Game 2, Duke PBMT Scrabble tourney, 1/17/2015

January 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 22, 2015

My second opponent in the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament was E., a woman in her 60s who told me she lived in Nashville, Tenn. According to my tournament score sheet — each player is given one at every Scrabble tournament; in this case, the first three opponents were assigned in advance — E. had a rating of 1113, which likely made her one of the stronger players in the tournament’s B division.

The game seemed to start on an auspicious note. On her first turn, E. exchanged five of her letters. That gave me a chance to play a word for double points — the first word in a Scrabble game always gets double points — and I had a chance at a bingo. My initial draw was EEHMRS?, which made…

Hmm. I wasn’t sure, actually. After some consideration, I opened with tHEMERS. E. challenged, and the 80-point play was disallowed. She played FIX for 26, after which I tried MESHERs/MI/EX for 77. E. challenged, and this word was also disqualified.

Next up, E. played CITE for another 26 points. I gave up on finding a bingo and settled for HEM. That left the score 52-19 after three turns.

E. played AID/CITED for 20 points in turn 4. I finally came up with a valid bingo: FENcERS. The c hooked onto the front of HEM, making cHEM; I wasn’t sure if it was good. Fortunately, E. didn’t challenge: After the game, I checked and found that CHEM* is a phony (as the asterisk denotes), although CHEMO is valid.

I had a 113-72 lead, but it proved to be short-lived. E. laid down a bingo, OUTLINE/OR/US, parallel to the very end of my FENcERS, which gave her 70 points and a 142-113 advantage.

Unfortunately, I found myself with a horrid rack: AEEEQOO, with no place to play the Q. I traded five letters, keeping the Q and an E. Alas, I replaced the discarded OO with OO and wound up with AEOOQRY, which wasn’t particularly helpful.

After eight turns, I trailed, 216-162. E. played BOOT 21; I, stuck with AAADESQ, traded five letters (keeping the Q and, of course, the S). This garnered me an I, finally, and at last I was able to get rid of my Q by playing QI/QAID for only 25. Of course, immediately after dumping the Q, I picked up a U — very unhelpful timing, given that I’d held the Q without a U for six whole turns.

After turn 12, I was down, 270-214 — a considerable margin, but one that could be overcome. That changed in turn 13 when E. busted out SEeKING for 90 points.

I needed a bingo — desperately. But the board would not accommodate. I was able to play JUGGLER through the end of SEeKING. Because the J was on a double-letter square and the tail of my word used a double-word score, this was worth a cool 48 points. Yet I was left with one tile on my rack, an S that simply could not fit — the R was on the bottom row. I was this close to a badly needed 100-point play.

So basically, I was done. E. ended the game with GREW 30, AVIAN/COVEN 32 and an out play of OS/JOT/US 18, which garnered her an additional 6 points from the leftover tiles on my rack. Final score: 446-313, a margin of minus-133.

Incidentally, as we were resetting the board after the game, E. told me that I could have made sCHEMER with my opening rack. When I checked Zarf, a Scrabble app on my iPhone, it told me that EEHMRS? can make six other bingos as well: HaREEMS, HEMmERS, MERcHES, MESHiER, ScHMEER (Yiddish in the hizzy!) and tHERMES.

Tournament record: 1-1. Cumulative margin: minus-98.

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