Jeremy Beadle (1987-1988)
Andrew O'Connor (1988–1989)
Allan Stewart (1989–1990)
Ted Robbins (1995)
Vince Henderson (1996)
Dave Spikey (1997)
Broadcast (ITV)
Chain Letters 1
7 September 1987-6 July 1990
Chain Letters 2
2 January 1995-25 April 1997
Tyne Tees
Barry & Enright Productions (1987-1990)
Action Time and Columbia Tristar International Television (1995-1997)

Contestants compete in a word game for cash prizes.


Three contestants competed to win money by changing letters in words to make new words. The words were generated by Wordsworth, the show's computer.

In Ted Robbins' season, they played for points in the main game.

Round 1: Chain LettersEdit

Four hidden four-letter words were shown and the contestant in control chose one of those words. Once the hidden word was revealed, the contestant in control had 45 seconds to make the longest chain as s/he can, earning £5 for every new word made. To make a new word, s/he must call out a letter to change, then the replacement letter, then the new word and finally spell it out. Each word must be in the dictionary (Longman Dictionary of the English Language in the earlier series and Chambers English Dictionary in the later series). Players cannot use proper nouns nor plurals and they cannot allowed to make two consecutive changes in the same letter position. For example, a contestant, having changed BALL to HALL, would then not be permitted to change HALL to CALL, FALL, et cetera.

In the final series, the first round was renamed "Make a Chain".

Round 2: Booby TrapEdit

Four more four-letter words were shown, only this time they were at the outset. The player in control chose a word followed by a letter in the word that they would like to change. The opposing contestants would then write in secret on their videowriters what word that they think the contestant is going to change to. They are allowed to write down the same word. That makes it a/them booby trap(s). When changing the chosen letter, if the controlling contestant makes a word that was safe, s/he won £10. The contestant then did this up to two more times with each subsequent successful change increasing the potential payoff. If at anytime, the controlling player fell into the trap by changing into a word written by either/both of the two opponents or changed into an illegal word, then he/she/they get the money. That's why to prevent this from happening, the controlling player can choose to stop and keep whatever s/he had won. In the earlier series, successful subsequent changes doubled the money for a total of £40; while in the last two series, each successful new change earned an additional £10 for a maximum of £30.

Round 3 (1995–1997)Edit

A third round was added in the revival of Chain Letters in 1995 and would eventually involve two different formats.

Chaingang (1995)Edit

One contestant was given a four-letter word and must change that word into a new word, which is then given to the next contestant in line who must change that word into another new word, and so on for one minute total time. Again, each accepted change was worth £5 with that value taken away if the new word was unacceptable. However, if the new word could not be changed by both opponents, the contestant who created the first word won a £10 bonus and was given a new word.

Add a Letter (1996–1997)Edit

Each contestant was given a three-letter word. Each contestant must create a new word by adding one new letter, into the current word in any position. Each acceptable addition was worth £10. Each player can do it up to four times; so players may make up to a maximum seven-letter word for a total of £40. If the new word was unacceptable, the contestant's turn ends. The contestant in play could also choose to stop without adding a letter if they thought the word could not be changed any further. Either way, there was no penalty.

Final Round: Tie the LeaderEdit

The final round began with the revealing of a five-letter word with a plus sign (+) to the left side of the word and a minus sign (-) to the right side. Then Wordsworth flashes the word. The host then asked cryptic crossword-type clues to which the answer was a new word, with only one letter difference from the previous answer. Each letter needing to be changed, removed or added was highlighted by Wordsworth. A letter must be added to the answer, making it a longer word (up to 5 letters) when the plus sign was highlighted and a letter must be removed to make it a shorter word (down to 3 letters) when the minus sign was highlighted. All questions were toss-ups. The first player to buzz-in with the correct change and word won money for that word. If the answer was incorrect, the question was then offered to the opposing contestants. While Wordsworth was flashing the base word and the host was reading a clue, a randomizer was activated. It shuffled money amounts (which were £10, £20 and £40 (£30 in the last 2 series)) plus the word "tie". The randomizer stopped when a player buzzed in. Whatever amount was landed on, that's how much the word was worth. If the word "tie" was hit and if s/he was trailing at that time, the buzz-in player would have a chance to "tie the leader" (hence the round's name) and match the leading player's score, simply by giving the correct word; a correct answer from the leading player only prevented a tie.

The player with the most money when time was up, wins the game and went on to play the £1,000 Superchain bonus round. All contestants get to keep the cash.

Bonus Round: SuperchainEdit

In the Superchain round, the winning player was shown one last four-letter base word. Like in the previous round, Wordsworth would highlight one of the letters within the word; that's the letter the contestant must change and make a new word. An acceptable change lit up a link in the bonus chain. If s/he could not change the letter, s/he can say “pass” and Wordsworth would highlight a different letter. Each acceptable change/lit link was worth £50. If the winning player can completely light up the chain by making ten changes in 60 seconds or less, s/he won the additional £1,000.


Series Start date End date Episodes Host
1 7 September 1987 22 February 1988 61 Jeremy Beadle
2 13 October 1988 30 March 1989 25 Andrew O'Connor
3 16 November 1989 16 January 1990 10 Allan Stewart
4 28 May 1990 6 July 1990 30
5 2 January 1995 28 April 1995 85 Ted Robbins
6 2 January 1996 1 May 1996 85 Vince Henderson
7 3 March 1997 25 April 1997 40 Dave Spikey

Scottish television only broadcast a few episodes from Series 2. A number of other companies broadcast the series either at 12.30 (Granada) or 17.15pm ( Central and Anglia). Scottish television moved Series 3 episodes to Wednesday afternoon January - March 1990. Series 6 Was broadcast during the daytime expect for the Granada and Border regions who broadcast the series at 17.10.