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January's Featured Article

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The 30th Birthday Championship was an eight week long mini-series broadcast between 7 January 2013 and 1 March 2013, held to celebrate Countdown being broadcast on British television for 30 years. Series producer Damian Eadie posted details of the tournament on the c4countdown forum in September 2012, and over 200 former contestants expressed their interest in participating. This was whittled down to just 41, spanning 63 of Countdown's 67 series and including 15 series champions. The structure of the mini-series was nine preliminary games followed by a best-of-32 knock-out tournament. Early fallers included: Series 46 champion Ben Wilson, one of only six viscounts in the history of Countdown; and Nick Deller, a four-times winner in Series 28. Despite spending 12 years away from Countdown to focus on playing Scrabble, Deller lost to Series 52 champion Mark Tournoff by just one point.

Notable moments in the first round proper included Series 60 champion Kirk Bevins scoring 130 points out of a possible 130, the second 15 round perfect game in the history of Countdown, and Series 63 champion Jack Hurst missing out on beating the show's highest ever score of 146, after the invalid declaration spousing ☓ gave him a total of 143. Round 2 included another perfect game as Series 54 champion Conor Travers beat Mark Tournoff with 119 out of 119. The second round also featured two consecutive tie-breaker conundrumsDavid O'Donnell unscrambled BAGOGLORY to defeat Chris Davies, and Kirk Bevins solved BARRYDICK to claim victory over Innis Carson. The quarter-finals saw Jonathan Rawlinson and Jack Hurst progress, and contained two more perfect games – Conor Travers achieved a second on the bounce, and Jon O'Neill amassed a perfect 122, the highest ever score with no nine-letter words.

In the first semi-final, both Rawlinson and Hurst started with the nine-letter word CATENOIDS. Their scores remained level until round 11, when an invalid declaration by Hurst gave Rawlinson a six point lead. However, this proved insufficient when Hurst unravelled the conundrum TURNMOIST to qualify for the final. The second semi-final featured O'Neill and Travers, the men who had achieved perfect games in their quarter-final matches. Aptly, between them they gained maximum points with 28 of their 29 declarations, and Travers won with his third consecutive perfect game. Early in the tournament final, Travers gained an 18 point lead after Hurst missed the niner PONYTAILS. This was immediately followed by two further nines, the first known "ambulance" (9-9-9) in the history of televised Countdown. Travers was able to extend his lead late in the match and won with 146 points, equalling Countdown's highest ever score, set by Julian Fell in 2002. Travers' prize, a trophy which host Nick Hewer referred to as a "priceless piece of kryptonite", was presented by Marcel Stellman. (more...)

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