Classic Game - Series 3 Prelim 20

Broadcast 20th October 1983

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With Countdown having recently celebrated its 3000th programme, I thought it would be nice to look back to an early milestone in its history - the 100th programme, broadcast way back in the autumn of 1983. It features Countdown's first ever octochamp, William Bradford, a hotelier from Cambridge. William first made his mark on Countdown by knocking out seven-times winner and fellow Scrabble player Allan Simmons, who was himself on the verge of becoming Countdown's first ever player to score eight straight wins, but he was thwarted by William in a low-scoring contest that ended 38-31 in William's favour. William also beat Andrew Long and Pat Bowlas before coming up against David Coss from Liverpool in this game.

For this particular match, Richard was sporting a very smart jacket and bow tie, instead of the usual more cringe-worthy attire (in fact, Gyles Brandreth, who was in Dictionary Corner for this game, wore the bow tie on the next programme). However, Richard's unusually snappy dress sense didn't stop him making some excruciating puns during the match, including telling us that David Coss was very good at the "lettuce" game - ouch!

The game started with William pulling into an early lead, first spotting NAIVETY in Round 1 and then getting JUDGES in Round 2. David offered GOODS in the second letters game, which Richard remarked was "perhaps not quite good enough". Both contestants scored on the third round with BATHES - "you both cleaned up on that round", quipped Ricardo. An easy numbers game saw them both get 10 points in Round 4, and the commercial break was upon us.

Round 5 yielded six for both contestants, although they could have had seven for the unusual PIETISM, while Round 6 offered richer pickings - William offered one of the many seven-letter words available with WATERED, while David offered RETAILED for eight. With the score now just 35-30 to William, it was obviously still anyone's game. Round 7 saw David reduced to TOIL for four, while William was foxed enough to only come up with VIXEN (sorry). He had considered risking EXULTION, but Yvonne Warburton, residing over the Concise Oxford Dictionary (7th Edition), soon put him right by telling him it wouldn't have been allowed, and instead suggested OUTLINE for seven. The second numbers game could have proved tricky, with two from the top row being chosen, but CECIL was kind to them, and both David and William came up trumps.

With only the conundrum to go, the score was 50-40 to William, so David had the chance to force a draw, which in those days meant a re-match the next day, and LTTSHIIYO was duly revealed. This was before Michael Wylie had started the now customary practice of creating amusing anagram-style conundrums, like SENSAFOOL and IVYFINGER (I'll leave you to work those out - they're both from relatively recent programmes). Anyway, back to the plot... Twenty-eight seconds passed before William decided to take a stab, and offered LOITISHLY, but sadly, there weren't enough L's (and it wasn't in the dictionary, anyway), so David had the last two seconds to offer something else. Unfortunately for him, he managed to get it right, but not until after the thirty seconds had elapsed and the music had stopped.

And so it was that William won the 100th game of Countdown. He than went on to beat four more contestants in the prelims before returning in the quarter-finals as number two seed, where he beat David Brook, but he lost to number six seed and series winner Andrew Guy in the second semi-final. He returned in the first ever Championship of Champions a year later, where he lost to Countdown's second ever octochamp, Mark Nyman, who went on to win the Grand Final. He returned to the Countdown stage in 1990 to take part in the first series of Countdown Masters, where he beat Series 6 quarter-finalist Laurie Silver in a keenly-fought contest.

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This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 30 Jun 2001.

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