So… FOCAL does Countdown tournaments. How do these FOCAL events work?

An organiser books a venue  – almost always on a Saturday – from late morning until early evening, and FOCAL provides support and resources to organisers before and on the day. You pay the entrance fee (usually between £12 and £15) beforehand, turn up, and play a certain number of 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.


What does the entrance fee pay for?

Mostly the venue. But also the prizes (available for a variety of achievements), pens, notepads, and any other event mementos. These have included branded bottle openers, FOCAL calendars, magazines, and framed individual poems.

There’s also a £1 FOCAL levy per person – this funds our FOCAL Finals & Open event in Birmingham at the end of the year, with a reduced entry fee and little gifts as a thank you to the community for supporting us throughout the year.

And just in case you’ve got any queries, FOCAL’s accounts are published at the end of the year too.


How do you play?

Each tournament is different. There are two main styles of play:

‘Lincoln’ style: Three to a table, where one person hosts and adjudicates while the other two play and pick their own letters and numbers in turn. So you play twice and host once at the table, and normally visit two or three tables over the course of the day.

‘Bristol’ style: Classroom-style, where every table gets the same selections on a big screen at the front. All players play to the same letters and conundrums, but thanks to improvements in our software, now you can choose your own numbers pick.

Every tournament has its quirks, and we think FOCAL is all the better for the variety! Don’t panic – it’ll make much more sense once you turn up.


Am I welcome?

Everyone is welcome. There is no age limit. The youngest player was 9, and the oldest have been in their 70s. So whatever your age, gender, colour or creed, we’re always happy to meet new and different people! (Maybe email us if you’re considering bringing someone under the age of 12, so we can confirm that the event is suitable.)

Plus you’re very, very welcome to bring friends, family members, other halves, work colleagues, people you’ve met on the bus… We count on your attendance to make this work.

Huddersfield 2016: A group of wild Countdowners poses with Jason and Penny Larsen, who flew 5,000 miles from Seattle to be at the tournament!

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 – most players don’t know what an OPOPANAX is (it’s a tree). Most importantly, the majority of players enjoy their first event and many come 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 always end up playing those who have also had a bad start – so you won’t have to play six series champions in a row!

JC SF TCC prize giving

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 there is for improving your game, and it’s how EVERY series champion for the last ten years has practised.

Who runs FOCAL?

FOCAL is run by a chairperson (series 76 semi-finalist and prolific event organiser Jeff Clayton, in pics above), in conjunction with a treasurer (series 67 quarter-finalist and accountant Chris Marshall) and the event organisers. Organisers sign a Code of Conduct every year to ensure everything is above board.

Are you just pretending it’s good?

Not unless the people describing their experiences of FOCAL events here are pretending as well.

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

Probably not.


Any more questions?

Email us at focalcountdown@gmail.com and we’ll get back to you ASAP!