Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fifteen-to-One 2.0: Series 7 Final

OK, another Fifteen-to-One final to deal with. Now that Channel 4 has handed the horse racing highlights to ITV, the show is now on every day, and thus we are having longer series than before. Whereas the previous series have all been 30 or 40 episodes long, this series and the new one which has just begun are 50 shows long, so a bit more like the original series in run-time in that sense.

Anyway, playing the grand final last Friday were: Scott Dalgleish, Andy Kelly (legendary DoND alumnus, as well as OC and numerous others), Chris Morris, John Goodall, Richard Pederson, Andy Greenan, Zoe Millman, Darren Martin, Malcolm Dent, Phil Welch, John Olsen, Ashton Cull, Andrew Smithies (OC and Mastermind alumnus), Jack Bennett (blog reader and UC alumnus with Liverpool last year) and Ross Goodwin (OC and Brain of Britain alumnus and top of the finals board with 212 points).

Messrs Dalgleish, Goodall and Olsen were eliminated in the first round, and after a good second round worthy of the final, with Mr Smithies finishing fifth and Mr Bennett fourth, we had out four finalists: Zoe Millman, Darren Martin and Ross Goodwin.

It was going to take something to top the two final rounds we had last year, but this was pretty close to matching them. At first, the players were even; after ten questions, all three had answered 3 correctly.

With just ten to go, it was anyone's game, the players all within ten of each other. Then Mr Goodwin answered six questions in a row, which was enough to put him over the finish line. In the end, the show ended with Ms Millman on 101 with two lives intact, Mr Martin on 122 with two lives intact and Mr Goodwin on 151 with two lives intact.

So Mr Goodwin won the show, and the £40,000! Well done him, the first player of the revival to complete the double of topping the finals board and winning the final, and well done to all involved for another very enjoyable final!

I will, of course, cover the next final as well; should be around the same time UC resumes. Also, I do still intend to post a fuller set of my thoughts on OC (and UC) at some point; can't say when, but I will. I hope.

Friday, 14 April 2017

University Challenge 2016-17: Series Highlights

OK, my coverage of this year's UC ends tonight, with my usual end of series review. It's been a great series to watch, and to cover on here, but despite that, this could be quite hard to write.

First off, my pick for best match of each round:
  • First Round + Play-Offs: Definitely Wolfson vs SOAS, with Edinburgh vs Durham the week before a close second, and Corpus Christi vs Jesus third.
  • Second Round: Definitely Open vs Edinburgh.
  • Quarter-Finals: Wolfson vs Balliol was excellent, but for pure drama, it has to be Warwick vs Bristol.
  • The Final Three: To be honest, all were excellent, but the first final that was genuinely close throughout for a while has to get my vote.
After a few series where close matches were hard to come by, we had a good few this time then, and that has added to the excellent high standard of this series. Most of them were in the first round, and after a middle-of-the-road second round, the group stage carried on the pace, as did the final matches of the series.

In terms of teams, we were well spread again this year, though Wales was not represented. Cambridge just outranked Oxford, with six to five, while SOAS carried the flag solely for the University of London; Imperial and East London also popped in from the capital, with the latter bringing the post-'92 unis back to the show after a one series absence.

The highest score of the series was 270, achieved by SOAS in their thumping play-off victory over Durham. The biggest winning margin was 200, from Balliol's 265-65 thumping of Birmingham in the QF eliminator stage, with Bristol also scoring the same score and winning by just five less against Oriel in the second round. No more teams joined the Sub-50 club this year, the lowest score being 55, achieved by Imperial in the first round, East London in the second, and Corpus Christi in the QF qualifier stage.

Now for the highlights reel:
  • Mr Venturini's 'special interest in X-raying cheese'!
  • Oriel suggesting a Mr D Trump was involved in the Miner's Strike! Also, 'COLE PORTER?!'
  • Mr Monkman has given us too much to list! Special mention to 'Tom Bombadil!', 'Sneezy?' and 'Volfgang Pauli!', the latter of which caused me some embarrassment when, thinking about the show, I accidentally blurted it out loud at work!
  • 'Silicanes'. A harbinger of what would later happen with Open and 'Bulrich'.
  • Ms Jardine nominating a different person to give the same answer to two different questions.
  • GONG 'Monosodium glutonate.' 'That was after the gong I'm afraid!' 'Nooooooo!'
  • The return of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and this time they were correctly identified!
  • 'Laurence Olivier?!' Also, Mr Goldman's absolutely correct justification for having a wild guess!
  • 'The Avengers?'
  • 'Oodle-oodle?'
  • 'Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging?!'
  • 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand and She Loves Me? Yeah yeah yeah?' Also, Noddy the self-employed taxi driver!
  • 'He Who Lives By The Sword Shall Perish By The Sword!' ('You'd have made a wonderful revivalist preacher!')
Can't recall anything in particular from the final five matches; that's how good and watchable they were!

If anyone can think of any more highlights, do let me know!

Now for a few serious words.

I am going to do another series on here, but one thing I'm not going to do is go online the day after and look up what the papers are saying about the match.

I'm sure some of you will be aware that the Daily Mail tried to get in touch with Messrs Potts and Pope on Twitter and requested an interview, only for both to politely refuse while at the same time insulting the publication.

The same paper published an article asking why there aren't more women on the show, in the light of yet another all-male final. Of course, this is the same paper that, not long ago, asked whether Miss Johnson of Corpus Christi 'the hottest University Challenge contestant of all time?'.

Kudos to Miss Woods of last year's winning Peterhouse team for her excellent article in the New Statesman calling it and other papers out on this appalling hypocrisy; thoroughly worth a read.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, even if I am repeating what others elsewhere say: women need to be encouraged to appear on UC, not forced to do so via some sort of quota. Unfortunately, as long as the papers/Twitterers keep objectifying them, they will remain reluctant. Kudos to those who are prepared to appear on the show, showing the papers/Twitterers they don't care what they say.

The other issue that remains at the forefront this series is the continuing presence of 'non-interruptions' on the show. Weaver's Week appear to have, rightly, stopped counting them towards the final score in their reviews, and I will continue to call them out when they come up for as long as they remain.

In response to those who may ask me what I'd do to change it, I'd make the rule 'If a contestant buzzes wrongly, and part of the question does not get read out as a result, it's a penalty', rather than the current rule which appears to be 'If a contestant buzzes wrongly while Paxo is talking, no matter whether he is literally just finishing the question, it's a penalty'.

Overall, though, it was an excellent series, I found myself enjoying it throughout, even the low scoring/one sided matches. Kudos to the teams who took part, and on Paxo, Roger Tilling and TPTB for keeping us entertained for the past nine months or so! Bring on the next series, Paxo's 24th! Correct me if I'm wrong, but does that now make him the longest serving host?

That's it for UC this series then folks. Like last year, I'll be putting this blog on the sidelines for a while, occasionally posting when I feel the need to. See yous around!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

University Challenge 2016-17: Best Buzzer Per Team

OK people, time for part one of my annual post series summary: the overall starter stats. If you've been following my blogs closely, you'll already know the best player for each team, but I'll repeat them here so you've got them all together:

Eric Monkman (Wolfson) - 49 over seven matches
Joey Goldman (Balliol) - 41 over seven matches
Euan Smith (Edinburgh) - 30 over five matches
Sophie Rudd (Warwick) - 28 over five matches
George Greenlees (Birmingham) - 23 over four matches
Bruno Barton-Singer (Emmanuel) - 21 over five matches
Nikhil Venkatesh & Adam Wright (Corpus Christi) - 15 each over five matches
Michael Tomsett (Bristol) - 14 over four matches

Honourable mentions go to:

Ben Pope (Balliol) - 17 over seven matches
Tom Hill (Emmanuel) - 15 over five matches
Freddie Potts (Balliol) - 15 over seven matches
Claire Jackson (Bristol) - 12 over four matches
Emma Johnson (Corpus Christi) - 12 over five matches
Ben Chaudhri (Wolfson) - 12 over seven matches

So, there's a quick selection. As usual, I have the full list for all the QF players, so if you want it, just drop me a message here or on Twitter, and I'll get it sent to you.

Be back on Friday with my usual series highlights reel and some afterthoughts.

Monday, 10 April 2017

University Challenge 2016-17: Grand Final: Wolfson vs Balliol

Evening all. Well, here we are: the 46th University Challenge grand final! And a hotly anticipated one as well, even if the pre-match coverage has been a bit partisan towards one team, or rather, one player! A fourth Oxbridge final in a row, and whichever team won the title would thoroughly deserve their place in the annals of UC history.

Wolfson College Cambridge arrived here by beating SOAS, Jesus of Cambridge, their opponents tonight, Warwick and, in the semi-final, their friends at Emmanuel College Cambridge, their only slip-up so far a narrow defeat to Edinburgh. Hoping to make it four in a row for Cambridge were:
Justin Yang, from Vancouver, studying Public Health and Primary Care 
Ben Chaudhri, from Cockermouth in Cumbria, studying Natural Sciences 
Captain: Eric Monkman, from Oakville, Canada, studying Economics 
Paul Cosgrove, from Cookstown in Northern Ireland, studying Nuclear Energy

Balliol College Oxford's run to the final saw them beat Imperial of London, Robinson of Cambridge, Birmingham, Corpus Christi of Oxford and Edinburgh, their only blip in that run being the afore-mentioned defeat to their opponents tonight. Hoping to be the first Oxford winners for six years, and complete the double with the Men's Boat Race, were:
Freddie Potts, from Newcastle, studying History
Jacob Lloyd, from London, studying English
Captain: Joey Goldman, from London, studying Philosophy and Theology
Ben Pope, from Sydney, studying Astrophysics

Off we set again then, and Mr Pope got the ball rolling for the night, beating at least two of his colleagues to the buzzer with 'Paris'; the Oxford side set their stall firmly out for the night, taking all three bonuses. Mr Monkman took his first starter of the night, identifying characters from the Magic Flute; his side converted two bonuses on foreign reptiles. The Cambridge side then took the lead thanks to Mr Chaudhri, but bonuses on medieval Earls of Orkney got them nowhere. Another starter to Mr Monkman did though, as did one resultant bonus. The first picture round, on treaties and accords and the national boundaries they resulted in, went to Wolfson, who took two bonuses, which put them ahead 65-25.

Mr Pope stopped them dead in their tracks with a good quick buzz on the next starter; only one bonus on historical duels followed, but they had stopped their opponents just as they were threatening to pull away. Indeed, Mr Monkman then slipped up on the next starter, and the one after as well; Balliol picked up the points at the second time of asking, and two bonuses on cosmology gave them the lead. Mr Pope then gave them some breathing space as he took the next starter, and another two bonuses followed. At this stage, the sides were level in terms of correct starters, but Balliol's better bonus work meant they had the advantage.

The music round, or rather, the audio round, on Radio 4's Reith Lectures, went to Wolfson, who took a much needed full bonus set, which put them level on 80-each. A good quick buzz from that man Monkman gave them the lead again, and a good bonus set on Tudor executions, requiring any one of three successive years, saw them take two and narrowly miss the other. Both sides missed the next starter, a piece of chemical number arithmetic; Mr Monkman took the next, but just the one bonus followed. Yet another 'non-interruption', which I seriously hope TPTB are paying attention to the growing annoyance at, then cost Wolfson five, and allowed Balliol back into the game; they took two bonuses on flowering plants to cut the gap to ten points. What a great final this was turning out to be!

The second picture round, on modern reinterpretations of famous artworks, went to Balliol, who took just the one bonus, unluckily missing the others, which gave them a slender lead of 115-110 going into the home straight. Mr Goldman, who'd had a quiet first half of the show, now seemed to have finally found his range, as he took a third starter in a row, and a crucial full bonus set on physics gave them room to manoeuvre. Back came Wolfson, with Mr Monkman again doing the honours, but they dropped all the bonuses, which might just prove costly.

Mr Monkman then had a chance to cut the gap again, but he only managed to lose another five, and hand Mr Goldman the points and possession. Balliol took full advantage and put 50-point daylight between them and their opponents with another full bonus set. Back came Mr Monkman again, but Wolfson really needed the bonuses to fall for them to keep in touch; they duly obliged with a much needed full set, putting them one starter and full set behind. The next starter was dropped, but when Mr Goldman took the next one, that was most likely game over. Indeed, Balliol took another full set, on German cities, which confirmed them as the victors. And that was the gong; Balliol had done it, 190-140!

For the trophy presentation, for only the second time in the show's history, we left the studio, and went on location! To Gonville & Caius College Cambridge, where Paxo and the two teams were joined by Professor Stephen Hawking, who said a few words, before Paxo handed the trophy over to Balliol. As the credits rolled, the teams sipped down some celebratory drinks!

Overall, a great final, one the series deserved, and definitely one of the best of the decade as well! Unlucky Wolfson, but nothing to be ashamed of at all getting to the final, especially in what has been a very close competitive series, and thanks very much indeed for playing. Very very well done to Balliol though, who have been excellent from the off, and worthy additions to the champions list! Very well done indeed!

Mr Monkman was, once again, the best buzzer of the night, with seven, making him by far the best buzzer of the series, with 49 overall. Mr Goldman was Balliol's best of the night with five, giving him a final series total of 41. On the bonuses, Wolfson converted 14 out of 27 (with four damaging penalties), while Balliol managed 20 out of 27; that's where the match, and the title was won. But thanks again to both teams for giving us the great final this series deserved!

And that's it! We can all retire now for a well-earned rest! Well, yous all can; I still have the small matter of my usual post series review. It, along with the buzzer stats, will be popping up on here this week, so stay tuned!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Only Connect Series 12: Grand Final: Verbivores vs Cosmopolitans

Well people, here we are: the final of the longest series of Only Connect to date. I still feel 37 shows is maybe a bit too many for the show; I'll maybe go into more detail about what I mean later next week. For the final, the set was decorated with a chandelier and a champagne glass pyramid, plus a few glasses which Victoria, dressed in a more formal outfit than usual, quietly drank throughout the show! (Much to the horror of some commentators, amid speculation she may be pregnant again!)

So, playing to become the twelfth Only Connect champions were the Verbivores, blog readers Phyl Styles and Tom Cappleman and captain Graeme Cole, and the Cosmopolitans, Annette Fenner, Emily Watnick and captain Amy Godel. The Verbivores have taken the longest route possible to get here, narrowly losing their first match to the Psmiths, then beating the Channel Islanders and the Taverners by a single point, then losing to the Surrealists, but easily beating the Fire-Eaters and then overcoming both teams who defeated them to reach the final! The Cosmopolitans, by contrast, are unbeaten thus far, beating the Taverners, the Tubers, the Beekeepers, the Psmiths and the Korfballers last week to make the final! So both sides have had some close scrapes, but ultimately, both have proven themselves worthy finalists, and whoever won would deserve to do so.

Round 1. The Verbivores went first, and kicked off the final with Two Reeds: 'Cordate', then 'Obcordate' (in red), then 'Trifoliate', and finally 'Rhomboid' (in red). They were timed out before they could offer anything, and their opponents didn't see it: they are the suits in a pack of playing cards. The Cosmopolitans opened their final account with 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'The Property of a Lady', then 'The Hildebrand Party', then 'Risico', and finally '007 in New York'. Neither team saw this one: they are James Bond stories that have not, yet, been adapted for the screen. The Verbivores chose Twisted Flax next, and got the music question: we heard Nicki Minaj singing 'Anaconda', then 'Booty' by J Lo, then Meghan Trainor with the annoyingly catchy 'All About That Bass', and finally 'Bootylicious' by Destiny's Child. They identified them are being songs where the singers describes their, er, bottom, and collected the first point of the night! (According to Victoria, the question was a test to see if any of the contestants were willing to say 'big behinds', or something like that!) The Cosmopolitans chose Lion next: 'Bravo 9:30', then 'Juliet 3:00', then 'Romeo 3:45', and finally 'Delta 6:00'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: they are the semaphore representations of those letters on a clockface. For their own question, the Verbivores chose Eye of Horus, and got the picture set: we saw actress Joan Chen, then the late Alan Clark (MP), then Mackenzie Crook, and finally a young John Craven. They didn't see it, their opponents did: taking the C off their surnames gives a bird. Left with Water for their own question, the Cosmopolitans saw ''Solo construir un puente' (La mansion)', then ''Il suffit d'unir' (Le legs de Mrs Wilcox)', then ''Apenas conecta (A Mansao)', and finally ''Solo connettere' (Casa Howard)'. They saw it to be 'Only Connect' in different languages, but couldn't work out what the bits in brackets were; their opponents guessed it to be 'Howard's End', the novel from which they phrase came, when translated for other countries, and collected a bonus. At the end of the first round, the Verbivores led 3-1.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Verbivores opened the round with Eye of Horus: 'Methylnaphthidate (temporary)', then 'Gamma hydroxyburate (C)', and then 'Mephedrone (B)'. They saw it to be UK illegal drug classifications, but didn't give an acceptable answer; their opponents did, offering 'Heroine (A)' for a bonus. For their own question, the Cosmopolitans, again, chose 'Horn-ed' Viper, and got the picture set: we saw three effigies, comically depicting Angela Merkel, Kim Jong-Un and Alex Salmond; they didn't identify what would be fourth, their opponents did, offering one of David Cameron for a bonus, the sequence being Lewes Bonfire Night effigies. For their won question, the Verbivores chose Lion: 'Capital Q (E)', then 'Capital U (M)', and then 'Capital I (P)'. They offered 'Capital Z (C)', and were correct, the sequence being world capitals which are the only one to begin with that letter, and the order is the spelling out of 'QUIZ'. The Cosmopolitans chose Twisted Flax next: 'Dance II (Matisse)', then 'Nighthawks (Hopper)', and then 'The Scream (Munch)'; they saw it to be numbers of figures depicted in paintings, but went down instead of up, and thus didn't get it. Their opponents didn't see it at all. 'American Gothic (Wood)' would be acceptable for fourth. For their final choice, the Verbivores chose Water: '1.6180339887...', then 'Life-force in Chinese medicine'; they saw it to be representations of the Greek alphabet, and offered 'the symbol for an Ohm' for three points. Left with Two Reeds, the Cosmopolitans saw '2002: Brazil 4 Germany 3', then '2006: Italy 3 France 1'; they saw it to be World Cup finals, but thought it to be final scores, and thus their offer of '2014: Germany 1 Argentina 0' was not correct. Their opponents saw '2010: Spain 0 Netherlands 0', but were none the wiser. They are the numbers of World Cups the competing teams had previously won, so '2014: Germany 3 Argentina 2' completes the set. At the end of the second round, the Verbivores led 9-2.

On to the Walls. The Cosmopolitans went first, and chose to tackle the Water wall. They quickly isolated '1837', '1702', '1558' and '1952', which are years of female monarchs' accessions. A second set, '27', '1', '125' and '343', which are cubes, followed. The final clues were solved pretty quickly too: '1500', '400', '110' and '10,000' are distances in athletics, while '1999', '5,6,7,8', 'One' and '5.15' are song titles. A very well resolved ten points!

The Verbivores thus set to work on the Lion wall needing a good result to stay in front. They too solved two sets very quickly: '32', '0', '273.15' and '491.67' are freezing points of water, while '1066', '1689', '1087' and '1830' are accession years of King Williams. They too then quickly had the wall solved: '33 1/2', '16 2/3', '78' and '45' are record speeds, while '300', '2012', '10' and 'Infinity' are film titles. Another full ten, which gave them a 19-12 lead going into the final round.

So, Missing Vowels to finish off the final and the series. 'Months and their birthstones' went to the Cosmopolitans 3-1. 'Five words in alphabetical order', such as 'BAG, BEG, BIG, BOG, BUG', went to the Verbivores 4-(-1). 'Things found on a chip shop menu' was another 3-1 to the Cosmopolitans. 'Random words', such as 'INDISCRIMINATE', was split 1-each, and that was time. The Verbivores had won the show, and the series, 26-18!

An excellent end to the series, well played both teams, especially the walls! Unlucky Cosmopoltians, but well done on an excellent series of performances! Very very well done Verbivores though on winning the series, after an excellent run throughout the series!

And thanks to all the teams who took part, as well as VCM and TPTB for another excellent series! I will post a fuller set of my final thoughts some time in the coming week.

I'll be back tomorrow with my review of the UC final as usual; see yous then.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

University Challenge 2016-17: Grand Final Preview

Well guys, this is it: less than a week to go before the University Challenge final. It's been a great series, with some very close matches between very evenly matched teams, and after all that jazz, we have our two finalist teams. They are:
Wolfson College Cambridge: Justin Yang, Ben Chaudhri, Eric Monkman and Paul Cosgrove.
Balliol College Oxford: Freddie Potts, Jacob Lloyd, Joey Goldman and Ben Pope.

So, for the fourth year in a row, it's an Oxbridge final, and for the third year in a row, we have a rematch on our hands. So, how did these two get this far?

Wolfson won a very close first round match over SOAS, before a more comfortable victory over fellow Cambridge side Jesus College in the second round. They then narrowly beat Balliol (more on them later) in the preliminaries, before surprisingly losing to Edinburgh in their qualifier match. They redeemed themselves by beating Warwick in the play-offs, and then won a closely fought semi-final Cambridge derby over Emmanuel to reach the final.

Balliol breezed through the first two rounds, beating Imperial of London in the first round, and Robinson of Cambridge in the second, both by large margins. They then lost that close preliminary to Wolfson, before recovering with a very easy victory over Birmingham. They then beat Corpus Christi of Oxford in the play-offs and Edinburgh in the semi-finals, both by good margins, to reach the final.

So, both teams reach this stage having already lost in the process, and thus both have played six matches, so, for the first time in a while, we have even stats for both sides to calculate.

Both sides have played six matches; Wolfson have accumulated 1,100 points thus far, while Balliol have 1,285 points in the bank. Average those over the six matches, Wolfson have averaged 183.33 (rounded to two decimals), and Balliol 214.17 (ditto).

As for points conceded meanwhile, Wolfson have conceded 955, an average of 159.17 per match (again rounded), and Balliol 675, an average of 112.5 per match.

So, despite losing that first encounter between these two teams, the raw stats both points to a Balliol victory. But, of course, those are just raw stats, and for the last two years, they pointed to close matches, and we ended up with anything but in both cases!

So, what else can we look at to find clues as to who'll win? Well, lets look at the bonus rates thus far; Wolfson have converted 108 out of 191 so far, while Balliol have managed 132 out of 205 so far. So Balliol have fared better on the bonuses as well.

Now, though, we come to what the match will probably be decided on: the buzzer stats.

Wolfson's captain Mr Monkman is the highest scorer of the series so far, with 42 starters under his belt thus far, and his opposite number Mr Goldman the second highest with 36 starters.

More tellingly, however, Mr Monkman's colleagues have combined for 23 between them thus far, while Mr Goldman's have 34 between them thus far, thus suggesting they are better prepared to pick up the slack should he have an off day. Balliol have also answered five starters more than their opponents.

So, all the statistical evidence I've tallied up this far points to a Balliol victory.

However, Wolfson have possibly the most important stat in their favour: they won the previous encounter between these two sides, and that throws things back in their favour somewhat. And at the end of the day, as we've seen many times in previous years, stats mean nothing, performance on the night is what matters.

And so, once again, we have a grand final where the cases for both sides winning are both equally strong, and thus, I find myself unable to call the winner at all.

Whatever happens, lets just hope this series gets the finale it deserves. As I said before, it's been a great series, and whichever of these two wins will deserve to do so. Best of (retrospective) luck to both sides once again!

So, here's my schedule for the coming week and a bit: I'll, hopefully, be reviewing Friday's OC final on Sunday, otherwise it'll be over a week before I can do it as I'm away next week. I'll cover UC as usual on Monday, and my usual end of series lookbacks will be popping up periodically over the week.

As William G Stewart would say, 'do please stay with us'.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Only Connect Series 12: Semi-Final 2: Korfballers vs Cosmopolitans

Right, Only Connect tonight it is. I'll get on to previewing the UC grand final tomorrow evening. One wonders if OC's highly controversial move to Friday night was put in so that it and UC wouldn't end on the same day.

Anyway, playing the second semi-final on Friday night were the Korfballers, Taissa Csaky, Niall Sheekey and captain Michael Jelley, who have defeated the Channel Islanders, the Shutterbugs, the Fire-Eaters and the Beekeepers to get this far, with a defeat to the Surrealists the only blip thus far, and the Cosmopolitans, Annette Fenner, Emily Watnick and captain Amy Godel, who are undefeated thus far, having beaten the Taverners, the Tubers, the Beekeepers and the Psmiths en route.

Round 1. The Cosmopolitans kicked off the show with 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'Wrong hoodoos for UNESCO heritage site (Canada)', then 'Schubert music attributed to Schumann (E Germany)', then 'Statue of Liberty commemorated with Las Vegas replica (USA)', and finally 'The Needles situated on the Isle of White (UK)'. They didn't quite get it, nor did their opponents: they are mistakes made on stamps, ie, a stamp commemorating the Statue of Liberty depicted its Vegas lookalike instead! The Korfballers opened their account with Two Reeds, and the music question: we heard Haysi Fantayzee, then Big Audio Dynamite, then Simple Minds' classic 'Don't You Forget About Me', and finally Oasis with 'Wonderwall'. They didn't see it, their opponents did: a member of each group was married to Patsy Kensit at some point. For their own question, the Cosmopolitans chose Twisted Flax: 'Belgium = Z (2002)', then 'Slovenia = H (2007)', then 'Malta = F (2008)', and finally 'United Kingdom - J (reserved)'. Again, neither they nor their opponents saw it: they are the letters seen on Euro banknote serial codes. (Bit outdated that!) The Korfballers chose Lion next, and got the picture set: we saw some playing cards, then a set of coloured sticks; they came in at this point with 'Gilbert and Sullivan operettas', and collected three points, the clues representing 'Patience' and 'The Mikado'. The Cosmopolitans chose Water next: 'pudding and cheese', then 'Maria and Peter', then 'widow and murder', and finally 'ops and funk'. They had it for sure at the last: they can be proceeded by 'Black' and 'Blue' respectively. Left with Eye of Horus, the Korfballers saw 'Bianca', then 'Charlene', then 'Otto', and finally 'Wilson'. Neither team saw it: they are named inanimate objects in films, Wilson, for example, being the volleyball Tom Hanks befriends in Castaway. (Is it said I only knew that because of a Family Guy cutaway?) At the end of the first round, the Korfballers led 3-2.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Cosmopolitans, again, kicked the round off with 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'Monday (2,4)', then 'Tuesday (3,4)', and then 'Wednesday (3,6)'. They offered 'Thursday (2,6)', and were correct, the sequence being the number of vowels and consonants in each. The Korfballers, again, chose Two Reeds next (and apologies in advance for how I go about reprinting this one): 'CaCO(small 3) (30)', then 'Al(small 2)O(small 3):Cr (40)', and then 'Au (50)'. They spotted it to be the chemical formulae of wedding anniversary denotations (Pearl, Ruby and Gold respectively), and so offered 'C (60)', as in diamond, for two points. The Cosmopolitans chose Twisted Flax next: 'I: Alpin', then 'II: Alpin', and then 'III: Dunkeld'. They didn't see it, nor did their opponents: the sequence is the King Malcolms of Scotland, so 'IV: Dunkeld' would be fourth. The Korfballers chose Lion next: 'Stuart Roosa (14)', then 'Jack Swigert (13)', and then 'Richard F Gordon (12)'. They didn't get it, though their guess that the sequence was world Korfball players of the year was a good one! Their opponents knew it though: they are astronauts who stayed in command modules during Apollo moon landings/walks, so 'Michael Collins (11)' would be next. For their own final choice, the Cosmopolitans chose Water: 'Roman', then 'Millennium', and then 'Classic'. Neither they nor their opponents got this: they are typefaces used by the Times newspaper, so 'Modern' would be next. Left with Eye of Horus again, the Korfballers got the picture question, and saw Christof from the Truman Show, then Christo the artist, and then the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado. Again, neither side spotted it: any famous Chris, such as Mr Tarrant, would satisfy for fourth. At the end of the second round, the teams were level at 5-each.

On to the Walls. The Korfballers went first this time, and chose to tackle the Water wall. They identified a first set reasonably early: 'Lit and Phil', 'Wren', 'Beinecke' and 'George Peabody' are libraries. But that was as far as they could get. So bonus attempts: 'Portcullis', 'Tudor Rose', 'Lion' and 'Britannia' have all appeared on coin reverses, which they knew, 'Test', 'Thiele', 'NMR' and 'Thistle' are laboratory tubes, which they didn't get, while 'Buzz', 'Caledonian', 'Go' and 'BEA' are defunct airlines. Four points there.

The Cosmopolitans thus could pull away if they could make the most of the Lion wall. Unfortunately, it proved just as difficult as their opponents', and they were timed out with nothing solved. Thus, they too had to try to salvage bonus connection points: 'Atari', 'Liberty', 'Monkey Jump' and 'Dame' are terms from the game Go, which they didn't get, 'Great Paul', 'Tsar', 'Japanese Peace' and 'Lutine' are famous bells, which they did know, 'Odyssey', 'Dreamcast', 'Neo Geo' and 'N64' are old video game consoles, which they knew, while 'Maharani', 'Satrap', 'Doge' and 'Kaiser' are rulers, which they knew as well. Three points there, which left them trailing 9-8 going into the crucial final round.

So, Missing Vowels would decide the place in the final. 'Four-syllable phrases' went to the Cosmopolitans 2-1. 'Passages from Exodus chapter 20 in the King James Bible', ie the Ten Commandments, went to the Cosmopolitans 3-1. 'Things of which there are 50' was split 2-each. 'Things one figuratively doesn't have' only managed two clues, one of which the Korfballers took, with the second being timed out as they buzzed. The Cosmopolitans had snuck home, 15-14!

A very hard and closely fought match, with both teams doing well in the circumstances. Unlucky Korfballers, but nothing to be ashamed of reaching this stage, and a good effort to do so, so thanks very much for playing. Very well done Cosmopolitans though, and very best of luck in the final on Friday!

Friday's match: the final! The Verbivores vs the Cosmopolitans to win the twlefth OC trophy! Very very best of (retrospective) luck both sides!

Monday, 3 April 2017

University Challenge 2016-17: Semi-Final 2: Edinburgh vs Balliol

Evening all. Well, after last week's show between arguably the two most popular teams of this year's contest, there will be quite a few who already have their winner and won't bother tuning in for the final two matches. One Twittersmith compared tonight's match to turning up late at a party and finding there's no cake left! For the rest of us, however, it's business as usual, as two more final teams fought for the right to fight Wolfson in next week's final.

Edinburgh have very quietly made it thus far unbeaten, with a good close win over Durham and a tie-breaker win over Open taking them to the group stage, where they beat Birmingham in the preliminaries and, in perhaps the shock of the series thus far, Wolfson in the qualifiers. Hoping to secure a rematch in next week's final, and become the first Scots side to reach the final under Paxo's watch, were:
Luke Dale, from York, studying Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies 
Euan Smith, from Aberdeen, studying Classics 
Captain: Joe Boyle, from Brighton, studying Ecology and Environmental Science 
Emily Goddard, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, studying Chemistry

Balliol College Oxford blitzed the early stages, with easy wins over Imperial of London and Robinson of Cambridge, before losing a good close preliminary to Wolfson, redeeming themselves with strong victories over Birmingham in the eliminators and Corpus Christi of Oxford in the play-offs. Hoping to make it four Oxbridge finals in a row, and thus keep hopes of a Boat Race-UC double alive, were:
Freddie Potts, from Newcastle, studying History
Jacob Lloyd, from London, studying English
Captain: Joey Goldman, from London, studying Philosophy and Theology
Ben Pope, from Sydney, studying Physics

Off we set again then, and first blood of the match went to Mr Pope, who spotted a link of words linked by 'mirror'. Two bonuses on Moroccan cities followed, before Mr Goldman set down his marker for the night with his first starter, laying the way for two more bonuses to follow. A quick buzz from Mr Pope gave the Oxonians a bonus set on words differing by the addition of a P at the start, of which, again they took two. A slip-up then allowed Mr Smith to take Edinburgh's first starter of the night, and they too took two bonuses, on European history. Mr Goldman responded by spotting where the next starter was going well in advance, and his side celebrated with a full bonus set on Latin. The first picture round, on sections of the Theogene with names missing, went to Balliol, who took just one bonus this time, leaving the score at 95-20.

That lead strengthened when Mr Goldman identified the future William IV as having given away the bride at Lord Nelson's wedding. Another full bonus set, a home one for Mr Pope on physics, meant they already led by 100 points. Mr Lloyd picked the right 'Henry IV Part' for the next starter, but just the one bonus was converted this time. Nevermind, Balliol's buzzer dominance continued as Mr Pope took the next starter; though just one bonus followed again, they already had a potentially match winning lead.

Neither side took the music starter, before Mr Smith finally ended his side's shutout, identifying the Wilton Diptych; the music bonuses, on classical pieces that quote the Dies Irae, or Day of Wrath, gave them one correct bonus, which reduced their arrears to 150-35. Mr Dale took more off it by taking a second starter in a row for Edinburgh, and bonuses on Belgian history gave them ten more points. Mr Potts then made sure all four Balliol players had a starter to their names, and they asserted their dominance with a full bonus set. A slip-up then went unpicked up by Edinburgh, before Mr Pope reclaimed the points; bonuses on trees and shrubs saw them take two points, one of which looked like a complete guess!

The second picture round, on world leaders accused of mass embezzlement, went to Edinburgh, who took just the one bonus, which left them trailing 190-70. Again, Mr Goldman impressively foresaw where the question was going, leaving Paxo well impressed! Two bonuses followed, before Mr Pope unluckily dropped five, answering Lewis, only for the question to swerve and ask for both it Harris. Mr Dale did the honours, but his side missed all three bonuses on computing abbreviations.

Mr Smith took another starter for Edinburgh, and two bonuses on Canadian landmarks (how annoyed must Mr Monkman be that he didn't get those!) deservedly took them into triple figures. Indeed, Edinburgh ended the match with a final flourish, Miss Goddard taking the next starter and the side not waiting for Paxo to finish the bonuses, before taking two of them. A starter was dropped, before Mr Smith provided Edinburgh with another starter, and a full bonus set on astronomy. Five were then lost to yet another non-interruption, before Balliol took the points, and that was time. At the gong, Balliol 215-140.

Another good high quality match up between two very good teams, with Balliol's strong first half winning the match. Unlucky Edinburgh, but no disgrace in reaching the semi-finals, and some cracking matches along the way to boot, so thanks very much indeed for playing! Very well done Balliol though; another strong win over proven opponents, and very very best of luck in the final next week!

Mr Goldman was best buzzer of the night again, with five starters taking his series total to 36, while Mr Smith was once again best for Edinburgh with four, giving him a final series total of 30. On the bonuses, Edinburgh converted a respectable 13 out of 24 (with one harsh penalty), while Balliol managed a rather good for this late stage 22 out of 33 (with three penalties).

Next week's match: the final! A rematch between Wolfson and Balliol! Best of (retrospective) luck both!

As for Only Connect's second semi-final, I will get that written up tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on when I decide to do my UC grand final preview. Stay tuned for both!