A new Vox Ludio is upon us (at last!), this time administered by Zarte Siempre, who you may remember as the subject of the previous episode. And the subject of today's episode is Matthew Tassier, who many of you will know as the terror of numbers rounds everywhere. Matthew's Glory Roll speaks for itself, but luckily Matthew himself can also speak and in this episode, he does. I must admit that all blame for the tardiness of this belongs to me, since Zarte sent me the text ages ago and I only just got around to posting it. So, apologies, and on we go.
Zarte Siempre: Hi Matthew, how are you?
Matthew Tassier: Hi Zarte, very well thanks.
ZS: Whilst trying to research you a bit to get some good questions to ask, whilst I obviously knew your forte were the numbers, I was amazed to find out how many numbers records you actually seem to hold – where does your numbers proficiency come from?
MT: Numbers just always made a lot more sense to me than the arbitrary grouping of letters into words. Before I went to school I was fascinated by a grandfather clock that my parents had and I learnt to tell the time at a very young age and used to get annoyed if people told me it was ten past three when I could see that it was clearly only 9 minutes past 3. Some people would say I'm pedantic. That's the furthest back I can trace my affinity with numbers and it's continued ever since. Maths was easily my best subject at school and I went on to do a degree in Mathematics and Statistics and have always worked with numbers since.
ZS: Do you get your enjoyment of numbers from being so good at them, or do you get that good at them because you enjoy them?
MT: I guess the being good came first. Watching Countdown while growing up in the 80s I could often beat the contestants in the numbers rounds, but tended to get beaten in the letters. In Apterous letters rounds depend on things like knowledge of high probability words and ability to "spot" words without trying and tedious things like stemming or learning word lists. However, everyone knows about adding, subtraction, multiplication and division so numbers rounds are a pure mental challenge.
ZS: You currently hold the outright record for the ludicrously hard Spoilage Numbers Attack? Is that the record you're proudest of? If not, what is? And do you have your eye on any other records?
MT: Yes, the Spoilage NA record has to be the one I'm proudest to hold as it is clearly the most challenging numbers test on Apterous. However the record is overdue an upping so expect to see me post a new mark before the end of the year. There are other achievements I am proud of like my bullet Aegilops NA max game and especially my Bullet Hyperlock NA max against Rex. However I'm also pleased with improvements in my letters game. It may have taken four years but I have improved from something like 5.5-6 maxes average in 15 rounders to 8.5-9 now which may sound like slow progress but as someone who has never played hundreds of games a month I'm pretty pleased with that.
ZS: Is there any advice you'd give to a player wanting to improve their numbers game (or indeed any aspect of their game in general)?
MT: I think the best way to improve is simply to play the game, preferably against a human opponent, and observe what your opponent beats you with. If it's a word you're not aware of then I'd look up its definition and find out more about it as this really helps cement it in your memory. In terms of numbers rounds once again practice makes perfect, but there are other things to consider. For instance I think I've recently improved my use of the 30s, not getting bogged down in a method that I can't quite make work. Also don't waste the time while the numbers are coming out on a 6 small or 1 large round. I usually multiply the three largest small numbers together before I see the target as that may lead you to a solution that you're unlikely otherwise to find in the 30 seconds. One more thing to think about is the balance between what I call constructive and deconstructive methods. Deconstructive methods are where you start by taking apart the target (e.g. factorisation) whilst constructive methods are ones where you work with the numbers you are given, try to get closeish and then adjust your method. I think I use the constructive approach a lot more than many of the top numbers players which lends itself well to some of the more complicated variants like spoilage or hypernasty numbers.
ZS: Unless you have a cunning pseudonym, you appear to be one of the better players never to have appeared on the show. Why is that? And do you have any plans to enter in the future?
MT: I don't use a pseudonym, but interestingly I am a Southampton fan, having grown up near there and Matthew Le Tissier is my favourite Saints player of all time. I've always played apterous because I enjoy the game rather than as a stepping stone towards going on Countdown and performing well. I am a big Countdown fan and watch every episode, though often a few weeks late ... I'm really looking forward to you appearing in a couple of days. (Ed's note: This has now happened. [Spoilers]) The thought of applying to appear on Countdown is both exciting and scary, I'm not convinced I want to watch myself on television and see myself how others see me. Having said that I will probably apply at some stage, when it's a convenient time in my life and I'm sure I'd end up enjoying it if I did get on.
ZS: What's your attitude to the game in general? Are you overly competitive and looking for world domination? Or do you just like to unwind by sadistically bamboozling people with 6 small numbers?
MT: I am a very competitive person and will always give 100% to win the current game I am playing. But it is important to me to enjoy playing, win or lose. I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive and being able to balance them is the key to getting the most out of apterous I think. And of course I enjoy outwitting people at 6 small, particularly if they've just crushed me with 9 letter words.
ZS: What else [if anything] would you like the world to know about Matthew Tassier?
MT: Nothing, I've told you too much already. One day I'll probably turn up at one of these CO events, you can ask me more then!
ZS: And finally, from playing you, I've always got the impression that you enjoy a glass of wine – have you got any particular recommendations?
MT: A glass of red wine and a game of apterous is certainly a good way to wind down at the end of the day, but I'm no wine buff. I like a nice Chianti for instance, but to me most wines taste pretty similar. I can however recommend avoiding Turkish white wine. When I heard it compared to camel's urine I felt the comparison was rather unfair on the camels. To be fair on Turkey this was one particular bottle and I probably made a really bad decision to choose it. Really I'm more of an ale man, so my recommendations would be to try any strong dark ("brune") Belgian beer (you can't go wrong) or if you are in a pub this winter look out for Downton's Chocolate Orange Delight. It really shouldn't work but a pint is delightful.
Ah, so you're the other guy that likes Chocolate Orange Delight! I knew there had to be someone. Thanks for your time, Matthew, and for your patience, Zarte. See you for the next one!