I was the top seed in division two, which had 10 players. I had previously played all but one player: Joann Goddard, from the Asheville club. Here's my recap:
Game 1, Joann Goddard: loss, 364-380. She opened with SPITTLE, and I thrashed around until mid-game, but back-to-back bingoes of Vi(A)TORES and (D)EsIGNED still left me 50 points behind. I kept gaining ground, but she went out first, cementing her win. She was the 10th seed, but she played like the top seed, and I drew both blanks.
Game 2, Bill Snoddy: win, 478-314. After exchanging on turn 5, I bingoed with S(E)CRETlY, and I stayed in control after that. Later I played fOLATES. On his last full rack, Bill got down TRIODES, but I bingoed out, playing PETERING through the T that he had just played. Again, I drew both blanks.
Game 3, Denise Mahnken: loss, 315-362. She drew both blanks, and I couldn't get anything going. Denise played STARInG, followed by MU(R)DEReD.
Game 4, Lois Greene: loss, 411-417. This is the one game I want back. Lois opened with CRIB, and I played I(C)KY to clean up my rack. Lois then played RELAXED for 99 points. I was busy with my scoresheet and only glanced at the play, noting that the X was on a triple-letter score, hence the high score. Only after she drew her tiles did I look at the board and want to kick myself. Lois had front-hooked ICKY with the R. She did not fast-bag me; I just wasn't attentive. In fact, she was confident of it; she even knew what it was. Only problem is, it's RICKEY. Damn. Later, she played LOUsIER, and I played OVe(R)THIN and later EA(R)STONE. Lois thought about challenging both of my bingos and my play of FLEAM, but unfortunately for me, she didn't.
Game 5, Jacob Cohen: win, 440-330. I had just one bingo: OUTHIRES, which I just now realized is a phony. I had a lot of 35-40-point plays, which gave me a cushion to absorb Jacob's late bingo, DANSEURS. This was the start of a seven-game win streak.
Game 6, Charlie Bond: win, 452-380. This was a bingo fest. After Charlie played TOURING on turn 3, I had three in a row: hERESIES, ABATORS (which he challenged) and F(R)AULEIN. A couple turns later, Charlie played DOGGoNE, but I was able to make points, and late in the game, I played COREI(G)N for 18, and he challenged. It was his only hope to steal a win.
Game 7, Yolanda Ushry: win, 406-300. For some reason, I have Yolanda's number. This win gave me 7 wins against her, with no losses. She opened with ZOEA, placing the Z between two double-word scores. My opening rack was GINSU??. I spent a lot of time looking in vain for a double-double bingo through the Z (there was only one: UPSIZING). Finally, I just played Z. I then drew the X, for a rack of ANSXU??. I missed the one good bingo in that rack and played XANthUS, which I thought was good. Yolanda wasn't sure but didn't challenge. Later, I played another phony, ROTIFY*, which my brain created from ROTIFER and RENOTIFY. Then I tried a third phony, hooking an S to VIVE. Bad idea. Fortunately, Yolanda struggled with her tiles all game, and I was able to pull away.
Game 8, David Meredith: win, 446-292. On turn 4, David tried a phony, FLORATED*. I challenged and was relieved to see it come off. Shortly after, I got two straight bingos, TALLIES and ANIMATO, followed by WECHT for 42. David later got down ENSNARER, but then later he tried another phony bingo (which I forgot to record) and then he ate both blanks.
Game 9, Willie Pitzer: win, 438-333. I was lucky to win this one. She bingoed with HEADING on turn 3, and I struggled early. Even after getting down NEURULAE on turn 4, I was down by 60 points. Z(E)IN on a triple for 69 helped me in on turn 6, and I had the promising rack of AGIORT?, with several tiles open. I spent a lot of time trying to find something, then I finally played off my O for 5 points, but I opened up another bingo lane near the top. Willie promptly closed that, but I finally found a bingo: (M)IGRATOR down to a triple for 83 points. Willie challenged, thinking it could only end in ER, but we later learned that -OR is the only acceptable ending. After that, I was able to pull ahead.
Game 10, Joann Goddard: win, 420-353. Joann jumped to an early lead with ENERGIES on turn 5, followed by 36-point and 32-point plays, but after a fruitful exchange, I closed some of the gap with TALENTS. She stayed ahead for much of the game, but I got down SLAP(P)ING for 84 on turn 12, and lucked out on my next turn, playing QI/QI on a double-letter for 44 points.
Game 11, Denise Mahnken: win, 401-290. We each exchanged on our first turns, and Denise exchanged again on turn 2. I started with TEUGH, and she answered with TRAIPSE for 63, but that was all that went right for her. I played DA(I)NTIER for 82 on turn 6, and from their, I was able to milk points out of short plays. Denise exchanged three times and lost a challenge -- the kind of game we all want to forget quickly.
Game 12, Jacob Cohen: loss, 383-527. I drew most of the power tiles, but Jacob pulled all the S's and one blank, and he took full advantage. He had four bingoes -- INIT(I)ATE for 68, RECANES for 94, ENLARGEd for 62 and (M)UENSTER for 72. Muenster. Wow. On his RECANES play, he had previously played FORBY, which I knew, but I didn't know that it takes a back E (FORBYE). So Jacob got the cool six AND a triple-word score. I played ROGATION and GREMLIN, but I was largely a spectator in this one, and my seven-game win streak was over.
Game 13, Yolanda Ushry: loss, 416-387. I knew my winning streak against Yoli couldn't continue for long. It didn't. I took a brief lead, but she played ZiTS for 66, followed by LISTERS for 68, and I never caught up. I had one bingo: tROTTT(I)NG for 68. My one bright spot was finding a nice play in a seemingly closed part of the board. My rack was awful: DGGIOPW. There was no place to unload more than two consonants, and I needed points. Somehow I spotted a play: WI(Z), making parallel plays of AW and JINNI. There was just enough room for that play and not much else.
Game 14, Willie Pitzer: win, 480-320. This win put me in third place for the final, King-of-the-hill round, with my spread putting me atop the pack of those with 9-5 records. The game turned early: My study of multiple-A sevens paid off when I played ALThAEA for 62 on turn 2. I was hoping for a challenge, but Willie didn't bite. Two turns later, with four, count 'em, four As on my rack, I exchanged three of them. That gave me a rack of AEIRSZ?, and I had to fight a gasp. There was an open I on the board between two double-word squares. It was in just the right spot for me to play SAt(I)RIZE for 114 points. But then, a problem: In that very spot, Willie played NITCHED. Hmm. I called "hold," and I thought. For some reason, I thought NITCH* was good -- an alternative spelling of NICHE. I didn't like it as a verb, and I just couldn't walk away from a potential 114-point play, so I challenged. Boy, was I relieved to see the ruling go my way. Down went SATIRIZE, and I cruised after that. Late in the game, holding AINNOST (ANOINTS, NATIONS, ONANIST, none of which played), I spotted an open A near the bottom of the board and played SONATINA for 68.
Game 15, Willie Pitzer: win, 441-378. This game almost ended very quickly. Willie spent some time working her tiles, then eventually passed. I learned from Scott Garner, a division one player, that if your opponent passes on the opening turn, unless you have a bingo, you exchange. So I did. Willie then passed again, and with no bingo, I exchanged again. Willie passed a third time. I had no bingo, but if I passed or exchanged, the game would end. I had AEIINOR, which would give me a score of minus-7. I considered ending the game, but I feared that Willie also had pennies, plus a blank, which would give her minus-6 and the win. So I chickened out and played OI for 4. Unfortunately, I gave her the I that she wanted, and she played PARAS(I)TE. I mitigated the bingo somewhat by playing a double-double REF(R)AIN for 40, then two turns later, I played CA(P)ERING for 80. Late in the game, I played ZI(N)S for 46, but she answered with NATUraL for 68 and the lead. Then, when it really mattered, I managed a decent endgame. With the Z on a triple lane, I played (Z)INS to the triple for 39. Willie, knowing I had the Q, blocked the one open U on the board but scored only 6 points. I wasn't too concerned about that U,because I could play QI/QI for 24 points in two places. Willie had forgotten that one U was unseen, and I lucked out, drawing the last U and an O. I played QUO(L)L on a double-word, with the Q on a triple-letter, for 68 points.
That win, and my 867 spread, gave me second place. I averaged 418 points, among my highest ever, and I had 26 bingoes, averaging 1.73 a game, also very high. Lest I get too cocky, I drew 57 percent of the blanks and had 58 percent of the bingoes in my games, so I'm still only as smart as my blanks. Still, I had a blast, I increased my rating, and I won some money, including $150 for second place, $5 for high loss (411) and $5 for high word (SATIRIZE).
Next tournament: Eastern Championships, Charlotte, Feb. 17-20.