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More Scrabble Babble

Another Scrabble tournament is in the books. Below I give an account of the experience, which included a surprise honor, and like the boy crying “Wolf!” I once again wonder in public, “Was this my last tournament?”

The tournament

On the weekend of November 10-11, I played in the Twin Cities’ annual fall WGPO tournament. I had hoped to play in division two, but I made the request to move up too late and had to settle for playing in a surprisingly strong division three. I was seeded two of fourteen players in the division and—surprise!—finished second.

I am no more inclined to write another game-by-game accounting of a tournament than you are to read one, but here are some factoids …

Wins 10
Losses 3
My average score 402
Opponents’ average 360
High game 551
Low game 265
My bingos 21 (falters, rootling, terminals, suspend, genitor, aroints, tinders, violets, shunters, linters, gelatos, hairlike, sedgier, hooting, cogents*, relents, striper, trounced, enslave, tweeters, retains)
Opponents’ bingos 12 (hinters, sunspot, screams, railers, strained, heartens, extender, minnions*, garrets, naivest, roundest, disputer)
My blanks/S’s 15/24 (39)
Opponents’ blanks/S’s 11/28 (39)

… to which I will add some random observations:

The nine-letter TERMINALS through N and L was my best play of the tournament. It was a case of too little, too late in a 398-408 loss to Melissa B.

I was physically and mentally wiped out for the eighth and final game of day one, and it didn’t help when my opponent drew both blanks, all four S’s and JQX. The Z was my only power tile. What really stung, though, was that I let my opponent get away with the ugly phony bingo MINNIONS*. He used a blank as the second N. I do know how to spell MINIONS, but I was tired, in a bad frame of mind, and I failed to really look at the word when it was played. A few turns later I noticed the obvious misspelling. My frame of mind didn’t get any better after that. I scored a tournament low 265 points in the game to finish the day at 5-3 with a positive cumulative score of just 79 points.

Day two began with a big surprise. I was inducted into the Minnesota Scrabble Hall of Fame for my contributions to the community by maintaining the Twin Cities, Minnesota Scrabble Players website (more later). I must have benefited from the aura of respectability conferred by the induction, as I averaged 449 points per game while winning all five of my Sunday contests.

In game ten I played the phony COGENTS*. I was up by almost 200 points (see scorecard) at the time, and I didn’t much like the word. I know what COGENT means and why it shouldn’t take an S, but I thought there was just the slightest chance of it having a secondary meaning as a noun (perhaps a math term?). In playing it, I knew I was putting my opponent in a difficult spot. An unsuccessful challenge would really put the game out of reach, and would do a number on his cumulative spread (which is an important consideration in tournaments). He had unsuccessfully challenged my earlier bingo, HAIRLIKE, which I knew might influence his decision. On the other hand, challenging it off the board was maybe the only way he could get back in the game. As it was, he did not challenge and I went on to win 551-263.

My final game was against the young woman who was seeded first in the division. A year ago (as recounted here) I beat her in the final game of this same tournament to win the division on cumulative point spread (we both finished 11-2). As we started the game, we knew that if division leader Steve D lost his last game (he was 9-2, +615 at that point), the winner of our game would place first.

As it turned out, Steve won his game by two points, and so our game did not decide the tournament. But we played an exciting, competitive match as if it were for all the marbles. Things broke my way in the endgame, and I managed to win by nine points. If my talented young opponent stays in the Twin Cities after finishing grad school, she will get her revenge. Maybe I should retire from tournament Scrabble before she gets the chance.

An unexpected honor

It was an honor to be selected to the Minnesota Scrabble Hall of Fame. There are many others who do as much or more for our clubs as I do, but my looming “retirement” must’ve bumped me up in the queue. I have played club and tournament Scrabble since 1998, but I did not get in for my exploits across the board. The first of three criteria used to select MNHOF members reads[1]

Made a significant contribution to Scrabble in Minnesota.

Maintaining a website was all it took! I appreciate the recognition, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it.

Last hurrah?

If this was really my last tournament, I will retire with a final tournament record of 294-281-1. I have competed in 47 NSA/NASPA/WGPO tournaments, winning five of them. I never qualified to play in the top division of a multi-division tournament, however. According to the websites that track these things, I’ve won an estimated $1,445 in prize money. That is probably about half of what I’ve paid in entry fees.

Anyone who has seen me play recently knows that I am getting close to the point of being unable to draw tiles, place them on the board, or maintain my scoresheet. I went into this tournament feeling pretty strongly that it was my last. Sue H reminded me, though, of a player who used to compete despite the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis. His wife accompanied him to tournaments, where she manipulated tiles and handled his scoresheet. Joann, Nicole, and Tammy have all offered to do the same for me. I might just take him up on it. We will see.

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