So, this FOCAL lark is all about Countdown tournaments, right?

Correct. The tournaments are popularly known as ‘Co-events’ (short for Countdown events).

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How do these ‘Co events’ work, then?

An organiser books a venue for a day (usually a Saturday, although ‘hangover events’ – held the Sunday as a secondary event to a main one – are being hosted at Lincoln and Glasgow this year). You turn up, pay the entrance fee, and play a certain number of guaranteed games! It’s that simple. There are plenty of socialising opportunities during and after the events, too – sometimes a group meal is booked, although this is completely optional, and virtually every after party ends up at the pub.

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But how do you play?

Each tournament is different. There are two main styles of play – ‘Edinburgh/Lincoln’ style, where three people sit at a table, with one person acting as Dictionary Corner while the other two play and pick their own letters and numbers, and ‘Bristol’ style, where every table gets the same selections on a screen at the front. Individual tournaments may have quirks. Don’t panic! It’ll make much more sense once you turn up. Event veterans are always happy to explain the complicated stuff!

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Am I welcome?

EVERYONE is welcome. There is no age limit. The youngest player has been 9, and the oldest have been in their 70s. Of course, your 5 year old might struggle – but people of whatever age, gender, colour, creed and personality are welcome, and we’re always happy to meet new and different people!

Plus you’re very, very welcome to bring friends, family members, other halves, work colleagues, people you’ve met on the bus… and by doing so, you can win our prize pot in December, courtesy of our Bring A Buddy initiative. Even if you’ve never been to an event before. Click the link to find out more!

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Are the other players any good?

There’s always a range of abilities represented at events. The high end is staggeringly high, at a level you’ll probably never see bettered. But not to fear – there are plenty of other players who don’t know what an OPOPANAX is. (It’s a tree.) Most importantly, the vast majority of players who have fared badly at one event or another keep coming back for more. No-one will be judged for how they play – in fact, you’ll be encouraged to keep at it!

Additionally, if you have a bad start to a tournament, you’ll end up playing those who have also had a bad start – so you won’t be playing 6 series champions in a row!

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I want to win some games, though! How can I practise?

Sign up to www.apterous.org for a completely FREE 30 game trial. After that, you can pay a £20 subscription for unlimited games for a year. This is the best resource on the internet for improving your game, and it’s how EVERY series champion for the last 7 years has practised – proving that it’s super effective! It will also give you a chance to chat to some of the people you’ll meet at a Co event. There are some more great websites here, plus advice from 2016’s top 8 FOCAL players here!

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Are you just pretending it’s good?

Not unless the people describing their experiences of Co-events on this page are pretending as well.

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Can I expect to see Susie, Rachel or Nick at an event?

Probably not, but who knows? We’re working on it!

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Why are there lots of pictures of men wearing tiaras on this page?

A tiara was brought to Countdown in Lincoln in 2015, and since then, it just keeps coming back to events – everyone’s desperate to get a picture with it.