This week's game is one of those that almost changed the course of Countdown history. 15-year-old Wayne Summers had won the first two games of Series 24 when he came up against Deborah Rettie from Rumbling Bridge in Scotland. Wayne had scored 73 in his first match, but only managed to amass 39 points in his second game.
The game started with Deborah spotting a seven letter word (POWDERS), while Wayne struggled to a six. Rula Lenska, accompanied by Susie Dent (who was making only her third appearance on the programme), offered the eight-letter PRODUCES (I remember Susie remarking on a recent programme that in these early appearances, she hid behind Rula's mass of red hair). The second letters game offered many sixes (although Dictionary Dell had been toying with SALVOED, which wasn't allowed), and while Deborah offered SOLVED, Wayne had JAILED. Round Three saw both contestants offering more six-letter words ending in -ED (Dictionary Corner could only offer DENTAL, although there was a seven in BEADILY). The first numbers game sorted the proverbial men from the boys, as Wayne chose none from the top row. The target of 625 proved tricky, with Wayne declaring 628 and Deborah 621. Wayne duly went through his method with Carol, bagged seven points for being within 5, and the score was "even stevens" as we approached the break (if you're interested, Carol could only get 624 - can you do better?).
Refreshed by our cups of tea and Gypsy Creams, we were ready for Round 5, and it proved to be another slightly uninspiring round, with more six-letter words from the contestants (again ending in -ED!). Dictionary Corner suggested DOGMAS as an alternative. Round Six yielded another lacklustre selection of letters, and both contestants (along with Dictionary Corner) declared the six-letter word BECOME. Then, just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, we were treated to the selection HURXIARIA!! Wayne offered HAIR for four, while Deborah plumped for a word spelled out in the selection - ARIA. The only other word I can find in the selection is AURA - how about you?? In the second numbers game, Deborah went for the conventional "one from the top", and the target looked a very achievable 460. Surprisingly, Wayne only declared 459, when he failed to spot he could use the 6 at the end, and Deborah pulled ten points clear with the conundrum remaining.
In Wayne's previous programmes, he had spotted one conundrum in just one-and-a-half seconds, but he was beaten to it by Robert Cockrell in his second game, who spotted FILLETING (from LIFTNIGEL) after six seconds, so it seemed like it was anybody's crucial conundrum. As it turned out, Wayne's buzzer went after three-and-a-bit seconds, and he correctly unravelled BRAINYGET to make BETRAYING. The score was now 45-45 and another conundrum was placed in the board. MINERFROG was revealed, and when Wayne's guess of REFORMING was confirmed as correct by Richard, he let out a shout of "Yes!" and Deborah's challenge was over.
Following this close call, he went on to win two more preliminary matches before being beaten by his father Martin in
a very exciting match that was drawn at 54-54 with the conundrum to go. Martin, however, only won one more match,
whereas Wayne returned for the quarter-finals as number three seed, and beat Ged O'Toole and the previously undefeated
contestant Alan Payne (despite failing to spot two tricky conundrums, CONTRALTO and ABSEILING) before meeting (and
beating) Fiona Davies in the Grand Final. Wayne returned at the start of the very next series and beat Series 23
runner-up Phil Jordan and Series 20 semi-finalist Fiona Willis before knocking out the previously unbeaten Series 22
champion Chris Waddington to become the sixth ever Champion of Champions. Wayne returned for the Supreme Championship
in 1996, but was knocked out in the Group Semi-Finals by Series 13 champion Hilary Hopper.
This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 11 August 2001.