Friday, April 10, 2009

Will's Myrtle Beach tourney: Main event

In the main event, I was seeded fourth of 14 in Division 2. Two of the three higher seeds had beaten me already in the early bird.

Game 1 against Joann Burchett:
Not much memorable about this game, although I made a late comeback. I was down by 29 and made consecutive plays of 39, 39 and 28 while Joann scored 16, 19 and 19. She bingoed with O(U)TRIDEs on turn 5, but only for 66. I had no bingoes; my high play was BR(I)M/LOOM for 42. We split the blanks.

Game 2 against Frank Schin:
Going into a tournament, one goal I always have is to not have a game below 300 points. Well, that didn't last long. Frank spanked me, 416-272. He opened with PlACATE for 76 and later played RETIMEd, also for 76. Meanwhile, I was dropping plays of 10, 10, 11, 14 and 15. My opening rack was DEEIIIT, and I played TEIID to clean it up, but things didn't get any better. On turn 7, I had WORDILY on my rack, but I had to settle for WORDY/WE for 35, and that was my high play. Looking at that rack now, I wonder if I missed an open S for DROWSILY. On turn 6 I held EFLLRUY and made E(A)RFUL, to which Frank added a T front hook to make his RETIMEd. Looking at it now, I wonder if I missed an open U to make RUEFULLY. If I ever figure out Quackle, this is one game to analyze.
I'm now 1-4 lifetime against Frank. He is a decent guy, and he graciously insisted that he drew the bag on me, but I didn't help myself, either. I felt lost the entire game. It's the kind of game has dragged me down in the past, but fortunately, I managed to put it behind me.

Game 3 against Cheryl Melvin:
I almost blew this game. I played ELICITS/TROGS on turn 4 to take an early lead, but on turn 7 I played an awful phony: a T front hook on ILEX that Cheryl had just played to make TILEX*. I got it confused with SILEX. So Cheryl promptly plays ATONIES/SILEX to take a 50-point lead. Luckily, on turn 12 I played SEABAGS/MEATS to retake the lead, and I held on from there to win, 442-401. I drew three esses and the X, and she drew everything else, so I felt good about pulling that one out.

Game 4 against Marilyn Pomeroy:
I had played Marilyn about eight years ago, and I've seen her at various tourneys since then. It was good to be able to play her again, but the result was the same as our first game.
She played DOZER for 51 points on her second turn, and followed that with POSTING/PI on her third to take an early lead. I made a couple good plays with XYSTI/TRUED for 36 and RHEA/EX/AY for 28, but then I made a boneheaded play: GRR*. I hadn't reviewed the threes for a while, and it cost me. I thought GRR and BRR were both good. So she takes her free turn, and holding AIRRRST, I exchange. After Marilyn plays, she's up, 205-85. I play (E)LOINERS on turn 8 for 70 and one of my best plays of the tournament, CERATIN/EMU/RE/AG, for 83 on turn 13, but it's not enough to excavate myself. Marilyn wins, 390-353.

Game 5 against Katya Lezin:
I was 0-3 against Katya, so I was eager to correct that trend.
Katya jumped to an early 50-point lead, but I caught up and passed her with IODATES/FAERIES for 72 on turn 4. Then I got away with a phony 8,
TI(D)EWALL*, on turn 7. She held but didn't challenge, and I was so certain that it was good that when she back-hooked it with an S with QIS, I didn't even hold. Now I've got to make sure it's out of my head. It's a win, 377-305.

Game 6 against Alan Riechman:
Alan takes an early lead with MARINES/COBS for 70 on turn 3, but I bounced back on turn 5 with (E)NTAILED. I then seal the win with DETAILS on turn 10. I drew both blanks and 3 esses, so that certainly helped.

Game 7 against Toni Douglas:
I open with a phony, NOTAH*, confusing it with LOTAH, but Toni isn't sure and lets it stay on the board. And that was the highlight of this game. I drew both blanks, but not until the very end, so they were no help. My best play was for 38 and hers was for 43. I win, 364-309. A win is a win, so, woohoo!

Game 8 against Noah Lieberman:
Noah is Katya's teen-age son, one of those precocious youngsters who are rising through the ranks. We had a close game until I played the only bingo, SLUDGEs, back-hooking the D to GADI, which I had played three turns earlier. Noah didn't like GADID, so he challenged, but it came back good. My study of fives paid off! Later, I played Qi for 31 and BYTE and something else (bad recordkeeping) for 57 to pull away for a 421-302 win.

So after a 2-2 morning, I finished the day 6-2, feeling good. But I still had to play the top 3 seeds.

Game 9, against Susan Bertoni.
Susan had beaten me at Nationals last year and in the early bird, so I wanted a measure of revenge. We both struggled this time, each exchanging twice during the game. She edged to an early lead, but I caught her with ANGLING on turn 7. She then edged ahead again, but with both blanks and 2 esses, I played rEVISeS for 80 on turn 13, and she couldn't catch me. I won, 380-361.

Game 10, against Matt Hopkins.
Matt and I split our two games in the early bird, so this was our rubber match.
He opened with a bingo, UNCLEAN, but I limited the damage by playing ZITI. After that it was back and forth for a while. I picked up a blank on turn three, then picked up the second one to keep it company. Finally, I used them both on turn 8, with MISNAMED for 83. I don't remember which letters were the blanks, because Matt is a fast player and I'm slow, and I abandoned any attempt at tracking after turn 6.
Matt immediately answered with GAWKIEST for 70 to go ahead by a point. However, I followed with JOLTED for 45 to take control.
After turn 11, I was up 371-337. Matt made a 23-point play to make it 371-360. I had both remaining esses, and while considering my options, I noted to myself that so far in the tournament, I hadn't made a single dumb mistake. I rarely make it through a tourney without one bonehead decision, often one that costs me a game. Well, I was about to make one.
I had given up on tracking, so I didn't know Matt's final rack, and my time was short, so I couldn't go through it now. However, there were no bingo lanes, and I knew I could go out in two plays, picking up Matt's leftovers and eking out a win.
I had a place to play EASE for 18 points, but VOX had been played down from the triple-word in the upper righthand corner. I couldn't resist, so I played ES to make (VOX)ES* and (TON)E for 21. It was a move that my clubmate John Spangler, Mr. Latin, would never have made. (The plural of VOX is VOCES.)
Matt nearly jumped out of his chair: "Challenge!" I looked again at my play and instantly realized what I had done. I've studied fives hard, especially those using the power tiles, and VOXES* wasn't in there. I told Matt there was no need to adjudicate and took back my tiles.
Matt then made a 25-point play, I played EASE for 18, and he went out on the next play, picking up 6 points from me to win, 403-389.
I said to myself, "What a F#*<-up!" (Okay, I said it out loud, but it was aimed in my direction.) I sat there with my head buried in my hands as I fell into a bottomless, lightless pool of self-loathing. Matt was a gentleman, sitting there quietly until I gathered myself. He probably thought I was crying. Among other things, I was convinced that I had just blown any shot at winning the division. A 7-2, I was in third place going into this game, and now I had taken a big step backward. What I didn't know was that both players ahead of me also lost that round, so I wasn't as bad off as I thought.
Often, a bad game such as this throws me off, and I stumble around the rest of the tournament. Fortunately, I was able to clear my head and keep playing.

Game 11, against Marcia Wade.
Marcia was the top seed, and she was having a good tourney, sitting in first at 8-2. I knew I had to be on my game against her.
Marcia is quiet, calm and efficient. She's a longtime player, once rated inthe 1800's, but she doesn't track and she doesn't visibly agonize over what she should do. She just plays.
After opening with UNTO, I played ZAX for 38 on my second turn, then I got away with a phony, QUALL*, on my third turn for 28. QUOLL is good, but I somehow thought they both were. (Back to studying my fives.) Marcia didn't challenge, and then I played BRENS/QUALLS for 35, and Marcia again let it go.
Some players advise playing conservatively against higher-rated players, but I didn't, mainly because I wasn't seeing bingoes and my best plays were opening up the board. So I played them: AMONG for 35, VIES/SQUALLS for 31, FITLY/IVIES for 41. I built up a lead, but I knew Marcia would come back. She did, playing TACKIEr for 73 on turn 8 to take a 10-point lead. We stayed about even, then on turn 10, she played mUDDISH. I held, unsure. This late in the game, if I challenged and lost, she would almost certainly win. But if I didn't challenge, she was still likely to win. I challenged, but with zero confidence. I was stunned when the adjudication came up "unacceptable." (The only bingo in DDHISU? is kIDDUSH, and I don't think that was playable on our board.)
After that, we traded the lead, but I won a squeaker, 343-340. I was certain Marcia would ask for a recount, but she simply congratulated me and told me I had played very well. She's my new favorite opponent.

Game 12, against Celia Thompson.
For the second game in a row, I didn't have a bingo, but I was able to make some high-scoring shorter plays, most notably JAUKS/SHIRE for 40, while Celia struggled. She drew both blanks, but they didn't do her any good, and I won, 397-256.

Game 13, against James Clark.
This game started out even until turn 4, when I bingoed with RESTYLES for 63. James challenged unsuccessfully. He also exchanged twice, which put him into a big hole. On turn 9, I played EXULT for 60. James finally found a bingo (a cool one): DHOOTIes for 62 on turn 10, but it wasn't enough. I won, 412-266.

Game 14, against Marcia Wade.
Somehow, both Marcia and Susan Bertoni had lost again, so now I was in first place, 10-3, and they were now both 9-4.
I get down a bingo on turn 3, AMPLEsT for 70, but Marcia soon catches up. Then I play STINgIER for 74 on turn 7, followed by (C)ROFTS for 36, and I'm in control. Marcia narrows the gap, but I go out first and pick up 22 points from her rack, including the X. Final score: 394-330.

So I win the division with a 12-3, plus 526. I drew 15 of 28 blanks, so that certainly helped. I played 15 bingoes in 14 games; my opponents played 10.

It was a fun, well-run tournament, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

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