Are all first choices counted?Yes. The ballot count starts with a count of everyone's first choices. Even though Chris wins 16 first choices and only needs eight to win, we count all first choices before continuing with the ballot count. (See "How are Chris' "surplus votes" redistributed?" for more on the count.)
Note that first choices tell us a lot about who is likely to win, as most winners will need strong "core support." In most actual choice voting elections, however, most winners do not reach the victory threshold on first choices alone. For those winners it is important to be the second and lower choice of supporters of other candidates.