FOCAL finally returned to the North East last weekend, this time in the beautiful seaside town of Whitley Bay.
Fresh from presenting our Manchester event earlier this year, hosts James and Mark teamed up again to welcome 36 players to Tyneside.
The weekend began on Friday night with a trip to a local Indian restaurant, before five players turned out at the Whitley Bay parkrun on Saturday morning. Tom Carey was the fantest anagrammer in town with a very respectable time of 22:52.
As the Countdown started on Saturday morning, things got off to a flying start as a nine-letter word was available in the very first round. Can you spot it in the image below?
Not content with his superior parkrun performance, Tom also won the lunchtime quiz. In the letters and numbers, it was Lincoln winner Conor who was the only player to get through the five preliminary games unbeaten. In his quarter final however, he was defeated by Countdown Series 76 champ Stephen Read who managed to take both numbers rounds and the conundrum to progress to the semi-final, meaning this would be the first time in 2022 that Conor had attended an event and not made the final!
Perhaps Stephen had emptied the tank by defeating the tournament favourite though, because in his semi-final he fell to FOCAL chair Callum. In the other semi-final, last year’s Blackpool champ Bradley defeated Darren to join Callum in the final.
This was to be Callum’s first final for two and a half years, since he went on a run of five consecutive finals culminating in the 2019 FOCAL Finals which was also against Bradley. But for now they could both put their feet up as the other divisions were played to a conclusion. Elizabeth Beer claimed the Group E title, Euan Crabb won Group D, Adam Latchford was victorious in Group C, Stu Harkness beat ZoomDown and Galway host Paul Anderson in the Group B final, and Darren claimed third place in Group A to join Bradley and Callum on the podium.
Prior to the final kicking off, Callum was called up for some tech support and didn’t miss the opportunity to cheekily tamper with the scoreboard to give himself a sizable headstart. Unfortunately for Callum, the hosts noticed his hijinks and wiped the slate clean. The shenanigans didn’t stop there however, as Bradley emphatically won the psychological battle of the pre-final staredown, with Callum unable to keep a straight face before his opponent’s steely gaze.
Callum would get off to an electric start in the final, winning the first two rounds with a six and a nine-letter word (ADENOSINE) to open up an early lead. With the final being played in the 14-round format however, a 24 point lead wasn’t entirely comfortable as Bradley would have two conundrums to peg back his opponent. The first conundrum was an important moment in the match, but unfortunately for Bradley it was Callum who was quickest to spot HOUSECARL, thereby extending his lead to 34 points at the halfway mark.
A further spot of PERIORAL and a succesful last second stab at the final conundrum (BYTOWNITE) sealed a 127-72 win and first title of the 2020-22 FOCAL season for Callum, while Bradley finished runner-up for the third time in 2022.
After the event, everyone headed into central Newcastle for a quick game of pool where Stevie was terribly unlucky to see the cueball go in-off from the black, before heading to a Chinese restaurant/karaoke bar.
Ashwin evoked his X Factor days with roof-raising performances of Taylor Swift and Celine Dion, Paul crooned his way through some Elvis, Dave showed off his soulful voice, Callum (with accompaniment from Dinos) rapped that the FOCAL season event winners list had been so empty Without Me, Stevie showed his feminine side, Dinos and Adam were Teenage Dirtbags, and the whole gang harmonised together on classics such as Piano Man, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Don’t Stop Believing.
For those that were staying over a night on the Toon followed while everyone else headed home having had a great weekend at a truly excellent event.
Callum’s first win of the season solidifes his place at the top of the League Table, while Bradley’s run to the final sees him pip Tom to second place by just 5 points! Tim Hebbes’ 11th place finish is enough for him to break into the top 8, displacing London winner Rob. Rob is nonetheless surely just one more event appearance away from regaining his spot in the all important Top 8, as is Conor, whose 5th place finish in the North East lifts him up to 10th in the season standings.
The next event with FOCAL points on the line will be in GALWAY on 11th June. And if you’re heading over to the Emerald Isle for that, why not stay over another week and go to WATERFORD as well on the 18th?
After that we have our BRIGHTON event on 16th July, and our newly announced BIRMINGHAM event on 13th August. Mark will be back on hosting duties as BLACKPOOL (webpage to follow) returns on 10th September, and his co-host from this weekend – James – is hoping to be able to put on an event in Edinburgh in October as well, but this is not yet confirmed. Keep checking back on our Upcoming Events page for any updates on that or our Braintree event to be finalised for 5th November.
The FOCAL Finals and Open Tournament will take place this year in MILTON KEYNES (webpage to follow) on 26th November. Until then, we hope to see you all again at an event soon!