Monday, 27 October 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Repechage Play-Off 1: Open vs L.S.E.

Evening all. The play-offs begin tonight, as we start seeing teams again. Before that, though, a quick mention of the 'unfair' penalties levied on Pembroke last week, with Weaver's Week openly blaming them for Pembroke losing so heavily. I'll address that myself later; on with the show.

The Open University lost a great first round match to Leicester 245-190, the highest losing score of the first round. This made them firm favourites whoever they faced in these play-offs. They remained:
Danielle Gibney, from Amsterdam, studying Social Sciences
Stuart Taylor, from Stratford-upon-Avon, studying Development Management
Captain: Lynne Jones, from Bolton, studying Languages and History
Kate Law, from Sutherland in the Highlands, studying Engineering

The London School of Economics lost their first match against the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine by just ten points, 150-140. Exeter also scored 140, but it's L.S.E. who come back; Simon Joyce(?) from the Oxford Brookes team claims this is due to them answering a larger percentage of overall starters. The returning L.S.E. team were also the same as before:
Peter Sims, from Edmonton in Canada, studying Economic History
Jeffrey Mo, from Calgary in Canada, studying Econometrics and Mathematical Economics
Captain: Jimmy Chen, from Colchester, studying Government and History
Pedro Franco de Campos Pinto, from Brazil, studying Economics

Off we set again then, with what Paxo called an interesting competition. Mr Pinto was first to strike for L.S.E., but they took no bonuses. Open bit back, and took two from their first set. The sides remained close together in the first phase; after the first picture round, on international Hay-on-Wye festival branch locations, L.S.E. led 50-40.

Open slipped up on the next starter, but L.S.E. failed to take advantage. This allowed the opposition to tie the scores with the next starter, and then reclaim the lead with another starter and a full set of bonuses. A second starter and full bonus set, and Open had opened up a sizeable lead, and L.S.E. needed to get a move on if they were going to catch up.

The music round, on classical pieces associated with bad weather, went to Open, but just one bonus followed this time; they still led 115-50. L.S.E. were soon back in the game though, and took two starters in a row to eat into the gap, missing just one of the six bonuses. Open fought back with the next starter, but took no bonuses this time.

The second picture round saw Mr Taylor get a telling off from Paxo for pausing after buzzing; the bonuses, on athletes with the highest amount of golds, allowed his side to up their lead to 145-95. Still a closeable gap, but when Open took the next starter, their lead was starting to look match winning. L.S.E. took the next starter, which just about kept things in doubt, and took one bonus as well.

L.S.E. now began something of a late sprint, and took another starter to bring the gap to 35. But when Ms Gibney took the next starter, that looked like it would see her team home safely. L.S.E. managed to tie their score from their heat, but took no bonuses. At the gong, Open won 180-140.

A very pleasant match between two very pleasant teams; kudos to L.S.E. for applauding their opponents at the start, at the gong, and during the credits. Paxo was correct in saying they can hold their heads high after two good showings. Well done to Open though, and best of luck in the second round!

Danielle Gibney was best for Open with four starters, which equals Jimmy Chen's best starter total for L.S.E.. On the bonuses, Open converted a decent 17 out of 30 (with one penalty), while L.S.E. managed a respectable 12 out of 24.

Next week's match: Manchester vs Sussex in the second play-off

Only Connect began eliminating teams tonight; won't say anything, except look out for a slightly dubious allowance in the missing vowels round!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: First Round Review and Look Forward to the Next Stage

So, we've made it to the end of the first round, finally. Been a topsy-turvy series so far, with some good matches, and a handful of average ones.

So, here are the fourteen teams safely through, along with their score and margin of victory, and in order of qualification:
  • Selwyn College Cambridge (190, 30)
  • Oxford Brookes (130, 10)
  • Bristol (190, 115)
  • Gonville & Caius College Cambridge (305, 200)
  • St Peter's College Oxford (205, 55)
  • London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (150, 10)
  • Liverpool (155, 25)
  • Glasgow (190, 70)
  • Leicester (245, 55)
  • Trinity College Cambridge (150, 50)
  • University College London (230, 90)
  • Durham (250, 215)
  • York (170, 35)
  • Magdalen College Oxford (220, 110)
So, those are the raw figures. Now, time to analyse.

Well, Caius have the highest score of the lot and won by the second biggest margin; Durham have the second highest score and the biggest victory. Leicester and U.C.L. have the next highest, and achieved their scores against much stronger teams. Its been said before that scoring high is all well and good, but if your opponents haven't been that strong, it might not have been entirely down to you.

Therefore, I would probably tip Caius, Leicester and U.C.L. to progress to the QFs, provided they avoid each other. Durham, we'll have to see play against a stronger team before we draw conclusions on their abilities.

The two Oxford teams, Magdalen and St Peter's, could also be favourites to progress; Magdalen probably more so, given that St Peter's won the game largely due to Mr Trueblood's exceptional buzzer showing, and if he has an off-day, the others may not be able to carry themselves through.

The rest of the teams mostly scored between 200 and 150, with various margins of victory. Most of them won by half narrow margins, suggesting equal ability with the opposition. Selwyn, Glasgow and York probably stand out, having achieved their scores against reasonable teams, one of whom made the repechage, and the other two of whom came close to doing so. L.S.H.T.M. could maybe fall in as well, but maybe less so.

On the other hand, first round form has proved a very poor guide to how well a team is going to perform in the later stages in recent years. Take last year: Manchester started averagely, and went on to be one of the best teams of the series and nearly beat the eventual champs, twice! And who'd have thought after watching Queen's play their first match that A: they'd reach the QFs, and B: they'd nearly beat SOAS?

Therefore, the lower scoring teams (Oxford Brookes, Trinity et al) could well pick up their game in the second round; we shall see.

One can never know these things with UC; it's a very unpredictable show. Sometimes it's just a question of which questions you get; a team who struggled with the questions in their heat may have flourished if given those in one of the other heats.

Now, lets move on to the fascinating prospects of the repechage; the teams (potentially) involved are:
  • Open (190, 55)
  • Manchester (160, 30)
  • Sussex (150, 55)
  • Exeter (140, 90) or L.S.E. (140, 10)
So, we don't know which of the last two are still in the game, yet. One of the Oxford Brookes team commented on my write-up of last night's show that the number of starters asked is being taken into account, so L.S.E. would be back based on that. But Exeter achieved their score against a better team, and converted more bonuses, but incurred penalties, which L.S.E. didn't. We shall just have to wait and see.

My guess is that Open will play whoever gets the place, while Manchester will play Sussex. I would tip Open and Manchester to win the matches, Open based on their exceptional showing against one of the strongest teams of the first round, and Manchester on their past tendency to start poorly/averagely, and then hit their stride in their second match.

But these are just thoughts based on rough stats, estimations and past form thoughts, none of which will have any bearing on what is actually to come. All we can hope for is another fine set of second round matches.

I may chose to make a second review post looking at the teams this year, and answer some questions on the diversity of the teams this year and in past years. Shall see if I can find the time.

Monday, 20 October 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 14: Magdalen vs Pembroke

Evening all; you join me from Ayrshire for the final first round match of the series, and a much anticipated match as well. The task for tonight's teams: win, or lose with a score of 145 or more to push Exeter and L.S.E. off the repechage, and put to bed the prospect of a near impossible tie-break for the final place.

Magdalen College Oxford has won more UC grand finals than any other institution (wording deliberate o exclude Manchester's default win); it was founded in 1458, and alumni include ministers George Osbourne and Jeremy Hunt and their former colleague William Hague. It last sent a team two series ago, who went out to Manchester in the second round. This year's quartet were:
Harry Gillow, from Stone in Staffordshire, studying Classics
Chris Savory, from Burgess Hill in West Sussex, studying Chemistry
Captain: Hugh Binnie, from Cheltenham, studying Chemistry
Cameron J. Quinn, from Los Angeles, studying Philosophy and French

Pembroke College Cambridge was founded in 1347, and is the only Cambridge college still on its original site. Alumni include William Pitt the Younger and poet Ted Hughes. This is the fourth series in a row the college has sent a team, the 2011-12 coming second overall; last year's team lost to Somerville College Oxford in the first round, and just fell short of the repechage. Hoping to do better tonight were:
Tom McGee, from Kent, studying Arabic and Spanish
Theodore Hill, from High Wycombe, studying Classics
Captain: James Hutt, from Bedfordshire, studying Chemistry
Mark Hammond, from Farnham in Surrey, studying Physics

Off we set again then, and Magdalen struck first, taking the first two starters, and two bonuses from each set. The third starter went to them too, before Pembroke got off the mark, and took all three bonuses from their first set. They also took the first picture round, on places in Britain whose names have been given new definitions by John Lloyd and the late great Douglas Adams; this reduced Magdalen's lead to 50-45.

Pembroke took the lead with the next starter, and took two bonuses to go into the lead. Another starter went to the Cambridge side, and they looked to be pulling away. A slip-up allowed Magdalen to sneak back into the match, and they took a full set of bonuses to level the score. The way things were going so far, a good match looked on the cards.

The music round, on bands whose early success is owed to John Peel, went to Magdalen, and allowed them to open up a lead of 95-75. Pembroke fought back, and took two bonuses to level the scores again. A nip and tuck then ensued, as the sides swapped starters and the lead, and both began to eke towards the required repechage score.

The second picture round, on cartoons from Vanity Fair, went to Magdalen after the starter was dropped, and Pembroke rather harshly lost five for interrupting incorrectly just as Paxo was finishing the question. The Oxford side now led by 145-110. Pembroke took the next starter, but no bonuses went with it. The next starter was dropped, and, again, Pembroke lost five for interrupting on the final word of the question. The next starter went to Magdalen, but just the one bonus followed.

Now, though, the Oxonians began a late sprint, and began to pull away on the buzzer, and the bonuses began to fall for them. Pembroke couldn't break back through, only managing to lose five on a slip-up. At the gong, Magdalen won by 220-110.

A match that was a lot closer than that final score would have you believe. Well done Magdalen on a good first showing, and best of luck next time. Bad luck Pembroke, who, as Paxo said, were better than their final total suggests, and would probably have won against some of the winning teams we've seen this series, but well done to them anyway on a respectable effort.

Hugh Binnie was the night's best buzzer, getting six starters, while Tom McGee was narrowly Pembroke's best with four. On the bonuses, Magdalen converted a respectable 21 out of 36 (with one penalty), and Pembroke an also respectable 12 out of 21 (with four penalties, two of them rather harsh).

So, the four repechage teams are: Open (190), Manchester (160), Sussex (150) and either Exeter or L.S.E. (140). Paxo didn't say which, so we shall have to wait and see who turns up.

No word on who's playing in the first play-off next week, but my guess is it'll be Open and whichever of the two 140 teams, followed by Manchester vs Sussex the week after.

I will, of course, be publishing a review of the first round and look forward to the next stage later this week.

Only Connect reached the end of its first phase tonight; next week, we shall start seeing teams again there as well.

Monday, 13 October 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 13: Corpus Christi vs York

Evening all, as I seem to be starting my reviews with every week. Only two more first round matches to go; for tonight's losers, a score of 145 or 150 would put them on the repechage board, while 155 or more would mean a definite return. As would winning, of course.

Corpus Christi College Cambridge was founded in 1352 with the aim of training new priests to replace those who died during the Black Death. Alumni include Christopher Marlowe and Hugh Bonneville. It hasn't been seen on UC since losing a low scoing first round match back in 2003-04, but their Oxford namesakes have been champs twice since then, even if they were disqualified one of those times. Hoping to do as well as them tonight were:
Ram Sarujan Rajkumar, from London, studying Maths and Management
Jessica Stewart, from Cambridge, studying Arabic and Russian
Captain: Sam Sharma, from Gloucestershire, studying Classics
Caroline Purvis, from Southend-on-Sea, studying Physical Natural Sciences

York University was originally an idea of James I/VI, but wasn't actually founded until 1963 as a 'plate-glass' uni. Alumni include Harry Enfield and Harriet Harman MP, and Paxo made sure to give us our annual update on the famous ducks! The uni hasn't missed UC for some years now; last year's team trounced Bath in Round 1, but came unstuck against Somerville in Round 2. This year's quartet were:
Jack Alexander, from Hertford, studying Maths
Adam Koper, from Pwllheli in North Wales, studying Physics
Captain: Alistair Middleton, from Penrith in Cumbria, studying Maths
Joe Crowther, from Churchdown in Gloucestershire, studying Maths and Philosophy

Off we set again then (again, as I say every week), and York were the first to get going, taking the first two starters, and two bonuses from both sets. Corpus Christi got going on the third starter, and took their time with the bonuses, taking one. They also took the first picture round, on Italian football teams and their cities, which reduced York's lead to 40-35.

It was soon on the up again though, with Alistair Middleton taking the next starter. The Northeners then surrendered five points on a slip-up, and Corpus Christi responded by taking the next starter, and took all three bonuses to give them a narrow lead. But back came York, who tied the score, and then reclaimed the lead they had only briefly lost with the bonuses.

The music round, on pop songs associated with the US civil rights movement, went to Corpus Christi, and they took back the lead 80-65. They then lost five after Miss Stewart buzzed in by mistake, and lost five as a result! Bit harsh, but fair. York took back the initiative, and took two starters in a row, and two bonuses from both sets. A third starter went to York, but no bonuses came this time; despite this, they did seem to be building up a head of steam.

The second picture round, on statues of figures on horseback, went to York, and they had opened up a lead of 135-75. A potential match winning score, so Corpus Christi had to fight back quickly. They did so, taking two starters in a row, and four of the resultant six bonuses bought them back into touching distance. York then surrendered five on a slip-up, and the gap was down to 15.

But then York took the next starter, and two bonuses gave them more breathing space. And when the Northeners took the next starter too, that looked like game over. But could Corpus Christi sneak onto the repechage board? They tried, taking the next starter, and two bonuses put them within one starter of doing so. They buzzed on the final starter, but didn't get the right answer, and that was the gong; York won the game 170-135.

A middle-of-the-road sort of game overall. Bad luck to Corpus Christi, who just fell short of the repechage board, but a fair showing nonetheless. Well done to York on a reasonable first showing, and we shall see how they fare in the next round.

Alistair Middleton was the night's best buzzer, getting a good six starters for York, while Ram Sarujan Rajkumar was best for Corpus Christi with three. On the bonuses, Corpus Christi converted a decent 14 out of 21 (with one penalty), and York 16 out of 30 (with two penalties), which is an OK rate, but one that may need to improve next time.

Safely through to the repechage: Open (190), Manchester (160), Sussex (150)

Next week's match: Magdalen College Oxford vs Pembroke College Cambridge

More Only Connect returnees tonight, and good to see Sean Blanchflower, owner of the unofficial UC stats site, on the show too.

Monday, 6 October 2014

University Challenge 2014-15: Round 1: Match 12: Brasenose vs Durham

Evening all. The first round is nearly over now; just two more matches after tonight's. A losing score tonight of 165 or more would give the losers a definite place in the play-offs.

Brasenose College Oxford is thought to take it's name from a brass door knocker, and is based on the site of the medieval Brasenose Hall. Alumni include Michael Palin and David Cameron. It sent a team to UC last year, who lost their first match to Manchester. This year's team were:
Louise Naude, from Manchester, studying French and Italian
Gwen Cartwright, from Cardiff, studying Medicine
Captain: Rosie Thomas, from Loughborough, studying PPE
Russell Black, from Droitwich in Worcestershire, studying History and Economics

Durham University was founded in 1832, and is considered the third oldest university in England. It's college provide accommodation rather than teaching, so just one Durham team enter every year. Alumni include George Alagiah, Gabby Logan, Jeremy Vine and Andrew Strauss. Last year's Durham team lost to Queens' College Cambridge in the first round, but survived to the repechage, where they lost to Christ Church Oxford. This year's quartet were:
Daniel Morgan-Thomas, from East London, studying History and Classics
Freddie Lloyd, from Penshurst in Kent, studying Philosophy
Captain: Fred Harvey, from Bridlington in East Yorkshire, studying Physics
Nikul Boyd-Shah, from Bournemouth, studying Law

Off we set again then, as I seem to be saying every week, and Nikul Boyd-Shah was first to the buzzer, and claimed the first starter for Durham. Messrs Harvey and Morgan-Thomas did likewise for the next two, but the side only took one bonus from each set. The first picture round, on timelines depicting political parties in power in specific countries, went to Durham, and their lead stood at 65-0.

That lead got bigger when the Northerners took the next starter, and all three bonuses. Brasenose finally got off the mark courtesy of Miss Naude calling Paxo a 'b-word'! (It made sense in context!) The side took one of their bonuses, only to surrender five points to a slip-up. The starter was dropped, as was the next one. An amusing moment came when Miss Cartwright buzzed on the next starter, and the camera started moving towards Miss Thomas instead, and had to swerve and correct itself! All she did, however, was lose another five points, and allow Durham to forge ahead.

The music round, on arias performed by the late great Pavarotti, went to Durham, and they had opened up a lead of 125-5. And their lead was just getting bigger by the minute, as they were getting the starters, and Brasenose just weren't. Miss Cartwright accidentally buzzed pre-question, and got told off by Paxo! Even though Durham's bonus rate wasn't all that good, their superior buzzer work meant it didn't really matter.

The second picture round, on statues in railway stations, went to Durham, and their lead stood at 195-5. It looked all over, and now it was just a question of how much more both teams could score, for different reasons. Brasenose just weren't able to get in on the starters, and Durham were, and their variable bonus rate made no difference. With just minutes to go, you began to fear Brasenose would be in the history books for all the wrong reasons, remaining stuck of 5.

Thankfully, Russell Black managed two late starters, and the side took two bonuses from the two sets. Durham picked up the final starter of the game, but couldn't get anything from the bonuses there were time for. At the gong, Durham won 250-35.

Paxo asked Brasenose what happened to them! They couldn't get in on the starters, that's what happened. Bad luck to them, but they took their defeat well enough, and must be half decent to have got on the show in the first place, so good for them. Well done to Durham though, and best of luck next time! I have a feeling they may not have it so easy next time.

Daniel Morgan-Thomas was the night's best buzzer, getting seven starters for Durham, while Russell Black's late two were Brasenose's best. On the bonuses, the Oxonians converted 3 out of 9 (with two penalties), while Durham converted 20 out of 43, which isn't too bad, but does suggest they won the match on the buzzer. We shall see how they fare against a stronger team on the buzzer.

Safely through to the repechage: Open (190), Manchester (160)

Next week's match: Corpus Christi College Cambridge vs York

Only Connect saw the Chessmen, who finished third back in Series 2, return for a second go. Again, no spoilers, but keep watching until the end is as far as I'm prepared to spoil.