By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 6, 2016
My first game in the main event of the sixth annual Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament was against P—, a local player whom I’d officially played twice before, in the 2014 and 2015 PBMT tournament main events — both losses. This time around, I held a modest 221-195 lead until the 14th turn, when P— played FONdeST, a 70-point bingo.
(A few quick Scrabble reminders: A bingo is a play that uses all seven of the tiles on a player’s rack; it’s worth a 50-point bonus on top of normal scoring. Also, a blank is indicated before use as a question mark; after use, as a lowercase letter. P— used two of them for her bingo.) I was unable to come back, and lost, 335-288.
Game 2 was against an older woman whom I had not previously faced. I’ll refer to her as KE. I trailed slightly, 125-111, after five moves. In the sixth turn, I played METTLEs 81 to go ahead.
KE responded with IXIA/MI/EX/TI/TA for 48 points.
Unfortunately, my draw had been horrendous: GNNSVVW. In turn 7, I traded in all of my tiles except for the S. KE played OAK for 28 points, which put her back up, 201-192.
The contest was neck and neck until turn 12, when KE played TWIRLEd. The 7o-point bingo gave her a 343-296 advantage. I went on to lose, 392-368, which left me 0-2 in the tournament with a spread, or cumulative scoring margin, of minus-71 points.
Things started to turn around in game 3, my third official meeting with another older woman, GH. My fourth move was PUTTINg 81, which left me ahead, 142-67, midway through the turn.
Halfway through turn 10, I led by 257-187. Then GH, who had traded four tiles in turn 9, put down XI. The X was on a bonus spot, and the play was worth 36 points, which reduced my lead to 257-223.
But I had a decent rack, so I started the 11th turn by putting down a second bingo, GUSTERS* 72. (The asterisk indicates an invalid word; frankly, I hadn’t even realized that GUSTERS was phony until just now as I was writing this post.) GH did not challenge the word, and I went on to a 390-308 victory.
My fourth game was a relatively easy 458-243 win against an elementary-school player. My opponent’s highest-scoring play was JOG 33, while I put bonus spaces and the so-called power tiles to good advantage. I played ZIT 45 in turn 1, FLOW 54 in turn 5 and WONK 62 in turn 7. The last play was on the top row, with the W on a double-letter-score spot and the K on a triple-word score space.
With my 12th move, I tried to put down a 77-point bingo, GLOwIEST, but it was challenged off the board. I didn’t really believe that the word was valid, but because I already had a big lead by that point, and because I would essentially have had a guaranteed victory had the play stood, it was worth taking a risk. Two turns later, I played STILTEd, a 67-point bingo which my opponent unsuccessfully challenged. (She had also challenged WONK, which is valid.)
At Saturday’s lunch break, I had an overall record of 2-2
4-4 with a spread of plus-226.