Nick Hancock


Gallowgate for ITV1, 19 January to 5 April 2008 (12 episodes in 1 series)


Nick Hancock hosts as two players face off across a table, answering multiple-choice questions in order to potentially win hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Image:duel nick.jpg"Let's duel": Nick Hancock begins the game.

The Duels

In each game, which like in the show, will henceforth be referred to as a 'duel', both players are asked the same multiple-choice question, with four possible answers, A, B, C, or D. The aim of the game is to answer each question correctly, with just one wrong answer sending you on your way. Each player is provided with ten chips. In front of each player on the table is a column of four circles, labelled A-D, into which they can place a chip in order to signify that is their answer. The area on the table around each answer lights up accordingly as each chip is placed. If a player does not know an answer, they can play more than one answer by playing multiple chips. However chips placed on incorrect answers are lost, making it important to withhold as many chips as possible for as long as possible. A screen between the players prevents the two contestants from seeing how their opponent has played their chip(s). Once they are happy with their answer, they must 'lock down' their answer, by pressing a large button on the table.

Image:duel question.jpgA question in progress. The player on the left has only covered one answer whereas his opponent has played it safe by going for three.


During each duel, both players have two accelerators at their disposal. Once they have locked down their answer(s), they can then play an accelerator. They do this by way of pressing a smaller button on the table. This gives the opposing player just 7 seconds to play the chips they want to before their answer(s) are automatically locked down. The idea behind this is that if your opponent is not certain of the answer, playing an accelerator may panic them into playing all four possible answers, thus costing them vital chips. (You must however lockdown your answer before playing an accelerator, as one contestant found out to her cost when she played both accelerators in one duel to no effect as she didn't lockdown before playing either of them.)

Image:duel accelerator.jpgThe frenzied quiz show equivalent of a plane crash.

The Answer is Revealed

When both players have locked down, the screen is dropped and the players can see where, and more importantly how many chips their opponent has played. After a brief chat with the host about how they are feeling after seeing their opponent's chips, the answer is revealed. Where the players have played a chip on the correct answer, they can take back that chip to play again. If they played more than one chip, where they played chips on an incorrect answer, the chips are lost, and are taken away by means of dropping down a tube into the table. For every chip that is lost by the players, £1000 is added to the jackpot, which started off at £100,000. The jackpot is cumulative and grows duel after duel, week after week. If a player has given an incorrect answer, but did not play on the correct answer as well, their opponent has won, and they leave, immaterial of how many chips they may have had left. If both players do not play a chip on the correct answer, both leave the game.

Image:duel answer.jpgThe correct answer is B, so they're both safe. Note that the player on the right will lose one of his chips for covering C as well.

The Next Duel

After winning a duel, the contestant is then given a choice of three possible contenders from which they must pick one to play against in the next duel. All they have to go on are the contenders name, age and occupation. In the event that both contestants have been eliminated in the previous round, the two contenders who have been waiting the longest are selected to play.

Image:duel players.jpgTarget practice

The rules for the duel remain the same, and the second duel is played out. In the event the new contestant wins, they are then given the choice of three contenders (one new, the other two being the unpicked contenders from earlier). If the original contestant wins a second duel, they are now given the chance to pocket some cash.

The Money

In the first four shows, ten playing chips were placed in front of the contestant, along with two single chips. One of the single chips had a £ sign on the reverse, the other a % sign. The contestant had to pick one of these chips at random. Selecting the chip with the £ sign meant they could take £10,000. Selecting the % sign chip meant they could take 10% of whatever the jackpot was at that point. In both instances taking the money meant they left the game. Alternatively they could take the ten playing chips, and play on for their third and fourth duels, in the hope of winning the jackpot. However if they did this, they lost any claim to either the £10,000 or 10%, meaning if they lost in their third or fourth duels, they left with nothing. To help them, they could see the three contenders who they would have to pick from in the event they chose to play on.

Image:duel cashchips.jpgBig money prizes, big money props.

If they choose to play on, they picked a new opponent and a new duel was played out as before. If they took the money and left, the two longest-standing contenders were picked to play the next duel.

From the fifth show onwards however, the rules following the winning of a second duel changed completely. In the new version, the contestant is given three chips with which to answer one more multiple choice question (in other words they can't cover all answers). If they answer correctly, but in doing so play all three chips, they win £2,500. If they answer correctly only having played two chips, they win £5,000, and if they play a single chip on the correct answer, they win £10,000. If they do not cover the correct answer, they win nothing. To add some excitement, this question is played against an accelerator, giving them just seven seconds to answer. Once they have locked down, the answer is revealed. Regardless of what money is won, they are allowed to play on for their third duel, picking a new opponent in the normal manner. Any money won is safe, even if they are subsequently knocked out.

Duel is actually quite good, and the mid-season changes have addressed some early issues. The problem of people reaching the two duel stage, and being so relieved they take the money and go has been taken care of by allowing them to automatically play the third duel. This should also help slightly reduce the quite rapid turnover of contestants which leads to the jackpot getting quite high, but with no-one staying around long enough to get close to it. Allowing contestants to keep any money won, even if they are later knocked out, should also prevent entire episodes going by with nobody winning anything. On the flip-side however this has removed some of the tension from the show as the money won is no longer at risk. That said, it remains enjoyable to watch, with a good speed of gameplay throughout. For what reads as quite a complex set of rules, it's also pleasantly easy to follow.

Image:duel set.jpgThe episode ends with a £300k+ jackpot in tow.


"Let's Duel"

"Cash or chips?"

Theme music

Paul Farrer


During the making of the series, contestant Maurice Daniels had to be taken to hospital after falling six feet through a hole in the set. Filming was held up while changes were made to the set to prevent further accidents.

Voted the Best New Show in this site's Poll of 2008

See also

Weaver's Week review


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