After a break of three weeks, Game of the Week returns with a classic match from what turned out to be a classic series of Countdown. This game was the first of Series 41, broadcast in the second half of 1999. Bobby Johnson was returning as reigning champion, having won two games, and he was pitted against Scott Mearns of Dundee, who was studying (rather conveniently) at Leeds University.
The game commenced with both players getting six points from a reasonable selection of letters - they failed to spot ALCOVES for seven and VOCALISE for eight, which was offered by Jan Harvey and Damian Eadie in Dictionary Corner. Round Two was remarkably similar, in as much as it yielded 6 points for both players again, while there were sevens (NUTTIER, TRIPLET) and an eight (the rather ugly INPUTTER) to be had. In Round Three, Scott finally pulled into the lead by spotting MIGRATES from another good selection of vowels and consonants.
The first numbers game saw Scott choose four from the top row, a selection which was to prove his trademark over the rest of his appearances - he got most of them spot-on too, and this was to prove no exception - the target was an admittedly low 107, but it still caused Bobby to blob. As we sailed towards the break via a Jan Harvey anecdote, the score was 30-12 in favour of Mr Mearns.
As Part Two began, we were treated to a not-very-nice selection of letters, in the shape of DLGOAUYTW, and after thirty seconds, Bobby managed only 5 (TODAY), while Scott offered a six (OUTLAY). Dictionary Corner could do no better, offering the alternatives LAYOUT and OUTLAW. Round 6 looked reasonably promising, and it looked like Bobby might catch up a bit when he declared an eight-letter word, but it was not to be - his offering of COMPENSE was quickly disallowed by Damian Eadie and his dictionary, leaving Scott to pick up yet more points for COPIES. The last letters game, chosen by Scott, looked good, featuring several common letters - A, I, T, R, N, E, S - so it looked liked a seven or eight at the very least was on the cards. Scott then shocked us all with an extremely impressive 18-pointer in SERRATING, which was duly allowed by DE and the lights on the set flashed their approval (I've always found that rather naff - how about you?). Jan and Damian informed us that there was a rather more common word available - ARRESTING.
With two rounds to go, and Bobby already fighting a losing battle, the main interest now turned to whether Scott could get 80 points on his first appearance. Bobby chose not to select four from the top, sticking to his more conventional one from the top row, but it failed to help him, while Scott collected another 10 points for a spot-on solution. So, just the conundrum remained - VIPERWEED was revealed, and Scott buzzed after just over a second to correctly offer PREVIEWED. The score ended with 80 points for Scott and just 12 for Bobby, which he had had since the second round.
Scott of course went on to become an 'octochamp', registering several more impressive scores (including a 76 and a 74)
and achieving a very impressive 510 points in the preliminary rounds. He returned in the quarter-finals as number one
seed, alongside another five octochamps (a record for one series of Countdown), where he beat Rory Dunlop and Melvin
Hetherington before meeting (and beating) number three seed Simon Cooper in the Grand Final. He then re-appeared the
very next week in the tenth Championship of Champions, which he duly won by virtue of victories over Series 39
semi-finalist Terry Knowles and the champion of the same series, Kate Ogilvie.
This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 4 August 2001.