Thursday, October 18, 2007

dadlak Scrabble Diary - Baton Rouge Scrabble Tourney Day One

Here's my Day One diary from last weekend's Baton Rouge Scrabble Tourney. With an NSA rating of 1528, I ranked 11 out of 12 in Division 1. I dialed down any expectation of repeating my money-winning performance in Houston, just hoping to be competitive and have some fun in a tourney that I didn't expect to play in.

Game One was with Pat from Houston, an 1800+ rated expert who distributes her own vocabulary tapes. I've never beaten her in an NSA tournament. Her first play, BENdING for 74, didn't improve my confidence. At least I had two U's to accompany my Q and make QUEUE. Her next three plays (exchange 6; DENI for 21; NEE for 5) allowed me to take the lead by 23, and another set of 30-something plays stretched my lead to 30. Do you know the 7-letter bingo in DEEORRS? I did a few years ago, but not last Saturday when I settled for ORDER for 28. Pat followed with back-to-back bingoes--GrAFTING (through the only opening on the board) for 62 and FATIOURS for 65. The last play stuck an S in the triple column, but I couldn't capitalize. She covered it with HISTS (a synonym for HOISTS). Final score, 359-411, 0-1, -52. My best play was VITAMIN from a V for 39. The bingo I missed was REREDOS. My tracking was good. Overall grade for game, B-.

My Game Two opponent was Orry from Texas, a college student who's shot through the Scrabble rankings to an 1850+ rating in about two years. But lo and behold, I got the first bingo, ORDAINS, on the same turn when Orry had to play UNDUE for 14. My lead was 103 points when Orry played HALTERS, hooking it to ABOUT for ABOUTS*. A strange word, ABOUTS* that is, but I decided to trust Orry and let the play go. It turns out that he had ABOUTS* confused with ABOVES. Orry sensed me on the ropes, I guess, and followed with BUSHTAIL*, which I also let go, in part because I had DEpOSING for 80 to take a 57 point lead. I figured the game might come down to the last bingo, which I got with TORULAE. I almost played TOLURAE*, but caught my mistake in midplay and corrected the spelling. Orry worked to make his own bingo, but an unseen Q got in the way. With one tile in the bag and me holding a 111-point lead, I decided I didn't want to see a replay of the Stu game in Houston. I passed without playing. Orry didn't have a bingo. He made SPICED for 36 and drew the Q. Here I made my third non-fatal mistake of the game, not seeing his second home for the Q. I blocked QI with TI for 2, when I could have played NEVER for 18. He had QAT elsewhere, and went out, sticking me with 12 points. All this incompetence by me cut the margin to 36, but I still won 439-403. Overall, 1-1, -16. Tracking good; my vocab good; passing the X--great; accepting two phonies--bad; end game--bad. Overall grade B, bumped up for beating a 1850+ player, no matter how it happened.

In Game Three I played Gloria from nearby in Louisiana, the only player ranked behind me in the draw. She beat me the only other time we played in a tourney. On my second play, my mistake reminded me how important it is to look for a better play. I played XI for an easy 52 and missed HELIX for 64. Gloria got the first bingo with QuEERING. I closed the gap to 17 after a few turns (including my phony BILIATE*), but her second bingo, SPRAYED and followup of ZAPS stretched her lead to 89. I made a nice find with ROUNDELS. F and blank were the hot tiles left. She drew both, made FaIR for 42, and got the win, 414-362. 1-2, -68. Tracking good; end game OK; got BILIATE*, missed HELIX; found ROUNDELS and its hook; overall grade B-.

I steamrolled my friend Carole from Lafayette in Game Four. FRESHlY for 88 got me going on the opening play. Later I got JEEING for 44, RITZ for 42 and the doubt-removing LOUNGEs for 82. RAINIEST for Carole wasn't nearly enough. 465-329, 2-2, + 68. An "A" game all the way.

Game Five proved to be the ugliest of the day, even though I scored 401 and only lost by 30. My opponent was Reid from Baton Rouge, another fast mover through the NSA ratings system. His first bingo GARNETS was no problem, but shortly thereafter he fit three consonants around some vowels to make KALLAN* (a word that I should know is phony--it's my daughter's name). He followed with the more likely-looking SISTRAL* to open an 85-point lead. I got back in the game with DOMINEeR for 83 and BOX for 45, actually holding a 19-point lead before his ZeRO/ZA for 64. I fumed, because had I been watching the power tiles, I could have blocked that spot. In the end game, I had to play JOE for 38 to catch up. He found CLAVE and UNCI to leave just a U to go out. I could have played safe and lost by one, but I swung for the fences with ZEROSE*, which of course he challenged off. 401-431, 2-3 + 38. Overall grade, D for allowing two phonies and not blocking the Z play.

Game Six was with Lila from New Orleans, one of the co-organizers of the tourney. This time I got the phony bingo with RATEENED* and followed with the legit STORMIER. After she exchanged six and I played YELL for 24, my lead was 309-205. I played off a bunch of O's and A's the rest of the way to win 376-310. Overall, 3-3, +104. Another "A" game as I tracked well, got a phony bingo and played a good end game.

As at Houston, the last game of the day, Game Seven, would determine success (4-3) or disappointment (3-4). My opponent was Bill from New Orleans, who've I played many times in Louisiana tournaments and held my own despite his typically higher rating. After QUINOL to the TWS (and Q on DLS) for 92, I was looking good (for a few seconds) until Bill bingoed on back to back plays with OLEANDER and roSEOLA (four hook play). I played off CW and BY on successive plays and got to the point where an A would make ACETATE, though I knew that Bill would block the only spot for the play if I could put it together. I played "S" for QIS and pulled the A that I needed. Fortunately there was one tile in the bag, which put some doubt in Bill's mind. He decided that I wouldn't bingo and played VIGS elsewhere, leaving my spot open. I bingoed out for 95 points and a 449-387 win. Simply blocking my out play with XI for 20 points would have given him te win, even though he would have gotten stuck with the V. Grad e for the game, A+, I found QUINOL and figured out how to win. Overall, 4-3, +166 and fourth place out of 12 after one day. Overall GPA 3.2 (B)

My daughter pressed me to get out of the Baton Rouge Bridge Club (site of the tourney) so we could go to dinner and watch the end of the LSU-Kentucky football game (won by Kentucky in three overtimes). The Jalisco Shrimp and the margarita were delicious. I looked forward to Day Two, until it started.

P.S. Pictures from the day are locked in my camera until Kodak writes back. I plugged my digital camera into the wrong charger, now nothing works.

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