Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Brain of Britain 2015 Final

OK people, I'd like to talk about the Brain of Britain final. Please do not read on if you did not hear the show on Monday and are waiting for the Saturday night repeat.

The four contestants in the final were Brian Chesney, David Good, Nigel Jones and Neil Wright.

Now, Mr Good is a good quizzer, having won both UC and Fifteen-to-One, but he just didn't get the right questions in this final, and struggled to score, as did Mr Wright. Messrs Chesney and Jones, however, scored pretty consistently well throughout, with Mr Chesney taking a big lead at one point, but Mr Jones pulling back to within a couple of points.

By half time, and the traditional Beat the Brains break, with last year's winner Mark Grant supplying both questions, it had become a two-horse race between Messrs Chesney and Jones. Over the next couple of rounds, the two men both ran up their scores, with Mr Chesney just staying a nose in front.

Then, in the final round, Mr Jones managed a surge to tighten the scores. And then came the crucial moment: Mr Wright passed his final question, throwing it open for a bonus; Mr Good knew it was one of two answers, saying both out loud, but picked the wrong one as his final answer. Mr Jones shot in and said the other answer, which was correct, to take the point. (He may well have known it anyway of course) And so the final scores were:
Mr Good - 3
Mr Wright - 5
Mr Chesney - 20
Mr Jones - 21

So, by the narrowest of narrow margins, Nigel Jones is the new Brain of Britain champion! Well done to him, and unlucky to the others, Mr Chesney in particular, all of whom played well throughout the series.

So, now that Brain of Britain is over, the Spring quiz lull is officially on, until UC returns in July. Until then, I guess I'll either be going through with my OC Series 1 retro-review plan, or something else I can think of. Watch this space either way; I'm sure I'll come up with something.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Series Highlights

OK guys, time for me to give my annual series highlights post. This might be a bit harder than the past two years, but I'll try.

We'll start, as usual, with my favourite match for each stage of the contest:
  • First Round + Play Offs: Leicester vs Open, by a country mile. Selwyn beating Manchester and the huge victories of Caius and Durham also stand out.
  • Second Round: Durham vs York.
  • Quarter-Finals: Definitely Caius vs Magdalen; their preliminary victories also stand out.
  • The Final Three: The final, followed by the first semi.
Like last year, there were very few close matches. The fact the joint smallest win of the series was by 10 points, and it and all the other narrow-ish results were all low scoring games tell something.

As for the spread of institutions competing, the big news was the return of the Open University after a fifteen year absence. After last year's Oxford-Cambridge imbalance, order was restored with five from each. And London's representation went up to four from last year's one. Also, the post '92 unis were represented for the first time in years by our friends Oxford Brookes.

Now for the records: biggest score of the series was Magdalen's 315 against Trinity in the preliminaries; that match also saw the biggest win of the series, at 260 points. The lowest score of the series is Brasenose's 35 against Durham in the first round.

Now, time for some series highlights:
  • "Thalium?" "Valium?!" "Thalium!"
  • LSE suggesting the Pet Shop Boys wrote 'Hit me with your rhythm stick"!
  • Liverpool guessing 'Vladimir Putin' for a Russian physicist!
  • "Hoar!" Also, "Philip Larkin?!"
  • "What happened to you?!" "We were waiting for musicals!"
  • Cameron Quinn's "The Smiths", followed by a hair flick! Shame we never saw any more of those!
  • "Sex?" "Correct!" Also some more lucky guessing from the same show.
  • York's expert knowledge of the alma mater of TV characters.
  • "Amsterdam!"
  • "Your bonuses are on sausages Bristol!" And they won the match on them!
  • "Even More Freakonomics?!"
  • Mr Crew's forgetting to buzz! (Now, that caused some discussion on here)
  • "Gangnam" (No YouTube remix though!)
  • A suggestion that Millwall opposed the banning of shin kicking!
  • "Some Peter out, some...?" "Peter Pan?" No, "pan out"!
  • "Hapax legomenon!"
Anyone got any more?

I'm amazed I managed to come up with that many, TBH. As Dave Clark said on LAM earlier, Paxo has been surprisingly quiet and well behaved this season. Not very many memorable Paxo-isms this season, but what we did get tends to have been quoted frequently.

So, I'll finish by once again thanking the production team for another fascinating series of UC, which has been interesting to watch and report on. There are a couple of things I would like to see fixed next series, especially the penalty harshness that overshadowed a few matches this series. But, whatever the case, I keenly await the next series, and hope it will be another fine series to commentate on.

I'll maybe post some more thoughts of women on the show and format reform next week. I also suspect I'll be talking about the Brain of Britain final on Monday night; we shall see.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Best Buzzer Per Team

OK people, time for my annual list of the best individual players for each of this year's UC quarter-finalist teams. They are:

Gabriel Trueblood (St Peter's) - 39 over five matches
Cameron J. Quinn (Magdalen) - 35 over seven matches
Ted Loveday (Caius) - 29 over six matches
Hugh Hiscock (Liverpool) - 21 over five matches
Daniel Morgan-Thomas (Durham) - 21 over six matches
Miles Coleman (Bristol) - 14 over five matches
Hugh Bennett (Trinity) - 10 over four matches
Simon 'asphinctersays' Joyce (Oxford Brookes) - 10 over four matches

Those are the best individual tallies per team. Honourable mentions go to:

Hugh Binnie (Magdalen) - 31 over seven matches
Anthony Martinelli (Caius) - 22 over six matches
Michael Taylor (Caius) - 18 over six matches
Spike Smith (St Peter's) - 14 over five matches
Nikul Boyd-Shah (Durham) - 14 over six matches
Lewis Rendell (Bristol) - 13 over five matches

As usual, the full list is available; if anyone wants it, just drop me a private email.

I'll be back with a more comprehensive review of the series in the coming days, hopefully by Saturday at the latest.

Monday, 13 April 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Grand Final: Magdalen vs Caius

Evening all. Well, here we are: the 44th University Challenge Grand Final! Both sides had fought long and hard to make it this far, and whoever won would deserve to take their place in the annals of TV history. A fourth all-male match in a row to end the series, and a second Oxbridge final in a row, with Cambridge no doubt hoping to avenge those humiliating losses in the Boat Races on Saturday.

Magdalen College Oxford defeated Pembroke College Cambridge, the Open University, Trinity College Cambridge, Bristol and St Peter's College Oxford to get here, but did lose to their opponents tonight as well. Hoping to rewrite history and become the first institution to win a fifth trophy were:
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

Gonville & Caius College Cambridge got here undefeated, having beaten St Anne's College Oxford, Manchester (The Team Everyone Wants To Beat), Durham (twice) and their opponents tonight once before. Hoping to repeat history and make it two in a row for Cambridge over Oxford were:
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 Ted Loveday was first to strike on the first starter; the Cambridge side showed they meant business by taking all three bonuses on British monarchs. Hugh Binnie quickly struck back for Magdalen, and they too showed they were dead serious by taking a full bonus set of their own. Mr Loveday took a second starter, and Caius faltered somewhat, taking just one bonus. The first picture round, on flag tables representing nationalities of Nobel Prize winners, went to Magdalen, who took two bonuses to take a narrow lead of 45-40.

Caius reclaimed that lead with the next starter, with Ted Loveday identifying various definitions of MENSA. The side took a full set of bonuses on cubism, before Anthony Martinelli took his first starter of the night, but a bonus set on web browsers bought them nothing. Cameron Quinn tried to break Magdalen back into the match, but lost his side five and handed Caius further initiative; they took two bonuses. Magdalen finally broke back in courtesy of Hugh Binnie, and a full bonus set on philosophy showed they weren't going to give up easily.

The music round, on excerpts from operas depicted on the ceiling of the Palais Garnier opera house, went to Magdalen, but they couldn't manage any bonuses, which meant they trailed 95-75. Mr Quinn took the next starter though, and two bonuses tied the scores. What a good final so far! Ted Loveday gave Caius their lead back with the next starter and the side took a full bonus set on Kyrgyzstan. Mr Loveday took a second starter in a row, but the sides bonus inconsistency reared again, as they took no bonuses this time. Mr Loveday appeared to have put his foot firmly on the pedal now though, as he took a third starter in a row; one bonus followed.

Neither side identified a portrait of Ben Jonson for the second picture starter; the bonuses, on poet laureates and the monarchs who appointed them, went to Caius, who took all three and upped their lead to 170-95. That man Loveday was now running rampant, as he took his latest starter, and the side took all three bonuses to give themselves a 100 point lead. Magdalen needed to get their skates on; a slip-up from Mr Martinelli gave them a chance to break back in, but they couldn't take it. Cameron Quinn tried to break the side in himself, but only managed to lose them five much needed points and allow Mr Loveday to add another starter to his collection.

Caius were now over 100 ahead, and unless Magdalen swept the board from here on in, were most likely home and dry. Ted Loveday seemed to put pay to that prospect, as, once again, it was he who was first in on the buzzer; no bonuses followed, but when that man Loveday very promptly took the next starter, that was game over. Hugh Binnie finally broke the Oxonians back into the game, deservedly bringing them into triple figures, and they took two bonuses on Basil Fawlty's favourite analogy Henry Kissinger. Harry Gillow bravely tried his luck on the next starter, but five more points were begging, and, once again, Mr Loveday took the points.

The gong went during the bonuses; Caius won the final and the series 255-105. The trophy was handed over to the winners by Will Self, who always has something interesting to say. As the credits rolled, as is traditional, the two sides shook hands.

Unlucky Magdalen, who were well in the game until half time; but they've played a great game all through the series and lost to a worthy team in the final, and coming second in UC is still very impressive, so well done to them. Very very well done to Caius though; they've played pretty consistently strong throughout the series, despite a couple of dodgy moments, and are very deserving champions! Very well done indeed!

Ted Loveday was the best buzzer and key player of the final, with eleven(!) starters to his name; Hugh Binnie was best for Magdalen with four. On the bonuses, Magdalen converted a decent 12 out of 18 (with three penalties) and Caius 24 out of 42 (with one penalty).

So, that's it for another series. It's been a fascinating series, as ever, and has been great fun reporting on here and on LAM. Thanks to all who commented on here throughout the series.

I'll be back in the coming days with a series summary and some starter stats.

Also, I need something to talk about here until the next series; thoughts welcome.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Grand Final Preview

Well, here we are people: the Grand Final of University Challenge. Two fine teams have deservedly made it to the Grand Final, and both would be deserving additions to the UC champions list. Those two teams are:
Magdalen College Oxford: Harry Gillow, Chris Savory, Hugh Binnie and Cameron J. Quinn.
Gonville & Caius College Cambridge: Ted Loveday, Michael Taylor, Anthony Martinelli and Jeremy Warner.

So, how did they get this far?

Magdalen defeated Pembroke College Cambridge (in controversial circumstances), the Open University, Trinity College Cambridge, Bristol and St Peter's College Oxford. They did, however, lose to Caius in the QFs (more on that later); they have recovered pretty well since though.

Caius defeated St Anne's College Oxford, Manchester (The Team Everyone Wants To Beat), Durham (twice) and Magdalen. They have been fairly consistently strong over the course of the series, though they did flag somewhat in the second half of their semi-final.

What about the raw stats? Well, Magdalen have played one match more than Caius and have acquired 1,400 points over six matches; Caius have acquired 1,165 points. If you look at the average points acquired, there is virtually nothing in it: Magdalen have averaged 233.33 points per match, Caius 233 points per match.

The average points conceded per match is virtually neck and neck too: Magdalen have averagely conceded 124.17 points per match, Caius 112 per match. So, does that make Caius slight favourites? Possibly, yes. After all, they have already defeated Magdalen once before.

It is worth remembering, however, that Magdalen led for most of that match, and only fell apart in the final minutes when Caius began to ace the buzzer race, and Caius' better bonus rate helped there too. Magdalen's bonus rate has improved somewhat since then.

It could, therefore, simply come down to a question of buzzer speed: Magdalen have two hot buzzers in the shape of Messrs Binnie and Quinn, while Caius, arguably, have three, in Messrs Loveday, Taylor and Martinelli. When both sides build up a head of steam, they really do go for it, and the other team generally is unable to stop them dead until it's way too late.

In the many years I have been covering UC on here and LAM, I have never seen two such closely matched teams in the final, though last year's final two teams were pretty evenly matched too. Their match in the QFs was one of the matches of the series; we can only hope they can match or better that match in terms of quality and tensity and give us the great final this series deserves.

All that remains is for me to wish these two fine teams the very best of (retrospective) luck, and I shall be back on Monday with my usual post-match write-up. See you then!

Monday, 6 April 2015

University Challenge 2014-15: Semi-Final 2: Caius vs Durham

Evening all. So, the second semi-final, and the third of four all-male matches to finish off the series. A rematch too, as these two sides met in the preliminaries. Whoever won tonight would face Magdalen in next week's final. As I have a couple of weeks off, I am/will be covering both tonight's match and next week's final here in Ayrshire.

Gonville & Caius College Cambridge were considered lukewarm favourites to win the series by many, after seeing off St Anne's College Oxford, Manchester (The Team Everyone Wants To Beat) and both their opponents tonight and their potential opponents next week in the QFs. Hoping to carry on that run tonight were the same four as 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

Durham defeated Brasenose College Oxford, York, Trinity College Cambridge and Liverpool, but lost to their opponents tonight as well. Very much the underdogs for tonight, they too were the same four we've got used to seeing this series:
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

Off we set again then, and Caius showed they meant business when Michael Taylor took the first starter, and two bonuses on the work of Plato. Neither side worked out a complicated questions about playing cards, but Ted Loveday took his first starter shortly afterwards, and the side took all three bonuses on the noughties. Daniel Morgan-Thomas took Durham off the mark with the next starter, but just one bonus followed. Another starter to Caius followed, but just one bonus this time. The first picture round, on poems rewritten in some wierd language by the French Oulipo group of writers, went to Caius, and gave them a lead of 80-10.

Mr Taylor took the next starter, and the side took two bonuses to lift themselves into treple figures. Mr Warner took the next starter, but this time, the side got nothing from a set of bonuses on birds. Still, Durham appeared to be in trouble, which worsened when Mr Morgan-Thomas slipped up, and Ted Loveday picked up the points, allowing the side to take tow bonuses and take a 125 point lead.

Neither side took the music starter, and a slip-up from Mr Loveday allowed Durham to take the music bonueses, on pieces that use cryptography. Caius' lead stood at 125-25. More points went to Durham after Mr Harvey eventually offered up a correct answer he thought might be too obvious! "Nothing's too obvious here!" came the blunt reply! Neither side took the next starter, though Durham came up with an amusing alternative! The next starter asked for a compass calculation; Mr Warner worked it out, but the wrong round, allowing Durham to take the points, but none of the bonuses.

The second picture round, on portraits of notable women of the American Revolution, went to Caius after the starter was dropped; they took two bonuses to increase their lead to 145-50. Neither side had really been firing on all fours tonight, but a run now could win it for either team. Durham took a step closer to an unlikely comeback by taking the next starter, and a full set of bonuses on Elizabethan plots.

Caius awoke from their apparent slumbers now, though, as Mr Martinelli took the next starter; though just one bonus followed, it seemed unlikely that would matter. Mr Martinelli then became the latest person this series to be penalised for interrupting just as the question was finishing. It didn't matter, as Michael Taylor took the next starter and they took one bonus. At the gong, Caius won 170-75.

An odd match that began strong, but petered out somewhat in the second half. Unlucky Durham, but they've had a good run, and, as Paxo said, going out in the semis is perfectly respectable; well done to them. Very well done to Caius though; not quite as imperious as we've come to expect from them, particularly on the bonus front, but a win's a win, and very best of luck for the final next week!

Michael Taylor was the best buzzer of the night, with four starters, while Freddie Lloyd was best for Durham with two (his colleagues all got one each). On the bonuses, Caius converted a still decent 16 out of 30 and Durham 7 out of 15, and the sides incurred two penalties each.

Next week's match: the final! Magdalen vs Caius. It should hopefully be a great match, and hopefully both teams will be able to pull out their best after both stuttering a bit on occasion this series, and give us a great match to finish off the series.

I'll be back with a preview of what's likely to happen next week in the coming days.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Only Connect: Series 10 Grand Final

OK people, time for me to give a short-ish review of the Only Connect Grand Final. I won't give a very detailed review; Messrs Clark and Weaver will do that at the weekend.

Anyway, the teams in Monday's final were the Orienteers, Paul Beecher, Sean Blanchflower and Simon Spiro, and the Chessmen, Henry Pertinez, Stephen Pearson and Nick Mills. All serial quizzers; two University Challenge champions and two UC semi-finalists amongst them. Also, the Chessmen came third in Series 2 of OC, while Messrs Beecher and Spiro were part of the Cambridge Quiz Society team that came second that series.

The Orienteers came straight to the final, beating the Romantics, the Gamesmasters (twice) and the QI Elves; the Chessmen lost their first match to the Linguists, but went on to beat the Wandering Minstrels, the Felinophiles, the Gallifreyans and the History Boys. Whoever won would deserve the title.

As you'd expect, the questions were the toughest they've been all series for the final. The Orienteers took one from their first question; the Chessmen missed their first, but the Orienteers couldn't convert. The Orienteers got the audio set, and took one point identifying all those heard as being born in India. The Chessmen got a nice set on the year 2014 in different calenders; they also picked up a bonus on the Orienteers' final question of the round with (what looked like) a lucky guess. The Chessmen finished the round with the picture set, but neither side spotted that they all represented transport cards. A tough first round, after which the sides were tied 2-each.

Sequences next. The Chessmen picked up a bonus on the Orienteers' first question, spotting the sequence of eponymous SI units going backwards. An occational audio sequence went to the Chessmen, but it was the Orienteers spotted the sequence that they were John Lewis Christmas ads music! They also got the picture sequence; neither they or the Chessmen spotted a very tricky sequence for that. A great question followed, showing phrases with months of the year hidden; the Chessmen spotted it for two good points. Two very tricky questions saw out the round; the Orienteers did well to get two points for one of them. The sides were still deadlocked, 5-each.

So, what were the odds that the sides would still be tied after the Connecting Walls? The Chessmen solved their wall, and worked out all the connections, thus earning them ten well earned and much needed points. The Orienteers needed to match that, or at least get seven to stay in touch; they took somewhat longer, but they did sweep clean too, so ten points too! So, it remained deadlocked at 15-each! What a great final!

So, Missing Vowels would decide the series for sure. Things that usually come in threes came first, and the Orienteers took that 2-1. Impressionist paintings and their painters followed, and both sides took their time, but the Orienteers won that 3-0. And that proved decisive, as the show ended afterwards. The Orienteers won the final and the series 20-16.

Great final to end a great series. Unlucky Chessmen, but a great series effort after a rough start; very well done for getting so far. Very well done to the Orienteers though; very deserving and well earned champions!

So, that's it for Only Connect for another series. It's been a great first series on BBC2, with some great matches and questions throughout. We were a bit worried for the show after a couple of tough question sets in Series 9, but we needn't have been. I look forward to the show's return in the Autumn.

Also, I'm still considering retro-reviewing Series 1 of Only Connect so I have something to do on here over the Spring quiz recess; views on that will be welcome.

I'll be back on Monday with my usual UC summary.