Afternoon endostea

Wednesday, 24 August 2005 — 3:46pm | Scrabble

It’s Dave Wiegand in five. Going into the best-of-five ESPN final, it couldn’t have been closer by much – Wiegand stood at 21-7, +1074, while World Champion Panupol Sujjayakorn snagged the second spot with the same victory count and a +1000 spread.

Panupol took Game 1 with a calculated bingo-out, the 86-point SABERING – final score, 467-388. An early lead propelled him to another huge win, 463-349, in Game 2. Both were great games, the first in particular: I’m sure heads turned when Panupol closed up and grabbed a triple with DUPER in Move #10, instead of opening wide with the bingo UPREARED. A miss, or an example of inscrutable n-ply genius? I don’t know, but THERMOS was one hot-looking play.

Then Dave pulled a threepeat. Check out the beautiful find in Move #5 of Game 3, EULACHON on a double-double – the best of only two possible bingo words and a very limited number of positions to play them. (Actually, play through all the games if you can – there’s some overtly championship-level Scrabble on display from both sides of the board. Not many would spot all the minute strategic considerations at work, but the obscurity of the word-slinging is a sight to behold.)

I found Game 4 to be the most interesting, in part because it was the closest battle yet – step through it, and look at how the two players leapfrog each other in seventy-point bounds, both stopping only to dump and reload their racks. There’s a dramatic moment in Move #17 when Panupol, holding ILORTT?, sees the unplayable seven – TRIOLeT – and, according to the commentary, lays it on the board before pulling it back, realizing it made the SOWPODS-only TE#. How much of a strategic advantage it provided Wiegand, I’m not in a position to know, but the Oregonian held a lead to the end.

That was more of an evenly matched deciding game than Game 5, which was a huge run of luck for Dave; with two blanks and three bingos in his first four moves – LENSMEn, REENTERs and PARTING, all he had to do was shut down the lanes and grab the bonus squares, which he did in style. 539-331 and the 2005 National Scrabble Championship go to Dave Wiegand, though apparently the players scored it as a 529 without a recount (as clearly, none was necessary).

I’m wondering how much of the final will make it into the ESPN broadcast; last year’s matchup between Trey Wright and Dave Gibson only went to three, and I hear a good chunk of it was trimmed to make it into an hour with commercials. Here’s hoping Game 4 is the one they show in full, although I’m looking forward to seeing any of those televised should I manage to do so here in ESPN-less Canada, so as to get a sense of the pacing in this incredible series.

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