Classic Game - Series 40 Prelim 104

Broadcast 20th May 1999

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This week a game requested by Series 41 semi-finalist Gary Woodward. Peter Hutchings had already won seven games and amassed 401 points when he met Jimmy Neil from Glasgow. The game started scrappily with both contestants scoring a duck, Peter offering a word with an 'A' that wasn't there and Jimmy offering an illegal word. It looked like it was 'situation normal' after round 2 however, when Peter scored 8 points, but in round 3 we were back to Zero City when both contestants risked words that were not allowed. Surely the numbers game would boost the scores a bit, but no! A reasonably tough numbers game left them still at 8-0, and we wondered what could possibly transpire in Part Two...

Well, the Seven Seas man had set us his poser ("PEARPANT") and told us the answer (I'll let you work it out), and Part Two was upon us. Happily, Peter got a 7 in round 5, but rather less happily Jimmy could only manage a five. Would he end up with zero points, as only two contestants had ever done in the 17-year history of Countdown? The answer was no - in the very next round, Peter offered the six-letter word "ZOAVES", which was not allowed, although it sounds as though it could be a word, and Jimmy's "BONES" were enough to put him on the scoreboard at last. Round 7 saw the scores advance to 21-11, and a respectable final score now looked possible. However, the second numbers game was even more problematical than the first, and again neither player scored (how often has that ever happened?). As the conundrum loomed, it seemed inevitable that no one would get it, but after 2 seconds, Peter had pressed and the bell had sounded. But another twist - "I've got it wrong" declared Peter, and then the clock ticked away for the remaining 28 seconds without further interruption.

And so it was that the lowest winning score ever was achieved - Peter raised his arms in mock triumph as the feat was announced by Richard. As to why the scoreline was so low, I think there are various reasons - obviously the risks taken by both contestants in the letters games, the difficulty of both numbers rounds (although neither were impossible, and it was certainly relatively straightforward to pick up at least some points in both cases), and the conundrum was also a bit of a stinker. I suspect the fact that Peter had already played 7 games may have played its part, and he may also have suffered from what I call the "next day" effect (where a contestant plays really well in one recording session, but then not so well in the next - this was Peter's second match on his second day). Can anyone ever beat this record?

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This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 27 Oct 2000.

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