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Following his brother Armand's appearance on the show two days earlier, New Yorker Adam Gilinsky first appeared on Countdown on 31st January 1985, immediately after eventual series winner Darryl Francis had finished his octochamp run (which of course included a victory over Armand). Having defeated co-challenger Ann Francis (but only just!), Adam went on to register two more wins in the prelims against David Hudson and Paola Fabrizi before finally succumbing to Robert Healan in a game that ended 38-30. Adam returned for the quarter-finals as number six seed, where he knocked out Laurie Silver before finally losing out to none other than... Darryl Francis. At the time of his appearances, he was studying International Law in Edinburgh, and he has remained in the U.K., although he informs me that "success as an international lawyer has evaded me thus far"! This is his Countdown story...
As a Countdown player, I am probably one of the weakest to make it to the semi-finals - both Laurie Silver and I had had an extra drink at lunch beforehand (at my challenge), but he was slightly more tired than I was! I was and am however quite good at the numbers, though if I don't see the conundrum immediately I might as well give it up.
When I applied to the show, and was invited to the North British for the interviews, my brother had come for an extended visit, and tagged along. He was and is better at word games and puzzles than I, and they were happy to invite him along as they couldn't get enough Scottish/northern players. They hoped to put us up against each other, but Darryl Francis was nearing the end of his octorun when I was to go up against him. Feeling resentful at his presence, I decided to suggest to the producers that Armand would have a better chance of beating Darryl (he didn't know the schedule, oops). This was agreed, but sadly he too fell to the widely disliked Mr. Francis (though he did better than I did!). Your description of me as fortunate (see Game of the Week, 16 June 2001) is only too kind! On the other hand, Armand (not then married) was rather impressed by Karen, rather than Carol (who seemed to warm to him a bit more...). Once the opportunity of the brothers match receded, I felt that there was less interest in my prospects...
Ann Francis was rather distraught at losing to me, and I'm afraid I don't remember David or Paolo. Robert Healan (Bobby) and his wife Maggie were both genuinely great people, and I didn't mind losing to him at all - and was delighted to see him again at the championship (and would love to see them again). As I recall, I might have done slightly better, not knowing certain Briticisms and trying to use US spelling (I was surprised 'grunge' wasn't allowed!), but against that I had a lot of luck - I seemed to be able to psych out my opponents a fair bit.
Between the first set of games and the semis I had acquired an Apple IIC more or less portable computer, which I had programmed to play a rather limited game of Countdown - like the board game, no vocabulary, but good practice. I keep meaning to go back and work out a numbers game solver! This rather impressed the others.
Everyone wanted to see Darryl (who allegedly had ghost-written a book for Gyles Brandreth, and was regarded as being somewhat of a 'ringer') beaten, although the number 2 seed Helen was not popular either, as she had been on some other quiz show and had loudly explained that her husband had built her a special bookshelf for the leather-bound however-many-volumes OED she was going to win. Me, I was rooting for Bobby, though we all liked Olivia too.
I'd very much like to go back for a 'special' - even a match against my brother Armand, though I'd lose! Or against another family member - they are all keen. This is not because I enjoyed my brief period of celebrity - though I did, even getting recognised as that bloke from Countdown while doing some charity collection work in Perth...
I still have and use the dictionary prize (signed by Richard Whiteley), though I lost the nice pen fairly soon after the show.