Monday, 15 July 2019

University Challenge 2019-20: Round 1: Match 1: Lancaster vs Glasgow

Evening all. We're back! What's happened since I posted here last? Well, Mastermind was won by Judith Lewis, Andy Tucker became the latest Only Connect runner-up to win Fifteen-to-One 2.0, I've switched to a new laptop, and, just this afternoon, David Stainer won Brain of Britain, meaning all three of the Crossworders have won that show now! Most bizarrely of all, though, I went to watch Peterhead play at home and they won! (Hadn't happened in four prior visits!) Football talk on my other blog resumes shortly. In the meantime, on with the first heat of the EIGHTH(!) series I've covered on here...

Lancaster University is a plate glass uni founded in 1964, and its alumni include actor Andy Serkis, cyclist Jason Queally, TV presenter Ranvir Singh and motorhead James May. It last appeared on UC, back in the first series I covered on here, losing in the second round to St George's of London. This year's foursome were:
Stephen Ford, from Durham, studying Maths
Daniel Green, from Nottingham, studying Philosophy
Captain: Holly Lawton, studying French and German
Matt Roscoe, from Chester, studying Volcanology

Glasgow University is considerably older, the second oldest university in Scotland in fact, founded in 1451; its alumni include economist Adam Smith, TV pioneer John Logie Baird, Europhiles Nicola Sturgeon and Vince Cable, and, apparently, The Doctor (not 'Doctor Who', Paxo!). Last year, it reached the quarter-finals before bowing out to Manchester. This year's quartet were:
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-Lyme, studying Education

Off we set again then, and Mr Whitcombe provided the first starter of the series; as soon as 'creator of Family Guy' was mentioned, both he and myself jumped in with 'Seth'. Two bonuses from the first set of the series were taken. Mr McRobert took the second starter for his side, with the resulting bonuses providing Paxo's first exclamation of the series! One bonus was taken. Another starter to Glasgow, another two bonuses, and already they were looking a solid team; as if to further this, they took a fourth and a full house of bonuses on Wilfred Owen (I knew 'Dolce et Decorum est', having studied it in school, and watched a documentary about Owen by Paxo!) The first picture round, on places named after chemical elements, went to Glasgow, who took two bonuses, and already led 100-0.

Lancaster finally opened their account on the next starter, with Mr Ford correctly offering 'surd'; alas, nothing come from their first bonus set. Mr Whitworth resumed normal service for Glasgow, with a starter and a pair of bonuses adding to their score. A second starter in a row went to Mr Whitworth, but the Scots side got nothing from a bonus set on the Louvre.

The music round, on classical pieces associated with flowing water, went to Lancaster, who took two correct bonuses, which reduced their arrears to 130-30. A second starter in a row went to Lancaster, and a bonus set on geometry provided them with a much needed full house. Back to Glasgow, with Ms McAllister ensuring all four of the team had a starter to their name; one bonus followed. The next starter was a classic pub quiz one: which animal indicates a zoo on a map (reminds me of one of my favourite wrong answers on The Weakest Link!); Mr Whitcombe and myself both knew it to be an elephant, but Glasgow got nothing from the bonuses. Mr Ford came back in for Lancaster with 'Kansas City' (nice crossover with Brain of Britain that), and a bonus set on volcanoes fell right into the lap to volcanologist Mr Roscoe, another full set.

The second picture round, on stills from films on the BFI's list of films one must be before you're 14, went to Glasgow, who took a full house of their own, which took the scores to 180-80. Still time for either team to mount a late run, and Lancaster showed they weren't out of contention for, at least, a play-off place yet as Mr Ford took his latest starter of the game; two bonuses deservedly took them into triple figures.

Mr Whitworth identified Ezra Pound's critique of Walt Whitman for the next starter, though, and two bonuses took Glasgow past 200; that was game over, and it was now a question of whether Lancaster could muster a late play-off charge. Two starters in a row were dropped, before Mr Ford incurred the first penalty of the series; Mr Whitworth took the points, and bonuses on Brazilian state capitals provided Glasgow with two correct answers. There was just time for one more starter to Glasgow before the gong went; Glasgow won 230-95.

An OK match to start the series, albeit surprisingly one-sided; usually they start the series with a close one. Unlucky Lancaster, who seemed a good team and I suspect would've beaten another team, but a fair effort, thanks for playing! Very well done Glasgow though, an excellent opening performance, and best of luck in the second round!

The stats: Mr Whitworth was, just, the best buzzer of the night, with six starters to Mr Ford's five. On the bonuses, Lancaster converted 10 out of 15 (with the night's one penalty), while Glasgow managed 20 out of 36.

Next week's match: Corpus Christi College Cambridge vs Merton College Oxford

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Only Connect Series 14: Grand Final: Dicers vs Time Ladies

OK, here we are at the grand final of Only Connect's fourteenth series, the last one I'm reviewing on here. For now at least. I may sit the next series out and try again with Series 16 if I feel like I missed it. And I may decide to go and look back and some of the older series seeing as I've just found a whole load of them online, including the entirety of the fifth (and best IMO) series. Anyway, on with this week's final, which, following on from the orchestra in Series 11 and the acapella group last series, the opening theme for today was provided by a guest performer, this time an organ grinder, complete with toy monkey!

Playing for the title were the Dicers, George Corfield, Joey Goldman (hoping to be only the second person to do the Quizzy Mondays double) and captain Hugh Binnie, who got here by beating the Birdwatchers (twice), the Brews and the Ancient Alumni, and the Time Ladies, Charlotte Jackson, Emma Harris and captain Rebecca Shaw, who defeated the Motorheads, the Pyromaniacs, the LARPers and the Poptimists en route here.

Round 1. The Time Ladies opened the final with Eye of Horus: 'D-Day', then 'Charles and Camilla's wedding', then 'Launch of BBC2' (I had it here), and finally 'Wimbledon final between Ivanisevic and Rafter'. They suggested them to have happened on dates where the number of the day and the month were the same; not right. Their opponents knew that they were all postponed (by one day), and collected the first point of the match. For their own first question, the Dicers chose Lion: 'Rebecca and Rowena', then 'Mrs De Winter', then 'The Wide Sargasso Sea'; they came in here and offered 'retellings from a different perspective', which wasn't quite right. Their opponents saw 'Death Comes to Pemberley', and offered 'sequels written by a different author', which also didn't quite hit the X either. They are follow-ups written by other authors, none of them retellings and one of them a prequal, not a sequel. The Ladies chose Two Reeds next: 'envy <-> rail', then 'abjurer <-> nowhere', then 'cheryl <-> purely', and finally 'clerk <-> pyrex'. They didn't have an answer, their opponents did: the second words are what you get if you move the letters in the firsts on by 13 letters. For their own question, the Dicers chose Horned Viper, and got the music set: we heard Verdi's 'Force of Destiny' overture, then 'A Simple Twist of Fate' by Bob Dylan, then 'Carmina Burana'; they saw their names to mean 'fate', and collected two points. The Ladies chose Water next: 'di Niccolo di Betto Bardi' (in purple), then 'Sanzio da Urbino' (in red), then 'di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni' (in orange); they saw them to be the surnames of those who the Teenage Mutant Mutant/Hero Turtles were named after and the colour of the turtle in question's headband, and collected their first points of the night. ('da Vinci' in blue would've been fourth) Left with Twisted Flax, and the pictures, the Dicers saw Sue the PG Tips chimp, then a field of red poppies, then Narandra Modi alongside a Om-style swastika, and finally Gail Porter. They didn't get this, nor did their opponents: they are things that have been projected onto parliamentary buildings. At the end of the first round, the Dicers led 4-2.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Ladies started with Two Reeds: 'Y: 8760-8784', then 'M: 672-745', and then 'W: 167-169'. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents: they are the number of hours in a year, month and week, so 'D: 23-25' would be fourth. The Dicers chose Eye of Horus next: 'United Arab Emirates', then 'Nigeria', and then 'Ghana'. They saw them to be the countries with the first three capital cities to come alphabetically (Abu Dhabi, Abuja and Accra), and so offered 'Ethiopia' (Addis Ababa, home of Ted and Dougal's friend Mwengwe) for the points. The Ladies chose Lion next: 'Elephants', then 'Diplodocus and Triceratops', and then 'Diplodocus'. They saw them to be what was on display in the Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum, and so offered Alan Davies' favourite 'Blue Whale' for the points. The Dicers chose Horned Viper next, and got the pictures again: we saw a map of the world with certain countries highlighted in black, then one with a few more in green, and then one with even more in red. They guessed that the rest would be in blue, and were correct for the points, the sequence being what colour passports issued in those countries are. For their final choice, the Ladies chose Water: 'The Show', then 'Greedy Italians', and then '-2-1'. They saw them to be TV shows with a 1, a 2 and a 3 missing, so offered 'in a Bed' for the two points. Luckily they offered a Channel 4 show, as the more precise sequence would've been that the number removed was that of the channel they're shown on, and we've had quite enough contention this series. Left with Twisted Flax again, the Dicers saw '12: Nitrogen', then '3: nothing', and then '6: Sulphur'. They saw them to be the elements represented by the numbers on each compass point on a clock, so '9: Tungsten' would be fourth. At the end of the second round, the Dicers led 10-6.

On to the Walls. The Dicers went first, and chose the Lion wall. After spotting some potential links, and some wrong tries, they had their first set: 'Sue', 'Bob', 'Dec' and 'Dom' are first names of one half of a double act. A second set, 'Jan', 'Aug', 'Sep' and 'Nov', which are abbreviations of months, followed, and the final sets slotted in after that: 'Mar', 'Gel', 'Era' and 'Eto' are anagrams of body parts, which they got, while 'Mal', 'May', 'Arm' and 'Cus' can all have 'Dis' added in front to make longer words, which they didn't see. Seven points there.

The Time Ladies thus set to work on the Water wall with a chance to claw back lost ground. They also spent time looking carefully for links, before eventually isolating 'Arc', 'Tac', 'Sep' and 'Exo', which can all form longer words by adding 'tic' afterwards. That was all they could get in line in the time though, so they had to try for bonus points: 'Jan', 'Aug', 'Nov' and 'Dec' are abbreviations of months, which they got, 'Ape', 'May', 'Gif' and 'Wha' are anagrams of fruit and vegetables, which they didn't see, while 'Mar', 'Ear', 'Mer' and 'Sat' are the first letters of the names of planets, which they did see. Four points there, so the Dicers now led 17-10 going into the final round.

So, Missing Vowels to finish with, with the Time Ladies needing a good round to stand a chance. 'Things with an extra dimension', such as 'BERMUDA PYRAMID' and 'TRAFALGAR CUBE', went to the Dicers 2-(-1). 'Mnemonics with the words in the wrong order, such as 'RICHARD OF VAIN GAVE BATTLE IN YORK', went to the Ladies 3-1, though the Dicers win the award for best working out of the series by getting 'DIVORCED DIED DIVORCED BEHEADED SURVIVED BEHEADED'! 'Words containing four consecutive vowels' have one to the Ladies before time ran out. The Dicers won the game and the series 20-13.

A fine end of the series, some great quizzing by both teams, well done both teams. Unlucky Time Ladies, but a great series of performances, thanks very much indeed for playing. Very very very well done Dicers though, very worthy series winners!

And that's it for this series! Thanks to all who have read my OC reviews over the past four series. As I said at the start, I'll probably be sitting out the next series, but I may decide to start reviewing again with the one afterwards. We'll see. I may be back with some final thoughts on the Quizzy Mondays season some time in the coming days. But if I don't, then, until we next meet, bye for now!

Friday, 26 April 2019

University Challenge 2018-19: Series Highlights

OK, time to conclude my coverage of this year's University Challenge with my usual end of series highlights. It's been another fine series, that, unlike last year's series, where the first round was a tad unbalanced, was pretty consistent throughout.

So, lets get started with my usual selection of the best match of every round:
  • First Round + Play-Offs: Plenty to chose from, but Emmanuel vs Glasgow just about takes it, with Mr Golfinos' 13 starter game against SOAS just behind.
  • Second Round: Definitely Edinburgh vs U.C.L..
  • Quarter-Finals: Bristol's narrow defeats to the two eventual grand finalists were both great, with Darwin's win in between them not far off.
  • The Final Three: All three were great matches, so this is near impossible to chose. Probably the best trio of semis and final I've seen since I've been doing this blog.
As I say, a pretty consistent and enjoyable series throughout. Apart from the second round where there was one pretty obvious standout game, these were all tough choices.

So now to institution diversity. For the fourth year in a row, Cambridge sent more teams than Oxford, six to five. Celtic representation was down a bit on last year, with, for the third year running, three Scots teams and one from Northern Ireland, but no Welsh entrants this year. Five London entrants, plus ULIP, this year the most for some years; East London, the only non-University of London entrant, also the only ex polytechnic this series.

Highest score of the year by the length of the Severn Channel was Durham's 360 in their first round match against Strathclyde, the highest score this decade since our friend Cromarty(IV)'s Southampton side five series ago, in a match which broke all sorts of other decade records. Second highest was Darwin's 260 two weeks earlier. Pembroke take the unfortunate accolade of the lowest score of the series, 50, with Strathclyde and ULIP just behind on 55. Highest joint score of the series was 380 from Hertford's 215-165 play-off win over Exeter.

And so to the highlights reel. And not just humourous highlights this series, individual and team performances as well:
  • Mr Golfinos' 13 starter game, the highest since Alex Guttenplan nine series ago!
  • Clare's last second win over Hertford.
  • Durham's record breaking win over Strathclyde gets the award for team performance of the series.
  • Neither St Edmund Hall or York being able to spell Stephenie Meyer's name. Also, Mr Leo not answering 'Germany'.
  • Mr Booth beating Mr Ojha to "Rogan Josh".
  • Mr Breen saying 'Voltaire' instead of 'Volta'.
  • ULIP vs Goldsmiths win the award for best comedy game of the series!
  • "Truro's not in Yorkshire!"
  • U.C.L.'s lack of knowledge of X Ray Spex!
  • Mr Gurr's classic joke guess of "Deborah Meaden"!
  • The five starter long tie-break!
  • "The Bugles?" "No, it was the Buggles! Shame on you!" (Still think that was a harsh disallowance)
  • Mr Hanson's "Philip Glass!"
  • Mr Campbell Hewson's winning guess of "1984".
  • And his other winning answer of "54" in the final.
If anyone else has any more, do let me know in the comments below.

So, that's it for another series. There's nothing else I really have to say right now, except my usual objections to pedantic interruptions remain. If I think of anything else to say, I will say it next week once Only Connect is done with too. For now, all you really need to know is that I'll be back blogging UC again for the next series.

Be back some time next week with my blog of the OC final, so see you then, whenever that is.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

University Challenge 2018-19: Best Buzzer Per Team

OK, so another series of University Challenge is over, so time to look back at it. Coming up tomorrow, my usual highlights reel and thoughts on the series going forwards. Now, though, my annual round-up of the buzzer stats for every quarter-finalist team. Firstly, here is the best player for all eight:

Jason Golfinos (Darwin) - 50 over six matches
Freddie Leo (St Edmund Hall) - 44 over six matches
Max Fitz-James (Edinburgh) - 30 over seven matches
Owen Iredale (Bristol) - 24 over five matches
Alex Antao (Manchester) and Matthew Toynbee (Durham) -  19 each over five matches
James Hampson (Glasgow) - 16 over four matches
Connor MacDonald and Vedanth Nair (Emmanuel) - 13 each over five matches

And honourable mentions to:

Cameron Yule (Durham) - 17 over five matches
Robbie Campbell Hewson (Edinburgh) - 16 over seven matches
Ben Murray (Durham) - 15 over five matches
James Ross (Manchester) - 11 over five matches
Matt Booth (Edinburgh) - 10 over seven matches
Pushan Basu (Bristol), Dani Cugini & Ben Harris (Emmanuel) and Joe Hanson (Manchester) - 9 each over five matches

So that's a quick selection; I have full stats for all eight teams, if anyone is interested, let me know either below or on Twitter.

Back tomorrow with my usual highlights.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Only Connect Series 14: Third Place Play-Off: Poptimists vs Ancient Alumni

OK, the penultimate Only Connect of the series, and the return of the third place play-off! Glad it's back, especially this series, where all four semi-finalists definitely deserved one more game whether they reached the final or not, even more so as both semi-finals were very close.

Anyway, playing were the Poptimists, Oliver Levy, Bob De Caux and captain Matt Loxham, who defeated the Hotpots, the LARPers and the Durhamites, but were defeated by the Time Ladies in their semi, and the Ancient Alumni, Lindsay McBryan, Ailsa Watson and captain Dave McBryan, who overcame the Three Peaks, the Westenders and the Brews, but lost their semi to the Dicers on a tie-break.

Round 1. The Alumni opened the show with Two Reeds: 'Louise: Reality Bites', then 'Older Allie Calhoun: The Notebook', then 'Tommy's mother: GoodFellas', and finally 'Older woman in cafe: When Harry met Sally'. They suggested them to be their actors' only screen credit; not right. Their opponents correctly offered them to have been played by the director's mother, for a bonus. For their own first question, the Poptimists chose Eye of Horus: 'Strawberry', then 'East Riding of Yorkshire'; they immediately saw them to be linked by 'Hull', and collected three points. The Alumni chose Twisted Flax next: 'Gromit', then 'Salamanders on the Discworld', then 'Dilbert (usually)', and finally 'Hello Kitty'. They saw them to be characters with no mouth, and collected their first point of the night. The Poptimists chose 'Horn-ed' Viper next, and got the music set: we heard Public Enemy with 'By the Time I Get to Arizona', then Nina Simone with 'Why (The King of Love is Dead)', then U2 with 'Pride (In the Name of Love)', and finally Stevie Wonder with 'Happy Birthday'. They saw them to be songs about Martin Luther King, and collected another sole point. The Alumni chose Lion next: 'Messi in OG v Wales', then 'I'm issuing a view, also', then 'Moss in agave weals', and finally 'Amassing avowals'. Neither time saw this nice cryptic one: they are phrases where the consonants are in the same order as 'Missing Vowels', and thus would be permissable answers for the Missing Vowels clue 'MSS N GVW LS'. Left with Water, and the picture set, the Poptimists saw Eva Green, then Angela Eagle, then actress Natalie Wood (who they didn't recognise), and finally Carey Mulligan. They spotted that their surnames are golf terms, and collected the point. At the end of the first round, the Poptimists led 6-1.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Alumni started it with Two Reeds: 'Launch of Cultural Revolution', then 'Red Rum's third Grand National win'; they saw them to be events of 1966 and 1977, so suggested 'A certain Prince song is played a lot on the eve of Millennium', which was allowed for a 1999 event for the three points. ('Manchester United beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League final' would've been my answer there) The Poptimists chose Eye of Horus next, and got the picture set again: we saw a £50 note with James Watt circled, then Elijah Wood, and then John Travolta as Jesus Quantana in 'The Big Lobowski'. They didn't see it, and their opponents weren't quite there either: they are 'Watt', 'Wood' and 'Jesus', so a word representing 'Do' would be fourth. The Alumni chose Lion next: '123 Mock The Week', then '456 Toronto Fire Services', and then '712 Satisfiability Modulo Theories'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: they are phrases beginning with the letters of those days of the week, so their offer of '345 What The Flip' was acceptable! ('345 World Taekwondo Federation' was the model answer) For their own question, the Poptimists chose 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'Campari', then 'Aperol', and then 'Advocaat'. They didn't get it, neither did their opponents: they are drinks usually coloured red, orange and yellow, so 'Green Chartreuse' would be an acceptable fourth answer. For their final choice, the Alumni chose Water: '_ 4 _, then '_ 8 9 10 _'; they saw them to be numbers in between every second prime number, with the primes blanked out, and correctly offered '_ 20 21 22 _' for the three points. Left with Twisted Flax, the Poptimists saw 'Are you saying Mr Lewis is lying?', then 'So you are saying that Mr Lewis lied?'; at this point, they (and I) saw it to be Paxo's infamous interview with Michael Howard, so offered 'Did you threaten to overrule him?' for the three points! At the end of the second round, the Poptimists led 10-7.

On to the Walls, the Poptimists went first, and chose the Water wall. They spotted numerous possible links, and eventually isolated two sets in short order: 'Chunk', 'Mouth', 'Sloth' and 'Mikey' are characters from 'The Goonies', while 'Lust', 'Wrath', 'Envy' and 'Pride' are deadly sins. The final sets eventually slotted in after that: 'Gluttony', 'Earmark', 'Crackerjack', and 'Trumpeter' all end with boys' names, while 'Greed', 'Chuck-a-Luck', 'Beetle' and 'Craps' are dice games. A full ten there.

The Alumni thus set to work on the Lion wall. They immediately isolated 'Hastings', 'Redpath', 'Sole' and 'Laidlaw', which are surnames of Scottish rugby union captains. A second set, 'Mullet', 'Sturgeon', 'Dab' and 'Tarpon', which are fish, followed, and it didn't take them long to sort out the remainders: 'Menai', 'Cook', 'Davis' and 'Bass' are straits, while 'Skate', 'Truth', 'Mozzarella' and 'Primary' all end with girls' names. Another full ten, so as you were, the Poptimists led 19-16 going into the final round.

So, Missing Vowels would decide the game. 'Things that loosely rhyme with 'crazy'', such as 'PATRICK SWAYZEE' and 'FRANCO BARESI', was split 2-each. 'National capitals and an anagram of them', such as 'ROME AND MORE', went to the Poptimists 3-1, their guess of 'TEHRAN AND NATHER' being accepted in lieu of 'TEHRAN AND ANTHER'. 'Three members of musical families' was split 1-each, and that was time. The Poptimists won 26-21.

Good game, a pleasant interlude ahead of the final next week. Well played both teams, two fine series of performances, thanks very much indeed for playing!

Next week's match: the final! The Time Ladies vs the Dicers for the title!

Monday, 22 April 2019

University Challenge 2018-19: Grand Final: Edinburgh vs St Edmund Hall

Evening all. Not been a good day for quizzing this has. Firstly, on this morning's Popmaster, someone suggested that Stuck in the Middle with You was by 'Steeleye Dan'. Then, on Brain of Britain, none of the four contenders recognised the theme to Camberwick Green. That left Quizzy Mondays with the job of saving face for the day. And what better way to do that than with the University Challenge Grand Final! Two teams who had fought hard and played well to get this far; whoever won would be very worthy winners.

Edinburgh got here by beating Sidney Sussex of Cambridge, U.C.L., Manchester, Bristol and, in a close semi-final, Durham, who they also lost to en route. Hoping to win their first UC title and be the first Scots winners of the BBC era were: 
Matt Booth, from Bristol, studying Maths    
Marco Malusa, from Italy, studying Economics and Politics    
Captain: Max Fitz-James, from Burgundy, studying Cell Biology    
Robbie Campbell Hewson, from Edinburgh, studying Maths

St Edmund Hall Oxford arrived at this match by beating York, Clare of Cambridge, Emmanuel of Cambridge, Bristol also and, in an even closer semi-final, Darwin of Cambridge. Also hoping to win their first UC title were: 
Agastya Pisharody, from India and Basel, studying Material Science   
Marceline Bresson, from the Netherlands, studying Economics and Management   
Captain: Freddie Leo, from Berlin, studying History   
Lizzie Fry, from Worcestershire, studying Geography

Off we set again then, and the final didn't get off to the best start, with a penalty from Edinburgh; Ms Fry took the points for St Edmund Hall, and a single bonus on paperclips accompanied it. Mr Leo, so impressive prior to tonight, took his first starter of the night, and his side duly hammered home a full bonus set on literature. Mr Malusa got Edinburgh going in the right direction as he took their first starter of the game; a classic UC bonus set on the Periodic Table in Chinese provided the Scots side with a full house. The first picture round, on Venn diagrams of Shakespeare plays with a shared character name missing, went to Edinburgh, who took two bonuses this time, drawing the teams level on 40-all.

Mr Leo shot in like he has many times this year to identify 'Lagrange', and a second full set of bonuses took his side back into the lead. Ms Fry then took a second in a row for the Oxonians, but just the one bonus was taken this time. Mr Pisharody was unlucky on the next starter, buzzing to offer one Greek letter, then realising he'd been asked for two, and not having one. Five points off there, and Mr Campbell Hewson duly swooped with both for the points; bonuses on Iron Maiden saw Edinburgh restore the Twittersphere's faith when it comes to pop music on UC, as they took a full set.

The music starter was three pieces of pop music, all with a colour in their name, which come together top to bottom to form a national flag. Neither team got this classic UC question. The music bonuses eventually went to Edinburgh, with Mr Leo dropping another five on the replacement starter; they managed one of the colours and flags music bonuses, and now led 80-70. And it increased when Mr Fitz-James correctly, though he didn't think it, offered 'Agrippina' for the next starter; two bonuses followed, and they unluckily picked the wrong of two options for the other. And when Mr Malusa took the next starter, and a full set of bonuses on artist Elizabeth Catlett followed, they had a potentially match winning lead. But a penalty gave St Edmund Hall a chance to get back into the game, which Ms Fry duly took, and a much needed full bonus set kept the Oxonians in the game.

The second picture round, on artistic couples, went to Edinburgh, who took two and a half bonuses, which took their lead to 140-95. Another penalty gave St Edmund Hall another chance to close the gap though, which they duly took thanks to what looked like an educated guess from Mr Pisharody. Another classic UC bonus set on pairs of place names where the last three letters of the first and first three of the second are the same followed, of which they took just the one.

But Mr Leo then shot in with 'Gypsum', and two bonuses on computer science followed, putting them within five points. And then Ms Bresson put them on level pegging with a very quick buzz of her own on the next starter, but the Oxonians only managed one bonus, which was none the less sufficient to put them back in front. Next starter would surely win it: the teams were asked which number is represented by the Roman numerals that were also the first three letters of the city where Wayne Rooney and others were born. Both knew it was Liverpool, but Mr Campbell Hewson was first in with the right answer of 54. Bonuses on the Empress Theodora followed; Edinbugh took the first two... and that was the gong! Edinburgh won 155-140!

And so, to present the trophy to the winners, out came writer and UC alumnus Sebastian Faulks, who claimed he thought the questions 'staggeringly difficult', before doing the honours. And as the credits rolled, we had the usual grand final handshakes.

A great final, a fine end to another superb series, played well by both teams, bravo both for applauding each other at the gong as well! Unlucky St Edmund Hall, but no shame in a series of performances like that, they can go home with their heads held high, well done! Very very very well done Edinburgh though; most worthy champions!

The stats: Mr Fitz-James was the best buzzer of the final, with four, taking his final series total to 30. Mr Leo and Ms Fry, meanwhile, were best for St Edmund Hall with three each, Mr Leo ending the series with 44 starters, second only to Mr Golfinos' 50. On the bonuses, Edinburgh converted a great 18 out of 23 (with three penalties), while St Edmund Hall managed 14 out of 24 (with two penalties), so, as I sort of predicted, it was the bonuses wot won it. But well done both teams; a top end to the series!

And that's it! We're done for another year! Thanks to all who took part, plus Messrs Paxman and Tilling for another great series, here's to the next one! My usual buzzer stats and end of series review coming up later this week.

And, of course, we still have Only Connect to finish off as well; review of tonight's third place play-off coming up on Wednesday I hope.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

University Challenge 2018-19: Grand Final Preview

Well, here we are again: another University Challenge grand final. After another excellent series played in great spirit throughout, and some some of the best team and individual performances of the decade thus far, we have our two finalists; they are:
Edinburgh: Matt Booth, Marco Malusa, Max Fitz-James and Robbie Campbell Hewson.
St Edmund Hall Oxford: Agastya Pisharody, Marceline Bresson, Freddie Leo and Lizzie Fry.

So, the main headline here is that a non-Oxbridge team has reached the final for the first time since 2012-13. How, then, did we end up with this final fixture?

Edinburgh comfortably defeated Sidney Sussex of Cambridge in the first round, then won a great second round contest against U.C.L. on the last starter of the game. They started the group stage with a win over Manchester, before losing their qualifier to Durham. They recovered with a narrow win over Bristol in the play-offs, and then faced Durham again in the semis, and this time it was they that emerged triumphant.

St Edmund Hall also started off with a comfortable first round victory, over York, then gave a near identical performance against Clare of Cambridge in the second round. Come the group stage, they defeated Emmanuel of Cambridge only slightly less imperiously than before, before recovering from a shaky start to beat Bristol in their qualifier. A titanic tussle against Darwin in the semis followed, ultimately securing the win and the final place on the last question of the game.

So, that's how they made it? Now lets have a look at their stats.

Edinburgh have played one game more to get this far, and have thus far acquired a total of 1,005 points, an average of 167.5 per match. St Edmund Hall, meanwhile, have 990 for an average of 198 per match. So, already, the raw stats are in their favour, considering them to have twice broken 200 comfortably in the first and second rounds, while Edinburgh have only done so once, in the first.

St Edmund Hall have also conceded slightly fewer points on average, 107 per match, to Edinburgh's 126.67 per match; even bearing in mind they have one fewer game going into that total, that still suggests a strong advantage.

When we come to the overall bonus rate, however, things fall back into Edinburgh's favour somewhat: despite having played one game fewer, St Edmund Hall have faced the exact same number of bonuses as Edinburgh, 160, and have only (I say only) answered 90 correctly, compared to Edinburgh's 103. This suggests that, should a close contest on the buzzer ensure, Edinburgh may just sneak it if that trend continues.

Speaking of which, again, despite the extra game, Edinburgh have actually answered one starter fewer than their opponents. But then, given Mr Leo's impressive buzzer form throughout, this is maybe not that surprising. Thus far, he has 41, the second highest behind Mr Golfinos' 50, while his colleagues have combined for 15. Edinburgh's stats are a bit more spread; Mr Fitz-James is actually the third best buzzer of the series thus far with 26, while his colleagues have all contributed strongly too.

This may prove key should Mr Leo have an off-day; his colleagues are certainly capable of picking up the slack, but could they do it enough should the starters fall better for Edinburgh as a whole?

The smart money, however, would likely be on St Edmund Hall to triumph. Like last year, I've set up a poll on Twitter that closes around the same time the final starts on Monday; at present, 61 have voted, and St Edmund Hall lead 69% to 31%.

Let's not underestimate Edinburgh though; as demonstrated when they defeated Durham having lost to them previously, they are more than capable of upsetting the odds. Who's to say they couldn't do it again?

Whatever happens on Monday, all we can hope for is a good contest to end the series. It's been another good one, full of twists and turns, with, as I said earlier, some superb performances both by individual players and by teams as a whole. Like the last two series, it's been a series that deserves a good close final, and hopefully, like those last two, we'll get one. Best of (retrospective) luck both teams!

Back on Monday with my write-up of the final; remember its back to 8:30, with OC back at 8. See you then, I guess.