Brkn Prms

Friday, September 29, 2008

The rest area on I-94 just across the Michigan line happened to have AT&T Wi-fi, so before going to sleep I fired up Vuze so I could finish downloading Smallville and some other shows. As I changed I noticed something crawling across my laptop screen--a spider! While I do not dislike spiders, I could not tell what type it was, and I worried that I would be bitten in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, before I could try to entice the arachnid onto a sheet of paper so I could set it outside, it scurried off my laptop and disappeared. I had no choice but to go to sleep and hope I would wake up. As much as I long for the forever sleep, I had suffered a whole two weeks already under 1700, and there was no point in dying before I had a chance to redeem my humanity.

I did indeed wake up, sometime in the middle of the night, and when I turned on my laptop screen so I could check on the download, I discovered something strange--the screen was covered by a large spider-web. A simple web alone would be strange enough, but when I woke up some more and looked closely I noticed that the web appeared to spell out letters--"P R M S D L N D". Promised land? Why would a spider spell out the words "promised land" on my laptop, and why would said spider omit all the vowels?

I was too sleep to solve the puzzle and did not consider the matter again until I woke up at 7:30 and began the 95-mile drive to Battle Creek. I made good enough time that I was able to take my time at the Starbucks instead of rushing in and out, and while I was there I heard a Patty Griffin song on the sound system. Hearing Patty Griffin reminded me of Dar Williams, that I needed to check out her new album. When I went to iTunes to find the album, the night's freaky even became suddenly clear, for the name of Dar's new album is Promised Land!!! The spider's message, then, was that I needed to buy the album, and its magical music would lead me to a 7-0 victory.

I felt the effects of the magic right away. During the drive to Battle Creek, I had started out my studys with my list of top 10,000 8s. At some point during the drive some unseen force compelled me to switch to the five-vowel-eights. Had I not reviewed those words, I would never have taken the momentum from Lisa Slankard who opened with ORBITER. Even after I played (R)ESTYLED on my third turn, she kept by lead by scoring well with (T)RANQ and ZI(N) while I struggled with AIIIINO, AEEEIIO, and AAEOPRU. Had I not run through those 5V8s, I would never have seen AACEELT through the U, and I would have been at least a bingo down after that turn. I've heard it said, and I agree wholehearted--those five-vowel eights are useful. But I think they are more than that. I think the five-vowel-eights are powerful--they have some magical juju behind them, either by themselves, or when combined with magical music.

I'll add that even with the momentum and a bingo lead, I could have lost that game at the very end, and I suspect my weaker self would have. In the position below, I quickly saw an possible seven in the remaing eight tiles, ACDINNW?, and I just as quickly dismissed it for lack of a hook. I spent most of the remainder of my time trying to make sure that my possible plays, BEEF for example, would not give Lisa an unexpected counter play. Since to hook IF she would have make the blank an S or F, I figured it was safest just to leave that spot along, and I almost played BEEFy at 6Y to eliminate any chance whatsoever of a bingo. Then I noticed something that chilled me to the bone. Wow--had I looked more closely, I would have given that game away.

That bane of tournament Scrabble, the blank misdesignation, cost me a double-blank game against Ron Hoekstra. Here's the really wacky thing, though. After losing a turn because I misdesignated the blank in UNSNARe*/(MAR)e as a U, I went ahead and got the phony past Ron in a different spot. I immediately drew the other blank, but with crappy BDNVWZ, and I struggled through two consonant-heavy racks while Ron scored consistently. I did manage to bingo with that second blank, right after Ron finally had a bad turn, (D)IDIE for 8. I had a slight lead, but whatever I drew from the bag would determine the outcome. Crap. I pulled the Q, and though I was able to play it, it limited my options, and I had no way to win.

Annotated Game

If you thought that I couldn't possibly come up with any more bathroom wackiness, you were wrong. I managed to drop my score sheet in the toilet. Yucky yucky yucky. I washed it off as best I could, and I made a mental note not to lick it (the score sheet, not the toilet). I sure am glad that I am no longer as attached to my score sheets as Keith Smith, Mallick, and Rau are. Of course I had to keep the sheet as long as it took to sim the games and write up the blog, and this entailed putting that scoresheet on countless tables from Michigan to Wisconsin. Each time I did so I truly hoped I had done a good job of washing off any unsanitary matter.

Next Paul Epstein, and when he took the early lead with HE(C)TAREs I figured I was in for another Epsteian beat-down. And it might very well have gone just that way had Paul not convinced himself that HUP takes an S. I myself had to pause for a bit. I had to run through some mentanal gymnastics. I knew that YUP took an S since I started playing. YEPS was added in '06. I was solid on HEP and HUP pre-'06, because Adrian Mannella had tried to hook HEP years earlier. So it all came down to this--if HUPS* had been added, would I have noticed? Damn straight I would have!!! No way I would have missed that.

The lost turn proved very costly for Paul because it allowed me two turns two get rid of the X and Y in my rack. As soon as did that... bazaam!!! (E)PIGONES! Out of the blue I h['9ad a chance, and then I got a real gift. QUINT to an E for 70 points... in two different spots! Unbelievable! How often do you have a huge power-tile play like that with no chance that you opponent will block.

Annotated Game

I was not in the mood to drive far for lunch, so I cajoled Slanky into driving us down to the intersection to find some pizza/grinder restaurant. We did not see it, but I spotted a sign for a cafe, the Lil' Chef Cafe, and that was good enough for us. I had skipped breakfast, except for a donut, and even if I hadn't, I'm totally down with breakfast all day lunch. Breakfast, second breakfast (like the hobbits), third breakfast... there's no such thing as too much breakfast. Nothing really remarkable about the place, but I did find myself surprised that the orange juice did not suck.

Took the momentum from Mason Shambach with (U)NHOLY, which I thought was pretty funny. Not so funny was his double-blank OlEAtES and his double-double CARRIED. The game could have gone south had I not gotten lucky and drawn a bingo despite a critical mistake. From a rack of AELORTW, I knew instantly that keeping AELRT would be very strong. Still, after putting down OW, I went ahead and stuck the E there, not to score, but to block. When I saw my next rack AILRRTU, I cursed at the bingos I had blown by playing the E. Only the fact that Mason gave me the E for RURALIT(E) saved me from blowing that turn.

Wasn't sure of PRoBAND against Dan Stock (thought I was confusing it with PROBANG), and as a result by the time I saw another bingo on my rack, I was staring at FOOLERS*. I had a strong feeling that it was phony, and that it had even come up in another game. But I wasn't sure if I was confusing it with CLOWNER*, and I had no other spot for BROIDeR, so I blinked and let it go. I got the challenge, which kind of made up for my mistake. I was still up a bingo and confident when Dan came back with another gimme, RESTING. It then turned into an endgame, and I managed to pull ahead by one point.

Annotated Game

I played Lloyd Mills as hard as I could and managed to hold off his FORESAW and LI(T)ERACY with just one bingo of my own, SOUNDER. I was hopeful when I pulled ahead with a 43-point FRANC. Unfortunately Lloyd got the bingo, with both blanks, and for 85 points, and a win was impossible from that point. I lost by just 22, and as I was working out that endgame I thought back to my decision to keep my S instead of playing FRANCS for 9 extra points. With those 9 points plus the M (from the pool of DGIIM), perhaps I might have scored an extra 13 points in my last two turns and made up the deficit.

Incidentally, I couldn't help but be amused by Lloyd's choice of bingo--I assume he chose it for my benefit.

Annotated Game

Final game, somebody new to me, Steven Anstandig, the bottom seed. How hard could it be to pick up that fifth win and a healthy dose of rating? Tougher than you'd think, when your opponent manages to break free of the bingo-unfriendly ladder-to-the-sky game we had been playing with pedestrian shit like AERATED and ALATION. I managed to fend off the first bingo with JERRI(D), and the second with GhOSTLY, but Steven managed the Q and X and second blank in the endgame, and I could not compete, even with my phony STIMI(E)*.

Annotated Game

Unbelievable. Once again beaten by the bottom player. That spider had totally lied. Promised land my ass. Then it occurred to me. The spider must have been named Charlotte. And Charlotte is in North Carolina. And North Carolina hates me!

On the other hand, when I looked back at the games I had lost, I realized that in each one I had suffered for several turns because of a vowel deficit. Suddenly it all became clear. The meaning of "PRMSD LND" was not that I would win the tournament, but that I would lose for lack of vowels. In a way, the spider had not lied, but I still felt like a promise had been broken.

On the bright side, four wins was just enough to nudge me back over 1700 and out of the land of the subhumans. Still under 1800 though, and thus pretty much a nobody. I couldn't wait until NYC, where I desperately needed to make a breakthrough.


#1 - Slankard    
0 OX  
9.1 INIA  
0 AEEIIO (E)  
0 UPROA(R)  
0.4 HURTS  
0* JO(I)N  
0* (E)ME  
7.8* AMA  
0 FIBE(r)  
40 challenge ANoDIC  
#2 - Hoekstra    
36.8 lose turn (UNSNARu*) aNURANS,UNSNARl/(MAR)l hook,NoNSU(G)AR
7.8 UNSNARe*  
0* W(AXE)D -NZ?
0 CUB  
0 DEZIN(C)  
0 W(H)ELK  
0.4 VibRATE(D) RAVE(D) (too much danger of drawing Q)
0* Q(A)T  
0 GLA(R)Y  
#3 - Epstein    
0 DUD  
14 LEI  
22.7 UN(R)IMED  
0.5 VRO(U)W  
0 YAY YAYS (unsure)
1.5 QUINT(E) 2J QUINT(E) 14J (that doesn't make sense)
6.7 VI(E)  
0 COOTs  
0 OI  
#4 - Shambach    
4 FAUN  
0 VUG(H)  
0 (U)NHOLY  
6.3 OWE  
9 IF  
7.5 BIT  
3.6 Z(O)OT(Y)  
1.6 (I)NK  
0 M(I)B/M(IT)*  
0 DOLT  
#5 - Stock    
41.6 BAP PRoBAND (sure of PROBANG but not PROBAND)
9.6 EX  
6.7 P(Y)IN  
0 J(I)G  
0 DOWI(N)G keep Z to draw A
0 ZA  
0 FOH  
6.9 VAI(R) TAV/(BREN)T (sure of BRANT but not BRENT)
3.6 TAO  
0 HACE(K)  
0 U(V)EAl U(V)EAs
#6 - Mills    
0.7 THEIN  
8.5 EMU  
0 BUBO  
0 AX  
12.4 ALP  
0 D(E)V  
0 NAV(Y)  
0 SOA(K)S  
#7 - Anstandig    
0 YOM  
3.3 HOW OW (keep EEHOR)
3.1 REC  
1.9 BOO  
6.5 (O)E  
0 JERRI(D)  
0 A(VIAN)  
0.7 -GGKPU (ST)  
6.9 RUG(A) GUL(A)R or RUG(A)L both kill a bingo line!!!
0 KEG  
0 STIMI(E)*  

1 - W - 4.4 (57.3)
2 - L - 9.1 (117.7)
3 - W - 6.1 (79.3)
4 - W - 2.4 (33)
5 - W - 6.4 (89.8)
6 - L - 2.6 (31.2)
7 - L - 1.7 (22.4)

Avg: 4.7

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