A dose of reality – Calgary Scrabble Tournament [2012-03-25]

Sorry for the delay in posting this recap but it was a busy week at work. I haven’t had a chance to review every game, but I hope to post some interesting board positions (however few they are) once I’ve had a chance to review the games in greater detail.

I had a fun weekend of playing Scrabble as I haven’t had much opportunity to play in quite some time. My main goal was to get a sense of the state of my game so I can spend the next few months studying and preparing for the nationals later this year in Orlando, FL as I want to have realistic expectations.

Some background info about the tournament. I was seeded #11 in the top division (>1100) and entering the weekend, I was expected to win 5.2 games to maintain my rating (based on the statistics average of the players).

Here are the quick recaps of the games. I’ll try and include the boards whenever possible. The number beside the player name is their seed.

Game 1 vs. Matthew Larocque (#4)
I started off with mostly consonants and the tiles didn’t get better even with an early exchange. I could tell my instincts were a bit off as I too easily accepted FI(N)ITY*. When I did get a bingo on my rack, I didn’t see any open spots to it (e.g., STROLLS and DIREFUL). In the end, Matthew made good plays and I didn’t.

Final score: 443 – 315 (LOSS)
Bingos: Me – OORALIS; Matthew – PUNNERs, NIDATED, STINGER
Record: 0 – 1 (-128)

Game 2 vs. Wayne Clifford (#2)
This game got off to an auspicious start. I challenged Wayne’s first play: BITTIER and then he came back with another bingo. It went downhill from there as Wayne began to shut down scoring lanes. I tried my best to keep things open and score too, but I wasn’t successful.

Here’s an example of me being very rusty. I had an opportunity to may MOW/(JO)W but I couldn’t remember if JOW was acceptable. I knew JOWL was good, but for some reason I doubted that JOW was acceptable. That was worth 42 points. Another was when I missed the obvious WALlETS (that’s WALLETS) as I got fixated on whether WATTLES was good or not. I chickened out because I thought I was confusing it for WADDLES. Ugh.

Final score: 472 – 303 (loss)
Bingos: me – REUNITE(D); Wayne – BITTIER, ROTA(R)IES
Record: 0 – 2 (-297)

Game 3 vs. Roland Simon (#13)
Honestly, I don’t remember this game. I do, however, remember that Roland played a good game and made a very nice bingo against me (PERMIAN). He seems to like keeping the board wide-open. Looking over my tiles, I don’t think I missed any obvious bingos (7s or 8s).

Final score: 391 – 316 (loss)
Bingos: me – IN(T)ERNED; Roland – PERMIAN, OUtAGES
Record: 0 – 3 (-372)

Game 4 vs. Juraj Pivovarov (#01)
Not much to say about this game other than to say that I got thrashed. Juraj is a very good player. Give him a slight advantage in tiles and the result was pretty obvious. I didn’t help myself by playing defensively and making a spelling mistake of thinking AIOLI has a third I (AIOLII*) and then me challenging TROUPIAL. He seemed surprised that I didn’t challenge RUNAB(OUT) as that was a word he recently learned. I believe people have different word knowledge and this was probably an example of me being familiar with the word.

Final score: 497 – 291 (loss – ouch!)
Bingos: me – none; Roland – SIDEWAy, TROu(P)IAL
Record: 0 – 4 (-578)

Game 5 vs. Danny Panganiban (#09)
This was one of those games when my rustiness really showed. I had reasonable tiles but I just couldn’t make scoring plays. As a result, I fell behind and then started fishing to try and get bingos to catch-up. Danny just pounced on the openings I kept created and the game quickly got out of hand.

Final score: 479 – 275 (loss)
Bingos: me – none; Danny – PrOCTOR, VISI(O)NED
Record: 0 – 5 (-782)

Game 6 vs. Noella Ward (#07)
The first thing that you will notice about Noella is that she plays *very* quickly and decisively. Not much to say except that I got good tiles while Noella struggled with hers. I’m not sure that there was much she could have done.

Final score: 421 – 287 (win – finally!)
Bingos: me – rELATES, NAsTIER; Noella – none
Record: 1 – 5 (-648)

Game 7 vs. Siri Tillerkeratne (#05)
Not sure how to describe this game. Looking over my game notes, a late bingo pretty much sealed the win.

Final score: 450 – 340 (win)
Bingos: me – DESIRES, RANTERS; Siri – BLAsTIE
Record: 2 – 5 (-538)

Game 8 vs. Mike Ebanks (#03)
I was behind coming down the stretch with the last blank. I had ABEINR? with a bingo lane to hook SARSNET. Obviously I have to have an S at either the terminal or second last position. I tried BARNIEs* and that got challenged off. We played out the final few turns and I eked out a win because Mike went over by 5 seconds.

Looking back, I am kicking myself for accepting EARLIES* when obviously the only play is REALISE with those tiles. The worst part is that I got so fixated on how he blocked my bingo lane that I forgot to even consider that the word wasn’t acceptable. Another sign of me being completely rusty and that my instincts are a bit off.

Final score: 395 – 392 (win)
Bingos: me – ENDITES, SARSNET; Mike – EARLIES* (ugh – I’m ashamed to admit I let this one go)
Record: 3 – 5 (-535)

Game 9 vs. Maureen Morris (#14)
An enjoyable game with Maureen. Instead of trying to bingo every round and give up point equity, I decided to focus on making the best scoring play possible. Not sure if I was successful, but I need to focus on making the best play possible rather than trying to fish and bingo.

Final score: 399 – 351 (win)
Bingos: me – (I)NTREATS; Maureen – DeGRADE, STAINEd
Record: 4 – 5 (-487)

Game 10 vs. Wendy McGrath (#12)
This was the second game I’ve played against Wendy and I’ve lost both. For whatever reason, her style of play just frustrates me and I don’t know why. She doesn’t play overly defensively and she seems to make solid plays.

I think I lost this game at turn #3. I was tracking tiles and thinking about my next play when Wendy played her bingo. I looked-up quickly and saw BRAXIES/(MOOT)S. After finishing my tracking, I turned the board around and realized I misread the play. Instead of (MOOT)S/BRAXIES, she played BRAXIEST* – ugh. For the next three or four turns, I was internally berating myself for the absolutely stupid mistake I made. I managed to tie-up the game but then I got frustrated because I couldn’t find a play for my natural bingo HAIRNET on the board (and there was no bingo lane for an 8 with these tiles). I got impatient and tried (DE)T*/THERIAN which was challenged off. I had hoped Wendy would give me an opening, but she was smart and didn’t. After that I just couldn’t make-up for the lost turn.

Final score: 385 – 313 (loss)
Bingos: me – TACRiNE; Wendy – BRAXIES(T)*
Record: 4 – 6 (-559)

Game 11 vs. Huguette Settie (#10)
You know you’re in trouble when your opponent starts apologizing to you. Huguette had three bingos in the first four turns and then continued with some fortunate timing to make big scoring plays with the power tiles. I just couldn’t keep up.

Final score: 488 – 363 (loss)
Bingos: me – MANgLED; Huguette – ENAtION, ROUGHIE* (I can’t believe I let this one go), ME(E)RKATS
Record: 4 – 7 (-684)

Game 12 vs. Emil Rem (#08)
From what I can remember, I didn’t have very good tile synergy. Emil played a good game and was simply better.

Final score: 434 – 345 (loss)
Bingos: me – GASSERs; Emil – GINgERS, (Q)UARTILE
Record: 4 – 8 (-773)

Game 13 vs. Wesley Yocum (#06)
With tough tiles, I managed to tie the game with my bingo of ETESIAN using the only spot available to me. Unfortunately, I put the N at 14O which was the absolute worst spot for me. Of course Wesley plays SLUICI(N)G for 176 points! Great find for him and just bad timing for me. I did my best to keep a positive outlook but I realized I was playing to minimize the spread. I got fortunate with an out bingo to make the score somewhat respectable. Otherwise this would have been embarrassing.

Final score: 549 – 441 (loss)
Bingos: me – ETESIAN, PIQUANt; Roland – OUTRuNS, SLUICI(N)G (triple-triple!), DILU(T)ERS
Record: 4 – 9 (-881)

Game 14 vs. Roland Simon (#13)
Flat out got beat.

Final score: 434 – 305 (loss)
Bingos: me – none; Roland – ARENITE, sEAGIRT
Record: 4 – 10 (-1010)

Here are the statistics for the tournament.

Averages Me Them %
Score 352.3 424.4
Bingos 1.07 1.86
Blanks 0.86 1.14 43%
S 2.14 1.86 54%
Power Tiles 1.93 2.07 48%

Lessons from the tournament (and next steps…):
1) NEED MORE PRACTICE: I need to play more games to get back into “game shape”. There are quite a few things to playing games that you can’t really develop by studying words. All of the physical things about playing – tracking tiles, the mechanics of the game. Not having played very much over the past two years, I realize that my ‘instincts’ are a bit off in terms of knowing when to challenge (or not).

2) NEED TO STUDY: This one is obvious. I need to brush up on my words. I just had no confidence in words and got common words mixed-up and confused.
3) FOCUS ON THE BEST PLAY: I found myself getting into a pattern of trying to bingo and then falling behind. The result was then that I *needed* to bingo. Instead of trying to bingo all the time with common hi-prob words, I need to focus on making the best play possible.
Given the sorry state of my game, I have to be honest with myself in that I’m just not very good. The nationals will be fun, but I won’t have any chance of vying for a top 10 finish.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself in Calgary and hope to play there again the future. Perhaps for the Western Canadian Championship in the fall.

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