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So onto the games...

Game 1 - Baz Hunt

Countdown Wiki Recap

So second game of the day I faced the new champion Baz. I got off to a nerve-settling start by winning the first round with UPSTAGE and take a seven point lead. A flat selection followed with lots of 7s, then a couple of rounds where I was happy to match whatever Baz declared and not risk it on the whims of the dictionary. A lot of sirens were going off in my head with FARNESS and I had a feeling that FANNERS was okay but I played it safe and sure enough my instincts were correct. Ten points apiece on the numbers and I spotted TOEHOLD to go 14 points ahead. I again played safe in round seven as I wasn't really trusting my instincts yet and a selection soon followed with a large number of 8s - in Scrabble these would be described as high probability, ie they're among the most probable 8s to come across in a game. As a high level Scrabbler these sorts of words are your bread and butter whereas they're a lot harder for your average person to spot particularly when there is no obvious suffix or prefix. I win that round with AMORTISE before again playing conservatively in the next round knowing I only had to declare a valid word longer than four letters to win. With a now 28 point cushion I'm virtually home and dry with six rounds remaining, I struggle with the numbers but escape with seven points and some straight forward stuff and EXTREMA which I'm familiar with from maths help me to a 108-48 victory.

Total rounds (won/lost) 8-0. Maxima: 11/15
Numbers rounds (won/lost) 0-0

Overall it was a workmanlike performance with the odd good word thrown in. I was just happy to get the first game out of the way, knowing that I could be playing almost anyone and they would have the experience of already filmed however many times.

Game 2 - Thomas Baldwin

Countdown Wiki Recap

After lunch I faced my second opponent, feeling a lot more relaxed in the champion's chair. I went for a couple of risky words which were both fine (LINTIES and OPTIONED) and so found myself 22-7 up. I then missed the common 7 in the next round and was forced into trying WAGONED which was disallowed (it's fine in Scrabble) and so had my lead cut to eight points. A straight-forward numbers game followed and we both notched up ten points apiece. From then on however it was oneway traffic with Thomas failing to add to his score and I ran out a 109-24 winner.

Total rounds (W/L) 12-1. Maxima: 11/15
Numbers rounds (W/L) 2-0

Again it was a workmanlike performance with the odd risk taken in the early stages. I was obviously a bit disappointed to lose a round but it was a good spot from Thomas and there wasn't anything else there. I hadn't really fired on the numbers, in hindsight I probably concentrated too much on writing something down on paper at the cost of my thinking time.

Game 3 - Chris Bibby

Countdown Wiki Recap

My third game was a bit of a local derby, Chris lived within about 10 miles of me. A couple of satisfying spots either side of PETITE which I wasn't totally sure of gave me a heartening start. From then on it was plain sailing with that safety margin, I played safe in round six by winning with HOARSE instead of ROSEBAY which was fine. A couple of rounds later I spotted PATONCE which I had actually checked to see if it was in the dictionary earlier that day. A few more mundane rounds followed before Chris broke an 8 round losing streak when we both got an aesthetically pleasing numbers solution on the penultimate round, which also pushed my score past the hundred mark. A very tough conundrum followed which neither of us could get, when the answer was revealed I realised it was one I've missed a few times playing on the Countdown Corral site. I won 103-33.

Total Rounds (W/L) 10-0. Maxima: 9/15
Numbers rounds (W/L) 1-0

I always felt well in control of this game, leaving something to spare in the odd round. The conundrum miss was annoying but then it was a toughie. Not a flash performance in the end but the selections were quite clunky with often only one or two difficult words as the maximum. I was becoming aware there hadn't been a nine in my run yet, which was quite unusual and as well as that there wasn't the usual procession of rounds with umpteen straight-forward 7s or 8s.

Game 4 - Peter Watts

Countdown Wiki Recap

Because of an unfortunate incident earlier in the day Peter (who was a standby) had rushed over to fill in as a contestant. Knowing this I was aware he'd perhaps not be at his best. A mixture of extremely cautious declarations and some sloppy play by myself meant I actually missed the maximum on all of the first four rounds. Fortunately I got away with it and was up by 21 points after part one. Another absurdly defensive declaration of DAEMONS instead of ABDOMENS meant I extended my lead soon after. It was now round 7 and I was choosing the letters, O A R I C S L N... at this point I was getting hopeful that a 9 would come out, I picked a final vowel and sure enough it was an E and I immediate scribbled down CENSORIAL and LONICERAS. Cue 18 points and some flashy lights. Some more friendly selections and I was 118-36 up with the conundrum to come. At this stage I was made well aware that the current series high score was 127 by a certain Jeffrey Hansford. I belatedly unscrambled the conundrum ROYALTRAP into PORTRAYAL and pipped the old high score by a point. 128-36 the final score.

Total rounds (W/L) 11-0. Maxima: 9/15
Numbers rounds (W/L) 0-0

Although I got the highest score of the series it was quite a hollow game, I'd not played very well and I didn't really have to so it felt like I was going through the motions aside from the statistical significance. The fact that it was the last show filmed on a long day also probably had something to do with it. Overall I was happy enough with the four games I'd played despite not really reaching the heights I knew I was capable of - it was hard to be disappointed when I'd won all the games so comfortably which is obviously what you set out to do. I was a little aggrieved at the stingy selections and felt they could only improve next day. I'd set myself the target of reaching an aggregate of 900 overnight and told myself not to bother writing the selections down at all and just concentrating on finding words as the letters came out.

Game 5 - Martin Larter

Countdown Wiki Recap

I was aware a game first thing in the morning might be a bit more of a struggle than usual and after a wretched night's sleep thanks to air conditioning presumably procured from an Eskimo's fridge I wasn't feeling too great. First round and I spot OUTFLIES but don't fancy it and stay safe with FOULEST while Martin has OUTLIES disallowed to give me an early lead - OUTFLIES turned out to be fine. A couple of very flat selections follow before I notch up probably the worst miss in my personal history of playing word games. I completely miss SEDATION and think if there was actually an 8 there I'd have seen it... so I stick with a 7 when I also had a risky DYSTONIA written down. I lose that round and another easy round follows and I go to the ad break one point behind. Another fairly flat letters selection follows and I'm surprised when Martin declares KILTERS which is disallowed. I also take the next round with LOATHED to go 13 ahead. We match each other for the next few rounds with me wrongly discounting IMPANATE in one of them. SINCERER gets me up by 21 points with three rounds left, now all I have to do is draw the last letters game. I choose five vowels to try and limit the options and possibility of a 9, spot LEGATED and relax somewhat - thinking it's a pretty common word and it's bound to be in the dictionary. Unfortunately for me it wasn't allowed and suddenly the game is live again. At this point adrenalin seemed to finally kick in and melts the permafrost in my brain. I'm delighted when the numbers game target is low and I find a solution, thus ensuring I win - as it transpired Martin could only get 1 away. I then spot the conundrum very quickly and run out a slightly flattering 104-70 winner.

Total rounds (W/L) 6-2. Maxima: 11/15
Numbers rounds (W/L) 1-0

In terms of how many maxima I spotted I played this reasonably well, but in reality with the flat selections I should have done a lot better, the two rounds I lost were awful. The 900 aggregate looked a long way off now as I needed to average 116 over the next three games. But a win is a win and I was sure I would play better in the next game.

Game 6 - Stuart Hamilton

Countdown Wiki Recap

Unbeknownst to me at the time Stuart had quite a following in the audience giving him plenty of encouragement. I opened up with a slightly risky 7, having had DROGUES, GOURDES and GROUSED written down I opted for the latter - all three were fine. With the familiar Countdown word PICRATE I took the second round as well to give me a 14-0 lead. A lot of flat selections followed with Stuart unwisely risking AMERICAN which was capitalised. With a 21 point lead I spot HELOTAGE in round 7 but immediately discount it as a Scrabble-only word, as it turned out it was fine in Countdown too. Not too much damage done tho as I draw that round and take the next with OUTLINER. Some run of the mill rounds follow with the odd nice word thrown in before struggling my way to a fairly tricky conundrum to secure a 118-71 victory.

Total rounds (W/L) 6-0. Maxima: 14/15
Numbers rounds (W/L) 0-0

Easily my best performance so far, I felt like I really found my groove in this game, indeed I registered 14 maxima out of 15 in this game - my only miss coming in round 7 where I discounted HELOTAGE. I felt like Stuart was a pretty good player and put in a good performance except for part one where he gave himself too much to do. Against most opposition he'd have won playing to that standard. With this win I'd virtually guaranteed I'd be back for the quarter finals and had given my points aggregate a nice boost.

Game 7 - Allan Millington

Countdown Wiki Recap

Allan was another local and had been at my audition, where he'd spotted some good 'uns but was a bit erratic. I made my customary good start with the risky ELICITOR against Allan's ELICIT. Allan unfortunately misdeclared in the next and I was 14-0 up. I then spotted the only 7, TRIOLET to put me 21-0 up. We then matched each other for the next four rounds, declaring identical words, both of us and dictionary corner missing the common AMBIENCE in the sixth round. The eighth round produced an interesting selection, I was a little unsure about whether my CAGOULES was okay, I know it has a few variant spellings from Scrabble but you never know of those variations will also be in Countdown's word tome. I was feeling good so I went with it while Allan's offering gave me another throwback to Scrabble when he declared CASEFUL. In a Scrabble tournament a month or two previous I had successfully challenged off CASEFUL against another Allan. As in Scrabble CASEFUL was disallowed and CAGOULES turned out to be fine. DELTOID in an awkward selection immediately after pushed me further ahead. Still conscious of the lack of 9s so far I perked up a little bit in round eleven when the letters were ARTIENDA and I waited with baited breath as the last letter came out... K... ugh. A couple of satisfying rounds at the end, getting a toughish numbers and a very fast conundrum and I'd won another game - 120 to 57.

Total rounds (W/L) 8-0. Maxima: 14/15
Numbers rounds (W/L) 1-0

This probably topped my previous game, again I'd managed 14 maxima out of 15 (missing just AMBIENCE) but the selections were generally tougher. Again I think Allan was a good player and could have done a lot better in different circumstances, he certainly had the ability to have strung a few wins together. After this game I now needed 110 to get the magical 900 mark and I felt it was very much in my own hands given how well I'd played the last couple of games.

Game 8 - Shemina Kirby

Countdown Wiki Recap

So my last game for a while, whatever happened. To some extent it was a relief, but it was also tinged with sadness. Anyway a nice start from Shemina with MEDUSAS while I declared an anagram of it, ASSUMED. A tough round followed where my word game background really helped me, Shemina declared GOONERS but I knew the only valid word with that lot was OROGENS. There was also the lovely NOONERS in that round which I'd not heard of before at the time. That gave me the lead and finally a second 9 arrived, which I quickly spotted (RUMINATED) and this gave me a commanding lead. I gradually pulled away in further rounds before missing my first numbers game for a while - both me and Shemina getting one away. Along came the first round of part three and I lost only my fourth round in my 8 games when Shemina came up with the very nice BANDITO, she'd also spotted the only other 7 there BOTANIC. I hit back in the next round with a conservative DEMOTES whilst being fairly sure of MODISTES which wasn't needed. I then got to the conundrum knowing I'd need it to get past the 900 mark, CLUEHOBBY shot up and fortunately it was one of those that appeared straight in my head - CUBBYHOLE. Perhaps it was the sight of the rapidly approaching finishing line that gave me that bit extra. Final score 117-40.

Total rounds (W/L) 9-1. Maxima: 12/15
Numbers rounds (W/L) 2-0

So not quite up to the standard of my previous couple of games but I was happy with the way I played. Shemina spotted a few nice words and was unlucky with GOONERS. I'd done what I'd set out to do the previous night - become an octochamp and break through the 900. I finished with an aggregate of 907 (average of 113.375 points a game) and won all bar one game with plenty to spare, so I was chuffed with the way I'd performed in those respects. I was still peeved that there weren't more 9s, the only person who's scored more than me in his octochamp run is Julian Fell. He had three 9s come up in his last heat game alone - I'd had two 9s in my entire eight game run. Oh well. Onto the quarter finals then.

Heats summary
Total rounds 120, won 70 (58%), drawn 46 (38%), Lost 4 (3%)
Letters rounds 88, won 56 (64%), drawn 28 (32%), lost 4 (5%)
Numbers rounds 24, won 7 (29%), drawn 17 (71%), lost 0 (0%)
Conundrums 8, won 7 (88%), drawn 1 (13%), lost 0 (0%)

Look at the general octochamp stats to see how my points scored, percentage performance and a few other things compare with other octochamps in the 15-round era.

Click here to see how I fared at the finals.

© Evil Budgie Productions 2016