Weaver's Week 2013-03-03

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You be sure of it.



Second Supreme Championship, Final week

QF3: Conor Travers v Kirk Bevins

Conor Travers, 18 wins from 19, one Perfect Game. Kirk Bevins, 13 wins and a tie from 15, and two Perfect Games. Winner is to play Jon O'Neill, the most recent person to achieve a Perfect Game. (Yes, we missed another one. Shoot us.) For one player, the Perfect Game ends in round one: Kirk has a six, "Isomer"; Conor has the eight "Foreribs", and he's continuing his streak. Nothing much to choose in the next letters rounds, though Kirk seems to have the most rapid-fire selection of letters ever: three consonants, three vowels, two consonants, and then he thinks about his last choice. Might deny his opponent half-a-second's thinking time. At this level, every half-second counts. The numbers game doesn't detain anyone for more than a half-second, so Conor leads 39-31 at the anecdote.

Kirk's just-a-six-I-think is "Alcids", keeping him in touch. Cake for Susie, who tells us that éclair takes its name from lightning because they're eaten so quickly. There is a break in round eight: Kirk has "Muppet", Conor beats him with "Uptempo", and the gap is fifteen. Kirk feels that he has to offer "Neddies" in the next round; it's a sort of donkey, not wonky at all. Kirk picks six small and a target in the 700s: not divisible by 7 or 8, ah! It does go into 9s, so ten points all round, and 77-62 at the interval.

Just sixes in the next round, and Kirk can feel the match slipping away from him. "Truncate" is eight each, and Conor's five-vowel pick lessens the chances of a nine evading his grasp. At this level, every half-chance counts, and it's eights apiece. Kirk picks four-large, hoping for rain to stop the snookers. 174 with a 3 in the selection isn't going to help his cause. Conor has the win, Conor has the century. Kirk could break three figures with a conundrum. But Conor buzzes to unscramble "I Got Nines", and Kirk congratulates his opponent. 119-94 the winning margin, and Kirk suggests that Conor might have achieved another Perfect Game. He has! He has! Another Perfect Game!

Countdown Jack Hurst.

QF4: Jack Hurst v David O'Donnell

14 wins from 14 for Jack; David has 13 wins, one loss, and a draw. David thinks there's something better than seven in the second round, and Jack proves him right: "Monetary". Nothing between them in the next letters rounds, but both players are off by one in the numbers game. Jack leads by 36-28, and while Jenny Eclair regales us with tales of her life in Manchester, we're off seeing if this numbers game is possible. Yes: it's 1492 over 2. Mark this moment: it's the first time since Thursday that there's been anything to beat the contenders, and not since last Wednesday has there been a beater from the studio floor. That's quality.

Honours remain even through the next rounds, and Jenny is chuffed to have spotted "Parquet". We're surprised to find it's not an open space in Canada. 76-68 at the interlude after a simple four-large numbers; even Rachel is looking around the studio after ten seconds. Just to show off, the contenders go via 5000. David sends Susie scurrying to the dictionary with "Sapients": it's fine. Fives for the contestants, open "Warfare" in the corner, their first winner of the week. It's curious how the last three quarter-finals have followed the same pattern: an early error opens up a gap, it maintains throughout the rest of the show to the crucial conundrum, only for the leader to extend his margin on the buzzer. Jack's winning score is 115-97.

Countdown Kirk Bevins and David O'Donnell.

SF1: Jonathan Rawlinson v Jack Hurst

It's a Cambridge university maths department battle: Queen's College (represented by Mr. Rawlinson) against Pembroke College (Mr. Hurst). The host suggests it'll be a battle to the death, Susie says she's not going to have much to do, and Jenny is promoting her book. The contestants spend most of round one chattering to each other. Quiet on stage, you'll put off – yourselves! What?! "Catenoids" is the word they've both spotted, and Jack is even able to read out the definition, not least because he offered it a few weeks ago.

Right, calm down everyone, this is getting far too surreal. "Roughs" and "Zeugma" mean both players have offered the same word in the first three rounds; there's no difference in the numbers round, but Rachel goes one better – it's solved as 5800 divided by 8. Obviously. 45-45 at the anecdote. "Probably the same seven" is the mantra in the second period – "Remount" and "Tabooed" and "Paginate" for eight. Perfection in the second numbers game means it's 83-83 at the interval.

The deadlock cannot remain forever. "Mahoes" is safe for Jonathan, but declaring second Jack decided to take a risk with "hammies". One can be hammier than another actor, but this abbreviation for pork-product sandwiches is not in sufficiently common usage. But then Jack has a winner, "Autopsy" beats "Patois", and he has a one-point lead. Nothing splitting in the last letters or the numbers, so we're down to more chatter amongst the players and a crucial conundrum. It's fully three seconds before Jack buzzes in to declare "Strontium". Jack is our winner, he has won by 116-105. And he has to do it all again on Friday!

Countdown Jonathan Rawlinson.

SF2: Jon O'Neill v Conor Travers

On Monday, Rachel suggested that Channel 4 invest in a machine to travel through the ages bring back contestants from the time when they were at their peak. For Jon and Conor, that time is now. Both players are coming off Perfect Games. Neither of them has dropped a single point in absolutely weeks. Jon is a risk analyst, Conor is a maths student at St John's Cambridge, and it turns out that both of them auditioned on the same day in 2004. Fancy that!

The similarities continue: "Covenant" and "Podgier" and "Genetics" and "Groaner". Not only are these players matching each other point for point, they're matching each other letter for letter. The four-large numbers game? Both have the same solution, even declaring (50+25)/75 to make the needed one. It's 40-40 at the anecdote. No-one has the advantage.

And then, after the break, a difference. Conor has the safe eight "Pulsated", Jon the risky nine "sulphated". Jon's word? Not in, and he takes an eight-point deficit. The risk analyst reckons chances to win will be rare, and the worst that can happen is he'll lose the game if neither solves the conundrum. The best: win before the conundrum. The pair diverge through the middle rounds: a pair of eights sandwiches a rubbish round where four is the maximum. Conor takes the safe option of one-large numbers, and preserves his lead: 78-70.

Seven and eight and seven in the last letters games. At this level, there's absolutely nothing to choose between the players. Though "Remudas" is the first time since round five that the two have had the same offering, they've stood toe-to-toe ever since, with only Jon's acknowledged risk splitting them. The six-small numbers selection doesn't split them, which means the show will go down to the conundrum challenge. It's barely a second before Conor buzzes, gives out the loudest sigh we've ever heard, and asks, "is it Infighter?" Infighter, it is, and after eight years, we finally have a winner between these players. Conor's score: 120-102. "Flippin' brilliant" is Jon's comment there. At least, we think that's what he said.

So, let's crunch the letters. Was there a longer word? No. Crikey on a bike, that's three Perfect Games in a row from Conor. It's almost predictable, now 56 consecutive rounds where he's come up with the best possible play. He's like a golfer selecting the perfect shot 56 times in a row; unlike that golfer, Conor is still on the course and must go round one last time.

Countdown Jon O'Neill.

We mentioned last week that Mark Deeks and Innis Carson were playing Countdown for 25 hours without a break, in support of Comic Relief. Their marathon began at 11pm on Thursday, and hopes of a Perfect Game were dashed as early as round four, when both players could only find "Trout" and missed "Unroot". Innis opened up a lead around 2am, only for Mark to make 24 rounds of maxima at 6am. Innis replied with 19 rounds of perfection through 8am, and 25 rounds of his own in the 10am hour. As the televised game began, Innis led by 2169-2132; he'll extend the gap to 43 points by the time the television show comes off air. Donations at https://www.justgiving.com/CountdownMarathon will be welcome.

Final: Jack Hurst v Conor Travers

So it's come to this. From 2 November 1982 to 1 March 2013. Thirty and a bit years. Five thousand contestants. Hundreds of guests. Many bad jumpers, not all worn by Gyles. Five hosts. Two numbers geniuses. One. Ultimate. Champion.

Countdown It is, after all, but a humble parlour game.

And then both contestants confess to cheating. "Cheating" has occurred on both papers. It's their offering, eight points each. As you were.

And then Conor has a nine in the third round. "Ponytails" is the word heard around the world, it gives Conor an eighteen-point lead. Not insurmountable, blah blah marathon not sprint, blah blah in a game of slight edges this is not just an edge but a whole three faces. "Detainers" and "Resinated" boost the scores, and it's 58-40 after the numbers. But wait, is that Rachel proving her worth by beating the players? It is! It is! Conor's streak of perfect rounds has come to an end at sixty of 'em. Sixty rounds of perfection. That'll be one for the record books.

Here's another one: "Normalize" allows Conor to declare three nine-letter words in a row. Has that ever been done before? Surely that's never been done before. 76 after six rounds, that's just dumbfounding scoring. And then the scores do return to normal, sixes and a pair of eights. "Chortled", apparently, is a Lewis Carroll coining. The numbers looks more difficult than it is, 616 has lots of factors, and there's a 7 in the selection. Both players score, so Conor leads 108-90.

Countdown Conor Travers.

A century and there's still five rounds to go! Sixes and fives suffice to bring up Jack's century. Conor spots "Pomades" in the final letters round, his second winner of the game. And that, folks, is what we technically term Game Over. Except it's not. Remember Julian Fell's all-time record of 146? After the letters, Conor is on 126, and can tie that superlative achievement. He solves the numbers with some time in hand, letting himself get into the zone for the conundrum. Slightly less than one second for Conor to confirm he is, really, a "Leviathan" of the game. Jack has 111 points. Conor, he has a score of 146.

Countdown Please be upstanding for M. Stellman.

There is a presentation, given by Marcel Stellman, the chap who looks after Des Chiffres et Des Lettres' and Armand Jamot's interests in this country. He thanks the on-screen regulars, and has a special word for the production secretary Cindy Ritson.

"We're back with the mortals next week," warns Nick. The hunt for the Third Supreme Champion begins here!

University Challenge

Group phase, match 4: New Oxford v King's Cambridge

York and Warwick lost so that this Oxbridge clash might happen, and Thumper reminds us that a full copy of the quarter-final rules is available on the website in Sanskrit. Neither side is aware of ecumenical matters; indeed, neither side is aware of very much, combining for 5/15 in the opening minutes. Air raids of World War II are the subject of the first visual round, in which there's a suggestion that one was the Battle of Medway. They kent be right! New leads by 45-10.

About this point, we get terribly distracted by New's captain, who seems to be doing his yoga exercises, touching his hair, pulling his face, and generally being as demonstrative as is possible for someone sitting in a chair. New are getting a lot of starters, and bonuses on thought experiments and anagrams of kings. Not until the audio round – posthumous classical works – do King's get another starter, and then are still 110-30 behind. King's start a short revival, but soon we're back to New's interpretative dances; at one point, we're sure they're making the sign of the Kielty.

University Challenge Coming soon to BBC2: Andy Hood's Chair Exercises.

155-40 to New when the second visual round is dropped (it's on paintings of Salome), and King's needs a strong performance to win the match. It doesn't happen: one carelessly-dropped starter and an unfortunate preponderance of specialist questions (if only they had a physicist or a couple of classicists – oh) seals New's win. They do keep buzzing right through to the end, though, and we do hope they'll beat Pembroke in a month's time. New's winning margin is 165-125.

The draw for the remainder of the group phase is thus:

  • Manchester v UCL
  • St George's London v New Oxford

Winners take semi-final spots, losers will face the winners of:

  • Imperial v Bangor
  • Pembroke Cambridge v King's Cambridge

The Cambridge side will play Manchester or UCL. We could get a London derby in the final set, but no Oxbridge cake shop before the final.


Semi-final 2

Roger Canwell takes the Films of Norman Wisdom (1915-2010) A clown in a cloth-cap and ill-fitting suit, Wisdom was one of the last variety stars. His annual film – as both actor and writer – was a fixture for much of the 1950s and 60s, usually opposite the authority figure Jerry Desmonde. After a strong start, what seemed to be a slight trip really knocked the contender off course, finishing on 7 (1). Watch more: Trouble in Store*.

John Wheeler has the Magna Carta (1215-97) Originally issued by King John to head off a challenge to his rule, the Great Charter was an early effort to codify the rights of the common man. Amended versions were issued over the years; the 1297 version became accepted as law. Three clauses from this document remain in force: freedom of the English church, the right to due process of law, and special protections for the City of London. The contender falls into a pass spiral part-way through, closing on 4 (5). Chart more: Magna Carta at the British Library.

Sian West looks at the Pembrokeshire coast. An area of spectacular landscapes in the south-west of Wales, the area boasts sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, prehistoric tombs, Iron age hill forts, and St Davids city. The contender closes on 10 (0), and once this show is over, we're off to watch the democratic song contest Can i Gymru for review next week. Explore more: Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Mark Roberts has been reading the Novels of William Boyd (b 1952) Born in Ghana, Boyd's work is primarily set in Africa, beginning with "A Good Man in Africa" (1981), which won the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel. He's been nominated for the Booker prize, and been shortlisted for the oh-so-prestigious Richard and Judy Book Club awards. These rounds are over too quickly, finishing here on 6 (2). Read more: Boyd's website

Jonathan Gordon is tonight taking the French Religious Wars 1559-1598. It wasn't just England where the late sixteenth century saw conflict between Catholics and Protestants. France, too, was riven by strife, with Hugenots rising against the Catholics. Catherine de Medici, the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, the Duke of Anjou, and eventual Edict of Nantes saw the Protestants establish a state-within-a-state in south and west France. At the end: 7 (0).

Mastermind (l-r) contenders Canwell, Wheeler, West, Roberts, Gordon.

John Wheeler qualified after scoring well with the Shipping Forecast on 31 August. His specialist round wasn't the greatest, but the general knowledge set goes great guns, the first seven correct and only the odd one dropped thereafter. His score of 17 (7) won't be a winner, but it'll set the others thinking.

Mark Roberts came here on 26 October with Palmeston, and begins by missing Rommell's given name. Nor does he remember the player who won the Division I title last May: how quickly these "unforgettable" moments are, er, forgotten. 14 (3).

Roger Canwell's heat was Kett's Rebellion on 14 December. He remembers who said, "I am a fighter and not a quitter" before he quit, and what other activity goes with skiing to make biathlon. The contender has a strong general knowledge, and advances here to 20 (3).

Jonathan Gordon took Grand Opera to get here, back on 19 October. He answers swiftly and crisply, and in spite of a slow start, he's able to run up the score quickly. The host doesn't quite manage to start one final question after the buzzer, so the final score is 19 (0).

Sian West got here with the help of Billie Holliday on 17 August. There's a suspicion that the first-round leader gets a really difficult set of general knowledge questions, and certainly this contender seems to be struggling a little with her round. But she's getting almost all of them right, Until, in the later moments, she's not, giving a bit of a concern. Sian does move past the winning post with time to spare, closing on 21 (2).

We'll see her again in the final.

This Week And Next

Brain of Britain is in its semi-final stage, too. Barry Simmonds off of Eggheads was back this week. He took a strong lead in round one, then slowly, slowly saw it whittled away by the other players. Barry kept his nose in front, and a five-in-a-row in the penultimate round meant it was all over bar the scoring. He'll be back in the final.

Back at Friday's Countdown Marathon, Mark Deeks staged something of a comeback, briefly regaining the lead in the eighty-ninth period, and doing well enough to bring the game to a crucial conundrum. The first and only crucial conundrum of the day was solved by Innis Carson. After 450 rounds of action, he emerged the winner by 3128 points to 3116.

BARB ratings in the week to 17 February, and it's Celebrities Dancing season. Let's Dance for Comic Relief (BBC1) led with 7m, Dancing on Ice (ITV) had 6.3m. In It to Win It is now being reported as two separate shows, before and after The Lottery Corp's commercial break, and 5.9m saw the conclusion. Famous Family Fortunes (4.85m) just beat Pointless Celebrities (4.7m). The Chase took 3.55m viewers in a week of repeats, University Challenge secured 3.1m, and 8 Out of 10 Cats led for Channel 4 with 1.95m. Elsewhere, 885,000 saw The Satellite Channel's amateur dance show Got To Dance 4 Live 2, More 4 had 595,000 seeing Come Dine with Me, and Dave had 430,000 interested in QI.

Hello to Beat the Pack (BBC1, 3pm weekdays) and it's time for Comic Relief Does Glee Club (CBBC, 4.30 weekdays). A Question of Sport marks its 1000th edition (BBC1, 8.30 Monday), old footage of Mock the Week gets cut up (BBC2, 10pm Sunday, not NI), and some new footage from Takeshi's Castle (Challenge, 10pm Friday). Next Saturday, Let's Dance for Comic Relief goes up against Saturday Night Takeaway at 7, and Côr Cymru kicks off at 9.

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