9 round format

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The 9 round format is the arrangement of letters, numbers and conundrum rounds used for the first forty-five series of Countdown. Summarised by fans of the programme as LLLNLLLNC, this format saw each episode run to approximately 30 minutes including advertising breaks. Compared to the 15 round format used today, games tended to be closer with many more crucial conundrums; the small number of rounds heightened the element of chance or luck, as a single mistake or disallowed word could easily lead to defeat. However, it has the advantage that contestant choose the same number of letters and numbers rounds, arguably offering a fairer game.

During what fans refer to as the "9 round era", all preliminary, quarter-final and semi-final matches were contested over 9 rounds, while each series' grand final was decided over 14 rounds. However from Series 46 onwards, the programme has used the 15 round format exclusively for regular series games. The only exceptions were the three-day junior tournament in Series 47 and the similar ladies' tournament in Series 49. However, the format lives on in unofficial online games and at Countdown tournaments including COLIN.

Original Rounds

Rnd Selection Champion (C1) Score Challenger (C2) Others Max.
1 C1LETTERS  – 
2 C2LETTERS  – 
3 C1LETTERS  – 
4 C 2 N U M S →  – 


5 C2LETTERS  – 
6 C1LETTERS  – 
7 C2LETTERS  – 
8 C 1 N U M S →  – 


9 CONUNDRUM  – 


Rounds for the Junior Tournament

Rnd Selection Champion (C1) Score Challenger (C2) Others Max.
1 C1LETTERS  – 
2 C2LETTERS  – 
3 C1LETTERS  – 
4 C 2 N U M S →  – 


TTT TEATIME TEASER
5 C2LETTERS  – 
6 C1LETTERS  – 
7 C2LETTERS  – 
8 C 1 N U M S →  – 


9 CONUNDRUM  – 


Chosen by champion Chosen by challenger Total
Letters rounds 3 3 6
Numbers rounds 1 1 2
Conundrums 1
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