This One's For Joe (or Escape From Calamity George)






Saturday, November 1, 2008

In the week before the Lexington tournament, my rating had dropped at the same time that Joe Bihlmeyer managed to break 1700 and surpass me for the first time. This was, of course, an intolerable state of affairs. The way I saw it, I had two basic paths to redemption. One, I could drive to Connecticut, sneak into Joe's abode in the dead of night, tie him up, and make him my bitch. Or two, I could kick the crap out of the field in Lexington and boost my rating to a place Joe would never reach.

Not sure which would be harder, really. For that matter, I wasn't even sure which would better serve to put Joe in his place. Overtaking his new rating would certainly irk him, but how could I be certain that Joe wouldn't actually enjoy being tied up and ravaged. Seriously, some people like that kind of thing. Look at the person next to you. Your coworker. Your Scrabbling opponent. Do you really know what kind of strange things that person might enjoy? I suspect many of the most outwardly conservative people out there are truly into some freaky freaky shit. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anyway, I woke up shortly before my 8:00 AM alarm with a good feeling in my bones. I did not feel sleepy at all, despite having lost a much-needed hour to Chicagoland traffic. Yes, of course I'm aware of what the traffic in the area is like, and that's why I left at 2:15. But Chicagoland freeways, are, frankly, a mess--I think the middle of the night is about the only time to avoid traffic.

Anyway, feeling like I had slept enough was one piece of good news. Absence of a headache was another. No headache and no sniffles. A pleasant surprise, because I had felt so bad on Friday that my manager even suggested I skip the weekend so I could recover--obviously he doesn't know me very well.

The morning wasn't all rosy though. I drove around the block looking for that same restaurant I'd found during my last trip to Lexington, but I struck out. Had I driven less than a mile past the tournament site, I would have found good biscuits, but instead I had to settle for that overpriced-yet-satisfactory Starbucks oatmeal. No, I'm not getting paid to promote it. Beats me why I keeping mentioning it.

Holy wow!!! Gas under $2.00!!! Perhaps that was a good open. For two weeks I'd been hoping the miserably tiles I'd seen in Elyria would turn around, and I guess all that hoping worked. I started seeing gold right away against Marc Broering. After an early (W)ARTIMES I scored steadily, and when Marc finally bingoed for 74, I came right back for 77. I posted 150 spread in that game, and then 144 against Linda Hoggat.

Next game, against Eric Harshbarger, I bingoed with SIENNAS and DIOPT(E)rS within four turns. I could not help but notice the sharp contrast between the guano I had drawn in Elyria and the gold I was striking that morning.

Meanwhile, Ken Dutch asked us to stop our clocks for the 2nd (or third) time, and his entreaty for silence was a bit more forceful. Given the size of the room and the hardwood floors, I did not really expect that the volume level would remain under control for long. I wondered to just what extent Ken's admonishments would escalate.

Eric suggested lunch right after our game, so I took a break from driving and let him lead the way. We agreed on Chick-fil-a, but a block before we arrived I looked up from my laptop and spotted the Coffee Break Cafe. Never too late for breakfast, that's my policy, so I decided to try the French toast. I could just as easily had biscuits, except they ran out. No problem, though--the cafe kept Sunday hours, and I resolved to get up early enough to continue my research into America's best biscuits.





With great tiles, three wins, and an excellent brunch, I was feeling pretty good. I went into my fourth game with confidence, certain that I was going to get the better of Bowman this time around. Remember what I said last time? Didn't I say Bowman was going to have trouble if I got the early momentum. Well, QIs for 44 plus ELAPSES two turns later gave me exactly what I needed to put the pressure on. I suppose it was that pressure that prompted Brian to try EXO(R)DIAS*, but I was still a little insulted. I mean, come on--did he really think I wouldn't have anagrammed that rack a bunch of tiles already?

I have to be fair, though--I shouldn't have thought I could get UNBOOTs past him, but you know how I have trouble resisting phonies. Didn't matter, because with the blank I bingoed anyway, and with luck on my side I continued to score. Stumbling across OUTLI(N)ED--that was just the icing on the cake.

I saw my first tough racks of the day against Mark Owens, and my slow start was made worse for the most bizarre of reasons--studying!!! How can studying hurt, you wonder? Well, Friday at work was the day of the demo we had been building up to for a month. I was feeling like crap--headache, muscle ache, sniffling--so I sat down at a table and studied fives, F thru J, while waiting for my part of the presentation. I specifically made a point of zeroing in on GIBER and JIBER and noting that neither GYVER* nor JIVER were good. Wrong. For some reason the word had been left off my list. I've no idea why. It's not a common vocabulary word. I should have had it on my list in light grey--it shouldn't have been missing.

Luckily, my lucky tiles had not disappeared--they had just been delayed. I drew one blank for SNARfED to get close, and then I scored well to catch up and pulled ahead with OARSMEn. Mark did manage a late bingo, LOGIEST, but luck was still on my side. His last two tiles were V and T, and without an out-in-one, there was no way for him to win. Whew.

I finally lost a game in round six, but I cannot blame the tiles. I had them, and I would have had Jeff Clark had I not stupidly challenged P(E)rLITES. I saw that he had r(E)PTILES, but Jeff had already blundered with (LACK)Y* and I thought he was just blundering again, thinking of PEARLITE. Instead, I was the blunderfool, and I paid the price... a four-point loss! AARRGHH!!!

Squandered great tiles for a second game in a row. My stupidity this time is hard to describe. I did well in playing off my P to avoid emptying the bag in case George Viebranz bingoed from a pool of EIOCLSRRT. But then, with the bag empty, and seeing he had COSTRIL*, I went ahead and played BIZE for 50 assuming that I would outrace the bingo. All I had to do was block, and I would have won. Instead, the score came out a tie, and I chose to recount. I went for the win, and I lost it by four.

No, you did not misread the above paragraph. It's just that I wrote that paragraph right after the game, and I did not realize until the next day that I had made the single worst error that a Scrabble player can make. I did not challenge the out play!!! I was so certain that COSTRIL* was good, probably because that's the first word that comes to mind every time I anagram the rack, that I didn't even think to challenge. UNFORGIVABLE!!!

It has been my experience that the tile gods usually punish one for such folly, and, after blowing two games, I was sure my luck was going to take a turn for the worse. Amazingly, the gods must have decided to cut me some slack, because I got down an early DUNITES against Mike Paxson. He came back with CA(N)OEIST (I can't believe I actually held--embarassing), but I pulled ahead again. A few turns later he pulled ahead again with eNGIRDS, but I came right back with JILL(S) for 36. The endgame could have gone either way, but once again the tiles fell my way.

Sweet tiles continued into the ninth round, as I exacted no small measure of revenge against Kelly McKenzie. RETABLE early followed by DISTANT a few turns later. I got a third bingo down SEIsING (amazingly, I was unsure of how to spell SEIZE), and unless Kelly drew the other blank and final S, my victory was all but assured. Needless to say, he didn't draw both.

Well, I guess I couldn't really expect to get beautiful tiles 10 games in a row, and I ended up the day at a 7-3 with a second loss to Viebranz. Sure, some people might have thought 7-3 pretty good, but given that I'd blown two games and could have been 9-1, I was pretty disappointed.

I was more tired than anything, however, so I decided that the street just outside the tournament venue was good enough for a campground. Any other night of the year that might have worked fine, but not that weekend. Shortly after settling in for the night, I started hearing more cars driving by, and then voices. It took a while to dawn on me that a Halloween party was taking place at one of the houses, and by that time I didn't feel like getting up even though I was having such trouble sleeping. I hadn't had that much coffee, in my opinion, but I was in first place, and I think I often have trouble sleeping when I'm doing well--anticipation and such, you know.



Sunday, November 2, 2008

Late Bird

After winning the Late Bird, I was pretty anxious to get back to the Main Event. I was less anxious to play George Viebranz twice right off the bat, and I found the pairings a bit odd. But I wasn't that disappointed--I did, after all, owe George a beat-down. He'd won our last three outings. Yes, one of those wins were due to my amazing stupidity, but the other two... flat out luckbagging.

The tiles fell my way during that first game, with an early ALIEnEE and TrEFOI(L)S plus an extra turn from challenging CONGENE(AL)*. George finally did bingo a couple of turns later, PR(E)ENING, but I came back with A(N)TILIFE. My only disappointment that game was that I wasn't able to get down the R hook--I really want to play that word one day.

Unfortunately, George still had a bit of the magic fingers. OUTGRIN and double-double MITO(G)ENS in his first three turns, then QOPH(S) for 58 followed by (Q)ADI for 42. Despite his crazy luck, I had managed to stay within a bingo, but I was not destined to win that game. What happened next... that was just crazy. George gave up back-to-back turns trying (R)ECARTED* and E(S)CARTED*, and this allowed me to come within ten points, but despite the extra turns I was not able to draw the final ess or blank, nor a bingo despite my decent leaves. Another painful loss.

As irksome as the loss was, perhaps more irritating were Ken Dutch's comments on CGP. He wrote: "Suppose (for the sake of argument only, and not because someone actually came up to me and told me "never in the over 200 tournaments I've been to have I had to face the same person this many times in a row") that the round-8 1st and 2nd place players face off in round 10, and then again in rounds 11 and 12. If the first place player really was that much better than the second place player, he would eventually push the second place player below the third place player and earn the privelege of playing that person instead. In the meantime, the first place player is being given the honor (and challenge) of playing the best available player from the remainder of the field. No less than Chris Cree verbalized (in the Orlando directors' meeting) that his preference is always to be playing the best available player in the room."

Assuming what Chris said is true, Ken's comments were irksome for this reason. I lost my first game to George because of one stupid dual-pronged mistake in the endgame, miscalculating what he would score for his bingo and then failing to challenge his out-bingo. Up to this point I had given up just 21 equity points. George gave up more than that just challenging ENCAEn(I)A. Second game I played fairly well, just 65 points dropped.

Sunday morning I got some luck with back-to-back early bingos, but George might have had a chance if he had not dropped a turn with CONGENE(AL)* and if he had hooked (ANTILIFE)R to set up a new bingo line. Given the pairing system, if I was going to "push him" below the third place player, it had to be in the twelfth round, and that, as I just described above, proved pretty much impossible.

So that's how the thirteenth and fourteenth rounds saw me trapped in Calamity George--fortunately I won those two and managed to climb out of that hole. If, as Chris said, I had wanted to play the best player in the room, I'm sure I've played most of that field enough to know it wasn't George. Harshbarger is a much stronger player, and I doubt he would have suffered any of the lost challenges that George did. Clark, though having a poor tournament, I think is stronger just on the basis of his experience playing the Division 1 players at the Michigan tournaments. Bowman, though overrated at 1800+, still wouldn't have managed to hit that rating if he weren't a much stronger player than George. This is no knock to George, mind you--he's got some skills, but no way was the he the best player in the room.

Besides never having played an opponent six times in the same event, there was another first. I started the game off in first place, by 8 spread points, and I never gave up first for the entire tournament--I think that was a first.

With those two wins, I finally managed to secure myself a new opponent, Eric. I was assuming, of course, that Gibsonization was not an issue since Eric was just 400-something points behind me. I was surprised, then, when Ken came over to ask if I knew what the absolute rule was. I didn't think there was one, but I related that in my experience nobody had been Gibsonized with such a small spread lead. It looked like Ken was leaning in that direction, but fortunately I had Jan Dixon's number and Ken managed to get her on the line. From what I could hear it sounded like there really wasn't a clear rule, but Ken decided to get our opinions. I made it clear that, while I would had loved to take those 300 dollars, I did not think Gibsonization was appropriate. And Eric, well he obviously wanted a crack at me.

As soon as I saw my opening double-double DER(A)TING, I figured it was extremely unlikely Eric was going to beat me by the required spread. I still wanted the rating points, however, and for that Eric gave me quite a battle. INPO(U)RED erased my lead, but I came right back with LOC(A)TION. Eric, undaunted, came right back with AREnOSE to even it up. Fortunately, I had the last blank, and an S, and once I ditched my Q and got STRIVEn, it was all but over. Eric went down fighting though--if he had drawn the X after playing ALIASES, he might have pulled it out.

Given Ken's somewhat autocratic tendencies, I was worried he would insist that I stay for the awards ceremony to receive my winnings. Nevertheless, I asked, and I was pleasantly surprised that he obliged my request. As tired as I was, even a thirty-minute head start on my long drive was appreciated.


Given what I had faced in Elyria, I couldn't help but wonder just how superior my tiles had been this time around. I was still about even on high-point tiles, but I did twice as well on blanks--two thirds versus one third.

J - 7/15
Q - 10/15
X - 8/15
Z - 5/15
S - 28/60
? - 21/30

What a difference those extra blanks made! I got down seven extra bingos, 30 to my opponents' 21, compared to 23 to 26 in Elyria.

Opponents - 21
(E)NLIStED
GrANTEE(S)
OXIDASE
SLEEKER
REMATIN(G)
LOGIEST
P(E)rLITES
ENLARGE(D)
AENeOUS
CA(N)OEIST
eNGIRDS
ARMLETS
TRUN(D)LES
PR(E)ENING
OUTGRIN
MITO(G)ENS
UNP(L)ATEd
ToURN(E)YS
INPO(U)RED
AREnOSE
ALIASES


Mine - 30
(W)ARTIMES
ASTONiE(D)
CANNOnS
SARSNET
SIENNAS
DIPT(E)rS
TALENT(E)d
ELAPSES
UNeATEN
OUTLI(N)ED
SNARfED
OARSMEn
GuRNETS
ENcAE(N)IA
HOISTED
DUNITES
RETABLE
DISTANT
SEsING
ArEnOUS
ALIEnEE
TrEFOI(L)S
A(N)TILIFE
hELLOES
PIgTAIL
TICKERS
TRIABLE
DER(A)TING
LOC(A)TION
STRIVEn

Missed
(L)ONGTIME
STRAN(G)ES
MEGiLLA
mANTEL(E)T
UNBOOT(E)d,BOUTONs
SOl(A)RIUM,ROS(A)rIUM,U(R)SIfORM
(D)RaWBORE,WaR(D)ROBE
H(O)ODIEST (played HOISTED, but lost game by 4 points)
FO(R)SPENT
WO(R)THILY
TU(R)NCOAT
SUNnING
EqUINES
SOLITUD(E)
AERO(ME)TER
H(A)LOLIKE
OvERCUT



Analysis

#1 - Broering    
-------------    
6.4 BY  
0 AGA  
14.4 (W)ARTIMES  
1.6 PEH  
5.4 WOLD  
8.9 GROK wrong place
0 BOZO  
0* XU  
0 I(R)ATE  
16.9 (S)EL  
0 ASTONiE(D)  
0* Y(E)  
55 EM (L)ONGTIME
0 (BI)OG  
0 (A)NT(i)  
1 I(T)  
     
     
#2 - Hoggat    
-----------    
0 CANNOnS  
3.5 (A)HULL  
31.7 (T)AU  
39.3 S(L)ANTERS* STRAN(G)ES
12.3 SARSNET  
1.5 O(D)EA  
10.3 TRI(G)O  
16 COW  
0 DOG  
0 FOIBLE  
4.6 -QRRV (BOX)  
0 FIX  
0 VIBE  
12 GOT  
0 (KITE)R  
0 R(EF)  
0 OW(n)  
     
     
#3 - Harshbarger    
----------------    
0 HEH  
0 SIENNAS  
0 BOOM  
5.2 DIOPT(E)rS  
0* FE FELLA
0* O(D)EA  
0 EARL  
0* TRUE  
0 Q(U)IPU  
9.4 XI  
24.2 GLAM MEGiLLA
0 TALENT(E)d mANTEL(E)T
     
     
#4 - Bowman    
-----------    
0 QIs  
4.9 AE(C)IA (ALS)  
0 ELAPSES  
0 FI(B)  
45.2 lose turn (UNBOOTs*) UNBOOT(E)d (saw it),BOUTONs
0.7 BOO  
0 UNeATEN  
10 THIR  
0 WIV(E)  
0 OUTLI(N)ED  
0* GEY  
4 CU(I)NG  
     
     
#5 - Owens    
----------    
1.3 FAIN  
8.9 C(O)BRA  
4.6 LAUAN  
36.3 challenge JIVE(R) SOl(A)RIUM,ROS(A)rIUM,U(R)SIfORM
14.6 UM  
38.6 -IOOO (RS?) ROSOlIO
5.4 SNARfED  
0.1 WI(R)Y  
0 (W)EEK  
42 WEB(E)R (D)RaWBORE,WaR(D)ROBE
3.8 OARSMEn (L)ARkSOME
0 Q(A)T QA(I)D
3 CO(n)GA  
0 ROD  
     
     
#6 - Clark    
----------    
0 GuRNETS  
0 Q(u)EEN  
3.6 WARN  
0.7 CISSY  
0* DIE  
3.9 IMPE(L) UNPI(L)E
17.2 A(H)I  
38.4 challenge P(E)rLITES  
1.6 NOR  
0 JEE  
3.1 (P)OO  
1.9 WIT(HE) WRIT(HE)
10.2 BRAV(A) stupid
2 UN(C)I  
0 (G)U(T)  
     
     
#7 - Viebranz    
-------------    
0.8 HAW  
0 ENcAEN(I)A  
0 DOYE(N)  
9.8 HOISTED H(O)ODIEST
2.7 VAR RIVALR(Y)
0 QIS  
0.1 TORR  
2.2 T(A)J  
0 WIG  
0 GOLF  
5.4 MOB  
0* P(I) must not empty bag
58 BIZE had to block bingo
0 UNeATEN  
9.8 THIR WHORT
     
     
#8 - Paxson    
-----------    
21.1 FOP FO(R)SPENT
0 DUNITES  
0 HO(N)ER  
3 KERRIA  
38.4 WH(E)Y WO(R)THILY
0 (W)OOLIE  
30.1 OUTACT TU(R)NCOAT
0 JILL(S)  
0* FI(C)IN  
23 QUaRE  
0 X(I)  
0 (E)D  
     
     
#9 - McKenzie    
-------------    
0 JOW  
0 RETABLE  
0 M(E)RL  
9.9 EFT FEST/(MERL)E/(ZAPATEO)S
2.3 CA(B) SANCTA,TA(B) (leaVE ACNST instead of ANSTT)
0 DISTANT  
0 Q(I)  
20.1 PONY  
27.1 UN SUNnING
0.6 SEIsING  
23.2 OH HA(I)L/(SOB)A (miss hook!!!)
28 (LO)CO ditto
0 (K)IVA  
3 URa(R)E  
     
     
#10 - Viebranz    
--------------    
5.3 (B)ODEGA DAGO(B)A
2.1 AMIA  
17.1 (EX)INE EqUINES
7.9 ArEnOUS OUtEATs/E(AR)/A(MI)/T(IN)/S(AE)
0 WOW  
0* ABLUTE*  
0 QI  
7 CARE CIRE
4.7 EPI(C)  
3.6 YAR  
2.3* IF  
12.4 (E)ND hail mary
3 COV(E)  
     
     
#11 - Viebranz    
--------------    
2.2 AMIE  
0 ALIEnEE  
22.1 TrEFOI(L)S  
0* DO(C)K  
2.4 BRA(V)I  
5.2 BROW(N)  
0 A(N)TILIFE  
0 TAXING  
16.1 WORST can't let George have S hook
0 JOEY  
45.1 STOLID SOLITUD(E)
0 UTS  
     
     
#12 - Viebranz    
----------------    
0 UNION  
0 Z(O)UAVE  
0 VIX(E)N  
0 hELLOES pOLLEES,fELLOES
2.8 JIBE  
31.8 O(V)ERT AERO(ME)TER
0* AY (D)ECURY
0 AA  
0 COU(D)  
0 (D)ARER  
1.4 GIL(L)Y GLEG(L)Y
2.9 AH  
6 TR(E)F  
0 WE(T)  
     
     
#13 - Viebranz  
----------------    
2.7 M(I)NX  
18.9 PIgTAIL TAILPIp(E),PITIAbL(E)
6.3 BRIT BY/(GROWL)Y to leave DEIRT,DEITY
5.7 (B)OYO E(B)OOK
6 VE(N)IN LEV(U)LIN
49.8 HELLO H(A)LOLIKE,HELIO
3.2 (O)ES  
1.2 TICKERS/S(CAPE) RICKETS (unsure of S(CAPE) so try misdirection)
0.8* BU(T) (R)EDBUG,(R)UBIED
11.7 GRID  
0* AGAZE  
4 HAE  
0 (J)EE  
     
     
#14 - Viebranz    
--------------    
0 QI  
1.3 WITH  
0 OLEINE  
3.7 HAED  
1.3 P(I)NG  
0* GORP George has ERTU? so force bingo at 7H
0 TRIABLE  
17.7 JIB E(D)IFY
5.5 YAW (R)UFFE
11.9 FE(U)D  
12.1 MO  
6.4 FON blocking
24.3 (R)ECUT OvERCUT
18 R(E)V  
     
     
#15 - Harshbarger    
-----------------    
0 DER(A)TING  
0 FLOW  
3.9 WEET  
0 CLIMB  
3.6 AJUGA wrong spot
0 LOC(A)TION OL(FA)CTION
0 Q(I)  
0.1 STRIVEn  
4.5 MIRZA  
14 OX  
0 YID  


1 - W - 6.9 (109.6)
2 - W - 7.7 (131.2)
3 - W - 3.2 (38.8)
4 - W - 5.4 (64.8)
5 - W - 11.3 (158.6)
6 - L - 5.5 (82.6)
7 - L - 5.9 (88.8)
8 - W - 9.6 (115.6)
9 - W - 8.2 (114.2)
10 - L - 5.0 (65.4)
11 - W - 7.8 (93.1)
12 - L - 3.2 (44.9)
13 - W - 8.5 (110.3)
14 - W - 7.3 (102.2)
15 - W - 2.4 (26.1)


Avg: 6.5


#1 - Owens    
----------    
8.2 LEU  
0 HAZES  
0 (A)FOOT  
1.7 I(O)DATInG  
3.3 WEAR  
5.2 COAL(Y) COPA(Y),COOL(Y)
0 OUTPaIN(T) OUTPoIN(T),PrINTOU(T)
11.7 GU(C)K  
0 QI  
7 MOD SLO(J)D
0.5* DELS  
25 SWE(P)T  
2 BEN(T)  
     
     
#2 - Harshbarger    
----------------    
2.6 FAVA  
3.8 EYRA EYRE (As in short supply so keep it)
0.8 KAMI KAME
0 FEU  
0 HIVE  
1.3 Q(I)  
15.7 C(U)T stupid
8.4 SA(D)  
2.4 -BNUW  
4* EX(O)N  
2.7 (E)RR  
1.3* TUN(E)  
12.1 HOG  
21.1 UN(BOX) UN(TUNE)
23 W(U)RST  
     
     
#3 - Paxson    
-----------    
0 BABOO  
0.4 TIP TUP (leave two Is???)
66.4 WILT WISTFUL (and I even wondered about a FUL word!!!)
3.8 TUF(A)  
0 PIX  
0.4 CAD  
0 AERATES  
0 HOVER  
13.7 REC(ON) miss (BABOO)N hook
7 (SH)OJI ditto
0 FUNKY  
26.7* pass misguided Q and Z endghame logic
0 (PIX)Y  
11 OZONE  
     
     
#4 - Harshbarger    
----------------    
4.6 QI Q(O)PH
0 HEX  
3.5 GOoPiE(S)T PETrOl(O)G(Y)
0 BAND BATT
0 T(E)W  
1.1 DUC(I) CUR(R)ED
0 ENTRAIN INER(R)ANT
6.9 GR(I)TH  
10.7 ILEAL  
4.5 WO FOU
0 JU(P)E  
0 RIF  
0 U(S)  


1 - W - 5.0 (64.6)
2 - L - 6.6 (99.2)
3 - W - 9.2 (129.4)
4 - W - 2.4 (31.3)


Avg: 5.8



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