The Loser's Guide to Countdown

On 13th April 2009 I was a contestant on Countdown. I lost. See links below for my description of the experience.

While I was preparing to go on the show, I asked more experienced players for advice on how to prepare and get better at playing the game. They gave me loads of useful advice, some of which I followed and some of which I didn't. It's not their fault I lost.

I've tried to reproduce all the advice, plus some extra bits of my own, here - just follow the links below. With many thanks to the following very clever people who contributed advice: Kirk Bevins, Michael Wallace, David Williams, David Roe, Jon Corby, Peter Mabey, Malcolm James, Jon O'Neill, David O'Donnell, Craig Beevers, Martin Gardner, Junaid Mubeen, JackHurst, Joseph Bolas, Charlie Reams, Gary Male, Roxanne, Hannah O, Kate Richardson, Gavin Chipper. Also a big nod to Jerry Humphreys, whose web page on 4-large numbers is very helpful indeed.

A few people said that the best thing a novice player could do was practice, and anything else would be overkill. I still don't agree completely about the overkill, BUT they're absolutely right about the practice. There are various places you can do this online, such as Kountdown and, but the best place of all is Apterous. It's brilliant. It also has an associated forum, where you can talk about Countdown in endless detail, but do be careful: They bite.

I'd also recommend reading Mark Tournoff's book, Crucial - a Champion's Tale.

Finally, a note on the numbers: Personally I had a lot of fun swotting up on all the different possible combinations, particularly "6 small" and "4 large". I think you can gain a lot of useful points if your numbers are strong. But it's not for everyone: Beware of being sidetracked, and that applies to all the tips listed here. The most important thing is practice.

Tips for Playing the Game:

Numbers Tips (including 6-small and 4-large)
Letters and Conundrums Tips
General Tips
7-letter Stems
Other Useful Word Lists

Useful Links:

Lots of interesting + useful Countdown-related stuff
Useful info / stats on the numbers game
Tips on solving 4-large numbers rounds
C4C Forums
Countdown Wiki
Nebagram's Numbers Tips
Useful games for practising mental arithmetic
Mark Tournoff's book, Crucial - a Champion's Tale