Archive for January, 2015

Patting myself on the back: A random good deed

January 28, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 28, 2015

This past Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in DaisyCakes, a bakery on Foster Street near Central Park in Durham, N.C. With perhaps one exception, this was only the second time that I’d visited this establishment on a Saturday. I was a bit surprised by how crowded it was. People came in and out at a fairly steady pace.

I ordered some hot cocoa and took a seat on one of the benches along the north wall. I was sitting there, blogging about my recent “exploits” in a local charity Scrabble tournament, when a pair of people sat down at the table next to me. One of these individuals was a white man, maybe in his mid-30s. The other was an androgynous-looking fair-skinned, fair-haired person; I couldn’t decide if this person, who was sitting immediately to my right, was the man’s girlfriend or his son. After this pair finished eating lunch, they left the bakery.

A few minutes after that, I looked at the bench to my right. I was chagrined by what I saw: A small gray zip-up purse lying unattended on the seat.

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Game 16, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, 1/18/2015

January 27, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 27, 2015

And so it all came down to this: My 16th and final game of the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament.

I wouldn’t be able to finish with a winning record. I almost certainly wouldn’t be able to finish with a positive cumulative scoring margin. But I could finish with a win.

My opponent was a precocious elementary school student named B. He had a distinctive high-pitched voice that rang through the room — because he may have been hard of hearing, as I surmised from our score discussions during this contest.

At any rate, I got off to a good start with JAWER. With the eight-point J on a double-letter score, and the game’s first move automatically doubled in point value, this phony (alas) gave me 46 points. B. did not challenge, thankfully for me.

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Game 15, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, 1/18/2015

January 26, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 26, 2015

By winning my 14th game in the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, I preserved my opportunity to finish 8-8.

But to do so, I’d have to win my last two games. That was no small feat, considering that for game 15, I was assigned to face L., the bright middle-schooler who had defeated me, 321-261, on day one.

I was playing from behind ever since turn 2, when L. made the first of three straight strong moves: FACE 31, FAZED 59 and TaJ 34. At the end of five turns, I trailed, 136-67.

My sixth move, QUIT, was a 39-point play that narrowed the deficit somewhat. But L. built his advantage fairly steadily. The score was 236-165 entering the 10th turn.

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Game 14, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, 1/18/2015

January 26, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 26, 2015

In losing my 13th contest of the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, I reached a threshold: At 5-8, the best I could do was winning my last three games to finish 8-8.

Fortunately for me, my opponent in game 14 was J., the 20-something novice whom I’d defeated in game 10. Our rematch wouldn’t prove to be quite as dramatic, but it still had its twists and turns.

Thanks mainly to his opening 30-point play, WHERE, J. took an early lead. I found myself struggling to balance my rack: My opening draw was ANPQSW? — somewhat amazingly, the fifth time I’d drawn a blank to start the game.

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Game 13, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, 1/18/2015

January 26, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 26, 2015

Going into game 13 of the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, I had my worst record of the weekend: five wins and seven losses. Unfortunately, that would continue to deteriorate.

I was facing K., a very sharp woman about my age or a little older who appears to have become a strong competitive Scrabble player in a relatively short amount of time.

The game’s key play was in the fourth turn, when K. played HEPATIc for a 71-point bingo. (I considered challenging but didn’t, which was good: That’s a valid word.) My feeble reply was ALOE, a 12-point move. Entering the fifth turn, K. held a 120-59 lead.

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Game 12, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, 1/18/2015

January 26, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 26, 2015

My opponent in my 12th game of the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament was a young fellow I’ll call X. It was not a surprise to see him: In recent years, I’ve played several tournament games against X., a local kid who’s probably in middle school now. He’s won more games against me than I’ve won against him.

I got a small break when X., who moved first, used his first turn to exchange four letters. Thanks mainly to my third play, CRIB/CUKE 26, I had a 75-31 lead when X. put down CID/LI/NOD as his fourth move. I wasn’t familiar with CID, and although I’m not very well versed in the three-letter words, I decided to challenge.

That was a smart decision. CID is a phony, so I voided a 20-point play by my foe.

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Game 11, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, 1/18/2015

January 25, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 25, 2015

My record was all even at 5-5 when I played my third game of day two in the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament. My opponent for this contest was C., the same sharp young whippersnapper whom I’d bested, 377-342, in my very first game on Saturday.

My opening draw was CHHITT? — the fourth time in the tournament that I’d drawn a blank to start the game. I opened play with HITCH for a cool 32 points. That gave me an early lead that I would hold until the fifth turn, when C.’s VOID/VOX/OW/IN 36 gave him a 99-90 advantage.

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Game 10, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, 1/18/2015

January 24, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 24, 2015

By losing my opening game on day two of the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, I fell back into negative territory with a 4-5 record. That left me feeling some pressure to get a win in my next game, the 10th of the two-day main event.

My opponent was J., a novice tournament competitor who (if memory serves) was winless to that point in the conclave. Even so, he jumped out to a 62-23 lead after two turns thanks to a pair of strong plays, ZOO 32 and XIS/ZAS 30.

I had one thing working in my favor early on, however: I had yet again obtained a blank tile on my opening draw. After some low-scoring balancing moves, I was able to put out ESTEEMs/HUTS, a 75-point bingo, on the fifth turn. J. answered with MOW, a 24-pointer, but he trailed, 138-120, going into the sixth turn.

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Game 9, Duke PBMT Scrabble tourney, 1/18/2015

January 24, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 24, 2015

The second and final day of the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament began at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. I arrived moments after play began, but about two minutes before my opponent arrived.

P. is another local player, although I hadn’t seen her in some months. When we got under way, I soon fell behind, partly because I drew a Q after my first turn and needed to stall until I found a way to use it. After three moves, P., who took the first turn, had a 60-23 advantage, mainly because of her SOX/PECS 32.

Her fourth play was a small one, worth only 5 points, and then I had my opportunity. I laid down QAIDS 57 and zoomed ahead, 80-65.

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Game 8, Duke PBMT Scrabble tourney, 1/17/2015

January 24, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 24, 2015

In my eighth and final game of day one of the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, I faced D., a very familiar foe. She lives locally (Chapel Hill, I believe) and is a regular participant in the Sunday-afternoon casual Scrabble contests in which I’ve frequently played over the past three years.

I was feeling some pressure in this game. My loss to S. in game 7 had given me a 3-4 record on the day, the first time I’d been below .500. I really wanted to finish on a positive note going into the second and final day of the Duke PBMT main event.

But D. got an early lead on me, and she extended it methodically in turns 4 through 8. Each of those plays was worth at least 21 and as much as 26 points. D. held a 170-93 lead by the end of this stretch of the game.

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