Here's a synopsis of my weekend at Charleston. I had a great time overall, and I'll repeat what many others have said about what a great job Brad Mills did running things smoothly. The other folks from the club there are a great supporting cast, too, and are great at making us out-of-towners feel welcome. It also made me feel good as the Lexington director to see such a great showing from our club, both in number of participants (7) and results (all gained ratings points).
As for my performance, I went into the tournament with a 1530 rating, just under the 1550 cutoff for division 1. I was still hoping Brad might merge divisions 1 and 2, but when it appeared that that wouldn't happen, I decided to play up to Division 1, knowing it would make an even number of players in both divisions. I was actually pretty happy with that arrangement, since I would be playing much tougher players than my previous tourney (I like to play a range of opponent levels anyway).
The action started Friday evening with the early bird. As the bottom seed in the top division against Ryan Fischer (1788), Brian Galebach (1641), and Pete Zeigler (1598), I fully expected to get my clock cleaned. As it turned out, I went 3-1, my only loss being to Ryan, a heartbreaker in game 1 where he bingoed his last 2 turns to steal a 395-384 victory. The next two games weren't as close, game 2 being a blowout against Brian, and game 3 a 387-292 win against Pete Zeigler, a much closer game than the score showed, as he lost 50 points due to going over time. Game 4 came, a rematch against Ryan, and this time it was my turn for the comeback win 369-345, from as much as a 102-pt deficit.
I came out of the early bird feeling great, as it was not only my first Division 1 tourney win (ok, I know it's just an early bird, but I'll take it), I felt I did it with solid play as opposed to having to rely on luck (draws were equitable in 3 of the games, and the fourth game was actually heavily in my opponent's favor).
Next came the main event, where again I was the bottom seed, against 5 others in the top division. Karma compensated my good fortune from the early bird, at least on Day 1. The first game that morning, against top-seeded Ryan Fischer, was one of the most exciting I've ever been involved in. I trailed late 283-370, with an empty bag, ADETNY? on my rack, and AEGIKRV on Ryan's; a bingo would win it for me. There was an open R at the top of the board, but no room for the fairly-common ARoY(N)TED. After racking my brain for several minutes, I suddenly see it, and throw down pEDANT(R)Y for a 376-370 win! Except...I glance over at the clock, and see that I'm over on time, by 2 seconds. Argh! One of my toughest losses ever.
I fared no better in games 2-5 (against Robin Laprelle, Jeff Cook, Brian Galebach, and Pete Zeigler), although all were fairly close. Game 5 was especially tough to swallow, as a misplaced play (playing POISE, hooking the I instead of the S onto BRIG) cost me a turn and maybe the game. Still, in spite of being 0-5 I didn't let myself get discouraged the way I might have in some previous tournaments, and sure enough, I managed wins in games 6 and 7.
Then came game 8 against Brian Galebach, perhaps the most impressive game I've seen from an opponent. He threw down 4 bingoes, including KLEPTHI(C) for 116. His setup for that play was even more impressive in my opinion, hooking COEN onto ZYMES for a 78-point TWS. He had told me previously that he had studied all his 8s and it definitely showed in this game. I lost game 9 to finish the day at 2-7, thoroughly humbled since the previous day's success.
The next day I finished on a high note, matching my early bird success by again going 3-1. The most interesting game was the third one, round 12 against Pete Zeigler. I opened a huge lead, but he clawed back to 396-352. He then played OVoIDS for 28, and I thought I heard him say "and out", so I instinctively said "well, might as well challenge", and of course the play was good. I walk back to the table thinking I've won a close one, only to notice he still has a tile left on his rack. Since I had challenged, it was now his turn, where he went out for real this time, with MOR, for 404-396. However, this time it was my turn to be the beneficiary of an overtime situation, as Pete's clock read -0:07. I surived a recount to eke out a 396-394 win.
Overall, I felt it was a good tournament for me. I was concerned I would significantly regress after my ratings surge from Chicago, but I was actually able to gain 31 points. This was in spite of draws that were actually on the poor side overall. For example, I drew both blanks in only 2 of the 17 games (and I lost one of those). I was also happy that I was able to keep my poise after Saturday's dismal 0-5 start, to win 5 of the last 8 games. There were some other stats that I was happy with, like the following:
- Extended my streak of 300+ scoring games to 38. Still a long way from all-time best of 95, though.
- Played only 1 phoney, the BRIGI* misplacement. Besides that and the OVOIDS challenge at what I thought was the end of the game, I had a 6-3 advantage at the challenge table.
-Opponents played 6 phoneys over 17 games, a much higher figure than I expected to see the top division. I challenged 4 of them off.
It will probably be at least January (Knoxville) before my next tourney. That's ok, as I have lots of studying to do on my 7s and 8s in the meantime!