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)
Bingos: Me – (T)RAVOISE, (L)IONIZER; Shelley – STRANDs, TALLIES, ACETONES
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)
Bingos: Me – rE(V)ERIES, BUMMING; Gary – AfFR(O)NTS, (C)OURAGES, NEGATOR
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)
Bingos: Me – RE(C)HEATs, ENGINEE(R), BOATING; Betsey – ALOE(T)Ic, TONELE(S)S
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)
Bingos: Me – AvAILE(D), RELOANS, STAgIER; Noah – EMPOWER
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)
Bingos: Me – ATRESIA, DAMPERS; Ted – WI(N)DAGEs, UNBORNs*, (D)EPAINTS
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)
Bingos: Me – EATABLE, MOCKInG, bLADDERS, REPA(V)ING; Morris – TITTERS, TINDERS
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)
Bingos: Me – KINDRED, SWEETI(N)G; Judith – OVErATE, UTTeRER
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.