Jim Wants To Be A Millionaire

by ChessBase
1/19/2006 – The TV show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" is the most popular quiz show in history. In the UK it has drawn up to 19 million viewers. Last Saturday we caught the first part of a broadcast with a chess grandmaster on the spot: James Plaskett made it all the way to £8,000. Next Saturday he goes for the million. Keep your fingers crossed.

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The first part of Plaskett's appearance on ITV's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was last Saturday, when he won the preliminary "Fastest Finger First" round. There ten contest are asked to put four names or items in a particular order. The candidate who does this correctly and in the fastest time gets to sit in the "hot seat", where he or she can play for the maximum possible prize. In the UK this is one million Pounds, or 1.76 million Dollars, and 1.45 million Euro.

The Fastest Fingers First section, with Plasket on the right

Plaskett survived the questions all the way to £8,000 – which he can lose next Saturday, if he fails to answer the next two questions to reach the safe £32,000 mark. After viewing any question the contestant can quit and take the money they have already won, instead of attempting to answer it. If the contestants answer a question incorrectly then they lose all the money they have won, except for the £1,000 and £32,000 prizes, which are guaranteed once a player has reached this level.

But we waste time explaing the rules of the most popular quiz show on earth. James Plaskett, who has been single-mindedly trying to get on the hot seat for years, made it this time and survived up to £8,000. Here are the questions he got (correct answers given at the end of the article):

£100: Which phrase refers to items which are tightly squeezed together?
A: Treacle-stacked
B: Honey-crammed
C: Jam-packed
D: Marmalade-stuffed

£200: In newspaper advertisements, what does the abbreviation ‘o.n.o’ stand for?
A: One night only
B: One naughty owner
C: Often needs oiling
D: Or nearest offer

£300: Which of these biscuits is traditionally given to babies?
A: Viennese finger
B: Ginger nut
C: Rich tea
D: Rusk

£500: Which of these is not a shot in tennis?
A: Drop shot
B: Lob
C: Off drive
D: Smash

£1000: Which of these items is said to kill a werewolf?
A: Silver jubilee
B: Silver bullet
C: Silver spoon
D: Silver lining

£2000: What would usually be kept in a jardiniere?
A: Cigars
B: Jewellery
C: Plants
D: Wine

£4000: Which actress gave birth to twins called Hazel and Phinnaeus in 2004?
A: Catherine Zeta-Jones
B: Liv Tyler
C: Julia Roberts
D: Angelina Jolie

£8000: The ancient stone circle at Avebury is in which county?
A: Northumberland
B: Wiltshire
C: Derbyshire
D: Somerset

Special thanks to John Nunn for replaying the entire broadcast and typing up these questions. John is one of the five phone-a-friends that Plaskett named. He can choose which one to call after he has seen a question.

Plaskett, who had brought along GM Stuart Conquest as his audience guest, was a very interesting candidate. He wore a very grimly determined expression throughout the session, until the very end, when he broke into a smile. At one stage the following exchange took place:

Host Chris Tarrant: "How are you feeling?"
Plaskett: "I don’t know what day it is, who you are, where we are."

James used adaquate time for deliberation on most of the questions, but then he usually picked an option and said "Final answer!", leaving no room for assistance by host Chris Tarrant. Nerves of steel.

Next Saturday, January 21st, at 20:00h British time (21:00h CEST, 3 p.m. New York) James will go for the full million. You can watch it on ITV in the UK and many parts of Europe. With chess fans all over Europe keeping their fingers crossed he has a genuine chance. We will report fully once this nerve-wracking episode is over.

Harold James Plaskett, 45, is a British Grandmaster and was British Chess Champion in 1990. He is married to writer Fiona Pitt-Kethley, and together with their son Sacha the three live in Playa Flamenca, Alicante, Spain. In 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2005 Plaskett made it to the studio stage of the British version of the quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. On none of these occasion did he succeed in making it into the contestant's chair and consequently won no money. But he drew on his experiences on the show to write a vigorous defence of Charles Ingram, his wife, Diana, and Tecwen Whittock, who all three acquired global notoriety in April 2003 when they were found guilty by a London court of conspiring to help Ingram win the £1 million top prize on the show by coughing to signal the right answers.

Solutions to the questions above: £100: C: Jam-packed; £200: D: Or nearest offer; £300: D: Rusk; £500: C: Off drive; £1000: B: Silver bullet; £2000: C: Plants; £4000: C: Julia Roberts; £8000: B: Wiltshire.

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