Well I finally got some time to put down some of my thoughts on my Arden Cup tourney performance in Chicago. My last several tourneys had been the relatively small venues of Knoxville and Indianapolis, and while I love those, I had been hoping to play a "mid major" tourney for some time, and Arden was one such tourney that I'd had in my sights.
It was probably my most "successful" tournament, definitely money-wise ($500 winnings), but also in that I finished with a new high NASPA rating (1530). Even beyond that, though, overall I felt mentally sharp and lucid almost the whole time.
It seems there's a growing trend for more and more people to play up to higher divisions, and this tourney was no exception. I played in Division C; the upper cutoff was 1550, and even though my rating was 1463 I was still the #1 seed. There were 6 folks in the low 1500s (and a 1362 and 1450) that played up to Division B, and when I got there, I was actually asked by the director if I wanted to do the same. I briefly considered it, but decided to stick where I was. My general policy with ratings and division placement is to "play it where it lies", and in hindsight I'm glad I did so. :)
-15 wins, 5 losses. I played a total of 33 bingoes to my opponents' 28. Not a huge difference, considering my overall record. I had one game with 4 (which I won) and 2 with none (1-1).
-My results at the challenge table were overall positive (7 "wins" vs 4 "losses"), but there's room for improvement:
2 phoneys by me, allowed (RO*, overlooked by opp, PURAN*, deliberate, second game w/ same opp)
0 phoneys by me, challenged off (yay!)
1 valid by me, challenged (STALKIER)
3 phoneys by opp, allowed (2 inconsequential, OUTAIMS*, UNFACE*, one significant, EMBUE, probably cost game)
4 phoneys by opp, challenged off (ANESTRIS*, UREDIAN*, PAEGANT*, OUTNAG*)
1 valid by opp, challenged (ADIPOSES)
Games of note:
Game 2, vs. Susan Hoehn: It was a wild one; I opened with INDIGOS 72, then fell way behind when she played EMBUE* for 38. I still had some opening jitters, otherwise I like to think I would have challened this obvious phoney. As it were, I let it stand, and in spite of a valiant comeback ended up losing 406-409.
Game 7, vs. Phyllis Koselke: Phyllis opened with GARNETS and then ANATOMY, and I trailed by as much as 130 points early on, but I managed to fight back, to a 371-330 deficit, with AILORS and some other letter on my rack (note to self: write racks more legibly :). No good place to play, so I took a risk and played ORAL for 8, then UP for 4 to open the board, while she made a few 20-30 point plays. My risk paid off, as I was able to bingo outwith TREATIES for 77 to steal a 441-418 win.
Game 15, vs. Cheryl Melvin: Cheryl nearly avenged her Game 1 loss against me in this one, buildinga nice lead with DONATES for 70, then hooking an O on the front of it with ZORIS in the TWS lane, for 80 more. But again, I fought back with several high-scoring 5-letter plays (TWICE 44, SWINK 50). The key play, though, was sneaking in PURAN* for 35 on a board that was pretty closed up at the time, making the game nearly even. I then eked out a narrow 1-point win. It was a tough break for Cheryl, who is something like 1-7 against me overall.
Game 17, vs. Bill Rexhausen: Bill is one of those young players (early 20s maybe) who is steadily climbing the ranks, and whom I considered a dangerous opponent, especially since 1) it was the first of the last 4 games on the morning of Day 3 (and I don't normally play as well in the morning), and 2) he was in position to finish in the money (3rd place at the time, if I recall correctly). So the stakes were high, and he didn't disappoint. He steadily built a 72-point lead early, but I turned it around with HAZER 50,DEVOTING 63, and LEAKER 45 to take a 259-214 lead. Then 2 turns later, he laid down CUISINE for 77, to go up 312-281. At that point I had AGGLONR on my rack with maybe 12 tiles left. It was looking pretty dim, but then I made one of my 2 best plays plays of the tourney, ORGAN(A) in the DWS lane under LEAKER, for a 5-word parallel play and 31 points to tie it up. I wasn't sure it was good at the time, either (turns out it was). After that it was a tight endgame, but I was able to go out with LEM(A)N for the win.
Game 18, vs. Dan Terkell: Dan went up early with DISTEND 77, but I countered with ROOKIES 85 and never looked back. I broke the game open when I had DFIIMS?, and hooked the S onto his DISTEND, making FIDeISM 93 points. It was my other "best play" along with the ORGANA play the previous game.
Overall, I had a blast. It helped that every opponent I played was pleasant, regardless of the game's outcome. And although I had a slight advantage on the bingos, I think the main key to my success was my knowledge of short words, the 4s and 5s. They made a big difference, and time and again helped me overcome bad racks with decent points. The also lend credibility to plausible phoneys (e.g. PURAN) when the need arises. I highly recommend spending time learning them!