Standard of contestants

All discussion relevant to Countdown that is not too spoilerific. New members: come here first to introduce yourself. We don't bite, or at least rarely.
Post Reply
User avatar
Martin Gardner
Kiloposter
Posts: 1492
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:57 pm
Location: Leeds, UK
Contact:

Standard of contestants

Post by Martin Gardner » Mon Feb 11, 2008 11:39 pm

I'm just wondering what people think about the standard of the contestants now versus the standard of the contestants throughout the history of Countdown. It's something I think about relatively often. A few things of note:

Early Series only had about 40 episodes which is why there weren't as many Octochamps... or one of the reasons. Obviously once you've got 1 Octochamp in that's already 8 out of 40 games played, so you can't have more than about two.

At the very start contestants were mainly from Scrabble clubs and things, so they didn't know the Oxford dictionary that well. I've seen on TCDP some players that have submitted valid Scrabble words that are not valid in Countdown.

What got me interested was looking at Harvey Freeman's games on the Countdownwiki. Obviously they're of a very high standard but I'd probably put him below recent Series winners and Octochamps who seem capable of getting every optimal solution, or maybe 12 in 14 rounds. The most recent recap I read was Hilary Hopper vs. Kate Ogilvie in a 9 round game and again, either of them could have lost by 30 points to a recent Octochamp.

So to sort of rephrase the question, do you think that the computer aids and online forums and games today mean the the best contestants - I'm talking about 800+ Octochamps rather than every single contestant - are significantly better than the best contestants from the 90s and 80s. Solely judging from recaps from the CDP and the Countdownwiki, I say yes.

Martin
If you cut a gandiseeg in half, do you get two gandiseegs or two halves of a gandiseeg?

Conor
Series 54 Champion
Posts: 415
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:29 am
Location: Luton - UK

Re: Standard of contestants

Post by Conor » Mon Feb 11, 2008 11:55 pm

I think so. In fact, as far as obscure words go, short of actually studying the dictionary, you'd be almost limited by which words have previously been offered on the show if there were no computers.

Gavin Chipper
Post-apocalypse
Posts: 8245
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:37 pm

Re: Standard of contestants

Post by Gavin Chipper » Tue Feb 12, 2008 8:47 pm

Yes, there are definitely more top players around now than in the past. But having said that, there's still only relatively few players that I'd back to beat Harvey Freeman at his peak.

Martin Smith
Acolyte
Posts: 203
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2008 9:12 pm
Location: Eastbourne

Re: Standard of contestants

Post by Martin Smith » Mon Feb 18, 2008 5:43 pm

It's logical that the best players are better now. With online recaps and solvers, it's a lot easier to learn all the fancy words. 15-round episodes also increase the chance of the better player winning, and having the show on all year round makes it easier to stay in form. Younger contestant dominate now, mainly because the older guys (and girls) will have been watching it for longer and have applied years ago.

Malcolm James
Acolyte
Posts: 146
Joined: Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:59 pm

Re: Standard of contestants

Post by Malcolm James » Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:41 am

I don't know if the average contestant is weaker than some years ago. Since it is agreed that the standard of the best contestants has risen and that good contestants are less likely to lose unluckily, they are possibly just made to look worse by the quality of the opposition.

Also, although Countdown has always been pretty male-dominated, it has clearly become more so in more recent years. It has been nearly ten years since there was a female series winner and several series finals and the last CofC have all male.

User avatar
Martin Gardner
Kiloposter
Posts: 1492
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:57 pm
Location: Leeds, UK
Contact:

Re: Standard of contestants

Post by Martin Gardner » Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:53 pm

It's generally quite white British dominated as well. I don't think there's even been a black Series winner, although I think there's been an Asian one. Again when I go to Scrabble tournaments (local ones not ABSP ones) I don't think there are any black or Asian players that do them.

N.B. please don't start any race rows, I'm just stating an observation.

Martin
If you cut a gandiseeg in half, do you get two gandiseegs or two halves of a gandiseeg?

Malcolm James
Acolyte
Posts: 146
Joined: Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:59 pm

Re: Standard of contestants

Post by Malcolm James » Fri Feb 22, 2008 5:33 pm

Martin

I don't disagree with what you say, but 94% of the population is white and 2 Asian champions out of 57 seems roughly in proportion. Afro-Caribbeans are definitely under-represented, probably due to socio-economic reasons. 50% of the population, though, are women

Martin Smith
Acolyte
Posts: 203
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2008 9:12 pm
Location: Eastbourne

Re: Standard of contestants

Post by Martin Smith » Sun Feb 24, 2008 6:00 pm

I think the kind of obsessive word-learning that the very top players have to do is a male thing. The same is true for Scrabble, which is very male-dominated despite women generally been seen as better with words.

As for the race issue, remember that a lot of older ethnic minority people are not native English speakers, which is going to make it a lot harder for them to be competitive. If you look at contestants under 30 or so, Asians have been proportionally over-represented, perhaps due to the typically high academic ambition and work ethic. The lack of Afro-Caribbean contestants is probably connected with general under-achievement of black youths (especially boys) in school - poverty, lack of fathers coupled with questionable role models, and too many distractions.

Malcolm James
Acolyte
Posts: 146
Joined: Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:59 pm

Re: Standard of contestants

Post by Malcolm James » Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:09 am

I agree that the willingness to learn words simply because they might be useful in some word game or other is a predominantly male trait and is likely to account for part of the difference, but, for Countdown, the knowledge of obscure words seems to me to be less important than the ability to spot reasonably everyday words. The point about women having superior word skills seems to me to be irrelevant. The ability to spot 8 or 9 letter words from a jumbled set of letters is a very different skill from what are generally considered to be language skills. I'm no psychologist, but the skill required on Countdown seems to me to be closer to mathematical or spatial reasoning skills.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests