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This is a list of all the previous featured articles that have appeared on the Main Page. The current featured article can be found on the Main Page, or alternatively by visiting the featured article template. You can include this month's featured in any page, such as on your userpage, by typing {{featuredarticle}} where you would like the article to appear. Articles which will be featured in the future are listed at Countdown: Featured articles.

August 2010

Scott Mearns.JPG

Scott Mearns from Montrose in Scotland was champion of Series 41 and Championship of Champions X. A student at Leeds University when he appeared, Mearns foreshadowed his form on the programme by passing his audition with a 100% record. Famously wanting to "put Montrose on the map", Mearns amassed 80 points in his debut game against Bobby Johnson, before reeling off seven further wins to become an octochamp with an aggregate score of 510, and #1 seed for the series finals. Therein, he beat Rory Dunlop and Melvin Hetherington in his quarter-final and semi-final respectively, the latter performance including 10 points for unravelling the conundrum HOTWARMER. Mearns then reached the boil for the grand-final against #3 seed Simon Cooper, broadcast on Christmas Day 1999.

A promising selection in round 1 prompted Mearns to risk the invalid niner mortalise ☓, gifting Cooper an early advantage. However, Mearns was not trailling for long as his favoured 6 small numbers selection helped him to steal the lead from Cooper in round 3. After Mearns solved the conundrum PIESNMASH in round 7, he lead by 18 points. Flat letters selections resulted in a largely uneventful remainder of the game, though Mearns widened the gap to 25 points after his second numbers game. Cooper attempted a comeback with, solving the last numbers game and the conundrum PARTYNITE, but it was too little too late as Mearns ran out the winner 81 – 73.

Mearns returned for the five game Championship of Champions X, wherein he was seeded to automatically reach the semi-final. He defeated Series 39 octochamp Terry Knowles to reach the New Year's Eve final, broadcast exactly one week after his series win. Mearns overwhelmed Kate Ogilvie, scoring 82 points to 56, to win the mini-series and claim the title of Countdown's tenth Champion of Champions. He is arguably one of the best 9 round players to have not contested the Supreme Championship. (more...)

July 2010
Marr in front of the purple, pink and white striped set

Nita Marr (born 28 December 1943, the same day as Richard Whiteley) was a contestant, and semi-finalist, of Series 13. She came from Longniddry won seven consecutive heat games before losing her eighth to Mark Preston. Nonetheless, she returned for the series finals as #1 seed, beating Cath Powell in the quarter-finals before losing to eventual champion Hilary Hopper in the semi-finals. Marr returned for Championship of Champions IV, causing a huge upset by beating Allan Saldanha in the quarter-final, but losing to eventual winner Nic Brown in the semi-final.

She returned to the studios once again for the Supreme Championship in 1996, but lost in the first round to Irish wunderkind Tim Morrissey on the crucial conundrum BOOKSHELF. She also participated in both series of Countdown Masters, winning the first ever match against John Wallace and losing in the second series against Jenny Haldane. Nita also recorded a special game against The Countdown Page author Mike Brown, which she lost 113 – 70.

Marr is best known in the Countdown community as founder of the Edinburgh Countdown Club, which has been running for two decades. She authored a chapter of Countdown: Spreading The Word, detailing her experiences both on the show and in setting up the club. (more...)

Graham Nash during the 11th Championship of Champions.
May 2010

Graham Nash (born 25 December 1979) was an octochamp in and champion of Series 43, and winner of Championship of Champions XI. Nash made his Countdown debut on July 20 2000, defeating two-times winner and Edinburgh Countdown Club member Melanie Beaumont by 60 points to 49. He demonstrated consistent scoring to polish off seven further wins, including a high score of 72 points against Roger Robinson. With an eight game total of 465 points, Nash qualified for the series finals as number 2 seed. Herein, he narrowly overcame Gordon Cusworth and Clare Wright to set up a grand final against number 5 seed Matthew Turner. In a nip and tuck game, the penultimate numbers round proved decisive as it gave Nash a 10 point advantage. He was able to hold onto until the crucial conundrum ANEWREBEL, which he in turn solved, to become Countdown's forty-third series champion.

Nash returned in 2003 for Championship of Champions XI. Nash's first game of the tournament pitted him against Series 42 semi-finalist David Ballheimer; words including VINTAGES and MICROBES helped Nash to a comfortable 103–70 victory. Against the hotly-tipped Julian Fell, Nash had formica ☓ disallowed as it is listed in the dictionary as a proper noun. Fell returned the favour by having gambiers ☓ disallowed, giving Nash a one point advantage which he held until the conundrum. In less than two seconds, Nash unravelled MENDMEDOC to beat Fell by 11 points.

Nash defeated Series 47 finalist Tom Hargreaves in his semi-final to establish a grand final against Hargreaves' old adversary Chris Wills. Wills took the lead in round 4 with GAMBADE but Nash levelled the scores with PENSIVE. In round eight Wills had mistle ☓ disallowed, gifting Nash a six point lead which he held until a crucial conundrum. After 30 seconds, neither player had been able to unravel OVERSPADE which gave Nash a seemingly unlikely Championship of Champions victory. He has since appeared on other television shows including Brainteaser, Grand Slam and Divided. (more...)

A confident Freeman on set.
February 2010

Harvey Freeman was the champion of Series 10, Championship of Champions III and the Supreme Championship, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest Countdowners of all time. Freeman made his debut on 31 October 1986 against David Whiting as a 21-year-old Cambridge University undergraduate from Enfield, Middlesex. He won that game and the seven which followed to achieve octochampdom with an aggregate score of 523 points. This was a record at the time, and stood for almost 14 years before being beaten by David Williams in Series 43. In his second heat game, Freeman amassed 82 points which was also a record at the time. He returned for the series finals as #1 seed, and dominated his opponents Elisabeth Jardine and Les Martin in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, before going on to face Mike Percik in the grand final. Despite having OUTTAKES ☓ disallowed in the second round, Harvey produced a commanding performance running out the winner by 96 points to 52.

Freeman returned for Championship of Champions III, beating Michael Stephenson and John Clarke to set up a grand final against David Trace. Freeman lost out in the first conundrum to Trace, putting him ten points behind, but he scored in every other round before solving the crucial conundrum PURSUEPAT to win 115–107 — the highest ever score in a 14-round grand final, and the only time anyone has ever scored over 110 under that format. In 1996, Freeman participated in the Supreme Championship. Given a bye in the first round, Harvey defeated Ian Bebbington in the second round and Barry Grossman in a closely-fought group final to put himself into the series quarter-finals. Therein, he beat Andrew Perry before once again beating John Clarke in the semi-final. In the final, he faced former prodigy Allan Saldanha. Freeman spotted a nine-letter word in the first round and was able to hold on to his lead to win 82–79, winning the title of all-time supreme champion, and maintaining his winning streak at an unprecedented 19 games. (more...)

January 2010

Chris Davies was the champion of Series 61. He was a musician and charity shop volunteer from Greasby in Merseyside, who on his first show impressed not only with his defeat of Scrabble player Ed Rossiter but also with his exceptionally fast Rubik's cube solutions. In his second game against Matt Shepherd he failed to secure a century, but words including PUEBLOS and TANDOORI gave him victory by 95 points to 46. This points difference was eclipsed the following day as Davies ran out the winner by a margin of 75 points, and just one day later Michael Jocelyn suffered an even worse fate as SEPTUPLE, ISOMERS and the conundrum IMISSBOYS saw Davies win with a scoreline of 113 – 37 in his favour - an even greater margin than the day before.

Having so far failed to find a nine-letter word in his heats, Davies found two in the first four rounds against Ross Mackenzie. However, Mackenzie found them both as well and was on Davies' tail throughout the game. The pressure helped Davies who secured victory through the words MALAPERT and the Darrenic PUPATED. After solving the conundrum CIRCUSHEN, Davies had amassed a score of 139, the second highest of all time. Further Darrens including RIBCAGE and RIVULETS, along with the nine-letter word SCLEROTIA, gave Davies victory in his sixth game against Jonathan Seal. Of note, in round two of this game Seal beat Davies, the first time he had failed to score in 51 consecutive rounds. Two further centuries helped Davies win his last two heat games against Marcus Bearpark and John Smoker respectively.

Davies returned for the finals as number two seed. Against fellow octochamp Steve Wood, the words RELLINOS and RANDOMISE assisted Davies in building a 43-point lead after just five rounds. He ran out the winner, setting up a semi-final against Innis Carson. After twelve rounds of this game only seven points separated the two players. In round 13, Carson beat Davies with SOLENOID, opening up a fifteen point lead with just two rounds to go. Carson missed the numbers target in round 14 whereas Davies found a perfect solution, but he still needed to solve the crucial conundrum EPITUSSLE to win. After 25.5 seconds he doubtfully offered SLEEPSUIT — and exclaimed "Oh my God!" as this was revealed to be correct. In the grand final Davies faced #1 seed Andrew Hulme, who often equalled but never bettered him. The words TETRODE, DIARISES and the conundrum ARTLEPOOL gave Davies the series by 117 points to 86. He remains an active member of the online Countdown community and is often seen on Apterous. (more...)

Philpot reading his cue-card.
December 2009

Chris Philpot (born September 1989) was a contestant in Series 51. Aged fourteen at the time of his appearance, Philpot competed against Ariane Sherine, now notable for her work as a Guardian columnist and creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign. The game was initially close with Sherine holding a slight lead. Spotting COLLATE in round seven gave Philpot a three point advantage going into the third half, but the words PUMICE and RELISTED allowed Sherine to regain her lead and she saw out the game in style, with Philpot only scoring six further points in the contest.

Philpot made a mildly notable use of his short Countdown career by becoming the first - and thus far only - contestant to read out his own cue card. A typographical error on the card lead to Richard Whiteley mispronouncing the name of Philpot's secondary school. When Philpot pointed out the error, Whiteley replied, "you read it out!" Philpot also accumulated minor acknowledgement for an uncomfortable moment after declaring PUBIC in round 11. Furthermore, at the end of the programme following his defeat Philpot told Whiteley that he had particularly wanted a Countdown teapot. Sherine, who doesn't drink tea, altruistically gave him her teapot after her final game.

In 2009, the now nineteen-year-old Philpot challenged Sherine to a rematch on his student radio programme. The game was played over just one letters round, one numbers round and a conundrum. Special radio-themed conundrums were provided by members of c4countdown. In the game itself, both contestants spotted SPAYING in the letters round and, after a relatively easy numbers round, it was once again Sherine who prevailed, unravelling Damian Eadie's conundrum HEARRADIO after 13 seconds to win by 27 points to 17. (more...)

Mark Tournoff on the old striped set.
November 2009

Mark Tournoff (born 1962) was the champion of Series 52, and runner-up in Championship of Champions XII. He won eight heat games to become an octochamp, with high scores of 117 and 111 and an average of just over 101 points, placing him in the 800 club. Upon his return for the series finals Tournoff trounced John Gray 138 – 73, setting the second-highest ever score in the process. Victory in a close fought semi final against Jack Welsby saw Tournoff earn a grand final appearance against #1 seed Paul Gallen. The game looked certain to go to Gallen, who led for 14 rounds. However, misspelling miriad ☓ in the final letters game let his adversary in for a crucial conundrum, which Tournoff solved after 27 seconds to come from behind and win the series.

The twelfth Championship of Champions saw Tournoff make a relaxed start, easing past Steve Graston, but his quarter final against Matthew Shore was arguably the closest game in the history of the programme. Neither player ever led by more than ten points, and Tournoff solved the crucial conundrum SILLYQUOO to win the epic 124 – 117. This game set two records: the highest ever losing score of 117, and the highest aggregate score of 241. Tournoff won his semi final against Paul Howe to create a rematch against Paul Gallen who gained his revenge, winning the tournament on another crucial conundrum and narrowly missing out on a perfect game.

Tournoff remains an active member of the Countdown community. He has written a book about his experiences on the programme, titled Crucial - A Champion's Tale, and he has taken part in several unofficial tournaments. (more...)

Holden at a national Scrabble event.
October 2009

Stewart Holden (born 5 September 1979) was the champion of Series 51. He won eight consecutive heat games to secure octochamp status, amassing a total of 870 points to rank as #1 seed for the series. In the finals, he defeated Nicole Hutchings and Richard Pay to set up a grand final appearance alongside Steve Graston, who he beat by 104 points to 81. Following his success Holden had hoped to appear in the twelfth Championship of Champions. However, following a postponement on its recording Holden opted not to commit any further time to studying the ODE, instead posting on the c4countdown message board to announce his intention to retire from Countdown undefeated, in order to focus on his preferred game of Scrabble.

Holden, who holds the position of Publicity Officer for the Association of British Scrabble Players, launched Scrabble accessory business Tilefish in October 2005, which he owned until July 2008. In 2007, Holden was named as runner-up at the National Scrabble Championship held in London. More recently, he has compiled the weekly Scrabble puzzle which features in The Guardian newspaper. In spite of officially having retired Holden maintains strong links with Countdown, participating in three of the unofficial COLIN tournaments and writing content for the desktop Countdown puzzle calendar. (more...)

May 2009

GANDISEEG was first offered by Richard Brittain in his Championship of Champions game against Jon Corby. Since Brittain had already lost, he decided to buzz in as soon as the conundrum turned over and "press and guess". The joke continued when Charlie Reams who had also already lost before the conundrum to Steve Briers in the Championship of Champions final after 29.5 seconds, after Briers had buzzed in on 29 seconds with LIBOUETTE which was also wrong.


The joke continues to this day on c4countdown and Apterous where players regularly play GANDISEEG in the letters games or conundrum if they can no longer win.

When Brittain first buzzed in, he seemed to say GANDISEE which is only eight letters. Reams then added the final missing G from DISENGAGE to form GANDISEEG. It has been speculated that the last G is actually silent.

Mike Brown on the old beige set.
April 2009

Mike Brown was a finalist in Series 48. He beat Joyce Dunkley in his first appearance with 112 points, following that up with 112 points again against David Cottee. He dipped below 100 in his next two games, but got 107 against Trish Staples in his 5th game. He lost his sixth game narrowly to Neil Evans by just 13 points. Despite losing a game, he averaged 97.33 points per game which was more than three of the six Octochamps in that series. He returned to the series finals as #8 seed and faced the runaway #1 seed Julian Fell. The game was close until he had SENTRIED X disallowed, and Fell had ORIENTED. When Fell spotted WOMANISER and DAIMYOS the game was effectively over, and he lost 125 - 67. Fell scored in every round.

Brown is one of the longest-serving and most committed contributors to the Countdown online community. He runs The Countdown Page which is the oldest and one of the most complete Countdown fansites on the web. The site also formed the template from which The Countdown Corral, The Countdown Database and The Countdown Wiki were formed. Brown has participated in many of the COLIN and other Co-events, including winning four games out of six in 2008. Of the seven players that finished ahead of him, four were Series champions (Travers, Wills, Tournoff and Holden).

Ben Wilson.
March 2009

Ben Wilson (22 March 1983-) first appeared on Countdown in Series 46, his first programme being broadcast on 6 November 2001. He defeated namesake Peter Wilson 101-70 in his first show, before winning 5 more games and becoming one of only five viscounts in Countdown history.

He returned for the series finals as number 1 seed, beating fellow Lincoln resident Simon Cartwright 83-68 in the quarter-finals, and Scotland's Paul Ryan 101-80 in the semi-finals after a close and tense game. In the grand final on Christmas Day against Steve Sandalls, the scores were level until round 9, but Ben built up a lead of 17 points over the next two rounds with an excellent six-small numbers game, and the word BONNIES. A series of poor rounds, including offering MACE for four, missing GYRATED and making a mistake on the final numbers game put Wilson 1 point behind going into the conundrum, but, he was able to solve the conundrum in 5 seconds to become champion of the 46th series, and the first champion of the 15 round format. Aged just 18 at the time, Ben also has the distinction of being the first ever series champion of Countdown to have been born after the show's debut on Channel 4.

Wilson was invited back for Championship of Champions XI in January 2003, where he was paired against Northern Ireland's Geraldine Hylands in the first round. Wilson scraped through, winning 94-91, but was ultimately beaten in the quarter-finals of the tournament by Tom Hargreaves, by a score of 131-98. At the time, this game set the record for highest aggregate score in a 15-round game (229), and 98 still remains one of the highest losing score of all time. Thr aggregate record was not broken until the following Championship of Champions tournament when Mark Tournoff beat Matthew Shore by 124 - 117.

Wilson is notably the organiser of Countdown in Lincoln and won the first ever meeting of Countdown in Redhill. Wilson is also a tournament Scrabble player and won his first tournament (Peterborough) in 2008.

Example of a letters game.
November 2008

A letters game is one of the 11 rounds during a 15 round game in which the contestant chooses 9 letters by selecting either a vowel or a consonant until there is a total of 9 letters. The player in the champions chair chooses 6 letters games and the challenger chooses 5, but gets an extra choice of numbers. The player can choose the letters in any order, but the selection must include at least 4 consonants and 3 vowels, hence there are only three valid choices in modern Countdown: 3 vowels, 6 consonants; 4 vowels, 5 consonants and 5 vowels, 4 consonants.

When the show was first broadcast, and for a number of years, contestants could choose as many vowels and consonants as they liked, which often led to poor selections where only 4's and 5's were available. Since then the rules have been changed. In the original 9-round format, there were 6 letters games.

A player scores points on a letters game by writing down a valid word within the 30 seconds. This word must be in the current New Oxford English Dictionary, but not a proper noun, nor an abbreviation. Players can use each lettter only once, but can use a letter more than once if it appears more than once in the selection. For example from EEEECDLST the player could play SELECTED, which uses three E's, but there are four E's in the selection. Words score 1 point per letter, but 18 points for a nine-letter word.

Unlike the game of Scrabble, Countdown does not allow all nouns to have a plural form. In particular, a mass noun is a noun that that does not logically have a plural, like GUNFIRE or HEALTH -- in standard English they would rarely be used in the plural. This system has been the cause of some controversy and confusion. Since the start of Series 49, the rules have been refined to allow the plural of some mass nouns; for example, CONGEES was allowed in Series 58 because it was argued that one could ask for "two congees". Again this rule has been enforced with some inconsistency, and words like OPALINES and CARMINES have been allowed on some occasions and not others.

Mark Tournoff narrowly avoided having the highest ever losing score.
October 2008

Episode 4121 featured Matthew Shore and Mark Tournoff in the Championship of Champions XII first quarter-final. Shore had just beaten the previously unbeaten Chris Cummins and Tournoff had beaten Steve Graston. The game started gently with a six and three sevens, before Tournoff beat his opponent on the numbers game. After another seven, the game came alive with PAINTIEST in round 7, followed by OVERRUN and QUIETEN. A difficult numbers game failed to beat either player, and Tournoff was on a score of 86 out of a possible 86, while Shore was on 76, only dropping points on the first numbers game. In round 11, both players got another nine with HERNIATES and Tournoff had 104 out of a possible 104. In the next round, Tournoff missed PISTEURS opting for the invalid PURSIEST instead, and in the next round had FLOOK disallowed, although Shore had FORMAL for six anyway. After an easy numbers game ((25×10)+4+1) the players were on 117 and 114 with Shore leading by 3 points. The highest ever losing score was 111 by David Williams, losing to Chris Wills in the Championship of Champions XI and both players had already surpassed that, meaning that even if neither player got the conundrum, Tournoff would set the new highest losing score record with 114. Des Lynam informed them of this and the conundrum SILLYQUOO was revealed, solved in 1 second by Tournoff won won the game 124 - 117, 117 is still the highest ever losing score in a game of Countdown.

September 2008

Julian Fell was the winner of Series 48 and ispx widely considered to be among the greatest Countdowners of all time. He holds a cornucopia of records, including the highest single score (146) and the highest octochamp score (924). He is particular renowned for his astonishing word knowledge, including definitions, coupled with fast conundrums. His numbers strength is often underestimated in comparison to the other disciplines.

His debut came on Wednesday 16th October 2002, when he posted an impressive 117. Six more centuries followed, and by the following Friday only Carl McDermott stood between Fell and octochampdom. This game is remembered as one of the greatest drubbings in Countdown history, as Fell racked up 138, winning by 109. His place as #1 seed and favourite for the series was assured, and his feat of eight centuries in eight heats has been matched only by Series 57 contestant Craig Beevers.

Fell won his quarter-final against Mike Brown with ease, beforegetting four nines against Danny Hamilton in the semi-final. Fell got SALMONIDS, DEPORTING, INGATHERS and DEFLATION and had 146 before the conundrum THEIRCOPY but failed to solve it and was left with 146 points, still 8 points better than the second highest score, 138 by Fell and Mark Tournoff. Fell went onto win the final against Grace Page after spotting MANTICORE in the first round, which Page missed.

Fell returned for the Championship of Champions XI as the favourite and won his first match against Terence O'Farrell with ease before losing a nail-biting quarter-final to Graham Nash 120-109. Despite losing, Julian maintained his streak of scoring 100 in every game. Since this quarter-final, Julian has filmed just once, a special against Chris Wills which he won 100-92 on a crucial conundrum. 100 was Julian's lowest ever score on Countdown.

August 2008

Des chiffres et des lettres (literally numbers and letters) is a French television programme. It was created by Armand Jammot and tests the numeracy skills and vocabulary of two contestants. It's the oldest TV programme still broadcast on French Television, and is notable in the UK for being the original version of Channel 4's Countdown. It was first known as Le mot le plus long (the longest word) because the numbers game had not yet been invented.

The game debuted in 1972. It is broadcast on France 3 and is currently presented by Laurent Romejko, Arielle Boulin-Prat and Bertrand Renard (the latter two check the existence of the words proposed by the contestants; Renard also provides solutions to the number problems that the contestants fail to solve). The show is also seen throughout the world on TV5.

The format is similar to the English version, it currently has 14 rounds which are identical to the rounds used in the 14 round format that was used for Grand finals up until Series 46 when the 15 round format was brought in, apart from the 14 rounds are not in the same order. Other notable differences are that when one player has a longer word than the other player, only the player with the longer word declares, and there are no conundrums but rather duels which involve some sort of mental calculation or anagramming feat, but is not simply a 9-letter anagram. Other differences include that players get 9 points for a 9-letter word and not 18, and players get nine points for a correct numbers game, and six points for any other solution, no matter how far away the solution is from the target. Finally if a player offers an invalid nine-letter word (or any word that's longer than the opponent's word) the opponent gets nine points no matter what the length of his own best word was.

Conor Travers showing off the Richard Whiteley memorial trophy.
July 2008

Conor Travers became the youngest ever series champion by winning Series 54 in 2005. He won his first game with a score of 99, followed by 111 against John Archer and 99 against Geoff Alderman. His remaining 5 games were all centuries, with a top score of 124 and a low score of 111. Out of the 8 games of his octochamp run, only two were less than 110. He beat Daniel Peake by 69 points in the quarter-final, Paul Howe by 24 points in the semi-final before meeting Matthew Shore in the Series final. There he won narrowly 98 - 83 to become the youngest ever Series champion, at 14 years old. He returned for CofC XII beating John Hunt and John Brackstone in the first two rounds. Considered one of the favourites after his 890 aggregate as an Octochamp, he lost 118 - 102 to the eventual winner Paul Gallen in the semi-final. In 14 games, Conor's lowest score was 98 and his average was 110.4 points per game. After losing to Paul Gallen, he appeared on Countdown's 25th anniversary special against Chris Wills and won the game 69 - 58 in a disappointing contest.

Graham Nash, the tournament champion.
June 2008

The Championship of Champions XI was a Championship of Champions tournament held in 2003. It featured contestants from Series 42 to Series 48, including 7 series champions although Stuart Wood was unable to make the recordings, and John Rainsden the Series 44 runner-up took his place. The tournament featured some excellent scores, most notably David Williams' losing score of 111 as Chris Wills beat him 113-111, the highest ever losing score at the time. Also of note were episodes 3400 and 3401, Ben Wilson vs. Tom Hargreaves and Julian Fell vs. Graham Nash. In both episodes the total of the two players' scores was 229, the highest ever joint total at the time. The final between Wills and Nash was a close affair, and matters weren't helped by two impossible numbers games. Wills beat Nash with GAMBADE but Nash struck back with PENSIVE and METALS. After round 14, a numbers game where it was impossible to get within ten, the scene was set for a crucial conundrum. The conundrum was OVERSPADE and neither player could find EAVESDROP during the thirty seconds. Nash punched the air and shouted "yes!" - he'd won the tournament unbeaten with a final score of 79-73.

Countdown celebrated its 25th anniversary on November 2 2007.
May 2008

Countdown is a British game show presented by Des O'Connor and Carol Vorderman, and the subject of this wiki. It was the first programme aired on Channel 4, and over fifty series have been broadcast since its debut on 2 November 1982. With over 4,000 episodes, it is one of the longest-running game shows in the world. The programme was presented by Richard Whiteley for over twenty years, until his death in 2005. His position was taken over by Des Lynam, who retired from the show on December 22 2006 and was replaced by Des O'Connor on January 2 2007. A celebrity guest also features in every programme, and provides a brief interlude before the first advertisement break.

Jon O'Neill is the first ginger octochamp since John Davies.
April 2008

Jon O'Neill was a contestant in Series 53, and at fifteen is one of the youngest people ever to become an octochamp. While proficient at the words, O'Neill was particularly noted for his astonishing ability at the "4 large" selection in the numbers game, and is often considered among the greatest of all time in the discipline. After eight convincing wins, he reached the series semi-finals, losing to eventual series champion John Mayhew, and in 2006 return for the Championship of Champions, where he was again defeated -- this time by Jack Welsby. O'Neill also holds the dubious honour of being the only person to attend all eight of the unofficial Countdown tournaments since their inception in 2005.

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