BY14 - Grabbily Ever After




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Friday, April 9, 2010

I've always wondered what kind of person I would have been if I had never found the ring. Perhaps I'm fooling myself. Perhaps the ring had nothing to do with my having lived a life of unabashed greed. Perhaps I just use the ring as an excuse, as a way to convince myself that I am not the bad guy.

It was a sweltering August night, and up until then I had lived a pretty much normal life (if anything about me can ever be called "normal"). I was fifteen, my hormones were raging, and I spent a lot of my time wandering around nearby neighborhoods and exploring, often looking for discarded nudie magazines. Contruction sites were often good for this, but that night, inside the skeleton of an unfinished house, I found something entirely different, something which led me to an act that I cannot disclose, after which I found myself running through a nearby woods.

Panicked though I was, I could not help but notice an orange glow through the trees, and my curiosity got the better of me. What I found when I investigated was a large rock, smoldering and broken in roughly two halves. Lodged in the center was the source of the orange glow, an object... a ring.

I did what anybody would do upon finding a glowing ring out in the woods--I put it on. Instantly I felt myself change, and the fear I had felt earlier was replaced by a powerful desire to go back that house and finish what I had started. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to resist my ring-induced desire, and I continued on home. As I jogged through the rest of the woods, I wondered how I could hide a glowing ring in my room, but that question turned to be moot. Before I ever got home, I felt a tugging on my hand, and all of a sudden the flew off my finger and into the air. That was the last time I ever saw the ring, but I would feel its residual effect for the rest of my life.

Shortly after my encounter with the ring I began collecting things. Comic books, card, stamps, coins, books, whatever. I felt a burning need to collect things, and I always wanted more of everything for myself. I stopped sharing. I felt intense jealousy whenever somebody else got something I wanted. I rooted for Gordon Gekko and tried to carry the greed and excess of the 80s well into the 90s and beyond.

Flash forward to my Scrabble career, and the effects of the ring had subsided not a whit. I wanted to win every game, and I took every loss personally. My attitude towards Scrabble was similar to the way I had played chess, but with a twist. In Scrabble there is that element of luck, of drawing good or bad tiles, and naturally I wanted all the good tiles for myself. Loyal readers of my blog know the rancor that I felt whenever my opponents drew the good tiles, and now you know the reason why... the eternally-lingering effect of the orange ring.

Friday night after work I headed out from Princeton and stopped in Bensalem for my precious Tradewinds tea and then in south Philly for a massage with a new therapist. A very cute Haitian, Jade's massage excellent, hitting all the right areas, but, as usual, I still wanted more (despite Ghostface's sage advice). I always want more. There's hardly a massage therapist whom I haven't tried to fuck, in my orange-influenced quest to have sex with as many women as possible. Believe me, when Madonna once said "too much is never enough", I took her words to heart.

On an unrelated note, why was the release date for Money Never Sleeps pushed back???

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My detour into south Philly the night before had screwed up my schedule--I hadn't counted on some event, a baseball game I'm guessing, slowing me down. On top of that, heavy construction on I-95 south of the city, and by the time I hit the rest area south of Baltimore I knew I wasn't going to get enough sleep. I cut my schedule as close as possible, and by the time I reached the Rockville Town Center I was already late and with no idea where to find parking or where the playing room was. Amazingly enough, the tournament had not yet started when I walked in, at least 15 minutes late, and I was able to play Jeff Cook with a full clock.

Jeff misbingoed early, and it took me eight turns to bingo and take the lead. The game could have gone either way, and though I won, my spread was just 25, and I was seething! THE NERVE OF THAT JEFF!!! That first game should have been good for 100-200 points. Winning... wasn't... enough!!!

I tried to show Smurfy what was what with an early quality bingo, VERSeMA(N), but then he tried to nutsack me with a late bingo followed by a 36 point play (due, honestly, to my not making my best play). Had he gotten that other blank, I could have lost!!! The nerve of these people, making me fight for what was RIGHTFULLY MINE!!!

My grabbiness continued, and I took both blanks against Lou Cornelis and finally managed to post a significant spread, 159. You can't say it was 100% luck however, because his decision to pass up JURANTS and instead play JUNTAS made big difference.

Meanwhile, at some point during the morning Jeff Jacobson asked if I had noticed the attractive woman in the red dress--let's call her Penny. I had indeed noticed her, but I had forgot her almost as quickly. My earlier, less evolved self would have been scheming about different ways to cop a feel while in the elevator. I'd had plenty of practice with this in the New York and Boston subways. I was so good a grabbing and groping, in fact, that the city of Boston launched a campaign to target people like me.

There was none of that on Saturday, however, because the newer me was making progress in my transition away from being attracted to women. Interestingly enough, that part of me was at odds with the avaricious part of my nature, the part which wanted to take as much as I could from women, by whatever means necessary. It's possible that this all started in middle school, when a group of us male students would try to see how many asses we could grab while walking along the crowded hallways in between class periods. If memory serves me, the instigator of all this was as a Chinese boy named Robert Wang (good luck googling that one). Robert and I would later have a falling over over my strong suspicion that he had taken a pair of comic books from my desk. The books had disappeared, and a few days or weeks later I had seen the very same books at his house. Subsequent to that, I started calling him a "chink", and that represents the last and possibly only time in my life that I've ever used a racial slur in a malicious way. But, I digress.

I grabbed a quick lunch from La Tasca and returned to face Bob Linn and find that my grabbing hands' sometimes fail to grab all they can. My whopping 230-point loss was particularly disappointing because I managed the sweet play of DIS(QUALIFY) as an 75-point extension to Bob's opening bingo, and I also challenged off Bob's (U)R*. Despite this, and just a couple of major mistakes, the game turned into an epic fail.

Annotated Game

Next game, Barry final-four-in-Charlotte Keith looked like he was continuing his grabby ways and took nine power tiles out of the bag for a 269-point wins. AARRGHH!!! I felt just what a bunch of the Charlotte players must have been feeling after Barry knocked them out of the finals, but a hundredfold. Barry took the tiles and the win that should have been MINE, MINE, MINE, ALL MINE!!! Moreover, after those two games, I would go 7-1 before my spread finally hit the positive numbers!

Annotated Game

Next game, let's try something a little different, a musical interlude.

My final loss of the tournament was due to a tremendously bad break against Vince Castellano. Quackle actually likes the weak blocking GOF(E)R play, but after Vince had just exchanged six tiles, I thought the odds of a triple-triple were extremely slim, while my chances of bingoing from a leave of CORT? were pretty good.

Annotated Game

Final game of the day, Lucas Hayden. He had come within a hair's breadth of ruining my Philadelphia tournament, but this time I turned the tables and grabbed nearly all the good stuff for myself. OH, BEAUTIFUL TILES, MINE, MINE, MINE!!! I managed a 61-point win without even bingoing with that final blank. I will credit myself for H(E)TAERAS, however, and maybe also RODLESs.

Annotated Game

That evening I had to do some painful things and go against my nature. First, I gave Woody a ride back to his hotel. Not that I have anything against Woody, it's just that the idea of doing anything for anybody without getting something in return is anathema to me. I usually demand a hand-job (why isn't this good in TWS???) from anybody who rides in my car, but Woody is a married man. Afterwards, I stopped a the Cuban Corner down the street for what turned out to be a mediocre meal of moros y cristianos and tostones, and then I headed to Ashburn to visit my cousins and their young kids. Again, something I did begrudgingly, because there wasn't anything in it for me--I didn't need a place to stay, and I don't like kids. Finally, I headed into the city to visit my ex Michelle. I'd long since stopped trying to fuck her, but she said she was hosting a "gathering", which I interpreted to mean a wild bacchanal with mad honeys, probably because I'd just seen the film Greenberg. Unfortunately there was only one other woman there, and she was attached, so I left empty-handed and pissed off. I felt that if I had made the effort to drive all the way from Ashburn to DC and then find parking on a busy Saturday night, I should have at least gotten a blowjob (good in Scrabble) out of it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thanks to the start time having been changed from 9:30 to 9:00 (I hate it when they do that), I reached the town center barely in time. The doors were locked for some reason, and I would have been even more late if this honey from the Visual Arts Center hadn't been downstairs to let me in. I was grateful for that, but I was even more grateful that I successfully dispelled my orange-influenced impulse to hit on her.

By contrast, I wasn't all grateful for Ed Steward and the way he managed to hold me to a 15-point win. I did grab both blanks, but I only bingoed once, for 72, while Ed bingoed twice, for 81 and 94. I actually feared I would lose that game, to a 1539 player, and I cannot stress enough how much of a psychological impact that has on me. Of all the rule changes being considered, I think the most important change is to disallow players rated significantly lower, say 300-400 points, from actually scoring a win against the higher-rated player. We can let the scores stand, and the lower-rated player can use the game to pick up spread, but HE SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO WIN!!!

Well, if you read enough Disney comics, you'll find that Scrooge occasionally fails to get the loot, and so it was that Uncle Scroogetiles finally failed to draw enough ammo to overcome my skill. I was particularly pleased to open with HA(L)AZONE (shout out to my man Cesar for that one), and hopefully show Dan what was what. Based on comments directed at me, and comments I overheard, I suspected Dan did not respect my skillz, but a play like HA(L)AZONE should have helped to change his mind.

Next, my rematch with Grabby, I mean Barry, Keith, and before the game I straight up told him he owed me several hundred spread points. When I opened with TOADIED, I thought this might be the game that put my spread into the positive, but Barry clearly had different ideas and came back with ANXIOUS. I replied with LABI(A)TED, and I started to feel hopeful again... for all of a few seconds before Barry played FOOTmEN. NOOOOO!!! My precious! Barry took my preeeecious!!! Jeez, Louise, hath this guy no shame??? I regained the lead with ZON(U)LE for 50 only to watch Barry play the second blank, ROsEBUD for 95!!! OH... MY... GOD!!! Thankfully, I had STRAW(I)ER, but of course Barry hit the Z for 42 and retook the lead. The rest of the game was pretty tough, but that studying of power-tile sevens ended up paying off in a huge way.

Annotated Game

Vince Castellano had second shot at ruining my tournament, but he missed the anagram of FINITES to give up 12 points, and then I made the wise, and tactically important decision, to leave just six tiles in the bag on my next to last play. If there is a chance that your opponent can bingo twice and win, leaving fewer than tiles in the bag eliminates that possibility.

Annotated Game

FINALLY!!! It seemed like forever since this had happened, but I managed to grab my very best draw of the tournament against the very best player in the tournament (not me, not David) Bradley Whitmarsh. Oh, how he must have loathed me after that game, my fifth win in a row.

Annotated Game

Of course, whatever Brad was feeling was nothing compared to what he would have felt had he known how I managed to grab that victory. To understand this, you have to understand that the effect the orange ring had had on me was more powerful than any other force I could imagine. The ring's influence motivated me to heights of avarice that were hardly human, to collect everything I could, to hit on every woman I could, and to win everything I could. When I played chess, I was just as motivated to win as I am in Scrabble, but there was no effective way for me to gain an advantage. With Scrabble, however, things were different. It did not take me many tournaments to realize that an unscrupulous and highly motivated player can cheat in ways that are virtually undetectable. In a earlier blog I joked about cheating in various ways, but that was an April Fool's joke, and all the tactics I enumerated were too easy to detect. So was Patrick Hodges's method, as evidenced by the fact that he was eventually caught... but not before hitting a pretty high rating (for the time) and ranking. Unlike Patrick, who is reported to have played for the money, I almost always cared just as much about actually being better as I did about winning every game (and I did want to win every game). When I read the reports, however, the ring's influence glowed within me, and I felt that I had as much right to achieve what he had. That's when I really applied my 160 IQ to devising methods of cheating that almost no one would be smart enough to detect.

Annotated Game

Just as a magician cannot reveal his secrets, and the Wu-Tang cannot reveal their secrets, I cannot reveal the secret of my recent success in Scrabble. I'll just say that those people who blamed the new ratings system are barking up the wrong treak, and also that certain players, those who are particularly vulnerable to my "special technique" have real reason to hate me. Too bad for them they'll never figure it out.

Part of successfully cheating is knowing when do it, and when the time is wrong. In that final game against Bradley, for all the marbles, the timing was wrong. I had to let him have his strong plays and momentum, and I had to resign myself to losing that game. It wasn't worth the risk, not to win a few hundred bucks and some rating. Plus, Bradley was sure to get suspicious if I beat him for a fifth time. Fortunately for me, Brad made a late-game mistake that allowed me an amazing, have-to-see-to-believe, comeback, and I won my first multi-day tournament in eleven months!

Annotated Game

I had no idea the prize would be so high, 500 smackers, and with that kind of bread in my pocket, I was able to head up to the Hustler Club in Baltimore to do a different kind of grabbing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh, well, so much for that $500. And pretty much everything I had won in Scrabble that season. Turns out the bouncers at the Hustler Club didn't see my point of view, that winning the Scrabble tournament entitled me to get grabby with the strippers. And it turns out that mouthing off to the bouncers is a bad, bad idea. And it turns out that treating a broken arm in the emergency room is really, really expensive. Greed... sometimes not so good.


#1 - W - Cook    
3 A(V)OW  
3.7 Z(I)LL  
5.4 FEINT  
0 O(N)AGER  
0 (F)AVE  
0 QADI  
4.4 FLY  
0 P(A)CT  
0 DEKE  
1 WE(E)R  
#2 - W - Keller    
1.8 BOOING  
0 VERSeMA(N)  
1.2 FLED  
1.3 -DLLNPQ (R)  
5.2 FUCI  
3.4 QA(I)D QA(I)Ds
2.7 LAMIA  
10 OUZO  
22.4 YEH  
36 JOWs  
#3 - W - Cornelis    
4.9 AX  
1.1 ALULA  
5.1 YEAR  
0 FO(R)GO  
4 IDEnTIT(Y)  
12.4 V(I)LER K(E)VEL
0 Z(A)  
12* D(O) thought I could block QAT  
0 SL(E)EKiNG  
#4 - L - Linn    
6.3 EBON  
5.8 GUI(D)  
6.6 TUI  
12.7 TOLU (trying for DIS(QUALIFY)  
1.6 (O)E  
10.1 E(TUI)  
0* aSTEROI(D)  
2.4 FRI(G)  
1.5 OR(S)  
12.7 R(A)J  
5.6 VIA  
0 W(E)N  
#5 - L - Keith    
4.7 (T)URD (P)URDA
0 JURA(L)  
7.7 (r)E(C)YCLE  
0 WAI(R)  
5.3 O(B)IA  
1.6 AEON  
5 YE  
1.1 (F)IR  
3.9 D(O)N(E)  
1.7 G(E)D  
48 lose turn (UNVERST*)  
#6 - W - Faria    
4.2 HM  
0 PREX  
0 (K)EF  
0 GOL(F)ER  
2.5 CL(a)Y  
0 VAW  
0.2 WAGE  
8 PLIE  
2.6 BOS  
0 U(V)EA  
49.3 lose turn (TUNA(FISH)*)  
6.5 NUT  
0 SITE  
0 ZO(E)A  
#7 - L - Castellano    
5.7 EXITED  
3.4 FAR  
7.3 P(U)LP SC(U)LP
0 JOSH  
0 (O)OZY  
4.8 AE  
0 (H)OVEL  
2.7 WITED  
0* F(AN)G GOF(E)R is best for defense
2.2 TI(L)E  
19 lose turn (A(G)ITI(C)*)  
#8 - W - Hayden    
10.9 MINI  
0 BI(L)LET  
0 OWE  
7 DENI  
3.2 H(E)TAERAS  
0 G(OR)P  
1 GR(ID)  
5.9 RODLESs can't believe I missed (F)OnDLERS in a blog about grabbing
3.9 C(I)G  
0 PEK(ES)  
29.5 F(E)Z  
#9 - W - Stewart    
7.4 MOG  
0 SAU  
3.9 OI  
0.1 JAY  
0 (V)IDE  
0 PAI(L)  
17.8 DAFT DISTAFf (thought needed 2 eses),(DE)ADlIFTS,InD(R)ADTS
31.8 (I)CH BuCKISH
0 BOB  
14.3 OX  
7.4 Z(AX)  
0 R(ICH)  
7 RIG  
0 LEGs  
#10 - W - Milton    
0 GAME  
0 VOTE  
0 BA(G)GY  
3.1 CURVE(D)  
7.6 D(O)RR take out Dan's best line
9.4 KI K(N)A(R)RY,(N)A(R)KY
0 I(R)IS  
#11 - W - Keith    
18.8 VEINY  
0 PUMIC(E)  
0 ZON(U)LE  
7.6 (T)ORQUE  
6.8 H(E)H don't see (TORQUE)R yet
9.8 REIF  
0 T(I)C  
0 EMS  
#12 - W - Castellano    
0 HIVE  
0 J(U)T  
0.8 LATTeNS  
18 FOG  
1.6 RIO(T)  
0 ICE  
45.1 CODONS didn't trsut (OPAH)S
2.4 ORIE(L)  
0 (R)AZE  
0 (LO)NE  
0 Q(I)  
0 ALOW  
#13 - W - Whitmarsh    
4.7 ZAIR(E)  
0 JOTA  
0 COV(E)T  
2 WHAP  
0 BUDGE(D)  
4.5 OUD  
0* QI  
0 (U)NLOAdER  
0 FEST  
0 SOX  
#14 - W- Whitmarsh    
0 GAL  
1.6 CAW  
7.8 DIB  
0.1 (D)AVY  
0 DUET  
0 (V)OW  
2.5 -II (CISST)  
15.8 VA(S)E UKA(S)E (not best)
0 PUJA  
18 (AR)K  

1 - W - 1.7 (19.9)
2 - W - 12.1 (145.5)
3 - W - 4.2 (50.6)
4 - L - 4.7 (65.3)
5 - L - 6.6 (92.9)
6 - W - 5.2 (73.3)
7 - L - 4.2 (54.5)
8 - W - 4.9 (64)
9 - W - 6.2 (105.2)
10 - W - 2.2 (25.8)
11 - W - 3.6 (43)
12 - W - 4.9 (67.9)
13 - W - 0.9 (11.2)
14 - W - 4.8 (62.1)

Avg: 4.8

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