Monday, August 5, 2013

Dispatch from nationals, Day 4

Game 1: I wish I had this game back. After trailing by 20 points or less most of the game, I finally took a lead on a 52-point XI/AX play. Two turns later, I was ahead by 14 and opponent had exchanged. Finally I had a bingo rack, with a few tiles available for an eight, but no obvious 7-tile bingo spots. I dithered for a long time, going more than 3 minutes overtime, and finally I played a desperation phony: REALEST, placing the E under MUCIN to make MUCINE*, for 78 points. Opponent held but wisely didn't challenge, because she had a 61-point bingo and knew I would lose 40 points on time. When it was over, I lost by 10.

Game 2: Playing the No. 24 seed, I got off to an unusual start. I drew first, but with four Es, I exchanged. On my second turn, I bingoed with MINUTEST for 70, but I drew three Es, three Os and a U, so I exchanged again. And again it paid off: I played UNSTOWED off the U in MINUTEST for 86. So my first four turns were: exchange, bingo, exchange, bingo. Unfortunately, opponent was keeping up, with the bingo AEDILES and high-scoring short plays. On turn 12, opponent had a 15-point lead, and with two tiles in the bag, I had the Q and a U, with only one spot to make a decent play. Opponent took a long time, laying down a P on a 30-point spot, then picking it up and shuffling tiles. Finally he looked up and said, "Pass." I could hardly believe it. I double-checked the score, checked my tracking for the nine unseen tiles, and made my play: QUIRE/ERE, with the Qon a double-letter and the R on a double-word, for 51 points. Opponent was stunned. He'd overlooked the possible hot spot, thinking that with the junk left over, I couldn't make a decent play, and he'd passed because he didn't want to risk getting stuck with the Q. So one game after apparently handing over a game, I stole one back.

Game 3: On turn 2, opponent bingoed with MEDIANS for 78. One turn later, I answered with DELATION for 70 to take a brief, narrow lead. It was back and forth for several turns, and then opponent played SMUGGER for 80. That was during a four-turn stretch when I averaged 38 points a turn, but I couldn't regain the lead, and I lost by 14, 428-414.

Game 4: I had my chances, with two bingoes -- MARKETED for 71 and AROUSING for 62 -- plus FAUX for 58 and HIVER for 51, but I hurt myself by trying to hook an S onto DE on a bingo play and getting it challenged off. The game ended with opponent winning by 1 point, so I requested a recount. I'm embarrassed to say I had three math errors, overcounting by 2 on one play and undercounting on two other plays by a total of 5. Opponent undercounted on one play, and once we fixed our mistakes, I had won by 3 points. I'm not proud of that win.

Game 5: Challenges were my friend in this game. I challenged off REGALIAS* on turn 5, then my subsequent 48-point play of KNAWE survived opponent's challenge. Later, I played FATTIES for 85 and an unrecorded bingo for 80. I allowed a phony when opponent played MONEY for 49, placing the N above OILIEST. (NOILY is good, but not NOILIER* or NOILIEST*.) By then, though, I had enough of a lead, and I won, 460-391.

Game 6: Opponent drew both blanks and played each for bingoes, but I was able to hang close until the end. I had SUNBEAM for 74, plus JARRED for 42 and AALS on a busy spot for 41, but it wasn't quite enough: I lost, 377-354.

Game 7: I had gradually built a 50-point lead when luck started falling my way. I played ACROBAT for 73, opponent answered with TINNERS for 66, but I had MAESTRI for 75 and then HAW in a rich spot for 57. Final score: 456-339.

I had a consistent pattern on Day 4: W, L, W, L, W, L, W. That was fine by me: With three games left, I already had exceeded my "expected wins" of 11, and one win in the final three games would guarantee a winning record.

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