Monday, 28 July 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 3: Bristol vs Courtauld

Evening all. Hope not many of you were caught out by the early start today; the show began at 7:30 rather than the usual 8, due to EastEnders being on BBC2 due to the Commonwealth Games on BBC1. Anyway, after two close games to begin the series, what would Week 3 have in store?

Bristol University began life in 1876 as a college, becoming a university 95 years later due to donations from the Fry and Wills families. Alumni include Messrs Lucas and Walliums of Little Britain, Marcus Brigstocke, and author David Nicholls, who fictionalised the uni in his brilliant novel 'Starter for Ten' (thoroughly recommend both book and film). A team from the uni last appeared two series ago, where they reached the second round before losing to Imperial. This year's quartet were:
Lewis Rendell, from Saffron Walden, studying Maths
Benjamin Moon, from Marksbury and Bath, studying Geology
Captain: Anastasia Reynolds, from East London, studying Czech and Russian
Miles Coleman, from North London, studying Spanish and Portuguese

I won't repeat precisely what Mr Moon said about his degree research!

The Courtauld Institute of Art, appearing on UC for the first time, was founded by the eponymous Samuel Courtauld in 1932, and since 1989 has been based in Somerset House on the Strand, as part of the University of London. Alumni include Brian Sewell, Andrew Graham-Dixon and Vincent Price. The first Courtauld UC team were:
Annie Gregoire, from the New Forest in Hampshire, studying History of Art
Matthew McLean, from Lewisham, studying History of Art
Captain: Anna Preston, from Sandwich in Kent, studying History of Art
Thomas Bodinetz, from Reading, studying History of Art

OK, so off we set again. Courtauld got off the mark first, and took two bonuses on food names; Bristol followed, but only managed one bonus on fictional servants. But the Avonsiders soon had their feet on the pedal, and showed more buzzer prowess with the next two starters, including the first picture starter. The first picture round was on the Academy Awards, with the teams needing to identify the Best Film winner from the actors who won that year. Bristol led by 55-20 after this.

Bristol's better buzzer showing continued with Lewis Rendell taking the next starter, resulting in a long set of bonuses requiring misleading place names to be spelled. Courtauld finally got a second starter, but got nothing from a set of science bonuses. Bristol pulled away further with the next starter, but just one bonus followed this time. A slip-up did not help Courtauld's cause, and allowed Bristol to move further ahead.

Neither side got the music starter, but Thomas Bodinetz took the next one, earning Courtauld the music bonuses, on arias from the most regularly performed operas in the world. Two bonuses reduced their deficit to 100-45. Another starter to Bristol saw them sweep the board on a tricky set of maths bonuses, earning them a 'Congratulations' from Paxo! A slip-up from Miles Coleman followed, but Courtauld failed to take the chance. Anastasia Reynolds took the next starter, and a bonus set on biblical quotations saw them take two.

Neither side identified the second picture starter, and the next starter saw Paxo mishear an answer of 'thallium' as 'valium', causing much hilarity! The second picture bonuses, on self-portraits, went to Courtauld, who took two bonuses, which bought the score to 140-65. The Londoners were unable to capitalise on another Bristol slip-up, and when the Avonsiders took the next starter, victory looked pretty certain.

Courtauld did manage to take another starter, but had no luck with the bonuses. Bristol took most of the remaining starters, which only served to cement their victory. At the gong, Bristol won by 190-75.

Paxo described both teams as 'very nice', and then thought he may be going soft! Bad luck to Courtauld, who simply couldn't get much traction on the buzzers, and you're not going to get far if you can't do that, but a very pleasant showing nonetheless. Well done to Bristol on a respectable first outing, and best of luck next time around!

Best buzzers of the night were Lewis Rendell and Miles Coleman, who got four starters each for Bristol; Thomas Bodinetz was Courtauld's best, getting three. On the bonuses, Bristol converted a fair 16 out of 31 (with two penalties), and Courtauld managed 6 out of 15 (with one penalty). Hopefully, I haven't made any mistakes this time; sorry again about last week's slip-up.

No show next week due to the WW1 centenary commemorations. The show will hopefully resume either the week after, or the week after that; we shall have to wait and see.

Monday, 21 July 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 2: Oxford Brookes vs Jesus

OK people, Week 2 of the new series. After last week's great match and shock result to start the series, what would happen next?

Oxford Brookes began life as a small school of art before expanding and becoming a polytechnic in 1970; it was given university status in 1992. It last sent a team in 2010-11, where, under the coaching of then Brain of Britain Ian Bayley, they reached the quarter-finals, going out to York after a great game. This year's quartet were:
Simon Joyce, from North Oxfordshire, studying Spatial Planning
Paula Ayres, from Hertfordshire, studying the History of Medicine
Captain: David Ballard, from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, studying Politics and International Relations
Stephen Mayes, from Canterbury, studying History

Jesus College Oxford was founded in 1571, the only Oxford college founded during Elizabeth I's reign; it has close ties with the Welsh in tribute to the Welsh churchman who aided its founding. The college last sent a team two years ago, where they went out in the second round after a good match with U.C.L.. Tonight's team were:
Beth Roberts, from Barnoldswick in Lancashire, studying English
Louisa Thompson, from Huddersfield, studying English
Captain: Alex Browne, from Buckinghamshire, studying Chemistry
Jonathan Clingman, from Finchley in North London, studying Physics

So, an Oxford derby, but not within the university. An interesting match looked in prospect.

Jesus got off the mark first, Oxford Brookes quickly followed, and both sides took a bonus each. Jesus had the better of the early exchanges, bettering the buzzer race, but not converting many bonuses, not getting any from a tricky set on Wikipedia editors. The first picture round, on Nadsat words and their translations, went to Oxford Brookes; one bonus saw them reduce the gap to 40-30.

Jesus promptly hit back, and took two bonuses to increase their lead. The next starter, on the great auk, was one I knew because I'd heard it on the show before! Oxford Brookes knew it too, though hopefully not for the same reasons! Two bonuses bought the gap back to 10. Two more starters went to Jesus, including the music starter; the bonuses, on performances from fictional bands in films, saw them raise their lead to 100-50.

Oxford Brookes hit back, but got nothing from a bonus set on lasers, raising mild amusement by repeating a wrong answer from their first bonus set (it was wrong again). A slip-up from David Ballard went un-picked up on by the opposition, and two further starters were then dropped. Simon Joyce finally got one right, and two bonuses bought Oxford Brookes back within touching distance.

Neither side took the second picture starter, David Ballard riling Paxo by mistaking Chekov for Dickens! The bonuses, on authors who have written books with fruit in the title, went to Jesus, and afterwards their lead now stood at 115-75. Still within touching distance, and David Ballard took the next starter; though just one bonus followed, it still closed the gap to 25 points.

Into the home straight, a slip-up from Beth Roberts allowed Oxford Brookes to sneak through, and level the scores on 110-all. And then Paula Ayres took the next starter to take the side into the lead. Two bonuses gave them room to breath. Miss Roberts took the next starter for Jesus, closing the gap to 10 points, but there was just time for one bonus, which they didn't get. And that was it; at the gong, Oxford Brookes had snuck from behind to win 130-120.

A low scoring match, but still a very close one nonetheless. Bad luck to Jesus, who lead almost all the way through, and who I suspect won't have done enough for the repechage, which is a shame, as they were a reasonable enough team. Well done to Oxford Brookes, though I feel they may need to play better next time if they are to progress further; best of luck to them for that next time!

Fairly scattered on the buzzer front tonight, with all eight players getting at least one right; Paula Ayres was best for Oxford Brookes with three, and Beth Roberts and Jonathan Clingman got three each for Jesus. On the bonuses, Oxford Brookes converted 11 out of 24, while Jesus managed just 9 out of 22, meaning that Oxford Brookes' slightly better bonus showing was what won the game. Both sides incurred one penalty.

Next week's match: Bristol vs the Courtauld Institute of Art

Monday, 14 July 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 1: Manchester vs Selwyn

Evening all. We're back! Fresh from last week's pleasant delve into the pre-series selection of teams by both university and production crew, we're off with the 21st series of the Paxo era. Just two more, and he'll have done the same number as dear old Bambi. Anyway, let's get going.

Manchester University needs no real introduction, expect to say that its teams have been almost formidable on the show for the past ten years, winning three times and being retrospectively awarded a fourth series by default. Alumni include Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Patrick Watts from Starter for Ten) and Sir Norman Foster. This year's quarter were:
Edmund Chapman, from Norwich, studying Literature
Matthew Stallard, from Wolverhampton, studying American Studies
Captain: John Ratcliffe, from Manchester, studying Chemical Engineering
Charlie Rowlands, from Albrighton in Shropshire, studying Genetics and Chinese

Selwyn College Cambridge was founded in 1882, and its alumni include Tom Hollander of Rev fame and Hugh Laurie. It last fielded a team three series ago, where they were trounced in the first round by, er, Manchester. Hoping to do better tonight were:
Afham Raoof, from Colchester, studying Natural Sciences
Hannah Warwicker, from Huddersfield, studying Classics
Captain: Joshua Pugh Ginn, from Manchester, studying Classics
Charles Cooper, from Bedford, studying Natural Sciences

Off we set then, and it was Matthew Stallard who struck first, getting the first two starters of the series, and his side asserted authority win just one wrong bonus from six. But Selwyn showed they weren't going to be rolled over like many a Manchester opponent before them, and promptly followed them off the mark. The first picture round of the series was on direct rail journeys and their terminal cities; Manchester took this, and their lead stood at 65-20.

Back came Selwyn though; two starters and bonus sets later, and they had drawn level, and a third starter and set gave them the lead. Manchester soon got going again though, though John Ratcliffe did get the first telling off for not answering promptly of the series. The sides were soon level again, and Manchester promptly took the lead back.

Neither side took the music starter, much to Paxo's annoyance as he considered it a well known piece; the music bonuses, which went to Selwyn, turned out to be pieces commonly used by councils when they put enquirers on hold! The teams were now level on 105-each. It was anyone's game, and Matthew Stallard took the next starter to give the home side the lead back. No bonuses followed, which allowed Selwyn to pounce and reclaim advantage. Mr Stallard then made the first incorrect interruption of the series, which allowed Selwyn to pull further ahead.

The second picture round was on postcard depictions of seaside resorts; Manchester took the bonuses after the starter was dropped, but couldn't convert any of them. This meant they trailed 145-120 going into the home stretch. Still in the balance, and a starter and full bonus set to the home side leveled the scores. Matthew Stallard claimed the lead back with that well known factoid of the only British PM (thus far) to be assassinated (Spencer Percival), and two bonuses followed.

But back came Selwyn again, and two starters later they had reclaimed the lead. Still time for Manchester to sneak back in, but when Edmund Chapman slipped up and lost five points, it looked like Selwyn had done it; Joshua Pugh Ginn took the starter just to make sure. The gong went just afterwards, and Selwyn had won 190-160.

Well done both teams on a great match to start the new series. Bad luck to Manchester, who could easily have won it had things gone differently, but 160 would, I'd suspect, be enough for the repechage, so we could well see them again, which would be fair. Well done Selwyn though; beating Manchester is no easy task! Best of luck next time!

The stats: Joshua Pugh Ginn was the best buzzer of the night, getting six starters, while Matthew Stallard's six was Manchester's best tally. Manchester converted 16 out of 27 (with two penalties), while Selwyn managed 18 out of 27.

Next week's match: Oxford Brookes vs Jesus College Oxford

Sunday, 13 July 2014

University Challenge: Class of 2014

OK, so I finally got around to looking back at the two UC special documentaries that we had earlier this week. Haven't seen much comment on them elsewhere, so here's a couple of comments on them.

Well, the first show pretty much consisted of all the applying teams filling out their application forms and auditioning amongst themselves. We got to see some people get selected to be on their teams; one team from, I think, City University showed us their team being selected.

Most of the attention was paid to Oxbridge and Manchester, with a behind-the-scenes look at Manchester's extensive preparations. Stephen Pearson talked to a great extent about his coaching of the teams, and setting up practice matches between various former Manchester teams and the current one.

The show was also littered with various former UC contestants, most of them previous winners.

The first half of the second show saw numerous teams being rung up by the production office to be told if they'd got on. Most of the teams we'd seen extensively in the first show got through, apart from Edinburgh and Churchill College Cambridge.

Amongst the teams that did get selected, the Courtauld Institute of Art got on for the first time of the Paxo era, and the Open University got through for the first time since their '99 victory.

The rest of the second show was mostly consisting of teams prepping, revising, choosing mascots etc. We then got to see some behind-the-scenes footage of teams resting backstage before going on set for filming.

We also got to see Roger Tilling, which was a nice touch, and got to see where he sits and announces from; he had a nice bit of advice that you should field a team of people with long names (like our friend Filip), as they have longer to think after buzzing!

Overall, a nice pair of shows to lead us in to the new series, which begins tomorrow. Lets hope for another good series.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Only Connect: Series 9: Grand Final

So, we made it to the Grand Final of, what has been, a good and very tricky in places series of Only Connect, the final one on BBC4 before it moves to BBC2. Shame; I think it part of its appeal was it being on BBC4.

Anyway, playing in the final on Monday were the Europhiles, Douglas Thomson, Mark Seager and Khuram Rashid, and the Relatives, Hamish and Davina Galloway and Davina's son Nick Latham. Now, the two met in the first round, with the Europhiles winning; they then defeated the Heath Family and the Software Engineers to reach the final undefeated. The Relatives subsequently fought their way back, beating the Exhibitionists, the Record Collectors and the Welsh Learners, all impressive teams.

Anyway, the first round began, and it was clear from the off that this was going to be a difficult show, with both teams struggling to answer the questions. The Europhiles did not manage any questions in the entire round, but the Relatives did manage to salvage three points, giving them a 3-0 lead after the first round.

Round 2 didn't seem to be a great deal easier, with both sides struggling again. This time, however, it was the Relatives who failed to score, while the Europhiles did manage to pick up six points through a combination of their own questions and some bonuses from the opposition dropping theirs. This meant the Europhiles had turned the tables and now led 6-3.

Now came the Walls, and both were incredibly tough, with both consisting solely of four letter words! And both walls contained a set that were all anagrams of each other. The Relatives managed to identify this set, and another, but couldn't unscramble the final two in time. They did get the bonus points to give them six points. The Europhiles struggled with their wall, not getting any groups, but getting three bonus points for connections.

This meant, going into the final round, it was 9-each. It would be decided on Missing Vowels. And, with Mr Seager having been exceptionally good at this in the prior rounds, you'd probably fancy the Europhiles to win it from here. And that's pretty much what happened: Mr Seager's superior buzzing skills proved crucial, and, at the end of the show, the Europhiles won 16-10.

Very well done to the Europhiles, who emerged on top after some very difficult matches indeed and are deserving winners! Well done to the Relatives too, who have also been brilliant this series. And well done to the other teams too, who made this a great final series on BBC4. Now, how will it fare on BBC2?

Hopefully, I'll be able to post some thoughts on the two University Challenge behind-the-scenes shows we've had this week before the new series begins on Monday.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

University Challenge to return Monday 14th July

Yep, it's back people! It was officially confirmed on the Radio Times yesterday that University Challenge is returning from its sabbatical on Monday 14th. We will kick off the new series with Champion of Champions Manchester playing Selwyn College Cambridge.

Before that, though, we have a two part documentary detailing how this year's teams were selected, which is on BBC2 this Monday and Tuesday coming. And we have the small matter of the Only Connect final as well.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Only Connect: Series 9: Semi-Finals Review

So, we now have our two Only Connect finalists. Both won through to the final in matches that were difficult for different reasons.

Match 11: Welsh Learners vs Relatives
The Welsh Learners, Margaret Gabica and Stuart and Chris Hern, went directly through to the semis beating the Software Engineers and the Record Collectors; the Relatives, Hamish and Davina Galloway and Davina's son Nick Latham, lost their first match to the Europhiles before defeating the Exhibitionists and the Record Collectors. At first, the Welsh Learners seemed to have the edge, with both teams scoring well in the first two rounds, but the Learners maintaining a slender lead. The Walls proved crucial, as the Relatives, while not solving the wall completely, managed to score sufficiently enough to level the scores. A slightly better showing in the final Missing Vowels round saw the Relatives complete the turnaround to win 18-15. Bad luck to the Learners, but they've played brilliantly all series.

Match 12: Europhiles vs Software Engineers
The Europhiles, Douglas Thomson, Mark Seager and Khuram Rashid, as stated above, defeated the Relatives in the first round, before doing likewise to the Heath Family to go directly to the semis. The Software Engineers, as also stated above, lost to the Welsh Learners in the first round, but recovered with wins over the Erstwhile Athletes and the Heath Family. This was quite possibly the hardest edition of Only Connect thus far; after the first round, the Europhiles led 2-1, and after Round 2, the Engineers led 3-2! Both teams managed a respectable wall effort, before one final sprint on the Missing Vowels saw the Europhiles emerge on top 11-7, the lowest ever aggregate for an Only Connect match. Bad luck to the Engineers, but they too played well all series.

So, the final on Monday will be a rematch between the Relatives and the Europhiles. Hopefully, I'll be able to provide a full review of the final rather than a quick summary. Best of (retrospective) luck to both teams!