Telford Countdown champ loved his spell on TV - read his top tips for success
Words and numbers man Tom Chafer-Cook, has a new conundrum – where to put his Countdown trophy at his Telford home.
He has become the latest champion of the Channel Four show, coming out top in its 77th series..
The software developer for Idonix, who lives in Horsehay, is a self-confessed Countdown geek.
He was named the winner of the Richard Whiteley Memorial Trophy after beating Bradley Horrocks by 100 points to 91 in the season finale, aired just before Christmas.
Today he reflected on his victory, describing it as one of the best experiences he has ever had.
He said: "The Countdown team was wonderful, both in front of and behind the cameras. If anyone is in two minds about applying, they should do it. It was the best decision I ever made, and everyone is lovely."
Tom, 30, finally worked up the courage to apply to be on the show after a lifelong infatuation with the game show, starting with treasured memories of watching it as a child.
He said: "I grew up watching it with my grandparents – they were my inspiration when it came to taking part really.
"There was a lot of self doubt before I eventually applied. I didn't feel I was good enough for a long time and put a lot of pressure on myself.
"I always thought that if I did go through with it and apply, I would want to practise and put in the effort and go as far as I could."
When he did take the plunge and apply, he stayed true to his word and went all out when it came to preparation.
He joined an online community of Countdown fans, Apterous, where he played a similar game against people from across the country and the world.
Tom says it is becoming a more common way in for future Countdown applicants, and he recognised several of his online opponents during his winning run on the real thing.
"It's such a nice community, I couldn't have done it without all the support.
"Being a software developer, I also wrote my own app for helping me practice and learn words.
"My wife Tamsyn was very patient and supportive when I was practising, and helped me by testing me on new words over long car journeys.
"I sometimes joke that winning Countdown was the best day of my life, followed by my wedding day in second place, but it is very much the other way around!"
His first foray into the real thing was towards the end of series 76, when he faced off against John Trueman in a pre-filmed show in Manchester's MediaCityUK.
He said: "I was terrified because I had been working up to it for so long. I had put so much effort towards being there."
Despite his nerves, Tom had an impressive victory with 117 of 125 available points.
He said: "I always said that if I did get on the show I wouldn't want to go home without at least a teapot so that first win was a big thing.
"To an extent everything after that was a bonus."
Tom continued a triumphant run, winning his next seven games by decisive margins and being named an 'octochamp' – the point at which the player is asked to step aside and give a new competitor a chance.
As a high scorer he was invited back to take part in the finals of series 77, with filming beginning in early 2017.
One quirk was that the team filmed several episodes of the show in one day, meaning Tom and the other competitors were asked to bring several changes of clothes for the separate filming sessions to give the impression that time had passed.
It also meant they had to keep on edge in between performances.
After beating Graeme Staples and Noel McIlvenny to make it to the final, Tom travelled back to Salford in October to face Bradley Horrocks.
He said: "I was terrified, even more so than in my first games because I knew the standard was so high.
"In the end the game we had was great, probably my closest ever game and the most exciting.
"It was great for spectators but not for my heart rate!"
After the shock of becoming champion after a life long love affair with the program, Tom had to keep his victory under wraps and only told his wife Tamsyn and some close friends.
Tansyn organised a surprise viewing party for Tom and his friends, when they recorded the final broadcast on December 22 and watched it together.
Tom and Tamsyn have lived in Shropshire for nine years, though his original home is Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.
Tom’s top tips to be a word wizard
- Play along with the show, play using the Countdown app, or play online at apterous.org
- Learn some numbers tricks – knowing your 75 times table is a good start
- Learn new words – when playing along, if you miss a word, write it down somewhere and test yourself on these new words later
- Don’t get nervous – in the studio, it’s easy to get flustered and make silly mistakes
- Apply – if you’re in two minds as to whether to apply or not, just do it