Games 1 through 4, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, Jan. 14, 2017

February 13, 2017

By Miotthew E. Milliken
Feb. 13, 2017

My opening game in the main event of the seventh annual Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament was against BC, a clever local youngster who had never before participated in an official tournament. In turn 2, playing first, BC jumped out to an 86-25 lead by putting down ZEE/ZA/EL/EF, a 70-point move thanks to his placement of the Z on a triple-letter-score spot. I closed the gap a bit with my second move, LONER/YE/AR 14, but that still left me trailing, 86-39.

I started the game with a blank and drew an X after my first move, but wasn’t able to outpoint my first play (HALF/HM 25) until the sixth turn. That was when I played DRIP/PLUCK for 42 points, a prime example of a triple-word-score plus double-letter-score bonus combination. I drew DRST after that play, which left me with a rack of EORSTX? entering turn 7.

I was trailing 173-139 midway through turn 7 when I turned the score on its head with a phony: DETOXeRS*, a 119-pointer that extended from the D in DRIP down to the open triple-word-score spot in the bottom-left corner. (The score was inflated because the X went a double-letter-score spot.) As it happens, DETOX, DETOXED and DEXTOXING are valid Scrabble words, but DETOXER(S) is not. Perhaps knowing that my play had a valid root, BC declined to challenge, so I went ahead, 258-173. (Incidentally, dextrose, a type of sugar, is acceptable.)

BC made the game competitive by playing a 75-point bingo, RaISING/PEEVES, which left the score 285-307 midway through turn 10. But I won, 406-326, thanks in part to using the Q and an open U for QUINTET, a 34-point word that I put down in turn 12.

My second opponent was also a new tournament player, EB. Going first, I took an early 49-28 lead by playing QI/KI 37 with the Q on a triple-letter-score spot. But EB pulled ahead by playing QIS/POIS 18 and then SNOW/CUTS 17.

My response, HALT/HO/AW, gave me 47 points thanks to another double-letter-score/triple-word-score combo. But then I was plagued by a series of lousy racks: ADDEORU (play: OD 12), ADEERTU (RATTED 7), BEEINNU (BEEN 18) and EEILNNU (exchange all seven letters; zero points), just to name what I held over turns 6 through 9.

While my tile misfortune continued, EB was patiently working toward a big play. He took a 174-156 lead in turn 10 with IDLER/ID 21 and added on to it the next turn with another 21-pointer, MIR/QI.

Holding GIIORZ?, I tried to balance my rack with GI/MI 10.

That’s when EB busted out his big move: pLUNGES/IDLERS, an 84-point bingo that used a triple-word-score spot on the far-right column.

I went on a small run over the next three turns with ZORI/GO/MIR 34, COMe/MEAT 36 and XU/XU/UN 52. But it wasn’t enough to overcome EB’s bingo, and he ultimately went on to a 382-358 victory.

In game 3, I once again faced a tournament newbie, JP. Playing second, he grabbed a 65-24 lead in turn 2 with a 62-point bingo, OUtINgS/AIOLIS. I went back ahead on the very next play with a 50-pointer, ADZE/DAFT, which utilized the triple-word-score spot at top row–center column.

We had a pretty close game going for several turns, partly because I didn’t challenge JP’s phony GURLY 11. I established a permanent lead with a series of decent moves starting in turn 9: AYE/YA/EF 32, WO/MEW 29, ORANGE 24 and BUNGEE/FE 35.

Over that stretch, JP had just one score larger than 20 points: HAJ/HE 31. I ended the sequence with a 283-236 advantage.

I extended my lead in turn 14. After I played AXE/OX/RE 33, I challenged JP’s QI/IFE* 34 off the board. I wound up winning, 383-261, to bump my record to 2-1.

For game 4, I squared off against DL, a local player whom I’d officially played six times to that point, with each of us winning three games.

In turn 3, holding AAELSS?, I played SALSAEd*/ADd, a 67-point bingo that DL, a dance aficionado, challenged off the board.

Incidentally, that rack can make five valid words, all plurals: ALIASES, ANLASES (a type of medieval dagger), ATLASES, BALASES (a type of mineral) and CALESAS (a two-wheeled carriage in the Philippines).

DL had a 97-49 lead midway through turn 6 when I found a bingo, converting AEORSS? into SOARErS/TRIPS 65, which vaulted me ahead, 114-97. (That rack can generate 19 bingos, including AROuSES, OARLESs, REASONs, RESOAk, SEnORAS, SOAkERS and SOApERS.)

Two turns later, I played a second bingo: BEEFINg/gAL 65, which put me ahead, 196-109.

DL had only one score larger than 30 points the entire game: ZEE 32. I was fortunate enough to have three after my bingos: ROW/ROE/OOF 39, GAB/AYE/BED 30 and FIX/QI/TIX 47. The final result was a 407-303 victory that put me at 3-1 heading into the lunch break.

To be continued…


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