Classic Game - Series 9 Prelim 24

Broadcast 12th May 1986

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Not a particularly impressive game this week, in terms of the final score, but I thought it would be nice to pay tribute to the late journalist John Diamond, who sadly died from throat cancer in March, by featuring one of the games in which he took part back in 1986. The game I've chosen is the first game he played, where he knocked out champion Jill Campbell, who had just overturned three-times winner Laurie Puddefoot with an impressive score of 66 points to 50.

The first round saw Jill pull into an early lead with the word RATION, but she missed JANITOR, which recently caused some controversy (admittedly in its plural form) when the "Bard of Buckie" Stuart Wood omitted to tell Richard that he hadn't written it down until his opponent had already offered the same word. The second letters game saw both players get five points, although John must have kicked himself when he realised he could have put an 'S' on the end of his word, CHIME. Guardian of the Dictionaries, Steve Jones, offered the unusual seven-letter word, IAMBICS. Round 3 saw two more five-letter words for the contestants, and again Steve beat them (with a little help, no doubt!) with two sixes - WEAKEN and CANINE. The first numbers game was now upon us, and John chose not to take any from the top row (which he did again in the following programme), but at least the target was low - just 249. John came up trumps after thirty seconds, but Jill declared nothing, so the journalist from London took the lead for the first time in the game.

A promising selection in the first letters game of Part Two boded well, but both Jill and John seemed to be half-asleep, as they both came up with the same six-letter offering, DREAMY. Dictionary Corner were a bit more awake, offering two sevens - READMIT and MATURED. Round 6 saw Jill slip into a higher gear, as she offered the eight-letter word LAUNDERS, but unfortunately John offered the incorrectly spelled SUREAL, so Jill regained the lead for the first time since Round 3. Amusingly, the tables turned in the next round, when Jill offered STALION with one 'L', and it was John's turn to take the points for his eight - VIOLATES. John also re-took the lead, but with two rounds to go and only four points between them, it was obviously still anyone's game. The second numbers game saw Jill order a "Whitehall" selection of "1,2,1,2" from Cathy Hytner, but this time it was John's turn to blob on the numbers, while Jill took the ten points for being spot-on. With the score at 40-34 to Jill, it was obviously a crucial conundrum, as Richard now calls them, and it took a little under seven seconds for John to unravel QGNNRUIII and take his place as Countdown champion.

John went on to win one more game (against Chris Hall), again by virtue of a crucial conundrum, but he then lost 31-26 to Alison Heath, with both of them failing to solve yet another crucial conundrum! John's final game also saw the Countdown debut of actress Rula Lenska. He ended the Series as number 10 seed (Jill Campbell was number 11), so his appearances were restricted to just three programmes.

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This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 15 July 2001.

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