Mastermind Alan Heath relives dramatic victory with surprise Thunderbirds bash
Imagine inviting your mates around to watch Mastermind '“ and they have no idea that the winner is sitting in the lounge with them.
That is what Alan Heath, 56, chartered accountant from Buckingham and the nation’s Mastermind did.
He threw a Thunderbirds party, because that was his specialist subject, and watched in glee as his friends gasped their way through Friday’s dramatic grand final on BBC Two.
“I was just watching their faces,” said Alan, who lives on Badgers with wife Heather, 54. “I knew what happened, but I was still very nervous.
“In terms of quizzing, it’s the pinnacle. You can’t get better than winning Mastermind.
“I just find it amazing that when I think of the greats, like Chris Hughes, Geoff Thomas, Roger Pritchard – I’m amongst them. I can’t think of the words for it.”
It was decided by a tiebreak, for the first time in Mastermind history.
In fact, it was the second tiebreak of the final, filmed back in November, because Alan and fellow finalist Jim Maginnis, drew the first one so producers cut it out.
“I thought Jim had won,” Alan said. “They were checking something in the back room and it seemed to go on forever.
“I was thinking second is not a bad achievement, so I was quite calm and resigned.
“Then John (Humphrys, the host) spoke, using his ear piece, and said: ‘What? Has this happened before, in the final?’. Suddenly, I was back in it.”
Alan won the (second) tie-break with answers of Manic Street Preachers and Manchester Ship Canal.
But knowing the latter was a stroke of luck, because Alan’s son-in-law, Hal, had told him about the canal as they walked close to the Manchester studios, on the night before the final.
Alan is no stranger to quiz shows. This was his 10th, having appeared on the likes of 15 to 1, Only Connect and Brain of Britain.
In 2012, he took on the Eggheads with Heather and daughter Kip, 27. Alan defeated Daphne on Geography but they were edged out.
As part of The Badgers, Alan and Heather quiz around the town but he thinks he is ‘probably banned’ from pub quizzes now.
He thinks the secret to Mastermind success is choosing the right specialist subject.
He said: “You need to have a good grounding in general knowledge, that’s the main thing. Then you need to pick a specialist subject which is not too wide. In Mastermind, you need to know everything about something.”
Alan meticulously watched all 32 episodes of Thunderbirds in preparation for the final, where he scored 13.
He then got 14 in the general knowledge round to take his score to 27 – the same as Jim.
But the dramatic tiebreak went his way and he lifted the Mastermind bowl, which he now keeps in his lounge cabinet.
“I was going to put it on the mantelpiece,” he said. “But I thought the danger of it falling is enormous.”
Mayor of Buckingham Andy Mahi congratulated Alan on behalf of the town.
He said: “The Mastermind champion is from the town.
“We are very privileged and proud of his achievement.
“Congratulations to him.”