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.

After playing PAWN/PE/AR/WE 23 on the first turn, I drew GMRU, yielding a rack of GMQRSU? By making small-ball plays, I got AQRRSU? by turn 4. Not realizing that this rack could form SQUAReR, I traded in one R and drew an O. I played NO 2 in the fifth turn, after which J. led, 76-42.

Then things changed. J. exchanged five tiles and I played QUASaRS. The 86-point bingo gave me a 128-76 lead — not too shabby.

Jump ahead to the 10th turn. J. has used three additional turns to trade in tiles (five tiles each of the first three trades; three tiles on the fourth one). With a 192-107 advantage and a vowel-heavy rack of AAAEENO, I played AA/AW 8. This was a horizontal move starting in the B column — second one in from the left edge of the board.

This was a calculated risk: AA’s only front hook is B. One B had already been played; another was still out there, as was a blank. I knew J. could make a play that would utilized one of the triple-word-score spaces on the left column. I just hoped that I would get to the B and the blank before he did.

Mission not accomplished. No sooner had I placed AA then J. answered with a 68-point bingo, BRoTHEL/BAA. That reduced my lead to 200-175.

The next few plays utilized the bonus spots in the board’s lower-right corner. J.: ELM 17. Me: KAE/ELK 28. That made the score 246-192 in my favor.

That was pretty much the end of the drama. J.’s biggest play the rest of the way was RAZE 24. Right after that, he unsuccessfully challenged my 12-point play, DON/OR/NA. J. also went over his time allotment again, which cost him 20 points.

Final score: 354-245, a 109-point win.

Overall record: 6-8. Cumulative scoring margin: minus-239.

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