Aug. 25, 2018, mall Scrabble recap, part 2

August 31, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 31, 2018

The three games of the tournament’s early session had been scheduled in advance. Upon resuming play around 1:30 in the afternoon, we commenced playing in “king of the hill” battle — the top two players faced one another; the third- and fourth-ranked players played one another; and so on down the line in our 10-person division.

My foe in round 4 was D.D., a younger Charlotte, N.C., player participating in his third tournament. Like me, he was 1-2, having won his opener by nine points before dropping his second and third games by a total of 23 points.

Playing first, my rival got things off to a rousing start with HERTZ 54. His follow-up was DEACON/JO/IN 33, leaving me in an 87-22 hole after I’d put down JILT.

My big early plays were QI/OI 33 in turn 3 and REX/ZAX 31 two moves after that. But that still left me trailing, 150-134. (A zax is a hatchet-like tool, pluralized as zaxes.)

Matters soon deteriorated for me, as D.D.’s sixth play was ZAXES 42.

Midway through turn 7, I held AAHNRS?, which did not make any bingos that I could think of. (Later, I found that it makes four: ANARcHS, dARSHAN, dHARNAS and HANgARS.) So I put down HANSARd*/QUEENS, a 97-pointer on the bottom row that my opponent challenged off the board.

For my eighth move, at the wrong end of a 209-150 score, I played off HA/EH 10. My draw was superb: ET, leaving me with AENRST?, a premium rack. I placed ANESTRi/QUEENS 86 on the bottom row to take a 246-221 lead.

It proved short-lived: D.D.’s response was SALTIER/Si 69. I came back with AWARE 36, which left me facing an eight-point deficit.

D.D. notched 20 points in turn 11 with DEV/ED. I’d drawn IIMU after my previous play, supplying me with a thoroughly unappetizing IIIIMUU. My response was to swap out everything but the M; I then pulled EFGNNT.

My rival exchanged five tiles in turn 12, while I got rid of two consonants by playing FIN 14. D.D. then played off two Us with ULU 3.

I’d replaced my FN with IR, making my rack EGIMNRT for turn 13. I happily put down TERMING/GABLE, a 74-point bingo, thereby leaping out to a 360-313 advantage.

Even better, D.D. unsuccessfully challenged my play and had to forfeit his 14th move. This worked well for me, as I played WO/WE/ER on a triple-word-score bonus for 32 points.

My foe had one solid play left. He extended my turn-8 laughing noise into HASTY 33, making the score 392-346 in my favor. Even so, I was able to close out a 430-384 victory to even my record at 2-2 with a plus-63 spread.

My foe in the fifth round was K.R., a graduate student playing in his first tournament in nearly two years. Over the first eight turns, I had only two plays worth more than 18 points (HAIL/SH/TA 23 in turn 2 and WAIVED 34 two moves after that); of the other six, two failed to break double-digits. Meanwhile, K.R., playing first, had only three plays worth less than 22 points, with a low score of 10. Consequently, he took a 160-130 lead into turn 9.

I pulled within one point, 197-196, in turn 12 on the strength of RIP/DOER 16, thanks in part to K.R.’s having exchanged five tiles in turn 10. But K.R. kept up his record of solid but not spectacular words, going up 229-200 midway through turn 14.

That’s where things changed. My 13th move, UP 4, had effectively replaced a hard-to-use U with a very versatile T and given me a rack of AEILRT?. My 14th move was sLATIER/FURLs, a 71-point bingo that boosted me to a 271-229 lead, my first of the game.

Better yet, K.R. wasn’t familiar with this word, which is a variant on the common bingo stem SATIRE+L. He challenged and lost his 15th move. I capitalized by playing LEZ on a TWS bonus for 36 points.

My 16th move also padded my margin, OXEs/KAEs 33. Ultimately, I collected a 356-301 win to move my record into positive territory for the first time all day. I now stood at 3-2 with a plus-118 spread.

For game 6, I sat down to play B.R., whom I’d never previously faced. We had a pretty good back-and-forth: Playing second, she claimed a 50-22 lead after two turns before I recorded VEX/NE/OX 56 to go on top, 78-56.

B.R. reclaimed the lead in turn 5 with UNWISe 36, which put her ahead, 132-123. She added to it the next turn on the strength of QI/QI/IS 43, which took advantage of a double-letter-score bonus.

Through eight turns, aside from VEX, my biggest play was 25 points, and I trailed, 224-166. Things were about to get worse, too.

B.R.’s eighth play was ROADEO 27, which I challenged unsuccessfully. (It turns out that a roadeo is a test of driving skills, especially one involving professional truck drivers.) My foe played OM/OR/MO 18 to push her lead to 242-166.

But things were about to get better for me. Holding DEFIIS?, I played DEIFIeS/WEINERS, a 79-point bingo that gave me a narrow 245-242 edge.

We had a hard-fought end game. I clinched my fourth victory of the event by going out with US/SKIT 12, which garnered me a further 16 points from B.R.’s leftovers of CILLNN.

The 359-337 decision put me at 4-2 with a spread of plus-140. After a desultory start, I’d more or less played myself back into contention.

To be concluded

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