Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ep 444 [M1] [QF1]: Andrew Fisher, Toby Baldwin (June 19, 2012)

Rounds: Here.

Finally we are back to new episodes, and more specifically the inaugural Masters series.  While it has been nice to get a reminder of contestants from previous series, I felt the repeats really began to wear towards the end; maybe next time (I'm certainly hoping that there is a next time!) they can just air the Masters Series immediately at the end of the regular series.  I think that will work out better overall, to be honest.

A note about numbering: The website is calling this episode 444, and that is fair enough, I guess.  But it is going to mess up the convenient ordering of episodes into groups of a hundred, so I wish they had applied a different numbering to it.  I was tempted to invent my own numbering, but that would lead to confusion later down the track; maybe they will come up with some new numbering of their own and I can adjust these accordingly.

Anyway!  New episodes!  Finalists from each series so far!  Are you excited?  I am!

There's no real sense of the seedings, so I'll take the games as they come.  The first contestant in the champion's seat is Andrew Fisher, the series champion from series 1; Richard notes that Andrew's debut score of 95 is still the single-game record.  It is mentioned that Andrew came second in the 2011 World Scrabble Championships, confirming his outstanding ability with the letters.

Rather surprisingly, the challenger's position is occupied by Toby Baldwin, one of the semifinalists from series 4.  It seems that Alan Nash -- the runner-up from that series -- was not able to make it, so Toby was called in as the next in line.  (Well, that's a guess on my part; maybe they also asked Daniel Chua, the other semifinalist.)  So it looks like I just needed eight people to be unable to make it, and I could have been asked. *chuckles*

Andrew is hot stuff with the letters, and I strongly expect him to pick up a good many points over Toby on those.  I'm including the conundrum in that, of course -- Andrew usually solves it within a couple of seconds.  The numbers could go a bit each way -- it really depends how they fall.  Toby has the advantage of choosing the numbers twice, and he'll need to exercise that option well in order to win.  Andrew is definitely vulnerable on the numbers, although he gets close quite often; Toby should be better overall on them, but has had his problems there -- during his main run of six episodes he had five invalid numbers solutions, and another round where he did not get within scoring range.  If he repeats that kind of performance tonight then he will really struggle.

Indeed, the episode mostly went as expected: Andrew picked up points in the first two letters rounds, but then Toby shortened the gap to five in the first numbers round.  A split letters round followed, and then Andrew pulled away once more, only for Toby to close up in the ensuing numbers round.  Another split letters round followed -- Andrew clearly had a riskier play that he avoided, and quite reasonably so -- and once again Toby took the points in the numbers round to be ahead at the conundrum.  And then... the very surprising occurred: Andrew did not solve the conundrum quickly.  In fact, time just kept on ticking away, and it looked like Toby would win by default.  Just shy of the 24 second mark, Toby buzzed in with the correct answer to take the underdog win, 52 to 37.

I had a very good game, marred only by being very slow on the conundrum -- I only just barely solved it within time (and that was after Toby had done so).  But all my answers were optimal aside from a moderately obscure word in the first round that eluded everyone, and quite against my expectations I cruised to a comfortable win.  The lack of potential full monties may well have been a factor; there was not even a sniff of one to be had, although some of the mixes were tantalising.

Round 1: I A O S F N R N T

I had SOFA, IRONS, ANIONS (negatively-charged ions), FANONS (FANON: "a striped scarf-like vestment worn by the pope over the alb when celebrating solemn pontifical mass"), tried to recall if FANIONS was valid (it is; a FANION is "a small flag used to mark surveying stations") but then the T took away that concern with RATIONS and ANOINTS.

Toby has STRAIN for six, while Andrew has chosen to "stick with a seven" with NATIONS.  David mentions ANOINTS and RATIONS as alternative sevens, but could not beat it.

Other sevens are INFANTS, ONANIST, NATRONS (NATRON being a mineral; see my recent musings about plurals), and FONTINA ("a mild-flavoured soft Italian cheese made from cow's milk [...]").  I would expect that to be pluralisable, and thus FONTINAS is the eight in this mix.

(I originally listed INSOFAR as another seven, but the Macquarie only lists the phrase INSOFAR AS.)


Scores: Andrew 7, Toby 0, me 7

Round 2: L M R S E A D U I

Toby delays those vowels quite a bit, and I think that is good strategy; Andrew takes vowels early, and it is reasonable to assume that he has various word lists memorised by vowel content.  Choosing them late takes away a little of his time advantage there, although he is too good for that to be much of a factor.  Still, no reason to make the opponent's life easy.

I had ELMS, REALMS, DUALISM, and MISRULED.  I amused myself by wondering if walls could be MURALISED, but rightly rejected it.  After time I found RESIDUAL for another eight.

Toby has MAULED for six, but Andrew has found RESIDUAL for eight to take the points again, and get off to a good early lead.  David has found MISRULED.

Those are the only eights.  There are quite a few sevens; a few of the commoner ones are ADMIRES, REALISM, MISLEAD, DERAILS, AUDILES, and RADIUMS.


Scores: Andrew 15, Toby 0, me 15

Round 3: Target 258 from 75 100 10 10 1 8

Andrew stays with the family mix -- I think he might be better served in general by a single large number -- and the small numbers are not a decent spread.  The target is reasonably low, though, so that might be helpful.

My very first thought was that the target was one away from 259, which is 7*37 -- I think I've remarked before that I know the first few multiples of 37, since it is a factor of 111 -- but a 7 would be difficult without using up that 1.  Similarly the 37, which is close to half of 75 (part of what makes this a tempting approach), but the small numbers just aren't good for this idea.

I floundered around for a bit wondering how to get close -- I think I was considering things like 8*75 at one point, which can't have ended up anwhere good -- but then managed to stop myself and approach it sensibly.  The standard method says "get to 250, then add that 8"; there's even a 1 which will allow tweaking with that 8, if that proves useful.  Considered in terms of trying to get to 250 things were suddenly much easier, and I found 258 = 10*(100 - 75) + 8.

I still had a little time to play around with alternative approaches, and found the more complicated 258 = 100 + (10/10 + 1)*75 + 8 before time expired.

Andrew is one away with 259; I was genuinely confused over this for a long while, but I'm pretty confident it was 259 = (10 - 8)*75 + 100 + 10 - 1.  If so, he was very near to a solution -- if he'd just tweaked a touch he may have found 258 = (10 - 8)*(75 - 1) + 100 + 10.  So close!

But Toby has found the solution; he starts with 100 - 75, and Andrew gives one of those "oh, of course" nods; he can see how the solution works now.  Toby has found the first of those solutions that I listed, and that was also Lily's approach.

This round puts Toby back within striking distance, but there are more letters to come before the numbers.

Andrew: 259
Toby: 258
Me: 258
Lily: 258

Scores: Andrew 15, Toby 10, me 25

First break: LUCID END ("A clue contained within")

That clue is INCLUDED.

David's talk is about the phrases "from stem to stern" and "from pillar to post".

Round 4: H R C S A O P E I

I had ARCH, ROACH, PARCHES, and POACHERS.  I missed that when it turned up in Sam's final game (episode 346), so I'm glad to have seen it this time.  The mix was promising, but no sign of a nine.

Both contestants have also found POACHERS, while David mentions HEROICS for seven and SERAPHIC for eight.

The other eight here is APHORISE.  Once again there are many sevens, and some of the common ones are CASHIER, COPIERS, CIPHERS, SHARPIE, HOSPICE, ROACHES, and PORCHES.


Scores: Andrew 23, Toby 18, me 33

Round 5: E U A S D M G B S

I had SUED, AMUSED / MEDUSA, MEDUSAS / ASSUMED, and wondered about SUBGAMES.  I correctly rejected it -- I think I've looked it up before -- so seven was my limit.  A final H for AMBUSHED would have been nice, but no such luck.

Toby has BUSSED for six, while Andrew has found the very nice SMUDGES for seven.  David has ASSUMED for his seven.

The other seven is DEGAUSS.

Those seven points give Andrew a lead of more than a conundrum, but the numbers are up next.  Toby may well be able to capitalise on those again.


Scores: Andrew 30, Toby 18, me 40

Round 6: Target 222 from 6 2 2 4 8 6

Toby opts to shake things up with six small numbers, which is good strategy, although risky.  He would hope to have the advantage with that, but the danger is a target which is completely unapproachable.  As it was, those six even numbers made me worry that the target might be odd; fortunately it was both even and low, and so this was a lot more approachable than it might have been.

My first observation was that the target is 6*37 (remember what I said about those multiples of 37?  This is why).  A little fiddling managed to get me that 37, and my solution was 222 = 6*(8*4 + 6 - 2/2).

A little after time I saw an alternative solution, which would have amused me greatly to present on the show.  "There's not enough sixes" I might well say, starting off by making two more with 6 = 2 + 4 and 6 = 8 - 2.  Then the solution is 222 = 6*6*6 + 6.

Andrew is just within scoring range with 212; my best guess at this is 212 = 2*((8 + 2)*(6 + 4) + 6).  But Toby is just two away, getting the points with 220 = (6*4 - 2)*(8 + 2).  So once again Toby narrows the gap, getting back within range.  If this trend continues then the conundrum is going to matter, but a full monty could seal the game for Andrew.

Lily shows how to use Toby's idea by making the numbers in a different way that has the requisite two left over: 222 = (8*2 + 6)*(6 + 4) + 2.

Andrew: 212
Toby: 220
Me: 222
Lily: 222

Scores: Andrew 30, Toby 18 (25), me 50

Second break: NEAT OVER ("Restore; refresh; repair; revive")

At least part of that is hinting RENOVATE.

Round 7: E O U T D C N E A

Andrew opts for five vowels; I wonder if he was chasing an I for EDUCTION (or INDUCTEE at the end).  I expect he saw the potential for EDUCATION, but the second E shot any hope of that.  In any case, I had OUTED, COUNTED, rejected OUTDANCE (incorrectly, as it turns out -- OUTDANCE is listed in the block entries), and happily settled on ANECDOTE for eight.

Toby has COUNTED for seven, and Andrew sticks with a seven again -- in this case EDUCATE.  David has found ANECDOTE for eight.

The other eights are UNCOATED, CUNEATED (variant of CUNEATE: "wedge-shaped"), and DUECENTO ("the 13th century, used commonly with reference to Italian art and literature of that period").  Any one of these (or OUTDANCE) could well have been the eight that Andrew decided not to risk.  And fairly sensibly, too -- as long as Toby does not outdo him in this round then even the best result for Toby in the numbers will mean that Andrew can win by solving the conundrum, and he would definitely back himself to do so.

The other sevens are UNACTED, ENACTED, ACETONE, and CUNEATE.


Scores: Andrew 30 (37), Toby 18 (32), me 58

Round 8: Target 193 from 25 100 50 75 3 5

Toby switches things up again by going for the other end of the spectrum with the four large option.  Again, sound strategy, but the target is low once more.  This was almost a trivial target -- change the 3 to a 2, for instance, and it would be, but it turned out to have a nice level of challenge to it.

I flailed for a bit on this one; I remember that 197 was manageable from the four large numbers, but the remaining 3 and 5 could not yield 4.  (If I'd looked the other way and observed that 203 was also makeable from the four large I would have found the tweak to subtract 2*5, but I did not think of that until afterwards.)

I focused on the target being 7 from 200, and with the 5 providing most of that 7 just wanted 2 more.  Fortuitously it all worked out, and I ended up with the solution 193 = 3*75 - 25 - 5 - 100/50.  After time I found the possibly simpler 193 = (50/25)*(100 - 5) + 3.

Andrew is one away with 192 -- presumably adding all the large numbers and subtracting the small ones -- but Toby has done well to find a solution with 193 = 100 + 75 + 25 - 50/5 + 3.  Nice one, Toby!  Those ten points actually put him ahead going into the conundrum; if he'd just found RATIONS in the first round he would be uncatchable at this point.

No word on what Lily did in this round.

Andrew: 192
Toby: 193
Me: 193

Scores: Andrew 30 (37), Toby 28 (42), me 68


So, down to the conundrum and just five points separate the contestants.  Toby has the technical advantage, but on past form one would strongly expect Andrew to solve this quickly for the come-from-behind victory in what has been a close contest throughout.

But those seconds stretch out, and Andrew still has not solved it.  I was not making progress either, and then the buzzer sounded just shy of the 24 second mark.  But it is Toby who has buzzed, correctly finding the solution for a memorable victory to him.  I paused as usual, and would have found the solution just before time expired; an oddly tough conundrum.

Andrew: [no answer]
Toby: THERAPIST (23.5s)
Me: THERAPIST (29.5s)

Final scores: Andrew 30 (37), Toby 38 (52), me 68

Well, what a game!  Andrew was great on the words as usual, but Toby managed to equal him just enough to be in good position.  Toby played good strategy throughout, both in how he selected the letters and the numbers; he was lucky to get small targets that were still a little tricky, but he had done his best to give himself that chance.  Quite against expectations, Andrew failed to solve the conundrum and Toby swooped in with the win -- a giant-killing moment for him.

Bravo to both contestants in what was a great game to watch.  I'm sure the other contestants are relieved that Andrew is out of the running, and that should speak volumes about his ability.  Toby moves into the semifinals, presumably to face the winner of Thursday's game.

Next up is Sam Gaffney (series 4 champion) taking on Jeremy Schiftan (series 3 runner-up).  My money is firmly on Sam, but it would have been firmly on Andrew in this one.  Just as well I don't actually bet money on this, really.  Regardless, it should be a fun match and I look forward to it.


Anonymous said...

Hi Geoff,

Like you, when I saw the make up of the 8 players, I thought my name ought to be there...that's fine, I'll win from home... except I would have been beaten by Toby as it turns out missing the first 7 letter and only getting to 192. I also was slow on the conundrum, so I end up with 42. I shadowed all in the other rounds. Huge surprise to see Andrew go...he seemed a bit subdued and off his game but full credit to Toby who played a very crafty game and it paid off. Looking forward to tonight

Regards, Roman

Mark said...

Well done Geoff on beating Andrew in Round 7, and congratulations to Toby.

My answers:
256 = 100 + 75 + 8*10 + 1
222 = (6+4)*(2*8 + 6) + 2
192 = 100*50/25 - 5 - 3

Sam Gaffney said...

I'm not sure that even Toby thought he had much chance here, but he did himself proud, with the biggest upset in L&N finals history. His number selections and solutions were excellent, but his best move was the awesome follow-through after buzzing in for the conundrum. I don't think any of myself, Jeremy, or Naween Fernando got THERAPIST from the audience.

I was glad to get to meet Andrew on the day, having remembered what a great player he was in Series 1. Along with being friendly, he was very free with his knowledge, and I found out that he had been a successful Countdown contestant, winning a Masters Series of sorts (the final of which never aired, due to the 1991 Gulf War).

My answers are largely irrelevant, as I saw a good chunk of the episode on the contestant room TV while it was being filmed. I definitely found NATIONS and RESIDUAL at the time.

258 = (100-75)*10+8
222 = (4*8+6-2/2)*6
193 = ((100-(5-3))*50-75)/25
(didn't solve on the day)

JT said...

I don't know whether it was tatics or simply the "live and let die" attitude but it was masterstroke by Toby in the numbers who finally showed his great numerical ability after he had, I recall 7 invalid numbers round during his 8 episodes previously. I utterly did not see that coming.
For my game my letters were shaky again and I missed the chance of an optimal numbers game when I found 75*3-25-5-100/50 in Round 8 a little too late.

My answers
222-(8*4 + 6 - 2/2)*6

Geoff Bailey said...

Great to hear from everyone again, and apologies for the long silent period last week. Some good results all round, and nice work with the 222's, everyone.

JT: My condolences on the 193 -- it was a good spot, even just after time. Getting it within time would have had you tied with Andrew going into the conundrum!

*chuckles* Yes, Sam, Toby's follow through on the conundrum was certainly impressive. I think that's the biggest I can recall, although there have been some other contenders.

Nice work with RESIDUAL and OUTDANCE!

David_Brewster said...

Perhaps another contender for biggest upset, although not in finals was that of Brett Edwards beating you Geoff.

Geoff Bailey said...

Kind of you to say so, David, but Brett did play well against both me and Toby -- so arguably his second game was the anomaly. Still, I do like to think that it would not be an often-repeated result.

Sam Gaffney said...

David, I thought the real surprise was Geoff coming as close to beating Brett as he did.

Mike Backhouse said...

Some great insights above.

I thought Toby had no chance after Andrew's first two letters rounds. But kudos to Toby for coming through in the end. What a great game!