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.

Monday, 9 November 2015

University Challenge 2015-16: Round 2: Match 2: Warwick vs Nuffield

Evening all. Here we are again with the second second round match. And, once again, I managed to correct guess the fixture for tonight using last year's second round as a base. Maybe it's time for the show to stop arranging fixtures based on recording schedules and who's available when. Especially if it means two of the best teams in the first round end up against each other far too early. On to tonight.

Warwick defeated Clare College Cambridge 195-100 in their first match, though that lead was mostly achieved in the final stretch, and they did struggle somewhat with the bonuses. No doubt hoping for better things tonight were the unchanged foursome of:
Hugh Osborn, from Norwich, studying Astronomy
Emily Stevenson, from Oxford, studying English Literature
Captain: Ashley Page, from Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, studying Chemistry
James Leahy, from Shrewsbury, studying French and History

Nuffield College Oxford came through a tight first round match against Queen Mary 165-130; their opponents, lest we forget, survived to the repechage, so they are clearly a decent team if they can beat a repechage team. They too were unchanged from before:
Spencer Smith, from Holland, Michigan, studying Economics
Alexander Sayer Gard-Murray, from Los Angeles, studying Politics
Captain: Mathias Ormestad Frendem, from Oslo, studying International Relations
Daniel Kaliski, from Cape Town, studying Economics

Off we set again then, and a very quick buzz from Mr Gard-Murray gave Nuffield the first points of the game, and they took a full set of bonuses on UK prime ministers, though Paxo was a bit lenient to accept 'Arthur Bonar Law' for Andrew Bonar Law. Mr Gard-Murray took a second starter, but no bonuses followed this time. A slip-up then allowed Warwick to take their first starter of the match, and just one bonus followed. Another starter fell to Nuffield, and a set of bonuses on the Singapore Circle Line bought them two points. The first picture round, on cast listings of films with the Oscar winning actress and her character missing, went to Warwick, who took one bonus to cut the gap to 50-30.

A second consecutive starter fell Warwick's way, but that bonus profligacy from the first round showed up again, as they took no bonuses from a tricky set on anagrams. A set of bonuses on the Tait's Turbine Hall proved more to their liking, as they took two, and took the lead as a result. A fourth consecutive starter went to Warwick, but just the one bonus followed this time. They did have the lead at this point, but it was still anyone's game.

The music starter was dropped; the bonuses, on pieces by German composers played on the recorder, went to Nuffield, who took two bonuses and cut Warwick's lead to 75-70. A slip-up from Warwick put the sides on level pegging; a second penalty gave Nuffield the lead, and they capitalised by taking the starter and all three bonuses. Warwick hit straight back with a starter and a full bonus set of their own, which cut the gap to five points. Nuffield increased it with the next starter, but a set of bonuses of spider anatomy added nothing to it, though Paxo was most amused by their guesswork!

No-one recognised EM Forster for the second picture starter; the bonuses, on writers and what their initials stood for, went to Nuffield, but none of them were taken, so they led 115-90. That lead increased with another starter, and two bonuses gave them a lead of 45. Still closable, and Warwick responded by taking a starter and two bonuses on similar words, which cut the gap to 25.

But a very quick buzz from Mr Ormestad Frendem gave Nuffield more room to manoeuvre, though just one bonus followed. But when Nuffield took the next starter, that was most likely them home and dry. A set of bonuses on US state nicknames proved surprisingly hard for the two Americans on the team, as they took just one. Warwick did manage to take one final starter, but the gong cut them off before the bonuses could be asked. Nuffield won 160-120.

A fairly close match, even if it was slightly slow and low scoring. Unlucky Warwick, who were a decent and very pleasant team, and I am genuinely sad we won't be seeing them again, but well done anyway on two respectable efforts. Well done to Nuffield though; another good showing against strong opposition, though I feel they may need to play better in the QFs. Best of luck to them for then!

Mr Ormestad Frendem was the best buzzer of the night, with six starters to his name, while Messrs Page and Leahy were joint best for Warwick with three each. On the bonuses, Warwick converted 10 out of 21, while Nuffield managed 14 out of 30, and both sides incurred two penalties. And, for the first time since Sussex vs Queen's, all eight players finished the match with at least one starter to their name.

Next week's match: again, I don't know the draw, but my guess is that one of the repechage teams will be playing.

Only Connect took a break from the series tonight for the annual Children in Need celebrity special. I am still undecided on whether it will be covered on here. I will be carrying on my DoND retrospective at some point this week as well.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Fifteen-to-One 2.0: Series 4 Final

OK, maybe I went too far when I likened Fifteen-to-One 2.0 to MK Dons. But I do maintain that it is a very watchable and enjoyable show, provided you view it on its own, and don't draw comparisons with the original series. And when it airs immediately after classic Fifteen-to-One on Challenge, that's a, er, challenge. (No joke intended)

Anyway, playing the fourth final of the revived series last Friday were: Jo Wheatley, Richard Appleyard (of Aberdeen), Ailsa Watson, Alan Gibbs (Only Connect champion with the Gamblers), Keith Andrew (another OC alumnus), Craig Element (and another), Stephen Watson, Mike Smith-Rawnsley, Alice Walker, Nigel Richards, Dave Cowan (top of the finals board with 272), Richard Simmonds, Huw Mottram, Colin Kidd (yet another OC alumnus) and Clive Dunning (a former Mastermind champion).

So, plenty of quiz experience there.

All fifteen players survived the first round, nine of them with all three lives intact. The second round, as usual, was a bit of a free-for-all, until eventually, only three players remained: Ailsa Watson, Stephen Watson and Dave Cowan.

The final round, forty questions all on the buzzer instead of the usual question or nominate. All three players lost a life early on, and the scores we always pretty close together. The key moment came when, with fifteen questions left, Ailsa took a four question lead. Dave pulled it back, and then, with five left, there were virtually level. Then, in an attempt to assert authority, Dave got two wrong in a row, eliminating him in third place.

With a substantial lead over her opponent, Ailsa was home and dry with just three questions left and a lead of 70 points. The final questions rang out moot to the final outcome. Ailsa Watson becomes only the third woman to win a Fifteen-to-One grand final, and £40,000. Well done to her!

So, that was the fourth series of the revival. Despite being shorter at only thirty programs long, it was probably better than the third due to a higher standard of contestant, ie more recognisable regular quizzers.

The show is on a break now, which is probably a good thing. Until it comes back, we can satisfy ourselves with vintage Fifteen-to-One on Challenge.

I understand that when the revived series comes back, former contestants will be allowed to reapply. Good idea. Enough time has elapsed, so perfectly fair. Compared to the original series, where only previous winners can keep coming back when they please. Say what you will about the revival: it may not have the pace and straight-forwardness of the original series, but it is much more friendly to the average player.

I'll be back next week with my usual write-ups; see yous then.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Ten Years of Deal or No Deal: Part 1: The Glory Days (2005-07)

Yes, it really has been ten years since Deal or No Deal first aired in the UK. And to mark this, I am going to give you a series of posts marking this. So, here goes...

While I am writing this, I am also watching the Grand Final of Series 15 of Fifteen-to-One, which was shown on Challenge earlier today. Deal often gets unfairly picked on for replacing Fifteen-to-One; unfair because it debuted nearly two years after the original Fifteen-to-One came off the air. It ended in December 2003; Deal first aired on the 31st of October 2005.

Player of that first game was Lynn Atherton, who won £14,000, and had £10 in her box. In fact, the first few players of the show all got the most out of their game; it wasn't until the fourth game that someone could have had more.

When the show first began, it did get attention from enthusiasts; even though the Unofficial Fansite and Forum didn't come about until 2006, early commentaries were still provided by our friends at Bother's Bar. As far as I know, those early commentaries are all still up.

Except one. One player, Madie Bolourchi, asked BB to remove their report of his game because he was so embarrassed about what he'd done. (He'd turned down an offer of £28,000 that was well above the average, and crashed to just £4,800) A few days earlier, the £250,000 had come to the table for the first time, but was sold for £22,000.

A couple of games later, a record was set by Jennifer Miller, who dealt £120,000 on a final two of the £250,000, and, er, £750! (She had the blue in her box). That stood at the highest sum ever dealt for nearly eight and a half years. However, she later revealed, online, that she meant to deal a previous offer of £55,000, but said the wrong thing!

About a month into the show's run, a blue was won for the first time. Raj won just 10p, much to the anger of his fellow winger, game show regular Andy Kelly, who, the next day, gave us a very memorable game, winning £20,000.

The show motored on into the New Year, and we saw another memorable game almost immediately in the year: the first 1p win! Nick Bain swapped his box, £100, and ended up in the Hall of Fame! A few weeks later, Julie Walton sold the 1p for £33,000, which was the most it had been sold for for four years and nine months, but that's another story.

Other memorable games early on in 2006 included Geordie, who set the record for the lowest ever deal, dealing £20 on an all-blue finish. It proved the right move, as he only had 10p in his box! And also John Gilbert, who turned down a very generous £25,000, and ended up with £10.

Throughout this time, people began to notice that the order in which the various sums appeared in what box appeared to have a pattern. This is known to this day as 'Sequencegate', and the system was changed as soon as people began to notice. One game in which this came to the fore was Trevor Bruce, who hit the £250,000 in the final box, having turned down £9,900 on a final five of £250,000 and four blues; he won 1p. Some has theorised that the Banker gave him such poors offers because he knew 1p was in his box due to Sequencegate.

But we also saw games like those of Germaine Williams, who won £75,000, having dealt it on a £250,000-blue final two. And the first player to win a Power 5 sum from their box, £50,000 won by Saj Sarfraz. And also Lucy Harrington, who waited 49 games before finally playing on her 50th show. Alas, she only won £5.

And then twice in just over a month, the £250,000 came within a swap of being won. Firstly, Kirsty Hardle ended up with a perfect final three of £75,000, £100,000 and £250,000. She went ended up with the first and last as her final two, but won the £75,000.

And then Morris Simpson, who had the £250,000 alongside £20,000 as his final two. He turned down the resultant offer of £101,000, but only won the £20,000. No other male turned down the final offer with the £250,000 in play for over five years after this.

We also had Gaz Hall, an ice cream man from the Isle of Wight, who is remembered to this day for hitting the £250,000 in his first box selection, but recovering, and going on to win £100,000.

Come the show's summer break, and the end of the theoretical first series, no-one had yet won the Jackpot, but 7 people had won 1p. And within a week of the show resuming, we had an 8th. But we also had Lance Warrington, who won £87,000 and whose game still stands as one of the best of all time.

After a few weeks of fairly normal play, we had two memorable games in a row: Billy Bonner sold £5 for £50,000, and then Matt Borer opened his game with a run of eight blues. But he was not so lucky: he swapped his box, gave away £50,000 and only won £5,000. The following week, another player, Barbara Dobson, swapped £100,000 for £1,000.

Another notable first happened later on, when one game, that of Amanda Edwards, was not aired; instead, a repeat of Kirsty Hardle's game was shown. It later emerged that Amanda's game was pulled following the death of a close relative. It eventually aired amidst a run of repeats on Challenge in 2013.

However, something odd had happened: the £250,000 had not come to the table for nigh on five months. It finally came to the table twice in just over a week, and was undersold on both occasions: firstly by Ingerlise Stephanson, and secondly by the infamous Donna Rampton, who burst into tears long before it was revealed inside her box. It came to the table a third time shortly afterwards, and was undersold again, for £107,031, by Claudine Whyte. One of the least gutting undersellings that.

So, at the end of 2006, still no Jackpot winner. But then, finally, come the New Year, it happened. Laura Pearce won it! She turned down a rather low £45,000 on a final two of it and £3,000, and won it!

And, from then on til well into the year, the players ran rampant, with most going to the end, and Noel doing very little to stop them. Some times, it paid off: Jonathan 'Bunney' Bunney, one of the show's biggest characters of all time, won £110,000 after dealing on a final two of £250,000 and £20,000. Others it didn't: Dennis Powell turned down an above-the-average offer of £15,001, and ended up with 50p.

It was about this sort of time that I stopped watching the show for a while. Others carried on for a bit longer, but I simply stopped for a bit. The memorable games kept on coming, with wins of £35,000 (Charlene Dixon), £50,000 (Patrick Melia) and £75,000 (Doug May, who had his benefits stopped as a result!).

Moving on into later in the year, two more memorable games followed: Gaz Lawton won £70,001, but could've had exactly £100,000 more if he'd gone on another round, and Aberdeen's own Graeme Garioch won £101,000, after making an exceptionally brave no deal beforehand.

And then we had Shahid Khan, who won £44,000, and now releases pop songs under the name 'Naughty Boy'! And, oh, Paul 'PJ' Johnson, who swapped £75,000 for 1p at the first offer, and was offered nothing but a swap when left with those two sums at 2-box. He won 1p, but was later given an extra £10,000 via the viewer's competition that was in operation at the time!

Going into the home stretch before the show's second summer break, we saw Rodney Lyons win £85,000, and Adam Field become the 11th 1p winner, having turned down an ultra generous third offer of £20,000 early on in the game.

The show reached it's 500th game in June, which was marked with a fairly unremarkable game, in which Annie Hebington won £10,000. The remaining games of the season saw some notable quotables: Maria Andreou achieved the same final two as Laura Pearce and get a much better final offer of £75,000, which she dealt. And Igor Karpov achieved an absolutely unbeatable record, that for the lowest sum ever dealt: 2p!

That's enough for now. I was going to go on until the end of 2007, but I think I'll leave it there, and move on next time. When that will be, I don't know. We'll wait and see when I get a spare moment.

I'll be back tomorrow with a look over last Friday's Fifteen-to-One 2.0 final.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Play-Off 1: Cluesmiths vs Mixologists

OK, the play-offs. The eight teams who are not either eliminated on through to the semis play off, and whoever wins goes to the semis. Playing the first play-off were the Cluesmiths, Mick Hodgkin, Richard Heald and John Tozer, who defeated the Operation Researchers but lost to the Yorkers, and the Mixologists, Chris Beer, Sam Swift and Ewan MacAulay, who lost to the Spaghetti Westerners but recovered to defeat the Collectors.

Round 1. The Cluesmiths kicked off the match with Eye of Horus: 'Matthew Bannister's show, BBC World Service', then 'an entry in the dictionary', then 'your flexible friend'; they offered 'access', which wasn't right. The Mixologists saw the final clue, 'Venue for London 2012 boxing', but didn't get it. The clues represent 'Outlook', 'Word', 'Access', 'Excel', so Microsoft Office programs is the link. Good one! The Mixologists chose Two Reeds, and got the picture set: we saw a bassoon and Grampa Simpson, then a flute and an Angry Bird, then a clarinet and Top Cat and finally a French Horn and the wolf from Shrek. They didn't get it, the Cluesmiths did: they are representations of characters from Peter and the Wolf and their instruments. Another good one. For their own question, the Cluesmths chose Water: '99 & 44/100 %', then '.ci', then Epithet for Mary'; they offered 'islands', which was not right. The Mixologists saw 'Tickled en masse by Liberace', but didn't see it. The last clue was a bit of a giveaway: 'Ivory' is the link. The Mixologists chose Twisted Flax: '216 Evil', then '376 Education of women', then '308 Polygraphy' and finally '134 Mesmerism & Clairvoyance'. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents. It's the Dewey Decimal system, and categories of it that are no longer in use. The Cluesmiths chose Lion next: 'Hapu (downward arrow) Amenhotep', then 'Sam (downward arrow) David Berkowitz'; they offered 'Son of...' at this point, and were correct for three points. Left with Horned Viper, the Mixologists got the music set, and heard Wizard's 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day', then John Denver, then Jessie J. with 'Domino' and neither of us recognised the final track. Neither team knew it, and I'm not surprised: the link is Bond girls, 'Christmas', 'Solitaire' (by Mr Denver), 'Domino', and the final track ''Strawberry Fields' Forever'. At the end of a tough first round, the Cluesmiths led 4-0.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Cluesmiths kicked off with Two Reeds: 'Bottom: -17.777... 0', then 'Bottom: 0 32', and then 'Top: 35.555... 96'. They didn't offer anything, nor did their opponents. 'Top: 100 212' is the answer; the link is the marker points of Celcius to Fahrenheit. The Mixologists chose Eye of Horus next: 'General Grievous (Revenge of the Sith)', then 'Captain America (Easy Rider)', and then 'Del Boy (Only Fools and Horses)'. They spotted the link to be drivers of vehicles with an increasing number of wheels, and offered 'Batman', which was accepted for two points. The Cluesmiths chose Twisted Flax next: 'Sant'Antioco', then 'Elba', and then 'Sardinia'; they offered 'Corsica', which was not right. Their opponents offered 'Sicily', which was right. They are the largest Italian islands. For their own question, the Mixologists chose 'Horn-ed' Viper, and got the picture set: we saw a glass of red wine, then the late great Sir Patrick Moore, and then two images of American actress Cybill Shepherd; they didn't get it, nor did their opponents. This was another very clever question that was just too hard: 'Red', 'Sky at Night', 'Shepherds', so 'Delight' completes the set! Brilliant! But too hard! For their final choice, the Cluesmiths chose Lion, and got a music set: we heard 'Don't You Love Me' by the Human League, then some track I barely recognised, as they buzzed in immediately and answered Band Aid's 'Do They Know It's Christmas'. Three points! They are the Christmas No 1s for 1981, 82, 83 and 84. (Save Your Love was 82, Only You, which we didn't hear, was 83) Left with Water, the Mixologists saw 'Lucy the Valiant', and immediately offered 'Peter the Great'; not right! The Cluesmiths saw 'Edmund the Just' and 'Susan the Gentle', but couldn't get it. As both teams knew, they are the Pevensie childrens' titles in the Narnia chronicles, but 'Peter the Magnificent' is his title. At the end of a barely any easier second round, the Cluesmiths led 7-3.

On to the Walls. The Mixologists went first, and chose to tackle the Lion wall. After spotting some links, they isolated 'Enter', 'Function', 'Control' and 'Caps lock', which are computer keyboard commands. A second group followed: 'Gatsby', 'Chakalaka', 'Bunny chow' and 'Biltong', which are South African cuisine items. The final groups slotted in pretty comfortably after that: 'Portrait', 'Serving', 'Defence' and 'Esteem' can all follow 'Self', while 'Waldo Pepper', 'Dictator', 'Rock 'n' Roll Swindle' and 'Escape' are films titles when 'The Great' precedes them. A perfect wall, so ten points.

The Cluesmiths were thus left with the Water wall. They too spotted some links, and soon had their first set: 'Pointless', 'The Chase', '15 to 1' and 'Perfection' are daytime quiz shows. They soon had a second set too: 'Opium', 'J'Adore', 'Shalimar' and 'No 5' are perfumes. They spent the rest of the time trying to unravel what was left, and looked set to either run out of lives, or time, or both, until they resolved it with just seconds to go. They had the links for the remaining groups: 'Frontier', 'Score', 'Countdown' and 'Fantasy' can all follow 'Final', while 'Lady Godiva', 'Tanner', 'Bob' and 'Bag of sand' are slang terms for money. Another perfect ten there meant they led 17-13 going into the final round.

Once again, then, Missing Vowels would be the decider. 'Tablets' went to the Mixologists 3-1. Film titles decreased by one', such as 'SNOW WHITE AND THE SIX DWARFS', went to the Cluesmiths 3-(-1). 'Top 20 of 'The Nation's Favourite Poems' only managed one clue, which the Mixologists unluckily got wrong, allowing the Cluesmiths to pick it up. And that was that. The Cluesmiths won 22-14.

Another great match. Unlucky Mixologists, but well played throughout the series. Well done Cluesmiths though, and best of luck in the QFs!

Next week's match: the annual Children in Need celebrity special. Haven't decided whether I'll cover that here or not yet.

And, yes, Series 1 will, someday, be finished. For now, though, I'm starting a new series of posts marking Deal or No Deal's Tenth Birthday, which I hope to start tomorrow.

Monday, 2 November 2015

University Challenge 2015-15: Round 2: Match 1: Sidney Sussex vs Imperial

Evening all. Welcome to the second round of the contest, usually considered the toughest, for 'tis the only round where defeat means instant elimination. My views on this are well documented, so I'll say no more. What I will say is it's time for the BBC to publish fixtures beforehand again, provided they don't spoil results; I was discussing this on Twitter the other day with fellow blogger Kelly, of the excellent 'Accidental Quizzer' blog. On to the show.

Sidney Sussex College Cambridge won their first match against Cambridge neighbours King's 195-60, in a match remembered more for their opponents' unusual attire than the match itself! They were the same four as before:
Nicholas Bennett, from London, studying Maths
Ellie Thompson, from Nottingham, studying Physics
Thomas Hitchcock, from Ashford in Kent, studying Natural Sciences
Dan Wilson, from Buckinghamshire, studying German and Russian

Imperial impressed hugely in the first round, beating our old friends Reading 285-105, showing great potential on both the buzzer and the bonuses, making them one of the firm second round favourites. They two were unchanged from before:
Ben Fernando, from Birmingham, studying Physics
Ashwin Braude, from North London, studying Physics
Captain: James Bezer, from Manchester, studying Physics
Onur Teymur, from London, studying Mathematical Statistics

Off we set again then, and Imperial showed they seriously meant business tonight by taking the first starter and all three bonuses on Apollo 11. Two more starters went to the London side, though Sidney Sussex had an unlucky near miss on the first, and half the bonuses that came with them went with them. Sidney Sussex finally broke into the match with the fourth starter, and a full bonus set on art showed they weren't to be totally written off. The first picture round, on US states and the decades they joined the union, went to Imperial, who took two of them, and thus led 80-25.

Just one bonus followed Imperial's next starter, and the one after that too, from an amusing set of bonuses on nettles in Shakespeare. (They really are running out of links for Shakespeare sets, aren't they?) A very impressive quick buzz from Mr Bezer gave Imperial a fourth successive starter, and two bonuses on medieval rulers followed. 'Twas at this point that Sidney Sussex heard the words no team wants to hear: "there's still plenty of time left"! Only one team (that we know of) has gone on to win after been told this. It did them no good either, as Mr Fernando took another starter for Imperial, and a full bonus set on Mr HL Mencken followed.

The music starter was dropped; the bonuses, on classical pieces on a maritime theme, went to Imperial. They didn't manage any of them, unluckily missing one by saying Gilbert instead of Sullivan, but it mattered not, for they led 165-25. Sidney Sussex finally took a second starter, and two bonuses on the ASEAN followed. Normal service then resumed courtesy of Mr Bezer, and a full set of bonuses followed, though Paxo was rather lenient to let them off with correcting themselves on a slight slip for one of them. Another starter and a full set of bonuses on sheep took Imperial through the 200 barrier, and that was pretty much it for the night.

The second picture round, on paintings depicting the temptations of St Anthony, went to Imperial, and their lead now stood at 225-45. Another very good buzz from Mr Bezer only added to it, and a full set of bonuses gave them a 200+ lead. Two more starters fell to the London side, and half the bonuses saw them equal their first round score; unless they now felt like sitting back somewhat and letting Sidney Sussex have a late run, they would certainly better it.

Sidney Sussex did manage another starter, and two bonuses on entomology; they had been shut out of the game pretty much throughout, but had done well with the bonuses when they did get in, which is the sign of a good team. Not as good as Imperial, though, who triumphantly broke 300 thanks to a starter and two bonuses. A slip-up pretty much summed up Sidney Sussex's night, though they did manage the final starter and the one bonus there was time for. At the gong, Imperial won 305-75.

A pretty one sided match throughout, to be honest. Unlucky Sidney Sussex, who, as I said on Twitter earlier, were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, though they did go pretty decently when they did get in, so good on them, and thank you for taking part. Very well done to Imperial though on an absolutely barnstorming performance, and you shall now be taken very seriously indeed in the QFs; best of luck for then!

Mr Bezer was, by far, the best buzzer of the night, with eight starters, while Mr Wilson was best for Sidney Sussex with three. On the bonuses, Sidney Sussex converted a very good 8 out of 10 (with one late penalty), while Imperial managed an impressive 29 out of 48.

Next week's match: no word on the draw yet, but Warwick vs Nuffield is my best guess; I also suspect we'll be seeing Glasgow and Southampton again in the two weeks after that.

Only Connect, on before UC from now on, carried on into the play-off stage, the final stage before the knockout QFs. I'll go into that in more detail later in the week. Also this week, I'll be looking over the fourth Fifteen-to-One 2.0 final, and also, the first of four posts celebrating Deal or No Deal's Tenth Anniversary. So, stay tuned for those.