April 15, 2018, mall Scrabble recap, part 1

April 22, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 22, 2018

I returned to competitive Scrabble play at Northgate Mall on a mid-April Sunday.

My first game was against my most frequent opponent, J—, whom I’d faced 17 times in official competition. We exchanged some hefty early blows: J—, playing second, put down HEXAD/EH/DE for 40 points with his first move. My reply was the phony BIBLET*/BA/ID 47, which put me ahead, 69-40, midway through the second turn.

J— tried to leapfrog me with his second move, SUlFURS/EHS*. It made for a 69-point bingo, but I correctly recalled that EH did not take any “back hooks” and challenged the play off the board.

J— actually jumped ahead, 144-111, at the conclusion of turn 4 when he played RETURNEd for 68 points. But I had a few nice plays in my pocket: KA/KEN for 33, thanks to the five-point K on a triple-letter-score bonus, and ZAG 39, which utilized the triple-word-score bonus in the board’s top-right corner.

The latter play gave me a 219-190 lead midway through turn 8, but J— immediately tied things up with OHO/HE/OE, which generated 29 points thanks to having the H on a TLS bonus. My foe then actually went ahead slightly in turn 9 when we exchanged WORT/DEFT 22 and AID/AR/IN/DE 24.

But the game was about to take a major turn. I put down YACkING/YA, a 79-point bingo that gave me a 320-243 lead. J— didn’t have a good response; instead, he exchanged three tiles.

I followed up in turn 11 with JOE 26 to pad my lead. The two of us then traded some modest pays before J— busted out STONIER/RYA, a 72-point bingo that cut significantly into my lead.

Unfortunately for J—, I responded with SQUARE/JOES 37. J— went out that turn with NICE 7 and got two points from my lone remaining tile (L, a one-pointer). Result: A 405-360 victory for me. It was my fourth straight win against J—, leaving my lifetime competitive record against him at 8-10.

The second game pitted me against H.G., a North Carolinian participating in only his third-ever tournament. Playing first, he took an early 43-13 lead midway through turn 2 with BY/TAB/MY, which produced 31 points thanks to the Y’s two-way usage of a double-word-score bonus space.

I managed to make up some ground in turn 4 with XI/XI/IT, which made 31 points on a DWS bonus. H.G. came right back with SUQ/SCENT 39, which utilized a TLS bonus, but I riposted with ZIG/ZIT 38 to cut my deficit to 113-107.

H.G. edged away from me over the next few turns, holding a 161-130 advantage midway through turn 6. But then I played an 87-point bingo, FIRMESt/DEF/EGOS, which put me firmly in control of the contest.

I had a solid follow-up in turn 9: JAR/JO/ANA 41, which left me in possession of a 258-170 margin.

My scoring stalled at that point; I notched two plays worth more than 10 points the rest of the way, with 19 being my high. H.G. rallied a bit on the strength of HUE/UP/EL 24 and WAVe/eVENTS 34. In the end, however, he wasn’t able to make a comeback. I concluded with a 341-304 win, bumping my record to 2-0.

Game 3 saw me square off against C—, who’d handed me a defeat in our previoius encounter in January. Playing second, he took a 76-67 lead after turn 3 when he played XU/OX/NU on a DWS bonus.

I jumped back ahead, 100-76, by playing MAC/MED/AL/COX for 33 points. But two plays later, in turn 5, C— placed a terrific bingo: REALIzES, a 59-pointer that put him out front, 158-114.

My opponent then hit a rough patch. After I responded to his bingo with WOG/WE/OS 26, C— exchanged 5 letters. Then I put down LOAM/AWE/MOS for 30 points. C— challenged this, but my play was valid, and he forfeit his turn as a consequence. That was a 56-0 sequence in my favor over two turns, affording me a 170-158 lead.

And things were about to get even better for me. I spent a few minutes puzzling over my rack of DDEINW? before converting it to WIDeNED/ePIC, an 83-point bingo. That bumped my advantage to 95 points.

C— came back with REZ/RE/ED, using the top row–center column TWS bonus for 41 points, but he settled for another zero in turn 9, when he swapped out four tiles.

C— had just two plays worth more than 20 or more points the rest of the way, highlighted by DOH/OP/HI 27. I strung together four straight 20-point plays in turns 13 through 16, notably KNITS 28 and TRIALS/SHA/EL 29. I went on to win, 418-311, leaving me with a spotless 3-0 record as we took a lunch break.

To be continued

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