By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 23, 2015
My seventh game on day one of the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament was a bloodbath. There’s no better way to put it.
My opponent was S., an older man who seems to be a terrific player.
Let’s jump right into the meat of things. I spent my early turns struggling to balance my rack (EGIIOVW, ADIOQUW, ADIOQTU). On his third turn, meanwhile, S. busted out SKEINED/VOWS 84. I challenged, but the word was good, so I forfeited my fourth turn. S. put down MI/ME/ID 23 for his fourth play, leaving him with a healthy 144-32 lead.
On turn 5, I played QUOD/QAT, a 56-point play, which made the score a somewhat respectable 144-88. Alas, that would be my biggest score of the game.
On turn 7, S. played RAIDERS/ZITS. Nothing to challenge there — that was a cool 74 points, giving S. an intimidating 260-138 advantage.
As it happened, I was in the middle of a decent four-turn stretch at the time. I followed QUOD/QAT with PION 21 and DEATH/NE 29. After S.’s second bingo, I was able to play off letters from a difficult rack (ACEGRTY) by putting down CITY 36.
But that was pretty much all that I had — the rest of the way, I would record only three scores that exceeded 10 points.
On the 10th turn, S. played ReFALLEN. I challenged; it was a valid word; I lost another turn; S. gained 80 points. He took a 365-191 lead. I was donezo. (Interestingly, even S. himself hadn’t expected either this word or SKEINED to be good.)
S.’s very next play was ENVOiCE — that’s right, he picked up both of the blanks. I challenged — I’d heard of invoice, but envoice? And anyway, my situation could hardly get worse at that point. My challenge was upheld, and the 76-point move was voided. That was S.’s last stab at a bingo.
I made a feeble stab at respectability in turns 12 through 14: AHA/ALONE/HE/AN 26, OF/OF/FA 31 and JO/ORE 28 brought the score to (cough) 391-276.
I’ll spare you the rest of the carnage, but for mentioning that S. got both blanks and all four of the Ses. Final score: 466-303, a 159-point loss.
Tournament record: 3-4, putting me in sub-.500 territory for the first time. Cumulative margin: minus-191.