A Havelock North man is a step closer to becoming New Zealand's first Mastermind of the 21st Century.

Teacher William Barnes won Sunday night's heat of the revived Mastermind show, in what host Peter Williams called a "close contest" with Mr Barnes and fellow contender Mike Nahu remaining neck and neck.

In his first round, on chosen specialist subject American History during the 1960s, Mr Barnes confidently answered seven questions right in a row, gaining nine points.

When the round ended in a draw between him and Mr Nahu, an Auckland teacher whose specialist subject was the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr Barnes said he remembered thinking; "this is going to be a good two man show".


However just before the second round, Mr Barnes said he switched off.

"I think I was just relieved after the first round, I'd been worrying for weeks that I'd be coming last," he said.

At the end of the round, Mr Nahu was sitting on 15 points - a single point above Mr Barnes.

"At that point I had a feeling I could still pick him off," he said. "We were eyeballing each other."

During the final round, New Zealand knowledge, Mr Barnes scored nine points bringing his total to 23. When Mr Nahu's turn came, Mr Barnes said he counted his points and was relieved when Mr Nahu ended up a point short.

Since filming in Easter Mr Barnes has been sitting on the results, and is now swotting for his specialist subject in the semifinals: the life and political career of Joseph Stalin.

He said, "I've carefully picked three books and will go through them, seeing what the common things are, and learning a lot of hard Russian names."

When asked if he was more nervous going into the semifinals, he said "Yes, because the stakes are higher ... but no because I know I won't screw up".

"It's just about what you do on the day."

- Mastermind airs on TV One on Sundays, at 7.45pm.