Monday, 23 February 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Elimination Quarter-Final 1: Oxford Brookes vs Bristol

Evening all. After the divided response to Watergate-gate last week, I've had an idea for a new feature of this blog: if something contentious that has the potential to split the online fandom, I'll set up a new thread on here giving my views on the issue, and allowing others to air and debate their's. Nothing worth doing that for next week, but if anyone has any requests, do let me know. On with the show, and the penalty for losing tonight would be elimination from the contest.

Oxford Brookes defeated Jesus College Oxford in the first round and U.C.L. in the second, but found St Peter's to be too much for them in their preliminary. Hoping for better things tonight were the unchanged foursome of:
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

Bristol defeated the Courtauld Institute and L.S.H.T.M. in their first two matches, before narrowly losing their preliminary to Liverpool. They too were the same four we've got used to seeing these past few months:
Lewis Rendell, from Saffron Walden, studying Maths
Benjamin Moon, from 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

Off we set again then, and Bristol started the night's bidding with Lewis Rendell taking the first starter, and the side took one bonus, unluckily missing another. Oxford Brookes followed shortly afterwards identifying Vine as the Twitter service sharing it's name with a fruit bearing climbing plant! They went one better than their opponents, taking two bonuses. Neither our man Simon Joyce ('asphinctersays') nor Mr Moon worked out 1927 as the year of the first talkies, before Mr Rendell was first in on a rather clever and cheeky starter. The first picture round, on family trees of US political figures, went to Oxford Brookes, and gave them a lead of 40-30.

Mr Rendell pulled Bristol level with his latest starter of the night, but again, the side could only manage one bonus. Controversial moment of the night came when Mr Mayes corrected himself on a slightly mispronounced answer, was disallowed it, and was also fined five for interrupting even though Paxo had more or less finished the question. Bristol broke back in, but this time managed no bonuses. A couple of starters were then dropped before Ms Ayres identified the famous Oliver Sachs work 'the Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat'. The Oxonians weren't getting as many starters as Bristol, but their slightly better bonus rate was keeping them in touch.

The music round, on classical pieces with mountains as their theme, went to Bristol, and allowed them to increase their lead to 75-50. It got bigger when Mr Rendell took his latest starter of the night, but, despite his area of study, could only help his side to one bonus on maths. David Ballard bought Oxford Brookes back into the match, and they took a full set of bonuses on revolutions. If they could string a starter run together and keep that up, they could easily still win this.

The second picture round, on directors of the National Theatre, saw Bristol make a wild guess of 'Daniel Welbeck', which got them nowhere! They now led by 100-75, a lead almost entirely due to their better buzzer work. Neither side took the next starter, Mr Rendell took the next, but again, the Avonsiders dropped all the bonuses. The next starter was dropped, as was the next, before Bristol broke in again, and this time managed one bonus on football.

Oxford Brookes were still in with a shout if they could get their buzzers in gear; Mr Mayes managed to break them back into the match, but they couldn't manage any of the resultant bonuses. Mr Mayes unluckily missed the next starter and got so flustered Paxo had to make sure he was OK! When Mr Coleman took the next starter for Bristol, however, that looked like it would see them safely home; as if to confirm this, they took all the bonuses. The match ended with both sides proving they aren't Millionaire aficionados, as they didn't know Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II. At the gong, Bristol won 150-85.

A pretty slow moving match throughout. Unlucky Simon and co, but you did not disgrace yourselves at all, and gave us some good highlights throughout your four matches, so well done yous! Well done Bristol though; Paxo put it best when he said their score was sufficient to win this match, heavily implying they'll need to do better to make the semis. Best of luck to them next time anyway!

Lewis Rendell finished the match with six starters under his belt, while Ms Ayres and Mr Ballard were joint best for Oxford Brookes with two each. The bonus rates were telling: Oxford Brookes managed 8 out of 15 (with one penalty), while Bristol could only muster 10 out of 30; that will definitely need to be improved next time.

Next week's match: I guess it's the one we've all been anticipating, between Caius and Magdalen, then Durham vs Trinity the following week.

Only Connect continued with its third quarter-final tonight; haven't seen last week's yet, but will do so as soon as is feasible.

Monday, 16 February 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Qualification Quarter-Final 1: Liverpool vs St Peter's

Evening all. Apologies for not doing that Only Connect review I said I might be able to do. Besides, I cannot possibly match up to those provided by Messrs Clark and Weaver. I will, hopefully, be able to do quarter and semi-final roundups, and then a full review of the final. On with the show, anyway; whoever won tonight's match would be the first team to make the semis, and can put their collective feet up for a month and a bit.

Liverpool defeated Sheffield, Glasgow and Bristol on their way to this stage, improving their score every time, as Paxo pointed out. Hoping to do so again tonight were the same four we've had before:
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

St Peter's College Oxford defeated Sussex, Selwyn College Cambridge and our friends Oxford Brookes so far, and have improved both their score and victory margin each time. Hoping to repeat both tonight were the also unchanged quartet of:
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 an unlucky slip-up from Liverpool gave Gabriel Trueblood, who amassed 28 starters across his side's prior matches, his first starter of the night. Hugh Hiscock, also impressive beforehand, then took the next two starters, thus showing St Peter's they weren't prepared to just roll over and die. Blog reader Declan Crew then unluckily slipped-up, and gave Mr Trueblood another starter to his name. The first picture round, on irrational mathematical constants (nope, me neither) went to St Peter's, who hoovered them up to give themselves a lead of 70-35.

Mr Roberts then added another starter to St Peter's score, but they only managed one bonus. Mr Crew then bought Liverpool back in via another complex maths starter I won't try to repeat, but no bonuses went with it. The reliable Mr Hiscock then pulled them further back into the match, and this time they managed two bonuses. John Armitage then finally managed his first starter of the series for St Peter's, but they managed no bonuses, as Mr Trueblood showed us he didn't manage to kick his toggle fiddling habit during the filming break. (I'm guessing this was both sides' first match back after a recess?)

After a very long wait, Ben Mawdsley identified Elton John for the music starter; the bonuses, on pop songs inspired by the works of Mr W. Shakespeare, allowed Liverpool to cut the deficit to 95-80. Mr Trueblood, who'd had a very out-of-character quiet spell, woke up on the next starter, and took a full set of bonuses he'd have to get a full-house on given his degree. He took the next starter too (so did I, as I saw the same one on an old UC on YouTube many years ago!), but only took one bonuses this time. Mr T. now seemed to be fiddling with both his hoodie toggles with both hands now, though he restricted himself to just the one as his side swept the board on their next bonus set enabled by Mr Smith.

The second picture round, on portraits of prime-ministers who previously served as chief secretary of Ireland, went to St Peter's, and they had now run up a lead of 180-80. And when Mr Armitage took the next starter, and the side took all three bonuses, it looked like that would suffice. Hugh Hiscock finally broke Liverpool back into the game, and two bonuses bought the side thoroughly deservedly into triple figures.

That was as far as St Peter's were prepared to let them go though, as Mr Trueblood took the next starter, but no bonuses followed, as if it mattered. Neither side identified Perkin Warbeck as the royal pretender who tried to overthrow Henry VII (though I was amazed Paxo let a guess of Richard III go uncommented on!). Mr Trueblood took the next starter and two bonuses followed, before what looked like a complete guess from Mr Smith ensured their 'improved score every time' record held again. At the gong, St Peter's won 245-100.

Well, it was close until half time, and then St Peter's found their feet and ran away. Unlucky Liverpool, who held firm until half time, but they're not out yet, and definitely have the capability to perform well again in their play-off, so good luck to them then. Well done to St Peter's though on another fine showing, and this time, it was a true team effort, with all four contributing freely; best of luck to them in the semis!

Gabriel Trueblood was, again, the best buzzer of the night, but with his lowest tally yet of six, one less than his colleagues combined; Hugh Hiscock was best again for Liverpool with four. On the bonuses, Liverpool managed 10 out of 18 (with two unlucky penalties) and St Peter's 23 out of 39.

Next week's match: I'd guess it'll be Bristol vs Oxford Brookes (good luck aspinctersays if so!)

Only Connect tonight saw a rematch between our friend Filip and Sean Blanchflower, two old Trinitarians and UC alumni. I'll leave the detail to Messrs Clark and Weaver at the weekend.

Monday, 9 February 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Preliminary Quarter-Final 4: Magdalen vs Trinity

Evening all. Well, that was certainly something wasn't it? I mean, yes, it was the result we probably expected, but still... Add to the unusually warm temperatures here in my flat, and you get a pretty engaging half hours play, for numerous reasons. I think I may have to turn off the heating in here.

Magdalen College Oxford were seen by many as a team to watch following their comfortable wins over Pembroke College Cambridge in a highly controversial first round match and Open in the second. Hoping to give those people further reason to think that were the unchanged quartet of:
Harry Gillow, from Stone in Staffordshire, studying Classics
Chris Savory, from Burgess Hill in West Sussex, studying Chemistry
Captain: Hugh Binnie, from Cheltenham, studying Chemistry
Cameron J. Quinn, from Los Angeles, studying Philosophy and French

Trinity College Cambridge took down St Andrews in a low scoring first match before surprisingly beating the excellent Leicester team comfortably in the second round. No doubt hoping that second round form wasn't a one-off were the also unchanged (and still refusing to give their surnames in the introductions) team of:
Matthew Willetts, from London, studying Physics
Claire Hall, from Greenwich in London, studying Classics
Captain: Hugh Bennett, from London, studying Chemistry
Aled Walker, from Birmingham, studying Maths

Off we set again then, and Twitter favourite Cameron Quinn took the first starter of the night after a slight pause from both sides. Mr Willetts, whose father may or may not by the former universities secretary David, lost five on the next starter, but Magdalen failed to take advantage. Mr Quinn took his second starter of the night, eventually, after a bit of prompting for preciseness from Paxo. The Oxford side swept up the early starters, including the first picture starter; the bonuses, on dramatis personae of 20th century plays, gave them a lead of 65-(-5).

Paxo already felt the need to offer Trinity encouragement; it didn't work, as that man Quinn took the next starter, and the side took all three bonuses from a rather tricky set on eye rhymes. Trinity finally got into positive figures courtesy of Mr Bennett, and they took two bonuses on chemistry, unluckily missing the third. Magdalen moved further ahead when Mr Binnie took his first starter of the night, making sure all four Oxonians had at least one starter to their names. The resultant bonuses, coupled with the next starter, gave them a lead of over 100 points, and Trinity looked in deep trouble.

The music starter, Gershwin's 'an American in Paris', was quickly identified by Mr Binnie; the bonuses, on Pulitzer prize winning musicals, gave Magdalen a lead of 140-15. Mr Binnie took the next starter, a very quick piece of mental arithmetic ("What day of the week will it be 100 days after Monday?"), and left Paxo utterly stunned! ("How did you know that?!") I'm more into a different sort of day pattern myself, but that's another story, and possibly another article. The starters were just falling straight into Magdalen's collective laps; two starters in a row for that man Quinn bought their score through the 200 barrier, and Trinity were now in dire straights.

The second picture round, on paintings of garden scenes by central European artists, went to Magdalen, and gave them a lead of 225-15. Trinity's situation worsened when Mr Bennett was very unfairly penalised for interrupting just as Paxo was finishing reading the question; of course, it was that being imposed on poor Pembroke that made that first round match so controversial and annoyed many purists. At least this time, it cannot be said to have had any possible impact on the final score. Magdalen took the points, and when Mr Quinn took the next starter, their score reached 250, and you began to wonder whether a 300+ score could be on the cards.

Finally, Mr Bennett broke Trinity back into the match, but they could only manage one of the resulting bonuses. Back came Magdalen, and they took two bonuses. Another starter to Mr Quinn and two more bonuses later, and then had reached 300. Trinity managed something of a late run, stringing two starters together, and lifting (just) themselves out of the Sub-50 club. One final starter and bonus set went to Magdalen before the gong finally brought the evening's proceedings to a close; Magdalen won 315-55.

Well, like last week, I think we expected Magdalen to win, but not that easily. Unlucky Trinity, who were just outbuzzed virtually all the way through, and never really gathered any sort of momentum until the final minutes; best of luck to them for their next match. Very well done to Magdalen though, on a very good performance and we shall see how they fare in their qualification match. Whoever they face, it could be fascinating.

Cameron J. Quinn finished the match with ten(!) starters to his name (still no more hair flicks though), while Hugh Bennett was best for Trinity with three. On the bonuses, Magdalen converted 27 out of 54, while Trinity could only manage 5 out of 12 (with two penalties).

Next week's match: don't know yet, but it must be between two initial winners going by previous series standards.

Only Connect finally reached its knockout stage tonight; hopefully, I'll be able to write a full-ish review for this blog when I watch it back later this week.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The First Project SEARCH Quiz Night

OK people, time for me to talk, for once, about a quiz experience of my own. This was my first setting of a quiz, and my first question master experience. First, though, a word on the cause it was in aid of.

As regular readers of my UC write-ups will know, I began an internship at Aberdeen University back in September. It's called Project SEARCH, and it is run by local charity Inspire in conjunction with North East Scotland College. It originated in the States back in 1996, and came to Britain shortly afterwards, with the Aberdeen course beginning in September 2013. I am amongst only the second batch of Aberdeen Uni interns.

Of course, because we are a stand-alone course run by a charity with the aid of a college, funding is sparse, and therefore we have to come up with funding ways of our own. We ran a semi-successful bake sale before Christmas, and I also suggested a quiz night, drawing on my own experience of partaking in quiz nights and the experience of pub quizzers online.

My idea was accepted, and we planned the quiz night for Friday. The original idea was we'd do seven specialist rounds, and we'd all contribute questions. But the other interns were unable to come up with many questions of their own, so I took on main contributions. I also emailed our friend Dave Clark for setting advice. I won't quote exactly what he said, but he basically advised not to make the questions too hard.

So, therefore, most of the questions I ended up using were taken from Millionaire and Fifteen-to-One, with a handful from UC and a handful of originals we'd thought up ourselves. In the end, we did two specialist rounds (sport and film/tv), an audio round, a picture round people could work on in their own time and three general knowledge rounds.

Here is a selection of the questions that made it into the final quiz, and the back-stories behind some of them:

Theoretically, what is the minimum number of strokes with which a tennis player can win a set?
Now, this is a famous question from Millionaire; ironically, the episode in question was shown on Challenge late last week! Basically, contestant Tony Kennedy answered 24, was judged right, and went on to win £125,000 as a result. However, viewers later pointed out he was wrong; it was actually 12, due to the chance that your opponent will double fault all their serves. Mr Kennedy was allowed to keep his winnings due to the producers deciding it was their fault, not his. I put this in to see how many people made the same mistake; all but one team did!

With which sport do you associate the names Mickey Duff, Kellie Maloney and Terry Lawless?
Now this is a Fifteen-to-One question; the answer is boxing. To make it a bit more challenging, one of the supervisors suggested I change one of the names to that of the promoter who changed gender to confuse people. I think it worked with a handful of the teams.

In November 1996, the Simpsons aired on UK terrestrial TV for the first time; which channel did it air on?
Now, this is a question I am quite pleased with. Most people know the Simpsons has been on Channel 4 for many years, a handful more will remember it was on BBC2 before that, but how many would remember it was on BBC1 for three months first? Well, one team got it right, with most others saying BBC2 or Channel 4.

The music round was the only round I did not contribute to, with two other interns deciding the tracks and finding them on iTunes. They also played a sneaky trick by using nine pop songs, but finishing with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony!

Who is the most recent British PM to enter office without winning a general election and leave without losing one?
This is a question suggested by a listener for the Beat the Brains segment of Brain of Britain that just stuck in my mind as an odd fact. It's Harold McMillan; think a few managed to work it out.

Putting the English preposition 'in' into the French word for 'an inn' gives the name of which fruit, eaten as a vegetable?
Now, this is a question from UC, which stuck in my mind, and I managed to sneak into another quiz night a few years ago. It's 'aubergine', and a handful of teams managed to work it out.

In palaeontology, a taxon that, as the result of a misidentification, appears to vanish from the fossil record and then reappear, is known informally by the name of which singer, in reference to the number of impersonators he has spawned?
This is another UC question and, if you regular read my reviews, you will know it was my favourite question of the last series. Why? Because it sounds out sounding so complicated, but when it swerves late on, you suddenly can take an educated guess. Most teams said 'Elvis', which is correct!

If it take five robots five minutes to make five machines, how long will it take one hundred robots to make one hundred machines?
Another UC question, with a sneaky catch; I tried this on a colleague before the quiz last week, and he got it wrong. It is, as our friend Hugh 'HughTube' Bennett will tell you, it's five minutes.

If a Japanese isha (doctor) asks you to stick out your shita, what does he mean?
Now, I'm amazed my supervisors let me get this into the final draft! It's a famous blooper from the US show Jeopardy!, where one contestant, a Norwegian, gives the obvious wrong answer, allowing his opponent to get the right answer of 'tongue'. Mercifully, only one team made that mistake, and most got it right. Dave Clark did advise me to sneak a bit of cheekiness into the quiz, and that pretty much qualifies.

So those are some of the more notable quizzer questions from Friday night. There were a few more that I put in, mostly from Millionaire; I did notice with Millionaire questions, that wrong answers people gave were occasionally wrong alternatives given to the question on the show itself.

So, basically, I acted as question master for the night, and we had thirteen teams of four/five partaking. Most of them were relatives of interns, but we had a handful of others, including one from Inspire, and two from the Boys Brigade, of which one of the interns is a member.

The Inspire team won the night, with 56.5 points out of 70. Well done to them!

So, that was my first experience as a quiz night question setter and reader. It was a good night; no team disgraced themselves terribly, and all had a good night. My supervisors say they may need to ask me to come back and do another next year!

I'll be back tomorrow with my usual UC write-up.

Monday, 2 February 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Preliminary Quarter-Final 3: Durham vs Caius

Evening all. We continue on our way with the latest quarter-final fixture tonight, and the first all-male line-up on the show of the year (surprisingly, few on Twitter noticed). Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this may also have been the first match back after a recording break.

Durham trounced Brasenose College Oxford in the first round before taking out the excellent York team in, in my opinion, the best match of a pretty uneventful second round. Hoping for similar good fortune tonight, the Durham four were the same as before:
Daniel Morgan-Thomas, from East London, studying History and Classics
Freddie Lloyd, from Penshurst in Kent, studying Philosophy
Captain: Fred Harvey, from Bridlington in East Yorkshire, studying Physics
Nikul Boyd-Shah, from Bournemouth, studying Law

Gonville & Caius College Cambridge had a similar story in their first matches, trouncing St Anne's College Oxford in the first round before narrowly beating Manchester (The Team Everyone Wants To Beat) in the second. They too were unchanged from before:
Ted Loveday, from Hammersmith, studying Law
Michael Taylor, from Ballymena in Northern Ireland, studying History
Captain: Anthony Martinelli, from Hertfordshire, studying Medicine
Jeremy Warner, from Southampton, studying Natural Sciences

Off we set again then, and Durham kicked off first courtesy of Mr Boyd-Shah, and took two bonuses on vikings. They then lost five points to a slip-up, which handed Caius the initiative and allowed them to take a full set of bonuses. A second starter and full bonus set for Caius followed, showing they weren't going to take my naming of St Peter's as 'lukewarm favourites to win the whole series' on LAM on Saturday lying down. Two more starters were split between the teams before the first picture round, on Yorkshire constituencies whose MP has a large majority; Caius took this, giving them a lead of 85-30.

Ted Loveday, impressive in the first round but rather quiet in the second, took his third starter of the still-young match, and the side took two from a rather complicated bonus set; Paxo wasn't afraid to tell them they were 'utterly wrong' on the third! Anthony Martinelli picked up another starter for the Cambridge side, and, again, they took two bonuses. Their decent bonus rate, combined with their strong buzzer work, had kept Durham shut out for a while, and given them a lead of nearly 100 points.

That lead broke 100 when Ted Loveday recognised Charpentier as the French composer of the old Eurovison music for the music starter; the bonuses, on classical pieces known as 'te deum', gave Caius a lead of 140-30. And it was just getting bigger when Mr Martinelli took his latest starter, and again shortly afterwards when Michael Taylor won the buzzer race to identify the Great Gatsby's final line; the side took one bonus from each resultant set. A very clever early buzz from Ted Loveday added more to the fire, and poor Durham were now well behind. They finally broke back in when Freddie Lloyd identified Haussman's planning of Paris (second week running one of Major Ingram's question subjects has come up on the show!), but had the horrible luck to get a set of bonuses on astrophysics.

The second picture round, on engravings of scientists at work, went to Caius, who took all three bonuses, bringing their lead to 215-40. An unlucky buzz by Michael Taylor, beaten by a swerve, lost them five and allowed Durham back itno the game. The Wearsiders took a full set of bonuses on US presidential slogans, and then Daniel Morgan-Thomas, impressive in the prior rounds, bought them their second starter in a row. They were too far behind to catch Caius now, but triple figures was all they deserved.

Caius weren't quite finished yet though, and Mr Martinelli took his latest starter to really confirm the side were home and safe. Jeremy Warner then took his first starter of the night, and the side took all three bonuses just to pour more salt into Durham's already pretty sore wounds. Two starters were then dropped, before Freddie Lloyd picked up another starter for Durham, but they just fell short of breaking three figures. The final starter went to Caius, and they took the one bonus they had time to answer. At the gong, Caius won 275-95.

I don't think most of us expected that one-sided a match, to be honest. Unlucky Durham, who were just buzzed out for much of the match; best of luck that things work out better for them next time. Very well done to Caius though on another storming performance, and we shall definitely look forward to seeing them in their next match. The odds on a St Peter's-Caius final, as (sort of) predicted by Cassiopeia after their first round matches, must have just shortened drastically.

Anthony Martinelli was, just, the best buzzer of the night, with six starters to Ted Loveday's five, while Freddie Lloyd was best for Durham with three. On the bonuses, Durham managed 8 out of 18 and Caius a pretty good 28 out of 41; both sides incurred one penalty.

Next week: by process of elimination, it must be Trinity vs Magdalen

Only Connect finally came to the end of its group phase tonight, with a low scoring but close match, and yet another amusing missing vowels round. Hopefully, by next week, I will have fully caught up with the series via my speed-watching and thus be able to do full weekly reviews of the knockout matches.