Almost Human

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Okay, that time-change thing in Indiana is a real pain in the ass! For years, every time I visited the city during Daylight Saving Time, Indianapolis was on Chicago time. Well, Indianapolis (or all of Indiana--not sure) went to DST, and I completely forgot. When I finally got up at what I thought was 7:45, it was actually 8:45. Oblivious to this, I proceeded to dawdle at the Starbucks at Michigan & Kessler while I waited for a truck to move from in front of the store. I finally went inside just before 9:00, as a Weekend Edition report on the new 9 to 5 musical ended. I went into the restroom, and for some reason, perhaps divine intervention, it occurred to me to wonder just what time it was. I exited (after washing up, of course) and quickly asked the baristas what time it was. "9:00," they said, and I let out an expletive in response. I went into scrabble mode and quickly ordered juice and a donut to go with my coffee--no time for breakfast. Luckily for me that particular Starbucks was just a mile or two from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and I arrived not that much past the designated start time.

Of course, as happens half the time that I drop everything and rush to the tournament site, the first round was not even close to starting. Several others were missing, and Jim still had announcements to make. We were delayed at least 15 minutes past my arrival time, and I became a little irked because that would have given me enough time for breakfast. This would become important later on because of my lunch fiasco.

Before I forget, I must mention that the museum was a great place for a tournament. According to Jim, the tournament came together out of a request from the event coordinator at the museum; otherwise the space would not have been affordable. The venue proved popular, but there is no guarantee that the space will be available again next year, according to the coordinator. I hope they can work out an availability date for '09, because it was a really pretty space.

Moving on to the tournament itself, an issue arose before we had even begun. The contestant score cards had been forgotten, and that raised the question of what to do about first and second. Marty Gabriel, who had given a class the night before, was directing, and he quickly said that we would just have to pick for first and second each time. I had not actually seen the relevant portion of the directors manual, if such a secontion even existed, but my instincts told me that picking each time had to be wrong. There was just too much of a chance that someone could end up with 5, 6, or even 7 seconds (this actually ended up happening). Given that the tournament was just seven games, it would be simple to keep track of firsts and seconds, and I suggested as much to Marty. Instead of going with my suggestion though, he put the matter to a vote. Given the relatively high percentage of newbies (16) and of lower-rated players, it is not surprising that they voted against counting up firsts and seconds.

We elite players in the first division, however, did not feel bound by the vote. The four of us at table 1 quickly agreed to track firsts and seconds. After the first game I explained that to the others, and Adrian Mannella quickly said that they had decided just the opposite. Adrian commented--"why not?" The reason why not seemed obvious to me, but I did not feel like getting into a discussion at the moment. Perhaps someone else did, because a few minutes later, as I was about to start game 2, Mike Paxson reported that the decision had been reversed.

Now, moving on to actual game play (even though nobody really cares about that), I pulled ahead quickly against Travis Green with (P)ILASTER, and this allowed me to get a little jiggy. Of course, the reason for my trickery comes down to lack of study and the inevitable erosion of fours and fives that has ensued from not looking at them since I finished my last job. All I had done during my summer road-tripping was anagram, mostly sevens and eights, and I was seeing the effects in my equity loss and ratings loss.

The operative word was (VISE)D. I was so unsure of the word that I was leaning towards its being phony. But I couldn't see any better spots, so I tried to distract Travis by putting down DURFY*. With acting still worthy of DeNiro (in a film other than his current mess with costart Pacino), I started intently at DURFY*. I wrote it down on my score sheet and looked at what I had written. I looked at the board again. Finally I picked the crap back up and played FUD instead. I then noticed something interesting. Travis, who had not moved while I was play-acting, suddenly moved his hand, holding his pen, over to his scoresheet. If that isn't a tell, I don't know what is, and I felt confident he was going to let (VISE)D go.

Of course, are all the jigginess, completely unnecessary because VISED is good, I ended up making the wrong play with FUD. Still, until I get my word knowledge back, I need to bolster my arsenal of tricks for getting words past unware opponents.

Getting back to the first/second situation for a moment, after the game I alerted Marty that I was going to file an incident report. I was careful to explain that I was not taking action against him--I wanted him to understand that I was not upset, but that I wanted some clarification from the appropriate committee in case the same situation ever arises again. Marty appeared to understand completely.

Umm... how do I file an incident report anyway???

Against Nick Ball, our friend from across the pond, two opening bingos were not enough. Nick answered gREENER with STINGIE(R), and even though I came back with S(T)OCKIER, I had a feeling that even the famed British politeness would not keep Nick from trying to erase my lead. I followed my gut and took a chance on CU(R)VABLE*, and when Nick came back with FOLIAt(E)D, I was extremely relieved that I had chanced the phony.

My next game, against Marc Broering, was rather amazing. I again opened with three bingos, (C)RITTErS, PLEURON(S)*, and a find I was particularly proud of, ARGONAU(T). Not only was it extremely unusual for me to open with three bingos, but I had done it twice in a row. The rest of the game was cake--I dropped just 16 equity points, but despite this, my final spread was just 41 points. WTF??? How did that happen???

Annotated Game

My next victim was Adrian Mannella, though after exchanging AEEIUU and then playing KI(L)O for 8 points, I worried my luck might have turned. Luckily, I found OU(T)GIVES and then drew a blank. Managed to keep enough of a lead to try the extremely risky IODISER* to guarantee a win no matter what.

Now the fiasco. Because of the number of participants, we were required to have lunch in two groups. Half the divisions played three games and went to lunch, while the rest of us played four before lunch. I assumed that there would be an announcement about the second wave, so I sat down to wait. After a while I began to wonder, and I asked Marc about it. He indicated we could just go, and also said he had brought his lunch. That made me wonder about my second assumption, that lunch was included in the entry fee. It wasn't. Crap. To make matters worse, I had been working on my laptop which was still set to CDT. Instead of an hour and 45 minutes, I had just 45 minutes to get lunch. I left quickly, but I made a wrong turn. Instead of heading east on 38th St towards the restaurants, I headed south on MLK. By the time I found a cluster of restaurants and spotted Chicago Gyro, it was past 2:00 PM. I ordered my gyro and proceeded to wait, and wait, and wait.

Nearly 20 minutes later, some of the patrons who had already been waiting when I arrived had still not received their orders, and the understaffed cook had not ever started mine. I told the cashier to give me a refund, but she ignored me and repeated my order to the cook. I had to raise my voice a bit and emphasize that I wanted a refund before she gave me my money back. I rushed back to my car, then turned around and tried the Chinese restaurant. I was going to settle for something quick, like egg drop soup and some rice, but when I asked if the soup was already made, I was told that nothing was ready--everything was made to order. AARRGHH!!!

I ran back to my car and headed across the intersection and pulled into some fried-chicken place. The kitchen area was sealed off by thick bullet-proof glass. Not a good sign. Behind the glass an employee noticed me, but he just stood there looking at me. I stared at him intently trying to get his attention, but he still just stood there with a stupid look on his face. I left in disbelief at the level of customer service to be found at 38th & Meridian.

I was out of time. I had to rush back to the Museum and find the restaurant. It was more of a cafeteria, really, and unfortunately they had stopped serving hot food at 2:00! The cold pickings seemed slim, so I decided that I could manage with a yogurt and my bottle of Tradewinds tea. Perhaps that wasn't such a good idea, because I fumbled early against Scott Garner by trying to plate PATE/(F)A/(E)T/(T)E*! I felt lightheaded, and hunger would distract me for the duration of the game. Fortunately, after another burned turn, exchanging AAABEO (E), my game started to turn around with a 59-point Q play followed by ACHiOTE. A couple of turns later Scott set me up for a fortuitous GROsZ/Z(ETA) for 95, and the game was effectively mine. I even had enough latitude to try SPADONE*, even though I was pretty sure that there is only one valid solution.

Interestingly enough, I faced a similar situation against Mark Owens. After watching him open with SUlFIDE, I had to suffer a few turns trying to bingo before hitting the extremely lucky LATEX for 85. Mark tied the game with his play, but I had the momentum, and perhaps that gave me the confidence to try CORTICE*, which I was sure I'd seen before. But, just like SPADONES, CORTICES needs the S. That lost turn was extremely costly, because Mark went on to draw the second blank for M(O)RAINIc. His score was modest, however, just 60, and if I played HAET I'd be down 12. Had I not lost the CORTICE* turn, I would have been looking at a lead despite Mark's bingo, and I probably would have let it one. Instead, I took a look at the tile pool, AAEIIIOOUHLPRTVY and decided that unless he just happened to draw into an awful rack, he was probably going to win. Still don't know if I should have trying to win it in the endgame instead of challenging, but what I failed to consider outright was that Mark had a pretty high spread.

Annotated Game

By challenging I gave Mark 60 spread points instead of keeping it close, which meant that I would need to beat Mike Paxson by close at least 150 points to have a chance at stealing 1st place from Mark if he beat Travis. They played right next to Mike and me, and since I took an early lead with HANdMAI(D) and dominated throughout my game, I had plenty of time available to glance over at their score. I grumbled as Mark played Travis hard turn for turn, even following up Travis' first blank bingo with the pretty sweet UDOMETE(R). At some point Travis picked up the second blank, and I tried to will him to open the board, but he managed to let Mark close it up. Didn't look good until he managed to use the blank to play oUTSCO(RE) to take the lead.

Meanwhile, I was trying to win by as much as possible. I found LEACHI(N)G a couple turns after HANdMAI(D) to lead by about 140, but Mike saw a mid-game surge, and an eventual bingo to keep me within a hundred points for much of the the game. I picked up the second blank and still hoped to win by 200, but my possible bingo was troublesome--URE(D)InIA. First, I wasn't 100% sure of the placement of the vowels. Second, it opened up two possible 70-point Q counterplays. With a relatively closed board, passing up the bingo was a risk, but I lucked out and got S(T)UDENtS a couple of turns later.

I won by 120, but that was not nearly enough--in fact, my final spread was less than Mark's spread after six games. As such, I was depending on Travis to save my ass. I saw he had a big play set up on his rack, but the scores were so close the game could go either way. I sat down to wait, and after a few minutes I saw Mark go out first. Crap. Did he do it? Nope--Mark was shy about 10 points, and thus I managed to score 1st place.

The prize, incidentally, was given in the form of a prepaid credit card. Something about museum policies prohibiting cash prizes, I was told. Interesting. I wonder if any other tournaments have had to do that.

Of course, what I had really wanted was to get back over 1700, and though the 6 wins gave me more of a ratings boost than I had imagined, I still ended up a couple of points shy of my goal, and thus a couple of points shy of regaining my humanity.

While waiting for the gyro that I would never get, I glanced through the Nuvo (strange name for a free weekly), and I noticed that Dar Williams was playing that night. The venue was a club, the Vogue Theater, and the price was excellent, just $22 at the door. By the time I finished the tournament I was pretty tired and didn't know how long I'd want to stay up listening to music, but for $22 I wasn't going to sweat it if I had to leave early.

The Vogue Theater is in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis. As Broad Ripple has a Starbucks, I have of coursed passed through, but I had never spent any time there, not even to look for grubbins. There were interesting-looking restaurants A(PLENTY) (missed that hook against Adrian--grr...), and I selected Yats offering cajun and creole food. Pretty decent jerk chicken ettouffee for a darn good price, just $5.75.

I went into the club naked at first, just to scope out its layout. Once I found tables upstairs in the back next to the wall where I could set up my laptop without disturbing the other patrons, I went back to the car to retrieve it. I could not actually see the stage from those seats, but I did not mind since I had no idea who the opening act, Shawn Mullins. I was happy to sit back and listen while continuing my work, and only when Dar Williams appeared did I move downstairs where I was lucky to find a seat right in front of the stage. I love small club shows for that reason, the ability to get right up close to the artist.


#1 - Green    
7.9 VISE  
0 MOMI  
0 (T)AX  
5 FUD  
4.5 N(E)RDY (G)R(U)NGY
0 WHIL(E)  
0 QADI  
0 WAE  
0 ON  
0 (N)U  
#2 - Ball    
0 P(I)NG  
0 (F)UNNY  
0* H(U)H  
0* BAIZE  
5.2 (C)OOED blocks potential (BAIZE)S play
13 Q(AT)  
4.8 D(EL)LY  
3 MOA  
#3 - Broering    
0 (C)RITTErS  
0.7 BOP  
0* ANISE  
0 COU(G)H  
15.8 IN block (JOLT)S or (JOLT)Y
0 Q(I)  
0 WAGE(D)  
0 LO(F)T  
#4 - Mannella    
0 -AEEIUU (E)  
3.2 KI(L)O  
12.1 (O)UZO DOUZEp(E)R
14.3 REDRAWn miss A(PLENTY) hook which I'D SEEN EARLIER!!!
5.3 JUT  
0.1* FEW  
0* PAIN  
0 AI(L)  
0* HAEM GLEAM/G(o)/L(I)/E(N)/A(T)/M(E)
0 L(I)NG  
#5 - Garner    
34.7 lose turn ((T)E*)  
5.5 PEAT  
4.7 -AAABEO  
4.9 BE(L)YING favor higher score + tile turnover
16.5 QUAD C(OE)QUATED (holy crap!!!)
0 THAT  
2.7 VA(I)L  
45.2 lose turn (SPADONE*) D(Y)SPNOEA
0 OP  
7 (T)EWS  
0 (M)U  
#6 - Owens    
1.7 Q(I)S  
0 B(E)AD  
2 (J)OIN  
0 PILE  
43.9 lose turn (CORTICE*) ORECTIC
59.1 CROCI ditto
37.7 challenge M(O)RAINIc LAT(K)E/A(JUGA)/T(O)/E(N) for 52 and the lead,DELTA/A(JUGA)
23.8 A(N)E  
--- (C)HETH  
--- D(E)LL  
#7 - Paxson    
4.2 -GLMNNTT keep GLN???
6.3 VINO  
0 (Z)ORIS  
11 (V)AGARY  
7.1 WAT  
9 YI(P)  
16.1* AUREI URE(D)InIA (unsure but dangerous play anyway)
0 S(T)UDENtS  
0 OVU(M)  
0 AE  

1 - W - 1.5 (21.9)
2 - W - 5.8 (64.7)
3 - W - 1.4 (16.5)
4 - W - 2.7 (37.3)
5 - W - 8.8 (123.2)
6 - L - 15.8
7 - W - 5.7 (79.7)

Avg: 6.0

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