By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 27, 2015
And so it all came down to this: My 16th and final game of the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament.
I wouldn’t be able to finish with a winning record. I almost certainly wouldn’t be able to finish with a positive cumulative scoring margin. But I could finish with a win.
My opponent was a precocious elementary school student named B. He had a distinctive high-pitched voice that rang through the room — because he may have been hard of hearing, as I surmised from our score discussions during this contest.
At any rate, I got off to a good start with JAWER. With the eight-point J on a double-letter score, and the game’s first move automatically doubled in point value, this phony (alas) gave me 46 points. B. did not challenge, thankfully for me.
My second play was a horizontal extension from the J, JIGGER, a 30-pointer.
In turn 4, I played HE/HOD/EN 28. B. traded in five tiles, allowing me to take a 119-62 lead. I added to it in the fifth turn with ZINE/ETA 36, to which B. replied with the modest EVICT 10. Score: 155-72.
B. made a series of 20-plus-point plays in turns 10 through 14. But he never had a move that generated more than 28 points (GAP), and he was never able to take the lead from me.
Final score: 320-286, a 34-point victory.
Final tournament record: 7-9. Final cumulative scoring difference: minus-362.