Monday, 26 January 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Preliminary Quarter-Final 2: St Peter's vs Oxford Brookes

Evening all. You join me, for the first time in months, in my city flat, which I have just moved back into. To kill time while sitting around in it, I've been speed watching the current series of Only Connect, which I haven't seen much of due to writing these. I'm up to the end of the first round at the moment; hopefully, I'll be up to speed in time for the knockout stage in two weeks' time.

On to tonight's show. St Peter's College Oxford won through their first two matches against Sussex and Selwyn College Cambridge comfortably, almost entirely carried by their captain's superlative buzzing skills. Hoping for similar good fortune tonight were the same four as before:
John Armitage, from Lancaster, studying Maths
Ed Roberts, from London, studying History
Captain: Gabriel Trueblood, from London, studying Medicine
Spike Smith, from Maidenhead, studying Maths

Oxford Brookes came through a low scoring first round match against Jesus College Oxford, then surprised many by beating U.C.L. in the second round in a match where the opposition defeated themselves via numerous penalties. They too were unchanged from before:
Simon Joyce, from North Oxfordshire, studying Spatial Planning
Paula Ayres, from Hertfordshire, studying the History of Medicine
Captain: David Ballard, from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, studying Politics and International Relations
Stephen Mayes, from Canterbury, studying History

Off we set again, and Oxford Brookes took off the mark first by taking the first starter, and one bonus. Gabriel Trueblood, exemplary in the earlier rounds, then took his first starter of the night, and the side took a full set of bonuses on 'googols', including one about them being the subject of Major Ingram's million pound question! Mr Trueblood then lost his team five points via a slip-up, but Oxford Brookes couldn't take it. Our friend Simon Joyce ('aspinctersays') then took his first starter of the night, but no bonuses followed. He also took the first picture starter; the bonuses, on logos of European free alliance parties, gave his side a lead of 40-20.

Up now rose Mr Trueblood, who took the next starter, and his side took all their bonuses. As with before, Mr Trueblood was hoodie-clad, and was playing with its toggles to keep his hands occupied. The Oxford college side seemed to be getting most of their bonuses, and that, combined with their, or rather, Mr Trueblood's, quicker buzzer hands, was starting to give them a steady lead. A third full bonus set out of four, preceded by Mr Smith taking his first starter of the night, added fuel to this.

The music round, on classical pieces most commonly played at funerals, went to St Peter's thanks to Mr Trueblood taking the starter; they had now opened up a lead of 100-40. Mr T. wasn't giving up yet, and took the next starter, opening up a set of bonuses on telescopes, which saw him take a rather desperate but plausible guess, which nearly paid off! Mr Smith now took St Peter's further ahead, and a set of bonuses on potatoes gave them two. Mr T. very promptly completed a piece of arithmetic most were probably still calculating when he buzzed!

The second picture round, on portraits of the art dealer Ambroise Vollard, went to St Peter's, and their lead now stood at 165-40. Mr T.'s latest starter related to the Seoul district of Gangnam, which leaves me wondering how long before someone does a YouTube mashup of him singing the eponymous song! Oxford Brookes, who had fallen silent since the first picture round, now woke up again courtesy of our man Simon, and they took two bonuses to lift themselves out of the Sub-50 club, which they totally deserved to do.

Another starter fell to Mr T., who now seemed to be playing with the front of his collar as well as his toggle. The bonuses took them through to 200. Simon J. gave Oxford Brookes another starter, and another two bonuses fell their way. The remaining starter went to that man Trueblood, and all but one bonus was converted too. At the gong, St Peter's won 240-80.

Another fine showing from St Peter's, or rather Mr Trueblood, who will surely be fancied to go through to the semis based on that and before; we shall see how they fare in their qualification match. Unlucky Simon and co, who were outbuzzed for most of the match, but we shall look forward to see them play again in the next phase; best of luck to yous for then!

Mr Trueblood finished the night with ten starters to his name, while our man Simon was best for Oxford Brookes with four. On the bonuses, St Peter's converted 23 out of 38 (with one penalty), while Oxford Brookes managed 6 out of 15.

No word on next week's teams: my guess would be Trinity vs Magdalen.

Only Connect carried on as well, with another team going through. Good to see our man Filip on the show again too; watched his first match the other day in my speed-watch. I look forward to watching tonight's match when I get to it.

Monday, 19 January 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Preliminary Quarter-Final 1: Bristol vs Liverpool

Evening all. We've made it to the prolonged and always intriguing quarter-final stage. From now on, the teams need to win twice to go through to the semis. Winning twice gets a team straight through, losing twice puts a team straight out, one of each puts them in the play-offs. As I guessed, we began with two teams who, with a different second round draw, may not still be with us.

Bristol defeated the Courtauld Institute comfortably in Round 1, and then narrowly took out the very pleasant L.S.H.T.M. team in Round 2. So, they've taken out two specialist institutions; how would they fare against a general uni? Eager to find out were the unchanged foursome of:
Lewis Rendell, from Saffron Walden, studying Maths
Benjamin Moon, from Marksbury in Bath, studying Geology researching Ichthyosaur Systematics and Taxonomy
Captain: Anastasia Reynolds, from Scholes in West Yorkshire, studying Czech and Russian
Miles Coleman, from North London, studying Spanish and Portuguese

Liverpool had two narrow wins over Sheffield in Round 1, and then Glasgow in Round 2; on the latter occasion, they were lucky to ace the buzzer race due to a far inferior bonus rate. Hoping to fix that and complete the hat trick tonight were the also unchanged foursome of:
Ben Mawdsley, from Southport, studying Astrophysics
Jim Davis, from Gullane near Edinburgh, studying Tropical Disease Biology
Captain: Declan Crew, from Liverpool, studying Biochemistry
Hugh Hiscock, from Southampton, studying French

Off we set then, and Mr Mawdsley took his first starter of the series straight away, and the Liverpool side took all three bonuses from their first set, thus suggesting they had fixed their problem from before. A slip-up then knocked them back and allowed Bristol to catch them quickly. The Avonsiders then ran up an early run of momentum on the buzzer, which saw them up to the first picture round, on maps showing travel routes in novels. After this, they lead 50-20.

The Bristol run continued into the next starter, but no bonuses went with it this time. Liverpool broke back into the game via the prior impressive High Hiscock, and took a second full set of bonuses to cut straight into Bristol's lead. The lead then vanished altogether when Miss Reynolds misjudged a swerve on a starter, losing five, and then Mr Crew (to whom I must apologise for not getting his name right before) forgetting to buzz before giving the right answer! He got the points anyway, and his side truely put all memories of last time behind them with a third full bonus set.

The music round, on Northern soul, went to the Merseysiders, but answering Aretha Franklin to all the bonuses didn't get them anywhere! They now led 80-55. A starter was dropped, before Miss Reynolds avenged her earlier error, and the side took two bonuses on Barcelona Metro stations. Liverpool then slipped-up twice and dropped back ten points, but Bristol failed to pick either drop up. The next starter handed Bristol the lead, but they only took one bonus.

The second picture round, on engravings of Dante's Inferno, went to Bristol, and they had opened up a lead of 115-70, despite a lot of fiddle-faddle over one of the bonus answers! Liverpool broke back into the game with the next starter, and took yet another full bonus set on Wikipedia editing laws. (Yes, really) The next starter was dropped, and Miss Reynolds was unlucky to miss the next starter, which was handed over to Liverpool for the points; two bonuses leveled the scores, and set up a sprint finish.

Hugh Hiscock began that sprint by taking the next starter on famous trumpeters, and the side took two bonuses on real names with US states in them. (We've had that before quite recently haven't we?) When the Merseysiders took the next starter, you began to think they had done enough; when they took all three bonuses, that looked pretty surely game over. As if to make sure, they took the final starter and the one bonus they had time for. At the gong, Liverpool won 175-115.

A surprisingly good and enjoyable match between two pretty evenly matched teams. Unlucky Bristol, but they're not finished yet, and we will see them again; best of luck to them then. Well done to Liverpool, though, on their best innings yet IMO, and best of luck to them in their qualification match!

For the first time this year, all eight players got at least one starter correct. Messrs Mawdsley and Hiscock were joint best for Liverpool with three, and Mr Coleman was single best for Bristol also with three. On the bonuses, Bristol converted a fair 10 out of 21 (with one penalty) and Liverpool an absolutely superb 20 out of 25 (with three penalties).

Next week's match: by process of outworking, I'd say St Peter's vs Oxford Brookes (good luck 'aspinctersays' if so!)

Only Connect was good tonight too, with two very pleasant teams who congratulated each other at the end of the show. The show has settled nicely into BBC2, much better than many expected.

Friday, 16 January 2015

University Challenge: More Thoughts on Format Reform

OK guys, time for me to examine some more potential new formats that could be implemented. The second round this year was, fair to say, average at best. Only two matches I would call 'close', and the rest of the matches were hardly that exciting.

One can only hope the QFs will bring some much needed tension back into the series. We haven't had that many close matches this series, and most of the ones we've had have been rather low scoring. The quarter-finals usually bring some good matches, with at least one close match in the play-offs.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been discussing various theories on how to reform the series with someone on the DoND forum.

If it were up to me, and you asked me to reform the series tomorrow, I'd do it like this: cut the number of teams to 24; twelve first round matches, twelve winners plus four highest scoring losers go through to the second round, just like the first four series of the BBC revival.

Then, split the sixteen teams into four groups of four, and it's your standard World Cup Group Phase format for the second round: four teams, who all play each other once; top two go through to the QFs, then straight elimination to the final.

This would take 12 first round matches, 24 group phase matches, then seven final knockout games. That's 43 matches overall, unless I've got my sums wrong. To cut down the run time, air two shows a week during the group phase, so that all four teams form one group play in the same week, and they all finish one week after another.

The forum member I have been conversing with has put forward two formats where the first round is the group phase, which they have given me permission to reprint here:

8 groups of 3 teams, top 2 from each group go through.
6 groups of 4 teams, top 2 from each group + 4 highest scoring 3rd-placed teams go through.

Then straight elimination from the second round onwards. Those would work, even if they do mean extra weekly matches early on.

The case for prolonging the first round, as put forward by Weaver's Week, is that it gives all the teams at least two fixtures and no team will have had a wasted journey. Which is why Only Connect introduced the round robin format, allegedly.

The case against prolonging the early rounds, as put forward by various contributors on here, is that it would drag things out well beyond the average viewer's patience. As Filip Drnovsek Zorko said, the only reasons it's working with OC is because there are fewer teams to begin with.

On the other hand, many average viewers who don't watch UC weekly like us have expressed confusion at the current QF format. As WW points out, it is hard to tell from week to week whether the losing team will get another chance or not. If the show does what OC does, and group the elimination and qualification matches together in the group phase, it would be easier to follow.

The only other possible theory I can put forward is going back to straight elimination from Round 2 onwards; that way, getting a second chance isn't discriminated against unlucky Round 2 dropouts, if you get what I mean.

Since the QFs were reformed five years ago, I usually, after the final fixture is confirmed, try to plot out how the series could theoretically run if the QFs were straight knockout. Last year and the first year this was used (2009-10), this was easy; same for the 'Clemo-Cudmore' series of 2010-11. The other two, however, require tweaking. I'll go into that some other time.

I suppose you could also say the same about the first round. Some teams will get a tough first round draw, but survive to the repechage (Christ Church last year) and others won't (Durham in 2010). This makes the case for giving all the teams at least two games more traction.

That's enough for now. Any more thoughts on reform will be welcome.

I'll be back on Monday with my usual UC write-up. I hope.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Second Round Review and Look Forward to the Quarter-Finals

OK, so we’ve reached the much anticipated QF stage of this year’s contest. After a well-played but largely uneventful second round, the best match of which was probably Durham vs York, the eight quarter-finalist teams are, together with their aggregate scores so far and their average scores:

  • Trinity College Cambridge (370, 185)
  • Durham University (460, 230)
  • Magdalen College Oxford (445, 222.5)
  • Gonville & Caius College Cambridge (505, 252.5)
  • Bristol University (350, 175)
  • Liverpool University (325, 162.5)
  • St Peter’s College Oxford (440, 220)
  • Oxford Brookes University (310, 155)

As you can see, no repechage survivors this year, which means we have a much clearer idea of teams aggregate performance. Lets look over the teams in order of highest aggregate score:

  • Caius: Highest score of the first round (305) as they trounced St Anne’s College Oxford, before defeating Manchester in the second round. Strong on both the buzzer and the bonuses in both matches. One to watch.
  • Durham: Trounced Brasenose College Oxford by massive margin in first round, then took down York narrowly in, in my opinion, the best match of the second round. Strong on the buzzer, but their bonus work could do with improving if they face any more tight matches.
  • Magdalen: Overcame Pembroke College Cambridge in a controversial first round match, before beating Open in the second. Steady on the bonuses and on the buzzer both times, but may have been aided both times by, in the first round, Pembroke apparently being deterred in the final minutes and in the second, Open’s inclination to sit on the buzzer.
  • St Peter’s: Comfortable winners over Sussex in the first round and Selwyn College Cambridge in the second. Both wins largely due to captain Gabriel Trueblood’s excellent buzzer performance; should he have an off-day, the rest of the side may struggle. Variable on the bonuses.
  • Trinity: Low scoring winners over St Andrews in Round 1, but fared better in Round 2 in defeating the fancied Leicester team. About half on the bonuses both times; buzzer work varied between matches, and will need further examination.
  • Bristol: Comfortable winners over the Courtauld Institute in the first round, narrow winners over L.S.H.T.M. in the second. Both matches low scoring; buzzer work fine, but bonus work may need to be improved.
  • Liverpool: Narrow winners over Sheffield in first round, comfortable winners over Glasgow in second. Got through both matches through sheer buzzer work; bonus rate will need to improve.
  • Oxford Brookes: Narrowly defeated Jesus College Oxford in first round, more comfortably defeated U.C.L. in second. Again, both matches low scoring. Buzzer work adequate, bonus work has sufficed so far, but may need to be improved.

So, four stand out teams, one question mark, and three who will need to up the ante to progress.

Based purely on what we’ve seen of them so far, I would tip Caius, Durham, Magdalen and St Peter’s to be the four semi-finalists, with Trinity the wildcards. But I’m not ruling Bristol, Liverpool or our friends Oxford Brookes out totally yet; remember our old friends Bangor two years ago, who performed much better in the QFs than in the first two rounds?

The draw leaves something to be desired; as Weaver’s Week pointed out, the first four matches of the series featured far more strong teams than the second. Of course, they also speculated it could’ve been a set-up draw so that Trinity, Magdalen and Manchester would meet in the QFs, which, of course, didn’t materialise.

If the logic of the past three years is anything to go by, it’ll be Bristol vs Liverpool next week, with St Peter’s vs Oxford Brookes the week after. This, as WW points out, would be pretty deeply unbalanced, with St Peter’s probable to walk over the other three teams in the half, and the other four all being very close in the top half.

We shall have to wait and see how the draw pans out; overall, whatever the case, the QFs should, as usual, have plenty of twists in them. I don’t think the drama of the series is over quite yet.

I'll, hopefully, be back on Friday with some more thoughts on possible reform.

Monday, 12 January 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 2: Match 8: Oxford Brookes vs U.C.L.

Evening all. We're back for the final second round match before we move onto the increasingly controversial group phase. I've been discussing the 'need for reform' with someone on the (DoND) forum, with various different theories being proposed. I shall go into these in greater depth later this week.

Oxford Brookes narrowly squeaked through their first match back in July, beating Jesus College Oxford 130-120. Hoping for a more comfortable win tonight, the team, including JOW reader 'asphinctersays', were the same as before:
Simon Joyce, from North Oxfordshire, studying Spatial Planning
Paula Ayres, from Hertfordshire, studying the History of Medicine
Captain: David Ballard, from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, studying Politics and International Relations
Stephen Mayes, from Canterbury, studying History

University College London defeated the pleasant and desperately unlucky Exeter team 230-140 in their first round match in late September. Hoping for similar success tonight, they were also unchanged:
Bethany Drew, from Surrey, studying English Literature
Andrew Brueton, from London, studying Law
Captain: Thomas Halliday, from Edinburgh, studying Vertebrate Paleantology
Harold Gunnarsson, studying Geomatic Engineering

Off we set again then, and U.C.L. started poorly, losing five on the first starter; Oxford Brookes didn't pick up the drop, but, eventually, got the next starter, with Mr Ballard baffling Paxo with his pronounciation of Van Gogh's name! U.C.L. soon recouped their lost points, and leveled the scores. Oxford Brookes took a second starter, and this time took two starters. They also took the first picture round, on BAFTA winners for best non-English film written in their original language; this allowed them to open a lead of 45-10.

That lead got bigger when Simon Joyce ('asphinctersays') took the next starter; the side took one bonus, and were unlucky to miss another. Harold Gunnarsson took U.C.L.'s second starter of the match, and the side took all three bonuses to cut the gap. Another slip-up then lost some of that ground, and our man Simon was unlucky not to take the points from the drop. U.C.L. made up for that mistake with the next starter, and only one bonus followed again. A low scoring match, but it was certainly close.

Neither side took the music starter, Paxo being slightly amused by a guess of Haydn from Oxford Brookes; the bonuses, on excerpts of composers conducting their own work, went to U.C.L., and two bonuses gave them a narrow lead of 65-60. That lead vanished when our man Simon took the next starter, but bonuses on semi-obscure French presidents only bought them one bonus. David Ballard took the next starter, and a full bonus house bought them into three figures. U.C.L. tried to get back into the match, but only managed to lose ten points via two slip-ups. Third time lucky, they got back in, and took all three bonuses to keep in touch.

The second picture round, on stills from Oscar winning films for best costume design, went to Oxford Brookes, and they took all three bonuses to up their lead to 125-80. Thomas Halliday was unlucky to lose five on the next starter, not quite managing to answer precisely enough and handing the points to the opposition. Two bonuses followed, and when our man Simon took the next correct starter, you began to think a surprise win was likely on. U.C.L. just about kept that in doubt by taking the next starter, and one bonus, but when they lost yet another five on the next starter, you began to think they weren't going to get there.

Another starter was dropped, but when Simon J. took the next starter, that looked likely to suffice; the side took all three bonuses just to make sure. U.C.L.'s night was just about summed up when they lost five once again on the next starter; by now, it didn't matter that Oxford Brookes didn't pick up the points, or that U.C.L. did take the night's final starter. At the gong, Oxford Brookes won 180-90.

A low scoring match all round, neither side quite making it into gear. Bad luck to U.C.L., who were doing the right thing in keeping on going for it but got horribly unlucky several times; well done to them anyway for not totally disgracing themselves and making entertaining TV many times. Well done to Simon and co on a better performance than last time, and best of luck to yous in the QFs!

Our man Simon was Oxford Brookes' best buzzer with four starters, which equaled U.C.L.'s highest individual tally by Bethany Drew. On the bonuses, Oxford Brookes converted a fair 18 out of 30, and U.C.L. an also good 11 out of 20, but with seven(!) penalties I'm afraid.

Next week: the QFs begin! No word on who's on yet; my guess would be Bristol and Liverpool, but that's just a guess.

Only Connect has now reached the play-off point where one time winners/losers play off to get into the QFs. No spoilers, but I'm informed VCM was a clue herself tonight!

I'll be back in a couple of days' time with my usual second round review/QF preview, as well as some more thoughts on format reform.

Monday, 5 January 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 2: Match 7: Selwyn vs St Peter's

Evening all. We're back to normal service now, as we resume the regular series with the penultimate second round match, as we re-met two teams we first met back in the dead of summer.

Selwyn College Cambridge shocked us all by defeating Manchester (The Team Everyone Wants To Beat) in the first match of the series back in July, winning 190-160. Hoping for similar good fortune were the unchanged team of:
Afham Raoof, from Colchester, studying Natural Sciences
Hannah Warwicker, from Huddersfield, studying Classics
Captain: Joshua Pugh Ginn, from Manchester, studying Classics
Charles Cooper, from Bedford, studying Natural Sciences

St Peter's College Oxford defeated Sussex 205-150 five weeks later, in a controversial match where Paxo appeared to let them off with a borderline answer but not the opposition, a matter that has since been clarified. They too were unchanged from before:
John Armitage, from Lancaster, studying Maths
Ed Roberts, from London, studying History
Captain: Gabriel Trueblood, from London, studying Medicine
Spike Smith, from Maidenhead, studying Maths

Off we set again then, and Gabriel Trueblood, who had almost single handedly run up his teams' score in the first round, took the first starter of the match. And the second. And the third. His side took two bonuses from the first two sets, but none of the third, though they were unlucky to miss two of them. Selwyn finally kicked off on the next starter courtesy of Mr Raoof, and they took two bonuses. The first picture round, on locations of F1 circuits that hosted another nation's grand prix, also went to Selwyn, and allowed them to cut the Oxford side's lead to 50-30.

St Peter's increased the lead shortly though, as Mr Roberts took his first starter of the series. Selwyn lost five to a slip up on the next starter, but St Peter's couldn't pick it up. Mr Smith took the next starter though, and the side took a full bonus set on pairs of words formed by adding a D on the end. (Haven't had one of those for a while.) St Peter's broke into triple figures with the next starter, despite failing to pick up another Selwyn slip-up. The Cambridge side did manage a third starter, and were unlucky to only manage one bonus on a set on 1960s films.

The music starter saw Miss Warwicker identify Mendelsohn's Hebrides overture in less than half a second; the bonuses, on works by Russians inspired by other nations, allowed Selwyn to cut the deficit to 110-55. Mr Trueblood very quickly shot in on the next starter, and the side took one bonus. While conferring, like in the first match, Mr Trueblood habitually fiddled with his hoodie toggles, something I can relate to due to the trouble I've had playing with my hair this past year. Selwyn took two starters in a row and three of the six bonuses, and had very quietly cut the gap to a reachable 35 points.

The second picture round, on nocturnal paintings, went to St Peter's after the starter was dropped, and they took all three bonuses to extend the gap to 150-90. And when Mr Trueblood took the next starter and the side converted all three bonuses, it now looked unlikely that Selwyn would be able to bridge the gap this time. As if to confirm this, Mr Roberts took the next starter ans two bonuses followed.

Mr Trueblood wasn't finished yet, and took yet another starter identifying, as I did, Carter as one of three post-war incumbent presidents (apart from Bush Sr) not to be re-elected. The Oxford side took all three bonuses, but surrendered five points to a slip-up, not that it mattered. Selwyn did manage one final starter, which lifted them into triple figures, which was no more than they deserved. At the gong, St Peter's won 235-100.

A pretty well played match overall, even if it wasn't that close. Bad luck to Selwyn, who, as Paxo said, were good when they got in but never really gathered momentum; well done to them anyway on two respectable and unashamed efforts. Well done though to St Peter's on another fine showing against steady opposition, and a good draw could see them cause trouble in the QFs.

Gabriel Trueblood was, again, the best buzzer of the night, this time with seven starters, while Mr Raoof was best for Selwyn with a respectable five. On the bonuses, Selwyn converted 8 out of 19 (with two penalties) and St Peter's an impressive 24 out of 36 (with one penalty).

Next week's match: Oxford Brookes vs U.C.L. (good luck asphinctersays!)

Only Connect resumed tonight as well, with a close match, and an amusing missing vowels round on 'apple products' with clues of 'IPOD TOUCH' and MACBOOK AIR' followed by 'CIDER' and 'TOFFEE APPLE'!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Christmas University Challenge 2014: Matches 6-10 (Monday 29th - Friday 2nd/Saturday 3rd)

OK all? Normal service resumes now, as I briefly recap the second week's play of, what has been, I think the best series of Xmas UC we've seen.

Monday 29th: York vs Surrey
York: Philip Lawson, Helen Geake, Michael Dixon, Adam Hart-Davis 
Surrey: Michael Price, Sue Blackmore, Jim Al-Khalili, Odaline de la Martinez

Low scoring match, but certainly fairly close. York had the better of the buzzer race for the most part, but Surrey were, by far, better on the bonuses, which meant the match was closer than perhaps it should have been. In the end, York won 135-110. York converted 10 out of 27 bonuses (with one penalty) and Surrey 10 out of 15; so it was all decided by three extra starters.

Tuesday 30th: Manchester Metropolitan vs Goldsmiths
Manchester Metropolitan: Eddie Morland, John Thomson, Bernard Hill, Gordon Taylor
Goldsmiths: Fiona Rae, Neil Innes, Corrie Corfield, Shazia Mirza

The final first round fixture. Again, it was pretty low scoring, though neither side disgraced themselves, as Paxo rightly said at the start. Manchester Metropolitan won the match 145-75; they converted 12 bonuses out of 27 (with one penalty) and Goldsmiths 7 out of 15 (with two penalties).

Wednesday 31st: Lady Margaret Hall vs Hull
This was a very good match. Not high scoring, but certainly close. Neither side was really able to shake the other off throughout. With just minutes to go, the sides were virtually level and were generally swapping starters. The crucial moment came when, with barely any time left, Hull broke the pattern and got two in a row, which gave them more room to breath. At the gong, Hull won 175-145. Lady Margaret Hall converted 15 bonuses out of 24 (with two penalties) and Hull 18 out of 25 (with one penalty).

Thursday 1st: Edinburgh vs Trinity Hall
Another good match. Two very well matched sides, and not much in it. Edinburgh had a steady lead at half time, but Trinity Hall pushed hard on the buzzer afterwards, and with not much time left, had opened up a comfortable gap. Edinburgh pushed back hard, but just couldn't quite make up the lost ground. At the gong, Trinity Hall won by 165-135. The Scots converted 14 bonuses out of 27 (with one penalty) and the Cambridge side 15 out of 25.

Friday 2nd/Saturday 3rd: Hull vs Trinity Hall
Sadly, the final was a bit of an anti-climax compared to the semis. Trinity Hall led from the off, and Hull never really got much of a chance to break in and try to catch them. Highlight of the match was the music round being replaced by an audio round on US presidential inauguration speeches. Trinity Hall won the match and the series 215-65. Hull converted 6 bonuses out of 12 (with one penalty) and Trinity Hall 19 out of 33.

So, that's that for Xmas UC for another year. As I said above, it's been, in my opinion, the best festive mini series out of the four we've had this decade. Well done to all who took part for an excellent and very enjoyable series.

Normal service resumes tomorrow: I'll be back with my usual write-up of the next regular match, which, I gather, is between St Peter's and Selwyn.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Deal or No Deal: 2014 Highlights

Happy New Year all! For my first post of the New Year, I'm going to break from my UC analysis and go back to the blog's origins, with my first Deal or No Deal post since March 2013.

I'll be honest: I haven't been watching Deal much in the past months. Since I began my internship in early September, I've only watched it at weekends and on days off. And since weekend shows were abandoned shortly after this, I've only been watching on days off. My interest in the show had been fading for months anyway, so not watching the show and relying on the excellent commentaries on the forum has been much easier, even if it does mean spending ages waiting for 4OD to load just so I can catalog the player's full names for my archive.

Two new twists have been introduced since the start of last year. The first is the infamous Box 23, which, post game, gives the player a chance to buy it with their winnings, and offers one of the following options: DOUBLE, +£10,000, MONEY BACK, HALF or NOTHING.

The other, more recent addition, is the Offer Button; this is a special feature where, if the player can correctly predict their first offer (10% leeway is allowed), they are allowed to force the Banker to make an offer with one press. It is only allowed to be used once, and no leeway is allowed for accidental use.

Needless to say, both these twists have provoked mixed feelings among, what's left of, the show's fandom. Many on both the forum and on Digital Spy have expressed dissatisfaction with both twists, especially Box 23 and it's ability to bail out blue winners with the +£10,000 option, and even worse when it's upped to +£20,000 for theme weeks.

The Offer Button has been welcomed more, with most of its criticism coming from the Banker's tendency to lowball the first offer to make predicting much harder. Speaking of which, the Banker's offers have had an intriguing year, starting off pretty statistically poor and getting gradually better over the year.

Despite the fandom splitting nature of the alterations, the show has still provided many a memorable moment over the year; here's a quick selection of 2014 Deal highlights:
  • 01/01 - Joey: The first game where Box 23 was in play. On the grounds that it wouldn't have one of the bad options in it on its first game, he risked his £10,900 winnings on it, and got an extra £10,000 for his troubles! What a false dawn that would prove to be for the new box.
  • 10/01 - Lily: A somewhat forgotten big money win of £40,000, not to mention it being the first Power 5 win of the year.
  • 21/01 - Tash: The first blue win to be rescued by +£10,000 from Box 23. And Deal was never the same again.
  • 30/01 - Peter: Young lad from Glasgow wins a blue from his box, loses it to Box 23 and takes it horribly, forcing Noel to end the show early. Reports suggest his relatives were not impressed and felt he had been lured into going for it.
  • 12/02 - Roop: Wins £250,000! And could've doubled it if he'd had sufficient (ie reckless) courage to risk it on Box 23!
  • 20/02 - Dave: Wins 1p. Buys Box 23. Half a penny!
  • 25/02 - Stephen: A non canon twist results in a guarantee of an extra £1,000 on every offer, which would've led to an interesting offer on a final two where £1,000 was the highest sum left! Fortunately, he had already bowed out with £9,500.
  • 10/03 - Pat: Has the Dream finish in LIVE play! Deals offer of £170,000. Breaks an eight and a third year old record!
  • 19/03 - Tendai: Turns down £35,000; wins half a penny!
  • 23/03 - Gill: The Banker underestimates a very determined player, who goes on to win £75,000 from her box. Eventually. Noel opens her box to find it empty! The independent adjudicator has to be called on to confirm what has happened!
  • 18/04 - Earl: Excellent play by player and Banker nets a well earned £65,000. (Later that night, Lucy Beale is murdered)
  • 25/05 - Rosie: After a month of average games, a win of £46,000 comes up out of nowhere!
  • 04/06 - Peter: The biggest ever purchase of Box 23: £12,200. And an extra £10,000! Fandom is well and truely split.
  • 26/06 - Isabelle: She went to watch the show being recorded, and went home four weeks later with £35,000! It's a long story.
  • 07/07 - Stan: Sets out that he's going all the way early on, does so, and wins £50,000!
  • 13/07 - Dan: One of the show's biggest fans battles his way to a well earned £10,000.
  • 25/07 - Gary: A computer error in Glasgow results in this game being shown to millions of people at the Commonwealth Games stadium!
  • 18/08 - Laura: Young girl feels obliged to go all the way after setting her stall out early on, and wins £50,000 as a result!
  • 22/08 - Jackie: A well earned deal of £37,500.
  • 24/08 - Steve: An equally well earned deal of £40,000.
  • 03/09 - Jack: One of the show's most marmite players of all time gets a very ordinary £7,000 Banker Spanking, and totally splits the online fandom!
  • 17/09 - Arthur: Old chap and war veteran deals £7,000 at the third offer! Thankfully, it doesn't set the Banker off on a stingy offer spree.
  • 19/09 - Helen: A somewhat cautious fourth offer deal of £5,000 leaves everyone expecting Box 23 to be declined; it isn't, and she doubled it!
  • 29/09 - Ross: The first game involving the Offer Button. He fails to earn it, but still wins £18,000.
  • 01/10 - Julie: First player to earn the use of the Offer Button. She wins £13,000.
  • 10/10 - Aaron: Good use of the Offer Button nets a well earned £32,000.
  • 16/10 - Carly: Something goes wrong with the Channel 4 broadcast department, and the games end up overrunning by nearly 10 minutes!
  • 21/10 - Iris: A well judged press of the Offer Button nets £45,000.
  • 31/10 - Bill: A mega money board and good Offer Button usage nets a mighty £80,000!
To be honest, I haven't followed the show as much as I used to since Bill's game, but there have still been good wins for players Pam (£40,000), Ross (£35,000), Sophie (£34,000) and Lisa (£30,014).

That's pretty much all you need to know about Deal in 2014. I'll still watch the show when I have a day off, and if they bring back the weekend shows. But it won't occupy as much of my time as it used to. And I won't be regularly talking about it here again for a while.

I'll be back with a summary of the second week of Christmas UC once the final airs in Scotland tomorrow.