5 wins in a row, coupled with a near miss with a £33,000 win.

A £40,000 win was the only real highlight of a dour May, alongside a purchase of Box 23 for £14,000! (Again, the extra £10,000 showed up). And the show ran slowly through June at a slow pace until, late on in the month, some intriguing news came up: the show was coming off the air for a while!

Yes, Channel 4 decided to put Fifteen-to-One 2.0 in the show's slot for the summer, giving the show a much needed rest. And, to be honest, it was needed: the show had been running non stop since August 2011, and even the most loyal of fans were beginning to tire. A break would give everyone a chance to refresh and rest up, giving the show a refreshed sense when it returned, in the run-up to the show's tenth anniversary in October.

And we'll get to that in the final part of this retrospective, next week!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Play-Off 4: Athenians vs Bookworms

OK, here we go with the final match of the OC group phase. Playing for the final place in the knockout phase were the Athenians, blog reader Jon Stitcher, Amber Marshall and Ben Holmes, who defeated the Road Trippers but lost to the Scientists, and the Bookworms, Katy Bateman, Dave Knapp and Tristram 'viking o'neill' Cole, who lost to the Wayfarers but defeated the Headliners.

Round 1. The Bookworms kicked the match off with Water: 'The Cradle Will Rock', then 'The Pilgrim's Progress', then 'The New Statesman' and finally 'The Mr. Men'. They didn't know it, but their opponents did: their names all correspond to their characteristics. For their own first question, the Athenians chose Twisted Flax, and got the picture set: we saw a helter skelter, then a cheese grater, then a walkie talkie and finally a gherkin. They offered 'nicknames of London buildings', which was correct for a point. The Bookworms chose Eye of Horus next: 'Uma Therman: Mother', then 'Steve Martin: Parent', then 'Ellar Coltrane: Boy', and finally 'Noel Clarke: Kidult'. They offered 'films with 'hood' on the end and the stars of them'; correct for a point. The Athenians chose Two Reeds next: 'Henry Hudson', then 'Ambrose Bierce', then 'Jimmy Hoffa'; at this point, they offered 'people who disappeared', and were correct for two points. The Bookworms chose Lion next: 'Chair of Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution', then 'Chancellor of City University London', then 'Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City', and finally 'First Lord of the Treasury'. They offered 'titles by which they are not usually known', which was correct for a point. (The First Lord of the Treasury is also the Prime Minister) Left with Horned Viper, the Athenians got the music question; only recognised the final track, which was Beyonce's 'Crazy in Love'. They guessed 'crazy', and were right for a point! So, at the end of the first round, the Athenians led 5-2.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Bookworms kicked the round off with Two Reeds: '11 + 12 + 20 = 6', then '3 + 7 + 8 = 5', and then '4 + 5 + 9 = 4'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: '1 + 2 + 6 = 3' completes the set. They are the lowest three numbers that have the '=' amount of letters in their name, if that makes sense. For their own question, the Athenians chose Water: 'Punjabi', then 'Indo-Aryan', and then 'Indo-Iranian'; they offered 'Indo-European', and were correct for two points. They are the language family trees in order of size. The Bookworms chose Twistexd Flax next: '1954: Hungary', then '1974: The Netherlands', and then '1990: Argentina'; they offered '2014: Argentina', which were correct for a point. They are the teams that lost to Germany/West Germany when they won the World Cup. The Athenians chose Lion next: 'Zaireeka', then 'Sandinista!', and then 'Songs in the Key of Life'; they offered '19' by Adele, which was acceptable. They are albums with 4, 3, 2 and 1 disc(s). For their final choice, the Bookworms chose Eye of Horus: '4: Trianon (Hungary), then '3: Neuilly (Bulgaria), and then '2: Saint Germain (Austria)'; they offered '1: Versailles (Germany)', and were correct for two points. They are the WWI peace treaties in reverse order of signing, and the nations they were with. Left with Horned Viper again, the Athenians got the picture set, and saw three trees in their pictures, a birch, then an oak, and then a pine. They didn't get it, partly due to misidentifying the second picture, and nor did their opponents. They are the most common British trees, and the spruce completes the set. At the end of the second round, the Athenians led 10-6.

On to the Walls once again then. The Athenians went first, and chose the Lion wall. They quickly unraveled the first two sets: 'Taff', 'Dee', 'Wye' and 'Usk' are Welsh rivers, while 'Eye', 'Pop', 'Deed' and 'Level' are palindromes. They spent a great deal of time examining the remaining clues, and eventually had them resolved: 'Sea', 'Poppy', 'Shuttle' and 'Pea' can all precede 'cock', while 'Shag', 'Swift', 'Twite' and 'Jay' are British birds. A well worked out completed wall, so a full ten points.

The Bookworms were left with the Water wall. They too quickly got their first set: 'Boyle', 'Henry', 'Avogadro' and 'Gay-Lussac' are scientists who gave their names to gas laws in physics. After unsuccessfully playing with the other clues for a while, they worked out a second set: 'Dettori', 'Knuckles', 'Vaughan' and 'Avalon' are famous Frankies. The final groups soon followed suite: 'Shangri-La', 'Atlantis', 'Asgard' and 'Shambhala' are mythical places, while 'Compact', 'Eldorado', 'Triangle' and 'Crossroads' are defunct British soap operas. Another well resolved full wall, so ten points there as well, which meant the Athenians led 20-16 going into the final round.

So, once again in, what has been, a fine series of OC, Missing Vowels would decide the match. 'Black and white things' went to the Bookworms 4-(-1), giving them the lead. 'Song titles advanced by one season', such as 'SUMMERTIME FOR HITLER', went to the Bookworms 3-0. 'Sisters' went to the Athenians 2-(-1), and that was the end of the match. The Bookworms had, again, come from behind to sneak through 22-21!

Another fine half hour of quizzing, and a very close one too. Unlucky Athenians, but you've played very well and have been unjustly unlucky twice, so well done on a good run. Well done to the Bookworms though; another brave effort, and we'll see you again in the QFs!

Next week's match: the Scientists vs the String Section in the first knockout match.

And, yes, Series 1 will eventually be sorted. Maybe after this series is over. We'll see. I'll be back tomorrow to carry on my Deal retrospective.

Monday, 30 November 2015

University Challenge 2015-16: Round 2: Match 5: Christ's vs York

Evening all. Well, it had to happen again, didn't it? Two standout teams from the first round meeting in the knockout round. And both all male as well. Finally, the purists get something to moan about. As Paxo said, both teams had an easy first round match, so it would be interesting to see how they fared against better opposition.

Christ's College Cambridge won their first match against Kellogg College Oxford 205-60, impressing on the buzzer and managing half decently on the bonuses. They were hardly challenged by their opponents, though, so tougher opposition would be interesting. They were the same four as before:
Vivek Midha, from London, studying Economics
Joe Kitchen, from Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, studying History
Captain: Douglas Morton, from Bearsden near Glasgow, studying Law
Evan Lynch, from Castleford in West Yorkshire, studying Natural Sciences

York pulled off a surprising 265-90 win over Manchester (The Team Everyone Wants to Beat) in their first match, impressing on both the buzzer and the bonuses. Considered by many to be the team to beat, and, after the second round misfortune of the past three York teams, hopefully things would go better for them this time. They too were unchanged from before:
Barto Joly de Lotbiniere, from London, studying History
Sam Smith, from Guernsey, studying Chemistry
Captain: David Landon Cole, from Yeovil, studying Politics
Joseph McLoughlin, from Oldham, studying Chemistry

Off we set again then, and a slip-up from Christ's allowed York to take the first starter, and all three bonuses on economic paradoxes followed. A second starter went York's way, but no bonuses followed this time. Christ's got off the mark courtesy of Mr Morton, and two bonuses on astronomy followed. York reasserted authority with another starter and two bonuses. The first picture round, on the first stanzas of poems to be identified by the nouns only, went to Christ's, who took one bonus, and cut the gap to 55-30.

A second starter in a row went to the Cambridge side, and a full house of bonuses on island groups (all of which are mainstays of Pointless!) drew them level. Christ's then took the lead on the next starter, and took two bonuses on East Asia. Mr Joly de Lotbiniere took York back into the match, and a full set of bonuses on chemical elements gave them the lead back. A second slip-up from Christ's (harshly penalised, as Paxo was just finishing the question) gave York a bigger lead, and all three bonuses followed again.

The music round, on classical pieces for larger than usual ensembles, went to York, who took one bonus, and increased their lead to 120-70. A second starter in a row for Mr McLoughlin, and a full house of bonuses, a hilarious set on artists as described by!), increased York's advantage. Christ's fought back with a starter and a full bonus set of their own. A second starter in a row went the Cambridge side's way, and a second full bonus set cut the gap to just 25 points.

The second picture round, on birds that appear on national flags, went to York, and increased their lead to 165-120. Another very quick buzz from Mr Smith followed, and York were back in the ascendancy, though just one bonus followed. A third starter in a row went York's way, but no bonuses followed this time, suggesting Christ's still had time to catch up. They did buzz on the next starter, but only succeeded in incurring another penalty, and giving York the points and a full bonus set that made the job even harder.

Another slip-up from Christ's, a pick-up from York, and that was pretty much game over. Yet another slip-up from Christ's went unpicked-up this time, but it didn't really matter. Christ's finally got another starter right, but no bonuses were followed. A second starter in a row went to the Cambridge side, but, again, none of the bonuses followed. Another slip-up just about summed up the Cambridge side's night; York then incurred a penalty after Mr Smith was caught out by a swerve, but it mattered not. At the gong, York won 225-120.

A pretty good close match until the final quarter when York pulled away. Unlucky Christ's, who were a capable team who are unlucky to go out this early, but well done anyway on two decent efforts. Very well done to York though; another good showing against strong opposition, and best of luck in the QFs!

Messrs Smith and Cole were joint best buzzer of the night, with four each for York, while Mr Lynch was best for Christ's with three. On the bonuses, Christ's converted a respectable 14 out of 24 (with a not so respectable six penalties), while York managed an also decent 22 out of 36 (with one late penalty), and all eight players finished with at least one correct starter to their name.

Next week's match: Peterhouse vs St George's (thanks to Miss Woods on Twitter for that!)

Only Connect finally reached the end of its group phase tonight; I'll follow that up later in the week, and also carry on my Deal retrospective.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Ten Years of Deal or No Deal: Part 4: The End of the Classic Era?

Time to get on with this.

Fans of Deal were in for a surprise, when the show returned from it's 2011 summer break two weeks earlier than originally planned. And everyone was a bit put off by this, as, in spite of some good games in the first few weeks of the new run, including a win of £53,000, no-one seemed settled. Even Gurpal van Sal becoming the first male to gamble for the £250,000 since Morris back in 2006 fell flat, partly because he failed and won just £5, but mainly because we were all unsure what was going on.

Eventually, it all made sense: they were going to do two weeks of LIVE shows. A good idea. But before we got to that, we had more important things to deal with. Mainly, THE FOURTH £250,000 WIN! Tegen Roberts won the jackpot to the utter shock of everyone as, unlike the three previous ones, no vague spoilers had snuck out beforehand!

Tegen's win seemed to spark something among the players, as we hit a good run afterwards. We saw a £50,000 win the day after Tegen's game, and a £100,000 win the following week. And then we had another £250,000 gamble! Joycey Gregg turned down £90,000(!) on a £5-£250,000 final two, and won the £5! Unlike Gurpal the previous month, who most felt genuinely sorry for his gamble not paying off, most were unimpressed by Joycey's decision. It still stands to this day as the most money turned down en route to a blue.

The LIVE shows were a truly amazing spectacle. They all ran fairly smoothly, no shows overran, none of the players made decisions that were that controversial, except maybe Kevin Evans, but everyone can forgive him, as they paid off and he won £75,000!

After the LIVE shows, things were restored to normality, with only two truly memorable games in the run up to Christmas. Firstly, Caroline Banana (yes, that was her name!) won £95,000, and former myor of Sligh David MacIsaac turned down £72,000, and crashed to just £2,000.

One notable change in the show happened in 2012: the players were told beforehand if it was their game, giving them time to prepare and maybe not make erratic decisions due to shock. It seemed to work: January 2012 was a great month for the show: five Power 5 wins, four of them in under a fortnight, and plenty of good money given away.

And then we had Rich Masson, who twice turned down above the average offers in an attempt to finally shut Noel up about no man having ever won the £250,000. It didn't work, and he only won £50,000. This stands as one of the biggest base breaker games of all time.

Not much else of note happened for a while: we had Mathew Smith win £30,000, Jess Shanks win £26,000, Damien West crash from £40,000 (IIRC) to £100, and Niko Nikodejavic win just £4,250, but give us a very entertaining game. His game losing to Miss Shanks' in the forum's Show of the Month poll for March 2012 is still one of the most controversial losses of all time.

Things picked up in April: we saw two impressive Power 5 wins from Gemma Ayto and Tony Pugh, and Becky Walters become the first player to win a blue, and still get the most out of her game! (She won £750, while her highest offer was circa £550!)

Another Tony, Tony Bradley, provided much humour on the wings with plenty of humourous anecdotes, but sadly only won 50p. But his game was still the high point of the month where the other highlights were a £30,000 win, a swap of 1p for £15,000 and a player giving some of their winnings to an earlier blue winner.

We also saw the first third offer deal with the £250,000 on the table, which was followed by four players in a row getting most out of their game. We also saw Ali Suwareh win £40,000, and Mariyam Shaheen crash from £60,000 to 1p.

We then had an unfortunate run: we saw the £250,000 getting undersold at least once for three weeks in a row, including for the lowest ever sum at the time (Katie Chipchase selling it for just £8,000). But that was nothing compared to poor Mark de Sousa, whose highest offer was just £199; it was that bad a game in terms of luck.

The next week, though, ANOTHER £250,000 WIN! Nong Skett became the fifth lady in her twenties to win the top prize, and by far the most courageous, having turned down £68,000 on the same £5-£250,000 finish as Gurpal and Joycey the previous year.

Following this, one of the players who witnessed her game, Scott Brown, was so determined to finally chalk up a male jackpot winner, he turned down a very generous third offer of £21,000, not to mention two generous offers beforehand. It didn't work; he also only won £50,000. Like Rich, his game is a massive base breaker among aficionados.

Not much else happened for a while: we saw some decent wins, but nothing of note until Ollie Baitup won £26,000 on the first day of October. And then, THE FIRST EVER SECOND OFFER DEAL! Josh Flannery dealt just £8,000 at his second offer. It didn't work out at all (£15,000 was in his box), and his feat has not been repeated since, though some have come close.

We also saw a crash from £60,000 to £1,000, a 'speed round' of 1p, 10p and 50p, and Lamin Sadi Khan breaking the record for the longest consecutive run of blues (10!). We then had a week where nothing went right: three undersellings of the £250,000, one for just £9,000, a 1p win, a complete trainwreck and a £1,000 win.

Better things were to come before the end of 2012; plenty of humour, and some good sums won, but not much of note until Sarah Mayco won £35,000, the first Power 5 win since Scott four months prior!

The show crawled into 2013 with a good run of games in January, including Steve Chatterton's recovery from a poor start to a £15,000 win. And Bronwyn Petroski's £45,000 win, the first Power 5 win of the year.

Not much else happened after that for a while, until mid March, when Kristian Daley won £15,000, which seemed to raise spirits and we had a good run of games for the rest of month, including Jainaba Janay winning £40,000 and Tommy Leonard winning £45,000.

The good run carried on into April, with almost every week seeing something memorable, mainly a £48,000. Which built up to the end of the month, when Roy Haythornthwaite came SO close to finally chalking up a male £250,000 win. He settled for £100,000. But it wouldn't be long until a male finally won the Jackpot. But that's another story.

Not much else happened after that for a while, until Tia Sharp became the latest person to break the 'lowest selling of the £250,000' record, selling it for just £6,000. And then, one of the biggest games in Deal history: Iris Herod dealt a very low third offer of £10,000 despite everyone advising against it. But it paid off, to everyone's fury!

The other players, however, lowered their expectations after all being proven wrong on that occasion, and the Banker picked up on this. The generosity of the offers took a nosedive after this point, with almost every player for the next month settling for a sum well below what the board was properly worth, and most getting away with it. And when a player decided to go against the run of play and go for big money, they mostly crashed and won a blue, thus enforcing the cautious attitude even further.

Even a long overdue big win, £118,000(!), won by Marlene Service, had no impact on the general player behaviour. The players were still taking offers well below the true value of the board, and giving the Banker no reason to keep lowballing. And, apart from Marlene, most of the players who went for it won blues and scared everyone even more, making them even more cautious.

How much longer would this go on for? Would we ever snap out of this unfortunate run? We'll get to that in the penultimate part of this retrospective next week.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Play-Off 3: Wayfarers vs Builders

OK, time for this week's Only Connect. Playing for the penultimate place in the knockout stage were the Wayfarers, Barbara Thompson, Gerard Mackay and Matt Beatson, who beat the Bookworms but lost to the String Section, and the Builders, Robin Whelan, Ian Orriss and Max Espensen, who lost to the Scientists but won out over the Road Trippers.

Round 1. The Builders kicked the match off with Two Reeds, and the picture set: we saw Patsy Kensit in Holby City, then a chap examining a car, then a woman with two kids, one of them holding a football, and finally a white van man. They ran out of time before they could offer something, and their opponents were clueless. They are pseudo-demographic categories (Holy City Woman, Mondeo Man, Soccer Mum, White Van Man). The Wayfarers opened their account with Twisted Flax: 'Medelsvensson (Sweden)', then 'Max Mustermann (Germany)', then 'Jan Modaal (Netherlands)' and finally 'Joe Blow (Australia)'. They suggested that they are that nations generic name for an everyman (ie Joe Bloggs in Britain), and were correct for a point. The Builders chose Lion next, and got the music question: we heard Walk This Way by Aerosmith, then 'Fame (I'm Gonna Live Forever)' and then two I didn't recognise. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents. They are all songs set in school. Pretty simple for this stage of the contest. The Wayfarers chose Eye of Horus next: 'Darcey Bussell by Sir Bruce Forsyth', then 'Cesar Azpilicueta by his Chelsea team-mates', then 'Rodney by Trigger'; they offered that they have all been called 'Dave', which was correct for two points! ('UKTV G2 since 2007' was the clue they didn't see!) The Builders chose Horned Viper next: 'Aldous Huxley dies', then 'CS Lewis dies'; they offered '22nd November 1963', which was correct for three points. (JFK's death being one of the clues they didn't see) Left with Water, the Wayfarers saw 'Turkey' (in turquoise writing), then 'Spain' (in red writing), then 'Italy' in pink writing; they suggested that the names of the colours came from the country's language. Not right. The Builders saw 'France' in yellow writing, but were none the wiser. They are the leaders jerseys in that country's cycle race. At the end of the first round, the teams were tied 3-each.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Builders kicked the round off with Eye of Horus: 'Your second cousin, once removed', then 'Your first cousin, once removed', and then 'Your niece or nephew'; they offered 'Your sibling', which was not right. Their opponents offered 'Your child', which was correct for a bonus. For their own question, the Wayfarers chose Two Reeds: '1.0, 2.0, 3.0', then '95, 98, Me'; they offered '7, 8, 8.1', which was allowed. '7, 8, 10' was the model answer; they are the major Windows operation systems. 8.1 was an update, but it would carry on the sequence, so they let them off with it. The Builders chose Water next: 'Australian Open - The Masters' they saw, and immediately offered 'US Open - US PGA'. Correct, for five points! They are the tennis and golf majors in sequential order. Good call! The Wayfarers chose Lion next: 'Son House's blues', then 'Correction of digital image', and then 'Blocked by propranolol'; they didn't get it, nor did their opponents. The clues represent 'Delta', 'Gamma' and 'Beta', so it's OC's old friends, the Greek letters! So, something representing 'Alpha' would do the job. For their final choice, the Builders chose Horned Viper, and got the picture set: we saw Matthew Pinsent, then a female judo player, and then a male swimmer. Neither team knew it. They are the Team GB flag bearers at successive Olympic games (the judo lady being Kate Howey and the swimmer Mark Foster), so Sir Chris Hoy would complete the sequence. Left with Twisted Flax, the Wayfarers saw 'Gorm The Old', then 'Harald Bluetooth', and then 'Svein Forkbeard'; they offered 'Cnut', which was correct for two points. At the end of the second round, the Wayfarers led 9-8.

On to the Walls. The Wayfarers went first and chose to tackle the Water wall. After working out some groups, and trying some unsuccessfully, they isolated 'Kirk', 'Janeway', 'Archer' and 'Sisko', which are Star Trek captains, and then 'Norman', 'Alsatian', 'Provencal' and 'Picard', which are names for Frenchmen from certain regions. The remaining groups slotted in soon enough: 'Bergamasco', 'Lancashire Heeler', 'Collie' and 'Schapendoes' are all herding dogs, while 'Kermode', 'Ebert', 'Kael' and 'Bazin' are the surnames of film critics. A full house of ten for that then.

The Builders thus had the Lion wall to deal with. Again, they spotted some links, but had trouble isolating sets. They eventually isolated 'Gone Girl', 'Fight Club', 'Zodiac' and 'Panic Room', which are films directed by David Fincher, but they didn't know this, so dropped the point. After some more fiddling about, they isolated a second set: 'Conjunction', 'Ascendant', 'House' and 'Square' are astrological terms. They didn't have much time left to solve the rest, but did manage three tries, which ran their lives out. They still bonuses to pick up: 'Scissor', 'Seven', 'Ugly' and 'Magdalene' can all precede 'sisters', which they knew, while 'Brittany', 'Munsterlander', 'Italian spinone' and 'Pointer' are hunting dogs, which they also knew. Five points for that, which meant the Wayfarers led 19-13 going into the final round.

Not an insurmountable gap, so it was still very much all to play for in Missing Vowels. 'Street food from around the World' went to the Builders 4-0, so already four off the gap. 'Things represented by 'Po'' went to the Wayfarers 2-1. 'Alliterative cartoon characters' was a 1-1 draw, and that was time. The Wayfarers won 21-19.

Another good match with plenty of good quizzing. Unlucky Builders, but well played throughout the series. Well done Wayfarers; see you in the QFs.

Next week's match: the Bookworms vs the Athenians

I'll restate my intention to finish Series 1 someday, but don't be surprised if I don't get round to it.

Monday, 23 November 2015

University Challenge 2015-16: Round 2: Match 4: Southampton vs Liverpool

Evening all. Another second round match, and one that presented a big dilemma for me: two teams, both with blog readers among them, one of whom follows me on Twitter. Why oh why did these two have to meet in the knockout round? My opposition to the QFs being the group phase is still the same as it has been since the discussion we had this time last year, so I need not go on again here.

Southampton lost their first match to St Catharine's College Cambridge 165-135, but recovered with a comfortable 235-120 win over Queen Mary London in the play-off, notable for being the final match before OC's controversial change of time. They were still the same four as before:
Will Cable, from Swindon, studying History
Sarah Stock, from Cardiff, studying Chemistry
Captain: Tricia Goggin, from New Ross in Ireland, studying Biomedical Engineering 
Roland Sadler, from London, studying Biology

Liverpool won their first match comfortably, beating St Peter's College Oxford 205-130 back in July, in a match notable for being shunted back half an hour due to the golf overrunning (and thus annoying anyone who had set the match to be recorded!). They too were the same four as before:
Jenny McLoughlin, from Leeds, studying Biological and Medical Sciences
Jack Bennett, from Lancaster, studying Law
Captain: Robin Wainwright, from the Wirral, studying Biological Sciences
Ed Bretherton, from Bampton in Devon, studying Medicine

Off we set again then, and Mr Sadler picked up where he left off by taking the first starter for Southampton; a full set of bonuses followed, a sure sign of intent. A second starter to the Solent team followed, and two bonuses on types of penguin followed. Mr Wainwright took Liverpool's first starter, and their second, with just two of the six bonuses coming with it. The first picture round was unluckily narrowly missed by both sides; the bonuses, on Indian premier league cricket teams, went to Liverpool, who didn't take any bonuses, and thus, despite having taken one starter more than their opponents, trailed 45-40.

The Merseysiders took the lead with the next starter, however, and a full set of bonuses on Central Asia showed a big improvement. Southampton fought back instantly, however, with two bonuses leveling the score. Blog reader Jack Bennett took his first starter of the match, and another full set of bonuses suggested his side had hit their stride now. But Southampton bit back again, with blog reader and Twitterer Tricia Goggin taking the next starter, and one bonus followed. Good match so far.

The music round, on trios of bands and the record labels they signed to, went to Southampton, who only managed one of the bonuses, but had snuck back into the lead 95-90. Liverpool immediately retook it with the next starter, and took one bonus on poetry. Miss Goggin fought back immediately for Southampton again, keeping the match in check. A very good quick buzz by Mr Bennett gave Liverpool the lead back again, and two bonuses gave them a slightly better lead. Still anyone's game.

The second picture starter was dropped; the bonuses, on authors who wrote in English when it wasn't their first language, went to Liverpool, who took one and upped their lead to 140-110. It was around this time in their first game that they hit a late run and began to pull away. And when Mr Wainwright took the next starter, and a full set of bonuses on film followed, you began to think that could be happening again. Indeed, another starter and one bonus gave them a potentially match winning lead.

And when Mr Wainwaight took the next starter, they may have just put things out of reach, even though all the bonuses were missed. But Southampton weren't going to give up, as Miss Goggin took the next starter, and two bonuses on caves followed. Another starter went to Southampton, but no bonuses followed, though they were unlucky to miss one. The final starter went to Southampton, one bonus followed, and that was that. At the gong, Liverpool won 190-155.

Another good close match between two good teams. Unlucky Southampton, but three very respectable performances and nothing to be ashamed of, so well done and thank you very much for playing. Well done to Liverpool though; another good performance against strong opposition, and best of luck in the QFs!

Mr Wainwright was the best buzzer of the night, with six starters, while Miss Goggin was best for Southampton with four. On the bonuses, Southampton converted 13 out of 26, while Liverpool managed 16 out of 33, and there were no penalties all night.

Next week's match: don't know, but will keep an eye on Twitter.

Only Connect carried on with the penultimate group phase match tonight; I'll go into it later in the week, as well as carrying on my Deal retrospective.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Play-Off 2: Spaghetti Westerners vs Operation Researchers

OK, back to regular service as far as Only Connect is concerned. Playing the second play-off were the Spaghetti Westerners, Neil Macaskill, Andrew Frazer and Paul Philpot, who defeated the Mixologists but lost to the Railwaymen, and the Operational Researchers, Paul Allen, Clare Lynch and Alex Hill, who lost to the Cluesmiths but defeated the Polyglots.

Round 1. The Researchers went first, and kicked off with Lion: 'Painful sports 'hernia'', then 'Stars Hollow', then 'Capt. James Onedin' and finally 'Happy Sandler'; they offered 'Gilmore', which was correct for a point. The Westerners opened their account with Eye of Horus, and got the picture set: we saw FDR played by some chap I didn't recognise, then Peter Cushing as Dr Frankenstein, then Laurence Olivier as Hamlet and finally Kurt Wallander, again, I didn't know the actor. Neither side got it, but the Westerners did after time had elapsed: they have all also been played by Kenneth Branagh. The Researchers chose 'Horn-ed' Viper next, and got the music set: didn't recognise the first two, did the third but didn't know what it was, and the fourth I didn't know; the Researchers offered 'weather', which was acceptable. All the songs were named after natural disasters. The Westerners chose Twisted Flax next: 'Mouse 2/3m', then 'Cat: 2m', then 'Chimpanzee: 8m'; they offered the gestation periods in months, which was correct for two points. The Researchers chose Water next: 'JP Morgan: 15/04/1912', then 'Kokura: 09/08/1945', then 'Waylon Jennings: 03/02/1959' and finally Seth Macfarlane: 11/09/2001'. The final clue was the giveaway: they all  narrowly avoided disaster on the date in question (Mr Macfarlane was supposed to be on one of the planes that went into the two towers, but overslept and missed it). Neither team quite had it. Left with Two Reeds, the Westerners saw 'El Chicharito's first team', then 'Author, The Making of the English Working Class', then 'Author, The Go-Between', and finally ''Put a ring on it' song'. They were timed out before they could offer anything, and their opponents didn't know it. They are music formats (CD, EP, LP, Single). Excellent link, but a bit too hard, I think. At the end of the first round, the teams were tied 2-each.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Researchers went first again, chose Eye of Horus, and got a music set: we heard Mull of Kintyre, then Bohemian Rhapsody, and then Do They Know It's Christmas?; they offered (and were forced to sing!) Candle in the Wind, which was correct. They are the best selling singles of all time. The Westerners chose 'the Viper' next: 'Eastern cut-off', then 'Western roll', and then 'Straddle'; they offered 'Fosbury flop', which was correct. They are successive breakings of the men's high jump record and the techniques used. The Researchers chose Lion next, and got the picture set: we saw some carrots, then a pot of marmite, and they offered 'fish', which was correct; they are things that are a good source of Vitamins A, B, C and D respectively. The Westerners chose Two Reeds next: '4th: Rawlinson', then '3rd: Munro', and then '2nd: Smith-Dorrien'; neither side got it. They are the commanders of Lord Kitchener's armies, so '1st: Haig' completes the set. For their final choice, the Researchers chose Water: now, I can't really explain this one, but the sequence was the abundance of elements in the universe, 'Carbon, Oxygen, Helium and Hydrogen'. They didn't get it, the Westerners did for a bonus. Left with Twisted Flax for their own final question, the Westerners saw '1: common era', then '2: scarlet woman', and then '3: death re-enacted'; they didn't get it, nor did their opponents. This was horribly brilliant: there are numbers hidden across the two words, 'commON Era, scarleT WOman, deaTH RE-Enacted' so '4: handcuff ourselves', or 'handcufF OURselves', or some similar phrase, would finish things off. At the end of the second round, the Researchers led 7-5.

On to the Connecting Walls. The Westerners went first, and chose the Lion wall. They really struggled, looking over the clues, and trying desperately to find something, but to no avail. They ran out of time, and had to settle for bonus connection points. 'Chase', 'Bennet', 'Fossil' and 'March' are literary sisters, which they got. 'Celebration', 'Upside Down', 'September' and 'Shame' are disco tracks, which they got. 'Kissing', 'The Laugh', 'June' and 'Millenium' are bugs, which they got. 'Oak chip', 'Lake', 'Keel' and 'May' are anagrams of vegetables, which they, unsurprisingly, didn't get. So just three points there.

So, a big chance for the Researchers to pull away if they could make a good fist of the Water wall. Straight away, they went one better than their opponents and got a set: 'Doctor!', 'Monday', 'Sugar' and 'Louie', when said twice, are pop songs. They then managed a second set: 'Shreds', 'One Red Paperclip', 'Alex from Target' and 'Friday' are Internet memes. (Oh, how I wish 'O-face' had been a clue there!) They looked over the other clues, but ran out of lives are three wrong gos. Thus, they too had to collect bonus points: 'Sunday', 'Moore', 'pi' and 'Taught' are homophones for deserts, which they didn't get, while 'See', 'Island', 'Saturday' and 'City' can all follow 'Holy', which they did get. Five points there, so they led 12-8 going into the final round.

So, once again, it would all be decided by Missing Vowels. 'Films with UK prime ministers in their titles', such as 'THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT' and 'EAST OF EDEN', was split 2-all. 'Currencies and their predecessors' went to the Researchers 2-0. 'Associated with cats' went to the Researchers 1-0, and that was that. At the end of the quiz, the Researchers won 17-10.

Another good half hour of quizzing. Unlucky Westerners, but a good performance over three matches, so well done and thanks for playing. Well done Researchers; good luck in the QFs!

Next week's match: the Wayfarers vs the Builders

Look, I don't know if I'll ever finish Series 1. But you never know.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Ten Years of Deal or No Deal: Part 3: Twist Overload (2009-11)

So, onwards and upwards with my Deal retrospective.

The fifth run started, but any hopes the purists had of a fresh start were dashed in the second game, that of Des Burns, who dealt £50,000 at 5-box, but was controversially offered the Banker's Gamble on a final to of £20,000 and £100,000. (He turned it down) But the game did have a good humour to it at least: one of the players failed to open his box properly!

But, from that point on, there was very little of note: September is the cruelest month for Deal. September 2009 was the epitome of this: nothing but blue wins and Power 5 undersellings (not to mention a 1p win), with only a couple of games that weren't this.

October was a little better, but emphasis on little. We had some good games, like Laura Hammel winning £35,000, but we also had games like that of Martin Trow, who won £1 and took it really badly. And in the Halloween specials, we had David Taylor win £40,000, but even that was overshadowed by the Banker knowing the £250,000 in his box thanks to a twist gone wrong, and Noel going berserk the next day!

Another controversial game saw Terry Court deal £41,000, but then get offered the Banker's Gamble on a final two of 50p and the £250,000. (He turned it down) We did get some more good games in the following weeks: Mike Peoples won £47,500, and two players in a row, Andrew Bulman and Michelle Matson, won £50,000 from the box. And after swapping too!

And then, we had Corinne Davies. She had a dream: to but a vintage Bentley, that cost £200,000. She had to win the £250,000 to achieve this. She chased it. She was left with a final two of 1p and £250,000. She was offered £88,000. She turned it down! And she won... 1p! Ouch! This still stands as one of the biggest, most memorable games of all time, though maybe not for the right reasons.

Two more 1p wins happened later in December, plus an appearance by future Apprentice candidate Sanjay Sood-Smith (who won £1,500.25). And moving into 2010, January got off to a good start: two Power 5 box wins, plenty of good money wins, even if the usual assortment of twists seemed to still be drowning the show.

We then saw a good £75,000 win from Justin Horne, and a memorable game from Eddie Moores, who was offered an enlarged offer if he proposed to his girlfriend. He agreed. So did she! And he won £30,000 as a result.

We didn't see anything else memorable for a while, until two big wins in just over a week: Caine Smalling won £72,000, and then Ramesh Tanna won £77,000. The latter would prove to be the biggest win of the fifth run.

It was around this time that I started watching the show regularly again. The first game I saw after coming back was De Pady winning 1p. We subsequently had Jean Raynor win £50,000, and Harry Smith win £26,000, an offer conditional on the Banker getting a date with his wife!

And then another controversial game: Cheryl Hosford won £75,000 on a 1p-£75,000 final two, via a Banker's Gamble. The thing was: she'd only dealt £7,000. Many considered this a forced big win. Others were pleased, as it gave them something to be pleased about on the day England went out of the World Cup!

We did see two more far more satisfactory big wins from Del Mahmut (£70,000) and Kelly Daley (£50,000) before a fairly ordinary run of games to the end of the season. Only game worth mentioning was Dennis Coy, who dealt £15,000 at the third offer, then claimed afterwards it was a mistake. He later dealt £7,500, but was offered the chance to get the money he lost back if £15,000 was in his box. It was. The purists, and quite a few neutrals, while happy for him, were furious.

One summer break later, the show returned for it's sixth run. Not much to mention, except a highly unlucky misfit: Stephen Richardson and Jade Turner both dealt circa £25,000 sums that were poor for the board they had, and missed six figure offers. In between then, Balbina Sian turned down £45,000, and crashed (albeit just to £15,000); if she'd had either of their games, it would've been much better.

Not much else happened that was memorable. It says a lot that an ordinary £10,000 box win was treated as one of the games of that period. It wasn't until Marshall Eglon won £36,500 in a very unfairly forgotten game that people began to perk up again.

Indeed, it paved the way for two huge wins later that month: Alex Gee ended with the same final two as Corinne, 1p and £250,000, and received the same offer, £88,000, and took it! And then Christopher King won £100,000, the first six figure win six Alice's game 19 months previously!

Not much else memorable happened in the aftermath of those games. Even a special week of shows for the show's 5th birthday wasn't that memorable, and when we did get a promising game, that of Glenn Pond, his partner talked him into dealing a poor offer of £44,000, which cost him the Jackpot.

Even the Christmas specials that year produced little of note, except for Ant Hernandez, who won £75,000, but the New Year produced a major note of memorability: the show moved to an hour long slot.

Many were not pleased with this change, feeling 45 minutes was quite enough. To be honest, I was unsure about this at first, but, a couple of months later, it was hard for me to recall when it was just 45 minutes long.

To be fair, the bad mood about the change of time was probably worsened by the fact that January 2011 was a very poor month for the show, with too many games with unnecessary twists. But when Dale Speight won £100,000 from his box, everyone was delighted, and the fans' faith in the show was restored.

It was complimented nicely a couple of days later by Derrick Preddie's good comedy game, and £12,000 win. And another classic comedy game from Tomas Stone, who only won £8,000, but provided much humour, including a nice memorable story about a blow-up doll in the Falklands!

We had plenty of good games throughout that period: Dylan Hall's dramatic £21,000 win, a good comedy game from Archie Jack, who won £16,000, and a hilarious trainwreck from Danielle Barron, who won no money, but did get a consolation holiday, which he husband had to pay the Banker £50 for!

No Power 5 wins, but the good times soon returned in April, when Paul Bolger won £20,000 from his box, and Sophie Dempsey won £46,000, the first Power 5 sum given away for a while. And also Anthony Routh, who won £11,500, an offer bolstered after he agreed to throw his wife out of the studio! (It made sense in context!). And it was also around this time that I joined the Unofficial DoND forum.

But the biggest, most memorable game of the year was still to come: Suzanne Mulholland's game. The third £250,000 win! And, while probably not the best, certainly one of the more memorable ones. I mean, she did achieve the perfect final two of £100,000 and £250,000! And swap! And even then, she probably only made it that far due to the offers being poor up to that point, due to two exceptionally statistically poor deals earlier that week.

We couldn't have another £250,000 win so soon after Suzanne, could we?! Kerry-Anne Karlson gave it a good go. Too much of a good go. She had a final two of £10,000 and the £250,000, and was offered £140,000! That's above the average! And she turned it down! She won the £10,000. She admitted afterwards that she got carried away in the heat of the moment, and regretted doing what she did. This stands as the most reckless gamble of all time.

Even more ironically, it came the day after poor Rob Lewis, a fellow Aspergers sufferer, dealt £8,000, and missed out on the £250,000. Everyone was in tears for him. He totally didn't deserve it, is the general opinion among neutrals.

Despite these setbacks, we seemed to have hit a good run of games: we saw at least one big money game every week. June 2011 is perhaps my favourite month of the 2010s. We had games like Sam Hunt winning £100,000 (half of which went to charity), and Anthony Usher and his brother providing a good comedy game capped off with a deserved £20,000 win. And also one of my favourite games of all time: Micole Boyce's win of £71,000.

By now, we were into July, and beginning to wind down for the summer break. We ended with a run of fairly average games, including 2 1p wins, and finished the season on a high with two great games from Alphonso Stewart, who won £60,000, and Barnaby Judge, who won £15,000, not being fooled by a bluff from the Banker.

2011, despite the fact that people were not totally satisfied due to the longer slot, was a good year for the show. And I'm not finished with it yet: we'll get on to that next time.

I'll be back tomorrow with my review of last night's OC.

Monday, 16 November 2015

University Challenge 2015-16: Round 2: Match 3: Glasgow vs Newcastle

Evening all. Another second round fixture tonight, and, as I predicted last week, one of the repechage teams reappeared. Against a team from early in the first round. This furthers my theory that TPTB have a system for the second round draw based on filming schedules.

Glasgow lost the first match of the series to Peterhouse Cambridge 185-155, but survived to the repechage, where they beat St Peter's College Oxford 180-120 in a match memorable for some howlers from their opponents! They were the same four as before:
Andrew Davidson, from Stranraer, studying Medicine
Vitali Brejevs, from Riga, studying Maths
Captain: Evelyn McMenamin, from North London, studying Geography
Ollie Allen, from Catford in London, studying Maths

Newcastle defeated Kent 160-115 in their first match back in late July, winning the match based on a far more impressive bonus conversion rate than their opponents. I reckoned on that performance they could be one to watch. They too were the same as before:
Alexander Kirkman, from Guildford, studying Biomedical Sciences
Nick Smith, from Chorley in Lancashire, studying Medicine
Captain: Tony Richardson, from County Durham, studying International Politics
Kate Bennett, from Chichester, studying Film Theory and Practice

Off we set again then, and Mr Richardson got Newcastle off the mark first, and the sides took two bonuses on the Sherlock Holmes novels of Dr Doyle. Miss McMenamin had a bit of a howler on the second starter, buzzing early, giving a wrong answer, then realising she was wrong and saying the right answer aloud! The question had to be scrapped. Mr Brejevs made up for it by taking the next starter and two bonuses followed. A second starter for Mr Richardson followed, and a full set of bonuses on 80s movies followed. The first picture round, on plots of probability distribution (me neither), went to Newcastle after the starter was dropped; no bonuses followed, but they still led 55-15.

Newcastle maintained their better buzzer showing by taking the next starter, but just one bonus from a tricky set followed. Another mistake from Miss McMenamin allowed Miss Bennett to take more points for the Tynesiders; just one bonus followed, but it mattered not as long as they kept acing the buzzer race. Miss McMenamin made up for her earlier errors by identifying the Aberdeenshire town of Braemar for the next starter, but just one bonus from a gettable set on Mary Queen of Scots followed.

The music starter was dropped; the bonuses, on weddings in operas, went to Newcastle; the old trick of saying the same answer (Puccini) for every bonus gave them one correct answer, and increased their lead to 100-30. Five points went from that lead when Mr Richardson unluckily slipped up, but Glasgow couldn't pick the points up. Mr Brejevs took the next starter though, though just one bonus followed. A second starter in a row went to Mr Brejevs, and two bonuses followed, cutting the gap to 30 points. Mr Richardson gave Newcastle more space to breathe with the next starter, though just the one bonus followed again.

The second picture round, on figures whose work inspired the US Founding Fathers, went to Newcastle, who took two bonuses and thus upped their lead to 130-65. Not quite out of reach yet, and Mr Brejevs kept his side in the game by taking the next starter and two bonuses on chemical elements. Mr Kirkman pulled Newcastle further ahead, and two bonuses on the Swiss resort of Davos put them in the driving seat, meaning Glasgow would have to run the show from now on to stand any chance.

Mr Brejevs took the next starter, and a full bonus set on Homer's Odyssey kept them within touching distance. Two starters in a row were then dropped (one of which I knew thanks to last year's Apprentice) before Miss Bennett took a crucial starter for Newcastle; a full set on Norwegian cities followed, gave them a 65 point lead, and that was game over. Glasgow did manage one more starter, and went out with a flourish with a full bonus set of their own. The final two starters were dropped, and that was the gong. Newcastle won 175-135.

One of the better matches of the series so far. Unlucky Glasgow, who were a very capable team, and have nothing at all to be ashamed of, so well done them. Very well done to Newcastle though; another decent performance, and best of luck to them in the QFs!

Messrs Brejevs and Richardson were joint best buzzer of the match, with six starters each for their respective teams. On the bonuses, Glasgow converted a pretty good 14 out of 21, while Newcastle managed a respectable 16 out of 30, and both sides incurred one penalty each.

Next week's match: don't know, but St John's vs Southampton is my best guess

Only Connect soldiered on with its play-off phase; just two more matches before the knockout stage now. I'll get onto that later in the week, as well as carrying on with my DoND retrospective.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Ten Years of Deal or No Deal: Part 2: Bending the Format (2007-09)

OK, time to move on to the third and fourth runs of Deal. It was during these two years that the show began to twist itself somewhat, and people began to lose faith in it somewhat. It also proved the start of a divisive period, with fans split on whether these twists work or not.

The first weeks of the third run, however, saw one of the most controversial twists of all time: the Battle of the Sexes. Two weeks of just men playing, followed by two weeks of just women playing. None of the games were that memorable, except for two Power 5 wins: Jon Galgey, and Daniel Zapp-Kitcher, who achieved the perfect final four of £50,000, £75,000, £100,000 and £250,000. (He won £75,000)

But almost immediately afterwards, Maria Valente won £100,000, in one of the very few big money wins that has not split opinion online.

A few weeks later, we saw the first instance of something that has well and truely split the fandom: the Banker's Gamble. The Banker, at the final offer, allows a player who has already dealt to give their money back. Phyllis Churchill was the first player to receive this offer. But she declined it.

A few notable games followed: Chris Barraclough won £76,000, and a few days later, Michael Babbs dealt £1,000 on a final eight of £100,000 and seven blues. Luckily, he didn't have the big money in the box. And then, a heartbreaking swap for Artak Poghosyan, who swapped £50,000 for £750. But that was nothing compared to what his successor on the wings did just before Christmas.

Orry Main, one of the show's biggest characters, having appeared for a few shows as 'Miss Orry', turned down his final offer of around £20,000, IIRC, on a final two of £100,000 and £1. He swapped. And ended up with the £1! This stands as one of the most shocking shocks of all time. But, as it was Christmas week, he had a bonus £1,000 from a twist earlier in the show.

Yes, this was the first series to do full blown twist weeks, where there were extra games to be had at 5-box, provided the player was still in LIVE play. Of course, the producers didn't trust all players to get that far, so the Banker was under orders to give them rubbish offers beforehand to make sure they got there.

Another notable quotable was the appearance of Olly Murs, two years before he shot to international fame via the X-Factor. He only won £10, but Noel told him he was sure he'd go on to great things. And the rest, as Danny John-Jules would say, is history.

Moving into 2008, Clive Keam have us one of the best comedy games of all time, with humour throughout covering up what was a pretty ordinary win of £9,501. It was followed the following game by a really heartbreaking 1p win from Katie Walsh, the first of three 1p wins that January, a month where no Power 5 sums made it to the table.

After a fairly non-descript couple of months, two games in late March attracted attention: Matty Cirullo's heartbreaking swap of £50,000 for 1p, made even worse by the fact he was (allegedly) playing for a tsunami relief charity, and the Rev. David Schofield, who chose a box in his third round, and found it empty! The remaining boxes were subsequently shuffled, and he carried on from that point, though he was clearly rattled, and bailed out at the third offer of £12,500.

It was around this time that results took a real nosedive; most games were either blue or low red wins, or deals for poor offers for the board with Power 5s on the table. Eventually, something that was neither of those happened: Betty Hardwick won £100,000, another game that no-one has a bad thing to say about.

Clearly, TPTB were fed up with all these early deals too, and the final straw came when Richard Harris controversially dealt £22,500 at the third offer with almost all the Power 5s left, and missed £100,000 as a result. The Banker made a prediction that none of the witnesses to his game would win more than £20,000, and determinedly stuck by it, refusing to offer more than £20,000 even if the board warranted it. It wasn't until the penultimate witness, Don Graham, who £21,000, that this nonsense stopped.

It stopped. The caution didn't. Most players, even if they had very good boards, cautiously dealt circa £20,000 sums, and missed out on huge sums as a result. Most of these seemed to be influenced by a chap called Les Mooney, who appeared to be only telling people to deal. Then, in his own game, he turned down £25,000 on a £50-£100,000 final two! He won the blue. He later revealed that his advice had been edited so he appeared to be only advocating dealing in order to make his final gamble more shocking.

A summer break was dearly needed, but the games after it were even more desperate. Most of the players were forced into blue wins by poor offers designed to encourage gambling, and most of them got handouts of around £1,000 to make up for it. I mean, one chap, Brian Kelly, who won 50p, was offered £2,500 in exchange for a mug he had bought as a lucky talisman!

It wasn't until Jay Wade won £20,000 that things began to pick up, triggering a run of good games, culminating in the first Power 5 win for months, when Julie Holdsworth won £75,000. But we also had games like Mark Grimmett, who won 4p after being lured against his will into turning down £20,000 at 8-box by a promise of generous offers later on.

Things had picked up, but very little memorable stuff happened again until late November, when Lee Whitehouse became the first DoND player to win NO MONEY AT ALL, after a twist designed to make some drama out of a total trainwreck went wrong! And then, a few days later, we had Keran Jackson recover from a horrific start to hit nine blues in a row, and win £75,000 from her box!

And that triggered a good run of games that carried on right up to Christmas, when we saw three Power 5 wins in under a week that finished off 2008 with a bang.

But it was an early game of 2009 that is the most remembered from this period: Mary Collins was offered about £20,000 at 5-box, said 'NO DEAL' to it, and then instantly realised she'd said the wrong thing! She stuck by her accidental response, and won £75,000 as a result!

The first few months of the year, however, weren't that memorable, though interest was sparked by the appearance of Daniel Judge, a stats fanatic who was able to inform the others how generous the Banker was being, and whether it was worth taking the offer. As a result, things generally flowed a bit more smoothly in terms of offer generosity. In his own game, he won £16,500 via a third offer deal.

Another notable face who popped up on the show around this time was David Watts, aka h2005, administrator of the unofficial DoND forum. His game was a fairly ordinary £6,500 5-box deal, but, like Clive the previous year, it was the entertainment value that made his game so memorable.

Not as memorable, though, as a certain Miss Alice Mundy, who played two weeks earlier. Her game started off as a fairly ordinary £16,500 deal at 8-box, but then became one of the games of all time. After her deal, she ended up with a final two of 1p and £250,000! And the Banker evilly offered her the Banker's Gamble! And she took it!! And she won £250,000!!! This stands as one of the biggest base-breaker games of all time: was this a fantastic game, or an utterly manufactured and undeserved win?

The rest of the run to the summer recess petered out by comparison to her and Mr Watts' activities, though interest was sparked by the show's milestone 1,000th episode, in which Aberdeen's own Lisa McLean won £50,000, and a couple of great games immediately before it: Stephen Callender-Ferrier's £35,000 win, and Dirk Nyenhuis' hilarious game, in which the humour more than made up for him only winning 1p!

After a month of fairly ordinary games, we had two Power 5 wins in a row, courtesy of Mel Ashmead winning £50,000 after yet another controversial Banker's Gamble, and Eddie Scott winning £70,000, which was only slightly soured due to him having the Jackpot in his box.

Not much happened for a while until early June, when Ben Bartlett won £25,000 after lying about wanting to do all the way and totally fooling the Banker! Followed the following day by Amy Velleman receiving, what I believe is, the highest 5-box offer of all time: £75,000! (She dealt it)

The run to the summer break petered out with only two more games of note: Simon Lawlor winning £35,000, after initially dealing £4,300, but being offered the Banker's Gamble on a final two of 10p and £35,000. He was going to reject it, but his wife, distraught at what was happening, fainted! Recording was stopped, and resumed after a break, and he changed his mind to DEAL it!

The final game before the summer break was that of Calum Simpkins, whose game stands as one of the best and most dramatic of all time. After some very brave gambles, he was offered an ultra generous £40,000 on a final two of 10p and £100,000, which he dealt, of course!

Overall, then, this period was full of plenty of memorable games, but it was also the period where the fans began to tire with the show. Many were unhappy about the increasing presence of gimmicks such as the Banker's Gamble, which they saw as being responsible for the manufacturing of many big money wins.

But the worst of the twists was still to come, and I'll get to that in the next part of my retrospective.