After last week's look back to the early 'nineties, this week's Game of the Week comes bang up to date with a classic episode from the current series. David Hoskisson had already won three times and amassed 192 points when he came up against Charlie Gardiner from Carshalton in Surrey, who Richard, rather uncharmingly, referred to as "the face that lauched a thousand whatevers". This is one of those games that, but for a slight error on the part of one of the contestants, may have changed the course of Countdown history. David Jacobs was residing in Dictionary Corner alongside Countdown's very own Mrs Robinson, Tania Styles.
The game started disappointingly for champion David, when he only managed to spot RAPIST, while Charlie got IMPAIRS for seven. Dictionary Corner offered the amusing alternative ARMPITS. In the next round, both contestants declared seven with CANDLES, although David had been pondering an eight - UNSCALED - and it proved to be in the Dictionary, as did another eight offered by the other David and Tania, UNSALTED. Round three's selection looked quite promising, but while David declared seven again, Charlie only declared six. David offered the excellent NAIVETY, but unfortunately Charlie had miscounted - she actually had the seven-letter word JAVELIN, so it was no points to her, and the scores levelled at 14-14. Dictionary Corner offered an eight with NATIVELY, and they could have had the alternative VENALITY. The first numbers game saw a conventional selection (although 7, 8, 9 and 10 were all picked by Carol) and a low target. It proved to be easy, with more than one way of getting to the answer, and as we approached the break and all those adverts for earwax removal, the score was 24 apiece.
Refreshed by a cup of Darjeeling and a Gypsy Cream, everyone regrouped for Part Two. Another reasonable selection of letters, although perhaps not at first glance, containing as it did a C, a W and a U. This time, Charlie failed to score and fell behind for the first time in the contest. While David offered COWERED, Tania and t'other David offered the very similar LOWERED. Round 6 saw the scores level again, when David could only manage THRIVE, while Charlie spotted that word beloved of Countdown and Ena Sharples, HAIRNET. One letters game to go, and again a decent selection of letters was pulled from the proverbial bag - RSBOILFES - which prompted Carol to say "a load of old BOILERS, eh? - can't beat it", and David certainly couldn't, opting to stick with Carol's very helpful offering. Charlie at least declared something different - the seven-letter word BOSSIER. She had also been toying with an eight in FLOSSIER - had she risked it, she would have moved a crucial eight points into the lead. Now it was David's turn to pick the numbers, and he opted for two from the top, for the first time in his Countdown career, perhaps in a bid to stem the challenge from Charlie. Strangely, an 8, 9 and 10 were selected again, and when a fairly low target of 329 was chosen by CECIL, it looked like it might well be 48-all with the conundrum remaining. However, David declared nothing, while Charlie was spot-on.
So, to set the scene - the score was 38 points to David, 48 to Charlie. David had got the conundrum in all three of his previous appearances, never taking longer than 4 seconds - would his luck hold? The answer was 'yes', when after a little over six seconds, he correctly unravelled SLEEPSINN. As is so often the case, Charlie spotted it just after David has pressed, and with the scores at 48-all, it was tie-break time for the first time since challenger James Aukett beat Stephen Briggs after his third performance when the scores were tied at 45-45. Would history repeat itself? Well, the answer was 'no', as David kept up his unbeaten conundrum record by spotting BREAKAWAY in just two seconds.
David went on to win another two games before losing out to Geoff Mundin, but he is currently number four seed in the
series, so we can confidently expect to see him return in the quarter-finals in a few weeks' time. But had Charlie not
declared JAVELIN as a six-letter word, things may have been rather different...
This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 10 June 2001.