banner image


Home Photos Countdown Scrabble About Me Other Stuff


More Games

Quarter Final - Mikey Lear

Countdown Corral Recap

So into the business end of Countdown, a straight knockout to decide the title of series winner and with it all those shiny dictionaries. This was a new experience seeing so many familiar faces from TV (well bar James Roberts whose shows hadn't aired yet) and knowing the sort of calibre of opponent you were up against. One by one we arrived at the new lobby area at Yorkshire TV, for those who haven't had the pleasure before of witnessing this epitome of 60s council tower block chic it's a somewhat underwhelming event - not one to tell your grandchildren. To be fair tho the building does blend in nicely with Leeds. Jeffrey was busy inquiring for various dates and then firing back what day of the week they fell on, but otherwise it was fairly standard milling around and waiting. We all belated moved on into the green room (there were in fact two as one acted as a makeshift to cope with the large turnout) and sat around some more. Eventually we watched the last heat of the series played out live and then it was my turn to appear, along with number eight seed and ever colourful eccentric Mikey Lear in one of his do not adjust your set numbers. The seedings determined which order the games were played and I was very happy not to have found out I wouldn't have to play first thing in the morning. As it's the knockout stage a coin is tossed to decide who chooses which seat they want to sit in. On the face of it it may not appear to make much of a difference but as someone who's very analytically minded it would certainly appear to me to be an advantage to sit in the challenger's chair. The difference between the two seats is in the challenger's chair you get to pick the last two numbers games as well as declaring second on two of the final three letters rounds. This means you can make more strategic decisions towards the end based on how far ahead or behind you are - so for instance if you were more than 10 points ahead you could go for a more safe one large five small selection on the last numbers, or if you were similarly behind you could go for a more taxing selection like six small. I won the toss and grabbed the challenger's chair.

A familiar start for me, I spot one of the eights available DEMONISE to take the lead. A couple of flat grotty rounds followed and we matched each other. As I picked the letters in the fourth round I'd noticed that two of the same vowel had come out consecutively. Previously in Countdown the letters had been shuffled such that you didn't get duplicate letters drawn out one after the other, so you if you picked a vowel E say then the next vowel you select would not be an E. This resulted in lots of times when there would be an absolute shedload of 7s, 8s and words like PATRONISE coming up repeatedly. So an unexpected selection with three Es but I made the best of it and spotted ENDEMIC to extend my lead to 15. We both spotted the same solutions to what could have been an awkward numbers game and moved onto one of those situations I hate - when you've got a word you're not sure of and you're declaring first. I had WELLIE written down but went with a 5, I was delighted when Mikey did likewise. Sure enough WELLIE was okay. In the next couple of rounds the 8s screamed out to me and HARPOONS and CAPSTONE pushed my lead to a comfortable 31. One of the few 6s available in the next pretty much wrapped up the game. After that Mikey matched me with some good spots and identical numbers solutions. Onto the conundrum with my score on 106. At this point I probably tried too hard to try and compensate for the fact that there was very little to play for, the conundrum came up BRAINYETC. I immediately spotted CYBERNAUT and nearly pressed, except there was no U. Shortly after I thought it was BARONETCY again nope not quite - no O. After those two firmly entrenched themselves in my head I couldn't look past them, the 30 seconds ran out and the Des pressed his button to reveal CABINETRY. Final score 106-69.

Total rounds (W/L) 5-0. Maxima: 13/15
Numbers rounds (W/L) 0-0

In hindsight I think Mikey played very well in between the odd blip. If he could have risked WELLIE in round six things would have been very different. I felt like I put a decent marker down for the others, Jeffrey apparently got the conundrum I had missed but I wasn't overly concerned. It was nice to now be able to relax for a while and watch the others play their games. There was only one more game that day, number two seed James Hurrell facing off against number seven seed Steve Baines. I felt like James was my main rival so was quietly hoping Steve would win. To my slight surprise Steve had edged a couple of awkward rounds to go 12 points ahead as round 7 approached. Watching in the makeshift green room I saw the 9 from COEIDSSNI at the last moment, both players declared 7 but Steve's was disallowed. A lot of flat selections before James snook in front with ANTINODE in round 12. Another drawn round and it was onto the numbers where James went for his six small. The pressure must have been really on Steve here knowing if he didn't get it he could lose the game there and then. Steve got the numbers spot on whilst James could only get within 3. So a crucial conundrum with Steve Baines now leading by 7. He buzzed in after 9 seconds, VERBALDUO becoming BOULEVARD and completed the first upset knocking out the number two seed James Hurrell 100 to 83. I was obviously pleased with this result and thought it was a pretty good game, a lot more dramatic than my quarter final certainly. That was end of filming for the day and I was reminding myself how happy I was I didn't have to play in the morning.

The next day arrived and it was now the turn of the two remaining quarter finals. Everyone still seemed to be in good spirits and those sitting out made themselves comfortable as the irrepressible Jeffrey Hansford in the challenger's chair took on David von Geyer. Both players got off the mark on the opening round, missing a few tough 7s to register six points apiece. Jeffrey took the lead with PRIMATE before David was unlucky to find FUNDABLE was not in the dictionary to go 13 points down. David squeaked ahead with ENTITLE and UNTAMED to take it down to another crucial conundrum. It was here when Jeffrey went for it and literally pressed the buzzer before the conundrum had been revealed. Luckily for him the conundrum was QUARRYPET which leant itself to being solved quickly, the fact you've got the Q there, a P, a Y and two Rs meant there are very few plausible combinations to go through in your head. Jeffrey solved it in the two or three seconds of time between pressing the buzzer and Des finishes speaking and PARQUETRY gave him an 86-77 win. Another dramatic game in which I thought David was very unlucky to lose. If FUNDABLE had been in the dictionary that would have been a 14 point swing. David was likely stronger in the numbers games but the selections allowed him very limited scope to make that difference count. And of course the conundrum itself where Jeffrey's gamble paid off.

So the last of the quarter finals and whoever won this played me after lunch, so I was watching pretty closely. James Roberts was the unknown because his shows hadn't aired and I'd heard how he always picked six small, so thought he might be one of those players who gets a lower aggregate because of having difficult numbers games and hence is better than the stats suggest. It was another closely fought game with both players dropping plenty of points as they took rounds from each other. With James in the challenger's chair it came to the crucial point of the game, he chose the last numbers and even though he was 9 points down and could only lose it at this point he piled the pressure on himself and went for six small. It was a modest but tricky target with lots of ways to attack it. Unfortunately James could only get within 4 and David got the 223 target spot on to seal his place in the semi final against myself, the academic conundrum went unsolved and so it finished 80-61. David later joked that he'd considered losing on purpose to avoid playing me in the semi. Everyone pottered off to lunch and soon enough it was time for me to get back into the hot seat.

Semi Final - David Edwards

Countdown Corral Recap

I was back in my favourite challenger's chair ready and waiting. David tried something different and went for 5 vowels in the opening round, I soon had some 7s but got hung up on some Scrabble words and whether EBONITE was a mass noun. I found BETONIES right at the end of the time and didn't have time to really work out that it was definitely alright, I played safe and so missed out on taking the lead. We matched each other up til round 4 where I was pretty sure UNSPACED was not going to be in, missed the very difficult 8 and stayed with UPDATES while David tried his luck and found that indeed UNSPACED wasn't allowed. I then struggled a little bit with what appeared to be an easy numbers game, but fortunately for me David struggled that bit more and I pushed my lead to 17. That numbers seemed to have knocked David back and I took two of the next three rounds with the quite pleasing INSOFAR and UNTHRONE. I had GLOOMED written down in round 9 but as I was now 32 points ahead I decided I wasn't going to chance it unless David declared a 7, he went with COOLED and so I took the G off and said LOOMED. GLOOMED was perfectly okay. Another 10 points each and onto round 11 where finally another 9 comes up, I see AIRBOATS as the final letter (R) comes up so from there on I could just look for anything longer - fortunately I saw ABATTOIRS almost straight away as well. A run of the mill 8 puts me 102-44 ahead and now I'm eying up the series high score. I need a 7 or more to have a chance of beating my own mark of 128, unfortunately the fourth letter is a J and the other letters just don't fit together nicely and a 6 is all I can manage. I get the numbers meaning I can tie the 128 if I get the conundrum. DOWNHAVEN is revealed and I'm looking so hard I don't see the wood for the trees and stupidly I'm looking for a word with 'DOWN' in it. David gets the consolation of the conundrum by announcing HANDWOVEN after four seconds which made the result 118-60.

Total Rounds (W/L) 7-1. Maxima: 11/15
Numbers rounds (W/L) 2-0

Not my sharpest performance but I was delighted to get through, David's a nice bloke and said afterwards that for him the turning point was the first numbers game. I never felt like he had something spectacular in him to make up lost ground once I'd gotten ahead. After the game and the usual congratulations all the finalists were moved into the audience, I wasn't best pleased by this as the studio is quite a hot place particularly with the lights so I was aware it could fatigue me. Eventually Jeffrey and Steve made their way into their respective seats, Jeffrey getting the challenger's chair again. This game was dramatic for a lot of reasons, some I won't go into. It was another nip and tuck match with Jeffrey winning a couple of rounds and then Steve hitting back with ROOMIEST and solving a 4 large numbers game to move ahead. Some really stinky letters selections in part two where there were no more than 6s available kept it tight. By contrast part three offered 9s in two of the three letters rounds, however neither contestant was able to get the difficult CRITERION and the extremely difficult TESSITURA. Jeffrey nicked the round in between and so headed to the last numbers with an 8 point lead. Steve again had all the pressure on him going into the numbers round, the numbers came out 3, 7, 6, 2, 4 and 50 - a nice looking selection. CECIL generated the target 534 and off they went. On the face of it it looks an easy one, but again there are so many ways to go that if you pick the wrong one you'll struggle. Jeffrey declared one away, then to the agony of (nearly) everyone in the studio Steve had a blank. Jeffrey moved into an unassailable lead before going with his tactic of buzzing straight off and hoping he can work the conundrum out in the meantime, Jeffrey gave the correct answer but had hesitated too long so it was disallowed. Steve allowed the time to run out and Jeffrey made it to the final winning 81-66. All credit to Steve for remaining a good guy throughout.

Grand Final - Jeffrey Hansford

Countdown Wiki Recap

So the big one, I felt Jeffrey had been fortunate to get this far and I felt unless the selections were flat I would win enough rounds to make the conundrum irrelevant - which was obviously Jeffrey's strength. Jeffrey got the challenger's chair so I chose the first letters. It was a tricky selection but I'd soon spotted a 7 I'd missed in my heats, I was hopeful that I'd win the round but Jeffrey had gotten the same word - BANDITO. Second round and a bizarre selection with 3 Ms, I thought this would make it easier for Jeffrey to match the 8 I'd quickly jotted down but fortunately this time I did win this round with AMMONITE to give me a lead. Round three and I win again with SNIFTER to build my lead up to 15, I was feeling very confident now as I knew Jeffrey had it all to do. A Countdown favourite apiece in round four and it was onto my solitary numbers pick. I'd practised four large a lot and was very fluent at the various techniques, formulae etc. plus Jeffrey had botched a 4 large in his semi - so the choice was obvious. Unfortunately I got a selection that rendered all the techniques worthless as it was a formality to get within 1, but very difficult to get it spot on. Somehow I completely missed the first step in solving the numbers - seeing 12*75. As time wore on I became increasingly panicky with the thought I'd selected these numbers and I could lose the round. In the end we both declared 900 and then Carol said it was impossible, I figured it was probably doable but I didn't want to try and solve it in the break and then kick myself for not getting it when it mattered and have that affect my game - sure enough when I looked at it much later I did it within a few seconds. After another dull selection I moved further ahead with OUTRANGE, the then 23 point lead felt really big knowing Jeffrey would have to beat me on at least three rounds to win (barring a 9). There was then another ultimately flat letters round that was pretty tortuous to me as it looked for all the world that there was a 7 and indeed there were several Scrabble words there, just none that were okay on Countdown. I held my breath as I declared 6 first, then Jeffrey declared - 6. A pair of 7s on another of those boring array of letters. Then what was for me a straightforward numbers, I'd still had a little hope Jeffrey might miss it but he'd found the same solution as myself, well with a Jeffrey-ism to use all the numbers.

Round 11 passed without much interest before round 12 was another horrible one for me, thinking there must be a 7 and as before there wasn't one. My lead had remained at 23 and now all I had to do was draw the last letters and I'd won. I really wanted one of those tedious combinations earlier with loads of 7s or loads of 8s, but it was a bit more awkward than that and I scribbled down three 7s I wasn't totally sure of given the circumstances. About halfway through the time I finally spotted ALLUDES and some relief, I kept looking for an unlikely 8 but there weren't any. We both declared 7, Jeffrey then gave his word SHAWLED which was one I'd written down and was doubting myself over - I showed Pam in dictionary corner my SHAWLED as well just in case by some miracle I'd spotted a phantom letter with ALLUDES. At this point I knew I'd won and some way or another I managed to use what was left of my scrambled brain to get numbers with just a few seconds left. Jeffrey declared nothing and took back the extra 10 points I'd gained by pulling his usual trick on the conundrum, I'd actually solved it myself a good second before Jeffrey came out with it but by then I didn't much care. I was crowned champion of Countdown, winning 105-82.

Total rounds (W/L) 4-1. Maxima: 13/15
Letters rounds (W/L) 3-0 [AMMONITE SNIFTER OUTRANGE]
Numbers rounds (W/L) 1-0

Looking back now I'm very pleased with the way I played and held myself together, although that numbers round really annoys me because I know I'd get it most of the time and I never really got to show my ability at four large which I'd practised quite a lot. I couldn't do anything about the conundrum without adopting Jeffrey's 'tactics' which was not something I ever seriously considered, I certainly wouldn't do it against what I would consider to be a more honest contestant.

Finals summary
Total rounds 45, won 16 (36%), drawn 27 (60%), Lost 2 (4%)
Letters rounds 33, won 13 (39%), drawn 20 (61%), lost 0 (0%)
Numbers rounds 9, won 3 (33%), drawn 6 (67%), lost 0 (0%)
Conundrums 3, won 0 (0%), drawn 1 (33%), lost 2 (67%)

Complete summary
Total rounds 175, won 86 (49%), drawn 73 (42%), Lost 6 (3%)
Letters rounds 121, won 69 (57%), drawn 48 (40%), lost 4 (3%)
Numbers rounds 33, won 10 (30%), drawn 23 (70%), lost 0 (0%)
Conundrums 11, won 7 (64%), drawn 2 (18%), lost 2 (18%)

Click here to view the aftermath where you can read about the post-show excitement and see what shiny stuff I won.

© Evil Budgie Productions 2016