Game 4, Duke PBMT Scrabble tourney, 1/17/2015

January 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 22, 2015

My fourth game in the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament brought me my first real heartbreak of the day. Even more so than my second game, against the very skilled E., I fumbled a splendid opportunity to beat a quality opponent.

I was playing H., a woman about my age who is affiliated with Duke University in some way. (I get the impression that she’s a scientist, or perhaps a doctoral student, but I’m not sure.) I’ve played her a few times, including a recent warmup game that I lost, 396-278, and I know her to be a sound player.

Things started in plain enough fashion. H. played FAINT 24, to which I answered with BOO/BA/OI/ON 12. Her second play was GAT/FA/BAT 16, which left her with a 40-12 advantage midway through the second turn.

My rack, however, was promising: EINPRRT. I was looking for a way to play PRINTER when I found a better bingo. I hooked my word onto the ends of FA and BAT to make REPRINT/FAR/BATE 79. H. challenged (she was skeptical of BATE) and lost her next turn. I came away with a 103-40 lead after three plays.

Turn 5 began with H. exchanging one letter. It ended with my playing JIGS/SCUT 42. I led, 149-48.

In turn 9, H. made STOrIES/DENIALS/ALEE 69. I immediately replied with MOWN 36, so I still had a healthy 219-137 lead.

We traded relatively high-scoring plays in turns 11 and 12. H.: DUB/BY 26; me: FADED 33; H.: AX/XU 36; me: WHAt 33. I had a 302-223 edge at that point.

I unknowingly sowed the seeds of my own demise in the 13th play. In a misguided effort to clog up the board — and hence prevent a bingo by H. — while scoring a decent amount of points, I played LONGER/GUN 22 in the second row from the top.

Unfortunately, this opened up an incredibly high-scoring play to H. She laid down TRACKED/EL/DO on the top row, using a triple-word square to score 97 points.

That gave H. a narrow 330-324 lead, which I immediately erased by playing PRAY for 36 points. I was back up, 360-330, after 14 turns.

I got a break on the next play when H. put down QORSH*/POIS. I smelled a phony and challenged. (QOPH and QOPHS are valid; H. evidently confused the latter word with the one she played.) I put down ZIN for 12 and thus remained ahead, 372-330.

Just three more plays were left in the game. I would get points on only one of them.

H. played QI 11. I answered with AR 2, making the score 374-341.

But I was stuck at that point with an unplayable V in my rack. After H.’s SH/QIS 21, which bumped her up to 362 points, I tried to play ARV*, which she deleted with a challenge.

On the next and last play, H. made OR/HO for 7 points. It was really worth more than that, because she got eight points from my unused letter. (V is a four-point tile; when the bag is empty, the player who empties her rack gets twice the value of the tiles on the opponent’s rack.)

Final score: 377-374 — an utterly heart-breaking three-point loss of a game that I should have and could have won!

Tournament record: 2-2. Cumulative margin: minus-49 points.


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