Monday, 27 January 2014

University Challenge 2013-14: Preliminary Quarter-Final 3: Somerville vs Clare

So, it's University Challenge time again people. And an Oxbridge clash too; they're always interesting in some way, and tonight's was no exception. Winning would get either of tonight's teams one foot in the semis, losing would leave them with just one chance left.

Somerville College Oxford looked good in their first two matches over decent teams from Pembroke College Cambridge (who they defeated 255-145) and York (240-135). However, this was not quite the same team that achieved those victories, for tonight, for the first time in three years IIRC, we had a substitution! How exciting! The new reformed quarter were:
Sam Walker, from Stafford, studying Physics
Zac Vermeer, from Sydney, studying Law
Captain: Michael Davies, from Blackburn, studying PPE
Chris Beer, from Blyborough in Lincolnshire, studying English Literature

Clare College Cambridge, on the other hand, won two close affairs over Loughborough (defeating them 195-155), and then the excellent Christ Church Oxford team, who they defeated on a tie-break after tying 165-each at the gong. So, they did have good playing potential, but had not been able to shake either team off their tail in either match. We would see if that would be costly for the unchanged team of:
Tom Watson, from Navenby in Lincolnshire, studying Chinese studies  
Carys Redman-White, from Hampshire, studying Veterinary Medicine  
Captain: Tom Wright, from Sevenoaks, studying Theology  
Mark Chonofsky, from Boston, studying Physics

Off we set then. Clare got off to the better start, getting the first three starters and almost all the bonuses that went with them. They had soon raced off to 65 before Somerville could so much as buzz in. But Zac Vermeer, a good performer in the first rounds, put a stop to that, and the side showed they meant business too by taking two bonuses. The first picture round, on places in the titles of recent novels, went to Clare, and their lead was already 80-20.

And Clare's good buzzer run continued, and so too did their good showing on the bonuses. In their previous games, they've answered bonuses they don't know with obvious joke answers, notably a complex physics question with 'Jeff'! Tonight, when asked for a German climatologist, they gave us 'Jeremy Paxman'! The man himself was not amused!

Soon, Clare's lead had reached 100, and Somerville looked in trouble. But the Oxonians soon bought themselves back into the game, taking a full set of bonuses on Roman figures known as the 'Elder' and 'Younger'. Surely, we all must've expected Pliny to be one of them! The music starter went to the newcomer Sam Walker; the music bonuses were on folks performers who've appeared at the Cambridge folk festival, including the Proclaimers, who I've been listening to virtually all day! We also heard a very amusing cover of 'Ace of Spades'!

Somerville had now recovered the deficit to 120-80. And it continued to fall when Zac Vermeer shot in with a very quick buzz on the Vice Presidency of the US. The side took all the subsequent bonuses, putting them within fifteen points. Tom Wright gave Clare a bit more breathing space, but Somerville were now in gear, and were hunting them down. On a set of bonuses on the National Portrait Gallery, Zac Vermeer came out with the remark "it's a portrait gallery of people" while conferring!

The second picture was on meetings of the G7 leaders, and the year in question. Neither side got the starter, Clare got the bonuses, and took all three of them (as I did, though two were guesses!). Their lead now stood at 160-135. Now, though, up surged Somerville, and the Oxford side finally got a strong momentum spurt when it mattered. A full set of bonuses on poultry gave them the lead for the first time in the game.

All they had to do was not give Clare any chances to sneak back in, and they had it. Clare did get that chance, but couldn't go through with it, and when Somerville took the points, that looked like it. Indeed, the gong went before anyone could buzz in on the next starter; Somerville had come from behind to win 195-160.

Another fine match well played by both sides. Bad luck to Clare, but they did well considering, and if they keep on like that, they may well still make it through. Good work by Somerville, and another good win, but not as convincing as their prior efforts. We shall wait and see how they get on next time.

On the buzzer, Zac Vermeer was the night's best, getting four for Somerville, while Tom Wright and Carys Redman-White got three each for Clare. The Cambridge side converted a very good 16 bonuses out of 24, which is promising for next time around. Somerville managed an equally good 19 out of 30, and there were no penalties all night. Good play all round. More of the same, please!

So, next week, preseumably, we'll see Queen's University Belfast play Southampton; best of luck to Cromarty(IV) and co!

Monday, 20 January 2014

University Challenge 2013-14: Preliminary Quarter-Final 2: Cardiff vs SOAS

Well, it's Monday night, so it must be University Challenge time. Tonight's winners would need just one more QF victory to go through to the semis, the runners-up would need two and couldn't afford another loss.

Cardiff got off to a slow start, beating Exeter 145-95 in a low scoring first match, but they proved their worth in the second match beating the very good Liverpool team 230-145. So, the underdogs tonight, but clearly not to be underestimated, and they were the same four as before: 
Eleri Evans, from Pembrokeshire, studying Maths
Sara Caputo, from Torino in Italy, studying History
Captain: Roderick Lawford, from Barking, studying Music, Culture and Politics
Tom Parry-Jones, from St Asaph, studying Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies

SOAS were one of the standout teams of the first round, beating out friends Southampton 230-155, and then went on to defeat the good Reading team 240-90 in the second round. Clearly, this unchanged foursome were going to be tough to beat: 
Maeve Weber, from Knebworth in Hertforshire, studying Ancient Near East Studies
Luke Vivian-Neal, from Lusaka in Zambia, studying Chinese
Captain: Peter McKean, from Wallington in South London, studying African History
James Figueroa, from Surrey, studying African Studies and Development Studies

So, on paper, you have to say SOAS had all the advantages over Cardiff. But, of course, matches aren't played on paper. Otherwise, Cardiff wouldn't be in this match.

SOAS got off to a good start, with Maeve Weber buzzing in on the first five starters of the night, and getting three of them correct! Cardiff incurred a penalty on one of the other two. Like in previous matches, most of the bonuses accompanied the starters. Peter McKean took over for the next two starters, including the picture starter. After the bonuses, on cities in Czechoslovakia, SOAS's lead stood at 95-(-5).

Already, Cardiff looked in deep trouble. They had to let two chances to get into the game pass, before Peter McKean resumed his buzzer brilliance for SOAS. Rather unusually, the side dropped all the resultant bonuses. Sara Caputo finally broke Cardiff into the game courtesy of WH Auden; Paxo's "what a relief" remark came just moments after mine! Luke Vivian-Neal resumed normal service for SOAS, but, again, no bonuses went with it.

Both teams identified the Arctic Monkeys for the music starter, but neither knew the album the song was from. A second Cardiff penalty halved their score, allowing SOAS to take the music bonuses, on pop songs inspired by works of literature. One bonus raised their lead to 125-5.

Tom Parry-Jones bought Cardiff back into the game, but the side could only follow it up with one bonus, a stark contrast to their good bonus showing in previous matches. Roderick Lawford managed another starter for Cardiff shortly afterwards, and again, one bonus was converted via (what looked like) a complete guess. The second picture round was on depictions of Ancient Greek pairings; SOAS took the starter, and two bonuses, increasing their lead to 165-35.

So now it was just a question of how much further either side could get in terms of scores. Cardiff managed to string two starters together, but only two of the resultant six bonuses went with it. Peter McKean took his sixth starter of the night, and two bonuses went with it. Tom Parry-Jones managed a late flurry, with two starters in a row; while just one bonus went with it, it was enough to haul the side to respectability.

Final points of the match went to SOAS, and at the gong, they had the win, 200-90. Not much to say about that match; SOAS managed a well deserved win and Cardiff managed a respectable score. We shall see how they get on in their next match to stay in the contest. I'd say SOAS weren't as impressive this time as they were before, but still another good showing from them, and I'd still say they should be taken seriously.

On the buzzer, Peter McKean was the night's best with six starters, while Tom Parry-Jones' efforts earned him four starters. The Welsh side could only manage 6 bonuses out of 21 this time (with two penalties), a big step down from their good showing before, but this could just be a blip; we shall see. SOAS converted 17 out of 35 (with one penalty), which, while still decent, is also a step back from their previous showing. They may well run into Trinity next; now that'd be a good match in some way!

Two more preliminaries before we start sending though/eliminating teams. No word on the draw for next week yet; we shall see where things take us next.

Monday, 13 January 2014

University Challenge 2013-14: Preliminary Quarter-Final 1: Trinity vs Manchester

So, we've arrived at the hotly anticipated Quarter-Finals. Usual rules: win two to go through, lose two and go home. And what a match we got to begin the process!

Trinity College Cambridge defeated the very good Christ Church Oxford team 300-150 in a high scoring first round match, and then defeated the equally good team from Peterhouse Cambridge 240-110 in Round 2, despite being rather quiet in the mid section. They were the same as before: 
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

Manchester got off to an average start, beating Brasenose College Oxford 215-105, but then shut up any doubters by beating Queens' College Cambridge 325-110 in the second round. They were also the same foursome as before: 
Edward Woudhuysen, from London, studying History
Joe Day, from Bideford in Devon, studying Physics with Astrophysics
Captain: Elizabeth Mitchell, from Birmingham, studying PPE
Jonathan Collings, from Manchester, studying Geography

So, on paper, not much between these two fine teams, both of whom scored 540 overall in their first two games. Of course, with JOW regular Filip 'opaltiger' Drnovsek Zorko amongst them, Trinity had my support in that sense, but I honestly couldn't call it. Manchester, after all, are never easy to beat; even when you appear to have beaten them, they'll come back at you and snatch victory from your grasp, as poor old Lincoln found out last year.

Off we set, and off went Manchester with the first two starters, one full set of bonuses, and one dropped set. In stepped Trinity, who took the next two starters, and also took three out of six bonuses. The first picture round was on the EU, and the years groups of nations joined. Manchester took this round, and narrowly led 50-35.

In stepped our man Filip with his first starter of the night, and a full set of bonuses gave them the lead. Manchester reclaimed it, but Trinity took it straight back. And now the Cambridge side began a run of momentum, getting the starters, and most of the bonuses that went with them. The music round was on classical pieces named after figures in ancient history, myth or legend. Trinity took the starter, and all the bonuses, increasing their lead to 150-65.

And when the next starter and bonus set took Trinity's lead to just over 100 points, Manchester looked to be in trouble. Not for long though, for in stepped Joe Day, who began a great run on the buzzer which saw him get three starters in a row. Suddenly, Trinity's lead had collapsed from 105 to 35.

Needing to regain momentum, Ralph Morley took a very speculative punt on the next starter, buzzing in before the main clue had been mentioned. When he was right, and Paxo asked how he knew what the question would be, he asked what else it could've been! A clearly annoyed Paxo said we'd see how they got on with the bonuses! They got two, and Paxo made a predictable sarky comment when they missed the third!

The second picture round, on Evelyn Waugh and his contemporaries, went to Manchester, and their deficit was now 190-155. All eight players went for their buzzer on the next starter, on books of the Bible in order; Richard Freeland got their first, and up went Trinity's lead once more. The excellent Joe Day got the next starter to keep Manchester in touch, and two bonuses on the commonwealth followed.

Miss Mitchell took a punt on the next starter, but realised her answer was wrong before she said it, and looked rather embarrassed! Our man Filip took the points. But Joe Day still had plenty of fight left in him, and hauled his side back into the game. But when Mr Day slipped up on the next starter, and Richard Freeland took the points, Trinity had a chance to put the game out of reach. A full set of bonuses seemed to suggest they'd done it, and when Mr Morley took the next starter, they had the match sewn up.

A couple more starters later, and the gong went. Trinity won a fine match, 285-205. Very well done Filip and co on a very good performance, and best of luck next time. Hard lines to Manchester, but they played superbly too, and if they keep playing like that, I'm pretty sure they'll make the semis too. We shall wait and see.

The stats: Joe Day ended the match with seven starters for Manchester, while Messrs Morley and Freeland got five each for Trinity. The Cambridge side converted 29 bonuses out of 39, which is very good indeed, while the Mancunians ended with 21 out of 33, which is also decent, though they did also incur two late penalties.

I'm guessing it's Cardiff vs SOAS next week, if the last two years are anything to go by. We shall see where this highly impressive and unpredictable series takes us next!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

University Challenge 2013-14: Second Round review and Quarter-Final preview

So, we've reached the Quarter-Finals of this year's University Challenge. It's been a good series so far, and, with the teams that have made the QFs, I suspect the drama is far from over.

The eight teams through to the Quarter-Finals are, in order of qualification:
  • Somerville College Oxford (495 over two matches)
  • Queen's University Belfast (350 over two matches)
  • Clare Cambridge Clare (360 over two matches [discounting the 10 from the tie-breaker])
  • Southampton University (675 over three matches)
  • Trinity College Cambridge (540 over two matches)
  • Manchester University (540 over two matches)
  • Cardiff University (375 over two matches)
  • SOAS London (470 over two matches)
As with last year, we have blog readers in amongst these teams, namely Filip 'opaltiger' Drnovsek Zorko from the Trinity team, and Richard 'Cromarty(IV)' Evans and Bob de Caux of Southampton.

Well, for a change, I am beaten; I have absolutely no idea who is going to make it through the QFs. All eight teams have good points, and negatives. So lets have a quick flick-through.

Well, the three Oxbridge sides first: Trinity comfortably won both their matches, beating two good teams along the way; so have Somerville, but their scores haven't been as high, but still consistent. Clare have narrowly beaten two good teams en route, so I suspect they may struggle a little, but shouldn't be totally ruled out.

There were doubts over Manchester's performance quality after their average first round result, but a win by over 200 points over a good team in Round 2 has put pay to that.

Cardiff and Queen's were both narrow winners of low scoring affairs in Round 1. But, like with Bangor last year, have proven their worth with wins over two very good teams in the second round. And comfortable wins too, rather than Bangor's narrow squeaker over Durham last year.

And finally, SOAS and Southampton: they met in the first round, with SOAS winning. Since then, the Londoners defeated a good Reading team, while Southampton came through the repechage and defeated two good teams, scoring over 300 on one occasion.

Another point worthy of mention is that none of the teams have a single standout player a la Guttenplan or Trimble. All teams have players who have been contributing their fair share of the work, which goes to show that teamwork is good this series.

The highest overall starter tally is twelve, managed over two games by Trinity captain Ralph Morley and Jonathan Collings of Manchester, and over three by Southampton's Matt Loxham.

It's gonna be fascinating seeing the rest of the series play out. I cannot pick semi-finalists out for sure, as most of them seem to have had the same path to this stage; apart from Clare, both of whose victories have been close calls, all the teams have won at least one match over a team who were decent in their own right.

I just cannot call it at all; I will just wait and see how it pans out.

So, if they drew the preliminaries like the past two years, it will be Trinity vs Manchester on Monday, followed by Cardiff and SOAS, and then a random draw amongst the other four. Should be good whatever the draw!

Monday, 6 January 2014

University Challenge 2013-14: Round 2: Match 8: Reading vs SOAS

Well, here we are again. Back to normal service, and back to regular UC. Just one more second round match, and then on to the serious business of the Quarter-Finals.

It had been a long time since we first saw both these two teams. Reading defeated St John's College Cambridge 180-120 way back in July, on the day Prince George was born. They remained unchanged from that match, and were still: 
Michael Dunleavy, from Wakefield, studying Biomedical Sciences 
Christopher White, from Watford, studying History 
Captain: Peter Burgess, from Halifax, studying Solar Power
Luke Tudge, from West Yorkshire, studying Psychology

They would have to start as underdogs here, for SOAS defeated none other than our friends Southampton in their first match. Defeating Cromarty(IV) and co 230-155 back in mid August, you'd have to fancy their chances, considering their opponents' subsequent success. They remained:
Mave Weber, from Knebworth in Hertforshire, studying Ancient Near East Studies
Luke Vivian-Neal, from Lusaka in Zambia, studying Chinese
Captain: Peter McKean, from Wallington in South London, studying African History
James Figueroa, from Surrey, studying African Studies and Development Studies

Off we set then, and SOAS got off to the better start, getting the first two starters. Reading's first buzz of the night resulted in a penalty, giving SOAS more points. The first picture starter showed a list of football players, and asked after the teams and match in question; James Figueroa got everything right expect the year, a mistake Peter Burgess did not make. Reading took all three bonuses on sports teams, thus reducing the gap to 75-20.

SOAS soon resumed normal service, and ensured all four of the players all had at least one starter each. Their bonus rate, which had started off very strong, was beginning to wither a bit, but not by much, and was generally good. Their buzzer strength alone was enough to build up a healthy lead. The music starter was missed by both sides, but Peter Burgess took the subsequent start to get his side the music bonuses, on Desert Islands Discs selections (previous artist chose this song, and so on).

SOAS's lead was now 135-45. They weren't getting in very much, but Reading were doing great on the bonuses when they did. Mave Weber slipped up on the next starter, but repeating her wrong answer did not help Reading one bit! Peter McKean kept up his strong showing on the buzzer, with his fourth/fifth starter of the night, and all three bonuses went with it. The second picture round, on artworks named after Venus, went to Reading, and, again, they did good with the bonuses.

Now trailing 170-65, Reading were playing for pride now. Peter Burgess did manage his third starter of the night, but just one bonus went with it this time. Peter McKean took his seventh starter of the night, identifying the '40s as the decade where just one election took place, and a full set of bonuses on cricket followed. The next starter asked for the spelling of 'isosceles'; Chris Tudge tried but slipped up, and Luke Vivian-Neal gave up midway through his attempt.

On SOAS's next set of bonuses, Paxo tried to hurry them along with his usual 'come on chaps', which Ms Weber understandably was not impressed with! Paxo thus had to apologise to her! Luke Tudge took another starter for Reading, but no bonuses went with it. One final starter to SOAS, and the gong went; SOAS won by 240-90.

Bad luck to Reading, who were a good team, but were just repeatedly kept off the buzzer, though did well when they did get in. Good effort by them. But very good work by SOAS there; having now beaten two decent teams, one of whom broke 300 in another match, surely we must take them very seriously indeed.

The two captains were the best buzzers for their sides, with Peter McKean getting seven starters for SOAS, and his namesake Mr Burgess getting three for Reading. Both sides had good bonus rates, Reading managing 9 out of 15, and SOAS 23 out of 37, and both sides incurred one penalty.

So, we move on to the Quarter-Finals next week. As far as I know, it is still using the round robin system it has for the past few years. I will try to post a preview by Friday night.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Christmas University Challenge 2013: Matches 6-10 (Monday 30th - Friday 3rd)

Well, I hope everyone had a good New Year. I had an OK one, I guess. In Ayrshire, as usual.

Anyway, on with the second half of Christmas UC.

Monday 30th: Leicester vs Sussex
Leicester: Heather Couper, Nigel Henbest, Sue Cook, Natalie Bennett
Sussex: Rob Bonnet, Alice Arnold, Simon Fanshawe, Claudia Hammond

Again, not a terrifically close match, or high scoring. Highlight of this rather dour affair was an early set of bonuses related to the physics of snowball throwing, which provided much hilarity as Leicester tried to work them out. At one point, Paxo actually let out an exclamation at a confer rather than an answer! Simon Fanshawe also had a late argument with Paxo over an answer, which was made even funnier by the gong going during it, and it continuing on after the applause died down! Leicester won 125-60, which was not a high enough score to get them into the semis.

Tuesday 31st: King's College London vs Southampton
King's: Arthur Butt, Susan Hill, Rory Bremner, Anne Ashworth
Southampton: Jason Cowley, Claire Tyler, Stefan Buczacki, Matthew Taylor

Rather unfortunate to have Mr Bremner on the show on the day his long time collaborator John Fortune passed away. He and his colleagues were very much on level terms with Southampton for most of the match. It wasn't until the final minutes when Southampton began a run on the buzzer, and pulled into a strong lead. A good showing from both sides, but at the gong, Southampton won 185-105, which, of course, was good enough to bring them back.

Wednesday 1st: Semi-Final 1 - Emmanuel vs Southampton
A good match this. While Emmanuel led throughout, they never quite managed to pull into a match winning lead, and were kept in close touch by Southampton throughout. Again, it wasn't until the final minutes that the Cambridge side managed to pull away into a match winning lead, through Southampton did manage to reach respectability. They did manage a late comedy moment courtesy of the old 'same answer three times' trick, answering Loch Ness to all three bonuses of a round on Scottish lochs! Emmanuel won the match 175-105.

Thursday 2nd: Semi-Final 2 - Lancaster vs Caius
This was probably the best match of this mini-series. While not exactly high scoring, the teams were pretty much level all the way through. It wasn't until the very end, when Caius got a run on the buzzer late on and seemed to take their time with the bonuses, that the match was secure. An unlucky defeat for Lancaster in the end, with Caius winning 185-140. But a good match all the same.

Friday 3rd: The Final - Emmanuel vs Caius
An all-Cambridge final it was, then. And it was a pretty decent match. Caius led throughout, though their bonus rate was poor in the mid section, with at least three bonus sets in a row being completely dropped. This meant they weren't able to pull away into a match winning lead as they could've. Later on, however, their rate picked up, and, combined with their buzzer work, they managed to pull away. Though Emmanuel did rally late on, and climb up into respectability, there was too much ground to catch up. At the gong, Caius won the match, and the series, 175-140. But well done to both sides, who were both great sides throughout, and well played by all involved.

A good mini-series, in my opinion. The preliminaries were rather low scoring, and a bit dour, but things picked up afterwards, with a good trio of matches in the final three. Well played by all involved.

So, back to normal now then. Tomorrow, the regular series resumes with the final second round match, which, presumably, will be between SOAS and Reading.

On another note, we have also seen a rather intriguing new addition to Deal or No Deal this week as well. I may decide to go into it in more detail on here next week, once it has been used for a full week.