By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 20, 2016
After starting the tournament off with two wins in close games against strong opponents, my third match was a bit of a gimme. My foe this time out was P—, a first-time tournament player who had lost her first two games by large margins.
I went ahead from the get-go, playing first and opening with ELVEN 18. P— played PORE 12, which gave me an opening to play COP/PE for 22 points.
My rack entering turn 3 was ADEENNT — not terribly promising. Fortunately, I noticed that I could use the second E from my opening word to play a bingo, NEATENED, which scored me a cool 63 points when combined with the 50-point bingo bonus.
P— capped the fifth turn with JAW 29, which narrowed her deficit to 126-90. Unfortunately for her, that would turn out to be P—’s biggest play of the game.
In the eight turn, P— played FEE 14 near the top-left corner of the board. That enabled me to score big with a parallel play. My vertical REAM/EF/AE/ME began with the R on the triple-word-score spot in the top-left corner and the M on a double-letter space in the left column. All in all, this added 42 points to my score.
P— elicited some skepticism from me in the 13th turn when she put down NEY 17. I hesitated to challenge, because my lead at that point was just 43 points, and if the word had been valid, P— would have had a great opportunity to overtake me. In the end, however, I went ahead with the challenge, and the phony came off of the board.
My second-to-last play was eQUINE, which scored me another 42 points. I went out with a 13-point phony, DUIS, to win by a final score of 356-234. (DUI is good, and so are DUIT and DUITS, but DUIS is no bueno.) The 122-point win was bigger than my combined victory margin from the previous two games, 112.
We broke for lunch at this point; I walked over to Randy’s Pizza, gobbled down two slices and some fountain soda, ordered a slice to go for the tournament organizer, my pal D—, and zipped on back to the tournament right as we were preparing to resume the competition.
Going first, I opened with BROGUE 24. My fourth play was ZOA, which put me up, 82-53. But after turn 5, when I put down YO 20, I had a run of small scores. F— was able to take a 134-121 advantage after eight turns.
I had a nifty 30-point play with SH (the H was on a triple-word-score spot) to go up, 163-152, midway through turn 10. But all I could muster on my next play was MOB 7, and F—’s TAIGA 19 put him ahead again, 171-170. Fortunately for me that would prove to be F—’s final lead of the game.
I had three decent plays in a row, JIN 20, FLED 29 and TiKI 39, the last of which left me with a 248-203 lead. But F— crept back into contention after I had two low-scoring plays; his VAIN 15 narrowed the gap to 263-260.
As I’ve noted previously, RETINA is one of the main bingo stems, and RETINA + W forms TAWNIER and TINWARE. I’d had AEINRTW to open the 16th turn, but there didn’t seem to be any place for either of those bingos, so I just played off the W with WO 9.
Happily, I drew E, leaving my rack AEEINRT entering turn 17. I played RETINAE/ER/DE horizontally on the second row from the top for a 67-point bingo. That put me solidly ahead, 330-280.
What’s more, that play opened the triple-word score on the middle column in the top row for my use in turn 18. My HOD/HI/ON/DA was worth 44 points with the H going both ways on the bonus tile.
F— went out with OWINg 8 and got 14 points from my leftovers, EERV. That left me with a 374-302 victory, a perfect 4-0 record and the top spot among my division’s 10 players midway through the tournament.