Sunday, August 3, 2008

Good Afternoon From NSC Diary Day Three

INTERMISSION - The NSA and Hasbro hosted a player's reception after Day Two. Presciently, they moved the event indoors (by the 7:30 p.m. start time a cloudburst had rolled into the resort area). The Kona Islander Lager was outstanding. Hors douevres quality was mixed. The company, at least the folks I sought out, was great. I found three women from New Orleans, Rhonda, Maneck and Lila, against whom I've played in many tourneys over the years. I also found Vivienne, a wonderful 83-year-old woman from Toronto, who taught me many on-line Scrabble lessons when I first got started. We chatted about her life in Toronto--she organizes charity Scrabble tournaments--recruiting celebrities from the worlds of literature, entertainment and sports to raise money for senior citizen needs. I'd met her in San Diego in 2002. Seeing her again was one of the highlights of the event.

Game 15 was with Connie from Philadelphia, a nemesis of mine from early days of online play in 2000 and 2001. I'm not sure she recognized me with the beard, or remembered me from meeting at the New Orleans NSC in 2004. After nine tuns of this one I had the grand total of 138 points, having exchanged seven tiles on my last two turns (all vowels followed by all consonants or vice versa). When I finally got a playable rack I made DEW for 30 points. She used the new hook to bingo with ETOILES. I exchanged again--this time only five. She played AURAI* as a vowel dump--I looked hard at it, but let it go--only 18 points and it made a home for my MARKER. On the next play she faced the "block or score" challenge. She scored 22 with ENS. I was happy with her decision as I fit OUTGAIN under QUIT for 77 points. Still I was down more than 70 after she responded with VEEP for 43. ZARF for 40 was fun, but the final margin stayed at 70, 339-409. Overall record 4-11. I'll catch up with the overall spread later.

Poor Ann, a 1600+ player from Texas with just two wins in 15 games was next in Game Sixteen. Our game almost sent her over the edge. She opened with TORSADE. I responded with SOLANGE*. She let it go--I'm not sure what I was thinking of. I should have played TANGELOS using the T in TORSADE. A few plays later I made the beautiful find of POTPIES, which I played with some concern whether this was one or two words. She came right back with tWINIER. PIQUE for 32 helped me get the lead temporarily, but she got both PIQUET for 46 and PIQUETS for 53. I thought I was doomed. I had a blank, but no opening for a bingo. To her own despair, Ann provided an opening with VINIER. The V stuck out into open territory perfectly for me to play GOVErNED and go out. Final score, 472-427. Overall record, 5-11, -603. Ann didn't get much sympathy from her husband, who thought her call was the hotel wakeup call. He hung up three times before answering--probably the saddest story of the tournament.

Game 17 matched me with Dan from California. I'd seen him lingering in the back row and figured it was just a matter of time before we met. I could have waited as he opened with RELEAsE and followed two turns later with PROVIDER to take a 66-point lead. His next bingo was STRAITED*, a phony that I didn't challenge (STRIATED from the same tiles is good--and the word set up a 50-point QUIDS for me). I never really got a toehold in this game and lost 333-401. My overall record dropped to 5-12, -671.

I've played David J many times in my life, but not the David J from Illinois who was my Game 18 opponent. My DJ, an 1800+ player, moved from Louisiana to Oregon a couple years ago. He missed the 2008 NSC because of an interfering yacht race in the Pacific Northwest. In this one I made the first bingo, NEATENs to take a small lead, but David got the last one, an unblockable SiLVERS to post a narrow win, 331-349. My overall record reached its NADIR at 5-13, -689.

After a morning of three losses and a gift win, I was ready for lunch, although I knew it wouldn't be very exciting. Rather than go out (no transportation as my mother dropped me off each morning) or walk to the hotel and spend $20 on the buffet (too lazy and too cheap), I ate a half-sandwich, bag of chips and a Coke each day from the canteen set up near the playing room. I also used the time to take advantage of the hotel's outstanding free wireless network, primarily to work with my vacation pictures. Back at my mom and dad's I've been struggling with a connection made through my daughter's cell phone--sort of a dial-up, wireless hybrid. On Saturday and Monday I bought a big cookie to use for an energy boost in that last game before lunch, generally one of my weaker efforts.

Lunch brought the metaphorical afternoon sun out for me. In Game 19 I faced Francis from North Carolina, a civil engineering student from NC State. I wished him good luck with his (and our) bridges. This was a close, high-scoring and fun game throughout. We matched bingos with SATIETY and RAREFIES (I almost played ZINCY before I saw the bingo). He got the next bingo with RUTTIEST and followed with DHOW for 43. Another loss loomed until I drew the Q and played QAT and QI for 45 to retake the lead. The Scrabble gods allowed me to pull both blanks, denying him a chance for a late comeback. My game, 453-413. Overall 6-13, -649.

I played another backrow denizen, Erica from Pennsylvania, in Game 20. I learned that she was rooming with Vivienne. We talked about what a wonderful person she was and about the joys of the Delaware Valley. I got a bingo, PETTERS, on turn two. She made LOrDLIER a couple of turns later, but still trailed by 54. GUANO for 8 seemed to sum up the rest of her game, though she did make XENIA for 51. A second bingo of cLEARING sealed the win for me, 447-338, one of my smoothest games of the tournament. Two wins in a row! I didn't know quite how to act. Overall I improved to 7-13, -540.

Game 21, the last of Day Three, was with Shah from Virginia. I drew well and played SATINET on the opening play. A couple of turns later he tried VARANDAS*, which I recognized as a misspelling and challenged off. Later I foolishly opened the board with NARK. He pounced with MINERALS to pull within 20 and then PIX to get within 7. At that point he was overwhelmed with consonants and I pulled away to a 375-316 win. Three in a row! A winning day (4-3)! Improvement day-by-day (one, then three, then four wins)! A "decent" overall record possible with a big Day Four. The serotonin was really flowing. Overal, still a dismal 8-13, -481 but it could have been (and would become) a lot worse. But I didn't know that when I fairly skipped (oops, I forgot, I don't skip anymore) out of the Royal Pacific Ballroom.

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