Monday, 29 July 2013

University Challenge 2013-14: Round 1: Match 3: Trinity vs Christ Church

Phew, what a day! Went away for the weekend, and spent just under 8 hours on various trains getting back to the city. But I'm back now, in time to review tonight's match. And it was a good one!

Trinity College Cambridge was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, and alumni include Francis Bacon, Lord Byron, and Sean Blanchflower, owner of the unofficial University Challenge stats site, and part of the team that won the first BBC series in 1995; his colleague, Kwasi Kwarteng, is now a Tory MP. Tonight's foursome (including JOW contributor 'opaltiger') were:
Matthew Ridley, from Northumberland, studying Economics
Filip Drnovsek Zorko, from Slovenia, studying Natural Sciences
Captain: Ralph Morley, from Ashford in Kent, studying Classics
Richard Freeland, from Glamorgan, studying Maths

Christ Church Oxford was founded by Cardinal Wolsey in 1524 as 'Cardinal's College'; it won UC in 2008 and alumni include Lewis Carroll, and it also provided inspiration for the Harry Potter set, leading Thumper to claim tonight's four were picked by the Sorting Hat! They were:
George Greenwood, from Exeter, studying PPE
Andreas Capstack, from Belgium, studying PPE
Captain: Ewan MacAulay, from Hong Kong, studying Chemistry
Phil Ostrowski, from Poland, studying Cardiovascular Medicine

Off we went, and Trinity got off to a flying start, getting the first four starters, and the vast majority of the bonuses. Christ Church didn't get a look in until the first picture round, on places in Britain with a common name element, but they missed all the bonuses. Already, they looked in trouble, as they trailed 90-10.

And the trouble worsened, as Trinity kept getting starters quickly, and bonuses generally went with them. When we got the first dropped starter of the night, Paxo remarked that we'd finally found a chink in the teams' armour! The music round, on pop songs featuring a harmonium, Trinity led by 170-30, and victory already looked pretty certain.

A good starter asked how many possible different combos of four students (ie, one University Challenge team) could be formed from a group of seven. For once, Trinity slipped up, allowing Christ Church into the game. But Trinity just kept getting starters, and most bonuses went as well, leaving poor Christ Church well behind. IIRC, this is the third week in a row we've had about titles containing NATO alphabet words, as Trinity got one tonight, which provided the comedy moment of the week!

By the second picture round, on depictions of legendary couples, Trinity led by 220-75, and were almost certainly home and dry. An amusing starter involved the medals of Lance Corporal Jones; even for a Dad's Army fan like myself, they were too obscure for me to know! But Trinity did. And (what looked like) a complete guess of 'zinc' helped them raise their score as well.

But Christ Church were now reaching towards respectability, and, in the final minutes, hauled themselves well into three figures, getting starters, and all the bonuses that went with them.They actually finished off quite strongly, but were well behind Trinity. At the gong, Trinity won by 300-150.

A storming performance by opaltiger and co, who must be favoured to do well this series. But Christ Church did very well considering, and may well have done enough to reach the repechage. Ewan MacAulay got all seven of the Oxford side's starters, and they converted a very good 16 bonuses out of 21. Filip Drnovsek Zorko also got seven starters for Trinity, just ahead of Mr Morley's six, and the side managed a very impressive 30 bonuses out of 42. Great stuff that.

Next week's match: Durham vs Queens' College Cambridge

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Only Connect: Series 7: Semi-Final 1: Festival Fans vs Celts

Sorry for the long wait, but I have only just been able to watch this week's show back. There may be similar problems this week coming.

Anyway, onto the semi-finals. Both teams had won twice to get here, but the Festival Fans (Ed Dovey, Marianne Fairthorne and Stewart McCartney) had lost a match as well; they lost to the Francophiles, but then beat the GPs and the Cat Lovers. The Celts (Beverley Downes, Huw Pritchard and David Pritchard) have quietly but confidently defeated the Cartophiles and the Cat Lovers (as well) to reach here undefeated.

Apart from the loss, the main thing that determined the favourites here was that the Celts had one comfortable win under their belt, whereas the Fans had won narrowly twice.

The first round was an evenly fought affair between the two teams, and it ended a tie 4-all. The highlight of the round was a question on the Ig-Nobel prizes, which are always good fun. One that wasn't included, but that I know of, was research into 'how many times a group photo has to be taken to be make sure no-one is blinking'.

The sequences round gave the Festival Fans a slight advantage, as they led 9-7 at the end of the round. But that advantage disappeared when they hit a truly hard Connecting Wall, getting no groups and only getting two or three points for the Connections. The Celts, on the other hand, got all four groups, and narrowly missed out on a clean sweep by missing one connections, which got them seven points, and handed them the narrow advantage of 14-12 going into the final round.

Again, like most final rounds this series, it was a hard fought one. But the Celts just managed to preserve their lead (and their unbeaten track record) to win by 20-16. And well done to them; deserving finalists. But well done to the Festival Fans for a great recovery from a shaky start to the series.

Next week, the Francophiles play the Cartophiles to decide who meets the Celts in the final. Should be another good one.

Monday, 22 July 2013

University Challenge 2013-14: Round 1: Match 2: St John's vs Reading

Here we went again. After a slow and steady start to the series, things picked up somewhat this week with a much better match overall. A higher scoring affair as well.

St John's College Cambridge last entered three years ago, where their team narrowly lost their first match, but survived to the repechage and won through to the second round, where they narrowly lost one of the best UCs of the decade so far to fellow Cambridge college Peterhouse. A long list of alumni includes Paul Dirac and Hugh Dennis. This year's team were:
Jarret Huang, from Singapore, studying Law
Casey Swerner, from London, studying Neuroscience and Philosophy
Captain: Anna Stansbury, from Buckinghamshire, studying Economics
Robin Younghusband, from Hitchin, studying Classics

All four member introduced themselves by only their forename.

Reading University became a uni in 1926; it last appeared on the UC scene back in 2006-07, where they too lost their first match, but survived to the repechage and into the second round, where they lost to eventual runners-up Manchester, providing a much documented comedy moment along the way! This year's foursome were:
Michael Dunleavy, from Wakefield, studying Biomedical Sciences
Christopher White, from Watford, studying History
Captain: Peter Burgess, from West Yorkshire, studying Solar Power Monitoring
Luke Tudge, from West Yorkshire, studying Psychology

Off we set then, and it was Reading who got off to the better start, getting the first three starters, and two bonuses from each set. St John's got off the mark with the first picture round, on cities called San Jose, and swept the board on the bonuses. Reading led by 60-25, and this already looked like a better match than last week.

The next starter had the answer 'U2', and Mr White quickly got it before any reference to the pop group could emerge! Reading, at this stage, were maintaining a steady lead, but St John's weren't allowing them to pull away fully. The music starter was 'the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba' by Handel, which I very quickly got, but the teams took their time before Mr White provided the answer. The music bonuses, on music from the Olympic Opening Ceremony, saw Reading increase their lead to 100-45.

St John's then managed a brief spell of momentum, with Miss Stansbury getting two consecutive starters, and closing in on the leaders. One of their sets of bonuses was on dates where the day and month have the same number, which was only easy if you knew the dates beforehand! The second picture round, on major political figures in Europe, saw Reading's lead increase back up to 135-70.

Going into the final phase of play, there was still a chance St John's could close the gap, but Reading maintained their superior buzzing abilities, and soon, their victory was pretty firmly assured. But St John's did at least managed to reach three figures, which they definitely deserved to do. At the gong, Reading won by 180-120.

A good match well played by both sides. It's doubtful that St John's have done enough to reach the repechage, which is a shame, as they were a decent enough team; but so were Reading, and they deserve their victory. The two captains were the best buzzers for their teams, with Miss Stansbury getting five starters for St John's, and Mr Burgess doing likewise for Reading. The Cambridge side managed 10 bonuses out of 21, while Reading finished with 14 out of 33. There were no incorrect interruptions all night.

Next week's match: Trinity College Cambridge vs Christ Church Oxford (good luck opaltiger!)
(Incidentally, the review will be a bit later than usual next week)

Didn't see much of Only Connect tonight, but the first semi-final was another reasonably close affair between two good teams. Hopefully, I'll be able to watch it back and post a full review by Friday.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Only Connect: Series 7: Match 10 (Play-Off Match): Cartophiles vs Fell Walkers

OK, with University Challenge back, I'm going to carry on these Only Connect reviews until this series ends. I probably won't do full reviews for the next series, which I understand begins immediately after this one.

Anyway, Monday's match saw the Cartophiles (Colin Kidd, Mark Cooper and captain Josh Mandel) fight the Fell Walkers (Jim Taylor, Craig Almonds and captain Mike Amberry) for the final place in the semis. Both had lost one match, and won another en route to this point.

The highlight of the first round was a question that went to the Fell Walkers, which was a collection of complex figures, which were identified as relating to Felix Baumgartner's jump last year. They initially did not provide a name, until VCM pushed them! The Fell Walkers had the better of the first round, leading 6-2 going into the second.

The second round was more the Cartophiles' round, as they pulled back lost ground, and had cut the Fell Walkers' lead to just one point, 7-6, afterwards. Onto the Walls, and the Fell Walkers struggled with theirs, getting just one group, but three connections, which gave them four points. The Cartophiles also got just one group (with only a few seconds left!), and they only got two connections, for just three points. But, to be honest, the Walls did look exceptionally hard this week. One of the Cartophiles' connections, for example, were 'anagrams of rodents'! Chalk up another fiendish one for the question setters there!

The Fell Walkers led by 11-9 going into the final round. But the Cartophiles were not going to give up easily, and they made their final push here. In truth, it was a very close call. But, with not much time left, the Fell Walkers buzzed, but couldn't answer, losing a point, and handing the Cartophiles a bonus. As can be so cruel sometimes, the entire match turned on that very question, as the Cartophiles snuck home a victory by 15-13.

So, well done to the Cartophiles, who deservedly go through to the semis. But very hard luck to the Fell Walkers, who led throughout, and only narrowly slipped up at the end. But they have done very well, as VCM said. As have all the teams so far this series. Some quality quizzing.

Onto the semis next week, with the Celts vs the Festivals Fans. Somehow, I think we're in for a tightly fought final three matches.

Monday, 15 July 2013

University Challenge 2013-14: Round 1: Match 1: Aberdeen vs Queen's

Good evening all, from Ayrshire. It's so good to have University Challenge back after all these weeks. The last series was enjoyable, even if it petered out somewhat towards the end. Let's hope for a good series to follow on.

The obvious first thing to talk about: the new set. I actually like it a bit better now than I did in the Christmas specials. It is a little bit plain compared to what we're used to, but that's only minor. I'm sure, by the end of the year, we'll all be OK with it. The new titles, on the other hand, still not sure about.

Anyway, we began the series with a Celtic clash between Aberdeen and Queen's University Belfast.

Aberdeen were with us last year, where they lost to Warwick in the first round. Alumni include Alistair Darling and James Naughtie, and numerous friends of mine. They were:
Jonathan Bee, from Aberdeen, studying Geography
Ananyo Bagchi, from Calcutta, sudying Medicine
Captain: Ben Conway, from Witney, studying Philosophy
Benedict Jones-Williams, from Peebles, studying English Literature

Queen's University Belfast were last with us two years ago, where they lost to Newcastle in the first round. Almuni include the former Irish president Mary MacAleese, and Seamus Heaney. They were:
Suzanne Cobain, from County Down, studying History
Gareth Gamble, from Lurgan in County Armagh, studying Medicine
Captain: Joseph Greenwood, from Manchester, studying Irish Theatre
Alexander Green, from Lytham in Lancashire, stuyding Plasma Physics

Off we went then, with the first two starters being answered correctly, but just one bonus went with them. Indeed, by the time of the first picture round, on cocktails and their ingredients, that one bonus remained the only one answered correctly. Queen's led by 25-20.

Momentum then shifted briefly in Aberdeen's favour, but only just, as both sides were struggling with bonuses. Aberdeen managed two of their bonuses, including one on a set on traditional English deserts, their answer to one of which amused Paxo greatly!

The music round was on classical pieces incorporated into rock versions. The starter was dropped, and, when Queen's picked up the bonuses, they annoyed Paxo by getting a rather easy one wrong! Aberdeen now led by 55-40. Still anyone's game, and the teams remaining very much in touch throughout the third phase.

The second picture round, on British bridges, gave us our first great comedy moment of the series, when Aberdeen answered one bonus with 'the Bridge on the River Kwai'! "Very funny", remarked Paxo sarcastically! Aberdeen still led by 85-60.

But Queen's weren't done yet, and began one big final push. Aberdeen reached three figures first, but Queen's now had the momentum, and quickly overtook them and spent the final minutes pulling out a lead.

The final score was a win for Queen's by 140-105. But a good close match it was, even if low scoring, and it's a shame that we probably won't be seeing Aberdeen again, as they were a good fun team. Messrs Bee, Conway and Jones-Williams all got two starters each, and the side managed 7 bonuses out of 21. By comparison, Joseph Greenwood got seven starters for Queen's, and the side successfully answered 9 bonuses out of 30 (with one penalty).

Good to have the show back. Lets hope things can pick up soon.

Next week's match: St John's College Cambridge vs Reading

As for Only Connect, another good close match tonight. A fuller review will follow on Thursday.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Only Connect: Series 7: Match 9 (Play-Off Match): Festival Fans vs Cat Lovers

Into the home stretch now, as the show arrived at the penultimate match of the initial phase. Both teams had won one match, and lost another; the winners would take the penultimate place in the semis.

The Festival Fans (Ed Dovey, Stewart McCartney and captain Marianne Fairthorne) lost to the Francophiles (who are already in the semis), but defeated the GPs. The Cat Lovers (Roger Johnson, Jean Upton and captain Jim Crozier) narrowly defeated the Corpuscles, but then lost to the Celts (who are also already in the semis). Whichever side won would be worthy of reaching the semis.

I won't go into great details with any of the questions in the first two rounds, but, suffice to say, you couldn't pull the two teams apart throughout the first round of play. At the end of the first round, the two teams were tied 3-all. And at the end of a rather low scoring second round, it was 5-all.

The draw was finally broken at the Walls, as the Cat Lovers swept the board, getting them the full ten points, while the Festival Fans missed one of the clues, meaning they only got seven. This gave them a lead of 15-12 going into the Missing Vowels round.

And what a finish, with the Festival Fans taking all four of the first group, giving them a narrow lead. And from then on in, there was virtually nothing in it again! This was one of those occasions where I covered up the between-group scores so as to keep the score unknown. With the scores tied on 20-all, the Cat Lovers buzzed in for an answer, but were beaten by the 'gong'!

A tie, 20-all. A tie-break between the two captains. Both buzzed at practically the same time; Ms Fairthorne got in just quicker, and the Festival Fans took the victory!

Another good close match between two evenly matched teams. Well done to the Festival Fans, but very hard lines to the Cat Lovers, who were undone by being just a split second too late twice. Hard luck indeed. Possibly as unlucky as the team they beat in the first round. But thanks to them anyway for a good series of showings.

Next week, the Cartophiles play the Fell Walkers for the final place in the semis.

Before that, though, we have the return of University Challenge, with Aberdeen playing Queen's University Belfast in a Celtic opening encounter. Stay tuned for that next Monday shortly after the match.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

University Challenge to return Monday 15th July

A quick look at the Radio Times earlier this evening confirms that University Challenge will return from its sabbatical on Monday 15th. No word on the draw yet, but it should be out later this week.

So, for the new series, we will have a new set. Those of you who watched the Christmas specials will recall the new set, which looks a bit smaller than the last, with a slightly plainer backdrop. And new opening credits as well. About time the show got done up a bit; after all the old set and titles have been on for almost nine series.

So, that's all for now. In the meantime, we still have Only Connect to deal with. My coverage of that will continue after UC resumes, incidentally.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Only Connect: Series 7: Match 8 (Qualification Match): Francophiles vs Fell Walkers

So, here we are again. Both last night's teams had won their first match, and the winners would join the Celts in the semi-finals; the losers would have to return and win again to go through to the semis.

The Francophiles (Ian Clark, captain Mark Walton and Sam Goodyear) came from behind to narrowly beat the Festival Fans in their first match, while the Fell Walkers (Jim Taylor, captain Mike Amberry and Craig Almonds) defeated the GPs by, what was until last week, the biggest winning margin of the series so far (six). Last week, of course, the run of close matches was broken by a comfortable victory. What would we get here?

On with the show, and the first round saw some unusually tricky questions. VCM was maybe a bit lenient to give the Francophiles the points for one of their questions, on nations whose flags you rotate to get another nation's flag. The picture round, on Pink Floyd album covers, went to the Fell Walkers, who successfully took the points. The Francophiles got a very difficult music question, on songs with mealtimes in their titles.

Going into the second round, the Francophiles led by 6-3. And it was now that the began to show their authority on the game. Their first question, on the traditional English horse races, was identified by them quite easily, and they took points on their other two questions as well. The Fell Walkers weren't so lucky with their questions, which included a fiendish one involving numbers and their final letters which I won't even try to explain. At the end of the round, the Francophiles now led by 12-3.

Onto the Walls, and both teams managed to solve their wall quite comfortably. However, the Fell Walkers missed one of the connections, so they only got seven points, while the Francophiles got all four, meaning they scored a full ten. Their lead was now 22-10, which would probably be enough to see them safely home.

The final missing vowels round was fairly well split between the two teams, with the highlight of the round being a reference to VCM's husband, the ever popular Mr D. Mitchell! However, it was the Francophiles' lead going into the round that was enough to keep them safe, and they won by 27-16.

A good performance, definitely worthy of a place in the semis. But the Fell Walkers did a good job too, and they will get another chance to reach the semis, when they play the Cartophiles in a couple of weeks' time. Next week, the Festival Fans play the Cat Lovers. And after those two games, we're at the semis. Should be interesting.