Delaware Scrabble recap, 12/28/2016 (finale)

January 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 5, 2017

Going into the final round of the Delaware tournament, I had some bad news and some good news.

The bad news was three-fold. One, I was not guaranteed to be the division victory; two, in the final round I’d be facing a skilled player; and three, that player, RB, was someone who had beaten me out for the division title on Monday afternoon.

The good news was two-fold: One, I’d beaten RB twice in three matches; and two, I had a big spread — plus-611 against her plus-389 — so unless she beat me by a massive score, I would still wind up with the championship.

Fittingly, the score was fairly even early on; playing second, I held a 50-46 edge after five moves.

In turn 6, both of us busted out big plays. RB’s was AIGLETS/THE, a 78-point bingo that I opted not to challenge. (Fortunately: An aiglet is the sheath at the end of a lace.) My answer was even better: QUERIeS/AS, a lucrative double-double that generated 102 points for me. That gave me a 152-124 lead.

I extended my lead in turn 8 with AJI 30, going up 199-154. (Ajis are chili peppers.) And in turn 11, I had another big play with XI/REX 35, which pushed my margin to 252-198. It also set up a potential big play by opening up the triple-word-score spot in the right column–center row.

Lacking an S, RB could not use the bonus square. Instead, she tried to make it difficult for me to access by putting down a vertical play, YE/RE 15, one column in from the far-right column.

I didn’t have a great rack at that point. But my tiles — EFFSSTZ — were good enough rack. I played ZEST/REZ/XIS in turn 12 for a cool 61 points, moving the score to 313-213.

But in every game in which I’d held a big lead against RB, she had come back with a bingo — and this time would be no different. Her 13th play was PLANERs/ZESTs for 79 points, leaving me with just a 21-point advantage.

Somewhere in the middle of the game, I did something — or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I failed to do something — of which I’m not proud. RB failed to use the timer after one of her turns, and rather than call it to her attention, I deliberately let a few minutes tick away until she caught her mistake. Later, when I mentioned this to D—, he said I had an ethical obligation to tell my foe that her clock was running, and I felt bad.

Despite my perfidy, RB nearly overtook me in turn 16 when she busted out another bingo: DILATOR/AB/TETA/OD for 81 points. I announced a hold and considered my options. The play would have given my foe a 412-357 lead late in the game, and I realized that I had to challenge because I simply wouldn’t be able to overcome a 55-point deficit.

Fortunately for me, TETA is a phony, and RB retrieved her tiles. I set about blocking the bingo alley that she’d use by playing FOOL/FETA/OD for 24 points, which left me with a 381-331 advantage.

This late in the game, with the tiles available to play, my lead was insurmountable. RB ultimately went over her time allotment by more than a minute, giving me a 404-339 victory, a 7-1 record — and a division championship!

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