Day Four - After finishing Day Three with three straight wins, I started Day Four with renewed enthusiasm, but soon found myself thinking (like you as you read this, I suspect), "when will this end?"
Game 22 was with Lila from New Orleans, one of the women I saw at the reception. I've played Lila several times at tourneys in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Houston. I don't have the stats at hand, but I think we're about even during those games. I know I won our last game--one that I should have lost. This game began in hideous fashion--I exchanged seven twice; there was no score above 22 until Lila made JAYS for 36. Even so, I was only down 144-122 when she played PASsION. My next two turns included another exchange, this time only three tiles. By the time I finally played my bingo, KNItTERS, she was up 291-146. My bingo scored a juicy 86, but only reduced the margin to 59. She smartly blocked my outbingo, STROBILE. I settled for the non-bingo BROTHEL for 15 and lost by a 285-381 score. Overall record, 8-14, -577. The NSC scorekeepers found 20 points for me between Day Three and Day Four, kind of like finding an open deck chair on the Titanic. I forgot to mention that Game 22 found me on Table 58, out of the back row. I figured that more play like this would take me back home.
Leprechaunlike Dan from Virginia was my next tormenter in Game 23. I had to exchange six from my first rack, but recovered with MAIZE for 37. Dan responded with TALKIEr. Later his lead ballooned to more than 200 points when he played ADVISER. Desperate for a bingo, I tried ANNULERS*, which is no good with either one or two Ls. Final damage report - 237-448, a difference of 211 points, my second worst game of the tournament. Overall, well let's skip that.
Game 24 matched me with Tim from Massachusetts. He answered my opening bingo of ANNOyER with ABATING. We played along with his lead seemingly expanding with every turn. It mushroomed to 105 points after he played SPLICES. Unexpectedly for both me and him, he set me up for FLOATERS while thinking he was blocking my bingo. No matter, his remaining tiles made UnTIMED for a bingo to go out. Final score, 375-478. Overall, 8-16, -891. My three wins in a row had been negated by three losses.
Back to the back row, Judy from Houston and I matched our sad records in Game 25. Judy is one of my favorite people in Scrabble. She directs the Houston club which hosts a wonderful tournament, the Bayou Bash, every Labor Day weekend. I even played there in 2005, just a week after Hurricane Katrina, and 10 weeks after major surgery. I was "lucky" enough to draw both blanks early and found ToRNaDIC. After I played ICKY for 42 to open a 37-point lead, she answered with OUTAGES. I got RELENTED to eke out a 1-point lead, but RUSTING put her back in front. I despaired. Her last five tiles were OHIAA. There was no way I could stop her from putting the H on top of OMBRE to get enough points to win. I decided to make my best play otherwise, VEENA for 28 and see what happened. Not seeing HOMBRE, she tried the H in front of ICKY to make HICKY*. My only hope was to challenge. To my delight and her dismay, the play was UNACCEPTABLE - X. Off it came. I played AS to go out and win by 30, 396-366. I was too excited to get the score right, though I knew I had won. Judy had to remind me that the 23 points she got for HICKY didn't count. Overall, 9-16, -861. Another afternoon like Monday would leave me with some sense of respectability and a better record than the 12-19 I managed in New Orleans.
To my surprise, I was matched with Matt from Texas in Game 26. He must have been in a slump because he usually plays a division above me. We played another tight defensive game until I found myself with both blanks, two Us, two Ns and a very tight board. I couldn't find a bingo, so I played off TUG to create another opening for my bingo. He covered the T with ZITIS for 68, taking a 111-point lead and making my position almost desperate. I replaced the U and T with I and Y. I couldn't find a bingo there either. After Matt played BRAVE to cut off two bingo lanes. I played another frustrating non-bingo of MEN with a two-blank rack (my bingo had to start with O), Matt surprised me by passing his turn. I played off a P in PAX and drew the last tile. My rack was OUTRI?? Matt blocked the O line as best he could, sticking the S in PEDS in the middle of it. To bingo out (and still not win) I had to make an 8-letter word starting with O and with the S in the sixth position or find an 8-letter word with S in the fifth position. There are none of the former, though I tried OUTRISes*, and only one of the latter, RUgOSITy, which I didn't find - I tried TROUSIng. I finally bailed out to TOURiST elsewhere on the board for 10 point, burning 50 overtime penalty points in the process. Final score, 224-386. I was wiped out, both mentally and scorewise. Overall, 9-17, -1023.
In hindsight, and at the time, Game 26 didn't upset me nearly as much as Game 27 against Roger from Ontario. Roger got ready for the game by getting a big hug from his girlfriend and installing his earplugs. I tried to shake off the horror that was Game 26. I got off to a terrible start by allowing ANALISE*, going back to my old habit of giving Division 2 opponents too much credit. I got away with PRIAM* (which is an old brand of modem, not a word) and later played FILCH for 47 to get back in the game. But things looked better toward the end as I drew the second blank (Roger played the first in QiS). Roger blocked my bingo or ORATIoN. There was an opening for RATIONeR, but I knew the word was no good, and that Roger would challenge it, given that the game was on the line. Rather than using my seven remaining minutes to keep looking for ANTeRIOR, which did play, I played off and hoped for better the next turn. Running low on time, Roger managed to go out while losing only 10 points of overtime penalty to claim the win, 369-383. When he pointed out ANTERIOR and I looked up ANALISE, I was sick. I didn't know how I'd get through the last game. Overall, 9-18, -1037.
Playing my friend Judy again (my first repeat opponent of the tourney) in Game 28 sure helped, as did drawing an early blank to play AILErON. Judy answered with FELSITe to take a 34-point lead. I played from slightly behind, catching up slowly until Judy's last rack full of consonants sunk her. I played WINTER for 30 to take a 31-point lead. She answered with PINS for 27, but when I went out with AWEE for 13 the game was mine and the tournament was over. I hope Judy didn't mind my play-by-play commentary, "And the crowd goes wild!" Final game score, 385-368. Overall record, 10-18, -1020. Fortunately, the players using my equipment back on Table 58 had finished their game, so I was able to pack up right away and leave perhaps my last ever NSC in Division Two (at least for awhile, as I lost almost 100 rating points), unless I make some kind of effort to improve my game. As they almost say on Bravo Network, we'll see what happens.
Here's a picture of NSC 2008 champion, Nigel Richards of Malaysia. Nigel now holds the singular distinction of holding both the world and US titles at the same time, even though the two tourneys are played with different dictionaries.
Thanks very much for reading to here. You are a true friend and fan of the game.