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John Clarke (Series 11)

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For other people called John Clarke, see John Clarke.
John Clarke in the Supreme Championship
John Clarke on Fifteen to One, 31 years after his Countdown début.

John Clarke was the champion of Series 11 and a semi-finalist in Championship of Champions III and the Supreme Championship.


Appearances on the show

Heat games

An accountant from Tyne and Wear, Clarke started his run on 26 March 1987, late in the series, and had time for only five victories before the finals started, including four scores over 60. He survived narrowly in his second game when, with the conundrum a crucial one, David Carr buzzed in and offered extricator ☓ when the answer, which Clarke offered a few seconds later, was actually EXTRICATE. His remaining heat shows, however, were fairly one-sided. Under the rules of the time, he was offered the opportunity to compete in the finals rather than continue in the next series, and as he was No. 1 seed anyway, he opted to enter the finals.


A 74 – 56 victory over Maurice Sobell, the highest score of the series, put him through to the semi-finals, and a comfortable 48 – 19 defeat of James Wilkie set up a final with No. 7 seed David Reid. Impressive finds of MARRIAGE and OUTRIDER gave Clarke a 97 – 61 victory to become the 11th series champion. An unsolved final conundrum LOCALTIES (illegal, as it had two valid solutions) denied him the century.

Championship of Champions III

He returned in June for Championship of Champions III, where he drew Series 12 octochamp Jon Marsh. Clarke comfortably emerged the winner with a score of 61 – 29. In the semi-final he faced the legendary Harvey Freeman and delivered a creditable performance in defeat, with Freeman scoring one of the narrowest victories of his unbeaten career.

Supreme Championship

Nine years later, Clarke would return to the studios for the Supreme Championship. In his group, he beat Derek Coombs, Andy Bodle and (by way of a sudden-death conundrum) the previously unbeaten Don Reid. Clarke took the lead with DACOITS but Reid beat Clarke with CHEWIER meaning that it was a crucial conundrum 53 – 53, both players having scored in 7 of the 8 rounds. Neither player could solve the conundrum BIGPAINTS which meant there was a second conundrum ERIGATION which also went unsolved. Finally, in the 11th round of a 9-round game, Clarke solved TOOCHOPPY to relegate Reid to his only ever defeat, as he had won all of his 16 previous games. In the quarter-finals he faced Chris Rogers who had qualified by winning the Championship of Champions VIII. Both players scored in the first round with MISQUOTE but the key moment of the game was Rogers having pather ☓ disallowed. This meant Clarke had a five point lead going into the conundrum LEFTDANTE which he solved in 17 seconds to qualify for the Series 33 semi-finals. He then faced a rematch with Harvey Freeman in the semi-final — Freeman beat Clarke with PROXIES but it was not enough to avoid a crucial conundrum. The conundrum was ALSHEARER which Freeman solved in one second to relegate Clarke to his second ever loss, both of which were against Freeman on crucial conundrums.

Clarke's impressive Countdown record of having played 15 games and won 13, coupled with the fact that his only defeats were at the hands of the imperious Harvey Freeman, mean that his name invariably comes up in discussions concerning the greatest Countdowner of all time.

Appearance on quiz show

More than thirty years after his Countdown début, Clarke appeared on Fifteen to One in November 2018.

Preceded by
Harvey Freeman
Series winner
Series 11
Followed by
Stephen Balment


# Date Type Contestant 1 Score Contestant 2 Guest Lex Max
533 26/03/1987 P John Clarke 45 – 29 Bert MacNeill Russell Harty Freda Thornton 73
534 27/03/1987 P John Clarke 61 – 53 David Carr Russell Harty Freda Thornton ??
535 30/03/1987 P John Clarke 61 – 42 Sue Duncalf Russell Harty Freda Thornton 74
536 31/03/1987 P John Clarke 67 – 27 Keith Newby Russell Harty Freda Thornton 74
537 1/04/1987 P John Clarke 69 – 31 Alan Benson Russell Harty Freda Thornton 73
538 2/04/1987 QF John Clarke 74 – 56 Maurice Sobell Russell Harty Freda Thornton 106
542 8/04/1987 SF James Wilkie 19 – 48 John Clarke Bill Tidy Catherine Clarke 69
544 10/04/1987 GF David Reid 61 – 97 John Clarke Bill Tidy, Gyles Brandreth Catherine Clarke 131
598 25/06/1987 CQF John Clarke 61 – 29 Jon Marsh Sally James Della Thompson 86
599 26/06/1987 CSF Harvey Freeman 45 – 38 John Clarke Sally James Della Thompson 71
M35 27/11/1989-1/12/1989 M Lawrence Pearse 75 – 77 John Clarke none Freda Thornton 138
M95 Unreleased M Michael Wareham 88 – 95 John Clarke none ??
1857 11/10/1996 aQF John Clarke 58 – 52 Derek Coombs Nigel Rees Susie Dent 72
1860 16/10/1996 aSF John Clarke 55 – 39 Andy Bodle Philip Franks Susie Dent 73
1861 17/10/1996 aF John Clarke 63* – 53 Don Reid Philip Franks Susie Dent 73
1901 12/12/1996 SQF John Clarke 56 – 41 Chris Rogers Jenny Hanley Susie Dent 82
1905 18/12/1996 SSF John Clarke 48 – 65 Harvey Freeman Nigel Rees Catherine Clarke 72
* includes 10 points from a tie-break conundrum
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