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Mastermind: Tie-break heartache for Northern Ireland man as he’s pipped at the post for title

By David Young

Published 02/04/2016

Lurgan man Jim Maginnis on Mastermind, and (left) RAF commander Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris
Lurgan man Jim Maginnis on Mastermind, and (left) RAF commander Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris
RAF commander Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris
John Humphreys

Northern Ireland man and former Belfast Telegraph staffer Jim Maginnis narrowly failed to become the 2016 Mastermind champion last night when he was pipped at the post during a nail-biting tie-break round.

The RAF navigator - who reached the semi-finals of the competition in 1991 - lost 29-27 when he was unable to answer any of the five tie-break questions correctly after finishing level with his opponent following he general knowledge round.

It was heartbreaking for the Lurgan man, who was leading the six-strong field at the halfway stage after achieving a perfect score of 15 during the specialist subject round of the quiz.

He had chosen as his specialist subject the Battle of Berlin in 1945, in which Soviet forces reduced much of the besieged Nazi capital to rubble.

In earlier rounds Jim had chosen to answer questions on the career of RAF chief Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris, and on the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century.

A field of 96 entrants had been whittled down to a panel of just six - one woman and five men - who faced interrogator John Humphreys last night in their struggle to win the coveted title and the specially commissioned Mastermind crystal trophy.

The RAF officer's rivals chose subjects as diverse as the works of 19th century writer Mrs Gaskell, English Test cricket, the Ryder Cup and the Seven Years War. In the end it was his performance in the general knowledge round that let the Ulsterman down - just as it had back in 1991, in the days when Magnus Magnusson was the programme's quizmaster.

During last night's grand final each of the finalists was profiled in a short film.

In his film, Jim visited Berlin, where he toured one of the remaining flak towers on the outskirts of the city and also a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery where some men of from his own squadron - killed during the air war over Berlin in 1945 - are buried.

In the end the Mastermind trophy went to Alan Heath, an accountant from Birmingham, whose specialist subject was the Thunderbirds puppet series made by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson in the 1960s.

Mr Heath got two of the tie-break questions correct giving him a total of 29 points to Jim's 27 points.

Neither man had any passes.

But for the Ulsterman it was to be second time unlucky

"At least I can say I was a Mastermind finalist" he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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