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)
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.

RECAP: 2011 National Scrabble Championship (Dallas, TX)

Well, that was an interesting week of Scrabble at the National Scrabble Championship (NSC). I’m still processing the week, but I do know that I had fun (even though it was frustrating at times).

The week started off auspiciously when Michael Bassett had an unfortunate accident (read about it here and here). The accident sort of put a few of us in a different state of mind. Nothing like going to the hospital at midnight to put you in a mood to play Scrabble.

The overall tournament was a bit smaller than I remember the past events, but the quality more than made-up for it. Seems pretty clear that Nigel Richards is the best player in the world irrespective of rules or lexicon. Congratulations to him for another very impressive win! What was amazing was that the result was still undecided going into the final match. It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a championship come down to the final game. I believe there were four people vying for first place. Visit the 2011 NSC site for official results.

Here are some very quick recaps of my games. Honestly, I don’t recall all of these games everything is a bit of a blur at the moment.

DAY 1 – GAMES 1-7
GAME #1: John Dowaliby
A good game that was essentially determined when I challenged B(O)RRELIa at turn #8. John was able to hold on for the win.

Final Score: 401-356 (loss)
Bingos: Me – COL(L)AGED; John – SCALIER B(O)RRELIa
Record: 0 – 1 (-45)

GAME #2: Wayne Scruggs
Wayne opened with GENIAL which sort of threw me for a loop as those are some *very* nice tiles. I made a careless error and played (G)ORVE* by mistake. After that, I didn’t get tiles that had synergy. Don’t think I missed anything obvious that would have played on this board. Wayne did a good job of doing what he had to do. I’m kicking myself as I only quickly glanced at his bingo because I was tracking and saw it as INSTROKE when it was INSTOKE*. <sigh>

Final Score: 387-275 (loss)
Bingos: Me – none; Wayne – INSTOKE*
Record: 0 – 2 (-157)

GAME #3: Roy Dixon
Don’t really remember this one. Looking at the score sheet, I had a few natural bingos but didn’t see any place to play them (as naturals or as an 8). Had way too many repeated letters in this game.

Final Score: 352-296 (loss)
Bingos: Me – SAMURaI; Roy – none
Record: 0 – 3 (-213)

GAME #4: Deborah Gaudier
I started the game with CEEEJRT but couldn’t remember if the only bingo in there was REEJECT or EJECTER*. I tried EJECTER* and Deborah accepted the play. I sort of snowballed from there. I don’t think I played particularly well in this game, but was the beneficiary of some good tiles.

Final Score: 512-328 (win)
Bingos: Me – EJECTER*, ErINGOS, TREPANS; Deborah – none
Record: 1 – 3 (-29)

GAME #5: Harry Durbin
This was a close game that I just wasn’t able to win. I thought Harry’s bingo was very nice.

Final Score: 375-355 (loss)
Bingos: Me – (W)ARRaNTS; Harry – SyRINGE(S)
Record: 1 – 4 (-49)

GAME #6: Peg Pywar
Not sure what happened here. I got on a bit of a roll and kept scoring.

Final Score: 488-283 (win)
Bingos: Me – CODINGS, DERNIER, DEPlETE (that’s DEPLETE), WeSTERN; Peg – none
Record: 2 – 4 (+156)

GAME #7: Whitney Gould
Just didn’t seem to have great tile synergy in this game.

Final Score: 352-306 (loss)
Bingos: Me – (R)EADIEST; Whitney – hORNETS
Record: 2 – 5 (+115)

At the end of the first day, I had a disappointing record of 2-5. I played well, but was a bit unfortunate with the tiles. I had 6 of 14 blanks, 10 of 28 power tiles (Q, Z, X, or J), and 13 of 28 S-es. In seven games, I had 11 bingos compared with 5 for my opponents.

DAY 2 – GAMES 8-14
GAME #8: Shirley Petrey
An interesting game as I kept trying to open up the board without too much success. I had mostly consonants to start, mostly vowels in the middle, and then mostly consonants at the end. I challenged aSUNDER as I thought it had two S-es.

Final Score: 432-327 (win)
Bingos: Me – lANCERS (that’s LANCERS); Shirley – aSUNDER
Record: 3 – 5 (+220)

GAME #9: Mariah Smith
Mariah started off with GLYPH (36, 8H) which I thought was a great find. I had AGHIIQO and wasn’t sure what to play. Any thoughts? Later in the game, I was ahead 332-252 and then Mariah played MADELIN(E)* for 89 points. I couldn’t remember if there was an alternate spelling to the cookie MADELEINE. Since I had time on my clock, I held her for a good six minutes. Mariah then asked if I was still holding and I said “yes”. She got upset and asked if there was a limit to how long I can hold. She only had about two minutes of her clock left. I said that I can hold as long as it’s my turn. Basically, she didn’t know the courtesy draw rule and had sat there for six minutes with no tiles. I explained to her the rule and let her draw her tiles with the clock stopped for 30 seconds. She was mumbling that there should be a rule about that and that not many players know that rule. That surprised me as she is a 1300+ rated player. Anyway, back to the game … I grudgingly accepted the play but picked up a horrible final rack of NRRRUUV. Mariah played out her tiles and won the game.

Final Score: 389-364 (loss)
Bingos: Me – GOATEEs, ElATION (that’s ELATION); Mariah – MADELIN(E)*
Record: 3 – 6 (+195)

GAME #10: Bryan Pepper
This was a game when I was able to exploit Bryan’s plays for big points. For example, I had ENVYING on my board but then he blocked my only spot. But, I was able to play VY(I)NG for 32. He later opened up the triple lane when he played (S)UQ and I responded with SIZED for 58.

Final Score: 432-291 (win)
Bingos: Me – BEATERS, TOlUENE (that’s TOLUENE); Bryan – L(E)cTURER (a great find)
Record: 4 – 6 (+338)

GAME #11: Shelley Kirk
This game started bad. She opened with a bingo and then played another bingo by front hooking my EDITION. I had never seen SEDITION so I challenged the play. I’m down 148-16 and am thinking that I might get blown out. I took a long breath and decided to just keep playing the best that I could. She challenged (D)EKED so I was abel to get a turn back. SHe held (T)RAVOISE and then played ACETONE(S). I just kept working to balance my rack and keep bingo lanes open. Shelley then gave me some more hope when she played AGILED* for 38. It came off the board and I managed to close the gap to 332-312. A few turns later, it was my turn and the score was 389-324. I had EIOONZR and was about to give up when I saw a free L at 01. (L)IONIZER for 134! Shelley challenged and then I played out the final three tiles and got 42 points for her (QFGDNSV). Needless to say, Shelley was dumbfounded by the result.

As we were cleaning-up, I realized that I scored LIONIZER incorrectly – it was 104, not 134 but we had already handed in the official sheet and was unable to make the correction.

Final Score: 506-389 (win)
Record: 5 – 6 (+455)

GAME #12: Gary Perman
This was a close one that could have easily gone either way. Gary had back-to-back bingos to take a good lead. I pulled ahead, then he came back with a late bingo. I was able to take advantage of the board with my tiles a bit better than Gary at the end and pulled out a win.

Final Score: 474-437 (win)
Record: 6 – 6 (+492)

GAME #13: Rhonda Roederer
I lost this game because I rushed my end-game and played my last two turns in the wrong order. Doh!

Final Score: 409-408 (loss)
Bingos: Me – zINGING, TAcKL(I)NG, EASTERN; Rhonda – AFREATS* (AFREETS is good)
Record: 6 – 7 (+491)

GAME #14: Cynthia Hughes
No tile synergy here. Actually, looking at my score sheet, I think I only had six tiles on turn #3: AEEHSS – no wonder I couldn’t find a bingo with those tiles! I was catching up when Cynthia played BELIER(S). There weren’t too many tiles left and I had a rack of vowels: AAIIOOS. Wasn’t completely sure that the bingo was good so I challenged. That was pretty much it.

Final Score: 411-305 (loss)
Bingos: Me – L(A)NTERNS; Cynthia – FAIRIEs, BELIERs
Record: 6 – 8 (+385)

Was able to make-up some ground today but still wasn’t great. I’m playing well, but just am not winning.

DAY 3 – GAMES 15-21
GAME #15: Mad Palazzo
Mad had an early bingo and then started to close down the board. The board wasn’t very open to begin with so she just tried to make it very hard for me to score. Looking at my racks, I didn’t have any bingo racks (even through another letter) until the very end which was too late. Good on Mad for doing what she had to do.

Final Score: 349-248 (loss)
Bingos: Me – WREAKI(N)g; Mad – (F)OOTREST
Record: 6 – 9 (+342)

GAME #16: Chalomrit Sayavesa
I got good tiles this game and was able to score reasonably well. Chalomrit seems to play a very closed/defensive style, but because of my good tiles, I didn’t have too much trouble keeping the board open and scoring.

Final Score: 461-319 (win)
Bingos: Me – ATRESIA, INdEXES; Chalomrit – HaNDLES
Record: 7 – 9 (+484)

GAME #17: Daiva Markelis
I’m upset at myself for this game. Daiva played JAGGA* for 44 points early on and I held her but eventually accepted it. Prior to the game, she mentioned that she is an English literature professor so that was partly in my head. She also whispered (enough so that I could here) that the play is good. Bad on me for not challenging the play – I was trying to remember my J5’s and I was thinking of words that sounded/looked similar and thought of: AJUGA, JAGGS, JAGGY, JAGRA, and JAGER. The English professor tidbit and her whisper sort of pushed me over the edge and chicken out. That was turn #3 and then I was playing catch-up all game. I had a chance at the end to play a bingo with: BEOSTTU with a free S. I couldn’t think of anything other than OUTBEST(S)* which was challenged off. Apparently I missed a bingo: OBTUSE(S)T. Daiva was able to play a late bingo to seal the deal.

Final Score: 459-357 (loss)
Bingos: Me – ODoNATE; Daiva – OUtEARN, ALIENER(S)
Record: 7 – 10 (+362)

GAME #18: Lois Green
There’s no story to this one. We had roughly even tiles, but I managed to make higher scoring plays more consistently than Lois.

Final Score: 401-317 (win)
Bingos: Me – SAVORED; Lois – tRaNSIT
Record: 8 – 10 (+446)

GAME #19: Linda Villarreal
This game was close all throughout and came down to an interesting end game. I picked-up the Q as the last tile to empty the bag. That meant I was looking to find out plays and score enough points before Linda was able to play all of her tiles. I was able to work through several different scenarios and manage to pull out a win. Linda was a very gracious player and I hope to play her again in the future. I tried to put this game out of reach with FLITTERY* but that was challenged off.

Final Score: 410-398 (win)
Bingos: Me – AER(A)TING, ANTsIER; Linda – ARIsTAE
Record: 9 – 10 (+458)

GAME #20: Betsey Wood
I tried RE(C)HEATs on my first turn, hoping to draw a challenge, but Betsey commented that “many of her students tried that”. Unfortunately, she didn’t challenge the play, even though the word has nothing to do with cheating.

Final Score: 445-394 (win)
Record: 10 – 10 (+509)

GAME #21: Yolanda Ushry
Yolanda is a great person and a whole lot of fun. Hope to play her again sometime. This board got closed early on as I only had vowels and Yolando only had consonants. Neither of us could really open things up. WHen I tried to create some bingo lanes, she shut them down (to score points). In the end, she made me eat the Q.

Final Score: 407-366 (win)
Bingos: Me – rESTOKE, (N)OTARIES; Yolanda – BREASTs
Record: 11 – 10 (+550)

Did enough to have a decent record. Was hoping the good play and good tiles would continue on Day 4.

DAY 4 – GAMES 22-28
GAME #22: Noah Lieberman
Noah started strong with an early bingo, EMPOWER, but then fell victim to some tough tiles while I had relatively good tiles all throughout the game.

Final Score: 417-356 (win)
Record: 12 – 10 (+611)

GAME #23: Susan Blanchard
Don’t remember this game at all.

Final Score: 400-347 (win)
Bingos: Me – STUNTED, DENArII; Susan – GRIpPED
Record: 13 – 10 (+664)

GAME #24: Risa Horowitz
This was a close game. Risa had the lead for most of the game but then I had the better tiles at the end and was able to play a very late bingo. We looked at the board and there wasn’t anything she could have done to prevent me from playing my bingo.

Final Score: 374-337 (win)
Bingos: Me – TAVERNS, CRETINs; Risa – BOAsTE(D)
Record: 14 – 10 (+701)

GAME #25: Paul Hagelstein
Paul played a bingo that I didn’t know (that I challenged) and then had just very so slightly better tiles than me. I did my best to come back but he was able to keep pace even though he looked nervous at times. He played an excellent game and it came down to who could extract maximum scores at the end. Him having two S-es at the end really helped him as he was able to use it to get 21 and 18 points and pull ahead for good.

Final Score: 378 – 360 (loss)
Bingos: Me – DONNELS*, (E)NTRIEs; Paul – DISHIEr
Record: 14 – 11 (+683)

GAME #26: Ted Barrett
Ted is a very good player and he had some good tiles early on which made me feel like a blow-out was in store. But, I kept on playing and tried to put pressure on him. I just didn’t have the right tiles (or time in the game) to pull out a win. Congratulations on a great game, Ted. Me accepting UNBORNS* early on really didn’t help me and put me in a big hole early on.

Final Score: 464-386 (loss)
Record: 14 – 12 (+585)

GAME #27: Morris Greenberg
Morris had slightly better tiles than me in this game as he had all the power tiles and managed to score points with them. He had a critical S at the end that allowed him to play SOFA for 30 points and seal the win. I had just come back with a late bingo to be down by 1 point with only one tile in the bag. We both challenged each other’s first bingos. All in all, this was a very enjoyable game as it could have gone either way.

Final Score: 471-456 (loss)
Record: 14 – 13 (+570)

GAME #28: Lewis Saul
This game was pretty even with Lewis having a slight lead for most of the game. I was working to balance my rack. I made a mistake by accepting (LIFE)S*/VESIcAE because I was tracking and didn’t completely see LIFES*. Oh well, that was bad on me. Then Lewis started making some nice plays. I had to challenge his last bingo as I wasn’t 100% sure it was good. Given the score at the time, I would surely lose if I didn’t challenge the play so that was that.

Early on, I played CeNTNER hoping to draw a challenge. Lewis accepted the play. After the game, I mentioned that I was surprised he knew the word and he looked at my with a puzzled look and said that COUNTER was obviously good. I told him that wasn’t my play and he turned the board around and said that he misread the word when I originally played it and that he would have challenged the play. Talk about bad luck on my part!

Final Score: 505 – 315 (loss)
Bingos: Me – CeNTNER, DISRATE; Lewis – VESIcAE, METTLEs, (L)AMBLIKE <– what a great find!
Record: 14 – 14 (+380)

Well, my hopes at a prize were over with that string of losses. I was playing reasonably well but that’s how things go. Was thinking of finishing strong with my final three games.

DAY #5 – GAMES 29-31
GAME #29: Kate Graham
This game was tight throughout. Kate lost a turn with GLOWY* but managed to keep scoring by making use of the S and the power tiles. In the end, she gut unlucky with her final tiles of AEENUU?.

Final Score: 396 – 378 (win)
Bingos: Me – S(C)AlDING (that’s SCALDING), DISRATE; Kate – INCITED
Record: 15 – 14 (+398)

GAME #30: Trish Harrop
This has got to be the worst game of the tournament for me. I rushed and played NAT* and then forgot that BIZE takes an S (confusing it with MIZEN).  Trish took an early lead and then shut the board down and took advantage of some fortunate tiles and openings that I kept making. I missed about a dozen places to play an early bingo and I only have myself to blame. Given my mistakes and Trish having better tiles led to this slaughter of a loss. Ugh…

Final Score: 418-314 (loss)
Bingos: Me – TRaNSIT; Trish – TEENAGE
Record: 15 – 15 (+294)

GAME #31: Judith Ford
Judith opened with a bingo and then challenged off my gamble of DINKER(E)D. I saw KINDRED but tried the play to see if I could get some additional points as I thought it might be good. A few tunrs later, she played UTTeRER which I challenged. After that, it was play from behind time and she just kept punishing me for opening up the board. Not having any power tiles this game hurt me as I wasn’t able to score points very easily. But, good on Judith for playing a smart game and not giving me anything to work with.

Final Score: 437-367 (loss)
Record: 15 – 16 (+194)

Here are some statistics from my 31 games:
Average score: Me –  389.2; Opponents – 382.9
Blanks: 33 of 66 (53%)
Power Tiles: 47 of 124 (38%)
S: 57 of 124 (46%)
Bingos: Me – 1.8/game vs. 1.4/game for my opponents

You can see the official scores and results here.

As much as I hate to lose, I did enjoy myself. If my only troubles are that I lost a Scrabble tournament, life is pretty good. Overall, I think I played very well but was a bit unfortunate with the tiles. I give full credit to my opponents for taking advantage of the tiles they got, when they got them, and for exploiting any mistakes I made (i.e., accepting phoneys or challenging acceptable words). It’s all part of the game and there are no hard feelings for it.

More than the games, I enjoyed meeting all of the players from around the globe. The community of players is definitely one of the best things about playing the game.

Before I forget, here are a few shout-outs and tidbits of info:

  • RISA HOROWITZ: Risa had a very good tournament. I was especially impressed with her word knowledge and ability to find some great plays. Here are a few words I remember her playing: (M)EERKATS [holy cow!], SEMINARY, BORSCHT [wow], and CAPOEIRA!
  • STEVEN KARP: Man, this guy knows a tonne of words and sees the board very well. I’m sure he will be vying for a championship in the future.
  • Met STEFAN FATSIS, author of Word Freak. He’s a really cool and laid back guy. Didn’t attend his reading, but I’m toldit was an enjoyable event. He played MIS(CARRIAGE) which I think is a great find.
  • HEATHER MCCALL: KIMONOED and WEAPONRY – talk about some crazy finds.
  • I met MICHAEL THELEN, creator of the popular Zyzzyva. He’s a really cool guy and I’m looking forward to his iPhone/iPod apps.
  • Was great to see BRADLEY WHITMARSH but sad to hear that JOE BIHLMEYER is no longer playing tournaments.

The more I am around Scrabble-folk, the more I’m amazed at the skill, talent, and creativity of people regardind words. Some people are able to see different combinations of words (i.e., anagramming) or to learn and study large quantities of words.

Mission accomplished – Cambridge [2011-03-26]

Here are the recaps from this weekend’s Cambridge tournament. The official results can be found here.

Game #1 vs. Sharmaine Farini

Game started slowly and Sharmaine commented that I was “getting all the tiles”. After that, she switched to a very defensive style and closed off bingo lanes. She wasn’t helping herself by only playing off one or two tiles at a time.

FINAL SCORE: 420-332 (WIN)
RECORD: 1-0 +88

Game #2 vs. Gene Rawlins

For some reason, I’ve had trouble beating Gene in the past. I decided to forget the past and just focus on making good plays. Gene had more bingos than me, but I focused on maximizing my tiles. The sequence of plays had me scoring 29, 41, 30, 18, 44, 32, 33 in consecutive turns while Gene had several <10 point plays between his bingos.

FINAL SCORE: 401-360 (WIN)
RECORD: 2-0 +129  

Game #3 vs. Abdul Majid Khan

I’ve been thinking about this game since yesterday and I’m not sure if I could have done anything. I struggled with tiles which didn’t work well together while Abdul was making the most of having some good tiles. His sequence of EnCASED (68), VOX (42), JERKY (57), and TEAM (38) pretty much ended the game as he then started closing off scoring lanes systematically. Is there anything that can be done to change things-up when getting bad tiles?

FINAL SCORE: 273-464 (LOSS – ugh)
RECORD: 2-1 -62

Game #4 vs. Lucie McPhail

A close game that came down to the final few plays. I will post a more detailed look at this one as I’m interested in a few board positions. My studying paid off as I played a Z7 – zOUAVES. Unfortunately, I missed a phoney 3 – NAS* late in the game that could have helped my spread.

FINAL SCORE: 395-363 (WIN)
RECORD: 3-1 -30

Game #5 vs. Mad Palazzo

I’ve had trouble beating Mad in the past, but I kept a positive attitude and played confidently. The board got closed and I didn’t open things up as I had a decent 60 point lead. However, I started fishing to try and play a knock-out bingo. That strategy didn’t work as I was scoring ~10 points per turn with single tiles and Mad was making small plays that scored 15-20 points. When I did get great bingo tiles, there was no place to make a play. A bit of tile luck helped me out as I got the final blank and Mad had IRY as her last tiles. She challenged WAp(I)TI and that sealed the win.

FINAL SCORE: 367-323 (WIN)
BINGOS: Me – AN(I)SOLES; Mad – (D)OOrMATS (a great find)
RECORD: 4-1 +14

Game #6 vs. Lynda Wise

Lynda started with a bingo but then struggled to make scoring plays. I had a 100 point lead when Lynda tried a bingo: (T)YrANIES*. After a pause to write out the word, I challenged it off. I kept scoring to keep up the pressure on Lynda as I got stuck with the Q and had to eat it. Lynda also tried (STAINED)S* which was also challenged off.

FINAL SCORE: 451-408 (WIN)
RECORD: 5-1 +57

Game #7 vs. Emily James

Apparently we have played before. Emily mentioned that I “destroyed” her at the 2008 NSC in Orlando. I looked-up the result on Cross-Tables and it was a close game (389-375) so I’m not sure what she’s talking about. However, if that gives me a psychological edge, I’ll take it!

After playing JADE (52) and NEROLIS (67), Emily muttered something like “not again!”. To her credit, she didn’t give up and kept playing even though I I seemed to be getting the better share of the tiles. I thought I had finished the game off with BUgGI(E)ST for 72 to go ahead 376-222 but Emily took advantage of the bingo lane I created. She played QUOIN for 82 to stay within striking distance.

FINAL SCORE: 454-356
RECORD: 6-1 +155

Some statistics from my seven games:



Average Score



Average Turns






50+ point plays (non bingo)



40 point plays



30 point plays









Challenges Won



Phonies Not Challenged



The statistics tell me that I’m not having many non-scoring turns (i.e., exchanges and losing challenges). What I found interesting was that the number of bingos and blanks was relatively even between me and my opponents. The number of 30 and 40 points plays seemed to be the difference in games. Actually, there’s something oddly satisfying about making a play and saying a number in either the 40s or 50s. I think it’s more frustrating to an opponent than seeing a bingo.

All in all, I was very pleased with the tournament. My goal was to play well but not have my rating go above 1300. Mission accomplished! Looks like I’m in good position for the Dallas in August.

Here’s a shout-out for some of the other Mississaugans who did well:

  • Joy Brown: 1st place in Div. 5. Congratulations on the win!
  • John David: 1st place in Div. 4. Congratulations on the win!
  • Sophia Ozorio: An excellent 5-2 record for 3rd place in Div 4.
  • Steve Ozorio: An excellent 5-2 record for 3rd place in Div. 2.

Also, congrats to Heather McCall for winning Div 2! Vera also had a great tournament playing with the big boys in Div 1 (5-2 for fourth place). Oh before I forget, congrats to Steven Karp for a great 5-2 record (5th place, Div 2) and also for heading off to Cambridge for more schooling.

This is pretty much it for me in terms of Scrabble for a while as I’m not planning on playing in any tournaments before Dallas. Also, I’ll be traveling to California for work so no more club play, potentially for several months. Instead of playing, I plan to study and continue building the vocabulary.

2010 Trillium Tile Scrabble Tournament


After a bit of a hiatus, the Toronto vs. Mississauga inter-club tournament has resumed. This tournament is now known as the “Trillium Tile Scrabble Tournament”. Hopefully this will become a regular event. The last time this tournament was held it was in Mississauga in 2006. As a side note, the 2006 tournament was my first ever as I had just started playing Scrabble only a few weeks prior.

For those not familiar with inter-club tournaments, it’s basically the same as a regular, open tournament, except that your opponents are all from the other team. Each team is credited with a point for a win and a half-point for a tie. At the end of the day, the team with the most points wins. In this case, we had three divisions and so there were division winners in addition to the overall club winner.

Prior to the tournament, the Toronto club seemed to be the favourites based on individual player rankings. Well, the Toronto Club delivered as they won every division and the overall tournament. Congratulations to the Toronto Club!

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home so I wasn’t able to capture the final boards. Nevertheless, here are my quick recaps of the games. For full coverage of the event, you can visit the tournament page here and the tournament stats/results here.

Game #1 vs. Alex Rodriguez

Alex and I seem to be developing a good series of games against one another. Each game between us has been close and come down to the wire. In this case, I passed toward the end to make sure that Alex got the Q and the last blank. Unfortunately for him, the board was relatively closed and he didn’t have many vowels to use.

FINAL SCORE: 367-314 (WIN)
BINGOS: Me – sNIFTER, OREIDES; Alex – none

Game #2 vs. Anna Miransky

Not sure what to say about this game as it went back and forth. However, I did let Anna play a triple-triple which was a phoney. She played A(D)ININES* and I wanted to challenge it but decided against it because of the situation in the game. Her play was worth 140 and it gave her a small lead and if I lost the challenge the game would have been over. Sure, in retrospect, it’s easy to say that I should’ve challenged, but that’s how it goes.

FINAL SCORE: 464-429 (WIN)

Game #3 vs. Mad Palazzo

For whatever reason, I have troubles against Mad and my losing streak continued. She had good tiles at the right times and there isn’t much to say.


At the lunch break, the Mississauga Club seemed to be ahead slightly but things were still very much up for grabs. A 2-1 start was pretty good, but I knew I had some tough games still to play.

Game #4 vs. Roger Cullman

Nothing to say. Roger played a good game and beat me. It came down to the end, but I just couldn’t pull it out.


Game #5 vs. Vera Bigall

This game started off closed and then pulled away with two bingos in a row. I had a final rack of SWILLED but no place to play it. As such, I tried DEWILLS* as a hail mary to try for a win as I knew Vera had an out bingo.


Game #6 vs. Lynda Wise

Again, another game that was close, but I just couldn’t overcome some tough tiles at the end.


Game #7 vs. Lisa Kessler

I had to exchange tiles twice during the first three turns, so I was already at a disadvantage. The game was back and forth and then I missed a bingo. I had EGINORT with either an S or a N to play through. For whatever reason, I missed the very obvious (N)ITROGEN. I tried RETONING* which was challenged off. Then, I placed GENITOR(S) on the board but then took it off. For whatever reason, when I saw it on the board, it looked bad. Doh! I’m not sure if my bingo would have made a difference to the outcome in terms of the win/loss, but it sure stings.


After a promising start, I ended-up losing five straight games. Can’t really complain as I wasn’t over-matched in any of the games. I was the lowest seed in my division so not having a positive record wasn’t too much of a surprise. Nevertheless, winning is always better than losing 🙂 It was fun and I hope we hold this event again regularly. We’ll have to lick our wounds and get ready for a rematch.

Oh before I forget, a quick shout-out to Craig Rowland who won the top division with a 6-1 record. He was one of the few bright spots for the Mississauga side this time.

Silly Saturday … not as long as I expected [2010-10-09]

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend (Canadian). Along with 27 fellow Scrabblers, we spent a day playing 13 games in a one day tournament aptly called “Silly Saturday”. The tournament results are available here. I’m not going to go into details of each game, but I’ll highlight any interesting plays and potential lessons to help improve my game.

Before I get to the games, we were fortunate that the divisions were 14 players each so it turned out to be a big round-robin.

Game #1 vs. Abdul Majid Khan

Almost got stuck with the Q at the end, but Abdul rushed and let me play off the Q. GROVERS* and GRIVERS* are not acceptable plays.

FINAL SCORE: 420-305 (WIN)
BINGOS: Me – ALIENER, DONaTES; Abdul – none
RECORD: 1-0 +115

Game #2 vs. Roger Cullman

I probably should have lost this one but was fortunate to sell my phoney bingo to set-up my win; GREISEN is the play but I had no spot for a natural 7 or 8 so I gambled on SEERING*. If the play got challenged off, I was hoping Roger would give me a letter to make an 8. Roger has a reputation for trying phoney words so I wasn’t hesitant to challenge off his early attempt of SPrOUTER*. I also noticed that Roger plays very quickly, almost fast-bagging by hitting the clock before he announces his score.

FINAL SCORE: 404-371 (WIN)
RECORD: 2-0 +148

Game #3 vs. Dianne Wittman

I’ve played Dianne before and she always seems angry and dour. Struggled with tiles all game and just couldn’t pull it out. At the end, Dianne played WONS for 25 points, giving her a 17 point lead with both blanks and a U left on her rack. I looked around but couldn’t find a play worth 15 points or more. Given that I wasn’t sure about WONS, I challenged her play to give myself a chance at a win.

BINGOS: Me – none; Dianne – DET(A)INEE
RECORD: 2-1 +118

Game #4 vs. Josephine Lamantia

Honestly, I was a bit nervous in this game because of our ratings difference (+700 for me). If I lost, I would drop big ratings points. If I won, I would gain virtually nothing. However, after a few plays, I calmed down a bit and made the most of the tiles.

FINAL SCORE: 442-376 (WIN)
RECORD: 3-1 +184

Break #1 for lunch

Game #5 vs. Mad Palazzo

Not sure why, but I always seem to struggle against Mad. Game started off slowly and then it went downhill after I challenged here bingo (SLINKIER). The combination of the word not looking good with Mad’s reputation of inventing words pushed me over the edge. I sort of regretted it upon saying “challenge”.

BINGOS: Me – none; Mad – SLInK(I)ER, MOLDERS
RECORD: 3-2 +134

Game #6 vs. Sharmaine Farini

I wonder if anyone else finds that during a game, words can look good/bad when in fact they are not? This game was a perfect example. Sharmaine played RES(C)iNDS. I wrote down RECINDS* and RESCINDS and for some reason the first looked good. After a few moments to consider the decision, I challenged it and regretted it as we walked to the challenge computer. I realized that the word was good. It’s funny how one’s perception changes in the middle of a game. Sharmaine also tried to extend JOUAL with an S, but that didn’t stay on the board. CORRECTION – JOUALS is acceptable but DES* isn’t. I need to brush-up on my J words.

FINAL SCORE: 409-294 (WIN)
RECORD: 4-2 +249

Game #7 vs. Shubha Kamath

One of those games when I got unlucky. Shubha did her thing of making small plays while I struggled with some atrocious tiles in the mid/late game. That allowed her to get a win with JEW (37) and then COX (53) which is essentially a bingo. Sucks for me, but that’s how things go sometimes.

BINGOS: Me – FE(E)LINGS, eNTRAN(T)S; Shubha – none
RECORD: 4-3 +200

Game #8 vs. Kevin Turner

Kevin has excellent word knowledge. Combined with great tiles led to a blow-out. No chance on this one.

BINGOS: Me – none; Kevin – PIGEONS, O(V)ERHAuL
RECORD: 4-4 -49

Game #9 vs. Charles Helewa

I was looking to get some revenge from a recent club loss to Charles. Charles didn’t help himself with some spelling mistakes: DAILEIS* and UVAE*.

FINAL SCORE: 544-312 (WIN)
RECORD: 5-4 +183

Break #2 for dinner

Game #10 vs. Daniel Blake

Another game where I was nervous because of the ratings difference. Daniel had the lead late in the game but I was able to set-up a late bingo for the win. WHEW!

FINAL SCORE: 425-397 (WIN)
RECORD: 6-4 +211

Game #11 vs. Alex Rodriguez

This game is interesting because of the end game. I was running short on my clock but couldn’t manage to find a winning sequence of plays. I will post more analysis on this one with with the board. One dumb move I made in this game was to challenge TENAILS! For some reason, I completely forgot this word.

BINGOS: Me – none; Alex – TENAILS, He(A)RTIER
RECORD: 6-5 +210

Game #12 vs. Trevor Sealy

I always seem to have trouble playing against Trevor. In this game, he got the better tiles while I had an overabundance of vowels for most of the game. Trevor did play a good game.

RECORD: 6-6 +152

Game #13 vs. Gene Rawlilns

For some reason, Gene always manages to play a word that I’ve never seen before. This game was no different when I challenged BATED. Now that I’ve had a few days to think about this, I realize I have seen it, most often used in the phrase “with bated breath …”. I also managed to get a phoney on him with GLOTTY*.

FINAL SCORE: 510-267 (WIN)
RECORD: 7-6 +395

Final Thoughts/Observations

After a long day of 13 games, I wasn’t as tired as I expected to be. We started play around 9am and finished around 10:30pm. All in all, I enjoyed myself and am open to another Silly Saturday. Actually, there was talk of having a Double-Double tournament of 26 games in two days. For those who don’t know, “double-double” is a common phrase for two sugars, two creams in one’s coffee, made popular by Tim Horton’s.

Overall, I thought I played okay. I started running out of time in games against Trevor and Alex but otherwise managed my clock well.

Having played in a full round-robin tournament, I like this format. Having played everyone in the field, there’s no argument that one competitor played stronger/weaker opponents.

Andy Saunders was the director for the tournament and he did a great job of making sure things progressed. He also provided a running email commentary and has the statistics and results on his website (not sure how long he will keep it up though).

This is likely my last rated tournament for a while. I have the Mississauga vs. Toronto inter-club tournament in a few weeks, but that’s it for a while. I am going to spend my time studying words instead. It’s not fun, but I want to prepare for a good showing at next year’s nationals.

New words that I learned:

  • BIMA – didn’t know this word along with its anagram (IAMB)
  • LOGE – knew OGLE, but didn’t know this anagram

An unexpected finish … Toronto July Scrabble Tournament [July 16-18, 2010]

Here’s a recap of the games from the 6th Annual July in Toronto Scrabble Tournament (list of entrants). I’m not going to do much game-specific commentary. Just a few interesting tidbits.

Day 1: Games 1-7
Was a bit nervous as I was seeded 17th out of 22 in Division B. I decided to take Shan’s and Paul’s advice and play-up. Nevertheless, I had some pre-tournament jitters.

Game #1 vs. Trevor Sealy
Never beaten Trevor and the trend continues. This game was pretty enjoyable as we both had good tiles. Trevor had the lead coming down the stretch and I took a calculated risk to try and win the game as there really wasn’t much else I could do. My play of UNSCO(R)ED* didn’t stand and that was the game.

RECORD: 0-1 -33

Game #2 vs. Steven Karp
Never played Steven before but I found out he’s a Pure Math major at the University of Waterloo. My downfall was the clock in this game. I used too much time early in the game and it cost me two ways: 1) time penalty and 2) I didn’t find a higher-scoring bingo at the end. In any case, kudos to Steven. He’s a strong player and it showed with his multiple 40+ point plays. Oh, he also played PAVEN* against me which I mistook for PAVIN

BINGOS: Me – (L)EADIEST, T(A)ILOREd, (V)InTNERS; Steven – none
RECORD: 0-2 -81

Game #3 vs. Jillian Bathgate
Jillian’s always great to play against as she’s just a nice and friendly person. Game started slowly and a bit closed but opened up.

FINAL SCORE: 397-376 (WIN – yeah first win!)
RECORD: 1-2 -60

** BREAK – I was relieved to have gotten my first win and was hoping the rest of the tournament would be better than the 0-2 start. Tiles have been pretty good so no complaints.

Game #4 vs. Kevin Gauthier
Kevin’s a nice guy and I always enjoy playing against him. He’s very precise.

BINGOS: Me – (N)EUTRALs; Kevin – none
FINAL SCORE: 341-320 (WIN)
RECORD: 2-2 -39

Game #5 vs. Lynda Wise
I’ve never beaten Lynda so I wasn’t really expecting a win and just wanted to have a good showing. On the game deciding play, I had a few different options available to me as she had some good tiles plus the blank. She had been trying to open up bingo lanes for a few turns while I tried to shut them down. After nearly six minutes of evaluating the board, I decided to play (D)A(I)S (DAIS) to shut the easy parallel lane. If she could find a Y bingo (Y had to be in the middle of the word too), then all the power to her. But, given she had seven of the following CEEINORT? I thought it was unlikely. I couldn’t see anything myself but that doesn’t mean much. I was happy to beat Lynda for the first time.

BINGOS: Me – FINALEs; Lynda – (M)OLDIEST – I almost challenged this as I thought the spelling was MOULDIEST
FINAL SCORE: 391-318 (WIN)
RECORD: 3-2 +34

Game #6 vs. Cheryl Melvin
Never played Cheryl before and I didn’t have much opportunity to give her a run for her money. She just happened to have great tiles at very opportune moments in the game. Nothing against her as she did what she had to do. As I tried to keep lanes open for bingos, she would punish me with some good scoring plays. My first game where I didn’t really have much chance. Bad tiles happen (DDVVSM?, EIIINUS). To make things worse, I incurred a time penalty.

BINGOS: Me – none; Cheryl – UNBAS(T)ED, HArRIES
RECORD: 3-3 -106

Game #7 vs. Lila Sinanan
For some reason, I have trouble against Lila. This one was a close one and came down to LIla making a poor choice in her end game. She took more points but then couldn’t go out.

BINGOS: Me – J(O)HNnIES (108 points!); Lila – REDOXES
FINAL SCORE: 353-351 (WIN)
RECORD: 4-3 -104

** END OF DAY 1: Well, as Tiger Woods is known to say “you can’t win a tournament in the first day but you sure can lose one”. I didn’t blow-up so I was pretty happy. No-one had runaway from the pack so I was cautiously optimistic about the final games on day 2.

DAY 2: Games 8-12

Game #8 vs. Heather McCall
This was one of those games that I just couldn’t do anything. With racks like MNNUUVW and BDNNRTW to start the game, I was down big-time after Heather’s bingo (OILCANS). At the end, Heather played THyAMID* which I didn’t think was good. When I looked at what was left in the bag (JLLORQY) especially given how the board was fairly closed and I didn’t have usable vowels, I decided to let it go and try to end the game ASAP. I knew I was going to lose the game anyway. I owe you a game Heather!

BINGOS: Me – none; Heather – OILCANS, THyAMID*
RECORD: 4-4 -308

Game #9 vs. Heather Steffy
I had the better share of the tiles in this game so the outcome wasn’t really in doubt. The game was closer than it had to be when I got a bit greedy and tried DETRA(C)KS* because I couldn’t find a free E to play through (looking back, I missed the obvious DARKEST – doh!). Oh well… One interesting thing I noticed about Heather is that she writes her tiles down. This in and of itself isn’t odd. What is interesting is that she doesn’t really cover up the space where she writes so I was able to get a look at her tiles (on the page) pretty much throughout the game. Heather – if you ever read this post, you really should do a better job covering up your writing.

BINGOS: Me – EASIEsT, MELANIN; Steffy – none
FINAL SCORE: 415-321 (WIN)
RECORD: 5-4 -214

Game #10 vs. Dianne Wittman
Talk about a close game! Dianne had a lead toward the end but then tried to exchange tiles when there were only six left in the bag. I called the director and the ruling was that she loses a turn/pass. Because of that, I was able to get a “free” turn to score points and then managed to find a series of plays to score enough to get the win. We did a recount and the final score stood-up. Whew!

FINAL SCORE: 402-401 (WIN)
RECORD: 6-4 -213

** BREAK: Wasn’t sure what to expect for the rest of the games and the division was pretty tight. Unfortunately, I had a bad spread/cum score compared with the rest of the field so I wasn’t expecting to finish in the top.

Game #11 vs. Alex Rodriguez
I played Alex once before and I remember he beat me. He’s a solid player with good knowledge. Two things about this game stood-out: 1) he played ANESOLE* which I hesitated before challenging off (ANISOLE – hi-prob word but I wasn’t sure if there was an alternate spelling) and 2) the end game. The game was pretty close and I had a shaky 20 point lead with AIKPTZ? with no more tiles left in the bag. I knew Alex had the X and he had a place to play it for 50 points. If I blocked it, then I would screw myself over and he could still score 40 points. As such, I decided to take a lower scoring play that ensured I could have an out play that scored enough to draw even with him. His downfall was the kludgy tiles on his rack: BDLORVX. I knew he couldn’t get rid of them all so that’s what saved me.

FINAL SCORE: 336-332 (WIN)
RECORD: 7-4 -182

Game #12 vs. Heather Steffy
I was 8th the division with six other players at 7-4 (all better spread than me) so I had no expectations coming into this game. Knowing what I learned from my previous game against Steffy, I didn’t really feel good being able to see her tiles via her tracking so I decided not to look at her score sheet. The game was very tight and closed and it turned about mid-way through. I had a bingo to open up a big lead and then started shutting down Heather’s efforts to create bingo lanes while continuing to score. It’s just one of those games.

BINGOS: Me – ANxIETY, TONiEST; Steffy – none
FINAL SCORE: 405-289 (WIN)
RECORD: 8-4 -66

Well, I ended-up in fourth place to my utter surprise. It turned out to be a reasonably successful tournament. Some good plays, some good games, and a decent result. I only had two games when I didn’t seem to have much of any chance so that wasn’t so bad.

A shout out to some of my Mississauga Scrabble Club folks:

  • Geoffrey Newman – he won division 1! I’m sure he could win quite a few tournaments (especially any division that’s not the top at the nationals) until his rating catches up to his ability.
  • Lila Sinanan – congratulations on finishing 2nd in Division B.

I think this will be my last tournament until the Michael Wise tournament at the end of September because of a busy next little while.

The official results are available via the NASPA website here.

That wasn’t so bad … Mississauga Scrabble Tournament (June 2010)


Not having played or studied much for the past few months, I had absolutely no expectations for the Mississauga Scrabble Tournament (June 2010). I was in the second division (B) and was against some good competition (list of competitors). Here are the quick recaps of the games with a few comments on each.

Game #1 vs. Abdul Khan
This game was quite stressful for me. Never played Abdul before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I started off with a string of 30-45 point plays to give me a big early lead. Then, Abdul played his bingo which I challenged as I had never seen the word before. A few turns later, I took the lead back with my bingo. We exchanged the lead until the final few plays. Abdul had the Z and could have played ZO(O) for 32 points but instead blocked the last remaining bingo lane (he knew I had the final blank). In hindsight, he should have taken the points, but I can understand the rationale for his play given the situation and with the pressure of the clock. The lesson here is to track tiles so you know if you should block or take the points. I must admit, however, that I was pretty nervous all throughout this game.

FINAL SCORE: 373 – 360 (WIN)
RECORD: 1 – 0 +13

Game #2 vs. Garth Hardie
This game was weird. Garth seemed to be fishing for tiles as he kept playing only a couple of tiles and getting visibly frustrated after each draw. I did my best to ignore him and make the best possible play and keep scoring. Garth got two bingos in the second half of the game, but I had too great a lead. I managed to play MO(O)NPIE* – heh heh.

FINAL SCORE: 438 – 316 (WIN)
RECORD: 2 – 0 +135

Game #3 vs. Sharmaine Farini
The last time I played Sharmaine at the Guelph tournament, she beat me so I was hoping for a different outcome this time. I was getting a bit annoyed at this game because I felt like I was doing most of the work to keep the board open. Sharmaine kept scoring and staying with me with short plays which ended-up clogging up the board. Oh well, that’s part of the game, so I took a deep breath and just relaxed and played the board as it developed. Not much strategy – I got a late bingo and built-up a lead that Sharmaine couldn’t overcome even with an out bingo.

BINGOS: Me – WINeR(I)ES, AERATES; Sharmaine – DISSEAt (didn’t know this was good but it was a free challenge)
FINAL SCORE: 379 – 336 (WIN)
RECORD: 3 – 0 +178

Break for lunch. I was feeling optimistic that I might place given the good start I had.

Game #4 vs. Lynda Wise
I have never beaten Lynda so I wasn’t really expecting much from this game. Looking back, I didn’t do myself any favours by making a few mistakes early in the game with two phonies which were challenged off (BALONIES* and TUNICES*). TUNICES* hurt because I missed C(O)UNTIES and burned a turn before I saw it the next turn. It also didn’t help that I let Lynda play a phoney to start the game (PATTINE* – which is PATIENT). I also chickened out on TAbORER and instead played ARmOREd (for 14 points less). It also felt like Lynda was just capitalizing on some fortunate tiles with plays like QAID (48), JEFE (38), and getting most of the power tiles. I think the lesson for me is not to get psyched out *before* the game starts. I may have given Lynda too much respect and chickened out instead of playing with more confidence.

FINAL SCORE: 397 – 324 (LOSS)
RECORD: 3 – 1 +106

Game #5 vs. Roger Cullman
This game was pretty crazy or it ended dramatically. Early on, Roger played B(L)OUZY* and I challenged it off. I have been reviewing my Zs and I had never even seen that word, so I felt somewhat confident that it was not acceptable. I then played two bingos in a row to build-up a lead: (D)ECORATE and UNAWA(R)E. For UNAWARE, I hooked it to my other bingo to make DECORATER* which I was 50/50 on. I knew that DECORATOR is good but the ER seemed plausible. Roger accepted it which was good for me. He responded with TZ(A)RINA for 52 to stay within 70 points. After that, I seemed to get the better share of the tiles. He managed to close the gap with STEEPIN(G) based on a hanging G that I left in the TWS lane. I regretted it immediately after I hit my clock. Fortunately, I responded with my own bingo to stay ahead by 70. I evaluated a few different options and decided to take 35 points and build my lead to 109 points. I knew Roger had the last S and I couldn’t block him so that’s why I decided to take the points. He then played (UM)S/SOBERED for 94 to go out. I had 10 points on my rack and I could feel my heart sink thinking that I lost the game. So, I decided to challenge as I had nothing to lose. Before we left the table, I remembered to challenge the PLAY and not just his bingo play. UMS* is not acceptable and I was so relieved! Remember that i’ve been having problems mastering my 3s so I almost didn’t think to include UMS. My heart was racing so once we got back to the table, I took a couple deep breaths to try and calm down. I thought I was going to win, then thought I was going to lose, then realized I won all in a span of about 45 seconds.

FINAL SCORE: 471 – 339 (WIN)
RECORD: 4 – 1 +218

Game #6 vs. Gene Rawlins
I wish I could forget this game. It started off poorly and just went downhill. Gene opened with HANDERS. I had never seen this word before and couldn’t find a rationale that made it seem good. Besides, Gene is known to play phonies so I decided to challenge. After that, Gene just took advantage of some good tiles and punished me and the score reflected it.

FINAL SCORE: 515 – 293 (LOSS – ouch!)
RECORD: 4 – 2 -4

Game #7 vs. Shelley Ubeika
I think I might have lost this game on the first turn. I had DDEONSS to open the game and immediately saw SODDEN and wondered if SODDENS was good. Wasn’t sure so then I tried to see if there was an 8 I could make if Shelley challenged it off and gave me a tile. Nothing popped so I chickened out. SODDENS (or ODDNESS) were the plays. As a result, I was playing catch-up for the rest of the game as I picked-up all four Ses during the first few turns. Trying to play of Ses with not many vowels and while trying to score is not easy. Maybe I should have exchanged, but I thought it would be a waste of the Ses. I managed to make the game close with my final turns including a bingo, and 31 and 45 point plays but i just didn’t have enough to catch-up. For whatever reason, I seem to lose to Shelley and it frustrates me.

FINAL SCORE: 379 – 368 (LOSS)
RECORD: 4 – 3 -15

We had a short break before the final “king of the hill” (KOTH) round. The losses in the afternoon were frustrating especially given the great start. With the way the rankings were I had no hope for a prize and set myself a goal of winning my last match. I like to win my last match so I don’t feel frustrated at the end of a tournament.

Game #8 vs. Gene Rawlins
So, it was rematch time. This board got closed very quickly as some of the choices both Gene and I made did not allow for bingo lanes. We both started to make defensive plays so that didn’t help. Toward the end, I was getting a bit frustrated because I had great bingo tiles but no open lanes. There was an open R so I tried (R)AiLMENT* thinking that if there is DERAILMENT there might be such a thing as RAILMENT*. That came off the board so I started to sacrifice some points to try and create bingo lanes as I had some great tiles. Gene tried his best to block but made a mistake of playing MOLLS and leaving the L and S wide open. I found my out-bingo and that was the game. Gene and I were essentially neck and neck until he had a small 20 point lead toward the end.

FINAL SCORE: 371 – 338 (WIN)
RECORD: 5 – 3 +18

Final Comments
So, I did better than I expected, perhaps much better than I originally anticipated. However, given my great start, I was a little disappointed at some of the losses as they seemed to be “preventable” in a manner of speaking. Hey, I managed to finish in fourth place in my division which was a complete surprise. I believe I have a new rating of 1194, up from 1160. I’m still hoping to reach the elusive 1500 but that’s still a ways to go.

I can’t remember all of the winners, but I will link to the official results once they become available. Shan and Jean did a great job of running their first tournament and I hope they will do it again.

There’s another local tournament run by Tony Leah in July which has a corresponding SOWPODS tournament. It’s a two day event so I’m not sure if I will attend. Tony’s tournaments are always well run and fun. I’m debating if I should study more before playing in another tournament. If I do attend, should I play up a division (and be a low seeded player) or should I stay in the C division and essentially be the highest seed? Any thoughts?