By Matthew E. Milliken
June 29, 2015
I was behind almost from the get-go.
The first two plays in my first game in the Scrabble tournament in which I played on Saturday were my YETI 14 and my opponent’s ICY 16. Deficit: minus-2. On her second turn, L. played LEAF over two bonus squares for 47 points. I trailed, 63-36, and things would only get worse from there.
On turn 5, I decided against making a play that would have made ABO. L. used the spot I’d passed by, playing QAT for 35.
On the 10th turn, I thought I might have a chance to catch up. I played SHUNT on dual bonus tiles for 45 points. That narrowed the margin to 216-176.
Alas, my foe responded with a bingo: fELINES/PORNS 65. (In Scrabble notation, the lowercase letter represents a blank.) It didn’t occur to me at the moment to challenge PORNS, but when I checked later, I found that it was valid.
Felines was the injury that sealed the game; unfortunately, I had to endure an even more severe insult that ended it. L. played IGNORAnT on a triple-word-score square. Not only did that net her 72 points, because the play emptied her rack when there were no available tiles to draw, she got 13 x 2 = 26 points from the leftover letters on my rack. Final score: 419-238, a demoralizing 161-point defeat.
My luck turned around in the very next game, which was against a talented player whom I refer to on this blog as H. It took me a few turns to get things going, however.
H. led with CLONE 20 but I had to trade my entire rack, thereby forgoing points. The tile bag yielded ADINPRT, which is close to PAINTED and PAINTER and PRINTED but isn’t any of those. I settled for PAINT 16 and drew EFIS?.
My rack was DEFIRS?. I stared at it for a bit and then laid down DIFfERS 89. That gave me a 105-66 lead.
I would build on it significantly when I made my very next move, on turn 4. My rack was EIMMORS, which I immediately noticed was only one E short of spelling memories. Unfortunately, there was no available E on the board that would have let me make that word.
I was about to put down a short word and hope for a favorable draw when I noticed that I did have a bingo on my rack.
“Oh!” I cried. (I immediately apologized in case I’d startled H.) I played MEMOIRS/BIZE 87 to take a 192-100 lead.
My hot streak continued. On turn 5, I played AXE on a bonus tile for 46 points. I only notched OH 24 on turn 6, but on my next move, I put down QI/QI 45 to take a 307-211 lead.
The game was only that close because on her sixth turn, H. had used the C in CLONE to put out CAROTIDs, a 70-point bingo of her own.
But I had plenty of points left in me yet. On turn 8, I played GANGLES/SKA over a triple-word-score square for a cool 88 points. H. challenged GANGLES, which I knew was good, but only because I had unsuccessfully challenged the word myself in a past game.
My draw after the bingo — my third bingo of the game! — was lousy, so I traded four letters on my ninth turn.
R. played her second bingo, AEROBIA 66, bringing her score to 395-305. But my exchange had been fruitful: I was able to add -ING to the end of WREST. The G covered a triple-word-score square, which gave me 36 points. In turn 11, FEY yielded 32 points, leaving the tally 463-333.
I ended up winning by 81 points, 503-422 (scoring margin: plus-81).
Tournament record: 1-1. Cumulative scoring margin: minus-80.