Friday, 31 March 2017

University Challenge Semi Final - Emmanuel Cambridge v. Wolfson Cambridge

I think that it’s probably fair to say that this was the most highly anticipated match of the series so far. The excitement on social media about a match many people billed as Seagull v. Monkman was palpable in the days leading up to Monday’s semi. That billing is a little unfair – after all as well as LAM reader captain Bobby, Emmanuel could boast the talents of Tom Hill, Leah Ward and Bruno Barton-Singer. On the other side, as well as their iconic captain, Wolfson’s Justin Yang, Ben Chaudri and Paul Cosgrove should never be underestimated.

It looked good for Emma at the start as Bruno Barton-Singer was quick to recognise an example of deus ex machina for the first starter. Bonuses on the German born art historian Erwin Panofsky sounded tricky, but we both managed the second and third. Now, I’m sorry, but you can’t sit and wait when you hear the name Robert Catesby. Both teams let the name sink in for a second before Eric Monkman buzzed in with his first answer of the night – the gunpowder plot. It wouldn’t be his last. This brought up bonuses on property  of which they managed one. Ben Chaudri recognised that the two probes NASA sent off on their merry way in 1977 were called Voyager. Their bonuses were all terms beginning with ‘apo’, and they managed 2. Tom Hill buzzed in with the term Naturalistic fallacy for the next starter. No, me neither. Davis Cup tennis provided them with a timely full house, a fact which seemed to surprise Bobby a little – in a good way, of course. A starter about a French physicist caused Eric Monkman to buzz in with “De Broglie”. Gesundheit! – I shouted at the telly, but he was right. This brought Wolfson a set of bonuses on scientific units used to measure constants. How many of these do you think I got right? How dare you? You’re right, mind you, I didn’t get any of them, but Wolfson managed a full house. A nice picture starter showed us two cities marked off a map showing Africa and South America. The South American one was Bolivia, so presumably La Paz. Asked which name element they have in common, I went for peace – guessing that Dar Es Salaam was the other. Eric Monkman buzzed in with the same suggestion, and we were both right. The picture bonuses showed more of the same and after confusion with the first they failed to take any of the bonuses. So, at some way past the ten minute mark, Wolfson just looked to be establishing control of the contest with a lead of 70 – 45.

You had to wait and wait and wait with the next starter, and then as soon as you heard ‘designed for world fair in Brussels’ slap that buzzer through the desk. Justin Yang won that buzzer race with “The Atomium”. A set of bonuses on stained glass in North West England promised but little, but general history knowledge enabled both of us to take a full house. Leah Ward struck back, recognising three titles of novels by Georgette Heyer. Be honest, ‘Lady of Quality’, ‘Venetia’ and ‘Regency Buck’ could have been anything – fishing flies, roses – marital aids . . . apologies. Bonuses on silent comedy saw Emma drop two out of a gettable set, and for the first time I started to worry about their chances of pulling this one off. Mind you, Bruno Barton-Singer had a fantastic early buzz on the next starter to identify the super-continent Pangaea. Criticisms of Marxism were not easy – I only had Bakunin, and Emma failed to add to their score. Now, for the music starter, when I’m asked for a modern British composer I usually plump for Benjamin Britten. Nobody was buzzing in, so Bruno Barton-Singer used the same tactic, and with success. More Britten songs, setting poems to music followed, and Emma identified Donne and Blake, but missed out on Wilfred Owen, which they probably should have had. Harsh, but this was a very tight match, where only 5 points separated the teams at this stage. Every answer counted. The speed of Eric Monkman, recognising a definition of the DMZ – Demilitarised Zone – was apparent when he won the buzzer race for the next starter. Early Nobel Laureates provided a further 10 to stretch the lead to a full set. I know nowt about C. elegans but it brought another starter to Justin Yang. Mathematics brought me nothing, but took Wolfson to 130 against Emmanuel’s 90. Still all to play for, considering how we’d seen Emma powering to the line in previous matches.

Another great buzz from Eric Monkman saw him identify the word ‘zany’ from Love’s Labour’s Lost. Hill forts escaped them completely. For the second picture starter I had a feeling that we were looking at the work of Franz Hals, but neither team had it. Tom Hill won the buzzer race to spell the capitals of firstly Senegal and then Bangladesh. The picture bonuses showed more works which featured in Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, of which Emmanuel identified 2, to narrow the gap to 30. I thought Hilbert was a cartoon character, but apparently he was a german mathematician. Eric Monkman knew him anyway. Contemporary figures who appeared in Byron’s Don Juan only provided a single bonus. Eric Monkman made a rare miscue for the next starter, and I thought that it was a bit of a harsh adjudication when JP would not allow Bruno Barton-Singer apposite for apposition – they’ve often accepted answers this close in the past. Nobody knew Derek Parfit for the next starter. Some maths thing escaped both teams but then Tom Hill recognised a series of caves and stuff in the Yorkshire Dales. Galilean Moons of Jupiter gave me a full house, and when I completed my lap of honour I saw that 2 correct answers had put Emmanuel just 15 points adrift. The Wolfson skipper immediately stretched that lead again, knowing the Rashomon effect. Impressive shout. Latin terms including verbs in the present subjunctive were a bit of a gift, and they duly accepted that windfall to take th lead up to 40 points. Again, Emmanuel, through Tom Hill, came back, knowing that Monet painted more than 30 views of Rouen Cathedral. Had he never heard of postcards? The second South African War – with answers commonly found in UK street names, was a great little UC set, but the gong sounded after the first. Wolfson had won by 170 - 140

It had promised to be a terrific match, and it was. Not quite the closest we’ve seen this series, for once Wolfson got ahead they always seemed to have that tiny bit more in the tank. These two teams know each other well, and the congratulations from the Emmanuel team were genuine, and I have no doubt they’ll be cheering on their fellow Cambridge team in the final. Indeed, both Bobby and Eric made it clear that they’re mates in their appearance on Tuesday’s One Show. Congratulations to Wolfson, and best of luck in the final.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

Rather a forebearing JP again tonight. When asked for the picture bonuses, Eric Monkman got rather the wrong end of the stick, offering up “Vladivostock” rather than a name element. All JP said was, “That isn’t what I asked you for, “ and repeated the question. Mind you, that did enable him to refuse to accept the right answer when they gave it, since they’d already given a wrong un.

I think Jez, a Cambridge man, was a little bit emotional by the end of this all Cambridge semi, for I don’t recall him ever saying anything like his final oration to both teams in this show, “Well, I will say that all of you guys, of whatever gender, you’re very very clever.”

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

Belgrade translates into English as White City.


Jack said...

Yeah, well played both sides, both in terms of the game itself and the spirit with which they played it. They were virtually even throughout, both more or less halfway with the bonuses, Emmanuel managing 12/22 and Wolfson 15/30. And kudos to Messrs Monkman and Seagull for demonstrating on the One Show, and also on Twitter, that they are good friends outside of the show. Be sure to catch Radio 4's profile tonight just after 7, where Mr Monkman is the subject!

On Monday then, the second semi-final between Edinburgh and Balliol; hopefully another good match, and a great final against Wolfson whichever of them wins!

Stephen Follows said...

Here's a link to said Profile:

Paul Gilbert said...

Wolfson's win means that the final will definitely be a re-match, as they played against both Balliol and Edinburgh in the QFs, winning the former and losing the latter.