Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

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L'oisleatch McGraw
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Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by L'oisleatch McGraw » Fri Feb 24, 2017 5:48 am

As there is a strong element of community to the whole CD/Apto scene, it seems appropriate to help each other out as regards sharing tips and honing skills. So on this thread, go ahead and share anything that you find helpful... I'll keep this OP updated as replies come in (assuming replies do come in! ;) )

[It is VERY MUCH worth mentioning that this has been discussed ad nauseum several times before, notably in threads started by Jack Hurst in 2009, Clare Sudbery in 2009, Callum Todd in 2013, and Graham Harrison in late 2013. However, one caveat is that some of the advice is out of date as these threads pre-date the massive overhaul of the dictionary. e.g. On one of the threads Mark D mentions that "RELATION" only stems with four letters -F.A.S.H. That is no longer true. It now stems with more than double that amount.]


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WHERE TO START

1. Play along with TV.
2. Get onto Apterous!!! [https://www.apterous.org/index.php] (if you are serious, this one is vital)
3. Play the board game.
4. Make / get word lists to learn.
5. Learn some times tables, and get familiar with numbers (particularly between 500-1000) that have multiple factors.
6. Make / get a list of stems and falseagrams. (Update it regularly. Learn it regularly.)
7. If possible, get friends involved. Perhaps attend some co:events? [https://focalcountdown.co.uk/]


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IMPROVING YOUR LETTERS GAME

1. Get into a habit of daily play.

2. Use the Apterous “Superstats” (both your own, and those of other very active players) to identify recently most missed five and six letter words. Take note of the most common of these words, and compile a list to learn. (It is important that you focus on "recent" and not "all-time", as the recent ones are a more accurate reflection of what's common and valid in the most up to date incarnation of the ODO.)

3. Use the Apterous stemmer tool with any seven or eight letter words that you regularly spot.

4. See can you get a head-start by getting resources from others who have already made word lists / stemming & falseagram lists, and build on those.

5. After a day’s play, revisit your game log, and add any new useful falseagrams and stems to your list. (Personally I rank all of these memory aids on a scale of 1-5, depending on assumed difficulty and/or obscurity. Most common and/or easiest get a rating of '1'.)

6. Take time to learn the lists as you compile them, with a focus on learning the most commonly occurring words first.

7. Try face as many rounds as you can in a short space of time. To achieve this, it is advisable to practise with Speed or Bullet rounds.


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IMPROVING YOUR NUMBERS GAME

1. Learn times tables for 25,50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175, and learn them well, till that part becomes automatic.

2. To excel at 6s, you would need to have a very firm grasp of the more basic times tables (15-1).

3. Familiarise yourself with certain key targets. (sum of two primes, numbers with many factors etc.)

4. Practise on Apterous by playing numbers attacks against the weakest robot there [aka 'Prune']. (For the 20 rounds, do 4 x 6s, 4 x 1L, 4 x 2L, 4 x 3L and 4 x 4L.)

5. Learn the “4L tricks”, possibly by getting your hands on a copy of Chris Butler’s excellent guide to 4L, or a similar work.

6. Try some speed rounds to improve your sharpness. Perhaps customise your numbers attacks to a 20s limit.


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IMPROVING YOUR CONUNDRUMS

1. Use the ascension conundrum attacks.

2. Choose a “Nice” conundrum attack to practise the types of conundrums you are more likely to get on the show.

3. Some people have a skill where they can instantly spot the solution. You can work on developing / honing that skill by trying bullet conundrum attacks occasionally.


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OTHER GENERAL POINTS

1. It is ill-advised to over-practise. One suggestion given by a top player is to do 5 games a day (i.e. a letters attack, a numbers attack, a conundrum attack, a game against someone ranked lower than you, a game against someone ranked higher than you.), after that, if you want to play more (for fun) then do.

2. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure to play or to improve. Be patient. It may take quite some time for your practise / study to pay dividends as regards your day to day game-play.

3. Practise can be quite personal. What works best for someone else isn’t necessarily going to work best for you. Be mindful of that when taking any advice on board. If something is not working for you, don’t be afraid to ditch it, and focus on something else.

4. Try not to get overly obsessed with ranking, maxes, pro-rank, etc. That can get depressing.

5. Ignore other Apterous variants aside from versions of the ‘normal’ variant until after you have filmed. (Or at the very least keep these sorts of games as low priority.)

6. When compiling a stemming list, these 8 are gold:- ANGRIEST, NOTARISE, REACTION, ATROPINE, STEERING, CANISTER, PAINTERS, RESINATE. Very common, and very stemful.

7. It can be good to use rivalries. Find someone to achievably become better than, then repeat.

8. On the show you will face several consecutive games. Keep this in mind, and that fatigue may play a part when you do get to record. Set expectations low to avoid disappointment.


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USEFUL RESOURCES

1. Apterous (for gameplay)
2. Apterous Superstats (for personalising word lists etc.)
3. List of Stems
4. List of Falseagrams. (e.g. http://wiki.apterous.org/Falseagrams)
5. List of commonly occurring obscure words.
6. List of tables.
7. List of powerful numbers targets with a cluster of factors.
8. Tool for generating anagrams.


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CONTRIBUTE

If you know of any other worthwhile website, computer program, app etc… then share it in a comment below.

If you have already made your own word lists / stem lists / falseagram lists / numbers resources etc… and are happy to share them to give others a leg up, then let it be known and I’ll add your name into the “Useful Resources” section of this.

The aim is to edit and update the OP regularly as new info comes in. That way its usefulness will improve over time.


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CREDIT

If you recognise a paraphrased (or sometimes even verbatim) version of something you vaguely remember writing somewhere once… it is probably because I have shamelessly plagiarised it. Virtually none of this advice is based on my own insights. (As someone who has never been on the show, whose peak pro-rank is 82nd, and who struggles to stay above 1300 in the rolling ratings… why would anyone care for my thoughts on how this game is played?!) All the info has been picked up from other sources… e.g. this forum, aptochat, the Countdown experiences series, etc. Credit certainly needs to go to the following people whose insights appear in some form:-

Kirk Bevins
Thomas Cappleman
Johnny Canuck
Sean Deloughry
Tim Down
Anthony Endsor
Robin McKay
Tracey Mills
Jon O’Neill
Charlie Reams
John Shaw
Zarte Siempre
Jennifer Steadman
Last edited by L'oisleatch McGraw on Sat Feb 25, 2017 6:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Jon O'Neill
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Jon O'Neill » Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:16 am

TLDR: practise.

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Innis Carson
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Innis Carson » Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:47 am

One bit of advice I wouldn't agree with is avoiding variants other than Normal - obviously some variants like Duckdown and Spoilage are of no real use, but ones like Goatdown and Touchdown can be extremely useful, not only with learning new words but with conditioning your mind to think outside the box and spot potential words before all the letters are there. Plus, crucially, it can help stave off getting bored with the game.

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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Noel Mc » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:29 am

I found this link somewhere:
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/ ... lide=id.p3
I can't remember where I got it, so can't give full credit. I haven't properly used it at all, but it looks great!

I don't think I'm disciplined enough to be honest, I've mainly just being playing games. I haven't properly started looking at stem lists or falseagrams etc. I should invest in a book or something and start writing stuff down.

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Jennifer Steadman
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Jennifer Steadman » Fri Feb 24, 2017 5:47 pm

In addition to the 10 Countmandments:

GENERAL
- Once you're at a 1600 rating on Apterous, stop playing Prune and start playing Prime. And then play humans occasionally so you remember that they miss gettable stuff.
- A higher-rated mentor or even just a motivation buddy can be really helpful if someone wants to offer that.
- Try not to take it too seriously... (/hypocrisy)

Image

LETTERS
- Don’t bother learning 5-letter words. Spend barely any time on 6s. 7s/8s/9s are the priority.
- Write down words you miss. You don't have to make specific word lists, but it might be useful to just jot them down and glance at the list every so often.
- Speed/bullet games are most useful for letters (/conundrums); you’ll see hundreds of words and remember few of them… until the same words keep cropping up, and you keep realising you’re declaring MILDEST when DELIMITS is there. Eventually you'll absorb them.

NUMBERS
- For 6 small, try to learn factors of common products (54, 56, 63, 72, 81). I’m not saying you should memorise them by heart, but be familiar with them. When 729 comes up as a target in a 6 small round, you'll be less inclined to go "SHITTING FUCK"/panic and more inclined to think "Wait, that looks familiar... oh yeah, it's just 81*9." Although if after 15 seconds you still can't see how to get to the target the way you're thinking of, switch tack and try something new. Don't try and make a method happen if it's not going to!

Image

- Also: learn the 13 times table! 78 (13*6), 91 (13*7) and 104 (13*8) are incredibly useful.
- 7*8*9 = 504. Write it on everything you own. Never forget it.

CONUNDRUMS
- Not sure I’d bother with Nice conundrum attacks - it’s better to struggle through conundrums of all different difficulty ratings. A word like MOUSEBIRD may not come up as a conundrum in a heat game on TV, but it may turn up in one of the letters rounds... ;)

Above all - only put in actual effort if you enjoy it. It's a stupid gameshow and it's not worth wrecking your self-esteem for. If you’re absolutely desperate to get really good, then only put in the effort in ways that you’ll enjoy, and take a break if you're getting demotivated, angry or miserable. In the run up to CoC, I rediscovered my love for the game - which had been AWOL for about 2 years at that point - because I started learning words in a way that was enjoyable to me (even if massively time-consuming). Try different things and see what works for you.

ImageImage Image
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Gavin Chipper » Fri Feb 24, 2017 6:14 pm

In addition to all of the above, if you want to win a series, I'd say apply early - like before about 2001. The standard of the top players has gone up quite a lot since around then, and obviously even more after Apterous came into existence in 2008.

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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Matt Bayfield » Fri Feb 24, 2017 6:50 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Fri Feb 24, 2017 6:14 pm
In addition to all of the above, if you want to win a series, I'd say apply early - like before about 2001. The standard of the top players has gone up quite a lot since around then, and obviously even more after Apterous came into existence in 2008.
Gevin's advice is endorsed by past Countdown champions Doc Brown, Doctor Who, and Bill S. Preston, Esq.

Elliott Mellor
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Elliott Mellor » Fri Feb 24, 2017 7:21 pm

This is going to be a good read this thread I think, I could certainly use some help!
#milesawayfromserieschamp

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L'oisleatch McGraw
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by L'oisleatch McGraw » Sat Feb 25, 2017 6:53 am

Elliott Mellor wrote:
Fri Feb 24, 2017 7:21 pm
This is going to be a good read this thread I think, I could certainly use some help!
#milesawayfromserieschamp
We'll try make it epic, Elliott!
There is great potential to have it as a sort of one stop shop for any aspiring CD contestants / apterites.
I've already improved the OP by adding links to other long discussions from the past where people share tips and ideas.

One thing that is becoming clear (as I follow promising sounding links, only to find they have died :( ) is that the CD fandom seemed to experience a surge, a golden era if you will, in the period 2007-2011-ish. During that high classical age, the community was enthusiastic, thriving, and creating and sharing some kickass resources. (Does AnaHack even exist now?) Some of the resources from the golden era (e.g. the wiki, the experiences page, the 4L page, etc) have fallen into disrepair, and (in some cases) have vanished into the ether altogether.

Not to say that there isn't plenty of innovation happening now. The Focal stuff in particular, has taken a huge amount of energy & consequently, the real-life Countdowning scene has never been as vibrant. But there is plenty of scope to rejuvenate, and bolster online resources for fans...
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by David Williams » Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:26 am

I've always thought the largest simple improvement the average contestant could make is to learn how to do 'one large'.

1. If your solution starts with, say, 100x6=600 you can multiply any of the other numbers by 6 as well - (100-4)x6=576.
2. If your solution starts with, say, 100x3x2=600 you can multiply any of the other numbers by 2 or 3 as well as by 6 - (100x2+8)x3=624.

Maybe it's just too obvious for us, but for most people there's 10 or 20 extra points a game available from a few minutes work. Much higher return than anything you could do for the letters rounds.

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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Elliott Mellor » Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:24 pm

David Williams wrote:
Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:26 am
I've always thought the largest simple improvement the average contestant could make is to learn how to do 'one large'.

1. If your solution starts with, say, 100x6=600 you can multiply any of the other numbers by 6 as well - (100-4)x6=576.
2. If your solution starts with, say, 100x3x2=600 you can multiply any of the other numbers by 2 or 3 as well as by 6 - (100x2+8)x3=624.

Maybe it's just too obvious for us, but for most people there's 10 or 20 extra points a game available from a few minutes work. Much higher return than anything you could do for the letters rounds.
This. So many times on the show people fail to achieve what should be a really easy target through not doing a simple subtraction or addition before they multiply. My mum does this all the time, she'll multiply 2 of the numbers to get close and try and make ends meet with the others. Sometimes it works but most of the time it doesn't.
100, 5, 6, 2, 1, 1 target 644 ought to be really easy but the amount of times people don't spot it is unreal. This is then consequently why they are terrified of 6s, when in reality 6s is generally not very difficult unless you get a really high prime target.

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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Anthony Endsor » Wed Mar 08, 2017 10:26 pm

There's some brilliant advice on here, which at first glance some of it seems obvious, but it's worth a good read as you can often learn where you're going wrong simply by it staring you in the face.
From my own experience, I can maybe offer a few handy hints based on mistakes I myself have made.
Many players probably wonder why they play me one day, and I win quite heavily against them, then another day they beat me by an equally crushing margin. I have a number of players who I tend to play quite regularly, and most of them are around about or a bit above my rating, ranging from maybe 1300 to 1500. I often 'panic play' (if there is such a phrase) just to get games in, particularly if I haven't had time to play much on a certain day. I have found this to be quite unproductive as usually I end up rushing rounds, making mistakes and generally getting deflated. So I'll play a bot for example, who I might be well capable of beating, but lose heavily as I end rounds too early, etc. Then if a player challenges me I'll play them and end up losing.
So I would say the best plan is, play when you have the time and the patience to produce your best performance, not when you've had a stinker of a day at work, had a row with the neighbours, partner, milkman, or whoever, and the last thing you feel like doing is playing Countdown.
A clear mind is key, so if you have something on your mind, you won't play your best.
Fatigue is also a crucial factor, particularly for night recordings. That cost me back in 2005, and I will definitely learn from that when I re-apply.
I'll post again if I think of anything else, but hopefully this will prove useful. :)

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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Paul Erdunast » Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:06 pm

Yo I'm compiling a complete list of words, using the newly updated dictionary, ranked according to their usefulness, so you can simply learn the words in order. Hoping to get it done tonight. pm me if you would like it, with your email address. I'd also be very interested in your feedback on its accuracy, and how you might want to make it more accurate. Currently it takes account of how often it comes up as a max, how often it is the max when it comes up, and its length/score.
Last edited by Paul Erdunast on Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Elliott Mellor
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Elliott Mellor » Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:13 pm

Defo want this, PM sent:-)

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JimBentley
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by JimBentley » Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:47 pm

I don't mean to state the obvious but the strategy has already been formulated:
Jon O'Neill wrote:
Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:16 am
TLDR: practise.
WJS (What Jono Said) is the market leader in this area.

This strategy has highly customisable performance metrics in all measured capacities and is thought to be the most useful generalised approach.

Historically WJS has outperformed the wider market over a long period and analysts expect this strategy to retain further use in a wide range of situations. Most excitingly, it is expected that WJS can be a useful tool deciphering and ultimately exploiting the novel playing scenarios of the future.

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L'oisleatch McGraw
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by L'oisleatch McGraw » Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:13 pm

Paul Erdunast wrote:
Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:06 pm
Yo I'm compiling a complete list of words, using the newly updated dictionary, ranked according to their usefulness, so you can simply learn the words in order.
If anyone deserves the word "legend" written after their name, it is your good self, Paul! :)
Definitely keep me in mind once you have it done, cheers!
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Paul Erdunast
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Paul Erdunast » Thu Jul 27, 2017 10:13 pm

I've now completed the list, although it's not yet absolutely perfect. Please let me know if you'd like it!

Elliott Mellor
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Elliott Mellor » Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:00 pm

Already sent you a message saying I'd like it :)
Cheers Paul, you're a legend!

Paul Erdunast
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Re: Best ways to improve your Countdowning skills...

Post by Paul Erdunast » Sun Jul 30, 2017 10:48 pm

Here's a broadly finalised version. Please let me know if you have any comments, suggestions or encounter any issues.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... -DnWnNaAx8

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