A man of letters, peradventure

Sunday, 2 October 2005 — 8:04pm | Scrabble, Tournament logs

First of all, to those of you displeased with Telus – bugger off, buddy. It’s indirectly on their account that I have come by a pass to an advance screening of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit 7pm Wednesday. Yes, giving me free stuff is sufficient absolution of questioned corporate social responsibility, unless your name is Michael Eisner, and he’s not a factor as of last Friday.

“Is it just me, or is it a little odd to be ordering at a McDonald’s beside Bill Kinsella?”

Shannon Burns, lunch after Round 15

This year’s Western Canadian Scrabble Championship was full of stories that non-tournament players should have no trouble appreciating, so I will relate some of them here lest they be trapped forever in the lore of the competitive circle.

In the upper reaches of Division 1 in the second of the two Early Bird tournaments that precede the main event, Albert Hahn and Jason Ubeika came within 11 points of shattering the world record for the highest-scoring game of Scrabble (that is, considering the aggregate scores of both players). Albert played five natural bingos and at one point held a seemingly insurmountable 200-point lead, but Jason fixed that with a quick 176-pointer, VARIANCE on a triple-triple – one of four bingos, assisted by drawing both blanks.

Nevertheless, Albert comes out just ahead, 566-531.

Then in the main WCSC tournament, again in the top division where the players are skilled enough to make good use of outrageously imbalanced entropic disturbances in the string-field called Luck, Mike Early played a triple-triple of his own – ANTEFIXA for 212 points, which vaulted him to the highest score ever recorded at a Calgary tournament, 647.

Calgary’s own Jesse Matthews, who vaulted right past me and landed in the expert zone in the span of only two or three years, took home the golden horse’s ass for the Most Outrageous Successful Phoney – and boy, did he ever deserve it. On the first day of the main event he opened with a 60-point play that can be called both a monstrosity and a panflute virtuoso: ZAMFIR*. (You might remember his work from the tail end of Kill Bill, Vol. 1.) Outrageous? Nay, I’d call it outstanding. What’s more, he snuck it right past Dean Saldanha – a former Canadian Championship finalist and one of the best players in the country, my age or otherwise – without so much as a hint of brow-furrowing suspicion.

My own performance at the WCSC was satisfactory, I’d say. For the second year in a row I was the bottom seed of twenty in Division 2, barely making it above the cutoff with a rating of 1204, a mere shadow of the 1399 that was dismantled piece by piece at New Orleans last year. Given my field of competition, I was statistically expected to win five games of seventeen, but I outperformed it with a record of 9-8 (-237) – well out of the prize money at tenth place, but respectable. My tournament rating is going to shoot back up to around the 1280 mark.

The negative point spread, in spite of a winning record, is courtesy of Michelle Davis from Texas, who obliterated me 542-262 thanks to four bingos of hers to none of mine. I had not the good fortune of doing likewise to anybody else, though my 300-287 victory over her husband Carl was also a story to remember, and not only because I won $20 for posting the lowest winning score in my group. In this one, I was forced to block off and outplay a substantially more potent rack at the end of the game, DEIOSZ?. No, he didn’t have room for DOZIESt, but I put him in a position where he only had one play that would guarantee a win (in an attempt to minimize what I thought would be my losses), and he missed it. We both went overtime.

I received another $20 for “Living on the Edge” and having the narrowest margin over three wins of all the players in the tournament – +2, +4, and +9 for a total of +15. I would have preferred to score some points instead of doodling around with meticulous endgame mathematics, but the money’s nice.

The 21 bingos of mine that stayed on the board included three yucky ones: AMOEBIA*, STHENIAE* and SENTRIED*. (NERDIEST, while semantically appropriate, did not hit the triple word score.)

Next tourney: right here in Edmonton, Alberta on the weekend of 22-23 October. I’ll be playing in Division 1, since the cutoff is only 1200; this tournament skews lower on the rating scale because of the clubs in the region consist primarily of newcomers who have never played in competition before. (That includes you, dear reader. If you have an interest in the game but fear that the jump from trouncing your mother in the living room is too steep, this is the one you want to hit. Start before all the other Edmontonians get really good.)

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