By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 2, 2017
I slept solidly my third night at the hotel, so I was feeling much better at the start of Wednesday’s competition than I had the day before. My goal for the day was to improve on Tuesday’s third-place 5-3 finish, preferably by at least matching the 7-1 second-place showing I’d had on Monday.
My opening-round game was against EM, my first-round opponent from Monday. Going first, EM jumped out to a 91-16 lead midway through turn 2 by playing OUTGOeS/BOS 65. I reduced the deficit to 91-67 by playing EX/eX/OE, which was worth 51 points because my eight-point X occupied a triple-letter-score spot.
But EM finished the third turn up 112-67. While he played LOWE 21, I swapped out all seven letters on my horrid rack — BNPRRRW.
This turned out to be a good move for me, as I drew AEGMRU? Using the T from OUTGOeS, I played ARGUMEnT for 70 points, putting me up 137-132 after four turns.
Three turns later, I played PIECED/OP for 30 points. That put me narrowly ahead, 197-189. Things stayed touch and go until turn 12, when I put down HOLLER/HEH with the R on the middle column–bottom row triple-word-score spot. That generated 39 points for my cause and gave me a 306-265 lead that I would not relinquish.
I nearly challenged EM’s response, SURA/HEHS 18, but opted against it — wisely, as both words are good. (Heh takes an -S because it represents the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; a sura or surah, incidentally, is one of the 114 chapters of the Koran.)
In turn 14, I struck a decisive blow by playing a phony, SUPINER/FEDS 69. (Honest, I didn’t know it was invalid!) That put me on top, 384-292, helping me secure a 402-320 win in the first game of the day.
In game 2, I faced off against my roommate-for-the-trip, D—, who had been relegated to the third and bottom division after enduring a rough 1-7 competition on Tuesday. Our contest got off to an interesting start: My opening play, WAVER, scored 30, as did D—’s response, WHELK, and my second play, BLIND, was good for 16 points, the same amount D— got with COMA.
The tie was broken in turn 3, as my FEY/FE 28 was outpointed by my friend’s QUaINTER 48. That put D— up, 94-74.
My rack at that point was EELNNRT, which didn’t strike me as being very promising. But just as I was about to play off some duplicate tiles and hope to find a bingo the following turn, I had a brainwave. Playing through part of D—’s third word, I made TUNNELER 70. D— considered challenging but decided not to; later, we checked and found that the word is valid with either one or two Ls. I wound up with a modest 144-119 lead through turn 4.
After my seventh play, I had a much larger lead, 244-147, thanks to three solid consecutive plays: DEB/FED/ORE 26, SPURT/BLINDS 38 (a double-triple, with the P on a double-letter-score tile and the T on the triple-word-score spot at right column–middle row) and BLOGGER 36 (adding onto the B from DEB to use the triple-word-score spot at center column–bottom row).
But D— was hardly defeated. His seventh play was PEDaNTS/PE/ER, an 82-point bingo that narrowed the score to 244-229.
I increased my margin in turn 8 with AHI/TA/SH 25, which bested D—’s ICIER 8. But he got the better of my the subsequent turn, outdoing my TIMIDER 28 with NIX/IT/XI 40.
The play that ended up clinching the win for me came in the 12th turn: ZOEA/ON/ETA/ASH, which generated 50 points for me and shot me ahead, 376-332, even after D— finished the turn with AGAS/FEDS 18. I ultimately moved to 2-0 on the day with a 395-344 victory.