By Matthew E. Milliken
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.
The tide started to shift in the seven turn, in which X. put out WINCE/EF 25. With INSSVVZ on my rack, I decided to trade in the dual Vs. That yielded an A and a T, for a rack of AINSSTZ — better. Score: 106-72, with me in the lead.
X. responded, alas, with SNaRLED/WEEDS, an 83-point bingo. Even after I played NAZI/NE/AD 38, I trailed, 155-144.
Turns 9 through 15 were a nightmare for me. X. steadily built his lead, beginning with FORGE/IF 35 and ending with VISIT/SLAP 30. His only score lower than 21 points in this stretch was RAY/RIF 18.
Meanwhile, I was saddled with unbalanced racks that seemed devoid of bingos — NOOSSU?, IOOSSU?, OSSUVY? During this period, my only score bigger than 17 points was NAH/AT/HONE 23.
By the end of this sequence of play, X. had an insurmountable 344-219 lead.
I did close out on a miniature rally: DYE 15 and sUSS 15. The latter was an out play, garnering me 14 points from the unused letter on X.’s rack.
Final score: 366-263, a discouraging 103-point loss.
Tournament record: 5-7. Cumulative scoring margin: minus-280 points.