Wednesday, 27 July 2016

University Challenge and the Press

OK, before I get to what I was planning to say here, a word or two about some of the nonsense that has popped up following Monday's show.

As you'll remember from Monday's show, Warwick's win was down mostly to the buzzer work of Sophie Rudd, who answered an impressive nine starters correct. An impressive performance, one of the best for sometime; last series, only Calum Bungey managed to answer as many as that in a single match.

However, unfortunately, some people on Twitter dismissed her good work because, SHOCK HORROR, she's a girl!

Of course, these people have been quickly shouted down, with numerous tweeters, including someone pretending to be Peter Mannion from The Thick of It, defending her, saying it doesn't matter whether she's a girl, a transwoman, or anything else. What matters is she's clearly intelligent and a good player of the game. And surely that's the whole point of UC.

It does prove something else, though. Immediately, I was expecting the papers to have stories about Miss Rudd and those attacks the next day, and I was not disappointed. This joins Vestgate and the 'dumbing down' stories that have popped up recently, as the latest in the non-stories the press pick up in a desperate attempt to get people to read their articles.

And that brings us to the story I was planning to talk about here originally: THAT disqualification. If you're somehow unfamiliar with what I'm on about, here's a potted version of the story from a presentation about UC I did for my employment course at the University of Aberdeen two years ago:
  • "In 2008-09, Corpus Christi College Oxford won the series. However, a few days after the final went out, one newspaper published a story claiming one of their team had left before the final rounds were filmed. Normally, something like this would have blown over quickly, but this was soon after Ross-Brand-Sachsgate, and the BBC wanted to act quickly to avoid another 'scandal'. So the team were retrospectively disqualified and the runners-up, Manchester, were reawarded the title."
(If I ever find the full presentation, I will put it on here)

Naturally, this has divided aficionados to this day. WW, of course, refuse to acknowledge the disqualification, saying the 'rule' (that final year students must stay on as postgrads) was unfair, and noting two previous occasions where Oxford winning team members had moved elsewhere prior to the final rounds, and the BBC had told them it was OK. Of course, Sam Kay, the member in question, had intended to stay at the college as a postgrad, but couldn't afford to, so he left.

I, personally, said what I really think of this last week, when I described what happened as:
  • "a 'scandal' that would have quickly blown over had it happened any year prior to that"
That's pretty much what I think: no deliberate rule-breaking was intended, and these prior examples show that the BBC themselves clearly didn't think it a problem. But the press did, and after all the coverage the final had gotten that year, they couldn't let a story like this not get published. After all, it'd sell.

A couple of weeks ago, WW claimed that final was the moment UC became the show became the cultural hit it is nowadays. The years beforehand, it was nothing more than a niche quiz that went out in the background to a decent and loyal audience. Hence why nothing was made of these previous examples. (I personally think Guttenplan-mania the following year was what mostly inspired UC into the public's full attention)

It was a highly unfortunate incident caused by it simply happening at the wrong time. But then, had it not happened, chances are, the show would still be being recorded over two gaps in two separate terms, and some winning team would have be disqualified some time down the line. So, if it was going to happen, it's probably best that it happened before the show properly became a banker, rather than some years later when it had been so for some time. After all, the press would have kicked up a much bigger fuss about it then.

Can we blame the press for it happening? Possibly, yes. But then, the press will kick up a fuss about anything. I mean, someone wearing a vest on UC? Unusual, but surely not big enough to deserve that much coverage.

These things are just going to keep happening, and we neutral commentators should just take them with a salt pinch, and carry on providing accurate, impartial, professional accounts of UC that won't offend anyone and not turn any small thing into an online 'meme'.

I'll be back with my usual UC review on Monday. See yous then then.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Group A Round 1: Match 3: Psmiths vs Verbivores

Yesterday was Countdown night on Quizzy Mondays! After Mr Hutchings' appearance on UC, we had (at least) three Countdown alumni on OC too. Playing were the Psmiths, Mark Smith, Nick Holland (beaten by Mr Hutchings in 2013) and captain Nick Reed, and the Verbivores, Phyl Styles, Tom Cappleman (UC alumnus and blog reader who won Countdown last year) and captain Graeme Cole (champion of Jeff Stelling's final series in charge).

Round 1. The Verbivores went first and kicked off proceedings with Horned Viper: 'Georgia: Canada', then 'Sunda: Indonesia', then 'Bass: Australia', and finally 'Cook: New Zealand'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: they are straits that separate islands in the countries. For their own first question, the Psmiths chose Two Reeds: 'John Bruton (Taoiseach)', then 'Urban VII (Pope)'; this was enough for them to identify that they are the shortest servers of the roles in brackets for three points. The Verbivores chose Eye of Horus next, and got the music question: we heard Independent Woman Part I by Destiny's Child, then Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror, then Bob Dylan's The Times They Are a-Changin', and finally News of the World by the Jam, or, as most no doubt know it, the theme to Mock the Week. They didn't get it, but their opponents spotted them to all have newspapers in their titles for a bonus. For their own question, the Psmiths chose Twisted Flax: 'William Lilly (1644-1681)', then 'Information Please / TIME (1947-2013), then 'Francis Moore (1697-), and finally 'Whitaker (1868-)'. The final clue gave it to them: they are almanacs and the years they ran for. The Verbivores chose Water next and got the picture set: we saw Nicole Kidman with '1967', then Bette Midler with '1945', then Bruno Mars with '1985', and finally President Obama with '1961'. They guessed the years to be when they were born, and a complete guess of them all being born in Hawaii earned them their first point of the game. Left with Lion, the Psmiths saw 'UK road safety', then 'Multinational sweetened and flavoured milk', then 'American soft-porn empire', and finally 'Durable-cell batteries'. They had it at the third clue, but took the final one to be sure: they are all promoted by rabbits (the Tufty Club, Nesquik, Playboy and Energizer, not Duracell like they said). At the end of the first round, the Psmiths led 7-1.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Verbivores kicked off the round with Eye of Horus and the picture set: we saw the Windows logo, then a map of Canada with Nova Scotia highlighted, and then an OS logo; they correctly spotted them to be 'MS', 'NS' and 'OS', and offered a post script to a letter (a PS) for two points. The Psmiths chose Two Reeds next: 'Nick & Peter', then 'Nicola', and then 'Ed'. This time, they didn't know it, but their opponents did: it's the forenames of the leaders of the largest parties in parliament after last year's election (Nick Clegg & Peter Robinson, Nicola Sturgeon, Ed Miliband), so 'David' completes the set. For their own question, the Verbivores chose Water: 'Emmy', then 'Grammy', and they promptly offered 'Tony' for three points, the link being the EGOT awards. The Psmiths chose Lion next: 'Once: (e.g.) Ian Rush', then 'Twice: (e.g.) Thierry Henry', and then 'Thrice: Lionel Messi'. They offered 'Four times: Cristiano Ronaldo', and were correct, the sequence being the numbers of times the players have won the Soulier d'Or. For their first choice, the Verbivores chose Twisted Flax: '1921-22: Secretary of State for the Colonies', then '1924-29: Chancellor of the Exchequer', and then '1939-40: First Lord of the Admiralty'. They spotted it to be cabinet posts held by Sir Winston Churchill, and offered '1940-45: Prime Minister' for two points. Left with Horned Viper, the Psmiths saw 'Elder daughter improvises music', then 'Mother and younger daughter visit supermarket', and then 'Father leaves power plant'. I had it at the second clue, the third gave it to them: it's the Simpsons opening sequence in reverse, so 'Son writes lines at school' completes the set. At the end of the second round, the Psmiths led 11-9.

On to the Walls. The Psmiths went first this time, and chose the Water wall. They quickly spotted a link of foreign secretaries, and eventually isolated 'Major', 'Hammond', 'Cook' and 'Straw'. They then spotted Premier League training grounds, and quickly slotted in 'Carrington', 'Cobham', 'Chadwell Heath' and 'Melwood'. They looked over the remaining clues, and worked out the sets and the links: 'Malta', 'Motorway', 'Mach' and '1,000' are all represented by an M, while 'Post', 'Hurrah', 'Minute', and 'Word' can all follow 'Last'. A well resolved full ten points.

The Verbivores were thus in desperate need of equaling that at they tackled the Lion wall. They spotted some links straight away, but couldn't isolate anything. Eventually, they solved 'Decree', 'Junta', 'Janitor' and 'Octopus', which all begin with abbreviated months (Dec, Jun, Jan, Oct). They tried to work out the rest, but couldn't and ran out of time, and had to be content with bonus connection points: 'Carson', 'Jennings', 'Lurch; and 'Hudson' are fictional butlers, which they didn't get, 'False', 'Bantry', 'Ha Long' and 'Guantanamo' are bays, which they did, while 'Attica', 'Rikers', 'San Quentin' and 'Marion' are US prisons, which they also got. Four points there left them trailing 21-13 going into the final round.

So, the Verbivores would need to run the show from here on in to win. 'Things that are good', such as 'GOOD FRIDAY', gave the Verbivores a much-needed 4-0. 'Things that are great'(!), such as 'GREAT YARMOUTH', went to the Psmiths 3-1. 'Boxes' went to the Verbivores 2-0, with the Psmiths getting one right but one wrong. 'Countries with five syllables' went to the Verbivores 2-0, with just two clues, and that was that. The Psmiths had sneaked home 24-22.

An excellent match between two decent teams. Unlucky Verbivores, who so nearly pulled it off at the end, but a great effort and, if I understand the rules, you'll definitely be coming back as a high-scoring losing team, so best of luck for then. Well done to the Psmiths, though, and best of luck to yous next time too!

Next week's match: Networkers vs Cousins

Monday, 25 July 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 1: Match 3: Liverpool vs Warwick

Evening all. After last week's show, and WW's reaction to it, I've realised I've never really expressed my thoughts on that disqualification, so I'll maybe do that later in the week. On with tonight's show, and two teams with a lot to live up to.

Liverpool University was founded in 1903, and is thought to have originated the term 'redbrick' (which the team had signified by bringing a brick as their mascot!). Alumni include poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Reading legend Steve Coppell and TV man Phil Redmond. Lest we forget, they reached the semis last series, equaling the uni's best performance under Paxo. This year's foursome were:
Nick Kurek, from Shrewsbury, studying Microbiology
Guy Nicholls, from Cambridgeshire, studying Egyptology
Captain: Gethin Hopkin, from Somerset, studying Medicine
Pauline Rowe, from Widnes, studying Creative Writing

Warwick University is a plate-glass uni founded in 1965, and is named after the historic county of Warwickshire, not its actual location of Coventry. Alumni include comedy writer Stephen Merchant, drive time man Simon Mayo and Room 101 keeper Frank Skinner. Its team were unlucky to lose to Nuffield in the second round last year; its finest UC hour was undoubtedly when it won it in 2006-07. This year's quartet were:
Sophie Hobbs, from Birmingham, studying French and History
Sophie Rudd, from Immingham in Lincolnshire, studying Computer Science
Captain: Giles Hutchings, from Farnham in Surrey, studying Maths
Thomas Van, from Geneva, studying History

Off we set again then, and Warwick hit the mark first courtesy of Mr Van, but got nothing from their bonuses on museums. Mr Nicholls promptly opened Warwick's account, and they did marginally better, taking one bonus on Hinduism. Miss Rudd gave Warwick back the lead, and a set of bonuses on Marilyn Monroe proved more to their liking, as they took two, before Mr Hutchings, a former Countdown champion, pulled them further ahead. Just the one bonus followed this time. The first picture round, on flags with all but their stars removed, went to Warwick, who, again, took just the one, but still led 60-15.

A starter was dropped, before Ms Rowe pulled Liverpool back into the game, and they took two bonuses on calendar feasts. The very topical idea of northern England joining an independent Scotland came up in the next starter, and Miss Rudd was first on the buzzer with the points. Just the one bonuses followed again. Warwick had clearly had the better on the buzzers, but their rather slow bonus rate was keeping Liverpool in it.

The music round, on spoken parts of pop songs, went to Liverpool, who took one bonus, which reduced the deficit to 75-50. A slip-up from Warwick gave Liverpool a chance to retake the lead; they took the starter, but had the horrible luck to run into a bonus set on physics. Mr Van moved Warwick further ahead, but, again, the side struggled with the bonuses, taking just none. But it mattered not, as Miss Rudd won the buzzer race again, and the side took two bonuses to lift themselves into triple figures. Miss Rudd took a second starter in a row, and a bonus set on rice gave them two again.

The second picture round, on details of dogs in paintings, went to Warwick, who took just the one bonus again, but now led 135-65. Still a chance for Liverpool, but Miss Rudd didn't seem to want to let them take it; another buzz moved them ahead, as did two bonuses. What looked like a complete guess gave Liverpool another starter, and two bonuses on philosophy showed they maybe weren't finished yet, if they could get a few more starters.

But that was as close as they could get from now on. Miss Rudd all but confirmed Warwick's win by identifying Kabuki about a second after I guessed it! Two bonuses on astrology added to their score, as did another starter from the impressive Miss Rudd, who looked hopeful about the resultant bonuses on administrative districts, but they got nothing from them. Mr Kurek tried his luck on the next starter, but was wrong; Miss Rudd was right, and Warwick finally got a full bonus set right. Just to rub it in, they then went and got a set full bonus set in a row. Liverpool took one more starter, but the gong prevented them reaching triple figures. Warwick won 235-95.

A match that started slow and only really picked up when Warwick gathered momentum in the second half. Unlucky Liverpool, who were simply outbuzzed throughout, but thanks for taking part nonetheless. Very well done to Warwick though on an impressive first effort; a more consistent bonus rate and they could go far indeed this year, so best of luck to them for next time!

Miss Rudd's impressive buzzer form saw her end the match with nine(!) starters to her name, while Mr Nicholls was best for Liverpool win three. On the bonuses, Liverpool converted 7 out of 16, while Warwick managed 20 out of 42 (with one penalty). As I said, improve that bonus rate, and we could be looking at future champions here.

Next week's match: a Cambridge derby between Queens' College and current champs Peterhouse

Only Connect saw two more Countdown alumni, one of whom another former champ, pop up tonight. But more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Group A Round 1: Match 2: Cosmopolitans vs Taverners

OK, first of all, thank you to Thomas Cappleman for clearing up OC's new format for us last week. This series will comprise of 24 teams, with the four highest scoring losers from the first six matches, and the four from the second six matches surviving to the play-off round. From then on, I would guess it goes back to UC's format for the rest of the run. A good twist on UC's format then, but one I don't think would really work with UC itself. On with last night's show now.

Playing last night were the Cosmopolitans, Annette Fenner, Emily Watnick and captain Amy Godel (twice a Fifteen-to-One grand finalist), and the Taverners, Dean Reilly, Simon Gibbons and captain Mickey Alexander.

Round 1. The Cosmopolitans kicked off the show with 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'The Murder Road', then 'Flaubert's Company', then 'Where Convocations Dare'; at this point, they identified that these were book titles where birds have been replaced by the collective names for that bird. (The final unneeded clue was 'The Parliament and the Pussy-Cat'!) Two points there. The Taverners opened their account with Two Reeds: 'Eurovision Song Contest', then 'Cow & Gate', then 'Wall's', and finally 'I Love New York'. They didn't know it, their opponents did: they all have heart-shaped logos. A bonus there. For their own question, the Cosmopolitans chose Twisted Flax: 'Nawal El Moutawakel (Olympic women's gold)', then 'Anwar Sadat (Nobel Laureate), then 'Sadiq Khan (UK Cabinet Minister)', and finally 'Nadiya Hussain (Great British Bake Off winner). They ran out of time before they could offer something, but their opponents knew it: they are the first Muslims to achieve the brackets. A bonus for them there. For their own question, the Taverners chose Lion, and got the picture set: we saw a portait of Paul Cezanne, then RuPaul, then Paul the Octopus (of World Cup predictions fame), and finally St Paul's Cathedral. They correctly offered that they are all called Paul for a point. The Cosmopolitans chose Water next: 'Church: Antoine Court's Protestant followers', then 'Pearl: Palmyra'; this was enough for them to offer 'Things' of the Desert, which was correct for three points. (One of the unneeded clues was 'Sons: Laurel and Hardy fan society', which I've been thinking for joining for years!) Left with Eye of Horus, the Taverners got the music set, and heard the theme to Desert Island Discs, then Roy Orbison's Blue Bayou, then a bit of Swan Lake; they offered 'sea', and then 'sailing', neither of which was enough. The Cosmopolitans heard the final clue, which was the Scots classic Loch Lomond, and offered 'bodies of water' for a bonus. At the end of the first round, the Cosmopolitans led 7-2.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Cosmopolitans kicked off the round with Twisted Flax: 'Theresa Cara Booth', then 'Fred Peloux', and then 'Cherilyn Sarkisian'. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents. The first clue is Cherie Blair's full name, the second is a character in a French novel series called Cheri, and the third clue is Cher's real name. So 'Ernesto Guevara', Che Guevara's real name, would finish off the set. The Taverners chose Eye of Horus next, and got the picture set again: we saw Jim Capaldi of the band Traffic, then Dame Maggie Smith, and then Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys fame. They didn't spot the link, nor did their opponents, and both were gutted when the answer was given: they are namesakes of Doctor Who actors going backwards, so something Eccleston would finish off the set. The Cosmopolitans chose 'Horn-ed' Viper next: 'Temple Menorah', then 'Catholic solemn high mass', and then 'Traditional Advent wreath'; they offered it to be descending numbers of candles, and offered ''Two Ronnies' sketch' for two points. The Taverners chose Water next: '1st: J (3)', then '2nd=: M (2)', and then '2nd=: A (2)'. Neither team spotted this superb answer: '4th: F, S, O, N, D (1)'. They are months of the year, and now many begin with those letters. For their final choice, the Cosmopolitans chose Lion: 'Space' (crossed out), then 'Choice' (likewise), and then 'Jobs' (likewise again). Again, neither team knew it. They are the chapters of Naomi Klein's 'No Logo', so 'Logo' (crossed out) would complete the set. Left with Two Reeds, the Taverners saw 'Bran', then 'Arya', and immediately offered 'Robb', for three points; they are the Stark children in Game of Thrones. At the end of the second round, the Cosmopolitans led 9-5.

On to the Walls then. The Taverners went first, and chose to tackle the Water wall. Immediately, they isolated 'Dr Strangelove', 'Timmy', 'Professor X' and 'Ironside', who are fictional wheelchair users. They then very quickly slotted in 'Unready', 'Confessor', 'Bloody' and 'Curtmantle', which are epithets of English monarchs. The final links they spotted quickly, and they final sets slipped in very quickly: 'Katie Price', 'John the Baptist', 'Petra' and 'King Hussein' are all associated with 'Jordan', while 'Bonnie', 'Goldie' and 'Shep' are Blue Peter dogs. A full set, so ten points!

The Cosmopolitans were thus under pressure as they began playing with the Lion wall. After spotting some links, they spent a while trying to untangle the groups. They eventually unravelled 'Bowie', 'Flink', 'Stanley' and 'Cheese', which are knives, and then 'Gray', 'Soul', 'Essex' and 'Guetta', which are musical Davids. They surveyed the remaining clues, spotted one of the links and promptly sorted out the remaining sets: 'Prison', 'Icarus', 'Paul McCartney' and 'Butterfly' are all associated with 'wings', which they got, while 'Identity', 'Ryan', 'Hunting' and 'Eleven' are the last words of the names of Matt Damon films, which they didn't get. So, seven points there reduced their lead to 16-15 going into the final round.

So, it would be decided on Missing Vowels. 'Words that mean 'irreligious'' was split 2-each. 'Adjectives plus two-dimensional geometric shapes', such as 'ROUGH DIAMOND' was a clean sweep for the Cosmopolitans 4-0. 'Named after woodland', such as 'NOTTINGHAM FOREST FOOTBALL CLUB', was split 1-each, and that was time. The Cosmopolitans won 23-18.

A good match between two decent enough teams. Unlucky Taverners, but hopefully 18 will be enough to bring you back. Well done Cosmopolitans, and best of luck next time!

Next week's match: Psmiths vs Verbivores

Monday, 18 July 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 1: Match 2: Corpus Christi vs Jesus

Evening all. And after last week's show drew criticism for apparently easier questions, would tonight's show carry that on, or would the questions get harder again? I think it normal that the questions would be a bit easier in the first round compared to the later stages, but we shall see. Some people did think the questions a bit too hard in the last series, so a tone down in difficulty may prove welcome to some. But on with tonight's show.

Corpus Christi College Oxford was founded in 1517, and alumni include the brothers Miliband. It's UC history is certainly memorable: 2004-05, series champions; 2006-07, join the Sub-50 club; 2008-09, romp to victory in the final thanks to the buzzer brilliance of Gail 'the Great' Trimble only to be disqualified a week later following a 'scandal' that would have quickly blown over had it happened any year prior to that. This year's foursome, with a lot to live up to, were:
Tom Fleet, from Pendoggett in Cornwall, studying English
Emma Johnson, from North London, studying Medicine
Captain: Nikhil Venkatesh, from Derby, studying PPE
Adam Wright, from Winnersh in Berkshire, studying Physics

Jesus College Cambridge is even older, founded in 1496, and its alumni include Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the poet Coleridge and Celebrity OC alumnus Nick Hornby. It's best performance on modern UC has been a QF appearance in the 90s and two consecutive onees in the mid '00s; their most recent appearance, however, four years ago (can you believe I've been doing this that long?) saw them heavily beaten in the first round. This year's quartet were:
Sam Fairbrother, from Greater Manchester, studying Education with Drama and English
Rosa Price, from East London, studying English
Captain: Theo Morris Clarke, from London, studying Economics
Daniel Petrides, from Petts Wood in Kent, studying Political Thought and Intellectual History

Off we set again then, and Jesus set off first, Mr Fairbrother taking the first starter, and the side firmly set their stall out by taking a full set of bonuses on drinking in Shakespeare. Corpus Christi followed them off the mark, and they too took a full set of bonuses, suggesting we might be in for a cracker. A second starter from a very quick buzz and a second full bonus set went to the Oxford side, seemingly confirming this. It wasn't until the fourth bonus set of the night, Corpus Christi's third, that a wrong answer occurred. The first picture round, on basic set theory exercises (no, me neither) went to Jesus, who managed just the one bonus, which reduced their deficit to 70-40.

A very quick buzz from Miss Johnson reestablished Corpus Christi's foothold, but their early bonus prowess seemed to have worn off, as none of the bonuses were taken. Another starter and two bonuses took the Oxonians into triple figures, only for a slip-up to drop them back to doubles, and allow Jesus back into the game. Two bonuses followed, before a very quick buzz of their own gave them a bonus set on Micronesian islands, which they also took two of. Very good match so far, both sides looking very impressive.

The music round, on scores of Pixar films, went to Jesus, who, again, took two, which gave them a slender lead of 100-95. A second slip-up from Corpus Christi widened that lead, but Jesus couldn't capitalise. The Oxonians drew level by taking the next starter and reclaimed the lead with two bonuses on US history. Another penalty slipped Corpus Christi back a bit more, and this time Jesus did take the points, and the lead back, but they got nothing from a tricky physics bonus set. A buzz on the cricketer Alistair Cook did add to the lead, and two bonuses followed. It was then the Cambridge side's turn to slip-up, which allowed Corpus Christi back into the match, and a full bonus set gave them the lead back.

The second picture round, on silhouette portraits of composers, went to Jesus after the starter was dropped; two bonuses followed, which gave them the lead back, 145-130. Anyone's game going into the home stretch. Corpus Christi took the next starter and the lead back with two bonuses on US public holidays. A second starter in a row went to the Oxford side, and two bonuses on Homer's Odyssey gave them a crucial 25 point cushion.

Mr Wright crucially took the next starter, and an amusing bonus set on actors in Monty Python and the Holy Grail gave them another two and they now led by 45 with not long left. Jesus would simply have to go for it now: they did, Mr Morris Clarke taking the next starter and two bonuses on inorganic chemistry gave them two correct answers. After a pause, Mr Morris Clarke took the next starter (long after I'd got the right answer!), but when the side dropped all the bonuses, that was probably game over. Mr Fleet confirmed this by taking the next starter, and the gong immediately followed. Corpus Christi won 200-175.

A very good match indeed between two very good and promising teams indeed. Unlucky Jesus, who led many times during the match, but I would imagine 175 will be enough for the play-offs, so we'll most likely see them again there. Well done Corpus Christi though; a fine first performance against good opposition and they could have a good run with a favourable draw; best of luck to them next time!

Mr Wright was the night's best buzzer, with five, while Mr Morris Clarke was best for Jesus with four. On the bonuses Corpus Christi converted a very good 21 out of 30 (with a not so very good three penalties), while Jesus managed 16 out of 30 (with one penalty), so the match was won on the bonuses. And for the second week in a row, all eight players got at least one starter right.

Next week's match: Liverpool vs Warwick

Only Connect was pretty good tonight as well, though I'll deal with that tomorrow night, hopefully. And, remember, new Robot Wars starts this Sunday at 8!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Group A Round 1: Match 1: Tubers vs Bardophiles

Yep, we're back with Only Connect as well! And the show seems to have some a new format this series too, but more on that later. First of all, on to last night's show.

Opening the series last night were the Tubers, David Prevezer, Hugh Brady and captain Jack Welsby, and the Bardophiles, Charlie Cook, Tim Hepworth and captain Sue Barnard. In terms of previous quiz enthusiasm, Mr Hepworth appeared in the Fifiteen-to-One 2.0 final last month, while Mr Welsby is a champion of original Fifteen-to-One, winning the penultimate original series jointly with David Stedman; he has also reached the semi-finals of UC (with Durham in 98-99) and Countdown (in Richard Whiteley's penultimate series in 2004).

So, Round 1. The Tubers kicked the series off with Two Reeds: 'Alfred Radok: Czech Republic', then 'Moliere: France', then 'Antoinette Perry: USA'; at this point, they correctly offered 'people who gave their name to theatre awards in different countries, for two points. The Bardophiles began their campaign with Lion, and got the picture set: we saw novelist Vera Brittain, then Benjamin Britten, then Fern Britton, and finally the late Leon Britton. Pretty obvious there, except they didn't recognise Vera Brittain, and, for some reason, didn't spot the link, and simply offered that they all shared their names with composers. VCM very leniently gave them another go, and this time they got it for a point. The Tubers chose Twisted Flax next: 'Hegel's Holiday (Magritte)', then 'Hong Kong protests, 2014'; at this point, they offered 'umbrellas', which was correct for three points. The Bardophiles chose Eye of Horus next: 'Decides season's champions', then 'Completes stellar explosion', then 'Loses all resistance at low temperatures'; at this point, they offered 'semi', which was incorrect. The Tubers saw 'Is written above normal script', and correctly offered 'Super' for a bonus. For their own question, the Tubers chose Water, and got the music round: we heard some classical music, then 'Jolly Holiday' from Mary Poppins, then 'Reasons to be Cheerful' by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, and finally a song I didn't recognise. Neither team knew it: the first piece was Liszt's 'Merry Widow Waltz' and the last was Glad All Over by the Dave Clark Five. So, words meaning 'joyful' is the link. Left with Horned Viper, the Bardophiles saw 'Brownies', then 'Michael Fagan', then 'Freddie Krueger', and finally 'Milk Tray Man'. They couldn't get specific enough, nor could their opponents. They all unexpectedly visited someone's bedroom. (Not those Brownies! They are some kind of mythical Scottish goblins) At the end of the first round, the Tubers led 6-1.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Tuber began the round, again, with Two Reeds: '1 of 4: $1 obverse', then '2 of 4: $2 obverse', and then '3 of 4: not on current banknotes'. A good one this: they are the presidents on Mount Rushmore, and the banknotes they currently appear on, so '4 of 4: $5 obverse' completes the set, as the Tubers identified for two points. The Bardophiles chose Lion: 'All this happened, more or less,', then 'Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner...', and then 'There were four of us - George and William Samuel Harris...'. They spotted the link to be opening lines of novels with five, four and three in the title, and, while they couldn't think of the opening line of a 'two' novel, they had enough sufficient info for VCM to give them the two points. Bit lenient, but fair enough given its the first round. The Tubers chose Twisted Flax next: 'Heathen', then 'Reality', and then 'The Next Day'; the third clue gave it to them that they are David Bowie's final albums, and offered 'Blackstar' for two points. The Bardophiles chose Water next: 'Charlotte I', then 'George VII', and then 'William III'. This was another good one, but they couldn't see it: they are what the first four people in line to the throne will be when/should they acceed. The Tubers saw it and offered 'Charles III' for a bonus, though it has been speculated for years (HIGNFY reported it in 2000) that Charles may call himself George VII instead due to the misfortune suffered by the first two King Charleses. For their final choice, the Tubers chose Horned Viper, and got the picture round: we saw Mr Spock, then a cub scout, and then Winston Churchill. They ran out of time before they could offer, and their opponents had nothing too. Mr Spock is famous for a four-finger hand gesture, scouts use three fingers and Churchill's famous V for victory used two fingers, so someone famous for a one finger gesture, like a cricket umpire, would complete the set. Left with Eye of Horus, the Bardophiles saw ''We're doomed, I tell you - doomed!'', then ''Don't panic! Don't panic!!''; they correctly spotted it to be catchphrases of Dad's Army characters in ascending order of rank, and offered ''You stupid boy!'' as a Captain Mainwaring catchphrase for three points. Great set! (Though, to be pedantic, 'Don't tell him Pike' isn't a catchphrase, but a famous one off quote, so shouldn't have been accepted if offered. Thanks for pointing that out Dad!) At the end of the second round, the Tubers led 11-6.

On to the Walls, where VCM, though no longer pregnant, still appears to have a podium to stand behind. The Bardophiles went first, and chose to tackle the Lion wall. They quickly set to work, and set to work sorting links out. They quickly isolated '30', 'Punk', 'Plymouth' and 'Northern', which can all precede 'rock'. They then quickly got a second group: 'Cowboy', 'Saint', 'Patriot' and 'Charger' are NFL teams in singular. They spotted the remaining links, but failed in their three attempts to untangle the wall. They did get both bonuses for the connections though: 'Beefeater', 'Magellan', 'No. 3' and 'Gordon's' are brands of gin, while 'Raven', 'Fusilier', 'Crown Jewels' and 'Paul Cummins' are all associated with the Tower of London. Six points for that.

The Tubers were left with the Water wall. They quickly untangled their first group: 'Tucker', 'Sheila', 'Barbie' and 'Yakka' are Australian slang terms. After a few incorrect gos, a second group came in: 'Cavalier', 'Jackass', 'Policeman' and 'Gas' can all follow 'laughing'. They quickly worked out what the final links were, and managed to work out what the groups were too: 'Stock', 'Butt', 'Grip' and 'Barrel' are parts of a gun, while 'Blind', 'Best', 'Law' and 'Bruce' are footballers who played for Man U. A full ten there, which gave them a 21-12 lead going into the final round.

So, the Bardophiles would have to run Missing Vowels if they were to stand a chance of catching up. 'Entries in the official glossary of Parliament' went to the Tubers 3-0, thus confirming their victory. 'What do points mean?' went to the Tubers 2-0, with the Bardophiles getting one right but one wrong. 'Non-lethal weapons', such as 'COUNTRY CLUBS' and 'BRITNEY SPEARS'(!), went to the Tubers 3-1. 'They famously wear red' was announced, but there was no time for any of those clues. At the end of the show, the Tubers won 29-13.

A good start to the new series. Well done Tubers, and best of luck in the next round. Unlucky Bardophiles, who, as per the show's new format, will only come back if they are one of the highest scoring losing teams.

Now, the show's new format. At first, having vaguely recalled there being 27 shows as usual from the Radio Times website, I assumed the show had adopted UC's old rules, where 24 teams compete, and the twelve winners go through alongside the four highest scoring losing teams. Having looked again, however, it seems there will be 37 shows this series, and the show has adopted UC's current rules.

I am of two minds about this: I do really like watching OC, and more matches will be welcomed by others who do so too, and it will keep the winning double act of UC and OC going for the entirety of their runs, more or less. But 37 shows is maybe a bit too many, and the whole point of changing the format in the first place was to give all teams at least two games, which some won't this time. While I fully await the rest of the series, I'm not convinced UC's format is right for the show, and the old UC format I mentioned earlier might be better for the show, as it would have increased the number of teams while keeping the number of matches the same. But let's wait and see how it works out before drawing complete conclusions.

Next week's match: Cosmopolitans vs Taverners

Monday, 11 July 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 1: Match 1: Sheffield vs Bristol

Evening all. Here we go again, on another epic 37-week quizathon. And after the chaos that has engulfed the nations(s) in the past few weeks, we can take solace in the fact than Quizzy Mondays are back and haven't monumentally changed. Hopefully both UC and OC will provide excellent quizzing over the coming months. So let's get on with the first match...

Sheffield University is a red-brick university founded in 1905. Alumni include author Dame Hilary Mantel, athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and political has-been Lord Blunkett. Sheffield's best student performance under Paxo thus far was when they reached the final in 2007-08; their last appearance, two years ago, saw them exit in the first round. Hoping to improve on that were this year's foursome of:
Amy Fedeski, from Solihull, studying History and Politics
Jack Lewis, from Sheffield, studying Biology
Captain: Edward Pemberton, from Stroud, studying Economics and Politics
Ben Cotton, from Haworth in West Yorkshire, studying Physics and Astrophysics

Bristol University was founded in 1909 with the aid of the Wills and Fry families (the latter of which Sir Stephen is a descendant of). Alumni include actors Simon Pegg and David Walliums and author David Nicholls, whose novel Starter for Ten is a must-read for any wannabe UC aficionado! They have been semi-regulars in recent years, reaching the QFs two years ago, but unluckily drawing eventual runners-up St John's in the first round last year. This year's quartet were:
Joe Rolleston, from Tamworth, studying History
Claire Jackson, from Carshalton in London, studying Paleontology and Evolution
Captain: Alice Clarke, from Oxford, studying Medicine
Michael Tomsett, from Hinckley, studying Organic Chemistry

Off we set once again then. The honour of getting the first correct starter of the series went to Miss Jackson (the irony that she represents Bristol will be lost on you if you haven't read/seen Starter for Ten!), and her side took two bonuses on literature. Bristol then incurred the first penalty of the series, allowing Sheffield off the blocks; their bonuses saw then unluckily offer 'trophism' instead of 'tropism', but take another bonus. A second slip-up from Bristol wasn't picked up, but Sheffield then took a second starter and the lead, though Bristol quickly closed the gap down again. The first picture round, on maps showing stations on London underground lines, went to Bristol, who gave us the first clean sweep of the series, and reclaimed the lead 50-35.

That lead decreased with another slip-up on the next starter, albeit an unlucky one caused by extra waffle after the question mark. A second starter was dropped, before Mr Tomsett stopped the rot by identifying 'dystopia' for the next starter, and the bonuses were all taken, including one on the Trafford Shopping Centre, which the team said they'd been to earlier! Mr Tomsett identified the old quiz chestnut of Belize being the only nation to have a human figure on its flag, and two bonuses followed that starter. Sheffield re-entered the match thanks to Mr Pemberton, and a fine set of bonuses on pairs of words formed by adding an extra letter to a scientific term gave them a full set.

The music round, on bands whose members attended the famous Sex Pistols gig in Manchester in 1976, went to Sheffield, who swept up the board (as did almost everyone on Twitter!) and cut the gap to 90-85. Miss Jackson extended the gap by taking the next starter and the Avonsiders took just one bonus on French rivers. A second starter in a row went to Bristol, and a full set of bonuses on amino acids followed. Bristol seemed to have built up a head of steam now, as they took a third starter, but no bonuses followed this time, and then a penalty lost them five. Sheffield broke back with the next starter, and one bonus followed.

The second picture round, on the work of the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, went to Bristol, who took two, increasing their lead to 160-100. Sheffield were still in with a chance, as Mr Pemberton took the next starter, and two bonuses on human anatomy followed. A second starter in a row went to the Steelers, but they got nothing from a set of bonuses on French opera. A very prompt buzz increased Bristol's lead, and a full bonus set on Australian cricket gave them one foot in the second round.

Two starters in a row were dropped, before Miss Clarke was allowed to get away with a slight pause after answering, and got a ticking off for it from Paxo (whose new hair cut doesn't half make him resemble Manuel Pellgrini!); no bonuses followed, though they were unlucky to miss one of them, but they were now more or less home and dry. Mr Rolleston confirmed this by taking the next starter and the side patiently took one bonus on Aztec words. At the gong, Bristol won 210-130.

A decent enough match to start the new series with. Unlucky Sheffield, who did perfectly respectably, and whose score will be borderline for the play-offs; we shall have to wait and see how others do. Well done to Bristol though; a solid first effort, and we shall look forward to seeing them again in the second round!

Mr Tomsett was the best buzzer of the night, with five starters, while Miss Fedeski and Messrs Pemberton and Cotton all got two each for Sheffield. On the bonuses, Sheffield converted a respectable 12 out of 21, while Bristol managed a pretty good 22 out of 36 (with a not-so-pretty good four penalties), and all eight players got at least one starter right, which is good to start the new series on.

Next week's match: Corpus Christi College Oxford (returning for the first time since that scandal we do not talk of) vs Jesus College Cambridge

Only Connect is back as well, and appears to have a new format; I'll go into it more when I cover it later in the week.