NATHAN PACE (First event: Huddersfield 2016)
“After being a Countdown contestant back in 2015, I followed a couple of related accounts on Twitter, and it was after retweeting a ‘come and have a go’ message from the official account that I got a message from FOCAL asking if I fancied coming along to one of their events, which was enough to sufficiently pique my curiosity. After reading up about FOCAL on their website, I decided to apply for the event in Huddersfield and rocked up at the venue on the day with a sense of what could be called “mild trepidation”.
The FOCAL team could not have been more welcoming to me as a newbie. Everyone was warm and friendly, and it was a pleasure to meet and play against some of the best Countdown brains in the country; people who I’d actually seen on the show and whom I was genuinely in awe of, but who were all really encouraging and down-to-earth. Even though my performance on the day wasn’t particularly great, I had a fantastic time; I learned some good tips for improving my game, and some brilliant new words (MONKEYPOX, anyone?), and left with a sense of achievement and, most importantly, some brilliant new friends.
I signed up for my next tournament pretty much the minute I got home, and look forward to getting to as many more as I can in the future. To anyone considering taking part, I would most definitely recommend it. It’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, helped by brilliant organisation of the events and genuinely nice people.”
MARTIN HURST (First event: St Albans 2016)
“Overall, the whole day was superb and I would thoroughly recommend anyone considering going to a FOCAL event to give it a try. From the legendary big-name players there was no snobbery or arrogance at all when I played them: they were all welcoming and friendly, and stayed humble, polite and encouraging throughout. The event was brilliantly and professionally organised and hosted, and a great time was had by all ages, abilities and personalities. A definite 5 star rating from me ”
PAUL TALMEY (First event: Milton Keynes 2016)
“Having been a lifelong Countdown fan and former contestant, I joined one of the many Countdown Facebook groups. A message popped up one day from one Jennifer Steadman, mentioning future FOCAL tournaments. I had for a long time wanted to take part in one, but for various reasons I just never had the time or money. I looked down the list and signed up for .co.mk (Countdown in Milton Keynes), in mid-August.
On the way there I looked at the list of entrants, with series champions, octochamps and numerous others. As a mere “uno-champ” I wondered how I would fare against such illustrious players. Would I be welcomed, as my Countdown career (as it were) wasn’t anywhere near as impressive as theirs?
I’m pleased to say my nerves dissipated as soon as I arrived. Warmly welcomed by organisers Zarte and Innis, it was good to meet and socialise with other Countdowners. I didn’t feel isolated or unwanted: people were very friendly and receptive. Every tournament is different and the formats vary, but it’s still the same game we all know and love.
I picked up 2 wins and a draw out of eight 9-round matches. It may not seem like much, but it’s a good start, as it gave me something to work towards. Of course, I would love to win a FOCAL tournament or even just make the latter stages one day, but for now I’ll just enjoy those that I play in and meeting fellow Countdown fans.
My advice to newbies would be just go with the flow, enjoy the game and enjoy meeting people. A warm welcome and good fun at a FOCAL tournament? You be sure of it!”