Monday, 29 September 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 11: U.C.L. vs Exeter

Evening all. So, we're into the final four first round matches, meaning that the repechage slot battle is hotting up. As of tonight, we start learning the teams that will be making the play-offs. Tonight, losing with 195 or more would give a team a definite play-off place; 145 or more would at least put them on the board.

University College London, or U.C.L., is the largest college of the University of London, founded in 1826. Alumni include Alexander Graham Bell, Christopher Nolan and all of Coldplay. It has regularly sent teams in the revived series, last sending a team two years ago, who finished runners-up to Manchester. Hoping to go one better this year were:
Bethany Drew, from Surrey, studying English Literature
Andrew Brueton, from London, studying Law
Captain: Thomas Halliday, from Edinburgh, studying Vertebrate Paleantology
Harold Gunnarsson, studying Geomatic Engineering

Exeter University began life in the 19th century, and became a university in 1955. It has three campuses, two in Exeter, one in Falmouth in Cornwall. Alumni include JK Rowling and Will Young. It last sent a team to UC last year, losing a low scoring first round match to Cardiff; two years ago, they also lost in the first round to, er, U.C.L.. Hoping for revenge tonight were:
Harry Heath, from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, studying History
Katie Barry, from Epsom in Surrey, studying Biochemistry
Captain: Jeffrey Sage, from Louisville, Kentucky, studying Arab and Islamic Studies
Rick Harmes, from Looe in Cornwall, studying Politics

Off we set again then, and things flew pretty evenly first, with Harold Gunnarsson quickly getting the first starter, and Harry Heath getting the second equally promptly. The teams swapped a second pair of starters, and got two bonuses from each set. The first picture round, on national emblems depicting landscapes, went to Exeter after the starter was dropped; this gave them a lead of 55-45.

U.C.L. took the next starter, and took two on a set of bonuses on the Noughties, unluckily missing the third. Exeter were unlucky with their next set of bonuses, not giving the answer they gave for the first bonus for the second, when it was right! They made up for it by taking the next starter. At this stage, both the starters and the bonuses seemed to be falling well for both teams.

The music round, on tracks by composers who served in World War One, went to U.C.L., which allowed them to level the scores 85-all. Andrew Brueton, who had been quiet for the first half of the match, now began a good run on the buzzer, which saw him get six starters in a row! The bonuses seemed to be falling for the side too, and they began to open up a big lead. Jeffrey Sage was right to try and jump in early on the next starter, but all he did was lose his team five points, and hand Mr Brueton a fifth starter in a row.

The second picture round, on paintings depicting weddings, went to U.C.L., and they had now opened up a lead of 190-80. Jeffrey Sage finally broke Exeter back into the game, and the side took a full set of bonuses which bought them up to three figures, and into the hunt of the repechage. A second starter and one bonus bought them within 25 points of a place on the board.

Andrew Brueton bought U.C.L. back into the game, and through 200, which meant they'd pretty much won. Now, it was just a case of whether Exeter could reach the repechage. A slip-up didn't help, but then two starters in a row bought them within five, and two bonuses bought them on to the board. The final starter of the game saw Exeter lose five points again and fall onto the sidelines, and that was the gong; U.C.L. won 230-140.

A very pleasant match between two very pleasant teams. Well done to U.C.L., and best of luck in the next round! Bad luck to Exeter, who did very respectably, and are now on the repechage sidelines with L.S.E. on 140 each; which of the two will survive in the event of a tie is anyone's guess, both achieving their total via nine starters, and the number of starters needed is usually the breaker. We shall have to wait and see if such an adjudication is needed; it will be the first time in years if one is.

Andrew Brueton's great buzzer run saw him finish the night with seven starters, while Jeffrey Sage was best for Exeter with four. On the bonuses, U.C.L. converted a very good 24 out of 33, and Exeter a respectable 13 out of 27 (with three penalties).

Safely through to the repechage: Open (190)

Next week's match: Brasenose College Oxford vs Durham

As for Only Connect, who was on it tonight, but our old friend Filip Drnovsek Zorko! I won't spoil how well he and his colleagues did, but good to see our man on screen again!

Monday, 22 September 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 10: Trinity vs St Andrews

Evening all. Sorry for the slight delay this evening; something went wrong with my digibox half way through the show, so I've had to use the iPlayer instead, which will mean a shorter than usual review this week I'm afraid. I'll try to give as much detail as a I can though.

Trinity College Cambridge was founded during Henry VIII's reign following the merger of two 14th century institutions. Alumni include Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Byron and Sean Blanchflower, owner of the unofficial UC stat site and part of the team that won UC in 1995. They also won in 1974, and, of course, last year, under the watchful eye of our friend Filip Drnovsek Zorko, aka opaltiger. This year's quartet were:
Matthew Willetts, from London, studying Physics
Claire Hall, from Greenwich in London, studying Classics
Captain: Hugh Bennett, from London, studying Chemistry
Aled Walker, from Birmingham, studying Maths

St Andrews University is the oldest university in Scotland, founded in 1413. Alumni include Wills and Kate, Sir Chris Hoy, and some chap called Alex Salmond, whoever he is. It last sent a team to UC two series ago, where they lost a low scoring first round match to our old friends Bangor. Tonight's team had, pleasingly, come in their red gowns; they were:
Lewis Fairfax, from Cramlington in Northumberland, studying French and Russian
Will Kew, from Aboyne in Aberdeenshire, studying Chemistry
Captain: Jamie Perriam, from Edinburgh, studying English
James Adams, from Linlithgow, studying Physics

Off we set then; Trinity were first off the mark, but only took one bonus. St Andrews followed, but they took no bonuses, and then lost half their points due to a slip up. Trinity came back in, and again just took one bonus. The first picture round, on US cities and their major sporting teams, went to St Andrews, but they still trailed 30-20.

St Andrews then took two starters in a row, which was enough to bring them into the lead despite not getting much from the bonuses. They managed to eke slightly into the lead, but Trinity fought back, and, after getting two bonuses, took the lead back again. Neither side seemed to be doing very well on the bonuses at this stage, and starters were being dropped too, hence rather low scores.

The music round asked for the literary figure that inspired the artist to write the track played; neither side knew it was JG Ballard, and a guess of Philip Larkin from Trinity caused much laughter! Three starters were dropped before St Andrews took the bonuses, on more songs inspired by Ballard's work. They now led 65-50, but neither side really had much in the way of momentum at the moment, both sides generally getting no more than two bonuses per set.

The second picture round, on paintings by French artists from the late 19th century, went to Trinity, but no bonuses meant they still trailed 85-75. Now, though, the Cambridge side began a late sprint on the buzzer, and the bonuses finally fell for them, as they took a full set to break three figures. St Andrews got back into the game, and they too made it to three figures.

But when Matthew Willetts identified the tulip, that was probably game over. A slip up from St Andrews seemed to confirm this, and Trinity taking the starter did confirm it. At the gong, Trinity won 150-100.

A rather slow match throughout really. Bad luck to St Andrews, who did lead for a large part of the match, but well done to them anyway. Well done Trinity, but I feel they'll need to play better next time if they're going to make the QFs; we'll see how they fare.

Matthew Willetts was Trinity's best buzzer, with four starters, while Lewis Fairfax, likewise, got four for St Andrews. On the bonuses, Trinity converted 12 out of 25, and St Andrews 8 out of 21 (with two penalties). A low scoring week, and a large number of dropped starters didn't help matters.

Next week's match: U.C.L. vs Exeter

Only Connect continued on it's way tonight with a team of QI researchers or 'Elves' participating! For a good review of the match, may I recommend 'Cheaper than a Ferrari', a blog run by Stuart Hern who captained the Welsh Learners in the last series of OC.

Monday, 15 September 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 9: Leicester vs Open

Evening all. Been a tough day for me here, but I won't bore you with the details. The task for tonight's two teams was simple: win, or, failing that, lose with a high score; a score above 130 would push Sheffield off the repechage, currently topped by Manchester on 160.

Leicester University was founded in 1921 as a university college intended as a WW1 memorial, and became a university in 1957. Alumni include writers CP Snow and Malcolm Jennings. A team from the uni won the very first series of UC back in 1962; it last appeared in 2004-05, where they got as far as the second round. This year's quartet were:
John O'Doherty, from Portsmouth, studying Medicine
Adam Brown, from Solihull, studying Mechanical Engineering
Captain: Robert Greenhill, from Leicester, studying Humanities and Arts
Nadal al Masri, from Leicester, studying History

The Open University was the brainchild of Harold Wilson, who set to work organising it on assuming office in 1964, but it didn't start enrolling students until 1971. It now has around 250,000 students across Britain; alumni include Sheila Hancock and Lenny Henry. It hasn't been seen on UC since winning it in 1999, a feat it also achieved in 1984. Tonight's team were:
Danielle Gibney, from Amsterdam, studying Social Sciences
Stuart Taylor, from Stratford-upon-Avon, studying Development Managemant
Captain: Lynne Jones, from Bolton, studying Languages and History
Kate Law, from Sutherland in the Highlands, studying Engineering

Off we set then, and Open were first off the mark, and took two bonuses on coal. Leicester followed shortly afterwards, and also took two bonuses, a feat they repeated with the next starter and bonuses. The first picture round, on British lakes formed by glaciation, went to Open, and they, again, took two bonuses, which left the scores ties 40-all.

Leicester took the next starter, and went one better than the prior bonus sets, getting all three (two of which Mr Greenhill got on his own). The Midlanders now began to build up a head of steam on the buzzer, and began to pull away somewhat. They were helped by the fact that they generally seemed to be taking the bonuses as well, which is a sign of a good team.

The music starter saw Kate Law identify Rod Stewart, much to her embarrassment! The bonuses, on tracks by Scottish artists used in GTA games, saw Open take all three, which cut the gap to 130-65. Much work was still to be done, and they seemed to be doing it, as two starters in a row and a couple of bonuses bought them back into the game. But then Leicester regained the momentum, taking two starters and two full bonus sets to take them further away.

The second picture starter saw Robert Greenhill quickly identify the late Ted Heath, and then polish off the bonuses, on US presidents engaged in hobbies, with no help from his colleagues! His side now led by 205-95, but the way the bonuses were falling for both sides, that might not have been insurmountable. As if to prove that, Open took the next two starters, and two bonuses from both sets, which was sufficient to push Sheffield off the repechage.

But Open weren't going to stop there; two more starters fell to them, and those coupled with the resultant bonuses took them above Manchester's 160 and within 35 points. Adam Brown promptly bought Leicester back into the game, and a full set of bonuses confirmed that they probably couldn't be caught now. Open tried hard though, but just couldn't make up the ground. At the gong, Leicester won 245-190.

What a brilliant match; best of the series so far by a long way. Both teams were great, and both totally deserve to come back. Bad luck to Open, but they were brilliant, and will most definitely be back in the repechage. Well done to Leicester, and best of luck next time! They could be a team to watch, methinks.

Robert Greenhill was the night's best buzzer, with four starters, while Lynne Jones and Kate Law were joint best for Open with three each. On the bonuses, Leicester converted an absolutely tremendous 27 out of 31, and Open a very respectable 19 out of 30 (with one late penalty). A great pair of showings there; both show great promise for the later stages.

Next week's match: Trinity College Cambridge vs St Andrews

Only Connect continued on its way on BBC2, with a team of Gilbert and Sullivan fanatics meeting a team of Doctor Who fanatics (sadly, they were not called the 'Whovians').

Monday, 8 September 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 8: Bath vs Glasgow

Evening all. So, we're half way through the first round heats, and seven teams are safe. The repechage board is also full, with Manchester at the top on 160, and last week's runners-up, Sheffield, bottom on 130. A losing score today above that would remove them; a tying of it would put both on the sidelines, as William G. Stewart would say.

Bath University was originally a trade school in Bristol, and moved to Bath in 1963, becoming a plate-glass university shortly afterwards. Alumni include weatherman Bill Giles and ex Sainsbury's boss Justin King. Its UC teams have not fared well in recent years, sending either decent teams who get drawn against really good teams (2008-09 and 2011-12), or rather average teams (2012-13 and last year). Hoping for a good showing tonight were:
Phil Herbert, from Harrogate, studying Computer Science and Maths
Scott Kemp, from Hertford, studying Maths
Captain: Miles Thomas, from London, studying Maths
Henry Rackley, from Cirencester in Gloucestershire, studying Chemistry

Glasgow University is the second oldest in Scotland, after St Andrews, founded in 1451. Alumni include economist Adam Smith, TV inventor John Logie Baird and Lib Dem MPs Vince Cable, Sir Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy. It last sent a team to UC way back in 2004-05, where they lost a low scoring first round match to local rivals Edinburgh. This year's quartet were:
Jonathan Gillan, from Inverness, studying Classics
Christina McGuire, from Glasgow, studying Chemistry
Captain: Daniel Hill, from Cupar in Fife, studying Archaeology and History
Erin White, from Edinburgh, studying Genetics

Incidentally, I wonder if Scottish unis will still be allowed to enter UC if there's a Yes vote next week.

Off we set again then, and Glasgow struck first, with Miss McGuire getting the first two starters, and only one bonus was wrongly answered from those six. The Scots maintained their buzzer advantage throughout the early stages, and after the first picture round, on album listings with the title track removed, they led 75-0.

Bath needed to get a move on, but all they could respond with was a slip-up. They soon made up for it through, getting their first starter, only to losing a third of their score to another slip-up. Glasgow recovered and reclaimed their advantage, moving further ahead. Bath got a second starter, and took two bonuses, unluckily missing the third.

The music round, on trios of songs whose performers are linked by places in the States, went to Glasgow; in all three cases, they got the answer from the first track, but chose to wait and hear all three first! Their lead now stood at 120-30. Another starter followed, taking the lead to 100 points; no bonuses followed, but that didn't really matter at that moment. Bath got back into the game with the next starter, but no bonuses from a rather tricky set followed.

The second picture round, on depictions of WW1 world leaders, went to Glasgow, and their lead grew to 165-40. It looked like game over as a contest, meaning Bath were playing for pride. A suggestion that Ben Nevis is in Yorkshire got them nowhere, but Miles Thomas then began a run on the buzzer which saw him get three starters in a row, which lifted the side into three figures, and within touching distance of the repechage.

Glasgow recovered back into the game, and took all three bonuses, which only served to confirm their victory. Most of the remaining starters went to Bath, but they couldn't quite acquire the points to push Sheffield off the repechage. At the gong, Glasgow won 190-120.

Well done Glasgow on a reasonably good first showing, and best of luck to them for next time. Bad luck to Bath, who recovered well late on, but just couldn't quite make up the required scores; well done to them on a fair showing anyway.

Miles Thomas' impressive late run saw him emerge the night's best buzzer, with five starters (all of them achieved in the final quarter), while Daniel Hill was best for Glasgow with four; all eight players got at least one starter correct, which is good. On the bonuses, Bath converted a respectable 10 out of 23 (with two penalties) and Glasgow a rather good 18 out of 30.

Next week's match: Leicester vs the Open University

As for Only Connect, in its second week on BBC2, it also saw a previously defeated side from a previous series reappear for a second time for the first time, something I'd always presumed was not allowed. Maybe they were short on teams for the expanded format.

Monday, 1 September 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 7: Liverpool vs Sheffield

Evening all. Rather tiring day for me, as I have begun a year long internship at Aberdeen University, where I'll be working for the coming term. As I'm technically staff rather than student, I won't be trying to put a UC team together I'm afraid, but I may see if I can drum up interest somehow. Anyway, on with tonight's show.

Liverpool University was founded in 1881 as a university college; the building material used in its construction gave rise to the term 'red brick university'. Alumni include Lytton Strachey and Nick Grimshaw. The uni sent a side last year, who trounced Keele in the first round, but couldn't maintain enough of that form for Round 2, where they surprisingly lost to Cardiff. This year's quartet were:
Ben Mawdsley, from Southport, studying Astrophysics
Jim Davis, from Gullane near Edinburgh, studying Tropical Disease Biology
Captain: Dachman Crew, from Liverpool, studying Biochemistry
Hugh Hiscock, from Southampton, studying French

Sheffield University was also founded as a university college, in 1897, and became a university in 1905. Alumni include Hilary Mantel, Eddie Izzard, David Blunkett MP and my uncle Tom. It last sent a team back in 2010-11, which included LAM readers Andy Bolton, Tristam Cole and Hugh 'HughTube' Bennett; they reached the semis before surprisingly losing to York. This year's team were:
Andrew Trueman, from Hartlepool, studying Medicine
Nathaniel Aspray, from Basingstoke, studying Medicine
Captain: Jonathan Cunliffe, from Solihull, studying Medicine
Claire Greenwood, from Bedford, studying Medicine

Paxo helpfully informed us that Mr Cunliffe was Mr Aspray's best man at his wedding!

Off we set again then, and it was Mr Hiscock who struck first, and his side took two of the resultant bonuses. Sheffield followed shortly afterwards, but they could only manage one of theirs. Liverpool seemed to do better in the early stages; after the first picture round, on tournament trees of Wimbledon singles tournaments, the Merseysiders led 50-15.

Sheffield fought back with the next starter, but only got one bonus on cricket, which Mr Cunliffe admitted to knowing little about! Liverpool were soon back in command though, and took a full set of bonuses on relative sizes of EU nations through, what may have been, a series of guesses. They were definitely guessing on a later set on holograms; when asked for a Russian physicist, they could only come up with 'Vladimir Putin'!

The music round, on classical pieces featured in the Die Hard film trilogy, went to Liverpool, and their lead now stood at 120-30. Sheffield needed to get moving again, and did so with a question on their home subject of medicine; one bonus on HTML colours followed. But Liverpool weren't going to let them back in, and took two on a set of bonuses on paradoxes, including the amusingly named 'Trigger's broom' paradox!

The second picture round, on musicians portrayed in films, went to Sheffield, but they couldn't convert any of the bonuses, which meant their deficit now stood at 140-55. Now, though, the Steelmen began to build up a head of steam on the buzzer, and began to eat away into the deficit. Though they didn't seem to be converting many bonuses, the starters alone were enough to pull them back within touching distance.

With just minutes to play, Sheffield had broken 100 and cut the gap to just 20, and an unlikely come-from-behind win looked possible. But Jim Davis thought otherwise, and took another starter to give Liverpool more breathing space. Just one bonus followed, but when the next starter was dropped, it looked like it would do. Sheffield managed the final starter, but couldn't go any further; at the gong, Liverpool won 155-130.

A match that moved slowly most of the way through, then picked up late on. Bad luck to Sheffield, whose score will probably not be enough for the repechage, but we shall wait and see; a fair performance nonetheless. Well done to Liverpool, but they may need to up their game next time; best of luck to them for that next time.

Hugh Hiscock was the best buzzer of the night, getting six starters for Liverpool, while Messrs Trueman and Aspray got three each for Sheffield. On the bonuses, Liverpool converted 13 out of 27, and Sheffield just 8 out of 25, which is what lost them the game. There were no penalties again though, which is good.

Next week's match: Bath vs Glasgow

Also tonight, Only Connect began its much anticipated BBC2 run. Didn't see a great deal of the match, but it will be interesting to see how the UC QF system, apparently still being used, will work with double the amount of shows.