Purloined letter scores

Monday, 20 October 2008 — 11:22pm | Scrabble, Tournament logs

9-12 (-289), 19th place out of 26. The main event of the Western Canadian Scrabble Championship expanded to 21 rounds this year, up from the heretofore typical 17. I still only won nine games. I have now finished with nine victories in Division 2 for four straight years. That, my friends, is consistency.

Day 1 (Rounds 1-8) was a right drubbing. I lost three rounds by margins of over 150 points, one of them because I went four minutes overtime. In those three games, I played no bingos while my opponents notched 11. Sure, there were the usual issues with time management, and a few crippling decisions with respect to rack management and defensive positional play; but as reluctant as I am to blame the tiles, a lot of it was dumb luck. What’s the use of a good, balanced leave if the bag is going to spit out EEE or UUU?

Apart from that, I let my opponents get away with too many yucky phonies, some of which sealed the fates of their respective games. Some, like PANTLESS*, I didn’t consider challenging at all. If someone without a shirt is SHIRTLESS, what do you call someone with no pants?

I only finished with a reasonable spread because Day 3 (Rounds 17-21) came along and finally gave me a shot at clobbering my opponents when I was already well out of contention for any prize money. And I did find my share of nice plays, my favourite being WHISKED with the K on a DLS, the S hooking onto BOO to make BOOS, and the E turning ZIN into ZINE, for a whopping 115 points—easily my highest-scoring single turn of the tournament. I also fulfilled one of my longtime Scrabble ambitions: to draw a challenge with CALENDER, which looks like a misspelling of CALENDAR but is actually something to do with papermaking. I also made some good decisions to play words I was uncertain about, like DIGITALS, instead of shying away from the risk. (What kind of watch do you have? Mine’s a digital. I really should have known the noun form of the word, though: the Scrabble dictionary’s abbreviated definition tells me that a digital is a piano key.)

In other adventures: on the Friday and Saturday, the Scrabble tournament shared the host hotel with an Alberta Teachers’ Association professional development event, a jolly sort of pow-wow for the public stewards of your children replete with sessions about adolescent culture and information-age learning strategies in addition to a well-stocked flea market of picture books. One of the delegates, a young gentleman who has a posting as a band teacher in Airdrie, thought it would be fun to commandeer the hotel piano for some good old-fashioned ragtime over lunch. I joined him for an improvised duet.

I played better after that.

My measly 23 bingos: ENErGIEs, ADORERS, cLOSERS, READIER, ATOnIES, SiNUATE, CALENDER, LINTERs, ENHAnCE, GOAlIES, ATONIES, LANDINGS, ReCLINE, JELLIES, DIGITAlS, TELERANS, GOLfERS, WHISKED, DELIvER, AEROBIc, INVADES, SCoLDING, SCORNeD. After the anemic Day 1 (only four bingos—four!), I finally remembered how to score, and the bag remembered how to let me.

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