Tony Atkins Fourth Programme on Countdown

The Game-That-Never-Was

So let's assume I like SHUFFLING, rather than hating it, and I beat Cliff Barnes on my third show. So next up is Tom Barnes. Can I beat two people called Barnes in a row? Would it end 81-71 after an exciting conundrum? First problem was where to meet Tom to play this historic match?

In the summer I signed up to Apterous (the server that allows you to play Countdown-like games in many languages) with a free 30 game user. I ignored it for a while, but then they announced on the forum there would be a Countdown competition in London (CO:LON) in October. This encouraged me to start playing online to get back into shape. However Tom was never online when I was and, though Tom was on the players list, CO:LON was full without me! However a week or two later they reopened registration so I sent off my ten pounds in anticipation of meeting Tom again and maybe even playing.

Soon 29th October came around and 36 Countdown fans assembled in the upstairs room of the Sekeford Arms in Clarkenwell. There were two series winners, three finalists, seven semi-finalists, three quarter finalists, the top two players from the current series and others with high Apterous ratings. So it seemed unlikely I would do well! My results are shown below for the six games of 9-round games played. Did I play Tom? No, I did not. I ended on two wins (beating one series finalist but losing to another finalist along the way). Tom, however, ended on three, so it looked like he would be better than me when we finally met.

1Amie BateenL57-46
2Dinos SfyrisL59-31
3Oli MooreL53-42
4Jimmy GoughW47-38
5Lloyd PettetW53-46
6Charlie ReamsL67-36

A different Tom I know, Tom Cappleman, was also there. Tom lives in Bracknell and used to play Go when at Reading School and once came with me to the 2006 UK Go Challenge Finals. He had lost his only show on television, as he got a tough opponent, but now has a high Apterous rating. He reached the final. He played Matt Bayfield, with a similar rating. I had previously met Matt at the studios when I had to swap seats with him, so they could record him solving an audience conundrum (and hence sitting next to Roger Edwards).

Matt Bayfield in Red (Roger to the left)

In the final, played in front of a critical crowd, Matt won by 59 points to 37.

CO:LON final Matt (left) v Tom C (right)

It was great to meet with so many famous players from the show and familiar names from the Countdown forum, including seeing again fellow S64 players such as Tom, Ned Pendleton and Andy McGurn (all finalists). But when would I play Tom?

So I paid my ten pounds to become a full Apterous user and lurked around the server hoping Tom would appear, and then just before midnight on Thursday 10th November he was there. As soon as the game he was playing finished, the challenge went in and the game-that-never-was was underway!

As usual I started off slowly with a typing error in round 2, another bad word in round 4 and a compound-only word in round 6. I was 29 behind by round 10, but got the numbers and a winner in 11 to start my comeback. When Tom made an error on the third numbers game, we were tied at 71 all! I had been here before against a different Barnes, spooky eh? So crucial conundrum for the honour of an 81-71 win....

SALTILYAG: Tom buzzed in 7 secs to say AGISTALLY - wrong! I buzzed to say SAGIALITY - wrong! So a second chance: IDNAPPIER and Tom buzzed in 4.6s to get it correctly and seal my fate for a second time against a Barnes 81-71!

Game and Game Review for Game 4 (PDF)

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