Monday, 11 January 2021

University Challenge 2020-21: Preliminary Quarter-Final 1: Magdalene vs Birkbeck

Good evening my friends, and welcome to the University Challenge quarter-finals! The phase with the rules that are a lot simpler than they appear. Simply, you keep playing until you win twice or lose twice. After a brutal elimination round, we have a very high quality group of quarter-finalists, and tonight's match was a testament to that.

Magdalene College Cambridge defeated two Oxford teams en route to this match, firstly Univ. in the first round by 170-130, and then in the second round they beat Corpus Christi 185-115. They were unchanged from those previous games: 
James Byrne, from Welwyn Garden City, studying Maths
Adam Davies, from Wichita, Kansas, graduated in History
Captain: Daniel Lawson, from the Wirral, studying Medicine
Kerry Payne, from Little Weighton in Yorkshire, studying Theology for Ministry
Birkbeck won both their first two matches easily, beating Reading 295-50 in the first round, then last week they defeated Open 205-95. The first team to appear in two consecutive non-final matches in quite a few years, they were also unchanged: 
Jonathan Taylor, from London, studying Environment and Sustainability
Nicky Clarke, from Leicestershire, studying Early Modern History
Captain: Jonathan Williams, from London, studying Classics
Joshua Mutio, from St Helens, studying PPE
So off we set, and Birkbeck started better as Ms Clarke took the first starter and two bonuses on the Trojan War were taken. The Londoners took a second starter and pair of bonuses before Mr Byrne opened Magdalene's account, and they took a full set of bonuses on place names. Honey badgers gave them a second starter, and they took the lead with two bonuses. The first picture round, on curves, went to Magdalene; one bonus this time gave them a lead of 60-40.

Back came Birkbeck with 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', and bonuses on Olympic snowboarding gave them another two bonuses. Back came Magdalene, and they also took two bonuses, before a second starter and pair of bonuses in a row took them into three figures first. An amusing starter on languages spoken by elves gave Magdalene a third in a row, and they took a full set of bonuses on pairs of countries. The music round, on jazz records produced by Nesuhi Ertegun, went to Birkbeck; another two bonuses pulled them back to 125-80.

Magdalene reawoke as Mr Davies took the next starter, but they only took one bonus on arts writers. Back came Birkbeck with Mr Mutio, and their bonus consistency continued, two correct took them into three figures. Another two starters to Birkbeck and two bonuses from both sets, and they had suddenly leveled the scores. The second picture round, on philosophers who were members of Cambridge University's Moral Science Club, went to Magdalene; two bonuses of their own gave them a lead of 160-140.

Still either team's game, but Magdalene now switched on the afterburners, Mr Byrne taking the next starter and a full bonus set on former African colonies going with it. And when Mr Lawson took the next starter and a second full house in a row, went with it, that was game over. Mr Byrne confirmed this by taking the next starter; just two bonuses followed this time, but it mattered not. Mr Lawson took the final starter, but there was no time for any bonuses. At the gong, Magdalene won 240-140.

A seriously good high quality match between two great teams, both of whom I fancy will reach the semis if they keep playing like that. Well done to Magdalene, who have been getting better with every match; best of luck to them in the qualifiers! Well done to Birkbeck too, who still played very well in spite of their defeat, and best of luck in the eliminators!

The stats: Mr Byrne was the best buzzer of the night with five, while Messrs Taylor and Mutio and Ms Clarke all got two each for Birkbeck. On the bonuses, Magdalene managed a very good 24 out of 33 and Birkbeck an also admirable 14 out of 21.

Next week's match: don't know, but anything I find on Twitter will get retweeted.

Only Connect began its play-off matches with the Whodunnits vs the Walruses. The latter led 5-3 after the first round, but a better second round saw the former sneak into a 7-5 lead. A better wall gave the Whodunnits a lead of 17-12 going into Missing Vowels, and they maintained it with a better performance to win 26-15.
Mastermind was won by Mohan Mudigonda, who won on 18 and no passes against the 18 and four passes of Josh Benfield. The other two contenders finished further back.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

University Challenge 2020-21: Second Round Review and Look Forward to the Quarter-Finals

OK, so here we are at the quarter-final stage of the most dramatic and unpredictable series of University Challenge for a long time. And not just because of the circumstances under which this series has been made. The second round has a a reputation as a brutal round due to its rather unfair sudden death format having a tendency to eliminate good teams seemingly too early, but this series, it has felt especially brutal, given that pretty much every team that were eliminated were a good team out too early.

And after all this, we have a very strong, and well balanced and spread out, quarter-final line-up; they are, in order of qualification and with their overall and aggregate scores:
  • Imperial College London (495 over three matches, 165)
  • Strathclyde (325 over two matches, 162.5)
  • Warwick (445 over two matches, 222.5)
  • Durham (345 over two matches, 172.5)
  • Balliol College Oxford (350 over two matches, 175)
  • King's College London (345 over two matches, 172.5)
  • Magdalene College Cambridge (355 over two matches, 177.5)
  • Birkbeck (500 over two matches, 250)
So, now for the part where I forensically dissect the raw figures and try and suggest who the most likely semi-finalists are. And to do so, I shall split them up into four pairs...

First, we have the two obvious favourites, Warwick and Birkbeck. Of the two, are the team I'd most fancy to reach the semis, given that both their performances thus far have been high scoring performances and wins, and also that both required them to come from behind after a slow start to run away with it. That shows resilience. Birkbeck have a higher score and aggregate thus far, but haven't really been tested yet, winning both their matches at a canter having led from the off. But if they can repeat their first and second round form in the QFs, they should reach the semis with ease.

Next, we have Imperial and Strathclyde. They fought each other in a high scoring first match, with Strathclyde winning before coming through a low scoring second round match. Imperial came through as well after a very close play-off and a rather one-sided second round match. Both could feasibly reach the semis depending on the draw; I'd personally say Imperial would be more likely, though given their rather major reliance on their captain Mr Kohn, if the starters don't fall for him...

Then we come to Balliol and Durham. Both teams went somewhat under the radar in their first matches before triumphing in high scoring second round matches against highly fancied teams who can consider themselves most unfortunate to go out when they did. Of the two, Durham I'd probably say would be the more consistant, and well balanced team, whereas Balliol came through a low scoring first match and a high scoring second match, and, in the latter, seemed rather reliant on their captain Mr O'Connor. But, again, both have a solid chance of reaching the semis.

And finally, we have Magdalene and King's. Both also went somewhat under the radar in the first round, both scoring 170 points, before triumphing in the second round over teams who they might've been considered underdogs against. They will also likely start the QFs as underdogs, but should definitely not be totally written off, Magdalene especially after that highly impressive second half performance in their second match.

In short, these teams are all contenders for the semis. Any combination of four could reach the semis and I wouldn't be surprised. They are all good teams in one way or another and all would be worthy semi-finalists.

It could, like the previous few series, just come down to who plays who when. If previous years are a guide, the first two matches of the round would be Balliol vs King's and Magdelene vs Birkbeck. But of course, what with the different filming schedule this series has had to take, that may well be different this year. An anonymous Wikipedia update nonetheless claims Magdalene vs Birkbeck will be the first match this coming Monday, but I haven't found anything to verify this yet.

It's also the most diverse group of quarter-finalist institutions in years, with just one team each from Oxford and Cambridge. This is the first time this has happened since... (peruses through the previous series listings)... the 1998-99 series won by the Open University (after being Birkbeck in the QFs no less!). It's also the fewest Oxbridge quarter-finalists since the 2006-07 season when there was just one, Wadham College Oxford.

In short, these are all good teams; any of them could reach the semis and I wouldn't be surprised. UC has taught us to expect the unexpected over the years and we should continue to do so as we go into one of the most open group stages in years. Best of (retrospective) luck all teams; hopefully a great set of matches!

Back on Monday, and I may be starting something extra on here as well in the foreseeable future. Until then, sayonara.

Monday, 4 January 2021

University Challenge 2020-21: Round 2: Match 8: Open vs Birkbeck

Good evening friends, and welcome back to regular University Challenge! I'll admit, after seeing Paxo with his smart haircut for the past two weeks, I was a tad caught out to see him back in his 'lockdown' hair tonight! We resume the series tonight with the final two second round teams reappearing, from way back in the summer too; winners would take the final place in the QFs, alongside Imperial, Strathclyde, Warwick, Durham, Balliol, King's and Magdalene.

The Open University first appeared back in July, when they led throughout and ultimately defeated Linacre of Oxford, who survived to the play-offs, 210-140. They were the same four as that time around: 
Beverley Randle, from Bristol, studying the Roman Empire 
David Lamb, from Stockport, studying Philosophy with Psychology 
Captain: Gill Taylor, studying Riddlesden in Yorkshire, studying Engineering 
Chris Macklin, from Manchester, studying Law
Birkbeck last graced our screens two weeks later in mid August, where they utterly dominated Reading, racking up the highest score of the first round as they triumphed 295-50. They were also unchanged from then: 
Jonathan Taylor, from London, studying Environment and Sustainability
Nicky Clarke, from Leicestershire, studying Early Modern History
Captain: Jonathan Williams, from London, studying Classics
Joshua Mutio, from St Helens, studying PPE
So off we set for the first time this year, and Mr Mutio shot in like a flash to identify 1963as the Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' speech occurred; two bonuses were taken, before Mr Taylor took the second starter, the bonuses for which, on fictional islands, also had two correct. Mr Williams had the third, and they went one better with a bonus set on astronomy, a full set. The first picture round, on lists of dying words of Shakespeare characters, also went to the Londoners; two correct already gave them a lead of 85-0.
And the lead just kept getting bigger, as Mr Taylor took the next starter, and two bonuses on sporting achievements took them into three figures already. Open finally managed to get a buzz in on the next starter, but only lost five; Birkbeck didn't pick up, but Mr Mutio took the next, giving them a classic UC bonus set on pairs of words with just one letter changed, another two were taken. Open finally got some proper points on the board thanks to Ms Taylor, but got nothing from the bonuses. Back to Birkbeck, who took a starter and sole bonus on physics. The music round, on songs of the Second World War, went to Open; a full set followed, prompting some rather unfair ageist comments from the host(!), taking the scores to 140-30.
Back to Birkbeck possession went with Ms Clarke taking the points this time, and another sole bonus on travel writers was taken. I surprised myself by correctly getting 'Guppy' for the next starter, as did  Mr Taylor, and another sole bonus was taken. Mr Lamb claimed some points back for Open, and they also took just one bonus. Mr Williams then ensured all four Birkbeck players had contributed at least two starters to their score; two bonuses were taken this time, as was the second picture round, on musicians from the Golden Age of jazz, after which the Londoners led 205-45.
The next starter saw Mr Lamb avoid falling into the same trap Homer Simpson did of saying 'Hitler' instead of 'Bismarck' for the capital of North Dakota! Bonuses on cricket gave Open one correct answer. This ensured they wouldn't be joining the Sub-50 club; Ms Taylor took the next starter, and, though not bonuses followed, they were managing to go out on a good run. Mr Lamb took another starter and a sole bonus was taken. Mr Lamb also took the final starter, but the gong went during the bonuses; Birkbeck won 205-95.

A good match to start the new year on. Another fine performance from Birkbeck, deserved quarter-finalists, and Open deserved that late run to respectability as well; well done to both teams, and best of luck Birkbeck in the quarter-finals!

The stats: Mr Lamb was the best buzzer of the night with five starters, while Mr Taylor was best for Birkbeck with four. On the bonuses, Open managed 6 out of 19 (with the night's one penalty) and Birkbeck 19 out of 33.

Next week's match: the first quarter-final! Don't know who's playing yet, but will retweet anything I find as per usual. And I'll hopefully do my usual QF preview later in the week.

Only Connect finished its qualifier matches with the Apres Skiers vs the Polyhymnians. The  former led 4-0 after a first round where their opponents were unfortunate to nearly miss all their questions, and then 9-3 after the second round. Both teams struggled on the Walls, leaving the Skiers leading 14-6 going into Missing Vowels, and they maintained in an evenly matched round to win 19-12.
Mastermind, meanwhile, was won by David Workman, who I’m pretty sure has been on Brain of Britain and/or Counterpoint, among others, before; his final score of 22 being well clear of the other three contenders. Steven Mayes, a UC alumnus from a few series back, also participated.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Christmas University Challenge 2020 + Only Connect specials

Happy New Year friends! Hope you all managed to see in the New Year safely and satisfactorily. Back to normal service with University Challenge tomorrow, but first, we have the Christmas series to review. In past years, I've done this in two parts, but this year, because I was busy last weekend, I'll do it all at once this year. Which also allows a slightly different format to past series too.

So, lets start with the teams competing in this year's contest; they were, in order of appearance:
Christ's College Cambridge: Steve Palmer, Sathnam Sanghera, Lachlan Goudie, Helen Mort
St John's College Oxford: Paul Franklin, Simon Jack, John Lanchester, Usha Goswami
Manchester: David Nott, Juliet Jacques, Ade Edmondson, Jeremy Edwards
Queen's University Belfast: Alan Jones, Miriam Gamble, Kate Devlin, Alan Finlayson
Courtauld Institute of Art: Tim Marlow, Lavinia Greenlaw, Jacky Klein, Jeremy Deller
Goldsmiths London: Rachel Cowgill, David Dibosa, Dave Myers, Helen Cross
Nottingham: Helen Roy, Melania Hopkins, Levison Wood, Colin Matthews
Sheffield: Michael Deacon, Claire McGourlay, Val Gibson, Kylie Pentelow
UCLAN: Mark Tattersall, Kate Pankhurst, Richard Frediani, Richard Askam
Loughborough: Monty Panesar, Caitlin McClatchey, Kate Fox, Naomi Dattani
Durham: Hugh Pearman, Ed Gamble, Sarah Keith-Lucas, Becky Smethurst
Downing College Cambridge: Louise Dean, John Pendry, Amol Rajan, Dharshini David
New College Oxford: Charlotte Mendelson, Michael Crick, Sarah Cooke, Christopher Hampton
Reading: Amoret Whitaker, Rhianna Dhillon, Stephen Smith, Paul Barnes

The series started with two very one sided matches. Firstly, St John's easily triumphed over Christ's, who took the first starter but faded very quickly afterwards, the final score in that match 180-50. It was a similar story in the second match between Manchester and Queen's; the latter took the first two starters, but Manchester took the rest afterwards and won 175-30.

The best match of the first round was probably Courtauld vs Goldsmiths, with both sides acquitting themselves well and the lead changing hands at first, before Courtauld eked out an advantage and ultimately winning 150-100, a better bonus rate proving the difference. In fact, this was the only match of the first round where both teams reached three figures.

A low scoring match between Nottingham and Sheffield saw the former win 145-70, having been largely comfortable for the most part. The same was true of the match between UCLAN and Loughborough; the latter won an entertaining contest 170-60, the highlights being Ms Fox's excellent haul of eight starters, the best individual performance of the series, and Mr Askam's amusing suggestion that Lassie fought Mothra and others instead of Godzilla!

Two low scoring but entertaining matches ended the round, firstly with Durham beating Downing 90-65, the second lowest winning score of all time (that we know of); highlight of that match was Mr Rajan's suggestion of 'tuna' for a fish generally kept in a tank as a pet! Final match of the round saw New College and Reading swap starters at first before the former ran away in the second half and won 110-60.

This thus gave us a semi-final line-up of St John's, Manchester, Loughborough and Courtauld.

The first semi between St John's and Courtauld was probably the best match of the series, with the teams closely matched at first, before Courtauld ran into a second half lead, and though St John's recovered late on, they couldn't catch up, Courtauld winning 180-135. The second semi was another low scoring but enjoyable match up, Manchester ultimately beating Loughborough 140-70.

The final thus pitted Courtauld against Manchester. The latter dominated at first and led at half-time, but Courtauld fought back in the second half, and ultimately ran away with it, winning 150-90. Congrats to them, worthy winners! And Manchester too, worthy runners-up.

Overall, this probably wasn't as good a series as last year, but it was still a perfectly enjoyable contest; thanks very much to all teams who took part, especially, as Paxo said, in these difficult times.

Only Connect also had its usual four festive specials: we had a pretty standard Christmas special between two family teams, namely the Edwards Family from Series 5 and the Wrights from Series 4, a 'North-South' special between the Scunthorpe Scholars from S12 (glad to see them again after they only got one match due to the experimental format used that series) and the Oxonians from S10, and a doctors specials, between the Medics, an all-star team comprising George Corfield from S14 winners the Dicers, Kip Heath from the Heath Family from S9 and Kyle Lam from S15 runners-up the Suits, and the Gallifreyans from S10.

The best match was probably the last one, a music special between the Festival Fans from S7 and the Choristers from S15, a match notable for the composers of the show's iconic theme tune providing incidental music between the rounds, and for the first occurrence of two music questions in the first round. After a very close contest, the Choristers just won 22-21.

But four good enjoyable contests, well done all who took part!

And that concludes our festive quizzes review; back to business as usual tomorrow with my usual UC review and summary of OC and Mastermind.

So, until then, sayonara.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Quizzy Mondays update 28/12/20

Greetings friends. You may have noticed I didn't do my usual review of the first week of Xmas UC yesterday. Well, I was otherwise engaged last night and didn't have the time to. I haven't decided if I'll do it tomorrow or just review the whole series next weekend. And maybe cover the OC specials that start tomorrow while I'm at it.

For now, though, here's a quick run through of the other two thirds of tonight's Quizzy Monday.

Only Connect had its final regular match of the year, the Barons against the Dungeon Master, with the winners going through to the QFs. The latter led 4-1 after a tough first round of numerous near misses, and 7-5 after a second round that saw the first music sequence of the series (that I got right through educated guesswork). A better wall saw the Barons sneak into a 12-11 lead, but the Dungeon Masters snuck back in front on Missing Vowels to win 19-13.
Mastermind, meanwhile, was a close affair, with Aidan Linge winning on 20 points, with Kieran Leahy second on 19 and the third-place contender on 18.
So, that's all for now. I may do my usual UC post tomorrow, but more likely I'll just do the whole series, and the OC specials, next weekend.
So, if this is indeed my final blog post of 2020, have a safe and happy New Year, and I'll see you in 2021!