Time for a look at another variation on the Countdown format, and this time it’s the grand final, the showpiece event that concludes every series where the overall winner would be found. The final had a slightly different format to a regular edition throughout the 80s and 90s. Firstly, it was the only edition of the series that was 45 minutes long before every edition was extended to this length in September 2001, and also it featured 14 rounds instead of nine.
Here’s how the knockout stages worked. Contestants could play up to eight games before they have to retire undefeated. The eight best performing contestants would then return at the end of the series to play in the quarter-finals. They would also be seeded on how well they performed, with the winners going into the semi-final, and then those winners going into the grand final.
This was always a big occasion, and another change for the grand final format would be that there would always be two celebrities taking part in dictionary corner alongside the lexicographer, but from about 1997 it was just the regular one. The 14 rounds would consist of eight letters games, four numbers games, and two conundrums, as the 7th and final rounds. Usually, the conundrum was only the final round, and in many grand finals whoever got these right would turn out to be crucial, especially when it was a close-scoring game.
There have been a few other special Countdown tournaments over the years which featured a knockout format that concluded with an extended grand final. These included the Champion Of Champions series, where about every four series the finalists from previous series come back to play one another again to determine who has been the best player over the past year or two. There have also been special tournaments that were held to celebrate the 15th and 30th anniversaries of Countdown, when players from all eras of the show returned to compete against one another, and the standard in these games was very high.
Another thing that should be noted were the prizes that were on offer. It’s well known that the overall series winner receives the complete leather-bound Oxford English Dictionary, but various other prizes are also on offer, such as cash prizes, computers, and also a special trophy. Everyone who makes the quarter-final stage also receives a small trophy, and in the Champion of Champions series prizes such as bowls have been on offer. Countdown has now been running for 75 series and anybody who becomes the overall champion in any variation of the show has definitely achieved something great and it should be considered an honour.