This week, we return to the land of high-scoring Countdowns, with a game from Series 23. Michael Woods from Teddington had won his first match after being 4 points behind going into the conundrum against famed Countdown contestant Nita Marr's mother, Ella Bernard. He spotted BILLIARDS after seven and a half seconds, a fraction before Ella, to win 51-45. His second game, the one featured here, was against Jacky Pett from Epping, and ended up being a bit of a classic.
Round one saw Jacky declaring GLARES for six, but Michael went one better, with GRAVELS for seven - Dictionary Corner, graced by Sally James and the "mighty" Richard Samson offered the alternative JAILERS. Round 2 saw everyone getting four letter words, while the last letters game of Part One saw both contestants offering SPONGER and the people with the dictionaries offering MONGERS. It looked like the first numbers game could be interesting, when Jacky decided to choose six from the second row, but the "10" came up and the target was a small 230 - both players got 10 points, and the score was 28-21 as the break approached.
Part Two started with a good selection of letters in Round 5, Michael getting 7 points, while Jacky could only offer DELAYS for 6. Michael missed the opportunity to go one better - STEADILY was there for eight, as was the rather more obscure HYALITES (colourless opals), which wouldn't be allowed under the rules of Countdown now in force, which exclude plurals of mass nouns. Round 6 was the one that really bumped the scores up, with both contestants, Dictionary Corner and probably half of the audience, spotting RECASTING for 9 - words with the 're-' prefix are often risky, but this one caused no such problems. The last letters game featured another reasonable set of letters, and both contestants scored seven again - with two rounds to go, the score was 60-46 to Michael, but it was still anyone's game.
Michael stuck to his usual "one from the top, five from anywhere else" formula, and Carol duly obliged with one from the second row and four from the third. CECIL was in the mood to boost Michael's score further and offered a rather unchallenging 165 - as usual, no sense of occasion! There are several ways of solving it - Jacky plumping for (50+7-2)x(9-6), while Michael offered ((7-4)x50)+9+6. So, the score was 70-56 with just the conundrum to go. Jacky had obviously lost, but could still get 66 points, while Michael had a chance to post his name near the top of the Countdown high score table. After five and a half seconds we had the answer - Michael unscrambled UNDERJOEY, and he became joint fifth highest scorer at the time, while Jacky ended with a very respectable losing score of 56, after a performance that may well have won her the game against a different opponent.
After this match, Michael won one more game, before being defeated by Nick Atkinson from Surrey. He appeared in the
quarter-finals as number five seed, but lost out immediately to number four seed Alan Harston in a closely-fought game.
This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 3 June 2001.