Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

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Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Smith » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:17 pm

It's noticeable that a certain type of player is dominating the series at the moment. Usually young, male, with at least undergraduate uni study, and often a bit nerdy. Is this inevitable due to the availability of solvers and online games, and the fact that the older viewers who've been with the show a long time will mostly have already gone on, or can someone else break this routine in future?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Matt Morrison » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:22 pm

I would think that as long as the show remains popular with students, that's the way it will keep going.
There's a whole breed of Charlies and Junaids waiting to be discovered, and don't forget where the Kais will be in a few years.

I'd say the best chance of someone 'ordinary' winning is likely to be someone with an equivalent education - a retired lecturer, professor, something like that.
And that's bending what I think you meant by 'ordinary' to be honest - I can't see anyone 'ordinary' winning. Even if only 1 out of 64 contestants (I don't know how many feature in a series, that's a random power-of-2 guess) was of a Charlie- or Junaid-like 'new breed', I'd still tip them as being as the favourite over the bulk of the 63 ordinaries.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Kirk Bevins » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:28 pm

Matt Morrison wrote:(I don't know how many feature in a series,)
The last series featured 103 contestants. The next will be less I think due to CofC.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Matt Morrison » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:43 pm

Kirk Bevins wrote:The last series featured 103 contestants.
103 = 2^x
x = ?

what dictates the number of contestants then? i would have thought they'd be too many applications that their number might bear relevance on the number of contestants...?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Kirk Bevins » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:47 pm

Matt Morrison wrote:
Kirk Bevins wrote:The last series featured 103 contestants.
103 = 2^x
x = ?

what dictates the number of contestants then? i would have thought they'd be too many applications that their number might bear relevance on the number of contestants...?
Why does it have to be a power of 2? They have two finals, one in June and one in December. The heats are played throughout the year until it gets to a certain point in June or December. After that point (say 103 contestants for example), they look at the seeds. #1-#8 seeds are invited back for the QFs. There is no need to have a power of 2 in sight (apart from '8' which are the number of quarter finalists).

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jason Larsen » Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:22 pm

Martin, do you mean to tell us that everyone who wins a series for a while will eventually join this forum?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Matt Morrison » Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:34 pm

Kirk Bevins wrote:Why does it have to be a power of 2?
ignore me, was just mucking around

Kirk Bevins wrote:They have two finals, one in June and one in December. The heats are played throughout the year until it gets to a certain point in June or December. After that point (say 103 contestants for example), they look at the seeds.
so in fact the number of people per series has nothing to do with the programme or its staff or format or contestants, it's just a case of how many episodes C4 have deemed fit to transmit in the period between two finals? ... in that case, do the countdown team record what they predict will be the right amount of shows for a series (having recorded two series of Countdown a year for almost 100 years you'd imagine they have a fairly good idea of how many episodes is 'average'), and then Channel 4 just show all those and then the finals follow? Do some episodes get canned and never shown if the schedules get interrupted (two weeks of horse racing or something)?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Malcolm James » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:00 pm

1. C4 have enough notice of interruptions to know the number of heats required for a series in time to line up contestants.

2. The rise of the nerd seems to date from the change to the 15-round format. Of the 15-round champions, only mark Tounoff and John Mayhew appear to be out their 20s. This change also seems to co-incide with a nose-dive in the general success of female contestants. The obvious answer is that there is rather less luck in the 15-round format, or rather that there is more time for superior skill to prevail, even if the other player gets a lucky break.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Smith » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:08 pm

The only difference the contestants make to the number of shows is that each Octochamp means one more player.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Matt Morrison » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:11 pm

Malcolm James wrote:1. C4 have enough notice of interruptions to know the number of heats required for a series in time to line up contestants.
Yeah I did kind of pre-empt that response. But I didn't want to assume anything, I don't know how far in advance things like horse racing TV rights are sold - possibly, in an exceptional case, after episodes have already been recorded?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Matt Morrison » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:17 pm

Martin Smith wrote:The only difference the contestants make to the number of shows is that each Octochamp means one more player.
i'm just trying to throw around in my head the idea that it's the when of someone becoming an Octochamp that could affect things?
...The last show of any series always has to end with a winner because of the format... what happens to that winner; do they get an invite to the next series? just hard luck and bad timing being on the end of the contestants list? would it make any difference what number that win was - ie. if that gave them 6 wins, would they record 2 extra shows to give them a chance to become an Octochamp?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Smith » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:24 pm

They come back at the start of the next series, and carry on until they win eight games or lose one.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jason Larsen » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:31 pm

Martin, I meant to ask if it was any coincidence that two members here (David O'Donnell and Junaid Mubeen) have won the past two series.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Smith » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:47 pm

I don't think it can be a coincidence. The spoilers page makes it easier to learn words and compare your performance to other top players. I certainly wish I'd come on here more often before I went on.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Charlie Reams » Wed Dec 17, 2008 8:47 pm

Martin Smith wrote:can someone else break this routine in future?
I'm gonna say no. A player with good word knowledge can play quite badly and still easily beat a player with "ordinary" word knowledge; even a very well-read person is unlikely to be familiar enough with all of geology, botany, linguistics and carpentry to know MORGANITE, PETALOID, EMPHATICS and TREENAILS, let alone spot them. At least within the realm of Countdown, the ascent of the nerd is complete, and long may it continue.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Paul Howe » Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:49 pm

The good thing (or bad, depending on your perspective) about Countdown, and to a lesser extent Scrabble, is that practise is almost a complete substitute for talent, and most people can become arbitrarily good if they work hard enough. Given the easily available practising tools we now have, we should expect the strong and motivated players to be stronger on average than in the past. However, I don't think it's impossible that an "ordinary" person will win a series again, as the supply of these lexonerds, for wont of a better term, is still not much more than a trickle, about 1-3 per series. It wouldn't surprise me to a see a lexonerd free series in which a less practised player can win.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Kirk Bevins » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:25 pm

Paul Howe wrote:The good thing (or bad, depending on your perspective) about Countdown, and to a lesser extent Scrabble, is that practise is almost a complete substitute for talent, and most people can become arbitrarily good if they work hard enough.
Isn't this the same with most things in life? I wasn't very good at history but that's because I had no motivation. If I did have the motivation and could memorise dates and practise comparing and contrasting sources endlessly then I'd be pretty good I'd imagine. I could be wrong though.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Charlie Reams » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:37 pm

Kirk Bevins wrote:
Paul Howe wrote:The good thing (or bad, depending on your perspective) about Countdown, and to a lesser extent Scrabble, is that practise is almost a complete substitute for talent, and most people can become arbitrarily good if they work hard enough.
Isn't this the same with most things in life? I wasn't very good at history but that's because I had no motivation. If I did have the motivation and could memorise dates and practise comparing and contrasting sources endlessly then I'd be pretty good I'd imagine. I could be wrong though.
Yep. I think anyone could probably get good anything if they practised enough, but if you're particularly hopeless at something then it's unlikely you can maintain motivation for long enough to get good. I have quite limited natural anagramming skills but I have a good memory and a good feel for orthography (I'd probably be quite good at MaxMaker), which compensates quite a lot. I'd guess that's not atypical. Of course you get the occasional person with natural skill and the dedication to practise a lot, and that's the cloth that people like Julian Fell and Paul are cut from, but we're not all like that.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Paul Howe » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:52 pm

Kirk Bevins wrote:
Paul Howe wrote:The good thing (or bad, depending on your perspective) about Countdown, and to a lesser extent Scrabble, is that practise is almost a complete substitute for talent, and most people can become arbitrarily good if they work hard enough.
Isn't this the same with most things in life? I wasn't very good at history but that's because I had no motivation. If I did have the motivation and could memorise dates and practise comparing and contrasting sources endlessly then I'd be pretty good I'd imagine. I could be wrong though.
Obviously you need to work hard to be exceptional at something no matter how much natural aptitude you have. My point is that in some arenas dedication is necessary but not sufficient to reach the top, but in others it's necessary and sufficient. Most footballers will never be pros and most pros will never be Maradona or Messi, no matter how many hours they put in. Many dedicate their lives to maths or science and become nothing more than mediocre mathematicians and scientists. You can't become a great writer or composer just through hard work. Work hard at Countdown and you can become as good as you care to be (the letters bit anyway). I think being a historian probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Edited to say I'm not trying to be snobbish with all this, my original point was just that now it's easier to practise we'll see stronger players, since nothing more than working hard is required to be awesome. I know when I started off I was shite :D

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jon Corby » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:34 am

Matt Morrison wrote:... and don't forget where the Kais will be in a few years.
The dungeon in my basement :twisted:

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series ag

Post by Harry Whitehouse » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:50 am

I'm sure that age does come into this as well.

No matter how much time I devoted to practice, I could never consistently approach the standard of the brilliant contestants I have seen in recent years.

(Although I did achieve, from my armchair, the distinction of beating in one round an Octochamp who had a very untypical off day on television a couple of weeks ago. :o )

I've been a football referee for 30 years, and as I'm involved in a particular pattern of decision-making, twice a week for 30 weeks of the year, I have been able to note that my mental sharpness has declined and I have more difficulty in sustaining a high level of concentration over a long period.

Playing Countdown from my armchair, my processes switch from often picking out words intuitively from the patterns in the early rounds, to mechanically combining letters in the later rounds with less success, through, I would imagine, fatigue that is also age-related.

It was also very instructive for me to attend a recording of the programme this month.

Because of the change of environment, I was struggling to find any worthwhile words at all, even though I was simply in the audience, rather than in front of the cameras as the contestants were. I think lack of adaptability is also an age-thing.

So yes, I think the really good players are likely to continue to be drawn from the same 15 (sorry Kai, 12) to 35, well-educated male set that we see now.
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Bishop » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:44 pm

Charlie Reams wrote:
Martin Smith wrote:can someone else break this routine in future?
I'm gonna say no. A player with good word knowledge can play quite badly and still easily beat a player with "ordinary" word knowledge; even a very well-read person is unlikely to be familiar enough with all of geology, botany, linguistics and carpentry to know MORGANITE, PETALOID, EMPHATICS and TREENAILS, let alone spot them. At least within the realm of Countdown, the ascent of the nerd is complete, and long may it continue.
I'm only familiar with PETALOID, out of that list and I got to the semis. I didn't lose to Junaid because he knew more words, I lost because I missed SPATIAL, ANOTHER and a six I can't recall, alongside two numbers and the conundrum. Beyond watching countdown every day, I've never bothered to learn any new words for the programme.
harry wrote:It was also very instructive for me to attend a recording of the programme this month.

Because of the change of environment, I was struggling to find any worthwhile words at all, even though I was simply in the audience, rather than in front of the cameras as the contestants were. I think lack of adaptability is also an age-thing.
Personally, I found myself to be rubbish in the audience and played much better on camera. I think it's something to do with the tiny pads and pens and having to look up at the monitors that makes me play less well.

I do agree about young males. However, young men have dominated the show for a long long time. Whitely always used to say that it's "a young man's game".

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Charlie Reams » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:57 pm

Martin Bishop wrote: I'm only familiar with PETALOID, out of that list and I got to the semis. I didn't lose to Junaid because he knew more words, I lost because I missed SPATIAL, ANOTHER and a six I can't recall, alongside two numbers and the conundrum. Beyond watching countdown every day, I've never bothered to learn any new words for the programme.
I was drawing an example from the letters game because that's what I'm most familiar with, but your ability at the numbers is equally rare for an "ordinary" person.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Bishop » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:11 pm

Charlie Reams wrote:
Martin Bishop wrote: I'm only familiar with PETALOID, out of that list and I got to the semis. I didn't lose to Junaid because he knew more words, I lost because I missed SPATIAL, ANOTHER and a six I can't recall, alongside two numbers and the conundrum. Beyond watching countdown every day, I've never bothered to learn any new words for the programme.
I was drawing an example from the letters game because that's what I'm most familiar with, but your ability at the numbers is equally rare for an "ordinary" person.
I don't practise the numbers game either. If we're going to define an "ordinary" person as someone who is not very good at countdown, then you're right: we will never have an ordinary champion.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Charlie Reams » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:22 pm

Martin Bishop wrote:I don't practise the numbers game either.
You didn't win a series either.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:00 pm

I think Paul Howe made an excellent point a while back about the added value of learning obscure words. There's the obvious advantage that if you can spot them when they arise you are quids in. But even more effective is that immersing yourself in so many words makes it easier to spot normal words that you may otherwise miss. I often spot words by association, for example I saw SPATIAL because I was looking for SOLATIA. Had I not bothered to learn more obscure words like SOLATIA I would have been more likely to miss the well known SPATIAL since it would be less likely to jump out.

I think Paul also explained it a lot better so find his comment if the above seems like a load of bullshit.
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:01 pm

Will 'ordinary' people win Countdown? It would take exceptional raw talent on the level of Scott Mearns to do so, so probably only very rarely.
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by David O'Donnell » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:07 pm

Malcolm James wrote: Of the 15-round champions, only mark Tounoff and John Mayhew appear to be out their 20s.
If you don't mind I am going to take this as a compliment but I assume you mean well out of their 20s (I was 31).

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Smith » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:16 pm

Martin Bishop wrote:If we're going to define an "ordinary" person as someone who is not very good at countdown, then you're right: we will never have an ordinary champion.
That's absolutely not the definition of normal I was aiming at. People who are ordinary at something never win against someone whose better at it than them (unless the general public vote for the winner, of course). I was thinking about people without university education, and without the time to study obscure words.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Gavin Chipper » Thu Dec 18, 2008 8:43 pm

How much of a nerd is Richard Priest? I know he comes on here sometimes, but I've never thought of him as like some of the other super-nerds. I might be wrong though. Obviously he didn't win a series, but someone of his level could easily do so. What about Grace Page in the not too distant past? George Greenough? Both good enough to win series without taking a particular fluke.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Gavin Chipper » Thu Dec 18, 2008 8:51 pm

Charlie Reams wrote:
Kirk Bevins wrote:Isn't this the same with most things in life? I wasn't very good at history but that's because I had no motivation. If I did have the motivation and could memorise dates and practise comparing and contrasting sources endlessly then I'd be pretty good I'd imagine. I could be wrong though.
Yep. I think anyone could probably get good anything if they practised enough, but if you're particularly hopeless at something then it's unlikely you can maintain motivation for long enough to get good. I have quite limited natural anagramming skills but I have a good memory and a good feel for orthography (I'd probably be quite good at MaxMaker), which compensates quite a lot. I'd guess that's not atypical. Of course you get the occasional person with natural skill and the dedication to practise a lot, and that's the cloth that people like Julian Fell and Paul are cut from, but we're not all like that.
My own view is that how much difference practive makes varies a lot with what the skill is. Take reaching as high as you can. You can practise as much as you want at that, but it's not going to make much difference. That's obviously quite an extreme example, but then there's basketball and various other things. A lot of skills rely on your innate physical make-up, even if some might not be as obvious as others.

Even mental skills - some people have a natural advantage with some things and it's more than just a head start but an unattainable lead. I think with Countdown, that is a game that most people can become pretty good at but that's not the same in every game or discipline.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jason Larsen » Fri Dec 19, 2008 1:36 am

Oh, I understand it!

If there was a word that a contestant came up with and Susie Dent told them it was in the dictionary, then obviously it would be accepted if another contestant came up with it also.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Kirk Bevins » Fri Dec 19, 2008 1:42 am

Jason Larsen wrote:Oh, I understand it!

If there was a word that a contestant came up with and Susie Dent told them it was in the dictionary, then obviously it would be accepted if another contestant came up with it also.
Well obviously. What do you mean?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jason Larsen » Fri Dec 19, 2008 1:53 am

The word "leotard" has been found by a number of contestants, so Susie would obviously say it is in the dictionary.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Charlie Reams » Fri Dec 19, 2008 8:03 am

Kirk Bevins wrote:Well obviously. What do you mean?
I think it's cute that you assume stating the bleedin' obvious isn't exactly what he meant.

But then I find everything about you cute, especially your tiny little... shall I stop there?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Kirk Bevins » Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:03 pm

Jason Larsen wrote:The word "leotard" has been found by a number of contestants, so Susie would obviously say it is in the dictionary.
Have you been reading the same thread as me? What have you been drinking?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jason Larsen » Fri Dec 19, 2008 8:40 pm

Kirk, it's true, but I think you're kidding. I think the thread you're talking about was created ages ago.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Gardner » Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:30 am

Would it be such a good thing if someone who didn't put much effort in won a series?
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jon O'Neill » Mon Dec 22, 2008 1:28 pm

Martin Gardner wrote:Would it be such a good thing if someone who didn't put much effort in won a series?
Yes.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Phil Reynolds » Mon Dec 22, 2008 2:25 pm

Martin Gardner wrote:Would it be such a good thing if someone who didn't put much effort in won a series?
Absolutely. If, as other contributors to this thread have suggested, anyone can do well at Countdown if they practise, then a series champion who doesn't need to do so presumably wins instead by virtue of having good natural anagramming ability and an excellent vocabulary - both of which (IMO) are every bit as reward-worthy as spending hours learning lists of obscure words.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Matt Morrison » Mon Dec 22, 2008 2:33 pm

Phil Reynolds wrote:
Martin Gardner wrote:Would it be such a good thing if someone who didn't put much effort in won a series?
Absolutely. If, as other contributors to this thread have suggested, anyone can do well at Countdown if they practise, then a series champion who doesn't need to do so presumably wins instead by virtue of having good natural anagramming ability and an excellent vocabulary - both of which (IMO) are every bit as reward-worthy as spending hours learning lists of obscure words.
It's probably worth noting that, in my eyes at least, when we talk about people like Junaid and Charlie, we're talking about people who have both the natural ability (at least, more natural ability than your average contestant) but have also put in all the effort learning words and techniques too. It sure would be interesting seeing a pure natural vs. a pure worker, but I reckon champions for many years to come will be heavily equipped with both.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Gavin Chipper » Mon Dec 22, 2008 2:35 pm

I don't really see it as good or bad. If being good at Countdown is a skill you can only acquire through hard work then fair enough, but if it is a skill you can just be naturally good enough to win a series at then also fair enough.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Gavin Chipper » Mon Dec 22, 2008 2:41 pm

Matt Morrison wrote:It's probably worth noting that, in my eyes at least, when we talk about people like Junaid and Charlie, we're talking about people who have both the natural ability (at least, more natural ability than your average contestant) but have also put in all the effort learning words and techniques too. It sure would be interesting seeing a pure natural vs. a pure worker, but I reckon champions for many years to come will be heavily equipped with both.
I think I might have seen others comment on this before but I think the techniques people use with word lists etc. take place instead of rather than along with anagramming ability (to some extent anyway). I think Paul Howe once said that the way he plays now could mean missing words that he would have "naturally" got.

Also the natural talent required to learn how to play the geeky way may be a very different natural talent to simple anagramming ability. So with two players that have had no practice, the one that starts off much better might not have a headstart at all because he might have less aptitude for learning how to play like a geek.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series ag

Post by tonywarren » Mon Dec 22, 2008 3:34 pm

I can only speak personally, but having been introduced to Scrabble at the age of 6 by parents who saw it as an educational tool, with the additional house rule that you could only use words that you could define, I found the ingrained training carried over into Countdown. I realise looking back at the TV games I played that I never did use words I didn't know. I think that a number of the modern "geeky" players mentioned in this thread are underestimating their abilities. It is one thing to learn a list of "stems" and then the additional letters required to form 7, 8 and 9 letter words, but without the ability to spot the 5 or 6 letter stem in the first place such list learning will avail them not. Observing from the green room, even the best players occasionally miss a relatively obvious winner. In short I think it is as easy for an ordinary contestant to win a series as it ever was. It has always been bloody difficult and is likely to remain so.
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Paul Howe » Mon Dec 22, 2008 4:37 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:
I think I might have seen others comment on this before but I think the techniques people use with word lists etc. take place instead of rather than along with anagramming ability (to some extent anyway). I think Paul Howe once said that the way he plays now could mean missing words that he would have "naturally" got.
I think what I actually said (or at least meant to say) is make sure you exploit both styles of play. You can definitely get sucked into the mindset of "I know this set of letters makes a word, I've just got to remember it" and not actually anagram anything, so you have to make the mental effort not just to rely on memory. What I find is that words learned by repeated exposure tend to jump out in the first few seconds of the round, so you can focus the rest of the time on "natural" anagramming. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive, and I definitely wouldn't want to rely wholly on memory as it's far less enjoyable than spotting stuff on your own.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Gardner » Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:57 am

I suppose to you an analogy it would be a bit like someone who 'can't be bothered' learning any chess openings winning the national chess championship. I suppose I'm struggling a bit with what 'ordinary' means (a good line from one of my politics readings was "'human culture' is a vague term, and chosen for its vagueness"). If by ordinary you mean someone with abundant natural talent, well, as pointed out you can't really say that people liek Junaid and David O' aren't naturally talented! If you're talking about people who don't put much effort in but make up for it in natural talent, well, I don't really want people who don't make much of an effort to win series. Why should someone who doesn't put effort in be rewarded and someone else who's put a lot of effort in fail?
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Kirk Bevins » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:09 am

Martin Gardner wrote:Why should someone who doesn't put effort in be rewarded and someone else who's put a lot of effort in fail?
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Phil Reynolds » Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:38 am

Martin Gardner wrote:Why should someone who doesn't put effort in be rewarded and someone else who's put a lot of effort in fail?
Well, to answer that you need to decide what the reward is actually being given for. We're not talking about an annual pay rise here, we're talking about a game show. Your question implies that someone who is naturally brilliant at the game and doesn't need to learn lots of tricks and word lists (if such a person exists) is somehow morally less deserving of winning than a slogger, which I would imagine is contrary to the spirit in which the game was originally devised and in which it is watched by the vast majority of the audience.

I think this dichotomy is one of the reasons why Eggheads is an interesting format. It explicitly pits teams of people who, for the most part, quiz for fun and rely on their randomly acquired general knowledge against a group of professional quizzers who (in some cases at least) devote large amounts of time and effort to learning lists of everything from state capitals to Oscar winners. Ignoring if possible the satisfaction derived from seeing the smug smiles wiped off the Eggheads' faces, do you find the prospect of the talented amateurs beating the professionals as dispiriting as the thought of someone winning Countdown without putting in a lot of work beforehand?

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by David O'Donnell » Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:20 am

I can remember watching a final, when I was 18, and outscoring the two contestants (albeit from the comfort of my own armchair). I wasn't a word nerd: I hated Scrabble! I had always been teetering on the brink of applying but would soon be dissuaded with the appearance of an octochamp who would hand me a few beatings. Even one at-home loss against a teapot winner who played a good game neutralised my Countdown ambitions for at least a year. After watching series 54 and the subsequent CoC I resolved that I would never appear on the show.

It was only discovering Charlie's site, quite by accident, that renewed my interest in the show. It's not merely the access to previous games and solvers but talking to former champs and high calibre contestants who urge you to go on the show. Getting the confidence is part of what drives you to achieve in any sporting challenge. I would say practice has increased my consistency but has also meant that when I spot one of my stem words I get distracted to the point that I miss the purer un-inflected words that I used to spot quite easily. I also noticed a slight trade-off between improvement in the letters and a deterioration of my numbers game. All in all though I am definitely an improved player.

So to answer Martin's question who would win? Me as an 18 year old or me as a 31 year old with a hand batch of stem words etc? I reckon the 31 year old would win but it would be a horribly scrappy game where I would balls up the six small selection that the younger me would have chosen and probably miss a few nice words too.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Gardner » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:08 pm

Phil Reynolds wrote:
Martin Gardner wrote:Why should someone who doesn't put effort in be rewarded and someone else who's put a lot of effort in fail?
Well, to answer that you need to decide what the reward is actually being given for. We're not talking about an annual pay rise here, we're talking about a game show. Your question implies that someone who is naturally brilliant at the game and doesn't need to learn lots of tricks and word lists (if such a person exists) is somehow morally less deserving of winning than a slogger, which I would imagine is contrary to the spirit in which the game was originally devised and in which it is watched by the vast majority of the audience.
Well in fairness I was playing devil's advocate rather than giving my actual opinion, but your point is a good one. But still I don't think people should be seen in a negative light because they do word learning, i.e. they put some effort into it.
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Gavin Chipper » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:13 pm

Martin Gardner wrote:
Phil Reynolds wrote:
Martin Gardner wrote:Why should someone who doesn't put effort in be rewarded and someone else who's put a lot of effort in fail?
Well, to answer that you need to decide what the reward is actually being given for. We're not talking about an annual pay rise here, we're talking about a game show. Your question implies that someone who is naturally brilliant at the game and doesn't need to learn lots of tricks and word lists (if such a person exists) is somehow morally less deserving of winning than a slogger, which I would imagine is contrary to the spirit in which the game was originally devised and in which it is watched by the vast majority of the audience.
Well in fairness I was playing devil's advocate rather than giving my actual opinion, but your point is a good one.
I doubt when the show was devised much thought went into whether it would be down to hard work or natural talent. But as with all competitions*, it doesn't matter what one's opinion is. Cold hard facts win out, and the player with the most points wins regardless of where their skill came from.

*Except maybe competitions like Strictly Come Dancing where it's all about opinions so not all at all.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Phil Reynolds » Tue Dec 23, 2008 2:23 pm

Martin Gardner wrote:Well in fairness I was playing devil's advocate rather than giving my actual opinion, but your point is a good one. But still I don't think people should be seen in a negative light because they do word learning, i.e. they put some effort into it.
Neither do I - absolutely not. Anyone who applies themselves and works to improve on their natural skill is to be applauded. I took your post to imply that people capable of winning without the effort were somehow less worthy or deserving, which - had it been your actual opinion - is not one I share.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Kai Laddiman » Tue Dec 23, 2008 4:55 pm

Is the title of this thread implying that series winners are not normal? Outrageous!
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jason Larsen » Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:15 pm

Kai, Martin may be thinking that every series winner from now on may join this forum, I'm not sure!

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by David Roe » Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:09 am

I would presume an "ordinary" person referred to here might be the one who doesn't practice, other than watching the show, as opposed to one who sits down with a list of words, stems, etc. and works things out.

If so, even the ordinary person is practising 45 minutes per day, because (at least once they have a recording date set) they're going to be watching every day. The "non-ordinary" will have an edge, all else being equal, but not that great an edge - even in this year's final, say, there were from memory only a couple of rounds where the declaration was a word from what I would call non-standard vocabulary ("inclose" was one, I think). And even the "ordinary" person is going to know tangelo by now.

Knowledge of obscure words in scrabble is much more important than in Countdown because of all the 2 and 3 letter links you need. You couldn't be a world champion Scrabbler without them. But I'd have thought in Countdown, given perhaps a bit of luck and some good numbers games, your non-geek can still win.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jason Larsen » Wed Dec 24, 2008 4:05 pm

I think it's someone who hasn't joined us here, David!

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Martin Gardner » Thu Dec 25, 2008 10:54 pm

Jason Larsen wrote:I think it's someone who hasn't joined us here, David!
Who are you replying to?
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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jason Larsen » Fri Dec 26, 2008 2:33 am

David Roe.

I really think by an ordinary person he means someone who has not joined us here yet.

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by David Roe » Fri Dec 26, 2008 10:54 am

You may be right. Except that would mean I've become non-ordinary! :)

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Re: Will an 'ordinary' person ever win a series again?

Post by Jason Larsen » Fri Dec 26, 2008 4:57 pm

That's right!

You never know what may happen!

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