Need a place to stay for CoBirmingham on 2nd December? Read on…

To fully enjoy the fun and festivities at our end of year tournament in Birmingham, you might want or need a place to stay for the night. Luckily, our venue – the Strathallan Hotel – has given us a deal on booking hotel rooms that weekend.

We have 14 rooms reserved for the Friday (1st December) and the Saturday (2nd December) at £73 for single occupancy, or £99 for twin or double occupancy – all prices include breakfast. If all 14 rooms at this price are sold, you’ll have to pay full price… so don’t delay! The deal expires on November 3rd. Download the booking form HERE: CoBrum booking form 2017.

If you’d like a room but can’t commit to it until closer to the November 3rd deadline, for whatever reason, email and we can update you on availability closer to the date, or prod you if rooms are going quickly.

And don’t worry if the rooms are beyond your price range – you certainly don’t need to stay at the venue to take part in the event!  Sign up by sending the £12.50 entry fee to Chris Marshall, FOCAL treasurer, via PayPal at (please remember to select ‘payment to friends and family’), or via cheque (address available on request).

See you in Birmingham…?

Lincoln and Bristol, the 2 oldest Co-events, return for 2018!

The Co-event scene has been going since 2005, so it’s fitting that the first two events to be held in and announced for 2018 are the two oldest events!

COLIN – or Countdown in Lincoln – has been running every year since 2005, and was joined in 2014 by a Sunday event, aptly named The Hangover. Next year’s event, held on the 27th and 28th of January, will follow the same pattern as previous years; it’s still run by Series 46 champ and career misanthrope Ben Wilson, still has the same format, and will still give a bump to the profits of the Fox & Hounds pub in North Hykeham and the Thorpe-on-the-Hill Travelodge in South Hykeham. CLICK HERE for all the event details!

COBRIS was the second event to happen, originally run by Jerry Humphreys until 2007. The south-west then went eventless until 2015, when Series 70 champ Mark Murray resurrected the event with recent semi-finalist Jeff Clayton – and it’s been going strong ever since. CLICK HERE for the event page, with all the details!

You can sign up now – so why wouldn’t you?! See you there!

Countdown in Waterford report: The Afterword

The perfect venue, in the perfect setting… but then, as proof of the existence of a piss-taking God, it got plonked right in the back-arse of rural Ireland, making for a very hard sell to a fanbase that is largely UK-based.

When the news came in that there were no flights operating out of Waterford Airport, one attendee expected there might be maybe 3 participants if we were lucky. In the end it was 7 times that number. 21 people found their way to Woodstown to play some Countdown in the Summer heat.

1. Of the 21 participants, there were 10 female and 11 male.
2. Seven players had attended at least one co:event before.
3. We had 28 players signed up.
There were NINE last minute dropouts.
There were TWO last minute additions. Mike and Elaine were originally going to spectate only, but fair play, they stepped in to compensate for the unexpected drop in numbers.
4. One UK-based player attended.
5. Just four of the participants would describe themselves as “Apterites”.
6. Aside from the four Apterites, only Shane had appeared on the show and won a teapot.
7. Of the 21, eight stayed over in the dormitories.

Champ Tom with Carol Sinnott’s very impressive Countdown clock cake!

1. There were one or two culture shocks. Alan remarked, “We’re not in Dublin now!” on hearing that the security arrangements were a little looser than anticipated. Also, in relation to the laid back nature of things, Thomas at one point mused, “I think I’m too English for this…”

2. Turns out Eddy is some man on the guitar. Properly talented. He can do a mean David Bowie, and could jam along with most stuff.

3. At the very end of Saturday night we managed to cobble together a thoroughly enjoyable version of “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs”. All we were missing was Mark Mills to row in with the “Big ship sails…” countermelody.

4. Saturday was an excellent day for Co:gender-balance, as around half the participants were female, and Hazel became the first female Co-event finalist.

5. Food on the day included lunch [loaded potato skins, broccoli salad, cous cous salad, pasta & blue cheese salad, bean salad, tossed green salad], dinner [garlic & sweet chilli chicken, with rice and/or chips], Carol’s wonderful Countdown Clock Cake, plenty of crisps & chocolate… and free flowing tea, coffee and soft drinks. No-one went hungry anyway!

6. Eddy did a great job of sending over messages so the final could be live-tweeted by FOCAL, but there are 2 things that need to be added in. Just to mention firstly that there was a touch of culinary commentary in the conundrum scramble. It was EGGSARPOO… and since they smell like fart, I feel it is fair. Also, the final numbers game was solved within the 30s by one of the spectators (Kevin Jackson).

7. We adopted P!nk’s “So what?” as theme tune for the day, played each time a 9-letter word was available in the selection. (It didn’t take too much in the way of mental acrobatics to imagine she was singing “Co:Wat?!” instead.)

8. “Word of the day” would to go to Hazel Drury for the darrenic 8, BASENJIS.

9. Everything mainly went to plan, but there were two major errors. One was in the final when GALIPOTS was mistakenly allowed, only for the 8pts to be retrospectively deducted. The final score was Thomas Carey 101 – 82 Hazel Drury. The other was that the scores for the final round of games went unrecorded… so had to be collected during the days after the event.

Hazel, Tom and Gerry, the top 3 on the day.

“The presence of so many local people helped add to the event.”
Gerry Tynan

“Is there a prize for last place? Think I may be in with a good chance there!”
Clodagh Irish

“Now I’ve won, I should probably pay the entry fee!”
Thomas Carey

“I liked how there were trophies for the winners of each of the 3 groups. The atmosphere was great, and I liked how there was music when there was a 9, making it more exciting.”
Hazel Drury

“The accommodation was fantastic, the food was amazing, and the price was unbeatable.”
Eddy Byrne

“At some stages I was in hysterics and couldn’t stop laughing, sorry. Well, I’m not really cos the laugh made the day for us…”
Carol Hayes Sinnott

“Hey, I just found NEMO!”
Mike McDermott

And now to the key part of the report… What were the standings?

The standings from the first half of the day, which determined the final stage groups, were:


And the final stages, after the group quarter finals, semi finals and final were thus:


A very long-overdue update…

Apologies for the silence! This is just a quickie (wahey) to summarise the highlights of the last few months:

  • FOSTER’S ON FIRE: Rob Foster is yet to appear on the show, but he’s the man to beat at our events at the moment. A community veteran, he’s won 3 of the last 4 FOCAL tournaments – those in King’s Lynn, Bournemouth and Milton Keynes (he didn’t attend Waterford) – and also made the final of Countdown in London. Currently placed 5th, he’s a good bet to make the FOCAL Finals in December. Want to have his skillz? Sign up to
  • RODENT WINS CO-EVENT: Thomas Carey, the Series 73 semi-finalist known as ‘Maus’ owing to his rodentian appearance, won the inaugural event in scenic Waterford back in June. He won all his games to take home the title, and currently sits in joint 2nd place in the overall FOCAL rankings.
  • GIRL POWER: Hazel Drury made history at Waterford by becoming the first woman to make a Co-event final, with her 2nd-place finish being the highest female finish ever. Although the final didn’t go her way, she finished the game in some style by unscrambling EGGSARPOO as GASPERGOO, a type of fish, in just 1 second. With strong recent finishes for Ann Dibben (3rd at Bournemouth) and Jen Steadman (3rd at Milton Keynes) as well, we may soon see our first female champion…
  • EVENTS AREN’T A POPULARITY CONTEST, BUT: Despite a slow start to sign-ups, Milton Keynes had its best attendance ever, filling its capacity with 52 keen beans. This means that the three largest Co-events ever (London, Lincoln and MK) have all taken place this year!! So thank you to everyone who has been a part of this so far, whether you’re an old hand or an excited rookie. We’ve also smashed last year’s number of new players. Last year we managed 43 newbies, but this year – with 5 events still to go – we’re already on a staggering 53. We’re so grateful to all the new players who have taken the plunge and joined us… and even more so that virtually all of them seem to have enjoyed themselves. We hope to see you all back at another event soon!
  • PARTY TIME: The details for Countdown in Birmingham and the FOCAL Finals have been announced! And entrance is over 10% cheaper than last year. Sign up now by sending £12.50 to, and you can be part of our anti-Christmas-themed end-of-year spectacle!Our next tournaments are in Huddersfield on 7th OctoberDublin on 21st OctoberGlasgow on 4th/5th November and Birmingham on 2nd December.

    We’re hoping to have a provisional calendar of 2018 events up soon, as well as the details for the 14th Countdown in Lincoln (and the 4th Hangover event). Subscribe to our updates for hopefully more prompt notifiers than this!

Sign up to our upcoming events please xoxo

Countdown in Bournemouth 2017 report: read all about our south-coast shenanigans!

by Jeff Clayton
21 people signed up for Sean Fletcher‘s inaugural FOCAL Countdown tournament in Bournemouth, held at Hotel Celebrity near the East Cliff and its glorious views of the south coast. The event helped to generate new interest in FOCAL locally from Bournemouth, Christchurch, Weymouth and neighbouring Hampshire, but the tournament was well represented by the usual regulars from all corners of England — including one holidaying nearby in Purbeck!
The event played out in classroom format with a big screen and computer graphics, driven by Jeff Clayton, using a Swiss format from the morning heats to the evening Grand Final. Everybody was drawn at random into four groups of four or one group of six for the heats stages, the results of which would determine their qualification into tier A, B or C.
All entrants took part in six games across the day:
– Three 15-rounders for the heats. The winners of each of the five groups automatically qualified for group A and they were joined by the three best runners-up, based on number of wins, points scored, and +/- points difference in play.
– A 10-round quarter-final (LLN x3, C) and a 10-round semi-final.
– Then back to a longer match, a 14-rounder based on the old television final format (LLNLLNC, x2).
Again, with thanks to Matt Hamer, the event benefited from automatically generated letters and numbers selections. This included a five-line display for the numbers games, where contenders could agree which selection to play in advance of the tiles being shown, from six small through to four large.
The heats games were completed by the lunch break and returned six players on three wins out of three — Rob Foster, Zarte Siempre, Ann Dibben, Mark Murray, Catriona Cappleman and Tom Carey. The second heat produced no fewer than four nine-letter words and a record available maximum score of 165. This further strengthened the field as the highest losing score was 125. The highest winning score was secured by James Robinson with 152, who correctly played three nines: OBLIGATES, ROUTINING and DEMISTERS. For the record, the other nine in this game appeared in the first round (REPLEATED) and whilst James decided against playing it, his 152 is thought to be unsurpassed in any format.
During the lunch break, everyone took the opportunity to look through Sean’s crossword competition, combining the celebrity theme with wider general knowledge (and some niche subjects!).
Onto the afternoon session, and tiers A, B and C were announced ready for the quarter-final. All of the top four seeds won their quarters and from there, #1 Rob Foster eased past #4 Mark Murray with 75 points to 32 in the semi-final, and #2 Zarte Siempre edged past #3 Ann Dibben with 63 points to 50. The third place play-off between Ann and Mark went to a tie-break conundrum at 92-92, with Ann solving MORALTAPE within four seconds.
Both finalists had already won tournaments this year and precious little separated their performances throughout the day in Bournemouth. Rob maintained the edge however with 499 points from five wins going into the grand final, compared with Zarte‘s 482.
An early upset looked possible after R1 (TKRQUEAOY), as Zarte‘s EQUATOR was not to be beaten by equatory x. Both players then matched each other up until the end of R5 (RF 28-35 ZS) when Zarte‘s choice of six small (9 6 4 9 5 8 – 266) backfired and Rob offered a solution in three moves. With the lead now in hand, Rob moved straight onto the first conundrum and unravelled STALLMORE within two seconds, quickly giving him a 13-point advantage going into half-time.
Into the second half, a steady 8 each from ESTACICLR but then a solo 8 from Rob from TTNPEIAIE would further confirm his lead. Zarte opted again for six small numbers in an effort now to reduce a 21-point deficit (10 2 3 6 1 10 – 872) and both players landed one away with 97×9, the best available solution. Zarte‘s title hopes ended with a risky 8 in the last letters (EDLOSOMAA) when Rob‘s maximum 7 saw his lead become unassailable. A straightforward one large to finish the numbers was followed by a final conundrum (PERRYCOBO, set by Sean) which stumped both finalists and denied Rob a century score. This was correctly unscrambled from the audience by #8 seed Matthew Brockwell, offering up CRYOPROBE, who rose to a 6th place finish but was just denied 5th by a point in his last match.
Many thanks to everybody who took part — we hope you enjoyed the day and were able to take advantage of the sea air, particularly on a bright and breezy Sunday morning that followed. The total points scored across the board just edged into five figures at 10,076 — an average of 458 points per player, or 87 points pro rata for a 15-round match.
Full final standings and stats are available to view here, including the run-down of how many FOCAL points everybody takes from this event onto the 2017 circuit.
A reminder that the next FOCAL events are in Milton Keynes on Saturday (12th August), then in Huddersfield on 7th October, in the run-up to our second end-of-year finals contest in Birmingham in early December.
Plenty to choose from. See you at another event soon!

FOCAL’s biggest side project yet – introducing the H2H-o-Matic!

FOCAL are delighted to announce the release of the H2H-o-Matic, a programme which documents – as far as has proven possible – every game result in Co-event history!

Players can see how many events they’ve been to, how many games they’ve won, and their head-to-head records with everyone, as well as the score/location of each game (if we have the data available to us).

It’s taken a year of arduous (if intermittent) work from myself [Jen], Jack Worsley and Graeme Cole as well as a host of volunteers [list at the bottom of the post], has involved plenty of mind-numbing data entry, conflicting information and blanks in people’s memories, and our database was held to ransom at one point, but finally the vast majority of events are fully accounted for – so it’s time to share it with the community! A link will be put on the Current Standings page of this website so you can check it out whenever you feel like it.

Just a few notes…
– We’re missing the majority of fixtures/results from COLEI 2009/10/11 and COEDI 2012, so if you were at any of these events and remember who you played in which round and what the outcome was, please email us! (A few other events have a handful of fixtures/results missing, but that’s a longer list.)
– Likewise, if you spot any mistakes in the data, please let us know :)
– This is a prototype at the moment. Hopefully the H2HOM will be expanded and prettified in due course, but for now, enjoy the basic function!

As far as we can see, the most common fixtures in Co-event history are Graeme Cole v James Robinson and Jack Worsley v Dylan Taylor, with 13 games played each.

Enjoy – and if you want to see your name on the list, sign up to King’s Lynn next Saturday (27th May) now 😀

Thank you to all volunteers on the H2H-o-Matic project:
Ben Wilson
Dave Noble
Julie McCarthy
Thomas Carey
Ian Volante
Johnny Canuck
James Laverty

The FOCAL standings have finally been updated…

Don’t all stampede at once, but click here to find out where you are after CO:LON, who the new top 8 are, and what they look like!

There’s also a brand new trivia page on the FOCAL standings document, which covers all of Co-event history. Want to know something that’s not on there? Ask, and we’ll see what we can do!