June 2018 Scrabble tournament: Part 3 of 4

June 30, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 30, 2018

I opened the second day of the Scrabble tournament with the final three legs of our 11-game round-robin, all against North Carolina players whom I’d faced before. First up, in game 9, was N—, whom I’d narrowly defeated in the spring. Playing second, she built up a modest 75-51 lead over the first four turns.

However, she exchanged all seven of her tiles in turn 5, allowing me to form ASSIzED*/TIPI, a 74-point bingo. (Assize, which takes an -S, is not a verb; it’s a noun meaning a court session, an inquest, law or legal edict or judgment.)

N— came right back with OUtDRAW/DO, a 75-point bingo that made the score 150-142 in her favor.

N—’s bingo potentially exposed two triple-word-score bonuses in the far-right column, but I wasn’t sure how to use them. I settled for a play that blocked but did not take advantage of either TWS spot, CAVING/OUtDRAWN 24. (My rack, ACGHINV, doesn’t form a bingo; I might have been better off playing INCH/OUtDRAWN 39, although this would have left me still possessing an unwieldy V.)

I entered turn 12 with a 245-237 lead and a rack of AGILNOR. I combined these tiles with a letter on the top row for an 86-point bingo, PAROLING, which essentially cemented my lead. I went on to claim a 397-311 victory, lifting my record to 6-3 with a plus-233 spread.

That brought up a game with J—, whom I’d beaten four straight times this year, leaving me with an 8-10 lifetime record against him. He had an 84-73 lead midway through turn 4 when I converted CDEILN? into NICkLED/DOH, a 77-point bingo. Even better, J— challenged this play and had to forfeit his fifth turn.

J— rallied in turn 6 with KEX/EN/XI 39, but I responded with FAGS/ENG/XIS 40. His next play was GOAD/JOTA/AWED 31; one turn later, his 85-point bingo, INTERnS/PEDS, boosted him to a 239-223 lead.

Fortunately, I leapfrogged him the very same turn with ZOA/AGIN 39, giving me with a 262-239 advantage through eight turns. We each exchanged letters with our next move — five for J—, all seven for me. Both of us also exchanged letters — four for him, five for me this time — in turn 12.

On what turned out to be my last play, I had an unpromising IRRSTUV. I didn’t know exactly what J— held, because there were four tiles left in the bag, and I was afraid that he had a bingo ready to unleash over a TWS bonus in the far-right row. In an attempt to block this, I played SUIT/DINNERS 24, which bumped the score to 365-321.

I drew IINU, leaving me with a rack of IINRRUV and J— with AILLRST. I felt relatively confident, because I did not think his rack contained a seven-letter bingo. (Indeed, it doesn’t.)

However, there was a lot of room on the right side of the board, and there was a free E in dinners. After some pondering, J— lit up and played TALLIERS, a 70-point bingo. I challenged it, but it’s good; after accounting for 20 points represented by the leftovers on my rack, J— collected a 411-365 decision.

My opponent in round 11 was O—, the only remaining player in the division whom I had yet to play. We’d last met on the Scrabble board last summer, when I’d beaten her to even our head-to-head tournament record at 2-2.

Playing second, I started the game holding IMNSTT?. I made this into MITTeNS/YUKS. O— challenged this 75-point bingo, but both of my formations were valid.

After five turns, I led, 134-72. O— exchanged one tile and I made RENAL/UN/DA 17. O— again exchanged a single tile in turn 7, while I swapped out four.

Her exchanges had worked: Her ninth play was DETRAIN/WeND 75, which cut my lead to 151-147.

O— would briefly claim the lead, but I took it back. In turn 11, holding EHIORSU, I formed ROUGHIES 63.

That pushed my lead to 253-185. I went even further ahead in turn 14 with FEZ/EN/ZA, which garnered 54 points thanks to placing the Z both ways on a double-word-score bonus.

O— was down but not out of the fight. Her 18th move was a 70-point bingo, PENCiLS/AILS. She made another high-scoring play with her next move, JOES/SMITTeNS* 42, but I challenged it off the board.

I had to sweat the end game a bit because — shades of our dramatic June 2017 clash! — I got stuck with an unusable Q, which contributed 20 points to her score. However, she had gone over her 25-minute allotment by nearly three minutes, which caused her to lose 30 points. The result: A 425-349 win for me, leaving me 7-4 for the event with a plus-263 spread.

Having concluded the round-robin, the tournament moved into a king-of-the-hill phase. I was rematched with N— in round 12. Playing first, I opened the game with FFRTTTW; I threw them all back and got EIJLNSU instead.

After three turns, I led, 46-45. I played the (inadvertently phony) WORL* 20. N— came back with UrINOSE/HELMS. I considered challenging this 69-point bingo but opted not to; this turned out to be a good decision, as urinose is an alternative spelling for urinous. That put her on top, 114-66.

Turn turns later, I sprang my own bingo: FADINGS/SWORL* 90. However, N— was suspicious and challenged it off the board. (Both WORL* and SWORL* are phony, but fadings is an apparently antiquated term for a type of Irish dance.)

In turn 10, N— played VASTY 36 to go up, 203-182. I considered challenging but opted not to because I know vastier is in the official Scrabble lexicon (so are vasty and vastiest). Instead, I made a parallel play, HOE/SH/TO/YE 26, to take a narrow 208-203 edge.

N— riposted with RAY/SHY, which used a two-way DWS bonus to generate 30 points. My answer was ZERoS/CIGS, a double-letter-score/double-word-score combo that reaped 53 points.

Two turns later, N— played QUALM 26, which I considered challenging because when I encounter the word it always seems to be pluralized with an -S. (Qualm is in fact good.)

We had a very tense end game. Entering turn 18, I trailed 332-315 and held EEILT. My out play was ELITE/MADE 17, which tied the game; N—’s remnants, NOORT, gave me an additional 10 points. This dramatic 10-point victory left me at 8-4 with a plus-273 spread heading into the lunch break.

To be continued…

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