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June's featured article

Allan Saldanha2.jpg

Allan Saldanha was the runner-up in Series 15 and Series 33, and is one of the most well-known Countdown contestants of all time. Upon his début appearance in 1988, Saldanha was a schoolboy from London aged just nine years old. He quickly rattled off eight straight wins, including a score of 81 points out of a possible 84 in his sixth heat game against Katy Green. His octochamp total score of 490 points saw Saldanha return for the series finals as #1 seed. He briefly fell behind in his quarter-final against Paul Walker, but recovered to win with a score of 50 – 37. In his semi-final versus Peter Pryer, Saldanha gained an early lead but then had morales ☓ and prones ☓ disallowed in consecutive letters rounds. Pryer beat him to the conundrum LATINMANG, but overall had been unable to capitalise on Saldanha's mistakes and it was the youngster who qualified for the series final against Dick Green.

The final proved to be one of the most controversial games in Countdown history. The six-letter word CONGAS gave Green the lead in round 2, before the eight-letter word STODGIER enabled Saldanha to take a slim lead in round 5. TIARA gave Green a slight advantage in round 8 which he retained until the penultimate letters game. Trailing by three points, Saldanha risked the word YOLKED, which was incorrectly disallowed by lexicographer Catherine Clarke. The game ended 70 – 81 to Green and, whilst Saldanha would still have lost the game had YOLKED been allowed, it was felt that the wrongful dismissal of this word had had a psychological effect on the young man going into the conundrum behind rather than ahead of his opponent. Then-producer John Meade acknowledged the controversy and bought Saldanha a complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary, identical to the prize awarded to Green.

Saldanha returned to Countdown for two games to celebrate the programme's longevity: he defeated fellow prodigy Tim Morrissey to celebrate the '1000th' episode, and beat Gareth Williams in the '1500th' episode. Saldanha played in Championship of Champions IV in January 1989, but was knocked out in the first round by Nita Marr. In 1996, the then 18-year-old Saldanha made his final competitive appearance on Countdown in the Supreme Championship. He was the only person to play six games in the Supreme Championship, losing in the final to Harvey Freeman. (more...)

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