Triple-triple toil and trouble

Monday, 17 October 2005 — 10:28pm | Scrabble

It finally happened. After in excess of forty or fifty games in Edmonton and Sherwood Park, my undefeated record in the region fell off the rails tonight. I was hoping it would hold out at least until the tournament next weekend, but alas, it would not be so.

It wasn’t pretty. The wisdom that many a Scrabble-elder has passed me over the years is that if you fall way behind, open up the board. Too often, novice players get intimidated by an opponent who mounts an early lead, and succumb to the temptation to keep him or her from scoring; this is literally self-defeating, as doing it only keeps yourself from scoring. So the philosophy is to open the board, leave some gaps free, and set yourself up to plunk about thirty a turn with an occasional bingo for good measure.

There’s a very, very fine line between opening the board and being stupid, though, and it isn’t all that easy to discern between the two until all hundred tiles are out of the bag and the dust has settled. If it so happens that your opponent is the one drawing both blanks, two Ss, X, J and Z and capitalizes on every opening you were hoping to squat for yourself (as the gentleman across the table verily did tonight), then it may be some consolation to shrug and call it an unwinnable game where the tile gods screwed you for some karmic misconduct in a past life or tournament.

In the fashion of murdered spouse in a Cell Block Tango, I had it coming. I practically threw away a game on Thursday with a horrible play on my last rack that placed a Z on a triple line; it was a brain-fart of epic flatulence, and I only came back to win it because my opponent unwisely tried to play out with a phoney, which fed me an extra turn I didn’t deserve.

But as far as karmic imbalance goes, I did score a 550 that same night against an unfortunate newcomer, thanks to a last-minute ESQUIrE on a triple for 101 and a Z on his frozen rack. This is not my personal high – I once played a four-bingo 587 game, untimed, on a set that was missing an I – and my best tournament score remains 546, but this may be my new high score in club play. It was a casual sort of game also not under time constraints, so it only counts for so much, but oh well.

Aside from all that, I noticed – and you may have done the same – that I have been writing here less and less often. I’ve been busy, and telling the world how wonderful the Wallace & Gromit film was both times I saw it, and lamenting the tragedy of the Aardman warehouse fire that selfsame weekend (in my opinion, a neglected catastrophe), are among many relatively low-priority tasks that have been shunted aside in the face of more pressing issues. Some things are simply more important than others. Robert Bonfiglio is one such priority queue-jumper, as he is a master of his instrument outstanding beyond reach of all conceivable hyperbole, though I don’t have a CD to prove it because they sold out before I could get one.

The new Lemony Snicket is, contrary to my predictions, entitled The Penultimate Peril. Nobody knew this until less than a week ago, when it was leaked by a blogger who scored a copy early. (Don’t read the comments if you visit that post – they may contain spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, and definitely don’t say she didn’t warn you.) It’s still not too great a failure in state secrets to keep a title hidden from the public for that long when other, more powerful beings in the book business can’t even keep a firm lid on plot specifics like wizened wizards tumbling from lightning-struck astronomy towers. I’ll be picking up a copy tomorrow.

I’m reluctant to discuss my Calgary Flames at this point in the season lest I come out judgmental along either pole of the precarious axis of faith, but man, that 3-0 felt good.


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