Monday, 9 December 2019

University Challenge 2019-20: Round 2: Match 4: Imperial vs St John's

Evening all. Here we are at the penultimate regular UC of the 2010s, and as its nearly 2020, I am planning a UC Review of the Decade. Now whether I do it at the end of the year and cover exactly the 2010s or wait until the end of the current series and look back on the last ten series (2010-11 to 2019-20) I haven't decided yet; opinions welcome. For now, though, on with the usual business.

Imperial College London racked up the highest score of the first round, as they beat Brasenose of Oxford 255-70, dominating almost throughout. They were the same foursome as before: 
Richard Brooks, from Stockton-on-Tees, studying Mechanical Engineering 
Brandon, from Jamaica, Queens in New York City, studying Computing 
Captain: Caleb Rich, from Lewisham, studying Controlled Quantum Dynamics 
Connor McMeel, from Dublin, studying Computer Science

St John's College Oxford also comfortably won their first match, beating Wolfson of Cambridge 115-40 in the lowest scoring UC match of the Paxo era. They were also unchanged from before: 
Sam Burns, from Walthamstow in London, studying History
Isabella Morris, from London, studying English Language and Literature
Captain: Asher Leeks, from Beckenham in London, studying Evolutionary Biology
Aaron Soor, from Woodford in London, studying Maths 

Off we set again then, and St John's started with a misfire, allowing Mr Rich to pick up where he left off by taking 'Simon Bolivar' for the first starter; a full set of bonuses on the subtitles of books was a strong statement of intent from the Londoners. They then lost five of their own on the next starter though, but St John's failed to pick up. The Oxonians then slipped up again (I think possibly the first time, in the BBC era at least, that the first three starters saw penalties incurred), and Mr Rich swept in for the pickup; two bonuses followed. Mr Soor finally got St John's moving in the right direction again, giving them a bonus set on trios whose names began with A, B and C respectively, of which they took one. Mr Brooks then was first in with Lincolnshire (just after I got it), but just one bonus on scientific terms ending 'grade' followed. The first picture round, on maps illustrating outbreaks of disease, went to St John's; two bonuses followed, which cut their arrears to 55-25.

They duly increased again though as the mononymous Brandon, wearing a jumper with a picture of Alex Trebek on it to show support for him (he had just been diagnosed with cancer when this episode was filmed), identified the artist Mary Cassatt for the next starter; a full house of bonuses on Pulitzer Prizes followed. Mr Leeks broke back in for St John's, which gave them a bonus set on UK dales, of which they took one. Mr Soor didn't quite get the right end of the stick on the next starter, allowing Brandon to take the points; a bonus set on last year's (men's football) World Cup saw both me and them get Iceland and Brazil, but miss Belgium.

The music round, on jazz artists who went solo after coming to fame alongside Miles Davis, went to Imperial; two bonuses took their lead to 120-40. And it was just getting bigger as Mr Rich identified the Ordnance Survey for the next starter; a tough bonus set on powers of ten gave the Londoners five points. Brandon was in quickly for the next starter for knowing that six non-Earth planets were known to exist by 1820, and got told off by Paxo for 'finding the questions insultingly easy'! Two bonuses followed, before Brandon took a second starter in a row, and a full set of bonuses on historic English counties pretty much ended the match as a contest.

The second picture starter was dropped; the bonuses, on films edited by Dede Allen, went to St John's, who took one bonus, which took the scores to 180-55. Mr McMeel cemented Imperial's win when he took the next starter, giving his side a classic UC bonus set on high scoring words in Scrabble, of which they took two.

So now it was just a question of how much higher both sides could go; Mr Leeks pulled one back for St John's, and a bonus set on the 'stan' countries gave them a full set in short order. Mr Rich pulled Imperial past 200 as he took the next starter, and a bonus set of Tudor rebellions was also dispatched reasonably easily. Mr McMeel was first to work out the next starter; just one bonus on Italian cinema followed, but it mattered not. The next starter was a rerun of a famous bad answer from the show in the 90s: "Pen y Fan is the highest point in which national park?" Neither side said 'Snowdonia' this time; Mr Leeks did get the right answer of the 'Brecon Beacons' though, and another full bonus set deservedly took St John's into triple figures. Mr Brooks took the last starter, and his side answered the one bonus there was time for correctly. At the gong, Imperial won 255-105.

Another good watchable contest, even if it was a rather one sided one. Unlucky St John's, but a valiant performance in the circumstances, thanks very much for playing! Very well done Imperial though, and very best of luck in the QFs; definitely a team to watch!

The stats: Mr Rich was the best buzzer of the night with five, while Messrs Leeks and Soor got three each for St John's. On the bonuses, Imperial converted 26 out of 37 (with one penalty), while St John's managed 11 out of 18 (with two penalties).

Next week's match: the last regular UC of the decade! Again, I don't know who's playing yet, but will be sure to retweet anything I find.

Only Connect was much closer tonight, with the second qualifier, between the Forrests and the Choristers; after a tight contest all the way through, including a welcome mention of Punch and Judy toothpaste (my favoured toothpaste for a while!), the Choristers won it on the last Missing Words of the show, winning 22-21!

Monday, 2 December 2019

University Challenge 2019-20: Round 2: Match 3: Courtauld vs Glasgow

Evening all. So, as was pointed out in a comment on last week's blog, thus far, we've seen the two play-off survivors procede to the second round, the first time that's happened since the 2011-12 series. Two more regular matches after tonight, then we pause for the usual Christmas celebrity fare. On paper, one could be forgiven for thinking tonight's result a foregone conclusion. No such thing as that on UC though...

The Courtauld Institute of Art won a specialist London derby against the LSE in their first outing, taking a low scoring contest 145-90. They were unchanged from that match: 
Ash Silver, from North London, studying History of Art
Morgan Haigh, from Cardiff, studying History of Art
Captain: Harry Prance, from Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, studying Middle Byzantine Eucharistic Objects
Nancy Collinge, from Blackpool, studying History of Art

Glasgow won the first match of the series back in July, taking a strong early lead against Lancaster and ultimately seeing it home 230-95, which was the highest score of the round until Imperial bettered it in the penultimate match of it. They were also unchanged from that time:  
Ben Whitcombe, from Northwich, studying History and Film & TV studies 
Cat McAllister, from Glasgow, studying Physics Education 
Captain: Finlay McRobert, from Aberdeen, studying Maths 
Ben Whitworth, from Ashton-under-Lyne, studying Education

Off we set again then, and the first starter of the match asked after the term 'millennial'; Ms Collinge was in first to correctly offer it, and the London side took one bonus on seaside towns with multiple words in their names. Neither side took the next starter, Mr Prance very quickly took the next, and his side took full advantage with a full bonus set on directors noted for music videos. The Courtauld captain took a second starter in a row, but their fortunes swung back the other way, no bonuses this time. Mr Whitworth took Glasgow off the mark with 'Afghanistan', giving his side a bonus set on Norwegian literature, of which they took two. The first picture round, on titles of novels in French, went to Courtauld, who took another full set, which gave them a lead of 80-20.

And it increased again as Mr Prance took the next starter, and two bonuses took them already to 100 points. Mr Whitworth came back in for Glasgow with 'woodpecker', and, again, the Scots side took a pair of bonuses. A second starter in a row went to Mr Whitworth, but a set of bonuses on canals proved not to their liking, none taken.

The music round, on concept albums of this decade just finishing (weird to think that!), went to Courtauld, who took two bonuses, one of which provided this week's Only Connect crossover answer in 'Kate Tempest', which gave them a lead of 120-50. It increased when Mr Whitworth gave an answer he realised was wrong just as soon as he interrupted to say it; Mr Prance duly did the pick up, giving his side a bonus set on works in the Brera Gallery in Milan, of which they, again, took two. Mr McRobert brought Glasgow back into the match with 'bone marrow', but, again, his side got nothing from a bonus set on animals of the weasel family. Ms McAllister won the visible race to the buzzer when it became apparent 'needle' was the word being sought by the next starter; one bonus from the obligatory Shakespeare set followed. Back came Courtauld with Mr Prance again doing the honours; bonuses on meteor showers saw the Londoners employ the popular tactic of saying the same answer, in this case 'Perseids', three times and getting it right on the third go! Mr Whitworth quickly shot in on the next starter with 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' though, and two bonuses just about kept them within touching distance.

The second picture starter saw Mr Whitworth beat the art specialists to the buzzer to identify the work of Lucien Freud; the bonuses, on nude self portraits, gave the Scots side two correct bonuses, which took the scores to 155-110. Still just about closable if they could get a run together, but when Mr Prance took the next starter, the job became a lot harder; one bonus followed.

A slip-up from the Courtauld captain gave Glasgow a chance to break back in, but they had to let it pass. The next starter was dropped too, with suggestions that the Caribbean and the Red Sea are in the Pacific only resulting in laughter! A third starter in a row was dropped, but when Mr Haigh took the next, that was game over; one bonus on the life and work of VS Naipaul followed. Glasgow went out with a flourish, as Mr Whitcombe ensured all eight players had contributed a starter, and another pair of bonuses followed. Ms McAllister took the last of the game, and one of the two bonuses there was time for followed. At the gong, Courtauld won 180-145.

A good contest, the result of which I doubt many could have seen coming. Unlucky Glasgow, but a fair performance to go out on nonetheless, thanks for playing! Very well done Courtauld though, and very best of luck in the quarter-finals!

The stats: Mr Prance was the best buzzer of the night with seven starters, while Mr Whitworth was best for Glasgow with five. On the bonuses, Courtauld converted 17 out of 30, while Glasgow managed 12 out of 26, with both sides incurring one penalty each.

Next week's match: again, don't know, watch my Twitter feed, will retweet as soon as I see anything.

Only Connect began its qualifier matches tonight with the Lexplorers vs the Suits; after a very tough contest, with two especially hard walls, the Lexplorers came from behind in the Missing Vowels to win 13-9.

Monday, 25 November 2019

University Challenge 2019-20: Round 2: Match 2: Southampton vs Durham

Evening all. On we head then to the second match of the most brutal round in the contest. And after what I said last week, I'm still trying to come up with a new format that ensures no-one leaves after a win and a single loss, is easy to understand and doesn't drag the contest out too much longer. If I come up with something, I will let it be known here. On with tonight's show...

Southampton started slowly in their first match against Goldsmiths of London, not scoring until after the first picture round, before recovering and ultimately winning comfortably 175-95. They were the same foursome as that time around: 
Josh Holland, from Worcester, studying Theoretical Computer Science 
Rory Fleminger, from Oxford, studying Civil Engineering 
Captain: Steve Barnes, from Hyde in Hampshire, studying Chemical Education 
James Carrigy, from Knaphill in Surrey, studying History

Durham lost their first match to Trinity of Cambridge, but survived to the play-offs, where they faced York, and ran out very comfortable winners by 240-145. They were also the same four as those prior occasions: 
Charles Bland, from Sutton in Surrey, studying Philosophy
William Tams, from Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria, studying Biosciences
Captain: Joe Cooper, from London, studying Chemistry
Arthur Raffle, from Manchester, studying French and German 

Off we set again then, and Mr Barnes opened the scoring by knowing the colour linking, among others, the 1991 European Cup winners, to be red (as in Star Belgrade); one bonus on trees followed. Mr Tams set Durham off in quick pursuit, and they fared much better on bonuses on words that can follow 'Shut your' to give expressions meaning 'Be Quiet!', a full house there. Mr Cooper came in too soon and lost five on the next starter, allowing his opposite number to take his second starter of the match; one bonus on pairs of people with similar names followed. Mr Tams was back in for Durham to tie the scores again, and two bonuses followed. The first picture round, on the sites of Scottish battles, went to Durham, who took another two bonuses, taking their lead to 60-30.

Mr Holland came back in for Southampton on the next starter though, unlocking a set of physics bonuses that I'm not even going to pretend I understood; they had two of them correct though, taking the gap back to ten. Mr Raffle upped the lead again, knowing that 'priest' and 'Oliver Goldsmith' would probably mean it was 'The Vicar of Wakefield' we were talking about; this game them a set of bonuses on the FA Trophy, of which they took two bonuses (I had a full set). Mr Tams shot in quickly again for Durham, which gave them a bonus set on IT terms, of which they drew a rare blank. It didn't look like it would matter at this point though, as Mr Raffle took the next starter and two bonuses followed.

Neither side identified a bit of Vivaldi's Four Seasons for the music starter; the replacement starter asked for the year when, among others, the first Shrek film was released; I knew it to be 2001, having rented in on VHS back in the day (ah, the early noughties!). Mr Bland was two years out, and when the question later revealed another clue to be the inauguration of George W Bush, Mr Barnes had the answer. The music bonuses, on horse riding in classical music, gave Southampton no further bonuses, but did reduce their gap to 105-60. Mr Tams recouped Durham's lost points as he took the next starter, and a rather straight forward (and topical) bonus set on political parties in Northern Ireland was swiftly swept clean. Mr Bland took the next, and bonuses on that old quiz staple the Shipping Forecast gave them two correct, and they were unlucky to miss the other, offering 'South Iceland' instead of 'South East Iceland'. Five were then lost to a penalty though, and Mr Carrigy picked up for Southampton; a much needed full set of bonuses on the moons of planets followed. Mr Holland gave the Saints a second starter in a row, and one bonus was sufficient to put them into triple figures.

The second picture starter saw Mr Raffle use the old logic of 'if it's an engraving, Durer will always be a good shout'; the bonuses, on works involving momento moris, gave Durham another two correct bonuses, and a lead of 165-100. And when Mr Tams took the next starter, and another pair of bonuses followed, the Wearsiders were within sight of victory.

Southampton had to go for it now; a chance went begging as Mr Bland buzzed too early on the next starter with only half the required answer, then gave the rest after his side had already been penalised; Paxo rightly canned the starter there. The next was dropped, but when Mr Bland atoned by taking the next, that was game over; a full set of bonuses on penguins confirmed this. Mr Barnes did the right thing and took an early punt on the next starter, but only lost five; Mr Tams did the honours, and a second full set in a row went with it. Mr Holland was unfortunate on the final starter, offering 'Octavius' instead of 'Octavia'; Mr Raffle took the points, and Durham took the one of the two bonuses there was time to answer. At the gong, Durham won 245-95.

A good contest, one sided, but watchable throughout. Unlucky Southampton, a solid team who did not deserve to lose as heavily as that, but a respectable pair of performances, thanks for playing! Very well done Durham though, another great performance against proven good opponents, and best of luck in the quarter-finals!

The stats: Mr Tams was the best buzzer of the night, with seven starters, while Mr Barnes was best for Southampton with three. On the bonuses, Southampton converted 8 out of 18 (with one penalty), while Durham managed 27 out of 38 (with four penalties).

Next week's match: don't know yet, but will keep an eye out.

Only Connect was another good match between the Journeymen and the Junipers, both unlucky to be in the elimination round. It went right to the wire, an 18-each tie, and the Junipers won on the resulting tie-breaker.

Monday, 18 November 2019

University Challenge 2019-20: Round 2: Match 1: Birmingham vs Jesus

Evening all. So, we're into the second round, the round where defeat means you're instantly out and victory means you're guaranteed two more games at least; not perfect, but until something better comes along, it's the best option available (a bit like Scotland having to play Steven Naismith up front!). We had to wait until the continuity announcement into Only Connect to find out who was playing tonight, but, when we did, one could be forgiven for expecting a walkover match tonight...

Birmingham won a low scoring contest against Bristol first time around, edging a narrow contest 125-120, with the gong denying them a winning margin ten points bigger. They were the same team as before: 
Alex Milone, from Brockenhurst in Hampshire, studying Medicine 
Izzy Lewis, from Monmouth, studying Physics 
Captain: Zoe Bleything, from Thornbury in Gloucestershire, studying Medicine 
Ben Sculfor, from Aylesbury, studying Maths

Jesus College Oxford came through the repechage, losing to Manchester first time around before winning a great play-off against Sheffield 170-165 two weeks ago. They too were the same team as those two other occasions: 
Lucy Clarke, from Ottershaw in Surrey, studying Early Modern History 
James Cashman, from Guildford, studying History 
Captain: Matt Cook, from Wellington, New Zealand, studying PPE 
Miranda Stevens, from Sevenoaks, studying Biology 

Off we set again then, and Ms Clarke, one of Jesus' MVPs last time around, started the match off with 'steel'; events of February 1919 gave the Oxonians just the one correct bonus to start with. Mr Sculfor opened Birmingham's scoring with 'bush ranger', and they fared a bit better with their first bonuses, taking two (and unluckily missing the other) and with them the lead. A penalty then increased that lead, and Mr Sculfor took the pickup, but none of the bonuses on the River Trent followed. Jesus then lost another five, but Birmingham failed to take advantage this time. Ms Bleything took the next starter though, and two bonuses added to their advantage. The first picture round, on scientific concepts known by a single Greek letter, went to Jesus; two bonuses meant they trailed 50-25.

The lead rose though when Mr Sculfor took the next starter; a bonus set on that old quiz staple national flags gave Birmingham just the one correct bonus. Ms Clarke came back in for Jesus on the next starter, giving her side a classic UC bonus set on words that came be made using the letters of the word 'POLYMATHS', of which they also took just the one. Birmingham then dropped five as Mr Milone mistakenly offered 'kidney stones' in lieu of 'gallstones'; Ms Clarke picked this up, and two correct bonuses put the sides on level pegging. Mr Cook then gave Jesus the lead, offering 'Davis' as soon as the words 'international tennis tournament' came out of Paxo's mouth; no bonuses followed though.

The music starter asked the teams for the artist behind the classic 'Golden Brown' (as famously covered by Alexander Armstrong); Mr Milone was first to buzz, but no answer came, allowing Mr Cashman to swoop in with 'The Stranglers'. The music bonuses, on pop songs using unusual meters, gave Jesus two correct bonuses, and a lead of 90-60. Fifteen of that lead vanished as Mr Cashman unfortunately slipped on the next starter and Mr Sculfor took the points; Birmingham closed the gap further with one bonus on Scottish golf courses. Mr Cook opened the lead up again as he took the next starter, but no bonuses came on a night when both sides seemed to be struggling with them. Ms Bleything pulled Birmingham into the match with 'eucalyptus', and one bonus was sufficient to narrow the gap to five points.

The second picture round, on world leaders who were known by titles to the equivalent of 'Father of the Nation', went to Jesus; no bonuses followed again, which left their lead at 105-90. Neither side buzzed on the next starter, and a second successive starter was dropped as neither side untangled a rather complicated piece of arithemtic. Mr Sculfor took the next starter though, and two bonuses on types of pasta gave Birmingham back the lead heading into the home straight.

Mr Sculfor took a second starter in a row, but a bonus set on Dickens' David Copperfield didn't add to their score (I got Mr Dick, as I went to watch a friend play him in a production of it once and I remembered him saying it!). Mr Cashman shot in for Jesus on the next starter, and one bonus put the sides on level pegging again. Ms Clarke took a crucial starter with 'saga' to put Jesus back in front, and a timely pair of bonuses put them within sight of victory. And when Ms Stevens took the final starter, that was game over. At the gong, Jesus won 150-120.

A low scoring but close and enjoyable contest, well done both teams. Unlucky Birmingham, but a fair and respectable performance, thanks very much for playing. Well done Jesus though, and very best of luck in the quarter-finals!

The stats: Mr Sculfor was the best buzzer of the night with six, while Ms Clarke was best for Jesus with five. On the bonuses, Birmingham converted 9 out of 24 (with one penalty), while Jesus managed 11 out of 32 (with three penalties).

Next week's match: I would guess Durham will be playing, but I'll retweet anything I find.

Only Connect saw the return of the Eggchasers and the Outliers in the penultimate eliminator; the former won comfortably 26-16.

Monday, 11 November 2019

University Challenge 2019-20: Repechage Play-Off 2: York vs Durham

Evening all. So, the second play-off, with the last place in a very competitive second round up for grabs, and, after last week's very close match, another looked a distinct possibility, with only five points separating these two teams' first round scores. Mind you, that was the case for the second play-off two series ago, and it ended up an absolute demolition job. That's why the play-offs and second round are such fun rounds: they are almost impossible to predict at times.

The University of York (not York University, that's in Toronto) were level pegging with Magdalen of Oxford pretty much all the way through their first match, and ultimately lost by a narrow margin of 170-150. They were the same foursome as before: 
Mickey Conn, from Godalming, studying Social Policy 
Sophie Williams, from Telford, studying Medieval Studies 
Captain: Sam McEwan, from Sevenoaks, studying History and Philosophy 
David Eastham, from Lancaster, studying Archaeology

Durham University started strongly in their first match against Trinity of Cambridge, but their opponents ultimately overpowered them and won comfortably by 200-145. They too were unchanged from that match: 
Charles Bland, from Sutton in Surrey, studying Philosophy
William Tams, from Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria, studying Biosciences
Captain: Joe Cooper, from London, studying Chemistry
Arthur Raffle, from Manchester, studying French and German

Off we set again then, and Mr Raffle was first off the line as he identified 'private' as the common word in the titles of various listed works; Durham opened their night with two correct bonuses. Mr Cooper gave the Wearsiders a second starter, and a repeat performance on the bonuses followed, another two. Mr McEwan opened York's account with the next starter, and a classic UC bonus set on words differing by the addition of 'let' at the end gave them a full house. Back came Durham thanks to Mr Tams though, and they responded with a full bonus set of their own. The first picture round, on maps with countries highlighted depending on whether they recognise a state as an independent country or not, went to Durham; another full house there gave them a lead of 85-25.

It increased when Mr McEwan lost five on the next starter; Mr Bland swept in, thus, already, making sure all four Durhamites had contributed at least one starter. No bonuses followed though, and they then lost five of their own via a penalty, but York couldn't pickup. Mr McEwan identified the owl for the next starter though, the giveaway clue being that it was playing a guitar in a poem by Edward Lear; one bonus followed. A great starter asked for the childrens song the words in which are synonyms of 'cranium', 'scapula', 'patella' and 'phalange'; Mr Cooper was first in with 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes'! (As someone on Twitter pointed out, if this was OC, Victoria would've been demanding a sing-along!) Durham pushed home their advantage with a full set of bonuses; Mr Raffle then took the next starter, with a further two bonuses pushing their lead to 100.

The music round, on classical pieces used for marches by the Armed Forces, went to Durham, who took a further two bonuses, taking their lead to 155-35. And they weren't stopping yet, as Mr Bland took the next starter, and a full set of bonuses on extinct herbivores went with it. Mr Raffle was maybe a tad lucky to avoid a telling off for a slight pause after buzzing on the next starter, but he was right, and another full bonus set put Durham past 200 and pretty much home and dry already. Back came York at last, with Ms Williams identifying 'Trojan and Trajan'; two bonuses on slave rebellions followed. Mr Cooper was slightly unlucky to lose five on the next starter; Mr Eastham picked up the points, and York took another pair of correct bonuses.

The second picture round, on stills from films whose canine characters have won the Palm Dog award, went to York, who took a sole bonus, which took the scores to 200-90. They'd probably left it too late, but York were at least going down with a good fight; Mr Conn made sure all eight players had answered a starter correct, and a bonus set on the Wikipedia logo (also the subject of Alex Guttenplan's first correct starter ten series ago!) gave them one correct answer.

Ms Williams gave York a fifth starter in a row with 'Daniel Day-Lewis', and another sole bonus pretty much ended their hopes of an unlikely victory. Mr Cooper extinguished them for good as he reawoke Durham by taking the next starter; just one bonus followed, but it didn't really matter now. Karl Marx popped up for the second week in a row on the next starter; Mr McEwan identified him, and York went out in style with a full set of bonuses. Mr Bland was next in for Durham with a very prompt buzz, and bonuses on the works of JM Coetzee saw the Wearsiders employ the old tactic of saying the same thing to all three bonuses and getting it right at the third time of asking. Mr Raffle took the final starter, and there was time for one bonus before the gong; Durham won 240-145.

A top contest between two good teams, very well played by both. Unlucky York, whose impressive recovery came a bit too late, but a fine performance to go out on, thanks very much for playing. Very well done Durham though, a strong performance against good opponents, and very best of luck in the second round!

The stats: Mr Raffle was the best buzzer of the night with five starters, while Ms Williams and Mr McEwan were joint best for York with three each. On the bonuses, York converted 14 out of 24 (with one penalty), while Durham managed 24 out of 37 (with two penalties).

Next week's match: the first second round match; if I find any tweets saying who's playing, I'll retweet them.

Only Connect saw the Wickets play the Electrophiles in the second eliminator; both sides had some unfortunate near misses in a good contest, with the latter ultimately winning 24-18.

Monday, 4 November 2019

University Challenge 2019-20: Repechage Play-Off 1: Sheffield vs Jesus

Evening all. So last week we finished on a bit of a cliffhanger, Paxo telling us we'd have to wait and see which two of the three runners-up that ended on 145 would be going through. As UCStats predicted, it's Durham and Jesus. So now we can properly move on to the play-offs, and with just 25 points between the four teams, two good matches in prospect.

Sheffield played Wolfson of Oxford in their first match, and led for large parts, but ultimately the game ended 170-each, and it was their opponents that took the tie-breaker question. Back for another go tonight were the unchanged foursome of:
Alistair Lyle, from Chiswick in London, studying Metalogy
Sam Kelly, from Seaford in East Sussex, studying English Literature
Captain: Jonathan Newhouse, from Skipton in Yorkshire, studying Cognitive Science
Daisy Fry, from Kent, studying Politics

Jesus College Oxford took on Manchester first time out, and, in contrast, started slowly, ultimately sneaking into the play-offs with a late rally. Also unchanged from before were: 
Lucy Clarke, from Ottershaw in Surrey, studying Early Modern History 
James Cashman, from Guildford, studying History 
Captain: Matt Cook, from Wellington, New Zealand, studying PPE 
Miranda Stevens, from Sevenoaks, studying Biology

Off we set again then, and Mr Newhouse, imperious on the buzzer in Sheffield's first match, opened the scoring with 'Mars'; bonuses on 1960s Britain gave the Steelmen a full house to start with. Ms Clarke duly set Jesus off in pursuit with, what Weaver's Week used to call, a 'Hidden Transmission Indicator of the Week', identifying a list of events that usually occur in November. The Oxonians also took a full set of bonuses to start with. A second starter to Ms Clarke, and a second full set of bonuses, and we had a game on here already. Mr Cashman took a third in a row for Jesus, but the show's perfect start ended as the Oxonians only took one bonus from a classic UC set on pairs of countries where the last three letters of the first and the first three of the second are the same. The first picture round, on fonts, went to Sheffield, who took two bonuses, which cut their gap to 65-45.

Ms Clarke bit back with already her third starter of the night, but, again, just the one bonus accompanied. A penalty then set the Oxford side back five, but Sheffield failed to capitalise; they did when Jesus unluckily lost a second five in a row, and also took a sole bonus. A second starter in a row to the Steelmen unlocked a set of bonuses on Scottish football; I got a full house, but Sheffield only knew Aberdeen to be the club Sir Alex Ferguson won the Cup Winner's Cup with. (A slight mistake on the question writers' part, St Mirren's stadium is South WEST of Glasgow Airport rather than South East, albeit only just)

The music starter was dropped; the Scottish football theme continued on the replacement starter which has the answer 'Falkirk'! (Though the question wasn't actually about that team!) Ms Clarke had that, and Jesus took one of the music bonuses, on classical pieces regularly played at the Nobel Prize ceremonies; they now led 85-75. Back came Sheffield thanks to Mr Lyle, and a full set of bonuses on the work of sculptor Hazel Reeves gave them a full house and the lead back. Ms Clarke duly pulled Jesus back, and they too took a full set and the lead back. A second starter in a row went to the Oxonians, and two bonuses on US dramas went with it. Mr Newhouse bought Sheffield back into the match, but they got nothing from a bonus set on mineralogy (my geologist Dad had a full house!).

The second picture round, on cityscapes, went to Jesus, who took another pair of bonuses, which meant they now led 150-110. A nice starter asked for the only SI unit in the NATO alphabet; Mr Kelly was first to realise it was Kilo, and a full set of bonuses on cuneiform meant they were still very much in the game heading into the home straight.

Mr Newhouse pulled them with five as he took the next starter; two or more bonuses would give them the lead back, but they only had the one they needed to level the scores again. Mr Lyle gave the Steelmen the lead, giving them a bonus set on Greek mythology; just the one bonus followed. Jesus were thus still in the game, and Mr Cashman made sure they were by taking the next starter, but they missed all the bonuses, meaning they were still five adrift. Next starter would win the game, and as soon as the words 'ode by John Keats' emerged, Mr Cashman shot in with 'Grecian urn'. And that was the gong! Jesus won 170-165!

A top match between two excellent teams, very well played by both, such a shame this is a sudden death match. Unlucky Sheffield, unlucky to lose both their matches, but two very respectable performances, thanks very much indeed for giving us them. Very well done Jesus though, and best of luck in the second round!

The stats: Ms Clarke and Mr Cashman were joint best for Jesus with five each, while Mr Newhouse was best for Sheffield again with four. On the bonuses, Sheffield converted 15 out of 27, while Jesus managed 16 out of 27 (with two penalties), so they really did win it on that last starter.

Next week's match: York vs Durham

Only Connect entered its elimination round tonight, with the Gladiators and the Darksiders returning; the latter led comfortably for the most part and ran away in Missing Vowels to win 25-10.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

University Challenge 2019-20: First Round Review

OK, so, we've finally reached the end of the first round of this year's contest, and even though it's taken the exact same time to do so as last series, plus the two breaks, it feels longer. Maybe its because the two breaks came right in the middle of the round rather than right at the start and right at the end of it, like last year.

Anyway, we're here now, so, here are our fourteen first round winners, in order of qualification, and with their scores and margins of victory:
  • Glasgow (230, 135)
  • Corpus Christi College Cambridge (195, 55)
  • Magdalen College Oxford (170, 20)
  • Birmingham (125, 5)
  • St John's College Oxford (115, 75)
  • Edinburgh (165, 75)
  • Manchester (185, 40)
  • Trinity College Cambridge (200, 55)
  • Courtauld Institute of Art (145, 55)
  • Southampton (175, 80)
  • Huddersfield (145, 20)
  • Wolfson College Oxford (170, won on tie-breaker)
  • Imperial College London (255, 185)
  • Lady Margaret Hall Oxford (150, 5)
Those are the raw figures; time to do the usual and look past them at the actual performances...

Well, it wasn't a terribly high scoring first round; only three scores past 200, and Glasgow's opening night score of 230 was the highest until Imperial stormed to 255 last week. Those two plus Trinity would probably start as favourites to progress, provided they stay away from each other, and provided they can match that level of performance against stronger, proven teams.

Them aside, the field is pretty tight, with seven teams within 45 points of each other who could realistically make it. And even then, I definitely wouldn't rule out any of the four low scoring teams out either, though, in practice, I strongly suspect they'd sturggle, especially against one of the afore mentioned three.

If I were to single any of that 150-195 bunch out, I'd probably single of Wolfson and Magdalen, both of whose opponents reached the play-offs, and Corpus Christi, whose just missed out. But, as I say, it's an open close field. And that's before we factor in the teams who could possibly come through the play-offs.

Our four play-off teams are:
  • Sheffield (170, lost on tie-breaker)
  • York (170, 20)
  • And two of the three teams on 145, Durham (55), Jesus College Oxford (40) and Downing College Cambridge (5)
Which two we of course don't know yet. Paxo informed us at the end of Monday's show, it would be the two teams who had needed the fewest questions to reach their total, and myself and UCStats on Twitter have spent the two days since trying to work out which two that'd be.

I would say Durham would definitely be one of them, having reached their score via one fewer starter, seven compared to the eight Jesus and Downing needed. And as those two are on the same, and had, to all intents and purposes, the same bonus rate too, telling them apart becomes rather tricky.

I said on Monday I would guess Downing would go through having only heard one fewer bonus than Jesus did; UCStats, meanwhile, has calculated the exact number of questions both teams faced (both starters and bonuses) and has determined that Jesus heard fewer and would go through. It's a very tough call to make, but whichever teams gets the place will deserve it.

Based on the standard 1st vs 4th and 2nd vs 3rd play-off draw we've had for many years now, I'd guess Sheffield will play Jesus or Downing on Monday, then York will play Durham the week after. But, with just 25 points separating the five of them, whichever two matches we get would be way too close to call IMO; these are four good teams.

Whatever happens, all we can hope for, as we always do, is that the play-offs and second round continue to give us more of the same as, of better than, what we've had so far; best of luck to all the teams involved!

I'll talk a bit about Only Connect as well, given that it has finished its first round as well. It's been a good series so far, with some good close matches and some decent performances. Having seen the draw for the first two eliminator matches though, I do wish they would jiggle up the draw for the second phase matches rather than just pairing up the winners and losers of successive matches. I understand it's done for convenience purposes, two first round matches and their resultant eliminator and qualifier matches are filmed on the same day(?), but I'd rather have proper seedings for these matches. But at least all teams get at least two games, which I think everyone agrees is only a good thing.

That's it for now, back on Monday with my usual UC write-up; see you then, I guess.