Scrabbling: Recapping my June 27, 2015, tournament (part 4 of 4)

July 1, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 1, 2015

Game 7 began innocuously enough. Alas; soon, it devolved into a rout.

I played J., a cheerful local fellow. After three turns, he held a 77-53 lead, mainly thanks to his second play, AX 30.

But on turn 4, J. laid down FRIENDlY 69, giving him a big lead. And two plays later, he sprang a second bingo, MEAThEAD 66. I was down, and down big: I trailed 238-117 at the close of turn 6.

That was pretty much it for big plays in the game — but that was really all J. needed. My only scores higher than 21 points (21!!!) were MOVE 34, CRY 30 and VIGS 34, but it wasn’t nearly enough, especially with J. scoring at least 22 points on each of his final five moves. (One of those was ZIG 33 — Z got me again.)

J. had gotten three of the four Ses and both blanks, and he’d absolutely destroyed me. Final score: 388-258 (scoring margin: minus-130 points.)

Tournament record through seven games: 3-4, with three straight losses and a cumulative scoring margin of minus-185.

The eighth and final game was a rematch vs. T., and fortunately for my fragile ego, it was a 180-degree turnabout from the previous game.

T. and I both traded in letters on our opening turn. (I switched out seven; he, just four.)

Going into turn 2, my rack was AEILPRS, which made…

Well, it made PAILERS*, which I played for a 74-point bingo. Somewhat to my surprise, T. failed to challenge this play.

On turn 4, I played REVELINg through the E in PAILERS. My second bingo was worth 71 points and put me up big midway through the turn.

The final letter of this play was just off the triple-word-score space. T. used this to his advantage by putting down FASTED/REVELINGS in the right-most column. The S covered the bonus square, and although the play wasn’t a bingo, it gave T. a cool 63 points.

Now, relatively few English words that end in -ING can have an -S appended to them. There are some, of course, such as bearings, callings, darlings, earrings, failings and so on, but plenty more -ing words don’t take an -s suffix. I mulled over whether or not to challenge T.’s play and ended up doing so. I was successful, which left me with a 162-40 lead after four turns.

T. would need at least two or three good plays to catch up with me. He didn’t get them; from that point through the final move, in turn 17, he scored only five plays of 20 points or more, and none higher than 27 points.

But I was on a roll. I notched three more big plays: QUARE 56, QUiZ 63 and AX/XI 50.

I arranged that last big play carefully. Midway through the game, when I picked up the X, there were two triple-letter-score spots that could have accommodated that play, but T. used one of them. The remaining candidate was near the bottom-left-hand corner, but I had to be cautious in my setup, lest I open up one of the triple-word-score spaces on the leftmost column.

I ended up playing TOM to clutter the board around that spot and IT to enable the triple-letter-bonus to work two ways. I could have played the X off for fewer points, but I was mindful of my tournament scoring deficit, which I hoped to erase.

And that’s what happened. I wrapped up the game with a 479-272 victory. The 207-point difference was my biggest of the tournament, positive or negative.

On the day, I had a 4-4 record with an overall scoring margin of plus-22.

It could have been better, my friends. But then again, it could have been a lot worse. At the end of the day, however, it was a fun tournament.

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