Graham Nash first appeared on Countdown on 20th July 2000, beating two-times winner Melanie Beaumont 60-49. He went on to win seven more games (including a 72-36 victory over Roger Robinson) and scored 465 points in the preliminary games of Series 43. He returned for the finals in December as number 2 seed, beating Gordon Cusworth in the quarter-finals, Clare Wright in the semi-final and Matthew Turner in the Grand Final on Christmas Day. This is his story in his own words...
After seeing Stuart Wood win the last series of Countdown, I thought it might be an appropriate time to write about my experiences on the show as well as giving congratulations to Stuart. It should be good meeting him and the other top contestants who will appear in the up coming Champion of Champions.
Iíve always been a fan of Countdown and had grown up with the idea of coming home from school at 4:25 with tea being around 5:00. Therefore Countdown was right in between. It was only when I got to university that I considered being on the show. Me and a couple of mates watched and continue to watch the show. It was only when I watched Scott Mearns in one of his finals and beat him that I thought I should have a go. Obviously under the pressure of the studio lights etc. I knew it would be completely different.
The application form was sent off, but there was no response for months - damned Royal Mail! Anyway problems at the audition. I was told it was to be held at the Moat House. Both are on the same road, but me stupidly thought it was the one in town. Oops - ah well. At the audition I was beaten comprehensively by Jonathan Storey, a contestant earlier on in my series and although I thought Iíd done well enough points wise I thought that if I came across him I would have problems. Thanks to Kate Ritchie for beating him!
The day of the filming arrived. Me and my university mates set off. I was feeling really nervous as I hadnít got a clue about how I would come over or what the situation would be like. The fact that I was starting in the penultimate game of filming I think was helpful because it got me used to the set as well as allowing me to have a brush up on the game. My tactic was never, and still to this day, do not actually play the show before. I look at whatís going on and have thoughts but donít concentrate fully. Thatís just my choice. Anyway on with the game. Richard commented on my lack of hair which threw me a little as I was expecting him to ask just whether or not I had got the Conundrum previously.
My first match was against Melanie Beaumont. I got off to a good start with the word DECAGONS. However it went down to the Conundrum with just one point in it. I spotted the word SOCIALIST quickly. I knew Iíd won the teapot. At the start of the day that was my only wish, just to win one. The next game although difficult was done without a Crucial Conundrum. Iíd survived until the next time about a month later.
So on my return, my main aim was just to get to the quarter finals. It is usual that winning 5 is about the border line for the Q-finals. After winning the first two relatively comfortably - that gave me 4 wins. One more and I should be there. However Roger Robinson appeared. He was a really decent bloke and I got on really well with him like with the other contestants. However he had been on Fifteen to One five times I think and had a collection of books and magazines which would have filled my house, literally, he was also a bibliographer. The actual knowledge of words is not the main part of the game, it's the ability to find them, however the larger your vocabulary then the more likely you are to spot obscure words. Now, as has been commented when nervous I tend to risk words in the first round so as to get a good start. Unfortunately RUPTION was not there. Anyway I had a good game after this and ended up with my highest score overall with 72 and the nine letter word ESCORTING. Unfortunately I believe in the next game I gave Sarah Newell a bit of a drubbing. This was probably my worst feeling because although I didnít want to beat her by so much I knew that 6 wins might go down to a points difference for a Quarter final spot therefore I had to go all out, so a 46 - 5 rout happened - Sorry. The next two games although tough were won. So I had joined an exclusive group of Octochamps.
All my friends and family knew about my results apart from my Granddad who wanted to watch it unfold on television. That was tough keeping it from him.
Well although I was an octochamp, I wasnít number 1 for very long. The presence of David Williams at the top of the board was slightly depressing as he had the highest aggregate score of all time and was looking to be odds on favourite of all time to win the dictionaries.
So with all the other seeds in place it was time to return to Leeds on a wet November day. I played on the night before the finals and due to the train problems it was difficult for some of my friends to get there but some of my support did get there and sneaked into the hotel room at night - free. So Gordon Cusworth. The man had a great sense of humour and was again a really good guy who I got on well with. Again in the first round I attempted a risky 8 with FAINTERS. A difficult ER word but still nobody can tell me what you call somebody who faints (Any ideas please email me!) The game evened up with me getting COUNTER. All square at the Conundrum. MEDIUMSIN turned into IMMUNISED for me and I was there for the next day.
Down in the bar all the contestants went for a drink together and had a really good laugh. The gathering then moved on to the hotel bar where much was drunk and a good time was had by all. Maybe it wasnít the best way to prepare for a long next day but it really was a good night.
My opponent was decided first the next day with Clare getting through. David had drawn Matthew Turner. With all due respect to Matthew everybody thought David would win and it was a big shock that changed people's perspectives when Matthew won. Still I had to get past Clare. It was quite tight all the way to the end with me just ahead after the word LARGEST. So another Conundrum - RIVERSIDE was spotted and after another tight match it was the final.
After what Matthew had done to David earlier on then I didnít quite know how to feel - was I the underdog or not? Just before the introduction I mentioned to Richard that it was my 21st birthday on Xmas Day. I didnít say anything too much because I didnít want to prejudge my chances.
Well the game starts as usual - I risked MINGLERS and another ER word was rejected. What do you call somebody who mingles? So seven points down. The game flows quite well but I was more nervous than ever before whilst Matthew was calm. Then shock horror Matthew declares a risky nine compared to my seven. The word EASTERNLY although not shown as much on the television took ages to find, well it felt like it and finally the words "Iím sorry Iím going to have to disallow it" came from Susie Dent. Thank you Susie! The next round Matthew declared 6 first and I didnít really have much so I declared a risky 6 knowing that I would have to declare first with it being risky. I went for HALLED, luckily Matthew had gone for the same. It was disallowed but we were still even on points. Nerves hit again and on the second numbers game I stuffed up on an easy game. Matthew was 10 points ahead and seemingly playing better than me, therefore this Conundrum I knew was crucial. Obviously being unbeaten I had not been defeated on a Crucial Conundrum throughout. DETERGENT was spotted quickly and at half time I was lucky to go in even with a poor score of 33.
This was set to change though in the second half, where I was not beaten and I felt like I had moved up a gear. I got the number of 901, which seemed easy from 25,5,2,1,3 and 4 however getting 36 from 5,4,3 and 2 stumped me until the 20th ish second. Matthew didnít get it and I knew that if I held Matthew now it would mean I would have 2 Conundrums at the end. This factor arose with us staying even. Scores were now 79 - 69. This could have been one of the rare occasions where a Sudden Death Conundrum might have been needed. ANEWREBEL was spotted after 6 seconds and unscrambled into RENEWABLE. The reaction I gave afterwards was one of relief and was just natural, some people might have thought it was a bit over the top. Oh well.
Matthew took it really well and we had a drink about it afterwards. Loads of champagne later and a good laugh was had by all.
I didnít tell my parents or anybody in Preston about my victory. My Dad knew because after I had sneaked the dictionaries into my room at 2:00am one morning there was nowhere for all the cardboard!! Dad chose to do some work in my room and wondered why I had enough flammable material to build a town bonfire! Still nobody else knew and it was great as the game swung back and forth. Nails were bitten to the end but it was great.
So the aftermath I was asked to do an interview for the local newspaper as well as the university and old school magazines. Iíve been spotted numerous times out and about although the spottings are slowing down now. The fame was great though.
Just a final note about my time in Leeds. It needs to be said that all people working on the programme were fantastic towards me and my friends. The production of the show is quick with it only taking about 35-40 minutes to record a show. Richard and Carol are great fun and behind the scenes it is just as funny as it is on screen. Tom OíConnor and Barry Cryer, some of the G of the Dís whilst I was there, were brilliant. A huge thanks goes to my fellow contestants throughout the show. The closeness in standard in the finals was apparent by the fact that all bar 1 of the 7 shows went to a Crucial Conundrum.
Thanks a lot to everyone on the show and let's get ready for another series and a Champion of Champions.