Only Scrabble Can Leave Such a Scar

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spent Friday night at a rest area along I-65. Signs specified "NO OVERNIGHT PARKING", but I had cleared Chicagoland later than I hoped and did not want to waste time looking for a Wal-Mart or some other place. I was not bothered during the night, at least not by cops. What did bother me was the approach of my 37th birthday, and the fact that six months later I will be closer to 40 than to 35. 35 was always the ideal age by which I needed to have done something significant, and that age was just getting farther and farther away. It seemed like the last 10 or more years of my life had just disappeared, and any vision of actually accomplishing something significant was beyond a far distant horizon. Worse, I could see no line from my present to that point.

I think I slept enough, but nevertheless I started to feel a little queasy as I drove the rest of the way into Plainfield. I can't blame that for what happened that day, though--once I got some coffee and some Yuck-fil-a in me I started feeling better.

Six turns into our game, after I played IKON for 32, Mike Paxson commented that I hadn't played for less than thirty points. I followed up that play with TYROS for 43 to go up almost 100 points, and I felt better still. It was going to be a good day, I thought, and I had visions of 6-0 and a spectacular rating. Of course, with two blanks unseen and an open board, I took nothing for granted. Sure enough, my tiles fizzled and I could only play for 16 while Mike bingoed for 59. The second blank was still unseen, and I held AADIINT, so a loss was a definite possibility, but I managed to hold on.

Annotated Game

Brian Bowman might have gotten the better of me that day, but he still failed to show me that he had any real chops. Other than knowing to hook (GOTHIC)S in our last game (Strongsville), I couldn't recall his every having made top-level plays in our games, and Saturday was no exception. OLEFINE, (E)AUX, and GOOIEST put him up 90 points, but by that third turn he had already given up equity by failing to hook GOOIEST to STENTOR for 10 extra points. Meanwhile, I was playing perfectly, but it was just my bad luck that BEND just happened to give Brian what he needed for RECOATE(D). Now he was up 111, and that pressure resulted in my first, and game-losing, mistake, trying CH(O)PT*. I might have still had a chance despite this, but Brian's 69-point Z(O)NE effectively ended the game.

Annotated Game

Next game, our friend Nick from across the pond, and though he got some pretty favorable tiles to maintain healthy momentum against me, I had to give him credit for finding ALBATAS. That play put him far enough ahead that even my triple-triple mISRE(A)DS did not put me in the lead. Still, I was just 5-points being and holding tiles that were not awful--ELMORTX, but I failed to play a winning endgame because of a chronic weakness that I need to overcome if I'm ever to move into the top tier of players. No, it wasn't missing UN(G)ENIAL--I doubt most players would find that word. Rather, I'm referring to the ability to look at the board dynamically. Given that I held the last E, I should have been able to see that playing OX at N3 instead of J3 would give me a fair chance at a strong play. And as it turned out, had I played there, I would have had TERMER for 43 points and the win.

Annotated Game

During that game an unusual situation came up. I played my bingo, did not draw tiles, and went to the bathroom. When I returned I saw that Nick had played REV(E)lING with a blank, and I think he told me right away what the blank was. My first action was to say hold, and then to ask what the blank was. Some time after that, I don't know how long, I took the tile bag in order to draw tiles, and I then noticed that Nick had already drawn. I immediately stopped the clock, indicated to Nick there was a problem, and went to the other room to find Jim. When Jim and I returned to the table I explained what had happened and said that the situation had a remedy, that Nick's tiles needed to go back into the bag. Adrian Minella at the next table said he didn't think that was correct. Jim said went off to go look for his rulebook, and meanwhile Nick said he had a rulebook, and I asked to see it. Nick first found rule "IV.B.5. Drawing Out of Order", which indicated there was no corrective procedure, but I was sure there was another rule that applied. I quickly found rule "IV.L. Leaving the Playing Area During a Game", which specifies that your opponent does not draw tiles while you are gone.

When Jim returned with his rulebook the three of us went outside, and I made my point. Jim seemed to agree, but then Nick then pointed out that he had not drawn tiles until I returned to the board. I had to take his word for it, as I had no idea, because I had naturally been focused on processing the play on the board. Nick was of the opinion that IV.B.5 was the applicable rule, but I insisted that this situation was not the same because I had left the table. Upon returning, a player cannot be expected to focus both on processing the play on the board and preventing his opponent from drawing. In my opinion the spirit of the rules dictated that Nick's tiles go back in the bag, and Jim and Nick finally agreed. Further, I wanted to see the tiles before Nick returned them to bag, but I had to compromise on this point. My primary concern was that Nick not get a crack at that second blank before me.

Lunch, catered by the Texas Roadhouse, was actually pretty good--the chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans were all excellent. There was even cake, in honor of Jim's mother's birthday, but after my devastating loss to Marc Broering I wouldn't have been in the mood for cake even if I had remembered.

ZI(T)HER for 40, BONIEST for 82, and RADIOM(E)N for 65 gave me some solid momentum against Marc Broering. I was confident of a win, yet somehow I completely failed to find the correct play that would have blocked his (L)EGALIST. But it was my next move where I gave up the game--my "moment of surrender", if you will. First, I should have been solid on LEGALIST. Second, I should have seen my comeback play, (R)EtINENE. And third, I should have determined that if I just played I could probably win with the blank. Stupidest challenge in a long time.

I could still keep the tournament from being a total disaster if I could beat Marty Gabriel, in our first ever game, but after trading 8-point fishy turns, he was blessed with a bingo, M(U)TINEER while I got the lame INORRTY. Marty's scoring did not let up, prompting me to give DERNIER(S)* a try. No-go, and then Marty got down PADDLES on top. I had no choice but to try RERIN(S)ED*, and it stuck, but probably only because Marty already had one or two blanks and was sure he would win... which he did.

Annotated Game

My hopes for a ratings boost had long since gone out the window, but I still hoped to at least stay above 1800. Unfortunately, four really easy bingos fell off Mike Paxson's rack, NEAREST, WEEDERS, INTREAT, and AIRLINE. My chances were tougher--I would have had to find NAKED(E)ST and/or be sure of BOILO(V)ER. Grrr... shades of the type of games that led to my falling to 1595. 1787, my estimated rating, wasn't nearly as bad, of course, but I was still looking at three weeks living with the scar of a sub-1800 rating.

Or perhaps not. Thankfully, I had checked cross-tables during the tournament and noticed that there was a Guelph tournament the very next day. No falser words were every spoken than when Gene Rawlins declared the Guelph events " ludicrous, laughable and ridiculous". As I rushed away from Plainfield, I was extremely grateful to Andy for his tournaments and the immediate opportunity I was getting to redeem myself.

Opponents' Bingos (Main Event)

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns


#1 - W - Paxson    
0 POX  
1.8 STRIVED (misadded score) DIVERTS
10.9 V(E)RB  
0 WAN  
0 IKON  
0 COO(L)IE  
1.1* WOOL  
0 UNAI  
#2 - L - Bowman    
0 VROW  
0 QI  
0 GL(O)VED  
0 JAP(E)  
0 BEND  
29.5 lose turn CH(O)PT*  
41.1 TOPIC(S) (intentional pass on PHOn(E)TIC) CHIPOTl(E),POsTICH(E),(E)uPHOTIC
7.7 BA (have to leave TWO lines open)  
21.4 HE(R)D HEDGIEs(T) (so low on time from previous turn that I didn't even look for a bingo)
0 KYE  
#3 - L - Ball    
0 MAKE  
0 JO  
0 (Z)OWIE  
0 CR(E)PT  
0 OLIO  
4.8 OI  
0 mISRE(A)DS  
1.9 OX J3 OX N3 (sets up a possible win)
0 MERLTE(R)*  
#4 - L - Broering    
5.6 ZI(T)HER  
8.6 FLOP  
2.4 BIO  
0 (C)AKING  
0 (W)AIF  
0 HAO  
14.3 challenge (L)EGALIST  
0 (R)EtINENE  
0 P(AI)L  
0 WAN  
#5 - L - Gabriel    
0 GOX  
6.3 (E)TUIS  
2.8 IN  
2.2 TOY(E)R  
0 QI  
0 JU(T)E  
0.2 LAP  
30.5 lose turn ((DERNIER)S*)  
0 FRA(I)S(E)  
0 AGL(O)W  
0 LIT  
#6 - L - Paxson    
0 LOGO  
0.7 LAX  
3.7 ACUTE  
0 VO(E)S  
0 ADJOinS  
8.2 TOYO 10G wrong spot
48.9 BO(I)L BOILO(V)ER (unsure)

1 - 1694 - W - 4.7 (51.6)
2 - 1802 - L - 8.6 (102.7)
3 - 1617 - L - 4.9 (59.2)
4 - 1728 - L - 3.2 (38.2)
5 - 1836 - L - 4.9 (64.2)
6 - 1694 - L - 14.4

Avg: 6.8

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